Growth of an Allium

*must post must post must post*

Ok, have a few photos showing the growth of a type of Allium (Purple Sensation) I planted as a bulb last autumn:

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The swizzle-y leaf protruding in from the left is from a Honey Lily. If I do a follow-up “growth” post, it’ll be on that. :)

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Currently all the purple petals have fallen off and all the leaves have died back, leaving behind these explosion shaped seed heads on 2-3 foot high stalks. Pretty damn cool! Seeing as these have survived, I’m planning to plant some different allium varieties this Autumn as well.

Next post, if I’ve persuaded my friend to upload the videos, I’ll show you what’s been distracting me from the blog over the past month or so. Otherwise, it’s a toss up between the honey lily and the baby hat.

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You can’t keep a good amaryllis down

Except that’s misleading, as wikipedia tells me they’re actually called “hippeastrum” (despite being commonly known as “amaryllis”). Anyway, I digress.

I bought an amaryllis bulb from ASDA some time in December, costing the princely sum of £3, and it came in a sealed box. I had good intentions of planting it up before Christmas but it sat in the kitchen, forlorn and forgotten (doesn’t this sound similar to the rhubarb story? My kitchen is obviously some sort of plant limbo.). About a fortnight ago I glanced at the worktop and saw this:

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It had decided not to wait for me and started growing. Out of the box, it looked a little anaemic but otherwise ok.

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Fortunately there was a bit of space on my incredibly crowded windowsills for it. If anyone’s interested, the blue tin bucket is also an ASDA purchase, and also for £3. I must say I found that one so charming I bought a second (although there isn’t space for it on the windowsill yet!).

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Since then it’s greened up a lot and got even taller:

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Here’s hoping for some stunning flowers soon! Hope everyone had a good Easter weekend. MIne was incredibly busy and rather expensive, but I’ll post about that later. :)

Good Gourd!

Yes, I know it’s a terrible pun. I was told I had to use it as a title under pain of no cups of tea in the morning, a far too horrible reality to comprehend so I complied without hesitation.

As you may have guessed, I planted some gourd seeds. 24 to be precise, of four different varieties:

  • Russian Doll (cucurbita pepo)
  • Snake (cucurbita pepo)
  • Speckled Swan (cucurbita pepo)
  • Dinosaur (cucurbita lagenaria)

These were a bit of an impulse buy for Rob’s birthday. When we visited Hong Kong last year, he was really taken by the water canteens made from gourds but we couldn’t find one to bring back. “Aha!” I thought, “I’ll grow him one!”. And then those seeds (russian doll) were in a multibuy pack with the speckled swan and the snakes, and I couldn’t pass up the one called “Dinosaur” (who could?), so I got all four varieties. All the seeds look very similar so I’ll just show you the russian doll gourd seeds for brevity:

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I planted them pointed end up in 3″ pots, six to a pot expecting about two or three to germinate, and put them in a heated propagator.

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8 days later (last Tuesday), after seeing nothing poking above the soil that morning, by the time I got home the snake gourd pot suddenly had 6 shoots pulling themselves out of the soil! One shoot was visible in the speckled swan pot too.

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Those pictures were taken when I got home from work, about 6pm. By 11pm, one snake gourd shoot had completely freed itself from the soil, and there was also a shoot visible in the russian doll pot. They grow SO FAST.

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Yesterday I read up on growing gourds (a little late I realise), and found that I’d made a large gourd growing mistake. Really, I should have only planted at most three seeds per pot, and even then of those three only two should be allowed to reach gourd-dom (I had at least planted them the right way up by a fluke). When I got home yesterday evening, they had grown further with 5 out of 6 fully emerged from the soil.

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Drastic action was required and soon, before all the roots become so tangled that separation was an impossibility, so after a fortifying cup of green tea (Twinings) I did something you should never do to the six snake gourd seedlings at this stage of growth. I (very carefully) tipped them out of their too small pot. Just look how long the roots are already!

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I then (very carefully) pulled them apart into six separate plants.

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I found six pots the same size as the original pot. I compared these pots to the seedlings’ root systems, and then went and got six much larger pots. Now I faced a dilemma – what soil to use? The seeds started off in a basic seed and cutting compost (a sterilised, low nutrient compost that is very fine so the roots can push through it easily). However, because of the speed of growth, I’d have had to put them in multipurpose compost in a proper pot fairly soon anyway. In the end I compromised and filled the bottom and one side of the pot with multipurpose compost, and then layered seed compost on the same side as the multipurpose. I then lay the pot on its side and (very carefully) lay the seedling (with the help of a long, flat BBQ spoon) on top of the seed compost.

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I then (very carefully) filled around the seedling with more seed compost, gently firming it around the roots to try to avoid any air pockets, and finally packed down the last remaining gap with more multipurpose compost. I’m hoping that any roots that reach the multipurpose stuff will be advanced enough to withstand any bacteria and harsh nutrients, but we’ll see if they survive. Here are the six seedlings, each in their own home, standing in shallow water overnight to moisten the compost.

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And what were the other gourd varieties doing whilst all this was going on? That’s right, growing. Look, a dinosaur shoot has appeared! And another two russian dolls!

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I’ve probably got to repeat this whole process again for the remaining three sets of seedlings over the weekend. Not looking forward to that at all – my nerves are wrecked what with trying so hard not to damage any of the fragile roots. At least the stems and leaves are pretty sturdy. The next big problem will be finding somewhere to plant them. I want to grow one of each variety if I can, but they really do take up a lot of space. Even then, I’ll have potentially 20 plants surplus to requirements. Next year I’m sowing far fewer seeds and trusting them to germinate!

Rain! Finally! And Rhubarb!

It rained today! A refreshing, ground moistening, light, drizzly rain. I’m unreasonably excited by this. However nice it was to have strange, summery weather, I don’t want a repeat of last year (England’s “driest spring in a century” according to the Guardian). After last year’s disappointment when the cherry tree jettisoned all its moisture sucking baby cherries in order to survive the dry spell, I’m quietly hoping I that can pick my first cherry off it this year.

Anyway, despite all my moaning, I did take advantage of the clement weather and got a fair amount of jobs done in the garden. Mostly weeding jobs, but this weekend I also planted the first seeds in my veg patch! First step was to spread an organic, pellet based fertiliser over the patch (~140g/m2), raking the surface and then watering it in. Then the planting could happen! I probably should have waited for a week after fertilising rather than a few hours, but I had this feeling that if I didn’t leap into action RIGHT THAT MOMENT I’d never plant anything. I’m the world’s worst ditherer when it comes to things I haven’t done before.

First in were brussels sprouts (Evesham Special), towards the back of the bed so that they wouldn’t cast a shadow over everything (apart from the shallots, but I can’t really help that).

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Then leeks (Musselburgh), next to the sprouts, a Christmas present from Rob’s parents. As leeks apparently need transplanting when they’re about spring onion sized, I thought I could start them off in between two rows and move them before the sprouts expand their territory into leek-space.

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Pak Choi (Rubi) as a request from Rob, provided I can protect them from rampant wood pigeons…

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And finally parsnips (Tender and True) furthest towards the sun as they should be quite low growing. These I got in a “veg patch starter pack” offer from Gardener’s World. I didn’t realise how light and fluffy parsnip seeds were until opening. Internet wisdom said to avoid planting when windy, and I can see why now!

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Here they are all planted up and covered with multipurpose compost. I think this was a tip from the DT Brown booklet as the multipurpose compost is far less likely to form a hard crust over the seeds than the existing soil, and therefore the seeds should find it easier to sprout. From left to right we have parsnips, pak choi, leeks and brussels sprouts. The sun tends to hit the left hand side of the bed first and end at the right hand side.

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You remember I mentioned shallots earlier? Well, this is them in front of my small but rapidly expanding rhubarb corner:

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Yeah, they’re probably not the most upright of shallots in the world. I planted them last autumn and have pretty much left them alone until I weeded them last week. I should have done the weeding far, far earlier, something I’ll have to remember for next year. I did take a load of photos when planting which I might inflict on the blog at some point; however, that story will have to cover the broad bean tragedy and I’m not sure if I’m recovered enough to write about that yet.

The rhubarb is also a Rob request as he loves the stuff, especially raw with the end dipped in sugar. There’s a bit of a timeline to this plot and its size. Originally, I was only going to have one crown but that has rapidly expanded due to the following events:

  1. First I bought him a pack of rhubarb seeds (Glaskin’s Perpetual) as a surprise present in October last year. However, as I read somewhere that rhubarb takes ages to grow from seed and in any case the seeds should be planted in March (5 months’ time), this didn’t seem like such a good plan.
  2. So I bought him a crown of Timperley Early a few weeks later (which I literally left on the side in the kitchen for a month, not watered at all, and therefore thought had died). My Dad insisted I plant it though, and badgered me into doing so one weekend when he was down. It’s the one marked by the tall bamboo cane, so as you can see it had somehow clung to life despite all the neglect it suffered.
  3. So, believing that rhubarb MkII had perished, when Rob’s parents asked me what I wanted for Christmas I said a rhubarb crown off their allotment please. Instead they gave me TWO crowns, one of Cherry Red and one of Champagne. These went in at the end of January and are currently growing so fast you can pretty much watch the leaves expanding.
  4. Anyway, the fool that I am, about a fortnight ago I found the original packet of rhubarb seeds and as I was sowing other seeds at the time thought, “Why not, might as well plant them as a birthday present for Rob.”. Well, they have sprouted, and far more germinated than I expected. Anyone fancy a rhubarb plant? No really, I’m serious, I have sixteen mini-“Glaskin’s Perpetuals”, and I only need one! I can’t bring myself to commit mass rhubarb-i-cide. Comment if you would like one and I can legally get it to you (therefore UK people only, unfortunately).

So that’s the current state of the veg patch. I still need to sow a few more types of veg (cabbage, runner beans, spinach, some different varieties of pak choi and parsnips, maybe some broccoli if I feel adventurous). I’ve also got to construct a viable pigeon barrier fairly soon, and I’m not looking forward to that at all. At least I don’t have to contend with rabbits (touch wood)…

Winter Photos

I’ve been going through my photos from January and February, and just wanted to share my favourites. Sometime in January, Rob and I were visiting his parents in Hemel Hempstead and decided it was a grand day for a walk, so we went up a local lane called ‘Cherry Bounce’. According to ‘Our Dacorum‘, the lane got its name from the cherry orchards that used to be in the area. Anyway, it was a lovely day.

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We wandered through beech woods, muddy paths, dank and cold flint-lined cuttings and looked over the rolling Chiltern hills. Lovely.

Anyway, as a bit of a contrast, here are some of my favourite garden photos from February. First up, snowdrops from Rob’s parents’ garden:

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Also, flowers from their money plant, which I have just this minute found out is a crassula ovata or jade plant:

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A hellebore in my parents’ back garden:

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Crocuses poking through the snow on my front lawn (how I first found out I had more than one crocus!):

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And finally, sparrows and a blackbird grabbing spilt seed in the snow (I hang the bird feeders in the damson tree that’s in the right of the photos, and they’re messy eaters to say the least!):

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I always hope that one day I’ll see some birds other than house sparrows, wood pigeons, blackbirds and the odd collared dove, but it never happens. I think the sparrows must mob them or something.

March is gardening month!

I have done next to no crochet/knitting so far in March. However, this is because there is SO MUCH to do in the garden! Since my last post, there has been much more happening on the spring bulb front which I will post about later. But first, I weeded and extended the daffodil bed. Before:

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After:

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Looks so much better! See, there were actually some daffodils present. The bamboo canes and twine in the first picture were there to mark out the border edge, which I then went along with my trusty half moon spade (a present from the lovely Rob) to sever through the encroaching lawn. I didn’t bother cutting the twine, just left the ball by the second bamboo cane and then rolled it all back up after I finished.

Earlier that day I visited B&Q and somehow walked out with about 15 sets of plants from their sale trolley (cheapest 10p, most expensive £2). Oops. Anyway, some of these went straight into the lovingly restored flowerbed, including a hellebore (niger):

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and some snake’s head fritillaries (fritillaria meleagris), one of my favourite flowers:

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Both don’t mind a bit of shade which is good as that border hardly sees any sun. Similarly for the primroses that went in afterwards. I’ve been meaning to get a hellebore for a while now as they have beautiful flowers and are so beloved by bumblebees (proven by the bee dipping into the ones in B&Q). I’m still on the lookout for a few more, and hopefully my Dad will get me some divisions from his hellebores later this year. Fast forward a fortnight, and the daffodils are finally opening!

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Currently there’s only three daffs open, and I can only see one other bud at a first glance. Not a great number, but I think that maybe they like a bit more sun than they’re getting. Hopefully a few more will show up over the coming weeks, along with the alliums I planted there last autumn.

29 Flowers, 29 Days: Day 26

On Day 26 I re-attempted my Dad’s flower choice, the snowdrop! This is beginner knitting pattern no. 9. I initially tried it last week using embroidery cotton but that was just a nightmare of yarn splitting and it was impossible to keep an even tension, so at the weekend I acquired some No. 3 crochet cotton (DMC Petra) and 3mm double pointed needles and tried again. The DMC Petra is at least one hundred times easier to use, so much nicer than the embroidery cotton! Anyway, I digress. The first step is to knit three petals:

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Then you combine them into the one (flat) flower by knitting the four stitches from each petal as one row of twelve, starting with white cotton and switching to green after a few rows. Finally, I made a stem. I could have sworn I took a photo at this stage, but it seems I was too tired and went straight to bed afterwards. :( Anyway, the following day I used the ends to tidy up the petal edges (not the neatest knitted things I’ve ever made), seam the flower piece into a tube and attach the stem, and then it was finished!

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You can see a bit of an end in the above photo. I didn’t cut them flush with the fabric as I normally do as the cotton was a bit slippery and therefore felt like it was likely to work loose.

Later on, the snowdrop spotted unitled‘s zombie army shuffling around in the background and, Triffid-like, advanced on the attack…

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I’m well chuffed with this. I did have a lot of doubtful moments during the manufacturing process as the petals looked incredibly scrappy, but a few judiciously placed stitches whilst darning closed up all the gaping holes and tacked down the flailing loops. As a result, it does actually look like a snowdrop! But you can judge for yourself – instead of linking to Google images, I’ve got some of my own reference photos to post up today! The following was taken in my parents’ front garden:

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In Rob’s parents’ front garden:

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Some frillier ones in Rob’s Gran’s front garden:

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And finally, one from my front garden! Look, the bulbs I planted last October actually grew!!! :D :D :D

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I’m so happy that I have snowdrops in my garden. Everything I read said that they often like to settle in somewhere for a year or two before flowering, and here they are flowering a mere 4 months after planting! :) Also, it seems front gardens are the fashionable place to plant your snowdrops. I hope you enjoyed the pictures of real flowers for a change. I have at least three gardening posts to go up just as soon as this challenge finishes, charting my latest successes and dismal failures. But before then I have to get through days 27-29, and speaking of which there’s a special guest post in store for the next flower…