Saturday, 28 July 2018

Trial & Error

So we finally got our big rain!  And a high price we paid for it, too, missing the blood moon eclipse & the end of the world.  I hope for plenty of gorgeous rain photos amongst some of the SoSers today!

Here, though, I've been mulling a recent post by Hurtled to 60 wherein a fellow allotmenteer intimated that rural gardeners are superior to townies.  I myself grew up on a farm, yet don't see veg as more virtuous than sunflowers.  But then, my mother, who pressed her 7 chillen into conveyor belt cannery every year, also had a greenhouse devoted solely to African violets.

There are so many types of gardeners - neurodivergent, athletic, visual, artistic, scientific, clueless, those with long term mental or physical illnesses, those who garden by 'the rules'.   

Accidental design.

For every 10 gardeners who can understand a design well enough to perfectly replicate a gold medal display, there's one who can only garden in equal parts experience & serendipity. 

I have to 'do' to understand, something that got me banned from helping in the kitchen a long time ago.  What starts as, 'But why . . . wouldn't it be better . . . how about we . . .' ends with the clenched-teethed cook pointing to the door  =>  Out!  Out!  OUT!!!!!

I'm on my own in the garden, which means I'm also able to process information there in the way I need to.

Other gardeners & their ideas do give me inspiration, but it's only by seeing how this particular plant grows in this particular spot that I understand my garden at all.

Today I celebrate those of us, including myself, who can only garden by the seat of our pants.  Here's some of my trials & perhaps even an error or two.

1.  To bite or not to bite.

Like any first-time parent, I've been discussing the progress of my cucumelons with other gardeners.  Mine reached all their developmental markers right on schedule, but I wasn't sure when I could eat the little darlins.

My delightfully green striped chillen.

Fred the French Gardener said he picks his when they're as long as the distal phalanx of his little finger, at which point they taste like cucumber with a zing of lime.

Out to the garden with me to find one the right size, then gobble down a mouthful of crunchy, tasteless blech.

Well, having a trial & error mind means not stopping at the first hurdle.  Or the second.  Eventually, it occurred to me that, although I'm not petite, I may indeed have a smaller pinky than Fred.

So I waited, like the troll under the bridge, for a bigger billy goats cucumelon & learned that to get that zing, the optimum size is the middle phalanx of my index finger - about 1.25".

Size zingy.

Now that my berries have all dried up, it's cucumelon for brekky.

2.  Hosta trials.

As I've written before, I've never thought hostas worth the ongoing slug war, until I found Big Daddy.  He was fairly slug free in the beginning, I thought because I'd put dried cedar & bramble twigs at his base.  But you can see, the slugs found a way.  When Big Daddy started his 2nd growth of leaves, the slugs threw a keg party.

Big Daddy blues.

About that time, various bloggers were trying out sheep's wool slug pellets.  I had a sheep fleece in the closet that'd gone past its spinning days, so've stuck some of it under BD.

Big Daddy has new leaves.

That's my current trial.  We'll see if it's also an error.  There's a frog quite happy with the new arrangement, so if not the fleece, then maybe the frog will sort those slugs out.

3.  Great Pea Debate of 2018.

Despite other gardeners' distaste of them, we've enjoyed a good season of blauwschokker peas.  Our resident chef has this trick of pouring boiling water over them & letting them sit a few minutes rather than cooking them on the hob.  Sweet as mange tout, tasty as peas.

There were no cooks at home when I decided that was too much palaver.  I tossed peas in with my tortellini & boiled away.  A quick drain, a splash of chili oil, sprinkle some mozzarella, & voila!  I, too, am a chef.

Picture me sitting under the deck umbrella, utterly pleased with myself & surrounded by the sound of bees pollinating my cucumelon vines . . . note the literary device signalling a previous bad dining experience.

Do not boil your blauwschokker.  Ever.  Tough as old boots.  Ptoo Ptoo Ptoo.  Dogs liked them, though.

Last of the blauwschokker.

4.  Seeds, glorious seeds.

I usually toss out last year's seeds at the end of summer, having collected new from the current plants.  This spring, however, I found several small containers of seed I'd collected from 2 gardens ago.

Eventually, I sorted out what still interested me & planted various trays with only a few stragglers germinating.

Except for the hollyhocks.

22 of them bad boys.

The parents were both single & double in pastel colours - yellow, peach, & pink.  Can't wait for next year's blooms!

5.  For the love of trees.

The things I love most in the plant world are trees, which is a shame since I'm rubbish at telling them apart.  That doesn't, however, stop me from gathering seeds at every chance.  In all the years I've done this, I've successfully grown one tree - a motley looking monkey puzzle whom I hold very dear.

So an empress tree growing in the local park dropped these nuggets.

Empress tree seeds & pod.

I left them in the shed over winter.  Thinking nothing would come of this anyway, I did zilcho research into how to grow them, cracked one open & without being precise, dumped half its seeds into a small pot.

What cuckoo nested here?

I've lifted some of the seedlings (thus the bare spot in the pot) & moved them to a trough to give them more leg room.  Although I've image-searched empress seedlings, I don't have a good enough eye to come to any conclusion.  To be honest, I don't believe they're empress.

If they are, I now have a jungle.

6.  Corn angst.

My corn saga started with losing a third of my plug plants during hardening off, followed by the supplier being out of stock, so replacing them with a different strain from another supplier.  Although the new plants were about the same size as the originals, their growth rate was slower, so I ended up with Tall Corn & Short Corn.

Amazingly, the Short Corn tasseled first.  But their tassels didn't open.

Silked, but closed tassel.

Tall Corn gave me brilliant tassels, so pollen all around.  Now, though, even regularly watered, the tassels are brown, yet new silks keep popping up.  I do my feather duster routine & hope great corn sex to be had by both Tall & Short.

Dried tassel.

Expect photos of some funny looking cobs come autumn.

Who splattered paint on Spidey?

There's my Six trials & errors.

If you'd like a gander at other gardens, check out these Six on Saturday Guidelines by The Propagator.  He'll also have a post of his own Six, plus you'll find links from all over the world in his comment section.

Thanks for stopping by.  Look forward to seeing you next week.

Saturday, 21 July 2018


Caterpillar-eaten kale flowering away.

The serendipity of nature really tickles the beejayzus out of me.  It's an unseen collaborator, making quiet little gardening tweaks such as herb Robert around the peony, bindweed twining up the wrought iron gate, cosmos colluding with kale in an optical illusion.

This week, let's see what the Collaborator has done to my pots.

1.  A magic stick.

When we moved during the Beast from the East, some of our lifted plants came in plastic bags wrapped with sheep fleece.  As soon as possible, I rammed them into any available pot.

This included pots left by the previous tenants, who were specialist gardeners (har har har).  Our black grass went into one that had a three-tined dead stick in it.  Today, the black grasses are blooming in front of the bark-shedding dead stick.

In bloom.

The pot luck here isn't the black grass, but the thriving dead stick with its one summer's worth of growth.  Can anyone ID it for me?

It lives!

2.  Oh, Cory!

Earlier this year, I sowed some lambs lettuce in the pot with the fading erythronium.  An effort which produced a feckless feckall.

Late, great dogtooth lily.

With other more successful seedlings rampaging around the garden, I forgot the FF pot in its shady corner.  And then this appeared in it.

My buddy, Cory.

A lovely self-seeded corydalis, possibly from our last house where it grew like crazy.  My Unseen Collaborator, she knows what I like

3.  Another stowaway.

I rescued this teeeeny weeeeny fernee fella from the lawn & slapped it into what, at the time, was a plant-less pot.  Now the fern has company.

Am I pink knotweed?

Last year, my 92 year old neighbour gave me pink knotweed as thanks for always stopping to let her pet Mr BigNoseDog on our daily walks.  Mr BND'd knock me down for a pet from anyone, but I kept that to myself, & graciously accepted the cutting.

Not sure why it took so long to show itself this year.

And for those of you aghast that I grow knotweed, rest assured my garden has far, far worse things growing in it with my full consent.

4.  Like this thug.

Another pot luck caused by our move was thrusting goldenrod & queen of the prairie into the same pot so I could replicate how they looked last year:

Last year's golden queen.

This is what that pot looks like today.

Queen makes way for a thug.

The queen of the prairie survives behind the asters, but only foliage, no bloom.  There wasn't a whiff that those sneaky aster bastards were in the pot, yet now they've taken over.

There'll be a separation of powers in this pot come autumn.  Rest assured no thug shall perish in this coup.

5.  Comedy of errors.

I wanted verbena bonariensis for my last garden, but in some type of brain glitch, ordered common valerian instead.  The valerian didn't bloom its first year, so when we moved, I dug up its dead stick, & brought it along.

The foliage that came up wasn't valerian, but I let it grow, hoping for a pleasant surprise.

I got this ugly thang.

Ugly weed.

The tiny yellow flowerbuds never seemed to open, yet've already gone to seed.  Floaty, flying millions upon millions of ugly thang seed.

Ugly thang's back lit glam photo.

6.  A cosmos by any other foliage . . . 

My perennials've mostly been stalled or killed by drought.  The smattering of annuals that were meant to be colourful interludes, now have to carry the can.

All grown from seed, they're cheap & cheery low maintenance types which include, of course, bog standard cosmos in the white to red spectrum.

Dark pink cosmos.

I also bought a packet of dwarf cosmos in various colours, purportedly including a deep, deep purple.

Growing 2 types of cosmos, I kept both packets, referred to them several times during the seedling process, so I know for certain this wasn't my mistake, but an Unseen Collaborator intervention.

When the foliage matured a bit, the dwarfs looked more like marigold than cosmos.  The dwarf blooms opened this week & they're orange!  Every single one of them.  A fiery yellow orange!

Orange cosmos at bottom, usual suspect at top.

Searching 'orange cosmos' brought up photos of something with the same foliage as mine - cosmos sulphureus Cosmic Orange.  I don't know how those seeds wound up in that package, but they go well with the golden rod & the mint green raised beds.

My Unseen Collaborator certainly knows what she's up to.

Woodwardia beauty.

And that brings me to the end of my #SixonSaturday.

Thanks for dropping by.  I love feedback, but folk've had problems with the site letting them comment.  If you can't speak here but're on Twitter, I'm @lorahughes7.

Lets have a chat!

Oh, & don't forget, if you've got a garden, drop over to The Propagator & read his participant's guide.  You'll also find his Six, plus links in his comment section to other SoS gardeners from all over the world.

See ya next week!

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Veg & Blooms

Insect watering trough.
Hello, lovers of #SixonSaturday!

Yet another week of sun & no rain.  The veg are happy about this, but no one else is. 

A promising crop of berries dried on the vine, though they looked healthy otherwise.  Presumably from the hot, dry air.

With few exceptions (calendula), my flowers have been lack lustre.  The sunflowers & cosmos are very short.  The summer bulbs either didn't grow, stopped growing, or died.

My Twitter feed makes me wish I'd grown dahlias this year, but no, I wanted something different.  Now, I have only my ice cream for solace.

However, with a little effort, I present a few lovelies surviving amongst the veg this week. 

1.  After the tassels comes the silk.

The predicted hand pollination has begun.  As of this morning, there are 3 corn silks.

First silk.

2.  No longer fruitless.

Last week, I wondered when the peppers would ever appear.  I now have etiuda & cayenne.  The latter are so small as yet, my phone camera couldn't get a good shot.  Maybe next week.

A pair of etiuda chilis.

3.  Fire tongues.

The beans love this weather, so keep me busy harvesting.  As with the peas, I find the coloured pods so much easier to find. 

Fire tongue dwarf French beans.

And now for those blossoms.

4.  Spirea

This gal looked a bit rugged after the Beast from the East.  She earned herself a serious haircut this past spring.  Today, she's looking grand.

Spirea going to town.

5.  Unintentionally purple.

In this shady corner, we have a young wisteria, a smoke bush, a very short spider fatsia & a young cedar in a pot.  The poppy & loosestrife/toadflax/wandythang volunteers are serendipitously colour coordinated.

Accidental purple.

6.  Day lily.

This clump isn't actually in my garden, but has escaped from the OAP Fairy Person's garden & lives in the bin alley.  I may have to take custody of it in the autumn when it dies back.

Daylily absconding. 

Do you know my name?

That's my Six for the week.  There's rumours of rain on Tuesday.  In the meantime, does anyone know this plant?

For more garden glimpses, drop by The Propagator who leads this band of merry fools.  You'll find his Six, plus links to all SoS gardens across the globe.

See you here next week, hopefully a little damper.  If not, the unfettered ice cream eating continues.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Tassels, Thugs, & Scary Scapes

Velcro vs twine ties.

Not entirely sure what Nature Goddess I've pissed off, but her scorched earth policy continues.  I'm trapped indoors for huge blocks of the day, lest I be scorched myself. 

Fortunately, Pissed Off Goddess is kinder to her plant subjects, & they be doing radical thangs without me.

1.  To-mah-toes

Although I don't start my seed germination until April, it doesn't seem to've delayed things with the mater production.

We got babies!

I also found this on the ground one morning.  Pretty much surprised me, as the tomato plants are on a terrace ledge, out of harm's way.  I can't imagine what would be tall enough to knock off a branch, other'n a human. 


But I also can't imagine a human in my back garden without the Canine Patrol losing their minds.
However it happened, I've since put the Velcro ties higher up the cages & pruned any errant straggly bits.

2.  Various pepper plants.

My son El Punko's started a tradition where, at Christmas, he gives me a seed kit.  Or two.  Or three.  Usually they're weird & wonderful - I'm currently trying to get olive tree seeds to germinate.

This year, he gave me 6 varieties of chili peppers to go with my garlic crop - I'm a great fan of chili & garlic oil on just about everything, including grilled cheese.

My father excelled at growing both hot & sweet peppers.  He'd pick the hot chilis & pop them in his mouth, seeds & all.  But that was his success below the Mason-Dixon, & this is my 1st try in the British Isles.

Flowers go leor.

So while my to-mah-toes've caught up with the rest of the SoS-ers, my peppers are only at the flowering stage.  I've not seen any flowers turn into baby peppers, so am wondering if this whole experiment is slightly . . . yes, I'm going to say it. 


Moving quickly along . . .

3.  More babies.

Life isn't worth living without a battalion of Halloween jack-o-lanterns.  We always have at least one vine.  While we save a little fruit for Thanksgiving pies, & some family members love the seeds, for me, it's only about Halloween.

Let it grow!

So when selecting what pumpkins I'll be growing, it's all about carving size & nothing else. 

This year has taught me to be more discerning in future.  These pumpkins are thugs.  Not only are they trying to strangle the corn plants, but the vines themselves stand about 30" or more. 


I've never battled my pumpkin vines before, but since about Week 2, I've been cutting & chopping & redirecting to stop the corn from being smothered.

And it's only July.  God help me.

4.  Corn update.

Last week, I lamented the disparity in my 2 types of corn plants.  I reckon word got back to the corn field, because this week, the shorter of the varieties started to tassel.

Shorty gets growing.

That'll teach me to open my gob.

5.  Cutest babies.

This is my first year for cucumelons & they're going for bust up the bed spring trellis.  Their flowers are entirely unimpressive &, from what others say about their taste, I'm not going to relish eating them.

But you got to admit, they take gorgeous baby photos.

Cute-cumelon babies.

Which may or may not be reason enough to grow them again.  I'll get back to you once I bite one of their chillen.

6.  Scapes.

The last bunch of garlic that I left drying out in the shed had about 3 scapes amongst them.  These somehow multiplied during the drying process.  Considerably.

Last of the scapes.

What I didn't have the presence of mind to do, was to photograph them while they were still attached.  Imagine going into your shed & seeing this, only with all the scapes looking out the window.

Decapitated scapes.

Ever so slightly creepy, let me tell you.

Bindweed on the gate.

And that's what's happening this week in my garden.

This blog is part of The Propagator's meme, #SixonSaturday.  Hit the link to see what he's writing about this week (including one fantastic nasturtium I gotta have next year).  In his comment section, you'll find links to bloggers from all over the world highlighting six things you definitely want to see.  For voyeurs like myself, it's great stuff.

Thanks so much for stopping by my patch.  Leave a comment if you've got one, & then do come back next week.

See ya then!