Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The last of tomatoes

The tomato season is definitely over. The temperature dropped today to 6°C (6 h in the morning)! It probably won't flower anymore so I have picked up all the fruit and made some ketchup.
Here, there are two recipes; one for ketchup and the other for "salsa di pomidori"...


3 kg tomatoes
3 garlic cloves
24 dag raisins (if you like it)
vinegar, salt, pepper, curry (if you like it) or spices to your taste
Wash tomatoes and cut into pieces. Cook for some time, add raisins and garlic (crushed), add all the spices. Cook until soft enough to puree it through the colander. Cook the pulp further on until you get the desired thickness of your ketchup. Wash the bottles or jars thoroughly, put into oven and warm them up. Fill in the hot ketchup and seal it.


5 kg tomatoes
3 garlic cloves
2 carrots
2 onions
1 celery  (leaves and root)
parsley, thyme, pepper, salt
olive oil

Wash and cut the tomatoes. Wash and clean the carrot, parsley, onion and celery, and put it into a pot. Add crushed garlic, pepper, thyme, and cook slowly on low temperature for an hour and a half. Puree it through the colander and cook for another hour. (Yes, it is tiresome business!). Finally add salt.
Fill in warm glass jars, pour some olive oil over, and seal.

More recipes here Tomato ketchup.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Late summer colour

Look what I found wandering around my small town...

A multitude of Callistephus in front of an old grandma house.

Beautiful sunflowers! My neighbour plant them in a row to serve as a fence around the vegetable garden.

More sunflowers...

Bougainvillea in the pot. It could not survive our winter outside.

This Campsis is arching the garden entrance.

Hummulus lupulus took over one inhabited house.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Hoya pubicalyx

Hoya is a climbing plant but I leave mine to trail over the flower pot. When it becomes warm outside, I hang the pot on the terrace. Some keep it in the pot trained on the trelly and do not move it again. If the conditions on the spot are favourable, eventually it becomes pretty big. Hoya is native to southern Asia, Polynesia and Australia and belongs to the family Asclepiadaceae. There are about 300 hundreds of Hoya species. I think I have Hoya pubicalyx because the flower petals are covered in fine hairs.

It has got an interesting common name - Waxflower or Waxplant reffering to the look of the flowers that are sturdy and look as if they were made of wax. Hoya is popular house plant in temperate zones.

The flowers appear in clusters at the top of the peduncles. The flower umbels appear always on the same peduncle which grows longer every season. The leaves are rigid and green having small silvery spots. Flowers are scented and exude a sweet nectar appearing as small drops on it. Each flower has five thick, waxy petals, pale rose in colour. Leave them to drop off naturally when they are dead. Removing them by hand may damage delicate flower stems.

Hoya is easy to grow requiring reasonable amount of light but better away form direct sun. In a shade the leaves would be dark green having more chloroplasts for the photosynthesis. They are hardy by -1°C. The soil has to be well drained but moisture retentive. Reduce the watering in winter once per month to induce plant dormancy. 


Hoya can be propagated by stem cuttings in summer. Simply put the cutting into mixture of peat and perlite, water and cover with a plastic bag (I use plastic bottles) and leave it in warm place away from the direct sun light. Replant when it takes the roots.

Nectar drops on the flowers.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Store the seeds

Clematis aggregated achenes have a long hairy appendage that develop from the style of the flower. These are yet not to be collected.

Throughout the season I regularly deadhead the plants to keep them producing flowers. But, from September onwards I leave a few flowers of to set the seed. It may look a bit untidy but it is necessary to have seeds.
Some plants such as Echinacea may be left as it is for the winter. It  looks wonderful covered in ice and snow and gives the garden structure and interest.
It is not a bad idea to make a list of the plants from which you want to collect the seeds. I make small paper bags (or use envelopes) and write names of plants along with other relevant information such collecting and sowing time, special germination needs and so on.

Tagetes seed heads and seed

Proper timing to collect the seed is important because the seed must be ripe. Look carefully for the seed pods and capsules in order not to loose the seed. They release the seed by splitting which may occur suddenly and the seed is lost. You can tie a paper bag over entire stem to prevent it.
Collect the seed when the weather is dry. Put the pods, capsules and flower heads in the paper bags and leave for some time to dry. Always label the bags.

Impatiens fruit splits when ripe and throw the seeds away at a certain distance from the mother plant. It is a pretty invasive plant, but you can always transplant the seedlings on some other place.

Some seeds need extracting by hand, the other needs only shaking. Keep the seed bags in a dry place. Extract the seed from fleshy fruits such as melon, tomato, courgette and cucumber and wash it thoroughly in a sieve. Dry completely before the storage.

Dill seeds soon to be collected.

I use to leave some plants to self seed, especially if I want them at the same place in the border next year. One of them is Lunaria annua. Be careful with plants such as Aquilegia and Impatiens because they may be invasive. 
 Cut off the seed pods before they release the seeds.      
I sow biennials such as Digitalis or Campanula straight away to get the seedlings that will flower the next season.
Seeds may have also short period of viability so if you not sure, take a look for some info about storing and sowing the particular species of plant.

Lunaria annua

I keep my seed bags in a drawer on a dry, well aerated place.

More on seeds - take a look at SEEDS.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Beautiful Hostas

Hostas are my favourite shade plants and I have more than 15 varieties of them in my garden. I love them because they are wonderful structural plants, with great foliage and flowers as well. They come in all shapes and sizes and variety of leaves colour.
Today, you can find a great number of Hosta varieties. Some of them are small, the other big, with huge leaves and flowers. Foliage colour may be blue, blue - green, pale or dark green; many have variegated leaves, usually with white or yellow on the margins, in the middle or all over the leaf.
 Hosta do best in semi - shade and moist soil. It is really easy growing plant that needs little care. The main problem are slugs and snails that damage the leaves. There are no slug proof hosta, but it seem the slugs love some more than the others. Blue and blue - green hostas seems to be more protected from slugs.
Hosta leaves damaged by slugs and snails.

The other problem occurs when they are exposed to sun. The leaves may get burnt, especially after the rain when the leaves are sprinkled with raindrops that act as small lenses.

Sun burnt leaf. 

My Hostas were badly damaged by hail some two months ago. I made a mistake and left them be. I should cut all the foliage right to the ground to make new one grow. They would look good by now. Anyway, I have to transfer some of my Hostas that are exposed to sun now. I had to cut down an old dried out apple tree that used to provide shade for them. I have already made a new layout plan for my future "Hosta Garden". You will see the progress, of course.

Hosta plantaginea is common hosta in most of our gardens. The leaves are pale green, soft and deeply veined that give the foliage nice structure. It flowers right now with white, fragrant flowers. (You can see hail holes on the foliage!)
Hosta "Wide Brim"; beautiful foliage, white flowers.
Hosta 'Sum and Substance' ; huge foliage, white flowers. It will be eventually pretty large and need lots of space.
Hosta 'Patriot'  ; white leaf margins and violet flowers.
  Hosta sieboldiana 'Elegans'; beautiful blue - green foliage, white flowers.

 Hosta 'Frances Williams'; unfortunatelly, damaged by hail and not looking good this year
Hosta can be propagated by division in spring or autumn. I have some hosta fruits this year and will try to grow it from seed.

Hosta fruit.

These two large hostas will be divided in September.

My Hosta list:

Hosta 'Frances Williams'
Hosta plantaginea
Hosta 'Sum and Substance'
Hosta fortunei 'Aureomarginata'
Hosta 'Patriot'
Hosta 'Silberloeffel'
Hosta 'Wide Brim'
Hosta 'Francee'
Hosta 'Undulata Variegata'
Hosta 'Halcyon'
...and some others I do not know the name.
Most of my hostas came from DECORA nursery.
For more hostas see American Hosta Society.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Groomsbridge Place

Anyone for a game of chess?

Five years ago I did my horticultural internship at Royal Botanical Garden Kew in England. It was a wonderful experience. I spent three unforgettable months living in London -Kew and working in one of the famous botanical gardens of the world.
Each weekend I spent touring London (on foot!) or taking the trip to one of the beautiful gardens of England.
Visiting other gardens was also a part of my internship so, one day the whole Amenity Unit (where I was placed) payed the visit to Groomsbridge Place.

Shade garden

Groomsbridge Place gardens are laid out in 17th century, designed as 'outside rooms' of the house. The White Rose Garden was once the orchard. There are still some old apple trees growing in it. The rose garden is planted with all shades of white flowers and over twenty varieties of white roses.

The White Rose Garden

One of the garden corners.

The Knot Garden

The Knot gardens is designed as formal garden. The beds are edged with trimmed box hedge and planted with blue and yellow flowers.

Hazel shrubs and natural planting in the flower beds.

One of the white busts placed in a cut-in windows of a tall yew hedge.
(take a look at the first picture, it is right behind me)

This boat is slowly floating through the channel leading to the Enchanted Forest. It is a woodland area belonging to the estate. The Enchanted Forest is overlooking Groomsbridge Place and it is full of surprises designed to amuse and entertain. You can find the swings attached to the old oaks, a wigwam, dragons and dinosaurs or small caged animals like rabbits. The walk goes out of the woods through the vineyard and back to the gardens. It was an unforgettable day out.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Pretty flowers

Fuchsia magellanica survives the winter outside.

The climbing rose 'Parade' is blooming again.

Dianthus chinesis

Fuchsia sp.

Lathyrus sp., Sweet Pea

Friday, 13 August 2010

Garden note

As the Echinacea flowers fade away, spikes of Agastache have just begun to flower.

My constant aim is how to prolong he flowering season in the garden and, as it seems, I am slowly achieving it. The garden reaches it's best in June/July , depending on the weather. The thing is, you have to learn sometimes by trial and error to see what's looking the best in your garden depending on climate and soil type. And, even the perfectly planned flower bed fails sometimes because the plants just do not flower when they are supposed to. In the first years of planning my borders, there was lots of digging out and rearranging of the plants until I found the perfect spot and combination.
Anyway, in late summer and autumn there are still some flowers to come - Agastache, Rudbeckias, Asters, Sedum spectabilis, Sedum telephium, and Anemone japonica. Verbena bonariensis, Rudbeckia fulgida, Liriope muscari and Ruselia equisetiformis are flowering at the moment.
Verbena bonariensis grown up from seed this spring is already flowering this season. Great! It is great "filling in" plant.

Sedum spurium 'Variegatum' and Sedum sp. are planted in an old tree trunk.

Ruselia equisetiformis has to go inside during the winter and I grow it in the pot.
Liriope muscari is good for semi-shade or shade.