Monday, 30 May 2011

The Ways Less Tread

After the rainy Saturday, Sunday morning downed partly cloudy and dry. The air temperature seemed ideal for walk so, my friend and I packed our rucksack and took off into nature. The round was about 15 km long but we are both in a good physical condition because we often do such tours. And, we love to take the roads and ways less tread; we just love the wilderness. The way led through the meadows and fields and up to the top of a hill where you can see the town and the valley like on your palm.

The grass is high, ready to be cut for hay. The smell is wonderful. 

The river was surprisingly low considering the rain the day before, and flew lazy under the old bridge. 
We found a few mushrooms in the wood; if it continues to be so warm and moist the mushroom season should be good. Before taking the road back home, we went to the nearby farm where I made these lovely lamb pictures.

the twins

'Little lamb, who made thee?'

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Elder Flower Syrup

Now is the time to go for a walk and collect some elder flowers. Every year I make this healthy elder syrup. Elder is well know medicinal and health plant which can be used to treat numerous diseases.
Some people make a jam of ripe berries or even the vine. Elder is a strong diuretic and helps better digestion. It seems like an ideal drink for hot summer days. And here, there is the recipe:

44 elder flowers
150 g citric acid
5 kg sugar
5 l water
1 kg lemon - squeeze a juice

Put 3 l water in a large dish and add flowers.(Do not wash the flowers.) Leave it for 24 h. Discard the flowers and strain the liquid through a thick woven kitchen clothes. Add sugar, another 2 l of water, citric acid and lemon juice. Mix until the sugar dissolves. Fill the bottles and cork them. We usually drink it all during the summer and I do not put any preserving chemicals into the syrup.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Chelsea Chop

Going through my RBG Kew working diary, I found a short note titled "Chelsea Chop". This is a method of cutting back perennials such as phloxes, rudbeckias and Michaelmas dasies by about half their length. The right time to do it is at the end of May during the Chelsea Flower Show week in England - hence the name "Chelsea Chop".
I did it on my Phlox cultivars because they reached the proper hight to do it. I will do it on Rudbeckia and daisies a week later. They are still too low, probably because of the slower growth during cold weeks we had lately.
This will make the plants shorter and sturdier and they will need no support. I did it on only a half of stems leaving some flowers to come early and the other half later. This method prolongs flowering time too.

Thursday, 26 May 2011


May is the month when roses take over in the garden. There are many other perennials in bloom but roses have most prominent colours, flowers and scent.
One of most beautiful english roses I have is 'Abraham Darby'; tall upright bush, wonderful apricot colour and scent that spreads around. My has enormous big flowers and I simply admire it every time I see it.

'Double Delight' belongs to hybrid tea roses but it doesn't look so "artificial" as most hybrids do look to me. The flowers are rather big and scented and change the colour as they fade. The creamy white petals turn on cherry red on the edges and sometimes take over the whole petals.

'Don Juan', a beautiful red flowered climbing rose reached the window on the first floor of my house again.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011


The very first velvety vine coloured flower of C. montana

Clematises are so beautiful that their popularity never diminish. New cultivars have been produced all the time and we always find the place for yet another plant in our gardens. They are ideal for vertical gardening aspect, climbing through the bushes or roses and conquering the trellis and arches.
In my experience, they are not so easy to grow. They sometimes wilt without noticeable reason though they are usually attacked by fungal diseases. In first years of growing they establish the root and it seems as they are growing too slow but, that is natural. Once they establish themselves, they will grow more quickly. 
Firstly, they need to be planted correctly. They need fertile, rich soil with a good drainage. The important thing is to bury the crown at least 5 cm into ground. This will encourage more stems growing from the base. The spot needs to be sunny though there are cultivars adopted to partial shade.

unknown, with large flowers

As I love to say, Clematis loves warm head and cold feet. The best way to do it is to plant some other broad leaved plant near the clematis to cast the shade on it's roots. Sprinkling super-phosphate around the plant will encourage flower production. 
Pruning can be another tricky moment in cultivating clematis but usually, you only have to know what type of clematis you have. Clematises are divided into three groups according to the pruning mode. 
Group 1: early flowering (e.g. C. montana, C. alpina, C. macropetala) need no pruning. Some shearing and tiding up may be necessary if they grow too large and stems look a mess.
Group 2: large-flowered varieties that flower on last year's shoots (e.g. 'The President', C. jackmanii) have to be pruned in late winter and after the first flowering. They may flower once more in a season.

Group 3: flower in summer on shoots grown in that season (e.g. C. viticella). As they make new shoot every season, they need to be cut back hard to the lower pair of healthy buds.

central part of a flower

Clematis viticella 

Clematis viticella produce a mass of pendulous blue flowers throughout the summer. It doesn't twines itself around the support and has to grow through the bushes to hold itself. Climbing species usually twine around the support by making a stem loop.

Usual care of clematis includes fertilizing in spring and in summer, regular watering (especially during dry spells) and a proper pruning.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Vegetable Garden in May

The frost and a week of colder weather some time ago slowed down the growth of the plants both in ornamental and vegetables garden. But, the plants were not damaged so hard and they recovered rather well. 

Lettuce, kohlrabi, onion and radish mixed together; even the dill appeared. The ground is rather dry because it did not rained properly for weeks. We had a shower two days ago but the wind dries the soil quickly. I covered the most of the beds with grass clippings but had not enough for the entire veg garden. I water the garden every evening.

Courgettes germinated quite quickly after the sowing because the ground is warm. The first sowing failed; not a single seed germinated! Must have been something wrong with the seed.

Climbing beans are doing well. 

Peas form the pods.

Tomatoes got some frost bite but recovered nicely. Celery is strong and healthy. 

And, to end this post, this scare-bird. My grandma had it in her vegetable garden all the time. It is really simple to make. Insert a few bird feather (mine are from a crow) and hang it in the vegetable garden. 

Time of Innocence

I was three years old when this was a hit! Still love to hear this song.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Garden Newsletter

This plate originate from Austria where I got it a few years ago and now found it's place on my shed wall. Roughly, the meaning is - there's nothig achieved without hard work ( from early in the morning until night); envy eyes see only the flower beds but not the shovel too. How true!


Roses started to open their flowers; this one is called 'Double Delight'.


This clematis flower has an unusual petal or, is it a leaf? One half is green, the other half is blue... certainly an odd genetic mistake!


Calycanthus is a long blooming shrub.

What a Bloomer!

Paeonia lactiflora 'Festiva Maxima'

One of the most beautiful peonies I have is 'Festiva Maxima'. It looks really stunning when in full bloom with it's large, multi-petal flowers. Again this year, it will have over eighty flowers. Each stem carries five to six flower buds, the central one being first to open.

This peony is rather high (about 1m) and I always circle it around with wire mesh before it starts to sprout in spring. As it grows through, the wire became invisible. It holds the stems together. Though the stems are strong and erect, the flowers are pretty large and heavy and I additionally stake every flower stem for better  support.

The noticeable fragrant flowers are pure white with occasional crimson flecks that occur mostly in the centre of the flower. This herbaceous peony is easy to grow and lives decades, sometimes up to a century! Place it in fertile, rich soil in sun and leave it undisturbed.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Potatoes in the Bag

As I have no place in my vegetable garden to plant potatoes, I have decided to try growing them in a bag. I never did it before and I am eager to see how many potatoes can be produced in a bag. I bought three strong nylon bags for the purpose.
Weeks ago I placed the potato tubers in a warm and bright place to sprout. This is termed chitting potatoes. This way the tubers produce sprouts early before planting. This method is very good for early varieties which need 12 to 20 weeks to reach the size to harvest.
When the sprouts are 2 - 3 cm long, they are ready for planting. I left only a few sprouts on each potatoes. Big tubers can be cut into smaller pieces having two to three sprouts each. If you cut the tubers, let them dry for a few days before planting to seal the wounds. Be careful when handling the tubers because the sprouts are brittle and easy to fall off.

Firstly, I made a place for the bags in my garden. The place should be sunny and warm. You can cover the ground with wet newspapers and straw. This will suppress the weeds growing around the bags. Straw is more for the look!
Then I filled the bags to 1/3rd with compost and placed two to three tubers in each. I covered the tubers with some more compost. Using a pitch fork I poked a few holes on the bottom of the bags for drainage.
I watered the potatoes well. I planted my potatoes exactly on April 29th. Now they have about 10 cm long stems. I think they would have been larger if the weather was not so cold lately.

When the leaves and stems reach the length of 20 cm, I will cover them up with compost to 2/3 of their length. And, so it is going on until the bag is full.

Now, a little bit of botany. It is clear that the potato tubers originate from a stem and serve as underground storage organs. It is the same case with Dahlia, for example. So, when we cover the stems with soil, they start to produce the tubers. Isn't it wonderful?

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The First Garden Fair in My Town

These two welcome all the visitors on the entrance.

I live in a small town where events like this are rare. Maybe it was the reason why the very first flower fair in my town had so many visitors. As a first prize winners for the best looking gardens, my friend and I were asked to present our gardens. 

our stand...

We made the panels with the photographs of our gardens and showed our shabby chic furniture and other things we do. The only bad thing was the rainy weather and rather strong wind. It limited the space for exhibition and we had to gather all the things under the small plastic pavilion.

You could buy lots of plants: seasonal flowers, perennials, shrubs, trees...

cactuses and succulents.

Even the sweets were shaped like flowers... (made by Maja)

Decoupage technique on flower theme.

The necklace made of olive wood.

Our guest of honour was Kornelija Benyovsky Šoštarić,  popular gardening TV presenter. Nobody went home in spite of rain shower waiting for her to come and she too patiently presented her book "The Green Square" (see my previous post here) and answered all the gardening questions we asked. She also signed her book to all who bought it before or today.

Kornelija signing her book for me...

Saturday, 14 May 2011

One man's trash...

One man's trush another man's treasure... This could be easily applied on me. I simply love that special "trash day" in the town. the day when we pile up all the things we don't want anymore in the front of our houses so it can be collected by garbage truck.
The society of consumers throws really good stuff so, I use to make a round the streets of my town before the garbage truck picks them up. This is a gold mine to me. Please, don't laugh, my last catch were: a wooden coat hanger stand - the top was missing, but the bottom looked interesting having four small legs; a wooden chair - old, but in very good condition, and pitcher and bowl wrought iron stand.
The wooden coat stand is transformed into a small table. I needed a carpenter to make the top plate. The part from the hanger serves now as table leg. I painted both the chair and the table ivory and decorated it with decoupage technique. Now I have a nice garden set.

My next project is a small pergola that will be attached to one side of the shed.  I have bought the material today and the same carpenter that made the shed is now making the pergola. This is the last corner of my garden to design and plant and I am thinking of it as a private sitting area. I have already planted rambling rose 'Blue Magenta'; it will grow over the pergola eventually. I will surround it with shrubs and place this sitting set underneath the pergola. It will be a nice place to chat with my friends and have a cup of coffee.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Frost in May

Frost in May in the regions with continental climate is not unusual. Two rather cold mornings and frost were enough to make this damage on Hosta 'Sum and Substance', Hosta plantaginea and Polygonum polymorphum. It was - 2°C! Luckily, only three most exposed Hostas suffered this damage. Actually, they got burnt by sun that came after the frost. Now I have to remove the damaged foliage. I know, they will sprout again but, what a pity!

Friday, 6 May 2011


My Columbines just begun to flower. I love them because their unusual flowers that come in variety of colours. They tolerate any well-drained soil, but prefer slight shade. They mix well with most of the plants in the garden and are beloved cottage garden plants. Don't they look like ballerinas?
Columbines happily seed themselves and, if you don't want them to take over your garden, you have to snip off the follicles before they dry and split open to release the seeds. I know it from my own experience. Seedlings quickly run deep tap root that is very hard to remove. Older plants are almost impossible to root out because they will re-grow from root particles left in the ground.
If you want the seed, simply tie a paper bag round the follicle and collect it. They cross pollinate themselves so, the new plants may be surprisingly different from the mother plant - just take a look at these on the pictures of mine!

There is also something dangerous about these beauties. The roots and the seeds are highly poisonous and, if eaten, cause severe stomach and heart conditions.

I planted some new cultivars into the garden and wait to see their first flowers. I am especially interested in the cultivar 'Magpie' grown from seed last year. This year I have sown some new species of columbines: A. flabellata pulmilla kurilensis, A. 'Sweetrainbows' and A. x caerula 'Sunshine'.

Although the germination takes sometimes up to three months, I never give up sowing new Aquilegias. I just love them.
In Croatia grows Aquilegia kitaibelii an endemic species that can be found only on mount Velebit. It is also protected species.

A. kitaibelii (image by National Park  Paklenica)