Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Finally Some Sun

'The President'

We have caught some sun today and plants came alive. This Clematis finally opened wide. Peonies are all full of buds. Hopefully the rain will stop when they start to open. I staked some of them but not all. The new varieties have firm stems but they too bend under the weight of rain.

 The soil is soaked and completely unworkable so, mowing the lawn was all the gardening work for today. 

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Between Two Rainshowers

I know, I know, not a pretty sight. These brown-orange slugs eat my plants! The weather is ideal for them. It's been raining almost all the time. I cannot believe it how much rain fell down in past 24 hours. 
I managed to collect slugs in the morning when the rain stopped falling for half an hour! 
I miss working in the garden but what can I do? The weather forecast is bothering me - more rain until next Tuesday, and only 7°C on Sunday?!

The bold and beautiful Hosta 'Sum and Substance'

The slugs ate completely my parsley so, I sowed some more today (in the rain!). I have collected lots of them all over the garden. Strangely enough, they did not even touch any of Hostas and they are supposed to be their favourites. I avoid using chemicals in the garden but now I really need to buy some slug control granules. I hope I am going to find some organic ones.

I don't know why Wisteria flowers so little but what you see on the photo is pretty much all of it.
My God, if you could see how dark it is now and it thunders again!
At least no tornadoes as in America. Poor people, I mustn't complain.

Monday, 28 April 2014

The New Book

One of my favourite book web shops is 'Bookdepository'. I buy my gardening and hobby-art books there for quite some time. They have a very good choice of books and free delivery worldwide.
My latest acquisition is a book by Tony Lord 'Best Borders'
I am quite delighted by it. He describes the borders in some of the best known English gardens such as Sissinghurst and Great Dixter.
What I love the most are the gardeners revealing the secrets of creating and maintaining such borders. There are also plans for most of them as well which is great inspiration for me.

Being gardener myself, I know how much effort is needed to take care about such borders even on a small scale. Just imagine these borders about 5 to 6 meters wide and up to 10 meters long!
I was always wondering how the plants stay upwards suffering the rain and wind... now I know some secrets of staking.
I am about to finish reading the book and will certainly employ some of the techniques I learned.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Pruning Forsythias

Some days ago I pruned harshly the two of my Forsythias. As it has been raining almost every day, at the moment pruning is the only job that could be done in the garden.
Normally, Forsythia needs to be pruned right after flowering in spring to keep it in shape and initiate a new growth. Forsythia set flowers on the previous year shoots. These two that grow in a mixed border facing south were a bit neglected. I did not prune them last year and they became too big. They developed a very thick top crown with lots of weirdly entangled branches. The tops were so heavy with new growth that they fell over the flower bed in front of them. They look rather apocalyptic now and make a gap in the bush background. But, soon the growth will cover that ugly looking bare wood and the gap would be filled with green again. I love them because they are among the first flowering bushes in Spring though, I would like to have less occupation with them.

Cornus alba blooming

On the other hand, my favourite bush in the garden is Cornus alba 'Sibirica'. I have several bushes of Cornus in the mixed border. In winter, the most beautiful are their red coloured stems. It needs pruning as well but They have a neat habitus even if I have no time to do it. I only cut them back to 1.5 m height every second year.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Solomon's Seal

The weather these days has been as it supposed to be in April, very changeable. The periods of rain and sun exchange several times a day.
Though, it was a little bit more rain than sun and I simply couldn't mow the lawn for quite some time. I did it today as sun as the sky cleared. The grass was pretty high and wet so, it was really exhausting job. But, I am glad I did it because the clouds are coming from the west again. 

The weather conditions were good for seed germination as well as plant growth. It seems to me that all the plants gain at least 10 cm in height in only two weeks. At the moment, the most attractive plant that grows under the hazel bush in my garden is Solomon's seal, Polygonatum multiflorum. It is native to Croatia and grows in woods. 
This species reaches about 90 cm in height and has several tubular flowers in axils of the leaves.

It is quite undemanding plant, easy to grow and to take care of. It prefers moist soil, and tolerates shade. Actually, I do nothing at all with it. When the hazelnut leaves cover the ground in autumn, I just let them be. I don't rake that area because I grow there all woodland plants such as Periwinkle, wild garlic, wood sage and ferns. By spring, the leaves are half rotten and serve as mulch. The new plant growth hides the soil in spring and earthworms and other soil creatures finish the job with the leaves by autumn. It is the perfect natural cycle and it works.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Itsy Bitsy Spider

This morning on my garden fence... he has caught a breakfast.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The Fence - Natural Way

Yesterday afternoon a friend of mine and I have spent cutting hazel shoots that I needed to make the natural fence. It will also serve as a support for the cucumbers or gourds and make a screen when they overgrow it. As you can see on the first photograph, the neighbouring plot looks abandoned which is not quite the truth. My neighbours live elsewhere and use to come here a few times a year which is, of course, not often enough to keep the plot tidy. That is one thing. The other is that there is no fence between our two plots. In Croatia, the neighbour to your right side is supposed to make a fence. I say 'supposed to' because I see no way how to make them do it. And so it is for almost twenty years!

Can you imagine something like that in your country? The independence war in Croatia ended in 1995.  The whole town was one big ruin, a disaster place. We came back home and repaired the houses and made the new gardens. But people who did not return to their homes just didn't have to do anything about it! There are still many ruined houses and overgrown yards around the town. I simply don't understand how the government cannot do something about it and find a way to solve this problem. I need to go to my neighbour's plot and clear the weeds and brambles between us or, otherwise, they will come to my garden!

This situation to be more absurd, I might be accused for trespassing! In my opinion, my neighbours, no matter where they live, should be obligated to do something with their property - keep it tidy, for one thing.
Anyway, I decided to make some kind of fence, meter by meter, depending on how much material I can gather. I hope my neighbour won't mind it.
This hazel fence is easy to make and it is also inexpensive - in case I need to remove it. Providing all material needed, it took me two hours to make about two meters long fence.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Frosty Morning

Yes, you see right. The roof of my garden shed is white with frost. These so called 'late frosts' are not so uncommon in continental climate. It was only 2°C early in the morning!
As soon as the sun came out the frost was gone and made no damage on the plants.

The tree peony started to bloom. The other early herbaceous peonies have lots of buds. Three years ago I have planted Paeonia tenuifolia, the fern leaf peony, in the rock garden and ever since have been waiting for the very first flowers to appear. It seem this will happen this year at last! I only hope the cats won't ruin it because they love to walk and sleep in the rock garden!

At the moment the pink and the white form of Saxifraga arendsii is flowering in the rock garden. They make cushions of mossy leaves and produce many flowers in early Spring.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Spring Flowers

Anemone hepatica

Bergenia cordifolia

Helleborus sp.


Thursday, 10 April 2014

The Two Shrubs

The two of my numerous shrubs that grow all along the garden fence are now in full bloom. The one is Prunus laurocerasus,  the cherry laurel and, the other one is Kerria japonica, Jew's Mallow.
I love the cherry laurel because it is evergreen and makes a nice screen. 

This year it produced many inflorescences full of white flowers. They are great attraction for bees and other insects and I must tell you there is a big buzz around it! I prune it only with secateurs to keep the shrub in shape. Many people grow it as evergreen hedge. But, personally, I don't like it because by shaping the hedge these large, shiny leaves must be cut which doesn't look very pretty.

Kerria was the first one shrub planted on this site and I wanted to get rid of it in order to plant cherry laurel and some other shrubs. Kerria has long week shoots that often arch down and scramble over other plants around. That is why I wanted to eradicate it from this place. It looks lovely when in bloom, though. 
Anyway, it seems that it was not so easy to remove it from the ground  - it produces lots of suckers and shoots, any of them left in the ground will grow into a new plant.

So, if you cannot beat it...
 Now is the cherry laurel big enough to hold the Kerria shoots and I will just let it be. The yellow flowers of wild specimen of Kerria are simple and I have a cultivar with full blooms 'Flore Pleno'.
I need to prune it right after flowering because it forms blooms on previous year wood. 

Tuesday, 8 April 2014


Yesterday was the day to transplant the seedling into individual pots. I hope my improvised 'cold frame' will keep them safe. It is actually my grilling place but it serves perfectly another purposes as well. The nights are a bit cold and I need to throw over the nylon cover overnight to keep my seedlings warm. 
Last Spring was rather cold (this one is 4° warmer than an average!) and most of the seedlings were ruined. This year I sow all outdoors and have pretty good stock of kale, tomato, celery, parsley, tomatillo, lettuce and some flowers such as sunflower and lablab (hyacinth bean).

 There were so many Hellebores seedlings in the flower bed and I pulled the best of them up and planted into the pots. They get back as soon as I finish tiding up the beds. These were all around the red flowered Hellebore, I wonder if they will too have the same flower colour.
(Mark, I hope this will help you identify your seedlings)

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Bird House?

Checking out the two birdhouses I attached to the garden shed, I noticed that the entrance of one of them is sealed by mud. I guess it is mud, it could be this papery material that wasps and some bees make. I did not want to touch it in order not to ruin the hard work. Standing on the chair and taking the photo I managed to catch the bee sealing the opening. In the other bird house (or should I call it a bee house?) I noticed the honeycomb. 

In the insect hotel I made some years ago many of the tubes are also sealed. The solitary bees are as much important as the honey bees doing the important job of pollination and I am glad they like the homes I made for them. Ever since my childhood I've been fascinated by nature. No matter how many times I sow all the beauties of nature, it never sized to amaze me.
I have always collected the various items, like pebbles, shells, insects, even live animals. My mum told me that I, when I was a child, brought her the lizard, and a handful of lady birds!

These are some of my findings - honeycombs and these odd mud buildings. You can see the cells with chrysalis remains. 

Friday, 4 April 2014

Compost, lizard and me

Sieving the compost seemed less effort than digging and weeding and I did it yesterday. I made this 'sieve' of a wooden frame and wire mash to fit the wheelbarrow so, the compost falls directly in. This compost heap is about four years old and consisted mostly of mixture of wood, leaves and green material, wood being the hardest to decompose. Eventually, it did. The volume sized down to one third.

The compost is excellent, earthy smell, dark, crumbling... as it supposed to look like. I sieved 10 full wheelbarrow of compost from this heap. Not bad. I spread all the compost in the vegetable garden. I had enough material to build the new heap. The rain is announced for tomorrow, I hope we would have at least one good shower to water the garden and my new compost heap.

This legless lizards (Ophisaurus apodus, the Europian Glass lizzard), are the constant dwellers in my garden and in the compost heap - it's warm place to live! I had to caught one to make this close-up. This one was not very big though they could reach 1 meter in length and people so unrighteously have fear of them and used to kill them! They feed primarily on snail, slugs, arthropods and small mammals. 
In case you can't tell between the snake and the lizard, lizards have external ear openings and movable eyelids.

To finish the work for the day, I sowed the parsley and spring onion and made the construction for runner beans.