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Monday, 31 March 2014

Work, Work, Work

My mum helps me in the garden...

This is how the garden looks like in early Spring. I have been digging and clearing the flower beds for days. This very first cleaning is the most important. I always try to dig out as many perennial weeds as possible and my work goes on slowly. Further on, I only have to maintain  the garden regularly with less effort.
The main problem are the weeds that spread by means of creeping rhizomes such as ground elder and couch grass. They are very annoying and hard to eradicate. I need to work with the garden fork in order not to cut the rhizomes - the tiniest of the cuts will produce a new plant! And, they grow pretty rapidly!


There are some gaps between plants which means there also a place for some new plants. I have neighbour's cats in the garden and fight the battle against them, the battle I never win. I do love animals but, cats urinate all over my garden and ruin my plants. I really have lots of understanding but I have had it now. I don't know what to do.


Sometimes the cats sleep in the rock garden too - it is probably cosy there as the stones warm up in the sun.  I had some early dwarf tulips as well as various creeping and cushion-like plants in the rock garden and they are no more.


The pink pasque flower is there but there was the white one beside it too. Aubrieta is still alive as well as various sedums and one big peony bush. Well, plant hunt and shopping is in order. Some plants in the garden need to be divides so, I am going to fill the gaps with them as well.


Thursday, 27 March 2014

The First Seedlings


The very first to germinate were the seeds of kale and kohlrabi. Being of the same cabbage family, the kale and kohlrabi seedlings look almost the same. The kohlrabi seedlings have slightly purple stems as the cultivar is called 'Vienna Purple'.
We had some rain on Monday and the temperatures dropped, but not so much as in other parts of Croatia where hail and snow accompanied with the strong wind again caused lot of troubles. 


The peas too came out. It is a low growing pea variety, but anyway, I used to put some old branches to make a support for the stems. It is the old-fashioned way to support the pea, the way my grandmother used to do it. I could spread the plastic mesh but I am not sure I want the plastic in my garden.


The Lovage (Levisticum officinale) is already very big. I am quite surprised how quickly it grows. I use it mostly in soups.


Lettuce is looking healthy as well...


... and this forgotten kohlrabi started to form the flowers. I did not sow any vegetable seeds outside yet. I think I will do it in about ten days, following my biodynamic lunar calendar.




Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Ophipogon


The post about Ophiopogon on Mark's blog, reminded me how interesting this plant actually is. I have it in the garden for many years and it did not spread so much. It grows slowly but densely covers the ground. I was rather surprised by the look of it! It seems that this mild winter did the plants good. The foliage colour is beautiful, don't you think so? But, I noticed also these little fellows - the tiny fruits equally so beautiful. They too have the same colour as the plant itself, deep dark violet. 


Actually, the colour seems almost back with this bluish shine. The tiny flowers are yet to come, but this plant is interesting mostly because this beautiful colour of foliage. 
This 'cousin' of  'Lily of the Valley' (both of them belong to the same family Covallariaceae) tolerates shade, and love moist, slightly acid, well-drained, humus-rich soil. That is the reason the moss grows there as well!




Saturday, 22 March 2014

Bamia


I went to gardening shop today to check out a new display of seeds and, to my great surprise, I sow sachets of ocra seeds. I bought one sachet and sowed two dozens of seeds in module trays. I'm always quite excited to try something new and cannot wait to see how it looks like 'live'. I mean. I sow it only on the pictures.

Image credit: www.greenhousebed.com

In Croatia we call this plant bamia, and is also known as ocra. It is not so popular as in the neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, where it can be bought on the markets. It is probably brought up here by Turks during their 400 years long conquest of Europe. 
Bamia, Abelmoschus esculentus (syn. Hybiscus esculentus), is actually a very interesting plant. The flowers are quite pretty. Many of their 'cousins' from the family Malvaceae (the Mallows) are grown as ornamentals in out homes and gardens.
What I know about ocra is is that the edible pods contain mucus and are used to prepare various dishes. So, the next months I would be browsing Caribbean, Malaysian and West Asian cuisine in search of good recipes with ocra. I wonder what it tastes like. The pods could be dried to preserve them for use in winter.
It is thought to cure diabetes and intestinal problems and is also used in cosmetics to treat the skin.




Friday, 21 March 2014

Happy Spring Day!


Even though the Spring has officially arrived yesterday, today is the Spring day. The days will be longer and warmer and I wish all of us a happy new gardening season. I am looking forward to reading many of your interesting posts.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Being Busy


I am dead tired but pleased with the work done. I have been weeding and clearing the flower beds for three days now. I also managed to make this old brick pavement in the front of the cellar window yesterday. Being in the shade, this area is always wet. Nothing will grow there except moss and weeds. Small area on the right side is planted with ferns and sages; they feel like home in conditions given.


I have planted primroses in the vase standing in the front garden. There is lots of primroses and hyacinths on the market, prices being really low. Primroses cost 5 kuna which is about 1 dollar. To add some interest and hight I made this 'cage' of red dog wood branches. This is the base for the Easter décor I already have on my mind.


Wood anemones have been flowering for some time now. They made nice carpets under the bushes and are the only white flowers in the garden at the moment. 
I could not do much weeding today because of the rain but, I cleaned my small garden shed instead. As ever, over the winter it serves as the storage for all the things possible: garden tools, chairs, table, watering cans, wellies, bags of walnuts, fertilizers, terracotta birdbath, lantern, you name it! At least I could open the doors to get in! How on earth I manage to pack it up with all the stuff every year?
And everything has its place.


Monday, 17 March 2014

Ground Cover That Never Fails


If you want a reliable ground cover plant choose Vinca minor / Periwinkle. Now is the time when it sets lots of blue stellar flowers. There is also a new growth of glossy leaves that cover the ground so quickly and densely that the weeds have no chance. It is grows well in sun or shade and I really don't know why is it so unappreciated.


I have it planted under my dogwood bush, along with some other plants like Liriope muscari, its grass like foliage popping out of the periwinkle sea, and Chaenomeles japonica (Japanese Quince). This Japanese Quince of mine has a low growing, almost creeping habit. 


This is the periwinkle cultivar 'Aureovariegata' with golden yellow variegated leaves. On the older leaves this green - yellow contrast is not so visible as on the young ones. I am planing to purchase the one with the white flowers to light up a dark corner in the garden.


Vinca 'Gertrude Jekyll'





Sunday, 16 March 2014

Warming up


These are the days when I go out wearing layers of long and short sleeves in the morning. By noon, the layers slowly come off leaving me in just a T-shirt. On some days the temperature difference between frosty morning and a warm mid day was more than 18 degrees. But, everything is warming up - the air temperature, the soil and I, spending every day more and more time in the garden. 
I noticed this lovely purple Hyacinth in the garden today. The bulb I planted two years ago did not bloom until now. It was a forced bulb, and they are said to be worn out and hard to bloom again. I was sorry to throw it away and planted it in the garden. It seems it took it two years to regain the strength and to flower again.


Some weeks ago the wind turned over the plant in a terracotta pot and it broke. I am sentimentally attached to these old weathered pots. I mean, I could buy new pots but they have no history behind. Know what I mean? I have made this mini succulent garden today by using the remains of the broken pot. My mission - trash to treasure, giving a new life to old, thrown away things.



Monday, 10 March 2014

Sowing the Seeds


The cold and windy weather did not prevent me of sowing some of the flower seeds. According to the biodynamic calendar  (please, follow the link if you are interested in it, this one is valid for UK, Europe) the days from 5th to 19th March are the most favourable for sowing or planting.  I use the printed version of the calendar from 'My Beautiful Garden' magazine. Try to find the one valid to the region where you live.
As suggested in the calendar, today is the good day to sow the flowers, which I did. I sowed cup and saucer, some poppies, sunflower, evening primrose and creeping soap-wort.


I sowed the larger seeds in module trays and the small seed into ordinary trays. I made this soil mixture: 2 parts loam, 1 part sand, 1 part peat, all sifted through 9 mm sieve. I added some fertilizer (Osmocote, slow releasing) too. 


Being true to my myself ('recycle as much as you can'), I reused the plastic trays in which the fresh meat is packed in supermarkets.
As usually, one is used as the sowing tray and another as the cover. To me, they make a perfect little greenhouses. Of course, after watering, labelling it is really important because there is no way you would remember which is which, especially if you are going to sow some more seed as I will. And, I will sow not only some more flowers but the vegetable too. 


The trays go inside to the warmer temperature as soon as they drain.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Wisteria Day


Yesterday I spent the whole afternoon pruning Wisteria. I would have done it before but, the days were rainy and the ground slippery. It wasn't quite smart to climb up the roofs and pergolas in such weather conditions. Namely, I had to go to my mum's friend garden and prune her Wisteria as well. They two think I am still young enough to climb the ladder. I certainly didn't have to climb to prune my Wisteria, I can reach it from the terrace and balcony with the telescopic lopper. I pruned it back to the two buds. 


Seed raised Wisteria can take up to 20 years to set flowers. It is recommendable to buy the one that has been grown from cuttings. Older specimen flower well when given the right cut and favorable growing condition. Funny thing happened when I sent plenty of pods to my friend and she put it on the top bookshelf in the sitting room (where the air is the warmest) in order to dry and open. She has forgotten all about it and one day while watching TV she jumped from the armchair with fright. The pods cracked open and it sounded as if someone had fired the gun! She is a nursery manager and sowed all the seeds in a glasshouse on work. She also told me that the young Wisterias she had grown from that seed have already flowered the next year! So, I will have a go with sowing the seeds as well.


The seeds are pretty tough and need to be slightly scratched and soaked in warm water for 24 hours before sowing. Well, I did not wait for the pods to open naturally, I used a hammer!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Moon and Venus


A week ago, at 5.30 a.m.,  the Moon and  the Venus were so close in the sky. My camera was not good enough to take the picture but my brother managed to catch the moment. 

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Clematis montana 'Fragrant Spring'


To my great surprise, my Clematis in pot started to flower. I bought it last year on the flower show in May but, somehow I did not plant it the garden. The whole winter the pot was standing in the corner of my kitchen. I only wanted it to survive until the spring and plant it when it gets warm outside. As the tag says, it is supposed to be Clematis montana 'Fragrant Spring'. I say 'suppose' because that cultivar has pink flowers and this one has the white.


Browsing the net, I found the pink ones, the white ones and pale pink ones as well, all under the same name. Anyway, I love this white one of mine. This group of woodland clematises is not so popular among gardeners as it is not hardy enough and reaches the size that might be a problem where lack of space. But I do have a terrace with iron fence and a supports that go up to the balcony and makes a kind of lattice-work above the terrace. The rose 'Bobby James' has already reached the balcony and covered the top of the frame. I will plant this clematis near the rose and leave it to overgrow the fence underneath. 


The montana clematises grow fast and need some pruning right after flowering. to avoid having flowers only on the top branches. It is not suitable for the zones 6 - 9, and my garden is the hardiness zone 7; I am willing to experiment.
Let's see. If the winters are going to be so mild like this one, my clematis has every chance to survive.