In a Vase on a Monday

Well actually, this was a Friday vase, which was deconstructed and transported 150-odd miles as a bunch of blooms for my Mum during our weekend visit.

But you didn’t need to know that.

It’s pinks and greens this week, as my container-grown Achillea was ready to pick, along with the first of my Sweetpeas from the allotment and Astrantia from the border. I’ve added some deep green in the form of unripe Allium seedheads.

I deliberately chose some highly-fragranced sweetpeas to add to my plot this year (Painted Lady and Spanish Dancer) and they really do smell fab. The Achillea has a nice scent too, and it’s much more intensely coloured than the photo on the garden centre tag gave it credit for.

The ‘scent’ from the Astrantia, however, is absolutely rancid! Is this one of those smells that is sensed differently according to your genetics? Do some people like it?? For me, it’s definitely not a flower to use too much of indoors, and probably needs to be outgunned by strongly scented choices.

My cut flower patch has almost been exhausted by this weekly feature. I’ll have to add more varieties next year if I want to keep taking part.

In a Vase on a Monday is run by lovely blogger Rambling in the Garden. Join in!

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Nap-time efficiency

Miss MBaF turned 3 yesterday and I turned 3-something last week (at one point I was informed her due-date was on my birthday – but there was NO WAY I was going to be sharing!). With the palava of birthdays and a few days away, I haven’t got much gardening done for a fortnight.

Despite now being a “big girl” Miss MBaF still needs a nap some days, and I like to make the most of these halcyon afternoon hours!

So when little miss was settled in bed I grabbed my gear and headed to the allotment with a list of urgent jobs. (No need to call social services, I didn’t leave her on her own. Mr MBaF was home after a night shift.)

First was to call it quits on the early sowings of carrots, beetroot and peas that haven’t done much. I hoed-up the few shoots that had appeared and started over.

In again went carrots (Amsterdam forcing) and beetroot (Rainbow mix), and peas (Kelvedon Wonder). You may remember that Miss MBaF was ‘in charge’ of sowing the peas the first time. Whether this has anything to do with their poor germination, I wouldn’t like to say, but to be fair the mangetout she sowed/plonked is looking better.

Pathetic peas

Pathetic peas put out of their misery (not the one on the right, that’s a weed)

Next up was to get some sweet peas and climbing French beans in the ground. The former have been doing well in my coldframe, and I’ve left the lid half open for the past week, so I figure they’re sturdy enough to go out now.

Sweet peas join the cut flower patch

Sweet peas join the cut flower patch

First climbing French beans (Cobra) in the ground

First climbing French beans (Cobra) in the ground

I’m running a little trial with the beans. I forgot/didn’t get around to digging muck into the ground they were destined for. However, after the supports went up I dug a trench on one side (nearside in the picture) and filled it with manure. I couldn’t do the same on t’other side because it’s too close to the path – and hence my carefully planned (!) scientific experiment began. If I remember/can be faffed, I’ll weigh the takings from each side and report back later in the season.

Finally I earthed up my spuds (Arran Pilot and Sharpe’s Express) for the final time. I find the earthy architecture of potato ridges very pleasing for some reason – fingers crossed there are lots of tasty morsels fattening up within.

Ravishing ridges

Ravishing ridges

A bit of watering and some hoeing of weeds, and I was done. With just enough time on my way out to snap the strangely different appearance and behaviour of my purple sprouting plants. Both came as seedlings from my Dad, who sowed them from the same packet. One is rather green, tall, with long spindly stems and loose florets – and has already gone to flower. The other is deeply purple, squat, with thicker dark stems and tighter broccoli heads, and still has a few edible pickings left on it! Whatever the mix-up, I know which one I’d rather have again.

Spot the difference

Spot the difference

(And the two wierd fluffy white things in between are excuses for cauliflowers!)

Planting sweet peas. Part 1.

Today was the first I’ve had in ages when I could hit the allotment with more than a glancing blow.

We’ve had a run of beautiful sunny and warm days here. It’s put a spring in everyone’s step and I feel like we’re closer than a gnat’s whisker to getting loads of stuff in the ground.

I’ve made an allotment plan, but there are still some details to iron out – like where to put the sweetpeas.

Sweet Peas are lovely to grow; pretty, prolific, great for cut flowers. I had thought about mixing them in with my climbing French beans, but then I noticed some convenient gaps in my little cut flower patch.

Welcoming spaces in the flower patch

Welcoming spaces in the flower patch

The flower patch currently contains sweet williams and achillea cassis, shortly to be joined by a sowing of nigella. It used to have echinacea too, but these seem to be irresistable to critters and were quickly munched. The echinacea-sized gaps looked just right for sweet pea wigwams.

Sweet peas are pretty greedy for goodness and water, and our soil is very free-draining so here’s what I did:

Step 1: dig a hole, about 2 feet across

Step 1: dig a hole, about 2 feet across

Step 2: find a load of couch grass roots, swear profusely and spend 10 minutes teasing them out of the soil (This step is optional)

Step 2: find a load of couch grass roots, swear profusely and spend 10 minutes teasing them out of the soil (This step is optional)

Step 3: chuck in a bucket load of manure

Step 3: chuck in a bucket load of manure

Step 4: backfill with soil, tamp down, rake smooth

Step 4: backfill with soil, tamp down, rake smooth

Step 5: sink 5 canes in a circle and tie them securely at the top to form a wigwam

Step 5: sink 5 canes in a circle and tie them securely at the top to form a wigwam

I put up a second wigwam too, completing all the steps the same, except finding bindweed roots instead. Gah!

Two wigwams awaiting their climbers

Two wigwams awaiting their climbers

The RHS recommend adding manure at least 4 weeks before planting. I’m not sure I’ll wait quite that long, it depends how the seedlings get on and what the weather’s like. The first sowing – with the exception of no-shows from the Solway Blue Vein – is looking good. I’ve pinched out the tips to make them branch out, and they look strong and healthy. And the second sowing are all up.

First sweet pea sowing looking good.

First sweet pea sowing looking good.