Monday, 16 May 2011

Viola time is nearly over but the birds are still going strong

Pansy 'Can-Can' still colourful but getting scruffy.
Allium karataviense 'Ivory Queen' in the seed pan at bottom right.
Pansies and violas have done a sterling job but are now just reaching the borderline between luxuriance and scruffiness. It seems a shame but Babs and I are just about to start ripping them all out and planting up all the summer stuff.

Fluffy balls
Alliums are still looking good: Allium karataviense 'Ivory Queen' has been attracting a lot of comment from visitors to the pottery. Unlike most alliums this has neat leaves which look sculptural and interesting as soon as they emerge and stay in pretty good shape while the flower - like a fluffy white tennis ball - expands. So it looks great by itself in a pot, preferably with a gravel or pebble mulch covering the surface of the compost.

Violas in a small fritillary pot
We won't empty all the pots at once, the changeover process will take from now until July probably. I'll keep the best survivors until last. The violas will go on the compost heap, some bulbs will be saved, others composted. All the shrubs and perennials will be potted up in plastic and kept for use next autumn.

Waiting in the wings
I've been having difficulty hardening plants off in this sunny but cool and windy weather so the polytunnel is bursting and it is almost impossible to walk through the greenhouse now. I leave the doors of both open during the day and now the polytunnel is open at night as well. It has doors at both ends, so hopefully the plants in there will not find outdoor conditions too much of a shock.

The polytunnel jungle

Hardy annuals such as marigolds are easy to harden off, Linaria 'Spanish Dancer' was positively relieved to get out in the cool air this year. You have to be extra careful with more tender subjects, however, plants like Tithonia rotundifolia and Morning Glory (Ipomoea purpurea) will simply stop growing if exposed to cool temperatures too suddenly.

Le rouge et le noir
Having said that I have been sneaking a few tender things out already. One of my favourites is Pelargonium ardens, with small but astonishingly, properly, red flowers, each petal having a dark mark which invites you to grow black plants with it such as Aeonium arboreum 'Zwartkop'. It seems to like relatively cool conditions so it is one of the first of my pelargoniums to be allowed out.
Pelargonium ardens in a Frilly Lily pot

Pot to Plate
On Friday and Saturday we had one of our special events, "Pot to Plate" with guest speakers Sophie Grigson (well known for, amongst other things, urging people to Eat Your Greens), and Chris Smith from Pennard Plants. Chris gave a really informative and interesting talk on growing edible plants in pots. I found it satisfying because he confirmed many things I have found for myself by trial and error (it's always reassuring when that happens) and he was obviously comfortable with growing plants in terracotta generally.

You'd be surprised how many gardeners are prejudiced against terracotta because they have been told it is difficult to keep watered. I shall rant about this in more detail another time but take it from me it is no more difficult than using less porous containers, in fact in my experience it is easier. One of the things we agree on is that it is not helpful to line terracotta with plastic (advice parroted in some surprising publications).

Chris Smith talking at Whichford Pottery.  Photo by Lynda Dyer
At Pennard Plants Chris grows a wide range of herbs, salads, vegetables and fruit, so he was full of useful suggestions for suitable varieties and combinations (too many to list here I'm afraid...) and brought plenty to sell too. I often use edibles mixed with the ornamental plantings but listening to Chris has made me think that maybe we should find a space for a potted potager of some sort. Maybe next year as I have planned all this summer's spaces already. Food for thought anyway.

Mrs B the blackbird on her nest.
Avian triumphs and disasters
We were also excited last week because Mrs B built a beautiful nest in a wall pot and was firmly sitting in it on Thursday despite the fact that it was right next to a busy path. And we were so disappointed to find on Friday morning that the nest had been raided (jackdaws probably) and little blue eggs were spattered on the path.

She has already raised one brood but she normally does three or four as far as we can tell. I'm glad to say that she is all right and has been busy building in the rose on the wall of the pottery, let's hope the thorns deter predators.

There are other birds all over the place. As I drive to work in the morning yellowhammers and goldfinches burst up from the road. The friendly robin has raised a brood successfully and was escorting them about on the compost heap this morning. A few days ago there was a fledgling robin in the greenhouse - they seem to get the hang of finding their way out relatively quickly, luckily.

Baby robin in the greenhouse
This morning the wren was singing well above its weight (how does such a small bird have such a loud voice?) perched in the backup stock area. I'm not sure where it is nesting but there is usually one living around the sheds somewhere.
Wren in backup.
After a little much-needed rain growth is lush and it is getting harder to move stock along the paths, nevertheless the birds are not the only ones to be busy here and despite the upheavals of summer special events our amazing making team is managing to produce plenty of stock - I think you'll agree it looks fantastic even before it is planted!

No comments:

Post a Comment