Friday, 9 December 2011

Signs of spring, fruits of autumn, chills of winter

Here come the crocus shoots!

Crocus shoots are up already

Solanum not yum
I have carried on stuffing the greenhouse and polytunnel with tender and tenderish plants, the mild weather has allowed us to save even more plants than usual, touch wood. Solanum laciniatum has managed to ripen a few fruits (see my post of 12 Sept) which turn out to be orange. I'm pretty sure they are poisonous, so I won't be reporting on their taste.
The fruit of Solanum laciniatum - not for human consumption

The polytunnel is fairly full now, but I'm trying not to overcrowd it so that air can circulate, I have cut most foliage back by at least half for the same reason. Last year I didn't get the chance before the Big Freeze and we had galloping grey mould as a result.
Still room to circulate in the polytunnel

Clustering bugs
Plants aren't the only things to take refuge in here:
Ladybirds on Solanum quitoense inside the polytunnel

I hope our 'traditional' ladybirds are going to overwinter successfully - they may have tricky times ahead because Harmonia axyridis or the Harlequin ladybird is definitely here and it remains to be seen whether the invader will, as is rumoured, outcompete our native ladybirds.
One of the Harlequin ladybirds I found this summer

Lily potting
On Monday I thought I'd give Donna a break from digging up dahlias and got her to pot up some lilies. We have a wide range of lily pots and at the moment we have a special mail-order offer featuring Lilium 'El Grado' and Lilium 'Mona Lisa', so we have a plentiful supply of nice fat bulbs.

Nice fat lily bulb
Pots of lilies are really useful for providing splashes of colour just before the tender bedding and perennials go completely berserk. 'El Grado' (see post of 23 July) is a deep, rich reddish pink, whereas 'Mona Lisa' (see post of 8 August) is white, blushing to pink, with a deep pink stripe in the centre of each petal and attractive pink freckles and exuding a fabulous fragrance.
A lily pot and lily bulbs makes a great Christmas present, by the way!

Five bulbs fit neatly in a lily pot
I plant lilies a good five or six inches deep, using the same multipurpose peat/loam/grit mix I use for everything, with an extra sprinkle of slow-release fertiliser. The tall, narrow pots give excellent drainage, but you must be careful not to put the pot somewhere where drips from a tree or a roof will keep it constantly wet. They can stay outside all winter (even last winter), they just don't want to be soggy.

Donna shakes the compost down
We then top up the compost to about an inch below the rim of the pot, give it several good hard taps on the ground (don't put your hands in and squash the compost down, you'll ruin its structure and impede drainage and aeration), and water in. An inch of grit as a mulch will help to stop the surface of the compost from forming a water-resistant cap and will make the pot look neat.

You can plant lilies under other plants but I usually keep mine separate just because it is easier to remember where they are. It is also an idea to repot them every winter in order to keep the number of overwintering lily beetles down. See my post of 21 April for pictures of those pesky red critters.

Dried fish with your coffee?
In other news, Jim is back from a visit to Japan. He traditionally brings back a selection of Japanese snacks, some of which are more popular than others. The wasabi-flavoured KitKat definitely went down better than the dried fish this time. It might help if any of us could read Japanese.

Japanese snacks at staff tea-break. The fish was fragrant...

Midwinter blog dog
The weather has at last started to feel wintry. This makes me and Hooley miserable. Hooley is Joe's dog, a labrador/staffy cross, she has a melancholic disposition and she feels the cold. Luckily Joe has an assortment of small children as well as a dog, so this week Hooley arrived looking much happier in a shirt and jumper. She didn't mind us laughing at her.

Hooley looking almost cheerful now she is appropriately dressed


  1. As for the weather, I'm with you and Hooley! And I'm glad to see there's at least one other sensible winter dresser out there!

  2. Hi Harriet!

    A little "coucou" to say that I love the way you write, how pleasant it is to read about your garden adventures!

  3. Joe, if I had the money I'd definitely fly south for the winter.

    Jasmine, thank you very much! As you know, blogging is quite solitary, so it is extra-lovely when someone goes to the trouble of leaving a nice comment!