The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies. Gertrude Jekyll

Annie's Little Plot

Annie's Little Plot

Sunday 23 December 2012

What's that yellow blob in the sky?

Oh yes its the sun, I'd forgotten what that looked like! The cloudy, foggy skies of the past few days along with the shortest days of the year have combined to create a gloomy few days here in Huddersfield. It was lovely to get out in the garden this morning just for a few minutes and see the sunlight on the garden even if all I was doing was topping up the bird feeder, checking up on things in the greenhouse and looking, hopefully, for signs of spring.
This picture was taken last spring but its what we have to look forward to.
There are some signs though, ever the optimist, there are just the very green tips of the snowdrops in the front garden, the buds of the Hellebore flowers nestling at the bottom of the plant, the fat grey, wooly buds on the Magnolia, the odd hardy flower on a primrose, the dainty decorative leaves of Cyclamen coum and the mottled leaves of the Arum italicum.
In my greenhouse, the Broad beans that I sowed a few weeks ago are starting to poke through. It makes me very happy that I'm already preparing for next year.
I've not been up to the allotment for a few weeks, this is what is awaiting me. A big pile of muck in the communal area that needs moving to my plot. This is to share between myself and another fellow plot holder, we decided to share a delivery from a local farmer. It will last me years I think!
We did start moving some last time I was there and its has gone down but still needs sorting.
Anyway I'm off now for 2 weeks so I'm sure I'll get some time at the plot. Its been a hectic couple of months really and I'm ready for a break. Doing some work on the plot will be just what I need. I'm just trying to sort some things out before my dad comes out of hospital so him and my mum get the help they need for them both to recover from a difficult time. Its certainly brought our family closer together and makes me feel very grateful for having such a loving family.
So finally Happy Christmas and best wishes to all my blog friends who I've befriended in the last few years. Have a good break if you are able to and here's looking forward to another year of seed sowing, growing and harvesting in 2013.

Sunday 2 December 2012

A chance seedling

I've not been online much in the last few weeks, my dad's been poorly so I've been driving up and down the M62 visiting him and helping my mum. Not that there is much to blog about at the moment. Its too wet to do much at the allotment though I've had a delivery of some manure which needs moving to my plot so that will keep me busy when the weather gets a bit drier.
I'm trying to get ahead with my Christmas shopping and did have chance to visit the lovely Christmas markets in Manchester last week. My friend and I were walking on a cold frosty evening in St Ann's Square where there are a few trees all lit up with fairy lights and I was amazed to see masses of small little birds flitting in and out of the trees. Though hard to see what they were as they wouldn't keep still but it seems that they were flocks of Pied Wagtails which roost in the trees. I think they like the warmth from the market stalls and the shelter of the city square. It was a lovely moment.
At home I'm also enjoying watching the wildlife in my garden. The birds are busy making the most of the seed feeders and the blackbirds and thrushes are feasting on the windfall apples from my two apple trees which I've not got round to clearing away, good job I was too busy.
I have a plant that arrived in the garden, a chance seedling that has grown and grown but now its one of my favourite plants in the garden and its much loved by the garden wildlife. 
I didn't know what it was for ages but then there was a recent article in The Garden magazine (October 2012) on Cotoneasters and I spotted it there. Well its definitely a Cotoneaster though I'm not quite sure of the species, I will have to do some more research but as you will see from the wiki page there are hundreds of species.
I guess it is not in the right place, it is close to an old apple tree and a Holly (another unplanted seedling which is growing very big now), but I can't bear to get rid of it and I doubt I'd be able to move it. So why is it so great, well it has lovely fresh spring foliage, it is smothered in flowers in late spring/early summer and though the flowers are small they are much loved by bees.The whole plant is buzzing with bees at that time of year. Apparently they are particularly useful source of nectar in a time when there can be a short supply, the 'June gap'. Then in autumn they develop bright red berries and I've enjoyed watching the blackbirds eating the berries this week. In fact it was probably them who helped plant it there in the first place!! The leaves are also turning a lovely orangey colour too. How's that for value.

It has a lovely arching habit too.
I be looking out for other seedlings of this plant in the garden and give it pride of place next time.

Saturday 17 November 2012

Winter scent

If you want a flower to get you through the dark days of winter then you can't go far wrong with the Narcissus 'Paper White'. 
It is one of the easiest bulbs for forcing into growth as they do not require any chilling, all you do is pot them up and water and then they will start to grow. Though its better to start them off in a cooler place away from direct sunlight and then move them into a warmer area when ready to flower, this will keep them flowering for longer. From planting to flowering takes about 4-6 weeks. So if you want some flowers for Christmas then now is a good time to plant.
Paperwhites are cultivated varieties of the species Narcissus papyraeus (from papyrus and aceus; meaning paper-like), which is native to the eastern Mediterranean and so they thrive in the warmth of our homes in winter. Though they will flower for longer in slightly cooler temperatures of 50–65 °F (10–18°C). They produce multi-heads of delicate white daffodil flowers but the best thing about them is their scent which is very strong,
They can grow quite tall and do have the habit of toppling over so some sort of  support is often needed. Though Alys Fowler posted on her Guardian blog that " at Cornell University they found that if they gave the bulb some water with a shot of alcohol, this didn't happen; instead, you get the same size blooms on shorter, stouter stems. The consensus is that when the top growth is about 15-20cm tall, change the water so that it has a shot of vodka (or gin) mixed in and they'll learn to stand up straight". So maybe I could give a shot of vodka a try! 
You can grow them in soil or just in shallow bowls of water.
I've been quite organised this year and bought some bulbs in bulk and I've been planting them at 2-4 week intervals so that I'll always have some in flower through the winter. They have been scenting my living room with a delicious spicy aroma. Though I've just been googling Paperwhite daffs and the scent is definitely not to everyone's taste, with descriptions ranging from smelly socks to manure! Its seems like some people are sensitive to the chemicals in the scent and just don't like it.
I would suggest they make lovely Christmas presents, but if your friend or relative has an aversion to the smell they may not be very popular!

Sunday 11 November 2012

My local park

I want to share some pictures of my local park, Greenhead Park which is a lovely green space only a short walk from the centre of Huddersfield and where I walk through on my way into town. It was first opened in September 1884, and has seen many changes over the years. Now it contains the usual play park, has a bowling green, tennis courts and a small skate park. The main feature is the war memorial and there is a band stand and glasshouse. When I first moved to Huddersfield in 2006 it was a nice park but you could see that it had got a bit rundown, the conservatory/glasshouse was looking tatty and there were a problems with flooding in some areas. But I was always amazed by how many people used the park it was always packed in the summer, with a wide range of people. Huddersfield is a real ethnic mix and there were kids, students and old people all using this amazing park. Well it got better when in 2009 it was awarded multi-million pound funding by Kirklees Council and the National Lottery Heritage project to refurbish the park. The plans were to renovate the bandstand and the Glasshouse, to sort the drainage issues, to reinstate one of the original lakes in the park, to replace all the railings around the park and generally rejuvenate the whole area. The pictures below I've taken throughout the year.
The restoration, as it often does, took a bit longer than planned but it is all finished now. The Glasshouse has been restored and to the back of the building a small cafe has been added, but you can also sit, with your food and drinks, in the main conservatory with the scent of jasmine in the air.

One of the key factors in the parks development was the set up of the Friends of Greenhead Park. This voluntary group do amazing things to keep the park looking so great.
The park railings have all been replaced and new gates at the entrance to the park have been added. The original ones were removed in 1940, to be melted down for the war effort.
Coming into the park, the path leads up to the war memorial which is an impressive structure. This was a later addition to the park added in 1924.

There is a bowling green and tennis courts along this stretch with a new skate park at the end. A new small pavilion has been built for the bowling green (and for the Friends of Greenhead Park to meet) and there is also a small cafe and community room along here.

There is also a model steam train which operates in the park at weekends.
There were originally 5 lakes or ponds in the park, one of these has been recently restored, this is all a bit concretey (I think I've made up that word!) for my liking but it may become more natural as time progresses.
Its looking more settled now.
 There is also another pool which is now used as a childrens paddling pool. I know we didn't get too many nice days this summer but on some days it was packed with children and families. In this age of health and safety its nice to see these sorts of things still surviving and its popularity shows that it needs to be kept going. Not sure it looks very tempting on an autumn day.
The bandstand has been restored to its former glory too.
They have rejuvenated all the borders in the park as well. This used to be a straggly rose garden which now looks amazing and flowers for months on end.

 The planting was brilliant in the peak of summer.

Though now in autumn its almost over and some bits cut back.

This is near the conservatory and the mass planting of catmint which flowers for ages with a lovely delicate rose is gorgeous. 

Leading away from this area towards the restored formal fountain.

In this year of the Olympics and the Jubilee they were patriotic in their bedding schemes.
Even in the autumn and winter its looks beautiful.

I just wanted to show you some pictures of my park, I love it and I know its a really important part of Huddersfield. Its an example of how lottery money has done something positive and vital in this community. Some people will still complain that its a waste of money in these difficult times but if you see it on a weekend you will realise how much it is used by a wide range of people in Huddersfield.