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

Annie's Little Plot

Annie's Little Plot

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

A cracker of a cut flower

So as the year draws to a close did you know that 2016 was the year of the Cosmos. It always makes me laugh these sorts of titles. The year of..... how do they come up with them all. You might also want to know that 2016 was the year of Pulses. It was also the year of the English Garden, to commemorate the 300th anniversary of 'Capability' Brown. If you look on Google there are lots of other 'Years of'!
But back to the Cosmos and if I wanted to pick a cut flower that was one of the best performers in my cutting patch then you couldn't go far wrong with Cosmos.
I'm reviewing how my cutting patch has been this year and starting to plan what I'm going to grow next year and the Cosmos has been such a success for the last few years that I wanted to write about it here. They are such long flowering plants, they are quick growing and so start flowering in July and mine went on into late November this year and you can really just keep cutting them and they send up new flowering stems. They are half-hardy annuals and so shouldn't be started too early. In my experience they almost germinate over night and spring up into biggish seedlings in no time at all. So either sow in modules or thinly in seed trays and prick out as soon as you can. You can pinch out the top leaves once big enough to get nice bushy plants. You need to time your seed sowing with your area so that you can harden them off and plant out after the frosts have passed. Another important thing I've learnt is to give them plenty of space as they are big plants and can be a bit bullyish so keep away from more delicate plants in your cutting patch. They prefer a sunny spot as do most annuals. The taller ones could maybe benefit from some support, but mine have tended to support each other.
There are so many colours to choose from, from soft pastel shades to dark purples and reds, plus lovely white varieties, such as 'Purity'. You also can get a mix of flower types now, the classic single flower with the large yellow flower centre. The Sensation varieties tend to be taller varieties compared to the Sonata ones, which are often called dwarf varieties. I have to say I prefer the taller ones for the cutting patch but I can imagine the the dwarfer ones would do well in containers as bedding plants.  But then you also get double flowers, Collarette types which have extra frills of petals at the centre, Sea shell type ones which have fluted petals round the central yellow boss and Picotee types which darker edges to the flowers.
As well as having lovely flowers it also has lovely filligree ferny foliage which is a lovely foil for the flowers.
One of the other huge pluses for this flower is that the bees love it too. Sometimes when I'm picking cosmos and walking round the plot I'm followed around by the bees! I have to make sure none are on the flowers before I put them into my car!

So any negatives?  I honestly can't think of many, the newly planted seedlings can be susceptible to slugs but not as bad as some other annuals in my experience. To reduce the effects of slugs I tend to grow my plants on till they are quite big and then plant them out when they are stronger, more robust plants. But other than that they are not troubled by any other pests of diseases. You need to keep picking them to keep them flowering, oh the hardship of picking these lovely flowers. But I guess if you are not growing them for cutting then you would have to deadhead them regularly.
This year I grew a few different varieties, 'Sensation Mixed', which has tall single flowers, 'Candy Stripe' which has pale pink flowers with a darker pink edge, 'Purity' the classic white flowered Cosmos and 'Click Cranberries' which has dark carmine pink flowers and sort of semi-double flowers. I've also in the past grown a vibrant orange variety called 'Diablo' which was less good for cutting but was great in the garden. I'm looking at new varieties to try this year, Chiltern seeds in their preview catalogue have a lovely semi-double white flowered Cosmos called 'Fizzy White' which has white frills round the yellow centre. A pale pink delicate looking flower called 'Cosimo Collarette'. Plants of Distinction have a variety called 'Antiquity' which is a deep red/pink with a darker coloured red going down to the centre. There is also an unusual yellow variety called 'Xanthos' which I was introduced to by Flighty on his blog, which I definitely mean to try.
They combine well here with Dahlias, Feverfew and Scabious, but I've also combined it well with Clary sage, Ammi, Cornflowers and Nigella. Its a real star of any bouquet.
So there you are get growing them I urge you, they are easy from seed, long-flowering, lovely foliage, nice long stems for cutting. So if you are starting to plan your seed orders for next year then I'd definitely recommend them. Good seed suppliers of Cosmos varieties include Plants of Distinction, Chiltern seeds, Higgeldy Garden and Sarah Raven.

Friday, 2 December 2016

First snow and some garden thugs

Well no sooner had a written about a calm autumn when there was all change and it feels like its been a very blustery, cold, grey end to November. We have had our first snow of the year, in fact two lots, none lasting for much more than a day but very early even for here in Huddersfield.

It was unusual to see snow on the last of the stunning red leaves of my Japanese Maples.
My two Japanese Maples have been fabulous this year, the best colour they've ever been.
Just had a beautiful moment while writing this blog, was just looking out of the window, I get easily distracted, and a tiny wren came and clung to the wall at the side of my window and looked in at me! Its hard to say who was the most surprised. Ah, what a treat you usually hear wrens rather than see them.
Anyway where was I...
Yes autumn colour has been great, but most leaves have fallen now and shrubs and trees are bare, though I have got a deciduous azalea in my garden which has vibrant orange flowers in the spring and has now dark red almost purple leaves on.
Over the autumn I have been battling with some of the thugs that have taken over my front garden and been doing some severe editing. I used to love Alchemilla mollis and in early summer when it has those sharp acid green flowers which look great it bouquets then I love it all over again but it likes my garden too much and seeds everywhere. I don't just mean a few here and then, it pops up everywhere like when you used to sow cress on a tissue at school. The seedlings aren't too hard to remove but I've got heavy clay soil in my garden and as soon as the plants get to certain size then the roots just seem to get wedged in the clay and they are really hard to dig up. 
Another self-seeder in my garden is the Aquilegia but I mostly tolerate that one, though it can get a bit out of hand. I'm going to wait till spring for this one now and see what comes up and have a proper clear of some plants then. 
Another spreader which needs a bit of editing every now and again is the low-growing Saxifraga x urbium or London Pride. It had spread over quite an area but this is easy to dig up and can spread it around a garden. From a quick Google search I learnt why it is called London Pride. Apparantly it was a plant that spread and colonised bomb sites after the Second World War and said to represent the resilience of London after the Blitz. Its one of those plants that many gardens have but they've probably never bought it, its a plant for passing onto other gardeners!! I know I got mine from my mum and its great for the edge of the borders, with its evergreen succulent foliage and then has a haze of pretty pink flowers in the late spring.
I also gave the heave-ho to a Crocosmia 'Meteore' which just seems to just be all leaf and no flower and was spreading into massive clumps at a rate of knots. I know for definite that I will not have got out all the tiny corms so will have to go back to those spots and dig out any more that come up but I've got the biggest clumps out. I think the soil is just too rich for them and the leaves develop rather than the flowers. 
Anyway after all that digging up, weeding and tidying I had some bare soil and so I emptied the compost bin and spread it out over the top all over the front garden, which will hopefully help the soil structure. I also planted lots of Allium bulbs so it should look nice in the spring and I can add some less thuggish perennials then too. So looking forward to a purple spring.

Finally its the countdown to Christmas now and while sorting out my mums things this year we found this advent calendar which we all remember well from our childhood. It came out every year along with the dodgy decorations which we had made for the tree. Much nicer than the chocolate throwaway ones you get now. Its probably at least 40 years old. An antique advent calendar. Brings back lots of happy memories.