Don’t count your cherries until they’re pipped

It has been a mad busy week in the garden with lots of weeding, paving and even planting. It has been impossible to keep up with what is going on and I have to be careful not to miss all the wonderful things that are happening in the garden. After a windy start to the week, which battered the last of the tulips, the past few days have been quite hot and we do need more rain. But the apples are in bloom and it looks like some flowers will become fruits and the ‘Napoleon’ cherry tree, which bloomed well for the first time, has some fruits forming. I am incredibly excited about this.

It is a bit of a tricky one to grow because of pollination problems but I hoped that nearby wild cherries, and the self-fertile cherry next to it (above) would sort that out. But this one flowers long after the ‘Nap’ blooms so doesn’t help with pollination. Last year I hand pollinated the few flowers with blooms from a flowering cherry, out of desperation, to no avail. But this year the bees have been busy and there are some tiny green cherries forming.

Of course, there is a long way to go. Often stone fruits look as if they are making fruit but if the pip does not ‘set’ the fruits can drop off. I do add some lime each autumn to supply the necessary calcium, but drought can cause fruit drop too. Of course I will also have to keep the birds off, if the fruits start to swell and ripen. But there is a chance of fruit.

A new area of the garden is a wildflower area. This was partly the result of being fed up mowing around the top of the septic tank. I am afraid I will damage the mower every time I run over, or past, the concrete so I thought it would be a good idea to make this into an area of wildflowers in the grass. These have to be perennial because my intention is just to trim the plants once a year, after flowering. I could not get seeds of the plants I really wanted so the mix is rather odd and they were grown from seed this spring. Leucanthemum ‘White Breeze’ is a dwarf Shasta daisy and makes up the bulk of plants. There is also a wild bladder campion (Silene vulgaris) but a variety with red ‘bladders’ called ‘Ballon d’Alsace’ (presumably from Alsace) and Nepeta subsessilis ‘Grand View’ with flowers in pinks and mauves. The plan is that the three main plants will give a good range of flower types to attract many pollinators and insects. In addition there are plantains but ‘Purple Perversion’ which has rippled, purple leaves. I am terrified that this will seed into the lawn – the plain one does – and it will look awful if it does! I also popped in a few annuals just as an experiment and a few violas. Once they all get established I will let them get on with it and some will grow and others will die. I will add other plants as available so it will be dynamic. I grew all the plants from seed, sown in March. I sprayed off the area with glyphosate and mowed it off and planted direct into the dead turf. I pondered on the best (and quickest) way to plant and decided to use my long-handled bulb planter in the end. The plants are a bit too close but I am expecting loses and about 600 plants went in.

They were watered and, hands up, I put some slug pellets on to protect the plants while they are small and to give them a chance to establish.

I was getting close to mind-numbing boredom by then and needed to get out. So we popped to a garden centre. I needed to get some greenhouse shading for the next photoshoot for Garden News so we headed to Beechdale garden centre ( near Enniscorthy. They have recently revamped their coffee shop and we did stop for a coffee but I could not rest! Their range of plants is extraordinary and I can’t help rushing around looking for gems. They sell all the run-of-the-mill essentials but also offer rare and wonderful plants. I congratulate them on daring to offer plants that all but the plant nut would ignore. My pack of greenhouse shading turned into a trolley full of plants.

The most exciting plant of all – to me – was Helwingia japonica.

Bean (‘Hardy Shrubs’), my go-to reference, describes it ‘Native of Japan, S. and W. China, and probably of Formosa; introduced to Europe by Siebold in 1830. It has not the least merit as an ornamental shrub’ but I love it because the flowers appear to grow out of the leaves, a unique character. The flowers are, of course, tiny and green, and they cannot really grow out of the leaves – the flower stem is fused with the leaf blade. But it is a nice evergreen anyway and the huge plants were only 17 euro so I had to have one.

Almost as exciting was Olearia cheesemanii, in full bloom, for less than a tenner. I am developing a little collection of New Zealanders and I know where this will go. In fact I even bought two callistemon as well.

And, even more dazzling, was a young plant of Sophora davidii. More of these, and many more, soon. I need to go planting.

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5 Comments on “Don’t count your cherries until they’re pipped”

  1. Paddy Tobin
    May 15, 2022 at 11:26 am #

    I’ve never grown cherries, and probably won’t though there is a good stand of wild cherries on our boundary ditch. You are a brave man mentioning your use of glysophate; such a mention on social media would bring a torrent of abuse as would use of slug-killer. We have a wildflower area in the garden which started life as a very well intentioned “bulb lawn” but as they bulb season continued we couldn’t cut the grass not spray the “weeds” so that over the years it became a wildflower area – a better name than a weedpatch, I think. The bulbs continue at present with a small camassia and common spotted orchids will follow. It is interesting how the selection of wildflowers can vary year to year – one dominating one year and another the next.

    • thebikinggardener
      May 15, 2022 at 11:36 am #

      I know I am being brave or foolish to mention the G word. But I have used it to create an area that will enhance biodiversity and when the fields around me are routinely sprayed with gallons of the stuff and verges are currently yellow with dead wildflowers I feel no shame in my use of it. I even leave the cow parsley in the hedge. It is terrible that I have to feel defensive about ‘gardening’, though I know you are not ‘having a go’ – just that almost every garden activity can be criticised for being bad for the environment. The new area has been planted to feed a wide range of pollinators and the grass will re-establish very soon. I have some pink cardamine that has established in another area of long grass and will try to move some here too. I don’t use weedkiller on the ‘lawns’ and the fact that the garden is buzzing with bees suggests that I am not harming wildlife – I just wish they would leave the crab apples alone and pop onto the proper apples!

      • Paddy Tobin
        May 15, 2022 at 11:41 am #

        We are in the same situation, with farmland around us, planted these last ten years or so with cereal crops so spraying is a regular event. When they spray the smell is clearly noticeable and we go indoors until it has blown off. I use glyophate on a few areas as needed, a once a year spray, and feel it is appropriate and justified and am certain that the plants in our garden provide greater diversity than available in nature.

  2. Paddy Tobin
    May 15, 2022 at 3:40 pm #

    This afternoon’s gardening was cancelled by the arrival of a tractor and sprayer!

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