I have managed something almost miraculous this year: I repotted the freesias and nerines in time, while they were dormant and, now they are in fresh compost, they have had a good soak to start them into growth. This is a job that usually gets left until I see growth starting and I dare not risk damaging the roots so they only get a top-dressing of fresh compost. The nerines are tender varieties that need winter protection and the freesias are from seed sown last August and I am hoping for even more flowers next spring.
I can feel a bit smug over that, but I was a bit late with the wallflowers. Sown in May, these were desperate to be planted out to grow on. With the onions out of the way it was the perfect patch to grow them on. They are brassicas of course and I didn’t want to put them anywhere I had had cabbages. I chose a dull day and planted them about 10cm apart. I am watering them every day until they settle in and then I will pinch out the tips to make them branch. I was going to pinch out the tips as I moved them but they were different sizes so I thought I would let them settle in first. I will feed them then too, to get some bushy plants to put into their flowering positions some time in October. I had plenty of seedlings – I transplanted about 100 – but I still used the large ones and the small ones. This is a mix of colours and they are supposed to be double-flowered. Now I know from experience that the strongest plants in a mix will always be the dull or common colours and the chances are that the weak plants will be the best colours or in this case, the doubles. There may be no doubles – I am prepared for disappointment – but I have to give them a chance.
In spring I also risked dividing one of my sarracenias. They have liked the heat of the summer, sitting in a tray of rain water. But I decided to put one of the plants in the pond – just to see. Sarracenias are fairly hardy. Sarracenia purpurea is naturalised in Irish bogs, though I failed to find them when I went to see – I need better info on the location. They are native to North America from Florida north, well into Canada. I may be able to leave this out in winter but I won’t till I have more stock. Ironically, this poor plant was next to some dahlias in the greenhouse in spring and the new traps were attacked by aphids. As a result they were distorted and I thought the poor plant could not get worse.
For once, I was right and being outside allowed predators to finish off the aphids and new traps are growing. You can see the remains of the one bloom to the left. Plants in the greenhouse get rainwater and it is important that they are never fed. I was worried that the pond water may contain too many nutrients but it appears not. It is never filled with tap water but only water from the well when needed, and rain.
Not far away the corylus (hazels) are showing what they can do – that is, produce nuts. I have ten bushes in five varieties to help with pollination. They have been slow to get going but they are going to produce a small crop this year. A month or so ago, when they were very dry and aphids infested the leaves, I was concerned they would not produce much but, having been cleaned up by ladybirds and tits and soaked up a bit of the recent rain I can see a fair crop,
The poor sunflowers have struggled. It has been very dry since they were planted out and few have grown more than a metre before flowering. This is not what I wanted. But a few have grown. I am not going to have the mass of tall blooms I wanted but there will be a bit of colour. After the disappointment of the dark sunflowers last year I have stuck with what I know and planted just ‘Astra Gold’ this year. It is one of my favourites; just a bit different but a lovely sunny colour. Of course, the first bloom is not as double as it should be, perhaps because of the dryness, but at least it is bright, produces pollen – unlike some modern kinds that don’t produce seeds for the birds – and has the shaggy outer ‘petals’ I like in ‘Astra Gold’.
The heat that did for my sunflowers has benefited the eucomis. I have had these ages and they may be ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ but my brain is not as good as it was. These were actually growing in my garden in the UK, dug up as a clump, sat simpering in a pot for several years, were put in a ridge of excavated soil where the raised beds were to be built and finally earthed up and covered in gravel mulch this April. I must have had them for at least ten years. My instinct is always that eucomis are tender and fussy but this demonstrates just how easy and forgiving they really are. I think that only waterlogging is seriously bad for them. Not only have the plants survived but this year there are four flower scapes. This is not that special for three original bulbs that I have had for a decade but considering what they have been through I am delighted and grateful and I hope they are happy in their permanent home.
That’s a very attractive sarracenia