26 January - Snowdrops

When we moved into the house back in the summer of 2008, the garden was in need of a little imagination. For a plant lover such as myself the garden was showing very little in the way of planting. The one plant we did inherit from previous owners that has slowly grown over time and is welcomed every year, are the snowdrops. These are mainly in the border just outside the back window, and as the ground slopes gentle upwards it means we get a good view from the house. Not content with what is probably hundreds of snowdrops already, a couple of days ago I ordered some more and these arrived in the green today! These are "Elwesii" and these will be planted in large pots either side of the back door. I know that snowdrops don't like to dry out, even in the summer months, but plans assured this should not happed and they will still get their respite from the summer sun.

23 January - Roses and Onions

Getting really fed up now with these dark grim days and cannot wait for the longer days to arrive where I can get out in the garden after work. At least it wasn't raining today and got to spend some time outdoors even if I didn't really have much that needed to be done.
I decided to cut back the roses in the garden, I usually do this in another months time, but with the weather generally on the mild side they are already budding up for the year ahead. Sticking to the three D's theory I remove any dead, dying or diseased wood, then give the whole plant a general cut back of about a third. The climbing roses I have just shortened the side shoots to an outward growing bud to keep them tidy. I had already pruned the roses by half last autumn to prevent any wind-rock over the winter period.
I usually grow onions twice a year, the first being planted back in September for a June/July crop, and the second in the March for cropping around September. The bed the onions are to be grown in this year is smaller than the others, so I only planted shallot sets in September followed later by some garlic bulbs. After the hard frosts of late these are still slowly growing away and won't really get going for another month. The other day I received my onion sets through the post for those to be planted out in March, however I did read recently that you can plant onions in module trays in the greenhouse in January for planting out later. Seeing as I have plenty of onion sets I thought I would give this a go a see if it made any difference, but still leave some to plant out later as I would do normally. The onion being used is Stuttgarter
Meanwhile it has been a couple of weeks since the tomato seeds were sown, these have now germinated and are starting to show signs of growing the first true leaf. Once these have a couple of true leaves they will be potted on to individual pots. I just need to ensure that the pots are turned every day as with the plants being on a windowsill they have a tendancy to lean towards the light.

16 January - Bamboo

At the last house we had a bamboo and although we had a very small garden we bought the biggest we could afford in order to give impact in the garden. It wasn't planted in the ideal location, but once it settled in it grew every year very well and every winter I would give a prune to show off its coloured stems. When we moved it was not a plant I could have dug up easily and brought with us, so we bought another for the current garden.
The current plant is about four years old and it does have a tendency to send out a runner once in a while. The first two years I let the plant be and last year was the first time it had a trim. I have done the same again this year. Basically I have completely removed all of the thin straggly stems from the plant by cutting back to ground level. then for the remaining stems the bottom two to three feet of each have been stripped of side shoots. This enable the bamboo to become a feature plant during the winter months, with the coloured stems singing out, especially if caught by the evening sun.

9 January - Seed Sowing off to an Early Start

Today was the first time I got chance to spend in the garden this year and whilst the weather stayed dry in the main, the only task I got done outside was turning the compost heap!
The real task for the day was to get started on sowing seeds for the year ahead. As the ground is generally wet and cold I decided to sow a batch of broad beans "Aquadulce Claudia" into individual pots.  Had I sown these direct into the soil, they probably would have sulked and eventually rotted off. These will be left in the cold greenhouse to germinate and grow on for planting out later in March.
Last year was not a good year for our tomatoes and it seems that other people were in a similar position. I got fewer trusses and later ripening of the fruits. This may have been in part to the fact that I had sown the seed later than usual, so this year I am getting started early again. I am trying two varieties that are new to me, "Big Mama" and "Tangerine", so we will see how we get on.
Another crop that I grow every year without a lot of success are peppers. I think that the problem I have is that the growing season is just not long enough here. I would probably be best ordering small plants and growing them on, but that kind of takes the fun out of it a little for me. So not to be beaten, I am trying again this year, starting now! I will be growing Pepper "Topepo Rosso" and Chilli "Trinidad Perfume".
In respect of the garden, rather than the veg plot, I have some seeds that are now out of date according to the packet, but I have decided to see if any will still germinate. These are Gaura Lindheimeri "The Bride" and some Giant Scabious. If these do germinate and I get several plants I am not sure I have any room in my garden, but I am certain someone will take them off my hands.

7 January - Hellebore

A few years ago we were given a hellebore as a gift and I managed to collect a few seeds after it had finished flowering. It is now two and half years on and whilst I gave some of the original young plants away I did keep one for myself. It is now a reasonable size plant and has just flowered for the first time. I always thought that hellebores did not come true from seed, but the single flower looks surprisingly similar to the plant it originated. I have already found it a spot in the garden, just waiting now for the rain to subside before planting it in its new home.

1 January - Young Sparrow

There has been quite a few birds visiting the feeder in the garden this week and it was really nice to see a group of long tail tits pay a visit. Generally speaking we get a lot of sparrows and this time of the year they can be hard to spot whilst hopping along the ground. Imagine our surprise yesterday morning when one was spotted taking a nap! He was sat under the feeder with head under wing completely oblivious to everything going on around him. Not only was it a unusual place for a power nap, but the sparrow looked quite young. Sure it was all fluffed up, but some of the feathers looked as they would on a young fledgling. Not to worry though, he was feeding ok and looked like he could handle himself. Hope we see him again soon.