Greenfingers - April 2019

The fine weather at the end of February was a tonic, especially when reflect- ed against de-frosted memories of March 2018 to really appreciate the contrast. As it was a good week to make a start, I raked a great deal of moss from the lawn, and having made space in the compost heaps, added the moss mixed with several shredded cardboard boxes.

We spotted small tortoiseshell, peacock and red admiral butterflies, and lots of honey bees and bumblebees at the end of February, and were pleased that they were taking advantage of some nectar-producing flowers; such as Hellebores, Pulmonaria, Primula, Daphne, Sarcococca, snowdrops, crocus and early daffodil. The contorted hazel also has flowers and catkins.

BlueTit0419I noted a recent article which confirmed the positive impact of planting marigolds alongside tomato plants, to distract white- fly from the crop. I tend to give the vblue tits a chance to eat the greenfly on the roses, and the same applies to broad and run- ner beans, with ladybirds and their larvae moving from one to the other as the season pro- gresses, clearing the pests as thdey go.

April is a busy month in the gar- den, with longer and warmer days encouraging growth, espe- cially weeds. So keep on top of them early and they become easier to control later.

Sweet pea seeds are germinating as I write this, so I shall be digging a trench with a good deal of compost for their growing site in the next few days. They tend to grow leggy if left under cover for too long. Cuttings of hardy perennials from last autumn are generally looking healthy, so they will be able to go out soon; Penstemon, Heuchera, and Nepeta. I also need to check the latest batch of yew cuttings, as last year’s didn’t do well in the dry summer.

Pete Smith

Greenfingers - March 2019

The mulch in the compost heap is ready to spread around the roses and shrubs, and currently supports only a few weeds. However, in the past, within a couple of weeks of putting it on the garden, the mulch has been thick with weed seedlings. I’m reminded of poppies, which do not germinate unless the soil is turned over, exposing the seeds to light. So, does it make sense to mulch the roses at night? Watch this space!

I can see the logic in this approach, but I struggle with the lunar planting calendar. In researching this, it appears that in trying to put a scientific slant on the technique, tidal effects on the water table are suggested as instrumental in producing healthier crops when planted at the correct time – and although I’ve never tried it, I’m not convinced.

Continue Reading

Greenfingers - February 2019

The Stroud Potato Day is on Saturday 2nd Feb in the Farmers Market, which is a good opportunity to chat about chitting with experts and try a few different varieties.

Birds0219The list of birds seen to land in the garden during the year was slightly disappointing, compared to 2017 when a pheasant and buzzard joined the list, and especially when the 2018 penguin was ruled offside. However, 2019 has started well, with a visit from a pheasant early in January.

Wisteria should be pruned and deciduous grasses cut back. Evergreen grasses can be tidied up by removing old or damaged leaves. The old leaves should be removed from Hellebores, the better to see the flowers, and many perennials and bulbs such as snowdrops may be propagated by lifting and splitting the root ball or bulb mass. Some plants can be propagated from root cuttings at this time of year, such as Phlox, Papaver, Acanthus and Verbascum. Last year, the moth caterpillars turned many leaves of the mullein to lace, but a drenching of garlic liquor seemed to limit the spread.

Overwintering tubers and bulbs can be watered and brought into the light and into early spring growth.Sweet peas can be sown and kept in a cool greenhouse or coldframe, and any summer flowering lily bulbs which have overwintered in pots should be checked for grubs before encouraging into growth.

On the 19th February the moon will be at perigee (when it is closest to the earth), with a full moon 7 hours later, which will look larger and brighter than usual, occupying an angular diameter of 33.28arcmin when full versus the average 31.07arcmin. (The sun is ~32arcmin).

Pete Smith

Greenfingers - January 2019

The Christmas hyacinths are all shooting, but look a tad under-developed. They are in the light but cool greenhouse at present, as I hesitate to bring  them into the warmer house until they are a bit further on. Other indoor plants can suffer during the winter, with the low light levels, so consider moving them to a windowsill or porch, but try to minimise the watering and temperature variations.

Continue Reading

Glynnis Mayes - a tribute

GlynnisMayesGlynnis was born at her grandparents home in Wolverhampton; she is the eldest of Bill & Mabel’s four children, followed by Robert, Bridget and finally Jeremy. Her father was in the RAF and as a result, Glynnis spent her early years living in a tent in a field and then a caravan at Witcombe and finally the family home in Bentham at the bottom of Crickley Hill. As siblings, they all got on really well and had a great childhood playing together in the garden at Bentham and taking long walks up Birdlip Hill.

They all had their own patch of the garden to develop as they wished and this is where her love of gardening developed. Glynnis attended Witcombe Village School and was the first girl to pass the 11+ and from there she attended Pates all girls school in Cheltenham.

Glynnis did well in school and left home when she was 18 to travel to London to undertake training to be a nurse at Hammersmith hospital, she did a four year course qualifying as a Registered Nurse and Health Visitor. She then went on to do midwifery training at Birmingham maternity hospital and after qualifying she took up a post in Worcester and worked as a health visitor for time. She went to Cornwall to Treliske hospital as a midwife and there met a lifelong friend Ann Skipworth, or Skip to everyone. Glynnis returned to London, applying to LSE to undertake a degree in Economics and Sociology; she obtained a 2.1 and whilst studying, the need for money brought her to do night duty at Whipps Cross Maternity Hospital.

Continue Reading

Greenfingers - December 2018

The early November frosts have finished off most of the flowers in the garden, but the Autumn leaf colour has been great. My route off the common has changed to take in the spectacle. We could do with a ‘Best Seasonal Walks Book’, for Minchinhampton, describing a few walks for each month, addressing where to see interesting local flora.

The wildflower ‘meadow’ created a few years ago has been formally declared a failure, and has been converted into a conventional flowerbed, with spring bulbs and a newly planted hawthorn tree. The problem with the meadow was too much grass which was flattened by any rain or wind, plus the bindweed and nettles which were difficult to control. The bed will be planted with some fairly vigorous perennials to try to keep order, and the hawthorn will encourage wildlife.

Continue Reading

Poppy Means - Red Poppies and White Poppies

Poppies2018Most of us probably think we know what the red poppy stands for: but what’s all this about the white poppy?

As it happens, white poppies go back nearly as long ago as red ones, but the two have somewhat different origins. The ‘poppy appeal’ was launched in 1921, by the Royal British Legion, with the aim of helping military veterans with employment and housing. Its focus then was on the surviving soldiers returning home and trying to rebuild lives shattered by war.

When in 1933 the Cooperative Women’s Guild began to sell the white poppy, they wanted to symbolise a further message: After the ‘war to end all wars’ and the years of public victory parades and private hardship, they chose it as a symbol of the determination to work for peace and to emphasise the urgent need for international peace building.

Continue Reading

Greenfingers - November 2018

After a bit of research after last month’s item, it is clear that the hummingbird hawkmoth does land occasionally, and is well camouflaged when it does. Generally, eggs are laid on bedstraw (galium) plants.

It’s well into October as I write this, and from a distance, the garden is still looking very colourful, and I’m particularly pleased with a combination of a few late flower spikes on a verbascum, cream with purple centres, alongside a purple salvia. I only wish it were planned. Other contributors are campanula, dahlias, fuschias, hesperanthus, salvias, roses, canna, rudbeckia, alstroemeria, cyclamen, and annuals in the form of marigolds, zinnias, cosmos and nasturtiums.

Continue Reading

Greenfingers - October 2018

I’ve seen two humming bird hawk moths this summer, and whilst they remind me of dragonflies with their ability to hover and dart, I have yet to see one land. Photographing dragonflies is relatively simple when they perch on a prominent twig, but the moth is trickier. It’s more like the swift of the moth family – it never lands.

Continue Reading

Greenfingers - September 2018

Whilst relaxing in the garden one evening last month, I experienced an Edward Thomas moment – well I think that’s what it should be called, or perhaps just a Thomas. A silence descended on the garden, no traffic nor aircraft, nor steam trains, and even the wheezing wood pigeons were quiet. Nothing happened.

We’ve had plenty of opportunities to enjoy warm evenings outside this summer, in between the watering duties. All the container plants have needed regular watering, and anything newly planted in the beds also. A couple of plants were lost, but whether that was due to the very cold spring, or the dry summer, I’m not sure. One was a Salvia, and the other a Lobelia. As a result, I’m inclined to pot up the other salvias in the late Autumn, and overwinter them in the protection of the greenhouse.

Continue Reading

Greenfingers - July 2018

The recent lure of the pop-up pub helped to drag me into the church for an orchestral concert, where I enjoyed comfortable seating without the damp smell, the creaks, pops and bangs from the pews and pipes which would have previously accompanied the very fine solo violinist. May I add my congratulations to the 6P’s team for an excellent result.

In the garden, it’s time to remove excess apples, pears, plums, and peaches from the fruit trees, and although only the apples apply in my case, there’s room for improvement. The vines have been thinned though, and shoots re-moved, leaving a few leaves to feed the reduced quantity, but hopefully improved quality crop.

Continue Reading

Greenfingers - June 2018

We spent several days during April clearing the beds of weeds and applying a mulch. The mulch consisted of one section of the compost heap, which had been ready to go out since last autumn. The ‘middle’ section was then turned into the empty ‘ready’ container, and the ‘green’ compost turned into the middle. The green container is now filling rapidly with weeds, stalks, grass clippings and cardboard. I find the cardboard, torn into ~4” pieces, really helps the composting process, but not quite enough to destroy the weed seeds.

Continue Reading