Tuesday 7 April 2015

Direct sowing in the Cottage Garden

Daffodils and crocuses (rhubarb at the back)
I had not been in the Cottage Garden for over a month (time does fly!), and the last time I was there it was mainly about tidying up: picking leaves, cutting back herbaceous perennials' stems, mulching.

I did keep an eye on it since, though, and albeit the ground is still rather bare, crocuses and daffodils have been putting up a nice show.

In particular, I have been monitoring the combination of rhubarb and daffodils, which has turned out rather satisfactory so far.

But today it was with a bit of anxiety that I started direct sowing in my area.

But let's start from the beginning.

First thing this morning, I went into prop to check whether any of the plants they are growing for me was ready. Fritillaria persica ' Ivory Bells', a treat I invested in last year, is about to flower. It's gone into a polytunnel for hardening off a week or so. The next plants to come out, by the look of it, are going to be Malva silvestris and the chamomile lawn.

Rubus illecebrosus
In the area itself, there was still some tidying up to do, for example, Rubus illecebrosus, aka strawberry raspberry, has been sending out new growth for a while, so it was time to clear the old stems, and where raspberries were previosly planted, some roots left in the ground sent out suckers that had to be removed to the source.

And there is an invasion of Nothoscordum borbonicum, which I'm trying to eradicate by digging the tiny tuberlets out one by one.

Also, very much in my style, but made braver by my Great Dixter visit last month, I intensified my "selective weeding" and the reuse of self-seeders in the cottage garden. After all, I think it is very much in the spirit of a cottage garden to make use of those plants that show an inclination to grow of their own accord.

So I got the inspiration for a suitably ornamental use of all of the seedlings of Welsh poppy (Meconopsis cambrica), in the "yellows and reds" area by the East entrance, where I also planted red hot poker (preexisting), Aquilegia 'Fire Cracker' (preexisting) and Asphodeline lutea, with Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus) as the backdrop - we'll see how that turns out.

Veronica as ground cover

I also had a go at creating a Veronica ground cover under the elders, where the soil was rather bare, waiting for some Viola and Primula grown from seeds, that have been fussy germinators. If it gets to flower together, it should be a lovely sight. Veronica spp. are by no means less gorgeous than cultivated varieties. Does it look like a weed in the picture?

And then it was the time for the direct sowing. I am slightly nervous that they might not germinate and grow well, my plants. If it happens at home it is no big deal, but here it's a display garden, and it is the first time I grow from seed for display - I'm much more comfortable with shrubs and pruning!

But anyway, it was time I tackled the potager.

My buddying hedge of Lonicera nitida has been doing fine, has been filling up with new growth despite being bothered all winter by some pest (rabbits?) who have been nibbling at it, severing stems at the base. I wander what they find attractive in such tiny stems.

Lonicera: a severed stem
Lonicera: new growth

Beetroot: sown

The areas separated by the hedge need filling now, and with a 4 year rotation, sowing for the spring was planned as: spring onions, beetroot, chicory and Phacelia tanacetifolia (not very many Solanaceae or Cucurbitaceae ready to plant out now).

The chicory is being grown for me, but I did sow the Phacelia (scattered) and the beetroot (in drills, 2.5 cm deep of finely prepared soil, watered in advance, some 3 cm from each other and with 30 cm between the rows). I still hae to do the spring onion as I ran out of time.

Finger crossed now...

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