The Sunday Gardener's Blog

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  1. Seed trays and root trainers



    Some sunshine and fine weather gives a chance to get out into the garden. This warm weather and rise in temperatures will aid germination so now is a good time to start sowing seeds. At this time of year it is important to find somewhere warm to place the trays and grow on the seedlings.

    It is still early in the year, and there will be plenty of cold weather to come which means it is best to start with the more hardy seeds. I have just sown around 100 Sweet Peas, a tray of Broad Beans and another tray of Chives. That is a lot of chives, I grow them chiefly for the bees who love them, and to edge the veg plot to attract pollinators. 

    Assuming the weather holds this is a good time to prune Clematis. This is an area of difficulty for many gardeners but if Clematis are not pruned the flowers will be higher and higher on the plant, and become less.

    There are lots of  tips about pruning Clematis, and remember only to prune Groups 2 & 3. The one Clematis not to prune, are the early flowering types such as Montana,illustrated.

    This is also the time to prune Buddleja and if you are growing strawberries, as I am, they will need a clean up. Most will have tired old leaves which all need to be cleared away. I then cover the plants with a cloche to induce an earlier strawberry crop. Tips on growing strawberries.

    Lovely to get out into the garden and these jobs can all be tackled throughout February.  

    The weather continues fine and I pruned 3 Clematis, all mid summer flowering Group 2 clematis. Hopefully the good prune will ensure some lovely summer flowers. Below are three images, before pruning and note the tangled mess of branches particularly the weight of top growth. After pruning and you can see the shrub is much reduced down to around waist height and all the top growth has been removed. Any dead stems have also been cut off and the growth tied in. The third image is a close up from which you can see that growth is cut back, wherever possible, to good buds.

    Don't worry about pruning Clematis they are relatively tough, and vigorous. Providing you do not prune the early flowering types (check out types of Clematis,) and you cut to a framework of buds around waist height you will not go far wrong.


    Clematis Group 2 before pruning Clematis group 2 after pruning close up clematis group 2 after pruning

    Hurrah, we are almost there and ready to start sowing seeds. The exact timing depends where in the country you garden, and how much space under glass you have for growing seeds on until the weather picks up.

    I have space in a conservatory where I start my seeds moving them out into the greenhouse later in Marach once they are established and when it is a little warmer. 

    After so many years of gardening, I still get excited as the seeds germinate and push up through the soil. Moving away from waxing lyrical to the practical. A good place to start is with broad beans, because they are one of the hardiest of veg seeds and will tolerate being planted out earlier than other veggies, such as French beans or courgettes, which are more sensitive to cold.

    On the flower front, it is Sweet Pea time and I've over 100 to sow. Well, if you are going to grow them best to have real display. Sweet Peas look at their best planted in groups. I rather fancy an archway similar to the one below, spotted at one of the RHS gardens. 

    Information on How to grow Sweet Peas, Broad beans and how to sow and germinate seeds with video guides. 

    Thompson and Morgan have a great selection of Sweet Peas many of which are  in the 100 seeds being sown sometime in February. 


    Seed packets


  3. As a new gardener, it is good to start with plants which are easy to grow. These are plants which are reliable, tolerant of most growing conditions, flower each year and tough, but also attractive and great garden stalwarts. Geraniums fall into that category. This type of Geranium is not the summer bedding variety but the hardy Geranium whose common name is Cranesbill.

    A really diverse group of plants about 300 different types and they can be both perennial and herbaceous. They are long lived and undemanding and you can plant them anywhere in a garden except a bog garden.

    Geraniums have flowers which are white, purple, blue and pink and some have contrasting veins within the inner flower. Geraniums come in all different sizes from small compact varieties which make a matt and are good ground cover to those which grow up to 60 cms (24") and they blend so well with other plants. The images below show how very attractive Geraniums are and I always have about a dozen dotted around the borders in my garden, they are so reliable.

    Advice and tips on how to Grow Geraniums

    Many Geraniums are blue and if you are interested in creating a wildlife friendly garden, one thing is sure Bees Love Blue- check out a bee filled summer day video showing just how much Bees love blue.

    Geranium with bee geranium-single-flower-detail-310-x-240
    this weeks best selling offers large

    This week Thompson and Morgan have great plant offers and one is a lovely collection of Hardy Geraniums. The collection includes -

    Click here for offer

    Geranium sanguineum - A spreading Geranium with vivid magenta flowers above finely dissected, dark green foliage. Perfect for filling gaps in borders.

    • Geranium himalayense - A versatile cultivar for sun or shade with lobed foliage that forms a pretty backdrop to its purple-blue flowers.
    • Geranium phaeum var. phaeum 'Samobor' - A charming cultivar that thrives in shade on dry or damp soils.
    • Geranium endressii - Bright pink flowers above a mound of lobed foliage that makes superb ground cover.



  4. Achillea in winter 310 aster in winter


    We are almost at the shortest day; it is definitely winter, but the garden is alive. It is surprising how much is growing in the garden and not just the spring bulbs which are well ahead of themselves. The images above are on the left Achillea and on the right Aster.  Both are summer flowering perennials which I have been cutting back, one of the winter garden jobs. At the base you can see the plant's new growth which will be next years flowering plant. 

    I am in the midst of the winter clear up, a job which often takes place over much of the winter on milder days. Once the perennials have been cut back the weeds are much easier to spot and there are plenty to weed out. I also remove leaves which accumulate in the borders. That may seem counter- intuitive, as leaf mulch is good for the borders, but that is the well rotted down variety not the newly blown leaves which are slimly and can harbour disease. 

    December is a quiet time in the garden, there are no pressing jobs. It is nice to get out on the few mild days and clear up leaves and winter debris. By weeding over the winter I try to start the spring relatively weed free, a battle surrendered by late summer.  

    This image below is, in some ways, not a Hosta. By which I mean this is where a really large Hosta grew in the summer. Unlike Achillea and Aster, Hostas die back completely in the winter leaving no trace behind. There will be no fresh shoots from the Hosta until spring next year.

    If a plant label states it is a ' Herbaceous Perennial' you can expect it to die back completely in the late autumn and over winter, leaving you with bare earth sometimes until quite late in the year. The image on the right is of a Hosta emerging, and was taken  in early May, so you can expect bare earth for quite a few months.


    hosta in winter310 hosta emerging new growth in early may



    Winter in the Veg Plot

    Winter in the veg plot is not just about Winter cabbages and Brassicas, although they are good to grow, Winter is also lettuce time. I have had lettuce growing in the veg plot all summer, autumn and into the winter.  We may often eat Tomatoes and Lettuce together, but there are very different plants Tomatoes are very tender and only viable during the summer.

    In the two images below, on the left is Autumn lettuce and Rocket which has been consumed,  picking off those plants growing outside the cloche. Lettuce will withstand a degree of frost which meant throughout November, despite frosts, the lettuces outside the cloche were unaffected. Anticipating more severe winter weather, some summer sown lettuces and winter lettuces have been planted under the cloche.  Lettuce is much more hardy than it may appear, and there are plenty of winter lettuces to pick and grow. How to grow Winter Lettuce.

    Autumn lettuces winter lettuce