A green tomato year

Queen of the Night in Flower
Epiphyllum oxypetalum flowering for the first time a few weeks ago.

A funny old summer. A couple of blisteringly hot energy sapping days interspersed with temperature plummeting days of solid rain and normal english summer weather in between. Today it’s raining heavily again, on Saturday it was warm, sunny and humid, a couple of flashes of lightning on Saturday night.

The tomatoes in the re-sited greenhouse aren’t ripening very quickly as we shift into autumn gear. The greenhouse is more shaded than previously, it used to get full-on south facing light most of the day. One Gardener’s Delight today is displaying a faint blush, Costoluto Fiorentino and Big Rainbow are still in various shades of pale jade green, Gypsy is a darker green altogether with even darker green shoulders.

I was hoping to do some gardening today – forget it! The oceans of Fat Hen that came in with the cow muck will have to await uprooting and the cutting back too. I’m not in the mood for being showered and slapped by sodden and rotting foliage. The hornbeams should be trimmed – but not today.

I also need to start taking loads of cuttings, maybe this afternoon i’ll retreat to the leaky potting shed and commune with the spiders whose webs festoon everything. Miss Havisham would be proud. My auriculas also go un-repotted

Late summer flowers and produce

As I look down the rainy garden border blobs of doubled white Shasta Daisy Beauty of Droitwich catch the eye, then on to the downward belled Galtonia candicans towards the cloud of golden daises of Rudbeckia triloba. Dots of blue agapanthus add a more subtle eye line down the front of the border.  In the rose bed Lilium Black Beauty (in reality dark ruby and white) rear over 6 feet up out of the surrounding foliage, heads bowed by the rain.

The courgettes have started sulking with the dull cold weather and maybe i’ll get two squash out of 3 plants this year? This morning a Lungo Bianco courgette presses against the greenhouse glass palely looming out of the shadows, maybe the last at this rate!

Epiphyllum oxypetalum in bud
Epiphyllum oxypetalum in bud – very Little Shop of Horrors but she doesn’t sing

The new greenhouse position has suited Epiphyllum oxypetalum, the Queen of the Night, a great gangly grower with paddle bladed leaves, she rewarded me after quite a number of years of sulking with a huge white heavily scented flower a few weeks ago. The flower did stay open into daylight but certainly darkness triggered the dramatic opening. There is another scaly maroon bud on its way but I may have to move her back to the lighter conservatory which may upset things!

An abundance of empurpled golden Victoria Plums  plop to the ground from overladen branches where legions of flies are enjoying the harvest but seemingly few wasps. One can only eat so many and the jam is a bit insipid attested to by the fact I still have jars from two years ago lurking in the back of a cupboard.

No hornets so far are seen to be taking advantage of the somewhat smaller apples this year which are littering the ground unchewed, tipsy Red Admirals are few and far between.

The fruits of the Merryweather damson whose leaves were damaged by a heavy infestation of aphids earlier on are just turning (the aphids were also in the hazel trees, sticky honeydew rained down on my washing annoyingly for a couple of weeks and left sooty streaks on the polygonatum leaves before presumably nature balanced things out again). The Greengage decided not to flower this year and the Quince flowered with no set. Whichever critter likes the Early Rivers plums whipped them again, one minute the sparse crop was there, next day gone.

Brambles are aggressively thrusting their way out of the hedges, putting on it seems inches daily in another push of growth and the honeysuckle which has been cut back a number of times tries yet again to envelop bordering plants.

Self-seeded and planted Wild Angelica add a fuzzy froth of off-white to mauve flowers to the late summer streambanks and wood margins. The flower heads appear less defined en masse than some umbels, the supporting branches held aloft on sturdy stems complemented by broad leaves.

Thunbergia gregorii
Thunbergia gregorii

I’m enjoying Thunbergia gregorii bought from Hill House Nursery earlier this year. Huge orange flowers emerge from rusty furred pods. It’s only slightly behind a Morning Glory in the race to the top of an obelisk.

Crickets, blues and hobbies

Last weekend in the parish field a number of Common Blue butterflies (I think) were shut up for the night each having attached itself high up on a browned grass stem, and amongst the grasshoppers Dark Brown Crickets chirred. The Speckled Wood butterflies have emerged and occasional Peacocks and Commas dodge the showers. A new crop of Cabbage White caterpillars is steadily chewing it’s way through the rampant self-seeded nasturtiums.

The swirling Tree Bee activity stopped a few weeks ago. Our odd Starling is still it seems living in the nest under the eaves emerging in the morning and in the evening. We thought we saw a Hobby pass by a few weeks ago with its distinctive Swift outline. The Sparrowhawk has come crashing through the shrubs in the main border twice in the past week.

A mole is as usual taking advantage of the softened clay to go earth swimming, some plants in the newish (not as shady as I thought it would be) border are continually being uprooted by one of the many velvet coated pests which infest the garden!

The honeyfungus issue is still vexing me, I’ve lost a Stachyurus suddenly as well. How does a manky old plum tree survive? And honeyfungus must exist in a woodland environment so how does that work? Do other fungi compete with it and lessen its impact?


Something isn’t quite right

Poor performing grow bags Westland on the left, better performing Tomorite on the right
Poor performing grow bags, Westland on the left, better performing Tomorite on the right

My tomatoes are a bit late anyway, none have yet ripened. I planted the same tomatoes grown from seed, one group in Westland grow bags on the left,  in Tomorite grow bags on the right. Both sides have Costoluto Fiorentino and Black Cherry tomatoes (the Westland side also has a Red Pear. The Westland side was planted about a week before the Tomorite and have never been ‘right’. Leaf curl, poor growth, poor flowering and set.The Tomorite are much lusher and taller with better flowering and set. Some kind of contamination in the Westland compost?

Close up
Close up

I have bought many different general composts this year and have found them very variable,  it’s a pity I haven’t taken notes, as some have been downright appalling with plants making little or no root growth at all in some.

Everything in the garden is rosy – well nearly


The cold spring has delayed the roses which is generally a good thing. The first to flower of the new plantings are Variegata di Bologna, Kazanlik and Vick’s Caprice. Kazanlik doesn’t look much but is heavily scented, I should perhaps have gone for Ispahan which has a stronger form. The very first in flower was (as usual) the dark red Louis XIV who (as usual) is now starting to succumb to blackspot.


The sweetpeas have started flowering finally, and the Zaluzianskya. The starry white flowers from maroon buds of the Zaluzianskya open in the evening. I grew it from seed for the scent, the flowers smell a bit like AutoGlym car polish, not unpleasant but not what I expected.

The hedgerows are thick with elder still in full bloom and cascades of Dog Roses, its now early July.

The rather pretty umbellifer flowering by the stream is (I think) Hemlock Water Dropwort (Conium maculatum) one of the most poisonous plants around, and its not just in my garden, it grows in a number of watercourses around here. Luckily there isn’t much of it and it’s being treated with herbicide as even cutting and disposing of it can be a bit tricky.

stemmacanthaThis is Stemmacantha, I haven’t grown it before. I thought the bees would love it and they do. Similar to the yellow Centaurea macrocephla in flower shape which bees also love, rolling about gleefully amongst the filaments.

The chickens have been temporarily thwarted from dust bathing in the main flower beds and general tearing up newly planted areas with a low string barrier. They took it out on a corner of the squash bed yesterday instead. Horrible chickens, they’ve also had every strawberry as they ripened.

I have tomatoes planted in the greenhouse in 2 different brands of growbag. In the first brand the growth is weedy and slightly yellowed,  at the moment Tomorite growbags are definitely winning for greenness and lushness.

Grim and grimmer

It all looks a bit sad and sorry at the moment
It all looks a bit sad and sorry at the moment

What has happened to spring? Cold grey and miserable I am not looking forward to gardening today. Yesterday 20 miles east it was snowing, here luckily only rain and the ground is again sodden. I know I shouldn’t work soil this wet but I am still driven to get as much planted before the spring rush.

One upside is that the often fleeting blossom on early cherries is still around held by the cold. The snowdrops are now mostly well over and daffodils are holding sway in gardens and hedgerows, their show will last longer too if this nasty easterly continues to hold us in its thrall.

The tomatoes are now up, the pepper is just starting to appear. I might sow some nasturtiums this weekend in the hopes that the weather will cheer up sometime soon.

Trumpets, violins, I hear them in the distance …

Nerine Zeal Giant early October

This post won’t be echoing the mood of  Patti Smith’s Elegie,  I just liked the line with the picture! (Altho’ it has made me reacquaint myself with Patti on YouTube as I write).

This Nerine from Avon Bulbs really does announce its presence with panache.

Autumn continues on an alternate rain / still low gold sun course. More leaves are making their way to the ground. Looking across the park two of the trees are almost completely gold now.

Little surprises,  today in Bristol by a path onto Castle Mound a random Tricyrtis is flowering, not something one expects to see in what is a municipal planting. Also a sweet stirring smell of pine from Scots Pines by the path further up.  Something to think about when planting for scent, evoking warm mediterranean days on a cloudy October Wednesday.

Borlotti Bean harvest early October

The weekend was spent tidying and clearing the greenhouse. Out came the whitefly ridden tomato plants (sulphur candle overnight) and in went bubble wrap and some of the tenders and a few more cuttings.  This year I only grew two tomato varieties and neither succumbed to blight,  however the yellow Wapsinicon Peach (Plant World) grew lustily but hardly set fruit at all, the Costoluto Fiorentino (Seeds of Italy) set considerably better but was somewhat shy to ripen in the grey days that we have had. Harvested the small crop of Borlotti Lingua di Fuoco (Seeds of Italy) which have been cooked at the plumptious just out of the drying pod stage rather than dried, and used in a vegetable stew.

A tip from Avon Bulbs recent newsletter about drying off pots now under open cover may help things like Agapanthus survive over the winter as the excessive summer rains will have compacted soil in pots and generally now is not a good time to re-pot plants  if overwintering outside.

I took loads and loads of rose cuttings as per a shrub cutting rather than the stick in a slit trench, for various reasons (including neglect/drying out) only two appear to have taken, I am crossing my fingers.

Autumn enters stage left

Cyclamen hederifolium
Cyclamen hederifolium

Why? Because the first fitful blooms of Cyclamen hederifolium have appeared at the base of a birch tree. The weather has been autumnal too, rain, mist and dewy mornings. Some fabulous ‘low gold light after rain in the evenings’ moments,  and a great moon swung up into the sky to the east of Bath on Sunday last.

The August garden is given colour by Dahlias, Scabious not quite Chile Black, as cross pollination has given me a selection from seed; Gladioli of the smaller types, Diascia personata and Anthericum ramosum. The last of the Kniphofia are the bright yellow Dorset Sentry and white tipped green Ice Queen, I have had a succession of Tawny King and others going for weeks.  A large Ratibidia with yellow daisy flowers and a couple of unassuming pale yellow Cephalaria are waving above the wreck of the middle bed. The asters are still in the wings.

Fig Brunswick

Had my first of 4 figs this week which is a little luxury.  Yep a bad pruning regime,  it’s enough to keep Brunswick under control over the growing season it is so vigorous. This plant originally came from a nursery that used to be at Greenways, Agatha Christie’s house, now an NT property.

Allium angulosum is a good doer it has been in flower for weeks attracting the bees, think a sturdier version of a chive flower and strappy flattened ground hugging leaves (Mead Nursery and Avon Bulbs).

In the veg garden my fennel has bolted (boo!) The first tomatoes finally ripening, Tonadose de Conores a small cherry type and Vintage Wine,  stripey and beefier (Plant World). The courgettes continue to sulk with the mizzly weather altho’ the odd pale yellow warty Rugosa of Friuli seems a little less fractious than Striato d’Italia (which I think has a good flavour), both from Seeds of Italy. Also first aubergine and maybe last given the weather.


And finally – I have been enjoying the  scents from Heliotrope, Brugmansia Grand Marnier (evening) and Lilium speciosum, a heady brew indeed.

Wet and windy start to June

Well for some anyway …. plants are a little confused now as the temperatures drop away at night after our somewhat hot spell.

Some of the tomatoes in the greenhouse have rolled leaves which some forums suggest is irregular watering and others temperature swings. The Morning Glory set off well but are  now grumping  with the cooler temperatures,  as are the pole beans.

The fab rose flush is dissipating into brown mush, pruning to take place very soon. Only two of the roses in the town garden repeat flower Louis XIV a dark red china rose and the yellow climbing noisette, Duchesse d’Auerstadt.

Grew La Fleur Lilac from seed, a datura, I don’t like it at all so it’s already come out of some of the places it has been planted – Thorn apple by any other name? And generally weedy looking. Nothing like the Brugmansia Grand Marnier which is growing like a triffid in the greenhouse.