I’ve had a pretty lousy week, paying for a run of lovely, busy weekends and the welcome gift of some work with a health back-lash that I have been in denial over until I finally had to concede. I took a day off.

After a lie-in, followed by breakfast in bed with a good book, I eventually emerged to a day that seemed more like June than March. There was only one place to be – outside.

Magnolia stellata

I gathered my gardening notebook, RHS encylopedia and a couple of seed catalogues (to remind me what I had sown and why) and plonked myself at the garden table to do some pondering.

I’ve been promising myself for months now that I would take an audit of which seedlings had thrived and could be usable in my continuing revamp of the pond bed. Its all very well dreaming up planting schemes in the depths of winter, but on a limited budget for buying “grown up” new plants I eventually have to just work with what I have. I don’t know about you, but I can lose myself for hours staring at a patch of garden, imagining how it could look in my mind’s eye, flicking through books to check height, spread, flowering time. The air was warm and still, and heavily scented by the Magnolia stellata. Time flew by. I made lists of seedlings that had made it through the winter and tried to work out which might actually flower this year and where I was going to have to be patient.

Geum 'Cooky' Seedling
Achillea Cassis seedling

One of the things I love about the Chiltern Seeds Catalogue is that they indicate which perennials are likely to flower in the first year from seed. Last year I watched in amazement as the Knautia macedonica that I sowed in early March turned into robust flowering plants. In my bid to fill my Pond Bed with more colour this year, I sowed a lot of new perennials last Autumn and more this Spring, hoping to repeat this success. The Geum ‘Cooky’ seedling above left looks far too tiny – as do its four companions – to offer any colour or bulk this year, but the trusty catalogue assures me that they will burst into flower – bright orange flower – in late Spring. The Achillea ‘Cassis’ on the right however, is unlikely to do any such thing. I will harden it and its companions off and plant them out anyway, they will hopefully put on lots of growth this year, I will get to enjoy the foliage, and next year, they should start to give me colour.

Sitting there, looking out over the pond, seeing not what is there now but what could be there, I kept having to check myself, because it will take time for all this planning and sowing and planting to really come to fruition, for me to be able to see how it actually works out. I am worried about not having enough blue to tone down the other colours. I have numerous seedlings from a lovely blue campanula, but they won’t flower this year. I have had problems with damping off so I don’t have the Nepeta ‘Blue Infinity’ plants I was relying on – they do flower in their first year – and there is, as yet, no sign of the one I planted out last year re-emerging. Mind you, I was convinced that I had lost all the Echnicea purpurea plants but there are signs of new growth. Time will tell! I do have a lovely Aconitum ‘Sparks Variety’ from Beth Chatto to plant out. Not from her personally, you understand! Purchased from her nursery with birthday money…

I think annuals will have to play a big part in providing the colour I dream of – I am delighted that lots of the aquilegias that I thought I had lost to Botrytis earlier in the year have bounced back, obviously not minding the move to the plant house at all, but despite being glad that I gave them a second chance they won’t flower for me this year, and I have totally failed to grow Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’ and Cenolophium denudatum from seed. There will be gaps, which was making me feel a little fed up. Then the post arrived and with it a lovely gift from Esther – she had offered ‘Baycorns’ to anyone who wanted to try growing them, and I was enchanted by the idea and said “yes please”.

Potted Baycorn

Esther sent me two, so we agreed I would try one in a pot in the greenhouse and the other in a pot in the coldframe, and see what happens. I have nothing riding on it other than curiosity and hope, no planting scheme depends on these little beauties thriving, but I will be thrilled if they do grow. Esther also sent me a coffee bean to try, though we think perhaps that I may get better success if I sow a fresh berry rather than the dry seed – perhaps another parcel. Whatever happens, it put a big smile on my face to get these little plants-in-waiting in the post.

Tomato Seedling
Seedling Central

Finding a corner for the baycorn in the greenhouse was easy – just one small pot after all – but elsewhere my desire to experiment with lots of different tomatoes and chillies this year is creating space issues! On the tomato front I have Olivade, Marmande, Gold Nugget, Ferline, Tumbling Tom (both red and yellow) and Gardener’s Delight. On the chilli front I am trying Scotch Bonnet, Thai Dragon, Twilight and Navaho. They have been ousted from the light box (I need that space for newer seedlings) but I have left the greenhouse insulation up in fear that a cold snap could set them all back – though they are looking healthy and robust so far.

Emerging Beetroot

The emerging beetroot and sprout seedlings, together with the cabbages, won’t be ready for the allotment for a while, but I’m hoping to get up there this weekend and plant out more potatoes and broad beans. An allotment update is long overdue, and hopefully I will get around to it early next week – another casualty of my health dip, as is catching up with blogs. I just couldn’t bring myself to go inside and sit in front of a computer screen – too many emails and too little energy – so I just sat, dreaming of plants and enjoying the light streaming through the fresh growth.

Light Through Kanutia
Light Through Euphorbia

And since I had been surrounded by the scent of the Magnolia, warmed by an unseasonably strong sun (hope that wasn’t summer I just had), and entertained by the collared doves and blue tits nest-building, I can’t really complain. Fresh growth, new life, all reminders not to get bogged down. Have a wonderful weekend in your garden, and sorry I haven’t been around much on the blogsosphere recently _ I’m looking forward to catching up. After a cup of tea outside enjoying the sunshine!

FrogspawnEmerging Crocosmia

43 thoughts on “Pottering, pondering and potting up gifts

  1. Hi Janet,

    Sorry to hear about your health dip, I hope you are feeling better now :)

    It’s dull here today and somewhat cooler than the past week, but I don’t mind so much as it’s still comfortable enough to be outside if the mood takes me.
    Lovely update, I do enjoy having a nose around other people’s gardens and to see what’s going on and how things are developing.

    Good luck with your Baycorns, I hope they do sprout for you! :)

    1. Hi Liz, starting to do a little better thanks – which is just as well, as there is so much I want to be doing. Although of course that’s what got me into trouble in the first place!

      Its duller here too today, but still warm enough to sit outside, which is what I am about to do. Gla dyou enjoyed the nose around – its something I love doing too, so I figure fair’s fair!

      I will be watching the baycorns almost as eagerly as I am watching the erythronium, which is about to burst into flower. Have a great weekend!

      1. Hi,

        I may have to try your knautia, I’ve wanted some for a while and didn’t realise they’d be such good plants to grow from seeds. I’ve had scabious for the past couple of years but they’ve all be killed off by the snow in December so I need to sow some more, but would also love macedonica.

        Still need to order some plants off Beth; just waiting for the fence to be finished before I get them. Plan on getting some more Flat-topped Aster and some Veronicastrum as definites.

        1. You’d love Kanutia, pretty and such an insect magnet, for 5 months! Easy to grow from seed too. Veronicastrum has to be one of my favourite perennials, so graceful. Think I’d better stick to just my ‘Monch’ and divaricatus asters for now though… Happy shopping!

    1. Hi Nic, I now get to watch as they eat one another and get eaten by the birds, the newts, grown up frogs that suddenly seem to forget that they thought procreation was a good idea… And thank you, am feeling a little better now!

  2. According to Bob Flowerdew, you do need fresh seeds for coffee. I have not tried it myself yet, so I have to take his word for it :)

    1. Hi Emma, wouldn’t dream of arguing with Bob! Happily Esther is going to send me fresh seeds to play with.

  3. Janet I’m sorry to hear you haven’t been well but don’t ever feel badly for taking time for yourself or your garden. I think it’s easy sometimes to get caught up in ‘blog land’ and forget the reason for this all is our garden. Your afternoon in the garden sounds wonderful. Taking time to just sit and enjoy the sights and smells. Spring will be over before we know it so we must enjoy it while we can.

    1. Thank you Marguerite – I know you are right, but I do so enjoy playing in blogland, and resent not being able to get my fix! Am being good and taking things easy though. For now ;-)

  4. Another problem with browsing books and fixating on a particular plant is that you then can’t buy it anywahere and are disappointed!

    We now have frogspawn too but will it survive this year?

    1. Oh, I know that problem – and then you do find it, but the delivery charge is almost as much as the plant, so its not worth it – unless you do a bigger order… This is why I now mostly grow things from seed! Pity the patience doesn’t come naturally.

      I am always amazed at how much frogspawn gets created – until I see the attrition rate. Hopefully a few will make it to “recognisably a frog” status.

  5. Sorry to hear your health has taken a nose dive, hope you’re feeling much better now. Your greenhouse is looking very full, it’s so exciting seeing everything growing at this time of year, and waiting eagerly for more space to become available so that more seeds can be sown.

    1. Hi Jo, am enjoying taking it easy, though its not really an ideal time of year to be doing that. Mind you, until the next batch of plants are ready to put in the ground there is not a lot I can actually do except dream and water and look forward to pulling my first rhubarb.

  6. I’m glad you recovered enough to enjoy the garden. You promised more star magnolia photos, and I’m glad you’ve delivered on your promise. If only you could digitize the fragrance and have it reconstituted 8000 miles away…

    1. Hi James, when I get around to it I will link to my Flickr feed, and the true nature of my Magnolia addiction will be revealed… Mind you, the petals are now falling quite thickly, it is such a fleeting joy. There is a fortune awaiting the first person to work out how to propagate smell on the internet…

  7. Your greenhouse is impressive I am very jealous as mine is tiny. I think your Geums will flower but they may be a little late, my experience is that they put on a lot of growth quickly

    1. Hi Helen, every time I find myself wishing my greenhouse was bigger than its 6×6 size I remember yours and how much smaller it is and what you still manage to achieve in it! May both our futures hold bigger greenhouses ;-) Good news on the geum front, thank you, I will wait patiently and hopefully… Maybe eventually I’ll even get good at this patience thing!

  8. I hope you feel much better soon and having a lovely weekend as well. Looking forward to seeing your planting on the pond area and how it turns out.

    You’ve convinced me with Magnolia stellata, just bought one today :)

    1. Glad to have got others hooked on Magnolia stellata – may yours bloom prolifically! Thanks for best wishes, have had very mellow weekend.

  9. glad you are feeling better…I have temps in the 20s here so no gardening with it below freezing…I too can get lost looking at a patch for a long time…wish I could share some plants for your pond area…

    1. Hi Donna, wish I lived close enough to be able to take you up on the plant sharing – though possibly not given you are still suffering freezing conditions ;-) I do rather love the fact that I have been able to shed the woollies for lighter garb…

  10. Wonderful assortment of seedlings! I love the red stems of the beets! Those little frog eggs are amazing! Looks like a bumper crop!

    1. Hi Janet – there are several clumps of frogspawn all that size, and others that I occasionally glimpse rolling around below the surface. Sadly, experience suggests that only a small handful will survive to become actual frogs… I love the beetroot seedlings too – though not beetroot. But it is a favourite of MIL. And who knows, maybe home grown will convert me!

  11. Nothing like a book and a late rise to make you feel better, and I hope by now you do. I love reading yours posts, they make me feel so ambitious! Well done. R

  12. Soryy you haven’t felt well; having a day off and just relaxing is so good for you. I think we should all have a lazy day now and again, just pottering and enjoying! Seeing your Knautia plants and hearing that they flowered in their fisrt year fills me with hope that mine will germinate soon and flower this year for me. Take care of yourself. Christina

    1. Hi Christina, you are so right, we all need to take proper time off occasionally. Working from home can make it harder sometimes, despite the myriad distractions – so easy to “just do a bit” in evenings and at weekends and then realise you never actually take a whole day off! Good luck with your Knautia, I look forward to seeing them feature in your bloom day slide show…

  13. Aquilegias are perennials here, although I must admit they can be short-lived. I just sprinkle there seeds around where I want them to be the next year and they perform. I love Geum ‘Cooky’ and am constantly planting it and losing it. I think it needs a sunny location with excellent drainage. It provides wonderful early orange color in my orange and purple garden.

    1. Hi Carolyn, aquilegias are perennials here too, but I find when I grow them from seed or when they are self-sown they either don’t flower at all, or very poorly, in the first year. it doesn’t take as long to get lots of flowers as it does with the hellebores though!

      Good to hear how you are using ‘Cooky’, though I am perturbed to hear it often doesn’t survive. I want it to contrast with purple too, and blue.

    1. Ah, the circle of life! I adore kingfishers – when we used to holiday on the Norfolk Broads it was the highlight of the week to glimpse that iridescent blue flash. How wonderful to have one visit your pond.

  14. A most enjoyable post with wonderful photos. I do rather enjoy pondering and pottering, but less keen on potting not that I do much as I sow things most direct on the plot.
    I have some self-seeded aquilegias which is pleasing as my mum liked them.
    Thanks for your recent comments on my blog, and I’ve now added you to my lawn loungers list.
    I hope that you feel better, and refreshed. Flighty xx

    1. Hi Flighty, how wonderful to be on your lawn loungers list, thank you! And for visiting and saying nice things ;-) I may be a little mad, but I love potting things, and fear the slug infestation at the plot too much to sow anything I can start in modules direct instead. Maybe in time I will get brave…

      1. You’re welcome! I sow direct through necessity rather than choice as I don’t have a garden, greenhouse or coldframe, and not much windowsill space at home. All things considered I don’t do too bad though! xx

  15. I hope you are feeling better soon, Janet. A day in the sunshine, just relaxing is as good as any medicine! I have been doing a lot of planning this winter, too. I have a new flowerbed all ready to plant, and in my mind I see it in mid-summer with all kinds of blue, purple, and pink blooms. I have to remind myself, though, that the reality will be much different; all the shrubs and perennials I intend to add aren’t going to be very big this year. I imagine I’ll be adding quite a few annuals this year just to have some color. I envy you your greenhouse–your seedlings are thriving!

    1. Hi Rose, I’m getting there – although today I went up to the allotment to plant potatoes, and got there only to realise I had forgotten to bring them with me! CFS brain fog scores again :-~

  16. Your veg seedlings are coming on well. It’s nice to receive things from others. One of my Hort Soc friends passed on some celeariac which I am going to try for the first time this year.

    1. I’m trying celeriac too, I love the stuff – the seeds have germinated, just need to get them to a decent size. And so much more sowing to do…

  17. Your right it is so easy to lose yourself in the garden, hours pass when it feels like only twenty minutes or so. Our pond looked big enough when initially set up, now wish we had made it larger. Hope you are soon feeling well again.

    1. I suspect that is always the way with ponds – I read somewhere the advice to “make the pond as big as you think you can, and then a little bigger”. All very well, but given the cost of liner…

      I love losing time in the garden – until I realise I have left it too late to get tea on.

  18. I hope that you are feeling stronger Janet ~ all this lovely spring weather will have helped. Make sure though that you take some time just to stand and stare. It’s amazing sometimes just how quickly seedlings grow so you may find that your greenhouse occupants may still put on a show this year. That magnolia is sublime.

    1. Thanks Anna. Hope you are right about the seedlings – I’ve certainly noticed a sudden growth spurt. I’m torn between coddling them in the greenhouse to see if I can help them along and wanting to grow them hard. Think I will try coddling for a bit – it is still early, after all!

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