Going to Seed

There will only be seed available to buy for the next few weeks, before the Spring flowers come on strong and the ground is ready to plant in. Take a look at what’s available on the Seed page which will be updated regularly. Some seeds will do best planted now e.g. sweetpeas while others need more light in mid Feb & March.

Email orders to address below and they can be delivered (or posted) to your door.

thedevelopingplot@gmail.com

Why Homesown Seeds?

This has felt the longest January with the cold and wet almost relentless. Just now and then, the sun and early flowers have broken up the gloom. Luckily, in a quiet time for growing, I have been able to distract myself with seeds.

White helichrysum seeds germinating

One of the most surprisingly dislocating aspects of the first Covid lockdown last year was how difficult it was to buy seeds and compost to sow them in. Of course, that is extremely minor in the whole experience, but it added to a sense of powerlessness. Research, patience and swapping with friends eventually sourced both, but it has made me think more about sustainability and waste and the millions of seeds and their potential which I have thrown on the compost heap without a thought.

Cleaning and sorting calendula seeds – all from just a few flower heads gathered in Autumn

During this lockdown I am learning a little more about the provenance of commercial seed and the way in which it has become a global enterprise with seed being produced, trialed and then packaged in different and distant countries, often China. Not only does this limit our choice as older varieties are lost, but it also means the seed we buy isn’t necessarily suited to our environment and local conditions. Much of the seeds we buy are F1 hybrids which means that seed does not come true the following year in the same way that open pollinated seed does. This means it is seed which can’t be reliably saved and so we need to buy it all over again every year instead of simply collecting and saving our own. So, in the light of this growing awareness, I have decided to save my own seed and sell it cheaply or ( when I can get back to the markets) swap it. No fancy packaging, but fresh, local seeds. Addicted to seed buying, I will also share some of the fresh seed bought this year from reputable companies – impossible (even for me) to use the thousands of seeds in some packets.

This lockdown too many of the seed companies I rely on, such as Seedaholic, are being overwhelmed with orders and are only accepting them at limited times. This seems another good reason to share seed around cheaply.

From seed to flowers and back again.

Saving seed is truly interesting aspect of growing to learn about and I can recommend the Vital Seed’s online course on seed saving as well as the advice on the Real Seeds website.

Some recommended reading.

Cleaning, sorting, counting and packaging seed is also a healthy distraction from grey thoughts and reading about how to do it is too.

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A Simple Guide to Making a Wreath (Part 1)

One of the things I enjoy doing most in Autumn and on the run up to Christmas is spending an afternoon with a good friend (and a glass of wine and some chocolate) making wreaths and talking non-stop. This year, we managed it only once before Lockdown 2 and for the next few weeks we are going to try to replicate this as best we can on Zoom. She asked for instructions and here they are in case they might be useful for you.

From Dried Materials

After taking part in more than a few wreath workshops and getting tangled up in willow and hazel, here is the most straightforward way I have found of making a wreath.

Materials needed: a wire wreath frame 10″ or 12″, florist’s binding reel wire, sustainably gathered moss, ingredients to decorate your wreath.

(If you are interested in buying any of these in a kit, take a look at the home page and email me: thedevelopingplot@gmail.com)

Making a mossed wreath base.

Whether you are making a wreath with dried or fresh elements, steps 1-3 are the same.

Step 1 : attach the binding wire to the base by twisting it around the outer hoop of the wreath frame.

Step 2: shape a handful of moss into a fat sausage shape and attach to the wreath base using the attached reel wire to bind it – you wrap the wire round and round it, moving in and out of the loop. Each time you do this, give the reel wire a small tug to make sure it secures the moss tightly enough. Leave around an inch or so between each round of the binding. Don’t be too stingy with the moss as you will need a good base to secure your ingredients later.

Step 3: take another clump of moss, shape it as before, overlap it slightly with the end of the first attached moss and use the reel wire to continue binding. Carry on until the whole wreath is covered with moss. When you have covered the whole ring, what you do next will depend on whether you are making a wreath out of dried or fresh ingredients.

Making a dried wreath

For a dried wreath, cut the wire leaving a length of around 3″; tie off the wire by slipping it a couple of times under one of the tight loops binding the moss; secure it by sticking the end of the wire back into the moss base. The base is now ready for you to poke dried ingredients into.

Suggested Ingredients

Seedheads, cones, dried flowers, grasses, twigs, branches and leaves are all excellent for adding to your base. Choose ingredients which have a firm enough stem to allow you to insert them into the moss without breaking.

You can plan in advance and dry material in the Summer and Autumn. Achillea, sedum, honest pods and old man’s beard are all good candidates, but if you lightly forage too, the choice is endless.

For a more conventional festive wreath, you can add cinnamon sticks and dried orange slices etc

Completed wreath with dried ingredients pushed into moss cushion base.

Sustainability

If a dried wreath is kept indoors and under cover, it will last for years and age gracefully. Once you have finished with it, the moss and dried elements can be composted and the wire ring reused.

To make the whole wreath compostable, you should replace the wire ring with a base of branches such as willow, hazel or silver birch and replace the reel wire by using string. Straw can also be used as an alternative to moss.

(A base made from scratch by bending willow, hazel or any other pliable stem needs practice as stems can crack and it can be difficult to bend them into a circle. If you would like to see how it is done, the best free guide I have watched is this one: Tuckshop Flowers).

Basic and Get You Started wreath boxes can be ordered and delivered or posted to you. Just email with your order.

Part 2: How to Make a Fresh Seasonal Wreath – coming soon.

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Homesown on Holiday!

Giving the flowers a break from cutting until the start of September when I will be accepting orders again as well as attending Sofacoma market. There will be dahlias, cosmos, beautiful grasses and seedheads and a range of lovely plants.

Cafe au Lait
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Six on Saturday: Spring?

A damp and grey Saturday after the bluest of blue sky periods. The warmth and extra light of the last few weeks has brought everything on at full pelt. The narcissus are jostling with the tulips which have arrived all of a sudden together with the fast growing leaves of the allium. It all feels a bit dizzying, but the return to seasonal weather now might slow the moment down.

This week’s six is starting off with the self seeders and multipliers which do my work for me and give me plants for free; though not always in the right place, most often they know where suits better than me. First is the shade tolerant, perky Geranium Bill Wallis, with its small and lovely purple flowers. I’ve grown it from seed again, but the self sown versions are bigger and stronger and ready to take over the path where it prefers growing through the stones. I would step around it, but as no one else will, it has been uprooted and potted up ready to be moved.

Bill Wallis happily growing through the stones

Next are the hellebores growing just outside the kitchen window which are slowly but determinedly colonising the bed. It has taken years from a few original plants, but they have increased year on year and will soon have taken over all the shady margins.

Hellebores mixing

Third are is the gentle yellow, cheering primrose which has taken a liking to the middle of the East facing bed. Starting off from one there are now lots and maybe this is the year I finally remember to divide and lift them.

Primrose and cerinthe (another self seeder)

Fourth spot goes to the most prolific self seeder of all: the blue forget me not which never truly goes away despite my partner’s stealthy weeding of them. I love them in their prime as a sea of blue and forgive them their scruffiness at other times. Early days in the garden, I was worried they would get weeded to extinction – now realise that is close to impossible. Good.

Before too long there will be blue

Next are just some of the seeds sown by me growing on window sills, greenhouse shelves and just emerging on the heating mat. Peas, tomatoes and flowers.

Last is the quince tree in the corner of the garden lighting up a dank morning with its sparkle of green buds.

Quince

That’s it, but over at The Propagator there is sure to be lots of interest.

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Six on Saturday: catching up

The unexpected gift of a warm and sunny fortnight means I should be way ahead or at least on top of my gardening. After all, it is still only February. But even after a whole week off work, it is hard not to notice the number of plants needing to be planted. So a quick six while the morning is still misty and before I knuckle down and catch up. As always, lots of interesting sixes to be found via The Propagator

First up are the 3 pretty cyclamen coum which happened to find their way into my trolley when buying compost earlier this week. They were stranded in the van and are now losing patience on the step still waiting to go into the shady border. Today for sure.

Cyclamen coum

Next are the ranunculus, not sure which variety now, but bought in bulk and planted up in pots in late Autumn. They are also still waiting to be planted in the earth and are destined for the plot where I grow my cut flowers.

Ranunculus needing more space

Third are the anemones which happily are planted in mushroom crates – their final destination. They have been sheltering in the greenhouse over the Winter, but are now getting some fresh air in the open (because it’s broken) cold frame. Looking forward to their blue loveliness.

Anenomes unfurling

Blue loveliness sums up the attraction of Echinops ritro which has the brightest of blue flowers and is a magnet for butterflies and bees. Clumps of it have spread thicker at the allotment and in the Autumn they were ready to be divided. My north facing garden is not as good a home for it, but hoping it which catch enough sun at the back to survive.

Echinops looking ready for Spring

Number 5 is also a job which needs doing today and that is to plant up the hazel, wild rose and spindle whips bought to plant around the fences to support wildlife, particularly birds, butterflies and bees. Didn’t need persuading that this is important, but the excellent ‘The Bumblebee Flies Anyway’ by Kate Bradbury gave me a reminder and an extra push and focus.

Much more than a bag of sticks

Last of all is a recent discovery which, like Kate Bradbury’s book, has made me think more and more about how much I want to make the garden wildlife friendlier. Awake early, but not ready to get up, the wonderful podcast, Growing Wild presented by Charlotte Petts eased me into the day http://www.audioboom.com/channel/growing-wild  

growing wild

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A Greenhouse Six

It has been a long time since life was calm enough for a Saturday Six and to warm up gently for the rest of the year’s efforts, this one is focused inside and under cover.

The rain and wind have been blustering and rolling around the greenhouse for days; inside, though dry and still, it is definitely not warm. No real encouragement then to spend much time inside it sowing seeds or potting on. There seems to be more of a need for the latter than I had realised as Autumn sown seedlings are quietly outgrowing their pots.

Number 1: Autumn sown Antirrhinum potomac ivory


The late Summer cuttings are also needing to be moved on into their own (or bigger) pots and there have been surprisingly few casualties considering the dramatic drops in temperature.

Number 2 are the cuttings of Jamaican Primrose which have all taken despite the slapdash way I treated the cuttings – taking them late and just poking them into multi purpose compost. They were my favourite plant of all last year and am looking forward to planting a ribbon of them through my garden this year. They are tender, but are extremely long flowering- even coping with some light early frosts. Their soft yellow daisy flowers are truly lovely.

Just 4 of the many cuttings of Argyranthemum ‘Jamaica Primrose’ marguerite

Number 3 are also Autumn sowings and these are the very healthy looking ridifolia or false fennel. This is a first and I am hoping they will look fresh and green in flower too.

Ridifolia sown in Autumn and potted on once

Caught again in that February indecision and the conflicting messages from experts, seed packets and books about what should and shouldn’t be sown. There is that nagging February anxiety that if I don’t do lots now it will be too late. There is also the clear memory of window sills crammed with tomato, aubergine and chilli plants, during last year’s late Spring and delayed Summer, which got bigger and bigger and finally a bit overwhelming as the greenhouse got fuller and the weather stayed obstinately cold.

But looking round the greenhouse, of course I have already planted more than I think. Number 4 are the germinating Broad Bean seeds elbowing their way out into the light.

Broad beans heading for the allotment when they can stand up for themselves

Number 5 are the almost as lusty seedlings of Cobea scandens which will add a touch of glamour to my fences this year.

By the end of the Summer these will be reaching for the sky

Last for this week’s Six are the Anenomes just coming in to flower in their crates. The first one, white and gently unfurling, is such a sign of optimism for Spring when it feels and sounds so much like Winter.

An optimistic splash of white sheltered inside.

While this Six has been sheltering inside, I am sure there will be many more Sixes out and about braving the elements. Just take a look over at the The Propagator’s blog

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January Colour

Seven months since the last blog post and it is Winter again. It is cold, but not barren; the garden is not just its bare bones – there are already hellebores, snowdrops and even an optimistic primrose or two in flower. The frosts knocks them down every so often, but so far they have just popped up later. All of them have been quietly doing my job for me: increasing their numbers from the one or two original plants and a sprinkling of bulbs in a dark corner to splashes of colour almost the length of the border . Not a label or a name to identify them by now, but they are very welcome in this obdurate month when the light lasts longer each day, but Spring isn’t even close.

Established, self seeded hellebores

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Six on Saturday

The busiest time of year in the garden and the busiest time of the year in my job. The wilting, erratically watered plants at the plot, allotment and around my house are only just hanging on. Last weekend’s blistering heat nearly saw them and my gardening mojo off. So no time for a Six then, or even worse to read many. Below is my quick Six for today while over at ThePropagator there will be many delights to explore.

Time poor and pressed, with the garden needing my concentrated attention, last weekend I spent my time doing something entirely different. I snuck off to read. A life long character flaw which refuses to be mended. But the pleasure of reading Allan Jenkins’ short book ‘Morning’ with its vivid and intensely evocative descriptions of his different gardening spaces in the early morning did have a positive outcome. I got up at dawn 3 mornings in a row and gained more than the extra hours.

Morning

Next is the first flower of the Jamaican primrose which grew from a cutting taken from Derry Watkins’ garden on a propagating course at Special Plants. Just managed to keep this alive through Winter before planting it. Am hoping the sun and warmth will cure its sickliness. If healthy it should grow to a metre high. Hope so – it’s lovely.

Jamaican primrose

Yesterday was another sneaking off – this time to the Spring Show at Malvern with all its temptations. One of the stall I seek out is Hardy’s. Its display is always beautiful with inspiration for unexpected plant combinations and there is always something new. Number 3 is just one of the display’s gold winning lovely sides:

Hardy's

Fourth is the delicate beauty of this aquilegia nestled in at the front of the Hardy’s display,

acquilegia

Fifth is another new plant to me at Avon Bulbs – a sparkling camassia, a deeper and darker blue than mine at home

Avon bulbs

camassia leichtlinii Maybelle

Difficult to know what to end on, but perhaps the free, self sown, lacy loveliness of orlaya grandiflora which opened up its flowers in my front garden this week.

orlaya grandiflora

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Six on Saturday

Back to cooler temperatures this week and, looking on the bright side, it has meant that the tulips have lasted a little longer. Rain has also granted a rest from the rescue watering of last weekend. Some of this Six’s pictures are taken from my warm and dry kitchen, but I did venture out for a few, before sheltering in the greenhouse.

Right outside my kitchen window, and now properly in leaf , are a collection of acers; some in pots and others in the ground  – all enjoying the shade. Those  we’ve planted seem to accommodate themselves to the clay too and are getting bigger every year though their names have long been forgotten.

 

Outside at the end of the garden and alongside the greenhouse there are some of my favourite tulips looking fine in a sea of blue – the forget me nots in their prime. The beautiful Ballerina comes back every year, but Angelique has surprised me by returning in healthy loveliness after being poor in its first year. Next autumn there is going to be a big splash out on tulip bulbs to ensure they pop throughout the entire spread of blue at the bottom of the garden. The random dark Queen of the Night look good too.

 

Next is inside the greenhouse and, carefully avoiding the leggy tomatoes and the slightly chewed chillies, the courgettes are looking robust and happy. Probably shouting out to be re potted, but being ignored for today.

courgette defender

Courgette Defender

Fourth, on the steps just outside the kitchen door, is a pretty viola bought from Special Plants; a gentler and pinker version of the Viola Corsica grown from seed in the Autumn. They are both lovely. So too is the simple (and edible) Viola Heartsease.

 

Then next is just one of the many healthy divisions of Centaurea Jordy which seem to be doing well in their pots.

scabiosa Jordy

And last of all, is this shot of my garden today from the kitchen window (washing line included). Last week’s star, the Amelanchier, lost its blossom overnight and has moved out of the spotlight for the carpet of blue.

back garden 2

Looking forward to looking at other Sixers’ highlights this weekend over at The Propagator’s blog.

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Six on Saturday

An explosion of Spring with three hot days in a row has meant that all the loveliness that seemed to be on hold has just burst out in unbelievable exuberance. Blossom and blue skies and heat makes it feel as if the garden is hurtling forward at speed. Am guessing that cooler weather will come and slow it all down, but today feels almost dizzy with the speed of change. Last Sunday couldn’t feel my cold toes at the Farmers market; this week a little burned by the sun. A bit late in the day for my six and so if you pop over to The Propagator by now there should be a whole lot of other Sixes to enjoy.

So first of all is the reliable, but glamorous Abu Hassan tulip which seems to come back healthily every year despite neglect and clay soil. At the allotment it pushes itself up through heavy clay which might make it slightly daintier year on year, but it is still very striking.

flowers 083

Next are the boughs of arching white on the Spirea Bridal Wreath. This is its moment of  eye catching perfection.

flowers 101

Third is a bit of a repeat, but the tapestry of Narcissus Pipit, Thalia and Hawera in varying shades of yellow, cream and white is simple and prettily cheerful outside my front door. They’ll soon be gone.

flowers 094

Today the Amelanchior could not be more beautiful and the blossoms are relishing the sun.

flowers 099

Fifth are the sweetpeas planted at the plot against the metal grid which is one of my favourite things. No pesky netting to get tangled up in, just a solid and attractive support. So actually number 5 is the grid not the sweetpeas.

flowers 090

Last are the blue cornflowers I am growing for a wedding later this year. These are at the plot, but they also appear at the allotment and will be in my own garden. This is the only must have flower requested by the bride. Every time one tray germinates, the next gets sown. Hoping this will guarantee buckets of blue.

flowers 092

Lets hope I can protect these young plants from the onslaught of slugs. Nothing is growing as prolifically in my garden as they are this Spring.

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