This week we had frost in the Chilterns. The days have been balmy and sunny but the clear nights, which revealed the big harvest moon, brought temperatures right down. The frost was only visible on my car windscreen and insufficient to blacken my dahlias which continue to bloom away. The warning of cold to come has prompted to make me into various actions but yet again my Six on Saturday photos are an eclectic mix.
I love growing squash as they couldn’t be simpler. They give me little trouble and smother a square of my veg patch with big enough leaves to outcompete the weeds. Given the hot summer we’ve had, I was dubious how big a crop I’d get as whilst they like the sun, they also need water to ensure good fruits. Whilst I was fairly vigilent with the watering of my 6 plants, I certainly wasn’t out there every day. My crop of 10 fruits, one an absolute whopper, wasn’t bad in the circumstances.
This week I cut the fruits from their vines, leaving a short stem to prevent rot back, and put them out on a table in the sunshine for the skins to harden further. The tougher they are, the longer they tend to store. Next time the temperatures are set to dip close to freezing I’ll bring them inside or into the greenhouse.
The two varieties I grew were ‘Red Kuri’ and ‘Hunter’, from seeds left over from last year and luckily still viable. Both are very tasty. If you want to know more about other varieties I’ve tried and how to grow them click here.
I bought a guava plant earlier in the year from ASDA supermarket, who had a surprising collection of tropical plants gathered round the front doors back in June. I chose a Guava, a Papaya and a Banana Passion Flower and headed to the self-scan tills, where tipping the pots to achieve the scan, I deposited compost all over the machine. Oops.
This week I looked at the guava and whilst I was pleased at how strongly it was growing, I decided it’s tall shape was ungainly and I wanted a bushier plant. So I’ve pruned the three shooting stems back quite hard. It’s drastic but I’m not worried as I can already see that they will sprout from above the upper leaf nodes.
Whilst in the greenhouse I potted up the cuttings (two from each cut stem), thinning off the leaves, cutting below a leaf node and pushing them round the edge of a pot. I don’t think they’ll root as when I got back inside I looked up guava cuttings online, including a link kindly sent by Fred the French gardener. The better means of propagation are air layering or root cuttings. Stem cuttings do work but best with a misting machine, which I haven’t got. Nothing ventured nothing gained though and you never know, these might just surprise me and root. I like this aspect of gardening, sometimes you don’t know until you try, and sometimes the received wisdom isn’t always right…
Alpine seedlings – Androdace septentrionalis ‘Stardust’
My new alpine trough, which I created by covering a Belfast sink in artificial stone, has been looking lovely and has really filled out. I chose some lovely succulents and alpines and if you want to know what they all are a list is contained here. When it was in flower, my favourite plant was this Androsace. The tiny white starry flowers are carried on long airy stems, giving the appearance of a bonfire night sparkler sticking out of the soil.
No longer in flower, I noticed tens of tiny seedlings around the area where these plants were flowering. Whilst I had deadheaded every now and again, obviously not enough and the bonus result is all these little seedlings. This week I potted up 18 of the strongest seedlings and weeded out the rest. I’ll be glad to give a few of these to friends to spread the alpine love.
Teeny Tiny Iris Update
Earlier this year I shared pictures of the seed-heads of my teeny tiny Iris, which I’d spotted in my other alpine trough. I potted these up and forgot about them. When I did occasionally check the pot I saw nothing and assumed I’d messed up somewhere along the line. The pot was just standing outside and certainly had erratic watering.
However, I now see that they have germinated and I have two perky little plants. This really is a lovely Iris and a great example of how wonderful alpines are. You may not have room for a stand of large Iris Siberica, or the conditions for Bearded Iris, but everyone has room for one of these in a pan or mini trough. The flower is like an amethyst jewel and I love it. Here’s a pic from back when it was flowering.
One packet of seeds, one stunning display. I created a new bed when I replaced this bay window and I like to use it for seasonal displays. It has a prominent location at the top of the drive. In spring I make sure there are tulips blooming and for the past two years, summers have been reserved for cosmos.
This variety has fondant pink or pure white flowers, the petals arranged in a tubular ruffle. Cosmos germinate so easily and flower so obligingly they are a must for the time-pressed gardener. They grow tall through and need a bit of staking. Mine are leaning a bit after high winds, but still look lovely.
An amaryllis is for life not just for Christmas. We’re used to seeing them as Christmas flowers or gifts and yet if you plant a few you can have flowers in your house until spring. In fact my final flower spike was blooming as late as May this year. You can stagger the planting but I usually find that even bulbs planted at the same time rarely flower in concert and with each bulb sending up 2-3 spikes in succession if you plant a few you can have weeks of decoration. Last year I wrote about grabbing a post Christmas sale bargain bulb, planting in January. You can read this here. In the article I admitted that I often compost my bulbs. Wasteful as this seems I concluded that I didn’t want to clutter windowsills with pots and pots of bulbs that may or may not re-flower and that at only a few pounds a bulb, they were excellent value regardless.
I was contacted by a couple of readers who successfully kept their amaryllis re-flowering and decided that this year I’d give it a go.
This collection was put outside in May on a little table and forgotten about. I didn’t water them once, even in the scorching summer heat. Amaryllis are from Brazil so maybe they enjoyed their summer holiday as they all still look full of beans and one has even begun to flower.
I’ve read that it’s a good idea to put them in the fridge for a bit to stimulate flowering. I haven’t room in my fridge, or indeed a family that would go along with this, but for now the cooler nights might do the trick. I’ll then cut off the leaves and bring them in. I will also be buying a few new bulbs though as there are some stunning varieties out there.
Six on Saturday is a weekly meme – take a look at the comments at the base of host The Propagator to see more ‘sixes’ from other keen gardeners from all over the world.