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Hellebores

I love my Hellebores, there is such a massive range these days, especially with the great availability of the Harvington Hybrids, a great supplier of these are Twelve Nunns Nursery. Im intending on boosting my stocks this year, I bought several last year, although a rather unfortunate accident involving Miracle Grow ensured none grew!

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Still, my front garden is looking quite good this morning, I decided to add some logs, collected from work, to give a bit of a different dimension to my otherwise flat, East facing garden. I think it works quite well. There are a number of newly added bulbs in this area too, but I shall post about those at a later date.

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A lot of the Hellebores seem to have gone back to a pinky/red colour, though I cant totally remember their colouring last year, I still have some more “tarty” types, especially this frilly one.

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This was my original clump, given to me as a much smaller clump from my father several years ago.

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You can divide them in the spring should they require it, they also seed quite prolifically and you can usually find seedling on the soil in the area. These can be potted up and looked after, but probably wont flower for several years, its also unlikely they will come true to form, but that is all part of the fun!

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Sempervivums

I’ve got a new favorite plant, this happens from time to time. I love my plants anyway, and since coming back in to the industry, I now realise how much I don’t know, but plants still excite me. I can’t put my finger on exactly why they do but they do!

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So back in the summer, on the family holiday, we happened to pop into Otter Nurseries, not planned (much) at all and after the usual cup of tea and big slice of cake (Lemon Drizzle if I remember correctly) it was plant time. A few Crocosmia fell in to the basket, followed by a couple of Sempervivums, just as I had visions of a bit of a succulent planter.

So now we are in February, and I’m looking at these plants, wondering what to do with them. I have taken some offset cuttings of ‘Jungle Fire’ and popped them in the propagator, I’ve no doubt they will root quite quickly, I’m then hoping to get a big trough in the garden and start experimenting!

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I didn’t know much about Sempervivum until recently, there is about 40 species in the genus, which belong to the family Crassulaceae family. The common name is Houseleek, they are a hardy monocarpic perennial, monocarpic meaning they die after flowering, although they have usually given out enough new plants by means of offshoots for it not to be a problem.

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Pricking Out

Stop sniggering at the back.

An important park of the growing cycle, is transferring your seedlings once germinated from the germination tray (or pot) to a larger container, or as it is known, pricking out.

Yesterday, I decided it was time for my Chilli – Hot Cayenne and Tomato Orange Sliceseedlings to be pricked out. I sowed them both on 31/1/16, had initial germination a week later, so took them out of the propagator almost as soon as the first few shoots started to come through, leaving them under the grow light, where its still warm but cooler than the propagator. This stops them getting too leggy and hardens them up a little. During the next week more seedlings popped up.

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So first things first, you need to decide what to pot them in to, at this stage I usually go for a 4cm module, which allows them to grow on and is most economical for my limited space. Its also not a good idea to put them straight in to a large pot or container, as the soil can become too cold and waterlogged, which the seedling wont like!

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I just use the standard Westland multi-purpose compost for picking out in to, which I find usually gives fine results.

Fill the modules full of compost, then lightly firm them, then brush over some more compost so it sits flush with the top of the modules. You will need a dibber (Please, stop sniggering in the back) for the next part, either a proper one, which are pretty cheap, or you can use the bottom on an old pencil, and indeed many nurseries I have worked on, this is all we used! You need to create a tapering hole about half the depth of the module for the seedlings to go in to.

 

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Next, we need to tease open the compost structure in the seedling pots, so they can be picked out there with no damage. We do this by using the dibber and putting it into the compost and lifting it up so the seedlings lift as well, I tend to just do a small area at a time.

Now we need to pic up a seedling for pricking out, just pick the strong, healthy looking seedlings, remembering to pick them up by a leaf and not the stem, the leaf will grow back should it get damaged, the stem wont. You should have a good length of root as well.

 

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Place the root in the hole, in the module, being careful as they are quite delicate at this point, if the seedlings have gone a bit leggy you can often plant them a bit deep in the module, making sure the leaf is still above soil level. Firm them in with the dibber and a finger, its a bit of a knack, but it soon becomes easy. They don’t need to be very firm in the compost, as again, this can cause damage.

Label them up, and pop them somewhere warmish, and light and keep them damp but not wet, using a very fine rose. A good tip is to fill the watering can and leave it somewhere warm (not hot) so the water becomes a little warm, it is less shock to the plants then cold water. Watch them grow!

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Fuchsia paniculata

I was having a look round the nursery at work earlier in the week, something I rather like to do as it always inspires me, seeing what the different and often unusual plants are doing as well as talking with our great nursery man. I’ve a great number of plants I love seeing in there, and slowly Im remembering what they are called, how they grow and the best way of propagating them.

One of my favorites is Fuchsia paniculata, bit of an unusual one, coming from Central / South America, its not overly common in the UK. It is a fairly hardy (to approx -5) in the UK, although like most hardy Fuchsias, as soon as the frost strikes, they die back to ground level. F. paniculata does take a bit of time to get going again.

We have a couple of these planted outside, and last year, the frost didn’t touch them, so we had a good display, right until the frosts in early Jan.

They can get to quite a large size if grown indoors, and outside, they put on a good show too!

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The photo above was taken on 11th November.

I was really pleased to see the specimen in the nursery still flowering this week, certainly brightened the day up.

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Broad Beans

Broad beans then… love them or hate them? Maybe not quite in the same way as Sprouts, or indeed Marmite (love by the way) but for me, it has to be fresh, home grown Broad beans every single time. The supermarket “fresh” or frozen just turn my stomach.

I’ve had the allotment 10 years now and I’ve changed the sowing patterns every year I think so far, this year however Im going to stick with what I did last season as it was the best year yet, least for the plants, the crop wasn’t quite so brilliant, but I don’t think the weather was right with a fairly cool spring, anyway…
So as usual, Im growing “Bunyards Exhibition” and giving “Express” a try as they were in the seed store.
I have tried many times with Autumn sowings direct in to the soil, but was only getting at best 25% germination and that was very patchy. So now, I leave it till now and sow in trays in the “Grow-shed” which is an unheated shed/greenhouse hybrid.
I use a standard multi-purpose compost for this, I currently use Westland for now, a lot of the multi-purpose composts have in recent years become very course and honestly no much fun to work with, this I think is due to the manufacturers cutting down on their peat use, as well as cost savings, which means they seem to be using milled green waste, unfortunately the likes of J. Aurther Bowers seem to not mill the green waste very well and its not much use for seeds.
So, back to the beans. I filled a seed tray, almost full, and gently firmed the compost, then set the beans out lightly dibbing them in to the compost making sure the root end was down. Mind, this isn’t mega critical, as one it starts to send the roots out, they will pull themselves round the right way, did I mention seeds are amazing?
So which is the right way round you may ask? You may not of course, you might be bored stupid already!
The humble Broad Bean
One end of the bean, has a black or darker slit along it, this is where the roots will emerge from, so pop this end in the soil.
Once they are laid out in the tray, you need to gently push them in to the soil, go about the same depth as the seed is tall, making sure the seed is not in contact with the base of the seed tray. Once that is done, you can add a little compost to the top of the tray and again, carefully level it off, covering the seeds in the process, leaving the compost a touch higher than the top of the seed tray, as this will compact when you water.
Labels! I always think labeling is quite important, maybe not so if you don’t grow much, but I grow a fair bit and have a pretty poor memory, so I always label each tray as I go. A top tip, if you didn’t know already… Have the point of the label to the right, that way most of your writing will stay out of the soil, which can be a problem after a while as the names usually rub off! I always use pencil too.
Almost the last thing to do is give them a drop of water, using a fine rose. Another top tip, is is start and stop the water flowing out of the can, away from the trays, that way you have a regular spray of water and no large drops coming out. The trays should stay damp but not wet, until germination has occurred. You still need to be careful with watering, as you don’t want the seeds sat in cold, waterlogged soil really.
Last thing, I pop a plastic lid on the trays, again this is not essential but the grow shed is very exposed and can get very cold, even on fairly nice days.
From experience, if the weather stays fairly mild like it has done, these should have germinated within about 2 weeks, I will then grow them on a bit, before planting them out direct from the trays in to the soil.
Here is a plant from last year…

More Seeds!

I know, I know, the last post was was on seeds, but so is this one.

Seeds are quite exciting really, well, I think they are. These (usually) little things that look like nothing special hold so much potential and promise, all they need is a little care and attention, or often total ignorance and magically you (hopefully) get these amazing new plants, I think its just wonderful.

It is however Friday night and its been a long and busy week, so I maybe rambling.

Anyway..

One of my friends on social media, we shall call her “Devonshire Doris” because that’s not her name, replied to one of my tweets about seeds and suggested some seed swapping. It just so happened I had a few seeds I had no intention of growing, but didn’t want to throw away “Just in case” so I dutifully packed them up and sent them off to strange counties, in return I had a wonderful envelope full of promise. It was had been a long day at work and arriving home to this really cheered me up.

Had to Google a few of the names as they were a little unfamiliar, but Im so looking forward to growing these, I really cant wait!

So you maybe wondering what Im so excited about… well, here is a few of them, Im going to be sowing the following, when the time is right. Each name should be clickable so you can see more about each plant.

Hosta tokudama flavocircinalis 

Fritillaria meleagris

Alcea (Aubergine Coloured)

Rhodotypos scandens

Belamcanda chinensis

So thank you to “Doris” I hope to be posting more stories of how the seeds are progressing as soon as I can!

Seeds!

Its that time of year, when I look through the seed store and think “Must sort that out” and a couple of weeks ago, its exactly what I did. Well, I guided the kids, its important for them to learn these skills!

As you can see, I have all my seeds in a plastic box, and now, each months sowings are in a poly pocket, which has made things quite easy. I’ve also made a spreadsheet on the computer, so I can keep track of actual sowing dates and performance etc.

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The other thing I’ve noticed is, I have rather a lot of seeds, thanks in part to Wyevale selling theirs off in the autumn for 50p a packet.

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I was lucky enough to get some seeds from the small people for Christmas, so I have already sown these, in pots but left them out of the way in a cool spot, they will take ages to do anything, these are:

Eucomis bicolor Alba
Eucomis autumnalis

The Eucomis are usually bought as bulbs, but I thought it maybe nice to give them a try as seeds. I only came across the Eucomis last year and was some what hooked, Im building a small collection, but one that is growing quite well.

I’ve also sown some

Primula Vialii and I’m hoping these will come up a lot quicker.

In addition to those, I have also sown a range of sweet peas, I grow these up on the allotment, this year I’ve gone for quite a range as Im wanting to experiment with a range of cut flowers and have set aside a bed just for this, but more about that as the season gets going.
Sweet peas sown are:

Sweet Pea ‘Alan Titchmarsh’
Sweet Pea ‘Ballerina Blue’
Sweet Pea ‘Early Mammoth Mixed’
Sweet Pea ‘Erewhon’
Sweet Pea ‘Floral Tribute Mixed’
Sweet Pea ‘Little bit of magic’

And this afternoon, Im aiming to sow my Chilli seeds and another unusual one in the form of…

Dracunculus vulgaris

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New Propagator!

So, probably not the most amazing title for my first post, but as a propagator is a kind of beginning place, I thought I would bite the bullet and start blogging again.

I say again, I blogged a few years ago about cycling and loosing weight, but now I cycle daily as part of my job, I kind o lost the momentum for writing about it.

However, plants, although feature very heavily in my job, I have bags of enthusiasm for them, plus having a couple of allotments, I thought there would be loads to write about…. we shall see.
So, a new propagator, my previous one “went bang” just before Christmas, and with one thing an other I’ve not got round to buying a new one until today. Ideally I was wanting an adjustable temperature one, but the budget wouldn’t run to that, so I settled for one of these.
My local Wyevale had them reduced from £49.99 to £35 so thought this was well worth it.

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I like a lining in the bottom of my propagators, I usually use either horticultural grit, but after chatting with one of the guys at work, he suggested horticultural sand, so I have gone with this.

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It basically helps to distribute the heat more evenly as well as providing some drainage and keeping the humidity up in the propagator, it also acts as a bit of a heat store, saving the element heater in the unit from having to work so hard. So after adding around half an inch of sand, I popped the lid on, plugged it in and waited…Within 10 minutes there was a misting to the lid, a good sign it was warming up.

Checked it all this morning, there was a lot of condensation on the lid and the sand felt warm. The soil thermometer was reading around 20 degrees, so it seems its all systems go!

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The little plant-lets are from a Furcraea longaeva, which we were lucky enough to have flower last June at work, it since produced a lot of these plant-lets and we have propagated more at work and this is what was left over. Its a curious plant, it took just over 10 years to flower, the flower spike being around 4 Meters tall, with the most beautiful flowers that lasted for a couple of weeks
Its a monocarpic plant, meaning once it has flowered, and set seed it dies, hence it taking so long to flower.
It does grow OK in the UK but it needs a sheltered, sunny spot and protecting from the winter weather, well worth a try though if you are able.

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