In A Vase On Monday – Alliums & Lilac

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Welcome to this week’s In A Vase On Monday, when I am linking up with Cathy at Rambling In The Garden to join in her challenge to find something from the garden to put in a vase every week.

Earlier today I was thinking of calling this post “Rain Stops Play” as the weather has been so awful here for much of the day. The sun finally came out at around 5pm and I was able to get out to pick some soggy blooms and take some quick pictures.

Alliums-and-Lilac

In contrast to my last vase which was the very blousy bowl of lilacs and tulips, this week I have chosen something very simple.

Alliums-and-Lilac

The flowering of the allium Purple Sensation is another highlight in my gardening year and every autumn I add more of these stunning bulbs to my garden. They are flowering en mass this week in the bed behind the greenhouse and in the Cutting Garden – I will try and take some photos to share with you later this week.

Alliums-and-Lilac

These perfect bowls of colour always add a designer feel to otherwise wayward spring borders! I bought todays ‘vase’ at the Chelsea Flower show 3 years ago, so it seemed appropriate to use it today. These three milk bottles are actually joined together to make one container.

Lilac

The lilac is still looking good, but will be over very soon so I had to make sure I get my fix.

Lilac

The alliums look very different in close up.

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Just as I finished photographing this vase Ruby decided to jump up on the window sill and have a look inside to see what I was up to – I could not resist taking a few pictures of her.

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I am keeping my fingers crossed for some better weather for the rest of the week so that I can get out and clear the sticky weed that is creeping through every border at an alarming rate!

As ever thank you to Cathy for hosting and I hope you will pop over to her blog to see what she and the others have made this week. I am now going to catch up with the days goings on at Chelsea and I hope to back later this week with a look around the garden.

Flower Focus – The Big Tulip Review 2015

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The tulip season is possibly the highlight of my gardening year – for a few weeks in April and May every bed is looking at its best – largely weed free and tidy and full of the colour provided by these stately elegant flowers combined with the texture offered by the emerging perennials. As a grand finale to spring the tulips are a fitting tribute to our most longed for season of the year.

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Single Early Tulip Purple Prince

Every year I try new varieties, plant more of my old favourites and play with colour schemes around the garden, so I thought it would be useful to compile my photos into one post, which will hopefully help you to plan your tulip order for this years autumn planting.

Tulip-Borders

Hardy Enjoying the Tulips

I use tulips in three ways in my garden:

  1. Flowing through established borders in the main garden,
  2. In regimented rows in the Cutting Garden,
  3. As the final layer of flowers in containers planted full of layers of bulbs in the autumn.

I take each category in turn when planning my tulip order in my garden notebook. I also bear in mind the flowering time (you can have tulips from late March to early May if you pick a variety of early, mid and late flowering tulips) and longevity. I find that the frilly and parrot tulips, although lovely, do not come back reliably in future years so I limit these to small plantings in the Cutting Garden.

Tulip-Ballerina-Border

An Orange River Flowing Through A Border

Tulips for the Main Borders

The tulips that  I choose for the main garden are a tried and tested selection that I have been growing for years and know will keep coming back. These old favourites include:

  • The single early Purple Prince grown with the slightly later flowering Shirley,
  • Dark tulips Queen of the Night, Recreado and Black Hero,
  • The late flowering Spring Green interplanted with the May flowering allium Purple Sensation,
  • The stunning orange lily flowered tulip Ballerina,
  • The classic white lily flowered tulip White Triumphator.
Purple-Prince-Border

Single Early Tulip Purple Prince

Lily-Flowered-Tulip-Ballerina

Lily Flowered Tulip Ballerina

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Viridiflora Tulip Spring Green

Each group of tulips are grown in their own area of the garden and seem to come back with vigour year after year. Purple Prince and Shirley have been a flowering combination now since the start of April that finally succumbed to the wild winds that were blowing last week.

Single-Late-Tulip-Shirley

Single Late Tulip Shirley

Tulips for the Cutting Garden

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For the Cutting Garden I choose within four main colour schemes: whites, pinks, oranges and darks. I have four large square beds and plant the tulips in rows around the edges of these squares. Each year I plan to dig up and replant one side of each square, so that there are always spectacular new tulips to choose from when cutting. The other three sides may well re-flower giving an abundance of blooms, but in the event that the old bulbs rot or split through the winter the freshly planted side will always guarantee a good show. In the smaller rectangular beds in the Cutting Garden I grow a selection of bulbs that did not fit into my main beds.

Darwin-Hybrid-Tulip-Apricot-Impression

Darwin Hybrid Tulip Apricot Impression

Single-Late-Tulip-Dordogne

Single Late Tulip Dordogne

Triumph-Tulip-Don-Quichotte.

Triumph Tulip Don Quichotte

Double-Late-Tulip-Black-Hero

Double Late Tulip Black Hero

Triumph-Tulip-Jan-Reus

Triumph Tulip Jan Reus

Tulip-Black-Parrot

Tulip Black Parrot

Tulip-Carnival-de-Nice

Tulip-Carnival-de-Nice

Viridiflora-Tulip-Esperanto

Viridiflora-Tulip-Esperanto

Tulip-Blue-Diamond

Double-Early-Tulip-Blue-Diamond

Triumph-Tulip-White-Dream.

Triumph-Tulip-White-Dream

Fringed-Tulip-Swan-Wings.jpg

Fringed-Tulip-Swan-Wings

Tulips and Other Bulbs for the Containers

I have been delighted with my containers this year. In the autumn I planted up layers of bulbs – iris, hyacinths and then tulips in each pot and I have had colour from February. The tulips are just going over, so I will be emptying the pots ready to plant up the summer bedding that is waiting in the cold frames. I was concerned that the dying leaves of earlier blooms would ruin the tulip display, but they actually provided greenery and support to the tulips – an added bonus.

Tulips-Planted-With-Hyacinths

Tulips-Planted-With-Hyacinths

Tulip-Angelique-In-Container

Tulip Angelique In A Container

Double-Late-Tulip-Angelique

Double Late Tulip Angelique

Lily-Flowered-Tulip-White-Triumphator

Lily-Flowered-Tulip-White-Triumphator

Tulips-Gabriella-and-Queen-of-the-Night.

Tulips-Gabriella-and-Queen-of-the-Night

So what will I be ordering for next spring? I am currently looking back on my own photographs, perusing the catalogues that are appearing online (Gee Tee and Peter Nyssen have some interesting choices and Sarah Raven has a beautiful selection that will be revealed soon) and reading through other bloggers tulip reviews. I can recommend taking at look at My Hesperides Garden, The Blooming Garden and Owl House Flowers for some excellent ideas. I will certainly be following Christina’s idea (My Hesperides Garden) to force tulips in the greenhouse next winter and I am tempted to try more doubles and parrot tulips next season.

Please do leave comments with your favourite tulips and links to your own tulip reviews or any others that you think we would find useful – I look forward to hearing from you!

The Greenhouse Review – May

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I cannot believe that I am already writing my May greenhouse review!! However hard I try to live in the moment, time just seems to fly by too quickly. May is the month I most look forward to in the year – the garden is so full of promise and the hedgerows are billowing with hawthorn blossom and cow parsley. All my favourite flowers will be making their appearance in the next couple of months and my greenhouse is moving from workhorse mode to a summer retreat.

I am pleased to say that the hectic pace of late winter/early spring in the greenhouse is now slowing down. Most of the hardy annuals have been planted out and the half hardy seeds are now small plants in the cold frames ready to be planted out on my return home (I am away on a short break in Lancashire). I still have a few more seeds to sow – I started off zinnias last week and must sow some sunflowers next week. Although I could have sown these seeds earlier, I like to have these flowers arriving in the late summer,when we return from our summer holiday, so I am in no rush to get them growing.

Once again lets grab a cup of tea (fresh moroccan mint tea is now back on the menu!) and go out to have a wander around the greenhouse – look who is waiting to welcome you this month – the greenhouse is still the place where you are most likely to find Ruby hanging out.

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Opening the door this month, the greenhouse is starting to have a very different feel.

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Tucked inside the door are 2 pots of hosta’s growing safely away from slug damage – these will be placed outside at the front of the house in a few weeks time. I have a collection of pots on gravel outside the front door and this is the place where the hosta’s are least likely to be found by the slugs.

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Stepping inside you can see that the winter variety of sweet peas that I have been growing since last autumn are proving a great success!! Flowering started in April and the plants are producing a steady supply of beautifully scented blooms.

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I use this lovely frame from Agriframes to support my sweet peas. It is just the right height to fit under the roof and means I can plant the sweet peas direct into the greenhouse bed. This frame is from their Elegance Kitchen Garden series and I also have the matching crop cages in my vegetable garden which are doing an excellent job of keeping the birds away from my newly germinating carrots, beetroots and spinach plants.

The-Greenhouse-Review-May

My favourite watering can is getting a lot of use now. I have a hosepipe in the greenhouse and always water my new seedlings with tap water as I have been told that it is better for them (stored rainwater can harbour disease and may cause the dreaded damping off). Mature plants in the greenhouse can be watered with the rainwater that is collected from the roof and stored in an underground tank that was installed with the greenhouse. This tank was a blessing in the drought a few years ago when hosepipes were banned and I still like to make the most of its ample supplies. The beautiful Haws watering can came from Sarah Raven and was a Christmas present from my son a few years ago.

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I am so pleased with my early sweet peas that I just had to share a selection of photos taken last week. Although I cannot share the beautiful scent with you, you can see how long the stems are and the stunning clear colours – perfect for a quick bunch of flowers. Growing sweet peas in the greenhouse was an experiment this year and I am delighted with the results. I will certainly be buying these Winter Sunshine seeds again and will start them off a bit earlier this year – probably late September rather than late October. Who knows – maybe I can have sweet peas in March next year. One of the biggest advantages of having these early sweet peas is that they are not full of the pollen beetles that plague my outdoor crops every year.

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As late spring moves into early summer, I am starting to change the greenhouse over from a working space into a flower filled summer retreat where I can while away a few hours gently pottering amongst the flowers. Scented leaf geraniums are a lovely addition to a summer greenhouse display and can be used to flavour drinks and cakes in the kitchen. I only have two plants at the moment, but am planning to build up my collection this summer.

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I have added a few annuals to the greenhouse beds to provide some early flowers.  This is orlaya, which is a stunning filler flower in bouquets similar to the wild cow parsley.

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This amaryllis was a free gift from Gee Tee Bulbs that arrived with the bare rooted perennials I ordered in January (I did not keep a record of the variety). I was late starting it off so it has only just flowered, but this stunning bulb has inspired me to think about growing more of these statuesque flowers throughout next winter.

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I also have a few pots of Lily of the Valley flowering in the greenhouse. Although I finally have this plant growing outside, I love being able to study it close up. Having a few flowering in pots is also great if you want to make a quick table setting using these beautiful flowers.

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As an experiment I picked up a couple of Bougainvillea plants last week in the garden centre. I love to see these growing in the hot climates of Europe but have no idea how they will perform as a greenhouse plant. In the foreground you can see some white pelargoniums – the beginnings of yet another collection I fear!

In previous years I have concentrated on growing tender tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers in this greenhouse, but now that I have my smaller greenhouse up and running in the vegetable garden I am planning to focus much more on making this a plant filled summer haven. I still need to bring in the seating and I can see from the photos that I really need to get the glass cleaned.

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You may remember from my first post that my lovely greenhouse has an internal division. In the smaller room I have my potting bench and propagator. This area will continue to be used to sow seeds and pot on small plants throughout the season. Just last week I had a delivery of rooted chrysanthemum cuttings from Chrysanthemums Direct. These were potted up and are now settling into their new environment. Later this month I will move them outside where they will stay until late October, when I will bring them back into the greenhouse for late flowers in November and December.

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These are the zinnia seedlings sown last week – germination is very quick at this time of year.

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You can see that the bench is full of summer bedding. These were bought as tiny plants very cheaply in the garden centre and are now ready to be moved outside to harden off and fill my pots and containers after the tulips finish flowering.

The-Greenhouse-Review-May

Below you can see all the little pots that I keep handy to transplant my seedlings into once they have germinated and started to develop their true leaves. I have to be honest and admit that at this busy time of year some trays get ignored and have to be planted straight out in the garden, missing this vital potting on stage – these seedlings never do as well as those that had the chance to develop their root system in the protected conditions of the cold frames.

The-Greenhouse-Review-May

Moving outside, I am now leaving the tops of the cold frames open at night. Only the risk of a heavy frost would tempt me to close them now. It is vital that the plants get used to outside conditions quickly so that I can move them into the cutting beds.

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Finally for this month I wanted to show you how I keep the greenhouse cool in summer. These blinds are fitted to the outside of the glass, so that when they are dropped the glass never gets hot. I was dubious about this when we were buying the greenhouse and Alitex explained the difference between inside and outside blinds. They recommended the outside blinds and I am so pleased that we followed their advice. The blinds are fitted just on the south facing side of the greenhouse and kept down throughout the summer – there are opening vents on the other side of the roof which stay open and the door and windows are left open throughout the night to maintain the ventilation. I also spray the floor and benches regularly when I am watering to increase the humidity inside the greenhouse. With this regime even on the hottest summer day the greenhouse provides a pleasant shaded retreat from the heat.

The-Greenhouse-Review-May.

There will always be jobs to do in my greenhouse – more seeds to sow (it will be the turn of the biennials next month), plants to pot up and bulbs to start off – I have a box of acidanthera waiting to be potted up for elegant cool white flowers in September – not to mention keeping on top of the watering, but at least the busiest period is over and I can take a breath and start to look forward to seeing my flowers bloom and the produce from the vegetable garden making its way to the kitchen table.

Next month as well as showing you my (hopefully) flower filled summer retreat, I will make sure to take some photos of my smaller greenhouse where bags of potatoes are coming into flower and I am ready to plant out the tomatoes and cucumbers into the newly dug greenhouse bed.

In the meantime I am looking forward to seeing what you are doing in your greenhouse this month – please do link in so that we can all have a look and be inspired by the different ways we use our protected growing spaces.

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