Plan B

As every gardener knows things don’t always work out as we plan.  Among the things I planned for this summer were:

  • a selection of root vegetables from saved seeds scattered in one patch
  • a selection of grains (quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat) from purchased seeds in another patch
  • a row of beautiful tall sunflowers at the back of a border

Sadly none of these are working out as I hoped.  Very few of the root vegetable seeds germinated and even fewer of the grains (just three plants).  Some of the vegetable seeds may have been too old, though most were only saved last year; whilst some of the grain seeds were definitely past their ideal sowing dates.

However I am mostly blaming two pheasants (escapees from the neighbouring woods where their brothers and sisters are shot in massive numbers) who spend a lot of time grazing the garden.  I hadn’t seen them for months before I scattered the seeds but they soon turned up afterwards.  My attitude to problems – like pheasants – in the garden is to take minimal action and to try to live with them.  Not that I could do anything about the pheasants anyway, they can either walk in along the drive or fly over the hedge.

There is a scattering of salsify that have germinated in the root vegetable patch with some self sown flowers so it is not completely bare and at the moment I am just leaving it to see what happens.

Plan B in the grain patch has just been to plant some yacon plants I had ordered, a squash I found at a plant stall, plus runner beans, beetroot and chillies that I have been given.  Some oca and Jerusalem artichoke have also come up from last year.  These plants will fill it quite soon I think.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

would have been grain patch with assorted beetroot, Jerusalem artichoke, Yacon, beans, chives …..

I planted nearly 60 sunflower seeds in modules to (hopefully) ensure they germinated and grew into successful plants as I have never had much success sowing them direct in the garden.  Many did indeed germinate and then had their first two leaves eaten meaning they would not grow any further.  I eventually found a tiny slug that had hidden in a corner of the plastic moulding which was responsible.

Plan B was to sow some more sunflowers in a pot and keep it where the slugs could not get.  However something came and nibbled them whilst I was away earlier this week.  I am hoping the part nibbled sunflowers from both batches will eventually grow into full sized plants.  The border (pictured below) they are destined for has filled up a lot at the back anyway with evening primrose, yarrow, carrot, calendula, elecampane and wild rocket and some alliums; but I will squash in any sunflowers that do grow.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Border currently minus sunflowers

If all else fails I will plant some field beans in the root vegetable patch and the ‘would be’ grain patch.  They are one of the most durable and reliable plants I know and can be sown just about any time of year.  If I get them in soon they will crop this year and if they are growing densely together perhaps I can sow some of my desired seeds between them and out of reach of the pheasants.






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Introducing Anni’s veggies – in pictures

I have just begun a new blog featuring photographs of my gardens taken over the last few years.  I have a vast store of pictures and this is an opportunity to showcase some of the best.  Take a look here for the first post.

Posted in Anni's veggies in pictures, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Thousands of tiny flowers

The more time I spend watching the garden the more I have wondered about just how many flowers there are at any one time.  The plants I grow tend to have many, many tiny flowers and this afternoon I have been out to try to roughly estimate their numbers.

There are lots of forget me nots at the moment.  I let them grow, flower and set seed for next year and really cherish their cheery faces.  I counted at least 250 flowers on one small plant and at least the equivalent of another fifty similar sized plants (counting larger ones as two or more). This gives at least 12,500 individual flowers!

Forget me nots

Forget me nots

Thence to the lamb’s lettuce which I also leave to flower and set seed for next year’s harvests of early salad leaves.  I think there are at least 800 extremely tiny flowers on this plant.

Lambs lettuce

Lambs lettuce

There were another 800 plus flowers on just one sweet cicely and I’m afraid I didn’t count the number of plants.

Sweet cicely

Sweet cicely

The mustard grown as green manure had at least 1200 flowers on the 60 or so flower heads I was able to count in the breeze.

I didn’t attempt to estimate the additional flowers on the aubretia, bugle, honesty, erisymum, land cress, dandelions, daisies and blackthorn, nor the apple and cherry blossom or the flowers on jostaberries, gooseberries and various currants.  There were at least 15,000 flowers on the plants I did estimate which is far more than I had expected and importantly each one is potential food for insects of all kinds with plenty more to come as the year moves on.

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Tiny fruit trees

Last year I planted seven new fruit trees.  I desperately wanted to have lots of different types and searched for a means of making sure they were small trees.  Clearly you can choose dwarfing rootstocks but those I had planted the previous year were showing signs of getting much bigger than I had bargained for.

After some research I came across a book by Ann Ralph – ‘Grow a Little Fruit Tree: simple pruning techniques for small-space easy-harvest fruit trees’ which I have been following.  The idea is to have trees growing to approximately head height.  The method is theoretically applicable to any fruit tree regardless of the rootstock it is grown on.  In brief the technique is to cut the trunk off at knee height when planting a young tree.  There are some other techniques that follow on which are precisely documented in the book. If you are interested in the idea I would heartily recommend the book to you, the photographs of the trees produced by this method are entrancingly lovely!

So at planting time last year I cut my new trees at knee height.  Obviously I could not be sure how they would react to the shock of such radical treatment and sure enough some trees took it better than others.  It has clearly slowed the growth down a lot, most of them made little growth at all last year.

At the moment the quince is growing nicely and has a good shape:

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Quince ‘Vranja’

The pears and cherry are growing slowly but look fine, one mirabelle is also fine but the other was affected by the late frosts after a mild winter with several branches looking dead.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Mirabelle ‘Golden Globe’

So thus far I am happy with how this experiment is going.

In the spirit of experimentation (and because I wished I had known about this technique at the time of planting) I also lopped off four of the trees I planted the previous year – plum Denbigh, damson Abergwyngregyn, apple Trwyn Mochyn and cherry Cariad (these are Welsh names for those of you who are confused!).  Ann Ralph explains how to do this in the book so again I followed her instructions.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Cherry ‘Cariad’

Like the other group of trees they have responded differently, the cherry has fared best and is about to flower, the plum is also fine and about to flower, the apple was

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Plum ‘Denbigh’

set back by late frosts after starting to leaf and the damson appears reluctant to grow much!  However I think they will all get there in the end.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Plum ‘Denbigh’



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Baby rabbit

One morning last week my partner noticed that we were being visited by a tiny baby rabbit and I managed to take this photo through the bars of the decking.  We watched her / him having a good feast as s/he stayed for quite a while going up and down the bed leaving a trail of tiny pellets to mark progress through the plants.

I have seen rabbits in the fields nearby but never in the garden before and it put me in mind of one of my favourite childhood stories – The Tale of Peter Rabbit (by Beatrix Potter).  Peter ignored his mother’s warnings to avoid Mr McGregor’s garden and instead headed straight for it looking for food.  Mrs Rabbit knew Mr McGregor would undoubtedly kill Peter on sight if he was found in the vegetable patch.

Unlike the fabled Mr McGregor I don’t mind a bit.  Years ago I didn’t like it when we let our pet rabbit out in the garden and she ate all my best plants; but these days I have a much more relaxed approach to sharing with other creatures.  I don’t suppose I would be too happy if bunny returned with the whole family and they ate everything, but as it is the garden can very easily afford him some sustenance in what will probably only be a short life anyway.

Post Script 21 April 2016: The baby rabbit did indeed have a short life. We saw him again this morning whilst having a coffee and by this afternoon all that remained was one paw.  The neighbour’s cat who has a reputation for killing rabbits had caught and eaten him.


Posted in Borderland Garden, Relationship with nature | Tagged | 3 Comments

Plants For A Future Need Volunteers! — Forest Garden Plants

This is re-blogged from Forest Garden Plants, Plants for a Future is SUCH a BRILLIANT project ………


For the past five or so years I’ve been going down to help Addy Fern on the beautiful Plants for A Future Land near Lostwithiel in Cornwall. Though I’d like to be able to help more I can usually only make it down there once or twice a year at most.When I visited last year…

via Plants For A Future Need Volunteers! — Forest Garden Plants

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Yet more mashua

If there is anyone else who would like some mashua tubers please let me know.

6 April, update, I have packed up some parcels today and there are still more lying in a basket hoping for a home so do get in touch if you would like some!

14 April update – they have all gone now!


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