All posts by Kit Domino

Alstroemerias

(Botanical name: Alstroemeria. A tuberous hardy perennial originating from South America) (Common name: Peruvian lily.)

It’s only in recent years we’ve come across Alstroemerias. I’d seen them as artificial flowers, always thinking they were a made-up plant, until the day my husband brought me home a fresh bouquet of them. They were in tight bud and have to admit, at first I was not impressed. However, they slowly unfolded to reveal beautiful blooms which lasted for over 3 weeks. We decided to buy some to grow in the garden and glad we did. They perform wonderfully, need little fuss and attention and keep on giving.

Although commonly called a “lily”, they are not bulbs, but tubers. Having been advised they are problematic to grow from these, or seed, we purchased several established plants from our favourite independent garden centre some miles away — always a lovely drive, a weekly day out in normal times.

Alstroemeria come in many species and varieties (at least 1,260!) and colours, so an endless choice with some varieties also have perfume, others with varigated leaves Take a look on the RHS website to see the huge range. They are definitely plants I shall grow more of. One in particular I am after, called Indian Summer, has dark reddish/bronze leaves, and yellow flowers with a reddish centre.

“Summer Red”

Those we bought were planted in various locations around the garden and in pots to see how they would perform in each, be it shade, semi-shade or full sun. To our delight, they thrived wherever we put them. Those growing directly in the garden were left to die down last autumn, and all came back. Those planted in pots were taken into the greenhouse to overwinter; again, all thrived. We’ve experienced high winds this summer and several of the stems have blown over so next year I will ensure those in the borders are staked, as they grow quite tall.

Inticancha Cabana

Most varieties grow tall, anything up and over a 1m high, so are perfect for the back and middle of the border, whilst other varieties are dwarf, some only to about 25—30 cm and look great in pots. Flowering from May to September, looking after is easy with regular watering, especially in dry spells, feeding once a week (we always use Miracle-Gro). Once each stem has finished flowering, deadhead by simply pull the whole stem out from the base, it should come away easily, if it doesn’t leave it for a day or two then try again. New flower stems will swiftly grow, keeping the plant in flower for months. Next Spring we will divide them to create more.

Another bonus is they are marvellous as a cut flower, lasting several weeks, changing the water every 5-6 days.

Tip: As I do for any cut flowers, I always put a few copper coins into the water, an old florist’s trick I learnt) to help them last longer. I don’t know the science behind it but it works miracles with tulips especially, keeping them upright, and even straightens those stems that have flopped, as tulips love to do!

AUTUMN EQUINOX IN THE GARDEN

Summer has sadly slipped into autumn and hit us hard here in the West Country with a rain and a cold, cold wind after several days of glorious sunshine when we enjoyed lunch and tea outside on the patio.  Coffee indoors today. What a contrast!

Autumn this year in the garden began to show several weeks previously when we were still in late August, its arrival heralded by cyclamen coum appearing, their white and pink flowers peeping out amongst the foliage and flowers of crocosmia and salvia. A few days later, the first blue blooms of the creeping plumbago opened, now a swathe of blue climbing over the kitchen bed. Both these plants indicators that the weather and season were on the change.

Amongst the pot of alstroemerias and heuchera by the fence, I spied a white flower of my Hellebore Niger–the Christmas Rose in bloom yet again, with more buds about to open. It had flowered all winter, again in early summer, and here it is announcing itself once more.

Helleborus Niger

Of course, flowers blooming when they shouldn’t, out of season and out of kilter, is nothing new, not in my garden or in anyone else’s. It’s what they do. Mother Nature blossoms when it wants to, when it feels the temperature and conditions are right. This is particularly so with my red rhododendron. It always performs beautifully in May, and again in October, admittedly not as prolific as its spring show but there nonetheless. This year, however, it’s in flower now, in late September, beneath it primulas which flower most of the year where they are in constant shade.

Rhododendron (type unknown)

A stroll around the garden this morning, despite the cold wind but in bright sunshine revealed many summer plants are still flourishing. A clematis and my “Black Night” buddleia, begonias and third flush of roses. There are poppies, field and Welsh, along with alstroemerias, fuchsias, bright marigolds, and my beloved perennial foxglove “Firebird” still on display amongst the cosmos (always great doers in autumn) in full flower, as is my favourite dahlia, the Bishop of Llandaff and my sedum Mr Goodbud.

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I’ve also a second flush on the phlox. Once the first flowering has finished on these, I cut each stem back to about half, give them a good feed and watering, and invariably get a second show. Nowhere near as prolific as the first summer stems, but colour and perfume for a second time, prolonging their season. They are certainly worth the attention. Phlox are thirsty plants and need almost daily watering in summer or else the leaves quickly go brown and yellow and wilt. But the plant will survive and return next year, regardless.

Most of our hanging baskets and pots are looking a little sad at the moment. Those that have gone over we’ve already planted up with winter pansies and violas, wallflowers and bulbs for the spring. We will slowly work our way around them all putting the majority to bed for the winter, taking cuttings and collecting seeds as we go.

 

In some ways, it’s a sad time in the gardening calendar, but it’s also one in which to look forward to next year. We’ve already sent away for our seeds/plants and bulbs although throughout the next few months we will be scanning the catalogues for more. There’s always room for more. It’s also the perfect time too to sit back and assess the success and failures of this year’s planting. Deciding what works, what doesn’t, what needs to be moved and to where and what we would like to see next year. Every plant in Kit’s Garden must earn its place, be it with colour, perfume, profundity and beauty. If a plant lets us down, we give it two more chances. Fail again, and out it must go.

That said, I have a clematis, no idea which one it is, although memory serves it is a spring “Montana”. All I remember doing several years ago was planting it in the hope it would spread over a border that often looks bereft of flowers. It never bloomed, never flourished, in fact I forgot about it until clearing the bed last autumn. I moved it to another place, hoping it would climb up a pergola, which it did this year, but again no flowers. So we pulled it out and planted some spare plants there for this year. Low and behold, this clematis has sprouted from a root we must have missed and has covered the pergola and swamped out the other plants there already within three months. I will leave it and see what happens next spring. No flowers then out it goes again, and this time we shall make sure we dig out every little bit of root. I already have in mind what I want to grow there next year. Just in case.

Happy gardening until next time from Kit’s Garden.

Waving From Kit’s Garden

Today, I’m blogging directly from Kit’s Garden, having taken the bold step of separating my gardening skills from the rest of Kit Domino’s World, which is rapidly growing faster than my waistline. I hope you’ll enjoy future (and past) posts and photos of my little piece of heaven here in beautiful Gloucestershire.

So, what is a garden? By definition, a garden is simply a group of plants controlled by man, us humans, mankind. Thus, it can be anything you want — be it trees and shrubs, a rock garden, water garden, only grasses, flowers or no flowers.

Gardening has become a way of life for my husband and I, both flowers and vegetable growing and over time I intend to blog about the individual plants we grow, how and give advice where we can. There’s no right or wrong way to garden, what works for one person, may not for another. Different soils, different locations within the country and various weather conditions across the UK all effect Mother Nature.

Gardens are not static. They change over time, over seasons, plants fall in and out of fashion, your health can affect what you can do in the garden, family needs change. And, like painting the Forth Road Bridge, it is never finished. There is always something to do, a bit of pruning, deadheading, a renegade weed that needs to be dealt with.

Ah, yes, the perennial argument over what is a weed and what is not. A weed is nothing more than a plant growing where it is not wanted (coming back to plants being controlled by man again!). Our native wild flowers, evolved over thousands of years to flourish and seed and grow in profusion, are often referred to as weeds. They are not, unless you do not want them in your plot. But take a closer look at some of them. The flowers are often exquisite, our wildlife thrives thanks to them, and Kit’s Garden has learned to live with them. Well, some of them. Oh, all right, a few!

Every year I throw down a packet of wild seeds in the back garden. They are inexpensive, fill gaps, and help bring in the birds and bees. Okay, they may not all be native species, but that doesn’t matter. Most plants and flowers growing in UK gardens are not natives. The vast majority having been imported and/or crossbred years back from across the world, the good and the bad. They’ve settled here, enjoy it here or they would have keeled over and died many years ago. And we, as a nation, have come to regard many as our own.

I hope you’ll continue to join me in my garden, find something of interest, learn something new. A gardener never stops learning; none of us professes to know all there is to know about plants and gardening. And a true gardener always loves to help other gardeners, whether advice, plants or simply pass the time of day. Most of all, a true gardener needs to stop a while, make time to smell the roses, sit back, relax and admire their efforts; I know I do. I hope you’ll continue to join me in my garden, find something of interest, learn something new.

See you next time!

Kit’s Garden: Poppies

Papaveraceae family

I love all types for their varied colours and colour combinations, from pale pink (blue) through to red, red and black (often referred to as ladybirds), to purple, and yellow and orange of the Welsh variety. I also like the varied leaf shapes, either lobed, dissected or toothed from glaucous green/grey and flat, to dark green and spiky.

The poppy family is large group of annuals, perennials and biennials poppies which includes the annual orientals (Papaver orientale), native to Turkey and from which we get opium, morphine, heroin, codeine and papaverine plus poppy seed and oil for eating/cooking and birdseed; field or corn poppies (P. rhoeas); Iceland poppy (P. nudicaule); and the Welsh and Himalayan (Meconopsis). There is also the Californian poppy but this is another flower species altogether (one I will come back to at a later date.)

Most types are growing in my garden, either self-sown thanks to the birds, wind and neighbours or grown from packets of mixed wildflower seeds.  I also have two perennials which were purposely grown for a display a few years ago, of which I managed to salvage and transplant. My current favourite is the frilly fringed pom pom ones, Papaver somniferum, which magically appeared in my garden last year. I left a few to self-seed and collected the seeds from the remainder. Sadly, while de-seeding the last one, I dropped the container onto the ground. Seeds lost. Oddly, none have appeared this year where the jar fell. I shall not make the same mistake this year.

With most of my plants, I believe in copying nature and let the seeds disperse and propagate where they will. If I am scattering seeds (of any plant) I do it when they are naturally shedding, typically late summer/autumn) and leave them to it. I believe that Mother Nature knows what it’s doing and plants will germinate where they are happiest. I deadhead during the flowering period, so the plant’s energy goes into developing more flowers rather than seed, then let the last few flowers go to seed. After the orientals and perennials have flowered (typically May time) I cut them down to ground level for often they will regrow to give another display later in the season and the new leaves help to feed next year’s flowers.

There’s always room in my garden for poppies.

I’m Back With Orchids

It’s been a while since I last posted, September 2019 in fact. It’s been a difficult time since then for many health and family reasons and launching a new novel and all that it entailed was bad timing, but we do not have the benefit of hindsight. I will come back to White Stones next time. So, Christmas and New Year came and went in a blur, and then, just when I’m back on my feet again – Wham! The whole world’s gone into lockdown, so forgive me if I’ve neglected things, especially my writing.

For now, during all this time there’s one thing that has kept me going, and that is my love of plants, gardening and flowers. I often talk about Kit’s Garden, but rarely have I mentioned having plants and flowers around the house. During winter, it has been indoor flowers that have kept me going, so today, I thought I would talk about and chat Over the BackYard Fence about my favourite plants for indoors – Orchids.

For as long as I can recall, my man has regularly bought me flowers or a flowering plant for indoors, and still does. Then, about 10 years ago, he would often buy me an orchid. Beautiful flowers, wonderful colours, long-lasting – the blooms would last about 4 months with me looking after them as I thought best: watering only with rainwater, keeping out of full sunlight and, despite many saying to mist regularly, I didn’t because…. Click to read on

Late Autumn in the Garden

And in blows November. Chilly winds, dark mornings, dark earlier of an evening. And frosts.

Here in my little part of the UK we’ve had several hard frosts.

The garden survived the first few, but succumbed to the last one. The worst hit was the dahlias. They are shrivelled, flowers and bud squidgy and bedraggled and look sad … Read on: 

A Summer of Firsts

This summer has certainly been sweltering so far, and I love it. But it has its downside too, for keeping the garden thriving has been a major task. Thankfully we’re not on a water meter or a hosepipe ban so the new flower border is more colourful than ever. But despite our best efforts our vegetables have been a failure – a first for Dave read on

Billy One Mate

Meet Billy One Mate. He (I say “he” but it could well be a “she”) is a young starling that thinks he’s a sparrow. I first became aware of him few weeks ago when the local starling flock of descended into my garden with all their noisy fledglings to feast on the birdseed dropped by the sparrows. The fledglings were able to fly reasonable well and most could feed themselves but preferred like most youngsters to let mum (or dad) feed them…

Click here to read full story Over The Backyard Fence.

Late for a Date in the Garden

I had hoped to bring you the finished garden by now but the weather here in the UK has been dreadful. Two hot days in April, which meant I could finally make a start on bringing the back garden back to some semblance of prettiness. Two days! The rest of the month has been cold, wet, blowing a hoolie and even colder still – we even had to put the central heating back on.

Today the sky is cloudless, the sun shining and joy of joys, we have been promised good weekend’s weather, which is something of a miracle as it is a bank holiday weekend here. So …. Click here to read the garden so far

Rain, Rain, Go Away…

At last April is here. Spring! Except here, spring is rather slow to get going, thanks to all the rain and wind and snow. Even this past weekend, Easter (I hope you all had an enjoyable one), parts of the UK experienced a white Easter, though not for the first time. Here where I am I the West Country, we didn’t have snow but it rained like it was never going to stop. Which means… what I had hoped to enthral you all with on this post hasn’t happened.

Yes, I’m talking about the garden revamp. It has been such a horrible winter, far too cold and wet for either of us to do anything out there apart from pruning my buddleia and a fuchsia and pottering in the new greenhouse bringing on new seedlings and plug plants. The ground is so sodden and heavy it’s going to take a lot of drying out before we can even contemplate putting a fork or spade in. So far this spring we have only been able to enjoy a morning cup of coffee out there once. Usually by now I’m out there every morning having my early morning cuppa. Thus, apart from cursing the weather, it’s been a month of more planning and ideas and thoughts as to what we intend to do both outside and indoors. 

(click here to read on)