Spring has sprung so work’s begun

It’s that time of year when a little lightness starts to lift the spirits. The end of March means sunshine and smiles – and a sense of needing to be outdoors soaking up any rays Yorkshire is lucky enough to linger under.

It’s officially Spring, we lost an hour when the clocks sprung forward which didn’t help the hangover after a friend’s 30th birthday party, but it was too exciting to stay feeling sorry for ourselves for long. It’s time to get things done!

A well-spent Mother’s Day was a fabulous time to wonder at all the amazing things we could create in the garden. Dave had built a big flower bed on the sunniest side of the house last year which has spent the winter looking sad and empty. Now we could finally start playing with colour, texture and shape, planting the seed quite literally for something pretty special by the time summer comes around.

Here’s what we did:

Operation tidy up:

Rose ~ I was pretty sure I’d killed off a gorgeous pink rose my friend Katie had bought me as a housewarming gift this time last year. But there’s hope yet!

  • Lifting the rose out of the pot revealed tons of white roots wrapped around the soil – it needed a bigger pot. We teased the roots loose around the sides and base to help it find a home in it’s new bigger space.
  • A new pot was found and stones placed in the bottom to cover the base (just to stop soil from falling out). Paper would also do just as well if you have any magazines lying around.
  • We mixed soil and potting compost (and here you would also add slow release fertiliser granules if you had any) and filled the pot up to the height of the plant.
  • With its new home ready we took to work chopping off all the dead stems and twiggy / straggly ugly bits, then also cut away any inward growing stems as this will mean any new growth will form a nice outward shape.
  • Next, we were ruthless and chopped outward stems down by half their length up to an outward facing bud. Cut the stem in a diagonal as you would with cut flowers.
  • Finally we popped the newly pruned rose in its new pot, filled in soil around it until tightly bedded in and then topped with potting compost! A good water and it’s good to go.

 

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New beginnings in the flower bed:

With planting it’s best to divide and conquer. Think of it as though considering a bunch of flowers – groupings that go together because of their varied heights and complimenting colours. There’s more to it of course such as light and shade, but it’s a good starting point.

Section 1: Along the fence

  • This section is a little bit pic n mix at the moment with a small number of plants already there. We shuffled the fern back to the corner where it’s shadier and left the foxgloves where they are for now as seem happy enough. The ground is part shade part sun depending on the time of day.
  • We marked out a path line in front of the fence using an old decking plank.
  • In front of this we planted a row of lady’s mantle which will create a frothy yellow fizz of flowers over summer (June – Sep). My mother-in-law-to-be and garden guru Susan often refers to Sarah Raven as a garden expert so I’m going to use her links to plants where possible. I used Susan’s cuttings and you can be pretty rough and ready snapping off the stick-like roots to plant quite shallow in the ground.
  • Sadly this activity was not without tidying up. We cleared the ground as we went. There were A LOT of weeds but no pain no gain and it was a good workout too!
  • In between the fox gloves we also planted pretty little primulas – mine aren’t this colour but this gives a good idea, and the best part is they have flowers now (March – May) so something nice to look at sooner. They need shade when the flowers go so they can hide under the foxglove leaves. A good pairing!

Section 2: In the main bed

  • Again we divided this space in two with a makeshift path using bits and bobs of stone and old planks for now to create the right shape.
  • We decided to line the path with tall plants as brushing against plants creates a fun atmosphere / experience when everything is fully grown and full of life. I always like gardens with secret walkways and bits to discover, this is a mini version of that.
  • The tallest plants to go in first of all are verbena banarensis. This will be joined by white cosmos (may not be this exact one) and tall alliums – all great for arranging indoors too.
  • From there we fanned outwards with middle height plants next and short neat plants at the front which will drape over the decking edge.
  • I’m not loving the heather which was already in here but I’m putting up with it for now and trimmed it back so a nice green bun. It looks a little better and the new interesting things are helping to distract me!

That’s all for now!

~ Green Fingered Girl x

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How to make a flower pot arrangement

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Super simple yet effective, making flower pot arrangements is a great introduction to flower arranging. Here’s a quick ‘how to’ I picked up on a hen do recently:

  • Jazz up a basic terracotta pot using multi-purpose paint. It paints on in just one coat and it’s up to you how you want your design to look, I chose a pale blue with cream – don’t forget to paint the inside too! The paint is really quick drying just leave it outside for a minute and you’ll be ready for step two. Pots can be picked up from homebase and paint from any DIY shop. If you’re wanting to be more adventurous with stripes or a chevron design, try using masking tape to create a stencil and help hold a straight line. Just don’t forget to let it dry in between applying the tape.

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  • The next step once your pot is dry is to use a large square of cellophane to line the inside – an easy way to do this is to hold the square flat above the pot and then push the centre of the cellophane sheet into the base of the pot, ensuring the hole at the bottom is covered.
  • Cut a cube of oasis to a size that fits inside the pot without any sticking out of the top and then submerge in water. Oasis is a green foam block used in flower arranging and can be picked up along with cellophane at hobbeycraft or most garden centres. Once completely soaked put the oasis inside the pot within the cellophane and trim any cellophane visible above the rim.
  • As I was taking part in the flower pot arranging on a hen do, we had the luck of being able to all bring a bunch of flowers each, which we laid out like our own mini florists. If you’re working on your own you can choose individual stems and mix and match by visiting a florists, if you’d rather not use a ready made bouquet. Select a handful of flowers and foliage stems that you’d like to include in your arrangement.

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  • I’d like to know more about flower arranging, but the tips I have picked up so far include:
    • Thinking in threes – as with photography good design often incorporates splitting the ‘image’ into thirds
    • Choose your centre point and build in rings around it
    • Don’t forget professional flower arrangements include a lot of foliage so don’t look over the leaves as these can be great for adding texture
  • Consider how tall you would like your arrangement to be and trim the stems to the appropriate length – taking into account the length above and within the pot. Varying the height of your stems will make for a more interesting look and try to cut the stems at an angle to help them absorb more water from the soaked foam.
  • Strip leaves from the stems below the point it enters the pot and push into the oasis – the foam holds the flower at the angle you push it into the block, so you can work up an arrangement that will hold its shape. If you don’t get it right first time or change your mind that’s OK! Just try to ensure the ends of the stems are within the foam and not poking out the other side.
  • Don’t discard the lower, leafy bits of the stems straight away, these might come in handy to fill in any gaps with lovely leaves. Eucalyptus also works well for adding foliage.
  • Here I am working on my pot! I chose a combination including a peony bud, pink and white roses, gypsophila and eucalyptus. I was really pleased with the result – not bad for a first go! When I took it home I topped the pot up with water to keep it looking fresh.

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Hope this sparks some inspiration!

~ Green Fingered Girl x

Gems and the giant veg

A quick look around the vegetable garden is making me feel hungry. It’s heaving with colour-changing tomatoes on the vine, transforming from green to orange with a leafy smell that makes me smile and makes excellent candles for Jo Malone.They’re spilling over the tops of their stands and entwining with the sweet peas in some kind of veggie jungle. An effect enhanced by the volunteers – rogue tomato plants that self-seeded after last summer to remind me that growing things happens whether you mean to or not, so there is not point in worrying if you’re doing things right or getting bogged down in being too complicated.

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We’re also feeling good about the French beans, which are hanging out all the way up to the top of their pyramid stand made my master craftsman (that’s you Dave!). We’ve already started tucking in to these and got heaps last year so looking forward to lots more to come!

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I’ve resisted drawing googley eyes on the corn on the cob for now although I do think it would offset the surfer dude ‘hair’ on the tops nicely. Aware that none of those comments do my street cred any good but I’m a gardening blogger now and this sounds like a comment Alan Titchmarsh would approve of and that’s what counts.

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An admittedly slightly awkward looking courgette is ready for the chop too over on the other side of the garden.

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Here’s the veggie bed in all its glory, we’ve got such a lot of lemon sorrel, a now quite sorry looking basil and rocket, french tarragon tucked away at the front. Elsewhere we’re also growing strawberry plants, previously posted-about figs, baby chillies – all sorts. It’s going to be a delicious summer.

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~ Green Fingered Girl x

Welcome to my bee-autiful garden

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Because an unexpected thoughtful gift is the one of the best kind of surprises. And because my beautiful friend, Sophia, is one of the bestest kind. Thank you Soph! I think it looks quite nice in this tree. Challenge accepted now to keep things looking worthy during the winter 🙂

~ Green Fingered Girl x

Bloomin’ lovely – practicing flower arranging

I’m a long way off becoming the next Bloom & Wild, but practice makes perfect! Here are some of my latest cuttings and some top tips picked up along the way…

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  • Vary your heights for more interest – a few taller stems or stems out to the side seemed to work and look more natural and exciting together than keeping things prim and in a neat group.

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  • Tall grasses provide an easy backdrop with more to say than flowers on their own. Also don’t be scared of trimming off any bits and pieces nearby in the garden and sticking them in the mix – a purple leafy stem gave a nice colour contrast to this group with only three actual flowers needed.

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  • I’ve neglected the garden quite a bit recently so ended up with lots of flowers that had died or were turning into seed heads (oops). Luckily some of these looked amazing and give a nice contrast to the softer flowers.

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  • I was struggling to juggle the heavy sunflower head as part of a bouquet for a friend, but found it worked best to lie flat and pile the other flowers on top, some feel to one side but the overall look worked and gave a nice country garden feel. I had been trying too hard to make it look perfect, but really they took care of themselves. I used twine to tie the stems to help keep the right shape while on the move.

~ Green Fingered Girl x

Freshly picked cam: Summer veggies and flowers

A snapshot of all the awesome stuff the garden has given us this week:

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My first full bouquet from the flower garden

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Buckets of sweat peas (about twice as many as shown here, they smell so good!) and a couple from Martin

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Nothing tastes as good as homegrown tomatoes

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French beans a plenty

~ Green Fingered Girl x

Because a watched flower never blooms

What do they say about a watched flower never blooms? Nothing I think, but in any case my going on holiday proved to be just what my garden needed!

While my back was turned Greece-ward, the garden has taken on a whole new life, and I love it! I’m in two minds as to whether pretend to I’m still not here and take sneaky sideways glances through the window, or to swoop in with the snippers and fill the house with flowers.

Here are my three favourite new discoveries!

1 Baby figs: After a couple of years of a nice if twiggy pot plant, we have real life bonafide figs on our tree! Very exciting after how deliciously the air was scented by fig trees all over Kefalonia!

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2. Lavender flowers: Partly a victory entry for having potted the lavender successfully (as in my How To) and partly because ‘yey flowers!’

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3. What can now be officially referred to as a flower garden! This patch of garden took a massive amount of overhaul after a couple of decades of not really being touched, removing several thousand (probably) bulbs and bits and bobs. We cleared the lot and filled the empty space with flowers. I had no idea how the plants were going to look but I’m really happy with how it’s turning out!

Step 1: Flower arranging

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Step 2: Using imagination

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Step 3: Awesome Flowers

~ Green Fingered Girl x

Broccoli in bloom

It’s funny how veg tastes so much better when you grow your own. Purple sprouting broccoli was a real treat over winter, with heaps of servings from just a couple of plants. What came as a bit of a surprise was the pretty yellow flowers that arrived late in May as the seasons change and summer crops prepare to go in. They are apparently edible but we decided to try cutting the stems a bit longer and putting them in a vase instead. I was pretty happy with the result!

Here’s a little look at what the broccoli plant looked like in the ground – there is still more to eat here but we wanted to make room in the veg garden so we were ready to move on.

~Green Fingered Girl x