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It’s been a busy couple of weeks at La-Di Dardy Flowers and the growing and planting have not stopped. I do have to admit that the fleece has made its reappearance in the greenhouse on a couple of occasions for the benefit of the more tender plants.
Anemones and Ranunculus
The Ranunculus and Anemones that I talked about last time have both continued to sprout and grow, outside and in the greenhouse. Being given the chance to really harden up means they will develop into lovely strong plants which will hopefully produce lots of healthy blooms in the spring. In the next week or so they will be planted out into vegetable crates and sunk into the ground. They will then be covered with a mini-poly tunnel to get them through the winter. I am hoping that the local cats will actually do me a favour and keep the mice at bay.
After my last post I have to admit that I am still sowing sweet peas with gay abandon. Sweet peas that I sowed into pots less than a week ago have already sprouted and now been popped outside to harden up. When the shoots reach 3.5cm I will take them out of the pots and snip off the long tap root. I will then transplant them into individual root trainers. I’ve already done this with my first batch and it has not affected them at all.
Over the next few days I will sow another batch. I am so excited about this method, I can't wait to see the results. It makes so much sense though. Previously, I have cosseted the autumn sown sweet peas through the winter, keeping them under cover or in the greenhouse. This has resulted in weak leggy shoots which have ended up being usurped by stronger later shoots. I am anticipating that the hardened sweet peas will be ready to grow and shoot up in the very early spring. If it works I will never grow sweet peas under cover again.
Winter Bulbs for New Year
I love the winter flowering bulbs hyacinths and amaryllis; but my favourites have to be the narcissi paperwhite. I buy the bulbs for myself but always manage to get some blooms going for other people.
A fabulously easy, method, which also saves me getting soil under my fingernails, is to grow them using gravel and plain old water. If you would like to try this method then this is what you need to do:
- The bulbs are a good size so you will need to find a good sized, tall container or vase. I like a glass vase or a fresh looking blue and white pot.
- Make sure the pots are clean.
- Add freshly washed gravel to a depth of about 6-8 cm. If this is straight out of the bag, it may need quite a few rinses.
- Gently clean any very loose papery layers off the bulbs. Do not remove any fixed layers.
- Place as many bulbs as you can, so that they are just touching, onto the surface of the gravel.
- Because the flower stems grow quite tall they do benefit from some support. If you can, add some freshly cut twiggy branches around the bulb. I love to use hazel with some early catkins, or some dogwood, as they will continue to grow. Make sure the bottom of the branches are pushed right to the bottom of the vase.
- Add water just to the bottom of the bulbs.
- Place in a window, out of direct sunlight and watch them grow.
- Keep the water topped up, but always just below the bottom of the bulb.
- In five or six weeks you will be rewarded with a vase of beautiful fragrant blooms; perfect for January.
- For continuity, I would recommend repeating this every two weeks or so. You could also plant a few for friends or neighbours, adding some ribbon round the pot.
Rather wonderfully, you can also use this method for the hyacinths and amaryllis. Amaryllis sat in the bottom of a large apothecary jar look very stylish. I also love to plant a number of hyacinths together in a large dish. If you are going to use this method do remember to use good quality bulbs. I am embarrassed to admit that I have previously fallen victim to my own reluctance to spend and bought ‘cheap’ hyacinth bulbs which had very poor stems. I still hang my head in shame at the memory of it.
Please be aware that handling bulbs can cause a reaction. If this is the case, you may need to wear gloves. I know that I am sensitive to hyacinth bulbs and often forget not to touch my face. Ouch!!!
As ever, don’t forget to check all your pots and precious seedlings for slugs, overwintering caterpillars and greenfly and any other pests. I'm still picking out a handful of slugs in the greenhouse each week.
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