Saturday, March 31, 2007


March came in like a lamb, growled a bit and tried to persuade us it was a lion in the middle, and is now going out like a pussy cat. Milan missed most of the bad weather but much of Italy was hit by snow, hail, winds and so on with predictably disastrous results for agriculture. Here, temperatures dropped and we did have a bit of much needed rain (though not enough ) but nothing that isn’t normal for March.

With the result that the balcony has continued to advance towards spring. The wallflowers, bellis and stock are now coming out, and I even have a petunia in bloom – one of the ones that I grew from seed last year and which made it through the winter. Everything else is back in growth with buds already on some of the antirrhinums, geraniums, unknown daisy flowers and so on. And the seeds that I planted at the beginning of the month have started to germinate – I’ve got nasturtiums, sunflowers, convolvulus, marigolds, zinnias, campanula, alyssum and various other stuff bursting through all over the place. So we’re back in business. As I write the flat is vibrating with the sound of my husband putting up another trellis on the wall of the front balcony – as soon as it warms up just a bit more, I’ll put out the Mandevilla which has been overwintering happily in the front room since November.

March did come in like a lion in another respect though – it’s been an incredibly busy month and I’ve had time for nothing but work. Hence the sad lack of posts recently. But as it’s the last day of the month, I had no choice today but to get up a post on this month’s calendar item – Ramsons, or Bear’s Garlic (Allium Ursinum).

Ramson’s are a member of the onion family and grow well in loamy soil which is no more than slightly acid. They’re often found growing in large numbers in woodland – as in the picture from the calendar. The alternative name, Bear’s Garlic, comes from the fact that brown bears like to eat the bulbs and frequently dig up the plants to get at them. As do wild boars – I wonder if they grow down in Tuscany.

The leaves flowers and bulbs of ramsons are all edible, but most of the suggestions I’ve found involve using the young leaves – in salads, soups, or turned into a kind of pesto. Or even in ham sandwiches. Ramsons apparently help in cases of high blood pressure and guard against arteriosclerosis – they stop cholesterol accumulating in the arteries.

It looks to me like a plant that it would be fun to add to a kitchen garden, and I found the seeds for sale on
this site. They should be planted in the autumn, and I may well give it a try this year. I’ve never come across the site before, so can’t vouch for how reputable it is, but it is mentioned in the book which I posted on earlier this year Curious Incidents in the Garden at Night-Time. It interested me because it sells a lot of wildflower mixtures aimed at attracting beneficial insects and wildlife. It's not the glossiest, slickest site I've ever come across, but the content looks good. If you’re outside the EU, check out their page on the phytosanitary certificate which will ensure that the seeds you buy will make it through customs.

The calendar warns, though, of mixing Ramsons up with Lily of the Valley or Colchicum if you find them in the wild. Both of these are deadly poisonous, but have leaves which look very similar. Won’t be a problem when they’re flowering, but don’t risk it if you’re not sure. Stick to the kitchen garden.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The First Butterfly

Out on the balcony on Sunday, I saw that a cocoon which had been hanging on the wall of the house all winter had hatched, and the butterfly was sitting on the French window surround drying her wings. The first butterfly of spring. Then later, while clearing out some hollyhocks which I'd not used for the containers, I found ...

... the first of the next generation. So it's time to get the caterpillarium going again - an old toybox of my son's which I fill with all the "extra" seedlings which for some reason I decide not to use. And I then transfer to there all the caterpillars which I find on the plants which I don't want to lose.

At the moment though, I've got it covered with fleece. On Sunday it was 21°C. Now, two days later, it's 7°, and they're predicting it may go as low as 1°. And just when all the seeds I planted over the last three weeks were starting to germinate ...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

March Blooms

Gardening Blogging is a completely daft activity. You sit there all winter with time on your hands and nothing to write about, then when spring arrives and you've got loads to say, you've no time - you're too busy doing it.

Hence the silence over the past ten days or so. The good weather has continued with bright sunshine and temperatures of up to 25°C every day. My seeds are now almost all in, and the ones I got round to first are starting to germinate. Goodness knows where I'm going to put them as all the containers are full, but I suppose I'll have a bit of space when the biennials finish.

Carol of May Dreams Garden suggested that on the 15th of each month, people posted about what was currently in bloom. So here goes. I'm excluding a couple of things which I just got from the garden centre - everything listed here has been with me all winter :

The primroses and cyclamen that I've posted photos of before are still going strong. I'm particularly proud the cyclamen in the photo, which I grew from seed.

And the salmon pelargonium which didn't stop blooming all winter still hasn't. It's been blooming continuously for almost a year now.

Over the last week the daffodils have all come out and are absolutely stupendous. I've moved the container to the spot in front of the French doors of the living room so that we can see them all the time. they're right underneath the bright red of the cyclamen. I know gardening books tut tut over combining red and yellow, but I love it. Especially in the spring.

Lots of stuff is almost there, with buds just starting to open. That includes wallflowers, stock, bellis, sedum, and some daisies that I don't know the name of.

And then there are the pansies ....

These little pansies must be amongst my favourite flowers. I have two or three containers on the balcony every winter, and love the way that in the spring they just seem to explode and become totally riotous. I love the mixture of different colours - and have sometimes had some of the best results from seeds taken from past plants where the colours have all got mixed up. They come out looking as if someone has gone crazy splashing paint all over them. Sadly, none of last year's seeds germinated so I had to start from scratch and bought these in the autumn. They go from deep bordeaux to this crazy orange and violet combination. If this lot get mixed up, next year's plants should be great fun.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Spring has Sprung

Spring arrived with the beginning of the month and we've had blue skies, bright sunshine and temperatures around 20°C - that's about 68°F - all week. The forsythia is out, and so are all the flowering trees, and the grass is full of little forget-me-nots and violets. The photo is one of the trees in the garden outside the front balcony, taken this morning.

I celebrated by spring cleaning both balconies and putting all the containers back into their summer positions. The perennials and bienniels are all back in growth, and the bulbs are pushing through. I didn't plant my daffodils till December, otherwise they'd probably be out by now- they're all in bud and almost ready. The bulbs include one tub which is going to be a surprise - I forgot to label it, can't remember what I put in there and so far can't recognise it from the shoots. Allium perhaps??? I know I meant to get some, but can't remember if I actually did. A new venture for me this year is some agapanthus. It's not done much so far - there are a couple of small shoots but nothing very exciting. Again, it went in late.

And then I got on with sowing all the annuals for the summer. For some of the more delicate ones, I'm a good month ahead of last year, but with such high temperatures it didn't seem worth holding back. Please, please don't let it change.

Related Posts with Thumbnails