Monday, November 29, 2010

The Chrysanthemum Experiment - Results

This year I've been experimenting with my chrysanthemums. I have some little yellow ones which I've been growing for years now. Every year I leave the old plants till early spring, and then take cuttings from the new growth. That's what all the books tell you to do, saying that the old plants will never produce such good blooms in subsequent years. Was it true? This year I decided to try it out.

If you click here, you'll find the posts I wrote in March (when I took the cuttings) and May (when they'd taken and it was time to "stop" all them in order to convince them to put out side shoots). But I've reproduced the photos to show you the main stages. I took cuttings, but didn't throw the old plants away. Instead I planted the cuttings in the same container, in between the older ones.

Why? well firstly to fill the gaps left by a couple that had died over the winter. But also to ensure that the soil, water, light and fertiliser conditions were identical for both sets of plants. As any primary school child will tell you, an experiment is only a "fair test" if one variable, and one only had been changed. In this case the variable was old plants vs cuttings. Everything else was identical.

Back in May, the new plants looked pretty puny in comparison with the old. But by the time autumn arrived, I could only remember which was which by going back to the spring photos to check.

By October they were covered in buds. Whichever won, it was going to be a good year. And, when the buds opened, it was immediately clear that...

... there was no difference at all. Both sets of plants are full of flowers, the flowers are all of the same size, and I can see no difference of any kind.

So will I be taking cuttings next year? Yes, certainly. But to increase the number of plants I have, not to replace the old ones. From now on, my chrysanths can go on for as long as they feel like it...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Canal in Autumn

This year's autumn colours were amazing - I don't remember ever having seen anything like it in this area. I imagine it was something to do with the weather - just the right amount of rain at the right time, just the right temperatures.... something like that.

But it was so beautiful, that one day we walked down the canal just to take some photos...

Most of the trees here turn yellow or brown - there are very few reds ...

Just a few ornamental maples that have been planted, and then this hydrangea that was peeking through the undergrowth...

The Virginia Creeper looked as if it knew it should be red, but was trying desperately to blend in with its surroundings..

And with yellows and browns like these around, who could blame it?

These aren't leaves, but seeds, sycamore type. Thousands and thousands of them.

We walked for a couple of hours...

And by the time we got back, it was almost dark.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wildflower Wednesday - Bindweed

Am I the only person in the world who loves Bindweed (Calystegia sepium, also called Convolvulus sepium)? Yes, I know it's a problem and just as invasive as my dreaded borage. For the same reason too - leave an smidgin of root behind when you pull it out, and it will grow back. Even the RHS site seems to give up and just recommend drowning it in glyphosate. I once saw the garden of an abandoned house which had been swamped by it. You literally couldn't see an inch of ground. But oh, was it glorious. Just a sea of white flowers.

So this is my contribution for Wildflower Wednesday, the brainchild of Gail over at Clay and Limestone. I've never participated before, but while I was on holiday in the Veneto in early September, I collected up a few wildflower photos to brighten up the winter months. And with temperatures predicted to drop to -4°C tonight, with snow tomorrow, I reckon it's time to start.

The flower in the photo is long dead - but never fear. Those roots are still there, hibernating under the sandy coastal soil. They'll be back again next year...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Who ordered that?

What on earth are these and wherever did they come from? I noticed them first at the end of October - lots of little green shoots sprouting in the container that had held my Four o'clocks and a couple of Honesty. They were clearly bulbs, and there were about twenty of them, so no chance of them having self-seeded.

I've racked my brains and I have absolutely no memory of having planted bulbs in that container. If I did, they must have gone in at the beginning of spring, if not before. I don't actually remember planting any bulbs since last autumn. But what are they, and why have they come up now of all times of the year?

I did have a quick look round the container to see if there might be an old forgotten label lying around. But I know myself too well to have really believed I'd find one. Label the containers? Who me?

So it's wait and see time. Till next spring presumably, when with any luck there'll be some flowers. Oh well, only four months to go ...

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Taken in early September while we were in the Veneto at Eraclea Mare. The cloud seemed to be hanging right over the path. You felt as if you could reach up and pull it down.

I've been meaning to post these photos for Skywatch Friday ever since we got back. The autumn has just flown ...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday - Berries


...and Hawthorn.

Both spotted at Eraclea Mare while we were on holiday there in September. They say a wealth of berries in autumn signals a hard winter to come. Dig out your woolly jumpers...

Some of the other contributors to
Wordless Wednesday are a bit stricter about the wordless bit than me. Click on the link to check out their pics.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Skywatch Friday - Sweden

Two weeks ago I was in southern Sweden. And the skies were tremendous.

I took these on the train from Copenhagen Airport to Lund, where I was working. And just as I put my camera away, a skein of about 60 Canadian geese flew overhead, migrating for the winter.

And of course, they'd gone before I could get the camera back out. Pity. That would really have been a photo worth posting for
Skywatch Friday.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Cyclamen - Who Me?

I decided not to buy any cyclamen this year. I lost all the ones I had in last year's hard winter, and decided I couldn't be bothered fussing with them again. It tends to be too hot in the house to keep them in flower, and there's not enough light, whereas outside I risk losing them as soon as temperatures drop. They also prefer slightly acidic conditions - a bother to maintain with the hard water we have here.
So I thought I'd give them a miss this winter. But then I saw these - and they were sooo pretty, I just had to bring them home.

A week later, I saw these...

At which point I thought I might as well get some red ones too...

Oh well, here's hoping for a warm winter.

Monday, November 01, 2010

November Again

It's November, already. I'm not sure where the autumn has gone. I've been very busy with work - hence the scarcity of posts recently - including a great two days in Lund, in southern Sweden. I was hoping to meet up with Gittan, but it was such a flying visit that we couldn't match our schedules. Never mind, I loved Lund and hope to be back - I knew it was my sort of place when the first thing I saw on coming out of the station was a sign pointing to the botanical gardens.

There hasn't been much time for the balcony either, but some work has gone on. All the houseplants came back indoors a couple of weeks ago, just before the heating came on. They could have stayed out longer, as it was still relatively warm, but then when I finally did bring them in, there would have been a sudden huge increase in temperature. As it is, they all seem to have settled in well.

A few new plants have gone in - pansies, cyclamen and some new chrysanthemums ...

... and I've got some bulbs in too. Most of them are leftovers from last year and I'm not expecting them to do much. Must get some more.

I've also sown some sweet peas, despite the fact that I know the climate here is wrong for them and they never reach maturity. But each year I manage to convince myself that if I get them started in the autumn, they'll be in flower before the heat and humidity kick in and finish them off. We'll see. Anyway, the seeds were leftover from last year's futile attempt, so I thought I might as well stick them in and try again.

Apart from that, it's mainly been a case of clearing up the stuff from the summer, which is slowly dying off. And collecting the seeds for next year. My Four O'Clocks (Mirabilis Jalapa) were disappointing this year - the first year they've ever let me down. Usually they thrive. But I've saved what seeds there were...

Up to now the autumn has been mainly mild and sunny. But this weekend temperatures have dropped to 10-12°C during the day and it's not going to be long now before we hit the gardener's dreaded average daily temperature of 7°C. The temperature where growth stops and the least hardy specimens start to suffer. Oh well, the summer couldn't last forever I suppose. 175 days to spring, and counting...

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