Green Magpie

Latest posts by Green Magpie


Posted: 16/02/2015 at 18:39

This was me last year! Daughter's wedding at the end of May,  blue and white colouurs required. The main problem was that most 'blue'  flowers are a bit on the lilac side. 

I decided to go for lobelia in pots, for table decorations. Early in spring I bought 3 trays of white, light blue and dark blue lobelia. I potted these on and eventually planted 1of each colour in 6-inch pots. I fed and tended them on our patio, and by the wedding date they were just right. The pots were placed in home-made baskets, which gave a cottagey, homespun look. We tucked a balloon weight into each pot and attached 3 helium balloons to each one, so the balloons came up out of the flowers. At the end we gave them away to key guests or people who had helped at the wedding.

We didn't do our own bouquets or any cut flowers, as we travelled to the area a few days before the event. 

We made all the buttonholes and corsages, which is not difficult. A bunch of cream rosebuds from a supermarket, a bunch of cornflowers, garden greenery and some blue and white ribbons gave us lots of scope. 

Good luck!


Croton - some leaves partially dry and yellow

Posted: 15/02/2015 at 15:48

I don't think the damaged leaves will heal now. If they look messy, better remove them and the plant will probably grow new ones elsewhere. You can also cut back a croton and if it still has healthy roots it will grow new shoots and be less leggy. Lower leaves do fall off eventally anyway.

I got away with cutting back a several times during the 15 or 20 years I had my croton.Then one  frosty February we left it while we went away for two weeks and it got really chilled. All the leaves came off.  It didn't quite die but struggled on for another year or so, producing only tiny new leaves. When I eventually gave up on it, I found the roots were black and shrivelled. The poor plant had never recovered from catching a cold.

So the moral is: they can survive quite a bit of neglect but not very low temperatures. Yours looks to me as if it will recover in the spring, just cut off any damaged leaves and shoots and give it lots of sunlight and an occasional feed.

Raspberry food

Posted: 05/02/2015 at 12:47

Yes, sulphate of potash is good stuff.  I sprinkle it around the base of the plants (if I remember!) when they are beginning to grown and form flowers, and then perhaps later when fruiting starts.

Raspberry food

Posted: 04/02/2015 at 22:34

The thing to encourage fruit is a potash-rich feed such as rose feed or tomato feed. But some sort of organic matter is also good for general nutrition and conditioning the soil. 



What is your favourite gardening book?

Posted: 26/01/2015 at 22:34

Can I name two? If I could only keep two, it would be the Hessayon paperback Vegetable and Herb Expert and the RHS Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers.


Posted: 24/01/2015 at 09:09

It makes a lot of sense to keep notes on what you sow when, if only to avoid making the same mistakes each year. It also helps you know when to expect things to germinate and crop. I also add notes like "Do not plant so close together next year!".

Some things you can sow in succession, some you don't need to. Courgettes, chilis, tomatoes will ripen when they're ready and go on fruiting for many weeks, but peas, beans, carrots, and especially salad leaves can be sown in several batches. Don't sow too many courgettes! Things that take many months to cropping (broccoli, parsnips)  might as well be sown all at one time.


Posted: 22/01/2015 at 18:59

With some small seeds,  you need plenty so you can sprinkle the seeds in the bed and then thin them out as they germinate (e.g. carrots, salad leaves).  With bigger seeds such as peas, beans, courgettes, you only need a few spares as almost every one should produce a plant. Tomatoes and chillis should almost all germinate if you sow them carefully.  Some crops you can sow in succession, so you need enough seeds for several batches. But sometimes they just give you far too many seeds!  You can save some types (see other posts) and you may manage to give away or swap some.


Posted: 16/01/2015 at 23:14

If potatoes  are exposed to frost, this can turn the starch to sugars and make them taste sweet . It may be nothing to do with the variety, could be just a faulty batch.

planting stuff at the wrong time

Posted: 16/01/2015 at 17:28

We keep hearing about how kids are out of touch with the rhythm of the seasons, so they need to learn that Spring, not winter, is the time when seeds germinate. But they could be doing what I like to do at this time of year: making a plan of the plot and deciding what to grow, choosing and ordering seeds, perhaps preparing the soil by adding some compost and clearing weeds, etc. Then by March they could begin the seed sowing once the soil begins to warm up and the days lengthen. Onion sets or shallots are easy and can go in quite early (but not yet!)

The children will only get discouraged if they sow seeds at the wrong time (which may not even be possible if the ground is frozen). Peas and beans would probably just rot, and it's really too late for garlic. I wouldn't even move strawberry runners at the moment. Somebody somewhere needs to learn a little about horticulture before attempting to start a garden in January!

Weighing fruit and veg harvest

Posted: 14/01/2015 at 22:26

I often take photos of my best veg (and also my biggest mistakes).  I have recently taken up painting, and did a nice "still life" of some beautiful Hooligan squash I grew.  Some people in our local art group paint dogs, or trains, or boats, so I think I may make vegetable subjects my speciality, although I  can't see many people wanting to commision a portrait of their potatoes or carrots. But it makes sense to paint something you care about, and I love my veg!

So for me it's about quality and beauty rather than quantity.

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Last Post: 03/02/2014 at 07:50

Runners on new strawberry plants

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