The Bind Of Bindweed ~ Beauty Over Strangulation?

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This lovely flower can be a monumental pest if it finds its way into garden borders. It belongs to the convolvulus family, and comes in several varieties, some of which have smaller pink and white striped trumpets. This, I think, is hedge bindweed, Calystegia sepium and it is presently spreading beside the field path. Like its cousins, its plant-strangling capacity knows no bounds, and if you try to dig it up and leave the tiniest scrap of the plant behind, in an eye’s blink, you will have a brand new bindweed. Or maybe several.

Richard Mabey in Flora Britannica suggests that some of its many vernacular names reflect the degree of horticultural nuisance. Snake’s meat and Devil’s guts are certainly blunt expressions of gardener antipathy.  But there are picturesque names too. E.g.  Lady-jump-out-of-bed, and Granny-jumps-out-of-bed seem to derive from a children’s game: ‘Grandmother, grandmother, pop out of bed’ a refrain chanted while pinching out the base of the flower and watching the trumpet float to the ground like an old-fashioned nightgown on the loose. Sometimes the Grandmother is a Nanny Goat. There is also: Lazy Maisy jumps out of bed.

Other imaginative names include Old Man’s Nightcap, Poor Man’s Lily, White Witch’s Hat, Bridal Gown and Belle of the Ball, and then there are numerous variations of bindweed: Barbine, Bellbind, Withywind, Waywind.

When it comes to eradication, the Royal Horticultural Society does not hold out much hope for simply digging it out. Chemicals seem the only answer, but they do suggest a method of damage limitation, glyphosate-wise. This involves sticking garden canes into the soil near any bindweed eruption, thereby encouraging it to grow up the cane. Later you can unwind it onto bare soil and spot-treat it without harming other plants.

Or you could just live with it, and try to keep it under control. I have the hedge variety in the guerrilla garden. It keeps winding up the crab apple tree, and I keep hoiking it out. I also have the smaller pink and white striped ground-creeping variety in several places on my allotment plot. This is field bindweed or Convolvulus arvensis and I’ve become quite adept at digging it out, which checks it, but does not remove it entirely. At the moment it is also in flower and really very pretty. So I guess it will be staying.  For now.

 

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This Morning – If Wenlock Still Had Larks – I would Have Been Up With them

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6 am and I’m up and dressed and heading over the field to the allotment. No sign of the sun this morning, but there are plenty of yellow flowers standing in for it, including the ragwort with departing red-tailed bee (a female, I think). And it’s only when I reach my plot that I remember that early mornings are the time to catch the courgette (zucchini) flowers looking their best. I discover a real cracker by the polytunnel. Not only is it making all its own sunshine, but it is also hosting some very busy ants. I can only think they are grazing the pollen.

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Inside the polytunnel, the French marigolds are in full flower too. I planted them out among the pepper and aubergine plants to deter white fly. It seems to work. And they are cheery too, but difficult to photograph as they seem to reflect the light and end up looking remarkably surreal; as if they might be made of marzipan.

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There’s nothing surreal about the cucumber flowers though. The plants are churning out fruits at a rate of knots. I pruned off excess stems and now think I may start restricting their water intake. There are only so many cucumbers one can eat – even mini ones.

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The allotments are a lovely place to be in the early morning. I got lots of jobs done: feeding beetroot and leeks, tying up wayward tomatoes, sowing Florence fennel, Paris market carrots and Boltardy beetroot, harvesting cylindrical and golden beets, leeks and Russian kale, and a single huge globe artichoke, which may be past its best, but we’ll give it go this evening. If it’s too tough to eat, the garlic butter will do on something else. What a trial that will be!

In the raised beds the sweet corn is tasselling, the French beans and raspberries are cropping furiously, the borlotti beans are making pods, the Crown Prince squash are blooming, and soon there may be a couple of crunchy Greyhound cabbages to pick.

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All in all, it was a very yellow kind of morning, brimming with bright prospects, though it is a shame about the lack of larks. I dashed home at 9.30 for cup of tea, only to think that I might have left the allotment tap running. So it was back up the field, through the towering wild oats, and past the browning rapeseed crop. I hadn’t left the tap on, but I had forgotten to collect the Russian kale, so it was worth making the second trip. Then home again to make raspberry jam.

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Garden Bistro Dish Of The Day

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Today’s take-away special is definitely the oregano nectar smoothie. The Cabbage White butterflies and the honey bees have been gorging themselves, and while I am not too thrilled about feeding up the Cabbage Whites – given the mayhem they can create among my cabbages and broccoli – I have to admit they did look very lovely flitting around in the guerrilla garden. In fact I think I shall rename our unofficial planting behind the back fence ‘the biodiversity plot’ because, even as I write this, there is an awful lot of it going on there.

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Noteworthy action includes crowds of longhorn beetles busy replicating in the spearmint flowers and on some ragwort that has recently arrived uninvited; skipper butterflies on the lesser knapweed, ringlet butterflies on the phlox and oregano; also passing tortoiseshells, peacocks and commas, and some rather small hoverflies.

Most of the bumble bees, however, are inside the garden still scoffing on the drumstick alliums. Now for a gallery of some of today’s lunch-time clientele:

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Six Word Saturday

On Your Marks, Get Set (Wait For It)…Doronicum!

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Also known as Leopard’s Bane, and another wonderful member of the daisy family. I am not entirely sure which variety of Doronicum it is, but am plumping for D. plantagineum as this name means plantain-like in reference to the leaf shape. Most Doronicum varieties seem to have heart-shaped leaves, and flower earlier in the season than the one in my garden. But if anyone has a better idea, please tell me.

Nor do I know if this particular variety has any noteworthy therapeutic properties, but we do have a powerful lack of leopards here on Sheinton Street, so it clearly has some very active big-feline-defence ingredient. It is also standing up bravely against the hot, dry weather and, along with the drumstick alliums, is the most vibrant bloomer in the garden at the moment. Not for long though. The golden rod, which is all over the place, is about to do its stuff. I’m looking forward to the all-yellow garden.

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Bee Feast At The Garden Take-Away

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Yesterday the bumble bees were having a right royal tuck-in  around the garden. Flower of choice was definitely the allium sphaerocephalon as featured here the other day. Some of the bees seemed to become quite comatose while supping, which made them much easier to snap. Several different kinds were partaking. I really must learn how to identify them. Friends of the Earth have a great app for us Brits with clever phones. I don’t have one, but could almost  be tempted by this brilliant little guide.

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Meanwhile over the back fence in the unofficial (guerrilla) garden other favourite bee foods included the fabulously gaudy Sneeze Weeds (Heleniums) and the oregano which, with all the sunny weather, has recently burst into sprays of delicate pinkish white flowers.

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Oh yes, and there were also bees in the Bee Balm (Monarda):

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Drum Roll Please For Allium Sphaerocephalon

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That’s quite a tongue-twisting name for a plant that is basically an overgrown chive. Of course it only means sphere-headed, and this is the first year I have had these late flowering (AKA drumstick) alliums in my garden. July to August is their time. And they have come into bloom just when the June flowers are over, and the July cohort are still struggling with the heat. I love them. They start off as green globes that gradually turn purple-pink from the tip downwards – just as if they have been dipped in a paint pot. Full-out, they remind me of the raspberry ice lollies of my childhood. They are not fussy about soil type, or so I’ve read, though they like reasonable drainage. And they self-seed, which I’m very excited about. Looking forward then to next year’s garden full of giant chives.

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Miniscule On Monday ~ Interesting The Things You Find Under The Cosmos

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Can you see it? This slightly fuzzy macro shot has made a monster of the tiny little crab spider that is busy trying to hide from me. I should say that in real life it was less then one eighth of an inch (2mm) from top to toes. Even so, and you can’t see it very well from this angle, its abdomen had taken on the camouflage colours of the pinky-purple cosmos.

There’s just so much going on in the natural world around us, and most of it we miss entirely.

On The Path To The Allotment ~ Too Hot On The Plot

It was nearly 7 pm last night when I finally thought it might be cool enough to head up the field to the allotment. In places, the nettles and grasses are leaning over the path at ear-height, and the nettle stings can be vicious, even through clothing. At one point the makeshift path alongside the rapeseed crop all but disappears, and it’s a question of remembering to turn left at the opium poppy, which was fine when it was flowering redly, but not so easy to spot now it’s gone to seed. I’m beginning to think I need to go out armed with a machete. Also the ground beneath my feet is so unyielding, it is difficult to walk on; baked into unexpected ridges and contours that are hard to navigate when you can’t see the way ahead. Who would have thought going gardening could be so challenging.

Of course, I had to stop to take this photo, the sun shining through the allotment boundary hedge.

On the plot I have been trying to shelter the plants’ roots with whatever vegetation I can find up there: comfrey, horseradish leaves, even rhubarb leaves. I’m now eyeing up the goat willow tree on the neighbouring abandoned plot, thinking a little prune of its leathery foliage might make some useful shading material.

So far things are surviving – apart from the strawberries that is, and the broad beans which produced a half-hearted crop and then fainted away. The most astonishing success, at least so far, is the sweet corn. It just keeps on growing, and with scarcely any watering, which is very strange for sweet corn. I bought the seedlings by post after the seeds of my own first sowing rotted. They were tiny when I planted them out in May – no more than a hand’s width tall. Now look at them.

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They cost £2 for 20 from Delfland Nurseries which probably works out cheaper than growing them yourself from seed, and certainly cuts out the faff. I also bought some of their Iznik mini cucumber seedlings, which are now producing well in the polytunnel. The fruits are about 4 inches long when ready to pick, and delicious. The best thing is you eat the whole thing at one go, so no more squishy-cucumber-end discoveries in the fridge.

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The Black Russian tomatoes are busy fattening in the next door bed. They are now one of our favourite tomato varieties, under-sown here with dill.

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Outside, the runner beans are struggling to get up their sticks, but we’ve had our first good picking of the climbing Alderman peas. These peas are supposed to continue cropping over the season, but I’m not sure that this will happen with four more weeks of drought and heat promised. I have just planted out another lot, sown for quick germination in lengths of plastic gutter, and I shall definitely grow them again next year.

We’ve been told there is a ‘world shortage’ of lettuce in UK supermarkets. It doesn’t germinate well in heat. I have grown some of my own, but I was also very pleased that I bought a tray of ‘living salad’ lettuce from Waitrose. It was intended for cutting fresh into one’s sandwich, but I planted out the seedlings instead, outside covered with fleece and also in the polytunnel. So far it’s doing well. I reckon there were about 50 seedlings in the tray, several different varieties, so plenty of lettuce to share with neighbours.

Now for some more hot-plot shots.

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One unforeseen circumstance of the hot weather is that my piled-high compost heaps are bone dry, and are therefore doing very little rotting down. While I don’t feel I can help them along by actually watering them, I have heard that the addition of urine is very beneficial, and since most of the allotmenteers are chaps, it has occurred to me to put up ‘please pee here’ signs. All deposits gratefully received.

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copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

Columbine Roofs?

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Well they look like pagoda roofs to me. But the other interesting thing is that these bumble bees are breaking into the flowers through the rooftops, drilling into the nectar stores at the end of the flower tubes. This, I learn, is a habit of short-tongued bees, stealing the stash from the long-tongued bumbles (Bombus hortorum) who usually visit columbine flowers more politely, using the front door.

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Roof Squares 17  Please drop in on Becky – for a very novel roof, and a brilliant round-up of everyone’s roof offerings

Full Frontal Privies And Still Time For The Chelsea Chop

Reading Ali’s recent post at The Mindful Gardener reminded me that I meant to write about the Chelsea Chop. As Ali says, this somewhat alarming sounding garden procedure is more than dead-heading spent flowers to encourage further blooming, or cutting to the roots plants that will have a second flush in late summer (e.g. oriental poppies).

The Chelsea Chop is scheduled for late May – early June around the time of the annual Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show. It involves using sharp shears to cut back later flowering herbaceous perennials by one third to a half. The plant will then grow vigorously, but flower later, so extending the flowering season.

This of course can work very well in large borders as part of a complex growing scheme – and especially in public gardens where the floral show must go on through the summer-into-autumn season. But  in my small garden I would end up with gaps. I was therefore very pleased to hear TV gardener, Monty Don, say you can have the best of both worlds by some judicious cutting into a potential flower clump.

This means reducing only some of the growing stems.  Phlox, Helenium, Golden Rod, Echinacea, Rudbeckia, Sedums and Anthemis  all respond well to this treatment. You can also do the same with mint and other herbs, so keeping some stems for cooking, while letting others flower. The bees will definitely be happy with this arrangement.

Meanwhile in this morning’s garden, the oriental poppies are on the wane, the foxgloves are still flowering, and rose Teasing Georgia is bursting out all over and giving us a lovely bowery vista from the kitchen door. Oh yes, and the pink-mauve shaded aquilegias have given way to yellow ones that look like garden sprites with their little wings:

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Roof Squares