Friday, May 31, 2013

May 31, 2013 in the Garden

Here is how the garden looks today

garlic, potatoes, peas, red mizuna, bok choy, broccoli

Bronze Fennel

Perennials Blooming Now

Bearded Irises

Salvia, Nepita, Allium (in bud), Peony, Petunia, Foxgloves, Verbascum, Oriental Poppy (in bud)

Glorious Peonies began opening today

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Joy - Summer Bird Spottings Today

This morning I saw an Oriole looking for nesting material in the garden. It was pulling on the jute cord strung as a support for the peas and on last year's hops stems still clinging to the fence. I was not able to see where he was headed with the material, but hopefully I will find out tomorrow.

On Sunday morning I put out two hummingbird feeders hoping to entice the birds to stay here for the summer months. Last year I put the feeders out in mid June and had three regular visitors. This evening, while washing dishes and looking out the window, I saw the first hummingbird of the season! Hopefully they will tour the gardens and decide to make their home here again this year.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Bees Buzzing Around Woad Flowers

I am really impressed by the number of bees (and different types) that are visiting these woad flowers. This is new to me, as I have not grown these plants before.

The bees visiting today are small and move quickly, so it is difficult to get a good enough look to identify them.

Here are a few photos I was able to take:

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Isatis tinctoria - Dyer's Woad

Isatis tinctoria is the botanical name for Woad, a plant known mostly for its use as a blue dye. Woad is a member of the cruciform or brassica family, as is broccoli, broccoli-rabe, mustards, and Dame's Rocket (Hesperis matronalis) to name a few.

I planted woad from seed last year intending to use it to dye cotton fabric which I would later turn into paper. I had not read the full instructions on the process before I purchased and sowed the seeds. It is a complex process to create a blue dye from the leaves, therefore I did not attempt it last summer. According to the book, Wild Colour, the leaves will produce pink or tan color when processed the usual way other plants are to extract color. The seeds will produce a third set of color: mauve, grayish green, grey.

Traditional advice regarding the cultivation of woad is to dig it up in the fall after the first year of planting or leave it if you want to save some seeds the following year. It is recommended to get rid of it after it has served its purpose - that is producing leaves in the first year for a blue dye. The reason for this is if allowed to go to seed, it will become a pervasive weed. (Having mustards and Dame's Rocket sprouting up all over each year, I can believe this!)

 I allowed the plants to stay, thinking I might try the seeds as a dye. I'm so glad I kept them! They quickly began growing in early spring (being a brassica, it loves cool weather). About two weeks ago flower buds appeared and now has been in bloom for a week. The cloud of chartreuse flowers is gorgeous! Standing close, you can smell its delightful faint fragrance.

Being a brassica, it is a good pollinator plant, attractive to an assortment of bees and butterflies as well as a host plant for the larva of cabbage whites.

Doing some research, I found that woad contains anti-cancer and anti-viral properties. Sounds like a plant that deserves more use and exposure to me!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Last Frost Should Be Past - Time to Plant the Tomatoes!

Spent most of today planting, sowing, transplanting, weeding and watering. Here's a summary:

  • transplanted mustard seedling "volunteers" from the asparagus bed to the iris/cut flower bed. I like the contrast of leaf colors.

  • planted snapdragons in the cut flower bed.
  • planted orange marigolds in the natural dyes section of the hortus conclusus as well as around the broccoli/brussels sprouts and lettuce seedlings.

  • transplanted 18 tomato plants (3 of 6 varieties) I started from seed. Covered them with my homemade "cloches" to keep them warm and growing (they had been in a cold frame). 

The lettuces and broccoli plants are maturing nicely.

I really like how there are plants ready to bloom as others begin to fade. Here the tulips are waning, the alpine strawberries are in bloom and chive blossoms are about to burst. The butterflies and bees appreciate this succession planting too!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Monthly Garden Photos - May

 The house has windows with fixed screens so we take them out in autumn to allow more sunlight to stream in during the winter months. The first few months of these monthly shots were taken from an upstairs window before the screen was put in for the spring/summer. This month I have had to shift positions a bit but you should still be able to see the comparisons.

Hortus Conclusus and the Family Pond 
View from Kitchen Window - no screen

outside Hortus Conclusus facing South
Tulips, lettuces, cilantro and broccoli growing to

Outside Wisteria Studios, My Papermaking Workshop
 Some progress. Moved the bench outside. All of the herbs and Creeping Jenny survived. Not sure if you can see them all growing yet. The Wisteria is beginning to leaf out.
Morning Glory seeds were sown in the pots and will cover the wall as the season progresses. Geraniums, petunias and other colorful annuals will be purchased and planted this week.

Birdbath in the Perennial Border

The Privet hedge has leafed out. The perennials are getting larger.

View of Perennial Border with Wisteria Studios and my husband's workshop in the background

Friday, May 3, 2013

Cicely Mary Barker's Bluebell Fairy

The Bluebell Fairy

Why this post? Read here.


File:Queen Charlotte's Cottage, Kew Gardens - - 40670.jpg

The flower selected for the month of May for the blog, 12 Months in View, is the bluebell. Researching this topic, I found several delightful short documentaries about the bluebell and its place in British history. I decided to link to this website instead of writing an article.