Friday, March 30, 2007

Bird of Paradise

I have been tracking my blog on Statcounter, and a recurring question being typed is how to care for the Bird of Paradise plant in the UK.
I have done a quick search to find some general information about it..
It is native from South Africa. It likes well lit situations, with at least four hours of sunshine a day.
They flower better when they are rootbound, so usually planted in large pots.
The soil needs to be a mix of peat, and sand so they have a free draining soil. as they will rot if left in soggy soil.
Watering is when the soil is somewhat dry. Let it dry out between watering. They need a 10-10-10 fertiliser plant feed every week in the summer and when flowering.
Watering is the once a week with feeding during the summer (from March to November) , maybe every two weeks during Autumn, and hardly any for winter and spring.
It likes to be warm during the day, and cooler at night.In the mild UK parts it can be brought outside into the garden.
I am growing mine on a south facing windowsill.I think it will have to grow all this year before it might flower next spring.
I loved this image of the plant from an American needlework company.I will give their website address here:


I have done four of the seven nights now.They are limiting my blogging time to when i come home from work.
The orchids have nice green growing tips now, with two showing, and the third slowly peeling off the dormant brown coat.
The only seeds that have germinated are the Nicotiana.There are loads of small green seedlings now in that tray.
I keep looking but nothing else is growing.The bird of paradise plant is looking perky as it settles into its spacious pot.
More posts oon.The snappy gardener is tired out.I will be happier when im back in the land of the living and back to sleeping at night and not working.
I want to buy a few more seeds my next day off.I want some Geraniums because i love their leaves and flowers.I thought i ordered some from Suttons but i never.Must have just thought I want some...

Thursday Retrospective post

I finished work yesterday and walked back in the pouring rain.
The photo shows some of the allotments alongside my fav long alleyway.I love the tree's, hedges, and flowers that spring up on either side.
The buds on dormant tree's are beginning to wake up.The rain drop just resting on the branch before its fall to earth.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Britain in Bloom

A flag in Wakefield mysteriously says In Bloom.The finalists of the 2007 Britain in bloom have been announced.
The Royal Horticultural Society has been behind this using gardening as "an all inclusive campaign to make positive changes to improve local area's.
This can involve floral features, permenant planting, wildflower meadows, planting for nature, growing fruit and vegetables, amongst other things"
Wakefield mass planted display boxes within the city centre, but wants to encourage businesses and schools and the community to participate in making it more attractive.
The council has yet to approve the funds to be made available to buy plants and baskets etc.
As my walk home was an unofficial wakefield in bloom, with the interesting wildflowers i have photographed today just walking back from work.
There was a post recently in Garden Rant about America in Bloom, asking are the British better at the in bloom competitions.
There are winners in the Britain in Bloom competition, medals of Gold, Silver, or Bronze. The judges must clock up some miles traveling around Britain. The categories are based mostly on population from villages to small towns to citys to large cities.
Regional competitions have sprung up as well.Wakefield also enters the Yorkshire in Bloom competitions.
The idea is that all communitys are encouraged to join in, and improve local environments. It has now expanded from floral displays to areas such as cleaning up litter, grafitti, and stopping anti social behaviour.
In one run down inner city estate the making of a small park with tree's and flowers, and benches reduced the anti social behaviour.
The British have always been competitive. Think of the many horticultural competitions there are. To grow the best roses, Dahlias, Orchids,or vegetables, etc for show.
There are prizes. Maybe three people will win the medals. I think you need the prizes to make the competition relevant. To share it with 1200 people defeats the point.
The competitveness encourages the communities to improve themselves, but to compare themselves to other places with similar population sizes or problems.
I still believe in the therapeutic benefits of gardening, and indeed growing anything, planting it. It takes effort, and the good feelings when it has flowered make it worthwhile. It makes people feel good when where they live is brightened up, cleaned up, and time spent making it better.
After 40 years we are still blooming.

Unofficial Wakefield in Bloom

The Walk back from the hospital down the long alley today with camera in hand. The morning was damp, after night time fog. I saw an unofficial in bloom Wakefield..

This pretty flower grows all along the hedge row.It is pretty, lace like and looks like snowflakes I think...

My home made wine making favourites, a dandelion with its petals held up to keep the night time cold off, waiting for the sun to warm it up...

This was the gorgeous purple flowered plant i walked past growing wild beneath some tree's.I dont know what it is but the purple cone like flowers contrast to the green leaves.

This is the purple flower, with the creeping green leaves. Love to know if anybody knows what it is.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Garden Gifts

Once people know you have green fingers you become easier to buy for. I got a book from Fran last night called The Gardeners.
Shirley de Boulay went around the country speaking to famous gardeners about what their own gardens were like at their homes. Roy Lancaster, Alan Titchmarsh, and Percy Thrower are some of the people she interviewed and took photos.

The second garden gift was from the secret santa at xmas.It was from whoever pulled my name from the hat.A cute little gardening set with little trowel and fork.They must have known I was moving into a flat with no garden, but many plants and seed trays.

Do any of you have fav garden gifts that you have been given by friends, family, or strangers?Post a pic or tell me your best ones!


The Sun sets last night on my way to work on the first night shift of seven.I walk along a lovely tree lined alley that has many interesting flowers, tree's, and birds flying into the hedgerows.
The Colours were magic, and i loved the solitary tree silhouetted against the warm colours of the end of the day.
More post soon between working/sleeping.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Crazy things gardening Meme

I was reading a blog post last night with a five point Meme that you are truly mad for gardening.
This is my planting the seeds. I used baking trays to hold the containers. A washing up bowl to make my seed sowing mix.A picture frame has been dismantled so the glass can cover my reluctant Heuchera's!
The link was on Blackswamp girls blog:
I have been thinking what craziness or didication I show to gardening...Here are my five strange habits:
1) Every available surface in the flat with a window has been commandeered for growing plants and seedlings. All the ornaments have been moved into the bedroom to deal with the influx of plants.
2) Any shopping trip out for pots and pans, or a webcam involves a detour to a nursery or shop that has plants/ seeds/ pots/ flowers. Several times i went out for other items and ended up buying some new specimins or ceramic pots.
3) Holidays must be taken to avoid clashing dates with when your prize Dahlia/Orchids etc are due to flower. After all the effort of growing on, nurturing, feeding, you dont want to miss the climax when things flower. I have been on holiday during flowering time and my mind kept wandering how the flowers were doing...
4) I take my camera (on the mobile) everywhere in case I see any gorgeous plants/trees/flowers. You never know when a garden might wow you and its good for your memory afterwards as to what planting combinations you have seen..
5) Using everyday objects for gardening.I guess this is like trash picking. Finding new garden uses for common objects. See about baking trays, washing up bowl, and picture frame glass!
Thats my list. Thanks Blackswamp girl for making me think about a post :)I hope all your gardens are growing.I am back on seven night shifts now untill next monday.

What Came today :)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Primula: Spanish colour :)


Sunday Best

I usually buy plastic pots for growing seedlings on, and flowers. Yesterday I broke from my usual habit and bought three ceramic pots. Two traditional round ones, and a square shaped one. I wanted the planting of the Orchid bulbs to be auspicious. Traditionally the best clothes were worn on a Sunday, so my orchids are in their Sunday best...

There is a LOT of advice on the web about Orchids, their care, and needs. I read some then switched off and did my own thing.

Learning by your own actions works for me. I read about Bletilla Striata being a terrestial orchid (ie it lives in the ground not in the tree's). It is grown in south east Asia and China on alkaline, sandy soils, often with other plants that give it some protection from strong sunlight. It likes damp but not soggy soil.

I have tried to recreate that in the pots, and this morning the green tips look healthier, so i guess the watering yesterday has roused the bulbs from their winter dormancy.

The Amaryllis i grew before, started growing in the dark of the coal shed, with no soil or water surrounding it. That tells me the Bletilla's pointing growing tips were itching to get going, like runners at the start line of a long race.

I think the pots are gorgeous. There is a dark blue one, a light tan coloured one, and a grey/white one. My only other pot was from Nan's house, a living memorial of an easter cactus. It is a Wedgewood China pot, with an oriental design of a Kutani crane, tree's and flowers.

Its Sunday, the last day of my week off work.Alas, back tomorrow but i am fully charged now, and have many plants growing on.

The Nicotiana have germinated in the seed tray in the bedroom windowsill. They miraculously sprang up overnight. No sign of any Heuchera yet. I might buy some from the garden centre if they fail to germinate. I need to be patient though. Im bad at that. Willing everything to grow faster, but they dont. They each have their own time, and speed of growth.
Spring has truly sprung now, although it still feels cold to me. I am waiting on that Allotment still. Fingers, toes, and trowels crossed as Old Roses said to me.
It is the best feeling in the world to be blogging again. The process of writing, taking photos, and taking a gardeners view of the world fills me with the joys of spring. The cycle of the seasons is back in my blood. It connects us back to the earth, and our past. Our passion brings out the best in people, and plants.
As the birds return after the winter so I have return from an unexpected winter layoff. I will try to stay online and posting as often as work allows.

snappy gardener

Saturday, March 24, 2007

How the World Garden grew

Yesterday in the news I found an interesting Orchid/ human interest story.I know people are mad for Orchids and how it drives them to do outrageous things to acquire new specimins, and obcessively try to replicate natural habitat to induce flowering.

An avid orchid hunter travelled to Columbia, one of the most unstable and dangerous places in the world to find plants. He was in a clearing on his knee's looking at a passion flower.

He and his friend heard the click of a semi automatic rifle being cocked. They were taken hostage and kept prisonors for 9 months.

Each day brought more psychological terror, the threat of death, and torture.What kept the orchid hunter going was his diary.

He remembered back home, and his family home, a castle in Kent.He drew the map of the world and began to dream about constructing a large world garden. With each area having native plants. He drew the world garden plan on the centre pages of the diaries.

He even started an orchid collection within the camp to keep him going, to avoid the recurring thought of death by the FARC.

Six years later and the garden is still being developed and opens for the season in April.It is at Lullingstone Castle in Kent.

There is a piece in the Daily Telegraph about it:

and another article here as well

Finally the story again from BBC Kent:

The theme is recurring the dream of the garden saved his life, and in the process rescued his family home. It is becoming a major tourist attraction, hence the media coverage.

I remember reading about when they were kidnapped, so its funny to be reminded of it again, but with the connection of gardening and Orchids!
The picture is the centre two pages of the diary with the original plan of the world garden on it.

Bletilla Striata

The postman nearly brayed the door off this morning at 0830, and delivered a square box with Suttons Seeds taped around it.
Opening it I thought thats good it will be my order.Nestled inside a bag of saw dust are three Bletilla Bulbs.My mail order orchids!!
Alas the other seeds were NOT in there, so whether they are coming seperately I dont know.The instructions say put the bulbs in 4"-5" pots and keep watered.I will do that later.
The wait for the other seeds continues..

Friday, March 23, 2007

Oriental Stargazer

I was too tired last night to post this picture of the Oriental lilly packaging. They have the most beautiful flowers with five pink white petals with dark red spots. I imagine they will drop pollen on you if they touch you. I also read they are scented too.

When i moved into the flat in the bathroom the last people who lived here had left a rectangular glass vase with blue glassy beads, stones, and shells.

Four months later I emptied it, washed the glass clean, and put the lilly bulbs in it.

The lilly bulbs are now planted in soil, five inches down waiting to explode out with colour and fragrance.

I googled for an image of the flowers in bloom. A glass vase with compost in it is not exciting photo.

In the summer I will open the window so they can feel the warm sun, and breeze blowing through their stems.

I had to find something nice to grow on my windowsill. My orchid bulbs and seeds have still not come :(

The plants are slowly taking over the Flat. The ornaments on the windowsills have been pushed aside ready for the indoor greenhouse to expand.

I have no garden outside, but the best you can do is to replicate pieces of it indoors. I still need to work out which direction the windows are facing. Possibly East facing but a large flat blocks the view. The sunlight will be more diffuse.

Here is an image lifted from google of the Oriental Stargazer lilly in all its glory. I hope my bulbs live up to their potential.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Bird of Paradise

Here is what caught my eye in the shop today whilst looking for a plant mister. The gorgeously named bird of paradise.In cold and damp Yorkshire on the first day after spring began any bit of paradise will do.
Plants do their best to put on showy, sweetly scented flowers to attract pollinators. The birds or bee's etc.
Companys who sell plants think the same way as the plants.Bright interesting packaging surrounding a small plant.
I was hooked and it jumped into the basket, and is now on the kitchen windowsill.
I read tonight it originated in South Africa, and was named in honour of Queen Charlotte. Queen Victorias grandmother.
Queen Charlotte loved Botany and helped set up The Botanic gardens at Kew.
This plant was cultivated in around 1773. Her birthplace was Mecklinburg-Strelitz, a duchy in northern Germany.
The Bird of paradise is called Strelitzia, in honour of her.
It has been cultivated all around the world now and is the flower of Los Angeles.
I have repotted it in the pot i photographed earlier.I will catalogue its hopeful growth and flowering.

Red Primrose

A primrose with red jewel like flowers with yellow centres.I wanted something to paint tomorrow.I like still lifes from live flowers and plants.
It says its a semi evergreen Perennial!!Most people throw them away.Maybe the council keeps theirs.
They use massed plantings of these with single coloured flowers.I saw beds of purple flowers, a deep blue flower, and also my fav white flowers held aloft from the leaves.I think a type of Candelabra primrose.

Shopping and Allotment news..

I went out today for a webcam, and came back with a bag of compost, a red primula, a gorgeous bird of paradise, some Asiatic lillies, a pot, a saucer, and a spray plant mister...
I did get the webcam but my computer cd/dvd thingy wont work so i cant get it to run!!!
My amazon books have dispatched so they should come tomorrow.
I got the allotment application form.I was underwhelmed by how small it was.A 2 sided piece of thin A4 paper!!
The list of Allotment sites was arranged by town like Castleford, Knottingley,Wakefield. They were numbered, but only just by street.
Like Barratts road. No clue as to where it was.. I looked up each street on multimap and scrolled through the list to Wakefield west yorkshire.
The rules were : No animals except poultry or pidgeons.
No erecting buildings/structures without permission.
That two thirds of the allotment will be cultivated.
You have to agree to the council allotment tenancy.
I put the three that were closest to work or here. Fingers crossed that i dont wait long. It posted it back this afternoon so i hope it goes smoothly.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Another day, another book

I have ordered the book on the left, after Claire from An Alameda garden suggested it in my Orchid mad frame of mind.

Roll on allotment gardening... before i buy half of!!


Wednesday and no joy from the council yet about my allotment application. I have been researching Carousels for a new painting subject. I did have a fairground book with the history of them.
My seeds have not germinated yet.The Gazanias look green but are developing slowly. Its cold outside, and i still want some dirt to dig.
My seeds have not arrived from Suttons yet. I will have fun planting them. My plan is to get the trays with 24 cells for each type and grow 24 of each..
Busy lizzies, geraniums, etc.
Springtime is in the air, moving towards us slowly. When you are waiting for things time moves very slowly,very snail like.. hence the lifted pic.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Painting and photo

My hospital orchid pic.I painted for two hours last night trying to get the idea of the orchid.

As I have been reading the history of the orchid i saw many naturalists took illustrators along with them to paint the new specimins they saw.

The Northern Orchid growing association had over 700 paintings of prize winning flowers.

I'm not an artist and i have come back to painting late on after taking photos.

I will upload picture that i drew it from.I displayed it on the computer screen for the colours..

Monday, March 19, 2007

Seeds and orchids

Now I am back online I can order things online, lol which is what i have done.

So far I bought the orchid book from and some seeds from Suttons, plus Orchid bulbs.

I have just lifted a digital photo from this Orchid website.Their link is here:

I have ordered a Bletilla Striata, and wanted a photo of the flower to blog on here.It is supposedly an easy orchid to grow.It is an asian terrestial Orchid.I hope to catalogue its progress here.

The seeds I have ordered from Suttons are Impatiens, Geraniums, Snapdragons, Datura, and some wicked Black Viola's.

Expect many posts about these developing and growing on.I might try to give the excess away to work mates. Hils is one who actually grows many annuals, and does flower shows.I might try to tag along with her if she lets me.

She gave me the Nicotiana, and Heuchera amongst other things.

I rang the Council today about getting an allotment, they are posting an application form.The web site says it costs between £30- £60 a year to rent the plot, with a £10 charge if there is water.I hope that the waiting times have been exagerated.Ideally I would get it this week as March is drawing on.

I guess I will have to renovate the plot before any sowing and growing can take place.I am excited at the thought of getting my hands dirty, feel the smell of cloddy earth in my nose, with the birds singing, wind blowing, and clouds rolling overhead.

Can you tell im excited? When im excited I get poetic. Maybe I am a poet,artist, gardener.

My last purchase today was the March edition of Gardeners World magasine. I love the pictures, articles, and even the adverts. Even the smell of the magasine itself freshly printed. Its like a sensory overload for the senses, designed to inspire you, connect you with the readers and writers who are green fingered.

I will read it slowly, rereading it, looking at the photos.Every issue photographs the changing seasons, and reminds us how the seasons change, the jobs to do.

Weed in the grass

I was looking at Christa's blog and found her photographs of weeds growing in her garden.
I was stuck that the second photo on her site looked like my pink tubed flowered weed. It was very low to the ground but the pink flowers stand out in the green/brown colour of the grass.
I think it is a Purple Deadnettle ,similar to the Henbit as well. It seem it has travelled from Europe to America.
The original settlers seem to have brought some weeds with them. I remember some weeds were called white mens footsteps.
Weeds are flowers growing in the wrong place.If you can see beauty in them then leave them for a while.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Snow was falling

... when i walked to the shop tonight after a sleepy day. Two thirteen hour days made me soo tired.
I have got a number to ring in the morning about an allotment.I walk past some on the way upto work.
I could then grow flowers and vegetables.Exercise my green fingers, get the outdoorsy tan from working outside.
I do three 13 hour shifts a week, which leaves four days for gardening, working extra, or just chilling out.
As the snow whipped down, blown by a strong wind there was mist being formed, swirling around the lamp posts.It was cold outside!!
I repotted one of my fat ball cactus.I will photograph my windowsill plants.The gazania seedlings are fattening up now they have extra room to grow their roots.
I will start off seedlings here at the flat before moving them to the allotment.I hope i can get some land to rent from the council.My trials and errors will be recorded here.
In the USA they are called community gardens.Britain has a long history of people growing fruit and veg on them.They were used to great effect during the second world war.
There is now interest from younger people interested in trying them out, hence the growth of waiting lists. The average allotment gardener was elderly and male in my experience.I hope there will be interesting characters, with sage advice for a newby like me, lol.
Hope all your weekends have gone well.The spring air is warming my blood now, and with the stress of work I need the healing vibrations from working the cold, clay earth.

Cascades of liquid sunshine

The yellow flowers of Forsythia, one of the spring flowering shrubs within the hospital grounds.

I have described them before as liquid sunshine, the way the yellow flowers cascade down the branches.

They are like old friends who you see once a year, marking the transition between Winter to springtime.

Random Pics from Saturday

Stormy clouds yesterday, my view from the bench in the alley behind the hospital.

Weeping willow.I think they look so graceful, and sad at the same time.The wind was blowing really hard yesterday..

Taking pictures walking to work.I think this a white flower on a small magnolia tree.The flowers look like white light bulbs before they open with soft silky petals.

Friday, March 16, 2007


The Sun rises behind the tree's in the early frosty morning.I worked all day from 7am to 8.10pm.
Between the chaos of admissions there was time to sit outside on the bench, with the wind blowing, birds singing.
The breaks help ease the stress.The ward noise replaced by the sound of nature.
Am working long day tomorrow before i have sunday off.My Gazania plug plants have perked up in their new pots, and look green and fresh.They are ready to expand their roots and start growing.
I am thinking what else i can grow.I have been looking for windowsill gardens. I love busy lizzies and geraniums, so may go seed shopping on sunday.Wakefield does not have many garden places that i have found.
I hope you are all having good weekends, and that your gardens are coming around from the winter sleep, as we edge into Springtime.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Orchid in lore and legend

After my research the other day I went onto Amazon to look for this book. It cost me £22.50 but is a classic translated from Italien.
It has pictures and illustrations throughout history of Orchids.I will review it when I have finished.I have read two chapters so far and it has been excellent.
The other book was for reference, the gardening encyclopedia.An old RHS edition.I love looking at pictures of similar flowers, shrubs, or tree's.The choice now is bewildering...
My first seed trays are in use now.I have planted Heuchera sioux falls, and some Nicotina.They go alongside the 24 plug plant Gazania tiger stripes..
I now have somethings to grow.Hurray!!

New beginnings

I finally went shopping today for the start of my windowsill garden.I want to grow flowers from seeds on the windowsill.I have three windowsills which may have some windowboxes soon, with plants i have grown.
I bought some compost, plastic pots, and seed trays.I found some plug plant Gazania's which i wanted to grow from last year.
The next thing i might get is some grow houses.Literally just shelves that can grow seedlings on that are open to light.I dont have central heating, just electric heaters.It is warming up so soon I wont need them.
The hardest decision is what to grow?I have seed packets from Castleford which need planting if they are suitable to be grown indoors.
Its not the same as having a proper garden, but we can all improvise.Even the poor of the 17th century used containers as they had no land to grow things on.
I bought a second hand book yesterday from the charity shop Scope, two pounds for a large encyclopedia of plants and flowers..
Springtime must be near, as im itching to start the process of growing flowers from seeds.I will give away the excess plants to friends and workers..

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Monday, March 12, 2007

Orchids again

The image is swiped from Wikipedia, from a German biologist called Von Haekel. I love the use of the Orchids here as art. Indeed his illustrated book was called "Artforms of Nature".
I have ordered a book from Amazon which I will review here when it is delivered.
My Orchid research has been brief.I know there are 800 Genus, and between 25 to 30,000 species of Orchids.
The technical detail I read went over my head a bit.Next stop a botany course lol.I have studied A'level biology already.Maybe a degree in Botany?
These plants exist in every continent except Antartica. They grow in Europe, Asia, America, Latin and south America, Africa, Australasia..
The picture has some of the features of the Orchid I photographed at work yesterday.
I found the Northern England Orchid Society website.
They are so mad looking the plants that its easy to see how they are intoxicating.
The history goes back thousands of years to the ancient greeks and before that, and crosses cultures with mentions in Japenese, and Chinese culture.
Theophrastus wrote about Orchids in 300 BC as he described characteristics of the plants calling them Orchis, which is now the family name; Orchidaceea.
I guess this is not suprising since they are so wide spread. After my recent Dutch Tulip post I read that today Hybrid Orchids are being traded, much like the 17th century stock exchange with tulip bulbs.The flower with colour and maybe scent is the commodity. The intrinsic value is the plant itself, with one exception (vanilla).
Wild Orchids are now protected species too, and the legislation around their import into countries is regulated. Even Hybrids are included in the protection.Its probably hard to tell which are wild species and which are hybrids.
The most suprising discovery for me was that Vanilla is the only Orchid grown for production of a specific product. Mainly in Madagascar, an island Darwin would have loved!
Its mad how one photographed plant could generate all the information from history, to botany, to world conservation, to art.
The Northern England orchid society used to paint the prize winning Orchids, and have a collection of 700 paintings.The shape of the flowers, and the colouration means they really are art forms of nature.Amazing colours!!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Orchid Pics

Aren't the colours Awesome on this pink orchid flower?I can see why people would grow them now.I want some for my windowsill, easy to grow ones though.
I will do some research tomorrow for a new post topic.