Sunday, 12 April 2015

29 varieties of heather

Heather slope
It's done. A total of 282 heather plants are in after a week of back-breaking labour (and crawling into bed by 21.30). After coming across a broken toilet seat, a flush handle and a smashed toilet bowl, we concluded that the rubble was from an old extension housing the toilet. Luckily our farmer neighbour is about to crush a whole lot of rubble to use as road in-fill so we could add our rubble (minus the asbestos) to the pile.

View with new stone 'wall'
We had to use a lot of stone to build up the slope again. Fortunately, it was all provided by the ground around the garden. We might actually use up all of our stones!

But before any planting took place, we had to exclude the chickens. While they are good pest and weed control, they also have the unfortunate habit of scratching the hell out of the soil and destroying any young plants in the process. It's quite a challenge to do gardening with hens around and since we have several plans for the top paddock this year (wild flower meadow strip, tea herb garden), we had to contain the poor chucks in a quarter of an acre.

Hens, keep out
This is good news for those of our visitors afear'd of cockerel attack. Russell is now safely contained and can be easily avoided.

The heathers come in all shapes and forms, some flowering in winter and spring, others in summer and still others in autumn. For the record the varieties are: Erica carnea (Winter Sun, Ann Sparkes), Erica x darleyensis (Ghost Hills, Mary Helen, Jack H Brummage, J W Porter, Furzey, Ada S Collings) Erica erigena (W T Rackliff), Daboeica cantabrica (Alba Globosa, William Buchanan Gold), Erica x stuartii (Irish Lemon), Erica cinerea (Autropurpurea, White Dale, Mrs E A Mitchell, Eden Valley, Pentreath), Erica tetralix (Pink Star), Erica vagans (Valerie Proudley), Calluna vulgaris (County Wicklow, Golden Carpet, Guinea Gold, Salmon Leap, Glenfiddich, Silver Knight, White Lawn, Allegro, Caerketton White, Alex Warwick - a cultivar from St Kilda originally).

For those who think heather is plain, I include a couple of close-ups:

Spring-flowering heather
Erica vagans Valerie Proudley
I especially like the varieties with golden foliage.

It will take a couple of years for the plants to fill in and form a carpet and in the meantime we'll have a struggle to keep the ground elder out. We'll mulch around the plants when the grass gets cut next time, to help with that and to keep the moisture in.

Other than that, I've started on the spring weeding in the upper part of the garden:

The sweetpeas are out
Herb pond with thyme, oregano, Vietnamese coriander, parsley, coriander and nasturtiums
Strawberry pond ready for action
In the conservatory space is at a premium. I need to catch up with potting and sowing. The tomatoes and brassica desperately need to be potted up, a job for this afternoon. I managed to sow the squashes yesterday, despite the fatigue from the rock and rubble lifting.

Tomatoes and cucumbers
In the kitchen we're eating spring cabbage almost every day. I'm turning into quite a big fan of the stuff. My favourite way of preparing it at the moment: blanch and stir-fry in sesame oil, as part of egg-fried rice. No doubt, my spring cabbage recipe list will expand exponentially as it will be awhile before anything else but salad leaves is ready. Our maincrop potatoes are still storing well and it looks like we might just make it on the old ones until the first earlies become available.

OK, time to commune with the tomatoes!

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