Monthly Archives: January 2016

Craspedia For The Cutting Patch.

Craspedia...Photo credit: Period Living  Magazine.
Craspedia…Photo credit: Period Living Magazine.

Higgledy Flower School 2016. #30. Craspedia.

Just a little bit bonkers. It has 1972 written all over it…Craspedia will be all the rage on the season of 2016…oh yes indeedy. These bright yellow spheres on long straight stems are native to Australia but grow remarkably well in the UK

*I start mine in modules of good quality peat free compost at the beginning of April…though I would be happy to sow right into May.

Craspedia and chums...
Craspedia and chums…

*Cover the seeds of Craspedia very lightly and keep the compost moist through germination, which takes about two or three weeks.

Craspedia Seedlings...about three weeks old...
Craspedia Seedlings…about three weeks old…I no longer use these sort of trays as the roots get disturbed when transplanting…I prefer three inch square pots. …it also looks like I was using cheap and nasty compost for this lot…dear dear…come on Higgers…sort it out!

*When the plants are about 6 weeks old they can be hardened off and planted outside…but check the forecast for frost…if there is the chance of a frost just hold off. It does no harm to let the plants stay in their pots a little longer.

*Space to about a hand span apart. I overcrowded mine last year with some towering Rudbeckia and consequently I had  smaller plants.

*Most growers treat it as a half hardy annual…however Craspedia is not all that tender. If you live in a mild climate then it may well make it through the winter. Or you could leave a cloche over it perhaps.

Craspedia with...well...lots of stuff.
Craspedia with…well…lots of stuff.

*Craspedia is as I mentioned, native to Australia, where they call it ‘Billy Buttons’…which is of course very silly…so please let us not adopt our antipodean cousin’s ideas on the matter. I think Craspedia ‘Wonky In The Conk’ is much more suited…

I sell Craspedia at £1.95 for 100ish seeds.

Kind regards

Benjamin Higgledy.

Guest Post From Rosemary McKerrell. Growing annuals and …….Butterflies :

A big thank you to Rosemary McKerrell for taking to time to pen this for Higgledy and for sharing her stunning photographs…all rather splendid….I’m sure you’ll agree.

GARDENING WITH WILDLIFE:

Growing annuals and …….Butterflies :

“May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun and find your shoulder to light upon. To bring you luck, happiness and riches today and beyond.”

An Irish blessing.

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Luis Ricardo Falero, 1888.

In the Cutting Patch;

We all love to see beautiful butterflies fluttering around our flowers and it’s good to know that they aren’t just decorative- they are also good pollinators, so we should do everything we can to encourage them into our gardens. Loads of annuals will attract butterflies. In general they prefer large flower heads like Calendula and Rudbeckia on which they can spread their wings and balance while they collect nectar using a long proboscis to reach deep into the flower. The pollen gets collected on their legs and abdomens and then transferred to the next flower head they visit.

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In the laboratory:

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Amazing pic showing a butterfly’s eye and coiled up proboscis

Butterflies have compound eyes made up of an astonishing 17000 individual light receptors each with their own microscopic lenses. These work in unison to produce a mosaic view of the scene around them which means that they can see through pretty much 360 degreesno wonder it’s hard to sneak up on them! It is said that butterflies have even better colour perception than bees and that they can see red (apparently bees cannot- which is probably a good thing as a “Bee who has seen red” could be quite a scary beast!)

Both bees and butterflies also see a very different pattern of markings on flowers than we do because they are very sensitive to ultraviolet light and scientists have shown that markings which are invisible to us are visible in UV and function as targets or runways.

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Photographs by Andrew Davidhaz / Rochester Institute of Technology

http://harvardmagazine.com/2008/11/animals-speak-color

Rudbeckia under normal light looks yellow to us.

The black-and-white image shows the same flower under UV light and reveals patterns which have probably evolved to attract insects that can see images in the UV part of the spectrum and to direct them to the nectar producing parts of the plant..

What to grow for a butterfly rich garden:

There are many flowers in the Higgledy collections which will attract butterflies. Some of their favourite annuals include cornflowers, marigolds, rudbeckias, corncockle, cosmos, tithonia and scabious and these will certainly encourage butterflies to your cutting patch throughout late spring and summer.

Biennials such as Sweet William, Wallflower, Sweet rocket and Honesty are also great for butterflies. They flower earlier and that makes them really valuable sources of nectar in early spring.

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Red admiral and a Meadow brown enjoying the Rudbeckias

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Cornflowers are a favourite for butterflies

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Cabbage white on Corncockle.

Cabbage whites are definitely not so welcome in the vegetable plot and their caterpillars do love nasturtiums but in my cutting patch the only plant to suffer caterpillar attack so far has been hesperis which is related to cabbages- so should have seen that coming!

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Peacock visiting Feverfew

To entice even more butterflies ;

Some other plants which will help to encourage the butterflies to your garden include Buddleia (the clue is in its common name of “butterfly bush”!) blackberry, ivy, lavender, sedum, oregano and thyme.

 

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Peacock on buddleia

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Speckled wood on bramble.

All these flowers will attract many adult butterflies but most are unsuitable as food plants for the larvae which often have a narrow range of suitable host plants. If you really want to encourage butterflies try letting some of these plants grow in part of your garden as well. Larval food plants are often wild plants and of these, stinging nettles grow frighteningly easily here!- but they do potentially attract a number of species including Peacock, Red Admiral, Comma and Small Tortoiseshell. They need to be grown in a sunny position to encourage egg laying and even then there is no guarantee that the adult butterflies will choose them as a nursery – but it is very exciting if you are lucky enough to have peacock or tortoiseshell caterpillars appearing in your nettle patch.

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Peacock butterfly caterpillars on nettles in 2014

If you can bear to leave some thistles, the Painted Lady lays eggs on welted thistle and creeping thistle.

Any brassicas will attract Large Cabbage White and Small Cabbage White butterflies and as I found to my cost Hesperis are brassicas and one or two plants did get munched last year.

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Hesperis shredded by cabbage white caterpillars in 2015

Cabbage white caterpillars also love nasturtiums so at the first sign check under the leaves for clutches of yellow eggs and rub them off before they can hatch and start chomping their way through your plants.

A number of meadow grasses are used by Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Marbled White, Ringlet, Small Heath, and various Skippers.

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Ringlet butterflies in wild flower meadow

If you have Garlic mustard, honesty and lady’s smock in your garden you may attract Orange-Tip and Green-Veined White butterflies. And in my garden both these species seem to like to visit sweet rocket.

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Green veined white

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Female orange tip

And finally:

Many of the butterfly myths throughout the world relate butterflies to the soul; with the caterpillar representing earthly life, the chrysalis or cocoon death, and the full-grown butterfly the freedom of the spirit or soul.

Each year in Mexico millions of Monarch butterflies return to the forests of the Sierra Madre hills above the village of Angangueo between October 31 to November 2 when the Christian holy days of All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints Day and All Souls Day are celebrated collectively as “The Day of the Dead”.

Perhaps not surprisingly the butterflies are seen as the souls of the deceased returning to earth for a brief visit.

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In Greek mythology Psyche was goddess of the soul (in ancient Greek the word for both soul and butterfly is “psyche”) and she is generally depicted with butterfly wings. Here she is being abducted by Eros the God of love and I have to say she doesn’t look that unhappy about it.
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The Abduction of Psyche by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

And just in case those pesky cabbage whites decide to target your nasturtiums remember that in Ireland in the 1600s it was against the law to kill to kill a white butterfly as it was considered to be the soul of a child…. But I don’t think that should stop you checking for eggs and picking off those greedy caterpillars!

Rosie McKerrell.

 

Growing An Edible Flower Garden.

BeFunky Collage22

“Edible flowers add colour, flavour and texture to savoury and sweet dishes, as well as cordials, oils and butters. A wide range of annuals and perennial edible flowers can be grown in the garden from early spring to late autumn.” RHS

*First off the bat, you must be absolutely sure you have identified your flowers correctly before you start stuffing them down your cake hole…if in doubt, don’t.

*Edible flowers are best harvested first thing in the morning after the dew has dried off.

*Generally, only the petals are used, so discard stamens, pistil and calyx of large flowers.

Higgledy Flower School 2016. #29. Edible Annual Flowers To Grow In A Dedicated Patch.

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*Borage

*Nasturtium

*Malope trifda ‘Vulcan’

*Dill ‘Mammoth’

*Suflower ‘Valentine’

The Higgledy Garden Edible Flower Collection. 10 varieties. 20% off. Free shipping. …well…I had to try and sell you something didn’t I?!

*Sunflower ‘Earthwalker’

*Calendula ‘Art Shades’

*Calendula ‘Indian Prince’

*Cornflower ‘Blue Ball’

*Cornflower ‘Black Ball’

BeFunky Collage24

 

 

You will find details of how to grow all of these beauties (It’s very straight forward) in the Higgledy Flower School 2016. The school is a collection of free tutorials through the late winter and ‘real time’ growing from the 1st April.

Kind regards

Benjamin Higgledy

 

 

Agrostemma githago. Corncockle For The Cutting Garden.

 

Corncockles are super easy to grow and are very handsome indeed.
Corncockles are super easy to grow and are very handsome beasties indeed.

Higgledy Flower School 2016. #28. Corncockle.

Corncockle has had a lot of bad press recently for its toxicity. Yes it is toxic but we live among thousands of toxic plants with little or no trouble. I have grown and handled Corncockle for many years without any issue.

Here’s what Patrick Barkham has to say on the issue in The Guardian:

“This kerfuffle is a huge overreaction, given that many of our most popular garden plants are poisonous, including daffodils, laurel, ivy, yew, hellebores, lupins and particularly foxgloves. In fact, we have lived alongside poisonous plants for centuries, and many toxic species are particularly useful to medicine and are used in life-saving drugs. Even parts of plants we eat, such as potatoes, are toxic.

First Batch Of Corncockle (Autumn Sown)
First Batch Of Corncockle (Autumn Sown) with Knautia and a lone Eschscholzia ‘Ivory Castle’.

“It’s like the Jerry Maguire show-me-the-money test – for me, it’s show me the bodies,” says John Robertson, author of a guide to poisonous plants memorably called Is That Cat Dead? “If you’re going to say a plant is really dangerous, show me the dead people.”

According to Robertson, there are “absolutely no records” of the corncockle – also known as “bastard nigella” – doing anyone any serious harm. “It is only poisonous if you eat it and there’s absolutely nothing about the corncockle that’s going to encourage you to eat it.”

Corncockle is a great addition to the cutting patch and its super simple to grow.

Top Tips For Growing Corncockle From Seed.

Corncockle1-1024x680

 

*Being a Hardy Annual it can be sown in spring or late summer/early August.

*If I’m sowing directly into the soil I sow (as always) in straight rows. I make my first Corncockle sowing outside in mid April, then perhaps another in May. I make a further sowing at the end of August.

*If you prefer to start your seeds off in pots…and who can blame you…you can make your first sowing at the beginning of April and then plant out after the frosts.

*Space or thin plants to about a foot apart. I no longer try and transplant seedlings that have been germinated outside…they seem to throw their corncockle-ly toys out of the cot and keel over.

*Your beds should be weed free and free draining.

*If your cut flower patch is exposed then you should offer some support for the plants as they can snap at the base in a strong wind. These plants would often thrive in cornfields where the corn would support them.

*Corncockle will provide you with heaps of flowers…and they will keep producing when you cut them. Their colour lends them to be shown with cool greens like ‘Bupleurum’ and Nicotiana ‘Lime Green’.

It has been suggested that the Vikings brought over Corncockle seeds as a contaminant in grain supplies. Funny to think this warmongering, vicious race left us with pretty pink flowers and the Volvo…

Naturally yours truly will try his hardest to flog you a packet of Corncockle seeds…£1.75 for 100ish seeds.

Have fun!

Kindest regards

Benjamin Higgledy.

If you have any questions then please ask away…you can find me onTwitter or Facebook.Should you wish you can join ‘Club Higgledy’ (see the right hand side bar).

 

Cleome From Seed.

Thanks to Rosie McKerrell for this pic of her 'Violet Queen' Cleome.
Thanks to Rosie McKerrell for this pic of her ‘Violet Queen’ Cleome.

Higgledy Flower School 2016. #27. Cleome.

Cleome is a contentious beastie. Some growers get offended by its little thorns. Others say it has an unpleasant niff about it. I can’t say that I notice these characteristics to any degree and Cleome is more than welcome to hang out in my cutting patch.

However, it must be said that Cleome can be erratic to germinate. There seems to be two conflicting theories on how best to germinate the seeds. The first camp says ‘sow early’ as the seeds like fluctuating temperatures to get their Mojo wiggling into life. The second camp says ‘sow late’, as the seeds need good strong light levels to strut their funky chicken.

Another shot from Rosie...Cleome with a host of other goodies in a mixed cutting bed.
Another shot from Rosie…Cleome with a host of other goodies in a mixed cutting bed.

I have tried both and have had erratic germination with both, but I have always ended up with more than enough plants for my garden.

Being late flowering, Cleomes have a vital part to play in extending the productivity of your cut flower patch…it’s true to say they are not everyone’s cup of tea…but if you have never grown them I should give them a go and see for yourself. They will flower right up until they get duffed up by a meaty frost…usually in early November.

These quirky plants are native to Central America, I have it on good authority (Dodgy Roger, down at the beach bar) that the name Cleome come from the Greek kleio meaning ‘to shut’…which may relate to it’s peculiar petals which only fully open at sundown. Equally it could be Roger spouting rubbish after five pints of Betty Stogs.

How To Grow Cleome From Seed.

Love this pic of Cleome 'Violet Queen' from Aideen (I've lost your twitter name Aideen...sorry!)
Love this pic of Cleome ‘Violet Queen’ from Aideen (I’ve lost your twitter name Aideen…sorry!)

*I put my seeds in the fridge for a week before sowing…my plan is I am fooling the critters into thinking its winter…I have no idea if this makes any difference whatsoever but it makes me feel clever and crafty.

*Being half hardy your cleome seeds need to sown undercover. I sow my first batch in mid March and the second in late April.

*I sow in three inch square pots rather than on to an open seed tray, to avoid disturbing their roots when I plant them out.

*They need light to germinate…so just firm down into good potting compost…don’t bury the blighters. Like most seeds they need to be kept damp…either water from the bottom or water gently from the top…preferably with a mister. Some folk put the seed trays in a clear plastic bag to help keep them moist.

Cleome Seedling.
Cleome Seedling.

*Fluctuating temperatures will also assist the germination of Cleome seeds…cold nights and warm greenhouse days…or a window sill in the home and a few nights out side in the cold.

*You will get heaps of seeds in the Higgledy packet…so don’t skimp…sow quite thickly.

Link: Higgledy Flower School 2016 Hub Page.

*They must not be planted out until all chances of frost have disappeared…mid May and beyond is good.

*Cleome prefer a deep fertile soil…so break up the ground and add some juicy compost to keep everyone happy.

Mina lobata among some other nutters.
Mina lobata among some other nutters. Karen Wells pic.

*Pinch them out if you want bushier plants.

*I space mine to just over a foot apart.

*In exposed areas they made need staking.

Cleome Seeds.
Cleome Seeds.

*Give them LOTS of time to germinate…some of mine took up to six weeks to germinate this year.

This year I shall be stocking ‘Violet Queen’, the colour is very intense and I’ve found her to be most reliable.

I sell ‘Violet Queen’ at £1.95 for 200ish seeds.

Have fun!

Kind regards

Benjamin Higgledy.

If you have any questions then please ask away…you can find me onTwitter or Facebook.Should you wish you can join ‘Club Higgledy’ (see the right hand side bar).