About 90% of all annuals, biennials and perennials in my garden have been grown from seed or cuttings. Without a permanent or heated greenhouse, improvisation has been necessary.
The growing season is started in the living room each March! Two inexpensive plastic patio greenhouses are placed by a sunny window for germination and kept at about 20°c. Extra lighting is provided on dull days by a few energy saving greenhouse light bulbs. Using this system, germination and propagation has been surprisingly successful for many plants – but that’s always the easy part! Keeping light levels high and temperatures low is the key once germination has occurred and the living room is much too warm. After pricking out and once seedlings are growing well, the greenhouses are then moved out onto the balcony to grow on in cooler temperatures.
Growing on Outdoors
The solution outside has been to ’join together’ the two plastic patio greenhouses and situate them on the west-facing veranda in March/April every year. Wheels are mounted on both greenhouses so that they may be easily separated and re-joined for accessibility.
The greenhouses are held together with a wrench at the top and given extra polystyrene insulation at the base. With Heath Robinson artificial lighting and a small thermostatically controlled fan-heater for warmth and air circulation it is possible to keep the temperature above 5°c keeping the greenhouse frost-free and providing essential air circulation which, in turn, helps prevent fungal growth and seedling rot.
To begin with or when low night-time temperatures are forecast, an old duvet is thrown over the top at night. This is removed first thing in the morning. In the event of very cold weather being forecast, they are simply wheeled back into the living room!
The aim is to provide seedlings with at least 10 hours of quality light each day and to gradually acclimatise plants throughout the spring before hardening them off and planting out in late May.
It’s hard work, but good fun and extends an otherwise short Norwegian growing season. It’s a great way to get children involved in gardening too.
It would be wonderful to have a larger, properly heated and lit greenhouse – but there is not really an ideal location in this small garden.
I’ve started the 2013 garden season as usual with indoor propagation of summer annuals by a sunny window. Spring is a long way off though and it’s important to enjoy the winter too! Here is a YouTube slide-show of the garden in winter dress;
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I can’t remember ever seeing as many bees in the garden! This is mainly due the large number of foxgloves we have this year thanks in part to the mild winter we had. Without doubt one of our most beautiful weeds, the common foxglove Digitalis purpurea thrives in acidic soils like ours and tolerates partial sunlight to deep shade which makes it a common sight in and around Bergen. As such I have usually allowed them to grow wherever they choose to in this garden, only moving them if they settle too close to the edges of paths.
A biennial, the Common Foxglove produces only a rosette of basal leaves in the first year of growth. During the second year of the plant’s life, a long leafy flower spike anywhere from 50m to well over two meters tall grows displaying tubular flowers from purple to pink and occasionally white, often with spectacular markings inside the flowers.
For many years now I have also grown some of the wonderful hybrids available from seed companies. Since I first tried and fell in love with the ‘Excelsior hybrids’ and ‘Apricot Beauty’ in a former garden well over a decade ago I have grown many others such as ‘Camelot Cream’, ‘Pam’s Choice’, and Foxy which (only just here in Bergen) flowers in its first year from seed. My favorite this year is foxglove ‘Candy Mountain’ which has unique upward facing blooms.
I also have Digitalis Grandiflora in the garden which although less spectacular than some hybrids has the advantage that it is perennial. No surprise that it was a new perennial foxglove that won RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year 2012 and I look forward to trying this one!
- If you have children in the garden, remember foxgloves are poisonous. Educate them.
- Sow them direct from spring until late summer for flowers the following year.
- If you start them in Feb/March under glass or indoors you will get larger/stronger plants that may even flower in their first year.
- Stake the tall ones to avoid them falling over.
- Deadhead them and encourage many new shorter flower spikes. They will flower until the frosts and may even survive for a 3rd year!
- Last year I Chelsea Chopped a few in order to encourage flowering in August when I had the garden open and it worked well!
- Let any interesting or unusual ones self-seed.
Having been away for 5 of the last 6 weekends the garden has had to look after itself more than usual. For the first time in a few years I’ve lost control of the weeding and there are weed seedlings everywhere! These include many Aquilegias, Digitalis, Agastache anisata, Papaver and Violas some of which I will allow to self seed where they choose in order to soften the gardens formal lines. Unfortunately in amongst these ‘friendly’ weeds are plenty of buttercups, dandelions and endless quantities of Chickweed (Stellaria media) which roots as it spreads. Even my worst enemy, Horsetail (Equisetum avense) is making a solid comeback and with Horsetail in your garden you can win many battles but never the war! Some recent photos;
Finally I have a chance to update this blog with a few photos. There has been very little time for the garden itself of late, let alone keeping up with this website! In summary it’s been a very dry June so far and the weather has been mostly sunny! This month is all about Alliums, Aquilegias, Lupins and Foxgloves flowering in that order, all overlapping and fighting for space. The show kicks off with the Alliums and Granny’s bonnets which are favorites of mine. Enjoy the pictures;
So far this May the weather in Bergen has been pretty appalling. In fact the average temperature over the last 30 days has only been 6.2 degrees. My nearest weather station no longer publishes statistics for rainfall, which is a blessing. I really don’t need to know exactly how much it rains here anyway!
Since it’s been too wet to dig or move plants and too cold to risk planting out annuals, work on the changes being made to the East Garden (pictured above) has been slow. So I’ve turned my attention to this blog and my homepage. There is no escaping social media these days unless you never use a computer (there’s a thought). I’ve started by linking this new blog to both a Facebook Page and a Twitter account as well as my YouTube channel. I’ve just discovered Pinterest too where some photos from this site have allready been pinned. Pinterest is excellent and a very useful tool for anyone seeking inspiration for their garden design. A modern ‘Mood Board’.
Despite the delayed start to spring, the flower show will start soon. I’m not referring to the one week Chelsea Flower Show but the non-stop flower show in this garden which will last from the end of May until the frosts! Clematis alpina. ‘Frances Rivis’ pictured above is the first clematis flower this year.
The West Garden continues to evolve. The loss of most of the box hedging to Box Blight during 2010/2011 provided a great opportunity to redesign certain elements of the West Garden. Last autumn at the end of year sales, I bought Yew plants, both Taxus Baccata ‘Repandens’ and the hybrid Taxus m. ‘Densiformis’ to replace the blighted Box and planted them in the freezing November rain by torch light! I have no idea whether this will work. The result will (I hope) be a dense yew parterre with the hedging measuring about 40 x 40cm. Small adjustments have made to the dimensions of the West Garden as a result and only time will tell whether the Yew will provide a successful alternative to the Box.
So far this year there has been far too little time for gardening. The main job has been the annual spring lawn care which is done every April. I do this in spring rather than autumn in Bergen due to the winter damage the lawns endure. (Edit Feb 2013) I have posted a Lawn Care video on my YouTube channel describing this process further. Note; Low cut-rake-spike/aerate-topdress. I only lime if necessary.
Daytime temperatures remain low and we have had night frosts during the last week. On several occasions I have rushed out in the evening to cover roses and vulnerable plants with horticultural fleece. Rather cozier are my four patio greenhouses which are crammed with annuals such as Cosmos, Lavatera, Poppies and Sweet peas as well as some early strawberries and Sugar Snaps which the children love!
The slide show below shows the rather battered (but well on the way to recovery) West Garden and lawn during March/April 2012.
Welcome to engelskhage.com. This blog will tell the story of a small family garden owned and gardened by an English/Norwegian family. It belongs to an end-terrace house situated in the suburbs of Bergen, Norway.
- A Small English Garden in Norway