Northern Exposure

Triumphs and failures on a window ledge.

Weather Woes December 11, 2008

Filed under: Autumn,Colour,Flower,Summer,Weather,Winter — northernwindowgardener @ 1:03 pm
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Frosty Cyclamen

Frosty Cyclamen

The last week has been a steep learning curve in just what sub-zero temperatures will do to plants. Lobelia that seemed hardy enough to be lush and green well into November have been well and truly stopped in their tracks. And anything that was planted late and was still establishing itself can forget about getting any further.

The biggest disappointment has been how the frost has hurt the Cyclamen. As the sorry specimens on the right show the delicate flowers have borne the brunt of the frost.

It’s not all bad news as some Cyclamen have soldiered on and there’s still a bit of colour around the place. The Winter Pansies were probably saved for now when they were brought inside for a couple of days during the first really deep frosts. Hopefully that gave them just enough time to keep flowering and we’ll see a burst of colour in the next few days. It’s probably too much to hope for them lasting for any length of time though given that they were planted a little late in the season.

The lesson seems to be then to get the Autumn and Winter plants in the boxes earlier and give them a chance to really establish themselves before the first frosts. Those winter plants that have been in since late August are the ones that are surviving the best. So next year the choice is either to let the Summer display keep going and have a relatively colourless Winter, or to dig things up even when they still look good, and give the Autumn and Winter plants a chance to thrive. Can’t see that being an easy choice to make!


Frost! December 3, 2008

Filed under: Watering,Weather,Winter — northernwindowgardener @ 1:59 pm
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Well now I know the destructive power of a hard frost! The last couple of weeks have had a few cold nights and yet everything seemed to be handling the lower temperatures quite well. Naively I thought that this was about as bad as it would get. How wrong was I?

Since Saturday it’s been seriously sub-zero, both at night and during long parts of the day. Throw in a lack of direct sunlight and short northern days and you get severely frozen soil. I hadn’t really noticed how bad it had got until I thought about doing a little watering on Monday morning.

It got so bad that night that I brought Chris, which has a selection of Winter Pansies that were in the cusp of flowering, into the house to thaw the soil out. The rest of the cast are braving the temperatures and I’ll learn from how they react but I’m determined to protect these Pansies as, aside from the Cyclamen, they are the only colour in the garden at the moment.

I’ve also learned a new term: Frost Heave – which is where the frost causes plants to be pushed out of the soil. It looks like most of the cyclamen have been subject to this albeit in a limited form. When the real cold snap breaks I’ll be doing a quick damage list and seeing what has made it through the first test of Winter.


Autumn Planting – Spring Flowers 2 December 2, 2008

Filed under: Autumn,Colour,Flower,Spring,Winter — northernwindowgardener @ 2:00 pm
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Continuing the tale of picking Spring bulbs to plant from a couple of days ago.

After doing the usual methodical selection process then changing my mind another half dozen times I finally bought a range of bulbs and walked out, dazed and confused, from the garden centre.

It’s at times like these that the lack of experience really comes home. The instructions on the packets seem fairly straightforward – plant x inches deep and x inches apart – but then those measurements don’t seem realistic in a small container where you’re looking for a really over-the-top display.

In all the excitement to plant them I managed to get a bit forgetful about what was planted where. I know there are Crocus and dwarf Tulip in a couple of the boxes and I think I also put Anemone into another box. I distinctly remember having to soak some of the small bulbs in water for a few hours and then they got planted too. I did remember to write on some plastic tags and slip them into the side of the planter but that probably only accounts for around half the bulbs that were planted.

So come Spring there are likely to be a few surprises if the bulbs actually manage to survive the Winter chill and push their way through. That surprise is something to look forward to while I try to keep everything else looking good over the next couple of months.

Photo courtesy of Olibac’s Flickr photostream.


Weekend Work December 1, 2008

Filed under: Autumn,Weather,Winter — northernwindowgardener @ 12:17 pm
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HollingAfter spending quite a bit of time last weekend tidying things up and generally pruning every last bit of brown foliage back to the root there wasn’t much to do this weekend. As you can see from the picture the Cyclamen continue to flower and bring some colour to the late Autumn days. These ones look a bit scrappy and perhaps next year they’ll have some companions mixed in to fill the space. Right now though it feels too late to plant anything and expect it to grow. The garden centres around here are also a bit short of any instant fix so they’ll stay like this into Winter and we’ll see how they cope.

I’m still not sure that I didn’t go too far last week with the trimming as nothing seems to have changed or grown since. It’s only a week though and weather wise it was quite mixed and generally pretty cold so it’s unlikely that there would be great amounts of growth. I’m a bit worried about a couple of the pansies though which my indelicate touch might have badly affected. Fingers crossed that they’ll come back but the initial signs don’t look promising.

On the positive side the first flowers on the winter pansies are slowly unfurling and although they look yellow at the moment I’m positive they will be orange once they open up. As pretty as the cyclamen are it’ll be nice to see some other flowers to provide a bit of contrast.

The weekend heralded the first deep frosts of the season with Saturday in particular having an all day freezing fog which left the trees sparkling in the filtered light. It’ll be interesting to see what affect that has on the boxes as this is the longest period of really cold and sub-zero temperatures that I’ve seen while gardening. I guess I’ll discover how hardy those cyclamen and winter pansies really are.