Northern Exposure

Triumphs and failures on a window ledge.

Book: Window Boxes January 30, 2009

Filed under: Flower,Review — northernwindowgardener @ 6:26 pm
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Stephanie Donaldson Window Boxes – Stephanie Donaldson

Cost: Around £10.

The back cover describes this, amongst other things, as:

50 step-by-step planting projects for beautiful window boxes, with over 700 photographs

and for once I’d say the content matches the blurb. At a little short of 100 pages, this hard-back book gives the less experienced gardener a crash course in putting together a wide range of window boxes. Whether it’s for a country cottage or a city pad, there’s a bunch of ideas that will serve as a starting point to growing your own windox box.

It’s written in the style of a very simple cookbook, only the ingredients are plants and there no need to dig out a set of scales or convert metric to imperial measures. There’s a list of materials you’ll need, the plants that will be used then very simple instructions as to how to put it together, all accompanied by pictures of each step. (more…)


Ivy Ivy Ivy – reprise January 29, 2009

Filed under: Cuttings,Indoor,Watering — northernwindowgardener @ 1:00 pm
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Variegated IvyBack in November I posted about trying to propogate some Ivy. It’s fair to say that this turned out to be an epic failure. In hindsight I was a bit ambitious with the way I did it. The internodal cutting technique on the RHS website doesn’t look too difficult but even then I think I managed to screw it up.

I wonder if the soil I used, which is an organic type and looks quite bitty (this is the best way I can find to descibe it), didn’t create a very good growing environment for the cuttings. Other factors might have been my sketchy watering regime – probably not a good thing for fragile cuttings – and that I placed them in a sunny but slightly chilly position.

I guess that a combination of some or all of these factors meant that they were doomed to crinkle up and die rather than take root and flourish. Whatever it was there’s clearly some further education required but it was worth the try and some lessons have been learned.

Never one to admit defeat I’ve taken a few cuttings of an indoor Polka-Dot plant (Hypoestes) which I had let get a bit leggy and out of control. The advice is that these will root easily in water or moist potting mix.

The three cuttings have been living in a water dish for a couple of weeks now and I can happily say that they’re still alive and look to be producing roots. When I get some time in the next fornight I’ll pot them up and see if they continue to thrive. Here’s hoping!


Why Books? January 27, 2009

Filed under: Accessories,Info,Winter — northernwindowgardener @ 1:58 pm

book-gardenThere’s so much information on the web that it makes you wonder why anyone would buy books anymore. But while search engines are great, and following links from other trusted sources is helpful, there’s still a place for books.

With so much specialist help available for free on the net it seems a little surprising to spend money on books about window boxes. I think the main reason is that electronic advice consists of lots of fragments held across different websites and in a variety of places. Being able to sit down with a good book is, at times, much more satisfying and often gives quicker results. There’s also less opportunity to get distracted by minor points of difference between commentators opinions.

I say all this because I’ve surprised myself by starting a small gardening and window box book collection. I like books anyway so that part isn’t so strange, but I also use the web all the time and have found vast amounts of help online. (more…)


Weekend Work January 25, 2009

Filed under: Autumn,Summer,Weather,Winter — northernwindowgardener @ 12:40 pm


Having done a major tidy-up/killing spree before the holidays and taken some time over the last two weekends to remove the last of the autumn plants, it’s just about care and maintenance at the moment. As well as a time to take stock and plan for summer (which feels very far off at the moment)

It’s dark both as I leave during the week and when I get home so the weekend is the only time to have a good look at what’s going on. And sometimes what you see isn’t that pretty.

As the pic (right) shows (more…)


I Quit! January 22, 2009

Filed under: Info — northernwindowgardener @ 3:23 pm
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Hanging Basket OK not really, but after seeing the photo (left) the thought did cross my mind.

After pointing people in the direction of the Guardian’s gardening blog I thought it would only be right (no pun intended!) to balance up the political commentary by seeing if one of the other daily papers ran their own gardening blog too. That’s when I stumbled upon this photo of the ‘world’s largest hanging basket‘ (apparently) in The Telegraph which was installed to advertise a new boutique hotel in London.

While the paper doesn’t have a blog there is quite a useful gardening section. As you might expect it has an in-depth feature on the best Wellingtons and gardening style with Trinny and Susannah. Oh, I shouldn’t laugh … and yet!

As for the basket itself, it’s an impressive site. But the hotel claims it will change its decor in harmony with the seasons so surely this should be a semi-bare mud bath with a couple of ropey cyclamen struggling to give some colour, rather than the overflowing colour-fest they’ve come up with here. I should be a consultant me.


Green Shoots

Filed under: Colour,Flower,Spring,Weather,Winter — northernwindowgardener @ 12:38 am
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Early Early Tulip

There is some doubt about whether they’re appearing in the economy but here’s photographic evidence that they’re definitely in the window box. Who says I can’t be topical!

When I planted the bulbs I got a bit lazy and didn’t write tags for them all. Then I pretty quickly forgot what went where. Then I swapped a couple of boxes around. When spring finally comes it’s going to be something of a surprise about what grows where. Let’s hope it’s a nice surprise though.

These green shoots are from tulips – red I think – and the only ones I properly tagged. The mild Scottish weather has obviously encouraged them and it just goes to show that when all is quiet on the surface, there’s plenty going on down below. So there’s a little bit of encouragement for all of you with proper gardens.

Edit 25th Jan: After seeing the pic on the Guardian’s Gardening Blog (fourth pic down) I’d guess these shoots are the early crocus (crocuses? crocii?) rather than the tulips – which makes a lot more sense.

I know tulips are meant to be quite hardy but I do fear for them when the inevitable freezing temps return probably in February, just as they’re about to try and flower. Not that I’m at all pessimistic, of course.

I may have mentioned previously (you don’t expect me to read as well as write this do you?!)  there are some Winter Acconite, Anemone Blanda and  Crocus Ladykiller. The Acconite and Crocus are supposed to flower around February or March and given the northern latitude, and the propensity of marketing types to stretch the truth, I thought that everything might look nice in April. But now I’m on ‘shoot watch’ and confess to just a little bit of nervous excitement and apprehension at how these fragile plants will fare.


Guardian Garden Blog January 21, 2009

Filed under: Info — northernwindowgardener @ 12:37 am
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I don’t get much time to read newspapers so I tend to get most of my news from their online versions (we can discuss the guilt associated with not contributing to their production some other time). What I miss about this online blitz are the incidental stories that draw you in and get you involved in a topic you didn’t think you were interested in.

However online sites are doing a better job these days of replicating the style of their newsprint versions and consequently I generally end up reading much more than I used to.

So this is how I stumbled upon the new Guardian Garden Blog which now accompanies their sister paper’s Allotment Blog. It’s always nice to be in at the start of something, and although the focus will likely be on traditional gardens there’s bound to be a few pieces of inspiration along the way. Organic tofu and knitted sandals all round!