As seen at Tyntesfield, near Bristol
They’re a little bit odd. I’ve grown yellow patty pans before: and they were like miniature flying saucers, about 8-10″ across and beautifully scalloped at the edges.
These are not.
They reach this size – about 4″ across – make a half-hearted attempt at the scallop thing and then go rotten.
I shouldn’t complain really: they’re very prolific as you can see, so make up for lack of size with quantity. They’re nice and firm (before they go soft) and tasty: I cut them up skins and all and use them just like courgettes.
But yellow patty pans they aren’t. I now think I got a duff batch of seed.
This happens more often than you’d think. One year I bought three plug plants which were meant to be melons: two of them were, the third turned out to be a pumpkin. You can’t actually tell the difference just by looking at the seedlings: it was when the flowers appeared that the truth was out, but by then it was a massive behemoth bidding for a greenhouse takeover.
I planted three hydrangeas this spring in a client’s garden which were meant to be ‘Mariesii Perfecta’ – a seductive smokey-grey-blue lacecap so beautiful you can’t quite believe it’s real.
What has flowered is a horrid candy-pink half-mophead, half-lacecap which looks like a reject from a failed hydrangea breeding experiment. It’s dreadful and rather embarrassing since I had talked the owner into getting ‘Mariesii Perfecta’ instead of the ‘Annabelle’ she had originally suggested.
The list goes on: limp ‘Lollo Rossa’ lettuces in a washed-out half-green instead of the crisply ruffled burgundy purple they’re meant to be; winter super-hardy supposedly January King cabbages which are not properly savoyed and worse, mature and over by September; ‘Electric’ onions more pink than red.
I don’t know whether seed companies are getting complacent: perhaps they’re assuming we don’t know enough about our varieties (or care, perhaps) to be able to tell the difference.
Or maybe it’s us: I haven’t yet complained about the hydrangeas, though I know I should have my money back or perhaps three Annabelles to replace them. And if I did complain at least the plant producers would know I actually noticed and cared.
Something is undeniably a little amiss with the supply chain here, and it worries me: if you don’t get the right thing in your seed packet (or plug plant tray) and you don’t know, then you’ll always have a skewed idea of what home-grown vegetables (or plants in general) should be like. It matters for future breeding, as muddied gene pools are not good for predictable results. And it matters just because when I buy a certain type of lettuce I have chosen it for the properties it’s supposed to have – not some diluted hybrid mishmash.
Heeelp….!! I’m running out of room…
As always in April, there’s a traffic jam in my greenhouse. Outside, the cold frame is jam-packed with evicted seedlings but still they keep coming, as April is second only to March in terms of how much needs sowing yet you’ve still got the tender plants sheltering and taking up space, to say nothing of last month’s seedlings taking their time over growing big enough to go outside in their turn.
Still, so far, so good and there are lots of promising little things going on.
Uchiki Kuri squash seedlings, for instance. Aren’t these lovely fat little things? I do think they’re gorgeous. They’re getting in urgent need of potting on – amazing how quickly five fat squash seedlings can fill a 10cm pot.
It took me a long time to realise that Uchiki Kuri were the same thing as Potimarron – a French squash I’ve grown before and absolutely loved. They taste of chestnuts – a smoky, savoury flavour quite different from ordinary squash. I’m growing these just to make sure that they really are the same thing and not some Japanese upstart imitator (with apologies to the Japanese, who thought this was their heirloom squash and have no doubt been cross with the French ever since).
I have had great success overwintering my little collection of scented-leaved pelargoniums this year: this one is P. quercifolium, with pretty leaves the shape of oak leaves. I took quite a lot of cuttings this spring too as I was potting the parents on and trimming them back in their start-the-season haircut: and most of them have taken, so it’s going to be a bit of a scented-leaved pellies summer. These are going outside to harden off just as soon as there’s space in the cold frame…
And finally I thought it might give you a laugh to see the tip that passes for my potting bench, in one corner of the greenhouse taking up valuable room when actually it ought to be in the shed (but we didn’t get around to building it this winter).
In case you were wondering, the peanut butter is for trapping mice (I keep the last scrapings from our breakfast spread, which is why it’s three pots – only a little in each one).
Three casualties so far in the gardener-vs-whiskery ones skirmish which followed the clandestine savaging of a mangetout pea sowing one night, but it’s all gone quiet again: I even dared to put in the beans a week or so ago and nothing’s gone missing (yet). So I’m hopeful that they’ve learned their lesson and are staying clear.
I do hate trapping mice – it’s far less humane than our feral cat which is my usual control method. But they make it impossible to grow any legumes (or sweetcorn, come to think of it) if you don’t – so I grit my teeth and get on with it. Artemisia leaves laid on the floor of the greenhouse are supposed to keep them off, as is mint – they don’t like the smell, apparently. I’ll give that a try next time – but I’ll keep the traps handy, just in case.
I can’t believe it… we had our first frost of the year at the weekend.
This is the first time I can remember having a frost before November down here. We’re an energetic spit from the M25 after all and what with global warming I was looking forward to comfortably making it through to Christmas before turning on the greenhouse heater before many years had gone by.
But no – we woke to a lawn frosted with ice. I raced off down the garden, heart in my mouth to have a look at the Ensete ventricosum that my father-in-law lovingly raised from seed and then gave to me (or rather my eight-year-old daughter); it’s been growing like topsy all year and is now a good 10ft high and still heading skywards. It’s been my pride and joy, and I was just getting ready to dig it up for winter and snuggle it down in the greenhouse, but here I was, caught short.
I was so relieved to find that that Colutea arborescens which arches over it had kindly protected it from the frost and it was still intact and as robust as ever. Lucky escape. Not so fortunate were the crops up at the allotment – the Sarpo Mira potatoes had all the tops frosted (not such a big deal as I was already harvesting them) and more upsettingly the sweetcorn I rescued from rat attack with the help of my feline friends had been totally clobbered, as had the butternut squash underneath. I had a nice big squash ripening up too. That’s got an ominous grey patch on it but I’m hoping I can salvage at least some for my favourite roast veg dish.
Blimey, I can’t keep up with this climate thing. I can cope with daffs in November; I can even see the bright side over these ridiculous amounts of rain over summer (I haven’t had to water the allotment for a whole two years now). But the unpredictability is a little unnerving at times like these. I just wish it would make its mind up and stay like that for a bit.