Sunday, 28 November 2010


I just did a count up of all my tomato plants and I've got 23. Eight in the garden, seven in the glasshouse and the rest waiting to be transplanted somewhere there is room.

In the glasshouse are Black Krim, Juliet, Amazon Chocolate, Brown Berry (x2), Arctic and Sunset's Red Horizon.

Arctic is a cool-weather variety supposedly bred for the US military, to bear fruit in extremely cold climates. I've grown it before and it does ok, but not as well as I'd expect given that description! Sunset's Red Horizon is new to me this year, an heirloom variety from Bristol Seeds with "proven resistance to frost, blossom end rot and cracking". I like to plant at least one cool weather variety in case we have a cold spring. This year it's been warm and sunny, but even so Sunset is growing taller and producing flowers earlier than any of the others. Sunset and Arctic are the only 2 to have tiny green fruit so far.

Black Krim is a yummy beefsteak type that I've grown before and I love the flavour. The skin is a dark reddish black colour. Amazon Chocolate (also from Bristol Seeds) is also a beefsteak with a "winey, smokey, delicious taste".

Juliet is an F1 variety that I've grown before. It's a steady and reliable fruiter. The fruits are small to medium, oval shaped and very tasty. Brown Berry is also from Bristol Seeds (I like to try at least one new variety every year, so everything from Bristol Seeds is new to me this season), it's a cherry tomato, supposedly vigorous and yielding large crops. Semi-sweet, rich flavours and very juicy. I'm not sure how tall the plants will grow so I've staked them just in case, but I have noticed they look a bit more compact and bushy than the others.

In the garden I have Black Krim x2, Amazon Chocolate, Brown Berry x2, Juliet, Sunset, and Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln (Bristol Seeds) was limited stock and strictly limited to one packet per order, so I had to try it. Anything that limited must be good right? The description says, "High lycopene. Faithfully produces huge crops of meaty fruit." Another beefsteak I suppose. The reason I only have one in the garden and none in the glasshouse is that only one seed (out of 4) germinated, and it grew so slowly that it wasn't ready for potting on when I did all the glasshouse plants. It's catching up now though, so it will be interesting to see what it does.

Also in the glasshouse and just about ready to be transplanted out are another Amazon Chocolate, and some "bite size" varieties which I bought as seeds on sale at Bunnings: Green Grape, Yellow Pear and Red Fig (x5... must be a vigorous one). This afternoon when it cools down a bit I'll find somewhere to poke them in. I've got some pumpkin seedlings that need to go out too.

What tomato varieties are you growing this year?

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Real Gardens #2

Jean and Graeme Holwell's Timaru garden might be small, but it is packed full of delightful plants and tiny treasures. On a sunny morning in early spring, mounds of green leaves are unfurling and buds are beginning to swell.

Everywhere you turn, there is something new and beautiful to see, like this little patch of crocus.

Even the street verge is beautifully maintained, with a patch of yellow polyanthus welcoming you to the garden.

This is a garden of contrasts, both in shape and texture. The path, formed of round concrete stepping stones and flanked by brilliant blue pansies, leads you towards the back of the property.

On the way you'll pass this clever bird bath. It's made from a saucer mounted on a piece of driftwood.

And end up at the pergola, which looks like a beautiful place to sit in on a warm summer's evening. There's even room for a small vegetable garden beside it.

The round stepping stones continue around the back of the house, where the rubbish bins, washing line and even a worm farm are tucked away.

Looking down, I noticed more lovely textures in the form of these groundcover plants scrambling over the round stones.

Here is a clever way of keeping tabs on tiny plants that die down over winter... a little bowl made of rocks. This must look so sweet filled up with little alpine flowers.

I hope you've been inspired by this tour - proof that you don't need a huge section to grow all your favourite flowers and plants. I'll be keeping an eye out for round stepping stones, and probably building a couple of rocky bowls for my cyclamen!

A big thank you to Jean and Graeme for letting me wander through your garden.

Monday, 15 November 2010


I started work on the dreaded christmas presents this weekend. This is all I can show you for now, but after Christmas I'll do a proper show and tell. If you are looking for inspiration for handmade gifts, here are some of my previous years' round-ups.

I was busy in the garden this weekend, sowing and planting and transplanting. The potager is finally beginning to fill up. There are plenty of potatoes, rocket, lettuce, spring onions, and broccoli just about ready. I added tomatoes, chillis and capsicums, one zucchini, and sowed lots of beans. In the glasshouse I've got more tomatoes, chillis and capsicums as well as a cucumber and some strawberries. I've also sowed some flower seeds including love in the mist, linaria, gilia, alyssum, cosmos, calendula, scabiosa and echinacea (apparently hard to germinate so we'll see how that goes). Oh and verbascum, which was also hard to germinate. I've now finally got two miniscule plantlets peeking through - so I'm watering sparingly so as not to drown and willing them strongly to live, grow and develop some damn flowers!

This is the first strawberry of the season, harvested last week. It was delicious... so lovely and sweet sweet sweet. The second and third strawberries were fattening up beautifully, then as soon as they began changing colour something decided to sample them, chewing its way through all the red bits. I suspect it's earwigs. Does anyone know a good way of getting rid of them? They must be hiding under the leaves during the day, so I'm not sure if spraying with pyrethrum will work.

Well, I need to get back to my studio and do some more work there. After a winter of not doing much in the way of handcrafts, it's nice to get back in there and be creative! Oh - and I've finally got the next Real Gardens tour ready. Pop back tomorrow to check that one out :)

Saturday, 6 November 2010

How to make rustic plant labels

I made a batch of plant labels to put in my garden. They are cheap, easy, and - best of all - not plastic, so I thought you guys might like to see how I made them.

Snap the ends off some wide craft sticks (the ones that are about 18mm wide - that's wider than the average popsicle sticks). You can use your fingers, but pliers will make the snapped end a bit tidier.

Sand the ends to get rid of any splinters.

I like to paint a light wash of brown watercolour paint over the sticks, so they aren't quite so garishly "new" looking.

Use a fadeproof and waterproof pen to write your plant names.

If you like you could decorate the sticks further with stickers and rubons.

Use a small saw to cut a chopstick in half. Sand the cut ends.

Use a waterproof wood glue to glue the stick to the chopstick, with the tapered end pointing down. Let dry.

Seal with a coat or two of clear varnish.

Then pop in the garden. These have lasted at least a season in my garden, and as they age they start to blend in more with their surroundings. Much more attractive than white plastic labels!

Friday, 5 November 2010

Crochet ta-dah

Here it is... a crochet footstool!

Third time is the charm, so they say, and it was on my third attempt at making the sides that they finally took on the right shape. First I tried a mesh pattern, but it was too busy with the granny square top. Then I did plain dc, but it began to bulge and ripple most unattractively. Eventually I realised that the top square was too big, so I ripped out the extra row of granny clusters that I'd put round the whole thing and began again in dc. After that, it mostly did what I wanted it to.

I thought about painting the legs, but decided I like them fine the way they are.

Pretty granny flower garden... The cover comes off for washing (which will be useful once Lui discovers it).

I'm very happy with my lovely spring flowers.


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