The advantage of sowing sweet peas in autumn is that you get a plant with a very well-developed root system that will romp away when you plant it out in the spring. To encourage root development you should pinch out the stem above the first set of proper leaves. I should have done this a bit earlier, but with such mild weather here they will be fine. In the next week I will transfer them to the coldframe so that they stay cool and concentrate on growing those roots.
I was looking up into the quince tree, willing it to drop all its leaves before I return the leafblower I’ve been trialling later this week, when I spotted a flash of purple. Closer inspection revealed a Clematis jackmanii flower – on December 9th! It wasn’t showing its best side for photgraphy, so I gently moved the stem with a cane at which point it dropped one of its petals. Nevertheless, given the gales and some cold nights it’s a pretty amazing sight.
In the sixteen years I’ve lived in this house I’ve had some minor tree surgery done on the tulip tree from time to time, but it’s not had a serious crown reduction done until now. Ideally I would leave the tree to get on with it, but it’s started to overhang the house and just cutting it back from there would leave it looking distinctly lopsided so I got planning permission (we live in a conservation area) for a 20% reduction by an approved contractor. It’s always exciting (and a bit scary) watching skilled tree surgeons at work, but it went really well and there is much more light in the garden now – as there will be next year. Despite the regular thud of branches hitting the ground there is remarkably little damage to plants and we also had the bonus that most of the leaves had not fallen so they were taken away and shredded with the branches. As our leafmould heap is pretty well full already and I have an ample supply that has already rotted down from previous years, doing without the bulk of this year’s leaf fall really isn’t a problem.
Leafblowers are generally something I avoid – too noisy, too heavy and too powerful, resulting in plants being blown away along with the leaves. What’s wrong with a broom? And I really can’t be doing with petrol-driven equipment – the garden isn’t large so there is no need – and as I’m about as far as you can get from a petrol-head, I find them a bit of a palaver and all-too-often difficult to start.
So, after this extended moan, the good news is that I’ve found a leafblower that is easy to use, easy to control and much quieter than most. Quiet Mark the organisation that promotes the development of quiet equipment (indoors and outdoors) suggested that I trial some of their recommended leafblowers and the star of the trio (the other two were petrol-driven) was the Stihl cordless lithium powered BGA B5. The trigger operation means that you can vary the speed by increasing or decreasing the pressure which makes it far easier to control and stop. It is much quieter, especially at slow speeds and is reasonably light and comfortable to use. It happily deals with piles of soggy leaves and is easy to angle so that you can remove excess leaves from the border without stripping the insulating layer I like to leave in place over winter.
The downside is the price – the blower costs £229, the batteries start at £105 and the charger units start at £35. If you already have other Stihl cordless equipment with compatible batteries and chargers you won’t need to buy these and there is absolutely no doubt that Stihl make superb equipment, but I think you need a larger garden than mine to justify the cost. Ho hum – back to the broom.
I’m not sure whether the hydrangeas are still catching up from their late start this year, but flower heads continue to open amongst those that are doing something a bit more autumnal. Although it is cold here, we haven’t had a frost as yet, so this must help, but rather than leave them to brown I’m picking them and bringing them indoors to use as cut flowers.