Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Plants for pollinators in late Winter

Having visited Hodsock Priory on the weekend (mid February), where they not only have a woodland carpeted with snowdrops, but also an ornamental garden, it reminded me of just how many plants are flowering in late winter. So I thought I'd share photos of these, plus some from my own garden, to help give people more idea of what you can plant to help pollinators at this time of the year.

Note, this has been a milder winter. In colder ones such as 2017/18, the plants could flower later.  Unless otherwise noted, these will grow on all soil types (acid, neutral and alkaline). These plants all grow in a temperate climate, in the UK down to hardiness zone H5, circa -15 celsuis, and USDA zones 7 and 8.

* * * * *

First of all, there are snowdrops (Galanthus). Here's a selection from Hodsock.
 



One of my favourite flowering cherries, Prunus Mume, which has an almond-like fragrance to go with the stunning, stops you in your tracks, pink flower.




Winter flowering honeysuckle, such as the shrub Lonicera fragrantissima, which is indeed incredibly fragrant.


Winter aconite, Eranthis hyemalis, which seems to prefer neutral to alkaline soil. I found it can flower on acid soil, but is less likely.

Here are Witch hazel (Hamamelis, top left) which is also fragrant, large bushy Lonicera fragrantissima, Eranthus and Galanthus.

Hellebores, which in fact flower all through mild winters.

Iris, the first from Hodsock (unknown variety), the second, Iris histroides 'Lady Beatrix Stanley', from my garden.


Sarcococca, also known as sweet box or Christmas box, another wonderful winter fragrant shrub. The first is Sarcococca confusa from Hodsock, the second is Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna 'Purple Stem' from my garden.


Earlier flowering crocuses, such as the purple one below from Hodsock, probably a C. tommasinianus variety, and Crocus 'Gipsy Girl' from my garden.


Cyclamen, which flowered in February during last years hard winter.

Not forgetting Violas.

And of course, Daffodils, seen here in front of Hodsock Priory itself.

Are any of these late winter flowering plants new to you? Do you have any to add to this list? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

* * * * *
Update 21:33pm: Just remembered to add Clematis cirrhosa Freckles, which flowers throughout winter, and Mahonia.

Update 21st Feb: Pauline (below) has also suggested the following - chaenomeles, anemone blanda, scilla sibirica, erica, iris unguicularis, primroses and camellia. Which reminds me that another factor may be where you live. So the further south, the more plants that will be available to pollinators in late winter, whereas this will reduce the further north you go.


Sunday, 13 January 2019

Small greywater system: a step-by-step guide of how to set up a small greywater system.


At the moment I have two blogs. This is my 10+ year gardening blog but I've also set up a permaculture/solarpunk blog on the new blogging site, Plume. Hopefully once Plume develops more features I'll be able to move off Google, and to there, permanently!

Recently posted to Plume...
  Small greywater system: a step-by-step guide of how to set up a small greywater system.

With greywater harvesting, you are trying to recycle dirty water, which you may then use in the garden. A greywater system filters and recycles water from when you have been washing up the dishes, taking a shower or bath, or doing the laundry. The system described here is just for greywater from washing up.  Read more


Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Describing solarpunk: for those new to solarpunk, or looking for ways to describe it

Bosco Verticale, Milan. Credit Ale Desiderio.

This has been cross-posted from my Plume Solarpunk blog.


If you are new to solarpunk as I am, it might help to have some descriptions of what solarpunk means. So here are a few that I have found helpful, with a link to the full articles where I found them.
 
These aren't dictionary-style definitions. I rather like that solarpunk is still fluid in the descriptions that people have used. Some have a more environmental or artistic focus, others come from anarchist thinking and some combine all three. All describe a more hopeful future, something I find both exciting and comforting.

Descriptions of Solarpunk
*Solarpunk is a literary movement, a hashtag, a flag, and a statement of intent about the future we hope to create. It is an imagining wherein all humans live in balance with our finite environment, where local communities thrive, diversity is embraced, and the world is a beautiful green utopia. Source: Solarpunk wants to save the world

*Solarpunks cherish nature, progress and science; the individual and the community. They believe in a world that is green, colourful, and bright. It can be described as a literary genre, an aesthetic, or a movement. The key points are: an emphasis on renewable energy, especially solar power; a demand for technology and society to re-centre around sustainability, longevity, and balance; a focus on decentralisation, community activism, social justice and civic empowerment; a recognition that economic, social, and ecological injustices are all deeply inter-connected. Source: Sunbeam City's wiki

*Solarpunk is about finding ways to make life more wonderful for us right now, and more importantly for the generations that follow us – i.e., extending human life at the species level, rather than individually. Our future must involve repurposing and creating new things from what we already have (instead of 20th century “destroy it all and build something completely different” modernism). Source: Solarpunk: Notes toward a manifesto

*Solarpunk is a reaction to climate change, inequality, and our cultural obsession with dystopian futures. We want a world where people thrive through energy independence, local resilience, and sound infrastructure…The vision is not about back-to-the-earth survivalism, because solarpunks embrace the responsible use of new technologies like synthetic biology and sensor networks. And it’s not utopian, because the solarpunk future is one that is both high-tech and gritty, and — more importantly — one that we can actually achieve. Source: What is Solarpunk?

*Solarpunks believe that a better world is possible and we can build it in the shell of the old using direct action and mutual aid. We believe in producing for people, not profits in decentralized cooperative workplaces and replacing oppressive power structures with community-level direct democracy. Source: Toot on Mastodon by socalledunitedstates

*Solarpunk is a rebellion against the structural pessimism in our late visions of how the future will be. Not to say it replaces pessimism with Pollyanna-ish optimism, but with a cautious hopefulness and a daring to tease out the positive potentials in bad situations. Hope that perhaps the grounds of an apocalypse (revelation) might also contain the seeds of something better; something more ecological, liberatory, egalitarian, and vibrant than what came before, if we work hard at cultivating those seeds. Source: What is Solarpunk?

*Solarpunk aims to transform science fiction into science action. An emerging aesthetic sensibility undergirds and drives this impulse. As a genre style, Solarpunk’s visual representation is distinctly architectural and infrastructural: while many bloggers emphasize the importance of the “local,” it is necessarily global in concept. Awareness of planetary-scale environmental destruction is precisely where it derives a sense of urgency. In the face of perceived crisis, Solarpunk demands constructive, instructive fictions. Fictions that are not shy about their intended feasibility. Source: Is Ornamenting Solar Panels a Crime?

*We’re solarpunks because the only other options are denial or despair. Source: Solarpunk: Notes toward a manifesto


* * * * *
I don't see this as a static blogpost. If you come across any other descriptions of solarpunk you feel should be included, please let me know in the comments and I'll add it to the list!

Friday, 4 January 2019

Seed viability: will my packet of old seeds still germinate?

L-R: Broad bean, Fennel and Pumpkin seeds

This is an update of a 2015 post. I've done some new searching for seed viability info and have found two more. So I've added those, tidied up the post, and fixed some broken links.

It's the time of year (in the Northern hemisphere) when everyone starts going through the shiny seed catalogues and then get tempted by all the new varieties. Before you do that, it's worth checking whether the seeds you already have are still viable, that is, that they are alive and still able to germinate.

I've cross-checked my previous Seed Viability spreadsheet with any new ones I could find, and have now added Grow your Heirlooms and Fedco Seeds (both from the US) to the list. As you can see, it's not an exact science! It's also important to note that even with the viability ranges listed, seeds can often either fall short of expected viability, or be viable for a much longer period. Much can depend on how they are stored. John Harrison offered some useful advice:
As you probably know, viability is very subject to storage conditions. Consistent, cool and dry being the best. Don't fall for the 'frozen keep forever' - the seed banks like the huge one in Norway (Svalbard) prepare the seeds very carefully before they go to the minus 20 store deep underground - ready to replenish the earth after the asteroid hits or whatever. Just freezing will kill off most seeds as the water in them forms ice crystals that rupture the cell membranes. Incidentally I've sown courgette seeds 7 years past the date on the unopened packet and got 100% germination! Obviously the old car's glovebox was the perfect place...
So view the figures as a guideline. And if you have the time and energy, don't be afraid to experiment with 'out of date' seeds.

Amateur
Gardening
Seed Savers
Handbook
John
Harrison
(2012)
John
Harrison
(2014)
Grow your
Heirlooms
Fedco Seeds
Artichoke

5


5

Arugula




3

Asparagus
3
3-5
3

3

Aubergine
5
5
4

4
2-3
Beans
3



3
2-3
Bean, Broad
3
4

2


Bean, French
3
3

2


Bean, Runner
3
3

2


Beetroot
4
5
4
5
2
3-5
Broccoli
5
5
3
5
3
3-5
Brussels sprouts
5
4
4

4

Cabbage
4-5
4
4
5
4

Carrot
3-4
3
3
3
3
2-3
Cauliflower
4-5
4
4
5
4
3-5
Celeriac
5
5


3

Celery
5-6
5
3

3
2-3
Chard (beet)

10
4
5
4
3-5
Chicory
5
8
4

2

Chinese cabbage
5
5




Cucumber
5-6
4-10
5
7
5
5-10
Endive
3-4
5
5

5

Fennel
4
4
4

4

Kale
5
4
4
4
4
3-5
Kohl rabi
5
4
3
4
5

Leeks
3
3
2
3
2
2
Lettuce
4-5
5
1-3
4
3
2-3
Marrow (Courgette)
5-6
3-10
6
6


Melon
5
5


5
5-10
Mizuna

2




Mustard

3-7
4

3
3-5
Okra

5
2

2

Onion
1-2
2
1
4
1
1
Orach

5




Parsley
2-3
3
1
2
2

Parsnip
1-2
1
1
1
1

Pea
3
3
3
2
3
2-3
Pepper
4
5
2

2
2-3
Pumpkin
4
3-10
4

4
2-5
Radish
5
4
5
4
4
3-5
Rhubarb

1




Rocket

2




Salad Burnet

3




Salsify
2
3-5
1
2
1

Scorzonera
2
3-5




Seakale
1-2





Sorghum




4

Soybean




2
2-3
Spinach
5
5
3
2
3
2-3
Squash

3-10
4

4
2-5
Strawberry




2

Swede (Rutabaga)


4
2
5
Sweetcorn
1-2
2-10
2
3
1-2
2-3
Tomatillo




3

Tomato
4
4
4
3
5
5-10
Turnip
5
5
4
2
4

Watercress
5
5


5

Watermelon


4

5

Welsh Onion
2






Flower
Amateur Gardening
Seed Savers Handbook
Grow your Heirlooms
Fedco Seeds
Achillea
4


2
Ageratum
4



Amaranthus
4-5
5


Anthemis
2



Anthirrhium
3-4



Aster



1
Calendula
5-6


3
Campanula



3
Celosia
4



Cineraria
3-4



Clarkia
2-3



Coreopsis



2
Cosmos
3-4



Dahlia



2
Delphinium



1
Dianthus



3
Digitalis
2


2
Eschscholzia
3



Gaillardia
2-3



Godetia
3



Helianthus (sunflower)
2-3
5
5
3
Heliotrope
1-2



Hollyhock
2-3


3
Honesty



2
Impatiens
2


2
Larkspur
1-2


1
Linaria
3



Linum
1-2



Lobelia
4


3
Marigold
2-3



Mesembryanthemum
3-4



Myosotis
2



Nasturtium
5-7
3

3-5
Nicotiana
4-5


3
Nigella
2


1
Pansy
2


2
Petunia
2-3


5
Phlox
2


1
Poppy



3
Salvia
1


1
Scabiosa



3
Schizanthus
4-5



Sweet peas
2-3


3
Sweet William
2



Tithonia



2
Viola
1



Wallflower
4-5



Zinnia
5-6


3-5


Herb
Seed Savers Handbook
Grow your Heirlooms
Fedco Seeds
Anise


3
Basil
5
5
5+
Borage
5

5+
Caraway


3
Chervil
1


Chives
1
2
1
Coriander (cilantro)
3
5
5+
Dill
3
5
3
Fennel


3
Garlic Chives
1


Lavender


5
Lemonbalm


5
Marjoram
5
1
3
Mint
1


Oregano

1
2
Parsley
3
2

Rosemary
1


Rue


2
Sage
3
2
3
Savory


3
Sorrel
2


Thyme
5

3
 
If you would like to know about seed germination, John Harrison's website has some useful information on how to test for this.

Sources
Amateur Gardening, 20th December 2014 http://www.amateurgardening.com/top-tips/ornamental/seed-viability/.

The Seed Savers' Handbook, Michel and Jude Fanton, 1993 http://seedsavers.net/shop/home/tools-resources/the-seed-savers-handbook/ Photocopy sheet from Appendix A.

John Harrison, 5th January 2015 http://www.allotment-garden.org/seed-saving/seed-storage-life.php and email correspondence 8th January 2015. There are some differences in the viability periods in the John Harrison listings. The 2012 dates were based on L D Hills, whereas his 2014 listing was updated in light of comments from a few expert growers.

Grow your Heirlooms https://www.growyourheirlooms.com/seed-viability-chart-2/