Friday, 12 June 2020

Lupins again - how to dead-head them

Further to my recent post about deadheading Lupins, here are a couple of photos to explain more clearly how to deadhead them "properly".  They do say that a picture is worth a thousand words, so instead of me waffling on for a thousand words. here's how to do it:

Firstly, take your Lupin: here's a good example,

See that one in the middle?

The flowers have all gone, and instead there are lots of nice fat green seed pods.

PLEASE NOTE don't eat them! They are poisonous!

So it's time to deadhead it: mostly because those plump seed pods are going to go brown any day now, and they will spoil the appearance of the plant.

Also, if you bought your Lupins ("Hand over your Lupins!"  "NO! STOPPIT! We are not doing Monty Python sketches again!") then you will have chosen the colour: and if you let them drop seed everywhere, you will get lots of small Lupins which will not be the same as the one you bought: open pollinated plants (ie pollinated naturally, outdoors, in your garden) don't come "true" from seed.

OK, sometimes you can get a lovely variety of mix and match plants that way, but unless you like the fruit-salad look, it's best to avoid too many seedlings.

How to dead-head? Take your secateurs (or scissors, if you are a  non-gardener) ("Go out and buy some secateurs!!") and place them on the stem, below those nice fat seed pods. Slide them down until you meet the first batch of leaves on the stem. 

Don't cut immediately below the seed pods - below:

If you cut here, you will end up with an annoying bit of bare stalk sticking up.

Instead, slide the secateurs a bit further down the stem.

Can you see in this photo - left - that I am holding the leaves in my (bare) hand? I'm doing this to keep them out of the way, so that you can see clearly what my Trainee is demonstrating, ie where not to cut.

So don't cut there - slide a bit further down the stem, and cut just above those new leaves which I am holding.

Here - right - is my Trainee about to snip off that same stem.

I have released the leaves which I was holding, and you can see that the secateurs are just above the place where the leaves join the stem.

By cutting here, you avoid having the bare stem sticking up above the leaves.

There you go, much less than a thousand words,  hooray for the power of the photo!

Sunday, 7 June 2020

Lupins: will they re-flower if you dead-head them?

I had a question in from Nick this morning ("Hi, Nick!") about Lupins (oh dear, I can hear myself singing "Dennis Moore, Dennis Moore, galloping through the sward" already).

He asked, is it too late to cut back lupins for a second flush of flowering if the plant has formed seed pods?

Simple answer: no!

There is still time to get a second flush of flowers, if you dead-head them hard, now.

What exactly does that mean?

If you look at a Lupin - sorry, I can't help myself -

Dennis Moore, highwayman: "Hand over your Lupins!"
Group of posh folks in carriage (ie victims of highwayman) "What, the flower Lupin?"
DM: [impatiently]"Yes, yes,  hand them over."
Victims: [plaintively] "But we don't have any Lupins!" 
DM:[in smug tones] "I happen to know that this is the Lupin Express!"
[mutters of "damn, bother" as they produce bunches of Lupins from under coats, behind their backs etc]

(End of digression, please read on) can see that it is mostly one long spike, covered in small flowers.

Here's some I took a photo of, earlier.

If you look at the spikes nearest to us, you can see that they have gone to seed: there are fat green seedpods where the flowers used to be.

So this is the time to chop off that flowering spike, right down to where the leaves start.

Don't just chop off the top bit and leave a stump sticking up: that's just ugly.

Trace it down until you find where it stops being a bare stem, and starts having leaves,  and cut it there.

Sometimes you will find that the stem is already sending up a new little sprout of flowers, so - obviously - you would cut just above them.

Even if there are no new flowering spikes to be seen, being cut back like this will often prompt the plant to send up a whole new spike. Not always, but often.

So  yes, it is well worth dead-heading your Lupins, even if they have already started forming seedpods.

Oh, and don't put them on the compost, unless you want lots of tiny Lupins everywhere next year!

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Product fail - pipecleaner plant ties

I saw these for sale a while ago, they seemed cheap, and very cheerful, so I bought some.

"Soft Twist Ties" they state on the pack, as though "Pipe-cleaner" is under copyright.

I tried them in a few gardens, and my, they were easy to use!

Soft on the hands, obedient - they stay where you put them - and they seemed to be strong enough to do the job, but soft enough not to damage the stems of the plants.

And occasionally they cause hilarity, when the Client says "OMG, look at the size of that caterpillar!"

So I started referring to them as caterpillars.

But a couple of months later:

Oh dear.

They are metal inside, and it has rusted.


Not very pretty.

Furthermore, I have found that after a year, the rusty ones just break, they just fall apart, so the plant falls off the wall/wire/trellis.

Product Fail!

I've spent the last month hunting them down and replacing them with dear old Soft Strong,

This is by far the best product I've found for long-term tying of plants to supports.

It's plastic, which is not very eco, but it stretches, so it doesn't strangle the plant: it lasts for decades, can be undone and re-used, does not go brittle in winter, and apparently never ever breaks once it's been tied!

(I have broken a few bits by stretching them too far, especially once they've been outside for a couple of years, or when it's very cold)

Available for sale via my website, here's me being lazy and just putting up a link!

It's £2 a pack, each pack contains 12 ties, each 7½" (18cm) long, UK only, payment by Paypal.

To order, email me - my email address is at the top of the page, on the right.

In summary then:

Caterpillars = OUT!!

Soft String - IN!!!!

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