This may seem random, but I was lying in bed last night unable to sleep, thinking about what type of gardener am I. Inexperienced? Maybe. Enthusiastic? Definitely! Probably a bit messy or as I prefer to say wildlife friendly. Do I follow specific gardening rules? Not always. Don’t get me wrong I do follow the rules with the germination and cultivation of plants, but when it cones to design or style ideas, I can’t stand to be told that I should group things in threes or fives, or I should limit my colour palette to on-trend shades or only grow seven kinds of plants in the whole garden.
So what type of gardener am I?
I love cottage gardens, with its vibrant mixture of fruits, veg and flowers growing in the same beds, but then I also love a minimalist coastal garden. I watch Chelsea each year and think ooh I like that garden, but if I tried to emulate it, I know after a while I would get bored of its not really practical landscaping or limited coloured design. And why was I thinking of gardening n the middle of the night? Because I had just finished reading a fictional book about a childlike lady hoarder and the chaos that surrounds her and her family from her lack of ability to throw anything away. And that’s when it hit me I’m a hoarder in garden terms. Just like the main character of the book I can’t seem to throw anything away. I can prove this not only by the number of ornaments, pots, baskets and seating I have cluttering up the garden, two sheds and two greenhouses, but also by the plants and who they came from, or specifically, whose garden they came from.
Take for example our Rose Garden, there are species in there as old, if not older than me, they came from Mark’s grandparents’ garden. We inherited them when Marks parents dug them up for a second time when they themselves moved to a smaller place. My other Roses are Valentines gifts from Mark, or presents from my family and friends.
Apart from the Roses from Mark’s grandparents we also have their Peony. From my paternal grandmother we have the Periwinkle and Aloe Vera’s . From Mark’s parents we got the Rosemary, the Elephant Ears, The Lambs Ears, the Honesty the Aquilegia , the Lavender, the Cotton Lavender, the Mint, Azaleas, Hydrangea, Sedums, Pinks, Mums, Margarita Daisies and some Fuchsia. We have Poppies from Percy next door, and Honeysuckle, from a lady down the road. We have a beautiful Maple that Mark’s son bought us the year he left home to join the army. The Weeping Cherry has been here since Easter 2003, a gift from mum six months after we moved in. A standard cherry that Mark gave me for Valentines the year Woolies closed down. Last of the romantics he said it was going cheap. Grape Hyacinths, daffodils and Crocosmias from people I worked with over ten years ago. An Aspidistra from someone who moved away from the area and the plant grew too big for the house. That is just some of the many many living things we have been given that grows in the garden.
Sadly , like the character in the book, I may have attached feelings to inanimate objects, and it’s quite ridiculous to think that I will forget the person, or place in time if I throw the dang thing out. For instance here is a picture of a pot of winter bulbs and sedums sitting on an old stool. This stool is from my childhood home. We had a set of five one each for mum, dad, my two brothers and me I have no idea when or how I even took it from my old home to this one, as I lived in a one bedroomed bungalow before i moved to my current place and I don’t remember owning it for the first five years after moving. And why would I only have one stool – if mum gave it to me after I moved to my new place, I would have been with Mark then so surely two stools would have been more appropriate? I don’t think I’ve even sat on the stool inside, it’s always been in the garden holding a plant pot. Why have I got this stool? It’s that weathered you couldn’t sit on it now – It would crack in two. And if you think that’s bad, the next picture shows a lovely 1970’s plastic plant pot. It belonged my maternal grandmother, the only thing I took from her garden when she died and I was thirteen. In the greenhouse I have a 1980’s kettle another relic from my childhood, it was supposed to go into the charity box when we emptied dads house, but it somehow need up in mine. I also spot my dads colander which I was going to grow strawberries in. His ancient rescued plough sits on our
front drive, along with yet more ceramic pots.
And that’s not all, unfortunately our garden is peppered with objects from people who are no longer alive. Like my favourite garden bench, it belonged to my good friends, who were, incidentally, Mark’s ex in-laws. My set of four square planters from my neighbour who passed away the same time as my dad. Dad’s collection of garden ornaments, the owl, the badger, a duck, a toad, and a sad collection of gnomes mingle with my three cement dogs and a penguin. I don’t like gnomes, but I still keep them. Like Tessa’s plastic ball. The ball has a hole in it that treats used to fall out of when it was rolled across the lawn. Tessa was my beautiful, clumsy collie who died years ago, yet her ball sits near the compost bins as if awaiting her return. The ball never got thrown out because visiting dogs (and their owners) would play with it, and now it seems to be home to a colony of snails and woodlice. I really should throw out this ball. I should also bury Tess, her ashes are still in her tiny casket in the back of my wardrobe.
Yes, I’m certainly a garden hoarder and I believe it’s about time I addressed this issue. I have absolutely no intention of getting rid of anything living, unless it becomes diseased or dies, but I’m sure I don’t need all of the plastic pots or baskets that are knocking around. At the last count I had four bin bags stuffed with them in the sheds. The bigger containers are stacked outside the shed. There are plastic propagators with missing or broken lids just screaming to be chucked. I don’t need to keep all of the broken bits of terracotta for drainage. I’m sure that bubble wrap is useful for insulating plants, but everything in my garden is hardy anyway. Do I really need dads colander? Seriously? And the kettle? So its most obvious I need to have a spring clean. The only problem is what if I throw away something that could have been useful? I can’t bear to think of myself as hoarder, as I am not like this indoors (although I do have a collection of stuffed pandas and an attic full of childhood memories and probably too many cookery books in storage boxes under the bed,) but if I can make a start in the garden, then it will give me the impetus to clean out the attic and the boxes under the bed. So instead of being labelled as a hoarder I suppose I could think of myself as The Sentimental Gardener.
Until next time,
Love Amanda xx
Taking advantage of the dry weather this week to empty and turn my compost heaps. Always a satisfying job.
One now vacant for this year, one cooking and one cooked ready for the autumn.
Our resident slow-worms have emerged and are basking in the sun against the fence, they produce live young which will be happy in the warm compost heap where they will not now be disturbed for the whole of the summer.
The onions Red Barron and Golden Ball are in now, nothing much to do now with those except keep weed free and watered. Thinking of putting in the first early peas thus week as the ground has warmed up quite a bit. I will start them in old gutters covered with cloches to keep the mice out.
Last year every runner bean seed was carefully removed from the gutter over night, I imagined an enormous mouse in the garden, but found the stash later behind a pile of old pots at the back of the greenhouse. Lesson learned.
The flowers beds are now coming to life as the hardy perennials green up and the spring flowers put on a wonderful show. The trees and shrubs are leafing up with that wonderful lime green that you only get in spring. The buds are beginning to open on the tree peony, more buds than ever this year it just gets better and better as it establishes(its been there now for 5 years).
Hope you are all well and making progress in your gardens. I recently remembered an old saying that goes “A dry March and a wet May, fills barns and bays with corn and hay. I don’t know if it’s true but we seem to have a lot of corn sprouting up under our bird feeding station thanks to the House Sparrows throwing it out of the feeders. Usually the Collard Doves or the Wood Pigeons eat it, but they have missed some of the grains.
The garden is in bloom with Crocuses, Hyacinths, Grape Hyacinths, Tulips and Cherry Blossom on the trees. Mark has planted my 40 mixed Gladioli bulbs as well as the flowering shrubs, and two bags of potatoes. The rhubarb has started to sprout. He has also split a big pot of Black Mondo Grass into 4 pieces and dug them into what will be our new grassy knoll area. We took our ancient petrol mower out of the shed so we could service it, only to find after nearly fifteen years of use it has finally given up the ghost. Mark did try to fix it – as he has so many other times, but in this instance it was beyond repair, so we set out to the shops to buy a replacement, taking the old one to the recycling centre after breaking it up into piles of plastic and metal bits. The new petrol mower looks like Bumblebee from the film Transformers, it’s yellow and black and insect-looking, and I half expect it to morph into something else. It was on the sale so fingers crossed we have a bargain. I just hope it doesn’t sound too much like a mad wasp when the grass is cut next week.
Mark has been taking good care of the greenhouses for me, as up until the end of last week I hadn’t been able to get into them. I had a huge smile on my face when I finally got into them for the first time since last September when my chemo started. During that time I would stand outside the glass and ask mum or Mark to pick, cut, water or plant things for me. I only had a two week break before my chemo ended and my operation took place in early February, so I didn’t do as much sowing as I would have liked to, so I feel like I’m trying to catch up. Usually I would have sunflowers and sweetpeas germinating, but hopefully I will make progress soon.
My mobility is still not good enough to get me up the steps to the greenhouses so I have to go the long way around. It’s like an obstacle course, out of the back door down the path, into the front garden, across the grass then through the hedge tunnel and along what will be the grassy knoll and into back garden. Meanwhile I’m holding onto Mark and using a walking stick for balance – but I’m getting stronger so it won’t be long before I can get up the steps.
Anyway enough about my health, when I got into the mall greenhouse I was pleased to find that 4 Sweet Bonita Peppers have germinated and so have 9 tree seedlings. As yet there is no sign of the Bullhorn Peppers, Chilli Prairie Fire, or the Alderman Peas. But I do have a good pot of Mint plants that need pricking out and I found a Begonia Tuber sprouting that needs to be potted up. The Aloe Vera’s look like they are on steroids, and I’m wondering how long it’s going to be before they outgrow their space. The Money Tree looks so much healthier than last month.
In the large greenhouse I have a slightly neglected Spider plant that has luckily survived being forgotten about and only just watered, since who knows when, and some indoor hyacinths. I also found the Stephanotis plant that I had Christmas time. Unfortunately it didn’t like our house and the flowers fell off and the leaves turned yellow. It’s starting to recover now. Our bags of potatoes are also in there, and also a bunch of parsley plants. I think the parsley got into the borders accidentally when I thought I had lost all my seeds last May and I chucked the pots of dried out compost onto the tomato plants. The seeds must have lay dormant until the conditions were right. I’ve never had parsley grow really big in March before.
As it was a really warm Spring day today (23/03/17), I decided a trip to our local garden centre was in order, as I wanted to crack on and plant my tomato Yellow Stuffer and Sweet Aperitif seeds but I hadn’t any compost left. So off we went to buy a few bags, I also bought a packet of aubergine seeds as my trial seeds haven’t arrived yet – although I was shocked at the price – there times as much as T&M seeds. As I’m still not allowed to do strenuous activities, poor Mark had to sieve the compost while I spoke to mum on the phone. I also made him wash some plastic growing pots. I was determined to do some actual gardening myself though, so Mark put my potting tray onto my storage box seat just outside the greenhouse in the sun so I could plant my seeds in three inch pots. I then used different coloured lolly sticks to label each seed variety and gently watered them. I also rearranged the shelves although it’s still too untidy for me, as last year I let things slide, including stacking things neatly.
Whilst I was sowing my seeds Mark weeded around the blueberry and pink blueberry bushes and gave them an ericcasious feed, he dug the beds over in the large greenhouse, fertilised the soil, and then erected the cane, wire and string supports ready for the tomatoes in May. Too many times we have been caught out and the support frames have not ready in time and it’s a mad rush to do them.
Other things we have done over the last month was cutting the Autumn Fruiting Raspberries down to ground level. They have already put out new growth. Removing the flower spikes from the pampas grass and leaving them near the hedge for a few days to allow insects to escape, before putting them into the compost bin, and direct sowing a free packet of wildlife seeds from Grow Wild in the wildlife border. Talking of wildlife, the Blackbirds are feasting on the last of the Ivy berries, the Magpies are nesting in the tree that overlooks our garden, and the Sparrows are doing their best to chase them off. We have earlyBees on the flowers, Ladybirds in the leaves of the Knifophias and a Green Shield bug walking on the grass outside the greenhouse looking as if he is inspecting the glass for cleanliness. Soon the Blue Tits will be chasing each other in the cherry tree blossoms and I really hope I can be quick with my camera and capture their antics.
My brother still hasn’t built his greenhouse, but he has got herbs and potatoes growing in pots. Mum still hasn’t decided on her front garden renovation design, but she has decided to buy herself a small polythene greenhouse that can be taken down after the summer. The weather here promises to be nice over the weekend, (although we may be in for a few frosty nights), and into early next week so I plan to get on with more sowing. I still need to grow a plethora of flowers for my charity plant sale so I’m going to start with things that germinate quickly like French Marigolds and Amaranthus and Cornflowers. I may even do some Lettuces and Basil.
Finally I want mention that the trial trailing Antirhinums (still unnamed) have survived on pure neglect over the winter, the hanging basket was left where it originally hung in the summer, and astonishingly the plants have come back. I need to tidy up the soil in the basket by pulling out the weeds and giving the poor plant some food as well as a quick prune, but I am seriously impressed. Has anyone else who trials for T&M had their Antirhinums come back?
I hope the weather is kind to you.
Until next time, Happy Gardening,
Love Amanda X
Next Wednesday, April 12th, is National Pumpkin Sowing Day and we are urging the British public to get involved. Whether you’re a gardener or not, it’s easy to pop a pumpkin seed into a pot of compost and watch it grow.
We launched a specific seed sowing day in response to the many pumpkin-related queries we receive in October when pumpkins are in shops in the lead up to Halloween.
“We sponsor the UK’s giant pumpkin growing competition each autumn and we always get so many enquiries at the weigh-in, asking how to grow pumpkins at home”, said Paul Hansord, our commercial director and himself a keen pumpkin grower.
“So we’ve decided to set a date and once people have sown their seeds, we’ll support them with growing tips and advice – whether they’re aiming to grow a giant record-breaking pumpkin or a good-sized one for carving at Halloween.”
You’ll remember that we made the news in 2016 when we paid £1,250 for a single pumpkin seed. Its pedigree was proven when RHS Hyde Hall’s Matt Oliver won the award for the largest outdoor-grown pumpkin from this very seed and now the seeds from his appropriately-named, ‘Matt’s Monster’ can be purchased from T&M at a cost of £7.99 for 3 seeds.
For those wishing to grow a more modest-sized pumpkin other pumpkin seeds are available from T&M, such as ‘Jack Of All Trades’, for carving at Halloween or for those who simply have a penchant for pumpkin pie or a hearty pumpkin soup.
We will be supporting pumpkin growers after they have sown their seeds with information on how to grow giant pumpkins and on growing regular pumpkins for Halloween on our website, as well as with timely posts on social media.
As Britain’s formal exit from the European Union was triggered this week, various companies and a major Dutch bank, reported concerns over prices of fruit, vegetables, flowers and olive oil rising by as much as eight percent.
In its report, Weighing up Future Food Security in the UK: The Impact of the Brexit on Food & Agribusiness in Europe and Beyond, Rabobank, the second largest bank in the Netherlands, specialising in food and agriculture financing and sustainability-oriented banking, said that although details of British trade agreements are unknown, the cost of exports will undoubtedly increase.
Whether you’re for or against the UK’s exit from the EU, there’s no doubt that Brexit will have implications on our imports of fruit and vegetables and other foodstuffs. According to Rabobank, the UK is only 60 percent self-sufficient in terms of food. The report suggests that administrative border checks alone could lead to a hike in prices of between five and eight percent.
What can the British consumer do?
“We’ve said it before and we’re saying it again”, said Paul Hansord, our commercial director, “grow your own!”
“It’s a no-brainer as far as we’re concerned and we’re here to help with lots of ‘how to’ videos and advice on our website. People are so used to getting all their food from shops and supermarkets, but if prices go up as suggested, due to import costs once we’ve left the EU, we’ll need to grow a lot more of our own produce.”
“The fact is that it’s really not difficult to grow at least some of your own fruit and veg. Home-grown is always going to taste better than shop-bought and when you grow your own, there’s no need to worry about pesticides, food miles, the weeks that some shop-bought fruit and veg spend in cold storage; you just pick it or dig it up, and enjoy it – fresh and wholesome – straight from your garden or allotment.”
For help and guidance on growing your own fruit, vegetables and flowers, go to www.thompson-morgan.com/gardening-guides , www.thompson-morgan.com/gardening-for-beginners or www.thompson-morgan.com/how-to-garden
Thompson & Morgan sweeps the board at the Grow Your Own Great British Growing Awards for the third year in a row
This week we’re celebrating our success in the Grow Your Own magazine’s annual Great British Growing Awards. We’re so proud to have won gold in five categories – Best Fruit and Veg Seed Range, Best Plug Plant Range, Best Online Retailer, Most Innovative Growing Product for our revolutionary TomTato® plant and Best One-Stop Shop for Gardening. We were also awarded silver for our award-winning incredicompost® in the category Most Effective Composting Product.
Clare Dixey, Thompson & Morgan’s marketing services manager commented:
“We’re thrilled to have been voted the winner in five categories of the 2016 Great British Growing Awards. We’re particularly proud to have won Best Online Retailer. Knowing that we’re up against some very serious competition in the horticultural online marketplace, this really means a lot.”
The well-known and well-respected gardening magazine invited its readers and online visitors to vote for their favourite gardening companies. Over 12,000 people voted.
The Great British Growing Awards are nominated and voted on by the British gardening public, which makes these awards all the more impressive. Thompson & Morgan prides itself on its wide product range and high levels of customer satisfaction. The fact that the nation’s army of gardeners voted us Best Online Retailer over big players in the market, such as Amazon, is highly commendable.
Paul Hansord, Thompson & Morgan’s commercial director said: “To be so highly rated by the great British gardening public is a true testament to all the hard work and effort that the people at T&M put in to ensure that our products and service are the best in the business”.