We have all seen Japanese gardens in the UK, haven’t we? They were all the rage back in the early 90’s!
But, have you seen the other way around, an English garden in Japan? Well, Barakura was the brainchild of fashion designer, Kay Yamada, and after 20 years, represents the most beautiful and important English style garden in Japan.
Earlier this year, I was super excited when I was invited to speak at the garden during their autumn events, where I’d be lecturing on new developments in kitchen gardens, talking about the history of UK kitchen gardens, and showing students how to make up some mixed autumn containers!
Head gardener, Andy, a former Northumberland chap, was my shepherd for the week. Gardening at Barakura is an exciting challenge, as you can’t grow just anything from the UK, it takes a few years of trial and error, as their summer’s can be so hot, oh and winter’s of -20C! Plant selection is super important, and the differing climate means some sun-lovers are thriving in shady spots, where they get some respite from the baking sun!
Japan is such an interesting country to visit. The geographical isolation especially means that the culture is like no other, and I was already aware that I had to be super polite, and things might move at a slower speed to that of the UK! The food? Well, I love to try anything, so I was completely at home, and was eating fresh fish, carrots, even cauliflower for breakfast…!
I really enjoyed spending time with the students, and they were especially enthralled with my new developments in kitchen gardens lecture, especially the edible flower section, where I revealed begonias and tulips could in fact be added to their salads!
I loved making up the mixed containers too, and being able to run around the garden centre choosing whichever plants I liked was fun. The containers were seen as quite short-term, so we were literally flower-arranging with plants, really shoehorning them in.
After Barakura, I had chosen to stay on and visit a few companies developing new flowers and vegetables, and have some interesting new things in the pipeline, so watch this space….!
Summer is here and correct me if I’m wrong, but the weather is being quite well-behaved so far. The occasional storm is actually a positive for the plants, giving them a good soak. The rain will encourage leafy growth, meaning you get even bushier plants, with the potential for more blooms! But, it is also the time of year where we go on holiday to enjoy the sunshine and watering becomes an issue, so how can you keep your garden looking great during these periods?
An occasional down pour can be great for plants in borders, but the rain doesn’t always get into patio pots. The dense canopy of leaves means rainfall will often bounce off, so watering by hand (or setting up an irrigation system) can’t be beaten. There are some really efficient systems now available, often with computerised timers, so you won’t have to forgo those weekends away!
You could consider asking a neighbour to water them for you, it might even give them the gardening bug! When you go away try to move the plants into a shaded area, this will cause them to dry out a little less. Remember how thirsty tomato plants can be. Plenty of water and feed will give you bumper crops. Try to be consistent though, to avoid problems with fruit set. Our tomato auto-watering collars are a great way of getting water directly to the plant roots. This is especially useful in grow bags, where water runoff can be an issue.
Our Water Wizard™ is always really handy for watering flower pouches effectively, and can be used with any drinks bottle! The spike means water gets down deeper, and is more evenly distributed, into the pouch. Why not try them in patio pots?
Feed is so important! A top dressing of Incredibloom® RIGHT NOW will give the effect of your plants supping an energy drink! But will last much longer. Remember that Incredibloom® gives more bountiful growth, more stems, more leaves, AND more flowers!!
How do you keep your garden watered whilst you are away? We would love to hear your ideas so please post your tips and advice below.
If the plant bug has bitten you, and you’ve filled your garden already, then you need to think; ‘what do cities do when they run of space..?’ Answer: they build upwards! You can use this same concept in your own garden to great effect. There’s no excuse to have bare fences and walls when there are so many climbers to choose from. It’s not just about traditional climbers any more either, so you need to think beyond clematis and honeysuckle. Have you tried climbing fuchsias, climbing petunias, even climbing geraniums…??
Something else that can decorate your walls is hanging baskets ! Just a few wall brackets here and there and your garden will soon look like the hanging gardens of Babylon! Be wise when you plant up for easier maintenance; mix in a water-retaining gel to reduce the frequency of watering, and keep them dead-headed and preened to make them bloom for longer!
On patios, you can buy containers which add height, for example the ‘stack-a-pot’, where you can make the most of the space; it’s almost like a little skyscraper! It’s ideal for cropping strawberries, so who thought you needed a vegetable patch to grow your own. Tonnes of vegetables can be grown and harvested on the patio; and you’ll find them easier to care for too and the crops nice and clean and easy to pick! You can also try our tower pot, train plants into pillars of colour on your patio.
Walk around any neighbourhood during the summer and you’ll see plenty of glorious Hydrangeas. They’re one of the most tough and durable shrubs for a European climate. They’re also available in a huge range of colours… although, you wouldn’t know it, as most of the ones I see seem to be pink or blue! Well, prepare to be dazzled… and you’ll need your sunglasses!
Hydrangea ‘Glam Rock’ is just bubbling with fluorescent colours…the mix of green, blue AND pink make for a colour blend which has absolutely no shame. This dazzler comes from some German breeders who are changing the face of this plant; with more daring colour combinations on those tried and tested macrophylla forms.
Hydrangea ‘Glam Rock’
So, whilst Germany is going dayglo, Japan is focussing on the fullness of the bloom; new variety ‘Love’ has 2-tiered florets, which look like delicate porcelain. But, of course, there’s nothing delicate about this Hydrangea, it’s as tough and robust as the rest. ‘Love’ is the sister variety to this year’s Chelsea Flower Show winner ‘Miss Saori’ too, what better recommendation could there be!
A type of Hydrangea that isn’t as common in the UK is the Hydrangea paniculata; although they’re slowly becoming more popular, and rightly so. They’re just as tough as macrophylla, and give huge plumes of flowers like tattered lace; and some blooms exude sweet nectar too. The most well-known across Europe is ‘Vanilla Fraise’, which has strawberry-tinged flower heads, which look almost good enough to eat! ‘Levana’ is another cool one, with flowers like a wedding cake!
Hydrangea ‘Vanilla Fraise’
Pruning is easy too, and you can be quite lazy with H. macrophylla types actually. Prune hydrangeas in spring, as leaving the stems intact will give the plants some added frost protection. Simply remove the flowered stems back to a strong bud each spring. H. paniculata are pruned during spring too, just trim back all stems to a healthy set of buds, keeping a neat framework in place!
Getting hanging baskets right doesn’t have to be a great effort. All too often I see such poor, forgotten hanging baskets outside people’s homes, which probably started off looking good, but then quickly went downhill, as people found them too much effort to care for. It doesn’t have to be this way. Start your baskets in the right way, and they’ll be easier to maintain and will dazzle passers-by!
Firstly, choose a basket large enough for the purpose. Small baskets dry out quicker, so need watering numerous times a day. GO LARGE, and you will cut down on watering, as the moisture stays in the compost for longer. Easy Fill baskets are ideal, they have a diameter of 14 inches, and as the name suggests, they’re ‘easy to fill’. The flat bottom means you don’t have to do a balancing act when you plant them up. And, as you plant around the sides too, your trail can get a head-start! The innovative gates around the side of the basket mean that you can now plant up larger specimens into your hanging baskets. This will give you more confidence, and speed up your summer displays. You’ll also have fresher, healthier plants from the moment you plant up, as you aren’t pushing chunky plants through small holes!
It’s important to use high quality compost; this will make all the difference, and help water retention. So, buy as good a quality soil as you can afford. At the very beginning, mix in Thompson & Morgan’s new fertiliser ‘Incredibloom®’; this controlled fertilizer only activates when the compost is warmed, so is only given to your plants when they need it, reducing scorch. What’s even better is, you only use it twice in the season, not every week like some brands. Mix in 1 scoop per 2 litres of compost.
Next, plant up your hanging basket, either with all one variety, or a mixture of your favourites! Water your basket well, and ensure it’s placed into a frost-free position until the last of the frosts. You can pinch out the tips of some plants after a few weeks, to make them more bushy and flower-covered too! Once you hang your basket out, sit and enjoy, but remember to water every day, and remove any dead flowers, as this means more will come!
The Suffolk Show 2014 will be taking place on May 28th and 29th at Trinity Park, Ipswich. The Suffolk Show has become the county’s largest 2 day pop-up family event and the organisers, Suffolk Agricultural Association, like to ensure that it is one of the best family events in the UK.
For the last 5 years, Thompson & Morgan have joined forces with Easton Otley College to create the 16 foot high ‘Flower Tower’! This year, the tower will be clothed with 200 Flower Pouches®, that each contains 10 plants of Begonia ‘Lotto’. Since the downy mildew demise of the UK’s favourite plant, the Busy Lizzie, customers have been trying to find a suitable alternative. Thompson & Morgan seem to have hit the jackpot with Begonia ‘Lotto’, with giant, weather-proof flowers and foliage. The displays by Easton Otley College feature a range of other Thompson & Morgan plants too. Look out for some superb colour co-ordinated patio containers, as well as the ‘edible wall’, an innovative vertical planting which features herbs, lettuce, salads and edible flowers.
Thompson & Morgan are also supporting Lucas Hatch at the show. Lucas was crowned RHS Young School Gardener of the Year in 2012, and is building his very first show garden at the Suffolk Show.
Lucas is the Suffolk Show’s youngest garden designer at the age of 12! Thompson & Morgan have donated petunias, geraniums and a very special lucky dip of seeds for this stand! Lucas has planted the petunias quite close together as he wanted full impact with the colour, this should not be missed!
Lucas has designed a small family garden to inspire and encourage children to grow, have fun, and eat healthily. The garden comprises of 2 main borders, one is an insect friendly border encouraging wildlife and also contains T&M trailing petunias. The other border is an edible border with fruit trees. Other features include: a lawn, paving, low hazel fencing and a children’s greenhouse. Judging commences at 8.30am on Wednesday 28th May so an early start for us all. If you are heading to the Suffolk Show this year please share your highlights, or dislikes below.