There is no greater sight than the eccentric trusses of soft, pale purple, hanging from a lime green cushioned background? (There probably is but I think it’s a pretty wondrous sight in the month of May). This is a little story of an old, worn out wisteria given a new lease of life in its later years.
19th September 2014
Another year has passed. Another year of feeling unloved. It’s been three years now since I’ve been pampered. I need a haircut badly and some support behind me to keep me going. But I guess you need it when you get to old age!
5th January 2015
Christmas has been and gone and spring has sprung again. The snow drops are hanging their shy heads in the borders and the hydrangeas have the first green shoots appearing. They all look so happy and content. It almost makes me feel energised again. I’ve given up hope on being tended to. I’m residing to just sprouting a few leaves. The bare minimum. That’s all I can just about manage to be able to survive.
9th February 2015
My human has been talking to another human who looks after my friends in the next garden. He seems so tentative to them. My human asked him if he could come and prune me. I was elated! She hasn’t forgotten me! That immediately changed to sadness when he said he doesn’t have the time to care for me too. Just my luck!
17th February 2015
Oh my goodness! I feel so ALIVE! There’s been a young human girl here today. She has given me a short bob cut. Three buds on each whip! It’s a month early in the year really but I’m being given a new lease of life! MY body has been tied to the supports on the wall I grow against. I’ve got more space to show off and I cannot wait.
14th May 2015
The human girl has been coming fortnightly looking after all my garden companions. Every time she walks through the gate she looks up at me. So I’ve put on a real show for her. All my best work. She seems so proud that she’s helped me and I am so grateful. I feel young again.
20th August 2015
She’s been again today. The human girl. I’ve had a long bob cut today. Six buds on all my new whips. She put some new wire supports on the wall as I’m spreading out and she has tied me up and wiggled me around the wire. I’m all set for winter. Happy and content.
10th March 2016
The short bob to three buds is back! It’s amazing what a good hair cut can do for you. Although I think I went a little over the top with my display last year.
5th May 2016
I’m in bloom. Showing off. Not quite as much as last year but my human in the house is still very happy to see my flowers.
12th August 2016
I’ve covered my body with leaves. The sun beats down on me all day. My roots are in the shade and I’m loving life that much that I decided to put on a second flush of flowers. The young human girl was surprised as I didn’t go all out in May. But still very happy to see all the effort she’s put into me going to good use.
I hope you like my take on looking after your wisteria. It’s based upon my experiences with a neglected Wisteria sinensis in a garden I care for, here in north Norfolk. If you want to add a little extra to your wisteria, use a liquid feed that will boost the foliage and blooms when you prune in May such as incredibloom® and a foliar and root builder in the later part of the year to help it through the winter.
I’ve got a medium sized garden and have spent the past year trying to transform it from a concrete mess, to something I can sit and relax in. I’ll paint a picture of what I’m dealing with; there are two rectangular borders with good quality soil in and a large square area in the middle too. They’re surrounded by uneven patio areas and a concrete monster at the back. Unfortunately it’s not an easy task to just remove the mess at the back of the garden, so I’m working my way from the front until I can sort out the back.
The middle square patch of garden has been tormenting me for months! I really couldn’t decide what would suit this area, what I wanted and how to make it look good. However, I couldn’t help but pick up random plants and shrubs in every garden centre I visited. It also doesn’t help being signed up to T&M’s newsletters with their tempting deals every week. I’ve potted up the smaller plants and am growing them on a little bit more before deciding their final positions, and have planted out the rest in a very sporadic manner. You can clearly tell I’m an amateur gardener- but I am loving the adventure I’m on with it all!
After visiting Beth Chatto Gardens earlier in spring (highly recommend a visit – so beautiful), I came across a beautiful Acer in a large terracotta pot and fell in love. Light bulbs were going off in my head and I knew exactly how I wanted that square patch to look all of a sudden. I wanted a stunning Acer tree in the middle as a feature, and shrubs that would slowly take over the patch around it. Maybe a few stepping stones through the area would look good too.
I already had a stunning Hosta ‘Guacamole’, a selection of Heuchera ‘Patchwork Mixed’ and ‘Purple Palace’, a Dicentra Bleeding Heart and a Hydrangea ‘Love’ which I placed close to the borders and spread out to allow room for growth. Now was my mission to find my dream pot for the main feature; my beautiful Acer. Thompson & Morgan were kind enough to suggest the Starfish Acer for me. Quirky foliage and not too large for what I had in mind. I loved the illustration of the basket container, but didn’t think it would suit my garden vision. So I went off on my mission. Unfortunately the search took much longer than I expected, and my poor Acer was left in the pot it arrived in for much longer than I wanted it to. It was starting to look a little sorry for itself – after research I think it’s due to over watering and being in a non sheltered position. I’ve quickly moved it to a semi-sunny spot where it’s protected from winds. It turns out Acers suffer from scorching and doesn’t like sunny positions where it’s hit by blazing midday sun, or windy spots. I think the middle of my patch is ideal – gets the morning sun, and is sheltered from roaring winds by the nearby wall.
So, back to pot shopping, I have to discuss my ultimate bargain with you. Everyone knows large Teracotta pots are quite expensive; maybe £50-£70 in a local garden centre or chain garden shop. Well, I found one for £25 reduced in Katie’s Garden (in Suffolk) which was pretty much exactly what I had in mind. However, it had a large chunk taken out of it, so I managed to haggle it down to £15! So chuffed with myself.
Thompson & Morgan do a great selection of pots now too which I have only just discovered. These would have been a close second choice; the bee hive planters.
I got the pot back home and moved it, very slowly as I have tiny muscles, around the area to see where looked best before potting up my Acer in it. (Please ignore the back of the garden in the photographs! It really is hideous but by next year should have some pukka decking put in). I decided on the middle to make it the ultimate feature. I’ll see how the Acer gets on with the sunlight in that particular area, and will be happy to move it across towards the wall if needs be.
I’ve given some more thought to what other perennial plants would look good around the Acer, rather than just buying more on a whim like I have been doing, but if you have any suggestions at all please feel free to drop a comment below. I’d love some advice from less amateur gardeners!
With some stones in the bottom for extra drainage and some John Innes compost I’ve potted up the Acer successfully. I’ve also added, temporarily, some slate stepping stones around the pot to give myself a clearer idea of how the area will look once fully finished. I’ll see how my Acer gets on over the next month or two, and I’ll come back and let you know how it’s coming along in my garden and what other changes have been made!
For what seemed like the first time in months David and I dared to step away from the garden for a day out: a trip to Ipswich to visit Thompson & Morgan’s triallists’ Open Day. Coming up from North London is a two hour drive so, seeing as it was sunny and warm, we decided to make a day of it and visit Jimmy’s Farm beforehand. Hordes of happy toddlers and young parents enjoying the school holidays and – us! Oh well, it brings out your inner child doesn’t it?
David at Jimmy’s Farm
Adjacent to Jimmy’s Farm, the Thompson & Morgan show ground is so bright and colourful that I dare say it could be seen from space. Dozens and dozens of hanging baskets, flower pouches and containers loaded up with annuals at the peak of their performance. I felt like a kid in a sweet shop!
I recognised some of the plants as ones I have grown at home this summer, but at T&M you see how the professionals do it! In fairness they have an open sunny site and we have an enclosed semi-shaded patio, and this was reflected in the increased volume of flowers in their displays compared to ours. Having overwintered some begonias from last summer I didn’t buy any more this season, but having seen their displays of blousy Begonia ‘Fortune Peach Shades’, cascading Inferno and exotic dark leaved Flamenco, I can’t wait to place my order for 2017. I love my two towering abutilons, so when Michael showed us two annual climbers, citrusy Ipomoea lobata or Spanish Flag, and lemon dicentra, I could picture them right alongside. (Tried unsuccessfully to grow ipomoea from seed before but hey, hope over experience wins every time.) Upturned fuchsia flowers seem a contradiction in terms but somehow it works: Princess Charlotte’s perky little salmon pink flowers are a delight, but a bit too well behaved for my taste.
Begonia ‘Fortune Peach Shades’, cascading Inferno and Ipomoea lobata
Some of the shrubs caught my interest too, especially Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pinky Winky’, as apart from being a gorgeous plant, is named for my Sphynx cat Winky, and is a lot better looking too. Diervilla Cool Splash is a new one on me, leaves similar to a variegated cornus with creamy flowers like pittosporum Tobira. With my penchant for the unusual, I was very taken with a tropical looking Tomato Tree, unlikely to bear fruit in our climate but hell, who cares, with foliage and flowers like that it’s a terrific ornamental. Note to self: can you not develop a taste for small dainty plants; you have run out of space!
So many new things to take in, and then – and then – we were shown into the marquee for another presentation, this time, of fruit and veggies. (I can honestly say, being a Townie, I have never settled my butt on a hay bale before. I’m still picking the straw out of my cashmere cardigan darhling!)
Tomato Tree and Diervilla ‘Cool Splash’
Tomatoes are my thing and I was not disappointed; lovely colourful varieties such as tomato Garnet, tomato Artisan Mixed and Indigo Cherry Drops all tasted as good as they looked. I could eat them like sweets (and become a lot slimmer to boot). Having had success with growing peas for the first time this summer I am looking forward to trying out Pea Eddy and I’ll be growing hot hot Wasabi Rocket for David.
As if that was not enough Michael and his team had laid on a fantastic afternoon tea with delicious scones the size of dinner plates, so we had ample opportunity to chat to other bloggers and twitterers (I’ve no idea if that is the correct noun). All coming at gardening from different angles and with different backgrounds, with one thing in common – the love of gardening.
Finally the afternoon was brought to a close with tempting Goodie Bags containing all manner of seed packets (hurrah, including my tomato seeds), Incredicrop© Fruit and Veg fertiliser and three 9cm pots of the most amazing shrubs: Sambucus ‘Black Tower’ (will look great alongside all those tropical climbers), Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Kilimanjaro Sunrise’ and Blechnum brasiliense ‘Volcano’ Dwarf Brazilian Tree Fern (all small enough to start off on the patio).
So thank you Michael and your team for putting on such a special day and making us feel so welcome.
Happy gardening everyone.
If you were circling North London on 16th July in a helicopter (and why wouldn’t you be?) you would have witnessed a curious phenomenon – gardeners of the Hampstead Garden Suburb on their hands and knees vacuuming their plots – the London Gardens’ Society judges were on their way! Now don’t get me wrong, we are not at loggerheads over this, indeed we have been referred to as a formidable bunch (also the Witches of Eastwick but I digress) and are at great pains to reassure each other that we are not competitive, but – well, if you believe that you will believe anything. One of us usually gets mentioned in dispatches so if you work on the theory of reflected glory then we are all winners.
Welcome to Caroline’s Garden
If anyone tells you that they don’t buy plants at the last minute for Garden Presentations then they are naughty little fibbers! A last minute decision to remove Cephalaria Gigantica, a real cuckoo in the nest, resulted in a gap with the potential for at least 5 new plants. Oh joy! And so the last plant went in @ 5pm the previous day. My revamped blue and lemon border was now complete. (Well nearly, I am sure I could heal another heuchera in if I tried).
So Judgement Day dawned bright and sunny, no strong winds, no clouds on the horizon. To deadhead or not to deadhead, that was the question: Was it better to let the judges see nature taking its course? Do recent plantings look too contrived? So anyway – I decided to deadhead – that was half the colour in the garden gone. Veronicastrum verginicum, filipendula, thalictrum, tansy, all firmly staked; hanging baskets watered, fed, deadheaded and watered again. Petunia Mandevilla is totally stunning, and so is the little unnamed trial bidens outshining its shady corner and much admired Petunia Cremissimo, a perfect match for the beach striped bench beneath. The judges came, photographed, made notes, exchanged anecdotes, and now we wait until October for the results (bit like A Levels!)
Petunia ‘Crazytunia Mandevilla’, Cucamelon’s and Shady Fernery
And lo and behold, a couple of weeks later we were doing it all again for the 2nd NGS Open Day! 31st July was a new date for us, quite late on in the season, and with summer holidays in full swing we were expecting a quieter turnout than June. Oh how Fate laughs! It was so packed at one point that I had to queue to get into my own house! We had to put extra chairs and tables on the front drive, and almost ran out of cake (rioting in the streets). Amazing day: 160 visitors and over £1000 raised for charity. Plants of the day? Ricinus communis, grown from T&M seed, Veronicastrum Virginucum Fascination covered in bees, and towering Tree Lilies in containers either side of our front door, flooding the entrance to the garden with their fragrance. Talking point? Cucamelons – one of my visitors actually pointed out my first fruits to me as I hadn’t noticed it yet.
Perhaps the most notable moment of the day for me was when one of our visitors was looking at David’s story boards of our garden adventures, and, admiring a photo of Rachel De Thame and me taken at the Perennial Fund Raiser in winter 2015, asked if she was my daughter! (Hmmm, I am 58 and I think Rachel is in her early 50s).
Caroline and Rachel De Thame and Caroline in her garden
Having taken the following Monday off work I ventured down to our allotment for a change of pace. I must have harvested 3kgs of blackberries (blackberry fool, blackberry coulis, blackberry ice cream – yummy), Hurst Greenshaft peas, broad beans, Patti Pans ‘Summer Mix’ F1 hybrid and Courgettes ‘De Nice A Fruit Rond’ (the latter two are fantastic in stir fries). Dozens of Tree Lilies are in flower, sweet peas keep coming and coming, and I was able to make up a small posy of dahlias & Buddleia ‘Buzz’® for my 104 year old friend Ethel, (whose brother survived the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915, but that’s a whole other story.) Although Ethel had to give up gardening at the tender age of 100 because she could no longer balance on the top rung of her ladder, she did however manage the climb down her basement stairs to her wine cellar until she was 101.
Part of the reason I am able to continue trialling plants for T&M is the availability of space to experiment on my allotment. In fact really and truly I should register it in the name of T&M as most of the plants growing on it are from trials past and present! Some shrubs like the lilac are now in their third or fourth year and flowering reliably every spring. Daffodil bulbs are transplanted there after flowering on my patio, and annuals for cutting are sown to bring colour and fragrance into the house, as I won’t cut anything from the garden.
Buddleja ‘Buzz’®, Lilies and recent spoils from Caroline’s allotment
We have one more Open Day scheduled this summer on Sunday 4th September for The British Red Cross and then perhaps I can relax and go on holiday! As long as I have something new to try I am happy, and as gardens are never static I should be gainfully occupied for some time to come!
An update from The Good Life In Practice:
So a lot has been happening in the growing season these last few months! The weather has got truly warmer and the rain has indeed helped the plants to push on. Here is a quick round up of what has been happening here…
The tomato plants have well and truly flourished and I have added supports (small canes) for each of them so they can grow straight upwards-cannot wait for juicy tomatoes from these! The mixed salad seed mix, watercress seed mix and sorrel seed mix have been so easy to use too. I simply planted them in pots around the patio and they have sprouted up fresh leaves. This has been perfectly timed for making summer salads for dinners.
Additionally, another supplement to salads has been the different varieties of nasturtiums I have tried. I have included some photographs of two types I have been using thus far in salads and in nasturtium leaf pesto recipes. Herbs such as chives have flowered and the beautiful, deep purple blooms on top have again been perfect for topping salads or pasta dishes. Moreover, when I get low on salad leaves between cropping’s I add pea shoots to the mix – these are so easy to simply cut off the top of pea crops and they quickly grow back. The spring onions tapes have been a triumph and are gradually growing as we speak. The easy seed tapes have meant I haven’t really had to worry about spacing or weeds as it is self-sufficient in this respect – a great, revolutionary idea.
Selection of Katy’s flowers from the garden
The big success has been the fruit bushes. My raspberry canes from Thompson & Morgan – including Glen Moy have been so successful again this year. It has been marvellous to pop down to sort the chickens of a morning and graze on fresh, plump raspberries on the journey down the garden! I have been lucky enough to have a successful blueberry bush, currants and gooseberry bush as well.
Katy’s kitchen garden
The dwarf runner beans I am excited for too. They are just perfect for pots on the patio if you haven’t got a mountain of space in your garden – mine are potted up near the peas and thriving. Again runner beans are a firm favourite not just for eating on their own but also they are a great addition to chutney making.
More of Katy’s great produce
Lots more to share next time and hopefully some recipes too, Katy, The Good Life In Practice
Hope you are all well, and enjoying the beautiful summer days. Our weather in Neyland has been erratic, if there’s one thing we can bet on at the moment is that there are no two days the same. If it’s not twenty seven degrees Celsius and cloudless it’s foggy, damp humid and uncomfortable. Oh and don’t forget the heavy rain, thunder and winds. The poor plants have taken a battering. Although luckily for me most have bounced back, it’s only Petunia ‘Anna’ that seems to be struggling.
Petunia ‘Anna’, Cosmos ‘Xanthos’ & Hollyhock ‘Excelsior Hybrid Mixed’
Like last month I have not done as much in the greenhouses as I would have liked to, this is because I have been unwell again for over two weeks, with a gastric bug, that put me in hospital for five days and because I was in my local hospital the specialist hospital sixty miles away had to cancel my operation as I was too unwell to attend, which is frustrating as I have to wait for a new admission date.
Whilst in hospital I used my visualisation technique to help me through the procedures including trying to name in alphabetical order plants growing in my garden whilst I was having a brain scan. I was quite impressed on two accounts; one that I only got to the letter K before the procedure was over, and two I have a brain! In case your interested I have apples, biden, cosmos, Dianthus ‘Elephants Ear’, foxglove, gazania, hollyhock, ivy, Viola ‘Jonny Jump Up’ and as for K well it was all over then. I am saving the rest of the alphabet for when I go for surgery.
I was discharged on Friday the fifteenth and as soon as I got home I did another garden inspection. The corcockles had gone to seed as had most of the wildflower border, the peas had finished and the Lambs Ears had flowered.
On Saturday I felt really well so I thought I would spend ten minutes in the greenhouse cutting the lower leaves off the tomatoes as they had gone wild. It was warm in there but not uncomfortable, when I got to tired to continue, I realised I had been thirty minutes instead of ten, which really made me smile as it made me feel that I was stronger than I thought I was, happy, relaxed and grateful to be alive. And I was rewarded with my first ripe Tomato ‘Magic Mountain’.
Amanda’s Tomato ‘Magic Mountain’ in different stages of growth
To eat my first tomato of the season was so special, firstly because it’s a new variety for 2016 and it’s the first tomato I have ever grown from seed (I usually buy plug plants,) and secondly because there had been days when I thought I would never get to try them as I felt so ill. Tomato ‘Magic Mountain’ are really tasty, the smell of the vine stays on them long after they are picked, which makes them feel super fresh even if you eat them a day or two after picking. They are bigger than a cherry tomato but smaller than a salad one. The skin was a little bit hard, but that may be due to not having enough sun here. The flesh is thick for a small tomato, but it’s firm and succulent. There are hardly any pips, so fussy eaters should be happy. As there have only been one or two that have been ready since Friday they didn’t get as far as a sandwich or anything more interesting, however, I can’t wait to fry them with some butter, mushrooms, aubergine, sweet peppers basil and oregano. Then scatter them with some cheddar cheese on a warm crusty roll.
Talking about aubergines, the ones opposite my tomato vines are doing much better than last year, the leaves are bigger and they are now starting to flower, the reason they are doing better is because they are receiving a lot more sunlight from early morning than they were in the opposite side of the greenhouse, and as we have kept the tomatoes to only four to five feet tall they are getting the sun for longer in the afternoon too.
The peppers seeds ( T&M Sweet Bonita) that Blogger Jean Willis gave me, have produced some of the best pepper plants I have ever grown, and they are 100% better than last year’s garden centre plant bought. The leaves are even and shiny, within no bare patches or uneven growth. There are a lot more flowers on them than other varieties I have grown, and which the bees are happy to pollinate for me.
Unfortunately, the Rubin be Lemonade Basils have bolted, but the flowers are so pretty I’ve just let them continue as they are. The leaves taste slightly more bitter, but I am wondering if I should collect their seeds to see if they have cross pollinated. It would be amazing if I could come up,with a green and burgundy striped basil, or a new tasting one. Knowing my luck though I’d probably end up with something that tastes disgusting and looks like an alien.
Sweet Pepper ‘Bonita’ & Cucamelon ‘Melothria
The cucumelons and squashes that I had from another company, really are not doing that well at all. They are small and weak growing, and the leaves seem to be more of a pale green than they should be,they are having the same care and attention as any other plants we have, with the same watering and feed. Carelessly whoever packed the plants sent the wrong instructions too, as they sent me the leaflet for how to grow your tomatoes and peppers! I have used the company before, but I won’t by plug plants from them again. However the cucamelons in the small greenhouse seem to be ok. The chilli plant that I had from them died after a few weeks too. Poor Mark won’t have any sweet chilli chutney this year as I lost my baby chilli plants when I first got ill in May.
In the small greenhouse the money tree is really thriving, as are the Aloe Vera’s. The shelves are still bare, as I haven’t done any seed sowing, and I’m feeling frustrated as now would be a good time to start off the winter veg, such as cabbage, turnips and swede. I know we are lucky in this region that I can sow seeds even up to September and October and still get a good crop, but I hate seeing things empty. I did think about setting some seeds, but I know in the next few weeks they won’t have my full attention so it would be a bit of a pointless exercise.
Bidens ‘Pink Princess’ & Gazania ‘Big Kiss White Flame’ F1 Hybrid
For the first time in years, I have nothing to plant in the bare soil now my corncockles have been dug up. Usually the space is filled with dahlias, amaranthus, marigolds and any other plants I happen to be growing, so I am tempted to go to the garden centre and buy some bedding plants. At least these will be established and I can plant them straight away. I did think of getting them from T&M special offers, but being on the cancellation list at the hospital I can’t take the chance on waiting for delivery.
My trial Bidens are still flowering, they are still white, pink, and pink and white ringed. They have taken the wildly fluctuating temperatures, the winds and rain and as long as they are deadheaded regularly continue to bloom.
The trial antirhinums that were in with a pot of petunias survived two days upside down on the grass when the bracket holding the heavy pot fell out of the wall. Not sure how the bracket fell out though, Mark is usually good at DIY. The plants were not damaged at all which really impressed us.
The trial trailing fuschias are just beautiful. The ones in pots out the front aren’t growing as well as the ones that are in the more sheltered back garden. Every morning I open my bedroom curtains and look out at three pots of pinky/purple/red fuschias, roses, veronica, poppies, sage, mint and lavender, the scent in the mornings is delicious.
I am hoping by August my operation will have been done, and that I am on the road to recovery. I have promised my nieces to bring down fresh peppers and aubergines. My brother still hasn’t put up his greenhouse so mum is babysitting his tomato plants, and his aubergines are in pots in my small greenhouse. I have a sneaky feeling he won’t finish his greenhouse until next year.
So here’s looking forward to new and tasty fresh vine fruit and veg, time spent with the family and long sunny days.
Take care, and happy gardening,
PS Thank you to everyone who continues to share their gardening adventures with me on Facebook, I love the photos from Geoff and Caroline’s open days for McMillan and NGS open days, to T&Ms Jimmys Farm posts. I love hearing people’s successes as well as problem solving hints and tips. Believe me, it really does make my day.