Most of my blogs are usually about the plants that Driftwood trials for Thompson & Morgan, as one of their Customer Trial Panel gardens, but for a change I thought I’d pen a little bit about the garden’s location and some of the challenges of gardening by the sea!
Room with a view
For those not familiar with Driftwood, it’s located between Seaford and Newhaven on the south coast, not that far from Brighton. It’s in the bay you can see, looking out to sea and there is the view from our bedroom window across the fields to the coast. 2015 has seen strong winds, which makes gardening a real challenge through the summer months, keeping the garden pristine for its many garden visitors. Now, as we approach the winter months, there is much to do to put the garden to bed and get it ready for its 15 scheduled openings in 2016, along with its many private visitors and coach parties.
It is also quite possible it may appear on a prime time gardening show on national TV too next summer! Watch this space! I like the garden to look a little different each year, as many visitors come back year after year.
The central area is still looking quite smart for November, even if it lacks a bit of bright colour. This view across the garden shows a range of lovely shades of green for this time of year!
The garden has many different rooms which I have been working on in recent weeks and you can see the 2 rooms on the left of the garden, the cottage garden area in the foreground and the upper patio at the back, tidied up ready for replanting next spring.
You can see me working on the raised beds in the centre off the garden too, moving plants around to change the overall look. There are 3 Thompson & Morgan blooms looking quite amazing at the moment, they are Rose Garden Party, Alstromeira Peruvian tree Lily and Hydrangea Vanilla Fraise as you can see.
I’ve got several ball chrysanthemums in the back garden too, but the largest of them was badly hit by the recent winds as you can see. It’s always difficult with the wind so I try and keep the planting as low as possible and create the height with some rusted metal sculptures. If you want to see more on the garden go to Driftwood by Sea.
After all the buzz of setting up, last minute polishing and- for some- the clinking of champagne glasses, Chelsea Flower Show exhibitors can now sit back and rest… well almost! Let’s hope the plants can last another day; the unprecedented hot weather this week has given many exhibitors sleepless nights, as they struggle to keep their displays in dazzling form! So here is The Chelsea Roundup.
Newsfeeds were going crazy earlier this week; which celebs are at the show? What are the trends? Who’s going to win best in show? How expensive are those sandwiches…?? You simply can’t deny that Chelsea Flower Show is the most talked about horticultural event of the year, and I love how non-gardeners get on board with it too by being glued to the daily shows on BBC2.
Who cares if some of the gardens are outlandish, isn’t that what this show is about? It’s a showpiece to show the best skills in garden design and horticulture. I’m convinced you can always take elements of any garden and use them in your own; planting partners, styles of planting, sculptures, create your own mini Chelsea show garden! One of my favourite gardens was the Help for Heroes garden, designed by Matt Keightley. I loved the planting, interspersed by blocks- for me; it was the perfect fusion of tradition al cottage garden and modernist!
Help for Heroes garden, by Matt Keightley
I also liked the artisan garden section, mainly because it was in the shade on such a sweltering day! I loved the Virgin Roof Gardens entry, which featured red Geraniums and dwarf Marigolds from Thompson & Morgan. It was an explosion of colour, yet still cool and relaxing!
Virgin Roof Gardens
Every year at Chelsea, my main focus is the floral marquee, where I do a spot of indoor plant-hunting! Here, specialist nurseries show off their skills and variety range. You can come here to see everything from gladioli to passion flowers, bonsai to sweet peas. I must admit I can’t help but feel some of the stands have looked the same for 50 years, but there were some fresh looks. How about hanging amaryllis for example??
The Plant of the Year stand is in the floral marquee, where any nursery from the UK can enter. Those plants are whittled down to 20 finalists, but there can only be 1 winner. As soon as I walked up to the display, I knew that Hydrangea ‘Miss Saori’ had the leading edge, even over plants I had entered! Well, I should have visited a betting shop, as my prediction was right, and this picotee, two-tiered Hydrangea was named Plant of the Year 2014!
Hydrangea ‘Miss Saori’
Then, tomorrow, it’s the BIG SELL OFF! When the stands are dismantled, and the contents auctioned off. This is an absolutely crazy few hours, and it culminates in the London Underground being filled with people hugging delphiniums…! Phew! Another great show!
Hydrangea ‘Glam Rock’ – colour changes in different soils
The ever-changing colours of hydrangea ‘Glam Rock’
One of our fastest selling shrubs ever, hydrangea ‘Glam Rock’ (sometimes also known by the tongue-twister name of ‘Schloss Wackerbarth’) is a beauty to behold!
The mop-head flowers are made up of a kaleidoscope of colours, so much so that they look artificial. But the magic doesn’t end there; the appearance of your hydrangea bloom can change depending on which type of soil you have in your garden. If it has a high pH level (alkaline), the blooms will have more of the green colouring, whereas if the soil has a low pH level (acid), the blooms will be more blue.
You can see here the effects that soils containing acid or alkaline soil can give. The best way to find out the pH level of your soil is to buy a kit from your local garden centre.
Our horticultural expert, Sue Sanderson, has the following advice: “There are lots of soil testers out there that test by either chemical or electronic means, with greatly varying prices and equally varying levels of accuracy. If you just want to know what the pH level is then you should be able to pick up a small disposable kit from your local garden centre – these are fairly inexpensive. They will tell you if it is an acid, neutral or alkaline soil. These domestic kits rely on the use of a capsule that, when mixed with water and a small quantity of your soil, produces a colour that relates to a colour scale rather than a numerical value. I have used this type of kit myself and I would recommend buying more than one capsule though as it is a good idea to test from several positions across your plot instead of just one place. The more expensive kits will be able to give you N:P:K measurements as well, but remember that these will change each time you add fertilisers and soil improvers to your plot so you will need to retest the area. The more complex and expensive test kits are aimed at farmers, professionals, and garden geeks who would just want to know everything about their soil, but these are over and above the requirements (and budgets) of most gardeners.”
Did you know you can control the colour change too? Hydrangea colourant can be watered around the plant to change the pH of the soil, and therefore change the colour of the flowers!
Enjoying a significant rise in shrub sales in general, T&M is thrilled that its customers are so enamoured with the amazing Hydrangea ‘Schloss Wackerbarth’. It has become the best-selling item from the Cottage Garden range and promises to be one of this year’s shrub successes. Named after the grand and impressive Schloss Wackerbarth, situated between Dresden and Meissen in Germany, the fabulous 3-coloured heads of this most eye-catching of shrubs have taken the gardening world by storm.
The rounded flower-heads are formed by dozens of red florets with blue-purple centres and each petal is tipped with an extraordinary shade of lime green. As with many varieties, hydrangea macrophylla ‘Schloss Wackerbarth’ produces slightly different colour tones depending on the pH of the soil.
Thompson & Morgan is putting the increase in shrub sales down to the unseasonably wet weather. This, coupled with relatively warm temperatures, means that traditional planting times for shrubs have been extended. Shrubs planted now will love the moist, warm conditions and will have lots of time to become well established before the winter frosts.