FIVE SWEETPEAS AND A CUCUMBER
Like a fine wine I don’t travel well so I have only ventured abroad twice in 20 years (that’s if you don’t count Jersey). However a promise is a promise: We have just returned from a visit to Cyprus, home of my oldest friend Naomi, to celebrate her 60th birthday. (I bet she’ll thank me for that announcement!). I had forgotten how exotic the Mediterranean was. Oh the flowers! So the British have their privet and box hedges, but the Cypriots have oleander, lantana and hibiscus hedges! Cannas growing like weeds at the road side, ipomoea scrambling through wire mesh fences, callistemon in flower now. Little gems (well not literally lettuces but nothing would surprise me) like gentians and eryngium, nestling in shingle on beaches and rock faces. Banana plantations! Cactus flowers 20ft tall! Whether it’s the British ex-pat community over there or just brute adaptability, the roses were magnificent: I have to say though that the species roses growing wild amongst other indigenous shrubs looked more comfortable than the cultivated ones, somehow incongruous, in domestic gardens. And green lawns, hmmm, a sure sign of British ownership methinks.
As well as being in flora heaven, the fauna was highly entertaining too. Opportunist sparrows, more like our robins, silently prospecting our alfresco dining – unnerving if you are not a fan of Hitchcock’s The Birds – quick as a flash, dive bombing for French Fries in formation, the final flourish provided by a hooded crow who swooped down and carried off half of an 8” seeded baguette complete with cream cheese topping. (I wonder if foreign tourists find seagulls quite so entertaining in Southend when they steal your chips; come to think of it, do foreign tourists go to Southend?) As in so many other Mediterranean resorts, the feral cat population is alive and well thank you. By and large they are in good condition due to trapping and neutering programs established by the numerous cat sanctuaries on Cyprus. At Naomi’s apartment complex, her Russian neighbour regularly feeds the resident feral community and it was highly entertaining to see them gathering around at dawn and dusk, staring intently up at her balcony willing her to hurry up with the grub. (Evidently there are Mad Cat Women the world over.) Like a scene out of West Side Story they roamed around in their gangs, lazing arrogantly around the pool in the sunshine, occasionally brushing up against rival factions. Clearly not starving, they barely lifted their heads to register the swifts that were dive bombing the surface of the water for insects.
However, here we are again in East Finchley. One week since our return and I find myself reflecting upon the joys of travel. Although I appear to be well on the way to conquering yet another phobia, this time flying, I don’t think that I shall be making a habit of it. Holidays are all very well but I won’t be leaving the garden to its own devises again any time soon! Oh the stress of it! Should I leave the irrigation system running or switch it off? Will I return to scorched earth or sodden borders? Two days prior to departure I decided it was prudent to relocate the dozen or so trays of seedlings and annuals from the greenhouse to our spare room. With temperatures so unpredictable and access so hazardous (plants-for-sale, hastily moved into the shade, were blocking the path to the back of the garden) at least this way friend Anne could keep an eye on them when she fed the cats.
After only five days away (trip dates had to work around our local Plant Heritage sale, never mind Naomi’s birthday) the garden had gone berserk! How do other gardeners manage to go away for a fortnight? Having loaded up the washing machine for the ninetieth time in 12 hours (slight exaggeration, but still, yet another reason not to go on holiday) I could at last concentrate on the garden. Once the nursery trays had been returned to the greenhouse (thanks Anne, what’s your secret, they have doubled in size!) and the plants-for-sale had been revived, it was time to plant up the T&M tomatoes, Garnet, Mountain Magic & Indigo Cherry Drops, into their final positions, then turn my attention to the patio.
With the assorted T&M jonquils finally over, I turfed them out of their pots, foliage and all, ready for replanting on the allotment. Not known for my patience or adherence to the six week rule, out came the rest of the spent bulb leaves from the permanent planting schemes. I’ll take my chances! You may remember my concerns regarding my two towering abutilons, well readers, they are well deadski, as my friend Laurie from the Bronx used to say! Quel dommage! ………..And five minutes later I muse that golden hop might look striking combined with blue ipomoea and black eyed Susan. There’s no sentiment in war, or gardening it seems.
So anyway, with Spring Phase One out of the way, next weekend is Hanging Basket and Container Display time. Yippee! Having successfully overwintered several cannas on the patio for the first time, I planted out some additional divisions in April. Hostas and heucheras, suspended in hanging baskets out of harm’s way, are slug (and Fred the cat) free. The piece de resistance will be T&M Begonia Non-Stop Mocca Bright Orange, Begonia Glowing Embers, Petunia Mini Rosebud Peachy combined with coleus Campfire & black and lime green ipomoeas. I love creating the patio displays, and whilst I was reminded by fellow blogger Julie Quinn that gardening is about the process not the finished result (more of that later), summer bedding schemes are like stage sets with a definite beginning and end.
Talking of Julie Quinn, isn’t it a small world. There she is, gardening away no more than 2 miles down the road from me, attending all the same local plant sales, with friends and acquaintances in common, loves cats and has medical connections. Julie made me very welcome for afternoon tea at her house where we shared horticultural experiences, knowledge and opinions in her beautiful paved garden. Thank you Julie, it was a pleasure to meet you and I look forward to seeing you again soon.
Last Saturday we held our Hort. Soc. plant sale in the Hampstead Garden Suburb. My spy tells me that, whilst queuing to get in, visitors were enthusing about this annual event as one of the highlights of the neighbourhood social whirl, not to be missed. I love selling – once a retailer always a retailer; shoppers still stop me in department stores and ask me where the loo is – so I was in my element amongst the trailing lobelia and petunias, “All plants on sale for £1.40 each.” I have however lost the art of adding up in my head and so hastily produced a crib sheet of £1.40 times table. There was a huge selection of veg and salad plugs and of course I couldn’t resist some extras for the greenhouse and allotment. Having guarded my purchases throughout the morning (funny how seemingly civilized locals can turn into marauding rabble when there’s a bargain to be had) I took my eye off the ball, for one minute I tell you, and they were gone! Panic set in; the Great Clear Up had begun, car boots were searched to no avail, fellow committee members were eyeing me with caution as I interrupted conversations to enquire, “Has anyone seem my five sweet peas and a cucumber?” Indeed, ever efficient chairperson Doc Page and the team had tidied them away ready to be returned to the local nursery, so I guiltily retrieved them and beat a hasty retreat! I am happy to report that they are all now happily in situ and growing on well.
So much to do, and without our usual mid-June NGS Open Day deadline it feels strange to be just ambling along with tasks at a leisurely pace. But my new mantra, “Gardening is about the process not the finished result” ringing in my ears, I can finally allow myself to potter gently on. Yeah right, until the next disaster…..
There are compensations for the dark evenings and cooler days of autumn, as they herald the beginning of the traditional planting season. Although container grown plants can be planted at any time of the year, autumn is the preferred time to encourage well established root systems before the surge of growth in spring. Bare rooted plants can also be planted once their dormancy has begun, and this can be a very cost effective way to purchase, particularly as rose plants can be expensive.
Roses can live for many years in the garden, and initial care taken with planting can assist health and longevity. Even though there are many different varieties, their needs are broadly similar and whilst certain varieties can tolerate some shade, most roses thrive in full sun, and will beneﬁt from being planted in the sunniest parts of the garden.
If you decide to buy bare root roses, take them out of the packaging immediately on arrival and immerse the roots in a bucket of cold water for several hours, to rehydrate them. If you prefer to purchase container grown roses, ensure that they, too, are well watered before planting.
Be generous when planting your rose — generous hole, generous feed, generous can of water!
Begin by digging over the ground where you wish to plant your rose, to ensure that the area is free from weeds and stones. Then, dig a planting hole which is wider and deeper than you actually need, taking care to loosen the soil at the base of the hole, so that roots can spread easily. Also ensure that there is little else planted around the rose itself. Once it gets established it will be much more able to cope with other plants encroaching, but in the early days, will beneﬁt from lack of competition. Patio roses, particularly, soon give up and fail to thrive if they have to compete with vigorous perennials.
Once you have dug your hole, put a generous amount of compost or well rotted manure in the bottom then mix in the required amount of rose fertiliser, to give the plant a good start. Before handling the rose, do remember to put on thorn-proof gloves, as those thorns can be dangerous! Then place the rose in position, ensuring that it is planted to the same depth as it was previously. The graft union should be just below the surface of the soil. If you are planting a container grown rose, ﬁll around the root ball with compost and ﬁrm in, to dispel air pockets. If you are planting bare root plants, ensure that the roots are not damaged as you carefully backﬁll with compost.
All newly planted roses will beneﬁt from a generous watering after planting, and regular watering until they are established.
If you take the care and attention to give your new rose the best start you can, then you should have a beautiful addition to your garden, which will give pleasure for many years to come.
Hope you are all well? Spring has sprung; the days are getting longer and warmer weather (hopefully) is on its way.
It’s National Gardening week, and I am so chuffed that I can now, in my best Pembrokeshire Welsh accent say “I declare the New Greenhouse OPEN ! ” Not because it’s National Gardening Week, but because Mark and I have finally completed the construction of it. We have even moved the water butt to attach another hose kit so that we can collect rainwater from both greenhouse roofs. As you can see from the photo there were a lot of panes of glass to install, sixty, in fact. It took three hours as the clips kept pinging off the glass and one of us would have to look for ages to find it. I am sure some of them are still in the Rose and Herb Garden.
We have put top soil and compost into the borders the path has been laid, the edging is done, and we have even erected the new shelving, the shelving was the easiest job out of everything. One of my aunties gave us a giant lightweight wooden lantern and we have hung it from one of the beams along with a glass wind chime from my mum. I don’t think they will stay there once the tomatoes and other veggies are in place, as, even being only five foot one and a bit, I keep banging my head on them.
As yet the part of the shelving is still in the old greenhouse as I have had so many seedlings to transplant, I am sort of moving things between them until I know what is going where and when. So far in the new greenhouse I have one set of shelves a mini spade, trowel , fork, and plant feed pellets, five pots of overwintering, soon-to-be-moved-out pots of Strawberry Sweetheart’s, seven bags of potatoes, two large blue terracotta pots of sunflower “Colour Parade” and stocks “Sugar and Spice.” I am wondering if this might be a good planting combination. I want something to take the attention away from the sunflower stalks for a while.
I am really looking forward to the T&M Sunflower competition, not that the blue pot combo will be entered as a photo, I have a totally different plan that I hope will work, but sorry, I can’t share that one with you! All of the above plants are being hardened off at the moment, but our weather is still a bit unpredictable. Last week we hit twenty two degrees Celsius only for it to drop to nine degrees by the end of the week. We haven’t had any frost but the winds have been blustery and cold.
After looking after me last month and doing the hard graft, last Saturday was a chance for Mark to do what he loves the most, joining his friends from the club on a metal detecting rally, this meant I had the garden to myself! Selfish I know, but I love this quiet time, just the birds singing, and insects buzzing, I spent a good half hour just walking around the garden, seeing what was in bloom, and what needed attention. I then decided to construct a pea wigwam using canes and string, the garden peas have really shot up. Next I transplanted some mini plugs and earthed up and fed the spuds. My friend Rachel arrived with a selection of tomatoes she grew from seeds, including White Opal, a wise man once said “A generous Gardener is never poor.” And I totally agree, so in return for her gift, she had a pot of baby lettuces from me. This wise man’s saying has now become a motto for me, I love sharing and swapping plants with people. For a long time I admired my next door neighbour’s poppies, one year he was getting rid of some them and he gave me a slab of the root cuttings, he said “I don’t know if they will grow my girl, but bury them in the ground and see what happens.” They did grow and they get stronger every year. What’s the best garden swap you have had?
I possibly may have germinated too many seeds, I have at least two hundred Amaranthus seedlings, I bought them from T&M a few years ago and they are beautiful. I love the burgundy leaves, and it’s worth growing them for the foliage alone, but come midsummer they will produce a soft feathery spike that can stand up to anything the weather throws at them. Each year I collect a spike of seeds and keep it to sow the following year. The seeds are loved by the birds too so I have to be quick. I held back and only planted around ten radishes; this is because I don’t know if I like them. I haven’t eaten them since I was a child and I was convinced the little red thing in the salad bowl was a cherry and I had to have it before my brothers, so I put the whole thing in my mouth and it practically blew my head off. We were having lunch with some people and I was too polite to spit it out. I never tried radish again, Mark likes them though so I am giving them a go.
I also have a second sowing of peas, fifty or so sunflowers, seven aubergines, and some Zinnias that I had free with a magazine. I also have 300 mini plugs. HELP! I am not very good at thinning out seedlings; I tend to keep them all potting them on and give them away when they are bigger.
I received five plug plants from Terri at T&M of Fuchsia Garden News. I potted them on straight away as they were so robust that the roots were trying to escape through the packaging almost. It’s quite exciting that there is a Fuchsia Festival, I have learned so much about these shrubs from the information on the website.
Writing this blog has made me realise I need a plan. Each evening after work I have spent an hour in the greenhouses potting on, watering, or plant labelling but it’s on the weekends that I really have to pull my socks up and do some serious work. I usually try to dedicate an afternoon just for gardening. My diary helps as it has a section to list my to-do tasks but I think a more detailed plan is needed, so a sheet of A4 paper and a pen is needed. Do you plan what to do in the greenhouse, or do you just get on with tasks in hand?
I am hoping that by this time next month I will have even more greenhouse news to share with you. Fingers crossed that the tomatoes are big enough to be put in their final beds, with their growing frames neatly installed, I hope that the aubergines have got bigger, that I have eaten my first lettuce leaves with radish or white onion and cheese sandwiches. The rhubarb whilst not in the greenhouse should be ready for pulling, and I can stew that to make a jelly or just have it with custard. This is why I love gardening, the anticipation of what’s to come. Is there anything you would like to see more or less of in my blogs? I love having you feedback, please send me pictures or comments on how your greenhouse/garden is doing. I would be really interested in what you have achieved.
Until next month,
I am not sure if it is a common perception but due to working within the horticultural industry, it is clear that here in Britain we are a nation of gardeners. With the development of the industrial sector and the new homes within our largest towns and city centres; space is now at a premium. However, new and innovative concepts such as an urban gardening, balcony growing, growing plants on your windowsill, and products such as our Tower Pot™, mean that space is no longer a required component to gardening.
Episode 1 of the Great British Garden Revival discussed the nation’s favourite flower, the rose. We live in a world that seeks new innovations, whether it is having the latest smart phone or fashion trend and I think this the same for our choice of flowers. We don’t like to feel that we are missing out on something and with our focus on new varieties, traditional varieties are taking a back-seat and we are at risk of losing them from our gardens forever.
So, roses. I have to admit I fall in love with roses every time I see them. There are over 1,000 cultivars of rose, from trailing to shrubs there is a variety to suit most requirements. The first episode featured traditional climbing rose varieties such as Crimson Glory. With deep crimson blooms, this older variety is beautiful and the fragrance is simply divine! However, even though older roses tend to have amazing fragrance, they can lack in vigour and good disease resistance. This is when we see the newer varieties take centre stage with the best of best of both worlds. Hardy rose variety Rose ‘The One and Only’ has flowers rich with crimson-red petals that give the appearance of an old-fashioned English rose. They are renowned for their scent, as this hybrid tea rose is like no other – fruity and indulgent. That being said, every rose has something to offer to the garden and we all have our own favourites. Have you got a favourite rose?
Episode 2 of the Great British Garden Revival focused on daffodils, blossom trees and shrubs. The history of daffodils dates back before the First World War, where fields were coated in a blaze of yellow. They were then cut and packed for the consumer market. The big affect on daffodil growing came after the Second World War when fields were taken over for the production of food. However, now we often see daffodils in front gardens and scattered along countryside lanes where they bring a smile to our faces as they are seen to resemble one of the first signs of Spring and the growing season ahead. I love the all time favourite Narcissus ‘Tete-a-tete’. This delightfully small variety is the perfect variety for cutting. Undemanding an easy to grow, they will make a beautiful addition to cottage gardens. What is your favourite daffodil?
On tonight’s episode James Wong attempts to revive a plant that has disappeared from our gardens, the rhododendron. Christine Walkden puts the case forward for the carnation, as she heads to a specialist nursery to recover some important facts.
Have you been watching? We would love to get your thoughts. Tell us if you prefer traditional or modern varieties and why.
Something appears to have happened in my garden. All of a sudden, it is full to bursting with roses – some of which are just in bud, some in full bloom, and some, which have got to the painful point of just bursting.
As I stood taking photographs of the roses in my garden on Friday evening, I watched as one burst in front of me – the petals cascading to the floor – completely spent. It had done everything that it could do, and after giving days of incredible scent, it was over. Just like that. I almost felt a stab of pain as I watched it happen – gone for another year.
I hadn’t been expecting the roses – I have been so caught up in planting other parts of my garden, that I had completely forgotten that they would be coming. It sounds strange to hear myself say that, as my garden is small, and the roses are such a big part of the garden in the summer months, but because most of them were already in the garden when I moved in, I don’t really anticipate them, and when they bloom, they are like a wonderful surprise. There is the rambling rose, which towers high above the rest of the garden. I can’t even tell, to what it is clinging, but the tiny white flowers, tinged with pink, are so different to all of the rest of the roses in the garden – which are largely the old English type, that she stands quite apart from the rest.
Some of the roses are quite gaudy – in bright oranges, or yellows, they wouldn’t have been something that I would have picked for myself, but they try so hard, and stand so proudly, that I daren’t think of taking them out. The scent from them is divine too, so I take great delight in cutting them, and filling jugs full of them for the house. They may only last a few days – but for that time, the cottage smells heavenly.
Perfection in peach
There are roses which are tightly budded, like a pair of lips, waiting to be kissed, and there are others which have petals which are so far flung, that they look to be trying to break away from the plant. Each of them have their own personality – but each very much a rose.
Roses seem to be so uneqivocally English – there is something about them which screams Cottage Garden – they are talked of in literature, and shown in paintings throughout the ages, and they always evoke pure beauty. It seems strange that they have such thorny stems – almost warding away the picker!
For these few weeks, the garden will smell of roses, and I plan to enjoy every second of it!
You can read more on my blog: theenglishrose.blog.com