Rambling

November and the sun is shining. Well, to be fair this photo was taken at the weekend so it was technically October but what does a few days matter. One week off work yielded much activity but almost none of it was spent in the garden. We have had the builders round laying the base for a much awaited conservatory so that has dominated our outside time. As you can see the garden has been left to do its thing which I think is to be encouraged. Too much time is spent fussing and worrying plants. Sometimes you just have to let things go for it in their own space and time.

We were given a small cutting of Salvia Hot Lips two years ago when our garden was new. Today it is almost triffid like, not yielding to any amount of pruning, defying us with utterly vigorous regrowth, flowering furiously all year. It has overshadowed the Alchemilla Mollis and the dainty Geum. I have hacked it back three times and this has only encouraged it to grow more bullishly. I intend to be savage once it has finished flowering and have taken some cuttings just in case I finish it off.

The cosmos are raging still and I am cutting four vases of flowers each week. Not bad for a small garden. We haven’t planted any new bulbs this year so it will be interesting to see what comes up in a few month’s time. I am hoping for a field of black and pink tulips but fear squirrel action.

 A couple of weeks ago I picked all the crab apples from the little tree my mother gave me several years ago. I have managed to make one jar of jelly from it each year but this year I have four jars, a bumper crop. There are still some on the tree I didn’t pick them because at the time I was doing battle with a few garden spiders so rather than risk being covered in arachnids, I let the last few fruits stay where they were…for the birds….I tell myself.


Advertisements

Autumn

IMG_7678

The benefit of having designed a garden to reach it’s peak during October is that every Autumn it is in full bloom and we are over run with stunning colour begging to be picked.

When we decided to overhaul the bare patch we inherited we didn’t really think about the seasons and flowers or colour schemes or anything really. Other than the fact we needed to be able to walk down it without breaking our necks.

Being on TV gave us a focus and that fact we got married in October meant that we had to aim for something. So quite quickly we planned flowers that would still be going strong as the big day loomed. We also discovered that late sowing of annuals yielded late colour thanks to consistent dead heading or actually, live heading. So we combined two gardens into one. A cutting garden which gave us a lot of blooms for the house throughout the summer but also a prolonged flowering season thanks to forcing plants to keep making flowers and a herbaceous border with an established feel.

IMG_7397

This year, our second season, has seen us popping outside to be blown away by the riot of colour. Our garden is quite sheltered so unaffected by wind and rain and cold snaps. The dahlias, salvias, fuchsia, verbena, roses, cosmos are still going strong. We still have plenty of alpine strawberries and nasturtiums. Oranges and reds are predominant colours as are the purples and whites in the bottom bed. Separating the colours has proved even more impressive year on year. The hot colours in the top bed, catching the sun and burning bright whilst the blues, violets, soft pinks and whites glow in the shade of the neighbouring trees.

Next year we are focusing on the woodland area at the base of the garden and finally, the conservatory we have planned and longed for is looking like happening so we can sit and gaze at the glory of it all.

April Fools

So here we are on the first of April and it’s a weekend and we are both at home. Somehow does not seemed to have happened for along time and if you also throw in some fiendishly good weather you have everything for a great start to the day. People have been asking us how our garden is a lot recently. Our stock answer for the past couple of months has been that it isn’t doing much and there isn’t a lot to see. However, a couple of hours out there today has proved us both wrong. There is a lot happening.

At first glance there is a lot of bare soil but the tulips have popped up, albeit very sparsely. I seem to remember planting hundreds and hundreds of bulbs. Gradually everything is coming back, the geraniums, the verbena, alliums, reum, gaura, geum all making their way back into our lives. In addition the roses are in glossy leaf and the wallflowers Glenn grew from seed are so bushy and perfumed you never would have thought it possible. I am heartened that a few things I thought were dead are showing me they most certainly are not. We gave everything a mulch last month which has helped to keep things looking neat and cushioned against a cold night. The woodland area at the bottom of the garden still needs work and despite lots of primroses, anemones, hellebores, primulas and snowdrops, there is still space for them all to stretch out and be wild.


Our favourite spot, the boat seat, is back in action too now that it’s warm enough to be able to sit outside and have a cup of tea and stare at the world. The plum tree has more blossom on it than last year but it’s growing in a really bad place, right in the shadow of the sycamore and will never give us the glut of fruit we want. Right now it’s smothered which is promising but we both know it’s all for show.
So we are back in the swing of it, weeding, seed sowing, moving things, planning things, cutting things but mostly sitting and looking at it which was the plan all a long really. And all the while in the back of our minds is…….the allotment.

February

It’s possibly the coldest day of the year, it’s been snowing but nothing has settled which is disgraceful as I am praying for a day off work. Glenn has been outside all afternoon building a new stepped planter from pallets and I have broken my vow of avoiding the garden until spring by going into the garden. No resolve.

The day is grey, bitingly cold and from the snug security of indoors there is nothing going on outside. How wrong can you be? It is all kicking off out here. The first thing I notice is the sound of birdsong. My knowledge of birdsong is limited to the obvious ones; pigeons, cuckoos, seagulls, ducks. So what the various birds are that are giving it their best out there today is totally beyond me.

What happened was what always happens when I am out in the garden, I pop out to do something very straightforward and end up getting sucked into many tasks.

 

The garden looks rubbish at the moment. There is so much that needs clearing and the dahlias still haven’t been lifted but we didn’t lift them last year and they came back bigger and better than ever. Go figure. We have hibernated since October, we meant to do so much but it has not happened. But you know what? It doesn’t seem to have mattered.


We planted hundreds and hundreds of bulbs in the autumn and they are coming up, full of lush promise. The primroses, snowdrops, hellebores, wallflowers are all going mad. It just makes me yearn more for those warm bright days of early spring. There is one area of our garden which escaped us. It’s a slope down the side of the garden, next to the steps. It’s hard, dry, shady and unloved. Our aim is to grow a meadow style patch of grass and a lot of seed has gone into that area so we shall have to wait and see. In the meantime Glenn planted many crocus bulbs and thankfully they are in evidence.


So after I have had a walk around the garden and marvelled at nature I decide to do some hacking back. Glenn has already had a good tidy up today and so I re-wrap the canna lily in bubble wrap and cut back all the dead growth. This may well be the wrong thing to do. Last year we kept the pot in the greenhouse but since our greenhouse is smaller than a cupboard and it already full of geraniums and sweet peas, outside in a sheltered spot is our only choice. I have collected a lot of seed so I intend to sow some successors in case of unplanned death. Jazzy is helping me, as only cats can.


So with frozen feet and fingers I scurry inside to sort through the seed tin. I now have a pile of ‘to plant’ seeds for this month. Once again every windowsill in the house will be occupied with seed trays. This year we are growing for two, the allotment demands our attention and large scale veg and flowers will be our driver. In the meantime there is chard to pick with to go with our pulled pork.

Thank-Kew

img_6049

It would be fair to say that Kew Gardens is one of the most visit worthy places in Britain. Even if you don’t like gardens or horticulture or history, it’s still a good day out and a nice long walk. We had booked this visit in a long time ago, it was on our gardening bucket list if you like, not that we have a gardening bucket list. August, hence the rainy skies and cold biting wind but it made for a more dramatic picture.

The first thing which took us by surprise was the entry price and the charming way the lady in the kiosk made a comment about her surname being the same as ours and would we like to add a voluntary contribution to the overall mortgage inducing price. “Oh yes” we replied as we puzzled about how we may be related but probably weren’t.

The next thing which surprised us was the lack of seating in the cafe we scurried to in the rain. Not because it was busy but because there weren’t many seats. Coupled with a quite extraordinary price for a muffin, we needed a seat to get over the stinging feeling in our wallet. But hey, it doesn’t matter, we were having a day out and this was a treat so let’s pay nearly £5 for a cake and to hell with it.

Thankfully nature smoothed things out and the rest of the day was spent wandering and exploring and generally marvelling at the scale of everything. Which I think is the whole point, showing off with plants.

The Great Broad Walk captivated us with its’ colour, grandeur and sheer sassiness. Yes we can do huge because we have the room so let’s do huge. When you visit a garden on a grand scale you are being given a glimpse into another world and often another time, an era when this was the norm for a lot of people. Well, ok maybe not a lot but a fair few. These days it seems unnatural and despite your best efforts, it’s never going to be possible to recreate any sense of this no matter how much you try. My only consolation is that you can plant hunt and get some nifty ideas for new things you haven’t seen before. This visit was no different. Glenn enjoyed the carnivorous plants which are a new found growing interest and I snapped a lot of textures and patterns for various arty projects.

So did we enjoy Kew? Yes we did. Would we recommend it? Yes we would. Is it value for money? Probably, we could have spent the same on a day out to Alton Towers but this way I didn’t vomit.

Relax

image.jpgRelax

I completely love umbellifers. They draw me in. Every shape and size is of equal appeal. I sketch them, photograph them, paint them, collect their seed. Seeing them in drifts like this makes me stop and sigh. It’s like lacey fairy snow on a summer’s day. They are so dainty and detailed and yet so robust and virulent. I should really know more about this group of plants but all I do know is that they are the parsley family and some have edible roots, like carrots. I also know that if you cut them to bring inside for a huge blousey display, they drop their petals within minutes and smell like cat’s wee. So perhaps it’s best to allow them to roam free.

Just near our home is a large expanse of wild ground. In summer it is drenched in this stuff and you can wade through it waist high. If that isn’t relaxing I don’t know what is.

Long Time No Blog

img_6168

It’s been a while since we last uploaded a proper blog and now we have a heap of followers it’s only right we give you all something to read about. So why the long pause? It was summer, it was sunny, we were outside – a lot. There has been a lot of this…

img_6117

Today is a very grey day however and as it has been raining most of the morning it’s been a good opportunity to go through the hundreds and hundreds of photos from the past few months and put them to good use.

Autumn has hit Wiltshire this week. Our first frosts and properly cold days that never seemed to warm up. The heating has been on and meals are hearty and filling again (hooray). However, since the weather has taken a turn the garden has not. We still have many, many flowers. This is such a wonderful thing for us as last year we planted with Autumn in mind. Our wedding was the focus, we needed October flowers and we got them. This year we got them again and more besides. I am stunned by the amount of vibrant colour we have, something which we have never had in a garden before.

We have spent the year gardening but also visiting gardens, going abroad, buying plants, collecting seeds, planting hundreds of bulbs and in addition, work and family have had their place. There also seems to have been a lot of baking if the photos are anything to go by. So what will follow will be a swift round up of the past few months in tiny bite sized blogs. Mini blogs, blogettes.

Topics will include; Kew gardens, Croatia, the Boat Seat, the allotment, cut flowers, the Isle of Wight, Stratford upon Avon, the great dahlia debate and much much more. So put that kettle on and cosy up by the fire.

Next time on Sowing, Growing and Cups of Tea; Every Garden Needs Cake

The Good Life Gone Wild

IMG_5539

At some point in the spring we found ourselves having the conversation about adding to our empire. We had a great garden that was keeping us busy but not so busy we couldn’t  sit and look at it. We had all the planting planned, seedlings on the go, colour schemes and a succession of bits of gorgeousness waiting in the wings. The greenhouse was full and that may have been the tipping point. The greenhouse was full and we had nowhere to put anything else, at all. All the windowsills in the house were claimed by seed trays. The garden table was a nursery zone. We had nowhere to go, or did we?

So this is how we found ourselves discussing whether we were ready for an allotment. It was surprisingly easy really. Salisbury has many, many allotment sites and we were able to put our names down for one nearest our home. We didn’t have long to wait and within a couple of months we were skulking around our local site inspecting vacant plots, choosing our new piece of land.

In the end we chose Plot 51 purely because it was the least overgrown and had the least amount of rubble, bedsteads, concrete mixers and man traps. Oh and it was the only one with a free shed so we took it.

The very kiIMG_5372nd lady at the council said that we could start working on it straight away so off we went one Wednesday night to survey the land. The great news was that we had to clear it all by hand and it was all grass and thistles. Amazingly in one hour we met both our neighbours and the site warden who gave us some garlic plants and a massive amount of info about the soil and the flooding in the winter. Flooding?

So we set to work. After much plotting and planning about what to do with everything and how to go about it, we decided on the black plastic approach. According to our site warden, Terry, our plot had only been vacant for two years. We could just about make out the remnants of some old beds so we followed one to give us a starting point.

Our aim was to smother as much as we could in plastic and leave it to fester until early spring 2017 whilst cultivating a small bed this year. We had chard, courgettes, beans, chinese cabbage and squashes that needed a home. And then we uncovered a strawberry patch.

IMG_5415Glenn started planning some compost bins and we started ogling all our neighbours to see what they were growing and how. It was pretty impressive. Lots of flowers and fruit and chickens and show stopping soil condition but everyone we passed said hello and chatted and were terribly, terribly friendly. Within a week we had cleared a long lost bed and put in some basic crops. We had sourced a free mini poly tunnel from Gumtree and bought a ton of fantastic black plastic for the larger part of the plot. We weighed it down with junk and rubble we found around the allotment site and asked the warden if we could pillage vacant plots. Yes was the answer so we helped ourselves to a compost bin

There was still an issue of large amounts of grass which we couldn’t cut with shears and our mower is electric. So in a moment of sheer manliness Glenn went and hired a behemoth called a POWER SCYTHE.

Behold the POWER SCYTHE!

IMG_5437

I imagine this would be pretty effective at removing toes. The man at the hire shop persuaded Glenn this would be more demonic than a petrol strimmer and after Glenn had almost popped a vertebrae getting it into the back of the car I think he was in agreement. If you have uneven ground, do not hire one of these. It is very heavy and very unwieldy. Hire a strimmer. Our plot is uneven so this was no mean feat. However, after Glenn had mastered the beast we had well chopped land which was more under control and gave us a great starting point.

Our plan at this point was to grow veg and flowers on the bulk of the plot with an area for fruit down one side. Our layout was still a bit vague and we were going to just live it for a bit and then…..

IMG_5643

We went to the Lavender Farm in the New Forest. I had been there last year plant hunting while we were finishing our garden for the TV series. It was August and the flower meadow was in full cosmos phase. I took Glenn with me this time and after we had eaten cake and drunk coffee we immersed ourselves into wonderland and this is were we had our allotment epiphany.

So many of the species we love and are already growing in our home garden were here in massive amounts and so as we sat on a small bench on a mown path, with flowers up round our ears, we decided to try and create our own version on our allotment. Yeah, who needs potatoes?

Next time on Sowing, Growing and Cups of Tea; July Has Busted Out All Over

 

 

Two Shows for the Price of Two – Part 2

IMG_5631Here’s an idea; get hundreds, possibly thousands of people in the gardening business, several huge tents, a load of land, every outside catering van known to man and some show gardens. Add gazillions of people and get them to pay for every step of their day and hey presto, you have an RHS garden show at Hampton Court.

Up until now we had had very little to do with the RHS. By the end of the day we had joined the RHS, had an RHS shopping bag and were marvelling at how much cash they must turnover. This is big business. Following on from Gardener’s World Live, we had made a promise NOT to buy any plants today. How would that pan out I wondered? It was the last day, the big sell off day. All the stands were offering their display plants for sale, 3 for £10, 4 for £10, 5 for £10. It got better as the day went on.

But no, we are made of sterner stuff. That and the fact that I couldn’t find the right shade of Achellia or any corydalis, at all. Instead we made a visual shopping list.

We paced ourselves and took plenty of breaks but eventually our heads hurt from the total overload of colour, beauty and new ideas. Thankfully there were plenty of places to sit down and do some serious people watching.

IMG_5622

We spent some time looking at the concept gardens and discussing their place in a garden show. Glenn was of the opinion that they appeared to have very little to do with horticulture and I had to agree. What they did show was how utterly crazy you can be with some bits of hard landscaping. It was the couture of gardening; horti – couture. Do you see what I did there?

Once we had taken as much conceptual thinking as we could handle for a day we looked around the other show gardens. The front gardens were of particular interest as we had entered a design ourselves back in March. Obviously we didn’t win but we appreciated the variety of the winning gardens which surprisingly had many similar elements to our design. The planting themes for this year certainly seem to be grasses and floaty, delicate dotted flowers in speckled and multicoloured frothing. All very wispy and dreamlike.

By the afternoon we had run out of cash and determined not to pay to withdraw any more we skulked around making sure we had seen everything. We agreed we had seen as much as we could handle and so escaped into the grounds of Hampton Court which in itself was a blissful experience. The sun had come out and we found two deck chairs. Time for some snoozing.

The drive back home was a chance to chat and dissect the ideas we had seen. It had been a wonderful day and one that we would carry with us as we enjoyed a whole year of visiting RHS gardens. We panned to make Wisley our next trip. However, our biggest inspiration for our next major project was to come from an unexpected place.

Next time on Sowing, Growing and Cups of Tea; The Good Life gone Wild

 

Two Shows for the Price of Two – Part 1

IMG_5614We had promised ourselves some garden treats this year and so after much shopping on the internet and even more diarising, we decided on two trips to garden shows. For some reason Chelsea still escapes us. I think the timing just doesn’t sit easily with our work commitments. Dear RHS, please could you move it into half term?

We started off with Gardener’s World Live at the NEC in Birmingham. It was our first event of this kind together, another first. A swift getaway on a Saturday morning in June, sausage sandwiches and a flask of tea in the car on our way up the M40 saw us in a breezy Birmingham at 8.30am. Well, it’s always best to be early. I don’t know about you but I always get theme park-itis on days like this, you want to see everything, in one day but have no idea where to start. However, we had a map and a growing bag of freebies. Getting a coffee and a planning session was our priority.

OK, Good Food Show first; we stormed in, realised no one was up and running with the free samples, marched out and went into the gardening hall to gaze at massively pricey but beautiful, powder coated greenhouses, dumpy fairy tale summer houses, seeds, tools, wellies and everything gadgety. We wandered towards the food and entered a twilight zone of stalls which offered bizarre exercise options, jewellery to make your eyes hurt, scarves, wind chimes and face cream. Yes, face cream. A man offered us a sample ‘for the bags under your eyes’. Great sales pitch. I don’t have eye bags, don’t address my eye bags. Anyway, I took up his offer, just in case I ever do get eye bags. How did that feel? Can I feel a tightening? ‘No’, I reply, ‘I can feel it stinging’ ‘Oh,’ says man ‘You have to suffer to look beautiful….how would you like to pay, cash or card?’ ‘Neither thanks, it stings.’ We leave.

A swift graze around the food. It seems every independent food retailer in Britain is making either sausages, fudge, cheese, gin or flavoured vodka. We collected many free samples including much toothpaste and then head out to tackle the plants. The floral marquee was wondrous, we bought some bunny tail grass, ultra cute and some carnivorous plants, less cute. We also picked up a Streptocarpus ‘Falling Stars’ from Dibleys and a pretty Briza Media. By now we were flagging but there was very limited seating. If you ever plan on going either take your own seat, share a seat with a stranger or be prepared to flop down on the grass which could be mud dependant on the weather. It was all we could do to lick an ice-cream. Dear NEC, please can you put out some more chairs?

The afternoon whizzed by in a flurry of ogling show gardens (not as many as we hoped for), lots of stalls selling many many plants and sculptural objects. I succumbed to a three for £10 offer and we took home a pretty Verbascum ‘Cotswold Queen’, a wonderful Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’ and a Salvia ‘Amistad’. I have a growing obsession for umbellifers and the dark stems of this variety of Queen Anne’s Lace set off the pinkish flower heads so sweetly. The saliva replaced two magnificent plants we had right up until the first frost last December. I vow to take cuttings this year.

At 3.30 we admitted defeat and returned home to plant up and regroup before RHS Hampton Court. Oh yes, we were messing with the big boys now.

Next time on Sowing, Growing and Cups of Tea; Two Shows for the Price of Two – Part 2