A Romance with Punica granatum

Vita Sackville-West wrote that “Of all fruits the pomegranate is surely one of the most romantic.” I would be willing to bet that most people walk through the Peace Garden gate at Charlton House without realising they have just passed under two “most romantic” pomegranate trees.

Pomegranate trees in the Peace Garden
Pomegranates in the Peace Garden

When the Volunteer scheme started in 2020, these two trees were deeply entwined with ivy, choking them very UNromantically. I wish I had taken a photo of our volunteers, wrestling and chopping at the ivy around the base of the trees! It was one of the team’s early successes, as the next year the trees were covered in their startlingly bright orange flowers and looked very happy. We have yet to get the flowers to “set”, so no pomegranate fruits yet. But of course as gardeners, we live in hope.

Continue reading A Romance with Punica granatum

GQT Follow-up question

As always, we didn’t get around to answering all your questions at our August GQT meeting (I’m very sure they don’t manage to on the radio programme either!). But you may remember that Annie H brought in her strange distorted tomatoes to show everyone. If it had not been for the biblical deluge, I expect we would have had a good discussion about them.

Distorted tomatoes
Annie H’s weird tomatoes!

Annie was undaunted by getting no answers at the meeting, and contacted the RHS directly. She says, “I was informed that the most likely cause was a too high concentration of a contaminated farmyard manure compost in the pots. The farmers spread weedkiller/ pesticide on the field, the grass grows and the cattle dump cowpats which are composted and then bagged up for sale but still contains residues of weedkiller/ pesticide.”

Thank you for this Annie, something for us all to watch out for. It would be interesting to hear from other members if they have had a similar experience.

Kathy

OPG Diary – July / August

Our previous post was all about how well the garden was growing – and it really was – except it then just stopped raining, for ever! At the beginning of July, everything was looking nice and green:

But as the Summer heatwave went on, and ever hotter, the volunteers spent more time working in the shade..

And pretty soon all we were doing was watering. It has been heart-warming to see the volunteers arriving every Tuesday or Thursday, picking up their watering cans and setting off to save many of the plants we planted in to the Old Pond Garden just last year. We have lost remarkably few in the end, and as long as we don’t have a repeat heatwave/drought next year, most should get their roots down and become more resilient for the future. There have been a few casualties, and a few that clearly don’t like where they are. So as soon as Autumn comes, Jason will be directing some tweaks. As August came around, the garden’s colours and textures changed to become Autumnal.

Continue reading OPG Diary – July / August

August 2022: Gardeners Question Time

Our annual amateur Gardeners Question Time meeting was once again held in the Peace Garden at Charlton House. Some members will remember last year, when everyone was in thermals and anoraks and it was the coldest August evening for years – ah, not this year we thought, it has been so warm and dry for weeks! Well, best laid plans as they say. Everyone was settled and happily getting in to the swing of questions about the drought. And so of course, the heavens opened!

True to type, we gardeners just picked up our things and decamped to Frilly’s Tea Room for a little break. Thank you to our stalwart committee and helpers who covered things up in the garden (do you know what Doritos and Pringles look like when they are soaked? ugh!). As the thunderstorm carried on, so too did we and the questions continued in the Tea rooms.

GQT in the tea rooms

Thank you to our panel, especially guest panellist Joe Woodcock, for cheerfully answering our questions, and to Charlton House for letting us drip all over their cafe. It was still a very enjoyable evening, but sad that not many members saw the old Pond Garden in the dusk, lit up with solar lights and looking magical.

The committee will be having a think about whether to have next years GQT meeting in the safety of the Old Library!

Kathy A

Autumn Flower Fruit & Vegetable Display – classes to enter

Our Autumn Show will be on Monday, 26 September 2022 in the Old Library at 7.30pm. Please note the change of date, due to The Queen’s funeral. Even with the recent drought problems, there are hopefully some classes that you can enter!

Vase of Dahlias
2021 Winner

Most plants seem to have adapted to the hot, dry conditions, although much has ripened earlier than expected. If all else fails, go for the dried seed heads class or bake a cake!

Classes are similar to previous years, but we have been made aware of some confusion between the Floral Arrangement (Class 13) and the Bowl of Flowers (Class 2). In the past, bought flowers were allowed for the Floral Arrangement, but this year we have decided that ALL flowers should be home grown. The emphasis for Class 13 is on the arrangement style of the flowers in the teacup. For Class 2, the Bowl of mixed Flowers, these should also be home grown but judging will be based on the content, the quality and type of flowers, no matter how they are arranged. Hope that helps!

Thanks to Chris and Anna for this year’s Coconut Cake recipe – as many entries as possible in this category please ( but do remember that Members are allowed to eat it after judging, so there is usually none left to take home!)

CLASSES:

1. Vase of flowers, 3 stems of 1 cultivar

2. Bowl of mixed flowers (emphasis on quality of flowers, not arrangement).

3. Vase of shrubs or foliage, 3 or more stems, mixed varieties

4. Display of ornamental seed heads

5. Five Fuchsia blooms, single variety or mixed (flower heads only)

6. Ornamental pot plant (incl. cacti & succulents)

7. Display of fruit, any mixed.

8. Display of vegetables, mixed

9. Tomatoes (dish of 5)

10. Display of herbs

11. Preserves: jam, jelly or marmalade, chutney or relish

12. Baking – Coconut cake (recipe supplied here)

13. Floral Arrangement – display in a tea cup, all flowers to be home grown. Emphasis on floral arrangement.

14. Competition: largest sunflower head (from Russian Giant seeds supplied in April)

15. Competition: Yield from one potato supplied in April. (washed, in named transparent bag)

Please bring your own vases, except for the Fuchsia heads (Class 5), where containers are supplied. Water will be available.

Finally, remember this is not an RHS show, it’s a competition for fun and perhaps a Winners certificate, not for perfection!

Bedding Plant dilemma

I love Greenwich Park Flower garden and am full of admiration for how their gardeners have gradually adapted, from growing all their plants on site to whatever combination of outsourcing they use nowadays. It usually looks wonderful.

I understand it is a public garden and has to cover those who like the bedding plant tradition, those who expect a wow factor and those who want a bit of modern style.

But the current drought has really highlighted the bedding plant issue!

Bedding plant beds

It is eye-catching for all the wrong reasons, little oases of green with the rest of the park straw-dry.

Even traditionalists must wonder what on earth the point is of pouring water on these beds of Impatiens. There are other beds containing tree ferns and perennials and it absolutely makes sense to water expensive plants that will come back and cope in a (hopefully) more normal future year.

This is a personal viewpoint, not necessarily representative of the CABAHS membership, it would be interesting to hear members views..? Perhaps it’s a debate we can have at the Gardeners Question Time meeting on August 15th!

Kathy A

Members Gardens – July

I thought we should collect some pictures from members to show that despite the recent Armageddon heatwave, we still have gardens! There might be a few crispy edges here and there, but it appears a huge range of winners are out enjoying the sun.

Vija has sent in this lovely scented Pelargonium Pink Capitatum, container-grown.

Pink Capitatum
Pelargonium Pink Capitatum

Anna found a beautiful Jersey Tiger Moth in her garden, sightings of these seem to be getting more common. Pat says they like warm walls, and I have found them in my garden too. They are very eye-catching in flight, when the orange wings underneath flash out. Their caterpillars eat nettle, bramble and ground ivy, what’s not to like? Also in Anna’s garden, her Yucca plants love this heatwave.

Annie H says ” These Evening Primroses have been flowering continuously since early May. They appeared self sown in next door’s garden so I collected some seeds and this is the result. They open new flowers each evening which shrivel up the next day.”

Continue reading Members Gardens – July

June 2022: Steve Edney on ‘The Salutation Garden, Tenders and Tropicals’

We were back in the Old Library for an interesting and entertaining talk given by Steve Edney on his work as head gardener at Salutation and subsequent development of his own private garden and nursery. He is also a RHS volunteer trial judge involved in the Nepeta AGM.

Salutation House and garden is located in Sandwich by the River Stour.  Designed  by Edward Lutyens in 1912 as a weekend retreat for the three London-based Farrer brothers. Noted for the outstanding design symmetry between house and garden. Sold in 1945 when the brothers died, the magnificent gardens became  somewhat overgrown and neglected over time. In the 1970’s  Portland Stone was smashed up and laid as crazy paving!

Steve was appointed head gardener in 2005 to oversee the restoration. The owners by then were Steph and Dom of Gogglebox fame. With little interest in the garden apart from being a party space,  they allowed him a somewhat free hand.

An initial task was stripping back an avenue of 50’ Holm trees to almost sticks. Our own Old Pond Garden volunteers were very interested in his idea of topiary using Holm Oaks, given how many we have at Charlton House!

2013 saw the garden devastated by salt water flooding and 1,500 plants, 9 mature trees and hedging were lost. 5 million litres of water became trapped in the lower third of the garden and had to be pumped out. Steve and his team overcame this and in 2019 they went on to win Gold at Chelsea for a winter border, which only cost £157! He followed with his Plant Hunter’s Jungle Camp taking best exhibit in the Floral Marquee at Hampton Court.

Continue reading June 2022: Steve Edney on ‘The Salutation Garden, Tenders and Tropicals’

Garden at the Garrison Church

This week I was delighted to attend a special Commonwealth & Gurkha Garden reception at St George’s Garrison Church in Woolwich. The event was to progress the funding and plans for a Commonwealth garden designed by Juliet Sargeant, and was also attended by their patron, HRH The Duke of Gloucester.

We were blessed with a lovely sunny day and entertained with music during the afternoon tea. After the speeches I was very interested to be shown around the garden site by Juliet (who is a multiple Chelsea Gold Medal winner, including this year’s Blue Peter garden with the theme “Don’t treat soil like dirt” and a fabulous green roof) https://www.julietsargeant.com/cfs/

Continue reading Garden at the Garrison Church