Thinking we would take advantage of the extra days made available for visits to Perch Hill, we chose the one for container planting. However, on the day it was the dahlias that stole the show and which we will remember!
Although rain was not forecast, we arrived to a little bit of a mizzle and a very grey sky – in the photographs this has tended to deaden the exuberant colours. We were knocked out by Penhill Watermelon, Geri Scott and the delicious Apricot Desire, but it would be impossible to choose one favourite out of all the lovely colours. Although some are critical of the Sarah Raven enterprise, there is no question that the gardens are beautifully styled. Of course, plants are labelled so that anything you see you will find on their website, but it is a commercial business. In fact, it is good to find a label so that you can identify what you are looking at! Salvias are everywhere, edging the herbaceous borders, in pots as well as mixed through the beds. These are such versatile plants.
Anna has sent a picture of her blue garden, which she plants in late winter every year before the Eucomis take over in the summer. The Polyanthus flower clusters are going over but more buds are coming up, including hyacinths and Welsh poppy seedlings. What a striking effect!
And Sue has a succession of bulbs appearing in her pots as her ‘lasagne’ style planting develops through spring.
Yes, it’s that time of year again, when everyone asks you what your New Year resolutions are. The magazines and papers are full of good ideas, here are some I’m going to copy:
Don’t fence me in:
There are 22 million gardens in the UK, so they are very important for our wildlife – as long as they can get in and out! Fences are a barrier to many mammals, reptiles and even some insects, but if all those gardens had little gaps between the fences (or better still fences replaced with hedges) wildlife could move freely between them all and biodiversity would increase.
On the latest RHS gardening update I have just read that, according to Sally Nex, the more plants you grow the more carbon your garden can store away, which is therefore another way of helping to create a more sustainable environment.
This suits my gardening philosophy just fine!
I am so often tempted at plant fairs to buy another addition for my garden, but often without any clear idea of where the plant will go. (And how wonderful to be able to buy plants at the Chelsea Flower Show this year!) Now the idea of packing yet more in makes me feel positively heroic!
Since my recent spinal surgery I have been frustratingly incapacitated. However who would not be cheered-up and consoled by a view like mine? From a prone position on my living room sofa I look out, through a huge glass sliding door, onto a beautiful panorama of colourful flowers. I had worked so hard in spring to prepare the garden knowing that my operation would put me out of action for a while.
Looking from the sofa my eyes encounter the patio first, which is packed with pots of pelargoniums, lilies, geraniums, dahlias, fuchsias and a huge hanging basket overflowing with lemon -scented begonias. As I write I lament the denuding of our lemon tree outside the window, which bore 18 ripe, juicy lemons in early summer. I can’t complain, however, as my husband and I have enjoyed the fruits of its bounty in the form of 36 gin and tonics on many warm summers evenings!!
Soft grey patio pavers slope down from the patio onto a small lawn, it’s curved edges lined, on every side, with colourful flower beds. Although I have been cursing the snails, which have been devouring most of the annuals that I grew in the spring, they have at least left abundant golden rudbeckia and fluffy blue ageratum which tumble merrily onto the lawn.
It’s a real delight to take a morning stroll (or hobble) around the borders to discover what has come into flower each new day. I have been thrilled with my new Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer ‘ that are in full bloom right now. Hugh and I were so impressed when we spotted them growing on Wisley’s trial beds, that I came home to order them that very evening.
Beyond the alstroemeria, Geranium ‘Rozanne’ never fails to impress with masses of rich blue flowers from June to October. They create an excellent foil for Rudbeckia and blue spires of Perovskia beyond. I’m so proud to have grown 6 different colours of Phlox this year. My latest addition, called Phlox ‘Blue Paradise’ is an incredible purplish blue. It’s just wonderful!
Towering flame orange Tithonia (Mexican Sunflowers), Cosmos ‘Purity’, Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ and evening primrose all add excitement and height at the back of the borders. Fortunately each bed is so jam-packed that there is not much room for weeds!
The only problem is… it’s snail & slug heaven! I have been shocked to find that this year’s snails must be a super-breed with jaws strong enough to eat through the hairy tough stems of sunflowers( all of them!!)
A tantalising glimpse of a brick-paved area and vegetable patch can be seen through an arch beyond the lawn. Today Hugh re-potted his banana tree and it can now be seen waving it’s huge leaves behind the bird bath in the middle of the brick circle. I can just about glimpse the scarlet flowers on the runner bean canes in our miniature veg plot on the far side of the brick circle, reminding me to ask Hugh to keep picking the veg for dinner each day. The enormous cucumbers (‘Swing’ F1) have been a real surprise this year. I grew them up a vertical support for them just before going into hospital and so many have grown in a few weeks just from one plant in one pot!
Well, I could carry on like this for ever. I haven’t even mentioned my new shade border with 4 newly purchased, remarkable clematis. (the best has turned out to be one called ‘Pernille’) My enthusiasm for my garden never wanes! Unfortunately the same cannot be said of my stamina which is being curtailed by too many painkillers currently.
Although I could not join you all in Charlton House garden for the first real live meeting since Covid struck, I will be thinking of you all and hoping that the evening goes well.
Recovery from my op can take months but I am determined to bounce back in record time so wish me luck. Anyway how could I fail to recover quickly when I can see the biggest incentive outside my window?
At the last count, I had 32 hostas and most of these are in pots. Admittedly, some of these are miniatures, but nevertheless this means that in March a lot of checking and potting on needs to take place. My basic collection has increased over the years because people have given me hostas which they have bought and not had much luck with and then passed on to me. I am always grateful!
I check all pots to see whether root growth is coming through the bottom of the pot; where small enough I tip the plant out and check to see whether it is root-bound or the compost is looking a bit stale. However, Sum and Substance and Big Daddy are each about 4 feet tall and Big Daddy is in such a large pot it really needs two strong men to sort him out! Empress Wu is catching up with these guys in terms of size. I then use John Innes number 3 to pot up again. I try and leave a fair bit of space at the top of each pot to allow for the addition of a protective mulch. I make this with a mixture of farmyard manure and home made compost, which I keep as rough as possible with eggshells – this does a good job of discouraging slugs and snails while the plants are young and gives them a good head start. The coarser leaved hostas then tend to manage quite well thereafter. This year I have added a granular feed which should last 6 months. Many years ago I read somewhere that feeding hostas produces weaker growth, more susceptible to attack and I have never fed mine apart from the spring dose of compost, manure and sometimes bonemeal.
In my experience, the general gardening advice that the coarser the leaf the less likely a hosta is to be eaten by slugs and snails is true. Particularly resilient is Frances Williams and I can’t recommend this one enough. I also find Krossa Regal and Patriot very good. It’s also useful to think about where you are growing hostas. If they are crowded together in a border with lots of other plants, slugs and snails will still get to them no matter how many slug pellets you use. Snails can abseil down the leaf or stem of another plant to reach a hosta. As always in the garden, a consideration of the growing environment means there is less need to introduce artificial measures to control the pests.
Plant of the Year at the 2019 Chelsea Flower Show was this unassuming but rather pretty Sedum ‘Atlantis’.
Kathy had a great week volunteering at the Show, and was able to have a quick word with Nick Bailey as he was passing by and remind him he is coming to talk to CABAHS for our November meeting. I don’t suppose it was top of his To Do list that day but he was very kind about it!
I expect everyone has been following the BBC coverage of Chelsea – but they didn’t cover very many of the trade stands and some had really fabulous planting. Here’s a pic to give you all “Urn Envy”…