A few weeks back Vija and I went to one of the open days at Sarah Raven’s farm Perch Hill in East Sussex. The preceding evening had seen torrential rain and an email arrived on the morning of the visit warning people of the muddy conditions and that a four wheel drive was essential. And they weren’t exaggerating…the field we were to park in was a mud slide with a tractor towing cars out of the mud!
But the rain hadn’t affected the garden. The tulips, many of which were in pots,were stunning with the same colours used repeatedly throughout the garden. They were well labelled so we could make a note of them and there seemed to be loads of new varieties and quite a lot in oranges and shades of reds. There were lots of pots with pastel shades too and it wasn’t just tulips. There was a whole bed planted with a tall variety of fritillary which you don’t see very often and is certainly different.
Additionally there were displays in pots of some lovely frilly violas and the glasshouse was planted with ranunculus and other early varieties of annuals. There were displays of early vegetables but they were small and obviously affected by the cold spring. And the tea and cakes were good too!
All in all a stunning display and worth a visit despite the mud and flooded roads.
At the beginning of the Covid19 pandemic, with a new garden inherited from someone who had focused on gardening with concrete and weed suppressing membrane, I took advantage of the RHS Members’ Seed Scheme. I selected 15 packets of seed from their list of varieties collected from RHS Gardens, including annuals, herbaceous perennials and rare shrubs, and I paid my £10. Some were more successful than others but I was sufficiently encouraged to try it again this year. You have until the end of February to join this year’s scheme….
As a former allotmenteer, I’m used to growing plants from seeds. Over the years, I developed preferences for unusual varieties and for seeds that are open pollinated (non-hybrid) so you can collect and sow your own seed in future years. How should I choose flower seeds and which seed suppliers should I use? I came across a recent article in Gardens Illustrated about seed suppliers. This reassured me by referring to some of the suppliers I have used for vegetable seeds but shows what a massive choice there is, for both flower and vegetable seeds.
Must be careful not to let the seedlings get out of control!!
This summer’s heatwave feels like a distant memory now, but it was a good one for ripening lots of tomatoes! However, if you’ve got green ones struggling in the cooler temperatures, here’s BBC Gardener’s World Magazine’s advice on the best way to ripen them: How to ripen late tomatoes.
Using the ethylene released by bananas to help ripen other fruit is a well known method, but while Which? Gardening agree with GW on most points, they differ on the banana:
You may have heard different techniques recommended for ripening green tomatoes, including putting them with a banana, but when Which? Gardening magazine tested different methods we found that putting them in a dark place indoors, such as a drawer, works best. Tomatoes left with bananas were one of the worst methods for causing the tomatoes to rot.
Our Autumn Show was held on Monday September 26th in the Old Library of Charlton House, having been delayed a week for the Queen’s funeral. We counted 56 attendees and there were nearly 100 entries across all the classes, a marvellous effort!
Our guest judge, Joe Woodcock, had agreed to undertake this onerous task again this year. He made it clear how impressed he was with all the entries, providing an encouraging commentary on the horticultural skills demonstrated, and explained why he selected the winning entry in each class.
The classes and winners were as follows: 1. Vase of flowers, 3 stems – Nicholas B 2. Bowl of mixed flowers – Georgina P 3. Vase of shrubs or foliage, 3 stems – Liz K 4. Display of ornamental seed heads – Viv P 5. Five Fuchsia blooms – Viv P 6. Ornamental pot plant – Pat K 7. Display of fruit, mixed – Lynda F 8. Display of vegetables, mixed – Annie H 9. Tomatoes (dish of 5) – Karen S 10. A display of herbs – Maggie T 11. Preserves – Maggie T 12. Baking – Coconut cake – Kathy A 13. Floral arrangement in a teacup – Debbie W 14. Largest Sunflower – Ruth Y 15. Highest yield, Potato – Ann F
Joe presented trophies to Annie H for Class 8, to Viv P for Class 5 and to Georgina P for Best in Show for her bowl of mixed flowers in Class 2.
This was held on Monday 20 September in the Long Gallery of Charlton House. As one of many new members of the Society since meetings were forced to stop by COVID-19, it was my first indoor meeting!
It was a very impressive event with a total of 66 entries and I didn’t envy our guest judge, Joe Woodcock, his task. But Joe made it clear how impressed he was with all the entries, providing an encouraging commentary on the horticultural skills demonstrated, and explained why he selected the winning entry in each class.
The classes and winners were as follows:
1. Vase with single stem of any flowering plant – Viv P
2. Bowl of mixed flowers – Margaret T
3. Five Fuchsia blooms – Ruth Y
4. Ornamental pot plant – Pat K
5. A display of fruit and vegetables – Mandy & Brownie
6. A display of herbs – Ruth Y
7. Floral arrangement in a teacup – Anna L
8a. Potato Competition – Pam D
8b. Sunflower head competition – Annie H
Joe selected as Best in Show Margaret T’s wonderful display of varieties of dahlia in Class 2. Class 7 the Floral Arrangement was selected by popular vote (using buttons) and the Potato Competition was weighed by the trusty scales of Hugh P.
Joe was kind enough to answer a few gardening questions at the end of proceedings, and tea, coffee and biscuits were provided to round off the evening.
We counted 56 attendees. Everyone seemed to enjoy the event and be grateful to be able to meet up in person again. Long may that continue!
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?
A suggestion made by Anna has prompted me to think what we can learn from random gardening mistakes, or shall we say, unplanned activity.
I use a lot of salad vegetables and always have a variety of leaves growing to use as a base for additional ingredients. I sow a selection in various seed trays, which I then prick out and later plant into the garden. A few years ago, at the tail end of the summer, I sowed seeds into their seed trays as usual. For whatever reason, I failed to prick out and then felt it was too late to do anything much with them, so I was left with several seed trays full of fresh young seedlings. And I left them. But what happened then was that they provided me with a steady supply of cut-and-come-again salad leaves (the kind you pay a fortune for in bags in supermarkets) to enjoy through the winter. Ever since then, I use this method to provide me with small young and tasty salad leaves, throughout both the summer and winter. I do this with Mizuna, Endive, Rapa da Foglia (turnip greens), mustard, rocket as well as the usual lettuce varieties which we grow. I am sure it works equally well with chard and beetroot and members will have their own varieties to suggest here. Obviously the mild winters we have been experiencing do help, I am not sure what a sharp frost would do. Ultimately, the plants will become very rootbound, but growth in the winter slows down, so this takes a while to happen.
Trays of seedlings sown 5 September.
The usefulness of this method is also that you could do this on your kitchen windowsill, balcony, or whatever space is available.
Whenever I am asked about my plans for dealing with a glut of produce from my allotment, my initial response is usually, “Chance would be a fine thing!”
I’m still on the lower slopes of allotmenteering, constantly marvelling at the (seemingly) effortless heights achieved by my neighbours.
Storm Ellen did her best to scupper my chances of a substantial tomato haul, but thanks to a tendency I have to cram things close together in the ground – I can’t get over how much space I have! – the plants and their stakes more or less held each other up. In spite of many hours agonising over the seed catalogues and subsequent cossetting of seedlings, I have to report that the finest and most prolific tomato crop on my patch this year comes from the gift of a neighbour. In the early days of lockdown she realised that she wouldn’t be able to get any seedlings from garden centres in time so she simply dried the seeds from some piccolino tomatoes she had bought at the supermarket and planted them.
Amazing results! She shared out dozens of seedings with nearby allotments, and now I am in the happy position of trying to decide what I should do to preserve this abundant harvest.
Last year, caught out with no plan for the cherry tomatoes on the eve of a holiday, I turned to Google for help. A combination of the words, “tomato”, “glut”, “preserve” and “easy” produced a range of solutions (literally) involving vodka.
All I had to do was pierce the tomatoes, pop them into a sterilised glass jar, add the celery salt and chillies that I didn’t have (but that doesn’t seem to have been a problem), cover with vodka and store the jar in the fridge. I was assured that the residual vodka would be the perfect base for a Bloody Mary, and that the tomatoes would form an impressive element of any tray of canapés. Do they ever get that far? Do they heck! With admirable restraint, I have enjoyed the odd tomato or two straight from the jar over many months.
As holidays are more or less out of the question in 2020, I will have some more time to think about what to do with my expected glut of tomatoes and be on hand at the right time to deal with them. I wondered what suggestions CABAHS members might have: what is your favourite way to preserve tomatoes?
Perhaps we can start a separate section, sharing ideas for making the most of our produce.