A beautiful time

Tulip 'La Belle Epoque'
Tulip ‘La Belle Epoque’

I am trying very hard to love this particular tulip. Named after a period in French history between two wars, the end of the Franco-Prussian War and the outbreak of World War I,  ‘La Belle Epoque’ is much raved of in the land of social media and the tinternet.

The colour is described variously as coffee mousse, caramel, dusky rose…….

Image searches turn up the most glorious array of photographs with the feel of an Old Masters oil painting. I rather liked the notion of a 3D Old Master gracing one of my spare pots. I have watched and waited in anticipation as the first spikes of green gave way to fat buds and held my breath (poetic licence) as they began to open.

I have to say my disappointment at the distinctly orange petals is now giving way to a slight feeling of revulsion as they become distinctly Salmon Pink. My only hope is that they will fade in the most glorious fashion that is the way of tulips, to achieve those mousseline caramel tones I was hoping for. Until then I am constantly reminded of a most traumatic decorating disaster which left us with walls the colour of Seafood Sauce.

 

#MyGardenRightNow

Visitors to this blog will be aware that the garden at home is not something that ever really features in the posts. There are lots of reasons for this but the main one is, just like a million and one other people, our garden is personal and private. We don’t open to the public and it isn’t the subject of this blog, until today.

So why the change of heart, well should you follow Michelle Chapman aka @Malvernmeet you might have noticed the above hashtag in her timeline this weekend. The #MyGardenRightNow project was born after a TV company got in touch wanting Michelle to advise a couple on how to grow vegetables, a great opportunity, but sadly the researcher expected a burgeoning mid summer veg patch at the start of March. Michelle’s good but without the aid of a sonic screwdriver or hogwartian time turner not something that was realistic.

You can read more about the project here

So here we go, a little tour of My Garden Right now…..

 

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Mo Veg Fedge

Scene of last Summer’s bean (Phaseolus coccineus), tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) and annual flower fest,  now home to an over wintering smorgasbord of self sown hairy bitter cress (Cardamine hirsuta),  foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) , marigolds (Calendula officinalis) and other lovelies. For those of you with an enquiring mind “Mo Veg Fedge” is a Modesty Vegetable Hedge who’s creation was necessitated when the existing hedge was rejuvenated resulting in mahousive gaps.

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Hot Spot

Just past the Mo Veg Hedge on the opposite side is one of the hottest spots in the garden. South facing and slightly sheltered it benefits from a microclimate  generated by the central heating flue. All of the above pots will be destined for our garden at RHS Chatsworth if they perform on time, there are plants in them honest, but you know it’s still only March.

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Oakey woodlanders

Moving on to the path past the Oak (top right of the hot spot pic) this is pretty much North Facing and gets very dry and very dark at the height of summer. We don’t bother collecting the leaves in Autumn they hide the straggly old leaves of the Primroses and assorted ferns rather nicely. This part of the garden is home to Cyclamen, Primroses (Primula vulgaris), Ferns (mostly Dryopteris species), Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea f. albiflora) and a few Crocosmia (nope no idea how they got there but they seem happy enough) There may be a mid season cull of Dandelions (*Taraxacum officinale) and Wood Avens (Geum urbanum), or not, they might just be deadheaded instead.

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How much for a Helebore

The farthest point of the garden from the house where once was a wild scape of brambles, docks and Christmas Tree dens is the newest planting. A bit of experimental planting (shocking wind eddy in this part of the garden) which will be developed over time but currently contains Hellebores, Epimediums, Cyclamen, Nigella and others all snuggled up under a toasty blanket of Lesser Celandines (Ficaria verna)

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Midden Bed

Moving back up towards the top of the garden is the Midden Bed so called because it hides the concrete septic tank in the middle of the lawn. It’s one of the last parts of the garden to be tidied up in Spring as I’d rather look a a bit of natural decrepitude than a concrete poop bunker, call me old fashioned if you must.

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Odd pot spot

Another pot spot but being North/West facing it’s the coldest spot in the garden, perfect for holding things back, should you need to, and also tends to become temporary home to the odd ‘Where should I put that’  impulse purchase.

So there you have it warts, weeds and (**nearly) all of #MyGardenRightNow

 

 

*Possibly Taraxacum officinale or Taraxacum vulgare all I do know for sure is the bees like them and they seed around the clock just like any other Dandelion.

**well a girl’s got to have some secrets after all 😉

Message in a Tiny Bottle

Algerian iris
Iris unguicularis

In Greek mythology Iris was one seriously multitasking Godess.

Meaning “rainbow” in Greek,  Iris was one of the goddesses of sea and sky serving as a messenger to the Gods. She was also known as the personification of the rainbow and served as a link between human kind and the Greek Gods.

 

 

Today We are 5 and other exciting things

Yesterday was rather momentous for us I was checking my emails when an alert came in telling me the blog was five years old. Well howdee down doodee and Happy Birthday I thought to myself. It must have taken me a day to get my head round this new technology back in 2012 as I didn’t actually publish anything until the 1st of February so today is officially the blog’s 5th Birthday.

So how to celebrate this most momentous of days, well cake would be a good start, most five year olds like cake. And yet I feel it should be marked with something more and as luck would have it I know just the thing. More than cake, I know, it sounds hard to beat but I hope you’ll agree with me that finally being able to say to all and sundry

‘Ive designed a Show Garden for the new RHS Show at Chatsworth’ is better than cake.

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Moveable Feast – RHS Chatsworth

It’s all been a bit of a secret, firstly when the design went in we didn’t say anything, who knew if it would be accepted. Secondly when it was accepted you have to keep it hush hush until after The RHS Chatsworth press release.

I’m thrilled to have this opportunity and also extremely grateful to have been advised and encouraged along the way by a fabulous mentor, thank you Paul, but beyond that the concept of this garden is something I feel passionate about. So apologies in advance but having kept quiet for so long you may, just, get sick of hearing about it.

Now who’s for some cake?

The Language of Plants – Part 1

There  be rumblins on social media, just for a change, and not just about European breakfast or why Orange is the latest must have colour in the USA, but why we still use Latin in horticulture. More to the point how it’s use is alienating new gardeners because they don’t understand it’s frightening, elitist, antiquated ways.

I absulutely understand the reluctance of some, but I still think there is a case to be made for keeping and championing the current system. So over a few posts, in my own way, I’m hopefully going to put forward my own case.

For or many years I ran a club in a primary school teaching all things horticultural. In fact ‘Horticulture’ was one of the first words they learnt, it comes from the Latin words ‘Hortus’ meaning garden and ‘Cultura’ meaning to cultivate, and I felt it summed up what the club was all about. During the term time they would learn about different types of plants and seeds, how to grow them, propagate and prune them. We looked at soil science, composting, crop rotation and pest control. And yes these under 11’s got to grips with Botanical Latin.

The thing about Botanical Latin as its often refered to is its not all Latin, there’s a pinch of Ancient Greek, a smattering of Persian and a hint of ego. So what are the objections to using It in Horticulture?

1) It’s frightening. Is it though, I find tall buildings, sitting next to learner drivers and snakes scary but I’ve never had a nightmare featuring Latin Plant names. What is scary I think relates to number 2).

2) It’s elitist. Nobody likes to be made to feel stupid and there is a tendency to be a bit sneery when it comes to pronunciation. If that’s you stop it, nobody likes a smart arse. For instance I’ve been told off for my pronunciation of Hemerocallis in the past, mind you I’ve been told off for lots of things. I’ve always known it as hemero-callis, but have been told it should be hem-er-okal-lis with all the syllables running into each other, like an Ibix skipping over boulders. So who’s right, to be honest I don’t know. However I do know that Hemerocallis comes from the Greek ‘hemeros’ meaning a day and ‘kallos’ meaning beauty and that Polly Maasz, grower of unusual and rather special Hemerocalis, doesn’t take issue with my pronunciation. Also I can’t help thinking a gardening code which means I can converse with any Hort, anywhere in the world, with words we both understand is far from elitist, it’s actually universally inclusive.

3) It’s antiquated. Absolutely right, but there is a good reason for combining ‘dead’ languages in science. Language is like a river running through time, it’s constantly picking up influences as it flows, evolving and leaving behind the evidence of ancients in literary ox-bow lakes. An ancient or dead language will never alter, it’s meaning will always stay the same, so *Systema Naturae written in 1735 could still be read and understood in 2735

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*Systema Natura written by Swedish botanist, zoologist and physician Carolus Linnaeus introduced Linnaean taxonomy (now known as binomial nomenclature) as a way of grouping living things in a consistent scientific way.

 

 

 

 

Spot the Epiphyte

Vergette Garden Design Coastal Oak Tree
Coastal Oak furnished with Ferns

It is a universal truth that tree surgeons never look at what they’re walking on, this can be nightmarish for the gardener whose main focus tends to be on that ground and all the precious plants they’ve added. Sometimes though it would be as well for a gardener to emulate the tree folk and look up into the canopy, for who knows what delights may be hidden amongst the boughs.

It’s a good life

We humans are multifaceted beings and I am no exception. I rather think of myself as having a practical nature but a romantic soul, if you like part Margot part Barbara. For those of you watching TV in the 70’s you’ll get the reference for anybody else you’ll have to search “The Good Life” on YouTube.

For most of the year these two sides of me rub along quite well, one side saving me from flights of fancy and the other reminding me that it’s not against the law to add a bit of sparkle. However when it comes to Christmas I often unleash my inner Barbara. Like the year I decided to make everybody chocolates, Cherries steeped in Brandy, covered with ganache and dipped in dark chocolate. By the end of it the smell of chocolate made me truly nauseous and my father managed to find the only cherry I’d forgotten to stone. It might have been at that point my inner Margot pointed out Thorntons would be a great deal easier and probably cheaper.

Then there was the year I decided diddy cakes would be a fabulous idea. Or the Christmas I thought making miniature fruity gins and vodka would be fun. To be honest both years had Margot and Barbara wanting to lie down in a dark room.

And so to Chrismas present, Barbara had decided it would be everso jolly to add home grown to the home made Christmas fare. Margot ruefully reminded her of the time they’d felt like exhausted elves by Christmas Day and a compromise was reached. Barbara would supplement Margo’s purchased presents with a home made gift, likewise food for the table. And so as I type Barbara’s stock pot of home grown vegetables is bubbling away on the hob and Margo is wondering if it’s time to go to the pub yet.

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No matter if you’re a Barbara, Margot, Gerry or Tom wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Silver Linings

As gardeners we are all subject to the vagaries of the weather and nature, who amongst us hasn’t lost a cherished plant to rot in a wet winter, or discovered a freeze dried specimen that was perhaps a bit more tender than we hoped. We can shrug our shoulders and chalk it up to experience and tell ourselves we won’t make that mistake again. The silver lining being we get to buy/swap/grow a replacement, and who doesn’t like a new plant.

This ho hum attitude doesn’t seem to extend to the wildlife we experience, gardening can all too soon turn into a series of battles with little or no hope of actually winning the war. For various reasons I choose not to use insecticides in the garden, and so I expect to put up with a nibbled leaf or three. I can put up with that so long as they leave the flowers alone, it’s all about give and take.

That’s not to say I was happy when I discovered that the scarlet leaves on my bog standard  Tellima grandiflora were not in fact due to Autumnal senescence, but a rather a bad case of evil weevil. Ho Hum, I thought as they came up from the surface of the compost, at least they should survive if I repot them, and the silver lining is instead of one I now have three.

Now just because I choose not to poison pests doesn’t mean I’m happy to give them board and lodging through the winter once they’ve been discovered. It’s not too onerous a task to knock the compost out of the pot and sift thorough the contents for the Vine Weevil larvae. I can almost hear your thoughts gentle reader ‘Sounds like a lot of faff to me, why bother?’ Well as I said before this gardening malarkey is all about give and take and handing feeding Evil Weevil to a Robin is pretty high on my silver linings list.

Robin accompanying today's gardening exploits in Hereford
Gardening it’s a spectator sport for some