To sow, or not to sow…Hardy Annuals

…..That is the question Hamlet might have internalised had he been a gardener rather than a disenfranchised Danish Prince. To be honest had he been slightly more interested in flowers I can’t help thinking things would have turned out better in the long run, however I digress.

 

Orlaya grandiflora
Saved seed

At this time of year “When to Sow?” is a question a lot of newbie gardeners are asking on social media and replies are often accompanied by lots of pics of seedling germination. However, look a little closer at these pictures, and you may notice something they all have in common – a greenhouse.

So what to do if you haven’t been blessed with a greenhouse, pollytunnel or cloche? Well you wait, you twiddle thumbs for a week or two, and what you are waiting for is for the soil outside to warm up. Now, if you’re new to gardening, the following is a guide passed down from Mater Gardeners to their Apprentices for ages past…..

Firstly, you need to be properly attired, a pair of stout boots is essential as the soil may be wet and if you’re gardening on clay a little sticky. Secondly, loose trousers are an absolute must, as will become apparent shortly, or if you’re an adventurous chap or chapess a kilt is perfect. The techniques will differ slightly depending on your choice of clothing but choose something you feel most comfortable wearing.

Once attired correctly, make your way to the area set aside as your seed bed, it doesn’t have to be huge, however testing soil is easier if the bed is at least the width of your hips. Next as is the age old tradition stand in the middle of the seed bed, feet slightly apart for balance and slide your loose fitting trousers and undergarments down your legs so they are roughly level with your ankles. (If wearing a kilt in the traditional fashion you can skip this step.) Next maintain your balance while gently lowering your posterior until it comes into contact with the surface of the soil, kilt wearers will find it necessary at this point to flick the hem of the kilt out of the way so as not to sit on the fabric to avoid a false temperature reading.

If the soil is ready for seed sowing, you will barely register a change in temperature but if the cold wet soil causes a shock to the derrière then you will need to wait a week or so and test again.

I have to say these days I prefer to be guided by the rule of thumb, as opposed to the rule of bum and now favour a second method which is to wait for a nod from Mother Nature, who better to guide you in your seed sowing enterprises that the world’s foremost gardener, let’s face it – she’s been at it for millions of years.

Allium and Lunaria seedlings
Self sown Hardy Annual seedlings germinating in the garden

So if you’re not thinking of exhibition gardening wait until you see germination happening in the garden, whether its weed seeds or self sown hardys, then you’ll know the time is right to get sowing.

 

Chelsea 2015

Although I went to Chelsea last year I didn’t blog about it – for lots of reasons, but mainly because I didn’t get there until later in the week by which time a plethora of excellently written blogs had pretty much said all there was to say.

This year there are probably even more excellently written blogs, because you see this year in particular Chelsea 2015 seems to be, to quote Bill and Ted, most excellent.

I’m not going to wax lyrical about the various stylistic merits of any gardens or make a critique of every garden, instead I thought I would make a note of those little details that caught either my eye, my heart or stirred my imagination.

To start with you can’t beat the Artisan Gardens for their attention to the minutiae, well I suppose you have to given their size. I loved the forge on The Motor Neurone Disease Association Garden, it seems hard to imagine a few weeks ago it was a pile of bricks on a pallet until Twigs Gardens got their hands on them.

New Old Forge
New Old Forge

However my absolute favorite garden in this category was The Evaders Garden by Chorley Council, designed by the uber talented John Everiss.

A new Old Forge
My Favourite Artisan Garden 

I loved the transition in the planting either on side of the parachute path and the way the sun lit the stained glass. However it was the sculpture along side the beautifully built wall that gave this garden such emotion.

The Sentebale – Hope in Vulnerability garden designed by Matt Keightley, was another garden to stir the soul. It’s hard to imagine that a garden so full of orange could be so restful but in the early morning light the garden glowed softly.

Soft Light as a new day dawns - Sentebale
Soft Light as a new day dawns – Sentebale

This was another garden that stirred the emotions with the children’s footprints on the path, simple, effective and quietly beautiful.

Subtle Detailing
Subtle Detailing

Moving on from gardens with amazing paths to gardens with gorgeous water. Water is a difficult one at Chelsea, the Plane tree mast not only chokes the visitor but also settles on any surface seemingly especially drawn to water features. This is not such an issue for a naturalistic swimming pond but an absolute nightmare for the sleek reflective water features in both The World Vision Garden and Breakthrough Breast Cancer Garden.

Black mirrors
Black mirrors

However due to amazing diligence with shrimping nets and filters neither of these gardens had dusty water to detract from the mirror like qualities of their garden pools. They also relied on perfect levels so hats off to their contractors

Shrimping action shot top left
Shrimping action shot top left

A couple of the walls caught me eye for separate reasons I loved the Mondrian like wall in The Telegraph garden, I couldn’t capture the details well but each piece had been beautifully crafted with shading and motif.

Leaf detailing
Leaf detailing

In stark contrast to the precision of The Telegraph Garden the sinuous curves of the Pure Land Foundation garden were so sculptural they added much to this small space. Again hats off to the contractors for making the designs such a fabulous reality.

Curvaceous
Curvaceous

Its hard to say which garden was my favorite because they all had something different to offer but my absolute favorite thing about Chelsea is, and probably always will be……….the plants………. both inside and out.

Verbascum and Stipa
Verbascum and Stipa
Orchids Hiding in plain sight -The Hidden Beauty of Kranji
Orchids Hiding in plain sight -The Hidden Beauty of Kranji
A tiny potting shed or is it a Hobbit House?
A tiny potting shed or is it a Hobbit House?
Hankering after P. 'Chun Cho'
Hankering after P. ‘Chun Cho’
One of a kind flower in The Great Pavilion
One of a kind flower in The Great Pavilion – Bluebell Cottage Nursery
Part of Hardy's Gold Display - Loving the Libertia
Part of Hardy’s Gold Display – Loving the Libertia
The Plants are the Stars
The Plants are the Stars
Sadly the perching bench was not for sale - unlike the Wildegoose Violas which were.
Sadly the perching bench was not for sale – unlike the Wildegoose Violas which were.

 

 

 

Looking at Malvern 2015

Perspectives of Malvern – The Photographer, Visitor and Exhibiter’s views and what I learnt from them all.

This year I went to Malvern Spring Show three times and each time I came away with a different impression, if you like a different perspective. Now I hadn’t planned on visiting in triplicate but have you ever noticed all the best parties occur in an impromptu fashion.

I’ve been involved in one way or another with the gardens at Malvern for quite a while now, whether its my own show piece or helping other designers with theirs. Malvern is a tricky show to build at mainly because of the weather. With the Hills channeling everything Mother Nature can muster in your general direction you can experience all the weather in one day. It’s not unusual to get frost, hail, torrential rain and sunstroke all in a day during build up, but worst perhaps can be the almost gale force winds that swirl around the show ground. This is bad enough for the designers and contractors but the poor cosseted plants find it most objectionable.

For the first time in a long time I wasn’t working on a garden this year which I found made me much more objective as a designer when looking at them. I didn’t know the back story to the build and had no idea of the trials and tribulations the designers and contractors had gone through to produce their gardens. In short I was just like any other visitor looking at their gardens.

Another first for me was looking at the gardens with a professional photographer, Jonathan Ward. Particularly daunting as I have a new camera with not a clue how to use the bloomin’ thing, and yes ladies and gents I did leave the lens cap on and wonder why I couldn’t get a shot at one point. I became much more aware of looking for the best angle or as Jonathan, like a patient parent pointed out, perhaps I should look for ‘The Shot’. It was pointed out which gardens made for the best picture and to be be aware of what was in the background.

I was particularly pleased with this shot as there was large blue lorry and a rather bright flag on the other side of the hedging which you can’t see in this pic.

I see no flags
I see no flags

The problem was I’d become so focused on hiding them I forgot to look at the composition of the picture. So no the wildlife friendly bench isn’t floating on the water feature.

I was slightly more successful at hiding the camera which loomed over this garden

With and without camera
With and without camera

I don’t think I shall be giving up the day job anytime soon, but it was fun.

The next day I met up with three lovely ladies with whom I’ve chatted on twitter. We took in the show gardens and the floral marquee and generally had a pretty good time.

I discovered Alison likes Lupins and also seemed particularly taken with the Violas on the Wildegoose Nursery stand – well they did get a Gold Medal.

Lovely Lupins
Lovely Lupins

 

Award winning Violas  not award winning photography I'm afraid
Award winning Violas
not award winning photography I’m afraid

and Helen liked the troughs of alpines.

Stone troughs
Stone troughs

but keenest of all was Kitty, who’s delight at the Ariculas made me take a more appreciative look at these tiny plants.

Aricula Heaven
Aricula Heaven

Pelargoniums also featured in our day both on the show ground and the floral marquee but most delightfully of all, in cake form courtesy of the rather fabulous Fibrex Nurseries.

Pelargonium Ardens
Pelargonium Ardens might have come home with me

We also tried eating oxe-eye daisies and pine shoots for the first and as for pine shoots possibly the last time. If I’m honest the pine was an experience, very astringent and a bit much on its own but it has made me think I may have more edible plants in the garden than I first realised. So thank you to Liz Knight of Forage Fine Foods and Marc Diancono of Otter Farm for enlightening me.

So onto day three, where it was Malvern from the other side so to speak, where I got to experience the show from the perspective of all those who have trade stands and exhibits in the floral marquee.

Firstly with Colin and Tina of Plant Supports UK. Now I’ve bought supports from them for myself and for clients in the past but never sold them.

Tina and Colin Supports UK

Also a couple of days before the show I saw a tweet from Sue Beesley of Bluebell Cottage Nurseries asking if anybody could help on her stand. I figured having been at the show for two days I may as well go for three and as Sue is delightful and a bloomin’ good grower helping sell her plants should be fun.

Again I learnt a lot, this time that as an exhibitor the ankle nipping trollies other visitors dislike are in fact the traders best friend, those people with trollies don’t need a plastic bag for their purchases, excellent news for the environment and the traders. I learnt that Tina is so cheerful it’s infectious, I’m not sure I’ve laughed so much in a long time. I also learnt how to use a card reader *sort of* and discovered that selling anything from solid steel supports to solidly grown plants is easy because they pretty much sell themselves.

But lastly and possibly most importantly I learnt never ever give a plant a pet name because as soon as you do you have to take it home.

May I introduce you to Shrek, he’s a little bit special and came from Bluebell Nurseries. Thank you Sue.

Euphorbia form Bluebell Cottage Nurseries
Euphorbia from Bluebell Cottage Nurseries