Monday, 31 July 2017

End of Month Review - July 2017

July has been a month of great heat and quite a lot of rain.  Just when the garden was getting a little desperate the rain arrived and at the moment things are looking quite lush.

Which brings me to where I shall start the review of this month....
The front hedge is officially out of control.  It is probably about eight feet tall and my house is disappearing behind it.  People are ringing me from outside my house saying they cannot find my house.  It resembles those houses that old ladies with too many cats live in that are hidden behind massive hedges...............  I have been waiting for the birds that nest in the hedge to fledge before cutting it and it has taken advantage of this and grown and grown and grown.  It will be tackled soon, promise.
The Knot Garden has been trimmed at last.  It looks a lot neater.  The front garden is also a bit out of control at the moment.  The lavender edges which you cannot see are full of weeds and will be dealt with soon - promise no:2
The Quince Hedge has been trimmed with hedge trimmers, it is now officially a hedge.  This makes me happy.
Around to the back garden and the cardoons are starting to flower.  A sure sign that summer is getting on a bit.  I love these cardoons, they are ten years old now and flower every year.  Bees love them as much as I do, maybe more.
The Formal Lawn is looking very green and the borders seem very full.  This is good.
This part of the Pond Border has always been problematic until this year.  I planted these hollyhocks last year after growing them from seed; they have added good height and I am pleased with them.
The Courtyard looks quite green.  After dosing the pots with nematodes for vine weevil the plants seem a lot happier.  I have repotted a few of them as well and that has perked them up too.
The spikeys and pelagoniums are also doing well.  This staging seems to suit them as they can drain quite freely and also catch the sun.
The Wild Garden is about at its peak and will be cut by mid-September.  It is full of ragwort this year and the yellow rattle does seem to have reduced the vigour of the grasses a bit.  This part of the garden is alive with bees, moths and butterflies.  It is a total delight.
The teasel patch is also quite wild, and this year has flowered well and is also a magnet for bees and butterflies.  The patch varies greatly year on year.  The biennial nature of teasels tends to mean I get some years that are better than others.  This is a good year.
The Woodland Border seems on first glance to be mainly full of euphorbias and echinops.  They do dominate the border a bit but not beyond bearable yet.
The Exotic Border is quite green from this view at the moment.  I am liking this border a lot at the moment.
The edgeworthia (with lurking Bruce) has grown very well this year.
There is a good six inches of new growth.  This gives me hope that if we have a harsh winter that it might be big enough to survive.
The fernery is very ferny.  They are loving this shady damp corner.
The hornbeams are striving to meet each other to fill the gap left by the pergola removal.
The vegetable beds are largely full of flowers growing for my daughter's wedding in October.  So far all seems to be on track.
I think I have enjoyed growing flowers in these borders more than I have done growing potatoes.  I have also kept them weeded better than usual.
and I have grown some vegetables.  At the moment there are runner and french beans doing very well.  The courgettes are not glutting yet and I am very excited about the sweetcorn ripening.
Ray the otter sits by the pond, after a couple of tumbles into the pond (I suspect a cat) he seems to have settled now.
I end as usual on the pond, which is looking fairly clear and the parrot weed is not so prominent this year.  I will remove more soon.  The pond had got a bit low but the recent rain has helped it recover a little.

Thanks as ever to Helen for hosting this meme.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

A visit to the Ball Colegrave Trial Grounds

Ball Colegrave are the UKs largest wholesale suppliers of seed and plants to commercial growers and local authorities.  They specialise in seed and live plant/plug/bare root sales.  Every year they have a series of Open Days for the trade and also a public Open Day.  I was really pleased I was able to visit on one of the open days.
The trial grounds are laid out so you can see the plants to their best advantage.  They are displayed so that the trade can see what they will look like in situ and also have ideas for how to present and sell them.  It has to be remembered that these plants are destined to be marketed next year.  Also, of course, they will not be on sale everywhere, it will depend where your local retailer buys its plants from.

Whilst it was quite grey when I arrived at the trial grounds, once the sun came out so did the bees and butterflies.  Knowing that you have good plants is one thing, knowing that they attract wildlife makes them even better.
 This has to be one of my favourite plants of the day, Celosia 'Dragon's Breath' which grows to have dark red foliage and a flame red plume of flowers.  This would look brilliant in a bedding display and I also think it would work well in an exotic garden.  I will be looking for some to go into my exotic border and actually they might turn up in some containers as well.

The plants were also displayed in the huge greenhouses and also in small staged areas so you could see how they would look in use.
 There are also the outdoor trial beds.  Rows and rows of brilliantly growing plants.
 Well not all brilliantly growing, there are many experimental plants also being trialled and as you would expect not all trials go well.  So these plants will not get through to be marketed as clearly they are just not coping with living outdoors.  I was far happier seeing that some plants fail then if I had only seen perfection, plants are not perfect and some behave better than others.
Similarly these antirrhinums that were growing a little askew were good to see. I love tall snapdragons and they do sometimes wander a little sideways, to know that these were not being corrected and seen in all their wonky glory was heartening.

Overwhelmingly the trial grounds are row upon row of incredibly healthy and brilliantly performing plants.  All growing outside just the way we the customers will grow them.

There are themed selections of plants based on different colourways.  You could look at them on the indoor displays and then see how they perform outside.  Personally I felt I could appreciate them more when I saw them outside in situ.  I liked them in the fixed displays, but seeing them as part of an actual planting scheme made me understand more how they could be used.  Which is of course, the point.  By showing the trade how these plants can be used Ball Colegrave are helping them be displayed to their best advantage and, (and this is an important and), know how they will perform in real conditions.

This is the crux of the matter, it is not in Ball Colegrave's interests to sell plants that will not perform when they reach our gardens.  We will not make return purchases from our local retailer if the plants die.  We also will not buy the plants if we cannot understand how to plant and care for them.  I believe in buying plants from people who care about them.  What actually matters is that they sell me a good product that they understand and will make sure is in the best possible state in which to start growing.
One of the things that made me smile most in the day was this cheeky heuchara growing out of a wall.  It is not part of a display and clearly should not be there, but I always love a plant that survives no matter what.

One of the features of the day was to take a blue flag and select the product that you liked the best.  This has an important function, not only can Ball Colegrave see which plants are catching the eye of trade customers, they can also see what catches the eye of the public.  When your plants are destined to be sold on garden centre shelves it is useful to know what is eye-catching to the prime market.
So here is my blue flag, inserted into a basket of 'Trendsetter Breezy Blues', one of the ready-mixed group of plants that they sell to be potted up into containers and baskets.  This one very much caught my eye.

I have to thank Stuart Lowen from Ball Colegrave for such a lovely day.  It was really interesting to see what the trends for next year will be and get the heads up on what will be out there to buy.  These are good quality plants and seeds, grown with love, care and knowledge.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Parham Garden Weekend

A little over one year ago I visited Parham House and Gardens at the invitation of the Head Gardener, Tom Brown.  I had the most wonderful day and I thought the gardens were rather special and knew that when I got the chance I would visit again.  I was therefore delighted to receive an invitation to attend the annual Parham Garden Weekend that happens in July.  I set off happily southwards.

The Garden Weekend is a longstanding event and this was its 24th year.  As I drove towards Parham I began to realise what a big event it is.  It felt like all cars were heading to Parham.  The parking was organised well and I was soon directed to where I had to park.  I had the itinerary for the day and there were a series of talks being held in the large marquee.
I made my way to the marquee as I wanted to catch the Gardeners' Question Time which involved Jim Buttress (ex-Royal Park Keeper, TV/Radio Presenter plus much more) , Tom Brown (Head Gardener at Parham) and Steve Edney (Head Gardener at The Salutation).  It was very informative and also entertaining.  There are few things as enjoyable as listening to gardeners sharing their knowledge.
Regular readers will know that I am growing the flowers for my daughter's wedding this year.  There was no way I would miss Sarah Raven's talk about creating bouquets.  It was really interesting and I took lots of notes.  Sarah makes it sound so easy so I came away feeling more confident about the project.

I then made my way to the plant stalls.  There was a fantastic selection of stalls, a proper plantperson's fair that focuses on the plants most of all.  I did my usual careful walk around the fair to get my bearings and see which plants would catch my eye.  The choice was eclectic and of quality.  Nurseries represented included Edulis, Nymans and Withypitts Dahlias.
There were also plenty of stalls to get food, a very find local vineyard, Stopham Vineyard (I had a glass of their wine at lunchtime, it was very good) and of course lots of ice cream.  It was a warm day and ice cream was needed.

Of course I made sure that I could wander around the gardens, they were looking absolutely wonderful.
I spent some time just sitting in the Rose Garden.  I found the bench where I had sat last year and sat again for a while just enjoying the scent and the sounds of happy people exploring the gardens.  There are many benches in the gardens but this is my favourite.  I can sit here, have a nice cold drink bought from the nursery shop and decide which direction I am going to explore first.

I was bowled over by how good the gardens were looking.  I had enjoyed discovering them last year and had thought then that they were impressive, but this year it feels like they have upped their game even more.
I was stopped in my tracks by the White Border; which are words I rarely say.  A good white border is a difficult thing to achieve; most are, well, just white.  This one works and works well.

I enjoyed re-exploring the grounds.  Re-visiting a good garden is always a pleasure.  Seeing what has changed and what has not......
and also seeing what are being trialled this year.  This year it is dahlias, gladioli and zinnias.  Three of my favourite flowers so I am hoping I can get back there in a few weeks to see them at their peak.  I left Parham thinking about the gardens and thinking that they really are very special.  They are superbly maintained by Tom and his team and I think they have created a garden that has real heart.  Parham is firmly established on my list of favourite gardens to visit.

I have to thank Lady Emma and Tom for inviting me to return to Parham and for the very pleasant lunch where I met some lovely people.

I wended my way back to where I was staying for the weekend
and had the most wonderful dinner overlooking the sea at Bognor.  Happy memories of made of such days.