Thursday, 28 September 2017


Long after the mania had sated
an object of desire.
     Virussed beauty
 covenanted through the years.
Blazed fratricidal retribution,
                            principled, vengeful.
You briefly shine
      your sister
                     stands tall
and  remembered.


Three sisters - this year's veg patch

This year I have planted fewer vegetables than usual.  Partly because I have been growing flowers for my daughter's wedding but also because, well, I was just bored of growing veg.  I am not very dedicated at growing veg and my lack of caring leads to a poor crop more often than not.  So this year I decided to only grow what I really wanted.  I have not grown any potatoes for the first time in so many years I cannot count and what I have missed in having fresh new potatoes I have gained in space.
I decided to grow courgettes as I use them in cooking a lot.  I also wanted runner and french beans, peas and some sweet corn.  I sowed some seeds and also bought some as plug plants.  I grew few of each as I did not want to get bored of them.
When it came to planting out I remembered the Native American system of Three Sisters, which should be pumpkins, climbing beans and sweetcorn.  So I planted my courgettes, beans and sweetcorn together and let them romp about.
The results have been wonderful.  Firstly I have had a nice steady crop of beans and courgettes.  I am very enamored of these yellow courgettes, they have great flavour and are rather well behaved in the glut department.
The purple beans and yellow beans have also been a revelation, especially the yellow beans which are just wonderful when eaten when small and tender.
The sweetcorn ripened last, and has also been successful this year.  I am really enjoying have fresh sweetcorn on tap.  The fact that it ripens so late in the season means that the veg season has been a long one.
Best of all I have enjoyed growing veg this year.  I have kept it weeded and looked after it.  It has looked a bit chaotic at times and in the recent strong winds the beans did collapse a bit, but I care not.  I think growing veg in this way is far more satisfying than strict rows and I shall do it again next year.  It turns out it is not veg growing in itself that is boring, it was just the way I was growing it.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Product Review: Burgon & Ball hanging pots

Regular readers may recall that I bought a pretty little cactus from Hampton Court Flower Show, a rather cute little thing that I said at the time needed a hanging pot.  Serendipity took a hand as Burgon & Ball have introduced a fantastic new range of indoor pots and they very kindly sent me a couple to trial.
I was sent a Ripple and a Wave.  As you would expect from Burgon & Ball they are very well made and also extremely well priced; these two are £7.99 each which I think is incredibly reasonable.  They are beautifully glazed stoneware pot and they hang from a leather cord.  Those of you who know me know that I have a love of ceramics and so for me this is the perfect combination of pottery and plant.

Whilst I knew my little cactus had to live in one of them, I took a second or two to think about what would go in the other.
Then suddenly it was clear, the companion plant had to be a tradescantia.  I have had this variegated tradescantia for more years than I care to think of.  I think I 'acquired' the original cutting from a friend's bathroom hanging macrami pot probably more than thirty years ago.  It has been kept going over the years, cutting from cutting, cutting from cutting.  Time's wheel turns and now it is back hanging happily in a pot.

I love these two hanging pots and the rest of the range is calling to me to further explore.  They are perfect birthday or something that rhymes with twistmas presents.  Go on, you know you want to.....

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Irritating Plant of the Month September 2017 - the small one

It was probably about this time last year that there was a Twitter discussion about the size of our ricinus plants.  It was a jolly 'mine is bigger than yours' kind of chat and we pondered whether next year (which is now this year) we would challenge ourselves to see who would grow the largest.  We laughed, we planned, we bought seeds.

Seeds were sown and germinated, all seemed good.

and now I proudly announce myself the winner.....
..... of the smallest ricinus in the challenge.

and let's be clear, I didn't grow just one small one (barely 10 inches high)
No - they are all consistently small.  Maybe I bought a dwarf version?  Who knows!  (please don't notice that the grass edge needs cutting, they are not actually growing in a lawn depsite what it looks like).

Anyhoo, small they maybe but the foliage is still a wonderful colour and I tell myself they look good anyway.


Thursday, 21 September 2017

Glee Birmingham 2017 - more amazing things under one roof.......

....... than you can shake a rake at.

Recently I went to my first Glee show at Birmingham NEC.  Now I have to say that try as I might I cannot find out why it is called Glee, its does not appear to be an acronym, but as it made me very happy so I think it is more description than a title.  Glee is the huge event where people go to show their products in the hope that retailers will want to market them.  It is not open to the general public, so I was lucky to be allowed in as a garden blogger.

Understandably then, it was one of those days when I set off not knowing what I was going to expect.  I had been sent the leaflet and floor plan a few days before attending and that told me to expect large.
This was extremely useful and I spent the evening before the day I was attending doing my homework.
One scribbled on plan later and I was ready for the big day.

Except I am not sure I was ready as there were three enormous halls at the NEC full to bursting with so many interesting stands.  The show says it is the world's number one pet, leisure and garden event and I made sure I was there for opening time so that I had plenty of time to explore it properly.  There was much to explore.
Stands competed to catch the eye as they want their products to be featuring in retail outlets nationally and internationally.  King Cole's pink hedgehog caught my eye.
as did this gaggle of gnomes, or is a hive, or a bothering?

Now here is a clever thing that I saw, this is a pack of sunflower seeds from SeedCell.
You tear the disk into its segments and plant them in compost, add water and they have everything they need to give them the best chance to grow.
The company is family-run by two brothers and is based in the UK.  All the components that they use are sourced from the UK and everything is biodegradable.  What is not to love!  They have a variety of seeds on offer including, cucumbers and grow your own pizza herbs.

Moving on I arrived at the Burgon and Ball stand.  I love these decorative vases and pots.  The cactii vases particularly caught my eye as did the hanging pots.
The Wonder Weed Puller is a new product that won an award at the show.  I was allowed a little play with one and it is simple, light and looked like it should work.
There are three prongs that you stab into the ground around the weed, you twist and pull and the weed pops out in a little plug of earth.

The wandering continued, I spent maybe a little too long thinking about twine,
I might also have considered brushes and boot jacks for longer than many others would.
and this rain poncho from EcoChic had poppies on it and packs up really small, ideal for garden visiting.
and then I found the crocodiles...
---and other turf-friends having a picnic.
These woven-effect plant holders from Stewart Garden really caught my eye.
I also stood and admired Veg Trugs for a while, I loved the detail of the triangular bug hotel fitted into the frame, you can see it if you look carefully.  What a great detail.
I then got distracted by a floating unicorn, as you do....
... before moving on to look at plants, yes there were plants there too.
This Senecio Angel Wings from Wyevale Nurseries also won an award at the show.  It really is the most magnificent plant.  It is probably best that I could not reach up and touch it as it has leaves just begging to be stroked.  The plant is meant to be fine for growing indoors or out which I think makes it a prime candidate for my exotic border.  I am going to be looking out for this plant to buy one.

I also had some very interesting talks with various stands and you can expect to see some product reviews over the next few weeks as a result.  I am now looking forward to next year.  I have to thank Glee Birmingham and HornbyWhitefoot PR for enabling my visit.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

The Big Mow

Every year, usually in September, I give the lawns their first full cut of the year.  For most of the year I allow the Wild Garden to grow wildly and I mow paths through it.  Then at that moment, when the wind changes and the air starts to feel like Autumn, I know the time is right for the big cut.
One of things I like about the Wild Garden is that you cannot really see it until you are quite close.  The mowed formal lawns lead up towards it, with the Exotic Border on the left.  The pleached hornbeams create the boundary between the near and far of the garden.
I also like that each year the Wild Garden has a slightly different character.  Some years it seems to be mainly nettles, some years there are many thistles, this year there was a lot of ragwort.  The insects and wildlife love the Wild Garden.  It buzzes and hums with life.  It is usually full of moths and butterflies, bees and hoverflies.
Step one of the big mow weekend this year started on Friday after work.  I rushed home and mowed all the formal lawns.  This usually takes around an hour to do, depending on how long I have allowed the grass to grow.

Actually before Step 1 there is Step 0 which is the scything of the Wild Garden.  This tends to happen a few days before the actual mow.  Partly to pace myself, partly to let wildlife leave the area before the mower is deployed.  I use an Austrian scythe which I have had for several years now and it cuts down the weeds and long grasses effectively.  It makes the remainder at a reasonable length for the mower to tackle.  So, scythed and formal lawns completed this meant that next there would be mowing.
About an hour later and the mowing is complete.  It has only had a high cut so far and I will mow it again  probably this weekend with a slightly lower cut.
The Big Mow changes the character of the garden for the autumn and winter months.  It makes it feel more open.  Suddenly the boundaries and corners reappear.
The trees in the Wild Garden also become more distinct.  They seem to stand taller and in reality they are getting taller, a little bit every year.  Some have been in the garden quite a few years now and suddenly they seem to be like real trees.  This is rather exciting.
I also uncover and carefully mow around the jewels that appear in the garden.  These beautiful red berries of the Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum).
The timing of the Big Mow also enables the pink cyclamen to be admired.

At some point soon I will sow some more yellow rattle seeds.  I have been sowing it for a couple of years now and whilst it does self-seed I like to give it a hand as I am trying to increase the amount I have.  The Wild Garden remains an important part of the garden.  It does reduce a little year on year as I cultivate a new area or think of a change I want to make, but I cannot imagine it will all disappear.  Certainly for now, long may it last.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

An overdue visit to Easton Walled Gardens

I have a confession, I have managed to inadvertently miss the sweetpea season at Easton Walled Gardens.  I have not missed the sweetpea season there for three years and I did not intend to this year but its been a busy year and things happen as they do.  Suddenly it is September and autumn is in the air.  So when I heard that there was an Autumn Fair at Easton Walled Gardens I jumped at the chance to visit.
The fair was very good, fudge, a pen and soap were purchased.  I could have bought a lot more but there is another fair in November so I thought I should behave myself a little.  It was difficult to behave myself as the fair was packed with interesting stalls.  Crafts and foods were available and all were relatively local to Easton. Once the purchasing was complete we went for a wander around the gardens.  It was quite a grey day and rain kept trying to make its presence felt but this was not going to get in our way.
The long border was looking very good.  The colours and planting all working together extremely well.
The vegetable gardens were neat and tidy as ever.  I always like the vegetable patch as it is so well managed, better than I could ever achieve.  I am always delighted to see the tiny tractor waiting in the borders for its tiny tractoring work.
We wandered behind the greenhouses and noticed these brightly planted borders.  I don't remember seeing them previously and I thought they were very well done.
Niches are filled with pot plants,
.... and I loved this display particularly.
Into the Pickery and there were still some sweetpeas to be seen......
...... but it was dahlias that were stealing the show.
Look closer, this dahlia is just an amazing spike of pink craziness.
This border of amaranthus merged into grasses and zinnias,
again it was a look closer moment.  This combination is just stunning.
Even on this grey day the sunflowers were shining to give us some colour.
Yes I am again going to say look closer, because I am fairly sure that these salmon dahlias should look rubbish with these sunflowers but they really do not.  The colour mixing is spot on.

We left Easton happy with our purchases, somewhat full of cake and agreed that the gardens were looking top notch.

There is going to be an Artisan Food Fair at Easton in November, so I am going to make sure I get back there for that.  I have always been fond of Easton as I think it is a special place and this visit did nothing but reinforce this.