Showing posts from October, 2014

VP's VIPs: Our Flower Patch Part Deux

Previously on VP's VIPs we learned how Cally Smart and Sara Wilman met then came up with the idea of Our Flower Patch. Today, they're going to tell us more about their business and how they are inspiring a new generation of  growers...

Describe how you work together. Do you have fixed roles?
At first we worked together on everything, although Sara knows more about growing flowers for sale than Cally does and Cally had more hands-on gardening experience with school aged children.

Over time we have taken on more specific roles. We meet together formally once a month to plan what is going to happen and discuss ideas and keep in touch via phone, text and social media, sometimes every day in the meantime.

In general Sara is the website geek and photographer and Cally is the writer, though we bounce ideas off each other across our roles. We both make the most of social media, tweeting and retweeting things our audience will find interesting via @ourflowerpatch.

We engage with parent…

Book Review: Two From Francis Lincoln

I have two books for your delectation today, both are courtesy of review copies obtained from Francis Lincoln.

The Garden Anthology is Ursula Buchan's pick of the garden writing published by the RHS for more than a century.

I don't envy her the task as so much has been published by the RHS in The Garden (in all its forms) and other journals. Over 80 authors are featured, which in turn means a whole host of gardening topics are covered.

The pieces are bundled into 13 broad chapters which range from Seasons & the Weather through to Inside the RHS. In between there are plenty of plants, people, science and a number of different gardening styles.

In the International Dimension it's good to see George Forrest rubbing shoulders with Toby Musgrave, who both describe plant hunting and the flora of the Yunnan, but almost a century apart.

This is a wonderful celebration of garden writing, which lets the words loose on the page unfettered by images. Each chapter is colour coded …

Unusual Front Gardens #19: Grapes

I found these jaunty blue railings draped with edible grapes when we ventured to the bottom of the hill in Bishop's Castle last month. I wonder if I could manage something similar in our front garden.

Update - thanks for all your interest in this idea in the comments, though of course there's also been plenty of speculation on how long the grapes would last in most locations.

If you like the idea but not the thought of attendant scrumping, then a possible alternative if you have the space is the wonderful Vitis coignetiae, which has dramatic, large leaves and small bunches of inedible grapes. I first saw this vine scaling a tree at Westonbirt and Karen was so taken with it adorning the fence of one of the demonstration gardens at Derwen garden centre last month, she took one home with her.

Salad Days: An Autumnal Experiment

This year I'm trying an experiment with my late sown lettuces. I usually grow them in pots and some old sinks in my cold frames. Everything is fine initially, but the height of the front of frame is too low for the pots placed there and things get a little mushy.

This year I'm trying seed trays instead. These will give the leaves more headroom, but I'm not sure there's sufficient growing media to sustain them for the whole of the winter. However, that can be remedied easily if my fears prove well founded.

I made a relatively late sowing in early September of 2 rows of lettuce seed per tray - 'Merveille des Quatre Saisons', 'Lollo Rossa', 'Little Gem' and 'Salad Bowl', made easy with the use of seed tapes. That's why my rows are so even.

I've kept the trays on the sunniest part of the patio to maximise the light and warmth the trays receive, but as you can see I'm unlikely to be cropping much from them until early spring. The…

Wordless Wednesday: Autumn at Westonbirt Arboretum


Daffy Dahlia

Whilst I was out in the garden last week, I noticed something slightly different in one of my bright yellow "dinner plate" dahlias. This plant is in its third season here and it's the first time I've seen a streak of red on any of the petals.

Just one flower is affected, so what's going on?

Four possible reasons spring to mind: environmental impact, genetic mutation, reversion, or a reaction to a virus.

Environmental impact
I wrote about how environmental factors affected My Crazy Petunias last year. I found the Crazytunias I grew were sensitive to light and temperature and this in turn affected their flower colouration. I also uncovered a number of other examples (like mySalvia 'Hot Lips') which can differ in response to a number of environmental factors or stress. I don't think that's happening in this case as it's just a single streak of red and it hasn't happened before.

It's all in the genes?
Genetic mutation which gives rise to …

VP's VIPs: Our Flower Patch

It gives me great pleasure to feature my latest VIPs -from Our Flower Patch, a joint venture between Cally Smart and Sara Wilman. I've known Cally for ages as she's one of my Local Vocal bloggers and I met Sara last year when she, Cally and I went on our Gardeners' Question Time adventure.

Cally and Sara are keen supporters of the British Flowers movement and earlier this year launched Our Flower Patch. They're so excited and passionate about what they're doing, I've decided to divide our interview into three parts. I didn't want to cut out any of their enthusiasm and I'm sure what they have to say is of interest to many of you.

So without further ado, here's how it all started...

How did you meet?
Several years ago in a flower arranger's garden. We were at an event for women in business. Sara had started growing cut flowers as a hobby and I was working as a freelance teacher running educational activities in primary schools and writing …

GBBD: Aster novi-belgii 'Waterperry'

Asters are the final plant to come to my garden and my terrace bed revamp this year. I was put off them as a child because the Michaelmas daisies we had (as they were often called then) were those sorry, leggy and mildew ridden specimens so often seen in 1960s gardens.

My picture shows a very different aster called A. 'Waterperry'. I bought it as a souvenir of a wonderful visit to the garden last September, where this particular cultivar was discovered. The garden's famous long border contained many asters, all very healthy with not one jot of mildew to be seen. They made me revise my thinking on their garden worthiness.

It also gave me the nub of an idea for my revamp of the garden this year. Most of the plants I've chosen are gifts from friends or have strong associations with them or places I've visited. I now have two terrace beds full of memories and good times as well as marvellous plants.

For some reason I planted this particular aster at the back of the lo…

Take a Seat

If the embedded slide show above doesn't open for you, you'll find it via Take a Seat.
Some of you may be familiar with my other blog, Sign of the Times. My most regular feature over there is Friday Bench, where I showcase all kinds of seats I've seen on my travels.

I've found many of my favourites during garden visits or whilst looking at public planting, so they're an appropriate subject for Veg Plotting too. I've put together a short slide show of 25 of them for you to grab a cuppa, sit down and have a good look.

I'm not alone in my predilection for benches, Sarah Salway has a whole blog dedicated to them called A Quiet Sit Down. I'm also told that Christopher Woodward - the Garden Museum's Director - is a bench aficionado. I must try and have a chat to him about it when I visit tomorrow.

I've showcased many dozens of benches over the years, so you may like to have a look over at Sign of the Times, where my most recent discovery at the Dingl…

Things in Unusual Places #14: Trousers

My thanks to Juliet for sending me this picture from her holidays in Llandovery earlier this year. I love the sense of humour in this piece of public planting. I wonder who donated the trousers?

I passed through Llandovery in early February this year and it's earmarked for a longer visit. I thought it looked an interesting town, even though it was pouring with rain at the time. Now I need to go back and have a closer look at their public planting too.

It was lovely to hear from Juliet as she hasn't blogged for a while. She's been busy moving house and settling into a different part of the country. Here's hoping The Clockwork Dodo is back in action soon.

Plant Profiles: Apples

Every October I've written about apples on Veg Plotting, so it'sa pleasure to feature them as my Plant Profile this month.

At first, I was quite daunted about growing apples. There are loads of varieties to choose from, some very off putting root stock names to get to grips with and a whole host of things that can go wrong in the pests and disease line. And then there's the pruning...

But oh, there is such beauty to be found in an apple tree. There's deliciously frothy blossom in the spring and a rich variety in the fruit. If I could just pick one tree for my garden, it would have to be an apple.

And yes, you can have just one apple tree in your garden as some of them are self-fertile, though having more than one in the same or adjacent pollination group is even better for ensuring plenty of fruit. Amongst the self-fertile possibilities is the ever popular Cox's Orange Pippin, alongside the Scrumptious, Falstaff and Red Windsor varieties I grow.

October is the mai…

Tree Following With Lucy: October

This month we're playing the waiting game. September's warmth means my ash tree is still clinging determinedly onto its leaves, though plenty of other trees started to shed theirs ages ago.

Autumn's come early. It's not the mellow season of poetry, but instead there's a darker crispness of leaves frazzled by the heat of summer and the record dryness of September. My ash tree's roots must run deep as it's looking relatively untroubled so far.

With the advent of October the weather's turned. The jet stream swung back over Britain from its summer station to the north, bringing lashings of rain over the weekend. It's left behind the autumnal coolness we expect at this time of the year.

I hope it's enough to let the drooping, dusty trees on our estate present a proper display of autumn colour and for my ash tree to join them in a last hurrah before it stands naked for the winter.

In previous years I've noted it's hard to pinpoint exactly whe…

Book Review: The Plant Lover's Guides

Timber Press have a new series of books out this year called The Plant Lover's Guide To...

...Dahlias, Salvias, Sedums and Snowdrops are the four titles published thus far.

I was invited to breakfast by Timber Press at the Garden Bloggers' Fling in Portland earlier this year, where I was pleased to see Salvias in my goody bag. It was joined by Snowdrops last week courtesy of Timber Press in the UK.

The almost square format makes each volume easy to hold and the quality of the hardcover and pages means these books will stand up to being well thumbed.

Each guide is designed to give a thorough introduction to a genus for both gardeners and plant enthusiasts alike.

They're not all-out works of reference. Instead there's lots of information crammed into 200-250 pages, together with a showcase of around 75 particularly garden-worthy examples. This combination gives an overall introduction to the variety of plants available within the genus under discussion.

Thus the reader …

I Love October For...

...Pumpkins and Squash

There's something quite satisfying in bringing the harvest home in the mellow days of autumn. In 2013 it was apples which caught my eye; this year it's pumpkins and squash that are my heart's delight.

I've returned to Turk's Turban as my squash of choice for this year. It's just the right size for the two of us; not so small to be fiddly and not so large we have to eat it in every meal for a week. It has a good flavour (so I dispute Wikipedia's entry) and its shape makes me giggle.  Useful and gigglesome has to be good right?

We live close to Wiltshire's market garden area around Bromham, so piles of locally harvested pumpkins are currently stacked high at the local farm shops. Soon families will be going there to select their pumpkin for carving in readiness for Halloween.

I'm not a huge fan of Trick or Treat, but I do like the unsaid agreement around here that a doorstep posed pumpkin means tomfoolery of the spooky sort is w…

GBMD: The Heat of Autumn