#wordlesswednesday- Malus Wedding Bouquet- with the Royal Wedding in mind.

Crab apple trees are among my favourites. I love the spring blossom- and then there’s the fruit in the autumn, which makes wonderful jams and jellies.

Malus Wedding Bouquet is highly recommended. It has soft pink buds which open ivory white and mature to a dazzling pure white. Finely tapering green leaves turn red in the autumn. Very disease resistant, it grows to 3.5m by 2.5m, although can be easily pruned to keep in a smaller space.

We’ve got our patriotic flags and bunting out, and my grandmother’s coronation glassware trifle bowls- all set for Saturday. Whatever you’ve got planned, enjoy your weekend celebrations.

Visit to Bowood House and Gardens

My invitation read: “Come and visit Bowood’s famous spring planting; and Lord Lansdowne will lead a tour of his woodland garden.”

Who could resist such a missive. Not me! So I set off for Wiltshire- dreaming of camellias, magnolias, rhododendrons and azaleas galore!

And what I found was one of the best spring gardens I’ve ever visited. Over two miles of paths meander through the 30 acre garden- set within a former quarry. A stream runs through the valley with banks of ferns, candelabra primroses and bluebells either side.

Now, I’ve been on these garden visits before, where tours are promised. The owner is often there for a welcoming reception- but then frequently hands over to staff for the tour itself. So I was surprised and pleased to see Lord Lansdowne standing by his offer and giving us a walking tour of his garden – and one that ran an hour longer than planned.

If you come to visit my garden, I’ll take you around, show you the tree I planted when we moved here, my favourite seat, my favourite shrub and the plants I inherited from my grandparents’ garden. To be honest, our visit to Bowood felt just like that; a keen gardener showing us around his plot – with all his favourite trees and shrubs and viewing points. As soon as we arrived, Lord Lansdowne pointed to a group of cornus dogwood trees and described them as his “pride and joy.” And then followed a chat about how difficult they are to grow, and how “wonderful” they look when the white bracts appear in spring. His enthusiasm is something we all share as gardeners. We nurture and plant something, and then stand back and admire it, and want to share that moment with fellow gardeners. It’s something I recognise and understand.

One thing I haven’t got though (ok, there’s no rolling acres and stately home either) is a rhododendron named after me. This one is Lord Lansdowne’s – it’s rather lovely, with peachy cream petals and pink buds.

I can see why this is one of his favourite views, looking out from the garden. We are standing on the mausoleum steps looking out across the tops of the rhododendrons through a gap in the trees.

Some of the rhododendrons are called Bowood Hybrids, and Lord Lansdowne showed us the nursery beds where his selected seedlings are planted. He said they could be sitting there for 10 years before he’d know if they were something special or not. Patience is obviously a virtue when you are growing new varieties like these.

I must admit, there were a dizzying array of variety names as we walked through the woods. I should have written them down, but I was just listening to the commentary and enjoying what turned out to be a most unusual and special day. I mean, how often can you report that you were meandering through the woods and suddenly there on the path is the celebrated plantsman Roy Lancaster!

Roy, who is writing about the gardens, stopped for a chat and joined our group for a photo. It was fascinating to hear the two friends talking, the Latin names flying back and forth. And later, we visited a patch called Roy’s Corner, where specimens brought back from Roy’s plant-finding expeditions are being nurtured. Altogether, it had been, a day like no other.

Bowood Woodland Garden opens from 28th April until early June. Check the website for details. http://www.bowood.org

No wonder the owner admits he spends every Saturday lunchtime having a picnic in the gardens. I think I would too.

Many thanks to the Garden Media Guild for organising this visit to Bowood. If you work in horticulture, you can become an associate member. Membership is open to anyone working in garden writing, broadcasting and photography. Probationary membership may also be available for new starters in the profession and there are training courses and mentoring schemes available.

Weeds. Geranium robertianum

I’m writing a piece about weeds at the moment. Suddenly, in the sunshine, after all that cold weather, weeds have gone whoosh!

In my woodland garden, there are thousands of wild geranium, robertianum. It has so many common names: herb Robert, stork’s bill, crane’s bill, red robin, stinking Bob, fox geranium, cuckoo flower.

“Herb Robert is very familiar. It lives with man: much as the robin flips into his garden and to his back door” – Geoffrey Grigson- The Englishman’s Flora.

I’m enjoying reading up and investigating more about this common weed we usually pass by without noticing. And meanwhile, a posy of herb Robert sits in my potting shed window today. Mixed in with some wild violets -which are so numerous they could be considered a weed. Both very pretty indeed.

What “weeds” are growing in your garden right now.

End of the Month View -April 2018

We leave cold, wet April behind, and May finally brings some warm, settled weather.

The potting shed window ledge soon has a jug of cow parsley and forget-me-nots from the wild garden.

We’ve waited for this display all winter. Wild cherry trees in the paddock. Alive with bees. An avalanche of white blossom.

Scented narcissi Geranium pop up in the long grass around the pond. I love the egg yolk centres.

Needing some work this summer, the pond is ringed with marsh marigolds and lady’s smock wild flowers- and brambles and stinging nettles! A bit of cutting back and control is planned.

Our front lawn is a blue haze. My Grandfather Ted Foulds brought the first wild violets here, seedlings from his garden. They spread over the whole plot, and I love them.

I’ve planted my sweet peas. The hazel rods are a bit ramshackle, but they’ll soon be covered with flowers. I planted seed in October. I’m growing old favourites: High Scent, Wiltshire Ripple and creamy white Mrs Collier, plus heritage varieties from Easton Walled Gardens .

Suddenly, these dog’s tooth violets pop up through cow parsley in the woodland. I forget I’ve planted them – and then they emerge. Sunshine on a cold, cloudy day. Erythronium Pagoda is the variety growing here.

Shining out from the shade, Tulip Purissima. Reliably comes back every year. Copes with everything the weather throws at it.

I grow Orange Emperor tulips in the daylily bed in front of the greenhouse. Another good do-er. Always comes up every year if planted deeply on a bed of grit for drainage.

Favourite shrubs in flower at the moment are daphne and quince. This one is Japanese quince, Chaenomeles Kinshiden. Double flowers open pale lime green and change to clotted cream as they age.

Pleased to see my plectranthus has survived the winter, tucked up in the greenhouse. A striking plant for summer containers. Easy to grow from cuttings.

There will be plenty of citrus fruit for summer preserves. This plant flowered all winter, filling the greenhouse with such a wonderful scent.

We do quite a bit of owl watching from the top of the garden. Delighted to report the barn owls and tawny owls have survived the freezing winter. We’re hoping they bring their fledglings into our garden again this summer.

Another cause for celebration. The hedgehogs- we think they are last year’s babies- also survived the cold, and have come out of hibernation, ravenous. They are doing a great job of clearing pests in the garden.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this slide show of my garden at the end of April and into the first week of May. Enjoy your Bank Holiday weekend. I’m hoping to spend some time just sitting in my favourite garden chair. If I can possibly ignore all the weeds growing rampant in the background!

Thanks to Helen Patient Gardener for hosting the EOMV. Why not go over and see how Helen’s garden looks at the end of April.

What are your plans for the garden over the coming weeks? Get in touch and let me know.

Fact sheet for growing strawberries /recipe for ten minute strawberry jam biscuits

If you listened in to the gardeners’ phone-in programme this week on BBC Radio Leicester you’ll have heard us giving hints and tips on planting and growing strawberries. Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts to get the best from home grown crops.

Buying bare-rooted runners, or root stock, is an affordable way to buy strawberries online or via seed and plant catalogues. It’s a good way to buy named varieties and virus free stock.

I’ve chosen the Plant Heritage Collection from Marshalls. 30 runners for around 66p each.

Royal Sovereign : A well-known mid season strawberry famed for flavour. Large juicy fruit. Crops in early summer- and again in autumn.

Cambridge Favourite : Reliable and popular variety. Good for jams and preserves.

Red Gauntlet: Mid season, heavy cropper. Fruit is held well above the ground. Good for damper soil, or for growing under cloches or in tunnels. Some resistance to botrytis.

1. When the plants arrive, take them straight out of the Jiffy bag and either plant into 3″ pots or straight into the garden, if soil and weather conditions are suitable.

2. Choose a sunny, well drained spot – not in a frost pocket

3. Enrich the soil with well rotted garden compost, organic Plantgrow fertiliser, or peat-free sheeps wool and bracken compost from Dalefoot Compost.

4. Planting depth is crucial to success of the runners. The crown, the thickened area where the leaves are attached to the roots, should be resting at soil level. Too high and the plants will dry out. Too deep, and they will drown.

5. Don’t plant where tomatoes, chrysanthemums or potatoes have been grown. The soil may harbour wilt disease.

6. Watering techniques are important. Do not drench the leaves and leave them wet overnight. The plants are more likely to suffer from moulds and the fruit will rot. Either use a leaky pipe, or push the watering can through the leaves to water at ground level.

7. Feed every 7-14 days with a high potash liquid fertiliser. I use seaweed extract, but you can also use tomato fertiliser. Plantgrow also has a handy liquid fertiliser in its range.

8. Protect the flowers from frost using a layer of fleece. The flowers are easily damaged and turn black. A whole crop can be lost to frost overnight.

9. Cut back all leaves and remove straw mulch after fruiting to prevent a build up of pests and diseases. We use chopped mineralised Strulch.

10. The plants will naturally produce runners. Stems will arch over and where they touch the ground, new plants will grow. Pot these up and renew your strawberry beds every 3-4 years. The old plants are best discarded after this length of time as pests and diseases start to take hold.

11. Vine weevils love strawberry plants. There’s a new organic nematode treatment that can be bought off the shelf. Previously treatments had to be posted out and used fairly quickly. The new nematodes from Neudorff are easier to buy and use.

STRAWBERRY JAM ALMOND BISCUITS

These are a family favourite and only take 10 minutes to make. Lovely with morning coffee, or for afternoon tea.

Ingredients: whizz together

200g caster sugar

115g butter

115g ground almonds

115g plain flour

1tspn baking power.

1 egg

3 drops almond essence.

Rest dough in the fridge for one hour if you want biscuits to retain their round shape. I was in too much of a hurry, so mine turned out flat.

Take teaspoons full of dough and roll in the palm of your hand. Place on a baking tray. Make a well in the centre with a spoon handle or little finger. Fill with strawberry jam. Top with slivers of almond.

Cook in oven at 200C for 10 minutes. Keep a close eye on them as they soon burn.

Will last for three days in a sealed container. If you can resist them that long.

Here’s a link to the radio programme. Have a listen in at 2.08.18 on the timeline.

bbcleicester http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p063rcnf

Here’s some fruit tarts I also made with the home-made jam. Totally delicious! Wonderful after a hard day working in the garden.

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What new plants are you trying out this spring and summer?

In a Vase on Monday- spring flowers for Mum

Flowers for my Mum this week. There’s nothing as beautiful as spring bulbs and ranunculus are among my favourites. They are easy to grow. Plant them 8cm deep and the same distance apart in bulb fibre or John Innes compost. I grow mine in pots, starting them off in the greenhouse for an early crop. But they can be grown outdoors in full sun and well-drained soil. Plant them with the “fingers” facing downwards. The RHS has a sale on – 12 corms for £1.60 instead of £4. Aviv Rose is an excellent variety. I also grow Purple Heart . They last for a week in a vase. I made a small posy for the kitchen table with mine.

Red tulips look fabulous with blue hyacinths. I’ve placed these with lots of twigs from the garden. I’ve got grey catkins, red dogwood, spirea, and field maple. Some of the stems came from my new “Hedge in a Box” kit from Hopes Grove Nurseries. I wrote about planting my new florists’ hedge Here.

In amongst the stems are daffodils from Waitrose, grown in West Cornwall. “Surprise Bouquets ” contain 30 different stems for £4. You can’t tell what they are while they are in bud. The mystery is only revealed as they open. I love something a bit different and new marketing ideas to promote British flowers. Greenyard Flowers have been supplying Waitrose with daffodils for 23 years and grow more than 1,000 different varieties.

Some of the daffodils open up with creamy- white outer petals and a darker lemon trumpet. They have a delicate scent too.

All my bouquets for friends and family contain some of this evergreen glossy-leaved shrub that originally came from my Grandfather Ted Foulds. It’s called Euonymus Japonicus. I loved his visits here each week. He would always bring a little pot of seedlings from his garden, or a cutting from one of his plants. It’s lovely to walk around the garden now and remember him from all the flowers and shrubs in my garden.

There’s nothing more cheerful than popping a few twigs in amongst the spring flowers and watching them burst into leaf in the heat of the windowsill. This one I think is common field maple. The lime green leaves are almost as beautiful as any flower.

Thank you to Cathy at Ramblinginthegarden for hosting this meme. Why not go over and see what Cathy and all the others are putting in their vases this week. It’s an international favourite.

In a Vase on Monday – 9th April 2018

Just dashed home from work. Wonderful to still have some light in the evening for mooching in the garden. Each week I join Cathy at ramblinginthegarden for IAVOM. Here’s a slide show of photos showing what I’m growing and putting in my flower arrangements his week.

The silver and gold-laced primulas are just at their peak. They last for a week in water and have a faint but delicate scent.

Tulips always cheer up any arrangement. These yellow and red blooms go really well with the fancy primulas.

Flower vases are still very much focusing on bulbs. I think I’ve had Carnegie white hyacinths in my flower vases every week since Christmas. These are the very last of them. I shall miss them to be honest. The scent in the potting shed is just wonderful.

Hellebores are still in flower here. This one has a pretty, frilled anemone centre and holds its head up, which is always a good trait in any hellebore. I bought this one from Hodsock Priory in February.

Hellebores have survived everything the weather has thrown at them. This one came from Ashwood Nurseries in Kingswinford when we had a a tour of owner John Massey’s private garden. Well worth a visit. Probably the best spring garden I’ve ever seen. All fees from the open days go to local charities.

Couldn’t resist these summer bulbs. Lilium Conca D’Or is a favourite for fabulous scent. And the dahlia is new to me. I’ve watched others on IAVOM growing and using this variety, so I’m looking forward to trying it out for the first time this year.

Potting shed reading this week is Secret Houses of the Cotswolds by architectural historian Jeremy Musson, published by Frances Lincoln, part of the Quarto Homes group. Photographer Hugo Rittson Thomas allows us to peek into 20 homes, varying from castles and manor houses to grand mansions. It’s like stepping into another world to be honest. And a glimpse of the gardens through open windows- so tantalising! I just wanted to jump in the car and visit them all. But of course they are not open to the public. So I shall have to be content with gazing longingly at the book.

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Product Trial : Hopes Grove Nurseries- Hedge-in-a-Box Kit

Photo: Prunus blossom from my hedgerow.

Visitors to my garden sometimes look surprised when they see the state of my hedges. They don’t often know what to say. Or they launch into a lecture offering kindly advice which usually involves grubbing out the rampant species and cutting everything back. I say nothing.

Truth is, I know the hedges are untidy. But I love them that way. There are gaps – but they allow ramblers on the lane to view the snowdrops. And me to watch the barn owls glide silently by at dusk. Yes, there are tangles of wild clematis, ivy and honeysuckle. Bees love the ivy flowers and birds love the berries. It’s a living tapestry of colour all year round.

Even the scruffiest, wild and untamed hedge provides nesting and cover for birds. A home for insects and small mammals. A microclimate, baffling the wind. Far better than any fence or wall, allowing frost to filter through and creating shelter.

Being a fan of all kinds of hedges, I made a beeline for Hopes Grove Nurseries at a recent garden trade fair in London. Hopes Grove are launching new themed hedging kits. I asked if they could design a florists’ hedge for me, and three days later my hedge-in-a-box arrived on the doorstep.

My new hedging kit contains a mixture of plants to give colourful stems, flowers and evergreen foliage. There’s a mixture of bare-rooted stock and potted plants including deutzia, escallonia, ribes, forsythia, hydrangea, mock orange, spirea. A lavender has been included as a sample of what the nursery sells. I think I’ll plant that in my herb garden. For glossy evergreen leaves there’s griselinia littoralis and osmanthus burkwoodii. And for winter colour there’s dogwoods with black, yellow, red and orange stems. My wild and untamed hawthorn hedge marks the boundary of my acre plot, but nearer the house and around the veg plot I’m going to plant a new mixed hedge, one I can harvest for my flower arrangements.

The plants, well packed, arrive in cardboard boxes. Boxes and paper packaging are all recyclable.

You wouldn’t know they have been packed in a box and been on a journey. The plants are really well grown and fresh. There are plenty of new buds on the Hydrangea Annabelle, and the osmanthus is just about to flower.

Bare- rooted plants are also substantial, well grown stock. We’ve heeled them in to the veg plot temporarily, until the ground is less waterlogged for planting. Each week I join in with the IAVOM (In a Vase on Monday) meme. I post a photo of what I’ve grown and harvested from my garden and take a look to see what other people all around the world are growing for their flower and foliage arrangements. Have a look at Cathy’s site to learn more.

Another new hedge-in-a-box kit is the Gin Makers’ Hedgerow, with fruit and berries for alcoholic infusions. There’s wild pear, crab apple, plum, and cherry amongst the long list of suggestions. And I noticed dog roses too, which grow freely in my garden.

Of course, my wild informal hedge might not be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s important to say that Hopes Grove supplies plants for more structured hedges such as yew, privet, box and beech. Plant sizes vary from economical one year old cuttings, bare rooted transplants, 2- 4 year old feathered whips, right up to 25ltr pots and troughs of well grown plants for instant effect. There are hundreds of plants listed in the catalogue.

Hopes Grove send out a well-written site preparation, planting and aftercare guide. Morris Hankinson is the founder of Hopes Grove and grew up in the tiny oast house on the small family farm that is now in the centre of the nursery site. Morris has grown the business from a “one-man-band planting, growing and selling hedging” to a nursery covering 50 acres and employing 18 local staff.

Contact Details: Hopes Grove Farm, Smallhythe Road, Tenterden, Kent, TN30 7LT. Tel: 01580 765600. E-mail : morrish@hopesgrovenurseries.co.uk. http://www.hopesgrovenurseries.co.uk. Click Here to visit the website. These are not affiliate links.

I’m delighted that Hopes Grove have asked me to trial this hedge-in-a-box kit. I love to hear of innovative ways of growing and selling plants. I’m very happy to wholeheartedly recommend their hedging plants and I’m grateful for the chance to give my honest opinion.

Hopes Grove won the Bob Maker Memorial Award for the best stand at the trade fair, the Garden Press Event in London.

Photo. Wild flowers – stitchwort- growing in the hedge at home.

In a Vase on Monday -Snow, and then spring!

What a week! Temperatures over the past seven days have gone from -12c to 14c. Luckily nothing seems to have been lost. The snow creates an insulating blanket. Plants can still photosynthesize through the snow. I just gently tap some of the snow-laden branches of conifers and acers. The weight can cause splaying and damage. Here’s a slide show of photos showing my garden from last Monday to today. Flowers are in plant pots and jam jars in the greenhouse and potting shed this week.

My 20-year-old Parwins electric heater has been working full time keeping the greenhouse cosy. A second-hand Alton Cedar greenhouse copes really well with the weather. The wood seems to expand in the winter, excluding any draughts. At night, I didn’t disturb the wrens nestling in a row on the door slider. There were eight snuggled together, keeping warm.

Scented pelargoniums have never been more welcome than on a freezing cold day. I picked some to put in tiny vases for my bedside table.

Iris reticulata bulbs are still in flower. They last longer in cold weather. Such a delicate scent. Much appreciated when there’s a foot of snow outside.

As there’s so few flowers this week, I’m showing some photos of my greenhouse, Polytunnel, potting shed set up. All within a few paces of each other. The polytunnel was second hand from a nursery closing down sale. You can see my Dalefoot Compost piled up in front of the potting shed, all ready for sowing seeds and growing fruit, veg and flowers. I started off some tomato seeds mid week. It’s the first time ever I’ve had to put hot water bottles on the compost bags before sowing seeds.

I’m keen to try this sheeps wool and bracken compost. I’ve been peat free for a while now, but composts have been variable to say the least. Dalefoot promises to be water retentive and cheaper to use, as no added fertilisers are needed. Apparently the bracken is naturally high in potash- needed for fruit and flower production. And the sheeps wool continues to act as a kind of slow release fertiliser during the whole growing season. Dalefoot have given me the compost to try out. As usual, opinions are my own and I’ll give an honest appraisal of the product in due course.

A quick peek in my potting shed and there’s still some white hyacinths, yellow tete-a-tete daffodils, with green hellebores and fluffy willow catkins. This time the vases didn’t freeze solid, thankfully. The view from the potting shed is white over. As is the view from the back door, below.

I didn’t go far to be honest. The roads around here were pretty dire.

But then – thankfully, the temperatures started to rise. And today has been the warmest day of the year.

Hope it’s sunny where you are at the moment.

Thanks to Cathy for hosting this IAVOM meme. Why not go over and see what Cathy is growing and putting in her vases this week.