In a Vase on Monday -3 June 2019

The first sweet peas are always for my Mum.

I’m growing a mix of old and new. Heritage varieties: Mrs Collier (cream) and Dorothy Eckford (white). New this year: Capel Manor. Old favourites: High Scent, Wiltshire Ripple Mix, Albutt Blue and Chatsworth.

The best Blue is Chatsworth. Five or six flowers per stem, prettily ruffled and gloriously scented. Long lasting in a vase, and flowers until the first frosts. The Duchess of Devonshire, the last of the Mitford Sisters, lived at Chatsworth and was president of the Sweet Pea Society for many years.

High Scent and Albutt Blue are modern grandiflora varieties with a picotee edge. Albutt Blue, bred by Harvey Albutt I’m 1999, has a blue rim on a white ground. High Scent is a cream flower with a mauve edge. High Scent is also known as April in Paris.

Seeds are planted in root trainers in October. Use 50/50 compost and grit for drainage. I start mine in a propagator at 15C. As soon as a green shoot is spotted, I remove them from the propagator and grow on in a cold poly tunnel. Sweet peas can cope with cold, but shouldn’t be too wet or they will rot. To out-wit the mice, I stand the root trainers in a deep straight-sided plastic storage box. When the seedlings are 3-4″ tall, I pinch out the tips to make bushy plants. The tips can be grown on as cuttings. Very useful if you are growing heritage varieties and only have a few seeds in the packet.

I planted mine in April in no-dig beds. I mulch the bed with Plant Grow (plant based) fertiliser. This feeds and holds in moisture, and seems to deter slugs and snails.

My sweet peas scramble up an A-frame of hazel rods. I grow them in the same place for four years, then move them to a different bed to prevent the build up of pest and diseases. By then, the hazel rods are collapsing anyway and need replenishing. Each year I weave in a few more twigs to strengthen the supports. I water with a liquid Plant Grow feed.

In front of the sweet peas there’s a row of calendulas and highly-scented pinks. Every space is crammed with flowers.

Alongside, there’s dianthus barbatus (sweet williams). These are sown in summer, make good strong roots and leaves in the first year, and flower in the next. This year I’m growing a dark red variety called Sooty which is just coming into bloom. Sweet williams follow wall flowers to give a continuous supply of cut flowers. I learned how to grow cut flowers at Common Farm Flowers with Georgie Newbery in Somerset.

Little extras in this posy are the last of the forget-me-nots and some pink alliums I always harvest, as a way of controlling them. They can become invasive.

And finally, a favourite pelargonium. This originally came as a cutting from my grandfather Ted Foulds. He loved his garden and each week came to visit and “inspect the plot.” He never arrived without a pot of something, a few seeds, an offset, a cutting. Half my garden came from my grandfather and my Mum. He died 22nd May 2005 aged 83. Still desperately missed, but not forgotten. I faithfully take cuttings of his pelargoniums each autumn, and they flower every summer, as a lovely reminder of him.

Links : In a Vase on Monday :https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/06/03/in-a-vase-on-monday-oops/

Sweet peas at Easton :https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/whats-on/coming-up

Ripple Mixed varieties : https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Tall_3/Sweet-Pea-Ripple-Mixed-Seeds.html#.XPTo-4zTWfA

Plant Grow fertiliser : http://www.plantgrow.co.uk/our-products.html

Root Trainers : https://www.haxnicks.co.uk/garden-products/rootrainers

Sweet William seed: https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sweet-William-Seeds/#.XPTptYzTWfA

Common Farm : https://www.commonfarmflowers.com/

You also might like to take part in a prize draw for a Coil Spring garden chair : https://bramblegarden.com/2019/05/31/product-review-hansford-coil-spring-chair/

In a Vase on Monday 11th February 2019

Spring flowers and a silver birch wreath. A honey -scented display for the summerhouse today.

Arriving home late from work, I’ve run round the garden and picked a few spring flowers to decorate the wreath.

This week, tete-a-tete narcissi and Iris Eye Catcher join the snowdrops in my display. I can report, the little test tubes I mentioned last week are working a treat. The double snowdrops have lasted seven days.

The test tubes arrived attached to a bouquet of orchids, a gift from a friend. As usual, I put them in the potting shed until I’ve thought of a use for them. We are all trying to manage without oasis florists foam, which is not recyclable and adds to pollution.

I twist a wire around the top of the test tube and press it into the twiggy wreath. It stays there securely, despite high winds. Storm Erik bashed the garden, but didn’t damage the display- with the summerhouse turned to face the shelter of the trees. I patch in some emerald green moss and fresh ivy to hide the workings.

Here’s where the flowers are growing, in the wild garden under beech, oak and cherry trees.

Double snowdrops came from Hodsock Priory. Singles, Galanthus nivalis, from Easton Walled Gardens.

Yellow aconites are finally starting to spread. They are slow to establish and like lots of leafmould.

I finish the day walking down the lane to pick willow stems for valentine hearts. And joy! The first lamb, born today. What a lovely surprise, and I’m glad it is a glorious sunny day. Not like last year, when they arrived in a snowstorm. Today is a good day to be born. I stand for a while watching the tiny lamb find its feet. Within minutes it’s jumping, all four feet off the ground. A sight I’ll never tire of, and another sure sign spring is not far away.

Links:

IAVOM with Cathy https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/02/11/in-a-vase-on-monday-and-so-it-goes/

Easton Walled Gardens https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/

Hodsock Priory http://www.hodsockpriory.com/

Yellow aconites https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/eranthis/eranthis-hyemalis

Floristry supplies Googies Flower Shop https://en-gb.facebook.com/googiesflowers/

Last week’s IAVOM https://bramblegarden.com/2019/02/04/in-a-vase-on-monday-february-4th-2019/

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.

Snowdrops and Botanical Art at Easton Walled Gardens @EWGardens

If you’ve never visited Easton Walled Gardens, you’ve got until 4pm tomorrow to view their stunning snowdrops. The gardens are open today and tomorrow 24/25th February, from 11am. And you are in for a treat. The winter displays have never looked better and feature snowdrops, iris, crocus, hellebores and masses of scented flowering shrubs.

I wrote about the history of Easton in a blog post last winter Here.

Here’s a gallery of photos I took earlier in the week.

If you are lucky, you will see kingfishers flying along the river. Such a special moment when you catch sight of that bright flash of blue feathers.

A favourite view of the stone bridge crossing from the meadow to the walled garden.

Always a poignant moment to stop and look at the ruins, all that remains of the mansion house that once stood on this site. New this year, there’s some marker stones set in the grass to show where the front door would have been.

We love the kokedama displays. Such an unusual and pretty way to display snowdrops.

I might try this idea, hanging basket kokedamas look spectacular in the gatehouse stone archway.

There are displays of little potted bulbs all around the gardens. This one is Iris Blue Note. The huge snowdrops are Comet.

Discovering secrets. How to dry and store seed, so that the mice can’t get at them. Easy when you know how.

There’s always something new to find at Easton. This year it’s a botanical art exhibition in the courtyard which runs until 11th March -on Easton’s usual opening days.

I loved this aconite. My camera phone doesn’t really do it justice.

The artists taking part are Norma Gregory, Dawn Wright and Sue Vize.

For more information go to www.visiteaston.co.uk .

Easton is just off the A1 near Grantham in Lincolnshire.

#wordlesswednesday – Smoke

Gardener’s Cottage at dusk at Easton Walled Gardens in Lincolnshire.

Visiting the Food Fair in the courtyard. Famous for its jam and chutney, fudge and cake. The gardens look fabulous. Wonderful to see the topiary pruned and the beds prepared – all ready for Snowdrops 17-25 February. A highlight of our winter calendar. The photo below was taken this February.

Meanwhile. Some more autumn photos to brighten your day:

I worked here, the winter before last. Such a beautiful place. Historic gardens dating back 400 years. Visit the website to see more photos. Sadly the house was demolished after the war.

The terraces and walled gardens have been lovingly restored.

A special place to visit at any time of the year. Do you have a favourite garden you like to visit to see the changing seasons?

In a Vase on Monday….er…Friday 

Having tried and failed to upload this from home, I’ve finally given up on our dodgy internet connection and decamped to Mum’s house. We haven’t got fibre optic cables to our village yet. And we live a mile down a single track lane. So there’s really no hope for us. The only up-side to this story is that mum made a cake. And regular readers know how much I love cake! As I’ve said before, I grow and pick flowers for my MIL Joan as a way of keeping her connected with me and my garden- showing her what’s in flower 52 weeks of the year. But this time I also picked a bouquet for a friend who is having an operation today. Hopefully the sweet williams, alstroemeria and first sweet peas of the season will brighten her day. Flowers do have the power to calm and reassure. 


Pink alstroemeria -from Viv Marsh Postal Plants, flowers virtually all year round in my unheated poly tunnel. I grow them in 60cm pots, as the roots have a reputation for spreading. Growing them under cover protects them from the weather and also from snail and slug damage. Flowers last  for about three weeks in a vase. Easy to grow, repeat flowering, and long lasting. They are no trouble at all. Please excuse the state of my poly tunnel, which needs a good clean. I’ve bought some special detergent from LBS Horticulture, which apparently just needs spraying on. Will report back when I’ve tried it. The one problem with poly tunnels is the algae. It’s not like having glass which can easily be washed down. And it builds up on the inside and outside surfaces. Still, it was cheap to put up and gives me a dry working area in the winter. 

I planted these sweet williams last summer. They arrived in a parcel as a twitter plant swop. I love free plants, and always have loads of my own to spare. I’m quite often posting margarine containers full of little seedlings all around the country. You can see my rather rickety hazel A-frame structure for sweet peas in the background. I just hope it doesn’t blow over in a storm. 

I love the jewel-like colours of these sweet williams. They last for ages in a vase and produce large quantities of flower in a small space. I’ve just sown some more to plant out in the autumn. The seeds germinated in two days in all the hot weather we’ve been having, and there are hundreds of little seedlings to prick out.

My sweet peas have just started flowering. I had a disaster with the autumn-sown seed. A mouse got in the propagator and snaffled the lot in one night. There was just a sea of snapped off stems. Not to be deterred, I planted the stems as if they were cuttings, and amazingly they carried on growing. Another tip if you are growing sweet peas is to use the pinched-out tips as cuttings. They will produce plants that will flower right up until November. I discovered this by accident when I left the pinched-out tips on a tray of moist compost and they rooted down and planted themselves.  Aren’t plants just amazing.

I’m growing High Scent, a good reliable sweet pea variety- and it really does have a wonderful old fashioned scent. It was raised by Keith Hammett and introduced in 2003. It has a creamy  ruffled flower with a delicate lilac edge. I’m also growing Albutt Blue, a very pretty pale blue flower with a deeper blue picotee rim.  It was raised by Harvey Albutt and introduced by Eagle Seeds in 1999. It’s been a favourite of mine ever since. I buy seed from Easton Walled Gardens, Roger Parsons and Eagles. If you don’t have  facilities to grow your own, you can buy mail order plants in the spring from Easton. Also, Mum and I spotted some really great sweet pea plants at Coton Manor garden nursery in Northampton in May, for just a few pounds each.  It’s good to have a back up plan. 

I always put lemon balm and mint in my cut flower bouquets. It goes so well with the sweet peas and roses. And for my friend, who’s spending the day in hospital, it will be a lovely scent to come home to. 

My potting shed, where I’m sowing seeds and making cut flower posies, overlooks a horseshoe pond and tall willows. On the other side of the trees is this view of surrounding countryside. I’ve cut holes in the hedge to make viewing points through. And all my hedgerows are woven with scented roses and honeysuckle. It’s a peaceful place….just don’t look at the weeds! 

Are you growing any cut flowers for friends and family this year? I’d love to hear  what’s  growing in your garden. And thanks, as always, to Cathy at https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com  for hosting In a Vase on Monday.  You can join in even if you have jamjars like me.  And if anyone knows any miracle cures for low internet speeds in the countryside…..please, please let me know! Sigh 🙂 x 

A Visit to Easton Walled Gardens

After  a visit to Easton Walled Gardens, I return to my own little patch, and feel like anything is possible- I can take on any challenge. 

Easton’s  Ursula Cholmeley has approached her major restoration project with so much courage and determination, spending a few hours in her company is all that’s needed to boost my enthusiasm.

Easton was lost under tree saplings and brambles until Ursula started work on the garden 16 years ago. The decline started when Easton Hall, the mansion house that used to stand on the site, was requisitioned at the start of the Second World War. The soldiers stationed there caused so much damage that restoration was not a viable option. There was talk of gunfire being heard in the house and grenades thrown into the greenhouses. 

As a result, the house was literally bulldozed down in 1951, and some of the stonework and debris has been left along one bank to show what conditions were like when Ursula took on the garden. Poignantly, only the gatehouse remains- and that only survived because the bulldozer broke down. It’s a tantalising glimpse of what glories have been lost. Photographs of the old house show magnificent tall glass windows and an orangery overlooking the terraces.

If you visit Easton, you can walk up the flight of stone steps and stand on the spot where there is just the ruins of a bay window left. Standing there, you can survey the scene, and imagine what it would have been like to live there.

Now, thanks to Ursula’s vision and hard work,  you can see a reconstruction of the gardens. Looking out from the terrace, you see the walled gardens in the distance with fruit trees and roses planted through a meadow. Mown paths represent the original paving. 

The terraced banks are full of wild flowers. They are yellow with cowslips today, and we think we spotted orchids.  We stood and watched the swallows, seemingly flying just a few inches above the terraces. Such a sight- and sound. That twittering noise has followed me home!  


A patch of blue Centaurea Montana shines out amongst the yellow cowslips. 

  Camassia bulbs are planted in the Cedar Meadow- taking over from the tulip and narcissi display. 

I particularly like this pale blue camassia in the Cedar Meadow. It looks like Camassia Cusickii 


Maybe I won’t pull up all those dandelions and cow parsley in my garden, after all. A lovely setting for the Meadow Retreat summerhouse. 


Phacelia tanacetifolia. Loved by bees. I’ve grown this as a green manure crop, and forgotten to turn it over in time. Such a happy accident. 
Records show  there has been a house here since 1592. What changes the gardeners must have seen over the past 400 years. 

Easton Walled Gardens  is just off the A1 near Grantham in Lincolnshire. Open from 2nd March to 30 October, and also for snowdrops. See the website for opening times and special events http://www.visiteaston.co.uk. Follow on Twitter @EWGardens and on Facebook. 

Are there any gardens that you visit for inspiration?