Talking on the radio – notes and photos for wednesday 22 July, BBC Radio Leicester Gardens Hour

I’m still talking on the radio once a fortnight – from the peace and quiet of my potting shed. It’s lovely to be at home rather than having to drive into Leicester. And when the music is playing between chats, I get on with a bit of watering or prick out a few seedlings, and nobody knows.

This week we talk about sweet peas. I’m growing new variety, Ripple Mixed, pictured above. It has mauve, pink, and purple markings on a pale pink background. The scent is strong, and stems are nice and long, making them ideal for cut flower posies. One to keep on my list for autumn sowing. I’m ordering seeds now to ensure I get the varieties I want. This year’s experience of buying plants and seeds – and the long delays receiving them- has taught me to plan ahead and order early.

Here’s a selection of sweet peas I’m putting in jam jars on the village green to raise money for Rainbows Hospice for children and young people. Rainbows cares for children with life-limiting illnesses and nearly all its funding comes from donations. The hospice has lost almost £1 million in fund raising this year, due to events being cancelled because of covid. I put leaflets alongside the flowers, hoping it might encourage someone to learn more about the hospice and make a regular donation. Every little helps.

Here’s the Wiltshire Ripple variety I mention, with its delicate picotee edge. I wouldn’t be without this one. Always a good strong performer.

This is Mayflower 400, another new variety, celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim Fathers sailing to the New World. It’s highly-scented and a good strong grower. Long stems, and flowers last a week in a vase.

After talking about flowers, we move on to what I’m growing and harvesting from the plot. Plums are prolific again this year. This is Victoria, delicious and reliable. I’m making jam. It’s such a treat in winter to have a taste of summer. I stand the jars along the kitchen window and admire them. It’s like looking through pink stained glass. Very cheerful on a cold, dark day.

The recipe for plum crumble cakes and plum jam is here : https://bramblegarden.com/2017/08/22/peaches-and-plums-crumble-and-jam/

When my children were little, we fed them apple purée as their first solid food. BBC Radio Leicester programme host Naomi Kent is having a baby in two months, so we talk about the varieties of apple trees she might plant in her new garden.

I’m growing Spartan, a gorgeous deep red apple with a sweet honey taste. Apples are small and numerous, the perfect size for children’s lunch boxes. Lovely for juicing which is a somewhat messy process, but worth the effort.

I also grow Greensleeves (above) for cooking and eating. It’s sweet enough on its own, so you won’t need to add sugar for cakes, purée and puddings. Kept somewhere cool, apples will store until February.

Supermarkets often only sell a few apple varieties, typically Cox, Golden Delicious and Braeburn. Often they’ve been grown abroad and flown in. Sometimes they are coated with chemicals to improve their keeping qualities. And yet, in the UK, we have perfect conditions to grow your own apples. Traditionally, apple trees would have been 6m tall, but plant breeders have produced some compact varieties for small gardens and containers. Lubera have a range of ‘column’ fruit trees which have short side shoots and a narrow, vertical growing habit. I’m growing Malini Top Model which looks as if it will be about 50cm wide and eventually 3m tall. I’m growing it in a large plant pot and it has a good crop of apples in its third year. Lubera also have column types of pear, cherry and plum varieties on their website.

We had record amounts of cherries this year. I’ve been freezing them and preserving them in alcohol for winter treats. There’s a cherry marzipan chocolate recipe mentioned in the links at the end.

My cherry tree is Stella, a self fertile variety bred in Canada and introduced to Britain in the 1960s.

If you’ve got a small garden, opt for a cherry tree on dwarfing Gisela rootstock, which makes a compact tree. It’s much easier to protect trees from frost, if they are small enough to cover with fleece or an old bed sheet.

Good varieties to try include self-fertile Sunburst, Summer Sun and Celeste.

I’m fond of pears too. I have a Conference pear which provides plenty of fruit. If you are short of space, pears are easily trained along a fence or wall, in an espalier shape. Pears need more sunshine and warmth than apples, so it is a good idea to give them the protection of a warm wall. I’m going to plant a Concorde pear on the south wall of the house. Concorde is possibly a more reliable cropper than Conference.

If you have a more shadier garden, and you want to grow fruit, I’ve found success with Morello cherries, damson and quince, and crab apples for making jelly.

As well as apples, pears, plums and cherries, I wouldn’t be without my mini peach trees. I’m growing dwarfing variety Garden Lady and Bonanza in 45cm pots. We don’t get very many peaches yet, but the taste is so delicious and sweet. It’s a special treat to have home- grown ripe and tasty peaches.

I’d love to grow my own apricots. I’ve seen compact varieties Aprigold and Isabelle at nurseries. Our neighbour, Arthur, at our first house, had a fan-trained Moorpark apricot. He never did any other gardening, leaving it all to his wife Dorothy, but every day he fussed over his apricot tree, watered it and covered it up on cold nights. When it produced a magnificent crop each summer, he gave bags of fruit to his neighbours all along the little row of terraced houses. Happy memories of wonderful, kind neighbours. We have been so lucky to always have lovely people living next door.

So, to sum up, you don’t need a huge garden to grow fruit. It is possible to have a whole orchard- in pots on your patio. No need for rolling acres. Dwarfing varieties designed for growing in containers, some large pots, 45cm diameter, and John Innes no3 compost is all you’ll need. Set up an automatic drip watering system, or water the pots every day in summer. I add potash-rich seaweed feed every fortnight, and I refresh the top of the pots, taking out a small amount of compost and adding in some new compost, every year.

What fruit trees are you growing at home. Have you any recommendations for small gardens. Get in touch and let me know how you are getting on with your growing this summer.

Links:

Sweet pea seeds: https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Tall_3/Sweet-Pea-Ripple-Mixed-Seeds.html#.XxrSvBB4WfA

Mayflower 400 : https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sweet-Pea-Seed/Sweet-Pea-Mayflower-400.html#.XxrS4hB4WfA

My plum jam recipe : https://bramblegarden.com/2017/08/22/peaches-and-plums-crumble-and-jam/

Apple and Almond Slice Recipe: https://bramblegarden.com/2019/11/07/apple-and-almond-slice-family-favourite-recipes/

Cherry marzipan chocolates: https://bramblegarden.com/2018/12/04/family-favourite-recipes-chocolate-marzipan-cherries/

BOOKS TO READ:

An Orchard Odyssey by Naomi Slade

https://bramblegarden.com/2019/09/27/an-orchard-odyssey-book-review-and-prize-draw/

The Creative Kitchen by Stephanie Hafferty

https://bramblegarden.com/2018/11/18/the-creative-kitchen-book-review/

BBC Radio Leicester : https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p08jzr94. Gardening starts at 3.11.48 on the timeline.

A Walk Around My Garden- Sunday 14 June 2020

Sweet peas, sweet williams and roses are in full flight. I’m amazed anything survived the recent torrential hail and high winds. Some of the tree leaves have holes where the hail went straight through them. But flowers were unperturbed.

Rose Cerise Bouquet climbs to the top of a mature beech tree. It thrashed about in the storm, sending a cascade of red petal confetti across the lawn. It’s such a floriferous rose, there’s hundreds more flowers ready and waiting to open. It will bloom, on and off, until November.

I also feared for the climbing New Dawn rose. The willow tree supporting it was almost stripped of its leaves. Most ended up in the pond. There was no water to be seen. Just rose petals and shredded leaves. However, remaining rose buds opened, and the tree has put out tiny new baby leaves to replace those whisked away in the storm. I’m sure nature is sending us a message. Through troubled times, there’s always destruction, fear and grief followed by renewal. We have struggled through Corona virus times. But we will recover.

Pinks and carnations are in full flower now. I’ve planted old-fashioned types, Mrs Sinkins white and Doris Pink. I’ve also invested in some modern ‘Devon’ hybrids, Devon Cream, Devon Wizard. Cranmere Pool, Letitia Wyatt. The names sound as delicious as the wonderful scent. A good one to look out for is ‘Memories,’ an improvement on the heritage variety Mrs Sinkins with good weather tolerance and it is also repeat flowering.

I wouldn’t be without sweet williams. I’m sowing next year’s flowers now. A pinch of seed in a 3″ pot, or a sprinkle in a half seed tray. Leave at the base of a sheltered house wall and they’ll germinate in a few weeks. I’ll prick them out into a full seed tray and then plant them into their final positions for them to settle and produce roots and leaves this year. Being biennials, they will grow now, and flower next year. A whole bed of flowers for just a few pounds. I’ll grow the highly scented auricular-eye type, and one called Sooty, which is almost black.

I’m just planting the last of the sweet pea seedlings. The October-sown plants are in full production. But I’ll want a supply right through until first frosts. This is the secret of growing. Always keep sowing a few more and a few more. Make sure you have a back-up supply incase anything goes wrong. I’ve just had a neighbour at the front gate. Do I have any climbing beans, by any chance, he asks? Luckily, there’s some in the propagator – a back-up in case mine get nibbled. He can have these to replace the ones taken by rabbits. We chat about the weather, slugs, snails and mice. And covid. What are we to do, he asks? I shrug my shoulders. Keep going, is the only answer I have. Don’t give up. Celebrate the successes and don’t be beaten by the failures. Help one another where we can, and try to enjoy the simple things. Look closely at all the beauty in the world. That’s all I can say.

I usually take part in the Six on Saturday meme…but this week I’m a day late. https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2020/06/13/six-on-saturday-13-06-2020/

Whitman Pinks:https://www.whetmanpinks.com/garden-pinks-en/page-3/

Peter Beale Roses https://www.classicroses.co.uk/

Mr Fothergills sweet Williams https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sweet-William-Seeds/

What’s looking good in your garden this weekend? Thanks, as ever, for reading. Your comments are always welcome.

In a Vase on Monday #IAVOM #MondayMotivation

Finding comfort in familiar things, I’m joining in with the weekly In a Vase meme. And this week it’s the first bunch of sweet peas – for my daughter Rachel, for her kitchen window at her first home. We still can’t believe she’s managed to complete the purchase, in the middle of a pandemic. Well done to her and her partner Sam for determination, riding the wave of crisis and uncertainly, and keeping strong along the way. It’s not been easy. But we will look back and laugh at all the ups and downs, I’m sure.

Photo: Albutt Blue.

I sowed my sweet peas in October in root trainers. I used Melcourt multi -purpose peat-free compost and added 25 percent grit for drainage. Sweet peas hate soggy feet. I started them off in the greenhouse to defeat the mice. Mice give up when the shoots are about 5″ tall as all the energy from seeds has gone into roots and shoots.

I’m growing heritage types varieties and a new sweet pea called Pilgrim 400 to celebrate the 400th anniversary since the Pilgrim Fathers sailed for the New World. The heritage types include lovely creamy white Mrs Collier. Seed came from Easton Walled Gardens near Grantham.

I made my sweet pea supports in February using hazel rods. These are usually used in hedge laying and are the binders that go along the middle of the hedge. Farm suppliers sell them for not much money.

I wrote about creating the rustic supports for my regular column in weekly Garden News magazine on 25th February. I must say, having the writing to concentrate on has helped me cope with the lockdown. It’s given me something cheerful to focus on. It’s lovely to be part of such a supportive team and I’ve appreciated the editor’s letters each week summing up our thoughts on the covid crisis and ‘steadying the ship’ with calm and sensible advice. It’s made a difference.

A week after I’d made the sweet pea supports we had high winds and snow. Luckily my frame stayed solid. A testing time for the garden- and us.

I planted out my seedlings on April 12th. The root trainers open out like a book, so there’s little damage to roots when you transplant them. Admittedly, these are made from plastic, but I’ve had mine for 6 or 7 years so far, and treated carefully, they will last a long time.

And here they are this week. The first bed has Charlotte potatoes. We’ll be eating those soon. The second bed has two rows of sweet peas. In between the A-frame there’s a row of gladioli, and calendula Snow Princess is grown as ground cover. There’s no room for weeds. Last year’s frame has been propped up, repaired and has climbing beans and squash planted this time.

I’m growing Wiltshire Ripple which has speckled flowers with a picotee edge.

This is High Scent. Another lovely picotee edge and wonderful scent.

Mayflower 400.

Old fashioned, highly scented mix.

I’ve planted new cosmos Apricot Lemonade in front of the frames. I’ll tie them in as they grow. There’s not an inch of space to spare, which is the secret of reducing watering, by covering the ground.

And here’s the first pickings. Such a joy. This scent is worth waiting for all winter and just speaks of glorious long, sunny, summer days.

With a little bit of Sweet William at the base, just coming into flower on the veg patch now.

And here’s a photo of Rachel when she was little, with her guinea pig Rosie. Thank you for all your lovely comments last week. And for your good wishes for Rachel and Sam. I was very touched by all your kind words. Thank you 😊 x

Links : Thanks to Cathy for hosting the IAVOM meme. Why not go over and see what everyone is growing and putting in their vases this week. It’s a world -wide community of gardeners. https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/category/gardens/in-a-vase-on-monday/

Albutt Blue https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/shop/gardening/seeds/albutt-blue

Pilgrim 400 :https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sweet-Pea-Seed/Sweet-Pea-Mayflower-400.html#.XtTdGBB4WfA

Cosmos Apricot Lemonade: https://www.thompson-morgan.com/p/cosmos-bipinnatus-apricot-lemonade/ka9983TM

Haxnicks root trainers :https://www.haxnicks.co.uk/garden-products/rootrainers

Walk Around My Garden Saturday 30 May 2020 #SixOnSaturday

Rose Constance Spry. Planted when my youngest daughter was born. Roses speak of celebration, and this one really shouts a welcome -to-the-world for Rachel. It flowers for three weeks in early June and fills the garden with a glorious fruit-salad perfume.

Where I am today. Up a ladder. Trying to control the tangle of clematis, jasmine and ivy. This has been allowed to run wild for four years. Little and often might be my approach to tackling the problem. Otherwise, it seems an impossible task. The pergola runs from the back garden to the front drive. A shady walkway in the heat. I’m not going to rush the task. Luckily I’ve got a new Henchman ladder to help with the task. No more wobbling on unstable step ladders.

Alongside the pergola there’s a wedding cake tree, Cornus controversa variegata. Some of the layers have deteriorated. I need to take advice on pruning to try to get it back in shape. Pruning the pergola will give it more light. Behind, climbing to the top of a mature ash tree is Rosa Cerise Bouquet which flowers on and off right through the summer into October.

Another rose looking lovely at the moment is Rhapsody in Blue which has been moved three times. Just goes to show, you can move roses, despite what it says in the books. Highly recommended. Disease resistant and free flowering. Lovely scent and unusual colour.

My grandfather’s rose, Zephirine Drouhin. He gave me this before he died. It’s wonderful to have something from his garden to remember him by. I know it was a favourite of his. I’m sure he knew it would give years of joy. And especially at the moment when everything seems uncertain and Covid has caused so much stress. It is as if he is still helping me, through all the plants coming into flower now. A reminder that life goes on, the seasons keep going. So must we.

My grandfather grew all his fruit and vegetables. People did in those days. Luckily, I watched, followed like a shadow and learned. And he gave me some of his garden tools, so when I’m hoeing the garden, I think of him, working his veg plot and feeding his family. I wonder what he was thinking while he was hoeing his garden. Did he find the peace that I’m finding right now. Was it a comfort to him, as it is to me, through all the trials and tribulations life throws at you.

Foxgloves have seeded in one of the veg plot beds. I’m digging these up and putting them in the wild garden, to make room for winter greens, Brussels sprouts and kale. Flowers will be picked for jam jar posies. I’m putting flowers on the village green again this summer to raise money for Rainbows Hospice for children. There will be an honesty box for donations.

The first sweet peas. Always popular in my jam jar posies. These were sown in root trainers in October. I’ve just sown some more for late flowering through to November. This one is from a packet of seed called Wiltshire Ripple Mixed. All have speckled flowers and a picotee edge. The scent is just wonderful.

As usual, when we’ve walked around the garden, there’s a short ramble along the ridgeway path to my ‘hole in the hedge’ porthole. It’s a viewing point I discovered a few years back. I didn’t make it, nature did, and I watch deer, rabbits, foxes, birds, owls, and hares, quietly and unnoticed.

Today, the May blossom has gone over, but there’s beautiful dogwood flowers framing the view. In an ancient hedge, there’s always something of interest. A tapestry of flowers, rosehips, crab apples, and seeds.

It’s just a humble wild dogwood. But it is as beautiful to me as any ornamental and expensive cornus tree.

And finally, after all that walking, sit a while in my 1930s summerhouse -on-a turntable. In the heat, it’s turned to the shade, facing the wood and pond. A perfect place to contemplate life and all the reasons to be grateful. All the things I value are not the things that can be bought. Hopefully my grandfather would be proud of the person I have become. I’d love to tell him how things have turned out. And that I’ve been happy, thanks to his good advice.

Links : I like to read and join in with the hashtag Six on Saturday why not go over and see what other gardens look like today, all over the world. https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/category/six-on-saturday/

Henchman ladders like mine: https://www.henchman.co.uk/?gclid=CjwKCAjwiMj2BRBFEiwAYfTbCgG1JcfaQwtYjZ_lj7F3XBMAvXjIpri5d5vqMGjRlDY0i6E414m6RBoCRQMQAvD_BwE

Roses : https://www.davidaustinroses.co.uk/?gclid=CjwKCAjwiMj2BRBFEiwAYfTbCtnJOqLRzmev76pY_7u5maadGtrLFXf09qHEGmx4mHw71JE0ccaxkxoClDQQAvD_BwE

Sweet peas :https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sweet-Pea-Seed/#.XtIkQBB4WfA

Easton Walled Gardens -Open for Snowdrops Today- Sunday 23 February 2020

Last chance today to see the snowdrops at Easton Walled Gardens. Opens 11am -4pm. I visited last week for a preview and if you listen in to BBC Radio Leicester you might have heard me talking about the history of the gardens.

Here’s a slide show of my photos from the event.

There’s a link to the website for more information: https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/gardens/snowdrops

Daffodils are just starting to flower at the same time as snowdrops. It’s been very mild and wet they year.

Yellow cornus mas (cornelian cherry) and white snowdrops. A perfect combination.

The summerhouse and spring flowers. You can hire the venue for an afternoon. Lovely spot for tea and cakes.

A favourite view of the walled garden. Sweet peas will be grown along the sunny walls this summer.

Looking across the terraces for a view of the steps and topiary yew.

Apple tree pruning in progress. I love the shaped apple trees and heritage varieties at Easton. I watched carefully how the pruning is managed. Might have a go at home. Lots of inspiration in this garden.

The finished topiary apple tree. Trained around a circle. Looks architectural and productive. Very pretty with apple blossom and bright red fruit to follow.

Spring bulbs in the woodland near to the gatehouse. The hellebores are looking fabulous at the moment.

I particularly liked this pretty hellebore with a ruffled centre.

Stone troughs look beautiful planted with spring bulbs. I might copy this idea. I have a small stone sink covered in moss with nothing growing in it at the moment. Was just waiting to decide what to do with it.

I can never go home without buying a pot or two of bulbs. The cyclamen coum are looking very cheerful. I fell in love with the dwarf iris. There’s a pale blue one called Painted Lady. I couldn’t resist.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this slide show of photos. Even if you can’t get there today, bookmark the gardens for a visit in spring, and make a note of the dates for the sweet pea festival, which is always a lovely day out.

I wrote about Easton Walled Gardens here : https://bramblegarden.com/2017/02/13/happy-valentines-day-with-a-tour-of-easton-walled-gardens/

And here : https://bramblegarden.com/2016/05/20/a-visit-to-easton-walled-gardens/

As you can see, it’s a favourite of mine. Enjoy!

A Walk Around My Garden Saturday 1st February 2020

Suddenly we go from sorting seeds, writing lists and thinking about gardening- to actually getting out there and making a start. It’s a wonderful feeling to be outdoors. I can happily mooch about all day. This week I made a new sweet pea support out of hazel poles.

Usually I use our own hazel material, but I cut them down last year and I’m leaving them to grow taller for a pergola project. There’s always something planned for the future. For this year’s sweet pea frame I visited a local farm fencing suppliers and bought two bundles of rods. These are sold as binders for hedge laying, but make perfect pea and bean poles.

I push the rods into the ground in two rows 60cm apart, with 30cm between each pole. The ground is still very wet and it’s relatively easy to push them in. I tie each pair of rods at a height of 180cm and then weave more hazel and twiggy stems along the top and also at waist height to strengthen the frame.

Here’s my supports from last summer. I love the natural rustic look and sweet peas easily twine around the hazel poles without too much attention and minimal tying in. These supports will last about three years if they are reinforced each year. At the end of their useful life, they’ll be composted. For local supplies try https://coppice-products.co.uk/

Sweet pea seeds are growing well, but there’s still time to start yours now. Planted in early February, they will make good strong plants to flower from July until first frosts. I’m growing a mixture of heritage varieties from Easton Walled Gardens and some new ones from Mr Fothergill’s including Mayflower 400 celebrating 400 years since the Pilgrim Fathers sailed to The New World. There’s nothing like the scent of sweet peas. It’s difficult to buy them from florists, but luckily for us, they are cheap and easy to grow at home.

I’ve written about making a sweet pea support for the weekly Garden News Magazine. There will be photos from my garden in the 11th February edition. I’ve also written about starting my dahlias into growth to take cuttings, and refreshing the compost in my lemon tree pots and starting feeding and watering them. With temperatures being unusually mild for winter, I’m making the best of the sunshine and getting a head start for spring.

What projects have you got planned for 2020. Are you growing anything new, or sticking with old favourites. Get in touch and let me know what’s happening in your garden.

I am @kgimson on twitter

Karengimson1 on instagram

Links : SOS I like to join in with #sos at https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2020/02/01/six-on-saturday-01-02-2020/

And also with Cathy at #IAVOM https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2020/01/27/in-a-vase-on-monday-a-good-spread/

Hazel supplies https://coppice-products.co.uk/

Mr Fothergills seeds http://blog.mr-fothergills.co.uk/mr-fothergills-launches-new-sweet-pea-mayflower-400/

Easton walled garden https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/

In a Vase on Monday – Jan 6 2020

I’m back to work today, so I’m posting a review of my past #IAVOM projects, one for each month of the year.

Good luck to everyone who’s back to work, school or college today. The days are getting lighter, ever so slightly, so we’ll be able to spend our evenings in the garden again soon.

Meanwhile, enjoy my ‘slide show’ of photos from my garden, though the year.

JANUARY

Paperwhite narcissi, black hellebores, pittosporum and eucalyptus foliage. Decorating a willow wreath with flowers in a jam jar hidden inside a moss kokadama ball.

FEBRUARY

Snowdrops, crocus, cyclamen coum, puschkinia.

MARCH

Tulip Exotic Emperor, Narcissi Geranium, hyacinth, orange wallflower, and Westonbirt dogwood stems.

APRIL

Hyacinth Woodstock, pink hellebore, pink comfrey, daphne and forget-me-nots.

MAY

Forget me nots and Jack by the Hedge( Alliaria petiolata)

JUNE

Roses, Gertrude Jekyll and Constance Spry with a lace frill edge of wild elder flower.

JULY

White daisies and larkspur, Blue Boy cornflower, with a frill of Ammi majus.

AUGUST

Sweet peas, carnations and verbena bonariensis.

SEPTEMBER

Blue shades gladioli, cosmos and dahlia Nuit deEte.

October (early)

Sunflowers and calendula Snow Princess.

October (late)

All of the garden, fuchsia, salvia,rudbeckia, aster, cornflower, white anemone, sedum, argyranthemum.

NOVEMBER

Dahlia David Howard and blue borage.

DECEMBER

Sedum wreath on a moss-filled wire heart. No flower foam has been used again this year. Flowers are pressed into moss or plunged into tiny test tubes hidden amongst the foliage.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

I am on twitter @kgimson

On instagram at karengimson1

On BBC Radio Leicester on Sundays and Wednesdays

At Garden News Magazine every month.

Links: In a Vase on Monday :https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/12/30/in-a-vase-on-monday-hazel-and-hazel/. Thanks to Cathy for hosting #IAVOM

Bulbs and corms from Gee Tee Bulbs : https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/

Seeds from Mr Fothergills : https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/

Sweet pea seeds: https://www.kingsseeds.com/Products/Flowers-N-Z/Sweet-Pea

Heritage sweet peas and garden to visit : https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/gardens/sweet-peas

Flower farmer courses and willow wreath-making at Common Farm Flowers: https://www.commonfarmflowers.com/workshops.html

Happy New Year Everyone! Some news from my garden 31 December 2019

Photo: Paperwhite narcissi and pink alstroemeria from my greenhouse today. Gypsophila and honesty seed heads saved from the summer. Eucalyptus foliage and willow heart. Flowers are in a jam jar covered with moss and twine, kokadama-style. Lovely to have home-grown flowers for the New Year.

I love surprises. My grandmother used to say you can never predict what’s going to happen, so don’t worry about tomorrow. Concentrate on today. I’ve pretty much tried to follow her good advice. And just about everything she said has turned out to be true. So, I’ve been writing this blog for three years- not knowing where it would take me. And the biggest surprise is that it’s followed by a growing number of readers. I set out thinking I’d be pleased if just one person read it and was inspired to grow something from seed. Well, I’m amazed and pleased to say the blog was shortlisted this year for the Garden Media Guild Awards. The awards ceremony was quite a glitzy affair at the Savoy in London- not somewhere I ever expected to visit. It was hosted by Nick Bailey, and I sat next to Pippa Greenwood- someone I’ve always admired. Rachel DeThame and Anne Swithinbank were on the next table. Alan Titchmarsh won an award for practical gardener, and Carol Klein was given a lifetime achievement award, presented by Roy Lancaster. Marc Rosenberg won news journalist of the year. Bramblegarden didn’t win the blog category, but just to be a finalist was quite something for me. It took me right out of the potting shed and out of my comfort zone, which is a good thing, now and again, isn’t it.

My second lovely surprise came when the weekly Garden News magazine asked me to write about my garden, and the first of my articles is out this week!

Mum and I have been subscribers for about 20 years. Never in a million years did I think I would be sharing my garden with readers. But that’s what’s happened and they’ve asked me to write and send photos of what I’m growing on a regular basis.

There was a bit of a panic when they asked for photos of the garden. It’s not looking its best in winter, and the rain means I’m very behind with tasks. But I made an immediate decision not to have a frantic tidy up. My garden is what it is. There are too many brambles and stinging nettles, and those will be addressed over the winter. But, apart from that, it will be as it is, a rather messy garden with zones of productivity. I’ve got 10 beds, 1.3m wide by 3m long with little paving slab paths between. This means I never have to stand on the soil. For the past three years the whole garden has been ‘no-dig’ following the principles of Charles Dowding. There’s a 20ft Alton cedar greenhouse I’ve painted black, and alongside, a matching 20ft poly tunnel. The rest of the one acre garden is mostly trees, and low maintenance shade planting. It’s left to the owls, grass snakes and hedgehogs. I’m delighted to share space with them all.

Across the centre of the veg plot there’s a hazel wigwam or A-frame trellis. This has been patched up for the past two years and will be renewed this winter, ready for spring planting.

The hazel frame is perfect for growing sweet peas. The plants just scramble up by themselves. I don’t have much tying in to do. I plant gladioli down the middle of the structure to utilise the space. These grow about 1m tall and usually need staking, but the hazel frame supports them instead.

This is my favourite Wiltshire Ripple variety, which has a fabulous scent.

Here’s how I make my newspaper pots, using a spice jar to form the tube.

I stand the newspaper tubes in terracotta pans. It’s a good task to do when the ground is too wet to work on, which has been the situation here for the past three months.

Albutt Blue. It’s wonderful to be thinking about sweet peas – in the middle of winter.

I wish I could share the scent from all these flowers. Sweet peas are the essence of summer.

What plans have you for growing in 2020? Are you planting old favourites, or trying something new. Get in touch and let me know.

And remember, if you are writing a blog, you never know who might be reading, or what opportunities might come your way. Just enjoy your blogging.

Wishing you all a happy, peaceful and healthy New Year. Happy Gardening!

I am on twitter at https://mobile.twitter.com/kgimson/status/1149241935502225408

On instagram at https://www.instagram.com/karengimson1/?hl=en

Links: Garden News magazine: https://www.greatmagazines.co.uk/garden-news-magazine?gclid=Cj0KCQiAgKzwBRCjARIsABBbFujlf4tfcbFd4OxHcjvuH6NR9Uk54A_wVM0S9IDq_ZeSvA0FtiofT0oaAg9_EALw_wcB

Garden Media Guild: https://www.gardenmediaguild.co.uk/awards

Sweet peas Mr Fothergills https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sweet-Pea-Seed/#.Xgur1YGnyfA

Sweet Peas Easton Walled garden https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/whats-on

Higgledy Garden Seeds https://higgledygarden.com/

Savoy London https://all.accor.com/hotel/A597/index.en.shtml?utm_term=mafm&gclid=Cj0KCQiAgKzwBRCjARIsABBbFujh9QGSEjYNiJ8ON9HjLVkRMH3UNhpD8tpccFO4povH1E6R5zr5qXIaAikZEALw_wcB&utm_campaign=ppc-ach-mafm-goo-uk-en-uk-exa-sear-a&utm_medium=cpc&utm_content=uk-en-GB-V2352&utm_source=google

I like to join in with In a Vase on Monday, although it’s usually a different day : https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/category/gardens/in-a-vase-on-monday/

And Six on Saturday : https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/

The Flower Market Year – Book Review and Prize Draw

12 MONTHS AT NEW COVENT GARDEN FLOWER MARKET

By SIMON LYCETT

Published by Simon J Lycett Ltd

Hardback 192 pages, £21 approx

ISBN 978-1-9160912-0-7

Book photography by Michelle Garrett

Blog photos: bramblegarden

Florist Simon Lycett thinks nothing of working with 20,000 stems of roses for a wedding. I am trying to picture the scene, and finding it hard to imagine 20,000 flowers. Then Simon tells me this isn’t a one off. It’s something he gets to do on a very regular basis. I’m lucky enough to have a window on his extraordinary life, for just one day. I am visiting the New Covent Garden Flower Market, and Simon is my guide.

It’s still dark outside as I set off at 6am to meet Simon at the Flower Market in Nine Elms, London. We are standing amongst more flowers than I’ve ever seen, and we are inspecting the roses. Simon who has written a book about the market, explains that his customers have “magical weddings, the world over.” He loves the buzz of creating “magical settings in a world where everything is possible and the words ‘can’t do’ are never uttered.” It’s a revealing conversation, as he explains his customers expect total perfection. “They must have the best of everything. They’ll notice a little mark on the petal, and that’s no good. Utter perfection is what counts. The client is king.”

Simon, who regularly appears on television and radio, explains that everything starts with the selection of flowers at the market. And it’s clear that his relationship with the flower sellers is key. They seem almost like family, and it’s not surprising as Simon has been buying from the same people for 30 years.

We are introduced to Dennis Edwards who has been getting up at 2am to sell flowers for 54 years. His family are porters and sellers of fruit and vegetables. He’s the only one in his family to go into the flower market business. He describes it as a passion, rather than job. A life’s work to supply the creme de la creme.

In his book, The Flower Market Year, Simon says Dennis always has a few “specials” – buckets and trays of unusual items which he sets aside and keeps for Simon. “Dennis was the first person to ever serve me when, as a timid 20 year old, I ventured into the Flower Market for the first time. Dennis was then, and still is now, a Flower Market institution, always going above and beyond to find the very finest flowers and foliage, and ever in search of the unusual and the innovative, wanting to offer the largest, the biggest and the best blooms in the building.

“Born in Drury Lane, Dennis has worked in all three of the Flower Markets, firstly in the original Covent Garden Market, then, when it moved in 1974 to Vauxhall, in the New Covent Garden Flower Market, and now in the current (interim) market site a little further along Nine Elms Lane. In 2022, when all development is complete and he moves into the ‘New’ Covent Garden Market, he will be a record breaker!”

It’s fascinating to watch them talking. It’s as if each one knows already what the other is thinking. It’s clear Dennis instinctively knows which flowers Simon will need for his projects, and as I look around, perfection is key. I can’t fault anything. I’ve never seen flowers of such superb quality. It’s a scene that stays in the memory like a photograph because it’s so out of the ordinary.

Simon set out to record the workings of the flower market to “capture a real sense of the place,” with its salesmen and women, customers, porters, buyers and suppliers.

His book captures month by month what he’s seen and bought, and what’s inspired him to create floral decorations for his clients, for weddings, parties and corporate events. Simon doesn’t mention it, but on his website there are ‘thank you’ letters relating to HRH Princess Eugenie’s wedding (state entrance, grand staircase and reception room “absolutely stunning”) and also the marriage of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall (reception flowers, “magnificent”). Simon simply says “From humble beginnings we have grown into one of the most sought-after and well known names in the industry.”

Although Simon wrote the book to highlight the flower market year, his own fascinating life story is woven into the pages. Talking about buckets of blackberries, for example, he writes: ” When I worked at Pulbrook and Gould, stems of blackberries sold for the same price as spray roses and I will never forget the posies and arrangements created by the workroom there, featuring jewel-like bright berries glistening amongst stems of Oceana and Doris Ryker roses.

“Having left Pulbrook and Gould to become a freelance florist, I started to travel about the country, as much of my work was outside the city. For several summers when visiting my family in Warwickshire, or staying as I often did with friends in Northamptonshire, I used to fill the boot with anything I could gather from friends and family and sell it to one or more of the foliage suppliers in New Covent Garden Flower Market. The stems of blackberries that I cut and bunched used to pay for my petrol each week, and the car tax was funded by the branches of rosehips, damsons and wild apples that I crammed into the car before heading up the A40. ”

Selecting flowers from the market, Simon provides 30 ideas for flower arrangements, with step-by-step photographs and instructions. My favourites are the rose heart, the sweet peas in tins, and the artichoke bowl.

Having seen photos of his wedding and party flowers, it’s interesting to see the preferred choice for his own flowers- for his Scottish Highlands holiday home- is simple bottles filled with tiny sprigs of flowers and a few pebbles from the beach. Truly, he can make anything look special.

I’ve had a wonderful time with Simon, seeing the flower market in all its glory. What I’ve learned is that Simon relishes the magical weddings and corporate events with the ‘wow factor’ flowers. But he also sees the beauty in the simple things -a bunch of narcissi- the first of the season from the Scilly Isles. The scent of the flowers will always remind me of a lovely day spent at the market with a truly inspirational florist.

There’s one copy of the book to give away in a prize draw. Please leave a comment below to be included in the draw. Names will be randomly pulled out of a hat. International entries are welcome, as well as the UK. The publisher’s decision is final. There’s no cash alternative. Usual rules apply.

Links : https://www.amazon.co.uk/Flower-Market-Year-2019-Months/dp/1916091202

https://www.simonlycett.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Florist/Simon-Lycett-Ltd-1503980453205762/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Local-Business/bramblegarden/posts/

Garden Media Guild events https://www.gardenmediaguild.co.uk/

@kgimson on twitter.

Karengimson1 on instagram.

Thank you to my amazingly loyal and growing band of readers. I appreciate your taking the time to read my blog, and for leaving comments.

In a Vase on Monday – 15th July 2019

I’ve discovered, by accident, the magical effect of a sunset on sweet peas. It turns them into mini “stained glass” windows.

Picking them at 9pm, I suddenly find it’s too dark to take photos. Nights are rapidly drawing in. Mid-summer lulls you into a relaxed state of mind. Surely there will always be time to meander round the garden. Then, quite soon after the solstice, everything changes. There’s no streetlights here; dusk means picking your way through tall corridors of dark trees, along grassy paths, past the horseshoe wildlife pond. If you are lucky, you’re accompanied by a barn owl, sweeping along the hedge in eerie silence. You’ll marvel how such a large bird can ever catch any prey without being seen. But they make not the slightest sound and pass by like a shadow. If they see you, they don’t panic and madly swerve as some birds would. They barely acknowledge your intrusion, calmly changing direction and floating over the hedge to continue on the other side. They seem not to flap their wings, but soar and glide as if carried by the wind.

Our boundaries are made from farm posts and galvanised pig wire. We like to keep a connection with the surrounding fields. After all, our garden was once part of the farmland. We’ve simply borrowed the ground to grow fruit and flowers.

There are 10 beds, 1.3m wide by 3m long, divided by narrow slab paths. This year it’s a muddle of potatoes, broadbeans, Sweet williams, daisies and verbascum. A rickety A-frame of hazel rods runs through the centre, for sweet peas. This year I’m growing a combination of heritage types from Easton Walled garden and Higgledy Garden, and new varieties on trial from Mr Fothergills.

Amethyst and rubies; sweet pea flowers shine like jewels in the sunset.

My flowers are being sold at Six Acre Nursery, Costock, Leicestershire, with all proceeds going to Rainbows Hospice for children and young people. I am a voluntary fund-raising ambassador for Rainbows, and I also give slide shows and talks to garden groups for charity.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this peaceful walk around my garden at dusk. There’s much to see, even in the gloom.

Links : Cathy In a Vase on Monday : https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/07/15/in-a-vase-on-monday-think-pink/

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

Higgledy Garden Seeds. https://higgledygarden.com/

Mr Fothergill’s Seeds https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sweet-Pea-Seed/

Barn Owl Trust https://www.barnowltrust.org.uk/barn-owl-facts/

Notes: Most birds make a flapping, swooping sound when they fly. Owls have special edges to the front of the wing that breaks the air into small streams of wind that rolls to the end of the wing. Comb-like feathers further break down the air into even more smaller streams to create almost silent flight.