Category: seeds

Ephemeral Perennial Delights

A popular event - and our first visit to the RHS Cardiff Flower Show

Visitors thronging towards the entrance in Bute Park, Cardiff, of the 2014 RHS Cardiff Flower Show

In the course of a year, I visit many gardening shows and am always amazed at the ingenuity and beauty of the Show Gardens. I have come to think of them as ephemeral perennial delights – created for but a few days, yet clearly gardens that in the real world would be intended to last. So much can be learned from these show gardens, if you look beneath the surface; if you interpret the name of the garden, and start to ask yourself questions: “what, why and how?” Thus it was for me at the end of last week on my first ever visit to the RHS Cardiff Flower Show. Situated in the tree-enclosed haven of Bute Park, right in the centre of Cardiff, I discovered that this Show is very different to those of RHS Malvern, Hampton Court and Tatton Park. And this year, RHS Cardiff celebrated its 10th anniversary, so I was doubly-pleased to be there at last.

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Perennial Planting Pleasures

Lupins - perennial planting pleasures

Lupins in full bloom at the Dobies Trial grounds in Devon

Writing in the Dobies April Newsletter which was published last week, I explained that our focus this month was to be on Perennials. I’ve been reading through my gardening history books to discover how fashions have changed. But this post is not to be a history lesson: perennial planting pleasures have always existed. This is the here and now. As I said in the newsletter, perennials are the backbone of so many gardens; plants which truly come into their own from late Spring onwards. Reappearing year after year, and requiring little attention apart from deadheading, they help to keep the surrounding soil weed-free, and  represent remarkably good value.

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Garden Upwards …. above ground

Growbags provide a quick  Garden Upwards solution on poor ground

Garden upwards – above ground – by first covering the surface with a tarpaulin and then planting in grow bags.

Taking stock of our plot – and oh how it has suffered over the last few months from overmuch wet – I decided to take advantage of my garden upwards technique. Basically, this excludes all digging, or even utilizing the ground at all, other than as a surface upon which to place containers of various types. From growbags to terracotta pots to table-top planters, garden upwards techniques are perfect when facing a post-flood scenario or indeed when you have ground to clear and can’t wait to get cropping. Here are some ideas to point you towards ‘above ground’ gardening.

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Catalogue Trawl Two – and a bit of play

Garden reclamation is in progress

Garden reclamation is in progress

I seem to have spent more time in the garden this last month than in all the rest of the summer. It’s been so warm and the forecast gales never materialised and so virtually everyday has seen me outside with saw, pruners and secateurs. It’s been a controlled hack-back using steps or a newly acquired sturdy platform (more of that next month), initially sawing through over-tall branches and then today, cutting and shaping. Whilst I cut and then carted the prunings down to the bottom of the orchard, my husband set about the bonfire, compost heap and raking windfall apples for the hens. There’s so much still to tackle, but I am determined to have the acre more under control before the New Year!

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Progress of one sort and another

The protected Potager is doing well

The protected Potager is doing well

I don’t know what it has been like this last week in gardens and allotments all over the country, but here we are still feeling the tail of Winter and yet a third of the way between Spring and Summer! Still those bitter easterly winds; and whilst we can wrap up warm, seeds and young plants are having to be coddled. At least I have my ‘courtyard potager’ under control; with its protective shrubbery surround, it is the warmest part of the whole garden (or was until my husband decided to rip out part of it.) But the canes are in place for climbing French beans, and for growing trailing squash vertically. The new herb bed (top right) is now well-established, and the bulbs are a continual delight and are now undersown with insect-attracting flowering annuals.

Mixed lettuce and leaf beet have germinated quickly despite the cold

Mixed lettuce and leaf beet have germinated quickly despite the cold

Seeds are being raised in the greenhouse; all safely covered to prevent mice from destroying them – and living near a farm, we have had worse. I am using an old wormery to harden off the seedlings which germinated very quickly with the added protection. All spare ground in the courgette bed will be filled with cut-and-come again salad – mostly rocket, lamb’s lettuce, mixed salad leaves and radish. Some have been sown direct and are now protected with seedbox covers in lieu of cloches – stops cats, sparrows and blackbirds from interfering, as well as providing warmth to aid germinations. The bean bed is destined to provide extra greenery for the hens: perpetual spinach (leaf beet) and rhubarb chard to add a touch of colour – bright red with this variety.

A sorry state of affairs

A sorry state of affairs

There’s so much reclamation needed in my other two plots (I’m ashamed to show this image of my once beautiful and productive ‘physic’ garden. But that’s what happens when one is away for much of the year and ill for most of the rest; and as old age creeps upon us unawares, something suffers. I’ve already cut back a lot of the bramble thicket, which has revealed that the six raised beds are now past their best (created around 1999), the structure is rotting and to remove all the bramble roots and dig out wanted plants will be quite a task. My mind is black as to how I want to redevelop this 18ft x 18ft plot, which is south-facing and was once described by one of my editors as being ‘inspirational’. Clearly it now needs some t.l.c.

D-Dob blackbird copy

We have been fortunate with our acre of garden and orchard in being able to deliberately encourage wildlife, planting to encourage beneficial insects, birds, bees, frogs and toads and anything that will mean we can remain eco-friendly in an area that is rural but becoming increasingly suburban. This blackbird will not leave us alone! Waiting by the backdoor for us, feeding from the table on the terrace whilst we are there and quite happy to sit with a beak full of worms whilst I fetch my camera.

 

 

This 'shambles' is deliberate

This ‘shambles’ is deliberate

Some corners are deliberately left ‘wild’ – not the wilderness needing attention, but what to most people would be classed as ‘untidy’. Much more as you would find if you walked along a woodland hedgerow, or old yard, where nature is left to do it’s own thing. Pots are planted with wildings that encourage bees (invasive if left to their own devices) – deadnettle red and white, stinging nettle (food for peacock butterflies caterpillars, herb mounds in a former planter, a heap of stones under which toads can hide, and old tree root which will be beloved by beetles, field mice, a hazel self-sown in a pot; and all jostling with the rhubarb which will swamp it come summer, but bare ground is avoided in the winter.

Some invasive plants and weeds are useful if kept under control

Some invasive plants and weeds are useful if kept under control

I am a great believer in avoiding bare ground, utilising plants that are decorative as well as helpful to the gardener, such as the comfrey above, which is invasive if left unchecked, but all the leaves go onto the compost heap). Ground cover of any sort discourages weeds, and whereas many are useful (hens love the docks you can see bottom left) others are a pain. They can be composted if they haven’t set seed, unless they have roots that grow into new plants if left to their own devices (burn these – cow parsley, ground elder, dock and dandelion, though the blanched leaves of the latter is useful in moderation in the kitchen, or their flowers to make wine). As we could do with our patch of cowslips just coming into flower in the orchard (photograph next week). We began with one purchased plant four years ago, and did not mow until it has shed its seed. Now we have dozens of little plants; though they would irritate anyone who desires a bowling-green lawn. Like wise with violets that have crept beyond the confines of the fruit border. Patience has paid dividends.

PGJ-fc

Despite the cold winds, I have been filling the pages of my new little garden notebook – held in my hand it is sturdy and easy to write on the smooth paper. I paint the sketches in the evening; but its joy for me is being able to walk around either the flourishing beds or the wilderness and know that there is always something that will be a delight, and a place in which to record what I see.

 

 

 

Meanwhile, do keep your own notes, and  Visit Dobies’ website for all your gardening needs and requirements.

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Next week, I will be blogging live at the Malvern Spring Gardening Show – and I know how much there will be to write about, for I have been previewing the Show over the last few weeks, on their official blog.