We’ve gone from four inches of rain in two days to nights of heavy frost and freezing temperatures. But on the good days in between I was actually able to start on the much-needed reclamation of the pottager. Everything has suffered from my inattention this Summer, but a determined effort, and tackling the job little by little and three of the raised beds are productive again. Cabbages packed close in one bed (protected from the birds with netting) and a change of plan for the other three. Another has been planted with unusual perennial herbs (the rocket self-seeded and has germinated already), and a transplanted feverfew, because it looked so pretty. All the beds have been edged with a rather special primrose – yellow, tinged blue-green, and a joyous mix of polyanthus.
Plans for the four-bed potager have changed: it is to become my decorative courtyard with flowers for cutting as well as salads. Each bed is being converted to double height (easier on old bones when sowing, planting and weeding) and central within each square is an inexpensive pot that has been planted with a few garlic vayo cloves. I particularly love the hardneck tyoes – closest to wild garlic and producing edible ‘scapes’ –actually a flower-stalk that if left on the plant and not eaten twists and curls and eventually forms a fascinating seed-head.
Having decided that this confined and ‘secret’ little bit of our garden is to incorporate a cutting area, one raised bed is now planted with dozens of mixed bulbs: hyacinths, tulips – for which I have a passion, muscari to add that touch of blue and miniature daffs, and the odd fritillaria or two. I ‘broadcast’ them in groups until the bed was filled, topped up the bed with compost (that which Dobies supplies is the best I have ever used), and then sprinkled some packets of hardy annual seed (calendula, night-scented stock, love-in-the-mist (nigella) and the like, all of which will flower that much earlier than if I wait until Spring.
Nearer the house, there are no pots of bulbs this year as they all went into the potager bed. What I should have thought of, and could still do, is to obtain a ‘Spring Bulb Willow Planter’ i(or a series of them.) Made from natural looking willow, each contains four types of spring-flowering bulb Perfect for outdoor use on balconies, patios or decking – any space that calls out for colour! Size: 38 x 28 x 15cm high, each basket is supplied with 10 Narcissus bulbs, 7 Red Dwarf Tulips, 15 Muscari, 4 White Hyacinths plus top quality compost and full growing instructions. It would also make a perfect gift for a gardening friend.
Whilst the ‘Courtyard Potager’ has been having a makeover, I’ve been looking at other areas of the garden – the Dobies trial areas are expanding, with new spaces being created for perennial veg, amonst which I classify rhubarb, even though it is more correctly listed as a fruit. Rhubarb is fast becoming one of the most sought-after ingredients in the kitchen – and is so easy to grow! Available for the first time in the UK, ‘Polish Raspberry’ is an outstanding variety, claimed to be quite possibly the best-tasting rhubarb Dobies has ever trialled! It produces good crops of strong green stems that are washed with red, and evidently tastes divine whist also being recommended for freezing. Supplied as bare root crowns.
My trial garden here in the north Cotswolds already has an area in which I grown new varieties of Dobies fruit, so I will be intrigued to try the new Blueberry ‘Pink Lemonade’ – with pink berries. The bushy, upright-growing plants have fine, pointed leaves, making them ideal for growing in a mixed ornamental border as well as in the fruit garden. The heavy crops of berries start out bright green, turning pale pink and finally, when they mature in August/September, deep rose-pink. They evidently have a delicious sweet taste, with a pleasant, solid texture, and are superb eaten fresh or cooked in puddings and pies. Supplied in a 1.3 litre pot. Height after 7-10 years approximately 1.5m (5’). I think maybe one or two would be perfect in the shrubbery-cum-herb garden that is as yet but a dream. And maybe next year I can add a little festive cheer to special occasions – pink blueberry berries in champagne!