October 8, 2015

It all started with one Cafe au Lait…

Not the poor, watered down French version of the mighty Cappuccino you understand, but the Dahlia. Solely by means of this mightily beautiful cultivar, have I come full circle. Once a stern anti-dahlia gardener, to my current, rather overenthusiastic status of allotment-booming, dahlia fan. As a cut flower, dahlias are second to none. Generous, and at this time of the year, simply invaluable. Especially, Caf√© au Laif. In all it’s beige peachiness, it’s one of the best to grow. Wonderful in a vase, with bright summery colours, soft pastels or alluring autumnal hues.

October 7, 2015

This year I have mostly been growing tomatoes to feed the slugs and snails.

I keep skipping up to my plants, bowl at the ready and fingers eager to get picking. However, when I get there I find virtually every ripe one has been mauled.

What’s wrong with my tender perennials which used to be the top target? Why the tomatoes? Is this a new breed of gourmand snails, an import from France? Finally, this morning I’d had enough. I salvaged a tiny handful of vaguely decent fruit and then dug up all the plants.

I know when I’m beaten.

October 5, 2015

If you only accomplish one thing this Autumn,

then take yourself,notebook and camera to Trentham gardens, where you will experience landscape perfection.

Having now viisited, I can confirm that I have finally experienced the aforesaid on a grand scale. I think my customers will be experiencing somewhat of a revamp of their borders over the coming months. I know they will thank me for my horticultural kindness

The huge borders and spaces created by Tom Stuart-Smith and Piet Odulf are perfection in their spatial design and planting. The sharpness of Early Autumn light through the borders is exquisite.

October 1, 2015

What a difference pruning makes.

Last winter we pruned the anonymous but probably cox apple tree in the field by the house. It’s the remains of an old orchard and the tree was all ghoulish Tim Burton pokey twiggery with a blasted trunk and growth so thick you had to hack your way through like they do in the fairy tales.

It produced a few apples but not that many and mostly small so this winter gone we took the saw to it removing a good half of the growth.

Result? Just look at the picture….fruits easily twice the size!

September 28, 2015

Mediterranean madness

…why do we bother trying to grow lemons in the cool, grey climate of the UK? Let’s face it they don’t even look that great growing in their native lands.

Is it our typically British hankering for the memories of balmy, beachside holidays on the Med that cause this temporary insanity?

Lemon trees are spiky, temperamental and our last one had some kind of nasty white mould. It was literally painful to move from inside to outside and back again and we never saw a single lemon.

I resolve to simply enjoy them sliced in my gin and tonic.

September 1, 2015

The acanthus has had it.

More accurately, I’ve had it with the acanthus. You can extend magnanimity towards an underperforming plant for so long, but nine years is pushing it. The thing is, the acanthus is perfectly content, steadily increasing its share of garden with ever-burgeoning vegetative growth, but only a half-hearted effort at flowering.

And why bother? If we could clone ourselves from our toenails, who’d waste energy on dating, and that awfully messy sex malarkey?

So I’m moving it from its cosy bed to the rubble by the bonfire, where doubtless it’ll flower its socks off.

August 28, 2015

Bindweed is one of our most objectionable weeds.

It is also one of those plants that twines itself around its supporting stem in an anti-clockwise direction – honeysuckle, for example, goes clockwise.There is a theory, although not one based entirely in science, that if you unwind the bindweed and twist it the other way around said supporting stem it will be so discombobulated that it will utter a despairing cry and perish.

This may, or may not, be true. I have no idea but would be very interested to hear whether it actually works.

I am not holding my breath.

August 13, 2015

Polytunnel Runner Beans

was an accident a couple of years ago- well, I had
dug up plants before the frost to keep alive inside over winter. Only
trouble was, it took so long to warm up outside next year that plants were
already flowering, and I had runner beans some 2 months earlier than ever

The cool, wet summer this year has been bad for vegetables, but I
had beans inside in July.

Pollination can be a problem – beans need Bumblebees; I leave one door open
every day, next to which is a bee-plant like comfrey or Viper’s Bugloss.

August 10, 2015

Party on

Party fever has hit Linley Hall, both in the greenhouse and main garden. We left a living carpet of vetch, clover and plantain on the main lawn, for a party on the weekend. Mowing a frame for it on the lowest cut, and then leaving the lawn for a fortnightly cut. It looks perfect, and the bees love it.

I recently held a greenhouse party, eight of us squished in amongst the tomatoes, salad, peppers and cucumbers, with just enough space for a bottle or five of Cava. Party on everyone, enjoy your late Summer evenings.

August 5, 2015

I am growing a potato.

I did not mean to grow a potato. At least, not this potato.

I meant to compost this potato, which, when last we met, was a small and skanky object rolling about in the back corner of the veg drawer. It, obviously, had other plans for its future. Aspirations. Dreams, even. And who am I to stand in the way of potatoesque self-expression?

Especially when it means I can have my compost and eat it too, in the form of bonus potatoes.

Which makes compost better than cake.

Though not, of course, in all respects.