Wednesday 30 October 2013

October at its exuberant best (before the winds blew it over!)

Things are solidly frosts yet but with the clocks changing I'm coming home in the dark and walking through piles of leaves. Garden wise things are still growing happily away...unaware winter is lurking to stop them dead and turn things to mush.

The end has come for a few things quicker than expected with the winds that blew over the South of England on Monday...not quite an American standard of storm and I haven't seen any trees down around us but enough to blow away the cobwebs and knock over the dahlias and ricinus.

However some things are looking better and better...the salvias which have been sulking all year are suddenly flowering, and some annuals are looking the happiest they have ever been. So some pictures of this years climax to enjoy whilst you can!

Things on the terrance moved for the movable jungle in pots!

Chairs are still left out NGS stylee...Canna musifolia looking big

You can see how much the Canna musifolia have grown in a year! probably at least 8ft....

Nicotiana tabacum finally getting bigger

check out my Dahlia imperialis getting bigger and bigger...yeah baby!

I am really pleased with the cup and saucer vine where the flowers open white and fade to purple....they have quickly covered their supports and are flowering well. They have worked better having them on 7ft high supports rather than climbing up huge fences where they tend to get lost and not flower so well

This is the nasturtium take over....they came out of nowhere and have conquered any spare spaces, reaching across paths like an octopus ready to grab you

This is the scene today post winds....tall dahlias, ricinus and helianthus are all flattened :(



Wednesday 23 October 2013

A surprise at the RHS autum show

I had planned a dash to the RHS autumn colour plant show early yesterday morning, not particularly expecting very much....I think I have already been fairly vocal about thinking that these shows are getting very samey with many of the same nurseries, same types of displays and formats, however yesterday I had a big surprise....

Fabulous Nerines...nothing unusual there
The main hall was much as usual...autumn colour is my thing and there were some displays of dahlias and a good amount of salvias that I was unfamiliar with. I also got sucked into buying a few ferns, and particularly some different species and varieties of Polypody as these ferns do so well at the front of borders and cope with dry shade admirably...often in the wild you see them colonising dry stone walls.

Some fabulous Michaelmous daisys mixed with grass, prarie style
I was pleased to pick up a Kniphofia rooperi...a stunning red hot poker that looks its best at this time of the year...vivid colour and a nice chunky poke.  I also bought a replacement Eupatorium capilliaris to give it another chance as I can’t decide is the winter or the slugs killed it...

However the surprise came when I went to the other hall....firstly we were directed to the side entrance where we entered into a dark Heuchera art instillation.....trippy music was playing, and drapes enclosed the space....projections of colour were on the wall and instillations of heucheras with lights and vinyl records posed tripping risks. I did wonder if an organiser had been at the magic mushrooms.

eh by gum...whats going on?
A further surprise was in the main hall where three quarters of the space was given over to more art instillation's...on one side there were things (big olive tree, rock, block of ice) suspended on ropes high above sand filled planters. Then there were cages and adventurous corrugated iron planters. Blimey.


is that passiflora really so dangerous that it needs to be caged?

This was my favourite....a block of ice suspended over a planter being raised up and down....however it was very high art meets RHS due to the yellow slip hazard can also see the bored looking lady in the corner of the room whose job it seemed to be to press the button to make it go up and down. Its not quite the Saatchi gallery....
I think it was great for the RHS to do something different, and very adventurous however it must have appealed more to a younger audience and not their core users...I did wonder if St John Ambulance were on standby in case some couldn’t cope with the change. Certainly when I was there the stream of people was more just around the plant stands...those that ventured over to the art tended to look for the labels of the plants that were being used. However it amused me and I stayed for twice as long as I would usually....go have a look and see for yourself!

So all very exciting, what awaits us at the spring shows?

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Giant vegetables

Last week I went to the RHS autumn show and was amazed at the size of the giant vegetables....obviously the pumpkins were the star of the show, the heaviest being 20lbs lighter than a Shetland Pony, however there were also lemons the size of my head!

There is something about vegetables and giant vegetables that gets a guy going...could I be a champion grower? But how do they do it? tips from the internet are:

1) You need to grow them in masses of good compost...perhaps at least a ton of well rotted manure.  
2) Plant your ‘magic beans’ seeds from past champions can be tracked down over the web
3) They need a lot of space, pumpkins roots head out at least 4 metres from the main plant!
4) Keep them watered....a good suggestion is to put a seeper hose in coils around the plant and leave them dripping..others recommend the hose on for an hour a day
5) Keep one or two fruits and cut off the others, and cut off subsidiary shoots.
6) Keep the pumpkin shaded....sun causes the skin to harden and makes it harder to expand
7) Keep it warm at night...this is when most expansion occurs, people suggest putting those big water cooler vats next to them to absorb heat during the day and emit it at night
8) Fertilizer: tomato feed at least once a week
9) Pray
10) Witchcraft: there is a certain amount of magic, potions and things to do by the light of the new moon to guarantee success...

It all seems like a lot of faff to me, however part of me wants to do it! are you a secret giant vegetable fancier?

This this be you next to your prize pumpkin?

Thursday 10 October 2013


As a birthday treat last Sunday we went to Great Dixter, which is still my favorite garden. It was also their plant show which is well worth a visit as there were lots of unusual nurseries there from Sweden, Norway and Germany and lots of UK ones that I haven’t seen at shows before. This all went to emphasise how bored I am getting of the RHS London shows as they seem to just have the same nurseries every year, however I think about ½ of the Dixter ones were new which was very exciting, and kept my wallet warm.
It was the Knowle grasses that probably got me most interested....a good thing about the show was that every half hour the nurserymen all did talks about some aspect of their plants whether it was a dutch guy talking about prairie planting or a specific set of plants, and Mr grasses was quite a showman. Grasses have been slowly creeping into my life from Arundodonax to a good few Miscanthus, climaxing in ordering about 6 of the giant Miscanthus x giganteus this time last year, however Ive never been that keen on their flowers. His stall was all about the flowers and I could see the husband and Peter getting completely taken in, when I realised I too had fallen under the spell. I came away having bough a Pennicetum 'Red Head' which has the most gorgeous huge black toilet brush of a flower spike.
Dixter is such a joy to wander around, as it is different from other gardens as with its huge beds, and of course the jungle garden.  I must admit that I didn’t think it was as good as last year where it all seemed more verdant. This year there seemed to be a greater diversity of plants there which I  don’t think added to it...I also think the few roses that are there looked so sickly and out of place. Don’t get me wrong it was still fabulous, whilst we were there a lady was positively orgasaming over seeing a Begonia luxurians.
A gorgeous big leafed persicaria

I was very jealous of the Salvia confertiflora

So lots of awe-inspiring wandering before dashing off the Sissinghurst via Bodiam Castle. Sissinghurst I also love, and usually come away from my visit with plans of building a replica of the Elizabethan tower in the garden as I would love a writing room like Vita Sackville-West. Comparing it with Dixter is interesting as they are so different...certainly design wise I like Sissinghurst a bit better as its all a bit more interwoven with vistas and grand gestures  Dixter is more about wandering the plants.
Can I have one please?

Toad lilys were showing off

Lots of autumn crocus and Colchicums
mmm a white pennisetum

Salvia gesnerifolia?? mine should be like this but has been sulking

Hedychium gardenium?

Finally to finish things off on the Tuesday I had a visit to the RHS autumn show...I think last year I only spent a quick 10 mins here however as I had a gang we hung around and it was amusing to watch how they had accessorized the show with people juggling vegetables, fiddlers, an orchestra carving and then playing butternut squash and carrot flutes and botanical cocktails. Quite how happy I would have been to pay to go in if I wasn't an RHS member I don't know, but you cant beat a wander amongst the giant vegetables (the biggest pumpkin was 20lbs off weighing as much as a Shetland pony). There also seems to be an annual rivalry between the Dukes of Marlborough and Devonshire in their grape growing and it was funny to see who was coming out top!

Me and the giant lemons.....