Garden Update 18th November 2017

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Garden Update 18th November 2017

I have a week of annual leave with which to make some progress in the garden. The seasonal tasks of cleaning the flagstones and packing away the garden furniture need to be done. It’s not all chores though, I’m also making preparation for next years display in my Garden Update 18th November 2017.

Previous Updates

Garden Update 4th November 

Garden Update 9th September

Allotment Update

We’eve had some slightly colder weather here in Devon but it’s done nothing to stop the progress of the plot. Aside from the sweet potatoes, which have blackened and retreated, most of the plot is looking great.

My leeks are starting to get some momentum behind them. When they went in they were spindly grass-like plants. I was supposed to wait until they’re pencil-thickness but I’m impatient. They’re doing fine though.

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Leeks

My brassica bed is starting to produce crops and there’s plenty to come over winter by the looks of it. The leaves of the Romanesco and Purple Sprouting Broccoli are looking extremely healthy. I’m sure they benefited from being netted when young.

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We’ve been harvesting the Cavelo Nero for weeks and a full handful will do one or two meals (as a side) for the two of us. The plants don’t even look like they’ve been touched after taking just the lower leaves. In the end, I’m expecting to have bare stems as the plant continues to grow up.

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Cavelo Nero

The colourful chards are growing well at the front of the allotment and the Pak Choi are looking healthy in the bed that had the legumes this summer.

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Pak Choi Vibrant Pink

Greenhouse Update

The greenhouse is taking to its new role as a store for plants over winter. At the beginning of the year, it’s full to capacity with seeds and seedlings. Later on, it becomes home to yet more seeds, seedlings and cuttings. At this time of year, it has tender garden refugees huddling and sheltering together. The chilli plants are getting the benefit of the doubt and coming inside to see if they’ll perform better next year.

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Buddleja globosa cuttings

I’ve taken Buddleja globosa cuttings which I rooted in water. These are to be given to my cousin who’s creating a new border in their garden.

I’ve taken delivery of some plug plants from J Parkers. Some Verbascum I ordered myself and some bare root Astrantia plants which were a gift.

The Verbascum are a set of three types of Verbascum phoenicum. I have Rosetta, Violetta and Flush of White. Even though I love Verbascum I have a rubbish track record. However, I’ve decided to give them another go.

My lovely gardening aunt bought us some Astrantia major ‘Florence’ to celebrate the birth of our daughter this year. These will eventually go into some pots that are pride of place in the garden and also contain some honeysuckle plants (also gifts).

 

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Astrantia major ‘Florence’ bare root plants

Garden Update

The action in the garden has been a little dull this week. I’ve pressure-washed all the flagstones to remove 2 years of accumulated algae. They’re now safe to walk on when it’s wet which is a relief. The garden furniture and barbeque have been stored away for winter.

It’s not all chores though. I’ve planted Tulip Dolls Minuet in the front garden troughs and there’s more to go in this week.

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Tulip bulbs. Jan Reus and Dolls Minuet

Harvest Roundup 2017 – my courgette and climbing bean totals

Quantifying the haul from my yellow courgette and climbing bean harvest for 2017. It’s my first harvest roundup!

You may have seen on my Instagram and Twitter feeds and previous posts that I have been keeping a tally of the amount of harvest collected from some of the crops on my allotment this year. I’ve been nerdily weighing everything that makes it home. This year, for my harvest roundup,  I concentrated on the yellow courgette and my two varieties of climbing bean; Cosse Violette and Trail of Tears.

This was for three main reasons;

  1. I’m a big geek
  2. To see if there was any difference in yields between varieties
  3. To see if I could justify the costs of keeping the allotment

Previously on the allotment

Garden Update 22nd July: Courgettes, cuttings and a Leaf-cutter Bee

No Dig Newbie

Allotment layout ideas

Harvest roundup: Yellow courgette

These plants were sourced from one of my favourite local nurseries, Hill House Nursery in Landscove, Devon. I got my allotment in April/May this year and so it felt like a late start to the season so I cheated with some purchased plants. I’ve lost/forgotten the name so I’ve been calling them ‘yellow courgette’ all year. I also bought a green variety but it’s been pants so hasn’t been worth tallying.

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Yellow courgette

My total harvest haul comes to 1194g!

That’s near on 1.2kg from 2 plants. Not bad considering it was a dry start to the year.

I quick look at our nearest supermarket has standard green courgettes at £1.90/kg with the organic version (which I could claim) at £6.67/kg. So being generous I have saved £8. Since you can’t buy the superior yellow courgettes in supermarkets they are priceless.

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One of only 2 yellow courgette plants

Harvest roundup: Climbing beans

I chose two varieties to grow from seed this year. Cosse Violette I’ve grown before and I know they’re straightforward but beautiful on the allotment. I also went to Trail of Tears after hearing about it for years and I was interested to see what all the fuss was about.

Cosse Violette harvest: 2296g

Trail of Tears harvest: 2763g

The standard green beans in the supermarket are £4.50/kg with the organic option £6.67 (are they choosing the same price for all organic veg?). So at around 5kg of produce, I’ve saved  £33.75.

 

What’s been a success on your allotment/ plot this year?

Garden Update 4th November 2017

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Garden Update 4th November 2017

I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog and social media for most of October due to competing demands on my time. We’ve have some visitors, a mini-break, and all the usual work and childcare necessities. That’s not to say things have been quiet on the garden and allotment front.

It’s a time of renewal on my allotment. There’s always talk this time of year about putting the garden or allotment to bed for winter. What nonsense. It’s a time for clearing last seasons spent crops and getting the next load in. I may even have all my plot planted for the first time since we broke ground in April. I’ve also nominated myself to the my allotment committee.

Previous Updates

Garden Update 9th September

Garden Update 2nd September

Allotment Update

The autumn and winter greens are the main crops nearing harvest. I’ve been starting to harvest my Cavelo de Nero leaf by leaf and these are great. The herb bed is still productive and I’ve taken bunches of Rosemary and Bay to dry for use over winter. The New Zealand Spinach has taken over the understory of my herb bed so I’ve made batches of wilted leaves and have them in the freezer for when they’re needed.

The Chard plugs that I planted outside in September have really started shooting up and the stems look amazing when we get some sunlight. The Pink Passion is more of a blood-red but I don’t mind that at all. The Golden Chard is currently 10cm tall so plenty of growth still to come.

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Elephant Garlic Bulbs

I had my order of garlic from Marshalls Seeds arrive this week. Unfortunately 2 out of 12 Elephant Garlic bulbs were starting to rot off. I’ve put them in anyway and we’ll see how they do. The Carcassonne Wight and Provence garlic bulbs were in good condition. Out of 2 bulbs each I got 20 cloves from the Provence and 29 from the Carcassonne Wight.

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Turf stacks at the back of the plot have been covered

On a practical front, I’ve been meaning to get some tarpaulin to cover over the turf stacks left over from clearing the site right at the beginning. We had some logs delivered for the house so I bought some cheap ones to get ready for their delivery. Now they’re all stacked in the dry store I can use these at the allotment. This should keep the weeds down and I’m hoping come spring I’ll have some nice topsoil for the beds.

The courgettes were looking miserable, as were the squash plants, after a few wet / cold spells of weather. The climbing beans have done really well but they’ve been left for seed and now cleared away. My early sweetcorn didn’t produce and the later sweetcorn was also badly pollinated. The beds have been cleared, weeded and prepared for the next crop. In place of the courgettes are the Elephant Garlic, and in place of the 3 sisters I have Broad Beans and Peas.

Garden Visit: Eden Project Cornwall October 2017

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If you’re holidaying in the UK there are plenty of world-class gardens to discover and Cornwall’s flagship is The Eden Project

During a mini-break staycation for our anniversary, my wife and I met up with my lovely gardening aunt for a day out to two Cornish Gardens. We visited the Eden Project in the morning and The Pinetum, which is just down the road from its more famous neighbour, after filling up on a pasty for lunch.

How to find the Eden Project

The safest route is to head towards St Austell and following the brown tourist signs to find the main entrance. Previously we’ve followed the Sat Nav and ended up coming through some small lanes. It’s probably a longer route on the main roads but at least you cant get lost.

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Useful Information

Website: www.edenproject.com

Entrance: an eye-watering £27 per adult at the gate.

Opening times – quite variable within the month. Somewhere between 9-9:30 and closing by 6pm. The biomes open later at 10am. It’s best to check for the day you’re planning on going.

Outside areas

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A view over the two large Biomes

The site is split into a few areas of note. The two main Biomes share a linkway which houses facilities and restaurant. One side is a tropical rainforest biome and the other house is a more arid, Meditteranean-like environment. There are purely ornamental plantings and on the steep slopes at the far end are various food crops from around the world on show.  It’s sold as a full day attraction, and it would have to be for the entry costs, but even with two gardening fans in the group we only managed 3 hours before it was time to move on.

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Sunflower planting in front of the Rainforest Biome

The biomes

The biggest draw is the two biomes. These amazing structures are the real highlights for me. It’s interesting visiting again after living overseas and spending some time in Thailand and Singapore as the rainforest biome. On my first visit the plants we alien to me and I didn’t find them that interesting. Coming back this year they’re now familiar, almost ubiquitous, and I found myself spending more time looking at the foliage and flowers.

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Inside the Rainforest Biome

The temperate biome has a special feature on Western Australia which is an interesting, if small, new addition.

In summary

I’m glad to have visited again as it’s been a good number of years since we were last there. That being said there’s nothing really new to see so if you’ve been in the last 5 years you’re not missing out. For the money spent it feels a bit overpriced, as impressive as the biomes are, it almost needs more here to keep your interest. We also noted that the amount of plant labeling is poor. Where plants are so international and unique you have to have labels to fully appreciate what you’re seeing.

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Grass borders on the slopes

Other UK Garden Visits

Sussex Prairie Garden

RHS Wisley, Surrey, UK

Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

Kew Garden

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017

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Making the most of my RHS Membership with a visit to the partner garden – The Sussex Prairie Garden

I remember seeing the Sussex Prairie Garden on Gardeners’ World in 2015 but had managed to forget it was on my ‘to visit list’. We had a spare afternoon when visiting family in Surrey so made the short trip to West Sussex.

This eight-acre garden focuses on prairie-style plants planted in large drifts through sweeping borders. The site is flat and it has wide grass paths for wheelchair accessible viewing. They have a cafe and terrace on site.

How to find the garden

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Where to find the garden

We took the A24 south from Horsham and onto the A272 where the brown tourist signs start. There’s free parking in a field adjacent to the site.

Useful information

Website: www.sussexprairies.co.uk

Entry Fee: Free for RHS members. £7 for adults with some concessions.

Opening Days and Times: Open 6 afternoons a week (closed Tuesday) 1pm -5pm

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Bendy straws of sanguisorba species

Main Features

  • Main garden with large borders
  • Cutting Garden
  • Tea Shop
  • Terrace
  • House Garden
  • Art Installations
  • Pigs!

Main Garden

The large open site at Sussex Prairie Garden is really impressive. We visited in the late afternoon in September which must be a peak for the garden. The sun was low and lit the borders beautifully. Most of the plants were in full display and the tapestry of colour and texture was a masterclass in prairie planting.

I like this style of planting due to its naturalistic feel and benefit to wildlife. It was popularised in the late 90s by Piet Oudolf and has since become mainstream.

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Looking back towards the cafe terraceWhilst the borders are wide and generously planted, there are narrower bark paths traversing them so you can get right inside the planting. This makes you feel enclosed and part of the garden. A very neat trick as it’s easy to feel that some gardens are tableaux to be simply observed and not experienced.

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Narrow bark paths take you into the wide borders

Garden Structure

Any loose style of planting can appear lacking without a good structure to contain it. I loved the structural elements of the garden for the formality they brought but also as great examples of planting and maintenance. These three Betula trees provide a steady rhythm to the scene and this tree was also repeated throughout the garden.

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Betula trees planted for structure

The hedges could have been left as rectangular boxes but the heights varied as you went down the central axis. This made them function as backdrop, concealer and framer all at the same time.

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Tapering hedges form structure in the garden
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Ornamental grasses mimic the line of the hedges.

Key Plant Highlights

There’s always a few new plants to discover when visiting gardens. This time my eye was caught by Sidalca for the first time. This tall and airy plant provided contrast to some of the other, denser, specimens.

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Sidalcia ‘My love’

I was amazed to find that this startlingly bright plant was herbaceous. I had assumed it was a semi-tender tree. Apparently, it’s native to America, as are so many of the prairie plants.

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Phytolacca americana
American pokeweed

I have a similar Eryngium in my garden but this species has a more upright basal cluster and smaller, more numerous, flowering clusters.

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Eryngium pandanifolium forming strong silhouettes

Another bright pink shock amongst the planting was this Meadowsweet relative.

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Filipendula rubra, a pink relative of our native Meadowsweet.

I like Rudbeckia, not being one for the common aversion to yellow and orange in a garden, but I have become tired of reading about Goldsturm. My eyes almost glaze over when I see it listed as a recommended plant. Having seen it in this context and planted en masse I might have been converted. I’ve recently sown some Rudbeckia maxima for the garden but if I need a lower growing type it will have to be Goldsturm.

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Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’

Art in the garden

Art installations in gardens don’t often catch my interest much, there are plants to be seen after all, and the garden hosts a variety of classes and exhibitions that were placed amongst the borders.

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The late sun lights the borders

 

I’ll be sure to make the trip to Sussex Prairie Garden again in the future, now I know where it is, but it would be good to see it at another time of year to assess how well the planting holds interest in other months.

Other Garden Visit Posts

RHS Wisley

Melbourne Botanic Garden

Le Manoir aux Quat’saisons

Gardens by the bay, Singapore

 

Blackberries

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The first nip in the air signals a change of season and the start of the blackberry harvest

The turning of the year as we travel through the seasons was a huge factor in pulling us back to the UK. The recent change in the weather, with its wonderful chilly bright mornings and nippy evenings, has warmed my heart. Whilst the other seasons have their appeal I can’t love them half as much as I love Autumn.

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Blackberries

Autumn is our season. The most potent memories of the last ten years with my wife belong to this time of year. It is the season of our wedding, of our first kiss, and of our first meeting. It also marks the onset of a series of celebrations and birthdays stretching all the way to Christmas.

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Mollie our Golden Retriever enjoys a foray into the green lanes

I am not a summer child; the sight of me in shorts should be enough to banish any misunderstanding on that matter. Instead, I am happiest in warm jumpers, walking boots, and damp woodland. Days spent walking the dog under a tree canopy are my favourite. Also at this time of year comes the bounty of hedgerow harvests. Already this year I have Crabapple Vodka and Sloe Gin steeping in the larder, all collected from the hedgerows and trees around our village. The other important harvest of the season is blackberries.

This year I read Alys Fowler’s book on foraging and I’m making an effort to note the harvest when it presents itself. Already this year I have Crabapple Vodka and Sloe Gin steeping in the larder, all collected from the hedgerows and trees around our village. The other important harvest of the season is blackberries.

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A view over the Devon hills

Blackberries

I think the ritual of blackberry collecting, bound up as it is in the season, might be even better than the fresh berries themselves. I’m working my way through a jar of blackberry and apple jam made 3 years ago which I find infinitely more alluring than the fresh berries. September signals the start of hunting season for blackberries.

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Not all the berries ripen at the same time

So, with my jumper on for the first time since moving home, we ascend a local hill to find the best berries. Jewel-like berries gleam from the yellowing hedgerow senescence. The bunches of berries carry both mature and immature fruits. The rule of foraging that states you only take a third of the crop you find (the other two-thirds being left for wild animals and someone else) reinforced by the plant itself.

The light prickling on skin reminds you that no harvest comes for free. This only intensifies the sensory experience. You feel like the proverbial child in the sweetshop picking only the choicest fruits between thumb and forefinger. The idea to bring surgical gloves comes to me as I notice the purple staining on my fingertips, as it does every year but is never remembered.

It’s not long before my cheeks are chilled and the light becomes thinner. It’s time to go home.

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Blackberry harvest

Garden Update 9th September 2017

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Garden Update 9th September 2017

The warm and wet weather in Devon this week has been great for the weeds. I’ve done two tidy-ups at the allotment and managed to fill my large bendy bucket three times. It’s also the end of my tomato adventure for the year.

Previous Updates

Garden Update 2nd September

Garden Update 19th August

Allotment Update

 

We were giving some new chairs from a family member and they’re perfect for the allotment. The weather wasn’t that great so we haven’t christened them yet.

Garden Update 9th September. Allotment, Garden, Gardening, Harvest, Grow your own, homegrown, homegrown, carrots, beetroot, chioggia, bolatardy, touchon, roots, autumn harvest, plot to plate, wooden board, gdnblog, gdnbloggers, gdnblogger, blog,
New seating at the allotment
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The squash plants have been tidied back on the borders to clear the paths

The squashes are really enjoying the damp and warm conditions and had spread over the paths. I wasn’t too bothered initially but they’ve got the point that it was hard to reach into the beds for harvesting. They also were concealing a lot of weed growth on the paths.

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Pak choi settling in

The module Pak Choi seedlings are doing much better than the directly-sown batch which has been munched to stumps. I think I’ll do more of this transplanting even thought it’s more work overall.

 

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Chard seedlings planted out

I’ve also installed the Chard seedlings in one of the new beds around the perimeter of the allotment. I’m hoping they’ll give me some fresh greens to each over autumn and into winter.

Greenhouse Update

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Stachy byzantina seedlings

The Stachys byzantina seeds that I collected have germinated extremely well and very quickly from sowing. They’ve been pricked out and set into their own little module home.

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Geranium phaeum alba seedling

Another sowing that I made from home-collected seed was the Geranium phaem alba. I am the proud owner of one seedling!

The tomato story this year hasn’t been very successful. Blight has struck and the fruits that were threatening to ripen were being munched by slugs before they were harvestable. I’ve taken off all the tomatoes that were salvagable and cleared away the affected plants. The foliage is now in the council green waste bin. I think I’ll use the fresh border for either bringing on perennials over winter or some winter salads.

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Tomato harvest 2017

There’s nothing like an Instagram filter to make even a poor harvest look great.

Garden Update

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Overhead shot of The Far Garden

It’s been a while since I’ve shown what’s happening in the Far Garden. You can see the new boundary shed has a great grey colour that matches the furniture. The chillies are slow in the rectangular planters but I might get a harvest. My new Musa and Echinacea plants are looking awesome.

 

Zinnia: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017

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Taking a look at the Zinnia trial happening at RHS Wisley

As part of my recent visit to RHS Wisley, I made a point of visiting the Plant Trial Beds. These are where the Award of Garden Merit (AGM) plants are trialled and awarded the highest horticultural accolade. This year I was pleased to see the Zinnia and Echinacea trials in full bloom.

Zinnia: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017, cut flowers, cutflowers, annuals, annual plants, drought tolerant, flower, pollinator plants, good for bees, good for butterflies, wisley, rhs, plant trial, varieties, plant comparison,
Trial beds at Wisley

The Zinnia trial was planted this year, which makes sense when you consider that they are annual plants in the UK so they can’t run longer trials, and there are 100 varieties on trial. I’ve grown them a few time over the years. I try to find varieties that have bright, clear colours that age well. A lot of the plants on show had a muddy colouring and tend to have unsightly flower heads as they age. If you’re quick to dead-head that won’t be too much of an issue.

If you want to find out more about the current plant trials happening at Wisley then follow this link to the PDF.

RHS Plant Trials 2017-2019 list PDF

 

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The trial beds at RHS Wisley

Zinnia ‘Red Spider’

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Zinnia ‘Red Spider’

This one had really strongly coloured petals. It’s not the blowsiest of the varieties on offer but I thought the intense blooms were very special. The older flowers still looked good on the plant and it was nice and tall.

Zinnia ‘Zinderella Peach’

Zinnia: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017, cut flowers, cutflowers, annuals, annual plants, drought tolerant, flower, pollinator plants, good for bees, good for butterflies, wisley, rhs, plant trial, varieties, plant comparison,
Zinnia elegans ‘Zinderella Peach’

All the plants in the Zinderella breeding program were very strong contenders for my favourites. This burnt-orange flower was such an unusual colour I had to have it. The older blooms have a yellower tinge but they complement the fresh flowers well.

Zinnia ‘Envy’

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Zinnia elegans ‘Envy’

Envy was a variety known to me before seeing it at the trial beds. The clear, bright white flowers are large and impressive.

Zinnia Benary’s Giant White

Zinnia: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017, cut flowers, cutflowers, annuals, annual plants, drought tolerant, flower, pollinator plants, good for bees, good for butterflies, wisley, rhs, plant trial, varieties, plant comparison,
Zinnia elegans ‘Benary’s Giant White’

Another white variety is Benary’s Giant White, which has larger blooms than Envy, that has a creamy tinge when they age which is really pleasing on the eye.

In Summary

If I had to choose from the 100 varieties on offer then this group of 4 plants would be top of the list. These can all be grown from seed so you might get some variation. The seed strains for some of the mixed varieties on trial contained good coloured forms but I struggled to enjoy the colour mixings all mixed together. I prefer just one type at a time.

Suppliers

Chiltern Seeds – Chiltern Seed list 25 varieties including all 4 on this page

Plant World Seeds – A local seed producer here in Devon lists 3 varieties.

Higgledy Garden – 3 varieties from a South West seed company

Garden Update 2nd September 2017

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Garden Update 2nd September 2017

Yesterday was the first day that I had time to get to the allotment for anything other than harvesting for some time. We had people visiting for the bank holiday weekend so nothing much was achieved in the garden.

Previous Updates

Garden Update 19th August

Garden Update 12th August

Allotment Update

Yesterday I spent over an hour at the plot and managed to fill two large bendy buckets with weed growth that’s now been put on the unofficial compost pile. We’re mainly plagued by dandelions and docks persisting as deep tap roots. They’re capable of regrowing after hoeing and have enjoyed the extra rain recently.

I don’t like to leave huge gaps in the beds for two reasons. Firstly, there isn’t much growing area as it is and dedicating space for hoeing seems silly when, secondly, weeds will colonise bare ground as well as between plants which you have to hand weed anyway. I use the hoe on any unused ground that’s waiting for the next crop or where there is space between plants in order to give them room to grow.

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Lots of Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato winter squash

The Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato winter squashes have been very prolific in number but I’m struggling to find a good kitchen use for them. Growing something to then have to hide it in food just to use it up seems silly. Roasted pumpkins should be used for roasts, soups and risottos but the bland flavour and silky texture of these leave me a bit disappointed. If I can’t find a use for them that I will look forward to next year then I’m afraid they’re off the plot.

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The root harvest begins

I’m glad to be getting a better carrot and beetroot crop at the allotment. This batch suffered in the early dry spell we had so germination and subsequent growth was slow and poor. I was then too eager to try them so picked some small offerings last month. This lot are more substantial but there’s better to be had. The carrots went into a beef curry and I am plotting what to do with the beetroot. We’re having a picnic tomorrow if the weather holds and I’ve been hoping to make a roasted beetroot, walnut, goats cheese and rocket salad since sowing the seeds earlier this year

We had a bumper picking from the three crops from the allotment I’m monitoring this year on Friday;

  • Yellow Courgette – 370g
  • Climbing Bean ‘Cosse Violette’ – 700g
  • Climbing Bean ‘Trail of Tears’ – 770g

I’ve cleared out most of the pea bed as they’re coming to the end of their productivity and the powdering mildew is making them unsightly. The Peas, mange-tout and broad beans are out. In their place, I’ve planted the Pak Choi seedlings which I started in modules last month. The other side of the bed will have winter lettuce.

Greenhouse Update

The tomatoes continue to be a complete let-down this year. I think I have blight. Initially, I thought it was some cold scorching on the leaves that poke out of the windowless opening in the greenhouse but it’s since spread. I’ve taken some evasive measures to cut away the affected fruits and leaves but it’s fingers crossed for the remainders.

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Chard ‘Pink Passion’ Seedling

The seedlings of the Chard and winter lettuce are growing well and are soon to be transplanted to the allotment.

For the ornamental side, the Stipa and Stachys seedlings are coming along well. I’m hopeful that my Penstemon cuttings have taken.

Garden Update

The new grey backdrop to the Right Border of the Far Garden is settling in well. I’ve bought some Echinacea Magnus Superb and Musa from Hill House Nursery down the road. I was inspired by my recent visit to Wisley where I had a good look around their Echinacea trials.

This part of the garden has always meant to be an exciting, bright, exotic garden but we’ve never achieved that. The Echiums did well but completely dominated the space so I’m hoping to introduce more exciting plants over winter that will mix well.

Echinacea: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017

Echinacea: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017. Coneflower, prairie planting, prairie plants, american native, american native plants, perennial, perennial plants, drought tolerant, daisy, daisy flower, pollinator plants, good for bees, good for butterflies, wisley, rhs, plant trial, echinacea varieties, plant comparison,

Picking my favourite varieties in the 2017 Echinacea Plant Trial

As part of my recent visit to RHS Wisley, I made a point of visiting the Plant Trial Beds. These are where the Award of Garden Merit (AGM) plants are trialled and awarded the highest horticultural accolade. This year I was pleased to see the Zinnia and Echinacea trials in full bloom.

The trial is in its second year of three and, for me, there were some clear winners in the patch. I didn’t have any Echinacea in my garden when I visited Wisley but I soon corrected that by buying ‘Magnus Superb’.

If you want to find out more about the current plant trials happening at Wisley then follow this link to the PDF.

RHS Plant Trials 2017-2019 list PDF

Echinacea: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017. Coneflower, prairie planting, prairie plants, american native, american native plants, perennial, perennial plants, drought tolerant, daisy, daisy flower, pollinator plants, good for bees, good for butterflies, wisley, rhs, plant trial, echinacea varieties, plant comparison,
Echinacea trial beds

Traditional pink Echinacea

When I think of Echinacea the first thing that comes to mind is tall, pinky purple, daisy-like flowers held high amongst a mixed grass border. Their rich, deep pinks are complemented by the central cone that often has burnt-orange tints.

For this reason, my favourite selection has to be ‘Fatal Attraction’ – apparently bred by Piet Oudolf – and has a real quality of colour with strong dark stems. The Sombrero Baja Burgundy (possibly a breeding label rather than its eventual commercial name) had petals that were much closer to a cherry-red. ‘Pink Shimmer’ seemed to glow and really stood out amongst the rest.

White Echinacea varieties

I like the white versions too. They can bring a lighter feel to a border and are a little more restful to look at.

‘Green Jewel’ was white/acid green on the petals and stood tall. ‘White Meditation was a much more compact bush and would suit the front of a border or a pot. The species variant ‘alba’ has relaxed reflexed petals.

Double Echinacea varieties

I’ve never grown the double echinacea varieties and at first glance, they’re a little off-putting. The more you stare the better they get and I think I could get used to them.

‘Catharina Red’ and ‘Elegance’ were the least fussy of the varieties on offer.

For something different

Echinacea: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017. Coneflower, prairie planting, prairie plants, american native, american native plants, perennial, perennial plants, drought tolerant, daisy, daisy flower, pollinator plants, good for bees, good for butterflies, wisley, rhs, plant trial, echinacea varieties, plant comparison,
Echinacea ‘Tiki Torch’

I really liked ‘Tiki Torch’ and it is my second favourite variety on trial. The orange is rich and could easily be mixed in a border with yellows and purples and the plants looked healthy.

In summary

These nine varieties are my favourite of all the types on trial. Some of the plants don’t have commercial names yet so are very new. It’s hard to know how well they will perform in a garden setting and how much hardiness and longevity they can muster. A lot of the varieties, particularly those most often flaunted in catalogues as being a colour break, were a disappointing, almost muddy, set of colours. Many had few blooming stems or had flopped untidily.

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