My RHS Members’ Seed Scheme 2018

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RHS Members’ Seed Scheme

One of the benefits of being a member of the RHS is the opportunity to join in with the RHS Members’ Seed Scheme. I’ve done this a few times over the years and it’s a good way of getting some interesting seeds you wouldn’t find so cheaply from the usual seed catalogues.

 

Find out more about the scheme on their website

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My 15 packets of seed

How the scheme works

Staff at RHS Wisley collect seed throughout the year and pack them up. So you know that they have been accurately collected from the correct plant and that the plants will have been good examples of their type.

You place your order online from November to March (this year the dates were 1st November 2017 to 31st March). They hope to have completed all orders by the end of April.

You can choose up to 15 items as a ‘first choice’ with five additional selections as backups should your first choices be unavailable. There were over 200 seeds included in this year’s seedlist.

There’s a charge of £8.50 for the seeds and delivery. As you receive 15 packets this only costs you around 57p per packet.

How did I do this year?

This is the list of seeds I requested this year;

Herbaceous perennials

  • Cephalaria gigantea
  • Eryngium amethystinum
  • Francoa sonchifolia
  • Geranium psilostemon
  • Helleborus argutifolius
  • Patrinia scabiosifolia
  • Phytolacca americana
  • Sanguisorba canadensis
  • Thalictrum flavum
  • Verbascum chaixii
  • Veronicastrum virginicum

Trees shrubs

  • Callistemon citrinus
  • Cornus kousa
  • Carpenteria Californica
  • Paeonia delavayi

And these were exactly the ones I received!

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A duplicate order

It would be sensible to coordinate my orders between the RHS and the Hardy Plant Society as I managed to double order Cephalaria, gigantea, Carpenteria californica and Paeonia delavayi. I must really want to have these in the garden. I also realised that I ordered these a few years back and didn’t do very well in getting them to survive so hopefully, I’ll do better this year.

Would I do it again?

Definitely! Although I may run out of both greenhouse space and garden space.

Garden Update 10th February 2018

Garden Update 10th February 2018

The big chill has meant I’m not too keen to get many things started in the garden so far this year. A big job for the year is going to be replanting the far garden but I’m holding fire until the soil warms a bit. Most of my pottering this week, therefore, has been in the greenhouse.

Previous Updates

Garden Update 18th November

Garden Update 4th November 

Greenhouse Update

I have started off some hardier seeds that came from the Hardy Plant Society and these are outside the greenhouse getting a bit of cold and wet treatment which apparently will improve germination once the weather heats up.

It’s also time to move on some cuttings and divisions I made at the end of last year. These Teucrium lucidrys, also known as hedge germanders, have rooted well. They’re now in their own little spaces to grow on some more.

As I was clearing out one of the borders in the far garden I came across my Stipa gigantea. I was lifting anything salvageable and clearing away the roots of bindweed. This was split into small divisions and they’ve now produced enough root to warrant giving them some more space. So far no sign of any bindweed.

If you take a look at the end of my 2017 Seed Sowing Spreadsheet (now updated with a 2018 tab) you’ll see a bunch of Chiltern Seed sowings of some prairie perennials. Some of these need to move out of the tiny plug trays if they’re ever going to thrive. They’re still tiny so I hope they can fill the space.

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Potted on seedlings of Echinacea paradoxa, Rudbeckia maxima and Digitalis mertonensis

Once I’m back from a little holiday I’ll get started on the Tomatoes and some Chillies when I’m around to keep an eye on them better.

My Hardy Plant Society Seed Distribution 2018

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Hardy Plant Society Seed Distribution

 

One of the benefits of being a member of the Hardy Plant Society is the opportunity to join in with the Hardy Plant Society Seed Distribution Scheme. What I wasn’t aware of until recently is that this wonderful perk is also available to non-members like myself.

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Hardy Plant Society seeds arrive

Who are they?

The Hardy Plant Society are exactly what they sound like. They’re a group of volunteers who are particularly well organised and have been going for over half a century. They are dedicated to promoting the benefits of using hardy plants in the garden and celebrating the wide variety this offers. They organise local and national meetings for members wanting to learn more.

Find out more on their website.

How the scheme works

Members of the society collect and donate seed during the year and once they’ve been received the society sends out a seed list in November and publishes this list on their website. This year there were over 2000 different seeds listed which is truly amazing.

You submit 20 preferred seeds with 10 substitutes should your initial options run out. All you pay is £5 postage.

You can then request Random Sets which are packets of 25 named seeds gathered from the seeds that are left once all the other orders have been filled. That’s just an additional £2.50!

So for £7.50, I have received 45 packets of seed to play with this year. That’s just 17p a packet.

Members of the society get their orders filled first so they’re more likely to get what they’ve requested. Also, if they donate 5 packets of seed to the scheme they can choose an additional 10 packets to order.

How did I do this year?

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First Pick selection
Abies koreana  Received
Bupleurum longifolium ex ‘Bronze Beauty’
Canna indica
Carpenteria californica Received
Cyclamen africanum
Dahlia merckii Received
Eryngium bourgatii Received
Eryngium bourgatii ex ‘Picos Amethyst’
Eryngium venustum Received
Libertia peregrinans Received
Paeonia cambessedesii Received
Paeonia delavayi Received
Ricinus communis
Rosa glauca ambig Received
Thalictrum aquilegiifolium ex ‘Album’ Received
Thalictrum delavayi Received
Trillium chloropetalum Received
Trillium kurabayashii
Trillium rugelii
Teucrium scorodonia
Teucrium fruticans  
Thalictrum ichangense  
Thalictrum reniforme  
Thalictrum rochebruneanum Received 
Podophyllum aurantiocaule  
Podophyllim peltatum var annulare  
Paeonia wittmanniana  
Paeonia veitchii Received 
Lilium martagon Received 
Dierama tyrium  
Cornus mas Received 
Cephalaria gigantea Received 

 

So, out of my 20 first choice options I received 11. I had 5 out of my 10 substitutes and also received 3 extras to make up the 20. These were Angelica sylvestris ex ‘Vicar’s Mead’, Digitalis purpurea f. albiflora and, Delphinium ex Belladonna Group.

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Random Set

The seeds I received from the Random Set are listed below.

Iris ensata ex ‘Fortune’
Papaver rhoeas
Trollius chinensis ex ‘Golden Queen’
Scabiosa columbaria subsp. ochroleuca ex ‘Moon Dance’
Silene dioica
Romulea bulbocodium
Stipa tenuissima
Thalictrum minus ex ‘Aldiantifolium’
Salvia sclarea var. turkestanica hort.
Sisyrinchium californicum ex Brachypus Group
Primula sikkimensis
Pilosella aurantiaca
Narcissus mixed 2016 introductions
Malva moschata f. alba
Lavatera trimestris ex ‘Ruby Regis’
Ligularia ex ‘Britt Marie Crawford’
Lychnis chalcedonica
Helleborus foetidus
Fritillaria imperialis ex ‘Lutea’
Incarvillea delavayi pink flowers
Geranium psilostemon
Geranium ex Silver Cloak Group
Eryngium eburneum
Betula papyrifera
Arisaema consanguineum

 

The benefit of a Random Set is you get another 25 packets. There may have been lots of the 2000-strong list that didn’t make it into your top 35 selections but you’d be happy to get nonetheless. The downside will always be that there may be some plants that don’t match the conditions you have in your garden. For example, I’ll be looking to give away the Ligularia and Primula seeds to someone with a damper plot. I also have a lot of Stipa tenuissima and Helleborus foetidus in the garden so I’ll pass these on too.

Would I do it again?

Definitely! Although I may run out of both greenhouse space and garden space.

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First seeds go out for some cold stratification

Making more Pelargonium plants: How to take Pelargonium cuttings

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Making more Pelargonium plants: How to take Pelargonium cuttings

As part of the new houseplants that I have recently taken on, one was a white Pelargonium, which needed some TLC. It came out of its pot with not much by way of roots. I’m not sure how well this will cope, or even survive, with this transplant. So, I have taken some cuttings in order to increase my chance of keeping this plant alive.

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The original white pelargonium plant

Pelargoniums

There’s a lot of confusion about the naming, or nomenclature, of Pelargoniums. They are commonly called Geraniums, partly because they do belong to the Geraniaceae family, but also because of some confusion when they were brought to the UK. Apparently, one plant writer used the incorrect term and was more famous than the chap who was doing it correctly. What’s silly is that the true Geraniums get called ‘Hardy Geraniums’.

The Geraniums I’m talking about are the Pelargoniums, which come from South Africa, and are frost-tender and have a more succulent appearance.

Taking Pelargonium Cuttings

I chose some short side-shoots from the main plant for my cuttings material. The standard advice with all succulent cutting material is to allow it to dry and slightly callus before putting it into the potting media. This way there is less chance of the cutting rotting before it has the chance to root. The other difference from standard soft wood or semi-ripe cuttings is that you don’t enclose the tops in a plastic bag to increase humidity. The extra humidity can also cause the cuttings to rot so they are instead left out and dry.

I cut below a node, strip excess leaves from the stem, and remove large leaves to reduce water loss. Then I leave them to sit on a dry bench to callus.

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Small pelargonium cuttings

The first time I took pelargonium cuttings I did enclose them in a plastic bag and didn’t leave them time to callus. They took anyway, which was probably luck, but just goes to show how keen they are to take.

Aftercare of Pelargonium Cuttings

Once you’ve taken the cuttings, and they’ve had some time to dry a little at the ends, put them in a gritty potting mix. I have some new (old) terracotta pots that I find work really well for cuttings. You don’t need terracotta pots, however, as cuttings will work in most containers. Where excess moisture is particularly dangerous to cuttings, exactly like it is to Pelargonium cuttings and other succulent cuttings, the porous nature of the terracotta helps.

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Pelargonium cuttings in a gravel mix

I water them in and then leave them in a bright, dry area of the greenhouse. It will take a couple of weeks for them to root. I wait until there are plenty of roots coming from the bottom of the pot and some sign of new growth before potting on. If space is tight you can leave them, rooted, in the pots over winter before potting on in Spring.

How to take Basil Cuttings

Other cuttings taken recently

Cheap and cheerful – how to create more basil plants using water cuttings 

Cheap and cheerful - how to create more basil plants using water cuttings

A simple way to take basil cuttings to make new plants for free

I have a terrible record when it comes to growing basil from seeds so I was really intrigued to hear about taking cuttings from plants to create more. I can’t believe it’s never occurred to me before to take basil cuttings. Usually, I cheat by buying a plant in a supermarket, with multiple elongated seedlings crammed together, and try to divide and plant these out. This has given me a small amount of success if I can harvest the leaves before the slugs get them.

I was listening to a recent podcast episode of Still Growing and was inspired to try basil cuttings myself.

How to take basil cuttings

The vigorous growth on basil is perfect for softwood cuttings. I took lengths of stem around 2-3 inches long and removed the lower leaves. Cutting under a node (where the leaves were emerging from the stem) encourages roots to develop at a point where the hormones are concentrated. The very softest growth at the top of the cutting was pinched out.

The leaves and tips that I stripped off were used in a pasta dish so no wastage.

Cheap and cheerful - how to create more basil plants using water cuttings
Basil cuttings in water

Since basil is related closely to mint it should root as easily as mint. At the same time as I took the basil cuttings I also took Peppermint and Sweet Potato. These were placed into small glasses somewhere sheltered, out of direct sunlight. The downstairs toilet windowsill is perfect. An unexpected bonus is the aromatic wafts you get from the basil and peppermint.

Cheap and cheerful - how to create more basil plants using water cuttings
Basil, Sweet Potato and Peppermint cuttings

Waiting for roots on my basil cuttings

The Sweet Potato and Peppermint definitely won the root race and had grown some adventitious roots within 4 days. I had to wait a long 10 days to see some action on the basil.

Cheap and cheerful - how to create more basil plants using water cuttings
Roots showing after 10 days

Potting on basil cuttings

Once there was a good amount of root on each basil cutting, and when I had time to do it, I potted them on into loose multipurpose compost to establish.

Cheap and cheerful - how to create more basil plants using water cuttings
Good amount of root ready for potting up

This was a really easy bit of propagation and was quite successful. A couple of minutes work to prepare the cuttings was all it took to get the process going. One cutting had to be discarded due to rot (It needed to be removed from the water) and I replaced the water twice over the 10 days. That’s it! I’m hoping they’ll establish well so I can pot them on again before starting to harvest.

MyPottingBench: Down Under – Chillies

image-2

There have been some gardening successes over the past 18 months.

One thing I have really enjoyed is being able to get some proper crops off the peppers and chillies. This time I’ve much much more success at growing chillies and peppers. I think the last few years I was gardening in Devon we had some wet summers with low light levels. My greenhouse  only came into it’s own during that year so I haven’t ever felt that I was succeeding in the chilli/pepper stakes. Of course in Oz they prefer to call peppers ‘capsicum’ (which makes you feel like a right wally in the supermarket).

Sources seeds in Australia

I was able to source some Australian seed from The Diggers Club and bought 2 collections. One was a ‘mild-mannered’ collection of chillies and a selection of 7 different peppers.

 

MyPottingBench: Down Under - Chillies
Chillies
MyPottingBench: Down Under - Chillies
Peppers aka capsicum

 

The next generation

I was even able to save some seed for coming years and to share with an elderly aunt who lives near us. The plants have come through winter okay and look like they’re going to give us another year of cropping.

MyPottingBench: Down Under - Chillies
Seeds being segregated ready for the drying process

Greenhouse Construction 4 – MyPottingBench has a new home!

The finished product

After a few weeks, several trips to the DIY store and agricultural supplier, the circular saw catching fire and 2 re-designs, the greenhouse is done.

Well almost done; there are a few tinkering jobs that need finishing off, but essentially it’s ready to go.

The features

The Potting Bench

MyPottingBench sitting in its new home
MyPottingBench sitting in its new home

 

It’s nice to have a potting bench that’s sat at the correct height for me. This evening I pricked out 2 trays of nicotiana and zinnia with my back straight for the first time since moving into the cottage. I have potting bench has been lifted up off the gravel floor to avoid rusting as well as getting up to the correct height for me.

The back wall

The painted back wall bounces light around. I might add some hooks for convenient storage but I’ve decided to use the shelf for plants rather than storing sundries as it seems a shame to waste the space under glass.

The back wall will have things hung from it for easy reach.
The back wall will have things hung from it for easy reach.

 

The floating shelves

These are my floating shelves. They’re made from a simple wooden frame with wire mesh for the top. They’re wide enough to accommodate a full seed tray and crucially don’t block light from getting to the raised beds underneath. I wanted to make the most of the space available given the restrictions of the site. The space is multifunctional and needs to perform different roles. This greenhouse needed to be a potting shed, a way into the main garden shed and also a greenhouse so compromises had to be made. The compromise is the water does rain onto the bed beneath which can disturb young seedlings but I’ll have to see how it goes.

 

My floating shelves - they'll let light and water through to the raised beds
My floating shelves – they’ll let light and water through to the raised beds

My gorgeous puppy dog Mollie inspecting my efforts.

Another view of the floating shelves and the front outlook.
Another view of the floating shelves and the front outlook.

The front of the greenhouse looks out onto the stone barn that is a huge feature of the garden and I can see the back doors from there. I can also see if someone’s offering me a cup of tea so it’s win win!

And finally…

So here it is – my very first greenhouse ever and certainly the most complicated thing I’ve ever built on my own. I’m looking forward to seeing what I can achieve growing under glass.

'Door' attached to prevent further 'christening' by the cats
‘Door’ attached to prevent further ‘christening’ by the cats

 

Catch up on the Story

Construction Greenhouse: Part 1

Construction Greenhouse: Part 2

Construction Greenhouse: Part 3

 

Greenhouse Construction 3

Greenhouse Construction

Things come on leaps and bounds

We have progress! A dry, sunny afternoon off work and I now have something that looks like a greenhouse. Having done lots of prep work recently it’s good to see something for my efforts.

Greenhouse construction
The pots in front are to blend it in

The other half has already started beautifying the area – a skill I don’t possess and there’s lots of work in that area to go. The area behind the potting bench still needs finishing and painting, the raised beds need filling, and after an end of day review we’ve decided the raised beds need higher sides.

Greenhouse construction
A full view of the wonky roof shape and the relationship to the shed

 

The Full Story

Construction Greenhouse: Part 1

Construction Greenhouse: Part 2

Construction Greenhouse: Part 3

Construction Greenhouse: Part 4

Not a Greenhouse Construction update

Exochorda x macrantha 'The Bride'

An update on the progress happening in the garden

I was hoping by the end of this weekend to have a triumphant update with images of a completed greenhouse (or at least a watertight/glazed greenhouse). However the constant rain has scuppered my plans and instead of sharing photos of the roof in pieces on the floor of our barn waiting to be put together I thought I’d show what’s happening in the cottage garden this spring. Looking back of the blog there hasn’t been much greenery for a while.

In the propagator barn

The tomato and pepper seedlings are just about ready to stretch their legs (and probably have been ready for a least a week or more if I’m honest) and the Gypsophila elegans seedlings were crying out for some room. So these, along with Digitalis ‘Primrose carousel’ and Dahlia coccinea, got upgraded. It does mean they’re now on the floor of the barn rather than the window seat but they’ll do for a bit.

Gypsophila elegans
Gypsophila elegans and Digitalis seedlings ready to move on
Seedlings in desperate need of a greenhouse
Seedlings in desperate need of a greenhouse
Digitalis 'Primrose carousel'
Digitalis ‘Primrose carousel’

The Top Garden

The Aquilegia in the garden are coming along well and there may even be the first flower out this week. Excitingly, the Aquilegia yabeana sown from Plant World Seeds are looking really strong and may produce their first flower ever this year. Podophyllum hexandrum ‘Spotty Dotty’ is a stunning plant with foliage that looks like a toad. It was brought for me by my aunt as an engagement present last year and, again, we’re hoping for it to bloom for the first time.

Overall there’s a real energy to the garden with growth pushing through everywhere you look. The transplanted astrantia and larkspur are coming on well as if they hadn’t noticed the change of scenery. I think I need to start putting up some plant supports to stop the flop later in the year.

Blue cat enjoying the view to the top garden
Blue cat enjoying the view to the top garden
Emerging shoots of Hellebore, Peony, Elephant garlic and Monkshood
Emerging shoots of Hellebore, Peony, Elephant garlic and Monkshood
Podophyllum hexandrum 'Potty Dotty'
Podophyllum hexandrum ‘Potty Dotty’
Aquilegia vulgaris
Aquilegia vulgaris
Aquilegia yabeana looking strong
Aquilegia yabeana looking strong

 

The near garden

Mixed border with a Fuschia in a pot
Mixed border with a Fuschia in a pot
Flowering Clematis
Flowering Clematis

 

Euphorbia
Euphorbia
Exochorda x macrantha 'The Bride'
Exochorda x macrantha ‘The Bride’

What’s coming next?

Moving on plants from the propagator meant I had some room to fill. I’ve started some Zinnia ‘Purple Prince’, more Basil ‘Sweet Genovese’, Foeniculum purpureum, Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Candy Stripe’, and Scabiousa caucasia ‘Perfecta Blue’. It’s the best time of year!

Springing up

Nepeta and Phlox Cuttings

Spring Displays in the Garden

I was was going to post an update on the progress of the greenhouse. However, intermittent rain showers and the wrong kind of screws has limited progress. It would have been more of a ‘no progress’ report. Instead I’m sharing some images taken at the weekend to fit in with other bloggers showing off their spring displays.

New introductions

The plants purchased last week are settling in really well.  The white Hellebore is looking regal amongst all the fresh green shoots in the border. This shady part of the garden needed something to brighten it up and I think this is really doing the job well. There are a few hours in the early morning when the sun peeks through the cottages and hits this part of the garden and the  flowers can be seen really well against the green backdrop.

 

Helleborus orientalis 'White Lady' from Hill House Nursery
Helleborus orientalis ‘White Lady’ from Hill House Nursery

 

Happy colour-matching accidents

Fresh pink shoots of a Rose emerging in spring
Fresh pink shoots of a Rose emerging in spring

 

The bright new shoots of this rose match the colour of my own hellebore seedling so they sit next to each other in the bed. It’s not a great photo of the rose.

 

Helleborus orientalis (my own hybrid)
Helleborus orientalis (my own hybrid)

 

Seedling update

Propagation continues quietly in the background; these Gypsophila seedlings are coming on well – it looks like I’ll have loads to find room for but they’ll come in useful for the wedding later in the year.

 

Gypsophila elegans seedlings germinating
Gypsophila elegans seedlings germinating

 

Cuttings ahoy!

I’ve moved some Phlox from the shady part of the garden up to the sunnier beds a few weeks ago. My plan is for a more muted palette nearer the house; whites and deep reds. I’m hoping it will start to look more refined and harmonious but time will tell. The brash fuschia-pink Phlox has been banished to what is starting to become a party bed. Having divided the plants I also took full advantage and made some cuttings as well.

 

Nepeta and Phlox cuttings
Nepeta and Phlox cuttings