Hello again everyone. I was very taken with the unusual balcony of this building put together with some artistry. Havana, Cuba? No, Forest Hill, south east London. I thought you must see this. It rained so often in May that much of the allotment work has carried over to this month. It may have rained a lot but the soil is dust-like, no doubt due to the weeks on end we had of strong winds. Last month Juli left a comment about Powdery Mildew and how to deal with it without chemicals – do see her comments and my reply if that is your problem too. Anyway, I think I shall be going back to my daily allotment watering regime for the foreseeable future. Don’t forget to get in touch with your gardening problems – would love to hear from you.
For the second year running I have gone with friends to the Kent Garden Show – it is always such a good day out with so much to see in a very friendly atmosphere. We are always there at opening time, 9.30, leaving at lunchtime so that we are inevitably going in the opposite direction to hundreds more people arriving.
The Show is usually held on the three days over the Bank Holiday at the end of May. Compared to last year there were more and more stalls selling novelty products for the garden as well as a huge range of small specialist growers with their plants, quality foodstuffs coming from all over the country, women’s clothing and accessories, tools, hot tubs and spas and more.
This year I noticed major marketing of artificial grass. One particularly good use for it for those people running childrens’ nurseries and/or child-minding, it is safe, clean and ideal for small children playing outside.
The specialist growers with more delicate plants are housed inside – in buildings like aeroplane hangars plus several marquees. All the food and drink products – small businesses come from all over the country to sell top quality foodstuffs (pies to die for from Nottinghamshire) – are inside along with greetings cards etc. Outside there are coffee and eats stalls and tables and chairs for hungry visitors.
At the Allotment
Currently making an appearance at the allotment is a fox and not with the usual mangy appearance but with a magnificent titian coat. Sadly he/she only has three legs but seems to manage just fine. Other plotholders living nearby say he (probably a he because it is a large animal) does a tour of their garden each evening as well as our site.
Another plotholder asked me if I had seen the crow. There are quite a few visiting the site from time to time but she has spotted a particular one for its behaviour. Our water tanks are fitted with the ball and lever device used in toilet cisterns so that they refill immediately we start taking out water. Rather than drink from the tank, which gets a bit murky, our crow has worked out that if he/she lands on the ball its own weight will make water start to run and that is the best way to get fresh water to drink.
My favourite watering cans are the four I now have, two for the garden, two for the allotment, all the same. They are smallish and narrow (this does make them a bit sloshy) but easily manipulated. The most important aspect for me is protecting the back by having two light cans rather than one heavy one – something I learned when I was training – and having the cans identical for the sake of balance. I always remove the roses because I very seldom use them but try to keep hold of at least one (they soon get mislaid once they aren’t attached) in case I should need it for seedlings.
Success with Garlic spray
Our broad bean plants are very quickly attacked by blackfly on our site and if I had been using garlic spray as a deterrent it might not have happened. The spraying was successful, the plant has been weakened but it may well recover and still has flowers on it. The second picture taken a week after the first shows there are no blackfly to be seen.
I took this picture at a Chelsea Flower Show a couple of years ago since when vertical gardening has become increasingly popular as you might expect with many people not having as much room as they would like for their plants and also because green walls are a good way to tackle pollution.
Vertical gardening could be said to have always existed – the traditional pergola, trellis for the climbers, hanging baskets, arches and obelisks or anything that fills the upper areas in the garden. However today vertical gardening means a whole new way of gardening, and lots of new products, that give space challenged people more scope.
Products range from planting pockets that either you plant directly into or hold your planted up pots made of permeable fabric, brightly coloured tin pots with hooks attached to suspend from wall or fencing, sets of rigid plastic pots in rows, tallish round growing bags ideal for potatoes, hanging growing bags designed for trailing tomatoes and a similar design for strawberries – both could be hung from suspended poles or trees. Predominant product colours seem to be black or green.
If you would like to create your own green wall there are vertical gardening trellises made by various companies, some for wall attachment and some free standing so you could place them anywhere you like, some with the growing spaces patterned with random shapes so you can create something unique to you. Also worth considering is a growing tower. These would make considerable impact in the garden and there are systems to buy to make these too.
Large-scale green walls of the type you may have seen on city buildings are built and maintained by landscape professionals but for the ordinary gardener, the inexpensive planting pockets and modular systems are now available and many will incorporate an irrigation system. These can be hung from house walls or attached to a fence.
A simple green wall can be created with soil at the base of a wall, either in a container or in the ground, and the plants trained to grow up wires. Takes a while to get established but it is the most cost-effective way and you can do it yourself. If you are impatient waiting for your green wall to grow you can even buy artificial green walls and plug the gaps until it fully covers.
Vertical gardening offers you the chance to double your growing space if that is what you want. A few considerations to bear in mind if you want to give it a try are –
• For ornamentals be sure to do your own research on which plants are suited to this kind of treatment – there is a limited range available but it is expanding all the time – four plants that I know will work are heuchera, ferns, small grasses and ivy.
• Remember if you want to keep the green wall display looking at its best plants will need replacing periodically and so will the “hardware”.
• If you are mounting anything on a vertical surface check if it can take the weight.
• Many of you will have managed their own patio planters or hanging baskets and will know that exposed plants like these being totally dependent on you often need watering twice a day. Many of the systems you can buy will have irrigation systems which are pretty much essential.
• Tomatoes, cucumbers and squash can be grown vertically on a frame and they also look attractively colourful. Take a bit of care with very heavy squash varieties as the fruits will need supporting – I usually make a sling out of netting for mine.
If you have a small garden stop thinking of it as a flat space and start to conceptualize it as a box. You can’t physically make it bigger by expanding it horizontally so think up and down, the box is open to the sky and it has four walls and you can absolutely cover them with plants.
What you can see now
The Iris is my favourite flower. I like them all, of course, and although it took me many years to decide on a favourite the Iris is the one, particularly the Bearded Iris. For me there is something very special about the colours and the shape.
I am not alone, see the comments from Lois Kirby another Iris lover on my last two posts about slug and snail damage to her Iris. Happily, garlic spray has been effective for her and that’s good to hear. I think the best way to display Iris is to put two different tones of the same colour alongside as in the picture below right.
Because Mahonia x media is a winter flowering plant it is producing berries now – and I love the look of these berries especially when the bunch is made up of both ripe and unripe berries like the one pictured.
I caught these early flowering Kniphofia in a shaft of early evening sunlight resulting in dramatic shadows. I am surprised, given the flower’s inhospitable shape, how much they are appreciated by the large, solitary bees who like to disappear inside the layers of spikes.
The little pink-backed, white daisies of Erigeron karvinskianus make for wonderful ground cover. Get in first with this really useful plant – great for those awkward places that would otherwise sprout weeds. Apparently a much loved plant of Gertrude Jekyll.
No doubt everyone is familiar with the red berries of Pyracantha – here it is currently in flower. There are lots of plants with whitish blossom but it pays to take a really close look at the flowers which are often surprisingly intricate.
The Laburnum has lovely yellow hanging flowers.
The arrival of the elderflowers, that have played a big role in the English preserves culture, signifies the start of country wine (and gorgeous Elderflower Champagne) season. I like to freeze several of the berry sprays when they are available because they are a delicious tart addition to stewed apple.
British Rose and Snowdrop at Risk of Extinction as 42% of Nurseries Close in Last Two Decades
So ran Helena Horton’s headline in The Telegraph on 18th May.
The main thrust of the article is that the scale of plant nursery closures could mean in time there will be no more specialist growers who do important breeding improvement work – as the elderly retire and are not being replaced by the young who don’t want to work in horticulture. These growers are also the mainstay of the Chelsea Flower Show.
Also under threat is plant diversity, which in turn threatens the survival of the pollinators. The horticulture industry is, apparently, worth £24 billion to the UK economy.
I think this a debate that badly needs to be had. My own feeling is that the business model would benefit from bringing up to date. In the greater part of the public mind a gardener is merely a labourer. Horticulture needs a more accurate relection of the wealth of learning and experience that make a gardener if it is to attract more young people into what can be a great career. There is basic work to be done – that is only a fraction of the whole.
Hope you have found something of use this month – do please get in touch with a question or gardening problem and I’ll try to help. Until next time – enjoy your gardening.