Hi Everyone – welcome back, first of the month and here we are again. The “big picture” this month is of a couple of roses
that are just about to open from my garden – and I’ll add a few more. June is the rose month and I did plan this year to go to a rose garden and see lots more but life hasn’t gone back to normal yet – I’m still limited to supermarket, pharmacy and allotment for exercise.
It was encouraging to hear last month, week beginning 11 May, that the Garden Centres were about to open again. Also pleased to hear that the same very concerned nursery spokesperson who some weeks ago was anticipating the destruction of the plants that had been grown since there was nowhere to market them was sounding more cheerful. Speaking on Radio 4 for The Farplants Group, a cooperative of four West Sussex growers who are apparently the largest supplier of plants to garden centres in the UK, he related that instead of the feared mere 25% of their usual annual sales turnover he now believed that 50% seemed possible. He admitted that it had been necessary to throw plants away as the season’s peak had already been missed. Each destroyed plant probably represents at least 18 months investment of time and money.
One of my neighbours, delighted at the news of the re-openings, rushed off to the nearest garden centre. He came back with a bag of compost but no plants. There weren’t any. The season has been completely disrupted! He did a little better on a subsequent visit.
My focus has been on the allotment for the last month so work in the garden has been slow, I have three new roses to plant, another blue variety, a very pale pink and and a deep pink one – apart from the blue rose all were given to me which is great. To think that time was when I didn’t like roses too much – caused I think by the Victorian rose gardens that still existed when I was a child and to me the roses looked like overblown hats on sticks. I only started learning about them when I became a gardener because I knew how popular they were with clients. Now I love them myself.
For the allotment I have grown everything from seed – don’t think I have ever bought vegetable plants – other than fruit trees.
At the Allotment – 3 Great Tips
Protected cropping – putting a covering over plants – is used much more today than in the past. It is one of the methods that allows us to dispense with chemical sprays but this bit of info is not so much about netting but about being aware of animals. I always have to net my soft fruit, gooseberries, and red and white currants and my cherry and nut trees. We net them against birds who love berries and fruits but, in my early plotholding days many years ago, I was warned about something I had not realised – to also hang something bright and shiny, preferably that also makes a noise on the netting. This should discourage the birds from coming too close. Even if we are protecting our fruit from birds we don’t want them to trap their feet in netting and be unable to escape. Another thing I was told by an experienced plotholder when I first started was “Some for us, some for the slugs and snails . . .” Best seen, in my view, as a wise philosophy to adopt as opposed to getting over anxious about weeds, slugs, snails or anything under nature’s control rather than yours – sometimes however the creatures don’t just take some – they have been known to take it all!
We had a spell of May weather when temperatures were the lowest since the 1980s. Many plotholders lost the tips of their growing potatoes to frost which, I am reliably informed, won’t destroy their harvest but will reduce it. Just before the cold spell started I took my french beans down to plant and another plotholder advised me against planting them. He was absolutely right, of course, but I probably would have taken a chance had he not stopped me. I watered the beans well, put a large cloche over them, weighed it down with a brick, and went off home no longer fearing a frost. They weren’t frosted they were devoured by slugs instead. Luckily it was only the first batch and the second is coming along behind it. For many of us there is a tricky period when plant space indoors is running out and we are desperate to get things planted out. Strangely enough last month the title of my article was “Ne’er cast a clout . . .” but it is a long time since we had such low temperatures in May.
The cold spell was discouraging. Plotholders who had small recently planted seedlings were struggling to cover them over in the gale-force winds that were gracious enough to accompany the equally unwelcome low temperatures. People were flapping about in the wind with lengths of fleece and one intrepid woman, refusing to give up, turned her plot into what looked like a dormitory. She covered everything she could and it all survived – although she might have to buy her blueberries this year.
My devoured beans were my favourite Cosse Violette. They are deep purple in colour and turn green when you cook them and have an excellent flavour. They do very well on my plot although slow to get going. It is noticeable when you talk to plotholders from other sites how localised the conditions are, what does well on one site doesn’t necessarily on another. Experimentation is all.
I am a great fan of cloches and can’t recommend them enough. I use up the large family-sized water bottles this way after first cutting out the base with sharp scissors. I had a great supply from one of my neighbours’ recycling boxes for a while. These are now wearing out and I might have to start buying drinking water, which I have never done, if I want more cloches.
The cloche is also perfect for people like myself who grow plants indoors and would find it difficult to put them out for the day in the garden and bring them in at night for fear of morning frosts. Even so, this “hardening off” period must, must, must take place if the plant is to survive outside. I can plant out at the allotment and use a cloche for a couple of weeks as a hardening off period. I wish I had had enough of them for my beans.
Watch your back
Another plotholder laughed at me watering recently and rushed off saying “I’ll get you a large watering can.” I had to explain to him that I purposely use two small cans rather than a single large one. It is so much better for the back to have a manageable weight evenly and equally distributed. During very dry conditions you may be watering daily for 45 minutes. (Hoses are not permitted on allotments.) Even if my two cans look tiny, 6.5 litres each, that means I am moving 13 litres with every trip to the tank and water is heavy. This may be especially relevant to women with a smaller frame but I think the same must hold true for men’s backs.
Plant of the Month
Jasminum ‘Fiona Sunrise’
This climber is a favourite in my garden and has been adding a beautiful lime green developing into golden yellow splash of colour for some years. Trained onto a fence I have it sandwiched between a yellow and a blue rose which shows it to full effect. It has white flowers and disappears completely in the winter always to return slowly but surely. This cultivar is certainly not invasive. When most things are dark green that flash of golden yellow is priceless,
On the subject of Jasmine my neighbour has an enormous Common Jasmine, grown I believe from a pot plant, in her front garden that this year has looked fabulous with pink bud and white flowers and smelled divine for most of May. Not for positions where it could get invasive I would say.
Jasmine hails from Eurasia and Oceania but has become naturalised in parts of the Mediterranean. See link below for expert advice on care of Jasmine plants in the UK from the RHS.
Well, we have had some brilliant weather in the last couple of weeks and it is like being permanently on holiday – I have really enjoyed all the work on the allotment especially as I have had a lot of very welcome family help. No matter that the lack of rain means daily watering if the new seedlings are to survive. I have got almost all my planned planting in at the allotment and I have a free-ish dining table at last. Now I have to make sure, so far as I can, that all the planted seedlings come to no harm from pests or weather.
Happy gardening to all. Got any gardening tales, queries, problems – I’m sure we would all love to hear them and learn something. Do get in touch via comments and take a look at the comment I received on last month’s Trees and Neighbours piece – very useful. The person with the neighbours complaining about her tree luckily has heard no more about it. Bye until next month from Rosanna.