Thursday, June 13, 2013

Other people's gardens

It's said that gardeners are a friendly bunch and indeed there's something about growing plants, be they for ornament or food, that brings out the sharing aspect. Whether it's a spare tomato seedling, a cutting from a favourite hydrangea or a jar of homemade strawberry jam, gardening tends to open people up to their fellow human in a way that few other activities do.
So imagine a weekend where you could head off to someone's garden, to have a look at their borders and beds, check how neat their lawn is or how tall their potato haulms are. To discuss with a friend how healthy those perennial grasses are or how disorganised that shed looks; how good the tea is or how the lemon drizzle cake is almost as good as your gran used to make. And to ask the garden owner themselves how do they bring on their dahlias so early in the season or what's their secret to keeping their roses blackspot free.

Well, garden blog readers of England and Wales, that weekend has arrived, and arrived with a flourish!
Let me introduce you to the inaugural National Gardens Festival Weekend from the NGS!

There are 800 gardens open over the weekend across England and Wales, so there's sure to be one not too far from you. From urban oases to rural idylls, allotments to artisan gardens, there is every type of garden opening covering the tiniest courtyard to the biggest landscaped parklands. And the money raised from admissions, plant sales, teas and cakes goes to national nursing and caring charities including Marie Curie Cancer Care, Macmillan, Help the Hospices, Carers Trust, The Queen's Nursing Institute and Perennial. The aim for this first-time open garden festival is to raise £500,000 over the 2 days – a tough challenge – but one that every garden lover can play their part in.

And talking of challenges, who better to take on the task of visiting gardens in 5 counties in 1 day during the Festival Weekend than Anneka Rice! 

So, if that has inspired you to join in this festival of foliage, flowers and fresh cream teas, then here's the current map of where they're taking place. Click here to access the map on the NGS website and keep your fingers crossed for the weather!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Raspberries on the cheap

In autumn last year I picked up a couple of 'end of the line' plants from a well-known home and garden superstore. Let me just say, I don't usually buy plants from there - strimmer cord yes, all purpose filler yes, but not plants. However, when raspberry canes are on sale for 10p each, it would seem to be a bargain worth snapping up. I mean, what's the worst that could happen? They'd all die and I'll be 30p out of pocket?

So, I took home my new plants and soaked the rootballs in water before potting them up and pruning back the old canes. Then I googled Raspberry 'Malling Jewel' and salivated at the idea of early season summer raspberries.

Fast forward to March/April, I patiently checked for signs of any new shoots but there were none to be seen. Eventually in mid May, they started to break through the surface, slowly yet steadily.

So, we're now heading towards the middle of June, I have my supports in place and the canes themselves are looking healthy but still only about 30cm tall with no signs of any flower buds yet. Somehow, I can't imagine that things are going to be moving so quickly that I'll still have raspberries by July...

What do we think? Is this a case of big company mislabelling/mixing up stock and what I've actually got is an autumn fruiting variety? Or has the cold, cold spring held back the growth? Or were they simply planted too late last year to start producing canes at the optimum time?

This novice raspberry grower would be grateful for all suggestions.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Cake in the sun

It was a fabulously sunny day on Sunday here in my little corner of Hertfordshire, which made it all the more sad that I had quite a lot of horticulture revision to get done. And not the kind of revision where you can wander around the garden deadheading plants while you try to recall their Latin name and preferred growing conditions. No, it was the kind you can only really do sitting indoors at a laptop, surrounded by books containing details of pathway foundation materials (hoggin and MOT type 1, for the hardcore nerds among you) and biosecurity approaches to the storage of topsoil during garden construction.

So, this meant I couldn't get out to any NGS open gardens in order to mark Chelsea Fringe: The Bloggers' Cut – a virtual gathering brought together over at Veg Plotting. However, I did manage to whiz up a quick cake of my own and enjoy it with a coffee sitting in my own garden. My cake choice was driven by leftovers. A jar of stem ginger really needed finishing off so I found a ginger cake recipe online which I tweaked in order to use the rhubarb cooking juices strained off while making rhubarb fool on Friday. I am nothing if not thrifty when it comes to cooking...
It was a lovely cake, though I suspect Mary Berry would pronounce it slightly underbaked. Personally, I consider perfectionism a failing.

So, to share with you a little more than the green shades of the garden predominant in the photo above, here are some gorgeous flowers in full colour in my garden this weekend.

A rather vibrant Dahlia 'Bishop of Landaff' that I picked up at Chelsea Flower Show

A Californian Lilac that seems to be invigeling its way into my favour despite me trying to cut it down for 3 years

Self-seeded aquilegias – quite the most welcome flowers in the garden

As above, in hot pink
And possibly the latest late tulip I've ever known