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Showing posts from April, 2020

Camassias! And more about narcissi

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Camassias, Narcissus poeticus var. recurvus, white bluebells and the lime-green flowers of Bupleurum rotundifolium
The camassias are the last of the bulbs to flower in what I call the "spring bulb meadow". This isn't actually a meadow – far from it; it's a crescent-shaped swathe of grass punctuated by ornamental cherry trees. I have another small circular "bulb meadow" around another cherry tree, and in both of these areas, the flowering season begins with snowdrops, then crocuses, then daffodils, then – finally – camassias and bluebells.
I got the idea of a spring bulb meadow from Rosalie Dawes, owner of Birtsmorton Court, in Worcestershire. She had created one on a patch of grass beneath deciduous trees and at this time of year, it looks superb.
Rosalie explained that wildflower meadows are not only notoriously difficult to sustain, but also mean that the grass has to be kept long until June or July. Birtsmorton is very popular as a wedding venue, so in ea…

George says: Grow peas and beans in containers

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Every time I look at the exhibits of peas and beans at the Bibury Village Show (above), I am reminded of my complete failure to grow runner beans. I've tried several times, but they always end up getting eaten by slugs before they've had time to start growing up the canes.
So the idea of growing them in a container - particularly a large pot that I can stand on gravel to deter the slugs - is one that really appeals to me.
The other thing that peas and beans remind me of is an old folk song we used to sing at primary school. It's called "Oats, peas, beans and barley grow" (sometimes "Oats and beans and barley grow"), and it basically tells the story of how the farmer grows his crop, with actions for each verse as he sows, waters and harvests. As a singing game, it's popular in America as well as in the UK.
In every verse, the farmer "stamps his feet and claps his hands, turns around to view his lands". I read somewhere that this is possibl…

George says: Mind your p's and cues

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I love cucumber, and I'm happy to eat it in any form - pickled, raw, sliced into yoghurt with mint to make raita or tzatziki, or added to a gin and tonic along with a slice of lemon. I've never grown cucumbers, as I've always believed you need a greenhouse to do it successfully. So I was very interested to read George's advice on how to grow them outside. Here it is:

Growing cucumbers outside can be a challenge as you need warm sunny weather over a period of time. 1  To get started,  select a large tub with a diameter of at least 18 inches (45cms), then fill with 50% John Innes No 3 and 50% general compost. Then take three 6ft (180cm) bamboo canes, make a wigwam shape and tie at the top. Put the wigwam into the pot, and find a position where the plants can get full sun.  2 You are now ready to plant three cucumbers, and I would suggest the miniature species, Mini Munch F1, which

George says: Grow pinks of perfection

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Scents trigger memories for all of us, and the fragrances that remind us of happy times are the most precious of all. For me, scented pinks rank alongside wallflowers and fresh-mown grass when it comes to transporting me to another world of sunshine and flowers.
We used to have them growing in our garden in London when I was a child, and I remember being disappointed that when you went to the florist, the spray carnations - which look so similar - had no scent whatsoever. George Blackwell always has a fabulous display of pinks outside his house (see picture above), and I was lucky enough to scrounge some from him last year. By following his instructions, I got mine through the winter, and they are now sunning themselves on the terrace, in preparation for flowering again. I kept one of my pots under glass during the winter (cold frame or greenhouse) and left the other one outside, to see how it got on. Needless to say, the one under glass looks a lot healthier than the one left out in th…

Daffodils and narcissi

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When I was little, I thought daffodils were yellow flowers with trumpets, and white flowers with orange centres were called narcissi. Now, of course, I know that they are all narcissi; that daffodil is a common name for just one member of the genus. I've since found out that the name daffodil is a corruption of “asphodel”, the flowers which were said to carpet the floor of Hades.
I still tend to cling to my childish belief that white “narcissi” with orange centres are somehow much more exotic and interesting than yellow flowers with yellow centres. The only exception to this  are the ones with salmon centres, such as ‘Salome’.
I do have some ‘Salome’ in the garden, and I know people love them, but to me they always look as if they’ve been left outside in the rain, and then faded in the sun. (I can be very conservative when it comes to certain plants.)
Actually, the more intense the contrast between the tepals (the ring of petals) and the corona (the bit in the middle), the more I…

George says: Plant patio pots and window boxes

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There's nothing that lifts the spirits more than seeing window boxes and tubs overflowing with colourful flowers in summer. There's an art to creating a fantastic display, but it's not complicated - it just requires a bit of commitment and planning. In ordinary times, I would always use John Innes No 3 for planting containers, because it has so much more "oomph" than normal multipurpose compost. As we all know, compost is difficult to get hold of at the moment, so if you can get your hands on some well-rotted farmyard manure, mix that in with multipurpose. It won't do exactly the same job, because JINo3 is soil-based, so hangs onto its nutrients longer. However, it will help feed the plants and it will also help the compost to use water more efficiently. Here's George's advice.
 For a glorious show of colour for the summer, my preference is to plant with annuals and geraniums, for bold displays. 1 The compost for both window boxes and patio tubs should b…