Meadows and Roses

I have pretty much been staying at home apart from (almost) daily allotment visits and three supermarket trips, during lockdown. However, I’ve really been missing visiting gardens and buying plants.

Rosemoor map

I’m very lucky in that I live less than half an hour drive from RHS Rosemoor and having had membership for a few years, I tend to visit every few months. So, when the gardens first re-opened I was itching to get back. I waited initially, thinking of avoiding the crowds of people wanting to get out after weeks of confinement, but I don’t think there were ever really any crowds.

When I arrived there was one family before me in the queue and one arriving behind. The car park was practically empty. You currently have to book a slot to arrive and I chose between 12:00 – 13:00. You show your booking bar code and then you’re in. It was very easy and stress-less, with hand sanitzer stations in the entrance foyer.

On entering the gardens I headed left toward the winter garden. I love this garden in the depths of winter as the scent from the daphnes and sarcococca is amazing, at this time of year however, it’s all about the structure of the planting. There was also a large wasp nest among the shrubs which was great to see… clearly nature has been doing well without all the visitors.

After a stroll through the winter garden and then up to the model garden, I turned left into the cool garden. This garden was only created and opened last summer. The cool tones of pale lemon, lilacs and blues complement the water running through the space. I took some inspiration from here and bought a ceanothus for my front garden, just before I left.

Then I headed to the main reason for visiting Rosemoor in June and that is the amazing display of roses in both The Queen Mother’s rose garden and the shrub rose garden. Before you pass through the hedging to see the colourful glory of the roses, you are hit by the scent of petals baking in the sun. The Queen Mother’s rose garden was at it’s best with the wide range of roses and clematis flowering their hearts out. I sat for a moment on a bench and enjoyed some coffee whilst watching the faces of visitors light up as they entered the area.

When you walk through the shrub rose garden it is a little less formal with a variety of other plants and flowers to complement the roses. This garden leads really nicely onto the Potager and Cottage garden. I think this is my favourite garden at Rosemoor. I like the colour tone, the abundance of wildlife and the range of vegetables, herbs and fruit amongst the ornamental plants and flowers. There were several gardeners working on the garden when I visited, moving self seeding poppies and planting out more veg. Amazing that they kept the gardens looking so beautiful for us during the period of lockdown. They have done a great job.

One thing I did notice is the masses of meadow that they’ve now started to grow at Rosemoor. A couple of years ago there was very neatly cut lawn between gardens, but there are now four main meadows and they’re amazing. Whilst walking through the Stream Field I stopped to take many pictures of the first meadow I encountered. This is also where the only place to buy food and drink is as the cafe and restaurant aren’t open at the moment. After spending some time admiring the meadow I wandered down to the lake to have some lunch. There are loads of benches at Rosemoor, so it wasn’t difficult to find somewhere to sit.

The lake is so peaceful and the number of dragonflies and damselflies is fantastic. Just above the lake is another meadow which I walked through to get to the fruit field. The fruit field was planted with dozens of apple trees last autumn and some of them already have fruit. There was in particular which caught my eye, with the apples looking almost black.

I followed the path round and had a browse in the vegetable garden. I like to take lots of photos of this space and steal ideas for my allotment. I was particularly impressed with the range of trained fruit tress and bushes. There was a magnificent trained gooseberry in Mr McGregor’s garden. And the soft fruit was looking very yummy.

The final section I visited was the arboretum which you access by the under pass. It was here that I learned that Rosemoor has the national collection of Cornus, many of which are in flower at the moment. I sat for a moment in the upper bog garden and then wandered around to the stumpery before heading back via the plant shop.

As you can see from the photos it was really empty at Rosemoor and this was a Sunday afternoon. The RHS is a charity, and as they have already cancelled shows for this year and some next year, I worry about how this organisation will survive the current crisis. Their plant shop is one way which we can help. And the great things is that they also feature smaller nurseries.

I bought five plants; a cistus, ceanothus, leucanthemum, weigela and a geranium. These are all intended for my small front garden, which is more of a patch. The quality of plants is fantastic and I can’t wait to get them in the ground.

If you’re worried about visiting gardens, I would suggest from my experience that you have nothing to worry about. Precautions have been taken, including leaving toilet doors open and keeping the restaurant closed. And if you take a picnic blanket and flask/snacks then you won’t even need to sit on a bench.

It was a brilliant afternoon out and I am looking forward to my next visit.

Have you been to RHS Rosemoor? Are you planning to visit any gardens in the near future?

Cut Flower Heaven

I follow The Flower Farmer on Twitter and look longingly at her bouquets and posies, hoping that some day I will be able to recreate my own at home. Well, this year I thought I’d dedicate a bed on the allotment just for cut flowers.

It started when my mum gave me a box of gladioli corms in January. And when I say a box, it wasn’t a shoe box, I had hundreds of corms. I must have planted over 80 corms and then handed the rest out to any plot holder passing by, willing to take some! They went in on 24th March and are growing well for summer flowers. I’ve no idea what colours they’ll be though, as they didn’t come from my mum’s garden but one of her friends. That does make it more exciting though.

I had a rummage through my flower seed tin a week later and then made several sowings of various flower seed. These included cosmos “candy stripe”, zinnia “purple prince” and a pack simply labelled “hardy annuals for a tall cut flower mix”. Again, I had no idea what would grow, but the anticipation of what will appear makes it more fun.

I’ve been patiently waiting to be able to cut them and this week after a couple of days of very tempestuous weather, it has started to warm up, encouraging flower buds to form.

Part of me is sad that I’m cutting the stems and bringing the flowers in as they will no longer be on the allotment when I’m over there, but I am hoping that by cutting just above leaf joints that these plants will send out more shoots with flower buds.

Sweet Alyssum

I also cut some of the ox-eye daisies happily flowering from seed sown last year, some nepeta, as well as adding flowering shoots of marjoram and some achillea which has started to grow around my wildlife pond.

I’m rather pleased with the dainty posy which I’ve managed to gather from the allotment. I think I will need to plan a little better next year though and order seed for what I want rather than relying on just having a look in the tin!

What do you think? Do you grow flowers to cut? Or do you prefer to keep them out in the garden? Do you have any recommendations for next year?

Seed Sowing in Summer

At the start of lockdown I, probably like many gardeners, saw the opportunity to get ahead with my seed sowing. I sowed so many seeds I have since been passing on seedlings and new plants to many plot holders at my allotment site. I thought that was it, I’d sown everything I would need to for this year. But I was wrong.

A quick rummage through my seed storage tins revealed that I could sow many seeds in June, either as successional sowings, or biennials and perennials for next year.

So, I sat down and started with the biennial flower seeds which could be sown now. I looked through my flower seed tin and found honesty, foxglove, forget-me-not, hollyhock, sweet william and stock. I haven’t decided where these will go yet, but I do have the rest of the year to figure that out!

After dampening the compost (I used half Dalefoot peat-free potting compost and half perlite) in a large seed tray, I sowed six rows, then covered it all in horticultural grit. The tray has been in my tall cold frame for almost a week now. Once the true leaves appear I will pot on the seedlings to individual plugs. An important thing to note is that some seeds, for example foxgloves, are toxic and so I always make sure I wear gloves when handling them.

Today I am going to tackle sowing some perennials including bellis, penstemon, aquilegia, veronica and lupin.

Some vegetable seeds to sow now include:
Peas for a later crop
Florence Fennel
Brassicas (cabbages, cauliflowers, broccoli, swedes, kale and sprouts for later winter harvests)
Various herbs for continual picking
Spring onions

It’s easy to think that now everything is planted on the plot that I can sit back and watch things grow, but with food uncertainty, around a possible no-deal Brexit and a further spikes in Coronavirus, I think it’s important I keep sowing to ensure I can harvest vegetables for the longest period of time possible, without the help of a polytunnel or greenhouse.

What will you be sowing this month?

The Bumblebee Flies Anyway

I love reading, but I’m not a huge fan of non-fiction. I love to immerse myself in a good novel where I can use my imagination to take myself to far away places or back in history. However, I attended the Appledore Book Festival last September where I went to a talk with Kate Bradbury and Brigit Strawbridge-Howard. It was completely fascinating how their lives had centered around Nature, and particularly bees. So, not having enough money to buy both books, I plumped for Kate Bradbury’s The Bumblebee Flies Anyway.

Due to constant work demands I have only just got round to reading it. But boy, was it worth it! I couldn’t put it down. The book is a memoir of how Kate’s life has been intertwined in nature. It documents the changes she makes in a small north facing garden, not too dissimilar to mine! I became totally engrossed in the book and fascinated as to why we have become so distant from Nature and what we can do to help it thrive again. The book made me smile, it made me cry, but it has also given me impetus to get out there to encourage more to help nature and I myself am now hoping to increase the range of native plants and trees in my garden which are home to so many species.

In the book, Kate writes about how the gardens on either side of hers are devoid of life, that nature, particularly birds and bees, have very little now to go to in those gardens. Hers has become a haven and some kind of small nature reserve in the middle of a bustling city.

I went upstairs to look at the gardens on either side of mine and became very sad that this has happened here too. As you can see from the photos the garden to the left is completely lifeless, dead and in my mind, useless. The garden on the right has only the sunflowers from the seeds I gave my six-year-old neighbour. I find this devastating for wildlife. But it has spurred me on to grow more to help them out. I know we have busy lives nowadays but, are they so busy that we can’t plant and maintain a few native shrubs and trees?! I find that gardening helps me to maintain a calm in my busy work life rather than add to the pressure of what I have to do daily. Am I on my own here?

I’ve started small by adding some stones in the birdbath. I understand that this helps them to gauge the depth of the bird bath. I am also on the hunt for more climbers, particularly those with flowers which are singles and attractive to pollinators.

I have already seen an increase of bees over this last year in my garden, having planted an apple tree, early spring bulbs and leaving the self sown foxgloves. Next I need to create a hole in the fence somewhere and pray for hedgehogs to arrive.

Welcome to my new blog

Foxgloves galore

Welcome to the new blog!

I’m not much of a writer; I definitely prefer talking (being a linguist) but I’ve had my twitter account for a year or so and my followers are slowly increasing; so I have decided to start a blog to coincide with my gardening and allotment related tweets.

My main reason for opening a twitter account was so I could follow gardeners, both professional and amateur, and I have to say that I have learnt so much from them all.

For my first blog entry I want to write about free plants. That’s right, plants, for free!

I love a bargain, who doesn’t?! The best thing about some plants is that they will happily self seed all over the garden. For some this may be annoying and present you with excess “weeding” but for me it’s great. And it’s exactly what nature intended.

In my garden this year there seems to be an abundance of foxgloves. When I first moved into my house five years ago my garden was lifeless. After shovelling gravel and removing old weed supressant some of the first plants I planted were reduced priced foxgloves and I’m pleased to say that I’ve had their babies springing up every year since.

I particularly love foxgloves because they are so statuesque and elegant. They are highly sought after by bees and other pollinators and of course, my current plants have not cost me a penny.

Foxgloves are biennial which means the seed are sown one year and then the plants flower the next. With foxgloves the tubular flower falls off and then their seed heads explode when ripe which scatters seeds in all available nooks, resulting in free plants. Although some are sold as perennial meaning they flower every year and that is the case for one of my plants.

I love them! What varieties or colour combinations do you have?

Here are some photos of the ones in my garden.