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Busy Bees on Autumn Flowers

September 3, 2015

The allotment was buzzing with several species of bees this week enjoying the flowers of Cosmos ‘Purity’…


Sunflower ‘Velvet Queen’ …


Sunflower ‘Russian Giant’ …


Dahlia ‘All Triumph’…


Calendula ‘Indian ‘Prince’…


Nasturtium ‘Thomb Thumb Mixed’…


Bees love the flowers of Phacelia tanacetifolia a green manure that produces lovely pale mauve flowers in Spring. It’s worth sowing any empty beds this autumn with green manures to improve soil fertility and nutrients and to suppress weeds. And watch this excellent video

2015 – Prof Dave Goulson – Bees, Pesticides and Politics to support the campaign to ban bee-killing pesticides for good.

The fennel sown from seed a few weeks ago is now planted out on the allotment and is looking remarkably healthy in a very short time….

DSCN5279The globe artichokes sown at the same time are also doing well but will be left in their pots in the propagator till next spring. Various attempts in the past got this far and then the young plants were devoured  by slugs. The speed with which both these vegetables germinated and grew means there’s still time to sow seeds before Autumn gets started…


This week the cut flowers are in two red Bohemian glass vases and are Calendula officianalis, Dahlia ‘Mingus Alex’ and D.’Chat Noir’ plus a few stems of Ammi majus.





Scent in the Garden August

August 27, 2015



The Clerodendrum trichotomum is scenting the garden and is my plant of the month for perfume. It was purchased as a standard tree about fifteen years ago and I’ve learned from experience that it responds to a hard prune in spring to keep it in shape.


The mixed gladioli bulbs were planted in April more as a test to find out if the badger was still patrolling the allotment. For two years running glads were a favourite snack along with sweetcorn, parsnips and carrots.  The sweetcorn is still standing (the cobs are yet to ripen-the ultimate test) and carrots, parsnips and celeriac have disappeared from other plots but the gladioli remain untouched. This mixed bunch opened their tissue-paper flowers last week and two favourites stand out – lime green and pale lilac – so I shall order more of these next year.

Plant Clips are back in Poundland…


and I spotted these sacks for keeping the potatoes airy and dry.  Two good Christmas presents maybe?


On the allotment at the weekend I sowed rows of spinach and flat-leaf parsley. It’s rained solidly for the last four days so I may need to repeat the excercise.


Plants from Sarah Raven’s Dark Dahlia Collection have started flowering.  I mixed these deep red ones with Rosa glauca, a great contrast with the grey-green leaves and the sprays of orange hips, and then added three stems of Arum italicum ‘Winter White’ which is now dormant and producing spectacular orange berries.DSCN5250



August 20, 2015

The first of the Sarah Raven dark dahlia collection have just started flowering. Here they are mixed with the last of the sweet peas plus Calendula officinalis ‘Sunset Buff’ and C. ‘Indian Prince’.  Regularly dead-heading calendulas keeps them flowering into early winter and scattering the dried seeds might produce more flowering plants over the next few weeks…


There was some wretched-looking comfrey lurking around the shared allotment shed so I made an executive decision and cropped it and bagged it up for the council green waste.  I had to dig deep to get the roots out and will have to dig the area again because the smallest root will reproduce. The leaves were dry and unhealthy possibly suffering from a fungal disease known as comfrey rust…


In another bed the comfrey cultivar Bocking 14 planted five years ago is looking very healthy.  This gets chopped up regularly to add to the compost bins or to be turned into comfrey tea for a very smelly but nutritious plant feed …


The compost bins were tackled at the weekend and after several months one had decomposed brilliantly. Four wheelbarrow loads were emptied onto the bed after cropping the last of the Maris Piper potatoes…


My fruit bushes have produced very small amounts of fruit this summer so I was pleased to be given a quantity of glistening jewel-like red currants…

DSCN5196They were turned into red currant jelly by stripping the berries from the branches before weighing. The same quantity of granulated sugar was stirred in under a gentle heat. Once the sugar had completely dissolved the fruit was rapidly boiled for 8 minutes. In order to have clear jelly the jam was poured into a sieve and then dripped into sterilised jars.  If you push the currants through the sieve it makes for cloudy jelly which looks less appetising.  And I’ve had a great crop of deliciously sweet Yellow Currant outdoor cherry tomatoes twice a week for the last four weeks…


The bulb order has been sent and this year includes many more Allium multibulbosum since it was one of the best plants in the garden this summer…allium pflo nigrum rvroger (1)

and I love the look of Allium siculum (Nectaroscordum) so I’ve ordered this too…

Piet Oudolph Planting Genius

August 13, 2015

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We made another trip to the Hauser and Wirth Gallery in Bruton Somerset this week and as expected the planting was stunning.

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A beautifully illustrated planting plan relating to each bed is available in the gallery shop making it possible to identify every plant and every plant combination.

On the allotment Maris Piper potatoes are a great additional spud to my favourite Charlottes.  They’ve grown large enough to bake and they keep their shape when steamed for potato salad. And the beetroot Golden Burpee has an exceptionally sweet flavour and is producing good size roots…


The cut flowers this week are Scabious ‘Black Cat’ a gift from a friend and they’ve been very lovely. The seed is available from Sarah Raven…


Garden Visit to Trematon Castle

August 6, 2015

A visit to the romantic garden at Trematon Castle in Saltash Cornwall, created five years ago by Julian and Isobel Bannerman, was a most wonderful holiday treat.  Stepping out of the front door of the 19th century house an opulent double-banked border greets the senses frothing with mop-headed Hydrangeas, Lilies, Thalictrum, Roses, Peonies, Campanulas, Alchemilla mollis and much more …


Sweetpeas clambering through rustic hazel supports line a walk to the base of the gatehouse …DSCN5089

Huge terracotta planters full of scented geraniums added to the romance…DSCN5082

The Indian pool with its amazing fret work panels provides a dramatic space for the Bannerman family and friends to relax in …



And from the terrace at the back of the house spectacular views of the River Tamar show a landscape that will have changed little since the Conquest. It allows you to imagine visits from Edward the Black Prince, he stayed in the gatehouse, and Drake who stowed his gold in the keep …DSCN5085


It’s a garden to see throughout the seasons with bulbs and wild flowers starting in Spring with the orchard full of blossom and buzzing bees. Sumptuous roses bloom in mid-summer with many flowering through till September mingling with herbaceous plants in the huge and luscious borders.

The garden is open thursday, friday and saturday 11.00am -4.30pm April until end of September. 

It was awe-inspiring especially since I came back home to a rather colourless garden which made me value the Bannerman’s design and gardening skills even more.  It prompted a four-hour session here cutting back, dead-heading, lifting and dividing herbaceous plants followed by a thorough watering session. I also did some in-fill planting with several pots of Gaura ‘The Bride’ planted in the sunniest bed.

On the allotment this lovely pumpkin ‘ Crown Prince’ cheered me up as did lots of climbing purple French beans…DSCN5112

In the cutting beds coriander is in flower with its delicate foliage and scent…


and is mingling prettily with Nigella damascena ‘ Double White’ …


The cut flowers this week are Hydrangea ‘Emile Mouillere’ with Sedum ‘Autumn Glory’…


Scent in the Garden July

July 31, 2015

Other than Buddleja ‘Black Night’ July has proved to be a bit of a challenge for scented flowers…


But the honeysuckle Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’ has found its way along a sunny wall mingling with and following on from the climbing roses and providing lots of heady perfume… DSCN5016

And I’m really enjoying the scent when brushing past the aromatic leaves of Geranium macrorhizum and Artemesia absinthium ‘Lambrook Silver’ in the borders.

A pot outside the kitchen door of lemon verbena -Aloysia triphylla with its intensely fragrant lemon-scented leaves is lovely and makes an excellent herb tea…


In another pot the pineapple sage-Salvia elegance is very pretty and it’s tempting to rub the leaves of both whilst walking through the kitchen door…DSCN5031

On the allotment the sweet peas are providing two pickings a week at the moment and filling the kitchen with scent…



The School Allotment

July 23, 2015

Last week was the end of term at St Michael’s on the Mount primary school in the centre of Bristol and the allotment garden designed by Karena Batstone was full to bursting. It’s managed by several keen parents with help from the pupils who gather for inspiration in the cleverly designed sitting area to decide on what to plant. Surrounded by easy to manage raised beds it’s the best introduction a child could have to encourage an interest in gardening…DSCN4971The beds were full of beetroot …DSCN4965and dwarf French Beans …


and climbing beans under-planted with Little Gem lettuces …DSCN4962

and courgettes …


I took the photographs on the last day of term and was assured that the gardeners involved with the project would maintain the beds over the summer holidays. It was such an inspiration I sped off to the allotment and weeded for three solid hours.

At the Harbourside Festival in Bristol last weekend another of Karena’s designs was getting lots of attention.  The base had been cut from dozens of 2 litre plastic milk bottles then filled with soil and planted up to make a living roof and wall…



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The industrial metal supports were a great contrast with the naturalistic planting and this was further softened with the hay bale seating…

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At home the cut flowers this week were Clematis jackmanii and they lasted three days in water…



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