Raspberries in back garden

Utopian dreams of a back garden potager have been rather crushed this season by the vigour of my ‘Polka’ raspberries.  I’m not saying that I don’ t love the fact that I can pop out in my pyjamas to pluck a few tasty berries for breakfast, but when space is tight in my petite urban patch, these autumn raspberries have been pushing their boundaries somewhat, crowding out roses, sedums and tulbaghias in their wake. Also, as they make their way further into the bed, I end up trampling other plants as I venture in to pick these irresistible fruits.

Tasting raspberries

On a recent trip to East Malling Research Station (courtesy of Lubera), we spent a blissful sunny afternoon tasting row upon row of raspberries in their test fields. And one of the topics we did discuss (as well as the fantastic breeding programme at EMR) was the need to protect other plants form raspberries by placing barriers (about a foot deep) around them if you want to keep them contained. Even in my front garden, which is more allotment style planting, these enthusiastic growers have romped through what once was the asparagus bed and I’ll need to cut them off at the pass before they continue their journey into the herb patch. Not quite sure what I’m going to use to do this. Sheets of slate perhaps or length or two of steel? (Lizzie from Puggs Meadow Flowers, below, suggests bamboo root barrier, so I’m going to give this a try).

Salvia 'Love and Wishes and Kniphofia 'Light of the World' 2However, I’m not going to corral the brutes in my back garden and have decided it’s time for a few more flowers, moving the raspberries to the front garden (once they’ve finished fruiting), where they’ll get a little more room to spread.

Great Dixter Plant Fair, with its top notch nurseries from the UK and Europe, has been very timely and this weekend I’ve found a few treasures to fulfil my re-design. Above is the gorgeously delicate orange Kniphofia ‘Light of the World’ from Edulis  which shines out like a glowing torch on a dull autumnal day and will contrast beautifully with this just about hardy (in London) Salvia ‘Love and Wishes’ from Dysons Nurseries.  Seduced by its rich hues and very long flowering period (June to November, yes indeed), I shall overwinter it for its first year in the greenhouse, then it will have to fend for itself. Fingers crossed.

Salvia 'Love and Wishes and Kniphofia 'Light of the World'

Both seem to sit well in colour and texture with the softer and brighter pinks already flowering at this time of year in the garden and I’ll just have to get dressed before I gather in my raspberries next year (oh, for an extra half an acre!).

Red and Yellow Pistils Great Dixter Oct 2015On a slight tangent, there were some great talks at the plant fair and Marina Christopher of Phoenix Perennials was very informative about which plants attract bees and other pollinators into the garden. She also demonstrated, with these Asters, that pistils (the pollen area on a flower) will turn from yellow to red once pollinated, so that bees won’t have to waste their time visiting flowers already depleted of their food source. Amazing.

Favourite tomatoes

Sweet aperitif and Golden Crown tomatoes I haven’t been quite as scientific as I’d set out to be with my tomato growing this year. However, out of the selection of tomatoes I did grow, two varieties have really shone out both in texture and in flavour.

‘Sweet Aperitif’ (the small red fruits above) from Thomson and Morgan have been growing abundantly in long trusses in my greenhouse and the sweetness of taste is divine. I’ve also grown ‘Gardeners Delight’ in my greenhouse (and outdoors) as a sort of baseline, and although they’re reasonably sweet and perfectly acceptable to eat, they don’t come anywhere near the delicious taste sensation of ‘Sweet Aperitif’.

I have managed to grow ‘Golden Crown’ (from Sea Spring seeds) both indoors and out and they have a wonderfully tangy taste along with a lovely amount of sweetness and a firm texture. Strangely, the ‘Golden Crown’ tomatoes grown in my greenhouse have a mushier texture than those grown in the garden and aren’t quite as sweet, and this goes for the ‘Gardeners Delight’ too and the majority of the tomatoes I’ve grown in my greenhouse. Not quite sure why this would be. I did use a new sort of compost (made from sheep’s wool) to plant them in this year and am wondering if this could have been overly water retentive for these divas, although I did use the same compost outside. More questions than answers here.

What I do know is that I shall be growing both of these tomatoes again as both are early fruiting, delicious to eat and wonderfully gorgeous to look at, and you can’t get better than that in my (tomato growing) book.

Street Holloyhocks on AmblerHollyhocks are giving a wonderful display in our streets and front gardens this year.

Street Holloyhocks on Ambler 3Their ability to grow in such tricky conditions never fails to astound and delight me.

Jean Loup ChartresOn a recent trip to France in June (postings to follow soon on some amazing gardens visited) we stayed in a B&B in Chartres with Jean-Loup Cuisiniez (above) and his wife and met a kindred greener-upper-of the-city. Jean-Loup has been strategically sprinkling Hollyhock seeds around Chartres and has a fair few plants growing in a car park (above),

Guerilla Hollyhocks in Chartres 2and along his street. He’s promised to send me pics when they’re all in flower. Jean-Loup is in discussions with the local council about making more paths public rights of way to create easier walking routes throughout Chartres and he also wants to adorn the streets near the Cathedral with roses.

Roses in Chedigny 4I nodded sagely as he explained his aspsirations, but it wasn’t until we visited the Rose Festival in Chedigny, a village in the Loire near Loches, that I really understood what this could mean.

Roses in Chedigny 2

Every wall in the village was covered in these glorious climbers and ramblers,

Rosesign  in Chedignywith labels letting you know the variety. How bloomin’ marvellous.

Roses  in Chedigny with arrowThe Rose Festival is the brainchild of Mayor Pierre Loualt who started the project in 1998, working with French rose specialist André Eve to plant over 700 roses in the village. The festival takes place over two days every year with specialist nurseries setting up stalls,

Roses in Chedigny 3

but you can happily wander through the village at other times to enjoy this marvellous rose extravaganza.

Finsbury Park Streets

Both sights and scents were truly inspirational, and, although our North London manor doesn’t quite conjure up the bucolic bliss of the Loire, I’m wondering if we could start some similar rose planting in our streets in Finsbury Park?


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