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Archive for July, 2011

I picked my first ever Japanese wineberries (Rubus phoenicolasius) this week. Sweet, very juicy and with a slightly sharp and peppery aftertaste. I think I’m growing to love them. They look like small raspberries, but glossier in appearance with a very different growing habit. They also perfectly fill the fruit gap in between my summer and autumn fruiting raspberries.

The berries grow in clusters along long elegant pinkish, furry-looking, slightly spiky stems. Green berries are revealed next to other ripening berries as if venturing out of an alien’s pod. A marvel to behold! Similarly to most blackberries and summer fruiting raspberries, Japanese wineberries fruit on the previous year’s growth. Which means I planted the canes in autumn 2009, the stems grew last year (2010) and this is their first fruiting season (2011).

Achingly simple to propagate, these arching stems will start forming roots as soon as they hit the soil. I know this, as earlier in the year, before fruits had starting forming, I already had 2 new plants growing at the outer reaches of my plant with no knowledge or indeed any effort on my behalf. I  snipped the stems about a foot (30cms) from the soil and carefully dug up these new plants and gave them to fellow allotmenteers.  These are not neat, tidy plants on my allotment, spreading to 6 ft (2m) wide by 5 ft (1.75m) deep (so far!), but they can be easily trained on wires or against a wall for an equally decorative, yet slightly more ordered look . Either way, they are gorgeous attention grabbers with their arching pink stems and clusters of ripening berries. After all the fruit has been picked, cut the stems on which the fruit formed down to the ground in late August/September, leaving this years new growth for the plant to fruit on next year. These very attractive fruit canes will grow in sun or part shade, so a real winner for any part of the garden, potager or allotment. Best planted bare- rooted in autumn, I bought mine from Ken Muir Fruit Nursery and see they’re also available at Victoriana Nursery

p.s. My garden recently blogged about too!

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I recently popped round to see a fellow allotmenteer’s garden in North London. It’s not the first time that I’ve visited Judy’s garden this year. She’s such an enthusiastic and knowledgeable plantswoman that her garden is always full of wonderful plants to discover and the garden is constantly changing and developing at different points throughout the year.

It’s only been a couple of months since my last visit, but the garden has an even more lush feeling after our recent weeks of rain. Judy pointed out that this Ligularia “The Rocket’ has been at it’s best this year, after 5 years in the garden. We wondered if it’s because of the rain, or perhaps that after 5 years, this normally marginal plant has finally settled in to its London clay home. Judy also finds that some Clematis can take years to settle before they start giving their best. Good to hear that time and patience can be rewarded!

A new plant for me this time was Phytolacca esculenta. Originating from East Asia and China, this plant can put on 6ft of growth each year if cut right back in spring and has stunning black berries later in the year along with it’s dark, meaty stems.

The related Phytolacca ‘Laka Boom’ (above), is found on the high volcanic slopes of Sumatra and grows to 50 cm high, so quite different in stature to the esculenta, but also produces spikes of dark berries later in the year

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Leucanthemum shone out from the middle of a border. Quite lax in habit here, but Judy points out that when planted in less rich soil, it is a much smaller plant with tighter growth. Similar wild looking varieties were all the rage at Hampton Court this year too.

Edgworthia chrysantha (above) originates from the Himalayas and needs a sheltered spot. Said not to be frost hardy below -5, this shrub has happily survived in Judy’s garden for the last 5 years. Related to Daphnes, Edgworthia produces sweetly scented flowers throughout February and March and finally reaches height and width of about 5 ft. Sounds and looks perfect for a sheltered sunny spot in most London gardens. (Available from Perryhill Nurseries in East Sussex).

Judy’s garden continues out onto the pavement, with 3 mini-gardens in 3 tree pits  (this one without a tree!)

Whilst this tree helpfully has a protective cage -great for tying in Hollyhocks and growing climbers too.

Across the road in a local square, Judy and other residents have worked closely with the council to transform the planting areas in this green space. A wildflower ‘meadow’ has been created using seeds supplied by Pictorial Meadow Seeds, nasturtiums and eschscholzia and other annuals added into the mix. A delight, especially in such an urban setting.

And at the other end of the square, Achillea and other perennials have been planted to create a ‘prairie style’ border. It will be really interesting to see how these recently planted up borders progress and I’m looking forward to my next visit to Judy’s garden (and her local environs) already.

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Didn’t have enough room in a client’s garden to grow potatoes this year, so we plumped for the growbag option. We used 3 Potato Gro-sacks (40 Litre / H 18in & W 12in ) from Marshalls, but any large pot or even heavy-duty bin liner would be fine to use. Wasn’t sure how high a yield we’d get, but tried ‘Foremost’ potatoes, a reliable early variety, and everyone’s happy with a yield of 3.5 kilos from each of 2 bags and 3 kilos from another. On reflection, a good solution if you lack the space, but still want the thrill of digging up your own potatoes. Anyone else grow potatoes in containers?

No veg here, as I wanted to grow Sunflowers in my front garden this year. They must be one of the most enjoyable annuals to grow.  Two different varieties (both given to me, so sorry, I don’t know which varieties they are), which complement each other well, height-wise that is. Lots of admiring glances, although next year I’ll stick with the smaller of the two, as more in proportion with the garden and definitely affording more light to our living room!

And lastly, couldn’t resist snapping this amazing plant combination of Lavatera and Crocosmia as I passed by on the way back from Finsbury Park Tube. Rather a flamboyant effect. I love it!

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