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Archive for September, 2011

I’m determined this year to collect loads of seeds for next year. In my back garden, Nigella seeds are tantalizingly visible in their seed heads and ripe for collecting. In fact, everywhere, there seems to be a wealth of free seeds waiting to be gathered. And with these warm dry days predicted, seed heads are crisp and dry-perfect for plucking right now.

Agapanthus (above) is also a plant I want to collect seeds from, before they fly off and self-seed in the garden. I know it’s going to take years for them to flower, but I’ve already created a spot in my allotment to plant out seedlings each year, and those planted last year are already looking big and chunky, so possibly will flower next summer. Fingers crossed that they won’t get wiped out if we have another cold winter. In order not to lose the seeds when removing the seed heads from this year, place a paper bag around the seed head,

Hold on tight, then snip the stem off with a pair of secateurs.

Then give the bag a good shake to loosen the seeds.

Back to the Nigellas, I find it fascinating to see how the seeds stored in a number of compartments within the seed heads and counted that there are about 50 seeds in each head. I won’t need all these seeds for myself, but these will be great to share with friends and neighbours.

Before storing, remove all the dry casings-I sometimes use tweezers to pick out any small non-seed material.

Seeds are best stored in a paper envelope to keep them dry and then I place envelopes in a sealed plastic container in the fridge so seeds don’t get too much heat or moisture (this will reduce the length of their viability). Don’t forget to write when and where seeds were collected too.

Nigella is an annual (grows and flowers in the same year, then dies after flowering), so plant seeds next spring for a gorgeous blue flowers in summer.

Hollyhocks  are biennial plants. Sow the seeds (above) next spring, they will produce lots of growth next year, but you’ll have to wait another year (until 2013) for the plant to flower. They can be a tad on the promiscuous side too, so seeds may not always come true to the colours of the parent plant, but if you’re happy to experiment, it’s exciting to see what flowers the seeds will produce.

Most biennials will die after flowering in the second year, but often Hollyhocks will continue growing, and flowering, for a few more years to come before dying off, behaving more like a short-lived perennial.

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My favoured form of planting is always loose, with few sharp edges, but I can also be a sucker for the odd bit of formality too. On the way back from two weeks in the Loire (blog from Chaumont imminent), we stopped off in Saint Martin de Boscherville, just west of Rouen in Normandy, unaware  that there was a rather large and impressive Abbey in this quite small village. The beautifully designed and maintained garden was a joyous surprise and a serene spot to enjoy the soft, late rays of a warm summer afternoon. The simplicity and perfection of this sculptural square of hornbeams completely enchanted me. Oh, to have a spacious plot and have a go at recreating this organic marvel.

What first lured me to the gardens was the promise of a potager,

and I was delighted to find quite a number of beautifully planted flower and veg beds on entering the garden.

Even the scarecrows followed a  somewhat religious theme.

From the hornbeam terrace, views of the Abbey and further across the Seine valley were breathtaking and I would definitely like to spend a few more days on our next visit to explore more of the Normandy gardens on offer. This time round we stayed a night in the very comfortable Le Brecy (with a delicious breakfast of croissants and home-made jams, honey and yoghurt).  If you’re in the area, a couple of other gardens certainly worth a visit just east of Rouen are Les Jardins d’Angelique and Le Jardin Plume (to read the Jardin Plume Blog click here) .

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Just a quick reminder for your diaries. Victoriana Nursery are holding a Chilli tasting day this Saturday 24th September 11am-3.30pm, near Ashford in Kent. If you’re a Chilli fan then it’s got to be worth it with 24 varieties to taste, plus there will also be Tomato tasting-15-20 varieties, popcorn making, children’s activities and a produce stall.

We had a great afternoon tomato tasting a few weeks ago as Stephen Shirley and other staff at this specialist fruit and vegetable nursery were on hand to give very friendly expert advice on all the plants that they grow and sell.

By car, the nursery is about an hour and fifteen minutes drive from North London. There is a no. 666 (no, really) bus running from Ashford station to the nursery, but this departs at hourly intervals, so careful route planning would be in order for this to be a smooth and not-too-lengthy journey.

If you’re visiting, it’s also a great time to buy Asparagus, Strawberry, Japanese Wineberry and Blackberry plants, order bare-rooted raspberry canes for autumn delivery and to have a good look around the nursery to discover lesser known fruit and veg plants that the nursery stock (I also came away with a Kiwi vine). If you can’t make it to the nursery this weekend, their website is packed full of great information too.

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