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Galanthus elwesii 'Millers Late'Compared to Chelsea and Hampton court, shows in the RHS halls in Victoria are small, almost intimate affairs and I love them for this. It’s the sweet spring scent that first hits you as you enter Lawrence hall, then as you hone in on the plants, it’s the details of all the different cultivars that lure you in. Choice nurseries from all over the country have their finest plants (and wares) on show and I have to admit being instantly smitten by this whopper of a snowdrop, Galanthus elwesii ‘Millers Late’ on the Harveys stand (@£16 a pop). Friend Catherine is holding a smaller (nivalis sized-ish) snowdrop next to it to give some idea of scale. Most of the snowdrops here are varieties you’ll never see in garden centres and they’re an absoute joy to behold.

Crocus Korolowii from HW Hyde & sonAnother beauty that caught my eye is Crocus korolkowii on the HW Hyde & son nursery stand and it’s definitely on my list for next year. Looks like it clumps up beautifully too.

Plant Belles plant supports allNow I’ve bought natty metal hoops from Plant Belles before to make a cloche to wrap up my winter veg, and they’ve worked really well. This time I was on the lookout for supports for slightly floppy Dahlias and the Sidney support at 87cm tall, 46cm wide (bottom left of pic) should hopefully fit the bill. I also have a client with a rather untoward climbing rose in the middle of a large bed and I’ve been hunting around for a tall support that I can wrap the rose around, inspired by the rose training at Notre-Dame Prieure D’Orsan in France. Always keen to help, Jenny at Plant Belles has been asked by another designer to develop a taller version(1.5-2m?) of their wider (74cm) George support (at back of pic), so looking forward to seeing what she produces for both us later in the season (will keep you posted on this). I can’t wait to start experimenting!

Iris Histriodes and Reticulata on Jaques Amand standAs Clive commented on in my previous post, Jaques Amand’s reticulata Irises were absolutely gorgeous. Plant breeder Alan McMurtrie was over from Toronto, generously sharing information on the new cultivars he had developed alongside Dutch bulb growers.

Iris Histriodes Gerorge

Iris histriodes ‘George’ seemed to glow in the light,

Iris Clairetteand the two-tone blues of Clairette were very appealing.

Iris Frank ElderThe softer tones of Frank Elder however finally won me over,

Iris Sorm

until I espied Storm

Iris Sea Greenand the more subtle tones and slightly torn looking petals of I. ‘Sea Green’. George, Clairette and Frank Elder will be in the Jacques Amand autumn bulbs catalogue and I’m in the process of checking whether ‘Sea Green’ and ‘Storm’ will be available too. Will let you know. Hope so!

Bronze tools from  from implementations.co.ukAnd finally, these lovely shiny bronze (94%copper) tools from Implementations had ‘buy me’ written all over them. The tool heads come with a 25 year guarantee (tool shafts 2 years) and according to their brochure their sharp edges stay sharp. I thought the pointier of the trowels looked fantastic for bulb planting, and was very tempted by the hoe. This has sharp edges back and front of the head, so it will cut through weeds when you both push and pull. As I get more into ‘no dig’, this seems like a perfect tool to keep weeds down and copper tools, allegedly, deter slugs and snails too. Now firmly on my birthday list!

These ‘small’ shows are such a treat. You have the opportunity to chat and buy plants and tools from some wonderful growers and makers from all over the country, right there on your doorstep, and I for one can’t wait for the next RHS show on 14-15th April.

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Tree pit planted with wildflowers

About 5 years ago, our community veg growing project was launched when Islington Council gave away free wildflower seeds for tree pits (the base around trees). Since then, pimping our pavements has become a regular part of our horticultural activities, and an edged tree pit has become the holy grail of our street planting.

Planting up tree pits

When the council included our community project as part of their entry into London and Britain in Bloom, they kindly helped us along with edging fifteen of our pits.

Just those few extra inches make all the difference,

Eugenie Biddle-tree pit winner

allowing residents to plant perennials alongside wildflowers and other annuals.

Nikki with Everedge edging

Sadly, these resources are no longer available from the council, but we do have enough funding to have a go at DIY tree pit edging. And here’s Nikki, our first DIY tree pit candidate. The metal EverEdge edging comes in packs of five 1 metre lengths, that easily interlock to create a continuous border. We were slightly alarmed at how rigid it sseemed at first, but bending was more do-able than we at first thought, simply wrapping the metal around a piece of wood (instructions are enclosed!) and using a bit of elbow grease.

Before pic of tree pit

Since it was our first attempt, we did learn a few lessons along the way.

  • Ask your neighbours to move their cars the day before, for easier access to the tree pit!
  • Don’t permanently join your lengths of EverEdge together until you have created all the bends on all of the pieces
  • You’ll need more soil to fill the tree pit (once it’s been created) than you think
  • You’ll need a large mallet for hammering in the edging, plus some wood for shaping the corners and to use with the mallet (see pic below) (more…)

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Once your summer fruiting raspberry canes have finished fruiting this year, cut back only the old canes that the fruit was on to ground level, leaving the newer canes (maximum 6-8 new stems per plant) to grow for next year’s fruit. The fruited canes and new canes will look quite different: the old stems will be more brittle at the bottom and brown and woody, whereas the new canes will be more supple and a fresher green colour. Cut the old stems from the supports as you cut them away at the base and tie in the new stems in their place. If you have new canes that are growing further away from the supports, dig these out and plant elsewhere or give to friends!

If your raspberry canes haven’t fruited this year, pruning all of the summer fruiting canes either in summer after fruiting or in spring, is probably where your problem lies. You mustn’t prune the newer green canes that grew this year, as these will be the one year old stems that your raspberries will fruit on next year. Hope that makes sense. Don’t prune any canes that grew during this year (and this might be all of your canes if you cut back all of the stems in spring) and you’ll have fruit next year!

Autumn raspberries should be happily supplying fruit right now and up until October or November. These canes can be pruned in February.

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