Archive for the ‘Roses’ Category

Sumptuous curves of Amsterdam

Inspired by Wellywoman’s Golden Welly awards, I thought I’d have a look back over the year and round-up some of my favourite horticultural experiences. So in no particular order (other than what first pops into my head)…..

On the third weekend every June, usually hidden Canal Gardens in Amsterdam are open to the public, so I popped over to Holland with fellow blogger Veronica (you can just see her there in the background) to have a look. (In 2013 Open Canal gardens are 14-16 June ).I have to admit, the omnipresent box parterres were slightly overwhelming by the end of the weekend, but I loved the giant curvaceous sculptural box forms in this garden at Kerkstraat 67.

Sumptuously curvy hedging in Amsterdam 2

Impeccably maintained, this garden was the most inspirational by far out of the 25 gardens or so that we packed in over the two days.

pots in Amsterdam 2

I haven’t been to Amsterdam for years, and I’d forgotten what a fantastic place it is just to hang out. And maybe the real horticultural treat for me over the weekend was not so much the canal gardens (although some were stunning), but the great planting that you see in the streets throughout this beautiful city.

pots in Amsterdam_

At every turn, pots were bursting with blooms,

Streets of Amsterdam

and roses adorned all manner of objects, seemingly springing out of deep concrete. Amazing!

De Kas Restaurant in Amsterdam

To complete our horticulturally themed weekend, we dined at De Kas restaurant, a short tram ride just outside the city centre. It’s a fabulous spot. Vegetable beds surround an enormous revamped municipal greenhouse and dining in this open airy structure added to the joy of eating their delicious meals, where fresh produce from the gardens is used as much as possible.

Black Krim tomatoes

Back in Blighty, I know it wasn’t a great year for tomatoes, but Black Krim, a beefsteak variety which I’d tasted the previous summer at Victoriana Nurseries , was another curvaceous delight. It looks wild and tastes great. Really meaty and rich. I’m definitely growing these again next year. (more…)

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The walled kitchen garden is like a secret garden at Wiveton Hall. I only know it’s there as a friend rented a wing in Wiveton Hall a couple of years ago, and let me in on the secret. And it’s a delight. In fact, I ‘d go as far as saying I’d die happy if I had such a garden of my own! It is open twice a year for the National Gardens Scheme, or you can just pay £2 in the farm shop to go and see it, but it’s not advertised heavily in the café, shop or on the website, so you could also easily miss it!

Once you enter, the whole feel of the garden is slightly unkempt,

and all the more charming for it.

However, the professional hand of Amanda, the gardener, is evident throughout, as she conjures up an endless supply of fresh vegetables and herbs for the Wiveton Hall Cafe, to complement fruit and veg grown in the Wiveton Hall Farm (which is also ‘Pick Your Own’ for fruit during summer).

Trained fruit trees clothe all aspects of the walled garden

and fig trees have the space to develop into large specimens (which would easily outgrow the whole of my front garden!)

I’m not sure if the garden is quite a potager as the ornamental plants surround the edibles in long herbaceous borders, rather than mixing in with the vegetables to create an overall  decorative design (have a read of Petra’s latest post on ornamental edibles at Edulis),

but this slightly ramshackle kitchen garden is a beautiful

and productive space combined.

After you’ve had your fill of flowers and veg, you can saunter over to the café for the tastiest lunch around for miles (or for tea and whole array of very tempting cakes) and gaze across the marshlands and out to sea. Delia also highly rates this eaterie and if you’re ever near the north Norfolk coast, both garden and cafe should not be missed!

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I was recently talking to Aya (above with Eini) about the highs and lows of balcony gardening . On her 3rd floor garden, Aya grew herbs, courgettes, salad leaves and a rose last year, and this year wants to try out more fruit and veg. What she noticed last summer is that she didn’t have enough bees to pollinate her courgettes and ended up, rather impressively, doing this by hand.

So this got me thinking about how important insects are for pollinating, wherever your veg patch is. And to help Aya’s veg for this year, we started compiling a list of annuals and perennials that will attract bees onto her sizeable south and west-facing wrap around balcony.

Perennial herbs such as Marjoram (above) and Lavender (and many other herbs too) will certainly do the trick, coming back year after year, and providing great flavours for the kitchen and beautiful flowers and textures for the balcony. These plants can easily be grown from cuttings taken in spring and also throughout the summer.

And annuals (growing, flowering and dying all in the same year) will also play their part. Sowing seeds is a cheap and easy way to have these vibrant bee magnets on your plot and there are plenty of candidates that will attract bees in all shapes and sizes. The delicate Nigella damascena (above) will grow to approx 12-18 inches (30-45cm)

and form alien like seed pods which will, very usefully,  supply seeds for the following year too.

The greenish white domes of Amni visnaga, planted alongside the airy purple heads of Verbena bonariensis will lend a subtle bucolic air to the balcony,

or for a vibrant splash of colour, sunflowers sown from March to May can really provide a substantial and joyous presence to any growing space as well as attracting plenty of  bees.

I found the Chiltern Seed catalogue really useful when contemplating the pollinator issue as it lists nearly 400 bee attracting plants (on the drop down menu under Wild Flower Garden). They also sent me a very useful list of bee and butterfly attracting perennials that will flower in the first year from seed. Jolly useful list if you’re trying to keep costs down and spare plants can be shared and with friends and family too. I haven’t grown any of these perennials before: Leonotis ‘Staircase’Agastache aurantiaca ‘Fragrant Carpet’, and

Monarda didyma ‘Panama red shades’ (aka bee balm or Bergamot, above).

I’m intrigued to see how successful these plants will be at attracting bees to the balcony and I hope Aya can look forward to the merry sound of buzzing all summer long and plenty of courgettes and other fruit and veg to eat too.

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