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Chliterns seed catalogue 2014

It’s been a very relaxing holiday, and although I’ve taken advantage of a couple of gloriously sunny days (amidst all the rain) to tackle some overdue gardening tasks (pruning a wayward climbing rose and taming a rampant clematis), my mind hasn’t really started to contemplate my seed order for the year ahead. However, a timely thud by the front door this morning has changed all that. This is the latest offering from Chiltern Seeds, and the front cover alone has me salivating! It’s a Scabiosa stellata ‘Sternkugel’, and such a gorgeous annual does indeed deserve to be grown from seed.

The Chiltern Seeds catalogue is always an entertaining read, packed full of fantastic cultivars to experiment with, but this year it seems to be peppered with even more tempting images than before. Deep purple lab lab beans vie for the most gorgeous near-black image with a Sweet William called ‘Sooty’ (sadly with no reference to Sweep and Soo though), and Lunaria rediviva looks like a glorious perennial honesty with wonderfully pointed seed pods. I haven’t started on the rest of the catalogue yet, let alone the accompanying veg book, but Chiltern’s will be making it difficult to hone my seed order this year.

So onwards for 2014. I can’t wait to start trying out new tomato varieties that I saw at Château de la Bourdaisière  this summer (many of them available from Nicky’s Seeds) and there are so many ideas for annual flowers and decorative lettuces scattered around in my head that I’m already wondering how I’ll squeeze them all in. Ah, the joy of it all! I hope you have a great growing year ahead, experimenting with all the fruit, veg and flowers of your dreams. Time to get sowing again can’t come soon enough!

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Sugarloaf chicories in front garden

I’ve failed again! I’m really starting to get to grips with successional sowing over summer and have enjoyed months and months of lettuces (and other herbs and leaves) picked from my front garden. But despite actually sowing (and even buying) some leaves for over-wintering I didn’t manage to get most of them into the ground. The shame of it all!

So here I have my one success story. These are Sugarloaf chicories and I grew them as they come highly recommended by Joy Larkcom. Need I say more! I’ve been mixing these with the end of my summer/autumn lettuces, Sorrel and Sweet Cicely and have been enjoying some rather tasty salads.

Metal Hoops from Plant BellesBut as the temperatures are soon forecast to dip again, I’ve decided it’s time to do some wrapping up. I bought these natty hoops from Plant Belles some while ago and they seem just the ticket.

Adding bamboo canes for mini clocheYou simply thread a few bamboo canes through the holes in the hoops,

Mini cloche covered in fleeceEt voila! Covered in fleece, I now have my own cloche/mini tunnel to keep my chicories covered up during the coldest and windiest of months. Hopefully the protection should elongate the harvesting season for the Sweet Cicely and Sorrel too.

And I’ve left a couple out in the cold as I’m  keen to see how well they survive with no extra help.

Nicole collecting seeds from street HollyhocksMeanwhile, neighbour Nicole is collecting seeds from her ‘Halo Apricot’ Hollyhock, remarkably still in bloom in her tree pit. It’s a gorgeous variety and it’ll be interesting to see if the seeds come true or if fraternising with other Hollyhocks in the street will supply some interesting variations.

Cavalo NeroAlongside my Chicory, Cavolo nero is supplying some delicious winter veg,

Daubenton's perennial Kaleand on the corner plot, a small cutting of Daubenton’s perennial Kale, acquired from Charles Dowding, has come on marvellously. Looking forward to taking my own cuttings come spring and popping this very useful veg in many a new spot (sticks are there to deter foxes digging the plant up when tiny).

Beans to collect for seedsI’ve been meaning to do a final clear up in the corner plot for ages now, but bulb planting has taken precedence. However, all bulbs have been planted for both clients and myself (hurrah!) and it felt great to have time to collect the last of the seeds and clear up the garden for winter. Just a bit more leaf raking (GRrr..), a bit of mulching perhaps and then there’ll be plenty of time to catch up on reading and researching what to grow next year.

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Someone left my seeds out in the rain

Ok, it’s not quite MacArthur Park, but this pack of lettuce seeds did get an unexpected soak. Great germination rate by the looks of it and a lovely sculptural form.

Soaked seeds 8 days later

P.S. Eight days later.

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