Archive for December, 2011

Delighted at the timely arrival of the 2012 Chiltern Seeds catalogue today. Just in time for our Christmas travels, and many a cosy night of seed selecting to follow. Chiltern’s has to be my favourite of all the seeds catalogues. There are no pics, but witty and seductive descriptions help me to envisage my perfect allotment plot and sumptuous borders for the coming year (and always tempt me to buy too many packs of seeds!). There is a huge selection of seeds available with many unusual and heirloom varieties, and there’s often a wider selection of cultivars of better known plants on offer than from other seed suppliers too. Catalogues (both flowers and veg arrive together) cost £2.00, but you will be sent a pack of seeds and subsequent catalogues for free.

All seeds are also available online (and mostly accompanied by photos too), but what I love about this slender, yet incredibly informative volume, is that it can easily accompany you when visiting gardens to help fill in gaps when discovering new plants: country of origin, cultivars available to grow, height, scent, attractiveness to wildlife, colours available and textures of leaves etc. If you wander around gardens iphone and ipad free, then this catalogue is your essential gardening companion!

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Although I ordered most of my bare-rooted plants weeks ago, new thoughts and ideas for myself and clients mean that there are more plants to order. So having done my last day of gardening work for this year, I can sit down and spend time perusing catalogues and websites again-a very pleasurable activity. I’ve plumped for Rosa ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’ for a client wants a rose to grow up a tree and although not arriving for a few weeks yet, I could make the most of the promised mild days ahead to start preparing the ground for this scented beauty. The nice people at Peter Beales were happy, as ever, to give good advice about planting a rose near a tree. Try and plant at least 3 feet or more from the base of the tree to avoid competition from the tree roots and prepare the ground very well with loads of organic matter-home compost and well-rotted manure would be ideal. When planting, point the rose towards the tree and use a bamboo cane or rope to train the rose towards the tree. Next, wrap rope in a coil up the trunk to keep the rose stems as horizontal as possible as this will encourage the most flowers. Keep an eye on growth next year and tie stems in as they grow, as once the rose shoots up horizontally, it will be impossible to retrain without lopping off new growth. Paul’s Himalayan Musk is a Rambler, which means (unlike a Climber) that I shall have to wait a year before I see any flowers, as roses are formed on old wood. But I’ve chosen this variety as it’s a vigorous plant which will tough it out on poor soils and put up with a bit of shade, so with plenty of watering and judicious feeding, I will be rewarded with a wonderful skyward display in 18 months time!!

I’ve also just planted this wild rose (Rosa rugosa) as hedging in a neighbour’s front garden and hopefully will see the fruits of my labour this coming summer. There’s still plenty of time to order bare-rooted roses: Toby Buckland’s Nursery offers 10 well-selected cultivars, very reasonably priced wild rose hedging can be ordered from Victoriana Nursery and an abundance of roses can be easily selected on the very user-friendly Peter Beales website

On the fruit side, I’ve just ordered some ‘Joan J’ raspberries (from Ken Muir) to test alongside recently purchased ‘Polka’ canes and my ‘Autumn Bliss’ patch, for what I think is the best tasting variety.

And sweet, juicy Japanese Wineberries can be planted to fill the gap between your summer fruiting and autumn fruiting raspberries. Available bare-rooted from Victoriana Nursery, and Ken Muir.

And finally, I’ve been digging up Jerusalem Artichokes to eat for weeks now, but saving a few to replant in order to double my growing area for more of this delicious veg next year. The less knobbly Fuseau variety of tubers can be bought from Marshalls and can be planted from now until March.

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I’ve been dipping into Alys Fowler’s ‘Edible Garden’ since summer and I think it’s a great book. It covers basics, such as soil fertility, making compost, how to sow seeds and plant trees and an A-Z of edible plants to grow, but then there’s so much more. Mixing ornamentals and edibles is the main thrust of the book, but it also includes foraging, seed saving, preserving, herbal teas, cooking and edible bouquets. In fact, it leans towards promoting a sustainable way of life, with a few choice recipes to boot. (Her mum’s jerusalem artichoke souffle is next on my list to try).

One of the many things I love about ‘The Edible Garden’ is the lists. Great lists Alys! Above are lists of fruit, veg and flowers in order of size. My favourite thing in the book and a wonderful tool for planning your beds/borders/growing space. There are also lists on edible flowers for both sun and shade, what seeds to sow where, best lettuces for eating and design, decorative and edible vegetables for pots and herbs that can be grown from seed. Written in an engaging and accessible style and packed full of useful information, innovative  ideas and enticing photos, Alys Fowler shares her extensive knowledge willingly with the reader. Great for both beginners and those with more growing experience, a really useful book if you want to have a beautiful yet mostly edible garden.

Another book that got me chomping at the bit this year to dig up the flower beds and try out something more unusual, was Mark Diacono’s ‘a taste of the unexpected’, where he encourages the reader to ‘make your garden unbuyable’. Instead of growing veg that can be easily bought, such as potatoes and carrots and other staples, he promotes using your precious growing space to grow unusual fruit and veg that you’ll never find at the supermarket or local green grocer, such as Japanese Wineberries (one of my favourite fruits this summer), Szechuan Peppers and Egyptian Walking Onions. Mark Diacono’s enthusiasm is infectious and even if you have a small space to grow in, options abound, such as growing dwarf peaches (1.5 m tall) in a large pot, or Fuchias (growing from around 1m tall) which will provide both fruits (which look like tiny batons) and edible flowers.

It was the less often seen fruit trees which grabbed my attention at first, such as Medlars (above ), Quinces and Mulberries, but there’s plenty more to discover in the very selective lists of soft fruits, nuts, herbs and spices, beans, leaves, edible flowers and some unusual roots. Each chosen plant occupies three or four pages in the book and alongside growing and harvesting information, has ideas for cooking/preparing and eating. I rather like the sound of Daylily fritters and Chilean Guava (cousin of Myrtle) muffins to try out next year.

Having been inspired by the ideas in his book, Mark Diacono has supplied a very helpful directory at the back of the book, so you can trot off and easily find these treasures to grow. Thanks Mark! I am now planning on digging up some old cherry trees (non productive) and replacing with a beautiful Quince tree over the next couple of months.

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