Archive for September, 2012

Last year temperatures at the beginning of October for the Great Dixter Plant Fair were a freaky and delicious 30°C. This year the weather still looks to be a balmy 20°C and perfect to enjoy a weekend of superb plant shopping from specialist nurseries at one of my all time favourite gardens.

Not only will your £7.50 also give you entrance into the wonderful gardens (which will still be blazing with gorgeous late summer colour),

but there are over 15 talks throughout the weekend from the specialist nursery owners. These range from Cannas to grasses and bulbs to Salvias. Worth going for these alone I reckon!

And to top it all, they’ll be Dachshund races on Sunday from 11-2pm. These races can get very competitive, so if you time your visit well, you’ll have a very entertaining afternoon.

The plant fair is open both Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th October  from 11-4pm and the gardens as usual from 11-5pm. Most definitely worth the trip to East Sussex.

More gorgeous plantings from Great Dixter can be seen here

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This year I was so pleased with the fabulous cos ‘Freckles’ lettuce that I grew, that I decided that I’d have a go at collecting seeds from my crop after they’d started to bolt.

I planted a fair few lettuces,

so my seed collecting patch took up a fair amount of space too.

As I started to sift through the seed casings, I realised that my seed collecting was going to take me a fair old while. Not only do you have to divide the outer brown covering from the seeds, but each seed is attached to its own little fluffy parachute, so this has to be carefully detached too (as you don’t want to leave any organic matter other than the seeds in its envelope, as it could rot and the moisture destroy the viability of your seeds). After about half an hour, I started to get itchy, thinking about all the other things I could be getting on with in the garden.

After about an hour, I did have a good pile of seeds, but I still felt a tad resentful about the time I’d spent sorting the seeds to get to my haul. And that got me wondering about how seed companies collect their seeds.

I called Joy at Sea Spring Seeds (a small seed company offering a choice selection of veg seeds) to ask how they collected their seeds. Apart from their Chilli seeds (in which they specialise and offer 40 different varieties), they buy in all the rest from seeds manufacturers. Whilst we agreed that collecting some seeds (I love collecting seeds from beans, sweet peas and hollyhocks) was a worthwhile project, she advised against seed collecting for some plants for a number of reasons. Firstly, letting your plants go to seed can take up valuable growing space and can lead to weed problems as you ignore the space around plants going to seed whilst tending more critical veg production.  This is true. I could have pulled these plants up a couple of months ago and had a whole bed of tasty mustard leaves happily growing by now!

Also, large seed manufacturers have specialist drying equipment for the seeds, so that the seeds are dried correctly before being stored and will maintain their viability. Bad drying and storage of your seeds (always store your seeds in a paper envelope in a cool, dry space), could mean that seeds could have lower germination rates when it comes to sowing them. And then there’s the question of hybrid seeds that will never come true as they have 2 different parents. Blimey, this is where things can start to get complicated (unless you want to be truly experimental). If you’re after a specific hybrid plant and don’t want to waste your growing year on a non-too-certain outcome, then it’s best to stick to bought seeds.

All in all, although there is a thrill about collecting your own seeds (I did really enjoy discovering what a lettuce flower and seed head looked like), certainly for lettuces and other more fiddly seed heads, I think I’d rather pay my £2 and save my precious time and space for growing more veg.

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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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