Archive for the ‘Community growing’ Category

Hollyhocks growing in a tree pit

Hollyhocks planted in tree pits in our streets are looking glorious this year,

Lindsey's garden full of Hollyhocks

and they were inspired originally by Lindsey’s Hollyhocks in her front garden. Seeds were gathered and a few years on are looking great elsewhere in the neighbourhood.

Not all our tree pits are looking at their best this year though (some keen planters have moved away and the very cold start to the year did dampen gardening spirits!), so we’re planning a big push to get more planted up next spring. We’ll be sowing more Hollyhock seeds so we have plenty of small plants to give away, and we’re also thinking about other drought tolerant, tough plants such as Lavender,

Erigeron in pots close-up

Erigeron (above), Verbena bonariensis and Salvias. Any other suggestions gratefully received!

Chicory in a tree pit

I’ve grown Chicory (Chicorium intybus) this year too,

Chicory in a tree pit 2

and although the intense blue flowers are truly gorgeous, I think they’re a bit too floppy for this type of street planting, so I’ll transplant this elsewhere and make room for more Hollyhocks. According to Nicky’s seeds, this native perennial grows on waste land and field margins and is excellent food for tortoises (and sheep says Farmgirl Susan in comments below!). Always worth experimenting though to see what survives, and indeed thrives, in this tricky growing environment.

Damaged Hollyhocks in tree pits

We don’t get a huge amount of vandalism, but I just popped out to take a pic of these lovely plants and was really disappointed to see the damage.

Damaged Hollyhocks in tree pits 2

They were beautiful blooms (which I was hoping to collect seed from), but worth noting that Hollyhocks can be tempting candidates for a bit of snapping and it’s also a good idea to mix up the planting to have blooms throughout the seasons. Shame to see though!

tree pit sown with wildflowers

And whilst the perennials are growing, we’ll be giving away annual wildflower seeds,

Fairy Toadflax AKA Linaria moroccana 'Fairy Bouquet Mixed'

which will always help to beautify our streets. Above is Pictorial Meadow’s ‘Candy’ mix, which has two waves of flowering for double the interest and supplying colour in our neighbourhood well into the summer months.

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Plant belles rusty wire cloch supports with bamboo

I love this show. I always seem to find what I’m look for, and then some more. I’ve been debating whether I should use a cloche for my winter leaves or not and then I came across this nifty and stylish solution for those with petite growing (and storage) spaces. Some bamboo canes and a bit of fleece (or plastic) added to these rusty wire hoops will do the trick perfectly.

Plant Belles rusty cloche supports in different sizes

Plant Belles supply hoops in different finishes and sizes to suit all needs and have other gorgeous plant supports online too. I plumped for a set of 5 smaller hoops for £15.00 and I know I’m going to use these time and time again.

Pachysandra axillaris 'Crug Cover'

I’m always irresistibly drawn, as if by a magnetic force, to the Crug Farm Plants stand, and this year I was delighted by this deliciously scented Pachysandra axillaris ‘Crug Cover’. So similar are its flowers to that of a Sarcococca, that I thought it must be related, but the Pachysandra genus is part of the box family. The ‘axillaris’ leaves are sizeably larger than the more common Pachysandra (terminalis) ground cover that you see in many gardens, and growing in light to dark shade, to about a foot high (and of creeping habit),  this new plant discovery is definitely on my ‘shady bits of the garden’ must-have list.

Chilli Peppr seeds

After a bit of plant gazing and shopping, I was onto the serious business of seed buying. I do want to start some mustard leaves off soon in my mini greenhouse (and new cloche) and called by to the very friendly Sea Spring Seeds stand. They always have  a really good selection of leaves and I plumped for some ‘Broadleaf’ and ‘Red Knight’ Mizuna (fast becoming one of my favourites) and Flaming Thrills and Golden Streaks Mustards-always very decorative. But Sea Spring Seeds are also a Chilli specialist and I’ve ordered some Super Chile plug plants to be delivered later in the year for our community veg growing project. I think they’re going to look fantastic in sunny window boxes and pots along our street come summer.

Pennard plants stall

I also dropped by Pennard Plants to discuss seeds potatoes. These will be for growing in growbags at the end of March and I’ve plumped for Salad Blue Early (a handsome dark purple tuber for some great lilac-coloured mash), which I can collect at the Potato Day at the Garden Museum in Lambeth on Sunday March 10th.

Rainbow mix carrots

And I picked up plenty of packets of seeds so neighbours can grow these gorgeous rainbow coloured carrots this year too.

Lathyrus vernus at the RHS Feb show

As ever, there was a glorious array of spring-flowering bulbs and perennials on offer, and I snapped up a few Lathyrus vernus for another shady spot from the Hardy’s stand. And a few of the darkest of Hellebores and some Hollyhocks for tree pits from The Botanic Nursery. This is my favourite sort of shopping!

Woodland planting in nearby street in Victoria

As you leave Vincent square, there’s a garden nearby (attached to some grand old purpose-built flats in Ashley Gardens-thanks for local knowledge Nicolette) that always looks as good as the show stands. This year was no exception and the cyclamen, primroses and hellebores made the route home a perfect ending to a very enjoyable day.


Irises at the RHS Feb show 2

Following Claire’s comment below, here’s a pic of Jacques Armand’s lush Iris display. Have a look at her fab blog for her review of the show.

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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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