Archive for the ‘Chillies’ Category

I must have known somewhere at the back of my mind that the RHS had sold off one of their two halls in London, and because of this, I have to admit to being a tad underwhelmed with their latest show in Victoria. Having marvelled at the size of the competition leeks, and gazed at perfectly formed raspberries, there were only a few stalls left to visit.

One of these was the wonderful Sea Spring Seeds, who did offer a marvellous display of Chillis with seeds to match, and I did buy a couple of garlic cloves from the Garlic Farm stall, so all was not lost. But I’d have been a bit miffed if I’d travelled for hours to arrive at this lightly populated show.

However, there was an apple tasting stand, packed full of apples from RHS Wisley, and this was the unexpected gem of the show for me. With the help of a very friendly RHS gardening team, I tasted a few of the most delicious apples I’ve ever come across.

Lord Lambourne, a variety dating back to 1907, had it all. Crispish texture, but with the sweetest of flavours and a beautiful warm russet-red, fading-into-yellow colouring, and a wonderfully fresh aroma (plus it’s a good storer).  I brought a few varieties of apples back for a client to taste, and we’re now planning on planting a few Lord Lambourne apple trees as cordons, which will look very decorative in her front garden. This variety, although never seen in the supermarkets, was easy to buy and I’ve plumped for an M26 semi-dwarfing rootstock which should keep the cordon small-ish, but have enough vigour to produce plenty of fruit.

Another supremely sweet apple was ‘Sharon’. However, this is predominantly an American cultivar, so not readily available in the UK. I did discuss with Rebecca Bevan (Fruit manager at RHS Wisley) the possibility of grafting a ‘Sharon’ from RHS stocks, and also started discussing the possibility of apple tree grafting courses at the RHS and creating ‘family’ trees with more than one variety on the same tree. Could I graft a Lord Lambourne, a Sharon,

and a Limelight (another favourite) onto the same tree? Intriguing, and something I’ll have to explore further.

I’m also wondering how a Lord Lambourne would fair trained as a Quincunx and where in the garden could I grow it!

So despite my initial disappointment, the show was an eye opener for me in terms of apples, but I’ll be more vigilant from now on as to the listings of the shows. Next week is the RHS London Shades of Autumn Show, with a big caption under the first image warning that it’ll be held in only one hall. However, offering 20 specialist nurseries this time round, I’ll be tempted once again to make the journey to Victoria.

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Last week I started sowing my sweet pea seeds indoors. Sadly, not an owner of a swanky greenhouse (and jealous of anyone who is!). I have however invested in a couple of heated propagators to speed up the process.

Et voila! A week later and all germinating beautifully. A sight which fills my heart with joy. Great seed germination rate from Chiltern Seeds and I use New Horizon multi purpose compost, just sieving the top inch or so to make it a little finer for seed sowing. Once germinated, I’ll move the seedlings outdoors into my mini green house/large cold frame, so that the seedlings don’t get too leggy and then I’ll harden them (putting pots outside or opening the coldframe lid during the day, then returning at night) about 10 days before planting out, probably in April.

No room for a propagator? Not a problem. A plastic bag with an elastic band to retain the moisture will do equally well and will just take a little longer for seeds to appear.

Sweet peas can be sown in autumn for earlier flowering the following summer and then overwintered in a cold frame until hardened off in spring. When I was picking some self-sown rocket at my allotment in January, I noticed quite a number of self-sown sweet peas nestling amongst the crop. I thought they would be wiped out during the subsequent frosts and snow, but amazingly they’re still going strong and will probably be the earliest flowering sweet peas that I’ve ever ‘grown’! Still plenty of time to sow sweet peas and great to sow a couple of batches weeks apart, so that you can have delicious sweet peas scenting your gardening for a longer period over summer.

This year, I’ve decided to have a go at growing Chilli peppers (Capiscum annuum). These seeds do need a bit of extra heat to get them started (it says 27 degrees C on the packet), so I popped them in my small overly hot propagator (has no controls, so either on and very hot or off). Again, delighted with the germination rate of the seeds that I bought from Sea Spring Seeds. I’m trying 2 different varieties this year. ‘NuMex Twilight’ for a sunny windowsill or greenhouse and also ‘Super Chile’ which I’m going to try to grow outdoors. Outdoor growing isn’t always very successful as the plants need a lot of heat to fully ripen, but Super Chile is a very fast grower, so if we have a hot summer, might just manage to get some red hot chillis later in the year.

Outside in my mini lean-to greenhouse I rather over enthusiastically sowed leek seeds in January. Think I was itching to get going as the weather was so mild (before it got very cold again) and was also inspired by a post from Jekkas Herb Farm  about getting under way sowing seeds so that plants would be ready in time for Chelsea. Sowed mid January, then nothing happened until about 10 days ago, 5 weeks after sowing. You can’t fool nature (without extra heating that is!).

Also outside in the mini greenhouse are some Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’ seedlings. It’s amazing to see pink, red and yellow stems even at this tiny stage.

As the weather warms up, I’ve got heaps more seeds to sow (rather overdid the ordering this year again, although I promised myself that I wouldn’t). Looking forward to sowing annuals, such as Nigella above, straight into the ground , but am waiting until the 20th March, following wise advice from Benjamin at Higgledy Garden. He says he doesn’t sow hardy annuals before the Vernal Equinox when hours of daylight are equal to hours of darkness and finds sowings seem to be more successful after this date. Can’t wait.

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Just a quick reminder for your diaries. Victoriana Nursery are holding a Chilli tasting day this Saturday 24th September 11am-3.30pm, near Ashford in Kent. If you’re a Chilli fan then it’s got to be worth it with 24 varieties to taste, plus there will also be Tomato tasting-15-20 varieties, popcorn making, children’s activities and a produce stall.

We had a great afternoon tomato tasting a few weeks ago as Stephen Shirley and other staff at this specialist fruit and vegetable nursery were on hand to give very friendly expert advice on all the plants that they grow and sell.

By car, the nursery is about an hour and fifteen minutes drive from North London. There is a no. 666 (no, really) bus running from Ashford station to the nursery, but this departs at hourly intervals, so careful route planning would be in order for this to be a smooth and not-too-lengthy journey.

If you’re visiting, it’s also a great time to buy Asparagus, Strawberry, Japanese Wineberry and Blackberry plants, order bare-rooted raspberry canes for autumn delivery and to have a good look around the nursery to discover lesser known fruit and veg plants that the nursery stock (I also came away with a Kiwi vine). If you can’t make it to the nursery this weekend, their website is packed full of great information too.

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