Saturday, 20 July 2013

Sow unfair

Lots of my flowers haven’t fared too well this year. None of the sweet peas that I sowed germinated, then when I caved in and bought seedlings, all of my cosmos and some of my sweet peas got eaten by slugs. A load of new plants seemed blighted by something…I don’t know if it was disease or over or under watering. (Why is it that when amateurs like me look up symptoms or speak to an expert about problems with my plants, the problem is usually ‘overwatering or under watering’? Why do opposite problems cause the same symptom? It makes it very hard to work out what I’m doing wrong!) And of course there was the long, cold spell and the month of rain, which for clay soil like the soil here, is even worse than weeks of sun and no rain.

But then the sun came out, I replanted and moved some of the poorly plants to a sunnier, less slug, pigeon and squirrel-ridden part of the garden, and things are looking a bit healthier now. While I was at it, I had a big tidy up of the greenhouse. The neurotic organiser in me took a strange amount of pleasure in sorting out hundreds of pots and trays, and then stacking them on a shelf in order of size. Tragic, I know.

So here are some of the things, new and old, that are thriving now. My 'Who Dun It' Dahlia is marvellous – the flowers are huge, beautiful white and pink, and it’s such a great name for someone who likes film noir as much as I do! It lasts very well when cut, even in this heatwave. I cut one on Monday and it’s still doing well four days later; whereas the roses were gone by Wednesday.

I thought I’d killed my blackcurrant sage after leaving it out in the windy, freezing balcony last winter, but it’s come up again and is flowering its dainty little red flowers now. After lusting after stunning displays by Hardy’s, Hooksgreen Herbs and Pennards at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, I decided to buy a Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ plant from Shannon’s Garden Centre. It’s as dainty as blackcurrant sage, but it’s more striking, with its white and red flowers. I also bought a Cosmos 'Sonata White' plant from Shannon's Garden Centre (a lovely place in Forest Hill, with a great selection of flowers suitable for cutting and loads of varieties of herbs) to make up for my poor, eaten seedlings.

I’ve enjoyed a good month or two of ‘Pink Mist’ Scabious, but now, after weeks of looking decidedly peaky, my ‘Chilli Sauce’ Scabious is flowering merrily. Such a glamorous colour and exquisite flowerhead. The stems sometimes curve over, whereas ‘Pink Mist’ is always dead straight, but it’s ok – as long as the flower is ‘saying “hello”’ when you arrange it. By ‘saying “hello”’, as my old floristry tutor put it, flowers should be facing you and not facing away when you arrange them – whether that’s spiralling stems for a hand-tied, using foam, or arranging directly into a container.

I'd bought some lavender plants at the Mayfield Lavender Festival. Two English lavenders, Vera (yes, I liked the name) and Folgate, and one French, Papillion. If only I can find cutting flowers named The Great Escape, Thomas Crown, and The Getaway, I can make a Steve McQueen posy! My Verbena bonariensis, which seemed to be on its deathbed a month ago, has now made a full recovery and is flowering its dainty little purple flowers. Next to the lavenders, these tall, purple swaying flowers are a lovely sight.

I can see lots of foliage for my ‘Blue Dress’ flax, but no flowers yet. But my Gypsophila elegans ‘Covent Garden’, which I sowed with the linum/flax has started to flower. The stems are terribly thin and delicate, so I’m only using them in little milk bottles at the moment. But I love the dainty, little fairy effect - I’ve filled up some more bottles since this photo was taken, and this is my new favourite flower arrangement.

But I expect I’ll have a new new favourite next week!

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