Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Never mind the are the sweet peas

After a warm spell, many things shot up or started flowering even more. The scent from the roses is very strong, and some of the herbs and sweet peas give out a wonderful fragrance too, especially when it's warm.

The main stars for me now are sweet peas - scarlet 'Fields of Fire', salmon pink 'Leominster Boy', and rippled blue 'Dot Com' and pink-purple 'Harlequin'. There are a few dark blue-purple 'Just Jenny' sweet peas on their way, too. I was amazed by the 'Fields of Fire' - some of the flower stems were as long as my forearm. Perfect for cutting!

There are a few more 'Polka Dot' cornflowers, although since they're from the same plant (which is now more than 110cm tall!), they are the same pink-lilac. There are many more 'Moody Blues' nigella, and the red 'Hot Lips' salvia are gradually taking on some white. The salvia didn't last very well in the vase, so I replaced them after a few days with more sweet peas.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Hall Place Gardens, the Lion and the Unicorn

I took my little sister to Hall Place in Bexley a few weeks ago. She seems to enjoy the sensory experience of being outdoors, whether it's a beach or a park, and Hall Place has some beautiful gardens and a cafe that is usually packed. The gardens are free to visit, and the grounds were full of families enjoying the sunshine.

There is an exhibition of Quentin Blake's art for hospitals on display until the end of the summer, included in the price of admission to the house. Quentin grew up in nearby Sidcup; I went to the same secondary school as he did, and he drew the cover of the school yearbook when our headmaster retired!

My sister took this photo of some pansies near the glasshouse.

Here's the bigger picture.

There's a wonderful timeline along a path, with key events in history and labels telling you where certain plants came from.

There were apple blossom trees, and confetti of blossom decorating the grass.

There were irises and tulips, beautiful wisteria, and some incredible-smelling clematis next to a checkerboard tower. Garden clematis is such a wonder when you are used to the unscented, wholesale varieties.

You can't miss the topiary giants, based on the symbols of the United Kingdom. I'm only familiar with the lion and the unicorn because of Orwell's essay, but there are also other symbols: a griffin, a white lion, a white horse, a greyhound, a black bull, a falcon, and a red dragon. Aha - that's where pubs get their names from!

And lastly, here are the rose garden and the cut flower plot. They promise colour and scent in the summer.

We are a nation of flower-lovers, but also a nation of stamp-collectors, pigeon-fanciers, amateur carpenters, coupon-snippers, darts-players, crossword-puzzle fans. All the culture that is most truly native centres round things which even when they are communal are not official – the pub, the football match, the back garden, the fireside and the “nice cup of tea”.
George Orwell, The Lion and The Unicorn

Friday, 16 May 2014

The first nigella and roses of the year

After nine months of nurturing, my Nigella 'Moody Blues', which I grew from Sarah Raven's seeds, began to flower this month. Nigella are a beautiful, fairy-like flower that I never came across when I did my floristry course or when I worked for other florists. I think they deserve to be used more often - they are such a delicate-looking flowers, but last well in water. Here is my first one, along with a couple of early sweet peas.

The first roses began to flower too, and the scent hits you as soon as you step outside.

I was longing to make my first garden rose and nigella posy of the year! I added lots of sweet-smelling herbs - both lemon thyme and flowering orange thyme, and last year's apple mint (which is doing even better this year) and lavender mint. Combined with the scent of the roses, this is a posy that fills a room.

The odd bits of thyme, rosebud and nigella were used in a tiny Tiptree jar. I don't like wasting flowers! The rest of the flower waste gets thrown on the compost heap.

Since I don't like flower waste, I got these from my lovely local florist, Julie at the Grove Park florist shop. She was going to throw them out, and didn't want to take money for them, but I did manage to pay her a little for them. I've talked about how difficult it is to manage a flower shop before - one day you sell out of everything, but another day you end up throwing half of your stock out.

As ever, my message is: please buy flowers and plants from your florist or garden centre when possible, and not from a big supermarket. Or grow your own!

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

First sweet pea of the year!

Just a quick post to share a photo of my first sweet pea of this year, which flowered yesterday. It's 'Fields of Fire' and it's a beautiful pinky-red colour. The scent is getting stronger each day.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Growing up

There is a lot of growing up being done in the greenhouse. Every time I look, something new has germinated, grown taller, or is about to flower. It's wonderful - especially when you have sweet peas that look like a bird in flight!

These are my Aquilegia 'Nora Barlow'. I planted them last autumn, and over the last few weeks, they have been getting bigger and bigger. I've planted some of them outside, in gaps between shrubs.

This made me smile - the promise of nigella flowers! I also planted these in autumn, and have planted some outside (I feel ever so cautious about planting my lovingly-grown babies outside, as I seem to share the garden with every hungry squirrel, bird and insect in South London!).

These are hopefully Delphinium 'Galahad', and not just weeds.

And these are Nicotiana 'Lime Green'. I sowed too many in this tray and will need to get rid of some.



Lupin 'Sunrise'. This, the three previous flowers, and the aquilegia were grown from Higgledy Garden seeds.

Panicum 'Frosted Explosion' (a.k.a. fountain grass) - some are two months old and the others were sown a month ago. This was from Sarah Raven seeds, along with the Nigella 'Moody Blues' and Cornflower 'Polka Dot'.

Cleome, which was sown in two lots, like the fountain grass.

Zinnia 'Purple Prince'...

Zinnia 'Early Wonder': new sowings...

...and older ones which are growing up.

'Penny Lane' and 'Genova' dahlias from Shannon's Garden Centre are doing well.

Foxglove 'Milk Chocolate' (but do not eat!) given out at the Macmillan garden at Hampton Court last year.

And chilli seedlings from Wahaca matchsticks, which I planted in the first week of March.

Outside, the Peony 'Bowl of Beauty' has five buds which the ants are crawling over. Claire Austin says this doesn't do the plant any harm, and may in fact help the bud to open.

I moved out the sweet peas to the usual containers, also around a rose bush (climbing up the jasmine trellis), and going up a fence at the back. They are looking feeble in some places (the back garden), but fine and dandy in others (e.g. most of the containers and the trellis). They were all autumn sown, and I got them from Eagle Sweet Peas. There are five varieties, which were meticulously separated and labelled in the greenhouse, but are now a bit mixed up. Sweet pea roulette! The varieties I am growing are Just Jenny, Fields of Fire, Leominster Boy, Dot Com, and Harlequin.

Finally, this Cornflower 'Polka Dot' flowered in the greenhouse yesterday, and I was delighted as it's the only one to survive my autumn sowings. It's so tall and the flower is attracting bees and butterflies already.