Over on our Facebook page, we’ve got a great competition on: you can win two tickets to the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. Just like us on Facebook and enter the competition by looking in our Garden Furniture category and tell us your favourite item – one lucky winner with receive a pair of tickets to the Hampton Court Flower Show on Sunday, 8th July 2012.
The competition ends 2nd July, so don’t delay: Enter now!
Beatles display at last year’s show. By Jojo 77 on Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.
What a difference a week makes. This week definitely brought the sun and the flowers where there used to be rain! In fact, my little garden is currently being slow cooked at Gas Mark 2 due to the open south-facing nature of the site. Being on an incline doesn’t help either as there is very little shade. Even our pergola which hasn’t yet celebrated its first birthday doesn’t currently provide much respite.
Having at least a third of the garden grown in pots and planters doesn’t help either. Thank goodness the hosepipe ban has been lifted for now. (We are still struggling to find somewhere to fit a waterbutt due to a complete dearth of drainpipes).
At least there are upsides to this weather, the most obvious being that it’s not raining! However, I’m not an exotic creature and struggle almost as much as my garden in this heat. My priority is not lying out in the sun either – I’ve never liked lobster in any form. No, the reason I’m most excited about this weather is because so many flowers have suddenly and gloriously come into bloom!
In particular, my spring flowering clematis have suddenly gone mad and after several patient years in some cases, I have flowers where no flower has bloomed before. Admittedly, in some cases, blink (or work all week) and you miss them, so this year I’m capturing as much as I can on camera.
For a small garden we probably have more clematis per square metre than the corresponding section of the garden centre and counting… It’s amazing what you can pack into a small space (and yes, my talents do extend to shoes and suitcases, much to my husband’s exasperation). However, this does mean that each morning this week I have been greeted by another surprise – a large nodding head of another clematis greeting me.
In some cases they have been slightly nibbled, in others they are holier than the Bible due to our slug infestation but some of them, to my delight, are perfect! I can’t be sure that my neighbours have taken as much delight in my finds or my squeals of excitement at silly o’clock each morning (I can’t resist just popping out to check before I head off to the rat race each day). I would try and restrain myself for the sake of being a better neighbour but it really is like Christmas at the moment … and long may it last. Ho ho ho!
We’ve had a royal visit this week. The Queen came to stay! Not the real one of course, but a gnome I bought to celebrate the Jubilee. My daughter loves her and has paraded the smiling monarch all over the garden.
She has surveyed her Kingdom with a regal air and has decided upon the vegetable plot as her palace. She took a dip in a bucket which was filled with water from the recent rains and even had a shower using the watering can. No expense spared for our guests!
My little gnome friend was suitably impressed by the bunting of the Union flag which hung majestically from the pergola on our patio. I have to say though, she keeps a slightly unnerving eye on me. She appears where I least expect her. I had quite a shock whilst I was peacefully potting up some geraniums in my haven (the greenhouse). I moved a piece of green netting to discover her Royal Highness smiling up at me. Later, I was informed that Queen Elizabeth needed some rest and liked the look and warmth of my glass retreat.
Just before the heavens opened and our Jubilee weekend became a very British affair (rain, strawberries and a stiff upper lip in the face of cold winds), I managed to plant my cherry tomatoes. Their new home was hanging baskets and also, a wrought iron manger I had been given. The latter is now impressively adorning the wall of our once bare garage, like something you’d find in a medieval castle. I did wonder whether it would overpower the patio.
I used marigolds to give the displays a burst of colour. Those little yellow and orange flowers were like knights of the realm protecting the tomatoes from white fly. Surprisingly, the planter didn’t look too bad and has softened the expanse of white that was there before.
I still have a quest to fulfil though, which is to plant the Alicante tomatoes into grow bags. Not an easy task. I have about 25 plants and a toddler who has taken to pulling my delicate little seedlings out by their stems in an effort to help Mummy. I think a couple or so will have to be sacrificed for the greater good.
I can’t wait to see his little face when in the height of summer he toddles into the greenhouse, pushes the lush green foliage aside and discovers the little red gems waiting to be eaten. Having said that, he will probably stumble in, trip over the door frame or the Queen and, in an effort to steady himself; grab the plant pulling the whole lot out in the process! Fingers crossed that the tomato plants and our little gnome make it through the summer unharmed!
The dreary rain-filled days of April seem to be a lifetime ago after the recent mini-heatwave and certainly in terms of growing there have been some big changes. Our small seeds have taken every ray of sunshine and seem to have gone from sorry-looking water washed items to sprouting shoots of growth.
We share the allotment with another family – the dream for this year being that we will have sufficient fruit and vegetables from June onwards. Last year’s expansion meant that we started seeding late – but with the procurement of a large homemade greenhouse we have been able to sow directly from seeds. In simple terms it means we can expect more for less. Or at least, that is the plan.
We are actively trying to involve our son in the experience. He is three and already enjoys playing alongside us; he has his own spade and gloves and like most young boys he enjoys filling buckets with dirt. But equally he is learning. He is keen to know what things are called and loves to help pick (and eat) the fruits of our labour. So when he is maybe too heavy handed with the delicate seedlings, we explain he needs to be careful and put it down to experience. He has even got his own small pots full of all kinds of interesting things growing.
Our local council refuge site has been selling soil enhancer for a very reasonable £2.50 per 50 litre bag – so we took full advantage of this and still have three bags left from the original ten we bought. If you couple that with a load of bargain seeds then our total investment for this year has been a paltry £40 – which has been split between the 2 families. So what are we expecting for our hard-earned money?
Last week we took the step of planting out our dear young growers, hoping that we have seen the last of any frost until at least October. We got stung last year by planting too early and even the “hardy” potatoes fell foul of a particularly firm frost. A team effort took place and we managed to get the following transplanted – courgettes, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions (spring, red and white), garlic, peas, lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, runner beans and dwarf beans.
The swathes of fresh turned soil which had look like we would never fill them, quickly took to life with the odd splashes of green fresh growth. Our runner beans and peas are being trained to grow around lengths of recycled pipe and we have used a collection of old pieces of wood to create planting beds. The ever ingenious gardener’s motto seems to be, “don’t throw that away – I can use that on my allotment!” I constantly marvel at how mundane items become used in ways never dreamt of.
So after the months of preparing we now enter the growing stage. Judging by what I have seen so far we could well be in for a good one. The tomato plants stand no more than 4 inches tall but already have many trusses on and as we have failed in the last two summers are taking that to be a very good omen. Only time will tell…