Charlotte, Gardening, Guest Posts

Stormy Weather

After weeks of glorious sunshine, my garden was blooming and the vegetables I had started from seed were all progressing better than anticipated. So much so that I had bravely put many of them outside to harden off before being transplanted. What a mistake! One night last week the weather took a turn for the worse and my once beautiful garden has suffered dearly.

Charlotte Working on the TrellisHeavy rain and gusting winds rattled the windows as I tried to sleep. ‘Tried’ being the operative word since little sleep was achieved as I imagined the havoc being created outside. I awoke early and ventured outdoors to assess the damage. Roses had been ripped from their trellises, colourful borders flattened and the stunning hollyhocks which had formerly towered over me, now stood limply at right angles.

Charlotte's husband helping with the branches I hastily got to work tidying up and repairing what I could. I carefully teased the roses back onto their trellis; trying not to damage the plentiful flowers and buds. Supports were provided for the hollyhocks and stakes added to the young fruit trees which looked at risk of snapping. I enlisted the help of my husband for this task. Being almost a foot taller than me he comes in rather useful for such vertically challenging chores.

Most upsetting was the destruction endured by my precious vegetable seedlings. Those placed in the open air to harden off, had been tossed around the garden by the unforgiving winds. Even those which I thought were protected inside a growing frame were not spared. The entire frame had been blown over, leaving young tomatoes, peppers and sweet peas upturned.

I re-potted what I could; scooping up the spilled compost and carefully replacing the young plants. It was then I noticed the sweetcorn. It’s the first time I’ve grown this and the quick and steady growth had impressed me. However they now stood sadly, many with broken leaves and stems. It felt as though the months of hard work and love I had poured into the garden had been destroyed overnight.
Charlotte's Plants
Having fixed what I could I retreated indoors for a cuppa whilst surveying my seed collection. Thankfully, I had reserved a few of each seed type when initially planting. Undeterred I spent the afternoon planting second batches as a backup for those which may have been lost. It’s rather late in the season to be starting many of them off. However, living in the south-east, I’m hoping the warmer and longer summer we (usually!) encounter will allow me to see a harvest from most crops. That is, if the rain and wind ever make way for more sun.

I haven’t given up on the sweetcorn though. The injured specimens have been brought indoors for some TLC. Perhaps they will find the strength to recover and produce new shoots. Any advice on how I can aid this would be gratefully received. I was so looking forward to serving my family delicious home grown corn on the cob, dripping with butter. I can almost taste it now… fingers crossed they pull through and make it to the table.

– Charlotte

Charlotte, Events, Flowers, Gardening, Guest Posts

Hampton Court Flower Show Preview

I was thrilled last week to receive an invite to the hottest event of the month. Was it the Wimbledon finals, or men’s Olympic relay? No! While both of these would have been welcomed, instead it was something to delight the gardener in me: VIP tickets to the preview evening of the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

Hampton Court Swiss Alpine Garden
Swiss Alpine Garden

World of gardens

Perhaps in honour of the Olympics and the many international visitors who will be flooding to London this summer, this year’s show featured four gardens designed to transport guests to faraway lands without leaving the palace grounds.

From Russia to the Azores I wandered, discovering Jordan along the way, finally reaching my favourite of the four, the Swiss Alpine Garden. Designed by Sadie May Stowell, and winner of a Silver Gilt medal, the garden includes a traditional Swiss chalet and glacial lake. The stark contrast between craggy rocks and delicate planting represents a Swiss mountainside, whilst the beautiful wild flowers whisked me away to an alpine meadow.

Conceptual Gardens

Hampton Court Light at the end of the tunnel garden
Light at the End of the Tunnel

Of the Conceptual Gardens, I most enjoyed Light at the End of the Tunnel. Designed by Matthew Childs, a survivor of the 7/7 London Bombings, the garden was crowned ‘Best Conceptual Garden’ and awarded a Gold medal. A one-way system directs visitors through the tunnel-like garden which at first is dark, confined and sparsely planted. Moving along the path the tunnel opens up becoming lighter and revealing, at the end, more voluptuous planting. The journey through the garden depicts the road to recovery taken by the designer following his ordeal in the 2005 bombings, showing how something positive can come from a negative.

Sustainability

Whilst browsing the gardens I was interested to see how many incorporated sustainability into their designs. I was pleased to see a number of environmentally conscious concepts within the displays.

Insect house in Old and New Garden at Hampton Court
Insect house in Old and New Garden, designed by Imogen Cox Associates
Charlotte surrounded by Ecover’s sugar cane field
Charlotte surrounded by Ecover’s sugar cane field

The headline sponsor of this year’s flower show was Ecover whose show feature, designed by Tony Smith, was by far the most ecologically conscious. The display of renewable Arundo donax represented a tropical sugar cane field, inspired by Ecover’s new product packaging. Made entirely from sugar cane the ‘Plant-astic’ packaging offers a sustainable alternative to petrochemical derived plastic bottles. Many trees around the show could be spotted ‘fruiting’ the 100% plant material bottles, demonstrating that packaging really can grow on trees.

The Butterfly Jungles Transitions, designed by Paul Allen, Lucy Hughesdon & Lydia Harvey was another highlight for me. It aims to raise awareness of the worldwide decline in butterflies. There has been a significant lack of butterflies in my own garden this year so I was interested to learn what plant varieties would attract and support them. How do you lure these beautiful creatures to your surroundings? ‘Butterfly Jungles’ incorporates butterfly friendly planting ranging from wildflowers to exotic vegetation. The climax is the tropical greenhouse which is home to a striking selection of butterflies. Wing your way over to the display and you may be lucky enough to spot some of the common UK butterfly species which will be released during the show.

Romantic Roses

I spent a considerable amount of time in the Romance & Roses Marquee, enjoying the sight and fragrance of the hundreds of rose varieties on show. I was determined to find the perfect gift for my grandparents’ forthcoming Diamond Wedding Anniversary. There were a number of aptly named roses but none of the blooms seemed special enough to mark an incredible 60 years of marriage. If you know of a glorious ‘diamond’ rose, I’d be delighted to hear about it.

Being a romantic at heart, the flower which stood out for me was ‘William & Catherine’ a delicate lace-like variety reminiscent of the stunning dress worn by Miss Middleton at her marriage to Prince William last year. Another personal favourite was ‘Champagne Cocktail’, with gorgeous variegated pink and yellow petals.

William & Catherine white roses at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show
Rose ‘William & Catherine’

Champagne Cocktail yellow and red variegated rose
Rose ‘Champagne Cocktail’

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
It was whilst viewing these beauties that I was dragged from the marquee to enjoy a cocktail of my own at a reception with delightful musical accompaniment. This was followed by a sumptuous 4-course dinner in the Allium restaurant, with panoramic views over the show. The evening closed with a breathtaking fireworks display over the Long Water, my enjoyment of which was not hampered by the persistent rain.

If you’re heading to Hampton Court this year you’re guaranteed to discover a few delights and I look forward to hearing your highlights. If I have any advice to offer it would be to check the weather forecast- Take it from me, open-toed wedges and muddy walkways are not a great combination! Secondly, allow yourself plenty of time to explore. Although it’s a privilege to be among the first to view the show, the preview evening was a little too short to enable me to see everything I’d hoped. However this does give me a reason to return for a second viewing. Encore!

– Charlotte

Charlotte, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Guest Posts

Planting out Potatoes and Beans

Plants in potsHaving returned from a week away, I was delighted and yet shocked to see how my beans and potatoes had progressed.
Beans growing on the trellis
The bean seeds had been planted just a few weeks ago and placed in my newly constructed growing rack. Thanks to a week of extraordinarily hot weather, they had not only germinated, but grown a good 6 inches! They were looking pretty leggy so I promptly planted them out in troughs. It was a hasty decision and I’m sure they would be better planted directly into the ground. However, they were desperate for support and the troughs allow me to position them against some wall mounted trellis.

Admittedly, the freshly transplanted beans look rather limp and pathetic, but having settled in they already have some healthy new growth.
Charlotte's chitting potatoes
The other matter requiring urgent attention was the potatoes which have been chitting on the spare room windowsill for some considerable time. After a slow start (I think due to the cold environment I originally had them in), they’d formed lovely purple sprouts and were ready to go outside. I’m aware that many people follow the tradition of planting potatoes on St Patrick’s Day; meaning I’m falling well behind schedule this year. But having moved house in the spring, I hope I can be forgiven for my slow progress in this area.
Repurposed potato barrelPotato barrel
Not wanting to use up too much ground space I chose to plant the potatoes in an unused compost bin. I already have 2 full ones; how much compost does one girl need? I’m not sure how suitable a vessel this large black container will be. I have in the past found potato peelings sprouting in my compost bin so it should provide a reasonably appropriate environment. The plastic monstrosity is not something I wish to have on display so I’ve hidden it behind some dense shrubs at the back of the flowerbed. It’s a sunny spot so I don’t think it will suffer too much from lack of light. To inhibit weed growth I lined the base with some old cardboard and then covered it with a layer of compost. The seed potatoes went on top and were covered with another layer of soil.
Seed potatoes in barrel
After a good watering I crossed my fingers and left them to it. Hopefully in a few months I’ll be harvesting bin loads of potatoes to feed my sons; who are themselves sprouting up!

– Charlotte

Charlotte, Flowers, Gardening, Guest Posts

What a difference a week makes!

Charlotte in her gardenI’ve just returned from a week away visiting family and friends. Typically, I chose to travel during one of the hottest weeks of the year so far; one which would have been perfect for making some serious progress on the garden jobs I’m behind with! I left my husband in charge of the garden; something he generally has little time for. However, apparently terrified that something might perish in my absence, he dutifully watered and tended my crops twice daily. Upon my return, hubby proudly led me around our plot highlighting how much it had flourished under his care. I have to admit I was astounded by the difference a week of sunshine and careful attention can make.
Red roses in Charlotte's garden
The roses are in full bloom adding a wash of glorious red and pink to the borders. I’ve made the most of them by immediately cutting a few to display in pretty jugs around the house. The pond irises, which for weeks had been threatening to flower, had done so behind my back so sadly I missed them at their best – Never mind, I hope to witness their magnificent display next year.
Flowers in the garden
The wrought iron gate through to the back garden is barely passable as the surrounding lavender has suddenly taken over. A little awkward when you’re trying to fight your way through, but I love how it hides what lies on the other side, evoking memories of the ‘secret garden.’
Pink Foxglove in the garden
Most impressive are the foxgloves which I’d barely noticed a week ago, but are now towering over me. We have a fantastic selection of pink, purple and white examples. The bees adore them and it’s great to watch their fluffy bottoms disappearing inside the long trumpetlike flower heads.

I have to admit I was a little nervous about how the garden would fare under my husband’s watch. I now realise I had no need to worry. It was a delight to return and see what a great job he’s done maintaining it – even cutting the grass for me! Perhaps I should go away more often and leave him to it. On second thoughts, maybe not; I would miss my beautiful garden (and lovely husband of course!) far too much.

– Charlotte