Our sense of time is a bit out of alignment these days – lockdown has meant that many of us have been looking inwards and at our gardens. We’ve been noticing change and growth perhaps more acutely than ever before. But even so .. we lockdown and the beginning of spring and now summer is well on its way… how did that happen?
Here in the garden at the start of the month we are busy finishing the summer bedding displays. Risk of frost is surely passed and the summer plants that went in a few weeks ago have established and are flowering. It is really important though to water these temporary residents if rainfall is lacking. They won’t put on their best show if they are struggling to survive and desperately thirsty.
We have all rediscovered our love of hanging baskets this year. All kinds of improvised and hand nurtured baskets and containers are seen around peoples front doors and on balconies. Now, just because you can go out, don’t neglect their love and care. Any reserves of goodness in the compost, or within the plants themselves, are being used up for growing and flowering. A regular feed with some water soluble fertiliser will ensure your baskets keep looking vibrant. You’ll need to water your baskets everyday by now as the sun dries out the compost very quickly. So feeding them while watering is no extra work for you.
‘Dead heading’ …
Flowers, just like bird song, are not there to please our eyes – or ears. The plant produces flowers as part of its main job – to reproduce itself for next year. It is merely a happy side effect that we humans like the look of flowers. So, armed with that knowledge we can intervene and try to help the plant produce more flowers for our benefit.. Once a plant has flowered and set seed it’s job is complete, so will relax …and die back. The answer for us humans is to fool the plant by removing all the old flower heads and it will keep on trying to reproduce by pushing out lots more lovely flowers.
A time of plenty in the Veg. plot
In the vegetable patch you can now start to reap the benefits of all the extra time you’ve been able to put in over the last few months by harvesting some of the crops you have been caring for.
Items such as salad leaves, peas and beans should be ready to eat and weeding around the vegetables becomes easier. With the heat of the sun any small weeds can be hoed off and will frazzle and die. Happy eating and keep growing your own food… Hyper local is good!
It’s out and showing off its chameleon like habits!
This scrambling vine has graced the courtyard for quite a few years. It happily climbs the height of our lovely walls and has a strange habit of changing colour as it grows… white and pink in almost random proportion and then into green. 2 years ago it was hard pruned, lest year’s show was meagre.. but this year!!! And we are not there to see it :-((
Actinidia kolomikta was collected by Charles Maries (a local boy from Hampton Lucy in Warwickshire!) from Sapporo in Japan in 1878… which is why it’s in our courtyard and not in the main Garden – ‘wrong period’ we love the Victorians, but our dates are 1680s -1760s.
The sunny weather is again helping the fair weather gardeners amongst us to get out and pot on…
It you’re planning a proper weekend out – in the back garden/ allotment/ windowsill – here are some very useful links.
‘heir and a spare’
Don’t forget, if you do have any ‘spares’ or ‘extras’ in your propagation pots, do keep a few aside for us, please. If you can.
When we reopen, we’d be very grateful for any donations of plants for us to sell to the public – a way we can raise some funds to fill the hole that has appeared this year. Many thanks (Ps we cannot take strawberry plants. Please keep your plants at home until we open – we cannot look after them at present. Many thanks
RHS and Garden Organic
The RHS is going all out to create the event of the season online this year. This week saw the launch of My Chelsea Garden, in conjunction with the BBC’s The One Show. It’s a national competition asking people to enter pictures of their garden in one of the following four categories: Back Garden, Front Garden, Indoor Garden (Houseplants, window sills, balconies, etc), and Kids’ Corner Garden.
The competition runs until 18 May so do feel free to send in your pics using #mychelseagarden
The RHS are also supporting local nurseries by promoting the Plants Near Me website – if you are looking for plants and gardens product, enter your postcode and see who is still selling- and often delivering.
Working with the earth
As always the national charity for organic growing, Garden Organic has an absolute wealth of advice and helpful information – you can access a lot of their information without being a member…
Here is the link to some great and timely podcasts https://audioboom.com/channels/4987940
A few hints and tips from our excellent Gardener’s for the month of April:
Things should be moving along pretty quickly now the highlight at the start of the month has to be tulips and with April’s sunshine and showers plants are growing at pace but there are a few things that you can do at the start of the month to reduce your workload later on.
Applying a layer of mulch around trees and perennials before the warmer weather arrives not only will keep the moisture locked in but it will stop a lot of weeds from emerging saving you valuable time later on in the season that can be spent doing other important garden jobs .
Give your plants a feed, trees shrubs and hedges will benefit from a slow release fertiliser. Roses are especially greedy plants feeding will aid flowering in June. You can buy specialist rose fertiliser but any fertiliser that contains a mix of potassium nitrogen and phosphorus will be beneficial.
Sow any hardy annuals now in their final positions these fast growing plants are a cheap way to fill a border with colour during the summer plants such as pot marigolds, Californian poppies and cornflowers are good choices. Those annuals that are a little more tender and don’t like the cold can be sown undercover now in pots and placed out once the risk of frost has passed.
In the vegetable garden it’s time to plant out your potatoes, early crops can be planted at the start of the month and main crops at the end of the month. Courgettes, marrows, squashes and pumpkins can now be sown individually in 5cm pots undercover and tomatoes, aubergines chillies and sweetcorn should now be sown undercover as they need a long growing season to produce their fruits. Don’t forget to thin out any seedlings that were sown in March, in order to reach their full potential plants need space as well as sunshine and showers.
It’s a good time to completely empty any compost bins for mulching. Hibernating animals should now have woken and moved on, but still be careful as you don’t want to spear any frogs or hedgehogs with a garden fork.
Stay safe all, and hope to see you again soon. The next Gardener’s tips will be posted at the beginning of May CBHGT x
Spend the day under the blossom trees in the heritage orchards of the Historic Gardens.
With apple and pear blossoms instead of the traditional Japanese plum, this version of Hanami still echoes the tradition of enjoying the beauty of the flowers this Spring.
A picnic in the Gardens is always enjoyable, however, the orchards in full bloom also provide the perfect setting for your relaxing day out.
Traditional Japanese food by Pika Pika will be available on the day, with a selection of delicious sushi and curry available.
Bring your own food and drink too. Cafe open for light refreshments
Music and other activities likely! Take part in learning how to create beautiful origami creations.
Normal entrance fees
The Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo) is a easy tree or shrub to identify, having both flowers and fruit present at the same time. The strawberry (or I think more like lychee) like fruit take up to a year to ripen, so as last year’s fruits turn red, the flowers that will form next year’s fruit start to appear. The fruit is said to be edible, although not very tasty, which may be hinted at in it’s Latin name ‘unedo‘; coming from unum edo ‘I eat one’ – meaning after you have eaten one you wouldn’t want another one? Having not yet tried one I couldn’t say! Which is good news for the birds, leaving plenty of fruit for them to feast on during the colder months.
A member of the Ericaceae family of plants, most commonly known as heather, the flowers bear a strong resemblance to those of heathers, with bell-like downward facing flowers in small clusters.
You may have also seen this plant in a well known Morris & Co. design, used in fabrics and wallpapers where you can clearly see the red fruits and white flowers.
Have a wander down to the Lower Wilderness to have a closer look at these interesting plants..
This week I planted out 40 Kale plants in the Batty Langley vegetable garden that have been quietly growing along in the greenhouse since September. We are trying three varieties, ‘Red Russian’, ‘Cavolo Nero’ and ‘Borecole – Green Curled Dwarf’.
Kale does well over the colder months, so will hopefully add some interest in the garden over the following darker months. As pigeons take a fancy to stripping the foliage off plants in the Brassica family, the precaution of placing net over the kale plants has been necessary to stop them becoming just tattered stems!
I have used two beds to grow the kale in, with 20 plants in each one, and to create a neat formal look the use of a tape measure was implemented to ensure even spacing.
The botanical name for kale is Brassica oleracea var. acephala, ‘Brassica’ being the genus consisting of cabbages, ‘oleracea’ meaning that the plant can be used as a vegetable and ‘acephala’ meaning ‘without a head’, i.e that the plant is loose leafed rather than with a head as many cultivated cabbages have. Kale has a long history as a food crop, being one of the most important green vegetables in Europe up until the end of the Middle Ages.
At this time of year a lot of plants are starting to go to seed, so it is a good time to go around and collect some of them so we can grow new plants for next year. Some can be sown straight away (as we are doing so in the greenhouses), others can be stored to be sown in the spring. We are also taking cuttings of some of the plants in the garden, and hopefully by next spring we will have lots of lovely plants to sell or plant back out in the garden.
We are trying seeds collected from plants including Alcea (hollyhock), Lychnis (rose campion), Lupin, Astrantia, Galega (Goat’s Rue), Poppy and Phlomis. Some, such as Lychnis, have already germinated, others we are still eagerly awaiting for signs of life! The interesting thing about seeds is the genetic variation that can occur, so often the resulting plants will show some variation from the parent, especially in the case of the hollyhocks, where the colour of the flowers on each plant will be a surprise!
Cuttings taken include Lavender, Rosemary, Jasmine and Philadelphus. These are all semi-ripe cuttings taken from this year’s growth, so the base is firm but with soft growth still on the tips. They are put in pots together, and then when roots start to show at the base of the pot, they will be separated and given their own pot to grow on. Unlike seeds, cuttings create clones of the parent plant, so you know exactly what you are going to get.
We look forward to seeing how our seeds and cuttings do, and in the meantime they have a trusty guardian to keep an eye on them!
Did you shrink or did the flowers just grow?
Wander amongst our beautiful towering plants over 4 metres tall – they’re crocheted!
This May half term join in the festival atmosphere with our Alice in Wonderland sized installation… All week from Bank Holiday Monday (29th May) through to Friday (June 2nd) we’ll also running family friendly activities around our flower theme.
- Add a pompom flower to our woolly field and make some pom pom bees to fly amongst them.
- Help us build giant bug hotel and learn how to make your own mini-beastie hotel at home.
- And why not construct a giant birds nest for the little ones to snuggle up in.
- Little green fingers can also help us plant up our Jack and the Giant Beanstalk runner bean tunnel… plant now and come back to play in the tunnel over summer.
The giant flowers are here all week and weekend (Sunday to Saturday), the family activities are Monday to Friday.
Family Friendly sessions + entry to the Gardens £2 (for anyone over 5 years old)
Family Activities Annual Pass holders: FREE
NB Normal entry prices for non-family groups
Family Activities 12- 3pm Monday to Friday
Gardens open Saturday 27th – Sunday 4th