If someone said to me I could only ever grow one flower from now on, then I would choose the Foxglove. Continue reading “The Persuader”
Weeding! Of all the tasks that need doing, this is the one job I have no enthusiasm for. I know, it has to be done. We spend months sowing seeds then nurturing the young plants, putting them into their final growing positions, watering them in, feeding them. We stand back and for a few precious days that newly planted vegetable bed looks like something out of the Chelsea Flower Show. Not a blemish in sight, just the promise of a plentiful bounty to come. Then it happens. Slowly at first, a cheeky shoot here, the odd thistle there. Hardly worth the effort of removing. But the moment you step out of the allotment and head blissfully home, the invasion commences; the freeloaders arrive en masse.
You return to your allotment a few days later to witness horrors. Garlic being overrun by groundsel, beetroot cowering in the shadow of an aggressive dandelion, and bindweed trying to do the sort of things to tomatoes that, well, no wonder they’re blushing. You know you can’t keep putting it off, it’s time to evict the lot.
I only have a limited time on the allotment each week, and I want to spend it doing the fun stuff: creating beanpole structures, planting Crown Prince squash, sprinkling seeds aplenty. This is the glamour of gardening that I read about in magazines and see on Gardeners World. No one ever told me about the dark side!
However, I did get the chance to do the fun stuff this weekend. I managed to get a lot of the plants out of the polytunnel and into their final positions on the plot. From sweetcorn to squashes and beetroot, plants are now filling my beds with colour and life. But the icing on the cake was constructing those poles and getting my beans in. Borlotti, Runner and French beans, all supported and reaching for the sky.
I also found time to plan ahead and plant up my autumn bed (I know, can’t believe I’m already looking that far ahead). Red cabbage, swede, leeks and two types of sprouts. As summer dwindles and supplies are running low I’m relying on these to carry me through to the new year.
As I wander around, taking it all in, it seems everything is racing to grow and produce. I remind myself that this is a wonderful time of the year, gooseberries, cucumbers, peas and the new planted sunflowers are all begging for my attention, showing off their wares, filling my head with visions of harvest.
But as the sun sets on another productive weekend and I shut the allotment gate to make my way home, something catches my eye. I almost don’t see it at first, but then I think I can hear a menacing laugh. A quick flicker of something green.. could that be bindweed?
What makes a good garden design? The floral display? Hard structures? Or the ambience of the space? With so much choice, materials, inspirations and established methods, garden design can be like Pandora’s Box. Once you start on this creative process, it can be overwhelming.
Once again, flower shows across the land are upon us. With RHS Malvern Spring Festival only last week, RHS Chelsea Flower Show is close on its heels in late May, and gardeners, suppliers and designers are busy buzzing around to get their displays perfect, not only through the design but also in the timing. It always amazes me how these horticulturalists manage to get their flowers, shrubs and vegetables looking at their best for those few days. Whether they’re in season or not, the amount of preparation, resources and time it takes is phenomenal.
Although these shows can mean a mass of people, they’re also places where people are a little nicer, a little more friendly and a little more patient. We’re mostly gardeners, and as such we move at a slower pace. But that’s only because our senses are taking in every colour, texture and smell. We are finely tuned receivers, who have come together to share. And as someone who has to face the daily commuting hell in and out of London, this rare sense of harmony in the city is most welcome.
As the years go by, and my experience and knowledge grows, so have my tastes changed. Of course, what I like may not appeal to someone else. Whilst studying for my RHS Level 2 certificates last year, I was introduced to garden design, from linear site survey to plant design, colour palettes to informal gardens; the secrets of those elusive show garden designers, were now spilling before my keen eyes.
There’s so much out there for a budding gardener to be inspired by. Last year, Dan Pearson, who took both Gold and Best in Show at RHS Chelsea Flower, for his Chatsworth Garden, was a big inspiration for me. I love his designs, and have since been reading up on his work, his attitude to horticulture and what inspires him.
From my back garden to my front garden, and even the allotment, I’d like to say all flowers, shrubs and vegetables have been selected by design. However, I’d be lying. Much of it has been the gentle touch of Mother Nature, weaving something beautiful from the chaos.
I’ve said it before, but one day I’m hoping for a spot at one of these shows. As a small player alongside the big boys and girls, I’d love to prove that even a very amateur gardener like myself can hold his own when it comes to garden design.