I really like sedum (spectabile means worth seeing), it displays welcome colour at the time of year when the garden is starting to lose a lot of its vibrance and colour.
Every stem of this lovely perennial is topped with flat heads of starry flowers, at this time of year, deep pink, and the bees and butterflies love it!
Once flowering has finished don’t be tempted to cut back, when left the seed heads provide great winter interest to the garden and may even be a source of winter food for the birds.
Butterflies are drawn to blues and pinks, moths prefer white flowers.
I think this is what may be responsible for my sprout plants looking like lace curtains. Not enough attention was given when this was at the egg and caterpillar stage. At the same time as possibly considering this butterfly as a pest, it is rather pretty, even more so as this is a female with two spots and a streak on each upper wing, something which the male doesn’t have.
The plant it has perched on is verbena bonariensis.
NASTURTIUM - Patriotism, Conquest, Victory in battle
I cannot rate nasturtiums highly enough, not only do they give great ground cover but the flowers are great added to salad leaves for a lovely peppery taste. They are dead easy to grow from seed; as I love all the colours available these days I grow lots of different varieties, these are two which I have grown this year.
I am an advocate for using different herbs and flowers as companion plants when growing vegetables; nasturtiums are great for attracting aphids away and are even said to repel whitefly and ants. They are good companions to broccoli and cauliflower, cabbage and sprouts, courgette, marrow and squash.
I love the frogs in my garden, they do jump out and surprise you when you least expect them to. My favourites are the tiny ones, as you can see they are so sweet. Watch out for any larger ones who may have set up home in your compost heap, already this year I have very nearly spiked two with my garden fork; also they manage to hop into your garden rubbish too, a few weeks ago I returned home from the tip to find a very large one sitting on the back seat of my car on the plastic sheeting, it looked very happy sitting there, perhaps it knew it had escaped from very nearly being composted!
CLIMBING ROSE - Grace
I have only two roses in my garden, one I have already commented on, this is the other; it was a gift from my mother-in-law. It has a heady scent and a profusion of lovely pale pink flowers all summer long, as long as you keep up with the deadheading. I never really get time for serious pruning so basically it is allowed to do as it pleases, a few branches may be lopped off here and there but only when it starts to impede upon the garden bench.
In the summer I pick the young buds and add them to ice cubes, a simple idea but really effective, and it costs nothing.
Oh dear, love is in the air, as if I haven’t got enough to deal with! I know snails can be a nuisance but I always feel so bad when I hear a crunch from beneath my feet, I just can’t kill them, I collect them all up and take them to the refuse tip along with the garden waste, at least that way they get a hearty last supper!
THE HARVEST TODAY
Today is Saturday and there has been a breakthrough, the sun is shining, at last! Guess what will go towards our dinner tonight?
The runner beans (Lady Di) are doing well after a very slow start; the carrots are Parmex, they can be grown in containers to eat small, as you can see from the larger one it was missed, and was given the opportunity to put on a bit of weight; and the turnips are Milan Purple Top.
SUNFLOWER ‘STELLA’ - Adoration, Pride
Listed by English seedsmen as early as the mid 1800s the blooms were sold in Covent Garden as cut flowers and the plants were grown in ornamental borders. It was also known as the classic insect attractant especially with honey and bumble bees. A border would often accompany a block of hives.
I love this one, they look lovely dotted around the garden, give much needed late summer colour and make an excellent cut flower, what more could you ask for! My sister-in-law’s name is Stella, she doesn't know it but if it wasn’t for her I would never have discovered this lovely variety.
As I didn’t have room for rhubarb in my garden this year I have grown it in a large pot, it has produced some lovely stems which will be picked shortly to make and bake a lovely crumble. I am not sure whether I can leave it in the pot for next year or whether it really needs to be in open soil, any ideas?
A member of the rose family, raspberries have a wonderfully intense, sweet taste, and many consider them to be the finest flavoured of all the berries.
I have only just started growing raspberries in my garden; my Dad gave me half a dozen canes. They haven’t given me a lot of fruit this year but hopefully next year they should do better. It is great just to be able to go out in the garden and pick off the berries as they appear, before the birds find them that is!
SALVIA ‘BLACK AND BLUE’
My favourite colour is blue so you can imagine my delight when I spotted this lovely Salvia at Hampton Court this year, this to me is as close to a true blue flower as you are ever going to get.
Blue flowers are best admired at dusk, as along with white ones they remain visible for longer than any other colour.
THE HARVEST TODAY
Today I had my second pickings of runner beans. I have tried a few different varieties but keep coming back to this one (Lady Di). They are heavy croppers and because they are deemed to be stringless they are lovely and tender.
Another old faithful is tomato Gartenperle, they are so easy, I grow them in troughs and large pots, just as long as you remember to feed and water them they remain happy.
SWEET PEA ‘MATUCANA’ - Blissful pleasure, Goodbye, Departure
This variety dates from about the 1930s, it is sometimes confused with Cupani which is of much earlier origin.
Everyone should grow these, they are wonderful. Each stem has four lovely flowers, each with a heady intoxicating scent. Once they start to flower they can be picked up until October, just as long as you don’t allow them to go to seed.
For anyone interested in antique varieties of sweet pea visit http://lathyrus.com/. I have got my eye on Henry Eckford which has vibrant orange flowers, which I am sure will go on my shopping list for next year.
SWEET PEA 'SPENCER WHITE SWAN'
This variety has produced masses of white flowers on lovely long straight stems, so ideal for cutting to bring indoors, unfortunately once picked they only stay fresh for a day or two, but who cares as you can just go outside and cut some more.
I have a lovely hazel tree in my garden so I use the twiggy branches as a support.
HAMPTON COURT PALACE FLOWER SHOW 2007
After visiting the show last month I decided that my favourite garden this year was The Unwind Garden.
A path winds through the planting and makes the garden appear longer. A sunny deck is partially enclosed with a reclaimed brick wall and scented plants. A circular pool provides the garden with gentle sound and reflection. Silver birch trees provide shade and are underplanted with plants of various shades of green and contrasting foliage.
The planting is predominantly simple and elegant - a mix of grasses, ferns, hostas and other semi-shade-loving plants. Roses, lavender and other sun-loving species are planted around the sunny deck. Lush, large-leaved species give a sculptural edge to the circular pool.
On doing some research I discovered that the sponsors of the garden are a local company from Arundel, just a few miles down the road from me, not that I am biased in any way!
SUNFLOWER 'SPARKY' - False riches, Pride
I have grown this variety for the first time this year (as the seeds were gratis). I shall have these again next year, they have been good for picking as they have multi-headed stems and are fairly short in height, although the one growing by my compost heap is taller.
I always grow my seedlings in pots and I don’t put them out until they are sturdy little plants as I have discovered that in my garden if I put the seeds straight into the soil they never reach more than about an inch before the slugs find them.
SUMMER SQUASH ‘PATTYPAN’
For a couple of years now I have been growing summer squash instead of courgettes (this variety is Sunburst F1, great seeds from Simpson’s Seed http://simpsonsseeds.co.uk/). These are disc-shaped and yellow, like courgettes you can pick them at any stage but best to pick when small. After initially impressing my friends with a more than sufficient supply of produce, they now expect me to supply them with plants, which I grow in toilet roll tubes, they propagate really well in these, and cheap too. Also you can see that I grow my plants in last year's compost heap, once the plants are over I then know it is time to bag the compost up, and then transfer this year's compost into that bin, clever eh ...!
Last summer I planted five of these lovely plants in a block just over a metre square, I love them, but they do grow into little monsters. As each year I am always wanting to experiment with something different from the seed catalogues, and as like most people space being at a premium, I didn’t bother with any this year. As you can see this lovely one has sprung up in the same plot, but where I am now growing my runner beans. I would definitely recommend to anyone who has a large garden to grow these ‘en masse’ as they look great in the evening light and have a lovely scent too!
ROSA RUGOSA - Thankfulness
I haven’t given up much space in my garden for roses but I have got two of these lovely old shrub roses which I inherited from the previous owner. The flowers are a lovely cerise and the hips are huge. The first year I was here I cut both down to the base after they had finished fruiting but now I leave them alone and every year they reward me with more and more flowers and hips.
Monty Don The Complete Gardener - Birds love all berries, but tend to go for red ones first and leave the dark blue and black ones alone.
GRANNY’S PINKS - Pure affection
This variety in my garden have long stems so I have planted them to plunge over the side of a low wall, their perfume is absolutely ‘out of this world’. A relation of mine gave me the originals as every year she would take cuttings from the main plants in her garden, they are so easy to do, a necessity, as the plants do become untidy after a while.
First rinse the blooms in cold water, then remove the petals and discard the white heel (as this part has a bitter taste). Petals can then be added to sweet puddings or you could crystalise them and use as a decoration for cakes.
Thought you may like to see this huge dragonfly which was hawking around my garden for quite a while this afternoon. Trying to capture a picture of it was really difficult as every time I got nearly close enough it would take off. I have had to look it up in my wildlife ‘bible’ Collins Complete British Wildlife, it appears to be a Southern Hawker which makes sense as I do live in West Sussex on the South Coast of England! For more information visit the British Dragonfly Society http://www.dragonflysoc.org.uk/
POPPY - Eternal sleep, Oblivion, Imagination
Walking around my garden I discovered this lovely poppy, where it has come from I do not know.
Poppies have long been used as a symbol of both sleep and death: sleep because of the opium extracted from them, and death because of their (commonly) blood-red colour.
This poppy is not red but this beautiful pink, I love poppies but I just wish the flowers would last a little longer than they do, one blink of an eye and they are gone.
This lovely gatekeeper butterfly was spotted in my garden today, on leycesteria ‘himalayan honeysuckle’ which has self-seeded. This shrub is loved by my resident blackbirds, but for us the red purple berries are inedible. It flowers on one year old wood and likes to be in moisture retentive, but porous soil in full sun.
AMERICAN LAND CRESS
Great to use in a salad, as an addition to a soup or as a garnish (see below for a recipe using Watercress I discovered on the internet – maybe substitute with Land Cress). Great in egg sandwiches too ...!
Much grown in England in the 17th century but fell from fashion and richly deserves a revival.
Today in my garden, I harvested seed from my pot of American Land Cress. I discovered this great substitute for Watercress when I bought a packet for a relative to try, and ended up with a pot grown plant from her to myself. In fact I had forgotten about it, as once it had gone to seed I buried it in a border to get the benefit from the pretty yellow flowers it had produced, only rediscovering it again when I was having a general tidy up. Gone were the flowers, being replaced by lovely dried seed heads, even after cutting these off I can still use the original plant as fresh growth has sprouted from the base which is still usable. At this time of year the leaves are extremely fiery but in different seasons it has a milder taste to it.
American Land Cress can be sown at just about any time of the year, maybe sow some soon for use over the winter, it can put up with the cold, but maybe cover with fleece in chillier regions.
A Recipe - Watercress Butter
What to use:
Unsalted butter – (4 oz) 125g, softened
Watercress leaves – (1 oz) 25g, finely chopped
Fresh lemon juice
1 tsp Ground black pepper
1/4 tsp Cayenne pepper
How to make:
In a food processor blend the butter, watercress leaves, lemon juice, black pepper and cayenne pepper until the mixture is very smooth. Let the mixture stand for about 30 minutes at room temperature or chill it, but bring it back to room temperature before using.