After a week’s hiatus it is time for the latest of my Six on Saturday posts, which cover some of the highs and lows of my last week (or two weeks in this case) in horticulture. Here are six pictures and stories to showcase the latest goings-on.
Visiting Hanbury Hall
I revisited an old stomping ground of mine this week as I went to the gardens at Hanbury Hall. It is a National Trust garden near Droitwich in Worcestershire and its standout feature is the fantastic formal parterre you can see here. With intricate box hedging and full of planting in its peak (in summer it is full of colour, packed with the likes of calendulas, sweet wiliams, marigolds, snapdragons and more) it really takes the visitors breathe away. The level of detail that goes into looking after the parterre is beyond belief and, I can tell you from experience, it requires painstaking detail to prune that low box hedging by hand with a pair of shears. I think it is a great example of a recreated 18th century formal garden, with lots to see, and a place that people should visit when in the area.
I started growing my own hops last year from seed. It is a really slow process and in the end I was left with three hop plants that grew vigorously and healthily throughout the summer. I cut them down in the winter and now I am really excited to see they are showing buds ready to go again this year. I plan to pot them up into larger containers and hopefully see shoots growing big and healthy this coming summer over a frame. I am a keen home brewer and my ultimate goal is to get to the point where I can use hops I have grown myself to go into my home brew. If it all goes to plan then this year I can get a decent haul of hops picked and dried ready to dry-hop a batch of beer.
Need More Space for Potting Up
I have got a lot of seedlings that need pricking out and potting on. Four types of chillies, my dahlias and my sweet peas are all ready to go. On the positive side that means I have a good amount of healthy plants on the go. However, it means I am faced with the issue of space as I do not really have that much decent useable windowsill space that gets good light to keep all these on. It is times like these I really wish I had a greenhouse. All I have outside is one of the little plastic greenhouses and I wouldn’t want to risk putting any of these in there for now. I will get creative and sort the issue.
I have been reading this inspirational book called ‘Miraculous Abundance: One Quarter Acre, Two French Farmers, and Enough Food to Feed the World’. It is about Charles and Perrine Herve-Gruyer and their exploits turning their farm in Normandy called Le Ferme du Bec Hellouin into a world leader in permaculture and natural farming techniques. I saw Ms Herve-Gruyer talk at the Oxford Real Farming Conference in January (you can see me talk about there here) and was really enthused by her stories. Now I am working my way through the book and it is really teaching me about organic gardening and growing and what you can do on a relatively small amount of land.
Sweet Peas Stresses
Recently I have really been fretting about my sweet peas. I sowed these Sweet Pea ‘Spencer Mixed’ a while ago and now I find myself wondering if they got too leggy and are going to be useable. I think it comes from them being in the heated propagator that bit too long, I should’ve taken them out as soon as there was good germination. By pinching them out I have managed to get fresh growth from further down the stem and (most of them) are standing on their own volition. I hope in the long term they will be OK. I have sowed another batch of ‘Spencer Mixed’ and also some Sweet Pea ‘Colour Spectrum’ as back-ups. Horticulture is all about learning from your mistakes and if these end up unusable I will hold my hands up and admit my failings, but for now I am not ready to give up on them. I plan to pinch them out again now before potting them up.
Some Garlic Shoots
I planted five permanent beds of garlic at the end of January at work, which admittedly was a late time to do it. There were only a small handful of bulbs left over of the Garlic ‘Early Purple Wight’ which we planted, so I brought them home and forgot about them. A few weeks later I found this little bag of bulbs and promptly went out and planted them in half of a large plastic grow bag which I had used for my attempts to grow sweetcorn last year, after giving the soil a good top dressing of mulch. Now I see these shoots popping their heads through the soil and I am already starting to look forward to harvesting this tasty garlic come the summer.