The sun is relentless and moisture absent except on my brow. It is officially too hot to do anything strenuous in the garden. I wilt in strong sunshine and yet I bravely faced the melee of the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show on Thursday to get some inspiration and do a bit of plant shopping.
Was it worth a three and a half hour journey to get there – a journey which should have been no more than an hour?
The answer is yes but only because I managed to meet with some specialist nurseries and get some advice on some plants for my greenhouse.
I have found mail-order a fabulous way of getting hold of chosen plants. But looking at the best these growers have to offer, displayed so brilliantly on their show stands, and meeting these passionate growers face to face just cannot be beaten.
A year ago I went to a local plant fair and loved seeing the exotic climbers on the Tynings Climbers stand. I took their leaflet and vowed to seek them out if and when I built my new greenhouse. As the greenhouse was being planned I even designed in a planting hole in the paving in which to plant my chosen climber. Tynings hold national collections for Passiflora (Passion Flowers) and Jasmine and the printer almost gave up on me as I foolishly wasted pages of paper and ink printing off their 40 page plant list. I was bamboozled by choice. A better idea was to meet them face to face for advice.
In the sweltering but impressive marquee of the RHS Hampton Court flower show I made a bee-line for the Tynings stand and was not disappointed. It was chock full of the type of plants I love – Gloriosa Lilies, Bougainvillia, Thunburgia and of course Passion Flowers.
I had my eye on a a beautiful red passion flower but was advised against it. Whilst their catalogue and books on conservatory plants will advise you on minimum winter temperatures there is more to growing passiflora than this.
Some can tolerate a big range in temperatures whilst others can’t. Even in a heated greenhouse, using a thermostatically controlled heater, the temperature range can be too much for some plants. I was advised to buy a non-fussy but beautiful Passiflora caerula ‘Lavender Lady’ and to go away and monitor the maximum and minimum temperature ranges in my greenhouse over a year.
I feel a graph coming on…
More than hot air
Second stop in the marquee was the Gold medal-winning stand of Liverpool-based nursery Every Picture Tells a Story, whose beautiful display of epiphytic bromeliads and air plants was drawing crowds and customers.
Epiphytes grow on other plants and trees and draw moisture and nutrients from the air, taking nothing from the host plant. One of my greenhouse gardening books has a feature on bromeliads, orchids and air plants and how they can be mounted on tree branches. A few weeks ago I had an idea to implant epiphytes into the fibrous trunk of a Trachycarpus fortuneii in my greenhouse. The tiny stumps left behind when you snip off an old leaf would I thought provide good planting pockets.
I will be completing this project in the next couple of weeks and will share the results but for now here’s a sneak peek at some of the plants I bought from Every Picture Tells a Story. My design will lack the scale of their display and most possibly the flair but I’m excited at the prospect of growing these intriguing plants.
There were many varieties of Hemerocallis – otherwise known as Daylilies – in the show gardens at Hampton Court and I came home and took a look at mine. Whilst I love the shape and variety of Hemerocallis, the fact that they only last a day has always felt like a bit of a swizz to me. I like to cut garden flowers to display in the house and of course the Daylilies are useless for this. I also dislike the shrivelled appearance of yesterday’s flowers but can’t cope with daily dead-heading.
Despite my misgivings, I do rather like to grow is this Minion-yellow one, which I believe to be ‘Stella D’oro’. Whilst the colour is bright, this plant is compact, clumps up nicely and is often smothered in flowers. It was a clump from a friend and looks rather lovely next to this equally yellow Kniphofia.
There is no doubt that the show gardens at Hampton Court Flower Show display an incredible amount of skill on the part of the designers. My propensity to impulse buy, and lack of discipline in planning, generally means my borders lack the cohesion of a show garden border.
However, I’m rather pleased with how the beds either side of my greenhouse are shaping up. I shared a rather uninspirational picture of these in my Six on Saturday on 16th June but now the flowers are coming out it’s packing more punch. With plenty of Cosmos ‘Daydream’ in bud in a couple of weeks it should be stunning.
I’d like to say I’d pre-planned the planting scheme but what actually happened was that I grew a few annuals from seed and put them in with two roses I already had plus some dahlias I’d planned to put elsewhere.
What this border shows is how important it is to do something – anything- with bits of the garden you’re not quite ready to deal with. A dear friend of mine had a wonderful plan for her garden but hadn’t the money to implement it yet. I gave her a few plants I’d divided from congested perennials and persuaded her to broadcast cosmos seed over the rest. Of course it’s not the final plan but it’s got to be better than bare soil – or worse – weedy soil.
Centaurea cyanus ‘Red Boy’
This lovely cornflower I grew from seed and is providing accents of colour in the temporary border. Usually cornflowers are peacock blue but this beetroot coloured pink is a lovely hybrid called Centaurea cyanus ‘Red Boy’.
It’s very easy to grow but does need a bit of support to stop it flopping over – I was too late with most of my supports and have cut a few in half to encourage future bushy growth with the benefit of having pretty posies for the house using the cut-offs.
A few weeks ago I picked up a tiny sweet potato plant in my local garden centre. Most years my family challenge me to grow something new that they can eat and this seemed like a good one to try.
I took to twitter for growing advice as I wasn’t sure how good a crop we’d get in a British summer. Little did I know how much heart we’d get so I opted to try it out in a spacious pot in the greenhouse, instead of in the veg patch.
In just five weeks it has romped away in this corner where it’s enveloped itself around my tap. I’m told the flowers are attractive but this has yet to flower. I’m not certain what sort of crop I’ll get but as a temporary climber I’m happy with the way it’s looking.
Six on Saturday is a weekly link-up – take a look at the comments at the base of host The Propagator to see more ‘sixes’ from other keen gardeners from all over the world.