The Tea Break Gardener

My Gardening Week – Six on Saturday 21.07.18

My Gardening Week – Six on Saturday 21.07.18

This week I’ve been weather watching as I gear up for my local Flower Show and have been monitoring the temperature fluctuations in my greenhouse.  I’ve been missing my usual range of home grown vegetables but delighting in how advanced the dahlias are.

Greenhouse temperature monitoring

Greenhouse alitex

I’m not one for systems.  My enthusiasm for organisation is low.  Early on I discovered I mostly garden by feel, memory and experience and my notebook was soon abandoned.

Finding the time to do was more important than finding the time to record.

Some degree of system and application to task is required to monitor my greenhouse temperatures, however.  Understanding the temperature fluctuations in summer and winter will make plant selection more informed.

My greenhouse has two areas – a main area and a smaller annexed area.  I therefore bought two digital Max and Min thermometers, one for each zone.  They cost less than £10 each and are fantastic as they show the current temperature plus the maximum and minimum reached.  Every morning I record these temperatures and then reset the thermometer for the next day.

greenhouse temperature chart

I’ve charted the temperatures for a little over a week so far and it bears out what I had already worked out just from being in the greenhouse – that the annexed area has more extremes of temperature than the main area and these are most marked on the sunniest days.

The annexed area is smaller and has a reduced air flow through the side vents and out of the roof vents.  It also has evening sun blazing through the gable end directly into it.

The thermometers have been crucial in correcting one habit I had got into – keeping the door to the annexe open during the day.  I had assumed that this would equalise the temperature differences in the two areas.

Using the thermometers I discovered that this wasn’t the case and that the venting worked more efficiently in the annexed area when the door was shut. Most plants will struggle as the temperature reaches 40 degrees and on some days recently, we have reached 39.9 in the annexe area.

Keeping the door shut could make the vital degree or two difference.


Planning my Flower Show entries

Flower show entry form and rule books

Saturday 21st July sees the annual Flower Show in a village just up the hill from where I live. I’ve previously written about my experiences of showing for the first time so if you’re interested to know more about showing fruit, vegetables and flowers you can read it here.

This year will be the third time I’ve entered and every year the week running up to the show sees me wandering round the garden wondering what will be ready, and what will have gone over on the day of the show.

The Thursday before the show is the deadline for entries and it’s always a head-scratcher.  An eye on the weather forecast, a scoot round the garden and a crystal ball are required to decide which categories to have a punt at.

This year I almost didn’t enter anything.  I had big plans for my sweet peas and annuals but the high temperatures of recent weeks have checked development and I know they won’t be up to my usual standard.

However, remembering a comment made last year by the Show Secretary helped me to decide to enter.  She said – “We just want the show marquee to look colourful.”

So I’ll enter my sweet peas, annuals and perennials and also some of my soft fruit.  At least they’ll add a splash of colour, even if they’re a bit crispy round the edges.

Sweet peas in the fridge

Show sweet peas in fridge

For some reason, despite regular deadheading and watering, flower development on my sweet peas has slowed right up. I can’t complain as the house has been filled with fragrant bouquets for weeks and I have given many to friends and family.

The problem is I did decide to enter the sweet pea class at the local show and need 10 perfect spikes for Saturday morning.

This week I peered at the developing flower spikes and at the weather forecast and decided I may not have the required number of flowers and should consider preserving some blooms.

Last year I experimented with keeping sweet pea flowers in the fridge and it really worked. I stored a perfect spike with four well developed flower heads from Monday until Saturday, when it happily joined more recently picked blooms in the show vase.

I don’t think this is really cheating as I remember seeing a documentary on exhibitors in the run up to the Chelsea Flower Show moving plants in and out of fridges and polytunnels in order for them to be in peak condition for the show.

RHS judging guidelines do refer to point deductions for flowers showing signs of “unnatural preservation” but I found no impact on the texture or colour of the petals after their days alongside my husband’s beer.

The tropical border

Tropical border with hardy banana and dahlias

The sweet peas may be suffering but the Dahlias are loving this weather and I have blooms on plants much earlier than previous years.

I have shared pictures of this border in previous Six on Saturday posts and have written about the hardy banana, Musa basjoo which continues to add a note of the tropics each year.

Dahlia Islander

In bloom at the moment are Dahlia ‘Islander’ with huge flower heads the size of tea plates.  These are joined by two plants which were overwintered in the ground and have therefore formed large clumps.  Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ is adding a welcome splash of crimson.

Tropical border with trachycarpus fortuneii crocosmia and dahlias

This border only receives sun until lunchtime but I have found this preserves the lush look without depriving the dahlias of the sunshine they need to flower well.

Vegetable Patch without many vegetables

Vegetable garden in evening sun

Impending building work and the setting up my new greenhouse forced me to decide not to grow many vegetables this year.

Globe artichokes

One and a half beds are taken up as a holding area for perennials displaced by the building works.  In the rest are some flowers for cutting plus Jerusalem artichokes, Globe artichokes, winter squash and a climbing french bean called ‘Cobra’ with delightful mauve flowers.

Climbing french bean Cobra

Despite the lack of edibles, the patch looks rather pretty in the evening sunshine.  I’m missing my salads, beetroot, broad beans and peas though and will welcome them back next year with open arms.

Off to the flower show

transporting flower show entries in car

This is the boot first thing this morning.  I’ve entered far too many categories and they’ll take me a while to stage.

I’m nervous but I’m reminding myself how pretty the marquee will look with the produce of many amateur gardeners from our local villages coming together to show the best of their gardens on this one day.

It’s a great day out and prizes or not, at least they’ll be cake.


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.


  1. Tim Hewitt July 21, 2018 at 11:11 am - Reply

    It looks to me like you will have a fine display. Good luck. I love your plants, but came away from the post wanting a beer. That is damning. Of me.

    • Katharine July 21, 2018 at 11:16 am - Reply

      Well the sun is over the yard-arm now so a cold beer would probably be acceptable. I’m more of a tea girl myself. I’ve now staged everything and judging is probably underway. It was a bit of a push to get everything in the vases before the bell went but I just made it.

  2. Granny's garden July 21, 2018 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    Beautiful colours. You look well organised to me!!

    • Katharine July 22, 2018 at 9:27 am - Reply

      Thanks. I’m not sure running round the garden with a bucket and secateurs wildly picking anything looking bonny counts as organised but it did the job!

  3. fred July 21, 2018 at 12:39 pm - Reply

    You look like me, Katharine … I also monitor the temperature of the greenhouse and I made a graph with Excel … we have the same results! I’m looking forward to seeing what will happen in winter (to compare with mine). I enjoyed watching your quick video last week on Twitter and hearing your voice, but it’s easier to read for me than to listen … a lack of training ..
    Nice pictures as always, especially the 2 borders with the exotic look.

    • Katharine July 22, 2018 at 9:29 am - Reply

      Never fear, Fred. I enjoy writing too much to abandon that. Will be interested to see what the greenhouse temps do in autumn and winter and how the excel chart compares to yours. 30+ degrees forecast again here next week so I’ll be damping the greenhouse floor to try and keep everything a bit cooler.

  4. Jude July 21, 2018 at 1:03 pm - Reply

    Your flowers look delightful and the sweet peas are gorgeous. Good luck at the show. And leave me some cake…

    • Katharine July 22, 2018 at 9:31 am - Reply

      Hi Jude. The sweet peas won although sadly only three entries. I think the weather did for many people’s crops. Coffee and Walnut cake was my chosen teatime treat. Would gladly have shared some!

  5. March Picker July 21, 2018 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    The photo of your sweet peas in the fridge made me smile. And that Islander is magnificent. Your show is bound to be fun. Enjoy the time surrounded by beauty.

    • Katharine July 22, 2018 at 9:33 am - Reply

      Hi March Picker. The show was great fun, although the marquee was sweltering. Some really lovely entries including a beautiful potted Eucomis entered by someone I know through my Horticultural Society. It’s great to see what everyone else grows.

  6. Lora Hughes July 21, 2018 at 4:08 pm - Reply

    Both descriptions of the temps in the greenhouse & preps for the flower show were really interesting. You’ve done a lot of work & I hope you did well in the show. You certainly had some beautiful entries.

    • Katharine July 22, 2018 at 9:39 am - Reply

      Thanks Lora, it honestly doesn’t feel like I’ve done allot of work as it’s all fun. The greenhouse monitoring is informative. I just hope I can keep it up. I got a few firsts in the show which was lovely. Whilst I do have an eye on the show classes, I just grow what I like to eat and what looks good in my garden. We’ll be having prize-winning gooseberry pie for supper.

  7. Ciar July 21, 2018 at 4:26 pm - Reply

    What a great idea to store sweet peas in the fridge. You wouldn’t know from your lovely colourful flower harvest that there is a drought!

  8. Paddy July 21, 2018 at 5:42 pm - Reply

    Good luck with the flower show! I wouldn’t have thought of putting the sweet peas in the fridge to help preserve them, but that’s definitely a good tip 🙂

    • Katharine July 22, 2018 at 9:41 am - Reply

      Thanks Paddy. I also tried the fridge trick with Roses. It did keep them for longer than in the hot garden but not more than a day or two. So the lovely head of Rose ‘Munstead Wood’ that I picked on Wednesday did not make it to the show bench. Luckily a perfect bloom ‘Peace’ was there to be picked the morning of the show.

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