Something new in the Gardens

Our new sculpture is unveiled!

Every year our lovely Friends of Easton Walled Gardens sign up for a season ticket and other benefits. Although the funds raised from these memberships are a part of the garden’s income, we like to ring-fence some of this money to spend directly enhancing the visitor’s experience.

So far the Friends have helped buy the green oak for the vegetable garden, repair the old greenhouses and buy local trees for the orchard. We thought you might like to know that Continue reading “Something new in the Gardens”

Rare Find in The Rose Meadow

We’ve finally struck gold.. or maybe purple!

No species has come to represent the destruction of the UK’s native meadows more than the orchid. Since the second world war, when permanent pasture was dug up for crops and then sprayed into sterility with herbicides, this beautiful plant has vanished from great swathes of our countryside.

So, when we started our meadows from scratch over 10 years ago, native orchids became key target plants. They were unlikely to occur until we had all the ingredients of a flourishing meadow in place. If we could introduce orchids we would know that we had increased plant biodiversity significantly.

EWG 28.5.15.-23 Meadow

Orchids can’t be persuaded to grow where it doesn’t suit them naturally. You can’t raise them from seed in John Innes compost. They need the right soil and the right fungi to be present to germinate.

For the last 10 years we have been begging seed from wildlife sites. We have been given masses of advice and generous amounts of hay from old meadows. The seed has fallen from the hay, been blown from our hands or pressed into the soil. But it is still a guessing game – the orchids will decide for themselves whether or not they deign to make a meadow their home.

Rare Orchid Blog Triptic Easton Walled Gardens

So you can imagine the thrill of seeing not just one rosette of possible orchid leaves appear but seven beautiful, deep purple/pink flowering spikes appear in the Rose Meadow about a fortnight ago.

And, astonishingly, it’s not just orchids that are appearing in the developing meadows. Rare sulphur clover has been found on the terraces, the most northerly known location of this species. Vetches are straggling through establishing crops of yellow rattle and the blue butterflies are growing in number.

Easton Walled Gardens Meadow

Over the next few months our terrace meadows are growing, flowering and providing homes and nectar for a great diversity of insects. The swallows and other insect feeding birds swoop down on this abundance.

We mow paths through the long flowering grasses, knapweed and blue scabious so that you can see the miniature details of life that make an English meadow so precious.

To learn more about meadows and wild flowers, see our guide: Top Five Wild Garden Heroes

Top five nurseries at RHS Chelsea

Top 5 growers and their plants at RHS Chelsea

Eagles Sweet Peas

..have had a tough growing year to get enough sweet peas together but you would never know. Owner Derek Heathcote brought his usual quality display to Chelsea and added another gold medal to his collection.

New to his stand this year was Sweet Pea ‘Ballerina Blue’ described as ‘a must for exhibition and cut flowers.’ It has four large pale blue florets per stem, a good scent and has been awarded an AGM. It was good to see one of my favourite sweet peas Henry Thomas on his stand.

Swapping sweet pea stories with such an experienced grower was always going to be interesting and we nodded wisely together over his mantra: ‘It’s a good root system that produces the flowers.’

Derek Heathcote of Eagle Sweet Peas at RHS Chelsea Flower Show Richard and Heather Godard-Key from Fibrex Nurseries at RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Fibrex Nurseries

Owned by Richard and Heather Godard-Key (see above in front of their gold medal winning stand), Fibrex Nurseries is the go-to place for heritage, modern, specie and scented pelargoniums (still known colloquially as geraniums). With over 2,500 varieties in their collection, pinning down a favourite was always going to be hard but we did discuss their top three scented geraniums: ‘Attar of Roses,’ ‘Lemon Fancy’ and ‘Lady Plymouth’. Surprisingly, I learnt that regal pelargoniums are particularly good for bees.

Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants

Rosy Hardy is one of our plant heroes and if she recommends a herbaceous perennial it’s worth listening! In 2013, Hardy’s championed Nepeta grandiflora ‘Summer Magic’ and it was featured on their stand this year. It has gone straight onto my bucket list along with this year’s introduction Antirrhinum ‘Pretty in Pink’ – This is a perennial, rust resistant snapdragon with a long flowering period. Sounds perfect to us and well worth trialling next year.

Rosie Hardy at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015 Antirrhinum 'Pretty in Pink'

Trewidden Nurseries

The most south westerly nursery in the country specialising in exotic plants. The Aeonium display stopped me in my tracks. Most of us are familiar with A. ‘Schwarzkopf’ – often resembling a walking stick with black succulent leaves on rosettes sticking out of the top; this plant is really only suitable for big container schemes. Trewidden are offering homebred Aeoniums ‘Du Rozzen’ ‘Merry Maiden’ and ‘Poldark’ which are far more compact for low maintenance container plantings.

Intriguing Proteas and other exotics will make this nursery well worth visiting online when it rebrands as Penberth Plants in the autumn.

Robinsons Seeds and Vegetables

Susan Robinson is part of this legendary vegetable growing family. Many of their vegetables, forced over the winter in challenging conditions, are also good for a family garden. A small tender cabbage, Hisp F1, that can be used like lettuce early in the season, featured in the front of her display. Its size makes it a good choice for supper without leaving mountains of cabbage to lurk in the fridge.

Her comment to me that ‘Fruit and veg should hover between life and death’ (under stress the plant puts all its nutrients into the edible parts) was music to my ears. There is now an excellent excuse for deprived tomato plants.

Susan Robinson at RHS Chelsea Flower Show Tomato tower at RHS Chelsea Flower Show

 

You may also like: Top 5 things we learnt at RHS Chelsea.