Although my own garden has been my centre of activities I have longed to get out and about visiting other gardens. There has been a lot of virtual gardening which has been invaluable in keeping up the nosy garden visitor’s spirits and recently I had another gentle conversation about gardening with Lesley Dolphin (@lesleydolphin) on her afternoon Radio Suffolk programme. This time we talked about how, with the easing of lockdown, garden visiting was now a reality, and I also talked about some of the ‘must do’ things that I was doing in my garden.
During the week prior we had had several days of soft but persistent rain, so my first tip was to do with houseplants. I decided that they all needed a little shower and kicked them outside. So cardamom plants, clivias and some South African bulbs, all spent a couple of days and nights outside. As I was doing this, I realised that some of the South African bulbs need repotting and their compost refreshing… so that is a task for another day. I also put the small collection of three or four orchids outdoors for a short rejuvenating holiday. Now they are all back inside and their foliage has brightened and they are less dusty and second-hand looking.
And I have a new houseplant on the windowledge. This was an unexpected but very welcome thank-you gift from Nell & Green Botanics (@Nellandgreenbotanics on Instagram). It is a Swiss cheese plant with a difference. Instead of deeply cut foliage, the leaves of Monstera obliqua look as if they have been folded and cut out from green tissue. Perhaps Matisse had a hand in making them!
I am set for another stint of seed sowing, this time mainly direct into the soil. I will be clearing some rows of almost-over spinach and broad beans to make way for other sowings. I plan to put in chard, more coriander – just can’t be without this herb – and more lettuce. I am also going to pop a few bean seeds in and around to get a few extra beans, once my first harvest is over. Same with courgettes, although… the courgette glut is something we all encounter annually!
My third tip was about watering, which might seem curious since we have just had several days of rain. Even after a good shower I still check that containers are thoroughly watered…
I have had a drive or two recently, mainly to be sure that my car will start… and went into the next door village to me, Long Melford, where the growers and sowers from Sudbury’s Constitution Hill (@growninsuffolk) have the contract to make Long Melford bloom. The approach to the bridge in Long Melford is lined with planters and throughout the village there are large half-barrels that have been planted up by LM volunteers. The great thing about the planters is that they have water reservoirs… and that is the thing with containers… they do need a good water supply.
Another job for this moment is the cutting back of spent blooms from border plants. I have a particular border in mind… it has been lovely with Silene fimbriata, but now the blooms are over and I will give this a fierce chop. The plants around it will get some space and light to thrive and take the stage. Doing this prevents the plants’ seeds from falling and giving me weed-like problems later on.
I also love going round the garden taking the battered (after rain) spent rose heads off… and then seeing the new buds opening a day or two later. Rosa ‘Boscabel’ is highly perfumed but it suffers in the rain and so I made sure that I took off all the spent and damaged blooms to give the remaining abundant buds a chance.
But now that lockdown is easing you can get out of your own garden and visit others or meet friends in a garden. The National Gardens Scheme announced that some of its venues are opening on a ticketed and timed basis, sadly without tea and cakes for the moment. Last weekend I decided I had to get out and do just that (all visits have to be booked and paid for online at ngs.org.uk and are for a specific time slot).
I arranged to meet two friends whom I had not seen since March at Holm House. It felt ‘nearly normal’ to walk round a garden for an hour with them. The sun shone and the garden looked splendid… and it was so good to be with friends once more, albeit at a social distance.
Five NGS Gardens open in Suffolk the weekend of 20 and 21 June 2020
Book your ticket at ngs.org.uk.
Saturday 20 June 2020
Brambly Hedge, Lowestoft Road, Beccles Suffolk NR34 7DE – slots can be booked commencing 10.30am.
Sunday 21 June 2020
246 Ferry Road, Felixstowe, Suffolk IP11 9RU – slots from 11am.
Paget House, Back Road, Middleton, Saxmundham, Suffolk IP17 3NY – slots from 2pm.
The Old Rectory, Church Lane, Kirton, Suffolk IP10 0PT – slots from 12noon
Great Bevills, Sudbury Road, Bures, Suffolk CO8 5JW – slots from 2pm.
Plant Heritage Webinars
During lockdown there have been so many ways to enjoy gardens and gardening without leaving my own home and garden.
Plant Heritage, the garden plant conservation and research charity, has been holding webinars on specific plants. Recent subjects include Irises with Suffolk’s Sarah Cook, who holds the National Collection of Cedric Morris Irises, and Ravishing Roses.
The next one, on 24 June 2020, is on peonies led by peony experts Claire Austin and Caroline Stone. Book at Plant Heritage. Tickets are £4.
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