Saturday 23 May 2015

Party in the greenhouse and I wasn't on the guest list ...

Tendrils escape under the greenhouse door and plants press up to the glass, in their attempt to be set free ... yes, it's that tine of year again and the greenhouses are bursting with adolescents in the midst of uncontrollable growth spurts, desperate to party together. For a long time they were small and well behaved, staying quietly in their allocated spaces and growing in a seemly manner. Then May arrived and sent them into overdrive. The runner beans are twining round anything which comes within reach of their waving arms, and I have to constantly unwrap them as they suffocate some poor unsuspecting tomato plant. The giant Dahlias are living up to their name and the Tithonia clearly have a competitive streak as they strive to keep up. There is a wild, wild party going on in there, to which I have not been invited. I have to squeeze into the greenhouse, then sidle past temporary decorator's tables groaning under the weight of yet more plants to water them and try to control their random growth.

So, today is the day I set them free in the garden, to rampage to their heart's desire. They have been hardened off (a bit ! I'm a bit rubbish at that!)  so ... fly free my little ones ...

This year though, I have a secret weapon in my battle against the 'F' word - no, not THAT 'F' word, the really bad one ... FROST ! I truly hope that any danger of Frost is behind us now, but there is always a lurking suspicion in the back of my mind as we had one a few years ago in mid May, so it is not impossible to have one now I guess. But, it wouldn't be the end of the world as I can now deploy my secret weapon which is the RHS Frost Alert. It is a free App which I have downloaded onto my iPhone (don't know if it available for Android)  called 'RHS Grow your own'' and it is free. There is lots of other useful stuff on it, but the bit I love is that you can enter your post code, and a warning will be sent to your phone if frost is expected in your exact locality. Fantastic! Time to rush out with fleece/ bring them all back inside/ knit little jackets for them all.

So today is going to be a busy one for planting out and watering, but I love getting the greenhouse empty before setting it up to grow tomatoes, chillies, peppers and aubergines. The tomatoes are grown in a bed and the others are in pots on the benches. This year, at the instigation of my son, we are having a joint Chilli Challenge. When he was home, one cold grey weekend back in March, we trawled the sites of chilli fanatics before choosing the varieties we would both grow. The challenge will have different aspects and prizes will be awarded for taste, quality of plants and hotness - judged by my long suffering partner. The varieties we chose were Kashmiri Mirch, Royal Black, Black Habanero and Giant White Habanero.

Even though I sowed my seeds straight way and put them in a propagator, my son's germinated first, kept in his bedroom by a window. That room must be positively tropical. However, he came home for the weekend very recently and conceded that mine now have the edge and are taller. Time will tell !

I am growing several varieties of tomato this year, the main one being Thompson & Morgan's 'Sweet Aperitif'. When I was down at their Trial Grounds last year they had set up a blind tomato tasting and 'Sweet Aperitif' won hands down for taste and sweetness. Way ahead of the others. This is a tomato which will never be available commercially as it does not travel/ handle well apparently, so will be a delight only gardeners can experience. I am also growing 'Sungold' which are  sweet and yellow, and favourites of mine, and 'Romello' which are new to me. They are outdoor bush plum tomatoes with good blight resistance.

This year I have grown - Cosmos (dwarf and tall); Melianthus Major; Ricinus; nasturtium; Dahlias ('Bishop's Children' and 'Giant'); Tithonia 'Torchlight'; Hosta 'Sum and Substance); Datura; sweet peas ('Sweet Dreams' and 'Snoopea'); Musa Basjoo, Asters and Zinnia ('Hot Mix') and veg - sweetcorn ('Lark'); pumpkin ('Jack of all trades') ; Aubergine ('Black Enorma'); pepper ('Tropical Heat' and 'Summer Salad').

The biggest enemy they all have to fear is not blight or greenfly or whitefly but the dog, whose mission in life is to shimmy under all defensive barriers, get into the greenhouse and dig frantically in the soft soil of the bed. He delights in causing untold damage in seconds and never once has had the good grace to look guilty!

The garden is now a terrifying focus of our attention as the NGS Open Day is only 4 weeks away, on Sunday, 21st June 11.00 - 5.00. Please do pop in if you are anywhere near. Work in the garden will be full on and a bit hysterical from now on as we try to tick off all the jobs on the list. It has been totally neglected for the last fortnight as we have been on holiday to Florence, staying in a hotel in a 16th century palace, then celebrating a big birthday of mine. So, lots of weeding and catching up to do.

Today is also the day of the month when I have pledged to myself to buy a new plant for the garden which is in flower, and also out of my comfort zone. I have a little confession in that the one I fell in love with is not actually in bloom, but it is fantastic eye candy all the time, so it does tick the box. It is named as Ligularia 'Othello' on the label, but does not look like any of the online photos I have found, as they all have smooth, dark leaves. I fear it has been wrongly labelled. This one is, as you can see,  silver and hairy at the same time. The leaves are very tactile as the urge to stroke them is irresistible ... they are so soft and silky. I have not come across it before, so I am keen to see how it copes with conditions in our garden I am hoping that you clever gardeners out there will tell me what I've got !!