Thursday 5 September 2013

Student vegetable plots

The student vegetable plots are tucked away in the northern part of the garden, opposite the School of Horticulture, and are keenly maintained by the students. Although there is a strong element of fun involved, meticulous marking once a month by the assessor means you must get on with it whether you would like to or not! Vegetables are required to be grown to a high standard, pest free and harvested at the correct time, and some flowering plants are also allowed on the plots too to lure in the pollinating insects. The highest marks are awarded to those who utilise the space most ingeniously, with catch crops and intercropping to give the most bountiful harvest overall! Marks are lost to those with bare soil, weeds, and for negligent harvesting, such as the inevitable comedy marrow left growing on the courgette plant for too long. We benefited from a very good growing year this summer, and overall it was bloody good fun!
My plot took on a Dig for Victory theme this year, with patriotic flags and a wartime scarecrow standing guard. The cosmos were magnificently unruly and have flowered their socks off

Bean poles and the old bunting!

Mixed marigolds providing a colourful edging

A peacock resting over a row of carrots, although many students did not bother to protect their crops we have had no incidents of the dreaded root fly

Tagetes and some healthy basil poking through

The rocket have bolted gloriously this year, one of the students foresaw the inevitable

Some incredible bolting lettuce!

Lord Roberts enjoying the evening sun

This is a surprisingly excellent dwarf sunflower cultivar, H. ‘Little Dorrit’. The honeybees in particular are very keen on it

Excess veg from the plots, plus flowers and some potted plants, are sold here every Friday between 12pm and 1pm


Saturday 15 June 2013

Waterlily House, month by month

The Waterlily House is one of Kew’s smallest glasshouses, but is easily one of the busiest attractions! Here is housed a giant waterlily, Victoria cruziana, and countless other tropical gems and floral delights. The house was built in 1852 specifically to house the larger and more famous species, Victoria amazonica, using the same iron work detail provided by Irishman Richard Turner who built the nearby Palm House. Unfortunately the V. amazonica was never happy here and is now planted in the Princess of Wales Conservatory, but the Santa Cruz waterlily flourishes and the lipped-rimmed leaf pads add greatly to the display in this small house. Every autumn the house is completely taken apart and removed, with plants, soil, water and even the fish shipped out! The house remains empty during the bleak winter months, and then in spring is restocked and replanted with plants and fish for the summer display. I was luckily enough to help out with the replanting this year and below follows some of the progress and development in the house from reopening in February to the June view yesterday afternoon!
Sign reads, “Where are the waterlilies? On a winter break!” That break is now over as spring is here

The new compost arrives, the first of many large bags

All of the raised beds are filled by hand!

The final wheelbarrow is filled and then the beds are full

The Tree Gang arrive from the Arboretum to help raise the Nepenthe baskets above the pond

With all of the waterlily planters in place, it is time to fill the pond!

The first planting is the structural foliage specimens such as Calathea and Alocasia

With the waterlilies planted the house opens to the public! The Spanish galleon masthead was a temporary feature for the Easter chocolate festival

Three weeks later the pond is almost filling up!

A distinguished visitor makes a graceful exit

Waterlily stems have these hollow sections contained within them, providing the buoyancy required for the foliage and flowers to rest on the water's surface

A netting of Passiflora provides the necessary shading to satisfy much of the floral bedding display, which prefer dappled-light conditions and can scorch in full sun

The incredible glory of Passiflora alata!

Many smaller hybrids also inhabit the pond; this is Nymphaea carpentaria x violaceae, a cross created at Kew by my old boss Carlos Magdalena

Waterlily foliage is armoured with fierce (painful) spines which deter herbivores and help support the leaf ribs!

The Victoria flowers are, inevitably, both large and glorious!

Another of Carlos' Nymphaea hybrids, and as yet unnamed

Close up in the pond, with more detail of the leaf rim and protective spines!

June view of this wonderful tropical house

Friday 7 June 2013

Raworth Garden, June

One of the highlights of my week is cycling up to the Raworth Garden on Saturday mornings to carry out my gardening duties, at the glorious Twickenham garden that I have previously posted about here. Inexplicably, I am yet to post any highlights from the garden, but during a blisteringly busy day today I was able to snatch a handful of floral images and so it is now time to record some of the Raworth glory! Tomorrow evening (6pm-8pm) the garden is opening to the public for the annual National Garden Scheme Open Day. The weather is set fair, the garden is looking wonderful and I am quite certain it will be a dashed good evening!
Early summer glory in the Sink Garden

Thalictrum haze!

The privet hedges at the front of the property are a prominent feature, pruned once a fortnight to encourage tiny foliage and an elegance not normally associated with privet hedging

Fresh clippery in the Knot Garden

Cotoneaster procumbens ‘Queen of Carpets’ provides a step edging in the Sunken Garden

Papaver orientale ‘Cedric Morris’ is one of the larger-flowered poppies used in the Main Border

Jenny buys many white foxgloves so we are unsure of this cultivar, but it may well be Digitalis purpurea ‘Snow Thimble’

More detail of P. ‘Cedric Morris’!

The acid yellow delight of Smyrnium perfoliatum

Silene fimbriata is known as the Fringed Campion, and although a tiny bit of a thug is an excellent specimen for the deep borders on account of it tolerating shade and bearing these incredible white blooms

Amazingly, a Monarch butterfly landed in the border while I was edging the lawn! How it got here from Mexico remains a mystery. Nomadic devils

The Raworth cat, Benny, is a good egg

Nap time!

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Chelsea Flower Show

Last week, respite was sought and found from lectures with an evening visit to the exalted Chelsea Flower Show! This was my first visit here, and it was frankly dashed good fun. Nervous of the expected crowds we gingerly edged in to the grounds of the Royal Hospital after dinner at a nearby hostelry, and fortunately with the threat of wet weather hovering in the skies above we were quietly pleased to see hundreds of tired faces leaving in their droves. The rain failed to materialise, so we enjoyed a relatively quiet evening poking about the place and drinking in the pomp of this famous flower show. Although the show gardens are generally a bit too modern for my tastes, the monies involved put these design eggs at the coal face of experimentation, so it is always worth keeping an eye on what they get up! Happily, the theme this year seemed to be wildflowers and naturalistic planting, so there was inspiration to be had in all corners. I hope to return next year!
Strange golden baubles but very pleasant planting in Walkers’ Pine Cottage Garden

The Una Garreg garden showed a glorious level of detail, with plants creeping onto the paths and moss amongst the cracks

‘A Hebridean Weaver’s Garden’ was one of the most enjoyable sights of the show!

The cotton grass glory of Eriophorum angustifolium

Oriental mayhem in the Tokonoma Garden

Angelica archangelica, and the East Village Garden

The floriferous grids of the Telegraph Garden

Chris Beardshaw’s amazing garden for Arthritis Research UK!

Aside from a somewhat unfortunate rusty circle, this was the show garden that I enjoyed the most; the M&G Centenary Garden as designed by Roger Platts

More of this wonderful garden

The marquee displays provided no end of joy, this Allium, Nectaroscordum and Eremurus display was by Devine Nurseries, Yorkshire