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A Garden of Roses

The Renaissance Garden

Today we visited the display gardens at David Austin Roses for an assault on our senses. The mixed scent of hundreds of roses hits you as you enter the garden from the nursery and shop. To begin with we lift each bloom to be smelt, each one delicious in its own way – some fruity, citrus in particular, some myrrh, some hinting at vanilla. Before long too much olfactory sensation means numbness of the nose!

But we just carry on letting our eyes take in the hugely varied colours and shapes of the blooms and foliage.
The display gardens feature a Renaissance Garden, a Victorian Garden and the Lion Garden all leading off from the Long Garden.
As we wander we notice most visitors have catalogues and are making lists of their desires, just as we did when we first moved to Avocet. Next step for them will be a tea break when they can get the list to manageable proportions. Today was a perfect day for choosing roses as there was a level of warmth and humidity under overcast skies that enhance the aromas and enrich colours.
When we were rose buying for our newly acquired garden at Plealey we bought mostly climbing versions of the New English Roses such as Falstaff, Shropshire Lad and  Wenlock as we were trying to add the dimension of height to our back garden.
Lady of Shalott

Today we went with a different agenda and a David Austin Voucher to spend. We were seeking a bright zingy rose to plant in the Hot Garden which currently seems too yellow. We decided on the rose, the Lady of Shalott, having been tempted by her orange-red buds which when open reveal a golden orange flower and a scent described as a blend of cloves and spiced apple.

All told a wonderful afternoon out – a good cup of coffee and a good rose to accompany us home.
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Fenel Inflorescences.

We know botanists love to play around with plant names and recently there seem so many cases of this happening. Sometimes it seems to make sense, but why oh why did they change the plant family name of the umbels from “Umbellifer” to “Apiacea”? The original name reflected the character of these plants so well. They simply do look like umbrellas don’t they? Their inflorescences are usually scented and most definitely umbrella-shaped.

So many of this family we know as aids to our cookery – carrot, parsley, cumin, coriander, parsnip – a varied lot of vegetables and herbs. Just let some go to seed and watch them perform!
At Chelsea this year a flowering parsnip starred in Cleve West’s Gold Medal winning garden which was also rightly awarded “Best in Show”. He had dug it up from his allotment.
Today the brightest flowers in the back garden here are the fennel,  its myriad minute acid yellow inflorescences held in umbrellas above the finest green lace of its foliage. Perhaps known best for its culinary value, it is also a brilliant border plant with its mouth-watering scent reminiscent of aniseed balls and its flocks of hoverflies in attendance. The magnetic attraction it holds for these insects make it a valuable garden companion – a living pesticide, for hoverflies and their larvae are predators of the highest calibre. Our fennel has self-seeded alongside the central path and is so large it looks down on its neighbour, a Mahonia japonica.
Another self-seeding umbel in our patch is the Cow Parsley. In the wild it appears as a thug growing in masses along roadsides where its sweetest of scents permeates our cars. However in the mixed garden border it certainly doesn’t deserve being served up with an asbo as one might imagine for it becomes a small delicate plant easily threatened by its neighbours. It seems to be that its smaller stature is due to this dislike of being crowded by neighbouring plants. It was interesting to see Monty Don showing Cow Parsley growing in his borders on Gardeners World a few weeks back.
White Lace of Cow Parsley
The purple-black foliage cultivar “Ravenswing” is a real asset to any garden and its delicacy of stature and colour live comfortably alongside many neighbours. Ours look particularly good early on in the summer with another “apiacea” family members Astrantia “Hadspens Blood” and “Ruby Wedding”.
Now I must go and find out why the family of umbrella-like plants are now called “apiacea”.
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First tomatoes

A few Gardeners Delight ready to pick.

It is a poor year for my tomatoes. The plants look very healthy, deep green leaves free of blemish but few flowers and not all have set fruit. The first to ripen are the Gardeners Delight looking like shining red marbles. Few of the other varieties have any colour on the fruit.

The peppers – sweet, cayenne and chilli – are much better. They have plenty of fruit developing both in the greenhouse and outdoors.
The cucumbers – my usual failures – are also setting fruit better than the tomatoes.
I need to look at my tomato growing technique, as something is letting me down.
The tomatoes, peppers and cucumber are all grown in Vital Earth Organic Peat-free compost and fed with my own comfrey feed with the addition of regular foliar feeds of seaweed liquid.
I underplant them with French Marigold so the plants are free of White Fly.
The cucumber are just setting fruit behind their golden yellow blooms.

So, where are things going wrong. Perhaps the tomato flowers are simply not being pollinated.

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Scented Roses

A warm humid day brings out the best scent in the garden and roses are often considered the best blooms for sweet scents. But not all roses perform, with many hybrid teas completely without odour. When we began our garden in Plealey we wanted the best and most varied scented blooms so all our roses are New English varieties bred by David Austin. Luckily his nursery and trial grounds are not far away. The display gardens are amazing and give you the chance to fully experience the sight and scent of each variety. So chosing roses for our garden is so easy. We simply take a half hour drive, wander around the roses sniffing the blooms as we go and then make our final choice over a cup of tea served in cups decorated with paintings of roses of course.

We now enjoy here in our patch at Avocet “A Shropshire Lad”, “Falstaff”, “Teasing Georgia”, “Graham Thomas” and “Wenlock”. We grow them close to paths – close enough to enjoy their scents but not so close that we suffer from their thorns.

A Shropshire Lad
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National Garden Scheme Open Day

Meeting and Greeting in the Rain

On Sunday 17th July we opened our site for the National Garden Scheme, the famous Yellow Book. Allotment holders had worked hard during the previous week cutting grass, tidying borders in the green spaces and sprucing up plots. The site looked wonderful – even in Sunday’s rain! And rain it certainly did! We were pleased though when over 100 visitors came along with brollies braving or perhaps defying the weather. I believe that gardeners get good at defying weather – others merely brave it out. Many of our visitors stayed for several hours, leaving only when they had drunk gallons of tea and consumed masses of cake, and promising to return next year. I had hoped to show how good the site looked with photos of glowing flowers and shining veggies but that will have to wait until the weather improves. These photos though depict the reality of the day.

Visitors revive with tea and cakes.
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Upmarket Insects

The essential ingredients for rustling up an insect hotel.

We have built a new insect stack, or insect hotel as they are often called, in our back garden here in Plealey. It is a real upmarket affair – if it were a hotel for humans it would definitely deserve to be called a “boutique hotel”. We hope it becomes a home for beneficial insects – ladybirds, lacewings, beetles and bees, plus maybe the occasional amphibian – one of our resident newts, toads or frogs perhaps. A much friendlier way of dealing with garden pests.

Finished and ready for occupancy.
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New Chucks

I have acquired a couple of new hybrids to add to our flock. We are getting fewer eggs these days as our bantams are now rather elderly as bantams go. The Hybrids which we have had now for nearly a year are still laying well but these new girls should boost production as the originals begin to age and slow down their egg laying activities. The new chucks are a Sussex cross, who is mostly white apart from her black tail and hackle and a Bluebell,  with strange airforce blue and grey plumage with a contrasting amber chest.

Bluebell - still shy in front of the lens.
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Golden Spires

The massive forked flower spikes of Verbascum bombyciferum in the Chicken Garden.

Each time the sun momentarily burst through the blackened skies which produced sporadic heavy showers all morning, it lit up the golden spires of verbascum and ligularia.

Ligularia in front of verbascum in our "Hot Border.
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Sharing my coffee break.

Company at coffee time.

During one of my many breaks for coffee whilst gardening I was joined by this little chap. He stayed for a while – long enough in fact for me to fetch my camera and take his portrait. While I enjoyed my coffee he perched on the seat beside me being fed with chewed up Amelanchier berries provided by his mum.

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The Green Bench

The green bench on the lottie.

So what will the greenbenchramblings be? The green bench is a rather old faded green plastic garden bench. It is a little brittle now and suffering from age. Its feet are chipped and cracked but it is where I sit to write in my special notebook. This notebook is a “Moleskine” with inviting cream pages inside its soft black cover, and in here I write my thoughts on “green things” – my lottie, my garden, wildlife and conservation.

The green bench currently lives on our allotment at Bowbrook Allotment Community on the outskirts of Shrewsbury, and it moved with us when we gave up our lottie on the far side of town.

It is where I take my rests, drink my tea and coffee during my very frequent breaks and where I nibble my fruit at lunchtime. When I sit I look and think and when thoughts come to me I pencil them into my “Moleskine”.

I have been making greenbenchramblings for a few years now so sometimes my ramblings will be retrospective. So welcome to my ramblings – enjoy them.