Sunday 13 July 2014

Tomatillos - back from the dead

These photos show my tomatillo plants in rude health. Bushy, leafy, weighed down with little green lanterns which house the fruit, it's hard to believe that back at the end of April I was convinced the plants were dead.

I'd sown them at the very beginning of March, earlier than usual because last year they had needed a really long season to get going. By the second week of April the plants were rocketing away and had outgrown their 3-inch pots, the weather was warm and I planted them out in a newly-made raised bed. Of course, whatever the daytime temperatures, the nights were still cold and it was soon clear that I'd planted them out far too early. The three tomatillo plants (yes, there are only three plants in the bed) stopped growing and just looked spindly and unhappy.

I took pity on them and popped a homemade bottle cloche over each plant: take a 2-litre plastic water bottle, cut off the bottom, then cut off the neck where it begins to narrow so you are left with a long straight cylinder of clear plastic. That cheered them up a bit and they started growing again so that by the end of April there was foliage spilling over the top of the bottle cloches.

And then we had an overnight frost. I came up to the allotment to find my happy tomatillo plants had been reduced to green stems draped with withered, browning leaves. For a week, I left them, hoping they might recover, but nothing happened. Eventually I decided I would just have to start all over again with them and lifted the bottle cloche protecting the middle plant in order to pull the plant up, only to find that within the confines of the plastic bottle protector, there were indeed new leaves just beginning to sprout. It was only the tips of the plants, exposed to the below-freezing temperatures, which had died. I cut these dead leaves and stems away completely, replaced the cloche and went back to waiting.

After that the regrowth was fast and the plants are also even bushier than usual. They've taken over the bed, elbowing out the cucamelons behind them and hogging all the available light. So it appears that a rigorous prune early in the growing season might be beneficial to them although it seems like a rather risky procedure to carry out in springtime.

Thursday 10 July 2014

A quick tour of Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

Hampton Court Flower Show on the Tuesday - almost impossibly crowded by midday when the rain came down and everyone tried to squeeze into the marquees, but still a stunning display of plants and current garden trends. First stop as always was the Growing Tastes tent, to admire Franchi Seeds' accordion garden and to see what new herbs were on show from Highdown Nursery, Pennard Plants and Hooksgreen Herbs. Lots of Salvias this year, especially the tangerine, grapefruit and blackcurrant varieties with their flowers so brightly coloured they look almost neon, and fruit-scented leaves.

I scooped a Murraya Koenigii (curry leaf plant) from Plants4Presents (I should say 'another' as I accidentally waterlogged the last one I bought from them two years ago) and an Anthyrium niponicum, the Japanese painted fern, before setting out to tour the gardens.

Gluttony E-123, one of the conceptual gardens inspired by the deadly sins,
designed to highlight the over consumption and waste of food in western
(Designed by Katerina Rafaj, built by Purpleberry Consultants)

Wrath - Eruption of Unhealed Anger was also one of the conceptual gardens,
the centrepiece of which is the smoking volcano which produces a waterspout
every ten minutes or so, to shocked gasps from onlookers.
(Designed by Nilufer Danis, built by Landform Consultants Ltd)

In Bacchus, the designers have found a ingenious place to act as a wine cooler:
tucked under the steps. The garden includes a large specimen grapevine and
vine hedging to the rear, as well as tiered pools to represent an ever-flowing
supply of wine.
(Designed by Jean Wardop, built by Ricky Cole - RDC Landscape Design
and Construction)

I loved this bench sat squarely in the middle of a modern potager: cavolo
nero and tomatoes inside the box hedging. This is one part of the garden,
Hedgehog Street, a trio of suburban style gardens designed to be
(Designed by Tracy Foster, built by Concept Landscapes with Phil Game)

One of the other Hedgehog Street gardens (I love the mosaic). Great textural contrasts
with the grasses, which give ground cover for hedgehogs; and for humans,
surely the most comfortable looking seating area in the whole show.
The ladies from Ocean Spray demonstrate how to wet-harvest cranberries.
The farmers flood the fields and let the fruit float to the surface of the water
so that they can be scooped up.

I do like a living roof. I nearly missed this one in A Space To Connect & Grow, a
garden designed as a place for performances and workshops as well as for
relaxing. It makes extensive use of recycled industrial materials.
(Designed by Jeni Cairns in collaboration with Sophie Antonelli. Built by Juniper
House Garden Design)