This Week’s Guest Blogger is Kevin Fortey

I’ve been growing giant vegetables since the age of four (37 years) when my late father, Mike Fortey, developed the giant vegetable movement over a pint and a bit of banter on who could grow the biggest pumpkin and onion in the town of Cwmbran, South Wales. He inspired my brother, Gareth and I to compete against him on his allotment, and gave us the bug for growing.

Dad in the purple jumper

Within two years, the contest had turned into a truly international based competition with growers from all over England and Wales competing to win a share of a potential £10,000 prize fund over in the USA when our Dad teamed up with Organisers and Growers over in San Francisco.  After 2 years, the Pumpkins were getting that big that they needed to find a venue with double doors to accommodate the ever increasing sizes of the Pumpkins.

Kevin with Chris Akakbusi

During the 80’s the contest moved from Cwmbran to locations in Cardiff and as far away as Baytree Garden Centre in Lincolnshire, where we filmed with Chris Akabusi for record breakers and for Big Breakfast with Chris Evans. It was during this time that the Giant Vegetable contests grew in popularity and the contest migrated to places such as Alton Towers, Shepton Mallett and the current home of the UK Giant Vegetable Championships at the Three Counties Showground, Malvern.

Kevin Fortey with Prince Charles

Since our Dad passed on in 1996, growing giants has become a sport, rather than just a hobby, with thousands giving it a go around the world.
We have taken part in several TV Programmes, our first success was filming with the Great British Village Show on BBC1 featuring Alan Titchmarsh, Angelica Bell and James Martin where we had the honour of winning the Crown for the UK’s biggest marrow. This programme also featured with Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall at their home at Highgrove where we was presented with a specially commissioned Maple bowl, one of only 13 commissions.  Following this, more recent programmes include a three part series with Countryfile Diaries, ITV’s 100 Best Backyard Gardens, NHK Japan, PPTV36 Thailand and recently we filmed with a Channel 4 broadcast and this episode is due to go out at Christmas time. It truly is an exciting time for Giant Veg.

You might still wonder why we do it? Well, Usain Bolt is the world’s most successful runner, and, like Bolt, a giant veg growers highest accolade is  to grow the world’s heaviest, or longest, and secure a place in the Guinness World Records.

In 2015, my brother and I secured our biggest achievement in the Giant Veg world, securing a place in the giant veg history books, growing the world’s longest radish, measuring just over 88in, 2.2 metres. It was the most nerve wracking experience taking the fine tap root out of the long drain pipe.

The world’s heaviest chilli held aloft by Carol Klein

In 2017, we secured our second World Record growing the world’s Heaviest Chili Pepper, weighing 348g, at the UK Giant Vegetable Championships in Malvern. Like all records, they are there to be broken and the above two records have been broken by longer and heavier specimens.

However, in 2019, we secured the Guinness World Record title for the World’s Heaviest Beetroot weighing 23.995kg, just over 53 pounds in weight. This was a great moment for us as a family as our Dad had developed the original record breaking seed that Ian Neale used to grow the former World Record. The seed for our current record breaking Beetroot had been under development for just over 7 years. It’s something of a rarity as it’s the only seed in the world that now has the genetic potential to grow even bigger.

Following on from our record breaking Beetroot, we recently successfully lifted and weighed a ginormous marrow weighing 92.5kg just over 203 pounds in weight. Our former UK Record Marrow weighed 171 pounds in 2011.

UK record marrow 92.5kg

For those thinking or having a go there’s a few simple tips to growing giant veg. These are good weather, the right seed, a little knowledge, and ultimately, a bit of good luck. 

We have developed a hugely successful platform for engaging growers both new and old, male and female and all ages, through our Giant Vegetable Community group on Facebook.  The group has been the catalyst for the expansion of a number of other gardening related groups springing up on Facebook. Within our group, we have gathered over 4,200 growers from across the globe and we really are a giant family.

The main benefit for the group is celebrating both online and offline communities and the ability for growers from all corners of the globe to engage with one another. Growers post their successes, failures and techniques, so we can learn from one another.  Some of our tips include wrapping our marrows in a duvet for the night. This might seem a little peculiar, but we treat the vegetables like our children, nurturing them and talking to them while we watch them grow.

Jamie and giant cabbage

Like most things that involve nature and the elements, growing giant veg is not without its frustrations. Spending five months growing a Giant marrow – nurturing the seedlings, planting it in the ground, growing the plant on, wrapping it up on cold nights, and then seeing it burst open and ruined in a downpour can test your patience.

Of course, all of that is forgotten when you see one of your giants smash a record. The finale of the growing season is taking your oversized produce in cars, vans and trailers to the local village or national shows. It’s a site to behold and a great way to engage with growers that you’ve been following on the Facebook Group – Giant Vegetable Community amongst others.

The shows provide an opportunity to exchange ideas, seeds and, if you are lucky, a few secrets.
When you think you have a winner, someone can come through the door with a specimen that beats you by an ounce, After all, in our sport, size really does matter!

Giant veg grower Kevin Fortey next to the Vauxhall stall.

Anyone thinking of growing giants should make sure they have plenty of space, lots of time, and plenty of passion. You can even get the kids involved and make it a family affair – it is far better for them than sitting in front of a PlayStation or the Xbox.

Many people ask what happens with the vegetables following the shows or at the end of the growing season. Well there’s a new World emerging that has seen the vegetables feature as props in movies such as Pudsey The Movie, Vegan Events in London and more recently we have launched a campaign to celebrate British Growers and the Vauxhall Combo Cargo Van that was used to transport 800kg of Giant Vegetables to create the UK’s largest ever fruit and veg stall, showcased at RHS Hyde Hall, Essex.

Pictured: (L-R) Giant veg growers Ben White and Kevin Fortey next to the Vauxhall stall.

My passion for growing and deep rooted family tradition has enabled me to develop a role as an ambassador for Giant Vegetable growing throughout the World. We have a number of talks and interesting projects planned for the New Year. The first will take place in January where i’ll be heading over to Jersey to visit the Prison Service to talk Giant Veg, and finish the visit off with a talk to a great bunch of enthusiastic growers who I hope I can convert into growing Giant Vegetables.

One final point, I am passionate about promoting the benefits of Gardening and improving people’s overall Mental Health and I was fortunate to visit the House of Lords with a group of clinicians as well as influential figures from around the Globe to talk about Mental Health and diversionary activities. If you are experiencing difficulties with your Mental Health, you might not know this, but soil contains anti-depressant properties so just digging the soil and getting your hands in the ground can play a huge part in your recovery.

Kevin Fortey with Dr. Albert Persaud after a meeting at the House of Lords

Whether you are young or old, big or small,  you can’t beat being out in the great outdoors. Sharpen your spades and start preparing for the coming season. Good luck and Happy Growing.

for more information please visit http://www.giantvegseeds.com/

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Jason Baker

Newfoundland Mountains

One of my favorite things to do is botanize in the west desert of Utah.  Besides the off limits army and air force bombing ranges, one of the least visited and more difficult places to reach in the west desert are the Newfoundland Mountains; a desert island mountain range surrounded on all sides by salt flats and playa.

Newfoundland Mountains
Newfoundland Mountains

I headed out to the mountains after work to meet my dad, sister, and dads friend who had left earlier in the day to set up camp. Getting there isn’t the easiest. There are two ways to reach the Mountain, from the south driving on an access road through the air force bombing range and across the railroad grade, or from the north from the Hogup Mountains.

When I arrived, the sun was already going down so I didn’t really have time to do any real botanizing, but I tried anyway. Without adequate light the only flower I noticed was the non-native Storksbill near my tent.

Erodium cicutarium
Erodium cicutarium

Other than interesting wind-carved granite rock formations, and a few common desert shrubs, the only other cool thing I found that night was this Stink Beetle that was expressing just how happy it was to be found.

Eleodes sp.
Eleodes sp.

The next morning we decided to make our way to a canyon on the east side of the range that has a bunch of old mining equipment in it. As we drove on the bumpy dirt road, we made a few stops along the way, the first at this stone monument.

Stone Monument
Stone Monument
Dad and Sister admiring the stone monument.
Dad and Sister admiring the Stone Monument

While everyone was admiring the monument, I went off to find whatever plants I could. This was my first time ever seeing Thorn Milkwort, a spiny desert shrub that leaves a great deal of puncture wounds while trying to collect it for Pscience®.

Polygala acanthoclada var. intricata
Polygala acanthoclada var. intricata

It has small greenish yellow and pink flowers that are very well protected by a stiff fortress of sharp, woody thorns.

Polygala acanthoclada var. intricata
Polygala acanthoclada var. intricata

Although not new to me, this next plant deserves some attention. Nevada Mormon Tea is one tough gymnosperm. It grows out in the dryness and heat of the desert and also puts up being grazed to death by cattle and sheep.

Ephedra nevadensis
Ephedra nevadensis

These are the male cones with the stamens exposed waiting for the wind to carry their pollen to an awaiting nearby female cone.

Mormon pioneers once made what was called an “energizing tea” from the dried branches. I’ve tried it multiple times and didn’t ever feel really all that energized. About all I remember from each experience is drinking down bitter hot water that tasted like dried sticks.

This next plant is a cool little annual called Brightwhite, closely related to Wirelettuce (Stephanomeria spp.). The flower heads are composed of only ray flowers and the stems contain latex like other plants in the same tribe.

Prenanthella exigua
Prenanthella exigua

After taking some time at the stone monument we stopped at a perennial spring to see if we could see any animals or find some arrowheads. No luck with the arrowheads, but I did find a poop fly on a Littleleaf Horsebrush.

Poop fly on Tetradymia glabrata
Poop fly on Tetradymia glabrata

Utah has five species of Horsebrush and all but one are spinescent shrubs found only in the desert.

Tetradymia glabrata
Tetradymia glabrata

Next I encountered Greasewood, a halophytic shrub in the same family as Lambsquarters (Chenopodium album). Greasewood are usually found growing in areas with high water table, such as springs, lake margins and playas.

Sarcobatus vermiculatus
Sarcobatus vermiculatus

And then this happened…

Truck Problems
Truck Problems

As we drove closer to the mining equipment, the truck began to lose power and soon wouldn’t run at all. The Newfoundlands isn’t exactly the best place to have car problems; you’re lucky if you see another human being. This trip, though, we just happened to be the luckiest people as we met two very nice men who were scouting for Desert Bighorn Sheep for their upcoming hunt.

They drove me back to camp to pick up my Xterra so I could tow my dads truck back to the main gravel road. As I rounded the tip of the range to begin the tow, I got lucky again and saw a Desert Bighorn just off the road.

Ovis canadensis nelsoni
Ovis canadensis nelsonii

When we got to the main gravel road at the north end of the range we took a break from towing for a bit before starting the long trek back to civilization and as usual I went and turned over logs and board looking for whatever I could find.

The first thing that caught my eye was a Long-nosed Leopard Lizard as it sped away. They are very fast runners and if you happen to catch one, they like to bite and hang on!

Gambelia wislezenii
Gambelia wislezenii

This next little guy or girl was not nearly as fast, but I was also not as eager to try and catch it as I was the lizard. Northern Scorpions are the most common scorpion in Utah, found in every county.

Paruroctonus boreus
Paruroctonus boreus

Finally, the last cool plant I found as I was being hollered at to tow the truck was Alyssum Evening Primrose. The flowers of this annual are a little larger than a dime, open white and age to a dark pink.

Camissonia boothii var.villosa

After a few hours of towing, this is how the trip ended. Grateful it wasn’t anything worse than a broken fuel pump, but it did cut our trip a day and a half short. Who knows what other cool plants could have been found.

Poor Truck
Poor truck

Jason W. Baker is independent Botanical Consultant specialising in plant identification and botanical surveys in the intermountain west as well as the Great Basin and Mojave Deserts.

Please visit http://www.jasonthebotanist.com

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Lee Betts

Brugmansia for your Garden

Commonly known as Angel Trumpets, Brugmansia are from high altitude, moist tropical cloud forests with specific temperature and humidity. These conditions vary between species but generally speaking a warm day at about 23°C combined with a high humidity will keep them happy. If night temperatures are around 10°C, give or take 3°C, a strong growth rate will ensue. In summer months these temperatures can be easily exceeded, but an average humidity of 70% will ensure optimal growth and full flower colour. The good news is, the UK has the perfect humidity and temperature to support Brugmansia growth, but the more challenging part is overwintering the plant when temperatures dip below freezing, understanding Brugmansia species is key to healthy plants.

There are seven Brugmansia species. These species are then divided into two natural genetically isolated groups, cold growing (CG) and warm growing (WG).

Cold growing Brugmansia include B. sanguinea, B. vulcanicola, B. arborea and all cultivated hybrid varieties of these are adapted to the cool climate of their native habitat in the Andes, South America.

Warm growing species include B. suaveolens, B. insignis, B. versicolor, B. aurea, and hybrid cultivated varieties of these, which all grow well in a UK summer. Each species has slightly different growing conditions.

All warm growing species originate from high humidity warm regions but frosts are unlikely due to the shelter of the rainforest, cloud forest and altitude. In their native habitat these warm growing species require a lot of water and we recommend frequently watering during the hot summer months and regularly feeding to encourage flowers.

It is important to know the microclimate of your garden balancing humidity with sun, wind and shade. Best conditions for warm growing Brugmansia species generally tend to be part shade in summer to stop the root ball drying out and over scorching the leaves or flowers. An enclosed area of your garden with some shade facing south or west will suit best, protecting them from strong winds and hot sunny days.

In the UK during prolonged cold conditions it is necessary to force  Brugmansia into dormancy for the winter, during cold frosts and snow. This is easily achievable by fleecing and storing them in a dry storage room, garage, shed or greenhouse which is frost free and ventilated. The foliage can be removed but this may drop by itself which is perfectly fine. Growth will recommence again when temperatures exceed 8 to 10C.

If you would like to purchase a Brugmansia from Exotic Earth Plants please visit http://www.exoticearthplants.co.uk for more information. Please use the code AUTUMN10 when ordering to get an exclusive 10% discount .

This week’s Guest Blogger is Kasia Babel

I love horticulture for the vast number of opportunities it gives to you if you are willing to spend some time on researching and deciding what you want to do.


In the photograph Sasa quelpaertensis, the dwarf bamboo, growing so dense that it does not allow for natural regeneration of the Korean fir forest. The dead stumps of the Korean fir and a member of the Hallsan National Park checking on the seedlings. Babel, 2019.

One of many of those opportunities are bursaries offered to people working in the horticulture industry to allow them to learn new things, create more contacts and enjoy plants to the full. I was able to go on three travel scholarships, all of them to South Korea. I have learnt a lot, met fantastic people and walked a hundred miles. One such project I was interested in (and I still keep my fingers on its development) was the restoration of Abies koreana (Korean fir) forest. This species, with beautiful purple cones, is
often planted in gardens. In its natural habitat, however, the numbers are declining. Two of the main reasons for it, is firstly, the disturbance to natural regeneration of the forest by Siberian roe deer damaging seedlings and secondly, physical overwhelming by the faster and denser growing dwarf bamboo (Sasa quelpaertensis).

I had the chance to see the work the Hallsan National Park Conservation team does to help the forest to survive, and I am amazed by the job they are doing. It is an excellent example of collaboration between science, ecologist and horticulturist.

Summarising, the horticulture team sow and then care for the seedlings in the Hallsana Arboretum Nursery. When the seedlings have established, they are planted into small trays made of biodegradable material and placed in a marked area in the Hallsana National Park. A member of the National Park team checks on them regularly, keeping the dwarf bamboo away until the fir are taller than the bamboo. The tray consists of 6 to 8 seedlings, but
usually, only one Korean fir will survive the seedling stage.


Abies koreana seedlings in the nursery. Babel, 2015.

It may sound easy, but the trees are located almost on the highest part of the Hallsan Mountain (1,995 m), and there is no other way than to walk using one of the four hiking trails (each one of them offers a beautiful view and a good sleep at night). I must admit that hiking the Hallsan Mountain was my favourite part on both my trips (2015 and 2019), mostly because I was able to go there with people who are passionate about their plants, saving the forest and, even that we couldn’t always communicate freely, they put a lot of effort to make me understand the issue regarding the Korean fir forest.

If you work in horticulture, please check if you can apply for one of many available bursaries. Going on a trip like that leaves you with a lot of memories and allows you to meet great people who love plants as (I am sure) you do!

Abies koreana 8(!) years old seedling in a tray. Only one will probably survive. Babel 2019

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Christine Hennessey

Composting at Home

There’s a reason seasoned gardeners refer to compost as black gold. Rich and dark, this earth-like substance composed of decayed organic material is a powerhouse of nutrients. When incorporated into the soil, plants are healthier, flowers bloom brighter, and pests don’t stand a chance.

The best part? Compost can be made at home from ingredients you were planning to throw away, which means it’s not only good for the garden but environmentally responsible as well.

Composting at home is neither complicated nor expensive, and all it takes to start is just a few materials and the right combination of organic matter.

What to put in your compost pile

Composting requires three ingredients.

  1. The first is brown material, which includes dead leaves, branches, and twigs. These provide carbon.
  2. The second is green material, such as grass clippings, vegetable scraps, and used coffee grounds. These provide nitrogen.
  3. The final ingredient is water, which delivers the moisture needed to break down organic matter.

Get the ratio of materials right—too many scraps and not enough leaves, and your compost will turn into rotting sludge. The ideal ratio is two parts brown to one part green.

Make sure materials you add to your compost pile are in the smallest possible pieces. Chop vegetable scraps, shred newspaper, and cut twigs and branches. This increases the surface area and helps materials break down faster.

When building your compost pile, avoid meat, bones, or fatty foods. These require very high temperatures to decompose and can harbor unhealthy bacteria.

Tools for composting at home

Kitchen scraps and dead leaves are really the foundation of a compost pile. Still, there are a few tools that will speed up the process and make composting at home easier.

  • A pitchfork will help you turn, mix, and aerate your compost.
  • A garden hose will make it easy to keep your compost pile moist.
  • A small canister or bowl on your kitchen counter lets you store vegetable scraps until you’re ready to carry them to the compost pile.
  • A compost thermometer allows you to monitor the temperature of the pile and make sure it’s hot enough for decomposition to occur. Ideally, your compost pile should stay between 110°F and 160°F.
  • A tumbler is a composter that spins, and can be used to compost smaller amounts of materials. Beware, though—as the tumbler fills up, it will be more difficult to turn.
  • A compost bin has a small footprint, but makes it difficult to turn the compost, which means the process takes longer overall. It can also be tough to get the compost out of the bin once it’s ready.
  • A traditional compost pile is simply that—a pile. If you want, you can put a fence around the pile for aesthetic purposes, but it’s not necessary.

    How to: building a backyard compost pile

    1. Pick a spot

    Find a dry, shady spot for your compost pile, ideally near a water source or within reach of a hose. Place your compost pile directly on the earth—asphalt or concrete will inhibit the flow of oxygen.

    2. Set a date

    You can start a compost pile at any time of the year. If possible, fall is ideal. It offers easy access to an excellent balance of materials, such as grass clippings (for nitrogen) and fallen leaves (for carbon).

    3. Measure it out

    Composting is an aerobic process, which means it requires oxygen. It also produces heat as materials break down. If your compost pile is too small, it won’t heat up, and if it’s too big, it will be difficult to manage. The ideal range is between 3×3 feet (by 3 feet deep) and 5×5 feet (by 5 feet deep).

    4. Kick it off

    To spark the composting process, throw in a few handfuls of garden soil or finished compost.

    5. Mix it up

    Compost isn’t a set it and forget it endeavor. About once a week, mix the pile with a shovel or pitchfork. This allows more oxygen to flow through the pile.

    6. Keep it moist

    Add water to your compost pile as needed. It should be damp to the touch, but not soaking wet.

    7. Be patient

    Depending on the size of your pile, it can take anywhere from six months to two years to finish the composting process.

    8. Use it up

    To add your black gold to the garden, simply work it into the soil a week or two before planting, or spread it around your plants.

    Benefits of composting

    • Compost enriches the soil, adding nutrients such as phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen to your garden.
    • When added to loose or sandy soil, it helps your garden retain water. When added to heavy soil, it helps with aeration.
    • Compost an ideal breeding ground for beneficial bacteria and fungi. These produce humus, a rich organic material full of nutrients widely considered the secret to great soil.
    • Composting at home prevents erosion and protects roots from damage caused by the elements.

for more information and to read other articles in the series please visit

http://www.housemethod.com

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Anita Avent

Sensing the Garden by Anita Avent, All images by Anita Avent

Juniper Level Botanic Garden – Raleigh, NC, USA

Perceiving our environments directly with the senses, without any commentary or judgment, is relaxing, healing, and good for the body, mind, and soul. When we are feeling happy and relaxed we are usually sensing life directly with the body instead of living in our heads glued to our thoughts about what may or may not be happening.

Juniper Level Botanic Garden – Raleigh, NC, USA

When we were children, we seldom lived in our heads thinking about life. Instead, we were present and attentive to each moment and lived in this freedom.

Juniper Level Botanic Garden – Raleigh, NC, USA

As we grew older, we learned to live in our heads and thoughts and to name and label each thought/feeling and store it away in the filing cabinet in our mind. This mental filing cabinet in our heads is the source of so much emotional and psychological suffering yet we have not yet realized this source of our misery. Once we do, meditation, sensory, and mindfulness practices can help us see the filing cabinet in action so we can change our perspectives and relax within our bodies.

Juniper Level Botanic Garden – Raleigh, NC, USA

Want to have a bit of fun and try a little experiment? If so, study the listing of body senses below: 

  • Sight
  • Sound 
  • Touch
  • Smell
  • Taste
  • Balance
  • Temperature regulation
  • Gravity
  • Proximity
  • Breathing
  • Blood flow, heart rate
  • Digestion/elimination
  • Thirst/hunger
  • Intramuscular movement
  • Intuition
  • Navigation
  • Pressure 

Now select one or two sensory mechanisms from the list above that resonate with you.

Juniper Level Botanic Garden – Raleigh, NC, USA

Let’s use this sensory list in this blog post to remind us that our sensory mechanism are many! We can notice the body’s sensory experiences no matter where we are located. Bringing our attention into the body and away from our thinking minds helps calm the nervous system and improve our digestion. Our actual physical experiences of the current moment are a more accurate indicator of what is happening than our mental thoughts “about” the physical experience. 

This subtle shift of perception is healing for the body/mind and releases hormones that induces the relaxation response and reduces stress hormones. 

Did you know science clearly proves movements initiated within the body are claimed and owned by the human brain a full 4-8 seconds after the neurons have fired into action? This blew my mind!

Juniper Level Botanic Garden – Raleigh, NC, USA

Here is an example of how we use these sensory tools in the garden: 

• Select the sensory mode or tool we wish to explore from the listing—let’s 

use the sense of touch as our example… 

• Simply notice the feel and sensation of sweat dripping from our brow…or 

coldness in our hands and feet. Perhaps something on our skin is itching. 

• Feel and sense the tender or vigorous pulsing of blood in our temples or 

chest. Feel our lungs expand on the inhale and contract on the exhale. 

• Feel the warm or cool moist air passing through our nostrils or our mouth as 

we inhale and exhale. 

• Notice how Mother Earth pulls our bodies with gravity. 

• Feel and sense our fingers, toes, hands, bum, making contact with the 

chair or touching the soil or a plant.

Juniper Level Botanic Garden – Raleigh, NC, USA

Consider welcoming the sensory experiences of the body regardless of any limits or restrictions you may currently be experiencing. There is always beauty (sometimes disguised or hiding) within each moment if we only look with an open mind and heart. 

In peace and possibility, 

Anita Avent Owner, Juniper Level Botanic Garden, Raleigh, NC – USA

http://www.jlbg.org






This Week’s Guest Blogger is Graeme Edwards

Scents for all seasons

 

Now I don’t know about you, but the first thing I do when I see a flower is bury my nose in its petals (having checked there are no bees lurking within) and inhale deeply in the hope that it might be scented. Though some of the plants in my garden have been chosen for their looks, more often than not I choose a plant for its fragrance. Occasionally this will be provided courtesy of foliage of the rub-it-and-sniff variety, though more often than not its produced from the petalled end.

 

Some of the most fragrant blooms in the garden are produced by shrubs and, with a bit of planning, you can have something for your nose to enjoy throughout much of the year, even during the depths of winter. Here are some super-scented shrubs I wouldn’t be without in my small garden.

 

First up is Coronilla valentina subsp glauca. The first of its cheerful yellow pea-like flowers usually start to appear from late October/early November and it’ll continue flowering right up into April. An evergreen, it grows in a sunny, sheltered spot outside my front door where its fabulous fragrance greets me when I return home after a long day at work, particularly if the sun’s been shining

However, if you prefer yellows of gentler hue then Coronilla subsp. glauca ‘Citrina’, often sold as a climber, might be more your cup of tea.

Like the Coronilla, Lonicera fragrantissima (or Winter Honeysuckle) flowers throughout winter and spring, providing bees with an early source of nectar. The delicate pendulous white flowers start to open just as its leaves begin to fall, and as winter deepens the shrub’s bare branches are eventually smothered with fragrant blooms.

Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis (Christmas Box) is another winter flowering shrub and one that’s perfect for a small garden. It provides a bit of glossy evergreen structure during the winter months, some colour with its crimson berries that deepen to black as the year goes on, and come January and February, is covered with tiny white flowers that produce a surprisingly powerful sweet and wafty scent.

Just as the Coronilla flowers are beginning to fade the Vibernum carlesii ‘Compactum’ takes over scent duties for a few weeks. The perfect Viburnum to grow if you don’t have much space, the

pink-tinged flower buds open in late April to produce white clouds of deliciously fragrant blooms.

Alas, I don’t have room in my garden for a proper sized lilac. However, the Korean lilac Syringa meyeri Palibin is a great alternative as its flowers fill the garden with heady scent in early May.

Soon after the lilac of short stature has finished doing its scenty-flowery thing the fragrant blooms of the Philadelphus (or Mock Orange) kick in. If you have a small garden, fear not, as there are a few varieties out there that won’t take up much space. The compact Philadelphus ‘Manteau d’Hermine’ has double creamy-white flowers and is perfect for the tiniest of gardens. But if you have a bit more space then perhaps you might prefer the taller and more arching form of ‘Belle Etoile’ with it’s large single white flowers. I’ve found the latter can sometimes prove popular with black fly though, so keep your home-made soapy sprays or fingers at the ready.

Now if you only have room for one shrub in your garden then the semi-evergreen Daphne x transatlantica ‘Eternal Fragrance’ is well worth considering. It seems to flower, off and on, throughout much of the year. If scent were a musical instrument then I’d describe this one as flute-like. Plonk it near a path or patio and you’ll get to enjoy it’s mellow ‘flutey’ fragrance almost all year round.

So the next time you’re perusing plants at your local garden centre or pondering perennials online, take a moment to consider your nose; treat it to some sniffable flowers to enjoy during those short winter days and balmy summer evenings.

 

Graeme Edwards,

A full time something-or-other and a gardener in his spare time (if the weather is nice).

Blog: www.onemanandhisgardentrowel.wordpress.com

Twitter: @GraemeEdwards1

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Caroline Vickers

Here is a cheery sight! Prolific crab apples – dazzling and bountiful garden trees which grow between 3m-8m tall. There are several varieties to choose from which include:-

Malus baccata Street Parade

Malus Evereste – grown as a standard, multi-stem or pleached.

Malus Golden Hornet

Malus Mokum

Malus Rudolph – grown as standard and pleached.

Malus Red Sentinel

Malus John Downie

These crab apple trees profusely flower with white or pink petals (depending on the variety) in the Spring and the pollen is good for bees. The fruit is eaten by birds and mammals in the Autumn.

Malus John Downie, for example, produces fruits which are orange-red, large and conical in shape. They have a good flavour to them and as such are useful in making preserves and Crab Apple jelly. In the Autumn, the foliage turns classically lemony yellow and brown. An all round great value tree

Enquiries to Sales@barchamtrees.co.uk or
 
 
Photo credit for the trees to Barcham Trees PLC.

Our guest blogger this week is Elisa Biondi, of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew

HOUSE PLANT HEROES

Like me, many people nowadays don`t have a garden to grow plants, especially in the cities. But I love those green wonders and I have plenty of them at home. There is a plant for any space and purpose, so here is my list of “plant heroes” to enjoy indoor.

If you don`t have a bright green finger, there are low maintenance heroes for you such as Succulents and air plants. Amongst the first bunch, Cacti are very sculptural, they like sunny spots and they produce short-lived but stunning flowers. They are not very children and pet friendly, though.

Tillandsias attached on bark using tights. They are very resistant and stretchy.

Tillandsias (air plants) are incredibly easy to look after, water them in the shower or with a sprayer once a week and keep them in airy space. They are great hanging off fishing line or attached on branches.

Amongst succulents, lithops (stone plants) are great for small spots, children and pets. If you are looking for something bigger and bolder, Sansevierias are the ones for you. Like Cacti, every succulent can be placed in your bedroom, as they release oxygen at night.

Sansevierias are very architectural plants and are great for bedrooms as they release oxygen at night.

If you are looking for something a bit more challenging, Bromeliads can add a lot of colour into your house. They usually like water from the top and last longer if you cut the spent flowering mother plant and let the “pups” grow.

The stunning leaves of Neoregelia `Mo Peppa Please`, a great hybrid and not too difficult to look after.

In the world of Orchids, Phalaenopsis are very rewarding and easy to look after. They don`t like full sun and should be watered properly once every two weeks.

If you are blessed with big space, then you can look into architectural plants like Palms and big Aroids. Coconut Palm can grow quite fast so tall ceilings are a must, otherwise clumping ones such as Chamaedorea, Dypsis or Rhapis can work in smaller places.

Monstera is a very popular aroid and it is very easy to look after, same for Philodendron and Aglaonema. One negative note about Aroids is that they are poisonous, so keep them off the reach of children and pets.

There are plenty more plants to find out about and look after them so I just suggest to go ahead and find your plant heroes!

Elisa Biondi  – Manager of the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew. Graduated designer @ LCGD, Plants & animals lover.  Find her on Twitter @BiondiEli and Instagram elisabiondi1

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Waldo Viljoen

Always fish for the ‘dream and vision’….even if there is not budget for it! Give plenty of time to think, listen well, and let the clients ideas tell the story. Visualise, compliment and complement the client! That’s the key to a productive client meeting.

I like to walk with the client, ask most of the questions, as if the client inspired them, to get to know the client, their preferences, dislikes, budget if possible, ideas, dreams and ultimate vision.

I give the client professional advice based on years of experience, and my short cuts too (no need to go to China to have Chinese food) but never compromise quality or quantity. Less is ALWAYS more !! ….well, enough anyway.

My presentation of my visual interpretation of what the client and I decided is basic and with common names of plants (no Latin or botanical names now, not yet), basic description of materials, tools, etc to be used, time it should take, always allowing days for the unforseen and unknown, and a estimated start date.

I keep to my word and my word is still my honour. Clients need to feel important. They must trust me with their dreams and passion for gardening as well as their money ! Not too much deviance from what was discussed and agreed. The client must be able to deviate with budget constraints, or extra ideas/features thought of after I left the meeting and before submitting my design and estimate. I do not over- nor under-quote any other than might be applicable. My design and visual portrait must represent exactly what the client dreamed of and wanted for a long time, must excite and inspire a client to look past small monetary amounts and schemes of my competitors. THE ONE WHO LISTENED & INTERPRETED THE CLIENT’s VISION closest, should get the job most of the time. BUT NOT ALWAYS.

And I do the basics perfectly:

I follow up ALL missed calls, voice mail messages, telesales leads, any message left to return a call for new client or business.

I do my homework, look up, Google and study or learn whatever I might lack or if I need more information and details for that Client’s requirements. I pray to God that he will keep me wise and full of knowledge from years of passionate experiences as to serve Him and the client and my profession. 

I make sure I know what the client requires and get all the details, full address, alternate tel.no. from cell number and a time that would not only suit the client, but myself, taking in account the weather, peak traffic periods, road works in area and for me not to hurry, AS I AM ALWAYS EARLY !

I dress very neat, smart casual, clean shaven and smelling the look… lol

I make sure I know how to get to clients address, with Google maps, GPS or Map Studio book.

I always arrive early, 15-20 minutes. 10 minutes before the agreed time is a good time to walk up to the house or meeting place. If you are gonna be late, up to 10 minutes is allowed, later than that, I phone or send a text message, making sure its delivered, even acknowledged, well before agreed time, THE CLIENT’s TIME IS MOST IMPORTANT.

So is mine. I bill accordingly. lol.

I assure the client that they would have my estimate within 3 working days, if not too busy a period, but it can stretch to 7-10 days BUT it includes computer/laptop software design program WITH 2D/3D Landscape plant plan as per Vectorworks Landscape Design, AutoCad Landscaping, Landscape Design Pro and AutoCad Architecture, AutoCad Civil design for construction and building work.

My motto:

BE INSPIlRING, BE FUN and even FUNNY, BE PROFESSIONAL, BE FAIR. BE REASONABLE , SMILE & LAUGH ALOT

AND

DO NO HARM; environment, profession and not the Client’s wallet.

Word of Mouth references serves and pay me well still after 31-Years.

Thank God always and everytime, even if estimate is Not accepted. All meetings of people are meant to be, is placed on our paths, both parties or just one learns or take something forward from that meeting – Say I.

WALDO VILJOEN. Passionate Christian, Horticulturist, Agriculturist and Environmentalist and Living Life Participant.