Gardening Gardening 2011


Bollingey is a bit off my beaten track but I have a good friend, Sally, who lives there who I usually meet somewhere between the two of us but I went over last week for the first time in ages. Now Sally wouldn’t profess to be a great gardener but she knows what she likes and she works hard to keep her acre of garden and terrace looking good. Since her cat died she has been plagued with rabbits but her veg garden is productive but less attractive now that it is a sea of wire netting and every rabbit defence you can imagine. There is no better rabbit defence than a couple of cats, I have four and never see a rabbit in the garden unless it is very dead and decapitated (rabbit brain is apparently a cat delicacy).

Sally rushed into the garden to shoo off a neighbour’s cat and I suggested to her that it might be worth befriending next door’s invader, putting up with a bit of cat damage in return for a bit of rabbit chasing. The cat is now totally confused as the mad woman that he tried to avoid is now coo cooing at him. But really the point of mentioning Sally is her hostas. The first time I saw them I couldn’t believe it. She has fifteen huge pots of hostas, all different varieties, on her terrace and not a snail mark on them. Why? How? Well she keeps them in full sun! She didn’t know they prefer shade and they certainly do not suffer, they look even better than when I last saw them.

She keeps them on terracotta saucers full of water and the saucers are large enough that a snail has to swim to the pot and she confesses that she does do a regular snail hunt and keeps the pots away from walls but heck they look good. So I did the same this year with my favourite Samson. Huge pot, full sun, away from the wall and swimming in a saucer of water. It works. Ok there is a need to check them over but mine have never been so successful. We can all learn something from others and sometimes it pays to break the rules.

Another visit last month was to an older friend of mine who has been a keen gardener for seventy years and despite physical problems still does as much as she can in her garden in St Mawes. When she chose the house off plan in the 1960s the builder told her she would never grow anything as the house was on rock and indeed she watched tines breaking on the diggers as they carved out the plot for her bungalow. You should see it now. She appears to have a completely isolated micro climate. Plumbago up the outside walls, abutilon of the most tender type blooming and everything so healthy. This summer I gave her a climbing geranium, a cutting of one of mine. It will survive outside for her whereas I have to keep mine in the conservatory. Now it is definitely down to her hard work and her only problem is the perennial weed that comes up everywhere, paths, tarmac, drive, borders, veg patch – no, you didn’t guess it; her weed is the Blue Giant agapanthus that she struggles to control, oh for her problems!!

The only thing she cannot grow is grass, so there is no lawn. When I asked her why not she looked at me with horror, ’oh not you as well’ she said, ‘why does everyone try to have a lawn in St Mawes? Surely they know that the ground temperatures from the rock are too high? Now I have discussed this comment with my horticultural mentor and he has never heard this said before but he thinks she may well be correct in that high underground temperatures may well affect growth and encourage some of the lawn fungi, red thread and the like.

Now Richard, the aforementioned mentor, was helping me repot a humongous yucca. I had been asked to go and do my annual prune and’ sort’ out in a conservatory and he was helping with the heavy stuff. After several goes at pulling and pushing the pot and hitting it with a rubber mallet it finally broke, frankly we could have predicted that and saved ourselves a lot of time. Having pulled off the rest of the pot which was as good as welded to the root system he got a saw and we took off two thirds of the roots and repotted it back with John Innes compost.

If you have house plants that need repotting but you don’t want to keep going up a size then this is a handy way to keep the plant in check. I then set about the Christmas cacti which were desperate for repotting and found them swimming in water in their containers. It is a miracle they were still alive and the water around them and the root system smelt rank. Richard laughed, he writes a gardening column for a local paper and he says if ever you are short of something to write this is an old favourite. Write a whole piece on how more house plants are killed through too much water than too little. So remember, the house plants are now going into dormancy and need less water and your cacti can be left without water until end February unless they are in a very sunny window sill, in that case, if they start to look a bit pruny, (a bit like your fingers when you spend too long in the bath), give them just a little drink.

Congratulations to all you show entrants and winners, another grand display and such fun! St Just Show was up to its usual standard and bar a little bother with the size of the pom pom dahlias all went well. I was honoured to judge the flowers and it is a bit of a poison chalice when standards are so high. In fact the dahlias were so good this year despite the weather (there must be a lot of glass house dahlias in St Just!) there was a clear first prize winner in one section but the others in the class all had to have second prize.

Having watched my pal judging the cookery I have decided I might change places. She spent ages and tasted everything – I think she does this judging to get a high quality lunch!

I must of course mention the prize winning cactus dahlias. They were as close to perfect and the most brilliant red. Clear winners which deservedly provoked much admiration. Imagine my horror only a week later to see these same dahlias (or at least from the same plants) being shown in Veryan and up against mine!! Needless to say the clever girl won again!

Veryan Show is a great leveller because it is a larger event and therefore is open to anyone. I was so impressed with it this year. The organisation takes enormous effort from the dedicated committee and is supported by the School, the WI and of course the community exhibitors. This year there were around 700 entries an enormous task and the hall was full to bursting with flowers and veg and the School full of needlework, limericks poems, sculptures, heck you name it they found a way to exhibit it.

At the end of another fantastic summer season congratulations to Show organisers and exhibitors, I for one have had a wonderful time.

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