Big’uns & Little’uns!

Sweet Peas showing difference between cordon and bush

Just taken this photo for my next piece in Garden News and thought I would post it to show the difference between bush grown sweet peas on the left and cordon grown ones on the right. The bush grown ones are grandifloras which have more flowers and a stronger scent and I just let them scramble up pea netting and obelisks in various parts of the garden. They get no attention other than watering, feeding and cutting. The cordons are all frilly Spencer varieties used mainly for competitions and have less scent and less flowers but they are much, much bigger! Some stems are 18″ long and the flowers are at least twice as big as the grandifloras. However, they involve a lot more work and I have been tying them in every day for weeks, nipping out the side shoots, cutting off the tendrils and pinching out the flower buds to force them to put all their energy into making tall strong plants. Fingers crossed for a first time success at the local show next week!


It has been a busy few weeks out and about. Our society Spring Show  on 6 April was a great success and we were delighted to welcome Lady Carolyn Elwes from nearby Colesbourne Park to present the prizes.

Our President David Richards with Lady Carolyn Elwes

Our President David Richards with Lady Carolyn Elwes

Famous for her wonderful snowdrops including Galanthus ‘Elwesii’, Lady Carolyn was charming and interested in all the exhibits. She kept nipping back to her car with plants she had bought on the way round the hall!096

Last week it was off to Syon Park in London for the ‘Gardening Against the Odds’ Awards because I had nominated my friend and our society’s Vice President, Chris Evans, in recognition of the wonderful work he does at his nursery where he created the Butterfly Garden eleven years ago to use horticulture and recycling skills to enrich the lives of  disadvantaged young people. The award was presented by the very charming and attractive Duchess of Northumberland, famous for the wonderful garden she has created at Alnwick Castle.

Next week I have been invited to a ceremony at Dundry Nurseries in Cheltenham when Chris Evans will also be presented with the British Empire Medal by Dame Janet Trotter, the Queen’s representative in Gloucestershire. Chris is a modest man and is rather overwhelmed by all the attention but it is well deserved.

It’s all go! I don’t have enough time for gardening. Actually, that’s not true…I have lots of time and it’s coming along nicely. Just look at these Ballerina tulips.Tulip 'Ballerina'

It’s Showtime!

004My 12 entries in the Cheltenham Horticultural Society Summer Flower & Craft Show this year only produced modest results compared to last year but a second and three third places was more than a lot of people achieved so I suppose I should be pleased. That’s the trouble with having a competitive nature though, only winning will do!006

I was amazed that my ‘provided by the Society’ fuchsia came third considering the size of the class so this is definitely a thumbs up for comfrey feed and regular pinching-out.057       My Eucomis bicolour which has grown splendidly this year only managed second place again but I hope it will be third time lucky next year by which time it should have produced several flower spikes like the one which won!Fire & Brimstone

The vase of flowers representing Fire & Brimstone was placed third and is still going strong in the dining room at home! I like classes like this where you can use your imagination and raid the garden for exciting colour combinations.008

My clever wife, however, won two first prizes and two third places! Her knitted top beat several other beautiful garments including her baby jacket which came third.012

And in the cookery section her redcurrant jam won first prize, a major achievement considering it was a last minute decision to enter, she had never made it before, we had not tasted it and she was up against seasoned jam-makers! Doubly satisfying because we grew the redcurrants as well.A Packed Hall for the Results

Our shows are always held in the beautiful surroundings of the Pittville Pump Room which, as the name suggests, was built as one of several spas in the mid 1800’s for wealthy Victorians to ‘take the waters’. If you have never tasted spa water you haven’t missed a thing; it is foul-tasting brownish salty water which looks disgusting and leaves a horrible after-taste.Harrels Hardy Plants Stall

There are always plenty of plants for sale from local nurseries and our own member’s stall so no-one goes home empty handed. Trophy Winners August 2013

The Deputy Mayor and his wife handed out the prizes and trophies and another great show came to a close.

Wonderful Winning Weekend

005                                                                                                                                         Despite all the recent meteorological doom and gloom, The Cheltenham Horticultural Society held it’s Spring Flower and Craft Show as planned on Sunday. It was only my second foray into the mysterious world of horticultural shows but buoyed up by last summer’s relatively successful attempt, I entered eight classes including the above attempt at ‘Floral Art’ for novices which was titled “At Breakfast”24032013532.                                    Even with the tray back to front I won first prize and a kind note from the judge! 24032013533              And yes, I did the whole thing myself including the boiled eggs!


This was followed by a further 1st prize for a vase of 3 yellow un-named Daffodils,  1st prize for a vase of 3 daffodils of any other colour combination (pictured above) and 1st prize for a vase of 1 tulip stem.002

The demure little common Primula vulgaris I entered won 2nd prize for ‘1 container of Primrose or Polyanthus’ beating off stiff competition from loads of garishly coloured and unnatural looking examples of the species. It might have done even better if I hadn’t had to remove the front two leaves due to slug damage!24032013530

My wife, Cathy, swept the board with 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the Handicrafts section for ‘An article, hand knitted or crocheted’. Her baby’s jacket, baby blanket and scarf were simply the best. 24032013536

Her Orange Drizzle Cake came second in a class of 12 others and is absolutely delicious!

All in all, a wonderful show in dreadful weather. With over 200 entries and 300 visitors, it was a tribute to the hard work of the organising committee and volunteers.

Roll on August and the Summer Show!