Each year I offer to grow seeds in the Which? Gardening Trials and submit my results along with hundreds of other keen subscribers. Last year for the first time they set up an 8 week temporary on-line forum for the trialists to make comments and share experiences during the trial and I was a keen contributor, particularly regarding the climbing French bean ‘Monte Cristo’ which, although delicious to eat, were extremely curly! This got people talking and sharing photos and ideas. I loved it!
So this year I volunteered to grow two varieties of Zinnia to see which one attracted more butterflies and pollinating insects, Garlic Chives to assess their usefulness for salads and boiled potatoes, and Ipomea (Morning Glory) ‘Dacapo Light Blue’ to see how quickly it came into flower from germination.
Chives are chives and not very exciting but the flavour of garlic chives are more garlic than onion so you need to like garlic!
I have featured the Ipomea elsewhere in the blog and they are a real winner, as good or better than the popular and better known ‘Grandpa Ott’ and ‘Heavenly Blue’.
It was the Zinnias that became the stars this year and mainly because I got an email asking if I would be a case study for the magazine and feature my plants and comments when the results are published! Wow! What a privilege. The Trials team had seen the photos I had uploaded on the forum and wanted their own professional photographer to visit my garden and take shots of the plants and me!
And so it was that on a sunny Thursday last week, Matt Fowler, the Which? photographer, drove from High Wycombe to Cheltenham for an hour long photo shoot, him surrounded by equipment and me on my knees amongst the Zinnias!
I am not used to being in front of the camera so it was a little nerve-wracking. However, Matt was used to it and just got in with his job while Cathy was taking pics of him taking pics of me!
I grew the Zinnias in a raised bed in the veg garden so I could keep an eye on them and this turned out to have been a good idea because we could photograph them from all sides and very close up.
I think the light was bouncing off my bald head!
It was a good day and not your average Thursday morning. The varieties were ‘Oklahoma’ and the shorter, rather non-Zinnia like ‘Starbright’. Great plants, easy to grow, undemanding and drought tolerant, long flowering and attractive to bees and butterflies. What more could you want? Well, perhaps more flowers and less of me!