Which? Gardening photo shoot!


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!DSC_0021

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!DSC_0006

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’.DSC_0024

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!DSC_0015

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!DSC_0089

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!DSC_0074

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. DSC_0024

I think the light was bouncing off my bald head!DSC_0065

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!


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!

Smartie Pants or Poo Pants?

035I am really not sure I like this new Dahlia ‘Twyning’s Smartie’. There is something decidedly odd about it. For a start it is a weakling, only about 18″ high and has taken absolutely ages to grow even to that paltry size. And the white splashed flower looks wrong, like it’s a mistake.039

Not all the flowers are splashed either so they are not consistent. If I had been choosing new Dahlia varieties I would have chucked this one in the bin as not fit for purpose.

I suppose it just shows how clever those marketing people are – getting mugs like me to buy the hype and the tuber! Its big brother, Twynings ‘After Eight’ which has dark foliage and white single flowers is still in bud. Let’s hope it reads this and does better!

First Sweet Peas!

003I don’t know why, but the first Sweet Peas of the year just make me smile!007

The stems are always longest and strongest on the early ones and these are no exception. Sown on 31 October last year, overwintered in a cold frame and planted out at the end of April, these will be followed by a further 20 plants sown on New Years Day which are now only 2 weeks behind! The March sown seeds were given away and swapped. I hope they get the same pleasure from them that we do.

Favourite Dahlia & Chrysanthemum of 2012

Bishop of LLandaff

Bishop of Llandaff

Probably my favourite Dahlia of the year, Bishop of Llandaff. The sturdy stems holding gorgeous deep red flowers contrast with the dark foliage and, with regular deadheading, went on for months. A really good front of border dahlia and very attractive to bees. Started from seed this year, this was grown from a packet of ‘Redskin Mix’ from Suttons Seeds.

Orange Allouise

Orange Allouise

Undoubtedly my favourite Chrysanthemum of 2012, the gorgeous buttery yellow ‘Orange Allouise’ which captivated me every day in the early morning sun throughout August and early September. Strongly recommended if you like that sort of thing!


One of this years additions to the cutting garden was Chrysanthemum ‘Froggy’ from Sarah Raven and it has produced a bumper crop of small green button flowers, perfect for a contemporary looking vase. Obviously it would work well teamed with white, yellow or pink but it also looks good just on it’s own set off by the darker green of the foliage.

Glad for Gladioli

I’ve always loved Gladdies. Such theatrical flowers on dramatic tall spikes which shoot up from relatively small corms and with so few roots it’s a wonder they stand up at all. They are also neat and slim, taking up very little room in the garden which makes them good value plants in my book. Continue reading