Monday May 21 , 2018

Blue Daisy Blog

Blue Daisy blog written by Nicki Jackson & Jules Clark - for news, views, garden design, gardening and plant observations and thoughts.

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Great British Garden Revival - Episode 4

Posted by on in News & Views
Rachel de Thame - Decline of British Cut Flowers
 
SweetPeasIt’s true that freshly cut flowers bring our homes alive and Rachel explained that we used to take pride in growing and buying our own flowers. The British cut flower industry has declined so much that today we import almost 90% and her aim is that together we can change this.
 
Rachel visited Kelmarsh Hall in Lincolnshire, a Grade 2 listed garden that is of national significance.  Amongst their extensive gardens is a cut flower garden and they believe that freshly cut flowers last longer, and are strong, the stem lengths are all different which makes for a more interesting display rather than being specifically grown all equal lengths for the commercial market. 
 
The New Covent Garden market opened in the 1800s when the British cut flower industry took off and familiar sights around London were the barrow boys carting cut flowers all around the city.  In the 1970s the market grew so big and was so successful it was moved down the road to Vauxhall.   Today the cut flower industry is worth £2bn and sellers admit to stocking only about 10% of British flowers with the other 90% coming from Ecuador, Holland and other countries.  Meanwhile most of our British growers have stopped growing because there is no demand for their products.  In addition to this there are diminishing numbers of younger people going in to the cut flower growing industry; a far cry from the days of their parents and grandparents who were able to create good careers in cut flower jobs in their day.  To compound this problem there is also a loss of knowledge and skill which is a national problem for all of the horticultural industries today.  However, it was back in the 1960s when the government offered subsidies for growers in Holland to import flowers to the UK that contributed to the bottom falling out of the UK market, compounded in the 1990s when the supermarkets joined the fray.  They dominated the market, also sourced from abroad and started selling the same flowers all year round rather than concentrating on seasonal varieties.
 
Wedding flowers are a £120m industry and the majority of them are imported however Doddington Hall have found that there is the rumbling of a new trend afoot - customers are beginning to ask for British grown flowers for their wedding straight from their cutting garden.  Also included in the bouquets are herbs which not only look good but smell good too!
 
Rachel encourages us all to grow cut flowers from seed with the easiest to grow being hardy annuals such as sunflowers, poppies, cornflowers and coreopsis. After a few weeks they are ready to plant out – it is cost effective and addictive. Sweet peas are a favourite for cut flowers because of their scent which has the ability to fill a room, a few plants will be enough to ensure you have flowers all summer long but you must keep picking them, if you don’t they turn to seed pods.  You can buy cut sweet peas but most are also imported to us and by the time they hit the shelves the scent has usually gone so why not grow your own and benefit from the heavier scent of freshly cut sweet peas?
 
There is a skill to cutting and arranging flowers to get the maximum benefit, if you are doing it yourself you should cut them first thing in the morning when they have had all evening to rehydrate themselves.  Once cut ensure you put them straight into a bucket of water (which you should carry with you!) and this will help force water back up to the flower to keep it fresher for longer.  Rachel also gave us ingredients for making our own cut flower food which was basically: in 2L of water add 2tsp of sugar, 2 tsp of weak bleach and 4tsp of lemon juice – probably best to do some research before you make any first though as there are many recipes out there! 
 
Rachel urges us to celebrate our amazing cultural heritage and buy British next time you want to colour your home or “better still - grow your own"!  
 
Here at Blue Daisy we have been growing our own for the last few years and will continue to do so – there’s nothing lovelier than cutting your own flowers for the house and letting the scent fill the rooms!
 
Joe Swift - Trees
 
Sorbus berriesTrees have so many amazing features and it is astounding that today only 2% of Britain is covered in ancient woodland. We have simply fallen out of love with trees, we think they will get too big, the neighbours won't like them or wonder why bother because we won't live long enough to see it mature!  But ensuring you choose the right tree for the right place will help to reduce these problems!
 
Joe visited the Cambridge Botanical Garden as it has an amazing selection of trees of varying sizes, different forms; some have berries or flowers and the deciduous autumnal leaves can be amazing.  A tree is an essential element to any good garden design, it helps set the scene and form the framework for the rest of the planting.  It is probably one of the most important plants you will ever buy as they will be with you for many years to come.  
 
In the Victorian era they planted parks and streets with trees that are resistant to pollution to help green up the streets.   It is true that trees have had their fair share of problems - in the 70s the Elm was threatened as Dutch Elm Disease wiped out 25m trees, Ash and Horse Chestnut have their own diseases too that we need to try to eliminate.  Brighton has the largest and oldest collection of Elm trees in the country; some are over 200 years old, they were planted there originally as they are able to withstand salt laden air.  Some of their Elms have been destroyed but they have been luckier than other parts of the country where our landscape was simply changing over night.  
 
Joe says now more than ever it is so important to plant trees but consider ornamental versions rather than native.  His top three favourite trees for autumnal colour, berries and bark interest are:
 
Acer davidii which has a wide canopy and is perfect for a medium size garden, with attractive leaves and decorative bark – it does like to be sheltered from strong winds though. 
 
The many Sorbus varieties are ideal for medium to larger gardens with their autumn leaf colour and various coloured berries this species on their own attract lots of wildlife.  
 
Euonymus sachalinensis can reach up to 3m tall and is perfect for a small garden; it has amazing shaped fruit with vivid colour and also attracts lots of wildlife.
 
It is essential that we provide habitats for our wildlife and a Birch family tree attracts the widest variety of wildlife having a staggering 334 species feed and live on them.  There is a national collection of Birch at Stone Lane Gardens which is set in a 5 acres garden, began in 1971.  Birch trees can grow on poor soils and they don’t create deep shade with their canopy so many people find them quite attractive for that reason.  They have their own architectural quality in a garden and can look great when planted individually or in groups for a bold statement, they also have a wide range of amazing bark and leaf colours too. 
 
Not only can trees increase wildlife in your garden, provide a focal point, add structural interest they can also help offset your carbon foot print and improve air quality – what are you waiting for?  Plant a tree in your garden today!  If you want some advice get in touch with us.
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Great British Garden Revival - Episode 1

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Episode 1:  Wildflowers and Front Gardens

Wildflowers - Monty Don

wild-poppiesDuring his childhood Monty grew up with wild flowers in abundance - as did many of us and our parents - but now a staggering  98% of our wildflower meadows have gone which has meant that our landscape has changed drastically.  He gave his tips for creating a wildflower area, including using yellow rattle which is semi-parasitic and will act as a grass suppressant thereby giving other seeds a chance to grow.  He also showed us how to prepare an area that is already laid to lawn by cutting it on it's lowest setting, raking thoroughly and exposing soil in some areas to make it impoverished before sowing seeds.  Monty also looked at the ancient ways of cutting the meadows down at the end of the season by using a scythe which whilst very Eco-friendly looked extremly hard work!

Interestingly we also got to see how wild flower seeds are mixed by specialist growers - super low tech but an incredibly bespoke approach - so anyone can buy seed to match the precise conditions in their garden.  He showed us his passion for wildflowers whether creating large or small patches regardless of the size of our gardens and he urged us to do so for the sheer pleasure of it as well as to help the ecosystms that rely on these types of flowers.

Front Gardens - Joe Swift

concrete-jungleFront gardens used to be places where we showed off our horticultural prowess but now they have become concrete jungles all across the country.  The decline of the front garden has been traced back to the 1960s largely due to the increase of cars and the need to park them. The result of all this paving though means that in heavy rain our sewers can't cope with the amount of water being run off into them and this often leads to flash flooding.  These paved over gardens whilst offering a practical solution, have proved to adversely affect our well-being, contribute to flooding and have reduced the biodiversity in our gardens.  Joe's message came through loud and clear, he wants us to breathe life into our front gardens not only for those reasons but also for social well-being and civic pride!  

It is true that we need hard standing areas for our cars but we can also have areas for our plants too and by directing water to those borders it will help our front gardens cope with run off.  If each householder made a conscious decision to mix both practical and environmental considerations it would have huge and positive repercussions for us as a country.   By placing plants next to the road they soak up a great proportion of pollution and therefore reduce the amount that gets through to our homes - I loved the idea that front garden plants act like filter paper, soaking up the pollutants before the nasty bits get to us. He showed viewers some ideas from grid system hard standing areas to using semicircular trellis that cover drain pipes so plants like clematis, honeysuckle, jasmine and other climbers can all grab on, work their way upwards and hide those ugly pipes.  

If not for the reasons mentioned above, improving your front garden can help you sell your house or rent it out so there really is no reason not to.   Read what we say about creating that kerbside appeal here.

 

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Great British Garden Revival- BBC2

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gardenrevivalA new 10 part series is due to air on BBC2 this week.  It aims to do for horticulture and plants what the Great British Bake Off has done for baking and cakes!  Can this be a good or a bad thing?  Anything that puts horticulture on the agenda can only be a good thing as far as I'm concerned and it will be interesting to see the public's reaction to it.  It's said to be trying to reverse the nation's obsession with paving, patios and decking and trying to stir up some passion for plants and all things green!  

Each episode will have two well known presenters such as Monty Don, Chris Beardshaw, Carol Klein, Charlie Dimmock, Alys Fowler and Joe Swift. They are tasked with bringing an aspect of horticulture to our screens by giving us hands-on advice, explaining the heritage aspect of whatever it is they're concentrating on and showing how, through correct care or restoration, there can indeed be a revival.

Subject areas that will be covered are topiary, herbaceous borders, roof gardens, wild flowers, kitchen gardens, cottage gardens and even house plants.   Perhaps this kind of programme would have been best placed in the New Year schedules when the people have Christmas behind them and can concentrate, or maybe even plan some changes for their garden!  

As for me, I'm looking forward to it and I'll be interested to see how they try to bring back some traditional horticultural skills however nostalgic it might be. 

 

 

 

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