2014 has been a busy year for our gardening folk in the Nation of Gardeners group and so we thought we would put together a gallery of highlights from the group’s gardening year.
The group autumn planted bare root perennials in late autumn 2013. The survival rates overwinter were what we were looking for when protected in pots under cover, versus open ground planting. By spring we were seeing what had survived such as these Cheshire planted Papaver Place Pigalle and Astrantia Moulin Rouge.
By summer there were blooms like fireworks bursting into life in gardens around the UK from these autumn planted bare root perennials.
The Papaver Place Pigalle pictured to the left here in our Devon gardener’s hillside plot, impressed with its beauty – albeit a beauty that lasted only days on these young plants. We shall see if year two gives these plants longer flowering power.
Astrantia Moulin Rouge and Sedum Xenox also performed well; flowering long and hard from late summer onwards, as did any of the Eryngiums that survived slug attacks. Pictured below and to the right here is a wonderful shot of the Eryngium in flower, again in our Devon gardener’s plot.
2014 was ‘the year of the slug’ with a mild winter over 2013/14 not keeping these pests in check sufficiently. Many of our gardeners reported in defeated tones of visiting their gardens where an overnight devastation of plants had taken place, which is a heart breaking moment many gardeners will empathise with.
The only bare root perennial that failed to perform significantly was the Cimicifuga. If not consumed by slugs, the surviving plants threw up a couple of leaves this year, but we shall have to wait a while to see these notoriously slow growers bring anything more exciting to our beds!
There were other blooms in the gardens too. A new variety of Antirrhinum called Purple Twist was sent out to the group for raising from seed.
The seedlings proved tricky to raise, and were nicknamed by our Cumbrian gardener as ‘moody teenagers’. Of the plants that pulled through the perils of legginess and damping off, the results were quite amazing.
The snapdragon plants that actually made it out of ‘seedling-hood’ and into to our Nation of Gardener’s plots flowered profusely throughout the summer. They needed a thorough frost check to diminish them at the end of the year, and being a perennial will likely reward our gardeners for many years to come. Our Cumbrian gardener’s picture here shows them standing proud and tall in her beds in the North of England.
Sweet peas, a cultivar of which Mr Fothergill’s is justly proud, played a big part in our group’s activities. Autumn versus spring sowings were tested which gave us some glorious results in summer. We asked our gardeners to sow a reliable variety Sweet Pea Old Spice alongside an exclusive chocolate flake variety Sir Henry Cecil.
Above are sweet peas just emerging in Hertfordshire and then just planted in Suffolk. Below, are sweet pea blooms for our gardeners in Worcestershire, South Wales and Renfrewshire. The best of both worlds, the scentless Sir Henry Cecil impressed our gardeners with the upright habit of these large blooms, and the scent of the Old Spice added that much sought after quality in bowls of sweet peas around the house.
Sir Henry Cecil didn’t only impress our gardeners either. The blooms grown in the Peak District, Devon and Hertfordshire were all entered into sweet pea shows and won prizes, and so they are officially award-winning sweet peas by independent jury!
There was an abundance of things to taste as well as grow this year too including, from left to right, salad leaves (Buckinghamshire), garlic (South Wales) and cucamelons (West Wales).
There were also peppers (Elgin), broad beans (Devon) and tomatoes (Bristol).
There were blackcurrants (Renfrewshire), blackberries (Worcestershire) and black tomatoes! (Bristol)
We mustn’t forget the strawberries! This was another autumn planting versus spring planting trial. Alongside this we also tested out our ‘Berry Quick’ product line of commercially ‘frozen’ strawberry plants that guaranteed fruit within 30 days of planting. The Berry Quick did indeed produce fruits within 30 days for all of our gardeners, but the taste of the spring and autumn planted strawberries were preferred universally by our group proving that a longer and slower growing season is worth the wait.
Pictured here are the strawberry crops of our gardeners in Surrey, Renfrewshire and Ceredigion.
We trialled the late sowing of annuals and perennials in late summer.
In particular the Godetias impressed (pictured here in our Cheshire gardener’s plot). These plants gave vigorous and long lasting blooms for many gardeners, and perhaps most impressive for many was the fact that it is a variety not grown so often.
Though a summer annual, these plants also proved to be reasonably cold tolerant with our Pontypridd gardener reporting that his Godetia still had flowers even after the first hard frosts in his area.
Otherwise the annuals grown were workhorse varieties such as Calendula, Marigolds, Cornflowers and Alyssum, all of which produced beautiful mixed beds of flowers for our gardeners. Pictured here is our Surrey gardener’s annuals bed pictured in late September in a prime condition.
Of the late sown perennials we shall have to wait until 2015 as these young seedlings have all been tucked up safely in greenhouses and coldframes around the UK to sit out the winter. We are promised Echinacea, Poppies, Aubretias, Hollyhocks, Aquilegia and Lavender so watch this space.
Later in the year we asked our gardeners to plant mini plug pansies for overwintering.
The variety dispatched to our gardeners is a trailing pansy called Cool Wave, a breeding break-through which is the first true trailing pansy to be grown from seed. Our gardener in Bristol was soon enamoured with her small pansy plants posting in these wonderful portraits of their individual personalities!
We asked our gardeners to plant out winter peas – Pea Meteor – and to leave them to the elements. In the more northerly parts of the UK, the elements took these plants pretty quickly. We shall see how our south-based gardeners get on with these plants early in 2015 and if they get a welcome early crop of peas from them as a result of the plants enduring a UK winter.
Christmas potatoes were also planted in early autumn. However, Christmas came early for many of our gardeners!
The warm and late summer weather, where we had lots of warm days right through September and into early October pushed these plants on faster than anticipated. The plants grew and then died back prematurely forcing the tubers to be lifted in October and November for many. Our Pontypridd gardener is determined to lift on Christmas Day though, so we shall see what hides under the compost once he has had chance to turn them out.
Pictured here is our Hertfordshire gardener’s potato crop. Not huge, but good to get a new potato taste late in early winter.
As we slip into the depths of winter, our gardeners are tending overwintered salad crops and some very special woodland strawberries. Bob Flowerdew supplied Mr Fothergill’s with a yet-to-be-named variety and so our gardeners are going to be testing them out alongside the nurserymen at Mr Fothergill’s in Kentford. We don’t know much about these plants yet and so our group of gardeners will help us determine the growing and cropping habits of these plants.
It has been a busy year for our group of gardeners and one that has been fruitful, both figuratively speaking and literally! Follow us into 2015 for more gardening adventures with our group as we see what year two brings for many of the plants.