My new trial garden

July 28th, 2017 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Part of Graham Rice's trial garden

This spring I set up a new trial garden in Northamptonshire. It’s modest in scale compared to the colourful and productive acres Mr F runs at its Suffolk HQ, but it’s already proving invaluable in assessing new varieties, as well providing cut flowers for the house and food for the table.

Most of the area is organised in 1.2m (4ft) rectangular beds with 60cm (2ft) paths, the paths just wide enough to take the legs of the wheelbarrow. The beds are edged with 15cm (6in) pressure treated boards.

I’m growing new shrubs, perennials and annuals; also veggies and salads, new varieties and old favourites; plus flowers for cutting including a few for my friend at Foxtail Lilly, the boutique florist and vintage store, to consider for her customers.

And I’m not segregating the different types of plant in different beds. Zinnias are growing between the tomatoes, new poppies in front of the baptisias and plants of a new cosmos between a collection of new Shasta daisy varieties.

Unfortunately, this has led to a few close calls when I’ve tried to cram too much in! The ‘Jazzy’ early potatoes (tasty and prolific) made so much growth that they started to smother the yellow Cosmos ‘Xanthos’ on one side and the new kniphofias on the other! But now I’m lifting the spuds the cosmos and pokers are getting more light and recovering fast.

The stars so far? ‘Amaze’ red baby cos lettuce is good even as it starts to bolt. The ‘Hi Scent’ sweet peas with their pretty colouring and super scent have proved why they’re now essential growing although my old favourite ‘Gwendoline’ has some disappointing off-types. The crop of ‘Socrates’ mini-cucumbers has been spectacular – and there’s nothing quite like visiting a friend with a gift of tasty little cukes.

Some new calendulas from the USA are superb (can’t tell you any more at the moment), I’m also trying three hardy gladioli (one of them scented!) and they’re lovely although the rainstorms did them no favours.

I’ll keep you posted with occasional updates.

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Is one of our best known gardening writers. A graduate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Graham was previously Gardening Correspondent of The Observer.
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