Fingers Burnt By Plants (Or Is It The Plants Getting Burnt?)

Tiarella flowers

Tiarella flowers setting the trends at the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show

Love isn’t always requited between humans & plants, but we shouldn’t allow the lamentable failure of a relationship to thrive to put us off one type of plant entirely. Easy to say, but harder to venture a tender heart the second time around.

I was first acquainted with a brownish heuchera that lived in a hanging basket in an out of the way place, seemingly never watered. Most of the soil had fallen out and only a spindly root system prevented the heuchera from going the same way. The plant never looked great, but you had to respect its toughness. I can’t claim to have fallen in love; at best we were on nodding terms.

Contrasting brown, green and purple leaves covered in raindrops

Heucherella ‘Redstone Falls’ with contrasting varieties

Inspired by that one, I went on to grow several heucheras, tiarellas and their hybrid, heucherellas, using their mounds of patterned leaves as ground cover. They really are plants you can paint land with, in England, at least. Unsurprisingly, I found myself getting fond of them.  Continue reading

Flowers From The Farm: Locally Grown and Eco-Friendly

Roses, mallows, sweet peas, and antirrhinums with foliage

The topic of flower miles is one of the secrets in the closet of the cut flower industry. I travel a good few miles myself so can’t be too judgemental. It’s easier to grow big blousy roses in cool mountains, near to the equator where the days and nights don’t vary in length that much during the year – places like Kenya and Colombia. The supply chains that bring the roses from overseas farms to our homes are longer and more complicated than most people would think.

I remember watching a flower auction in Japan – most flowers we buy in Europe come through a similar auction hub in Holland. If you know how much care, thought and anxiety go into producing flowers in any part of the world, it’s chastening to see them reduced to commodities.

Boxed up flowers are opened briefly on stage and shown to assembled buyers in a room laid out like a lecture theatre. Models trying not to wilt after a long distance flight without water would seem a good analogy, but the flowers had better not be wilting at this point as they have many more miles to travel. Buyers hold their nerves as the price ticks down like a clock. The quicker they press, the more they’ll pay per box. If someone else snaps them up first, it’s game over.

White mallow flowers

You might have noticed by now that some of the flowers illustrated simply can’t be transported that way. They have been grown by Flowers From The Farm’s members for their display at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show. The society promotes British grown flowers that don’t accrue air miles, being sold as locally as possible.  Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Phoenix From The Ashes

Gnome waiting to be rehomed

This week’s photo challenge is Repurpose. It’s difficult to know where to start with that one. My sweetheart has trashed out his house and garden – I could say ‘enhanced’, if wearing my marketing hat – in countless ways, egged on by architect friend Rick Griffin and Jim Kapernick. Jim is proprietor of Old House Depot, a 20,000 sq ft cornucopia of architectural salvage in Jackson, MS.

Together, they are the most purposeful repurposers you could imagine.

Broken concrete? That would be perfect for a path. Old wood? Old wood has more uses than I care to list. Tyres? My sweetheart’s garden boasts colourful tyre planters, tyre chairs, and even some tyre-planter-spare-bits arranged to form wall decor and a small tree. Well, you have to do something with the spare bits.  Continue reading

Agave americana: monster plants

Agave americana in bloom

Yesterday’s post was a macro shot of a tiny bee on an allium: today I’m stepping back to get something much bigger in the frame.

If you love gardening, I hope you can find time to check out The Frustrated Gardener’s blog – he’s one of my firm favourites. Today he shared a post ‘Agave Aggravation’ with must-see pictures showing how an English glasshouse has been adapted to allow an Agave americana to flower.

It’s a giant, monocarpic plant: after several years it diverts all its energy into producing a spectacular flowering scape which is fertilized by humming birds. Afterwards it dies, leaving only its children to mark where it once thrived. The plant takes no chances, multiplying from small offsets that form around the base and from thousands of cross-pollinated seeds that bounce down from the sky.  Continue reading