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Primula sieboldii

I’m never quite sure where to start when I have had a bit of a blogging break. I didn’t plan a hiatus. I rather like the discipline of writing a post every week and know from my attempts in the past to keep a diary how hard it can be to start writing again once you get out of the rhythm.

A virus sapped me of much of my energy for several weeks. I know something is wrong when the thought of going to the plot, or the need to spend some time in the greenhouse feels like too much of an effort and more like a chore than something I normally love. Work was pretty hectic too and the two combined to result in a stinking cold. There wasn’t much I could do but crawl into bed and stay there for a few days. Of course, I spent the whole time lying there thinking about how much there was to do. I would say if a gardener is going to go sick the worst time to do it is probably April. I could almost hear the weeds at the allotment growing as I reached for another tissue. Oh, and there was the small matter of having to prepare for the first photo shoot of my second book. I’m not quite sure how that bit happened but I find myself growing plants for another book and entering round two of my battle with the weather. Last year my panic was fuelled by the lack of any spring and the worry we might never have a summer. This year it’s all change with a spring of warm sunshine. Beautiful, and I wouldn’t swap it but it has been a bit of a nightmare trying to keep plants from going over.

photo shoot day

Tricks of the trade – photo shoot day

With a bit of breathing space, now I have some photos in the bag, followed by a relaxing Easter break I thought it was about time I put fingers to keyboard and return to my neglected blog.

In some ways being otherwise occupied has been a bit of a blessing. I do have a tendency to get a bit carried away with half-hardy annuals, sowing them too early. I always seem to forget, or choose to ignore the fact that they germinate and grow pretty quickly. By the start of May, I have windowsills chock full of courgettes, French beans and squashes romping away with nowhere to go because it’s still too chilly for them outside. I’m hoping my timing this year, sowing in the middle of April rather than at the start of the month, might be a bit more realistic and save me the headache of trying to accommodate the triffids reaching for the sun.

R A Scamp - Floral marquee RHS Cardiff Show

R A Scamp – Floral marquee RHS Cardiff Show

It’s a pity I can’t be more realistic about the number of plants it is possible for me to grow. The greenhouse, cold frames and windowsills are running at full capacity at the moment. But it’s impossible to turn away more plants. One day, a few weeks ago, an unexpected parcel arrived from Suttons Seeds. They had very generously sent me a sample of 3 tomato plug plants. I did groan a little initially, thinking where on earth was I going to put them, but it wasn’t long before I had mentally rearranged the myriad of plants I already have to be able to squeeze them in. I’m really looking forward to giving them a go. I have had pretty disastrous results growing tomatoes since I moved to Wales, with tomatoes succumbing to blight, and then last year, with the greenhouse installed they suffered at the hands of a bad batch of compost and shrivelled up and died. The tomatoes Suttons sent are a new variety called ‘Indigo Rose’. It’s a black-skinned tomato that is apparently packed full of the antioxidant anthocyanin. It’s a grafted tomato too which I have never grown before. The apparent advantages of grafting include greater yields and improved disease resistance. They’re growing quickly on my study windowsill at the moment. Hopefully it won’t be long before some space is freed up in the greenhouse so they can take up residence there. I’ll let you know how I get on and hopefully I’ll get some fruit so I can report back on the all important flavour test.

RHS Cardiff Show

RHS Cardiff Show – Victoria Wade’s Norwegian garden

My cold shifted in time for me to make a trip to the RHS Cardiff Show. The weather couldn’t have been more spring-like and the show does have a feeling of excitement and anticipation of the growing season to come. The floral marquee looked spectacular with the incredible R A Scamp narcissi display winning best exhibit. The show gardens were much improved this year compared to last. I particularly loved Victoria Wade’s Norwegian inspired garden with its naturalistic feel.

Lunaria annua 'Chedglow'

Lunaria annua ‘Chedglow’

The highlight of the show for me was the discovery of this beauty, Lunaria annua ‘Chedglow’ on the Avon Bulbs stand. It’s a variety of the humble honesty plant with incredible chocolate coloured leaves and striking purple stems. I love honesty for cutting, both for the spring flowers and for the moon-like seed pods produced in summer and think this will be a stunner when arranged with tulips. I came away with a packet of seeds. As a biennial it won’t produce flowers until next spring but it’ll be well worth the wait.