Mr Plant Geek's Virtual Botanical T-shirts

Mr Plant Geek’s Virtual Garden T-shirts

Wear your horticulture on your chest

Mr Plant Geek (aka Michael Perry) has his own range of funny (and rude) gardening-based T-shirts which are real winners in my humble opinion.

So, it’s nice to see two new additions to the range – contemporary and cybernetic prints of the lily and Opuntia (prickly pear) cactus.

The lily was chosen because it is so important in literature and culture in so many regions of the world – and because of its awe-inspiring beauty.

The Opuntia got the nod due to its diversity – it’s the most culinary species of cactus and was named after the Ancient Greek city of Opus.

All T-shirts come in a choice of white or black, with the design in pink or green, sizes S-5XL, price £18.99.

To order or for more information, visit www.shop.spreadshirt.co.uk/mrplantgeek/

Climbing rose James Galway on my fence

Roses for semi-shade plus 15% off

David Austin’s lovely bloomers on under 5 hours’ sun

While many people think roses need full sun, there are many varieties that will make do with a semi-shady position – they’ll perform well on 4-5 hours a day of sun.

Do remember that in shady positions, avoid areas where there are overhanging branches and dry places which will out-compete the rose for moisture, food, and light.

Here are five favourites from David Austin’s collection that will perform consistently well in a more challenging environment.

If you order before November 12, 2017, you’ll get 15% every time you order – quote code KPJ.

JAMES GALWAY: (English Climbing Rose, bred by David Austin). I grow this on a semi-shaded fence and it performs wonderfully, with warm pink rosettes packed with many, perfectly arranged petals. Old Rose fragrance and almost thornless. Repeat flowering, height 12ft, bare root plant £17, delivery from November.

JACQUES CARTIER: (Old Rose), very similar to ‘Comte de Chambord’, with more refined flowers. Large, rosette-shaped, rich pink flowers with a very strong fragrance. Repeat flowering, height 4ft, width 3ft. Bare root plant costs £16, delivery from November.

THE PILGRIM: (English Climbing Rose, bred by David Austin), large, soft yellow rosettes produced freely. A mixed fragrance of tea rose and myrrh. Very healthy and reliable with attractive, bushy growth. Repeat flowering, height up to 12ft. Bare root plant £17, delivery from November.

QUEEN OF SWEDEN (English Rose, bred by David Austin), this shrub rose has soft apricot-pink cup-shaped flowers with elegant, upright growth. There is a classic myrrh fragrance. Good for disease resistance, repeat flowering. Height 4ft, width 2.5ft. Bare root plant £17, delivery from November.

PRINCESS ALEXANDRA OF KENT: (English Rose, bred by David Austin), large, deeply cupped blooms of warm, glowing pink, with award-winning fresh tea fragrance with hints of lemon and blackcurrants. Repeat flowering, ideal for pots and containers. Height 4ft, width 3ft, bare root plant £17, delivery from November.

Check out the repeat-flowering English roses, shrub roses (Hybrid Musks, Rugosas and Ground Covers), Gallicas, Damasks and Albas too.

For more information, visit www.davidaustinroses.co.uk and don’t forget the 15% off code – quote code KPJ.

Hillier Celebrity Auction

Hillier Nurseries Celebrity Memory Tree Auction

Own a piece of RHS Chelsea history

A charity auction is giving 13 people the chance to own a piece of RHS Chelsea Flower Show history, as well as raising funds for a cancer charity.

The online auction is the culmination of the ‘Memory Tree’ project by Hillier Nurseries, whose charity partner is Wessex Cancer Trust.

Hillier has exhibited at Chelsea for almost a century and has a record-breaking 72 gold medals. With so many amazing memories connected to the show, the ‘Memory Tree’ was created so visitors could share their garden memories too.

At the show, visitors signed tags to hang from the tree and wrote down their most treasured garden memory in a special book with more than 500 memories by the end.

Alan Titchmarsh, a long-running supporter of Wessex Cancer Trust, was the first to sign up, followed by Dame Judi Dench, Joanna Lumley, Piers Morgan, Jo Whiley, Nigel Slater, Matt Baker, Alex Jones, Carol Klein, Anton du Beke, Ainsley Harriott, Nigel Havers and Cerys Matthews.

Wessex Cancer Trust is now auctioning the tags signed by the celebrities, each displayed in a frame, complete with certificate and a copy of the person’s memory.

Aim to raise lots of funds

Alan said: “It was a pleasure to visit the Hillier garden at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show and to kick of the Memory Tree.

“It was nice to take a moment away from the busy show to reflect on my many, many memories of gardening. Fingers crossed the auction raises lots of funds for the Wessex Cancer Trust who I have supported for many years.”

The auction is open now until Monday, October 16. To bid, visit Wessex Cancer Trust’s website at www.wessexcancer.org.uk/celebrity-auction.

Hillier has also launched a digital copy of the Memory Book called ‘Your Garden Memories’, visit www.hillier.co.uk.

Pheasant Acre Plants

RHS London Autumn Garden Show 2017

End-of-season spectacle, October 25-26 (late event October 24)

After the RHS’s decision to have fewer but more spectacular London shows, with proceeds going towards paying for RHS apprentices, this is the first Autumn Garden Show.

It replaces the former Shades of Autumn Show, but will still take place in the RHS Lindley and RHS Lawrence Horticultural Halls.

You’ll have the chance to learn about urban foraging and seasonal growing techniques along with plant-based crafts.

There are talks from Roy Lancaster, Anne Swithinbank, and Nick Bailey, as well as ornithologist Bill Oddie.

Highlights of the show

  • The Autumn Ornamental Plant Competition, open for all to enter.
  • Specially selected nurseries and exhibitors offering seasonal plants, bulbs, and accessories, including The Botanic Nursery, Plantbase, and Harperley Hall Farm Nurseries.
  • Floral exhibitors including Calamazag Nursery, Strictly Daylilies, and The Salutation Garden.
  • In the Lindley Library, see the exhibition ‘Codlings, Costards and Biffins’.
  • Free tours of material from the library collections, including a curator’s introduction to the exhibition.
  • Foodie delights from Chelsea-based foraging restaurant Rabbit, in an indoor foraging forest full of unusual edibles created by Jon Davies.
  • Nick Bailey talks about ‘Unusual Edibles in the City’; Anne Swithinbank discusses ‘Foraging from the Garden’.
  • Floral installations from RHS Floral Artist in Residence 2017 (Electric Daisy Flower Farm).
  • A celebration of seedheads from RHS Gold-medal winning designer Paul-Hervey Brookes, and a ‘remix’ of the Chatsworth Path of Least Resistance Freeform installation.
  • Workshops including floral design, autumn-leaf crafting, and micro-green sowing.
  • Award-winning bonsai collection from Bonsai Kai, the oldest bonsai club in Europe.
  • The Late event has a preview of the show and a complimentary drink for the first 200 guests who book in advance. Free pumpkin carving workshops, delicious food, and live music.

Getting there, etc

  • RHS staff give advice
    RHS staff give advice. Picture; RHS Media Image collection

    Addresses: The Lindley Hall, Elverton Street, London SW1P 2QW; RHS Lawrence Hall, 80 Vincent Square SW1P 2QD.

  • Public transport: St James’s Park underground station or Victoria train station are the closest to the halls – expect a 10-minute walk. Limited on-street parking is available and there is off-street parking in Horseferry Road.
  • Opening hours: October 24 (late), 6pm–9pm; October 25-26 10am-5pm.
  • Ticket prices: Members £5, non-members £6 in advance, £9 on the day.
Transplanting seeds

RHS Big Soup Share

10th anniversary of RHS Campaign for School Gardening, October 2-8

More than 1,000 schools and youth groups across the UK will be taking part in the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) Big Soup Share this week to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Campaign for School Gardening.

Some 75,000 three to 18-year-olds have been harvesting their produce, devising soup recipes and cooking up a feast to share with their classmates, friends, family and local community.

Since its launch in 2007, the RHS Campaign for School Gardening has called for all children to be given the chance to garden, to support their learning and wellbeing and inspire them in future careers.

Now, 69 per cent of primary schools and 79 per cent of secondary schools are signed up to receive free resources and support from the RHS.

A survey of these schools found that 96 per cent said gardening had enabled young people to connect with nature, and 83 per cent and 82 per cent of schools felt it had improved the mental and physical wellbeing of pupils.

Other benefits cited were helping youngsters to develop a wide range of skills (91 per cent) and actively green the environment (89 per cent).

Schools selling plants

Two in every five schools (40 per cent) are using their garden as a source of income, selling plants to plough money back into the school.

Andrea Van-Sittart, RHS head of community outreach, said: “I’m delighted that over 34,000 schools and groups have joined the campaign, giving around six million children and young people the chance to garden.

“Not only is gardening a fantastic way of bringing the curriculum alive, it helps to get young people outdoors in the fresh air to improve their wellbeing. They’re encouraged to be active, spend time relaxing and enjoy all the health benefits of being immersed in nature. We’d love to see every school reap the many rewards of gardening.”

Schools and youth organisations can sign up to RHS Campaign for School Gardening by visiting www.rhs.org.uk/schoolgardening.

Chilli Loco

Year of the Pepper 2018

Tone down the chilli heat and look for flavour

The heat is on… 2018 has been designated the Year of the Pepper, but there’s more to this vegetable than just fire.

If you’re wondering who decides this, Fleuroselect Home Garden Association, an international non-profit organisation, chooses a vegetable and flower each year, designed to boost seed and plant sales.

Seedsman Mr Fothergill’s wants gardeners to forget about the fire and explore the wide range of flavours in the chilli kingdom.

If you don’t like the heat, growing the world’s hottest chilli isn’t going to be your thing, but the capsicum family has something for everyone.

Just as sweet peppers have different flavours (orange cultivars are sweeter than red ones, and green ones have a level of bitterness) so too do chillies.

Among the commonly cultivated species, Capsicum annuum, chinense and baccatum, there are thousands of cultivars, with many different heat levels and flavours, from sweet to sour and smoky to fruity.

100 varieties trialled each year

Mr Fothergill’s trials about 100 varieties each year. Trials manager, Alison Mulvaney, said: “We work with the top chilli breeders in the UK to find the best flavours and the best plants suited to UK growing conditions.

“The recent introduction of Capsicum annuum Biquino Yellow to our range is a perfect example of a chilli chosen for flavour, not heat. This mild Brazilian pepper carries an interesting smoky flavour with just a little heat to add a mild spice and aroma to any dish.”

Apart from C. annuum, mild Peruvian ‘Aji’ chillies are favourites with chefs at the moment. These Capsicum baccatum varieties produce an abundance of medium-sized chillies with a sweet, fruity flavour laid over a mild to medium heat.

Havana Gold is new for this season and is a good introduction to the Ajis, providing a complex fruity flavour and manageable, mild heat.

Capsicum chinense is the dominant species in the Caribbean, with fiery habaneros and Scotch bonnets bringing a balance of sweet, sour and fruitiness to dishes along with intense heat. There are also varieties that carry the pungent flavours with no heat, such as Trinidad Perfume.

For more information, visit www.mr.fothergills.co.uk.


The Scoville Scale

The heat of a chilli is measured on The Scoville Scale in Scoville heat units (SHU), or capsaicin concentration, named after its creator, US pharmacist Wilbur Scoville.

SHU values range from 0 in a sweet bell pepper to 2,000,000-2,200,000 in a Trinidad Moruga Scorpion or Carolina Reaper.


Chilli Loco

I’m no fan of hot chillies, but Loco is compact (about 2ft), bushy and covered with inch-long cone-shaped fruits held above the foliage like little fairy lights.

The fruits start purple/cream, changing from orange to red – the look like plump blackcurrants. Despite its name, Loco is not that hot, slightly less than a cayenne pepper, a medium heat level of about 24,000 SHU.

Which Gardening Chilli Trials 2012 recommended it as a Best Buy and it is UK bred, so makes an excellent plant for the patio.

You’ll find it at Thompson & Morgan, Suttons, chilli specialists Sea Spring Seeds, The Eden Project, Dobies and DT Brown Seeds.

3m Hexagonal Gazebo by Forest Garden

Forest Garden’s new range of gazebos

Enjoy outdoor living all year round

Gazebos not only look good but allow you to enjoy the great outdoors all year round.

Forest Garden has launched its new Round Timber Gazebo Collection, manufactured at its Worcestershire Sawmill division by M&M Timber, they will stand the test of time and weather.

The range was launched at the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show and is available through Forest Garden and M&M Timber.  The new collection includes the Hexagonal Garden Gazebo range which is available in four sizes – from the compact and elegant 3m to the spacious 4.7m; a Premium Oval Gazebo which is available in two sizes – 5.1m and 6m; and a Square 3.5m Garden gazebo which provides the perfect setting for a hot tub or spa.

The collection includes the Hexagonal Garden Gazebo range, available in four sizes, from the compact 3m to the spacious 4.7m; a Premium Oval Gazebo in 5.1m and 6m sizes; and a Square 3.5m Garden Gazebo which provides the perfect setting for a hot tub.

There are three options for the roof – Traditional Timber, New England Cedar or Country Thatch.  Each gazebo includes optional accessories such as bench seats, tables, cushions, and curtains.

No planning permission

All gazebos are hand-made from kiln dried, pressure treated, round timber and have a smooth sanded finish.  They are delivered and installed on site by qualified professional fitters. Normally no planning permission is required, just a suitable base prior to installation.

Nicola Simpson, head of marketing for Forest Garden said: “We have designed a fantastic new collection of gazebos introducing new elements to the structures from the cross-beam fittings to the hard-wearing accessories.

“The gazebos are hand built using high-quality Radiata pine timber which delivers a durable robust long-life solution for outdoor buildings.

“The kiln-dried timbers are pressure treated with Tanalith E wood preservative to stand the test of all weather conditions.  With no planning permission required, the gazebos offer a fantastic additional covered area.”

For more information visit www.forestgarden.co.uk or www.mmtimber.co.uk.