Spring juggling and molly coddling

Its been a rather unpredictable week but today it has felt a little bit like spring. Time to think about creating space in the greenhouses in order to get some serious seed sowing done.

The greenhouses have been choc a block with tender plants over the winter and so decisions have been made as to what can go out into temporary storage in the apple grading barn (left over from when Ulting Wick was a fruit farm). The barn has double doors that we can open so light can flood in plus a couple of windows. Out came the sack barrow and into the barn have gone about 15 Ensete maurelii (known as “Henrys” here – the reason why would be a whole blog on its own), 5 Musa basjoo and about 12 Nicotiana glauca. All are very tall and the huge paddle shaped leaves of the ensetes were shading quite a few other plants in the small greenhouse so by removing them we have let in precious light.

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Ensetes and musas in the apple grading barn.


We have been experimenting with the nicotiana. New to us a couple of years ago after a visit to Graham at Plantbase near Wadhurst (www.plantbase.co.uk), we fell in love with them and marveled at their typical nicotiana exuberant growth but wonderfully subtle yellow flowers and glaucous foliage.

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Delicate flowers of the Nicotiana glauca with melianthus major foliage. Combination from the round bed in the Old Farmyard last year.


A native of Crete where they are invasive, they have been somewhat molly coddled here. They can take some frost but we didn’t want to risk loosing them. Some were left in the ground in a very sheltered spot in front of one of the black Essex barns and then cut down. Time will tell if they are OK. Others were planted in pots last summer and left up against the garden shed wall. They are very happy.


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Happy in pots by the garden shed. 8ft growth in one year.


Others were lifted from the Old Farmyard beds last year and then potted up and put in the greenhouse. We have saved them as we plan to plant them in a group in the middle of one of the beds. A forest of nicotiana would be rather special. I hope later in the year to share a picture of the forest. Meanwhile now that we have some spare space in the greenhouse we will be sowing some seed gathered from them as an insurance policy.








Mothering Sunday Thoughts

So today was the first Mothering Sunday in my life without a mum alive. As a result I have been rather lost in my thoughts about my wonderful mother and the fact that I couldn’t send her any flowers or far more importantly talk to her other than in my head. I really wanted to say “thank you” to her today for sharing her creative genes with me. Her genes have come out in her descendants in a number of ways such as an ability to write, draw and design and I think in my case a love of gardening which I always think of as 3 dimensional creative art.

My mother was what I would describe as an interested gardener but not a committed or indeed a particularly good one! As firstly a working single Mum in the 50’s and then an army wife moving from quarter to quarter in the the 60’s and 70’s and then an antique dealer in the 80’s she didn’t have much time to garden. Her life was dominated by a career in music, a love of antiques and France. However when she could she did often talk to me about plants and take me to Sissinghurst as a child which she loved. She was a visual person.

So thanks to Mum some of my earliest memories are garden and plant related. There were the Hybrid T Super Star roses she proudly planted in our beloved home in Suffolk. They were very trendy in the late 60’s although I don’t think I’d like them now! We marvelled about the cowslips on the verges as she drove me to school. There was the Clematis Jackmantii that grew outside the dining room window succumbed to wilt. As a child I once pounced on an adult friend visiting, asking if they had seen Clematis Wilt. She thought I was talking about a strangely named girl! There were the “king cups” Caltha palustris growing in the stream down the side of the garden that she loved. For years she would lament about the loss of the elms that dominated the Suffolk landscape before the beetles ravaged the trees.

She bought a house  in rural France in her 70’s where she was so happy and she finally did a little more gardening when she was there. She grew beautiful plumbago, lots of Albertine roses that she never really pruned (I’d have a go when I was down there but it was never the right time of the year to do a proper job), “Belle de Nuit” a beautiful name for what I call  Mirabalis jalapa. There were the begonias she grew by the well, the geraniums in large terracotta pots, nigella outside the front of the house, iris below the dry stone walls and a swaying tamarisk in the veg garden. There were the walnuts that she harvested in the autumn and then bought back to Kent to sell in aid of charity from her backdoor

So on what has been a reflective day I thought I’d share with you the last flowers I gave my darling mum. The flowers for her coffin all lovingly grown here and arranged on the morning of her funeral. Not necessarily the colours she liked (she would have told me so – she was very direct) but I know she would have loved it.







Planting the ” blogging”seed.

Well here goes, my very own blog at last. It will of course be mainly about gardening in the driest part of the UK (East Essex)but as those that know me from twitter it can also be very wet in the garden at Ulting Wick when the River Chelmer bursts its banks.

My aim is to chat away about what we get up to here, what inspires me and to share gardening tips. After all gardeners are notoriously generous in spreading their gardening love.

I also may occasionally share my thoughts on gardens that I visit during the year. Having said that I hardly ever seem to be able to leave the gardens here as they are so intensive. Talk about creating a garden that is so time consuming!

So bare with me whilst I learn my way around Word Press. Any help or suggestions gratefully received!

So the seed has been sown, lets hope it now germinates into a plant worth keeping.