Daily Flower Candy: Grevillea victoriae

Grevillea victoriae, Trebah, Cornwall, September 2014

Just when you think the plant world has no more surprises in store for you (a silly thing to suppose anyway), along comes a plant which you can’t believe you’ve never encountered before. In this case it’s Grevillea victoriae, the royal grevillea, which is endemic to Australia’s New South Wales and Victoria states. It was first described by botanist Ferdinand von Mueller in 1855 and was duly named after Australia’s Empress of the day, Queen Victoria.

Grevillea victoriae appreciates a well-drained position with exposure to the sun

Grevillea victoriae appreciates a well-drained position with exposure to the sun

My first discovery of this lovely, silver-leaved shrub was yesterday at Trebah Gardens in Cornwall. Here it forms part of the planting around the restaurant area, growing in a raised bed alongside Gaura lindheimeri, Erigeron karvinskianus, Schizostylis coccinea and agapanthus. It could easily be mistaken for Elaeagnus ‘Quicksilver’, which has similar, willowy leaves and branches, but for the grevillea’s flowers which mark it out as something quite special. From pendent clusters of velvety-brown buds, resembling little bunches of rusty tacks, emerge coral-orange blooms. These are full of nectar to attract pollinating birds and insects. As you can see from my photographs, they are borne in plentiful numbers, all the better for being at different stages of development at the same time.

Several bird species are known to feed on the nectar of Grevillea victoriae

In Australia and North America, several bird species are known to feed on the nectar of Grevillea victoriae

Grevillea victoriae is considered to be hardy in southern parts of the UK, especially in coastal areas. Forming a shrub up to 2m high it requires a well-drained spot with plenty of exposure to the sun. The shrub’s mountain origins mean it is tolerant of frost and snow, although I suspect its hardiness is incumbent on the sharp drainage it prefers. Mature plants benefit from regular pruning to maintain a compact shape and make an excellent screen or hedge. I imagine it planted with other sun-worshippers such as rosemary, kniphofia, and salvias in a Mediterranean-style border. A happy plant in a very favoured spot may flower all year round, otherwise you can expect those fire-cracker racemes throughout the summer and autumn months.

Quite why a shrub with so many garden-worthy attributes is not better known I don’t know, but as soon as I have the space to grow it, I’ll be sending off for seeds or plants. Do let me know if you grow Grevillea victoriae in your garden and how you get on with it.

Grevillea victoriae can be purchased from Burncoose Nurseries in Cornwall.

More on Trebah Gardens coming soon.

In coastal areas of the UK, Grevillea victoriae would make a very attractive hedge

In coastal areas of the UK, Grevillea victoriae would make a very attractive, informal hedge

Top Tips: Preparing Your Garden for a Summer Holiday

Water generously the day before departing, allowing time for a good soak.

The school summer break is over and the kids are back for the autumn term, which means it must be time to take our holidays. I love September: the hazy light, the gentle warmth that seems to radiate from the ground and the ebullience of the garden. For me, this is my last hurrah before work becomes too chaotic to take time off. It’s an opportunity to reboot, recharge and start preparing for winter and the ‘C’ event (only 107 shopping days left!). Over the next two weeks we’ll be visiting some of our favourite places in Devon and Cornwall, reconnecting with family and meeting my favourite blogger Gill Heavens, author of Off The Edge Gardening. On a scrap of paper secreted safely away from Him Indoors, I have a long list of nurseries and gardens to drop in on.

I wouldn't be without Aster divaricatus, a plant with tumbling, wiry stems which cover a multitude of sins in late summer

I wouldn’t be without Aster divaricatus at this time of year, a plant with tumbling, wiry stems which cover a multitude of sins

Leaving our gardens at this time of year is to some extent the easiest option. Many plants are growing less fast and concentrating their efforts into flowers or building up strong leaf rosettes to get them through the colder months. However, in the vegetable garden we are approaching the peak time for harvesting. I remember, when I was a child, returning from long holidays in Cornwall to lawns strewn with apples and damsons, and to courgettes-turned-marrows which my mother would then try to stuff and cook until we could take no more. Not much chance of a glut in our tiny garden, but maybe more than we can eat at once. The best solution here is a friendly neighbour who can help themselves whilst you recline on a beach or live it up at the pool bar.

A little forethought can make all the difference when planning time away from the garden and means you don’t have to worry about returning to a wilting, mildew-molested mess. Here are my top tips for preparing your garden for a late summer holiday.

Water generously the day before departing, allowing time for a good soak.

Water the day before departing, allowing time for a good soak


Watering is every gardener’s number one concern when going on holiday. Unless you’re into cacti, the prospect of a hot, dry spell is a nightmare if you’re away for any length of time, especially if you grow many plants in pots. Solution number one is a trusted friend who will come around to quench your plants’ thirst every day or two. Should you not have one of those to hand (and I don’t trust many people with my watering) an irrigation system is an option. However, these are only suitable for relatively small areas and seem to me heavy-handed unless you’re away frequently. Instead I use a loam based, water retentive compost for my containers which dries out more slowly than other growing media. By grouping several pots together you will shade the surface of the compost and reduce evaporation. Better still, move any pots which are portable to a lightly shaded position. This may result in temporary legginess or a lull in flowering, but is better than complete dehydration.

Be careful about standing plants in trays of water (this works a little better for some houseplants). Rain may keep these topped up for long periods of time and very few plants relish having wet feet. Better to water thoroughly and allow pots to drain naturally.

Any pots that can be moved will benefit from relocation to a shaded part of the garden

Any pots that can be moved will benefit from relocation to a shaded part of the garden

Disease Prevention

Second on the list of potential vacation spoilers are bugs and diseases. Snails and caterpillars can wreak havoc in the space of a week and cause fatalities within a fortnight. If you are prepared to use slug pellets then do so, especially around vulnerable plants like hostas. General tidying up of dead or dying foliage and flowers will reduce the garden’s appeal to a whole range of pests: get the air circulating around your plants and avoid anything that will attract the little blighters.

Spray plants like dahlias to protects against attack from greenfly or red spider mite. Powdery mildew (an unsightly whitish mould) can be a real nuisance during prolonged periods of dry weather. There are anti-fungal sprays which are meant to defend against this non-fatal blight, but once you have powdery mildew, it tends to stick around. Remove and burn infected foliage and fresh new leaves will quickly emerge.

These mildew infested polemoniums will come back with fresh green foliage after removing the tired old foliage

These mildew-infested polemoniums will come back with fresh green leaves after removing the old foliage

Be Prepared

The British weather is unpredictable and perennials are at their tallest right now. Any that are spent can be given a haircut and will divert their energies into building up strong crowns for winter. Stake any plants that are still in their prime, such as asters, heleniums, rudbekias and dahlias, if you haven’t done so already: a single gale could see them flat on the their backs. I like to interplant early flowering perennials with Aster divaricatus (above) which blooms in September and lolls about, covering and gaps or unsightly foliage in the border. Tie in tomatoes and remove the lower leaves to allow the sun’s rays to ripen the fruit whilst you’re away.

Unless they open automatically, leave greenhouse ventilators ajar to improve air circulation and keep things cool.

With their lower leaves removed, tomatoes will ripen fast in the autumn sunshine

With their lower leaves removed, tomatoes will ripen fast in the autumn sunshine

Plan Ahead

Pick everything you can before you go and freeze it, gift it or take it with you. You will prolong the flowering season of dahlias, cosmos and annual bedding by deadheading and then picking any open blooms. This will encourage the formation of new buds, which should be opening by the time you return. If you have a lawn, mow it the day before you leave, setting the blades high if the weather is warm and/or dry. Pinch out chrysanthemums and fuchsias which will still be growing strongly, and pot young plants on so that they can be making roots whilst you languish in the sunshine.

If you like to be organised, order your spring bulbs before you go so that they are waiting for you on your return. Narcissi and any remaining autumn flowering bulbs should be planted immediately.

Narcissi bulbs will already be putting down new roots, so can be planted immediately

Narcissi bulbs will already be putting down new roots, so can be planted immediately

Whatever mirth one encounters when wheeling the suitcase up the garden path after two weeks on the Costas, it will always look worse than it actually is. Do not postpone a thorough watering unless it’s been vile whilst you’ve been away (which always feels so good!) and follow up with a quick mow, deadhead and weed, concentrating on the bits that show. You will soon restore a semblance of respectability and be able to enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of your labours.

I’d love to hear your top tips for making a garden holiday proof…..

Daily Flower Candy: Begonia ‘Glowing Embers’

Begonia 'Glowing Embers', The Watch House, September 2014

Begonias are such stalwarts of the summer garden that they are often overlooked, even sniffed at, by so-called fashionable gardeners. I’m not attracted by the enormous, dinner-plate sized blooms of most tuberous begonias, but find single flowered hybrids essential for colour in my partially-shaded garden. They do not demand day-long sun and look all the better for it, flowering better when the weather is warm, sulking slightly during cool spells. In my begonia armoury (or should that be ‘amoury’?) are Begonia ‘Million Kisses Devotion’, B. ‘Million Kisses Passion’ and B. ‘Firewings Orange’. But, after their flames have died down, I am always left in love with Begonia ‘Glowing Embers’. It’s a plant that positively smoulders its way through summer, in no need of re-ignition come autumn. The bronze, prettily veined foliage provides a strong backdrop for the simple tangerine flowers that rain down all summer like sparks from a welder’s gun.

Begonia 'Glowing Embers' flowers non-stop from June until the first frosts

Begonia ‘Glowing Embers’ flowers non-stop from June until the first frost


Sissinghurst – Fire and Ice

Harold Nicolson bought one plant each of Arctotis x hybrida 'Mahogany' and 'Flame' at an RHS show in 1959. They now create a bold sweep either side of the South Cottage front door.

By late summer both of our plots have started to run out of puff, so I am always keen to seek out gardens which manage to keep up a good head of steam into autumn. Sissinghurst is open almost every day of the year and has to cope with hoards of garden-loving pilgrims expecting picture-book perfection. This makes it the ideal place to go in search of ideas. The gardening team keep the place looking tip-top with meticulous maintenance and by continually filling gaps with seasonal plantings.

Sissinghurst's White Garden still looks superb after a dry summer

Sissinghurst’s White Garden still looks exuberant after a long summer

On my last visit, at the end of August, the scene was stolen by flowers at two ends of the colour spectrum: the cool whites and the fiery oranges. The intensity of light in late summer brings out the best in assertive shades and Sissinghurst’s White Garden positively sparkled. An early clip in June meant that the complex arrangement of box hedges had once again assumed a soft, fuzzy outline, gently penning-in the exuberant perennials and roses inside.

The flowers of Zephyranthes candida sparkle like tiny stars in a dry spot within the White Garden

The flowers of Zephyranthes candida sparkle like tiny stars in a dry, sun-baked spot

Zephyranthes candida is, rather poetically, commonly known as the white rain lily

Zephyranthes candida is rather poetically known as the white rain lily

At the foot of a wall, basking in the warm sun, was a carpet of sparkling flowers belonging to the white rain lily, Zephyranthes candida. Rain lilies are bulbous perennials native to the Rio de la Plata region of South America. In the wild they burst into bloom following heavy periods of rain, hence the common name. After the soggy August we’ve had, these little stars were right on cue.

The white form of Thunbergia alata cascades from a glazed urn beneath the White Garden's arbor

The white form of Thunbergia alata cascades from a glazed urn beneath The White Garden’s arbor

My first experience of the white form of black-eyed Susan, Thunbergia alata, was at Sissinghurst, where every year it pours gently from the lip of a glazed ceramic urn. The thunbergia’s flowers are a deliciously soft curd-white, centred around a bitter chocolate ‘eye’. It’s a lovely contrast and one of this garden’s typically well composed ‘moments’.

Harold Nicolson bought one plant each of Arctotis x hybrida 'Mahogany' and 'Flame' at an RHS show in 1959. They now create a bold sweep either side of the South Cottage front door.

Arctotis x hybrida ‘Flame’ creates a bold sweep either side of the South Cottage front door

All this cool whiteness is juxtaposed in the The Cottage Garden, where fiery heat reigns supreme. As enduring as the thunbergia are the blooms of Arctotis x hybrida ‘Mahogany’ and ‘Flame’ skirting Harold Nicholson’s hideaway. Harold bought one plant of each at an RHS show in 1959 and they were propagated until his gardeners were able to plant bold sweeps either side of the front door.

Stalwart Dahlia 'David Howard' is a tall, vigorous variety suitable for the middle or back of a border

Stalwart Dahlia ‘David Howard’ is a tall, vigorous variety for the back of a border

Helen, one of Sissinghurst’s gardeners, had recommended to me the Dahlia ‘David Howard’, so I was keen to seek it out. Making a big splash in the middle of a border was this sturdy hybrid, blessed with burnt-orange flowers and dramatic, purple-bronze leaves. This truly is the ultimate dahlia for a ‘hot’ border or exotic planting scheme, best underplanted with shorter perennials to disguise any legginess.

A relative of the alstromerias, Bomarea caldasii has a climbing habit

A relative of the alstromerias, Bomarea caldasii has a climbing habit

Occupying a pot next to the cottage’s rose-red brickwork was a divine specimen of Bomarea caldasii, the Peruvian lily vine. This rare twining plant can be found scrambling over other vegetation in its native South America, producing pendulous clusters of orangey red, waxy, bell-shaped flowers. This plant had especially vividly coloured flowers and was clearly in its element. A joy to see such a splendid plant grown so well.

I was equally pleased to see my favourite ginger, Hedychium ‘Tara’, ablaze with tangerine flowers. I recently acquired three healthy plants from Great Dixter, which I am growing on in pots ready for planting out next year. I can already smell the sweet spicy scent of the spidery flowers wafting across the terrace at night.

Sissinghurst never disappoints, offering gardeners inspiration at any time of the year. I came away full of ideas to keep our gardens’ engines running, whether it be with carpets of colchicums, cool waves of Aster divaricatus or classic Anemone japonica.  Whether you’re blowing hot or feeling autumn’s chill, I hope something in today’s post fuels your fire.

Tantalising Hedychium 'Tara' has strong stems and fragrant flowers

Tantalising Hedychium ‘Tara’ has strong stems and fragrant flowers



Daily Flower Candy: Amaryllis belladonna

Amaryllis belladonna, Sissinghurst, August 2014

Whether it’s candy floss, baby, lipstick or rose, when it comes to autumn flowering bulbs, shades of pink are decidedly de rigueur. Right now there are colchicums, schizostylis, crinums, cyclamen and nerines, all emerging blushing and bright when earlier flowers are starting to fade. Queen amongst these rubicund beauties is Amaryllis belladonna, a slightly tender bulb native to South Africa but widely naturalised in warm temperate regions of the world. Like colchicums, Amaryllis belladonna produces flowers before coming into leaf, and shares the same unflattering common name ‘naked ladies’. The large bulbs enjoy the shelter of a south or west facing wall where they will remain dry in summer and find protection for their late developing leaves. If in doubt, they make lovely subjects for an unheated greenhouse. These particular blooms were captured emerging from the earth at the foot of the curved wall in Sissinghurst’s rose garden, flattered by a backdrop of vine leaves. Pure pink perfection.

The shelter and warmth created by a south facing wall helps protect the tender bulbs of Amaryllis belladonna

The shelter and warmth created by a south or west facing wall helps to protect Amaryllis belladonna

Daily Flower Candy: Phytolacca polyandra

Phytolacca polyandra, Odney Club, August 2014

One of the joys of writing this blog is having the incentive to seek out and learn about new plants. Today, on a training course at our company conference centre, I took some time out to explore the grounds. In the otherwise flagging herbaceous borders I spied these curious fruits and lush leaves, which belonged to a helpfully labelled specimen of Phytolacca polyandra.

Phytolacca polyandra, Odney Club, August 2014

Otherwise known as Chinese pokeweed, Phytolacca polyandra is a robust perennial which first produces white or pale pink flowers in long spikes, a little like a polygonum. These develop into tiny clasps of immature green fruits. The flower stems slowly turn magenta-pink as the fruits, which are toxic, develop a glossy black sheen. How marvellous this exotic plant would look amongst deep purple and pale pink dahlias, or with Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’ and Fuchsia arboresecens. An unusual contender for the late summer border and one which has already joined my extensive wish list.

Have you grown Chinese pokeweed in your garden? If so, I’d love to know more…

Phytolacca polyandra, Odney Club, August 2014

Sissinghurst – Crazy for Colchicums

Colchicum speciosum, a meadowland species from Turkey, Iran and The Caucasus

I am guilty, guilty of having twice visited Sissinghurst this year and not having posted anything about it. Had this been any other garden I might have been forgiven, but on both occasions Sissinghurst was in its prime and more than worthy of sharing with you. I may still do so in the depths of winter when we all need a little joy. For now I will assuage my guilt by not dallying over an account of my third visit, which will extend over two posts. The first celebrates a bulbous flower, sometimes mistaken for a crocus, which makes an appearance just as everything else in the garden is on the wane. That flower is the colchicum, variously known as ‘meadow saffron’ or ‘naked ladies’.

Sissinghurst's splendid tower rises from the sward of the freshly scythed orchard

Sissinghurst’s splendid Tudor tower rises from the sward of the freshly scythed orchard – a splash of pink at the foot of the right-hand tower is created by colchicums

Both common names are easily understood, if not very accurate. In England we have a native colchicum, Colchicum autumnale, which populates areas of rich meadowland. Its similarity to the non-native autumn flowering saffron crocus, Crocus sativus, lends this pretty bulb the epithet, ‘meadow saffron’. Colchicums flower before producing leaves and are frequently pink-flowered, hence the fabulously suggestive nickname ‘naked ladies’, which I rather like. (You can have a lot of fun just replacing every instance of the word colchicum in this post with ‘naked ladies’ – go on, I dare you!)

Colchicum autumnale, the meadow saffron, in Sissinghurst's herb garden

Colchicum autumnale, the meadow saffron, in Sissinghurst’s herb garden

At Sissinghurst Colchicum autumnale earns itself a place in the herb garden by dint of its medicinal uses in treating gout and Mediterranean fever. However, all parts of the plant are poisonous in the wrong hands and definitely should not be eaten.

Backlit colchicums explode from the freshly cut grass beneath Sissinghurst's venerable apple trees

Backlit colchicums explode from the freshly cut grass beneath Sissinghurst’s venerable apple trees

Sissinghurst’s colchicums demonstrate exactly where these wonderfully hefty bulbs prefer to grow. The translucent goblets erupt from the sward of the orchard and from sun-kissed patches of earth in the rose garden where they remain undisturbed for years. A little shelter is helpful when siting the bulbs, as some less robust varieties can be laid low by boisterous autumn weather, which I find heartbreaking to see.

Forming expansive clumps, colchicums love a  warm, dry, sheltered spot

Forming expansive clumps, colchicums love a warm, dry, sheltered spot

Colchicums are mostly native to warmer, sunnier parts of the world than England, so like to be on the dry side during summer and moist, but not wet, in winter. The bulbs should be planted where they can build up into large clumps and so that the foliage, which appears in early spring, can be concealed as it dies down in summer. This isn’t too much of challenge for most gardeners. Alternatively, it is possible to cultivate colchicums in pots, using a 50:50 mix of grit and John Innes no.2. I am experimenting this autumn with three bulbs of Colchicum ‘Water Lily’ AGM, a double-flowered, pink hybrid, which I would find hard to place elsewhere in the garden.

Colchicum 'Conquest' in a quiet corner of the rose garden

Colchicum ‘Conquest’ in a quiet corner of Sissinghurst’s rose garden. The emerging flowers can be prone to slug damage

The flowers associate well with ferns, grasses and sedges provided their foliage is not too leggy come autumn. Both C. autumnale and C. speciosum are robust enough to compete in semi-rough grass, which must be left unmown between August and June when the leaves disappear. There are a great number of species and named varieties available, most of which I find very hard to tell apart, but for starters I’d recommend C. autumnale ‘Nancy Lindsay’ AGM and plain C. speciosum for pink flowers and C. speciosum ‘Album’ AGM for pure white flowers. I shall let you know how I get on with C. ‘Water Lily’.

With their fresh, lusty goblets rising unhindered from the ground each autumn, colchicums provide a much needed shot in the arm for a garden when all else is fading. Sissinghurst is not a garden which requires a shot in the arm at any time of year, but even here the sight of them rampaging beneath the ripening apples and fading roses is a refreshing tonic.

All photographs taken at Sissinghurst Castle on August 24th 2014

Colchicum specious sports pinkish purple flowers with bright white throats and yellow stamens

Colchicum speciosum sports pinkish-purple flowers with bright white throats and yellow stamens


Book Review – The Plant Lover’s Guide to Dahlias

The Plant Lover's Guide to Dahlias, Andy Vernon, Timber Press

The Plant Lover's Guide to Dahlias, Andy Vernon, Timber Press

“I don’t just like dahlias: I love them” asserts Andy Vernon on the opening page of his new book, The Plant Lover’s Guide to Dahlias. Even had he not spelt it out so explicitly, readers would have been left in no doubt of his passion for this most exuberant of garden flowers. Andy’s tone is chipper and informal, making every page eminently readable; yet there is no scrimping on the expert guidance. The first chapter begins by describing the recent fall and rise of the dahlia’s popularity, noting the great movers and shakers – Christopher Lloyd, Sarah Raven, Michael Mann, Jon Wheatley and Mark Twyning – who have championed the flower’s unique beauty and variety.

A small gardener himself, Andy constantly recognises that luxuries such as allotments and polytunnels are not available to all of us, pointing out varieties that will perform well in pots and containers. There are also helpful lists of hybrids suitable for attracting bees, cutting and growing in borders. The front section of the book covers flower forms, planting ‘pals’ and a little on the fascinating tale of the dahlia’s introduction to Europe from Central and South America.

Pink perfection, a fine cactus-flowered hybrid

A fine cactus-flowered hybrid growing at The Salutation in Kent

The bulk of this hardback gem is occupied by a shortlist of 200 varieties which Andy has commendably whittled down from the 20,000 or so believed to exist in cultivation. They are organised by colour rather than flower shape, although, such is the diversity of this flower, some blurring of the boundaries is required. Tantalising images are used throughout, many of which were taken by the author. Andy’s descriptions are no less colourful than the blooms he loves and are a joy to read. For myself I singled out D. ‘Jitterbug’ from the front cover; D. ‘Le Castel’, a freestyle white waterlily type and D. ‘The Phantom’, with plum-coloured anemone-shaped blooms. They’re all on my shopping list for next year.

That many of the cultivars we grow today were created relatively recently is evidenced by the often ridiculous names they have been saddled with – ‘Junkyard Dog’ (‘day-glo cherry pink with white streaking’), ‘Sonic Bloom’ (‘a fabulous coral pink fizz’), ‘E Z Duzzit’ (‘a mellow orange collerette’) and ‘Poodle Skirt’ (‘magenta and berry colours combine in a pincushion poof’). Dahlia haters will be reaching for the smelling salts if they make it as far as the section entitled ‘Extraterrestrials’, where Andy describes those crazily shaped and coloured cultivars that defy normal classification.

I would commend Dahlia 'Firepot' to Andy for its compact habit and incredibly vibrant flowers

I would recommend Dahlia ‘Firepot’ to Andy for its compact habit and incredibly vibrant flowers

Those of a delicate disposition should skip on to the chapter on growing and propagating, which I found exceptionally useful and easy to read. It taught me some new tricks and affirmed some of my own, in tones that suggest nothing is really too tricky when it comes to growing dahlias. The books ends, all too soon, with some suggestions on cutting and arranging dahlias which, Andy implores, ‘long to be picked and adored in a vase’. I could not agree more.

I have very little time for reading books (hence the scarcity of reviews on this blog) but Andy Vernon’s perky prose and illuminating images kept me hooked for days. His empathy for gardeners with limited space makes his book all the more relevant in an age when many of us have to make do with balconies, window boxes and pots on the doorstep: Andy provides inspiration and solutions for all.

The title is part of a series published in association with Kew Gardens which, randomly, comprises only Dahlias, Salvias, Sedums and Snowdrops so far. The Plant Lover’s Guide to Dahlias is a fantastic books for absolute beginners or any gardener wishing to indulge themselves further in the bright, extrovert, sometimes eccentric world of dahlias.

Dahlia 'Rebecca's World' is a curiosity, displaying random combinations of red and white in its blooms

Dahlia ‘Rebecca’s World’ is a curiosity, displaying random combinations of red and white in its blooms

The Plant Lover’s Guide to Dahlias by Andy Vernon is published by Timber Press

Double Dutch

Main Borders, RHS Harlow Carr, Harrogate, August 2013

Earlier this year I was contacted by Kristel Engelen at Dutch gardening magazine ‘Tuinieren’, asking if The Frustrated Gardener would like to be featured on the publication’s ‘online harvest’ page. Flattered, I sent off an image of RHS Harlow Carr that Kristel had requested (above) with some information about myself. I promptly forgot all about it.

It was only last week when The Netherlands unexpectedly shot up my blog’s league table of views by country that I became curious, eventually realising that Kristel’s write-up must have appeared on the magazine’s website. I arrived in Broadstairs this weekend to find a copy of Tuinieren (the Dutch word for gardening) wedged unceremoniously into the letter box.

I am happy to report that Tuinieren is a lovely publication, a sleek hybrid of the English Garden and Gardens Illustrated, full of stylish imagery, pratical tips and great features. The September issue celebrates grasses, hydrangeas and colour-themed borders. It’s a publication I often pick up at the newsagent in Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport for the flight home, even if I can only appreciate the fine photography. I feel very proud to be have been included and am delighted to welcome readers from The Netherlands to The Frustrated Gardener.

Tuinieren's September issue focusses on hydrangeas, known as hortensias in The Netherlands

Tuinieren’s September issue focusses on hydrangeas, known as hortensias in The Netherlands

For those of you who are not fluent in Dutch (needless to say I am one of them), Kristel’s article translates as follows:

This spectacular midsummer border was photographed by blogger Dan Cooper in the gardens of the Royal Horticultural Society at Harlow Carr. We want the same look, so we asked Dan more about the planting combination.


“You can see a mix of perennials that bloom until late summer. With blue thistle (eryngium), solar herb (helenium), veronicastrum and bergamot (monarda). Because they are planted in the garden’s main border the plants are arranged in large groups and repeated on both sides”.


Dan calls himself a keen gardener, but this really is an understatement. He studied Landscape Management and has two gardens: one in London and one in Kent on the east coast of England in Broadstairs. As if he’s not busy enough, he reports frequently on his wonderful blog frustratedgardener.com. There is little time left for Dan to garden. Now you understand immediately where his frustration comes from!

Enjoy more Dutch gardening style at Tuinieren.nl

The main borders at RHS Harlow Carr, Harrogate, Yorkshire

The main borders at RHS Harlow Carr, Harrogate, Yorkshire


Salad Days

Oriental Mustards, London, August 2014

…My salad days,

When I was green in judgment, cold in blood…


William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra

It’s going to be one of those weeks when I have no time to do anything other than work, eat and sleep. So thank heavens for the quick, easy crops that are coming thick and fast from our new vegetable garden. They require no preparation other than a wash under the tap and help me feel healthy and wholesome after a day dining on uninspiring, packaged sandwiches.

Tomatoes are ripening just fast enough for me to harvest a few glowing fruit each evening. They are sweet, juicy and nicely tart, just as they should be.

The ripening fruit of tomato 'Sweet Million'

The ripening fruit of cherry tomato ‘Sweet Million’

Herbs are growing at a tremendous rate of knots. Parsley is lush and glossy green, tarragon (my favourite herb of all) in the rudest of health and chives are fine and tender. We are adding them to curries, pasta dishes and salads in quantities that would be prohibitively expensive if bought from a supermarket.

A fine bunch of happy herbs

A fine bunch of happy herbs

Purchased at Hampton Court Flower Show, a single plant of shiso (Perilla frutescens var. crispa) is forming a pretty, purple-leaved bush with fragrant, tasty leaves. It is used in Japan for pickling plums; we use it as an attractive ingredient in salads when the leaves are very young.

Known as shiso, or 'beefsteak plant', Perilla frutescens var. crispa makes an unusual addition to salads and stir-fries.

Known as shiso, or ‘beefsteak plant’, Perilla frutescens var. crispa makes an unusual addition to salads and stir-fries.

It’s hard to believe that all of these fruits, leaves and herbs were planted just seven weeks ago. A warm July followed by a damp August has certainly helped (although not the courgettes which are rotting) and we are already planting more lettuce and radishes to last us into autumn. Such instant gratification is welcome in a world where we are all so short of time, worth every penny for the superior flavour and there’s no need for waste. These really are our salad days.

Rocketing rocket and marauding mustards

Rocketing rocket and marauding mustard