Last year's Bloody Warrior plants have overwintered well at Serpentine and are now starting to flower. The small yellow flowers are now turning into "dandelion" type heads. We will let them continue to grow on and, probably when the leaves start to turn yellow, put a paper bag over the seed heads, give the plant a shake, and collect any ripe seeds that have fallen in to the bag. We often repeat this a few times until most of the seeds have dropped.
These images show how tall the plant in the greenhouse has grown - very near to the roof level. The middle picture shows the red "splashes" on the leaves (of one of this year's plants) that give the variety its name and the third image provides an example of Langley's brilliant labelling activity. The growing team as well as any visitors love to know what they are looking at and looking after.
We called in briefly to SCG today for the first time in nearly four months. We were amazed and impressed with what the growing and site managing teams have achieved. Congratulations to all involved in the different teams and on the different days.
We were also delighted to see a return of Peacock butterfly caterpillars in the patch of nettles beyond the end of poly2. Despite the rain, they are looking strong and clearly feeding well. Nature as well as gardeners doing its bit for SCG.
Last year's ornamental gourds have now completely dried and some of them rattle when they are shaken as the seeds roll around. We took advantage of a few wet days to paint them with emulsion from left over sample pots. The next stage is for the grandchildren to add detail by painting (faces?) or sticking (hair on?). They are amazingly light when dried:
This is one of the largest and weighs in at just over one ounce.
Saturday's post was well timed as today is the start of Great British Pea Week. The pea harvest is June to August and an estimated 480 billion individual peas are picked. The average Briton eats 9000 peas in a year. The world record for the most peas eaten with a cocktail stick in 30 seconds is 38 and is held by former cricketer Freddie Flintoff (something you can try at home). Further interesting facts are contained in an article in today's "i" which is entitled "Give Peas a chance". I have come across that somewhere else I think!
The tall peas have continued to grow well and Magnum Bonum in the centre of the frame has now reached the top. Magnum Bonum is a wrinkle seeded pea and is flanked by the mangetout Golden Sweet and the round seeded Newick. Squeezed in to what were intended to be bigger gaps are two climbing french beans, Caseknife and Mrs Lewis's. We have tried both mangetout varieties, Golden Sweet and the larger podded Eat All. In the next day or so we will harvest some of the purple podded Stephen's.
Eat All mangetout Stephens Golden Sweet mangetout
Cordials and wine are among the first "products" from early harvests. The elderflowers are just ready so we have made two batches of elderflower cordial, one white and one pink. We will shortly be harvesting balm and mixed herbs for wine. As a gallon only takes four ounces of fresh herbs, there will be plenty left to grow on, perhaps for drying later in the season.
Our patch of herbs includes balm, sage, rosemary and marjoram with various mints elsewhere in the garden. The mixed herb wine is different every year and is therefore unrepeatable!
.... of our conservatory. The Corpse/Carrion flower (Stapelia) has started to produce blooms and to share its rather unpleasant scent. We can see more buds getting prepared to add their aroma!
In blogs back in March and April, we showed how we were propagating some of our succulents. They have done well and so, despite the rain, we have delivered a tray to the Transition Buxton Plant Swap this morning. Five different varieties: Crassula, Kalanchoe, Zebra Haworthia, Stapelia (Carrion Flower), and Bromeliad. We still have more than enough left to provide a delivery for the Serpentine "Secret Garden" event on 19th July (now fully booked).
Our sweet peas are coming in to flower so it seems a good time to revisit the information we shared at the workshop back in February. This one is "Painted Lady.
Sweet peas originated in Sicily and the Eastern Mediterranean and have been cultivated since the 17th century but until the 19th century were regarded as an insignificant flower valued for its scent. In Victorian times, Henry Eckford (1823-1905) cross bred and developed it and by 1901 had introduced 115 cultivars of the 264 grown by then. Sweet peas were used to explore genetics just as Mendel did with pea plants. An interesting example was crossing two pure white strains which produced a blue hybrid. Fame awaits the first person who manages to breed a yellow sweet pea.
We grow, among others, the variety Cupani which was introduced in to Britain in 1699. It was first cultivated by Father Francis Cupani, a Sicilian monk, who found it growing wild near his monastery in 1695.
Most of our varieties are grown from seeds obtained from Easton Walled Gardens, near Grantham. They grow around 50 varieties but steadily change the mix to keep the most successful ones and also develop new strains. This time of year you can visit the gardens and see (and smell) the varieties to help you decide your favourites.
Just on the other side of the A1 is Woolsthorpe Manor, birthplace and childhood home of Isaac Newton. An aged apple tree is still in the garden.
Cupani Wiltshire Ripple America
The dwarf french beans are now well-established and benefited from the protection from the recent winds. It's a crowded patch with sweet peas, borage, lettuce and self sown violas and poppies, but the beans seem happy. We are getting the first flowers and one variety, Mr Brook's Blue, is challenging the concept of "dwarf" so we have given it some twigs as extra support.
The purple podded peas, Stephen's, have rapidly moved from flowers to pod production so there has been good pollination. The garden is full of flowers and we let the grass grow so there are masses of clover flowers and hence bees everywhere.
John & Gil Boardman, Growers at Serpentine now keeping SCG things going and growing from home.