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Has it been warm enough for you? We have been loving the heat but not enjoying the endless watering quite so much. Happily last week’s rain did fill up the water butts and did save a day or two walking around with cans and hose. This week we have focused on getting as much as possible out of the greenhouse and into the ground. Quite apart from the need to water constantly, plants in small pots can become root bound quickly and by the time they do get into the ground they struggle to thrive.
Sadly the rain seemed to give a boost to the slug population, and some of the Nicotiana we have planted out has already been shredded. When you have grown a plant from seed and nurtured it for weeks, from seed tray to pot to garden, it is hard not to feel gutted when a snail or slug finishes it off overnight. The one thing we are not tempted to do is buy slug pellets. The active ingredient in most slug pellets, Metaldehyde, does so much harm to other wildlife, it just isn’t worth it. Instead we are hoeing and drenching the beds then mulching with Strulch which really does seem to deter slugs and protect the plants – and has the added benefit of keeping the soil moist much longer and preventing weeds from germinating.
The combination of last week’s rain and this week’s heat means some plants are almost growing visibly (and a lot of weeds too), and tender new growth attracts aphids. Many of the growing tips of cardoons, Artemisia and Ammi majus are covered in black fly right now. Last year this would have been a real problem. We had only just started to cultivate the Walled Garden for the first time in 50 years and there seemed to be very few predators for the aphids (or pollinators). This year every plant which is infested with black fly seems to have several ladybirds and ladybird larvae having a feast. It seems incredible that this time last year we were actually bringing ladybirds with us to work! Similarly the buzz of bumble and honey bees, flies, hoverflies and the sight of several different butterflies in amongst the flowering plants means we are doing something right and with a little help nature is establishing a happy balance.
The easing of lockdown measures this week means that we can begin to offer courses again from July with social distancing and other appropriate measures in place. We have just launched a summer programme which includes many of the courses we had to cancel during lockdown, plus some new ones. We can’t wait to welcome people back into the Walled Garden and School. Do let us know you if you are interested in joining us.
Plant of the Week
Sambucus nigra f. porphyrophylla 'Guincho Purple'
This is a purple leafed variety of the black elder. A bushy large shrub or small tree, up to 6m high, with pinnate leaves which open green, turn dark purple in summer, and finally red in autumn. The flowers contrast well with the foliage, pink in bud opening to white tinged with pink followed by black fruits towards autumn. Grow in sun or semi-shade in moist, well-drained soil.