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Friday, 5 February 2016

Sowing & Growing 3



Anemonella thalictroides & Cenolophium denudatum

I tried, and failed, several times to get the beautiful Anemonella thalictroides to germinate. I ordered seeds from various sources and tried differing methods and times of sowing: all to no avail. I knew that the seeds were best sown fresh and my sources all assured me that they were.


Anemonella thalictroides

While at a Rare Plant Fair I got chatting to two other growers (both of whom had a wonderful display of Anemonella thalictroides): I told them my woes. The first said that she had no problems; that her seeds came up like cress; but that perhaps where she lived it was a cooler climate and that helped. The other grower emphasised the need for fresh seeds. I said that my sources assured me that the seeds were fresh. He countered with, "Fresh means fresh! By the time they have collected, packaged and posted them to you, they'll be a week old. And that's not fresh!" He suggested that the best way was to buy a plant and collect my own seeds: so I did.

I collect a lot of seeds myself and sometimes it's easy to miss the opportunity, they blow away in the wind or they have mechanisms that project them far and wide. I decided it might help if the seeds could fall naturally onto a bed of compost. I filled four trays with compost and put a layer of grit on the top. The trays were placed in a cool corner of the shade area, with the pot of Anemonella thalictroides balancing precariously in the middle. Every time I passed by, I gave them a little tap, hoping to loosen any ripe seeds. In time I got busy and forgot about them. A couple of months later and, lo and behold, we noticed a few seedlings had emerged, then hundreds. Success at last!

However the 'must have' Cenolophium denudatum still eludes me. I only manage to germinate a few each year. But I persist because I know I must be doing something wrong. The latest batch of seeds were eagerly gathered by me: some sown immediately; others in September. We live in hope that this will be the year.

Andy are I are still like children in a sweet shop, when it comes to growing. Each day, Andy will say, "I've poured a tea. Got your glasses? Let's check the seeds." There follows groans of disappointment at the trays that still show no signs of growth, and whoops of delight when we spot those first few leaves emerging from beneath their beds of soil. There is a joy in sowing your own seeds, watching the little seedlings emerge, pricking them out and then growing them on. The final pleasure is in planting them out in the garden to watch them reach their full potential. Knowing that we grew them all from tiny seeds.

If you are interested in growing from seed,I will go into more detail as the season progresses.

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Saturday, 30 January 2016

Cheriton Cottage & Garden Part Three

Mrs Garnett-Orme died in 2000. Her great nephew, William Cecil, and his wife, Nicola, inherited Cheriton Cottage. Not long after, I joined Andy to work in the garden. By their own admission, Nicola and William are not gardeners. However they have introduced some fun into the garden. The old watercress beds now boast a desert island, with a drawbridge, and a little boat, being the only access.


The Desert Island

And a pair of sheep have taken up residence:

Luckily for us, Nicola and William share our ethos of wildlife friendly gardening: the drive is sprayed twice a year and that is the sum total of chemicals we use in the garden. Every spring, all the borders are mulched with a thick layer of horse manure and the soil is now deep and rich and doesn't require any other additions.

I was desperate to bring the borders alive for the summer months. At first, it was difficult to persuade Nicola and William to allow me to change and enhance the borders. The garden had been Mrs Garnett-Orme's pride and I think we all felt it would be sacrilegious to interfere with it. But it was clear, that by the end of May, the garden looked sad and tired. Also, the garden was mainly blues and yellows, and both Nicola and I are more 'pink people'. It has been a slow and respectful process, but nearly all the borders have now been brought into the summer.


The Side Patio In June

However the yellow poppy, Meconopsis cambrica, still invade the pink borders.Could it be that Mrs Garnett-Orme is still watching us? If she is, I do hope she likes what we have done.

We look after the flower borders and prune all the shrubs and fruit trees in one day a week! Sometimes, I wonder how that is possible, but we know the garden intimately and we love it, so that helps.


Garden Open 2014

Over the coming months, I hope to show you some of what we do in the garden. And that you will be inspired to visit in June.

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Saturday, 30 January 2016

Sowing & Growing 2


Seed Germination - Differing Needs

I enjoy splitting plants. It allows me to see the structure of the plant clearly: the formation of the roots and how they will grow in the ground. Also I have instant plants. Propagating by cuttings is another quick and rewarding way of increasing stock. But there is something satisfying and magical about growing from seed.



The beautiful Orlaya grandiflora have just popped up in their tray and last week the tray was frozen solid.

Many seeds have a reputation for being difficult, but they're not really. Mostly, we are not providing the right conditions to trigger them out of their dormancy. We need to try and recreate the same conditions that the seed would find in its natural habitat. For instance, some Australian species, such as Dianella, need smoke, rather than heat, to trigger germination. The hard, thick coats of Lathyrus and Lupinus, benefit from scarifying or the careful removal of a small part of the hard outer seed coat, opposite the eye. Some seeds benefit from soaking overnight, to soften or remove water repellent coverings. Others need to be coaxed with alternating periods of cold and warmth. The tiny seeds of Digitalis want to be sown on the top of the compost and left uncovered, as they need light to germinate. While Centaureas and Delphiniums require a good covering of compost and darkness. The time of year you sow is important too: spring, summer or autumn.

Arguably, the most vital element in the process is making sure your seeds come from a reliable source and are viable. But if, like me, you find some scrunched up, dirty old packet of seeds in the back of the shed, it is still worth giving them a go:

"Against all expectations, seed scientists from the Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew's garden in West Sussex, have germinated 200-year-old seeds discovered in the National Archives - now growing into vigorous young plants."

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Friday, 29 January 2016

Cheriton Cottage & Garden - A Brief History Part Two


Andy was employed by Mrs Garnett-Orme in her later years, when she was no longer able to work in the garden. Occasionally, when I had a day off from work with the N.H.S., I would go along to help him. Only another gardener would understand why, on my day off, I would choose to go and work in the garden: it was, and still is a beautiful place to be.

Mainly I would be helping Andy to plant, around two hundred, Penstemon. He would take cuttings in autumn and over-winter them in the glass-house, potting them into liners in the spring, ready for planting out at the beginning of June. Penstemons were the mainstay from June onwards, taking the place of the early flowering bulbs.

Mrs Garnett-Orme created a stunning spring garden and it is virtually impossible to put a fork into the ground without digging up bulbs. At the front of the house are spreading Eranthis x tubergeniana and E. hyemalis, a mass of puschkinias and ipheons, Scilla tubergeniana, followed by Scilla 'Spring Beauty'. Throughout the garden, there is an abundance of snowdrops, crocus tommasinianus, leucojum and ornithogalums and focal points of Iris reticulata. Swaths of narcissus line the river in the wild area, along with ever increasing Fritillaria meleagris. Anemone nemorosa have naturalised a large area.


Anemone nemorosa

All the deciduous trees are underplanted with bulbs.


Spring in this garden is not only a feast for the eyes, but an abundant nectar source for early emerging butterflies & bees.

In early to mid-summer, one of my favourites, Nectaroscordum siculum, (now brought back into fashion by recent Chelsea Gardens) join with Camasssias. In October, there are clumps of Sternbergia and in November, early flowering snowdrops (the name of which escapes me).

To be continued.........

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Friday, 29 January 2016

Sowing & Growing 1


We sow many of our seeds in July, using the warm sunshine to initiate germination. The seedlings are then pricked out into small pots and left to grow on until September.Half are potted into larger pots and they go outside for the winter. Those remaining in the poly tunnel we pot on in the spring.


The small pots in the large poly tunnel have been happily frozen solid several times this winter. It always amazes me that these little treasures are so resilient and when spring sets in proper, they quickly spurt into growth.

We never used to cover the plants outside, but one year we had so much rain that many plants rotted in their pots. Left sitting in a puddle of water, plants, like most things, slowly rot. Their luscious healthy roots turn into a slimy smelling gloop. In the ground there is more drainage and other plants to take up excesses of water. So now we put small, make-shift poly tunnels over the plants at the end of November. They are removed in February, whatever the weather! The plants still regularly freeze but the tunnels keep off the worst of the winter wet. For it is not cold that kills but the combination of cold and wet.

Andy & Gary repair the poly tunnels

Ready for the polythene covering


In spring these plants are ready for sale, with their roots well-established within pots.There follows a frantic rush to pot on the small pots that have remained in the large poly tunnel, to be ready for sale later in the year. Also we need space in the poly tunnel to sow any tender perennials and annuals that were ordered by customers in September. Now begins the juggling of limited space and our precious time.

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Roxana Fraser, Garden Designer & Our Photographer.

Roxana Fraser, Garden Designer & Our Photographer.

  • For previous blogs type in search:
  • Sowing and Growing
  • Gardening and Health
  • BBC Gardeners' World
  • Kalimeris versus Eurybia divaricata
  • A Brief History of Cheriton Cottage
  • Happy New Year
  • Poem
  • Winter at The Nursery
Cheriton Cottage Open Garden, Sunday June 26th 11am to 5pm

Cheriton Cottage Open Garden, Sunday June 26th 11am to 5pm

Common Blue in Nursery Wild Area

Common Blue in Nursery Wild Area

Poly tunnel at The Nursery

Poly tunnel at The Nursery

Painted Lady Butterfly on Buddlja 'White Profusion'

Painted Lady Butterfly on Buddlja 'White Profusion'

Peacock Butterfly in Nursery Wild Area

Peacock Butterfly in Nursery Wild Area

Knot Grass Moth Caterpillar in Wild Area

Knot Grass Moth Caterpillar in Wild Area

Busy Bee on Symphyotrichum

Busy Bee on Symphyotrichum

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