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Tatton Park July 2013

Welcome to our summer newsletter inspired by RHS Flower Show Tatton Park 2013

It's finally summer and there's a lot to enjoy over the next few weeks, from visiting flower shows to enjoying the August summer holidays.

From now to the end of August is one of the few times of the year when us gardeners can relax a little and enjoy the fruits of our labours. True there'll still be some weeding and lawn mowing to do, and there are salads to sow and fruit to harvest, but working in the garden in summer is a pleasure not a chore.

Now is also the right time to choose and buy spring bulbs such as daffodils, alliums and tulips and while the garden is quieter plan your autumn and winter bedding displays and take away inspiration from the gardening shows.

We went to the Tatton Park show, itis well known as one of the friendliest (and fun) shows of the year featuring all the best products, designs and gardening ideas and bringing them all together in one place at historic Tatton Park in Cheshire. We came back with lots of inspiration.


So it's time to put that inspiration into practice, spread a blanket on the lawn, pick a home grown strawberry or lettuce and decide on your spring bulbs and next seasons garden...

Then, whatever you've got planned for this holiday season, enjoy it!

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We loved the opportunity to take home lots of inspiration.

The Tatton Park Show was launched in 1998 to bring an RHS show that was similar to Chelsea and Hampton Court, to the North West of England. Since then it has developed its own unique style with features such as the best municipal council bedding scheme competition, a dedicated Ladies Day and lots of innovative show gardens.

I confess this was the first time we've visited, but it definitely won't be the last.

Ideas to copy: Brilliant Bedding! Bedding schemes are such a creative way of gardening that we're always bewildered when bedding is described as ‘old-fashioned'. The Municipal bedding displays at Tatton Park prove once and for all that bedding is brilliant. They've certainly inspired me to have at least one autumn and winter bedding display next season.

Whether it's summer bedding with pelargoniums and annuals, or a winter and autumn bedding scheme with pansies, bellis and dianthus, bulbs and wallflowers the secret to keeping bedding looking good is to deadhead regularly, and buy F1 bedding plants whenever possible, they'll stay uniform so the effect stays neat as well as colourful.

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We loved the grow your own exhibits. Just like the Hampton Court show, the Tatton Park Show was divided into zones: The Feast zone was the heart of ‘grow your own' with masses of information on vegetable growing and allotments, plus community gardens, keeping chickens and bee-friendly gardening. The Great British Allotments area was brilliant and the Home Guard-ner show garden from Finchdale Training College recreated a wartime allotment to celebrate the college's 70th anniversary.

The veg displays, show gardens and allotments were truly inspiring; I want a bigger vegetable patch to grow everything I saw and I reckon planning the plot will be a fun and productive way of passing a lazy summer Sunday!

Of course plans always change as new and exciting veg catch our eye but the general idea usually stays pretty constant and the show gardens provide lots of fresh ideas.

Ideas to copy. Take a leaf out of the exhibitor's book and grow a variety of different vegetables, plan to include at least one new veg every year as well as your established favourites.  I've never grown Elephant garlic before but I'll give it a try next year. While ‘Duncan' cabbage is already one of my favourites for a year round crop.

If you're growing plenty of different veg including onions, shallots and garlic NOW is the time to decide what variety you want to plant.

All our garlic comes from reputable specialist growers and is guaranteed to be virus free. At the risk of sounding like a school ma'am, never be tempted to grow garlic from supermarket bulbs, it may seem like a cost effective way of getting a crop but it's hit and miss to say the least with a real risk of disease and poor results.

Garlic is in the ground for a long time so using substandard bulbs is a huge waste of time.

Onions, shallots and garlic are all members of the allium family but unlike the ornamental alliums you don't want these kitchen vegetables to flower!  Once they've formed flowers (known as ‘bolting') the bulbs are no good for cooking.


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We loved the show gardens. They were crammed with must-have plants and showed what could be achieved in our own gardens. Even if a show garden is on a much larger scale than our plots there are always ideas to steal and planting schemes to copy.

The ‘Summer Fairytale' show garden was inspired by the gorgeous gardens at Crathes Castle in Aberdeenshire. (If you're visiting the Scottish Highlands during the summer holidays do try to visit the gardens at Crathes, and head inside if the weather is changeable because the castle is just as beautiful as the grounds).

Ideas to copy We may not all have a castle as a backdrop but there was still plenty to inspire in the show gardens.

This pretty planting doesn't need much space to copy and offers privacy at the front door with tall shrubs and wigwams of sweet peas. The traditional containerised shrub at the front step has given way to a terracotta pot of insect and butterfly-friendly scabious and climbers hugs the walls. Of course the studded wooden door and arched surround are way too grand for most houses but take away the theatrical effects and this is still a good example of just how much can be planted in a very modest outside space.


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We loved the emphasis on outdoor living - whatever the weather! Whether it's sunbathing on the lawn, doing a spot of cooking in the pizza oven or simply admiring the borders; The Dirty Stop Out's Garden was a garden you could easily spend all day in. There was a green roof too so its wildlife credentials were also impeccable. Read more about the 'Dirty Stop-Outs Garden' and how it was created by reading the creators blog here 

Ideas to copy It's summer and there are a lot of flowers still to come but NOW is exactly the right the time to make plans for next year's garden. Take inspiration from this show garden and consider separating your outdoor space into areas for food, flowers and relaxation; then look forward to meals outside, surrounded by flower-filled patio containers and hanging baskets, add space for home grown vegetables and salads and maybe a dedicated cutting border; so you'll never be short of flowers for the table or the house.


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Order bulbs for autumn planting

Whatever bulbs you want for your spring and early summer garden decide on them as soon as possible, the best varieties sell out fast and it's a shame to miss out on some spectacular varieties.

These alliums were in the Floral Marquee at Tatton and they are a timely reminder that bulb planting time is just around the corner.

Keeping the garden colourful all year is a challenge but that's what makes gardening so enjoyable, the thrill of seeing the first snowdrop or picking a bunch of early daffodils to take into the house makes all the forward planning worthwhile.

You don't need acres of space for spring bulbs such as daffodils and tulips or later flowering alliums because bulbs use space very effectively. They produce masses of flowers for cutting from spring to early summer and then they obligingly die down, giving you plenty of room for a second flush of summer flowering bulbs such as irises, and lilies. You could add a sprinkling of seed sown annuals for even more cut flowers.

If you prefer your flowers to stay in the garden spring bulbs are the ultimate in easy care plants just plant the bulbs in autumn and wait for the miracle to happen!


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Grow cut and come again salads

When weather is hot there is nothing nicer than a salad picked straight from the garden, Salad leaves don't travel well despite the supermarkets' best efforts so for really fresh, crisp salads growing your own is definitely the answer.

It is also incredibly good value, sowing little and often (every couple of weeks is about right) will give you the equivalent of at least a supermarket bag of fresh leaves every week. And unlike the supermarket bag your leaves stay fresh on the plant until you need them. To add to your cut and come again lettuce, sow leaves such as rocket, basil mustard or coriander, for a really original flavour that is unique to you.

Mark out a short, shallow drill with the tip of a cane or the point of your trowel and sprinkle seeds very thinly along it. If you're sowing seed when the weather is very hot, water along the soil in the drill before you sprinkle the seeds.

Then just scuffle the earth over the drill to lightly cover the seed, water gently so as not to disturb the seed and wait for the leaves to emerge! When the leaves are a few inches high you can start harvesting, just snip off leaves as you need them.

As that TV meercat would say: ‘Simples!'


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Holiday watering

August is holiday month for many people and if you're a keen gardener leaving the garden and greenhouse to its own devices over a potentially scorching few weeks goes against the grain.

 If you have great gardening neighbours who'll pop in and take over then all that needs doing is to group plants together to make their watering job easier. But if, like most of us the watering is all down to you, then a more comprehensive strategy is needed.

Before you go away give everything a good drink and move as many plants out of the greenhouse as possible. In the last hot spell my greenhouse got to 60C, even with the automatic vents that is too hot for most plants!

Once the plants are well watered mulch the pots with a layer of newspaper -just make sure there are no slugs lurking in the soil before you cover the soil.

Consider putting up temporary shading: hanging some green netting to shield plants from the sun in the hottest part of the day is a good temporary solution in the greenhouse.

Water retaining gel mixed in with the compost really helps to reduce watering in containers and basket displays.

Our water retaining basket is another great product for delivering consistent moisture; it works by capillary action, taking up water by way of a replaceable wick from a reservoir in the basket.

Irrigation systems don't have to be complicated; a simple drip system will keep plants moist.

For a do it yourself ‘emergency' solution group your plants around a bucket of  water and position a strip of towel or capillary matting for each pot, drape one end in the water and the other in the soil, capillary action will allow moisture to be drawn up into the pots.


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Get the kids gardening over the long school holidays

‘Start them young' is a good motto when it comes to gardening. Many successful gardeners have been inspired by parents or grandparents who encouraged them to plant seed or help with simple greenhouse tasks.

Handing down practical skills is deeply satisfying and the school holidays are the perfect excuse for some gentle horticultural nurturing. Who knows? You might have a budding Alan Titchmarsh, Carol Klein or Geoff Hamilton in your charge!

Give children their own patch such as a raised bed or growing bag, and encourage them to grow and plant whatever they like. You could be surprised at their choices but taking responsibility for a space is a good introduction to gardening and could be the start of a lifelong passion.

All children love to get some ‘hands on' practice so sowing large seeds such as broad beans or sweet peas is a good starting point. Sowing something that germinates quickly such as nasturtiums will satisfy the urge to see fast results. Our Gro-Sure range has coated seed that is easy for small hands to handle, or try our Little Growers range.

If older children can be trusted with scissors, picking sweet peas is an essential job because once the plants set seed they stop flowering. This is a pleasant task to share with young teens; even awkward conversations are stress free when you're picking flowers together!


Watering is fun for even the tiniest gardener; there will probably be more water on them than on the plants but that is half the fun; and watering strawberries or tomatoes could be rewarded with a treat straight from the plant...

Pressing flowers, painting flowerpots, planting up a container or making a scarecrow are all enjoyable projects for a summer holiday. A spot of digging, weeding and hoeing will suit the more boisterous gardener!


Plenty of National Trust and RHS gardens hold special children's' activities over the holidays. Look online or in the gardening press for details of what's on in your area.


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