RHS is pushing their recently published sustainability report again today I think its very much worth a read.

For me its all about a journey. Anyone preaching being totally virtuous is either saintly (or dare I say telling a porkie pie). I think some people are further along with their journey than others, and rather than being berated about environmentalism (which often happens) we should be far more encouraging.

And of course an admission we aren’t perfect. The one I will struggle with on the 10 suggestions they have is petrol tools. A 2 acre plot means battery mowers (for example) just arent that practical yet… and the same with other equipment. Of course if money was no object it would be… but as with everything sometimes its a balance.

But defiinitely worth a read for those interested in this sort of stuff 👇🏻

My musings on sowing hollyhock seeds

Lots of people ask me when to sow hollyhock sees. As is the case with other plants – sometimes the choice has to be yours. So I sow sweet peas in October and over winter them. Other people choose to sow the year of flowering. I think sweet peas that have over wintered and experienced cold nights are stronger plants – but as with much you read online, this is just an opinion. What most people fail to add is four magic words for the social media age – I could be wrong.

In terms of hollyhock I sow many of mine in Sept/Oct so they germinate and then can overwinter in my polytunnel.

What do I suggest others do. Well it all depends on your circumstances really. I often get told that as nature is dispersing its seeds of hollyhocks now, why wouldn’t it be a good time to sow outside. Well my response if that if you take one plant for example. Ive taken over 2000 seeds off one in particular I want to propagate. It produces so many seeds as if left to the natural environment – with the vagaries of weather, pests, slugs having a munch etc – not many will make it to next year out of those seeds. That why we propagate and put things under cover etc – to get a higher success rate.

So I wouldn’t be sowing direct outside unless you were happy for many not to make it. If you are happy with this – then of course you can broadcast sow now.

If you are sowing undercover and can protect the young plants then sow now.

And then of course you can sow next year – though the issue of sowing next year is you are less likely to get flowers. A sowing of hollyhocks now means that you have a good chance of flowers within a 12 month period over two calendar years.

Hope this makes some sense. Ask in the comments if there is anything that doesn’t. This is just how I do it. Others may have different techniques that work for their garden and climate👍🏻

Finding out about my plot

Truly fascinating chat with the lady who first lived at our house (whose dad built it right after the war). For those who missed my post of yesterday – she got in touch following an article on my Cosmos national collection – as was amazed by the coincidence as this was her mums favourite flower.

Today she visited. We always said that we could tell that at some point there had been a gardener here down to some of teh things that had been done (even if it had been overgrown when we got it).

So on top of the plot being 2.5 acres by all accounts we learned that it had been used to host pigs (hence my old pig sheds) 100s of chickens for years, but they also grew spuds, wheat and then even horseradish on 1 acres of it.

The Poplars for which the house is now called were planted by her mum and are at least 70 years old (as were the conifers we had to take out) though they were maintained, We know it was called Little Home originally and now know why. The village apparently had a very big, shall we say, them and us aspect with those of money and those who worked for money. Apparently the wife of the local squire said to her mum…. “Oh you will love your Little Home” and it stuck.

When her mum sold she gave up 2.5 aces for 0.5 acres – and the first thing she did was dig all teh grass up for veg as “you cant eat grass”. I have to say I like her style.

Much more was discussed in terms of gardening, but I sent we sent her on her way with cosmos and hollyhock seeds that who knows – may have done so well due to those chickens she had to clean out for years constantly pooping everywhere on what is definitely fertile Lincolnshire soil.

The nicest compliment was that she thought her mum and dad would love what I was doing. 🌸🌺🌸🌺

UPDATE: Joans brother from Canada emailed and paid me the nicest compliment,

“Thank you for the Email and after talking to Joan about her visit with you and seeing the things you are doing I’m sure our Mum will be looking down with a smile on her face to see something constructive going on with our old house.”

The naming of plants – what are the rules??

Probabaly the most boring gardening post of the year (but an area I am interested in all the same) – following an update from the RHS today.

So the work with the hollyhocks (alceas) continues – this time not growing – but more about their names and the seemingly unregulated area of plant naming. Some time ago I was told by someone that a lot of it was down to the morals of breeders and sellers of seeds and plants as to whether names of plants got changed when they shouldn’t.

I guess if you don’t care what a plant has been named it doesnt matter. But then if you are looking for a specific named cultivar – or ar trying to protect a rare one then it can be hugely important.

Now there are things called an International Cultivar Registration Authority. (ICRA) Essentially its a body that logs the names of a specific type of plant. So there is one for roses as an example – but there isnt one for Alceas (hollyhocks).

Why do we have one you ask? Well its to ensure that a specific plant is given a name – and it cant be given to another different plant. So that if you buy a rose with one name from a garden centre – its the same rose at another (at its most basic level).

Now I have discovered (pointed out) that while there are several black hollyhocks there is a view that some of them may be the same cultivar, but at some point have been given different names. So the RHS have told me,

“The situation you describe with black hollyhocks is not unique. Part of the work of an ICRA is to compile a Checklist of all cultivar names within the denomination class, as far as is possible, and, in so doing, at least some confusion surrounding synonyms may be resolved.”

I then specifically asked about the naming of commemorative plants – whereby a single rose can be given a name and sold at a much higher price because its to commemorate (as an example) the death of a loved one.

Their view is that, “Whilst the ICRA system is “the horticultural world’s attempt at the self-policing of [plant] nomenclature”*, it is also a voluntary and non-statutory system, relying of the cooperation of breeders, commercial growers and amateurs alike.The RHS advice recommends checking with an appropriate ICRA that a proposed name is acceptable. However, there are many plant genera for which there is no ICRA and, therefore, no way of checking if the name has already been used.”

Now this worries me a bit – as the normal process of naming a plant can take a while. You really have to prove that the plant comes true. So I asked – given every year I have hundreds (probably thousands of cross pollinated hollyhocks), as they are genetically going to be unique – they could all be given names couldn’t they. The RHS said yes….

“In your example of cross-pollinated hollyhock seedings, as they are ‘new’ plants then, yes, it would be possible to name them all. The ICNCP (Art. 2.3) states that “a cultivar…is an assemblage of plants that (a) has been selected for a particular character or combination of characters, and (b) remains distinct, uniform, and stable in these characters when propagated by appropriate means”. One would hope that companies offering a commemorative naming service would ensure their plants are in some way distinct.”

The reality is I am not naming every single cross bred hollyhock – and I actually think that really shouldn’t happen. BUT what I may end up having to do is set up an ICRA for Alceas – so I become almost the holder of the register of hollyhock names. Mainly so I can start to get to grips with flowers which look identical to my naked eye, that currently seem to be called different things.

You see – these national collections aren’t just about growing a few plants 😂 I think I’m going to have to do some detective work.

Seed sowing season

It’s that time of year. As I start putting different aspects of the garden ‘to bed’ the cycle starts again with some seed sowing.

Seeds waiting to be covered with compost

These seed trays were bought second hand quite a while ago. I think they were/are used in machines that automatically sow seeds. Amazingly robust – so much so that you can stand on them. Over 200 hollyhocks just in this one – and 3 already done.

The idea is they should grow on and get potted up, live in the polytunnel over winter and hopefully I will get flowers in the first 12 months. Well…. Thats the idea anyway.