The life of the cosmos patch

On top of doing the national collection of cosmos in containers (bins) I decided to grow some in a more naturalistic mass planting. Today in the heat I decided it was time to put the bed to bed so to speak.

That involved s trimming it back, then mowing it over to mulch it, I think I will spread hay (I’d rather have straw) over it to suppress any future weeds, and start again next year. All in all in think the bed was a great success, Thousands of flowers from the plants. The bees loved it, and then some great seeds collected.

Already preparing for next year

A bit of work this afternoon went into preparing what will hopefully be a cutting garden next year.

The remnants of the hollyhocks were cut down – though you can already see the leaves for next year showing at the base.

Then the perhaps bigger job of preparing the new raised bed area started. Once done I think we will have around 54 metal raised bed (enough for anyone I think). Just the wooden base to go in, and then a rather large amount of limestone and pebbles to be barrowed.

There’s always some snake in the grass

Well, in this case a grass snake I must have disturbed while cutting down some of the old hollyhocks. I usually come across one most years, and think I’m always more surprised to see it that it is me. This one made a quick exit from wherever it had been sunning itself. The usual place I see them is by my big compost pile where they often lay eggs due to the heat.

Gardens – always changing

Having a large plot can be great and a real pain. The pain is that there is always some sort of maintenance that needs doing, and the jobs are never done. The positives is that you always seem to have space to change a few things.

The wooden raised beds that went in finally gave up this year, so the wood has been removed, and this area (which suddenly seems far larger than it did) is starting to be prepared for some new metal raised beds. Hopefully this will be done ready for planting out next year.

Not content with sorting this area out, the rather weedy patch that was plan c for the hollyhock collection – where a few spares were left to fend for themselves is going to be turned into a bit of a cut flower plot. The Strulch (for mulching) is due to arrive this week, so once the ground is a bit softer after some serious rain (later on in the year more progress will hopefully be made.

What’s in a name?

One of the main things I’ve learned on this national collection journey is the importance of labelling your plants and knowing what you are growing. So, ensuring you know what cultivar you have is key. Now obviously some seeds won’t come true, there may be some cross pollination and the seeds drop where they shouldn’t, but the problem really starts to arise when seemingly seeds for the same cultivars have different names.

What cultivar is this?

This dilemma, issue, or whatever you want to call it is perhaps shown most clearly by the black or almost black hollyhocks that are available.

Now as far as I have been able to ascertain, there are possibly six differently named black hollyhocks:-

1) Nigra

2) Jet Black

3) Arabian Nights

4) The Watchman

5) Black Knight

6) Blacknight

Now Nigra seems well known, but in places Arabian Nights and Jet Black are said to be a synonym. The Watchman was said to have grown in Thomas Jeffersons garden, but others have said this was Nigra – so this could The Watchman also be another synonym of Nigra, meaning four names are given to what is essentially the same plant.

Then you have Suttons Seeds selling a hollyhock called Black Knight (with a K) with Jelitto selling a Blacknight (as part of their spotlight series. Are these the same? If not how have two extremely similar names been allowed for a black hollyhock? Is one trading on the popularity of the other.

For many people this isnt important. They see a photo on a seed packet and just want some almost black hollyhocks. But….. and perhaps its a big but, there are rules about naming plants, that should also apply to seeds and it really seems to be confusing at best and a bit like the Wild West at worst where anything goes.

I am trying to find out more – but at the moment I am none the wiser as to how many black hollyhocks there really are.

Gardening etiquette?

Hollyhock seed head – do not help yourself

I had a really interesting conversation with a friend about gardening etiquette and perhaps more accurately how people can, do or should behave in other gardens.

Now plenty of people give friends seeds, plants, cutting and the like, but their view was that if you went to another garden it was OK to sometimes sneak a cutting or indeed take some seed heads. I was quite shocked. Their view was that they wouldn’t miss them as if it was a cutting the plant would grow back and if it was seeds they would get more.

My view was totally different. If someone wanted a cutting, they should at the very least ask, and for me taking seeds off my plants would be really annoying as I collect the seeds to create seed mixes. Either way cuttings or seeds – they are my plants and are not open season for anyone and everyone to help themselves.

This got me to thinking about people who open their gardens for NGS days or other things. I wondered if a widespread attitude of help yourself existed, or if this view was not that pervasive after all?