Gardening for wildlife – RHS shows to focus on this

I’m really pleased next years RHS shows are having an aspect that focuses on wildlife. In spite of being surrounded by a bit of a green desert (sadly agriculture can create this when massive fields have one crop and no trees are hedgerows to speak of) I continue to be amazed how quickly you can attract wildlife to a plot. Granted mine is bigger than the average garden, but reinstating the pond that was here when we arrived, and planting lots o native hedging (along with trees) was one of the best things I have ever done.

I now have owl boxes, loads of other birds boxes (maybe 10 now), a wood pile bigger than my first flat that all sorts live in and logs drilled for loads of solitary bees. We have three different types of owls visiting (and breeding), newts, snakes, toads, hedgehogs, green woodpeckers and so on and so on. Part of me think whats the point in bird boxes as I have more nests than I know what to do with (3 in one shed at one point) but for me, wildlife isn’t a side issue for gardening, it brings me as much joy as the flowers themselves, even when I despair at the rabbits munching away.

I promised to spend the prize money from RHS Hampton Court on some more wildlife friendly stuff, so tomorrow I will be getting a swift box, bat box, another place for solitary bees and one for butterflies, while still working out how to try to balance my gardening activity and enjoyment whilst also wanting to welcome wildlife. Every day I learn a little more.

Sacrifices made when you use rainwater on the plot

Well, I’ve always said you should be pragmatic as a gardener. As I store rainwater over winter for use on the plot, given the dry conditions sometimes sacrifices have to be made, so these troughs with direct sowed cosmos were left to frazzle in the sun over the last month.

Obviously the plants in the ground are actually faring a whole lot better, but at some point you have to consolidate a bit and decide where you are going to concentrate your effort in terms of time and indeed your resources in terms of the stored rainwater. These ones didn’t make it….. but as any wise gardener will tell you, there is always next year.

Hollyhocks in Gardens Illustrated

Last year the hollyhock collection was photographed followed by a visit from the lovely Becky Crowley who has penned this piece featuring the plants from my plot.

I have to say the images look fantastic and are a great advertisement for growing hollyhocks. Grab a copy of the July edition which should be out now.

Ride of my life

Well, the last few days really have been the ride of my life. I think excluding the 4 London marathons I did, its the most tired I have ever been… it a tired that comes from hard work, so you don’t mind. The biggest worry I had exhibiting at RHS Hampton Court was that the plants would look out of place surrounded by pro growers who had Chelsea Golds to their name.

They didn’t. Silver Gilt will do me. The plants got top marks.. The suggestion from judges to increase the font on information may well be right, but to hear the plants did their job is all I needed to hear. Had chance to have conversations with the President and new DG of the RHS and push the issue of sustainability (well you can when you are a life RHS member and you arent going away). Lovely to catch up with Frosty who has been supportive and others who deserve a mention in despatched include Rob Hardy and of course Gill Groombridge of Plant Heritage.

I was asked if I would do it again. I did say that as with the marathon, it’s probably not best to ask on he finish line….. but it wasnt a no for sure!

Plant perfection is possible…. But is it a price worth paying?

One of my Cosmos Xsenia flowers from this May

These are just some of my own meandering thoughts as I approach trying to get some of my Cosmos to Hampton Court, which for me is an honour in itself.

I guess the question I have always had in the back of my mind is does showing a plant that is going to be judged on its aesthetics – with nothing wrong with it fit in with gardening for and with nature? What do I mean by that. Well for example, if we look at the Hollyhocks I grow, – they are renowned for getting rust. You would not dream of exhibiting a hollyhock with rust. But one of the ways to ensure this doesn’t happen would be to spray with fungicides that can have an impact on wildlife. So how does judging for perfection fit with growing for, and encouraging wildlife. Can it?

Plants in their natural state growing in the garden can look very different to plants grown in pots for showing (I assume). Do the better regarded plants have loads of flowers – so for example the cosmos I will be taking? I again assume so. And is one way to get those flowers to use lots of plant feed? So when on the one hand we talk about wildlife and the important role gardening has, do we reward using potassium and nitrogen rich bought in feed (which has its own sustainability issues)? Is this like rewarding a sprinter who uses steroids? They will be faster than someone who doesn’t…. But is it the right thing to do? We decided not in sports… but in plants added chemical intervention is fine. And all this is before we mention putting plants in fridges to hold them back so they are perfect on a specific date.

Will we look back and think what on earth were we doing back then? I don’t know the answers. But in my attempt to get some Cosmos to Hampton Court it has made me question a lot more of what I am doing.

I think this is a debate really worth exploring.

Why have a go at #rhshamptoncourt

I’ve been asked this more than once, and I guess with everything it can be about how you are made up. I’ve always thought having a go is better than never having tried…. And that’s pretty much it. The only race is whether the cosmos flower on time. I’m not competing against anyone else so really the question should be why not?