28 May 2012 By Marina Christopher
So my water authority issued a hosepipe ban on 5th April. Almost 9” of rain later, my nursery site situated on heavy, sticky clay, was waterlogged, boggy and any weeding or digging resulted in distinctly gloopy noises as the soil reluctantly gave up unwanted vegetation. Not only wet but cold too, with several night time temperatures plummeting to 2-4C in the preceding week. Plants (and nursery owner) have sulked – not a pretty sight!
What does this mean for plant growth? In March, with unseasonable high temperatures, growth was rapid and garden designers preparing for the Chelsea Flower Show were anxious that their plants would flower well before the event. Through April and May, grey skies, rain and little warmth from sunshine brought growth to a standstill. The designers were wondering whether their plants would flower in time.
Plants potted over a month ago have refused to root into their new pots and sedums, with their fleshy leaves, are covered with small pits where a series of hailstorms froze the foliage. Slugs and snails love the wet and enthusiastically clamber over all the vegetation. Emerging after the winter they have a serious case of the ‘munchies’ and gobble everything in sight. Sometimes I wonder why I am a nurseryman!
Chelsea week is now over and Alitex and Country Greenhouses exhibits have gone onto their new owners or are back at the company headquarters at Torberry. Setting up the gardens and other exhibits was definitely a challenge in wet conditions and I am always amazed at how the show comes together in the last few days. I was lucky enough to be able to visit on Press day so I could have a good snoop around before the show opened officially. This year I provided some of the plants for 5 show gardens with two of them never seen at Chelsea before. It is a great way to launch interesting and unusual plants. In 2011, Cleve West exhibited Dianthus cruentus (see photo) and a range of my Centaurea hybrids – a fantastic showcase for them.
Swallows, cuckoos and swifts have returned to Britain for the summer and in the short interludes of dry, bees and butterflies are on the wing. So far this season my nursery count of butterflies is 8 species but I hope to get upwards of 25 species during the season. Meanwhile I hope we get some occasional sunshine to get plants into flower to attract all those beneficial insects.
If you wish to learn more about plants that Phoenix Perennial Plants has popularised at Chelsea Flower Show do come to the Plantsman’s Day at Bury Court, Bentley on 30th May 2012. For more information visit www.burycourtbarn.co.uk and click on Events or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for the PDF for the Plantsman’s Day.
Marina Christopher (May 2012)
**Massive congratulations to Marina for her various Chelsea Flower Show triumphs! Delighted to hear how well these plants have done - it means more people are thinking about bringing wildlife into the garden.**