Garden Seats to view Cyclamen

The 18th century Union Jack Gardens at Wentworth Castle were originally called the ‘wilderness’. It was dense with shapes, texture and contrasts of shade and light. Now it may be a suitable place to take a seat in the garden and see the original Yew trees and the variegated ‘creamed’ Hollies.

Wentworth Castle starts with an invitation to take a seat while you admire the unusual grounds. The seats are unusual too!

The living plants are less unusual but in the stumpery there are shaped tree roots riven from the soil and replanted upside down. This fails to affect the well mulched cyclamen growing from what must be substantial corms.

Gardeners can be a hardy lot but you need a hard bottom for this type of seating.

More traditional cast iron seat. Why do we paint them and other garden items in Wedgewood Blue?

Cyclamen mulch is made from coarse wood and bark chippings

In the last year the renovated garden originally designed in 1707 was forced to close. The Yorkshire Post reports ‘Talks are underway to secure the future of the only Grade I-listed landscape in South Yorkshire, which is said to be “nationally significant” for its extensive monuments including some of the earliest follies in the country. In an irony which would not have been lost on its founder Thomas Wentworth, who only built the estate due to a bitter dispute over the inheritance of the family seat at Wentworth Woodhouse …’ Sadly there has been no progress and I have to rely on my old photographs.


Vermiculite for Gardeners


Raised Beds


Seed Tray Review and Tips

Plastic seed trays

The clue is in the name Seed Tray – this note is about seeds in trays and although they can double up for seedlings  the issues are different. Seed sowing probably starts in February and is reaching its height by the middle of April.

Seed Tray Review

  • Old wooden seed trays with slats and high sides are still in use. They need care when cleaning before new crops are sown.
  • Plastic seed trays from rigid polypropylene with drainage holes can be used time and again and are easy to store and clean. There is generally a pattern of ridges to improve drainage.
  • I like to use the thin plastic segmented inserts like those in the photograph inside a normal seed tray .
    • It adds rigidity and makes for easy movement
    • They are cheap enough to be disposable but last a couple of seasons with care.
    • They vary in the number of cells, 3×5, 8×5 or 4×6 for example.
    • Each cell can be for individual seeds or used for several fine seeds. It makes pricking out and planting far easier.
    • The cells can also be used for growing on after pricking out. 15 or 24 good plants can be raised in one tray.
    • Do not put plastic inserts in a tray without drainage holes or the compost may get water logged.
  • Seed trays can be used to hold individual pots in one place. Up to 15 square 3″ pots can be put in one tray and they are a bit deeper than a standard tray.
  • Disposable or disinfectable, plastic  labour saving devices were not available to our parents and grandparents but take care how you dispose of them.

Alternative Seed Trays

  • If you can find them old fish boxes can make good seed trays. The polystyrene variety helps to keep an even temperature. Some old fruit boxes can be adapted as seed trays. In both instances make sure there is adequate drainage.
  • You do not need a tray per se,  any container with drainage holes will suffice. I use a lot of old plant pots for starter seedlings.
  • Rubberised plastic trays usually in black are more rigid and I find them better than the extruded green plastic shown above.
  • Home made compressed capsules, rolls of paper, even cardboard toilet paper tube can be pressed into service.

Seed Tray Tips

  • Take care when watering to get all the area damp. Some composts and soils are difficult to get evenly wet
  • Label your seed sowing with the date and type of seed sown.
  • Sterilise your used seed trays in Jeys fluid or similar.
  • To water from the bottom fill a larger container and stand the tray in the water until enough has been taken up by capillary action.
  • Do not leave seedlings too long before pricking out. Long roots soon become stunted. Seedlings need space to develop roots.
  • Carefully push out the cell contents from the bottom if using a plastic product. Otherwise a firm tap will generally loosed to compost.
  • Be careful  small cells hold less soil and moisture.
  • The edges and cells near to the drying sun can be hostile to seedlings.
  • Exposure to sun and the elements can make some plastic brittle.
  • Prick out and pot on as soon as possible (when two leaves are showing).

Special Seed Sowing Devices

  • Matching the seed tray to the plant you are growing may dictate the tray you use.
  • Sweetpeas need a long root run and trays tend to be too shallow. I use deep pots but you can sow in root trainers or home made paper tubes.
  • Biodegradable peat pots can be used for plants that do not like their roots to be disturbed.
  • Individual pots may be best for large or expensive seed.

Glad to be Planting Gladioli Again


Every dog may have it’s day but great plant species move in and out of fashion. Now 2018 it is the turn of Gladioli to retake center stage. In the 1960’s and 70’s  Galdiolus were all the rage and for many gardeners they were top of the popularity stakes. In 2018 they are making a well deserved come back if the media are to be believed. (the media pick up from the trade who must have been undertaking some stock building activities to establish good quantities of corms for sale). I for one have been lead astray by newspaper and magazine articles, vivid coloured packaging of a vibrancy yellow Glad and some carefully targeted adverts. I get these annual urges to focus one plant or group of plants for the year and 2018 is the turn of the gladiolus.

After digging out an old bed 7×7 feet square I planned to grow some sweetpeas and Glads  so after the orders were placed I watched some ‘how too’s  on youtube’ for a refresher course.

I am not growing for showing so my Gladioli can be grown in a relatively small area hopefully with good results for cut flowers.

So revisiting Gladioli

Top 5 Gladioli Lessons

  1. There are approximately 260 species of Gladiolus largely endemic in Southern Africa. Plenty of variety to experiment with. Find out more from The British Gladioli Society
  2. Treated as annuals you can plant Gladioli quite tightly with 70 or so to a square yard.
  3. Plant deeper than you expect say 6″ in a trench with  sand at the base to aid drainage.
  4. You can get good results by starting the corms off in damp sand to get good roots.
  5. The larger the variety more more important it is to stake the plants.

Related image

 Pricilla florets with 6 – 7 per stem on erect spikes with pointed sword-like leaves.

Gladioli are the flower of choice for 40th wedding anniversaries. It is too late for me and the missus now…The official flowers of fifty years of marriage are yellow roses and violets so that will have to do.

Other GTips

Gladioli 100 Day Display

Prize Gladioli Growing & Showing


Rhubarb All the Talk at a Local Society

RhubarbEarly Spring Rhubarb breaking Through

What Does Rhubarb Mean to You

  • Rhubarb is a vegetable that thinks it is a fruit and has royal pretensions with top varieties called Victoria and Early Albert
  • Rhubarb Rhubarb Rhubarb is an indistinct chant  or none sense word shouted out in an unsynchronised manner at a public event.
  • ‘A rhubarb’ is baseball slang for a fight or argument among players.
  •   “Stop talking rhubarb”. Complete and utter balderdash and b*****s.
  • Stewed or in a pie it is the food of gods. Even raw with the stick end just dipped in a little sugar – gear nosh.
  • Already his year I have had Rhubarb flavoured gin and a special cider flavoured as Rhubarb and custard.
  • According to some ‘Its very name means “food of the barbarians” the people who live beyond the Rha, now the river Volga’.
  • To some less fortunate Rhubarb is a strong purgative.

In Praise of Growing Rhubarb

  • It is one of the earliest crops in the garden.
  • It can be forced into even earlier cropping if kept in the dark with a bit of warmth eg from a straw wrapper in an upturned bucket. The stems will then be thin, blanched pink and juicy.
  • Rhubarb is hardy and if fed and watered will produce for many years.
  • The big leaves are easy to compost. Even though they contain Oxalic acid they do no harm in the compost heap.

Young Stems



Bolting and Running to Seed

Early Flowing Rheum Rhubarb


Said of plants that are making seed prematurely. A plants purpose in life is to produce offspring usually by seed. When stressed they will trigger the reproduction button and set seed.

  • Lettuce and salad crops are prone to bolt and ‘run to seed’. The heart of the lettuce is then useless and the plant only fit for the compost heap.
  • Rhubarb and rheums also throw seed stalks taking energy from the good parts of the rhubarb. You can and should brake-off the offending stalk as soon as it is seen. Water the plant and hope the rest of the crop is unaffected.
  • Other vegetables such as members of the onion family are affected in dry and stressful conditions. This is due to the plants keenness to reproduce before it succumbs to a problem.
  • Broccoli and cauliflower whose flowers open early are not truly bolting but the cause and effect is the same.
  • Flowers that turn quickly to seed will inhibit more flower production. That is why sweetpeas and annuals, amongst others, should be deadheaded to prolong flower production.
  • Bolting may be an advantage when seed collection or production is the main aim.

‘……….there exist very little literature on the possibility of manipulating flowering for seed production’ but this book from amazon is an exception

Running to Seed

  • If vegetable plants  are allowed to set seed after flowering they may taste bitter.
  • Plants that rub to seed will probably stop growing new buds and flowering.
  • Regular cropping the stems of herbs like parsley, basil and mint delay their running to seed.
  • This old gardener is running to seed with no new growth on the top of his bald head.

Book Cover



Stratification is putting your seeds in a moist material outside over the winter to allow the variations in temperature to act on them, so that they will germinate when conditions are warmer. Seed used to be put in layers (strata) of damp sand,


Cottage Garden and Annuals Triptych

This is a series of 3 photographs of my favourite cottage garden on Main Street Menston. Late summer each year will see me leaning over the Yorkshire stone wall to admire the ‘gaudy’ collection of flowers that create one enormous display.

Design Features

  • The hard landscape is suitably constrained and smacks of belonging to a true plantsman or plantswoman. The red brick from the family home and a small section of slatted paneling limits the borders of this front garden.
  • The garden barely needs to borrow from the surrounding landscape but the old grey Yorkshire stone walls add a timelessness to a short lived period of glory from the plants.
  • Like my garden this garden suffers from a drain cover in an inconvenient spot but it is as disguised as practical with the wooden hooped barrel used as a plant pot. (How else can they get more flowers on show?)
  • The central bed is designed as a lozenge rather than a more normal oval or circle. It works well and allows the gardener access from all 4 sides.

Flowers on Display

  • The main feature is not of structural plants or herbaceous perennials but the selection of  bright cheerful annuals.
  • Wispy Cosmos and Nicotiana edge over the roadside wall on which I lean to take these three photographs.
  • Good strong yellow flowers predominate and link the whole composition together. I particularly like the Tagetes, Marigolds and Rudbeckia .
  • It would be churlish to mention the grass which is in fair condition towards the end of summer.

Chelsea Blue

I like a good strong blue in the garden and not because Chelsea FC play in a blue soccer strip. With the 2018 Chelsea flower show on the RHS calendar I have selected a few photographs to highlight my favourite colour.

Hydrangea Macrophylla

The faceless pansy can be a substitute for a viola it plays well as a center forward or in midfield.

In goal we must have the African with the furry edged petals in Violet

The B team Allium is just getting back into form after a long layoff. A mid season injury saw a 4 week metatarsal break disrupt his training.

Anemone and Ranunculus in defense occasionally charging down the wings


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