Friday 31 August 2012


I have grown love-lies-bleeding or amaranthus for many years, my favourite being the amaranthus caudatus which drapes down in gorgeous tassels.  This half hardy annual is extremely easy to grow and self sows everywhere, given half a chance.  The leaves and seeds of amaranthus are also edible so a good all rounder! I experimented with it in my hanging baskets last year and it attracted the attention of passing neighbours with a mix of horror, amusement and delight. Here is a picture of it today outside my house in a crevice between the wall and pavement after the seeds had dropped from a basket above last year.  It seems to be accompanied by another sneaky interloper, a festuca glauca (from a previous year’s hanging basket ‘experiment’).

Amaranthus is best just sown directly in the ground in spring and like all plants this year, in this wet, wet, growing season, it was hammered by slugs and snails. This has been to my advantage as the job of thinning out (my least favourite task) has been carried out on my behalf.  As you can see, the gastropods have not diminshed my final rows.  In fact this half hardy annual grows to such a size in one growing season, that each time I walk past the rows in the garden the musical riff of the film Jaws pops into my head.

This on reminds me of a Geisha's headdress.

The other three amaranthus plants I have grown this year are also doing well.  They include Autumn Pallet, Pygmy Torch and Foxtail.  My favourite being Pygmy Torch, I am still considering Autumn Pallet and seeing how it 'performs' in the vase.

From the reactions I receive, whenever I am selling amaranthus as a cut flower, I can confidently conclude, it is a 'Marmite' plant, 'love it or hate it'.  Well, as with Marmite, I love it, for its freaky bohemian qualities and will continue to grow it in all its varieties .... my love-lies-bleeding for amaranthus!

Tuesday 28 August 2012

A Great Dixter Day Out

Great Dixter, near Rye in East Sussex, was the beautiful family home of Christopher Lloyd, the passionate gardener who loved experimenting with colours with an almost 'anything goes' approach. I had wanted to visit his garden in spring when the bulbs were in full bloom, but somehow I didn't get time, so I felt full summer splendid would be equally good. I really had little idea of what to expect and sometimes this is the best way to see a garden.  I arrived on a hot summer day.  The location of the garden, in the village of Northiam, is charming and peaceful.

The cat lead the way, but first he wanted to stop and read the sign!

Like me, Christopher Lloyd had a love of sausage dogs although I have never owned one. I just love their short legs and iconic shape.  I wonder if you can see the sausage dog made from pebbles in the patio? 

Great Dixter is yet another inspirational English garden to visit.  It challenged my ideas of how a garden should be and how colours and plants should be mixed.  Some of the individual gardens were so jam packed with plants it made my head spin and I couldn't help but smile as I tried to absorb the combinations.  The garden reinvigorated my interest in evening primrose with it's heady, 'eye closing moment', scent along with the untrendy 'straw flower' which I shall have on my list for the cutting garden next year.  I think I will need another visit at a different time of year to really appreciate this complex garden to it's full.

Tuesday 21 August 2012

New website live!

The 'ForageFor' website is now live!  It has been an amazing journey setting up a website.  This started back in February this year with initially contacting several local web design companies and choosing the lovely Dan and Julia from Mack&Me to do the web design.  I knew within the first half an hour of meeting them that they had grabbed the vibe of what I wanted to put across on my website and they certainly didn't disappoint, they have been a total joy to work with!

Getting the website complete, after handover from Dan and Julia, while the flower season and wedding season were in full throttle, has had it challenges.  I hadn't realised how many decisions there would be to make, related to all the information to be included and which photos to choose.  But phew, it is complete and I have loved doing it.  So if you get time, take a peek!

Friday 17 August 2012

Fish, Fowl or Flower?


'Scaling' the heights of pink?


Nice plummage!

Flower? ......

A beautiful, feathery, scaly, zinnia?

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Calendula ‘Coffee Cream’

When I think of calendulas, I think of hot zingy yellows and oranges.

My interest was piqued when I caught a glimpse of a picture of Calendula ‘Coffee Cream’.  It sounds delicious, dark on the underside (the coffee) and lighter on the top (the cream). It reminds me of a friend who decadently puts cream in his coffee on a regular basis not just as a treat.  He also serves his fresh coffee in one of my favourite things, a gorgeous retro orange flask.  

Calendula ‘Coffee Cream’ has therefore featured as one of my ‘new things to grow’ for 2012 (this list gets longer each year).  They have been as easy to grow as Calendula Officinalis , directly sown into the ground this spring. But I have also found them to be as prone to powdery mildew as Calendula Officinalis.  Ironically, I have recently read in an organic flower growers book, that milk can be used to reduce mildew and with a name like ‘Coffee Cream’ surely it has to work!  I have given it a trial this week so the ‘dairy jury’ is still out as to its success. 

Here they are shown in the garden and at home.  Apologies from the gardener (me) for not having time to deadhead before the pics were taken.

Sunday 12 August 2012

Oxburgh Hall

My flower growing season is in ‘full throttle’ mode during May-October and this is also the main season for garden shows and visiting gardens across the country.  Consequently, I have to make myself have a day off from gardening, markets and weddings to visit at least one or two venues during the summer.

A local garden that has been on my radar for a little while is Oxburgh Hall, near Swaffham in Norfolk.  I wanted to get to see the glasshouse which was rebuilt by volunteers and completed in 2010.  I love visiting kitchen gardens as well as more formal gardens and Oxburgh has a particularly quaint kitchen garden.  It was very hot and sticky weather when I visited and here are a few pictures to share with you.

A charming kitchen garden with a view of the Hall beyond

The Hall with it's surrounding moat.

Oxburgh has the most amazing examples of Tudor chimneys.

The formal gardens, herbaceous border and orchard can be seen in the distance

The beautiful herbaceous border is reached via the orchard and was a special feature for, "ladies of the house to enjoy".  I love expressions like this, almost as good as, "Taking a turn about the room"!

Thursday 9 August 2012

Zinnia to Aster

Now, where was I ... oh yes, on to zinnias today. 

I first started growing cut flowers for myself over a decade ago and my passion just grew and grew.  My collection of vases also grew year on year without me even noticing, I would just find more space in my dining room cupboard to squeeze them in.  When my sister came to visit from Australia and gained access to this cupboard (us sisters have to have a nose in each others cupboards, drawers and handbags, it’s a given) she commented, “Does anyone need that many vases?!” Up until then, I think I had tried to rationalise that everyone had that many vases in their possession, apparently, according my sister, I couldn't have been more wrong.  It was at that moment that I suddenly realised I needed to channel this passion for flowers into a business.  Anyway, in the early years of growing annuals, zinnias really didn’t appeal to me, I found them a little artificial looking and they lacked the movement of other cottage flowers in the garden.  However, one year I thought I would give them a go as I had read an article about how reliable they were. Well, now I’m hooked!

Zinnias are half hardy annuals and do not like being moved so are perfect for direct sowing into my seasonal cut flower garden in Suffolk.  All zinnias I have grown in the past have never let me down.  My favourites of the moment are, (1) 'Queen Red Lime' for their breathtaking exquisite antique colouring, (2) 'Envy' just because they’re green and (3) 'Art Deco' for their elegant height and range of pinks.

'Queen Red Lime'

Each bloom is quite different and this one is slightly distorted but all the more beautiful for it.  Pictured here with 'Pygmy Torch' Amaranthus


Envy with aster 'collars', Ammi Visnaga and nigella seedpods

The arrangement with a lovely art deco tin I found at the Denton May Day Street Fair several years ago.

'Art Deco'

'Art Deco' zinnia with 'Dreamland Pink' zinnia, larkspur and 'Frosted Explosion' Grass

I have also grown a new variety this year called, 'Giant Wine Bouquet' they are gorgeous but more pink than the burgundy I was expecting.

A little Verbena Bonariensis added just to keep those 'colour wheel' colours close together.

I will most definitely continue to add to the range of zinnias I grow in my Suffolk seasonal cut flower garden.