Bill, 76, becomes a victim of plot plundering thieves

Allotment holder Bill MasonBill Mason pictured on his stripped-bare allotment in Littlehampton, as reported in the Daily Mail.

DESPICABLE was the one word that sprang to mind when I read of the pensioner robbed of his entire vegetable crop on his allotment.

It’s hardly surprising that Bill Mason, 76, was on the verge of tears when he discovered he had become a victim of sophisticated plot plunderers.

The thieves heartlessly stripped his allotment in Littlehampton, Sussex, of potatoes, spring onions, beetroot, cabbages, lettuces, celeriac and rhubarb.

Like many plot-holders, Bill  – pictured above – tended his ground up to four or five hours a day, relying on his hard work to produce sufficient food to last him and his partner through the winter.

Bill’s heartfelt reaction: “They have taken my livelihood away for no reason at all. It is part of my pension – that’s what hurts;  I don’t do it for fun.”

For 18 years Bill has lovingly looked after his allotment and is now calling on the local council to heighten security and to install CCTV cameras. For their part, the council have apologised for the “distress and upset” the theft had caused. Police, too, are on the case.

One wonders what goes through the head of such criminals who, without any thought for the outcome of their actions, went ahead, pulled up around £100 worth of produce and disappeared.

Sadly, it seems the robbing of fresh veg on plots across the UK is a growing menace. In Ipswich in April, thousands of pounds in equipment was stolen, then villagers in Midsomer Norton, Somerset, suffered a series of strawberry and raspberry thefts, while over in Canvey Island, Essex, plot-holders reluctantly gave up their favourite pastime after their allotments were repeatedly attacked by merciless thieves.

It’s not an easy problem to overcome. Installing fences and lighting doesn’t come cheap and nor does employing a security guard.

Let us just hope that whoever is planning a similar raid on his or her local allotment sits down and thinks long and hard about the misery and distress that such actions generate.

Victim Bill Mason will surely concur.



New Cool Garden is sure to prove hot property at Rosemoor

Cool garden ground level

IT’S INSPIRATIONAL, it’s contemporary, it’s water-friendly and, above all, it’s so cool.

It’s the new £250,000 Cool Garden at Rosemoor, the RHS centre for excellence at Torrington, Devon, which is due to open on 16 August – to coincide with the first day of three of Rosemoor’s Garden Flower Show.

The new garden, centred on the use of water, will feature plants with blue, white and pastel-coloured flowers complemented by grey foliage.

Designed by Chelsea gold medallist Jo Thompson, it will provide a calming contrast to the fiery colours of the nearby Hot Garden.

The main theme of the garden is how enthusiasts can deal with heavy rainfall – a typical happening in Devon, but also a growing challenge elsewhere in the UK brought about by climate change.

Three years in the planning, the Cool Garden has a contemporary feel to it, made with permeable footpaths, so excess water drains away quickly into land drains and then flows down to the lake before the water is recycled back to irrigate the plants.

It is the first time at Rosemoor that any of the gardens have been designed around an ornamental water feature. A curved terrace allows visitors to look down across the plantings, while the terrace wall has five water blades which feed rills running through the garden to a teardrop-shaped pond.

The new design  builds upon the relaxed planting of the former Spiral Garden, which was designed by Tom Stuart-Smith in 1991, just three years after Rosemoor was gifted to the RHS by Lady Anne Palmer-Berry.

Many of the original plants will be incorporated into the new garden, but the portfolio of plants, particularly those with blue and white flowers, will be increased to 2,500 and the sinuous water feature will add a beautiful and reflective element.

Designer Jo says: “Having the opportunity to work on a flagship garden such as Rosemoor is a real privilege, by being able to make a landscape that is openly accessible to everyone to see and enjoy and be inspired by.”

Curator Jonathan Webster says: “Although we have natural streams at Rosemoor, we want to show our visitors how a designed landscape can help to deal with heavy rainfall.

“As well as the rills, the lower section of the garden will be a permeable resin-bound gravel to help reduce water run-off, showing how visitors can be inspired to find solutions at home.”

Construction began last August by a Devon-based company, Rural Stonework & Landscapes, who have built a couple of the show gardens at previous Chelsea shows.

Around 125 tons of Cornish stone from Trebarwith Quarry was used and it took over 6,000 man-hours to complete.

Plants specially selected include the silver birch Betula pendula Fastigiata Joes, selections of Hydrangea paniculata and philadelphus, an assortment of grasses to add movement and texture and Nepeta racemosa Walker’s Low, commonly called catmint.

RHS director of horticulture Tim Upson, who has been a leading light in the new garden’s installation, will officially declare it open on 16 August.

The three-day Garden Flower Show puts the accent on relaxation, unlike the crowd-crammed aisles at Chelsea and Hampton Court. And nurseries taking part will each create their own mini show garden and marquee.

More on this show will follow here nearer the time.

Cool Garden (drone)

■ Cool and clever: Top – Part of the Cool Garden showing the new plantings at ground level; above – a drone’s eye view of the entire complex, packed with 2,500 pastel plants.



Bring on the butterflies: Grow a buddleia for vibrancy – and winged visitors

Buddleia G


UDDLEIA spells butterflies. The tree – or is it a shrub? -may have something of an image problem, yet everyone should grow at least one, if only to attract tortoiseshells, red admirals, painted ladies and a glorious assortment of winged wonders.

No wonder they are dubbed the Butterfly Bush in our gardens.

Sometimes buddleias do odd things, such as start growing where they are not wanted.

That’s one reason why I’m writing these notes – all about a tiny seedling that put down its roots last year and which has now comfortably overtaken my personal 6ft 2in stature and – as I discovered to my delight only today – complete with at least one flower in the making.

I shall be interested to see what colour will emerge, hoping it will not turn out a bog-standard pale lilac – the sort you’ll find poking out from piles of rubble, rooting themselves in concrete cracks, sprouting from rail embankments or clinging on to house guttering, often annoyingly out of reach of the secateurs.

What makes my “rogue” buddleia particularly notable is its military uprightness, instead of spreading its stems wide.

I await the results!

As for species, there are several, plus hundreds of hybrids, though apart from the ball-shaped orange flowered Buddleja globosa – note the ‘j’ which has now crept into the scientific title – and alternifolia which looks totally different, most buddleias are the deciduous davidii with those familiar tapering, honey-scented blooms in lilac, purple, pale bluish, pink or burgundy red.

Conventional plants will grow to between 8ft and 10ft and a few have the added attraction of variegated leaves, such as the reddish-purple Harlequin.

Other worth growing are Black Knight in a handsome deep purple, White Profusion, complete with yellow eye, Royal Red, Nanho Blue and Pink Delight which lives up to its name as a modest 5ft specimen.

Some gardeners leave the old flower heads on all winter, but I don’t find them appealing one bit, so off they are snipped in late summer.

Then, in March, it’s brutality time – chopping my bush right back to about three or four buds and ridding it of any weak or spindly branches.

I hated this practice when I grew my first buddleia, convinced the shock of the chop would kill it off, but now I see it as essential maintenance for tidy future growth, rather than gratuitous bullying!

And do remember – don’t overfeed these hardy souls as they prefer roughing it rather than basking in a life of luxury. Give ’em sunshine for complete happiness, though some shade is tolerated, and don’t fret if the soil is only half-decent as anything will be preferable to builders’ rubble!

■ During World War 2 buddleias were nicknamed the Bombsite Plant because seedlings quickly colonised sites damaged or destroyed in the Blitz.

■ They arrived in the UK in 1896 from China and became popular garden choices . . . before they began their roguish rampage in the early 1920s.

Buddleia seedling G

■ Beauty and the brazen: Top –  My “legitimate” buddleia in all its blooming splendour; above – the lofty “rogue” among the roses which will soon show off its first flowers.

Roses: Ultra-fussy flowers that demand precision and perfection to perform

Rose MolyneuxG

TAKE my word for it, roses are right up at the top end of fussiness when it comes to providing them with all that they desire for performance-plus.

The nation’s most cherished flower they may be, but let your attention slip an inch and they will rebel.

Yes, roses grow on you, but yes, roses will also groan at you!

They do need space. Of all plants, roses perhaps are the ones to carry the greatest degree of hatred if they are hemmed in, especially if their foliage touches that of a non-rose “competitor”.

In pure-air regions, such as where I live in North Devon, most modern varieties will almost certainly succumb to black spot – a nasty fungal disease which can strip a bush of its leaves within two or three days. Once black spot disfigures the foliage there is no cure, but the condition can be kept at bay by spraying with a sulphur-based compound such as Sulphur Rose. This works well for my 70-odd varieties, though it would be misleading to say that every single leaf has escaped. Some varieties – reds and oranges in particular – demand very regular spraying.

Roses do respond to summertime pruning. After the first flower flush, instead of leaving the nondescript old stems to stay put, seek out an outward-pointing leaf joint about halfway down and snip it off. Feed with a quick-acting booster such as fish, blood and bone or Growmore and await the results – more blooms later in the season.

Roses relish life in the sun. They will cope with some shade, though anything too extreme will send them into a sulk – and eventually they will probably perish or simply become a non-mover.

Rose Baron Girod de l'Ain

Unlike many plants, roses don’t scream out on heavy, clay soil. In fact, they positively enjoy it, though if you plan to include one or two old-fashioned shrub roses in your collection, best to talk to the expert on hand as some less vigorous varieties from yesteryear covet increased TLC.

Do snip or pull out off any suckers. These are effectively wild rose growths from below the rootstock. If allowed to develop they will divert the sap from the cultivated rose and will – well – sap the plant of its energy. Suckers usually have paler green, narrower leaflets which tend to be more numerous than the parent plant’s. Don’t tug suckers too vigorously as you could end up pulling up the entire bush, so resort to the secateurs for safety if in doubt.

If you don’t enjoy hoeing around the roses, scatter a good mulch around each plant to suffocate the weeds and to keep the soil cooler when the sun beats down – as of late.

There are several more “do’s” and “don’ts”, but many can provoke wide disagreement, such as the best time to carry out the principal prune. Most books say March and this is no doubt wise for Midland and Northern gardens. Here in the South West I always cut back in December, provided the weather is frost-free and provided I’ve got the will to go out into the cold and do the job without a grumble!

Enjoy your roses. Treat ’em nice and they’ll reward you with a five-star show.

Rose Korresia

Ravishing roses: Top – English Rose Molyneux, named after the Wolves football ground; centre – Baron Girod de l’Ain, a real golden oldie from 1897 with bright crimson petals and a distinctive white edging; above – a refreshingly bright yellow, Korresia, from 1975 and a decent scent as bonus.

No midnight deadline for this ravishing Cinderella – 2019’s belle of the ball!

Delph Cinderella (Sut)

CINDERELLA is officially the belle of the ball – 2019-style – having swept everyone off their feet at the BBC Gardeners’ World Live Best New Plant Introduction.

Indeed, in the eyes of leading seed firm Suttons, this brand new delphinium in a rare dress of pink and green is a crowning glory all the way after waltzing into the arena to be hailed this year’s winner.

The spectacle, held earlier this month at the NEC in Birmingham, saw an array of new and exciting plant introductions for 2019 from across the industry. These were showcased on veteran TV gardener Peter Seabrook’s stand, known as the Plant Pyramid, with many new plants being part of this monumental display.

Peter said: “This is the biggest floral display that I have ever planned and helped to stage. It is a unique coming together of all the UK’s most well-known seed brands and many international breeding companies.” And Cinderella became one of the stars.

With tough criteria, the plants were judged on three main points:

Durability – Nominated plants were judged on their durability during the show itself, so were observed over four days from the start to the finish. This is unique to GWL and is one of the reasons why they announce the results on the Sunday at the end of the show.

Suitability – This being suitability to the British climate, so were scrutinised on how successfully a plant can be grown given the weather conditions experienced in Britain’s gardens.

Uniqueness of the flower – Where applicable, the flowers were judged for their unique attributes. This could have been a new or pure petal colour that’s never been seen before or breeding that gives the flowers that extra special something, making it stand out from other specimens. The award was open to all, as it does not exclude foliage plants, so cacti and succulents could also have featured in the line-up.

The selection of all the nominated new plants at the show was whittled down to just five.

These five plants were then delivered to Jim Buttress, chairman of Gardeners’ World Live, who was on the Floral Assessment Panel at GWL. The final five plants also featured on the Demo Bench, which was also at the show  – a stage in the Floral Marquee – where they were on display for the four days for continuous judging.

During this time, Jim consulted with many experts, celebrities and speakers, collating all of their opinions to arrive at the decision on the winning plant.

The delphinium Cinderella is a result of breeding by the world’s foremost specialist breeder. Far away in New Zealand, 20 years ago, one man decided to devote his life to delphiniums.

Terry Dowdeswell’s tireless breeding work has changed the very structure of these fine border plants, transforming them into cold tolerant, disease-proof, robust garden workhorses.

Terry has worked his magic again with this pure pink, triple flowered variety with green tips. Eight years of meticulous breeding has produced perfectly round flowers with no gaps between the florets. It’s these pink ‘tutu-like’ flowers, resembling Cinderella’s dress, that gave the plant its name.

The triple-layered blooms and pompon structure makes Cinderella far more robust than traditional delphiniums and an added vigour in the plants means the stems are strong like bamboo. Reaching a height of 4ft, this beautiful perennial ensures you no longer need a large garden to create the cottage garden look.

Devon-based Suttons are understandably thrilled to be celebrating this award winner Cinderella for 2019. This true princess will create the perfect cottage garden for a happy ever after!

Genus: Delphinium
Species: Elatum
Common name: Larkspur
Height/Spread: 4ft
Where to grow: Beds and borders
Type of plant: Hardy perennial
Attracts: Butterflies, bees
Climate: Full sun
Colour: Light pink, green tips 3262200

Cinderella pres (Sut)

Super Cinderella: Top – the pale pink, edged green petals of this stunning delphinium. Above – Peter Seabrook (left) with Gardeners’ World Live chairman Jim Buttress at the awards ceremony.

When you sniff a rose it’s all about scents and sensuality

Mme Isaac Pereire

SCENT is one topic I find difficulty in getting my head – or nose – around in the great gardening game when it comes to the nation’s most adored flower.

The sensual fragrances of the rose as you watch the sun go down take some beating. Alongside are honeysuckle, philadelphus, lilac, lily-of-the-valley, carnations, jasmine and sweet peas – all of them front runners when it comes to twitching our nostrils again and again and prompting the “Aah” factor.

Apart from roses, they all have their own distinctive aroma.

Yet I find it’s the world of roses that tests my personal perfume appreciation more than any other flower.

Call it scents and sensuality if you like. But be warned – it can also lead to bouts of disagreement.

I recall a Daily Mail piece on scent in which Chris Beardshaw hails the white floribunda Iceberg as having a “delicious lemon fragrance”. Really? My nose tells me this one is almost scentless.

David Austin went public with Rosemoor – named after the RHS centre of excellence in North Devon – in 2004 and states in his handbook that this English Rose has a “strong and delicious old rose fragrance but with additional hints of apple, cucumber and violet leaf”.

Well, I’ve grown this one since its public bow and rate its bouquet as OK but nothing spectacular.

Another of his English Roses – a breed created by the firm in the 1970s by combining old rose fragrance and charm with the vigour and repeat flowering qualities of modern HTs and floribundas – is Summer Song in a strikingly unusual burnt orange and said to exude “hints of chrysanthemum leaves, ripe bananas and tea.”

Not that I’ve grown this 2006 arrival, but it’s a narrative that would do justice to a wine expert’s page!

However famous the breeder, not one has control over the perfume package a new rose will offer. It’s totally hit and miss, in much the same way as a new variety’s foliage colour or quantity of thorns.

I’m reminded of one I grew many years ago – a white seedling of the veteran, and still in commerce,  HT Frau Karl Druschki which is totally devoid of scent. Yet it produced a delightful pure white seedling called Marcia Stanhope which – in a shade not normally famed for sweet redolence – I found it exuded an intoxicating fragrance, almost in defiance of its parentage.

Scent: It’s so much a subjective and personal topic!

Three golden oldies which I grow and which – in my book – are the most sniffable varieties out there are the pink bourbons Mme Isaac Pereire and La Reine Victoria, bred in 1880 and 1872, and another pink, the hybrid perpetual Mrs John Laing from 1887. This same plant, incidentally, has been growing in my various gardens since the word go – no, not from 1887, of course, but from when I bought it back in 1966, since when it has physically changed little and delivers those old-fashioned, globular blooms each and every year.

Finally, if scent – or lack of it – is your thing, consider the floribunda Megiddo, bred in the 1970s by the late Douglas Gandy in the most dazzling shade of orange-red imaginable. You’d think it would be rich in redolence, yet it is the most unscented rose I’ve encountered, if that’s possible. It’s well and truly non-scents!

You may as well go sniff a stone!

■ 375177

Rose Mrs John Laing1

Rose Megiddo

Sniffable and don’t bother: From top – Mme Isaac Pereire and Mrs John Laing, both beautifully scented, and Megiddo which seems to have zero fragrance.

Dwarf bulbs to make a giant spring impact . . . and autumn and winter too

Potterton 2019 1

DWARF BULBS that dot the spring garden with bright lights are as essential as the bigger players in the shape of daffodils and tulips in the same season.

If you’ve any doubts, check out the latest catalogue despatched by Pottertons Nursery & Garden.

There’s a feast of floral beauty and colour across its 32 pages.

Yet the flower that earns more catalogue columns than any other? Not that ubiquitous duo already mentioned, nor snowdrops nor irises, but . . . crocuses.

Yes, Rob and Jackie Potterton and their team at Nettleton, Lincolnshire, clearly adore this genus and dedicate no fewer than six columns to those irresistible species and hybrids.

Add to this another column and a half on the similar but unrelated colchicums and the dinkies are standing 6ft tall!

On the front cover are a cluster of Crocus chrysanthus Sunspot with the most alluringly bright orange petals which open to reveal a stunning and prominent black central style. At £12.50 each or £34.50 for three, you need to know what you are doing!

Not all are bank bruisers, though. Staying with the spring-flowering species, there’s tommasinianus Roseus in rose-pink at £2 for ten and £4.50 for 25, the very early ancyrensis with deep orange flowers (£1 for ten, £4.50 for 50), sieberi Tricolor with three distinct bands in lilac, white and yellow (£1/£4.50), versicolor Picturatus in pure white and striking purple stripes on both petal sides (£2 for five, £3.70 for ten), while for autumn blooming there’s goulimyi in pale to deep lavender and white throat (£1.50 each, £3.90 for three), medius in light purple and attractive orange pistils (£3 for ten, £13 for 50), nudiflorum in bright purple-violet in October (£2.50 each, £6.90 for three), or, for a couple of other “ouches,” try mathewii HKEP 9291 at £14 per bulb or £39 for three in white with violet-purple ring around the inside of the flower base, yellow anthers and red stigma, or mathewii Dream Dancer at £10 each or £28.50 for three and bearing light and purple patches dark centres and light, feathering flowers.

A pair of exclusive masterpieces, but do take care.

Elsewhere across its pages, the catalogue offers a gorgeous selection of autumn, winter and spring favourites, as well as a sprinkling of rare or tricky species.

From numerous alliums and anemones to the delights or erythronium, fritillaria and a fine assortment of bulbous and rhizome-type irises and narcissi and tulips to drool over – Potterton has the lotterton!

■ Those living within easy reach of the nursery should make a note of Saturday, 14 September, when Pottertons stage an open day from 10am to 4pm. Visitors are invited to choose from an extensive range of dwarf bulbs, alpines, woodland plants and dormant bulbs and walk the beautiful landscape gardens. Expert advice, refreshments and nibbles are all on hand.

Potterton 2019 2

■ Beautiful bulbs: Top – Front page of the new Pottertons catalogue; above – a bulb bonanza on the back page.