Garden Lupins

According to Bob Brown, lupins are one of the few perennials gardeners should buy from seed companies. Photograph: Alamy

In this month’s issue of Which? Gardening magazine there’s an article by Bob Brown of Cotswold Garden Flowers, one of Britain’s top plantspeople and nursery growers, about growing perennials from seed.

In it he says: “My experience is that seed of perennials will only reliably germinate if it’s sown immediately, certainly within the month. If it gets as far as a packet or a seed catalogue it’s already too old.” And also… “My advice generally would be not to buy seed of perennials.” Yes, he recommends home gardeners not buy seed of perennial plants. The only exceptions he mentions are “lupins, delphiniums, cactus and other succulents”.

I have a huge respect for Bob: he’s a fine plantsman, a fine grower and as a judge of the Royal Horticultural Society’s plant trials, his insight and unvarnished opinions are invaluable. But, in this case, I’m afraid he’s just plain wrong. The only perennial seeds to buy from catalogues are delphiniums and lupins? I don’t think so. Over the years I’ve raised thousands of perennials from bought seed, fresh seed and seed found in brown paper bags in the back of the shed. Most of it comes up.

It’s a shame that Bob’s recommendation could prevent gardeners from growing a vast range of fine garden plants.

Richard Oliver, the UK manager of Jelitto Perennial Seeds, whose catalogue lists seed of over 3,700 perennials and who’ve been in business for more than 50 years, also disagrees with Bob: “His comment is frankly wrong. Some of the seed packet stuff may be too old, or more likely, have been stored in really unsuitable conditions, but his comments are otherwise nonsense. All the world’s seed banks would be useless if he was right.”

In fact Jelitto told me that their minimum germination percentage on, for example, many achilleas and on Echinacea purpurea is 75%; if a batch of seed has less than 75% germination they just don’t sell it. In fact their tests show that 94% of these seeds can germinate within a week of sowing.

Seed of another popular perennial, Astrantia major, needs a cold spell before it will germinate but actual germination tests at Jelitto show 72% to 88% germination.

For twenty years Derry Watkins has run Special Plants in Wiltshire where she not only raises a huge range of perennials from seed, but teaches seed-raising techniques to gardeners. She also disagrees with Bob: “I think he’s mad. Most perennial seed will germinate after five to 10 years if kept cold and dry. It may not be quite so quick or prolific, but you get the plants you want. Fresh is best, but with good storage conditions, old is fine. I sow two or three-year-old seed all the time without a problem.”

And what do we make of the fact that scientists from the Russian Institute of Cell Biophysics announced last year that they had regenerated plants from frozen seed of Silene stenophylla found in Siberia and carbon dated to 31,800 years old?

Sorry Bob, but we just don’t agree. In your article you emphasize raising plants from seed collected from our own, and our neighbors’ gardens. Fine. But most commercial seed suppliers know how to store seed correctly, and test it regularly, so that when it’s delivered it’s ready to sow, and ready to grow. OK, some needs special treatment. But advising gardeners not to buy seed of perennials at all cuts them off from an economical way to raise thousands of fine garden plants.

• This is an edited version of a recent post on Graham Rice’s Transatlantic Gardener blog. Graham Rice is editor-in-chief of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Encyclopedia of Perennials.

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Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen

by Megan Westgate, executive director of the Non-GMO Project, and Courtney Pineau, assistant director of the Non-GMO Project We all know humans beings need food to survive. And it may be equally obvious we need seeds in order to have …

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Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen

by guest blogger Renee James, essayist and blogger On April 17, 1915, my late uncle’s parents, Tony and Anna Sabatino, selected and purchased furniture to fill their home as newlyweds. Their entire order, totaling $202.45, included the following, and I …

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Is this a mortage complication???


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DefaultIs this a mortage complication???

My husband and I have managed to sell our home that leaves us with a 20%deposit on the size/type of house we have been looking for.

Here is the problem. We have been unable to buy a property to our liking. Wehave had three generous final offers rejected (Two have been over the homereport value).

We need to be out of our current home in a few weeks. Due to thetime constraints and the fear of losing our buyer we are considering renting for three/six months so not to rush in to a purchase.

My question is does this gap cause problems for a mortgage application due to the fact we will only berenting for a short period of time?

Thank you in advance for any advice you can give. Everyone keeps telling me the purchase part is the fun part…… It is not working out that way for us.

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Who told you the purchase was the fun part?

The looking part is the fun part, the purchasing process is horrible, stressful and frustrating!

I cannot think of any significant issues arising from you renting temporarily whilst you purchase, just get on the electoral list as soon as you can.

The problem with principles is sometimes they serve no purpose other than to make the holder of said principle righteously indignant. Righteous indignation doesn’t get you a refund for your item, but I guess it allows you the opportunity to chunter away on the internet. Fluffnutter

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Granite boulders on Bodmin Moor

Granite boulders on Bodmin Moor. Photograph: Tom Hoblyn


Drove down to Cornwall for a few days; part business, part recreational. Typically, on crossing the River Tamar, it began to rain (and continued pretty much all week).


I have clients in Oxfordshire who spend a month each year in Cornwall and wish me to design a Cornish element in their garden. Today I am meeting them on Bodmin Moor to choose some granite.

The Cornish Landscaping Granite Company is a wonderful exercise in farm diversification. Their farm is littered with boulders, each one sculpted by the elements over thousands of years. As landscapers, designers and architects buy them, so the farm gains more grass for grazing.

What we are looking for is a shapely boulder to use as a kind of sculptural focal point and bird bath to sit on a lawn. They have young children so it is likely to be used as a climbing frame too. At the summit of the nearby Trewortha Tor is King Arthur’s Bed: an eroded series of bowls resembling a body in the foetal position. Legend has it that this was where King Arthur slept – in great discomfort, I imagine. I want to find a tor-like slab into which we can carve a bowl, but one that is also low and child-friendly. It didn’t take too long; John Mainwaring (one of the owners) had sought out some possibilities previously.

Interestingly, my client spied a smaller partner boulder to be used in a kind of Zen mother/daughter way, which was a fantastic idea. We also found a seat-like boulder that will be placed to enjoy the magnificent view at their Oxfordshire home.


I went back up to the farm to determine the size of bowl to be carved into the rock. By the time I had got there, Graham and John (the owners) had carefully lifted the stones and had them in the yard. The boulders are well colonised with various mosses, lichens and sedum that I am keen to preserve if possible. I suspect the drier climate of their new home may not help though.

With the bowl size marked out in chalk, Graham began cutting immediately. There is pressure from the contractors to get the stone up to site quickly while they still have hired machinery capable of moving three tonnes of granite about.


A quick visit back up to the farm to see the finished bowl – it was perfect.


Thomas Hoblyn's 2011 Chelsea show garden
Thomas Hoblyn’s 2011 Chelsea show garden, which has now been relocated to the Eden Project in Cornwall. Photograph: Rex Richardson/Alamy/Alamy

Back in 2011, my Chelsea flower show garden was relocated to a permanent home at the Eden Project owing to its Cornish themes and planting. My then-sponsors Homebase kindly made this happen and now it sits snugly amongst the biomes.

Tonight I am giving a talk about the garden’s journey to the Friends of Eden – a very relaxed affair with lots of plant-related discussion. I was able to have a good look at the garden and it has really blossomed. The tree ferns were in full frond and some wonderful Aralia provides an excellent backdrop to the pool. Sure enough, some children were paddling in the streams just as was always intended.

St Nectan's Glen waterfall near Tintagel, Cornwall
St Nectan’s Glen waterfall near Tintagel, Cornwall. Photograph: Tom Hoblyn


Couldn’t resist an invitation to see The Taming of the Shrew at the open air Minack Theatre. I truly recommend a visit for the sheer magnificence of the place alone: an amphitheatre carved into the granite cliffs above Porthcurno surrounded by the sea. Someone has been very clever with the exotic planting with various succulents such as Aloe and Crassula colonise every nook and cranny in the rocks. A beautiful stand of Leucadendron argenteum flank the entrance, underplanted with Aeonium and Limonium.

It heaved it down with rain but the play and scenery helped distract us from the elements – even the gannets put on a great diving show during the interval.


The drive back up to Suffolk from the south-west tip of Cornwall is a long one, worsened by the extra traffic created by the traditional changeover day for cottage rentals.

I started early and stopped at St Nectan’s Glen near Tintagel for breakfast and quick peek at the amazing waterfall, which I had to myself at that time of day.


The granite boulders in their new home in Oxfordshire
The granite boulders in their new home in Oxfordshire. Photograph: Tom Hoblyn

The granite boulders arrived safe and sound in Oxfordshire and I was back on site (still raining) to assist in the positioning for best effect. Adept machinery handling by our contractors Creative Landscapes made the process extremely easy. Within a couple of hours we had them placed ready to be partially submerged into the soil and turf as though they had been there for years. The rain may actually help.

Thomas Hoblyn is a landscape and garden designer. This is the latest in a series of posts on the ups and downs of a life spent creating beautiful gardens.

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Sean Cameron enters his sweetcorn in the local produce show: but will he triumph?

You can view more videos and blogs at The Horticultural Channel, and follow Sean on Twitter at @hortchanneltv and Facebook. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Hedgehog in grass

Photograph: Nacivet/Getty Images

For the last two nights I have sat in my mum’s garden, wrapped in a blanket, waiting for a hedgehog. It comes at around 10.30, snuffling through the border to eat the leftover cat food my mum puts out.

It’s a tiny little thing. I want to weigh it to see if it will survive hibernation but, so far, I’ve failed. The first night it came and ran away as soon as I dashed inside to get the scales, and the second night it didn’t show up – perhaps because it was raining, or maybe because there was a strange figure sitting on the garden bench in the rain, wrapped in a blanket.

Recently voted Britain’s national species in a BBC Wildlife poll, the hedgehog is declining rapidly (a 2011 report suggested a decline of 25% in 10 years). There are numerous factors linked to its demise, including a loss of habitat in the countryside and use of pesticides. Many are killed by motorists each year, and others drown in ponds, burn in bonfires, are injured by strimmers or poisoned by slug pellets in our gardens.

Yet, with a little effort, our gardens can be real refuges for hedgehogs. As long as there are holes under fences for them to travel through, and ponds are made safe, bonfires are checked before lighting and long grass is checked before strimming, they have every chance of survival. A leaf pile, log pile or compost heap can make the perfect nest site or hibernaculum, and wildlife-friendly slug pellets (or, preferably, no slug pellets at all), can ensure hedgehogs aren’t poisoned while they eat our slugs.

It’s also worth keeping an eye out for small ones in the run-up to winter, especially if you see any outside during the day. Hedgehogs typically hibernate between October and March, and before entering hibernation they build up their fat stores so they have enough reserves to keep them going without food until spring. Sometimes they have difficulty putting on enough fat in time – there can be many reasons for this, including bad weather – but a few are born so late in the year that by the time they leave the nest there is no natural food available for them to eat.

I don’t think the one visiting my mum’s garden is a baby, but I’ll weigh it anyway and then if it still looks small in a month I’ll weigh it again and check in with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) to see if it needs help. It’s only September, so in the meantime I’ll make sure mum keeps leaving food out until it’s no longer taken, but if it’s injured or looks unwell then I’ll call the BHPS for advice.

If hedgehogs visit your garden regularly, now is the time to give them an extra helping hand. Providing supplementary food and water can dramatically increase their chances of surviving hibernation, especially if you feed them again in spring, when their fat reserves are low and they have little energy to find food.

Meaty dog or cat food is readily taken (apparently hedgehogs prefer chicken or turkey flavour), and don’t forget a dish of water. Never give them bread and milk as this can make them ill.

Why not team up with your neighbours and become a Hedgehog Champion as part of the Hedgehog Street campaign? And if you do see a hedgehog out in the day, or find one that appears injured or is still very small, then call the BHPS for advice. You could save its life.

Beneficial Organic Horticulture Information, Advice, And Tips

Organic gardening is extremely popular nowadays however, many individuals are afraid to dip their toes in it. It is because people often feel too discouraged or incompetent to test something which sounds as complicated and strange as organic horticulture. On the other hand, the next article contains many tips and hints that may simplify the procedure which help you switch that daunting idea into a pleasurable hobby in your garden.

Look for that variants of a plant that provide the best yield. Often times, a cold-tolerant or disease-resistant hybrid could have a higher yield versus traditional ones.

Ensure that your soil is good enough before you begin planting anything. Pay a fee to possess your soil analyzed, and you will be glad that you simply did whenever you know very well what nutrients your soil is lacking. The price of the analysis is going to be easily offset through the advantages of a healthy and vibrant crop.

Start a new garden from seeds. While planting a garden, the easiest way would be to initially begin with seeds. The issue is those plastic trays which end up in landfills and aren’t generally recycled. Plants in organic packagingn or seeds sown in your garden, are fine .

Always fertilize your garden. Manure is really a great garden additive, but it’s essential that you choose a manure that’s been composted commercially to ensure that there’s a smaller amount of a chance of pathogens. It is crucial that you utilize some kind of fertilizer, even though it doesn’t actually matter which variety you select.

Protect yourself from sun overexposure while horticulture by putting on the correct clothing. Try wearing a large sunhat and sunglasses to safeguard the face and eyes, and employ sunscreen on any exposed skin. Protecting yourself from the sun is the greatest method to prevent sunburns and skin cancer.

To draw in insects which will benefit your garden, plant heather. Heather is ideal for getting bees to stop by at the outset of spring, as heather plants have nectar available at the start of the season. Beds of heather are largely undisturbed and make a perfect living space for spiders, beetles and a number of other beneficial tenants. Due to this, you need to put on a set of gloves when it is time for you to prune the heather.

Organic Horticulture Overview

You should keep the temperature set between 65 and 75 degrees, in order to raise plants within the home. Plants need a warmer climate to grow. Discover wanting your house to be this warm in the winter, you should use a heat lamp on the plants. Especially obvious when walking on the garden walks.

Pine could make for a great kind of mulch. Some plants have a naturally high acidic level, and for that reason like acidic soil. If you’re growing these kinds of plants, simply collect fallen pine needles for use in your garden. Cover the beds with a couple inches of needles so that as they decompose, they’ll disperse acid towards the soil, great for an eco-friendly garden.

Whenever you keep in mind the guidelines, tricks and advice within this article, the possibilities of organic gardening shouldn’t seem so fearful. Make use of the tips you’ve just read, as well as your yard with produce a bountiful crop, and you will enjoy foods which are pure and wholesome, soon.