TheStars of the Chelsea Flower Show 2012

Thymus ‘Jekka’, Artemisia absinthium, Wormwood,Mentha longifolia subsp schimperi Eastern Mint, Atriplex hortensis var. rubra Red Orach, Papaver rhoeas Field Poppy.

I always find it truly amazing that, however worried I get before Chelsea  and whatever the vagaries of the weather, the plants seem to know that it is ‘Show Time’ and simply shine on the day.  Who would have thought it would have been possible to have the Poppy in flower especially as, one week before the show, they were still buds.

Papaver rhoeas, Poppy  and Linum perenne, Flax.

We grew them for 2 show gardens, the Arthritis Research Garden and the  L’Occitane Immortelle Garden, and used the surplus stock in our own display.  The simple splash of red draws you eye to see even more detail within the garden.

Istatis tinctoria, Woad looked stunning in the L’Occitane Immortelle Garden  and also the Renault garden in the new Fresh garden section of the show.

Istatis tinctoria, Woad, with Silybum marianum, Milk Thistle in front

This is a traditional dye plant which produces a blue/grey dye from the mature leaves. As a dye plant it has now been nearly superseded by indigo.

Isatis tinctoria, Woad, in full yellow flower under planted with Allium schoenoprasum, Chives,and Nepeta x faassenii, Catmint.

We also battled with the cornflowers for the RBC Blue Water garden and even they sprung into flower just in time.

Centaurea cyanus, Cornflower

But the star of this year, as in many previous years,was Angelica. It looked architecturally splendid on the M&G garden.

Angelica archangelica, Angelica

It also attracted the honey bees which were being constantly photographed on our stand.

The question of the show was about Alkanet and Borage as many seemed confused as to which was which .

To make it quite clear. Alkanet, like its first cousin Comfrey, is a herbaceous perennial reappearing each year in the same place.  It is not edible,  the roots produce a red dye which was traditional used to colour rouge.  Borage, on the other hand, is an annual herb which will happily self seed itself all round your garden.  The leaves and flowers are edible and medicinal. The flowers are synonymous with the drink  Pimm’s.

As we close on this years Chelsea we are already in full preparation for 2013, the 100th Chelsea Flower Show, which will, I am sure, be as spectacular as this year has been.

Thymus ‘Jekka’

2012 Happy New Year from Jekka’s Herb Farm

Happy New Year to you all.

A new season has started, the days are getting longer and the seeds are  beginning to germinate. This is the ideal time to start  sowing some varieties of  seed under protection so that  you can get a head start on the year.

The seeds which benefit from an early start include many of the annual herbs which will mean that you can have them flowering as early as possible. Calendula, Borage, Nasturtiums are the prime ones and also the salad herbs such as  Wild Rocket, Parsley and especially Purple Shiso. Not only does the Shiso look great in the garden, it, like the other two salad herbs mentioned, is ideal  to whet the appetite after the glut of  winter root vegetables.

There are two watch points at this time of year, first is watering. Be very careful  not to over water, but also do not stress the young plants by letting them dry out. Check the weight of the container before watering as the surface of the compost can look dry when the root ball is actually wet .

The second major watch point is ventilation. Open up the poly tunnel, glasshouse or window, when ever possible and certainly if the temperature rises to double figures in the day.  Only cover tender young or newly potted plants with horticultural fleece when the night temperature drops below 5C.

Just recently I have been enchanted each morning  by the most delightful Song Thrush, it has the most uplifting song.  I checked, via the RSPB, that my identification was correct and discovered with great sadness that this

 wonderful bird is on the red endangered list.

So please could you add to your new years resolution to be to be more sustainable and organic in the garden, for  the Thrush is a good friend to the gardener eating snails.  Then our grandchildren , in years to come, will also be able to be enchanted by the Song Thrush.

© Jekka McVicar , Jekka’s Herb Farm,  January 2012.

Bee happy

Summertime, and the bees are buzzing, the butterflies are flitting, the hoverflies are, well, hovering and the herbs are looking, tasting and smelling wonderful! A drop of sunshine on the leaves brings the oils to the surface, and the aroma is literally sensational – makes your mouth water. Then there’s the flowers, full with nectar, enticing a host of most welcome lodgers to the farm.

Bee on a Borage flower

We’re big on bees, beneficial insects and biodiversity (which simply means the diversity of all the living things around us). Bees and butterflies are necessary for pollination, and by providing them with a natural habitat in which to thrive, we are not just doing our bit to keep the planet happy, but we are actually helping to increase our yields. Increasing biodiversity in the garden is common sense really.

Hence our Soil Association organic status, and peat-free  growing. We grow a lot of Butterfly & Bee herbs, and now that the herb farm’s in flower, it’s just buzzing!

Thyme for a Bumble (Woolly Thyme)

Bee-autiful lavender (Ashdown Forest)

Bees particularly love blue and violet colours, so borage, catmintcornflower, echium, flax,  lavender and polemonium bee-come  magnets. For more butterfly, bee and beneficial insect herbs,  Search on our website, and under the dropdown list, ‘Uses’, choose ‘Biodiversity’…and get your garden buzzing!

Gnoming in on Jekka’s Gold at Malvern

All Jekka’s hard, herb work paid off at the Malvern Spring Gardening Show last week.

“I’m over the moon to be awarded a Gold Medal” says Jekka ” because this shows everyone that organic herbs can look amazing, never mind their countless other benefits!” 

Jekka's Gold Medal winning Herb Display at the Malvern Show

Jekka’s little mascot ( infamous for his appearance at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2009) managed to get in on the act too:

Borage the Gnome, taking the credit

Jekka’s ‘Eat Native’ talk on edible herbs in the ‘Garden in Harmony’ theatre was very well received: even an audience full of experienced gardeners are often delighted to find they can actually eat what they might previously have believed to be just ornamental flowers ( Pot Marigold, Borage, Angelica, Chives to name but a few).
 
While all this was going on, said mascot disappeared for a while, turning up in the most unexpected places:
 
Borage at the Dibleys Nurseries stand at Malvern
..and Borage again, on the Fernatix stand at Malvern

Who knows what he’ll get up to at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show next week!

 
 
 
 
 

Making use of the Overheads

It’s been a dry old spring, that’s for sure. In the run up to RHS Chelsea Flower Show, we’re watering our show plants like crazy things and this year, unlike previous years, we’re working hard to hold them back. Everything’s topsy turvy. Still, we’re proud to report that the show plants are doing just beautifully – see these Chives that we’re growing for Bunny Guinness, for the M&G Investment Garden:

Chives for Chelsea

But even when we’re busier than a bee in a Borage field, it’s so important to take the time to appreciate nature, and the genuine pleasure and benefits the natural world gives us – after all this is one of the very reasons why we’re in the organic growing business!  So, when staff member, horticulturist, Harriet stumbled across this frog (who we’d like to name Myrtle owing to the plant of his choice but this might cause gender confusion) water-worshipping beneath the overhead watering system, we just had to smile, and be thankful. Of course, his slug-eating attributes will be very much appreciated by all of the team.

Making use of the overheads

Perhaps he chose Myrtle because it’s the herb of love: ‘Frog, seeks princess – meet under the Myrtle at 7′. Well, it will have to be the nearest stream, because we’ve moved him to a safe, damp spot. Here, hopefully, he will go forth and multiply, thus increasing our organic slug patrol.