It’s turning out to be a funny old season. Just as the interest in seasonal British flowers is growing – highlighted by Wendy’s involvement with the Flowers From The Farm gold medal at RHS Chelsea – it feels as though our unpredictable British weather is firmly reminding all of us British growers not to get too big for our heavy-duty boots.
The freezing, sodden early spring followed by the persistent hot, dry weather has made this year’s growing season an incredibly difficult one. Annuals have been struggling to establish strong root systems and the incredible heat of our propagation polytunnel has put our seedlings at severe risk of scorch – we have been moving them all outside much earlier than usual in an effort to keep them slightly cooler.
What the dry conditions have highlighted, however, is that plants in our beds with higher levels of organic matter are stronger and more resilient, in particular where we are already using no-dig methods. This is welcome reassurance that our continually developing practices are heading in the right direction.
Perennials that have been in the ground for two or three seasons are also continuing to show vigour. Our absolute star of the season is achillea – a close relative of the native yarrow. We love achillea – we grow it in a range of colours from white ‘The Pearl’, through the palest pinks to the most vibrant, to terracotta and bright yellow. If you don’t yet have achillea in your garden, we highly recommend adding it for summer colour in your borders as well as in a jug of cut flowers for your kitchen table.
Difficult conditions aside, the first half of 2018 has been incredible. We know you won’t mind saying again that we were overwhelmed by the response to our Crowdfunder campaign. That was closely followed by a visit from Mary Berry as part of the BBC’s preparation for RHS Chelsea flower show and being awarded the Virgin Unite Impact Award at the Virgin VOOM Awards. We were also delighted recently by support from the Honourable Company of Gloucestershire Charitable Trust, who awarded us a grant to purchase shades and pergolas for our trainees to work under.
Most importantly it’s been a delight to see some of our trainees really gaining in confidence as they develop their skills and experience; being able to think about the possibilities of the future instead of focusing on the past is an enormous step forward for them.
The generosity of our crowdfunding supporters is coming to fruition as our new multispan polytunnel goes up. The frame is up and we’re all hopping with excitement at the scale of the space – it opens up so many possibilities for us. It’s also lovely to meet so many of you who contributed; we hope you’re enjoying the various reward events as much as we are. Thanks once again to all of you and thanks as well to the organisations who are supporting our reward events. Your contributions demonstrate to our trainees that other people believe in them and all that they are capable of achieving.