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May 2013

Opening Event for Hill top Farm

Last night, I held my opening party at Hill top Farm.

I'd chosen the end of May as the weather would be on my side, the plants would all be in the ground, and it would be a balmy evening, so lots of people would come. - Well I was wrong about everything, apart from the lots of people would come bit. I had a fantastic time, and had a lovely evening, talking to loads of people, about my plants, and plans for them when they actually get to flowers. - Lots of friends and family, but also new neighbours.

So here are some images, by Matt Pereira, of how the evening went.

For a party, you have to have fizz, and nibbles. (the nibbles were all English and local, the fizz was from slightly further afield!)

Pouring the fizz

I'm toasting the loads of Horse manure i've been brought to fertilise my soil.

Toasting the horse manure

My Barn and Polytunnel were used to shelter from the Rain, but the Sweet peas decided it was too cold to come out to play.

Interest in the polytunnel

Some even braved the field straight away.

Gale outside

and for some the wind was fun

Phoebe at full speed

Then the rain finally stopped, so I got everyone outside to say some thank you's

Saying thank you

and my long suffering, and very supportive husband Ashley got to cut the ribbon (of course we'll be using Raffia from now on....)

Ribbon cutting

Then the skies lightened somewhat, and even more people arrived, and there was much discussion about Compost, and Pests.

On the field talking about pests

and even some people looking at the plants

Field wandering

and every single cupcake with edible lilac flowers on them went

Cupcakes for opening

Thank you everyone who turned up, and looked, and read my signs, and listened to me. I'll keep you all informed of how those flowers are doing.




All photos Copyright Matt Pereira.


Progress at Hill Top Farm - Nearly a flower farmer

This week for the first time, i've really felt like flower farming is my proper job, - rather than something i'm just doing in my spare time.

On Monday, - I made my first English flower sheaf, for a real customer, that i'd never met before. - She'd found me through Facebook contacts, and was giving a handmade Sussex Trug basket to a friend for a special birthday, and could I do a sheaf of English flowers to go in it. - Well, I could, and I did, but in my excitement, I forgot to take a photo!, - so you'll have to make do with photos, of the flowers i've got coming on in the Polytunnel, and those I took to my son's school fair on Saturday.

First sweetpea and other flowers-3
Yes that is the first Sweet peas, - Variety Beaujolais, - Sown on the 11th November, in Root trainers.- I'm hoping for lots more of them over the next few weeks.The scent was amazing, and I took it to the fair, to show it off.

And i've still got this lot to go out on the field, before my Opening event on Friday.

Full polytunnel with seedlings-1
So what am I doing sitting here writing this? - I've got work to do. - Catch you later.

When less is more - no pruning, low maintenance, great results

This weekend, I returned to a garden which i've been helping develop borders in over the last year. - I'll be blogging about the borders over the coming weeks, as we're rather pleased with how they look at the moment, but today I wanted to show you that sometimes, doing nothing is better.

Osmanthus Burkwoodii no pruning-1
This Shrub / tree is Osmanthus, probably Burkwoodii, - I wish this blog had smellivision, as the scent from it was wonderful.

When I first visited this garden, it had regular work done on it, but unfortunately the gardeners were rather keen on pruning, and not so keen on removing ground elder and bindweed. This Osmanthus had been neatly clipped

Osmanthus burkwoodii before-2
As a result, there were hardly any flowers, - the flower buds had all been cut off. This year, - it hasn't been touched, at all, - and the results are rather spectacular. That's the kind of low maintenance gardening results I like.


Village Plant Sales, - 5 reasons to buy locally

This weekend the 11th May, between 2 and 4 pm, i'll be at my local village hall helping my Garden Society raise funds by selling plants. - They'll be tea and cakes as well, plus the books and gadgets that tend to get swapped around at these do's. - I know it's not the only one happening locally, - and Twitter is full of planty people potting up, labelling up (4 pint plastic milk bottles cut up nicely into labels!) and sorting through excess seedlings, propagated plants, and layered shrubs.


So why should you go along to your local plant sale, (apart from the promise of cake!)

1) If plants have done well enough for your neighbours that they have seedlings or plants they can split, then they'll be likely to do well in your similar soil too

2) There are always people who've grown the plants for years and years, and can give amazing advice about what will work for you

3) You're supporting a local group, - my garden society plant sale is the main fundraiser for the year, and pays for the hall hire and some of our speakers.

4) There are always unusual gems, that are no longer for sale in most garden centres, or are "out of fashion" Snap these up and be ahead of the trend, - see what's happened to Dahlias and Chrysanths!

5) You can bag some bargains, The odd 50p or £1 will send you away with horticultural treasures to enjoy for this year and those to come.

If you're near to Horsley in Surrey, come along to the West Horsley Village Hall on Saturday afternoon, 2-4pm and say hi, - i've got veg plants, Astrantias, Achillea and Briza Maxima among others that i'm taking along. you can come in for 50p, or 3 plants! - and save room for the cake.

If your hosting or going to a Plant Sale this weekend, - add it in the comments, and lets get growing locally.

Unusually rewarding tulips

I'm a great Tulip fan, - i've written about them before here  and here, and I probably have about 10 varieties growing in my front garden, but i'd not grown Parrot tulips before this year.

These beauties (Irene Parrot is the orange, and Roccoco is the red) are flowering now at Hill top farm. - They were planted in crates last Autumn, and have been shoved in a corner in my garden, then dragged up to the farm, and balanced on high ladders to stop Squirrels and other pests getting them, and i'm now being rewarded with wonderful blooms. - They'll be on the list again for next year.

Weeding large areas, The hoe is back in favour

Weeds, - the bane of every gardener. - All those plants in the wrong place, all those fast spreading seedlings that take over as soon as your back is turned......

Now i'm a great believer in plants in the right place, ground cover so that weeds can't get to the soil surface, And i'm a great fan of detailed hand weeding to ensure that roots are removed, and perennials are reduced, but there are 3 times when a sharp hoe, with a light root cutting technique wins every time.

Hoed borders-1
1) - in the year after creating a border, when weed seeds will have been brought to the surface by all the soil preparation and planting. - A good hoeing session will get rid of all the annual weeds before they've seeded. These borders were created last April. The plants are doing well, but havn't knitted together at full spread yet, so hoeing the annual seeds was a great way to clear the border. - Note, the Marestail coming through - Hoeing will have no effect on that.

2) - When you've got a dry flat area that is going to be used as a path - Like here Inside my Polytunnel. The borders were hand weeded, and a thick layer of Mulch/Organic compost put on them to plant into, - but the pathways have been hoed each week to keep weeds at bay

Polytunnel pathway-1
3) Between straight rows of Vegetables or flowers, - - straight, so that you can identify those which are weedlings and seedlings, Often, so that they don't get a chance to take over.


When Hoeing isn't such a good idea

When the soil is wet, -

When you've got plants close together,

When you'll be disturbing the soil surface and bringing up weed seeds to the light.

Here's to keeping those weeds under control this season. - Don't forget the saying 1 year of seeds is 7 years of weeds!