Here’s the thing to do right now in this ridiculous weather…
Everything is late, which is fantastic news, because that means YOU can be late too!
Invest in some really gorgeous containers and fill them with prettiness that will last you until the first frosts.
This is all the gardening you may want to do this year.
I’ve made up four beauties – two large sweet pea containers, one pot of scented-leaved pelargoniums and one of lobelia.
For the ultimate sweet pea tower you need:
A large, deep container. I used the Arc Pot (shrub size)
A bag of well-rotted horse manure
A bag of peat-free multi-purpose compost
Some bits of polystyrene or some crocks
A climbing frame for your sweet peas. I used these willow runner bean poles
Sweet Pea seedlings
Scatter some crocks or polystyrene bits at the bottom of the pot. This will aid drainage, and avoid compost wasteage.
Now mix your manure and multi-purpose – half and half in a wheel barrow or really large bucket. This makes for a really rich compost that your sweet peas will love and adore.
Fill the pot so there is about 5cm between its rim and the surface of the compost
Now put the willow sticks evenly around the edge, (I put eight sticks in each pot), sticking them into the compost firmly, so that they go about half way down the pot, and get up on a chair or ladder to tie the tops together with string. You’ll notice that the thing already looks fabulous with no plants at all. One on each side of a doorway, or flanking a pathway, or framing a view and your garden is instantly transformed.
Plant your sweet pea seedlings carefully and with reverence, just inside each willow stick, by making a hole in the compost and easing each plant into place with as little root disturbance as possible. If your seedlings are not separate, then don’t try to separate them into singles. Instead, pull away a clump of two or three and plant that. Remember to firm them in gently, but without being too tentative about it.
Once there is a seedling per stick, your work is nearly done. Water the whole thing with the contents of a large watering can, with its rose attached. In a couple of weeks, you will need to start gently tieing them to your willow sticks.
Here are the sweet pea rules:
Never let the compost dry out. Ever.
Feed weekly with a general purpose liquid fertiliser (I use seaweed extract), and then when they are about to flower, switch to weekly feeding with tomato food.
Pick the flowers assiduously and don’t let them turn into seeds (which look like hairy mange-tout).
Put vases of sweet peas by your bed, at your desk, in your downstairs loo and put extra ones in your hair. Give posies of sweet peas to every single one of your friends, all summer long.
For a scented pelargonium pot fit for the chicest terrace you need:
One large low container. I used The Arc Rosemary pot.
John Innes No 2 compost
Peat-free multi-purpose compost
a few crocks
Scented-leaved pelargoniums. I used 6x Lady Grey Plymouth, and one Mrs Stapleton. I also love these collections, if you can’t choose. This will create a cloud effect in the container, which I love. These Pelargoniums come from a specialist nursery and are absolutely beautifully grown. They will last right through the winter if you have space to bring the pot indoors, or you can take cuttings from them and have the same thing, and more next year for absolutely nothing (I’ll show you how later in the year). These will arrive at the end of June, which is plenty of time for a fantastic display, but of course, if you absolutely can’t wait, then get some from your local nursery. NB you want scented-leaved pelargoniums, rather than zonal pelargoniums, which are lovely in themselves, but not quite so SPECIAL.
Mix the compost up so that it’s two thirds John Innes no 2 and one third multi-purpose, scatter a few crocks in the bottom of the container and fill with your compost mixture, to about 5cm below the rim of the pot.
Now plant your babies around the perimeter. Six plants around the edge of the Arc Rosemary pot, with one in the centre is perfect.
Finally , water the whole thing in well with half a large can of water, using the rose so you don’t dislodge compost.
Here are the scented-leaved pelargonium rules:
Feed weekly with a liquid tomato food
Deadhead with verve
Use the leaves and flowers in cakes (click here), ice cream (click here) and drinks (just crush or wizz up with sugar, or add to ice cubes)
The third pot, another Arc Rosemary, was filled with lobelia for more clouds of fluff (I like pouffy things). The shops are full of this type of suff right now…nemesia, diascia, erigeron. I have no idea when any of this will get going and flower…the weather being so extraordinarily ODD and confusing – but sumptuous, technicolour pictures WILL follow, I promise (even if it happens in November).