Stephanie’s Blog

A Good Solution for Mildewy Acanthus

acanthus with leaves removed
I gave up growing acanthus some years ago because the leaves become so ugly in late summer when mildew takes hold and finishes of the job started by slugs and snails. On my recent visit to Glyndebourne I was very taken with gardener Dawn Aldridge’s in the Exotic Garden – she cuts off all the leaves and transforms the flowering stems into something much more interesting. This treatment also allows the new foliage to come through unimpeded.

It’s in the Bag

bag of potatoes on scal
crop of potatoes being unearthed
proof of potato crop in bag
thompson and morgan trial potato crop
the new shrink wrap bag effect for plants
bag of potatoes on scalcrop of potatoes being unearthedproof of potato crop in bagthompson and morgan trial potato cropthe new shrink wrap bag effect for plants

Thompson & Morgan have been doing some research on growing potatoes in containers and have discovered that the deep bags that have been the standard method in recent years (and in my experience rather unsatisfactory) are far less productive than growing a single potato in an 8 litre bag. The confined quarters seem to stimulate many more tubers and save a lot of unnecessary compost. Their vegetable expert Colin Randall took me to see the trial where the bulging bags reminded me of tiny body builders in too tight t-shirts! He obligingly cut a bag open so that I could see the size of the crop and gave me the potatoes to bring home where I weighed them and found that the single seed potato had produced 1.57 kilos of potatoes. It was grown in a multipurpose compost with no further feeding. Thompson & Morgan have plans to market this growing system in the 8 litre bag with the seed potato already in the compost. All that will be needed is to cut the top off the bag and water thoroughly (and regularly) for your own potato harvest. Just perfect for tiny spaces and for showing children where the potatoes on their plates come from.

Stowasis Sheer Descent

stowasis-sheer-descentI’ve somehow never got around to running water to any point in the garden where we could have a proper water feature. In the meantime I make do with several pot ponds, but they are not the same. I do have a fantasy of transforming the lower part of the garden into an Italianate Garden with splashing water and formal planting but with the garage still waiting to be rebuilt and the vegetable garden in need of re-landscaping, it’s still very much a fantasy. In the meantime I might consider something closer to the house that could bring the sound of water to the garden for a more modest sum of money.  In researching, I’ve found some very sleek and simple stainless steel water blades that create a falling sheet of water. I do like this effect, so while the builders are putting up the new garage, I will ask their advice.  In my experience water features are a bit like kitchens – it’s not the bit you admire that takes time to install and costs the money – it’s the hidden stuff that makes it all work – so unless you are good at DIY, it’s best to consult the experts. I found a good range of  Stowasis water blades at  and there’s a phone number 0161 3514700 if you would like to find out more about their products.

A Cupcake that’s Guaranteed to be Non-Fattening

I was invited to look round Thompson & Morgan’s trial grounds this week and of all the flowers that I saw there, the one that stole my heart was a new cosmos that they are trialling – I think it looks rather like a cross between a cosmos and an Angels Choir poppy.  I’m not sure that Cupcake would be my choice of name, but then I’m not a fan of said cakes, but I do think it is a great addition to the cosmos range and will make a lovely cut flower.  Unfortunately we will have to wait a year before the seed is available as they are still building stocks. Cosmos are invaluable in the garden at this time of year when they fill the spaces left by the earlier flowers that have gone to seed.

A United Nations of Tomatoes

A bowl of home grown exotic tomatoesPicking this lovely selection of tomatoes from the greenhouse it occurred to me that  the days are long gone when we just grew British varieties like Ailsa Craig and Moneymaker – here we have American Brandywine, Italian Costoluto de Fiorentino and Russian Black Krim – they all have superb flavour and will look wonderful combined in a salad.