MIKE I’ANSON, of Helmsley Walled Garden, helps spread the joy of gardening.
NOT every gardener gets the opportunity to work in a walled garden; one of the most enjoyable tasks is opening the main gates to the public. The sound of the bolts being drawn back and the creaking of the hinges as the heavy doors are pushed open and secured, heralds the start of a day filled with gardening, and the anticipation of sharing that joy of gardening with others.
In the garden we are making choices about which flowers to deadhead. For some such as heleniums and lychnis, deadheading will stop the plants producing seed and encourage them to produce more flowers. In this way, you can often keep a plant flowering for an extra two to three weeks.
However, for some plants, such as achillea and ornamental poppy, we allow the flower heads to semi-dry and remove them before the rain arrives in autumn. These heads are gathered, tied together and hung upside down, so any moisture held in the seed pockets drains away. After drying out, we store them until we are ready to use them in our Christmas wreaths.
There is a third group of seed heads that we allow to stay on the plant until we are sure the seed has matured. Often we can see they are ready when the seed heads start to open, sweet peas being an obvious example. You can also check maturity by gently shaking the flower heads; if the seeds rattle you can be almost certain that a high proportion of the seed will have matured.
When we think they are mature, we collect the flower heads and place them upside down in brown paper bags and label them. The bags are placed in the greenhouses to continue to dry out further. Seeds fall from the flower heads and gather in the brown paper bags, shaking will release more. After gently blowing away the chaff, (the parts of the flower head that surround the seed), the seeds are stored in brown paper envelopes, labelled and dated.
Some we will sow as early as September, saving some to sow in April as insurance. Seedlings are over-wintered in cold frames to protect them more from predators than from the weather.
The seedlings develop earlier in cold frames than open sown plants and will give us strong plug plants for next April. Autumn sown annuals such as calendula will flower up to two months earlier than seed sown in April. Perennial plants suitable for seed collecting and autumn sowing include phlomis, geum and euphorbia
In gardening we seem always to be looking forward and planning for the next season. So before autumn arrives, I leave you with another sound of summer that came from our local primary school who visited us one afternoon to paint the flowers. In small groups, we could hear them chatting and laughing among themselves, adding a sound every garden should experience. I hope their future studies allow time to visit us again.