Plot your path to becoming an expert veggie grower – the Rosemoor way

IF YOU fancy running your own veg plot, sowing, hoeing, harvesting and learning how to grow it, then Rosemoor’s 2019 allotment course may be right up your garden path.

The famous garden and educational centre at Torrington, Devon, is once again looking for ten gardening enthusiasts to take part in their informative and practical allotment course which begins next February.

Successful candidates will receive expert RHS tuition, have their own plot to tend, and take away home-grown harvests. They will receive regular allotment master-classes and weekly access to their plots, all in Rosemoor’s picturesque woodland setting.

Course leader Pete Adams said: “Our allotment course has grown from strength to strength over the past four years, and once again we are excited to welcome new novice vegetable growers to join us to learn from our expert team.

“We offer brilliant facilities, all the equipment and the know-how for a successful year of vegetable growing. So why not apply to join us for the 2019 course!”

The course attracts a small fee of £50 which covers the cost of the gardening boots, seeds and a contribution towards materials.

Students will have access to their plots every Wednesday (10.30am – 4pm) and attend two-hour tutorials at the start of each month.

The course is open to everyone, with the 2018 intake coming from a great variety of backgrounds and across all age groups. But they all have one thing in common – the passion for and a willingness to learn the basic principles of growing your own vegetables.

The hope is to see a similar diverse group of people apply this year too.

Comments from previous graduates:

■ “Thank you Pete, it’s been a blast! I’ve had so much fun and learnt lots” – Julie.

■ “What a wonderful experience. Thank you Peter for all your hard work and advice. This opportunity to learn gardening skills is so valuable” – Dan.

■ “Thanks, Pete. Working the allotment has made me realise that with the right knowledge and well-worked soil I can grow great veg. I’ve found the experience just so rewarding and great fun with great people.” – Steve.

The course will run from February through to the end of the year. Applications close on  26 November 2018.

To apply, please write to curator Jon Webster with a brief personal background (approx. 50 words), stating why you would like a beginner’s vegetable plot at Rosemoor (approx. 50 words), and indicating what you will do with your new knowledge (approx. 100 words) and letting us know how or where you found out about the course.

By post: Jon Webster, RHS Garden Rosemoor, Great Torrington Devon EX38 8PH.

By email:


Open Art Exhibition, to Sunday, 23 September

Autumn Plant Heritage Plant Fair, Sunday, 23 September

Real Ale & Gin Fest, 28 – 30 September

Course-goers planting out

Harvesting carrots


Top – Happy horticulturists: Two young course-goers planting out; centre – harvesting carrots; above – the fruits of effort and endeavour. Pictures: RHS Garden Rosemoor.



EVERYTHING’S coming up ruby for seed and plant firm Mr Fothergill’s, with a late summer spectacle that simply glows red.

The Suffolk company are toasting 40 years in business this year and, as part of their ruby anniversary jollifications, they have created a Ruby Garden in Capel Manor Gardens at Enfield, Middlesex.

Mr Fothergill’s has a long-standing relationship with the horticultural college and, this year, a new and exclusive sweet pea bore Capel Manor’s name.

Pim Dickson, horticultural and technical content manager, comments on the new garden: “It’s a beautiful showcase for some of our most popular, as well as more unusual, red-flowered varieties, all of which produce a mass of flowers all summer long.

“Every year we design new spring and summer gardens and supply the seeds so horticultural students from Capel Manor College can grow the plants, plant them out and maintain the gardens as part of their studies.”

Among the most distinctive plants are french marigold Red Cherry producing bold double blooms, gaillardia Firewheels with its stunning burgundy flowers which are also a magnet for butterflies and other pollinators, and salvia Blaze of Fire that develops sizzling red-hot spikes of colour through the summer into late autumn.

French marigold Red Knight has open, weather resistant blooms, aster Balloon Red is great for cutting, with large domed flowers, and sun-loving, drought tolerant gazania New Day Red Shades F1 shows off its vibrant colour.

The garden is currently at its peak and sits alongside a host of other interesting gardens.

A dedicated leaflet can be found in the Ruby Garden greenhouse and at the Capel Manor Gardens entrance, which includes a map and details of all the flowers, along with a few words about Mr Fothergill’s anniversary.

All featured varieties are available as seeds and/or plants from Mr Fothergill’s retail stockists throughout the UK and from the company’s latest seed catalogue or online. Visit your local garden centre for the full range or head over to

Capel Manor College educates new generations of horticulturists, offering a range of courses for those who are interested in plants, trees and the environment.

The college grounds double as a garden open to the public for most of the year, with events including bushcraft, lambing weekends, heavy horse shows, leatherwork and garden festivals.

⏩⏩➡» Ravishing rubies: Top – part of the new Ruby Garden; centre – pennisetum Rubrum grass with gaillardia Firewheels; above – rudbeckia Cherry Brandy.

Scourge of the Azores: Why untamed ginger lilies are devouring these isles

GINGER LILIES. To brand them as beautiful brutes is not to be ungracious.
I grow just one in my garden – self contained and behaving itself. On the Azores, where I have just spent a two-week holiday on a return visit after three years, they are rapidly overpowering everything that gets in their way.

Which is why I would never let it be known to the lovely Azorean folk that I actually like them.

If I let it slip, I could get lynched on the spot!

These honey-hued, sweetly-scented, delicately-bloomed charmers – botanically Hedychium gardnerianum and natives of northern India – are spreading remorselessly across the nine-island archipelago that make up these magical volcanic gems, far-flung out in the Atlantic, around 1,000 miles from their motherland Portugal and 375 miles separating those islands in the west and those in the east.

You’ll see ginger lilies thriving like a thickly piled carpet across entire hillsides, rocky terrain, down shady slopes and deep gorges, alongside rural roads and major highways, on lakesides, mountain sides, in woods and on slopes of long-dead volcanoes, their rampant rhizomes sending up millions of delicate, spidery petals that light up town and countryside while hiding their menacing secret.

All around these mature plants are springing tens of thousands of seedlings which, in a year or two, will explode the population even further.

San Miguel, the largest of the islands, is particularly blighted by these beauties. And I get the impression that those in authority are at a loss to know how to deal with the crisis.


⏩⏩➡» Naturalist, film-maker and tour manager Dee Doody.

Our Saga group were fortunate to have as tour manager Dee Doody – passionate naturalist, TV film maker, gifted cameraman, presenter and inventor.

He says of the ginger lily scourge: “It’s difficult to know just what can be done. What is needed is to find an insect that will feed on them, but that could present further problems as such insects will probably eat other plants too.

“There is no simple remedy to this.”

Philomena, our guide on Faial and Pico islands, tells of efforts to hack through the roots in a bid to thwart the spread.

“It is a big worry to the local people. The plants are so invasive,” she says.

Irene, who guided us around San Miguel, said: “The problem is that some of those roots are so deep into the soil that it is impossible to remove them without causing landslides.”

She added that the plants were introduced to the Azores in the 19th century, mostly by successful businessmen who travelled overseas and brought back new plants to beautify their gardens.

Interestingly, many local people use the sizeable leaves of the ginger lilies to wrap up bread and cheese, claiming that doing so imparts a distinctly ginger flavour. So far, however, no effort seems to have been made to extract the perfume for cosmetic purposes, assuming, of course, that this is workable.

Meanwhile, Hedychium gardnerianum – loved by some, loathed by the majority – continues to advance across these sublime isles as though not wishing to stop until they claim every single space as theirs.


✴ Most have heard of the Azores but many are unsure exactly where they are. About a four-hour westerly flight from Gatwick Airport and north-west of Madeira will give you some idea.

✴ The volcanic archipelago consists of – largest to smallest island – San Miguel, which is exactly the same size as the Isle of Man, Pico, Terceira, San Jorge, Faial, Flores, Santa Maria, Graciosa and Corvo, with a total population of around 250,000.

✴ The climate is perfect for those enjoying warm – without being sweltering – sunshine which averages between 13degC in winter and 24degC in summer, though it topped 31deg during our stay.

✴ The isles are virtually crime-free, so complete safety is the normal feeling when strolling through towns and villages.

✴ Many of the rock faces are dramatic, with eye-catching deposits of volcanic strata, making them a vulcanologist’s dream.

✴ The towns are beautifully maintained, the pavements adorned with attractive patterning from small black basalt and white blocks – a refreshing place to step compared with dreary tarmac that’s so familiar across the UK.

✴ Main roads and most country routes are pothole-free. What a contrast between those and the crumbling highways and byways of Britain!









⏩⏩➡»  Beasts and beauties: Second from top descending – a hillside packed with ginger lilies above one of the twin lakes on San Miguel; close-up on a ginger lily; Fuchsia boliviana; American Monarch caterpillar on a balloon plant, Gomphocarpus physocarpus; Bird of Paradise; purple Morning Glory; artistic paving on Faial island.


Top man Neil heads a ‘mastergrass’ at Rosemoor this weekend

DO YOU know your carex from your cortaderia, your miscanthus from your molinia and maybe your stipa from your typha? If the answer is Yes, then grasses are evidently your thing.

Over at Rosemoor, Torrington, they have organised a Grasses Weekend – 1st to 2nd September – featuring walks, talks and drop-in advice from Neil Lucas, Britain’s leading authority on ornamental grasses.

Neil has run the nationally renowned Knoll Gardens and Grasses near Wimborne, Dorset, since 1994. He’s a best-selling author, RHS council member and senior judge.

He grows an abundance of rare and unusual trees and shrubs intermingled with numerous grasses and flowering perennials – all to spectacular effect.

His robust planting schemes are all chosen to suit existing growing conditions and mimic nature, creating thriving low-maintenance plant communities.

With stunning good looks, the relaxed gardening style is beneficial to wildlife with Neil’s naturalistic approach providing food, water, shelter and places to raise young.

Today Knoll has a wide reputation for its ornamental grasses grown within its own nursery which continues to supply plants to both the show garden and to the general public.

Do remember that grasses, as well as bamboos and ferns, can bring unrivalled sophistication to a planting scheme. Perhaps not as brilliant colour-makers as summer bedders or vivid shrubs, grasses nonetheless offer a rich palette of emerald and lime greens, blues and greys, silvers and golds, striped and variegated.

Flowerheads offer delicate textures and there’s often a rippling effect from the gentlest of breezes.

⏩⏩➡» Free drop-in advice in Rosemoor’s Plant Centre from 1-5pm; talk and presentation by Neil Lucas 2.30-3.15pm; garden walk 11.30am Sunday only.




⏩⏩➡» Gorgeous grasses: Two images showing the stunning effect grasses can have on the gardenscape at Knoll, near Wimborne.

2019 – it’s the Year of the Carrot, so time to strike Gold Nugget & Co

THERE’S something distinctly quaint about announcing that 2019 has been hailed as the Year of the Carrot – at least in the eyes of an influential band of horticultural experts.

Fleuroselect is an industry cartel for the ornamental plants industry which was established in 1970.

It judges new varieties and works to protect and popularise them and varieties entered for judging are cultivated at more than 30 test sites around Europe – and, of course, awards are dished out, including the coveted gold medal.

In addition, these medal winners are displayed at around 50 public gardens in Europe, America and Asia in order to increase the varieties’ familiarity among amateur and professional growers.

So Fleuroselect is a name not to be sniffed at.

Supporting Fleuroselect’s Year of the Carrot, highly respected seed and plant sellers Mr Fothergill’s has added four new varieties to its existing selection.

RHS Award of Garden Merit winner carrot Malbec F1 is a red long-rooted, imperator type. It is perfect for roasting with exceptional flavour and the unusual hue makes it a greatest addition.

Gold Nugget F1  produces long smooth-skinned yellow roots. Exclusive to Mr Fothergill’s, Volcano F1, distinguishes itself with strength and reliability. It is resistant to breakage, splitting and disease. For maincrop, Purple Haze F1 provides Nantes type, dark purple roots with a bright orange core.

All four newcomers cost a recommended £3.05 for 350 seeds.

On to more veg – Kale Candy Floss (£2.10 for 50 seeds) features large leaves enveloping a central heart in an eye-catching pink colour. Its leaves are full of flavour and will retain the colour when cooked. It is a vibrant variety that can be grown for both ornamental and edible purposes.

Other vegetable highlights include new and exclusive dwarf french bean Red Swan – just fancy that, it’s an anagram of my surname! –  (£3.05 for 100 seeds), a remarkably decorative heritage variety with pink flowers and pink tinged pods.

For high yields of extra fine green pods dwarf french bean Nautica (£2.75 for 100 seeds) is a perfect choice, whereas Cala d’Or (£2.75 for 100 seeds) provides large crops of yellow, great flavoured beans.


⏩⏩➡» Colourful veggies: Top – Gold Nugget; above left – Volcano; right – french bean Red Swan.

⏩⏩➡» Perfect for carrots – a light, well-drained soil, avoiding heavy clay; preparation the previous autumn; don’t sow on freshly-manured ground as this will encourage the roots to fork; earliest sowings will benefit from a warm, sheltered spot and, if possible, cloche protection; if carrot fly is a problem, delay sowings until May; keep well watered during dry spells to avoid root-split; sow outdoors thinly in cropping positions, half-inch deep on previously watered soil; 12in between rows; thin out by harvesting young carrots and allow the rest to grow on.


ONE MORE reminder – it’s Barnstaple & District Horticultural Society’s 84th Autumn Show on Saturday and Sunday, 8 and 9 September. It’s all on display, as usual, at St John’s Garden Centre and incorporates Devon Beekeepers’ Association and features outdoor exhibitions by local schools.

The show will be opened by Dr John Marston, chairman of the South West branch of the Rhododendron, Camellia & Azalea Society, and has nearly 26 cups, shields and special prizes up for the winning.

Times – Saturday 11am-5.30pm; Sunday 10-30am-4pm. Free entry.

Don’t miss it!

A rose by any other name – especially if it’s a ‘dirty’ one!

BACK in the days when I was much, much younger and you could buy a bulging bag of chips for threepence – old pence, of course! – I grew a rose that was quite unlike any other.

It was called Grey Pearl and it contained colours that were anything but rose-like.

My daughter, a toddler at the time, looked at it disdainfully and christened it the “dirty rose”. Every time she passed it when it was in bloom she would point in accusing fashion and declare: “That’s the dirty rose.”

And for good reason! Grey Pearl, a hybrid tea produced in 1944 by the pioneering and campaigning Northern Ireland rose breeding firm of McGredy, was surely a maverick. It was coloured lavender grey with green and brownish shadings and contained an impressive 40 or so petals per bloom.

My Collins Guide to Roses describes it as an interesting and unique rose which can be of great value in decorative arrangements.

But it doesn’t alter the fact that it was the classic “dirty rose” in my daughter’s eyes.

To my knowledge no other rose has since looked like it, though several have contained colour mixes which are tricky to describe.

Rose Koko Luko

Rose Grey Pearl

⏩⏩➡» Beauty and the beast? Top – Koko Loko, above Grey Pearl.

The one which springs to mind is Koko Loko, a modern challenger from 2012 and a floribunda which opens in a soft tan which remind some breeders of latté coffee and gradually takes on lavender tints. Its height is around 2ft 6in and its scent is quite reasonable – and, in my garden, it has stood up well to this sun-scorched and difficult summer.

Koko Loko can be bought from C & K Jones in Tarvin, Cheshire (

As for Grey Pearl which seems to have become extinct across the UK, my guess is that it was bred by Sam McGredy III many years before it went public. McGredy died suddenly in 1934 aged just 38, yet his son Sam was then only two years old and didn’t start hybridising until his late teens.

Sam IV, who emigrated to New Zealand in 1972 to escape The Troubles in Northern Ireland, bred 270 varieties, meeting VIPs the world over – and even me in 1971 when he brought his new rose Coventry Cathedral to the city! – pollinating plants with his fingertips rather than with brushes and creating such popular roses as Piccadilly, Arthur Bell, Dublin Bay, Olympiad, Sexy Rexy, Picasso and King’s Ransom. Now aged 87, he lives in retirement near Auckland.

I have kept his 1968 rose catalogue as a souvenir!