Sunday, 28 October 2012

Share Some Local Autumn Colour

I recently sent out a newsletter featuring the Woodland Trust’s Top Ten Woods for Autumn colour. I hoped it would inspire families to get out into the woods this half term. The list certainly got me yearning for a helping of autumn colour. If I am lucky this week I may get to visit one of those woods on the list Stourhead, not really a wood but a landscape garden.

However I feel I have been really lucky already. On Thursday I visited one of my regular haunts, RHS garden Wisley in Surrey with a group of gardening chums.


Its wide range of deciduous shrubs and trees give visitors a lovely selection of autumn colours and vistas. Also unlike some gardens, I have recently visited, the herbaceous borders remain intact ensuring that structure is retained through the garden.

I have been pondering as to why I enjoyed my walk around  such a well visited local garden much more than anticipated.  There is no doubt that the journey there is like visiting an old friend, conferring a level of certainty and comfort. However this time these feelings were tinged with surprise and delight when I saw familiar spots lit up in a different light and colour. 


But it may be that the word 'friend' is the key here.  Walking around the gardens with like-minded people and sharing expressions of delight when colourful and beautiful foliage was spotted was a truly enjoyable experience.  Was the sense of well-being I felt at the end of the day due to the walk in the fresh air, stunning vistas or chats with friends?  I'll never know that main cause, but it was the perfect combination.

But it may be that the word 'friend' is the key here.  Walking around the gardens with like-minded people and sharing expressions of delight when colourful and beautiful foliage was spotted was a truly enjoyable experience.  Was the sense of well-being I felt at the end of the day due to the walk in the fresh air, stunning vistas or chats with friends?  I'll never know that main cause, but it was the perfect combination.

This coming week we will be out on family walks in the woods and perhaps that visit to Stourhead.  We had a fantastic time there last year.  It will no doubt be a different sort of shared experience!  Hope you also manage to get out and see the autumn colours close to you.  You may not have to travel far.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Floral Friday - Michaelmas Daisy - Family Friendly Plants

Bee on Aster

A good late summer performer for the garden is the Aster or Michaelmas Daisy. So called because it has daisy-like flowers from pink, purple to blue and it flowers at the time of Michaelmas, on 29 September when in parts of Europe remember Archangel Michael.

Its reliability and hardiness help to make it a truly family friendly plant. Other characteristics include

  • It is can be bought as a perennial, which means it comes back every year.

  • The bees like it and it provides late summer nectar for them.

  • It is low maintenance.

  • It does not succumb to slug and snail damage.

If growing with children you could grow from seed. However for me this plant’s value lies in providing instant late summer colour. There are many other flowering plants that would be easier for them to grow. I would suggest a visit to the garden centre from the end of July onwards to see what varieties are available.  You will need to cut back the plant at the end of the season.

A number of common varieties are about 4 feet high, but some of the taller varieties can start to look a bit scraggy towards the end of the season. Worth considering are shorter and dwarf varieties like the one below, no more than 2 feet tall and which will not be such a target for a football .

Aster lateriflorus 'Bucks Fizz'

This Floral Friday post is one of a series suggesting family friendly plants you and your children could grow in your garden.  Please take a look at our previous suggestions.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Floral Friday - Aquilegia - Family Friendly Plants


If you know this flower, other names for it are Columbine and Grandma Bonnets; you may be saying what so family friendly about it? It is a cottage garden plant with thin stems holding up the very pretty flower heads which could easily get knocked by a ball or trampled upon. I say yes all of these things are true, but it is a lovely flower to have in May. It blooms about the same time as For get me nots and bluebells.

For me, its family friendly characteristics include:-

  • It is really easy to grow.
  • It flowers early in the garden.
  • Lots of multiple flowers on one plant.
  • It is perennial, which means it will come back the next year.
  • It is low maintenance.
  • It does not get nibbled by slugs and snails.
  • It is available in a wide range of colours, pink, cream, purple, white and yellow. If you have a child who loves pretty flowers they are going to adore these.

Columbines are a short-lived perennial (4 or 5 years, usually), so let them re-seed from parent plants and you’ll always have some around.  You can grow them easily from seed.  As they flower early you can sow them in pots and trays from January onwards.  If you want to go for an easier option buy a couple of different varieties as soon as they are in the garden centres at about Easter time.  As they self-seed and cross pollinate easily then you will find many more and different varieties in your garden in the following years.

You will need to cut away old foliage in the late summer.  But as you see from the above photograph taken in my garden in mid-October the foliage soon reappears.  It provides an attractive plant throughout the winter.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Floral Friday - Chives - What to plant with your Kids


It is its versatility that makes chives such a great plant to grow with your kids.  It is of course a culinary herb and part of the onion family, but its flowers are beautiful – a delicate ball of pinky, purple.   

The child and family friendly properties of the chive plant Allium Schoenoprasum include :-

  • It is a hardy perennial, which means it will come up every year.

  • It has edible leaves and flowers.

  • It requires little maintenance.

  • It is relatively pest free.

  • Its clumps will cope with being hit by balls.

Chives are an essential addition to any herb garden. Equally you could equally grow them in any flower border or in pots. Ideally they like well-drained soil and full sun, but they will grow in other conditions. You can grow from seed in the spring or buy one or two pots from the local garden centre. You will need to cut it down in late summer or autumn so it can grow again in the spring.

This year in our house we have watched and photographed the flower heads developing, picked them as a cut flower and eaten both leaves and flowers. We still have some dried chive flowers in a vase. All from one plant. Not bad I reckon!

If you liked this then please take a look at other family friendly plants selected for our Floral Friday feature,

Friday, 5 October 2012

Floral Friday - Nasturtiums - What to Plant with your Kids

If you are not too sure what flowers to plant with your kids this is a good one to get going with.  It is an easy- grow annual. 


This plant’s family friendly features include:-
  • Large seeds which are easy to sow.
  • 8 Weeks from seed to flower. Short waiting time - Very child friendly!
  • It will self-seed.
  • You can sow direct into the ground or sow in pots.
  • Both the flower and leaf are edible. 
  • It requires very little maintenance.

I have a childhood memory of a story where a roof was thought to be on fire. When the fire brigade arrived it was found to be a roof of trailing nasturtiums. You can certainly get some fiery colours, orange, blood orange, red and yellow. Though I have yet to find a roof that matched the image placed in my mind by that story.

Nasturtiums at Chelsea Flower Show

Trailing varieties are available and they are also lots of more compact ones on the market suitable for pots and edges of the border.

Sometimes butterflies lay their eggs under nasturtium leaves. When the eggs hatch hundreds of tiny caterpillars can munch their way through them. A great chance to read  together the Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.   You may need to check the leaves regularly and remove the caterpillars. Black fly also like nasturtiums. Your child can help get rid of these by watering them and the plants all over with a weak solution of eco washing up liquid.

Both leaves and petals are edible. Some children may find that their peppery taste does not suit them. Although they are annuals it is easy to ensure more will come up next year.   If you let their seeds fall to the ground some will probably self -seed the next year. The seeds are also very easy to collect and save to plant next year. So one packet of seeds will last a long time - my sort of plant!

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