By Jill | June 26th, 2010

Hello – what lovely weather we are enjoying at the moment. This is more like ‘Flaming June’ – than a few weeks ago!!

This whole summer so far is actually turning out to be more of a ‘traditional’ English summer than of late in Suffolk. The last few years have seen very extreme weather – and dry springs which in turn have caused serious drought problems later on in the summer. This year – so far at least – we seem to have been heading more towards a few showers spread nicely throughout May and June keeping everything very happy – the old country saying ‘ A shower in June keeps everything in tune’ is very much spot on this year.

To actually still have green grass on the lawns in late June is unheard of in Suffolk lately – and I think anyone who has shrubs or roses or fruit trees can see how well they look this year – all that winter moisture is still there deep down – and these ‘top-up’ showers are just what the doctor ordered!! Even if we now have six weeks of heat and dry – the plants are in a far better position than they were last year.

At the nursery, we are nicely into our summer routine. Once the Suffolk Show passes – we tend to drop down a gear and nursery life runs very smoothly between irrigation, propagation, pruning and training of young stock – and generally getting on top of all those jobs that got left over the really busy spring period.

That is not to say – we do not still welcome visitors to the nursery – we have more time to talk to you now than in the winter!!

Back to the Suffolk Show – several people have commented on our stand during their visit to the nursery – and we thank them again for their generous comments. Several of you have expressed interest in how the straw bales – the original gro-bag idea came together. The use of straw bales is certainly not a new idea – but it has in the past been used pretty much exclusively for melons and courgettes and the like – and less so for other veg, it seemed to Graeme in planning the Edible Garden that this was a resource that was very under-used. In terms of wheat against barley as the source of the bale – it does not really seem to make much difference – but it is necessary to have bales that are preferably a year old – and just starting to turn colour. These are much easier to wet than new bales – and keeping them wet was one of the problems we found. It took some time and much water to get them soft to allow planting into the tops of them, but of course this also led to another problem in that disintegration of the bale would happen faster when wet – coupled with an attempt to transport them to the showground – and it became obvious that they would have to be on raised pallets.

It also became obvious that the plants to go in them needed to be of a decent size to start with – otherwise an inevitable amount of seed growth from the excess grain within the bale overwhelmed them when they were young. Holes were cut out with a very sharp knife and saw – and chicken pelleted manure placed underneath – the plants were then put in – and a little compost used to firm them in. Fortnightly liquid-seaweed extract gave all the necessary nutrients and pushed the plants on nicely. And – most importantly – the bales were all stored under an overhead watering system keeping the moisture in. After six weeks – it became evident that they were rooting well down into the straw – and the changing colour of the bale suggested that it was providing nutrient breakdown as well.

The week before the show – the final prep took place – and they made their way up the A12 to the showground – everybody was concerned they may not survive the journey – but I am pleased to report other than a rogue courgette – they got there in one piece!! We had deliberately grown and taken extra plants to cope with this possibility – so yet again – forward planning is essential – hopefully most of you out there who may want to copy this idea – may not try to transport your efforts TO a county show!!

They are still here at the nursery for people to see – although a certain amount of harvesting is taking place – particularly on the lettuces – so the bales are not as full as they were – but after all – they are meant to be functional as well as beautiful!!



By Jill | June 12th, 2010

Hello – apologies for the delay in this blog – but the last fortnight has been absolutely crazy with the Suffolk Show.

Well – we have won it again! For the second year running, our large stand in the Flower Show Marquee was awarded a Large Gold Medal and The Perpetual Challenge Cup for the Best in Show. This is the second time we have won the Cup – we were over the moon last time – and we are absolutely delighted to win it again!!
I would like to say a huge Thank You to all of you who came and saw us over the two days of the show – and thank you so very much for all your kind comments. A big Thank You to the entire Crown Nursery team – without them none of this would have taken place. And also a big Thank You to Sue Hedger-Brown – for helping me to add that extra ‘twist’ to our design this year.

For those of you unable to make the show – I have posted a few photos of the stand to give you an idea.

In planning this one, there were always the obvious aims – to promote the plants we sell at the nursery, to publicise all that we do – and to make as big a ‘wow-effect’ as we could. Any stand that we feature has to have a large emphasis on trees – and we are of course fortunate to have some huge semi-mature versions that lend themselves beautifully to show-work. This year’s focus was on the 45 year-old weeping Blue Cedars – Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’ that we have had at the nursery for many years.

However, being so incredibly wide and low – gave us difficulties getting them into the Flower Show Marquee – we did this by starting a week before the Show when nobody else was there – so we could take up the entire area with all our vehicles.

Then came the next problem of how to actually display them – Graeme came up with the clever idea of raising them up on pallets – and this is what we did – giving a cascade effect – and allowing underplanting beneath them. The central one was actually on seven pallets – and then the second tree on four pallets and so on – it certainly worked – and when the pallets were all hidden by a mixture of hessian netting and heavy planting – nobody could have guessed how it was done!!

Once these, and the Weeping Silver Birch, Upright Hornbeam and Copper Beech were in – the rest of the stand built very nicely. A heavy layer of shrubbery hid a multitude of sins – and then it was to the two main beds full of glorious colour from perennials. The path this year – was all within our theme of ‘A modern twist on an old Design’ – which meant that they were made from Spring Ring off-cuts – this is a material that we use to pot trees into. It actually worked very well.
But the main ‘twist’ this year was the use of the metal ‘Pyramids’ to punctuate the design – a rather brave idea of mine – I must admit I was unsure to start with – but it did work out in the end!!

They were ‘softened’ by the planting – which was a heady mix of perennials,herbs and shrubs. I used some of my favourite combinations for this – and it generally seemed to receive a good response. Alchemilla mollis with Chives – Fennel with Aquilegia studded through it – French Lavender with Purple Elder and Curry Plant – there now – I am not going to give everything away!!

Outside Graeme did his ‘Edible Garden’ stand – but again a twist this year was the use of straw bales – as the ‘original Grow-bag’!! These generated much interest.

Along with the usual mix of vegetables fruit and herbs in the raised beds – hopefully it inspires everybody to ‘get out there’ and have a go yourself!
So – we have got everything back in it’s place at the nursery – and we are just about recovered – it was an incredible fortnight – but so well worth it – to hear people’s comments. We are only a small nursery – but for a couple of weeks – we felt like we were up there with the ‘Chelsea Boys’!

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