It's now or never for best sweetpea growth
A lovely September afternoon, just beginning to not have the stuffiness of August but the beginnings of the clear air of autumn.
Visiting local friends. While Geraldine and they are chatting 'artily' about this and that under the shade of a huge parasol I'm ambling pleasurably about the garden.
Quite a large one too, with paths leading to many adventures.
On through an archway in a conifer edge, then through an opened door in a wall I am suddenly in a small courtyard with a stone seat facing an ancient mulberry tree.
Of course I accept the invitation to sit for awhile with Rufus, one of their lurcher dogs. The berries not fully ripe yet.
The Head Gardener of my student days would not allow mulberry fruits to be picked on his ancient trees until almost over ripe.
Then sheets were placed beneath a tree, its branches carefully shook and the ripe fruits fell to the ground leaving the unripe on the tree for another day.
All around me is the heavy perfume of lavenders, 'Chanel' roses, peppermint cologne, rosemary, mixed with a second flushing of pinks and just over there late Sweet Peas trained up an archway.
Which reminds me, Sweet Pea catalogues have been arriving at home and I must sow their seeds very soon. September is the important Sweet Pea month!
Yes, you can wait and sow their seeds in spring and yes, you can buy in those pots crammed with weak plants in late spring but autumn sown are special!
I am always tempted by the 'new and exciting' but I still love the true old fashioned 'spencer' varieties for their strong stems, large flowers and their heavenly intense perfume.
Autumn sown Sweet Peas grow slowly, they are robust, their leaves strong and by June the plants have developed superb root growth and able to withstand hot, dry summer days far better than their spring sown cousins.
I also grow them in the traditional way, in clay pots.
These pots protect the roots from severe frost and the roots love to grow against the clay, sucking moisture from it.
Correct sowing mixture is essential. John Innes Seed compost is ideal but because the plants will remain in their pots for some time, their roots will need a different mixture. Let me explain. Divide the compost into two (a) the seed compost, (b) the root compost (one pot-full of sterilised loam or John Innes No 2 potting compost) added to every three of seed compost.
I use five-inch clay pots. Each well crocked, the crock covered with peat sievings then half-filled with compost (b) and soaked before finally topping up with compost (a) and firmed.
One seed should be dropped into one of four (some say six), one-inch deep holes, one-inch from the pot rim and the holes filled and gently firmed.
The pots should then be stood covered with newspaper in a cold frame (or a deep wooden box with a glass lid) with a piece of old carpet covering the glass top.
Immediately the germinating seeds 'lift' the soil, the paper should be removed and when the shoots peep up at you, take the carpet off.
Remove the glass or open the cold frame top and shut down only when frosts threaten and use the piece of carpet to protect against the severest weather.
Grow the plants hard and slowly.
Except for watering, no further attention is need until late winter when the plants should be stopped to produce those important side-shoots.
I've run out of writing space so will leave you now and sit here a little longer with dear old Rufus. We've enjoyed chatting to you!