Showing posts with label Pennard Plants. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pennard Plants. Show all posts

14 Mar 2013

My Cherie Amour - Potato Day at the Garden Museum

Bill and Ben potatoes
I'd show you my spuds but, really, they all look the same. 

Last year's potato harvest was a bit pathetic (Charlottes, Roosters and Blue Danube moochers) and, given that I'm content to eat Vivaldi potatoes from Sainsbury's, I decided not to grow potatoes this year ... then I read Anna Pavord's article 'Ace of Spuds', one of the chapters in her book 'The Curious Gardener' (an excellent read, btw). Her descriptions of 'old potatoes' piqued my interest; to quote:
"As well as tasting better than you had ever imagined a potato could ever taste, many old varieties have blessedly strong constitutions. In the slap-happy, spray-happy post-war years, this was not valued as much as it perhaps is now, when the effects of eating poisons for lunch are beginning to be more clearly understood."
"Tasting better than you had ever imagined a potato could ever taste ..."  Hmmm.  As I read on, I started mentally to clear a space in the veg patch for some heritage varieties. There's nothing wrong with supermarket potatoes but I was enticed by the thought of growing the right potato to fit the recipe - and with superior (hopefully) flavour.

I'd been handed a Pennard Plants leaflet at the recent RHS Plant and Design Show; it described their 87 varieties of heritage potatoes and their forthcoming appearance at Potato Day.  I'd also noted that Potato Day coincided with Mothers Day; I reasoned that constituted a good enough reason to go out and treat myself to a few tubers if ever there was one.  The 87 varieties on the leaflet were reduced to about 50 on the day; even so, I deliberated over my choices as I like potatoes to be mashed, roasted or baked. I'm not keen on boiled, unless they're the little salad potatoes.  I finally opted for two old British spuds:
  • Arran Victory - 1918:  A rare, blue-skinned, maincrop potato with superb flavour. I'll use this one for roasting and mashing.
  • Foremost - 1954. A first Early with waxy flesh and excellent flavour. Use for salads, baking, roasting.
Plus two more that I'd not heard of before but sounded very interesting:
  • Linzer Delikatess  - an Austrian second early; recommended to me by Pennards.  Like a Charlotte but longer, thinner, smoother. Keeps well.
  • Vitelotte - 1850. A potato with dark purple skin and purple flesh that keeps its colour after cooking. Although I'm a bit hesitant about the idea of eating purple mash, I thought this would go nicely with my purple Cosmic carrots! A main crop potato, grown in France as a gourmet delicacy but originally from Peru and Bolivia. Full bodied flavour reminiscent of chestnut.  Will make very interesting chips or salads.
The potato that I absolutely had to have was this one:
  • Cherie. Allegedly a very pretty deep rose pink salad variety from France; a First Early which gives exceptional crops of oval yellow fleshed tubers with a wonderful flavour.  Now doesn't that sound delightful?
So much for not growing potatoes! I came home with a several tubers of each of the above varieties - at 20p per tuber, it seemed a taste challenge not to be missed.  Although, in hindsight, I may have picked my spuds following my (largely unsuccessful) method of backing a horse in the Grand National, i.e. it has a nice name.

Pennard's stand
Pennard's stand, sited under an art installation of 3,000 hand-wired roses.

26 Feb 2013

RHS Plant and Design Show - a good day out

Stop Press!  Free Day Friday: if you're interested in visiting any of the four RHS gardens, have a look at this link. It would appear that entry is free this Friday, 1st March.

Primula belarina
~ Primula belarina Cobalt Blue ~
If asked, I'd say that I dislike shopping but last Tuesday at the RHS show was my kind of shopping. I'd taken the time off work to attend the RHS Plant and Design Show in Victoria (first time I've been) and, as a bonus, the weather that day was fantastic - warm sunshine and no wind.  I couldn't resist spending most of the day outdoors in an unscheduled bout of gardening, getting jobs done including putting together a new protective cloche to house my plants as bitterly cold temperatures were forecast.  As we had flurries of tiny snow at the weekend, this turned out to be a good move.

So the day was already a success when I tore myself away mid-afternoon to head off to the show. It was open until 7 so I thought I'd left myself enough time for a browse round... and, naively, I thought I'd get away with just window shopping!  (Several carrier bags on the tube home disproved that theory.)

Traders selling their wares don't overlook the opportunity to introduce the public to more unusual cultivars and planting. I bought an Ugni molinae Flambeau, or Chilean Guava, having been told that it has white flowers in the summer, aromatic leaves (make tea with these) and red edible strawberry-flavoured berries in winter. A perfect addition to the veg patch. The fruit was apparently Queen Victoria's favourite and, if you could buy it, would retail at about £9 a punnet.  Apart from anything else, it's small, edible and rather pretty.

Snowdrop display
Displays of bright blue primulas and iris had me hovering, snowdrops planted up with honesty and black Lily Turf (Ophiopogon planiscarpus) were visually inspirational, a row of winter stems from the Sir Harold Hillier gardens reminded me to add a visit there to my Bucket List and I didn't dare stop at the second-hand bookstall, gardening books being a particular weakness of mine. I bought a trio of agapanthus for my mother's garden from Hoyland Plants, the holder of the national agapanthus collection, as they were able to give good advice as to soil, flowering, hardiness, etc of each cultivar. I took these down at the weekend; Mum was thrilled as she's wanted Agapanthus in her garden for ages.

My downfall though was Pennard Plants.  Plates of heritage potato tubers set among vintage garden paraphernalia first grabbed my attention - and then I saw the trays of heritage and heirloom flower and veg seeds.  I think I may have even trembled with excitement.

Veg seed tray

A jolly conversation ensued; Pennards people were so helpful with their advice that, despite best intentions of keeping my growing list simple this year, I came away with a paper bag full of seed packets. (And the aforementioned Ugni plant.)  I'm particularly excited at having found red flowered broad beans and a short/cold season sweet corn which has a pretty good chance of maturing even in a bad summer. Pennards will be at the Garden Museum's Potato Day on 10th March, by which time I'll have chosen which tubers I want to buy from them.

The "design" part of the show was held in the second Horticultural Hall; I didn't leave myself enough time to fully appreciate all the displays but, for my resource book, I made a note of the makers of this very stylish cloche.  Possibly a thing of beauty for my own garden one day ...


But the most useful discovery was Oxford Green Roofs, a husband and wife team who are passionate about sustainable living and displayed a variety of green roof possibilities on their stand. I'd love to introduce their ideas into my garden designs.  I thought the Pocket Habitat was especially brilliant, see it here transforming the urban landscape of the Ove Arup offices in London.

Pocket Habitat
The Pocket Habitat: a felted pebble pocket made of recycled materials
and filled with bio-diverse plants - good for the environment on all counts!
As a member of the RHS, entry to the show was free for me and, on the following day, I could have taken a guest in with me, also free.  As with Chelsea, any remaining plants are sold off on the final day.

I was recommended to join the RHS by Jekka McVicar, mainly because the membership fees fund research into plants, pests and diseases.  It's proved to be a wise move representing very good value as I've more than recouped the cost of my membership in garden visits to Wisley and various shows (free or discounted), as well as the extremely readable and informative RHS 'The Garden' magazine which members receive every month. There's free seeds as well if I order before 31st March.

Upcoming shows that I plan to visit are the 'Grow Your Own' weekend at Wisley on 23/24th March, the Great London Plant Fair on 26th March in Victoria and the Spring Craft Fair on the 2nd - 6th May at Wisley - and, of course, Chelsea and Hampton Court shows. More information on the RHS website, here.

Pennards Plants
~ Jovial conversation with the team at Pennards Plants.
He even pointed out the RHS bigwigs and television scouts! ~
P.S.  Read more about the show at Out of my Shed blog, here.
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