Friday 3 July 2020


Award-winning white climbing rose with a beautiful fragrance
Now there’s word. I may have said it sometime, but I cannot be certain that I have ever written it down before now – notwithstanding. It is in my mind because the book I mentioned last week – The Ingenious Mr Fairchild – has been occupying my attention. It was Thomas Fairchild who first experimented with cross-breeding plants and thus earned the sobriquet the “forgotten father of the flower garden”. The biography by Michael Leapman makes excellent reading. He quotes Fairchild thus:

Notwithstanding I have been about forty years in the business of gardening, I find the art so mysterious that the whole life of a man may be employed in it without gaining a true knowledge of everything necessary to be done

A rose painted by the Raphael of flowers
Pierre-Joseph Redoute (1759-1840)
The words appear in Fairchild’s own work The City Garden, written in 1722. Notwithstanding the amazing advances in botanical knowledge and horticultural techniques it will still be true in 2022 and, I would predict, it will be true in 2222! Well said, Thomas Fairchild. He certainly reflects my experience and, I guess, yours as well. There is always something new to learn about plants and growing them

But not only well said, well done, too. His original work in plant breeding means, for example, we have thousands of varieties of roses from which to choose. There is a rose to suit every taste. New varieties and strains are constantly being brought to the market. In fact, you are among the first to see the rose featured above – a brand new introduction that won the prestigious Gold Medal in the Hague last year. It is called Perfume Dreams. I do not think it is yet available here in the UK

How do we know about it? You have probably guessed. See the next item ...

Judges at work in the restored Rosarium in Boskoop
Rosarium restored
Notwithstanding the fallout from Brexit, we have not fallen out with our Dutch friends. As our readers know, they are great flower growers and have, what must be, the largest flower market in the world. Although we tend to think of their historic attachment to the tulip, they also know a thing or two about growing roses 

We featured the Rosarium in Boskoop in a blog last month. Notwithstanding (!) their own lockdown, work went ahead on a major restoration of their Rosarium which goes back well before WW2. However, it had grown rather tired and, our friend, Jan den Haan, worked with a group of friends to do a complete make-over. The local municipality was also involved as this was a major task, requiring the replacement of the soil - tonnes and tonnes of it. Even after just a couple of months it is looking amazingly good. Jan is also involved in a quality control scheme that monitors the health of the roses over a three-year period. This is a national scheme involving four similar trial grounds across the country providing expert feedback to the growers

Back in Blighty
20 packets at £1 each - a big saving
Notwithstanding lockdown here, Codger has been thinking a bit about next year. Mr Fairchild was right, there is far too much for one person to know about gardening. But we can be sure of this: gardeners need to plan ahead. For the first month of lockdown is was almost impossible to buy seeds. The market has now caught up and various offers are being made – good quality seeds at £1 a packet (still worth looking out for – check the web)

As you can see from the photograph, I have stocked up and saved over £35 in the process. I had already decided to give over some of the vegetable growing area to flower production, so we hope to be in a position to help out more gardeners next season. The next stage is to sort the seeds in order of sowing

Trimming irises last week
In addition, I am still busy propagating – just today splitting several types of primulas. I aim to get the “Plants For You” page updated over the weekend. Don't forget that you can check availability by clicking top right on that button - it's just above the profile photo. By way of reminder, we still have some pots of blue iris from those I split last weekend

Charity donations
Notwithstanding the financial outlook our target figure of £1500 was achieved yesterday. Codger is truly grateful for your generosity. Although I was reluctant to set a target, after a while it seemed sensible to aim for the amount that the Angela & Keith Webb’s annual plant sale would have raised. With Gift Aid the figure is higher, of course. You can check the latest total by clicking here

Notwithstanding again!
Notwithstanding a somewhat limited school education Codger enjoys writing this blog. Some readers have sensed this and commented upon it. Sometimes hard to get the balance - as Thomas Fairchild found, there is always something to do outside

Pottering around on the patch, I often find myself thinking back to my schooldays. Do you do that? Had you a favourite teacher, I wonder? All things considered, mine was Mrs Smith – no relation. She was my English teacher. I think she came from Nottingham or thereabouts – she pronounced ‘bus’ as ‘buzz’ – is that Nottingham?

I loved hearing her read Wind in the Willows when we were in the first year. She had to explain the joke about onion sauce – none of us knew anything but Bisto. We were due to leave after four years of secondary education but a few of us were treated to an extra year – the teachers, including Mrs Smith, giving up their free periods in order to instruct us so we could sit for 'O' levels

The smell of furniture polish - beeswax, I think
and the vase of roses on the sideboard
In the run-up to the exams she required hospital treatment and was off work. So, for teaching to continue we caught the bus over to her home in Harpenden, four of us sixteen year-old boys, every Tuesday morning. She taught us around the dining room table. Even now, I can smell the furniture polish and see the vase roses on the sideboard. Although we would never say, I think we all wished she was our mum – no disrespect intended, she was that sort of person

Oh, dear! Reminiscing again – and I have not told you about Boris’s visit to Dudley. Perhaps for another time – the garden calls. (My other love: history. But I had not realised that Abraham Darby was born just up the road at the Wren's Nest. Thanks for that bit of information, Boris)

Good old Mrs Smith – I think I thanked her but notwithstanding what I might have said, I now feel it would have been totally inadequate in view of the debt I owe the good lady

… best wishes from an old Garden Codger

Notwithstanding the assiduous efforts of my erstwhile English teacher, some readers tell me that they enjoy the photographs more that the writing. Many a true word ...

So as not to overdo the roses, here is our ligularia - these flowers stand five feet tall

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