Monday, 22 July 2013

Blooming marvellous - the Secret Garden in summer

The Secret Garden has burst into fruit and flower in the heatwave – after a slow start to the season everything is coming out at once.

Our fennel, above, is now hitting 6ft high with its umbrella-like flowers reaching for the sun. These flowers, like the fronds and stems, are edible and have the same anise flavour as the rest of the plant. They're beautiful in salads and as a garnish for vegetables, plus the pollen makes an intensely aromatic backdrop to the plate. We’ll be using fennel in our Secret Garden Club Edible Flowers afternoon this Sunday (book here for tickets, there are just a few places left).

Blackfly are always attracted to globe artichokes, although the problem is often very local with one plant affected and another quite free of them (see above). We’ve given our blackfly-infested plant on the left a good shower in washing-up water to get rid of them, using environmentally friendly soap, of course. A garlic infusion sprayed on the plants every few days as they mature can also act as a good preventative measure.

We only planted the rhubarb earlier this year, but it has already established well and this winter we’ll try forcing some of the stems for an early rhubarb treat in February or March. We chose a partially shaded site for the rhubarb, rather than placing it in full sun: it will tolerate some shade quite well.

Blackberries are forming after a brief and glorious display of blossom – we’ve never consciously planted blackberries, but they are persistent and vigorous intruders, and a welcome addition to the garden, so long as we keep them firmly in check.
One of the advantages of mixing edible plants with ornamentals as we do in the Secret Garden is some predators get confused. Grown in rows or block, these cavolo nero plants would be an easy target for pigeons which loves to eat the leaves and for cabbage white butterflies looking for brassicas to lay their eggs on. The pigeons haven’t found our cavolo nero yet, although we’ll continue to keep a sharp eye out for caterpillars.


  1. If you pick the heart of the cavalo Nero will it grow a new one or do you just pick the outside leaves? Thanks

  2. Hi Francesca, just pick the outside leaves so that the plant keeps growing new leaves from the heart. Cheers, Zia.


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