Back in 1995 I had my first garden. It was the unloved space of a rented cottage in a Suffolk village. It felt like I had won the lottery after a decade plus of flats with and without balconies in London, Frankfurt and Zandvoort.
I have always been a flower person, have found gardening over the past 27 years both rewarding and restorative and have hoped to pass on my passion for gardening to my daughter.
In my first garden there were the usual cottage garden favourites roses, lupins and sweet peas. However, I also had containers full of pelargoniums which I had learnt to grow and appreciate when I was living in Germany. Every balcony in our block of flats in Frankfurt put together a summer display and we couldn’t be the only flat with empty troughs.
I also grew pots of pelargoniums on the balcony in Zandvoort, Holland, but being on the North Sea coast once the weather turned they really didn’t appreciate the salt-laden wind. However, since I’ve been back in England it has been a case of white or pink or dark red pelargoniums in pots every year. Also from that first garden I have endeavoured to get my daughter interested in gardening.
Now, of course, plants in pots need regular watering and if you have the appropriately sized watering can what’s not to like about sloshing water everywhere. In her early years my daughter did enjoy watering, but was less keen on planting and even less keen on sweeping up and eventually wasn’t keen on anything to do with gardening at all.
That was until the local television grew came to film my very tall sunflowers and she took all the credit! She was filmed showing the TV man her sunflowers and was delighted at being interviewed. To be fair in the May of that year she had gone round the garden chucking seeds about.
My daughter has now left home and as a young adult has, surprise, surprise decided to grow a few houseplants.
Over the years I have carried on growing sunflowers with some years being better than others. About a decade ago I switched to peat free compost for growing plants from seed including sunflowers and I didn’t notice any particular change in successful germination or seedling development. However, this year only three sunflower seedlings out of 30 grew big enough to be planted out in the yard and that was only after pricking out the strongest and transferring them into an alternative brand of peat free compost.
It has been a longer wait and more effort than usual, but eventually the sunflowers have bloomed. Late, yes, which means the autumnal winds have arrived and cutting them down has been necessary, but all is not lost as I do now have a very cheerful display on the kitchen table.