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'Making the Most of What You Have'

We finally succeeded in having a face-to-face (or should I say mask-to-mask) meeting in early September, allowing us to elect new officers and admire another beautiful garden through a wonderfully engaging talk by Benjamin Pope aka The Working Gardener. Ben’s training at both Merrist Woods and RHS Wisley (awarded Best Practical /Best Overall Student) means he is not only highly competent at his job but also has buckets full of enthusiasm for everything ranging from compost and propagation to starting his own market garden.

During his talk on ‘Making the Most of What You Have’, we were treated to photographs of the glorious private garden where he works. The nuggets of wisdom that he imparted focused on time saving steps like annually applying a thick layer of mulch on borders to minimize weeds and add nutrients. They use almost 40 cubic metres of mulch each year in the garden (see photo).

He is a big proponent of scarifying lawns annually to remove the thatch – far more important than fertilizing the lawn. As a keen propagator, he also recommends sowing annuals and perennials from seed as they help to extend the interest in borders and require little effort particularly if you are blessed with a greenhouse. Like many gardeners, he does the ‘Chelsea chop’ for plants such as sedums, phlox and asters to maintain their shape and prolong the flowering time. And he also advised to support plants from February advocating the old ‘stitch in time…’ philosophy.

For me, the most salient points were ‘plant right, plant small’ with Ben preference for plants in 9cm pots as they establish better in their new home and that attention to detail is what creates an outstanding garden. Focus on keeping your paths neat and clear, edges tidy, lines straight and deadheading! Deadheading is crucial in keeping your garden looking fresh particularly with drier conditions and as the season passes. Guess I have some work to do!

Sheri Sticpewich


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