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Alys Fowler Alys Fowler | 07:00 UK time, Monday, 11 July 2011

Yellow peppers and Amaranth at the RHS Edible Garden

Yellow peppers and Amaranth at the RHS Edible Garden

I've waited a long time to come away from a show with my notebook bursting with ideas. This year the pages run over. There were brilliant combinations to try, such as the lovely paring of the pale yellow green of sweetcorn with the dusky dark purple of red cabbage in the small garden, An Urban Harvest.

I loved the use of Amaranth and yellow peppers and the very dark purple leaved chilli next to the pale pink carnations in the RHS Edible Garden. It was delightfully informal and looked effortless, although it must have taken many, many hours.

I was so pleased to see so many vegetables being left to flower, such as the black Tuscan kale, as it adds another dimension to a more laid back edible garden. It provides something for pollinators and teaches an awful lot about what family a vegetable comes from.

I ran into Jim Arbury, of RHS apple fame, and we had a long and lovely catch up that ran mostly like this. ' What is your favourite cabbage for sauerkraut? what should I do about this old apple?, how many tomatoes do you grow?, have you ever been successful with sweet potatoes?, what plum should I grow for jam?'. The best sort of conversation really, where everything is measured in terms of growing and harvests.

The end result of this is that I must get hold of a zwetschgen plum. It's a German plum high in dry matter and sugar, so not much good for eating raw, but amazing in cakes and preserves. Jim's wife, Eva makes a spread out of it that sounded so, so very good. It's sweet enough on its own for you not to need to add sugar and you cook the jam slowly over days, slow reducing it down into the right consistency, no sugar, no water just fruit. I want those plums.

I spent a happy morning in The Plant Heritage Marquee filming and got to feast on many lovely and rare things, the floppy, dishevelled Malmasion carnations, Dahlia as big as hats, Eucalyptus large and small and a whole flop of raspberries and blackberries. I've never felt like owning a collection before, I've enjoyed perusing, I've admired the dedication, but I've not actually lusted, but the brambles got me.

I came away with two to try. A Chinese creeping raspberry, Rubus pentalobus, which has small, sweet yellow fruit and forms a thick mat of leaves, so works well as a ground cover suppressing weeds as it grows. I imagine it might be a little thuggish. However, I need something for the back of the allotment that can fight it out amongst the wilder bits and if I get a little fruit then that sounds like a good arrangement to me.

I also picked up a Rubus lineatus, which is a Himalayan Raspberry with the prettiest, most delicate leaves and red fruit. It's not said to be fully hardy and needs a sheltered, warm spot in dappled shade. I'm going to tuck it around the corner of the polytunnel, which should afford it some protection and soften the edges of the tunnel.


Alys Fowler's train journey home


I ate a very indulgent ice-cream, drank one or two strong coffees, wondered how rude it would be to pick display strawberries so ripe that another day they'd be over, brushed herbs for their scents (Vietnamese coriander seems the all out winner this year), was gifted a lemon verbena to replace my winter's loss, hugged old friends and greeted new ones.

It was decidedly odd to be filming again, but not at all unpleasant. And then there was a train ride home with a bottle of cold white wine and passion fruits. A perfect couple of days.

Alys Fowler is a writer and broadcaster. Read more of Alys's Gardening blog posts.


  • Comment number 1.

    Vietnamese coriander - I must keep an eye out for that. Hampton Court is great to discover new plants from all corners of the world. I loved the giant honeysuckle in the 'Old Walled Garden' -

    Keep us posted on how you get on with your new plants.

  • Comment number 2.

    I love the idea of the creeping chinese raspberry, Rubus Pentalobus sounds perfect for my semi shaded steep bank,thank you for introducing me to it

  • Comment number 3.

    This has been the one show this year that really made me wish I could be there in person to explore. I wish they'd had you on screen a bit more, especially to discuss the large and amazing edible garden, plus those intriguing smaller ones. You and Monty seem to have the most appreciation for edible gardens, and I thought a show with the two of you doing more in depth exploration and explanation would have been brilliant. At any rate, it was very nice to see you back on screen again!

    Now I want those plums as well. The jam sounds like a plum version of apple butter, which has Amish origins. Long, slow cooked, condensed essence of apple. Delicious.


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