Thursday, 15 September 2016

Twenty-First-Century Gardeners

The twenty-fifth anniversary of the internet set me thinking about the ways in which technology has impacted gardeners' lives. Once upon a time I gardened in isolation and on occasions I was fortunate to share my enthusiasm for plants with 3 elderly gardeners. I will be forever grateful for their company, encouragement, advice, seeds and cuttings. Twenty-first-century gardening needs not be a solitary experience. I might garden alone, but within seconds I can share my latest horticultural triumph or crop failure with thousands of fellow gardeners and receive advice, support, sympathy, and on those rare occasions when the going is good, a virtual pat on the back.
Ulting Wick Garden 2015
If your nearest and dearest are not nuts about gardening, meeting fellow gardeners and spending a few hours indulging in plant talk is a great luxury. In the UK, members of All Horts, an online group, arrange garden visits and invite fellow members to join them. It was during one such visit to Philippa Burrough’s wonderful garden at Ulting Wick in Essex, that I met Persicaria orientalis. I also met gardening enthusiast and fellow Twitterer, @ToBoldlyGrow, who admired the Persicaria in Philippa's garden and decided to start some from seed. Earlier this year, along with other wonderful plants which he had grown, he gave me some Persicaria orientalis.
Ulting Wick Garden 2015
Persicaria orientalis is an annual with the splendid common name of kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate. I planted it opposite my garden gate, not because I was optimistic of a kiss, but because I wanted to see it every time I went out or arrived home. In any case, I would need a ladder for kissing because the gate is taller than me, and kissing atop a ladder is a folly even in the first throes of love. Persicaria orientalis' rate of growth is impressive. It has managed to reach at least 1.5 metres (around 5’) since I settled it into its new home in June. It likes full sun and well-drained, dry soil, which is as well, because the soil has most definitely been dry this summer. It will flower until the first frosts and I am hoping that it will do the decent thing and seed itself about.
Persicaria orientalis at Le Grys Farm
In return for Persicaria orientalis, I gave @ToBoldlyGrow some Tithonia 'Orange Sunshine' plants. I might not have grown Tithonia if it wasn’t for Jason, who blogs at Gardeninacity. Jason lives thousands of miles away from me. We have never met, but his enthusiasm for Tithonia is contagious, so I sowed some seeds. These wonderful bee magnets are now growing in my garden, in @ToBoldlyGrow's garden, and in his sister's garden too, both of which are over a hundred miles away from mine. Without the internet, none of this would have happened.
Tithonia 'Orange Sunshine' at Le Grys Farm
We might be aiming for a paperless society, but most companies continue to produce mouth-watering glossy photo-packed catalogues to be savoured and drooled over during those long dark days, when the sun barely shines and we are up to our crowns in thermals. Researching plants, whether on those pages or not, takes little effort these days. It certainly makes the quest for rarer varieties less arduous than it was in the last century. 
Ulting Wick Garden 2015
The search for a plant will often lead us to untried nurseries and should all go well (and in the history of my extensive shopping experience, it always has), a lifelong relationship with these nurseries will soon be formed. In the UK, we are blessed with the Independent Plant Nurseries Guide, an online resource which came about in response to a thoughtless, throwaway comment by a well-known gardening presenter earlier this year. Three passionate plants-people took action to repair any damage caused by his comment, and now we are blessed with an ever-increasing list of nurseries. How I would love to visit them all!
Ulting Wick Garden 2015
I recently had the pleasure of meeting some fellow garden bloggers. We are all members of the Twitter- and Facebook-based group, Garden Bloggers. We receive support from one another, discuss blogging issues and, as it turns out from our meeting, share seeds and books. I was delighted to receive Glass Gem Corn seed from James, who blogs at Reflections On The Dew Pond. Having never grown Glass Gem Corn, I am really looking forward to trying it next year.
Ulting Wick Garden 2015
The first social media site was launched in 1997; blogging also dates back to the '90s. My children were born in the twenty-first century. They are teenagers who have never known a world without the internet, social media, or blogging. Like many families, we have rules about mobile phone manners, but at some time every day, I will see them with their heads bowed over their phones as they plan their social lives and share experiences with their friends far away, and I wonder how they could have ever managed without the internet. Then I look at myself and wonder how on earth I survived without it for so long.

I am linking this post to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day to share the joys of Persicaria orientalis and Tithonia 'Orange Sunshine', which are both blooming their socks off in my garden at the moment. Why not pop over to to see what is blooming elsewhere around the globe?

More information about the garden at Ulting Wick may be found at
The Independent Plant Nurseries Guide:
Jason blogs at and James may be found at