Port Eliot Festival. Flower Garden Update.

Furface checking seedlings for rabbits.
Furface checking seedlings for rabbits.

We have taken a totally different approach to the cut flower patch of the walled garden at Port Eliot this season. Usually I would use the tried and tested method of direct sowing in straight lines a foot apart and filling any gaps, where there is poor germination, from seedlings that have been started undercover (mainly half hardy  annuals).

This season we are looking for more height and flounce (and less cornflowers that took over last year!) The beds in the walled garden are pretty much weed free, this makes it much easier to simply scatter seeds as the danger of them being out competed by weeds is far lower than say, my allotment, which is a weed fest.

Orlaya, Cosmos & Zinnia.
Orlaya, Cosmos & Zinnia.

The main bulk of the scattered seeds are Larkspur, Ammi majus (which flowers earlier than it’s brother visnaga), Daucus carota (wild carrot…not the popular purple one…but the more rustic pale one) and Dill ‘Mammoth’.

I have 1000 seedlings that are presently being pampered undercover at the Higgledy HQ which include: Zinnia, Rudbeckia, Nicotiana, Sunflowers, Cosmos, Tithonia, Malope, Chrysanthemum and Lupins. The intention is let these chaps wriggle away undercover and slowly trickle them out into the garden from mid May.


So much of the timing being right for the festival, at the end of July, is in the hands of the Goddess Flora and she can be a mischievous little Imp…she sends some flowers too early…and others too late. This season I have made a sacrifice in her honour and helped provide 51,000 packets of bee friendly seeds to the good people of 38 Degrees for their ‘Save The Bees Campaign’...so hopefully she will pat me on the head, tickle me on the chin and help my flowers strut their funky chicken.

I shall be visiting Port Eliot next week and will report on if we have any germination from the direct sown seeds.

NB There is still plenty of time for you to sow your seeds…I haven’t sown any directly into the ground in my own flower garden yet (Port Eliot being a walled garden is much warmer)…the soil here is still a little wet and cold…I’ll give it another week….no rush.

Have a great weekend.

Kind regards

Benjamin Higgledy



Sowing Up Zinnia Seeds In Fibre Pots

Zinnia Flower
Zinia seeds sown into fibre pots…rather handsomely if I say so myself.

Higgledy Flower School. #35. Sowing Zinnia Seeds.

First off the bat my dear chums, you should be aware I am sowing super early in an attempt to ensure I have some Zinnia flowering their socks off for the Port Eliot Festival beds at the end of July. Usually I would hold off sowing for another couple of weeks and if I was sowing directly into the ground I would leave it until the end of April.

Zinnia Seeds
Zinnia Seeds

Zinnias are horti-famous for not liking root disturbance. With this in mind I have sown the little madams into fibre pots. I am using New Horizon Peat free compost for all my sowing this year. This compost has had very mixed reviews in the past but thus far, for me at least, it has been capital.

Zinnia 'Mammoth'
Zinnia Patch.

I am a fan of a square pot as they have fewer places for snails and slugs to hide…a chap knows what’s what when he is employing a square pot method. These beige rascals are made by a company called Kingfisher. They cost £2.99 for 36 pots. I’m sure you can find cheaper ones but I was in my local garden centre where one has to spend a few quid every visit or be haunted by the village elf.

zinnia flower
Hot Zinnia Jam Jar Action.

I have found myself in the habit of germinating seeds indoors where I can keep an eye on them and ensure they are behaving according to the strict rules of the Higgledy Garden. As soon as Furface sees the first green growth he alerts me with a predetermined coded whistle and we move the tray into the light and glory that is the coldframe/seedling tunnel. Here they will stay until toward the end of May. Well…that’s the theory.

If you wish to direct sow your Zinnia in the soil, which is often the recommended method, I should wait until towards the end of April. Soil should be rich in organic matter and the bed should get full sun. I sow plants to about a foot apart.

Zinnias are very productive beasties, so keep harvesting the flowers and they will keep coming for yonks.

Kindest regards

Benjamin Higgledy

Link: The Higgledy Garden Seed Shop Of Dreams.


Using Seedling Grow Tunnels.

'Grow It.' Seedling Tunnel.
‘Grow It.’ Seedling Tunnel.

Utilising A Seedling Grow Tunnel. Higgledy Flower School. #34.

These type of tunnels can be a really cost effective way of managing a reasonable size cutting patch if you haven’t got a greenhouse. I think they’re great. I’ve had troubles with the larger walk in versions with ripping and getting blown away in the storms that come of the Atlantic down here in Cornwall. With these small ones….if a big storm is coming I simply take them down and move the seedling trays to a sheltered spot.

I paid just under £30 from my local garden centre for this one…you may find them cheaper online. This is made by ‘Grow It’ and they call it a ‘Seedling Cloche’.

Initially I was disappointed that it didn’t quite fit a ‘Garden Tray’ (I think that’s what they’re called…the trays that carry four seed trays) without having to sit on the metal tubing…however this has turned out to be a plus as it keeps the tray off the cold ground and also weighs down and secures the whole structure.

270 seedlings in three inch square pots. #Simples
270 seedlings in three inch square pots. #Simples

Without too much trouble I can fit 270 three inch square pots into it. Roughly enough plants to fill a thirty by one metre cutting bed.

The front opens up which makes watering easier…and I can leave it open for a week or so whilst I am hardening the plants off ready to plant out. It makes life very simple. After everything has been planted out after mid May I can simply take it down and store it in the shed.

This season I am germinating most of my seedlings in the house which is a pretty consistent 19 degrees…and then putting the trays into the Grow Tunnel. I am starting seeds off early than it is wise to…this is because I need them early for the Port Eliot Festival….I would certainly have more success if I held off for a couple of weeks or more. April is best for this kind of caper.

Kind regards

Benjamin Higgledy

Link: Higgledy Seed Shop Of Dreams.



The Return Of The Bucket Garden. 2016 Season.

The bucket garden last year.
The bucket garden last year.

Last year’s bucket garden was a resounding success…the vast majority of the flowers seemed to thrive in it and I loved doing it.

I tried it out because I hadn’t grown a cut flower patch in containers before and I get asked regularly if it is possible. Yes I had a few failures…my Nasturtiums failed to do anything remotely entertaining and my Craspedia didn’t get off the blocks but other than that all was hunky dory. I don’t think the Nasturtiums liked the richness of the compost…I’m about to sow up a bucket of them using soil from the garden…it could well be the same issue with the Craspedia.

New Horizon is great stuff this season. Look out for 2 for 1 offers for £10.

It goes without saying that bucket gardens can be great for those with balconies or patios…but they must get lots of sun. Being that they are easy to put anywhere…perhaps they might be useful for those not physically abled to get out into the garden…buckets can be close in to the house…and of course they stand a good foot higher than the ground.

Last year I think I had about 20 buckets…this year I am going to up that a little….oh yes…I like to live dangerously….30…maybe 40….who can tell the bounds of my buckety dreams.


Buckets. £1 each…I got mine from a market/shop in Redruth…but I think B&Q sell £1 builder’s buckets too.

Compost. £10 for two bags of New Horizon Peat Free Compost (organic too as it happens…but the peat free bit is the most important bit to me.) Two bags of 50 litres will fill five buckets…so that’s £2 per bucket.

This little seedling tunnel was £30...very handy.
This little seedling tunnel was £30…very handy.

Seeds. £2ish per variety of flower…you will only use a tiny fraction of a packet so share them with your chums and the cost will be negligible…but lets call it 50p for argument’s sake.

Thus…each bucket of flowering wonder will cost £3.50.

NB You MUST put holes in your buckets for drainage. I melted holes with a rod of burning hot iron straight out of the woodburner which made me feel very macho.

I have started several buckets of sweet peas… a couple of buckets of Calendula and Cornflowers…but bear in mind I’m right down in deepest Cornwall…if I was ‘up country’ I wouldn’t bother sowing anything until well into April. Keeping a couple of buckets to sow up in May will of course extend your flowering season.

Wherever you are in the world…rest assured I shall keep you abreast of all bucket garden developments as they happen.

Kindest regards

Benjamin Higgledy



The Port Eliot Walled Garden. 2016.

One of the beds in the main quadrangle.
One of the beds in the main quadrangle. Blank canvas.

This will be the third year that Higgledy Garden has been offered the opportunity to get involved with the Port Eliot festival. Alongside Mike Le Jardin and Catherine St Germans we get stuck into some serious spring sown annual action.

The festival is held on the last weekend of July…so unlike my other cut flower gardens…this chap has to be firing off on all cylinders for that weekend…this is not so easy. Annual flowers have varied times of how long they take to flower from sowing…and these times are altered by the weather conditions. Although the flowers will be getting into their stride by that weekend…and will be working very efficiently as a cutting garden, it is the following two weeks when they will really be strutting their stuff. So it pays to make an early start on the sowing and risk some inevitable failures.

This was the same bed in July 2014.
This was the same bed in July 2014.

In the previous two years we have done most of the sowing directly into the soil in early April. This is pretty early for direct sowing but remember we are in Cornwall and we are in a wonderfully protected walled garden.

This year the plan is to make a very early sowing in the middle of March of a limited number of hardy annuals. We are looking for more height and movement this season and with that in mind we shall be sowing Larkspur ‘Giant Imperials’, Ammi majus, Godetia ‘Crown’, Daucus carota, Corncockle, Cerinthe and Dill ‘Mammoth’. These chaps have all got a fighting chance of germinating outside if we have a mild late March. We will then make a further sowing in early/mid April to cover ourselves.


Meanwhile back at Higgledy HQ I shall be sowing up 600 pots of annuals (From mid March)…I will let these beasties grow away undercover before planting them out at the end of May in gaps between the direct sown flowers.

Although this method is more time consuming than direct sowing, it will help ensure we get a great mix of plants.

Other plants will include:

Sunflower ‘Earthwalker’ & ‘Vanilla Ice’


Aster ‘Ostrich Plume’

Cosmos ‘Purity’, ‘Sensation’ & possible Xanthos

Sweet Peas


Bells of Ireland


Rudbeckia ‘Marmalade’ & ‘Goldilocks’

Zinnia ‘Mammoth’




One issue we had last season was that the Cornflowers rushed ahead of everything else and peaked too soon…this year will will have considerably fewer of them and have ones that were sown a couple of weeks later.

NB I don’t advise my customers to sow this early…in fact I spend most of time suggesting they don’t!

I will write up how we are getting along and put all the posts in a new ‘Port Eliot Festival’ category….so please stay tuned…

Kind regards

Benjamin Higgledy