Category Archives: Port Eliot Festival

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’ 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



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 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