Garden tools from Burgon & Ball

The awfully nice people at Burgon & Ball have sent me some of their marvellous garden tools in exchange for a review here on the blog. Read on for my first impressions of these shiny wonders.

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Orange is the happiest colour

According to Frank Sinatra, orange is the happiest of colours, but while Ol’ Blue Eyes may have loved to be surrounded by it in his garden, orange is a something of a departure for me. This summer I've found myself embracing orange with an ardour suggestive of a wish to make up for lost time.

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Shopping for seeds

There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of growing the plants from your garden from seed. The only trouble is, at this time of year I’ve a tendancy to overestimate the size of my greenhouse whilst underestimating the amount of time and effort that will be involved. Still, I like to think I’m doing my bit to keep the horticultural economy ticking over.

We gardeners are spoilt creatures. There are so many ways for us for us to get our kicks. Take the business of acquiring new plants, for example. There’s the sheer delight of wandering through a plant show, reveling in the  variety and quality of the wares on display, and returning home with a pot or two (or three) containing those beautiful, expertly grown specimens that simply refused to be left behind. Then there’s the joy of the unexpected gift from a green-fingered friend – when you just happened to admire her fancy Aquilegias within earshot – freshly dug from the garden, plunged into whatever container comes first to hand, and thrust into your arms with a generosity and kindness for which your half-hearted protestations are no kind of match at all. And then there’s that whole other panoply of experience, the fairground of emotions that accompanies the process of raising your own plants from seed. The highs and lows of elation and despondency are enough to rival any roller-coaster ride, the excitement we feel at a crop’s successful germination, the appearance of the first seed leaves, and the healthy bulking up of each plant, all more than tempered by concerns over compost choice, should you prick out or sow in modules, watering and feeding regimes – not to mention the thorny issue of whether or not your neighbours can be trusted to tend the things should you be crazy enough to go on holiday while your infant plants are still at a vulnerable stage.

But before all the angst, comes the weeks and months of happy anticipation – otherwise known as winter – during which we pour over seed catalogues, envisioning how our greenhouses will look in the spring, and our gardens shortly thereafter, bursting with verdant wonders raised through our own skill and guile from tiny packets of dust and crumbs. We pride ourselves on the wisdom and prudence with which we manage the household resources, cannily opting to grow plants from seed at a tiny fraction of the outlay that it would cost to obtain potted stock, and then promptly buy far more varieties than we have space to grow or time to manage.

I’ve been doing just this. I’m usually a little later than some getting started, but I like to think I make up for lost time with the ridiculous ambition of my plans. Actually, last year, I decided to exercise restraint. Coupled with an awful year with unreliable peat-free composts, that attempt at moderation was decidedly unsatisfying, so we won’t be doing that again. This year, it’s back to business as usual, and I’m all set to Go Large or Toddle Off Homeward – if you’re going to fail, you might as well do it with spectacular aplomb. Consequently, I’m still in the process of ordering far too many seeds, and the first batch arrived a few days ago.

These were from Ben Ranyard at Higgledy Garden. The arrival of a parcel from Higgledy is always something of a red letter day – the brown envelope addressed in Ben’s generous looping hand, the red logo rubber-stamped on each of the matching seed packets, and the jolly handwritten note – little details that delight, and that’s before even considering the handful of slumbering potential contained within each small brown paper package. It’s enough to make you come over all unnecessary.

I shall have my work cut out for me this spring. I don’t sow until March – I find domestic conditions tend to favour straggly seedlings if sown this month – and in addition to my Higgledy bounty, I’ve another order to place from elsewhere, plus whatever I have left over from previous years – a not inconsiderable collection which needs to be sorted into the potentially viable and the probably defunct. Best get on with it.

My Higgledy shopping basket contents: Zinnia 'Mammoth', Sweet Pea 'Winston Churchill', Sweet Pea 'Beujolais', Sweet Pea 'Jilly', Reseda luteola, Helianthus 'Vanilla Ice', Helianthus 'Earthwalker', Eschscholzia 'Orange King', Echinacea 'Primadonna White', Craspedia, Cosmos 'Pied Piper', Cosmos 'Purity', Cleome spinosa 'Violet Queen', Chrysanthemum 'Rainbow'

Order seeds now from and quote the discount code GWW15 to get 15% off your shopping cart. Code valid until midnight 19 February 2016.

What are you growing from seed this year, and have you started sowing yet? Let me know on Twitter, or leave a comment below.