It’s the end of June and we are getting excited about Hampton Court Flower Show which starts next week. One of the specialties of the show is the grand display of roses as well as the Rose of the Year award. Roses are at their very best at this time of year, and, we challenge any gardener not to fall in love with their variety, beauty and scent. Gardeners have cherished roses for hundreds of years. As early as 500 BC, Confucius wrote about roses in the Imperial gardens, and there were over 200 volumes of books about roses in the emperor’s library. During the Han dynasty the popularity of rose gardening began to threaten the take over of agricultural land to the point where an imperial order demanded they be ploughed back into the soil.
This long history of rose growing has seen a steady revival in recent years since expert gardeners such as David Austin began to introduce roses, blending the characteristics of old fashioned roses with modern demands for repeat flowering and a wide range of colours. Its not just garden beauty that roses bring us. They can also contribute to our wellbeing in other ways.
Many uses were recorded in Persia over 2000 years ago, and in 75 AD Pliny the Elder listed 32 diseases the roses could be used to cure. Rose oil can nourish mature skin and help with wrinkles, and manage hormones, grief and emotional distress or depression. Rose petals are known to be antiseptic, and Chinese tea made of dried rose buds can help with flatulence, and stomach pains and cramps. Rose hips have astringent properties and have been used to treat colds, flu and gastric problems because of their vitamin content. How gratifying to know that flowers have such health giving powers. Roll on the festival of the rose!
Fashion is not just about clothes. There are garden fashions too. Plants and planting styles that gardeners of all sorts fall in love with and get carried away by. Genus visits to flower and gardening shows this year revealed a few discernible trends.
The first is for people. As community gardening and growing becomes more important and well established, it seems garden design is turning towards more relaxed planting, less of an emphasis on grasses, and a greater interest incorporating plants and shrubs with individual merits and properties that serve community wellbeing. Plants with multiple functions providing food, fragrance and fertility fit into this category, which probably accounts for all the beans we have seen included in so many displays.
Two other important trends are connected with plants. Home grown plants, local British flowers and wild flowers reflect the demands for slow growing, sustainable and artisan products that have been a feature of the food and food growing sector for a number of years. Events such as the increasingly popular British Flowers Week ringing the changes. There is too a feeling of nostalgia and a revival of old fashioned plants, albeit in the form of new varieties, such as carnations, pinks, fuchsias and dahlias.
Products continue to feed home design trends for vintage and upcycled items such as Antique garden tools, paint washed garden furniture and upcycled planting containers on the one hand, but on the other there is also a push for innovation and performance with new products for gardeners including three bladed gardening shears, ergonomic recyclable wheelbarrows, sustainable British wool-based twine replacing imported jute, and of course our own performance gardening clothes!
Summer is definitely here. Even though this year has felt a little cooler than average (perhaps because of the weak El Niño we are experiencing at the moment) the temperature in the Genus garden over the last week has seen temperatures up to 24o C. We have had very little rain, so the garden is really very dry now. Our experience suggests that English summers can suddenly turn to mini-heatwaves. So we decided it was time we switched into hot and warm weather gardening mode!
It’s not only gardens that need extra care and consideration in hot weather. Gardeners need looking after too. We have slipped out of our 3-Season trousers, and into our summer gardening clothes. The Summer Gardening Trousers are specially designed for warm weather, they have the same great technical features, but are made of a light cotton, stretch fabric. This helps to keep us cool and move around comfortably.
We have also changed our gardening activities. Heavy work in hot weather is not good for gardeners, so there is no more digging in the midday sun for a while, not least because digging causes water stress to plants and increases the amount of evaporating soil water. We have started mulching madly, particularly in the veg garden, to make the water that is there stay where it needs to be. We used the clippings from the last cut of the lawn to help out with that. Our watering regime has changed too. It’s now heavy watering once or twice a week, right at the base of the most important plants (new plantings and the veg garden), rather than less directed daily watering (unless it’s anything in the greenhouse of course!). There has been lots of research to show that this is a better approach to managing water stress. Light watering encourages surface rooting, whereas heavy soaking encourages deeper root architectures that can withstand drought better. We do remember of course that this is England. Hopefully these responses to the warmer days, and our preparations for hot and dry months to come won’t be misplaced!
Since March, Genus has had a brilliant run in the press with coverage in 9 magazines!
My Weekly kicked off by featuring the Genus 3-Season Gardening Trousers for Women as a Best Buy.
Then, on 12 March, the Gloucester Citizen devoted a whole page to Genus and how we started the business.
In April, ProLandscaper featured our new Japanese tools products, the hori hori knife and the Sokan secateurs.
Also in April, Genus had a brilliant piece in Kitchen Garden which extolled the virtues of our 3-Season Gardening Trousers.
Still in April, Garden Trade Specialist gave Genus a great spot in their roundup of new garden products.
The Lady followed in May with our Summer Trousers getting their first press exposure.
Then, Saga Magazine, in their Gardening Extra feature in June, raved about the hori hori knife. So many people bought the knife in the days following that we ran out of stock. More knives are on their way from Japan as we write.
Garden Centre Retail followed in June with a whole page feature on clothing in garden centres. Both images are of Genus trousers and the coloured box in the centre focuses on Genus.
To bring us up to date, Country Homes and Interiors, in their July issue, interviewed Sue O'Neil as their "Favourite Gardenwear Expert". Goodness, Genus is getting around.
A big thanks to Jane Southcott, our brilliant PR, for all this brillliant press coverage, and to all the journalists who believe in the Genus concept.