Farmer Gardening in a Concrete Jungle of Tropical Flowers

My childhood days of farming the land led to gardening for one of the UK’s most prestigious National Trust Red sandstone castle and terraced gardens of babilion in the heart of Wales. My love of plants started long before I can remember with tales of an interest in nature and animals at a very young age.

The climate I grew up in was mostly cool in temperature, never too hot and rarely too cold! Cloudy often, yet wet grey skies were alive with color thanks to a passion for gardening that has brought light to the darkest days. Now by some miracle, I have discovered a  love of life, a desire to learn and a passion to challenge myself hourly. I find myself on the well-trod affluent city streets of Philadelphia, where the skyscrapers glisten and the dust of a long-gone industry still settles on the trees and green spaces that offer a glimmer of hope in this criss-cross car-lined roads that block and crowd this fast-growing city.

A new city life, a re-start to a relationship that thrived on individuality and long distance travels, we are both adjusting to life together in the permanent sense! In-fact my uber driver said to me just yesterday that “When something flows so smoothly, how can it be anything but right?” a very optimistic woman who demanded change through the power of positive thinking coupled with a desire to teach. She was right of-course in a 25-minute ride home we discussed the meaning of life and a belief that positive energy can empower and determine your capacity to grow. Plants have always been in my life so I knew I would have to start growing soon, despite the fact it was proving to be one heck of an arctic winter experiencing both my first thundersnow and NorEaster!  Whilst hunting for a job took most of my time, I also knew unless I started to grow plants, sow seeds and micro-greens I would go crazy in this well-ordered concrete jungle.

I decided that growing Sweet Pea in Pennsylvania is one of the first colorful challenges I set myself when arriving in Philadelphia I had gathered some seeds from my Mum’s homegrown collection of Large Flowers Scented Sweet Pea, before emigrating to the Garden City of America.

I followed the tradition of pre-soaking my treasured seeds for 24hrs prior to sowing, I decided to grow my sweet pea seeds in succession, the first batch I started early and already have plants making an early attempt to flower under grow lamps, now safely cool in my sheltered cold frame, so as long as the possum stays away and the stray cats don’t break-in to steal my catnip (Nepeta).

My second batch of seeds will be sown later to encourage an Autumn flowering believing the sweet pea plant will enjoy the cooler autumn temperatures and flower until first frosts. Unlike the familiar temperate conditions of the UK, I am yet to experience the long winter that suddenly becomes the warm rays of Spring afore the all too soon, skin burning hot summers sun and spring are squeezed into just a few weeks. I recall a similar growing environment or lack thereof when I lived in Eastern Europe the wintery nights long and icy cold, the Spring almost forgotten and all of a sudden a host of flowers in abundance until the heat of the summer’s rays induce the second dormancy.

I am having fun growing a wide range of annuals, vegetables and perennials, hundreds of seeds germinating in my grow room and my aforementioned cold frame already bursting at the seams. Tropical paradise springs to mind. In fact, I am so optimistic about the results is that I have even thought of opening the garden to visitors and even sell a few surplus plants. Funny when you think I have such big plans for such a small plot, surrounded on all sides by concrete, brick, chainlink fencing and multi-coloured plastic cladding. Whilst sweet peas are far from tropical the host of annuals and tender perennials that will pack our tiny backyard this summer is indeed going to a jungle explosion of color.

Four ‘O Clock flower Mirabilis thrives in the heat of the Summer long flowering with a succession of color-splashed trumpets.

I left behind the manor houses and perfect rolling lawns for a city alive and fit to burst, where live is lived in tight people packed places and silence, real silence does not exist. A railroad, a joyful, rebel a passing base beat filled vehicle occasionally a songbird will watch me while I work, thats all it takes to transport me to another place, a memory remembered on my packed highway rideway home. The relief as sigh out loud as my friendly satilitee navigation welcomes me home, my street.

Zinnia’s are so easy to grow and available in a host of color from cherry red to lime green pom-pom dahlia like blooms all Summer long.

My mind is full of wonder, my eyes are city filled, I have never let my simple start in life stand in my way, instead I’m happy to let it lead me take me where I am meant to go, the humility it gave me, through the seasons I watch as nature smiles and glows.

Follow my colorful adventure and perhaps try my Head Gardeners Collection Seeds for yourself. | iGrowHort eBay 

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Stephen Pryce-Lea

Head Gardener and International Horticultural Consultant

 

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“It’s a beautiful thing when a career and a passion grow together, when you find it in a Garden it’s like finding Paradise“

iGrowHort – A Head Gardener’s Horticultural Journey of love, life and learning.

 

 

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About Head Gardener 331 Articles
Award winning, 40 something year old professional plantsman and horticulturalist with National Trust, private parks and estate management background. My vast plant knowledge and hands on techinical experience, afforded me the opportunity to work in various horticultural landscapes, in the UK, USA & Eastern Europe. Having worked in both garden retail & the design service industry gave me the practical diversity and managerial skill set, required for running a large prestigious gardens and stately homes. I strongly believe knowledge is to be shared and have worked closely with people and staff of all ages and abilities keen to develop their passion for gardening, including groups of children, special needs and adults. I have hosted guided walks, talks and tours for those keen to learn about cultivated and wild plants, garden development, history and design. As an member of the NNCPG and National Trust, I am actively involved in the preservation of several important plant collections both in public and private gardens throughout the UK. “It’s a beautiful thing when a career and a passion grow together, in a garden it’s paradise” Follow @IGrowHort on GardenTags. Stephen is passionate about gardening as Head Gardener with a team of ten staff he manages a prestigious Cheshire country estate of 55 acres, inc wild flower meadows, woodland, organic kitchen and formal gardens. Follow Stephen today”

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