The winning plant food

When a plant fertiliser helps you keep winning gardening competitions, it’s time to share the secret

Les Coombes' garden is a riot of colour Image: Coombes family

For five years running, retired agriculturalist Les Coombs has scooped the First Prize in the Best Garden section of the Chobham Agricultural and Horticultural Society competition.

Every pot and container is filled with flowering plants
Image: Coombes family

Les, who has been using Flower Power Plant Food since it was launched in 2007, also won the Best Freestanding tub or urn category and took the third prize for his hanging basket this year.

The Best Garden competition is hotly contested within the horticultural society. “They ended up giving six prizes out for Best Garden,” admits Les, who took the first prize Silver Cup again. Les does it all for his own enjoyment and that of his wife and family.

Small but beautiful

His garden isn’t large, about forty feet by thirty but it is packed out with colour, a lot of it grown in containers and he feeds it all with what he calls Richard’s Magic, more commonly known as Flower Power. “It’s got the potash in it. I use it to get a nice clear flower and I think it hardens them as well. I’ve worked in agriculture all my life, so I know the value of potash.”

You don’t need a huge garden to create a stunning display
Image: Coombes family

He keeps it all well watered and well-fed with Flower Power, which he waters on to the plants every week.

Hanging Garden

Hanging baskets make up a large part of Les’ garden, to such an extent that it is locally known as The Hanging Gardens of Chobham. “I have so many hanging baskets and I plant them up with begonias and petunias. It makes a really good show. I’ve also got a pot of Richard’s three different colour petunias that have been very nice and are now bushing out nicely.”

Les grows petunias in his award winning containers and baskets
Image: Coombes family

Flower Power

Les grows flowers galore. He gets through one of the large tubs of Flower Power each season because he feeds each and every basket and container at least once a week.

It’s a cacophony of colour. A bright, colourful and eclectic mix of petunias, begonias and lobelia, “ a lot of it I grow myself in my little a greenhouse,” he says and he is careful about what he grows.

“ I like zinnias. I think they make a lovely show and the non-stop begonias. I grow a lot of geraniums and I take cuttings of this year’s plants for next year.

Les Coombes’ garden is a riot of colour
Image: Coombes family

I grow marguerites but generally only the white ones because they show up nicely and I love the colourful dahlias. I think my favourite would be the petunias they are so colourful and they grow so very well.”

 

Deadheading

To keep the plants looking their best, Les ensures that every spent flower is removed from the plants quickly. Combined with his use of Flower Power that’s the secret to his success. “Deadheading is my obsession,” he says. ”I can’t bear to see a plant with deadheads on it, so I’ll be out there and I’ll go through all of them every day and I remove all of the deadheads. It’s very, very important. I just don’t like to see them hanging there.”

Even if you only manage to deadhead your plants weekly it will make a huge difference, he advises.

 

Gardening is good for you

Les and his wife Jackie love their garden. Les does it for the enjoyment, not to win prizes but there is no doubt that he gets a lot of pleasure from scooping first prize.

Les feeds his plants with Flower Power
Image: Coombes family

“We just enjoy it so much really and as we’re getting older we can sit and admire it more. We’ve always grown a garden like this, even at our other place. It’s not work to us. We just like to see it like that, we just enjoy it.”

 

Jean Vernon

About Jean Vernon

Jean Vernon is a slightly quirky, bee friendly, alternative gardener. She doesn’t follow the rules and likes to push the boundaries a bit just to see what happens. She has a fascination for odd plants, especially edibles and a keen interest in growing for pollinators especially bees. She’s rather obsessed with the little buzzers. Telegraph Gardening Correspondent, mostly testing and trialing products and Editor-In-Chief for Richard Jackson’s Garden.
@TheGreenJeanie
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