A few words to give you the gist of our last few meetings, just in case you missed them
Our November speaker, Matt Simpson from Simpson’s Seeds gave a talk on the restoration of the kitchen garden at Longleat.
Here is what a committee member said of the meeting.
Matt Simpson of Simpson’s Seeds gave an interesting and far ranging talk about the origins of his business with his father in Surry and their move from a suburban back garden to the walled garden at Longleat in 2000. Matt has the benefit of two large glasshouses where he grows his plants hydroponically. We learnt that as well as marigolds as a companion plant, lemongrass, a tender perennial is an excellent greenfly deterrent.
Matt grows some 57 varieties of tomatoes and also a wide range of chillies. His motivation is to keep alive old varieties of flavoursome tomatoes whilst developing new strains.
He has been involved in breeding a very hot chilli pepper which measured 1.5million Scovilles (the chilli pepper heat scale) the hottest grown in the UK! This was achieved by treating the chilli pepper badly, hitting it and breaking off leaves and branches, an experience comparable to being nibbled by wild animals which leads to the defence of an increase in the heat of the pepper in the hope that the animal will not eat it. The audience was fascinated.
One member who thoroughly enjoyed the talk had the following to say.
The Simpson’s Vegetable Seeds business began when Mr Simpson Snr, convalescing after a bad accident, received a present from America wrapped in a gardening paper. Tomato seeds were ordered from one of the adverts and so began a burgeoning business in the back garden as in ‘The Good Life’. The neighbours found this tiresome and more land was needed anyway. Longleat were asking for somebody to take on their walled garden…
The talk was amusing and instructive, illustrated with old fashioned slides showing the very hard work involved in bringing this neglected walled garden back to life – the rubbish from previous incarnations, the trials and tribulations of hail and snow destroying the greenhouse glass, the storm that wrecked everything and the tomatoes cooked on the bushes in the scorching polytunnel. The garden succeeded, raised beds flourished and so did the business, perhaps too well, so that when Longleat required some land back for their own purposes it was no hardship to give it up and pay less rent!
Throughout the talk there were anecdotes and stories, grape vines, customers and wolves howling at the moon – lions too, apparently. So entertained were we that when the speaker said he had been rambling on for 55 minutes we couldn’t believe it; but he said he must just tell us about the peppers, the journalists and the BBC… Matt Simpson can come again.