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Showing posts from June, 2014

Salad Days: Intercropping, Limp Lettuce and Nightshade Tomatoes

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My Nepalese allotment neighbour's putting me to shame. Not only is she growing a huge amount of blemish free lettuce, she is cleverly intercropping her onions amongst them. I wonder if the smell of the onions is helping to keep the slugs and snails at bay? Much food for thought here going forward...

We also swapped stories of what we use lettuce for in addition to salad. She uses it as a stir fried vegetable, just for a few seconds so the leaves are wilted a bit like we do with spinach sometimes. I countered with using it for soup, especially with older leaves or at the end of summer.

I've been cropping my lettuce leaves grown outside my back door since we came home and made a great discovery after some hasty harvesting earlier in the week. I put my leaves straight into a bag then popped them in the salad crisper in the fridge, only to find some rather limp and forlorn looking lettuce the next day.

The leaves needed a wash if I was to use them, so I decided to give them a nic…

Things in Unusual Places #13: Torso

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I had to do a double take last week when I spotted this young gentleman outside a florist shop in Darlington. The sign reads:

Girlfriends know each other's favourite flower

I'm sure the world would be a much better place if boyfriends knew it too ;)


What's your favourite flower? Mine changes with the season and my mood. Right now I'm particularly enjoying the scent from the petunias in the new hanging basket by our front door. It's a great welcome home.

Postcard from Weardale

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We've just come back from a fabulous week in County Durham, where as you can see the weather was kind to us. However, you can't tell from the idyllic looking picture that the wind's breath at the top of Weardale contains a warning that winter's never far away.

30 years ago NAH and I moved away from this kind of scenery to start our married life together down south. Since then we've had good, bad and unexpected times which I wouldn't change for the world, but the pull of the north has always been there at the back of my mind.

So last week was a bit of a test - was my homesickness for the north east simply part of my imagination or for real? I'd say on balance it's for real because I didn't feel like we were on holiday. We'd simply gone home instead.

I'm not from the area, but it's the only place I've ever felt at home. Elizabeth and Mark have blogged much more eloquently on this subject than I can and they've given me much to pon…

Wordless Wednesday: Effortless Patio Salad

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GBBD: Erigeron karvinskianus

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If you were to look for lists of the top garden self-seeders on the internet, Erigeron karvinskianus aka Mexican fleabane would figure highly on most of them.

It's also the first plant I consciously made a design decision to include in our garden 15 years ago, after seeing a magazine picture of it merrily cascading down the steps at Great Dixter.

Since then I've been given a plant (which died) and cast many a packet of seed around to no avail. It seems self-seeders prefer to do it for themselves here and my own use of this characteristic is frowned upon by mother nature.

Therefore, we have plenty of tree seedlings, Cotoneaster horizontalis, Centaurea montana, aquilegias of various ilk, furry lamb's ears, Allium christophiiand Eryngiums all squeezing themselves into any space they can find whilst I'm not looking. Any seed scattered by me - such as from the self-sown foxgloves - gets ignored completely.

Imagine my surprise when clearing out the patio pots earlier this y…

Shows of Hands Finale

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Many thanks to everyone who took part in my Shows of Hands project for this year's Chelsea Fringe. Your response has been amazing with 41 contributions from 33 people and organisations via blogs, email, Facebook and Twitter.

When Shows of Hands was announced I promised you a final collage, or something. As your response was so big and because I've used plenty of collages throughout the project, I've decided the finale should be or something. I hope you enjoy the following selection of images.



Shows of Hands for Chelsea Fringe 2014(Click on the link if the embedded version doesn't work - this will open in a new window. There's 39 slides for you to click through at your own leisure)

Not only was this year's response larger in terms of participants, it was bigger in terms of global reach too, with Canada joining us here in the UK. Then Emma Cooper trumped that distance with her post about growing salad on the International Space Station. That did give me a minor p…

Grow Hope and Win Tickets to RHS Hampton Court Show

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One of my highlights of the Chelsea Flower Show this year was World Vision's Fresh Garden. You may have missed it because it wasn't located with the others.

The design needed a rather large tree for it to work, because its concept was an aid crate crashing into the show, packed full of plants ready to help grow a productive garden. A site amongst the trade stands provided the perfect spot.

And that's not all, this concept will be revisited at Gardeners' World Live from tomorrow, with John Warland's larger show garden denoting the planting of thousands of trees, and culminates in an even bigger finale by him at RHS Hampton Court. I think it's a fresh, bold move to develop the idea over three shows.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the 1984 Ethiopian famine, the worst in living memory. Thanks to World Vision and the generosity of supporters, the Antsokia Valley which was hardest hit by drought, is now a lush, green oasis. Hope of a future free from hu…

Tree Following With Lucy: June

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If the embedded video doesn't work, try this link instead.

The ash tree is fully clothed now, so I thought a short video would make a nice change from the usual still photo taken from our bedroom window. There's no visual sign of Mr and Mrs pigeon this month, though at least one of them can be heard.

Sue Garrett fromOur Plot at Green Lane Allotments neatly anticipated today's post last month when she commented:

Do you get lots of debris from the ash and lots of self sown tree seedlings? My sister's garden is plagued with one that overhangs her garden.

I think this photo answers Sue's question! I'm forever finding seedlings from the ash tree plus its neighbouring birch and maples. As you can see, some of them still manage to get through and make a substantial seedling before I spot them. 
As for debris, yes we do get quite a lot of small branches and twigs dropping off the ash tree. It does seem to be one of those trees which tends to lose minor limbs quite ofte…

Shows of Hands: Pondering Slug Damage

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Veronica's photo for Shows of Hands chimes with the hot topic of discussion this week. She says:

My hand is pointing to very heavily nibbled courgette plant. Bloody slugs.

It's possibly the worst picture I've ever taken but it's the spirit of the event that counts!

Aren't slugs and snails a real pain this year? I'm on my second sowing of courgettes and squashes as mine got nibbled to death when I put them outside to harden off. The jury's out on whether my wasabi up at the plot will ever recover. I'm also keeping a close eye on my dahlias which are just beginning to push their noses out of the soil - they're usually the slug dinner of choice if I'm not careful.

As "Mad-Eye" Moody would say, "Constant vigilance!" is required.

Thanks Veronica for capturing the mood of the moment with your photo. There's still a couple of days left for anyone else wanting to contribute toShows of Hands. There's been a terrific response so …

Gardening Leave

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Deep in the heart of the Royal Hospital Chelsea lies a very special garden. It's relatively small compared to the manicured lawns, borders and vast greenhouses used by the Chelsea Pensioners, but it's just as precious to the ex-services personnel who tend it.

This was my second visit to the garden, which has been relocated since I was there a few years ago. Back then it was in a deeply shaded spot and quite gloomy, but now...


... it's in a totally different place, full of light and promise.

Around 20% of service veterans develop a mental-health problem, often many years after rejoining civilian life. Gardening Leave was formed to provide a much needed lifeline and a way to help them work through their problems via horticultural therapy. It is a place of healing.

The design brief for this kind of garden is totally different to what you or I would choose for ourselves. It's based on need rather than aesthetics, though I still find it beautiful in its own right, especial…

I Love June For...

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... holidays

There's something special about the word holiday isn't there? In my view it's much more enticing than the word vacation. It's a word to be savoured and grinned at.

NAH and I have a regular habit - when I come home the day before a holiday, it gets announced with a great deal of attention. If I had the skills - and the ability to host an appropriate number of trumpets - I would mount a full blown fanfare to mark the occasion. Instead we make do with it sung out loud, accompanied by a skip and a grin from me :)

Much as I love my summery garden, allotment and home, holidays in June are the most precious and special of times of all.

What do you love about June?

PS I haven't quite gone on holiday yet, but will be soon...

GBMD: Time is the Glue

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I spotted this at Chelsea Flower Show last month. I love its mixture of philosophy and stark reality - the stand was empty at the time ;)