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Showing posts from April, 2017

Weekend Wandering: In the footsteps of Shakespeare

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I spent a fascinating day in Stratford-upon-Avon this week courtesy of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust where we were shown the early results of a massive project to revamp the 5 properties under their care. Here we're looking into the garden at New Place, the choice property in the centre of Stratford where Shakespeare lived for the last 19 years of his life and wrote many of his plays.

Sadly New Place is no more, so the project team took the opportunity to find archaeological evidence to inform a contemporary re-imagination of the property and gardens. Here we're standing on part of the house's footprint, looking towards the gardens, with the first lines of Shakespeare's sonnets at our feet, plus a modern garden to the side and artwork revealing aspects of Shakespeare's life and times.


Glyn Jones - the Trust's Head Gardener - was our guide for the day and it soon became clear why he'd been lured from Hidcote as the project is huge.

He's keen to intro…

Book Reviews: For good soil, great veg and first-class shows

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It's a while since I've reviewed some books and I have quite a stash to get through, so here's a round up of those I've enjoyed recently with more of a grow your own theme.



An in-depth look ('scuse pun) at one of the most important aspects of gardening is long overdue, and Good Soil doesn't disappoint.

There's been a number of articles recently on the threat of soil erosion to the UK's food supply, so it's good to have a comprehensive guide so we can conserve our own productive patch at least.

All aspects of nurturing the soil are covered, from chemistry and biology to history and philosophy. Methods both old and new; artificial and natural are discussed so we can make informed choices for our own approach.

The human dimension isn't shied away from either as both the use of pee and composting toilets are included; potentially sensitive subjects handled in an informative and humorous manner.

After covering the why and the what to use, practical …

Cucurbit trials

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Question: Does it matter which way up cucurbit* seeds are sown?
Answer: Have a look at the above photo and guess what my conclusion might be. Some references say sow them on their side - which is the way I usually do - others are non-committal.

I couldn't find any reason why they should be sown on their side, so I decided to conduct a quick trial. Luckily my seed stash had some packets to spare, yielding 44 cucumber, 24 squash and 8 courgette seeds, 76 all told.

I sowed the seeds in four different ways: sideways, flat, upright ("pointy" side of the seed uppermost) and upside down ("pointy" side of the seed downwards). All were sown into labelled cell trays with the same compost and amount of water, then left on a bright, south facing windowsill and emergence days recorded. If there were seeds left to emerge, it was assumed they weren't going to if nothing further was recorded after 5 days.

NB I conducted this trial last summer, when temperatures were warm …

Flowers for mum

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I've referred to my Flowers for mum project a few times, but not really explained what it's about. Since she's been in a nursing home, I've vowed to keep mum in fresh flowers for as long as she stays there.

It also means I'm going to grow cut flowers for the first time. Until now, I've preferred to view my flowers in my garden, particularly as they bloom for longer that way. However, I received such a strong reaction from mum when she had her first bunch of flowers, it's seems a simple yet effective way to make her life a little bit better.

She also reacts strongly to bright colours and scents, so that's informed my selection of what to grow for her, along with lots of hints and tips gleaned from Georgie when she gave a talk at Bath University Gardening club late last year.

My growing list for this year:

LavenderSweet peas - the more scented the betterAlstroemeria - already grown at the allotmentCosmosCornflowersDahlias - some growing already, with an e…

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: For National Gardening Week

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April 10th saw the start of National Gardening Week here in the UK. It's great timing for this RHS-led initiative as Easter is the traditional time everyone spends more time in the garden.


I had planned to spend all week in the garden and on the allotment to celebrate, but a severe cold with a high temperature saw me in bed feeling sorry for myself instead. I did manage to pop out for 5 minutes and take some photos of what's looking good and I've posted one each day on social media as my alternative celebration.

Here's what I said for my Plant of the Day posts for #nationalgardeningweek, starting with the main photo and then working from top right down to bottom left.

Perky scented 'Thalia' daffodils are my first Plant of the Day for National Gardening Week (Apr 10-16 2017). It has consistently met with approval by many gardeners on social media over the past few weeks.
The alpine clematis 'Francis Rivis' has lots of luscious blooms with an intriguing tw…

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Evensong

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

Apologies for the poor picture quality... this video all about trying to capture a snippet of the gorgeous concert we're having every evening. Picture quality comes second!

The Great Green Wall Hunt: Unexpected items in the London area

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It's a while since I posted about green or living walls, but that doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about them. I pondered extending my search during our trip to London last week, but dismissed the idea as this time last year showed they weren't growing that well.

However, nature took its own course and in the process of our walks around London, instead of me finding green walls, they found me.


As well as the blossom I highlighted earlier this week, the new Paddington Central development provided a rich seam of green wallery [is that actually a word? ~ Ed].

Here is my first find, which is one of the more unusual 'window box' styles of green walls, and is the largest example of this type I've found so far. I wonder if it's a temporary installation that will go when the development is complete? I haven't managed to find out much about this example online, hence why it didn't make my initial list of green walls to hunt for last year.

Beware, all…

Blossom Time revisited

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Thanks for all your comments on my Blossom Time post last week and my subsequent entry on the Garden Bloggers Facebook Group. Whilst it wasn't a formal poll of your favourites, I thought I'd share the results. Besides, it gives me the perfect excuse to share the elegant crab apple blossom I discovered in some new public planting at Kingdom Street, Paddington Central last week. My long waiting times for the off-peak trains from the station need never be boring again.

Your favourites broadly agreed with mine with ornamental cherry topping the poll, closely followed by magnolia, then a tie between apple and Amelanchier. Many of you said 'whatever is currently in flower' instead, which is a sentiment I heartily concur.

Hawthorn, blackthorn, quince and pear all got a mention. You also added Cornus mas, camellia, Paulownia and lilac to the list. You reminded me that many flowering shrubs add great blossom value to spring, with Edgeworthia and witch hazel getting a particula…

Weekend Wandering: A quick pit stop at Hardwick Hall

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Events conspired to put Christmas on hold for us last year, so it was a treat to have a a few days in Yorkshire with my brother-in-law and family last weekend. Having subjected me to a day at the Sentinel steam weekend at Elsecar (willingly I admit, and with a bonus find of some must-have plants at the farmers market), NAH kindly invited me to choose our stop off on the way home.

I'd often wondered about the imposing grandeur of Hardwick Hall which is easily seen from the M1 on our frequent travels up north, and it turned out to be a good place for lunch and a bracing walk around the grounds for a couple of hours. The Hall itself was closed on the day we were there, which in some ways was a blessing as we would have been tempted to stay for much longer than our journey time allowed.

Hardwick refers to Elizabeth of Hardwick (also known as Bess), who in Tudor times rose from relatively humble origins (a minor gentry family at Hardwick) via 4 marriages to be one of the wealthiest wo…

GBMD: The gardener's prayer

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I'm still clearing out mum's house and deciding which possessions should go to her room at the nursing home and whether I'd like to keep anything for old times sake. I seem to remember this large mug came from my nan and grandad's house.

Dad was a founder member of Birmingham Organic Gardeners and was always laughing at the resultant three letter acronym. Going through the reams of old papers my mum stashed away I came across BOG's committee meeting minutes from 20 years ago. The October ones revealed his intention to invite me to give a talk in my previous capacity as Science and Education Officer at Earthwatch. He never did because he died the next month.

Look closely at the words and illustration and you'll see why I've chosen this photo for today's post. Thanks for the giggle dad (and grandad!).