Showing posts with label Garden. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Garden. Show all posts

1 Feb 2021

Gardenwatch: January in my garden

Potatoes being chatted on windowsill

There’s a pair of very muddy boots in my hallway, evidence of my gardening efforts over the past week. Helped by a couple of afternoons of warm winter sunshine, I’ve had a productive week which has been mostly about getting prepared. What have I been up to? Even  in January there are  plenty of garden tasks to tick off the list.

19 Apr 2020

Spring progress ... but not as we know it

Mid-April, even in the southern counties of the UK, can be cold, wet and windy. This year though, there have been some joyously warm days when spring has overlapped with summer and brought vibrant colour to the garden.

There’s nothing like a few days of warm sunshine to bring everything out in the garden - me, the flowers, germinating veg seeds and, of course, more seed sowing! A little garden update is due ...

Deep pink cyclamen lit up by evening light in the garden
Evening light, setting sun and ... pink.  I may have stopped breathing for a moment.

Let’s start with some colour.

1 Jul 2018

Dappled Shade

Can you believe this summer weather we're having in the UK? Day after day of cloudless blue skies, hot sunshine and gentle breezes.  Just fabulous; it beats the hell out of sitting indoors complaining about continuous rain which is what we've generally had to contend with in previous summers.

No, this summer is the stuff that childhood memories are made of and we Brits will probably be talking about it for some time.  You know how we do love to chat about our unpredictable weather. But, and please don't think I'm complaining, I'm not partial to gardening in extreme heat.  It makes me go a bit wobbly so, generally, I try to avoid the midday heat.  Frequently though, I get so involved in what I'm doing that I lose track of time and, as luck would have it, I have a nice little spot of shade to head into for a cool down. The importance of a small corner of dappled shade in a garden can't be overemphasised in my opinion, even in a country that's prone to soggy summers.

17 Oct 2017

Reasons to be GLEE-ful

Last month I went to the fabulous GLEE exhibition in Birmingham's NEC centre and saw so many beautiful, useful and desirable products that made the (very) early start to the day worthwhile. The exhibition is an annual trade show held over three days so that new and existing garden related products can be showcased to buyers for the retail market. Journalists and, more recently, bloggers are also welcome but it's not open to the public. Looking at the map on the GLEE website, I guessed there would be a lot to see but the reality exceeded all expectations! I did my homework the day before and noted the exhibitors I wanted to talk to but even with a game plan, map, and very quick scurrying around, I suspect that I missed seeing a lot of what was on show as there was so much to be pleasantly diverted by.

19 Sept 2015

How to photograph spiders' webs

There are, undeniably, moments of staggering beauty in the Autumn garden, whether in the way that plants have grown together to form a living collage or the many many webs that spiders have woven between the plants and supports.

My veg garden has lain undisturbed, except for torrential rain, for the past week so I was expecting to see plenty of spiders and their webs this morning.  I was reminded of a blog post I'd read recently in which the blogger said she walks into the garden waving her arms in front of her at this time of year for fear of walking through webs. (I apologise as I can't actually remember who it was that wrote that!) I haven't done that yet but I have brushed webs out of my hair and off my face many times during this so-called summer.

And so it was that I went to the garden early this morning armed with a cunning plan, my digital SLR camera and a spray bottle of water. Any spray will do but Ikea do one for 80p. Also good for ironing ;o)

If there was any dew this morning, it had all gone by 7.30 am when I went down to the garden. Time to put my plan into action.  Spray, so I knew where the webs were, and then - why not? - photograph them.

I am, of course, just getting my eye in before we get proper dew in the garden but I hope you agree it worked rather well. Plus it's an excellent way to show children how big the webs are, before scurrying back indoors to read Charlotte's Web. Now wouldn't that be something, to find a web with a message in it!

A few key points:

  • Spray in a light mist across the web. You may need to go back and forth across the strands a few times and you'll be surprised at  how far some of the webs stretch!
  • Have your camera ready as spiders may make a bolt for safety.
  • On a still day, dial your camera to aperture/AV (rather than speed/TV) and set the aperture to a low number. This will blur out the background but you will need to have precise focus on the web. 
  • Try to have a dark background to make the web stand out.
  • This is best done in early morning or the cool of the evening when there are more spiders about.
Edited to add:  One last tip - be patient and take your time.  It's worth it for the right shot and you'll see a lot more of the delicate beauty in your garden. 

I do love spiders' webs but how about you? What's catching your eye in the garden this Autumn?
And do you have any good tips to share on photographing the garden?

28 Jun 2015

Still GROWing ...

More loveliness that caught my attention!
Top: Thomas Broom in action; watering cans à la mode; natural brush and pan
Middle: Ash wall planter (using wood from Ash dieback felled trees); Erigeron planter; Ash wall planters
Bottom: Succulents; Oak swing seats from Green Oak Furniture; Rabbit cushion (Thornback&Peel)

At the risk of over-egging the pudding, I've got to reiterate what an utterly brilliant time I had at the Grow London show last weekend. I chatted to design gods of the gardening world, Cleve West and Tom Stuart-Smith, quaffed some very nice wine, learned which flowers will make an edible bouquet, had my head filled with so many good ideas, watched how to make a delicious nasturtium pesto which I sampled over a huge tomato and an edible flower salad and then came home with a car boot full of beautiful plants.

Purchased plants! (Hosta flowers are  top right corner; bright pink Bletilla is centre.)

I'd just finished cataloguing all the plants I'd bought at the show and was back indoors when the heavens opened and rain poured down. Win:win - I was dry, the plants were watered.  The plants will live outside until I can plant them at the end of the week; they're destined for a client's part shady garden. I can't tell you how much joy I've had researching and choosing plants without spending any of my own money.  Beauty without penury - bliss.  I've been smiling all week.

I thought the real bonus of the show was the talks and demonstrations. I cherry-picked the ones of special interest to me - Cleve West talking about healing gardens, referencing his past work, specifically Horatio's Garden in Salisbury which he designed for patients with spinal injuries. Thomas Broom, the highly respected florist and Horticultural Manager at Petersham Nurseries in Richmond, was another must see. He was putting together a bouquet made up entirely of edible flowers. Definitely one not to miss! Many anecdotes were told and tips given as he worked. He made it look so easy and yet the result was masterful and beautiful. (There will be a short follow up post soon on this subject.)

Thomas and the finished bouquet

I also dipped into Helen Yemm's talk about problems in the garden but the thought of plant shopping was distracting me.  Sooooo many gorgeous plants!  This is one of the brilliant things about attending a show like this - the growers are there to advise you so there's no guesswork - you tell them the site and situation of the planting area and suggestions are made. Looking at the size and condition of the plants, you know exactly what you're buying - something you don't get with mail order.  The nurseries at the show were all specialists, offering plants that you're unlikely to come across in your local garden centre. I came home with my car boot stuffed with Astrantia 'Roma', Adiantum and Dryopteris ferns, an Abutilon vitifolium, Astilbes and Aruncus, Penstemons, Lavatera maritima, Bletilla striata and an Anemonopsis macrophylla. Whaaat? It took me a good half hour just to learn how to say it! The must-have plant though is Hosta rectifolia, a Japanese woodland plant said to be able to withstand slug onslaught - I was more than slightly sceptical but I'll be happy to be proved wrong. It's a pretty little thing, with long slender ribbed leaves and purpley-pink flowers so I hope it makes it. Wool pellets and gravel at the ready.

Damian's pesto and salad demonstration

Shall we have one last mention of the edible flowers cookery demonstration from Petersham Nurseries?Petersham restaurant's Head Chef, no less, Damien Clisby, showed us the ease of making a pesto from nasturtium leaves. Tiny baby leaves, a pinch of salt, some excellent flavoursome olive oil, some parmesan and pine nuts.  Ground together with pestle and mortar and spooned over a huge beefsteak tomato. It was stunningly delicious. A salad of thinly sliced raw beetroot, broad beans, radish, leaves, pea shoots and coriander was dressed with olive oil and lemon - and a complete lack of vinegar. That guy really knows how to make fresh food sing. It was sublime. Sadly the prices at Petersham's restaurant are way beyond my budget but I can take inspiration from this demo and look with fresh eyes and interest at the food growing in my garden. More of which in my next post … :o)

My unusual plants came from Evolution Plants, a nursery I was very impressed with and would say is well worth visiting online or in person. A few more of my plants came from Glendon Plant Nursery and Hardy's Plants.

19 Jun 2015

GROW London: All the fun of the Fair!

Peony 'Vision of Sugar Plums' on Evolution Plants stand

Yesterday's weather was gorgeous - clear blue skies with just enough breeze to keep things from getting overheated - and what better way to end such a day than with a glass of chilled sparkling wine courtesy of a visit to London's own garden show, GROW London. The show officially opens today, Friday, but kicked off on Thursday night with a garden party charity evening in aid of NGS (National Gardens Scheme).

It was lovely to bump into old friends - and be introduced to new ones - but I didn't spend the entire evening schmoozing. I was there in my blogger/press guise so as I wandered the vast showroom, I took note of the exquisite products displayed and stopped to chat to a few of the exhibitors. As usual, I was too busy asking questions and not taking enough photos (something that I'll remedy later today) but here's a sample of what crossed my path …

Top: Corten steel fire pit from The Pot Co; NordEco chairs.
Middle: Julia Clarke willow nest in Hardy Plant garden; pots and cubes from The Pot Co.
Bottom: Niwaki pruners and garden scissors; Barbed hosereel

Niwaki Japanese garden and kitchen tools. Jake Hobson, master of the art of cloud pruning, kindly chatted to me for several minutes about living in Japan and learning his craft.

The Green Wood Guild. Demonstrations and workshops in carving spoons and plant markers. I might even have a go myself.

Hardy Cottage Garden Plants. Setting the standard for herbaceous perennials - they won a Gold at Chelsea for their display; their space for GROW is another stunner. Plants and seeds available at the show. I swore I wouldn't buy more plants but a plant I have long lusted after (Eryngium 'Neptune's Gold') came home with me. :o)

The Posh Shed company - Bespoke sheds and a very enticing child's gypsy caravan to be won!

Gardenista were there with their pop up shop offering a tempting array of beautiful objects for home and garden. (And lovely to chat to Christine Chang Hanway again after her talk last year.)

Julia Clarke willow sculptures - not exhibiting but on display at the Hardy Plant garden space. I think/hope that I may have persuaded Julia to offer willow weaving workshops at her Crouch End studio next spring.

The Pot Company - pits, pots and shelving. Stunning - and useful - corten steel fire pits.

Architectural Heritage - Cast iron gates don't do it for me but their zinc (?) planters stole my heart. Especially when planted up with Sanguisorba, so so beautiful.

NordEco. Beautifully crafted wooden chairs. I was tempted to sit but wasn't sure I'd want to stand up again.

Barbed.  Contemporary and fun outdoor furniture including these bling bling hosepipes in shades of gold, silver and Barbie pink and a rather fetching red metal bench with matching pooch. I could definitely visualise that bench in a modern urban garden. *makes mental note*

Top: The Green Wood Guild's carvings; Child's gypsy caravan from The Posh Shed Co.
Middle: Barbed red bench and friend; Barbed barbie pink hosereel.
Bottom:  Eryngium from Hardy Plants; Architectural Heritage planters.

For household artefacts, Maud and Mabel's exhibits were breathtakingly beautiful. Exquisite artisan ceramics from their Hampstead craft space but, sadly, beyond my budget. Doesn't stop me wanting them though. Instead I'll treasure the tiny ceramic star included on the raffia wrapped around their press handouts.

All Maud and Mabel's objects of desire.

But there was so much more than this little taster. I'm going back today (on another complimentary pass as I'm on the GROW mailing list, sign up and be prepared for next year) specifically to look at the nursery exhibitors Crugfarmplants, Boma (my local garden centre), Evolution plants, Hortus Loci, Hardy Plants, to get plant advice from the Society of Garden Designers and Mark Gardner (the fair founder's own gardener!) and to take in a couple of the talks - notably Thomas Broome on creating an edible bouquet.

I had a definite impression of the show building on last year's success.  This is only its second year but the exhibitors and speakers are top notch. Talks go on over the three days of the show with speakers including Cleve West (The Healing Garden), Fergus Garrett (Designing with plants), Sarah Raven, Mark Diacono, Laetitia Maklouf, Helen Yemm and Mark Risdill-Smith who used to live round the corner from me.  Nice chap and nice to see him doing well.

This is definitely a show not to be missed and I predict will go on getting better.

GROW London is on this weekend, Friday 19th to Sunday 21st. Open from 11 am - 6pm.

2 Jan 2015

2015: A graceful New Year

~ Frosted Purple Sprouting broccoli in the Veg Patch 30th December 2014 ~

Having my face slapped about with two days of face-chilling frost was the absolute best finale to 2014.  That bitingly crisp freshness coupled with clear bright blue skies felt like the perfect wintry pause between one good year and the next.  Am I being optimistic?  Yes! Always. But there is definitely a sense of confidence in the air for 2015 - I guess a good year will do that. Other blogs are buzzing with gardening plans and hopes for the coming year - trips, garden visits, seeds to be sown. Here, too, I hope to build on 2014.  Every year of gardening brings fresh insights and knowledge; I've got winter veg growing again - kale, broccoli, cavalo nero, spinach. The microclimate induced by growing between two blocks of flats means that I still have parsley, mint (just), thyme, sage; my cape gooseberry has lots of green lanterned fruit which I hope will ripen early next year.  I know to watch out for rosemary beetle (my plants are looking very ragged) and to grow my tomatoes in a line, not a cluster. This year I'm determined to make space for cut flowers so I need to re-evaluate the space.  Last year there was a new flush of estate children who declared an interest in joining in and learning so space will have to be found for each child to have a little patch to call their own.  It's all possible but first I have to move some plants and draw up some plans and now is the perfect time to do it.

So, here we go! 2015 already.  Both in the past and this year, I've read other blogs choosing a symbolic word for the year. Previously I haven't been able to single out one particular word that might be meaningful to me but as I reflect on the past year I realise that it was a year made special by the people I encountered.  Some of those I met through social media, some have become familiar to me through this blog, some are from my local community, some from college and others are long standing friends.  All of those people, to my way of thinking, embody my word for 2015 and the touchstone which I'll strive to carry forward with me:

It's a lovely word with nuanced meaning; my favourites are to have poise, decency, respect, generosity, kindness, to enhance, to favour and to enrich.  All qualities which I feel I've been on the receiving end of, certainly through comments and meetings. So when I next find life getting a tad annoying, I hope to take note of this one word, pause (give myself a moment's grace) and respond in a gracious manner. I'm not one for any horoscope malarkey but I do have one or two of the Aries attributes and I swear one of my Irish ancestors must have kissed the Blarney Stone more than once!

The frost had gone by the morning of New Year's Day but I wanted to use one of my frosty veg patch photos to greet the New Year in.  I kept thinking that the photo reminded me of something and, look, there it is - a Union Jack, brassica style.  How very British!

So after a quiet and relaxing Christmas and New Year which suited me very well, I'm now looking forward to 2015 and wish everyone a productive and successful New Year! 

My first snowdrop (ever) is almost out! 

4 Jun 2011

The Saturday Snap: Secret Garden

This last week I went to London Zoo in Regents Park.  Have you been to this zoo recently?  It's changed a lot (for the better) since I was last there - unsurprisingly, as it's been quite a while since my last visit. (We're talking years, not months, here.)  I used to go and sketch there while my (then) baby son slept in his buggy (or I'd practise speed sketching while he watched the animals as a toddler). It used to feel very wrong and very grey, with all the compounds made of brutal concrete and very little vegetation. I felt so sorry for the animals, cooped up in that grey world but still able to see the park beyond the fences, so close but so far. So it was a very lovely surprise to rediscover the zoo as a beautifully lush and verdant space with lakes, shrubs, planting and grass at every turn - so much so that it was sometimes hard to spot the animals!   Of course, I completely forgot that it was half-term as well as the London tourist season and therefore the zoo became very crowded - but not before I'd happened upon an oasis of calm in the children's section. Not only, wow!, a giant 4 foot high flowerpot in the entrance but written on it a verse which summed up my thoughts on why I garden.  So this week's Saturday Snap (and verse) is

The Secret Garden

Secret Garden Flowerpot

The secret garden is a place
Where time moves at a slower pace.
Flowers sway, Leaves rustle,
Away from all the noise and bustle.

Ah, yes, my sentiments exactly. 

1 May 2010

The Secret Garden…

The word 'estate' (when used for city communities) has such hostile connotations these days that I hesitate to use it when describing where I live. I thought to redress the balance by showing you a little corner of the 'estate' at York Rise:

Opening the little iron gate and squeezing through an arch of leaves, you'll discover an enclosed garden, one of several for the tenants to enjoy.  It's what I see beneath my balcony windows.  Hidden on three sides: from the driveway by three London Plane trees thickly covered with ivy, from the paths by high hedges and lush planting, this is a tranquil space enjoyed by nesting blue tits and robins who make their presence known by singing throughout the day.  My friend and neighbour, Leigh, has ensured that this remains a lovely place to sit - if we're lucky, the sun streams in during the morning and, again, in the evening as it sets.

(Friendly Robin, looking for a meal as the compost is turned.)

16 Sept 2009

Gone to seed…

Sweet pea pods - look how they twist round on themselves once split! I'm trying to be creative about how to use the empty pods; any thoughts?

After my recent thoughts on collecting seed from various plants, a quick walk around reveals how bountiful the harvest could be:  sweet pea pods, poppy heads, sunflower seeds, aliums, hollyhocks, wallflowers and runner beans - with courgettes, cucumber, tomatoes, pumpkin and peppers waiting in the wings.

I'm absolutely stunned because free seeds is something I'd never really thought about until now.  But the success of our little patch is inspiring very exciting thoughts of what's possible for next year - and not just in the veg patch but throughout all the gardens here.

Gardens and allotments are still (just) really beautiful and it's worthwhile going to take some photos while they're still flowering, fruiting, or otherwise good to eat.  Or why not, on a sunny afternoon (or a rainy one… it  happens), give the kids some paper and crayons and get them to draw the plant that they've collected seeds from.  And treat yourself to a big mug of tea, and five minutes peace.

Wallflower seed pods, splitting on the plant. Take a bag to collect these - the tiny seeds will get lost in your pockets!

11 Sept 2009

The Hanging Garden…

Periwinkle (aka Vinca Major); small but perfectly formed -  cheeky purple asterisks peeking through a curtain of green - and much desired by gardeners in search of good ground cover.  Especially our predecessors - or did it blow here on the wind?  Whatever the tale, we're now inundated with the stuff. 

Over the years it's swarmed over the raised borders, swamping the lilies, choking the honeysuckle and hydrangea and fighting with the ivy climbing up the back walls.  Tenacious, indeed.

The original plan was to try and preserve some of it - if only as individual plants to exchange for seeds and cuttings.  But a few weeks ago the ivy was toppled by heavy rainfall (the day it rained solely over York Rise, seemingly), leaving it dangling over the Vinca like a surfer's wave and exposing the brick wall for the first time in decades.  Which was lucky really, because a) the ivy is so heavy it could have brought the entire wall down and b) nobody was standing underneath it - which might have spoiled their day.  Naturally, this has doubled the work involved to prepare this bed, so I'm afraid it's hasta la vinca baby, because we need to clear this raised border for sowing spinach, potatoes, onion sets, garlic and broad beans (no, obviously not all in the same bed - that would be a stretch, even for novices like us).

So, take a good long look - soon all this wild, natural and abandoned greenery will become the South Section of the Urban Veg Patch. (But perhaps not quite by the end of this weekend.)

It will be missed, but I, for one, am so looking forward to lovely, yummy winter veg…
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