Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Sign Of The Times

G IS FOR?
ST. GREGORY THE GREAT!  ~ this sign grabbed my attention this spring whilst out on a glorious day garden visiting. Why? Firstly because himself is a Gregory. Secondly because of the wording when I took a closer gander. I gazed then gasped before wondering what signs had previously greeted church goers of the parish in times gone by.

Gracefully gallop over to ABC Wednesday now for more on the letter G.

Monday, 29 August 2011

'Out On The Streets' ~ At the Fire Station


Our local fire station is just down the road from us ~ near enough when we first moved here for me to jump out of my skin every time a fire engine sped by with sirens shrieking. I have become immune over the years and now take the noise in my stride. Although I have walked past the station many times, en route to the allotment, I had never visited it until last month. I had read about a project to establish a community and biodiversity garden there some time ago and an open afternoon at the fire station proved the ideal time to find out more.

The project was the concept of one of the fire fighters based at the station and was formally opened last year. On what was previously an uncultivated grassed over  area at the back of the fire station, there are now raised beds, a greenhouse, a wooden shed, a 'bug hotel' type bird feeder, wildflower garden area, compost heaps as well as decked seating and a meeting area. There is an interconnecting network of fully accessible pathways.

"The aim of the garden is twofold, to provide an access project for the general community and to act as an access and diversionary project for young people at risk of becoming involved with arson or anti -social behavior." The garden was constructed in partnership with a number of different community groups working alongside fire fighters. We have recently been overwhelmed with images and reports of young people caught up in the riots but here I saw a positive measurement of what young people can achieve given encouragement, support and the wherewithal. Having worked with disaffected young people for a long time, I know that sadly many of them, especially young men, leave our secondary school system with low self esteem and low expectations. Projects such as this are great ways of harnessing energy, providing invaluable work experience, developing team building and communication skills and in some cases completely transforming young lives.

Once the hard build was finished eight of the raised beds are now being cultivated by local primary schools. Each school has grown exactly the same crops in their beds so there is a element of healthy competition. When I visited the beds were filling out with their crops of runner beans, peas, carrots, beetroots, onions and spring onions. Regularly on hand to assist the project has the assistance of an experienced local allotmenteer as a 'Garden Manager'. Other groups including a local Mencap youth club are involved in the garden. After a good wander round and chat with those behind the concept, I left feeling really excited about this project and hope to pop down in the spring with spare seeds etc.

'Out on The Streets' is a regular feature over at 'Vegplotting', where if you would like to particpate Michelle advises that "All you need to do is post on your blog an example of public planting or use of outdoor public space which has taken your notice this month. It may be good or bad ; old or new, in your neighbourhood or something you've seen on your travels." Do make your way over there and join in the street party too!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

"We Love Aphids!"

I went to the seaside last week but never saw the sea - instead I went to Southport to the annual Southport Flower Show. I was in the company of a good friend, the forecasted heavy rain never materialised and there was much to see so all in all a perfect recipe for a grand day out. Whilst Southport is primarily a flower show there plenty of other non - horticultural attractions and displays. This year though as I was in the company of a  keen gardener I did not get to see any of them but I am not complaining.  Instead we spent the day permabulating at a gentle and leisurely pace, spending the morning in the busy but uncrowded floral marquee, halting only to sit down at noon to listen to a most thought provoking talk by Matthew Wilson, who managed to persuade his audience that they loved aphids! We even stood up at one point to chant "We love aphids!" in unison. Matthew's logic being that if there were no aphids that there would be no goodies such as ladybirds etc, etc. Then onwards again, making a few purchases as we went along before a late but well deserved lunch. Onto the show gardens before rounding up the day with a reccie of the marquee which housed the plant, garden and horticultural societies in addition to the splendid entries from amateur growers.

Above you can see part of the stand from Bluebell Cottage Gardens . The display was awarded a silver medail. Sue Beesley has described her show experience here on her blog, but I think she is being rather modest about her achievement. Not only did she put some most attractive planting together but I thought that she interpreted the show's theme of vintage most thoughtfully. Sue's stand along with the display from the Hardy Plant Society were amongst my highlights of the show.

Below glimpses of the Hardy Plant Society stand which won a gold medal and best in show ~




and finally some of the contents of the most perfect basket of vegetables you could possibly imagine ~


Now why don't mine look like that ?

P.S. For those of you who do not know Southport actually seeing the sea there seems to be a rare occurence - the tide is usually out so vast expanses of beach instead.

Stop Press - I have just noticed that 'Gardeners Question Time' was recorded last Friday at the show. The programme will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Friday 26th August at 3.00 pm and then again on Sunday 28th August at 2.00pm. Well worth a listen to.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Simply Scentsational

F IS FOR?
FRAGRANCE!
"Every two or three days though July and August the house has been refreshed with little pots and odd jars of sweet peas here and there on shelves, by stairs or bookcases, by doors. Their smell fades after a day or two but, of course, the more you cut the more they come, in this case the more you give away the more you get" ~ extract from 'Led By The Nose' by Jenny Joseph.

Well that was my flight of fancy back in February but it did not come to fruition this year. My sweet peas plants planted out in that dry April spell never flourished. So this year for the first times in years I am without one of my favourite flowers. However allotment friends have fared better than me and I have been invited to feel free to snip. This floriferous bunch is flooding my kitchen with their fabulous fragrance today. The fearful fencing installed by the council earlier this year, has provided the ideal framework for them to cling to and fare fantastically well.

Now with a fanfare here is a link to ABC Wednesday where you will find fun, fiction, fables and fantasy all featuring the letter F!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Warm Fuzzies


Whilst happily pruning this weekend I came across some little orange fuzzies nestling on an errant rose seedling which is destined for the chop. They are as soft to touch as they look. I have no idea what they are and what they might contain if anything but thought that they looked rather sweet. Would be delighted if anybody could shed light on the mystery.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Nesting Instincts

E IS FOR?
EGGS!
"And most I like the winter nests deep - hid
That leaves and berries fell into:
Once a dormouse dined there on hazel - nuts,
And grass and goose - grass seeds found soil and grew"
~ extract from the poem 'Bird's Nests' by Edward Thomas, 1878 - 1917.

Not edible and certainly not belonging to an emu ~  himself and I espied this exquisite clutch of eggs as we walked round Hampton Court Gardens, in Herefordshire earlier this year. All part of an exciting quiz for younger visitors - on examination the letters on the eggs unscrambled to reveal the identity of the bird. Rather easy in this paticular case and not quite esoteric enough for us adults but we still derived enormous enjoyment from this mental exercise.

Escape now to ABC Wednesday for even more on the evasive letter E.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Just Snacking

One of the greatest pleasures of growing fruit and vegetables are the little nibbles that you sample before any of your produce even reaches the plate. Be it a strawberry, pea, raspberry or tomato or herby bite there always seems to be something slightly illicit about such munchings but the taste is oh so sublime. I also tell myself that it is of course all in the name of quality control. This year's new discovery and a ready made allotment lunch, if I have remembered to take some bread and butter, has been the delicious 'Crystal Lemon' cucumber. Himself is not partial to cucumber so I decided this year to forsake my usual 'Burpless' for smaller outdoor grown cucumbers, namely the slightly exotic looking 'Crystal Lemon' and 'Iznik'. The jury is still out on the latter ~ it is described as producing cocktail sized cues but they are still too small to sample. The former though is definitely a hit and is already on next year's seed list.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Cobweb

D IS FOR ?
DREAMCATCHER!
Dangling in a dingly~ dell this delightful dreamcatcher is to be found in a Cheshire garden which you can discover more about here and here.

Do not dally but dart over to ABC Wednesday now to download more about the letter D!

Monday, 8 August 2011

On Our Doorstep

It's curious how we often overlook what's more or less on our doorstep and somehow caught up with the demand of everyday life we don't always get round to visiting local attractions. This is something that we have resolved to try to remedy. So as I already touched upon in my last post, we recently went garden visiting in Cheshire. Here some further impressions and information about our walk round Mount Pleasant Gardens near Kelsall in Cheshire. This is an RHS recommended garden curently opening on Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays plus bank holiday Mondays from 12.00pm - 5.00pm. Opening is from the start of April to the end of September. The gardens have been developed since 1994 and shame to say this was our first visit.

There were several distinct areas to the 10 acres of gardens including a wildflower meadow, a tropical garden, a vegetable garden, a bog garden, water features as well as a recently created Japanese garden.

We were were slightly too late in the year to see some areas at the peak of their perfection. I imagine that the view down to the wildflower meadow would have been spectacular had we come just a few weeks before. The planting we saw was dominated by beautiful blue chicory but there was evidence of the tail end of poppies and various other wildflowers. We will have to return next summer.

Not surprisingly I enjoyed peeking at the vegetable garden. I particularly liked this planting of both red and white flowering runner beans ~


and positively drooled over these onions ~


Some of my perceptions of the garden were perhaps coloured by unfair comparisons - when it came to the Japanese garden I could not help but think of its near neighbour - the subtly and superbly planted Japanese garden at Tatton Park. The Japanese garden here seemed to be too fussy and as far as I was concerned did not evoke an air of tranquility but that could have just been my mood on the day - see my last post for a photo.

What made me pause though in this garden was not the planting for once but the carvings (both in wood and stone) that were dotted throughout the garden. Occasionally they were distracting but by and large they were sympathetic to their setting and enhanced the planting. Not only is there a resident artist but Mount Pleasant Gardens also holds an annual sculpture exhibition in September, which attracts artists from across the United Kingdom. The garden extends its opening hours during the exhibiton. The resident artist also holds sculpture workshops throughout the year. I know himself enjoys having a chisel in his paws - now  can I persuade him that he would like to attend such an event?


It was perhaps not the best day for garden visiting as the weather had become close and clammy. As the afternoon went on I became slightly grouchy which perhaps clouded my judgement as I wanted to speed up to get home to cool down. Hence I came away feeling that I would like to see the gardens again at other times of the year before coming to any firm conclusions. Having said that there was plenty to hold our interest and the visit was well worth the admission fee. Although we did not partake light refreshments are available. Some interesting pieces of art work were for sale and there is a small nursery sales area. I came away with a most striking blue salvia which sadly was unlabeled. Hopefully we might return next month when the sculpture exhibition is taking place.

This is the first in what I hope will be an occasional series of articles on what is on our doorstep. The next trip is already in the planning stage.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Crossroads

C IS FOR?
ALL THAT WAS MISSING WAS THE CHESHIRE CAT!
"One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. "Which road do I take?" she asked. Where do you want to go was his response. "I don't know", Alice answered. Then, said the cat "It does not matter". " ~ Lewis Carroll (the author of ' Alice in Wonderland' spent his childhood days in the Cheshire village of Daresbury)
~ A clear and sunny day last week saw himself and I setting off deep into the Cheshire countryside. First stop was a cheerful cafe where we enjoyed a most convivial lunch. We lingered outside chatting away as the sun gave way to clouds and it became uncomfortably clammy but this did not deter us from continuing on our way to a local open garden.

Once there we came across colourful planting schemes ~


Cascading currents of water ~


A wildflower meadow dotted with chicory and craftily placed chairs ~ 



As well as a collection of curious and creative carvings ~


Another chapter on this garden later this week but in the meantime this is your cue to exit stage left in the direction of ABC Wednesday, for a cameo of all matters connected to the letter C.