Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden - Chinese proverb

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

I Love September For...


... Residual warmth

The garden has developed a definite autumnish air about it in the past week or so and last week's plentiful rain means the soil has opened up again ready to nurture new plants. As you can see I've been nursing quite a few on one of the garden walls over the summer in readiness for this moment.

The lavender are earmarked to replace some woody looking specimens in one of my garden pots on the patio. They're still in flower and the bees are visiting regularly, so I haven't quite got the heart to replace them yet. The brunnera is earmarked for the front side garden, as are the self-sown aquilegia plants I rescued from the back garden's gravel path last week.

September is usually a fabulous time for planting because there's plenty of residual warmth in the soil - even in a clay one like mine - plus plenty of moisture which lets the plants get settled in nicely before winter hits the garden. I've found my autumn plantings tend to do better than spring ones - I reckon it's down to all that clay holding onto the winter's cold and rain and unlike their spring cousins, the autumn plantings have had time to toughen up beforehand.

There's a plant sale at West Kington Nurseries this weekend, so I expect there'll be a wheelbarrow load of bargains to join these plants. I've already downloaded their catalogue and earmarked those I want to seek out in their multitude of greenhouses. It's all part of my ongoing revamp of the garden.

What do you love about September?

Monday, 1 September 2014

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Book Review: Out This Week

I've been lucky to receive 2 books from Frances Lincoln ahead of their release this week. They cover two completely different subjects; one is a practical volume and the other reviews an aspect of garden history which is often overlooked. Scroll down to the end for a couple of great reader offers.
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Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden Journal is a reworking of her previous book Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden. Inside is a month by month guide to growing cut flowers, with a few pages for the reader to jot down their own notes and observations.

Each chapter has flowers of the month and a monthly project as well as the space for notes. Particular jobs and techniques plus consideration of the equipment required are sprinkled into the months where they are most likely to be needed. On the whole this is successful, but I thought the planning, design and stocking of the cutting patch/garden, plus the guidance on flower arranging would have worked better as separate chapters instead of being divided across various months.

I particularly liked the monthly projects especially May's spring globe and December's simple wreath.

The details for the flowers and foliage featured include suitable named varieties, plus cultivation and conditioning notes where needed. A wide range of bulbs, annuals, perennials and shrubs suitable for flower arrangements are all considered.

There is an assumption that all the flowers and foliage are obtained from the fairly large dedicated patch (10ft by 15ft) shown in the design sections, without offering much guidance on how to adapt the suggested plan to suit the reader's own circumstances. This is probably because Sarah Raven wrote about her extensive experience of her patch at Perch Hill, so adaptation and other potential sources such as hedgerow foraging aren't needed.

There are plenty of inspirational photographs and the book is a handy size suitable to sit alongside any practical work being carried out by the reader.
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Most allotment histories I've read are confined to the past couple of hundred years (the birth of our modern day allotments), or to a particular aspect such as the wartime Dig for Victory campaigns.

Caroline Foley's Of Cabbages and Kings differs because she has traced their history much further back to show how they're rooted in the feudal system developed after the Norman conquest in 1066.

It's a fascinating account, which shows how events such as the Black Death and the resultant enclosure of land which started in medieval times affected the majority of the population's ability to feed themselves.

I was surprised to learn that Elizabeth I passed a law which decreed a cottage must have a minimum amount of land attached to it so that its inhabitants could be self sufficient. This is the root of our current allotment laws and was designed to counteract poverty. Sadly it wasn't really acted upon until centuries later - perhaps developments such as the dreaded workhouse and the Riot Act wouldn't have happened if it had.

I gave up history at school when it became a list of parliamentary acts and wars to memorise rather than showing the way people lived. Caroline Foley brings those same acts and wars to life by providing the context of their social history.

I was amazed to learn that Lord Salisbury's government was brought down in 1886 over the allotment question. With so many allotment sites under threat today and at least 3 court battles being fought currently, it shows our passion for the need for land has some very deep roots indeed.

This is a very readable account which gives much food for thought. People have died so that I might enjoy my allotment today. That's quite humbling.
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Reader Offers:

Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden Journal is on offer to Veg Plotting readers at the discounted price of £11.99 (RRP: £14.99), and Of Cabbages and Kings at the discounted price of £16 (RRP: £20)

Both offers include p&p for the UK; please add £2.50 per book if ordering from overseas.

To order, telephone 01903 828503 or email mailorders@lbsltd.co.uk and quote the offer code APG200 for Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden Journal, and APG209 for Of Cabbages and Kings.

Both books are officially released on September 4th and are published by Frances Lincoln. Either or both would make great presents for the gardener or allotmenteer in your life.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Portland Inspiration: Raindrops on Rhone Street



If the embedded video doesn't work, you can view it here (opens in a new window).

One of the main reasons I wanted to go to Portland was to find out more about their pioneering rain gardens I'd heard about on Nigel Dunnet's study day a few years ago.

I didn't dream I'd actually get to see a rain garden in action. The high 90s weather we had on our visit broke on the final day to give us some much needed respite from the heat. Luckily the thunderstorm delivered itself in 15-30 minute chunks with long pauses in between, so we still had plenty of time to explore the gardens on our itinerary.


The exception was when the storm first broke whilst we were visiting Fling organiser Scott at his Rhone Street Gardens. Here's Scott and Galloping Gardener Charlotte taking refuge from the rain. They're the people you can hear talking in the above video.*

As you can see, Scott has woven a lush garden around his property, which also nicely screens the barrels fed by the rain chains. I think the chains he's chosen are great when it's raining and are attractive when it's not.

I'm now eyeing up the guttering around our house. I know NAH won't let me disconnect our downpipes,** but perhaps I can persuade him it solves our problem with a couple of places where the gutters overflow during heavy downpours. I just need to check they'll bear the additional weight and the rain will be directed away from the walls.

I'll return to Scott's garden again in future posts; in the meantime here's what my fellow Flingers said about their visit to this delightful garden.

* = I did create a version with a music soundtrack, but thought the featured version where you can hear the rain is much better. In future I need to remember to shoot video in landscape, not portrait - thank goodness you can turn uploaded videos around in YouTube.

** = he's refused to let me put a green roof on our shed, so he has 'form' with these kinds of initiatives.
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