Thursday, 27 August 2015

The Memorial Gardens - The National Holocaust Centre and Museum

The memorial gardens at Beth Shalom, the National Holocaust Centre and Museum, opened recently for the National Garden Scheme and it was time that I went on a visit.  I have been aware of the Centre since it opened in 1995, and whilst its primary function is as an educational resource for school children, it also has a much broader role in terms of education and remembrance.

It is located in a tranquil place, deep in the North Nottinghamshire countryside.  Shortly after entering the garden you are invited to place a stone on this memorial to the children who were murdered in the holocaust.  No matter how beautiful the day, this place is about not forgetting why you are there, and why many are not.
The walk into the garden involves roses, rows and rows of white roses.
The roses are planted in the memory of all the victims of the holocaust who included Jews, Roma, homosexuals, people with disabilites and political prisoners.
There are many sculptures in the garden, all with meaning.
All make you stop for a moment and consider, not only consider the past but also look at the present.  To also think about genocidal acts subsequent to the Second World War and consider that we may live in a world where it would appear nothing has been learned from these dreadful events.
The gardens are beautiful, they make a good space for pause and reflection,
and everywhere there are the roses.  The aim of these roses was to give names to the victims of the holocaust, to not have them as photographs of nameless people, but to be members of families, people who loved and were loved.  Each rose has a dedication plaque stating who donated the rose and their reason.  Overwhelmingly they are commemorating family members, mainly those who were killed though some are for survivors.  I read most of the plaques, it took some time but it had to be done.  According to the Centre's webpages they had expected to plant 100 roses when they first started to lay out the gardens, now they number over 1000.
The roses are all Margaret Merrill, you can donate to have a rose planted in the garden and they are also for sale at the Centre.  Whilst it was a sombre visit as it is not a place that gave me hope; it is a place about not forgetting and also about remembering and bearing witness.  I think I will remember my visit for a long time.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Tortoise musings

Short of legs but not insight
Eyes awe bound
Belly earth borne, 
Back home packed
Gait monastic

Native of no land, 
Call led crawls, sense fed-
A bite here, a munch there
Bidding Time to slough out
Of this shell clad life. 

(Tortoise poem by yoonoos peerbocus)

We never had a pet tortoise when we were children, other people did, many other people did.  Even Blue Peter had a tortoise (generally called Fred irrespective of gender).  We used to watch the Blue Peter tortoise, fascinated as it was put in a box for the winter and equally fascinated when it emerged some weeks later.  I sort of wanted one but at the same time did not, they did not call to me as a must have pet.

There was once a time when as an adult on one of our holidays in North Wales we went to Pwllheli on the quest for a stone tortoise.  It was not a successful quest but a highly entertaining afternoon the memory of which we still talk about every time the town is mentioned.

Now there is a new tortoise on the block, a new kid in town.  A hidden tortoise I have visited and been close to for many years yet until the other day I had not seen.  Then suddenly, on closer inspection there it was.  That stone that had looked like a stone was actually a tortoise.
and it has its own little island, which can only be called Tortoise Island from now on.

Happy tortoise.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Mr Fothergill's Trial Grounds

I was very pleased to receive and invitation to take part in Mr Fothergill's press day at their trial grounds just outside of Newmarket.  It was a glorious sunny day when I set out and it got cloudier and cloudier the further east I drove.
The trial gardens are on sandy, well drained soil.  You can see from this picture that there are some gaps in the rows, this is of course the point of trialling as you can see where plants have flourished or failed.  No two years in gardening are ever the same and so year on year the plants are judged on how they cope with that year's challenges.
There are towers of beans to look at,
and rows of salads.
These salads leaves are from one of the GroMats that Mr Fothergill's sell.  The mats are aimed at non-gardeners who want to grow things but may lack time/experience to fiddle about with seeds etc.  I am a well-known salad-despiser, but I thought these mats were very clever and a good idea.  I would argue that for those of us who want to grow some food but really are flower gardeners, these mats could be a quick and easy way of growing a bit of salad.  They also sell flower and vegetable GroMats.
We inspected the dahlia trials, I loved these huge orange stripy blooms.
I got distracted by this prickly poppy, Argemone playceras.  It might be (is) on my must-grow list for next year.
This is Lupin Pink Fairy, also now on that list.
The swathes of zinnias were looking fantastic.
and I might (was) slightly in awe of being on the same tour of the grounds as Bob Flowerdew, who was as generous with his knowledge and he is knowledgeable.  I kept writing down the tips he was giving, such as if you are choosing courgette plants choose a variety where the fruits stand up rather than droop down.  If you get the droopy ones the plants rot from the flower upwards.  This explained a lot about what goes wrong with my courgettes, lesson learned.
Even in the cloudy conditions the colours of the day were impressive.
This is Rudbeckia 'Cappaccino', yes it is now on the must-grow list too.
I couldn't resist stopping by these Amaranthus, a plant I have a bit of a thing about at the moment.  All these different colours of dangly bits plus the dark red foliage and flowers at the very end of the patch, were just fantastic.  I predict I will be growing more of these next year.
The day also included tomato tasting (not my forte) and scarecrow competition judging.  This is my favourite, its slightly scary to be honest.

Two new plants were officially named on the day, a new sweetpea called 'Emilia Fox' and a tomato called Red Bodyguard.  You can guess who the sweetpea is named after, the tomato name is from a book written by Ron Levin about everything you ever wanted to know about the health benefits of tomatoes, even somethings you didn't realise you wanted to know.  Watch out for those two new introductions next year.

It was a great day and we were all well looked after.  A big thank you to everyone involved.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Plant trial - Meconopsis nepaulensis

I was contacted a few weeks ago and asked if I would like to trial something for Suttons. I was given a fairly wide choice but the Meconopsis nepaulensis jumped out at me and begged to be chosen.

I expressed my preference and my plant duly arrived. This is one of Suttons' perennial plant range. There is quite a lot of choice in this range with many bring sold in packs of three.  Perennial planting is the backbone of my garden and I wouldn't be without a good selection which is why I was happy to do this trial. 
The plant arrived looking a little dishevelled.  I forgave this as with mail order this is not uncommon. Plants don't really like being shut in a dark box and transported through our mail system.  They do however, generally lack the ability to hold a grudge and perk up pretty quickly.  
I decided to pot the plant on and give it some time to recover. A couple of weeks on and it is doing well.  I am probably not going to plant it out this year but give it some time to bulk up a bit. I should confess I have tried and failed with Meconopsis before so I'm determined to do better this time. 

I am pleased with the plant and I shall report back as to progress. 

Monday, 17 August 2015

My Garden School - Special Offer

I thought you might be interested to know that My Garden School are offering a 'Back To School' offer throughout September and October 2015.  
All you need to do is use the code MGSBTS at the checkout for the discount. This is a really amazing offer and will only run for September and October courses (Course start dates: Wednesday, 2 September / Wednesday, 7 October 2015)

MyGardenSchool courses include: Noel Kingsbury: Planting Design with Perennials, Harriet Rycroft's Container Planting, Paula Pryke's Contemporary Floral Design, Andy McIndoe's Gardening for Wildlife and many more.  

Details on the courses available and about the offer can be found here.

I recently completed the Garden History course, by Toby Musgrave.  I received my Certificate the other day which was rather exciting.  So I can recommend these courses from personal knowledge.  Reviews of my course can be found here