Monday, 31 August 2015

End of Month Review August 2015

Whilst I am writing this it is raining.  August has seen quite a bit of rain but also some good sunny days.  I have spent most of the month gardenwise rather hoping to rain as things had got a bit dry; so today's rain is not yet unwelcome.
The front garden is looking fairly ok.  It needs a bit of a tidy and some remedial work.  I have not spent must time on it this year and it needs some care and attention.
In the border by the front door this anemone is flowering, I am very fond of this plant and love it when it starts doing its thing.
Around to the back garden and it is looking quite lush.
The cardoons are stealing centre-stage at the moment, backed up by the emerging flowers from the asters.
The table of pots is rather full, I recently counted how many plants I have in pots, it was over 100, which surprised me as I would have guessed at about 30.  It appears estimation is not my strongpoint.
The Long Shoot is looking rather late summer.
I rather like this view back the other way.  The verbascums are adding good height this year, I shall have to remember not to weed out too many for next year.
The sedums are starting to flower.  I propagated some more from these plants this year as I think they are very important to my garden.  They give such good late summer colour and attract lots of bees and other insects.  During the winter months they give great structure.  It has taken me a while to appreciate what good garden plants they are, but now I think I understand.
The view across the formal lawn is also making me happy.  I do like a good anemone and these ones also make me happy.
The late summer flowers are coming into their stride. I love these rudbeckias.
This clump of crocosmia need thinning out a bit, but they are rather wonderful.
This sickly specimen is Erysimum Bowles Mauve, it is one of my favourite plants and always performs well.  It is however rather short-lived, so I always take a few cuttings every year to plant elsewhere in the garden.  This means I always have the plant but that every few years it is actually living somewhere in the garden and giving a new perspective.  I nicked the original cutting from a plant in one of brothers' garden.  That must be well over ten years ago now and cutting after cutting has meant that it is still with me.
The Courtyard is now doing very well for pots.  That I now have some flowers in there and also several different foliage types make me very pleased.  This was exactly what I wanted to do in this area as otherwise it was quite a stark grey place.
The pellie stand is opposite the shady pots, here the sun does strike the edge of the house and the pellies seem very happy.  Of course the big challenge will be keeping them alive over the winter, so time will tell on that.
The Begonia luxurians and the Lindera  augustifolia of happiness are also doing well this year, they are tucked up by the coal bunker and seem to think this is a good place.
Wandering further up into the garden the Woodland border is now looking very full and has done well this year.  I am pleased with how it has progressed.  It can get very dry up this end of the garden so the plants have to be tough to keep going.
In the Wild Garden the Tulip Tree is making its first call for Autumn.  This tree is always an early adopter of Autumn.
The Forest Pansy has responded quite well to being made to stand up.  Whilst I think it is a most beautiful tree, it is a bit of a pain to be honest.  It is so brittle and just a bit needy.  It needs to pull itself together a bit for me.
The medlar tree has lots of fruit this year.
and the Katsura tree smells of candyfloss.
The Dancing Lawn is peppered with apples.
The Prairie Borders are at their peak.  The Echinops and Verbena Bananarama (they are named after the 80s girl group, honest), are doing really well.  I cannot believe how much doubt I had about the Verbena, it has been a great addition.
The Four Sisters have had a good year, and Esme is keeping an eye on the Edgeworthia, soon I will be on edgeworthia-watch duties again as I start to hope it will get through the winter.  I live in the belief that every year it gets through means it is another year stronger.
For once I weeded the veg beds before taking any photographs,so they are looking quite good at the moment.  I really need to get sowing some green manure.
These yellow courgettes have been fantastic, I shall definitely be growing them again.
The greenhouse is looking as close to empty as it gets.

But where's the pond I hear you say?  Just look at last month's picture, its no better (its no worse either), but it is hardly visible through all the weed.  Embarrassment has completely taken over now so you will not get an update on it until I have cleared it out.

Thanks as ever to Helen for hosting this meme.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

The Questions - James Alexander Sinclair

James Alexander Sinclair is a well known garden designer, writer, speaker and television presenter.  He has designed gardens all over Great Britain and as far away as Russia.  He has presented items for Gardeners World and the BBC Chelsea Flower Show coverage.  Back in the day he presented the BBC series Small Town Gardens and recently was one of the judges for the Great Chelsea Garden Challenge.  He is also a member of the RHS Council and an accredited RHS judge and Chairman of the RHS Gardens Committee, so in short, a busy man.
James is well known on the garden speaker circuit, his talks are always informative and entertaining.  James is going to be making the Leicestershire and Rutlands Gardens Trust Celebrity Lecture on September 16th at 7.30pm, more information can be found here:

and in between all this business, he found time to answer my questions, for which I am most grateful.

The Questions

In which garden do you feel happiest?
My own – even though it is new and overflowing with rubble and semi naked builders.
If you could only have five gardening tools, which would they be?
My secateurs (Felco number 2 although I am being courted by a Niwaki pair), a stainless steel trowel that I was given for my birthday years ago and which spent at least three years of its life accidentally buried in the compost heap, a small border fork,  a good wheelbarrow & a black dustbin. Oh and an iPod.
If you could only have five garden-related books, which would they be?
Anything by Beverley Nichols (because he makes me smile), the RHS Encyclopedia of Garden Plants, The Potting Shed Papers by Charles Elliott, Late Summer Flowers by Marina Christopher and The Garden Tree by Alan Mitchell and Allen Coombs
What was the most defining moment of your life so far?
Being born, meeting my wife, the births of my children.
What are you most proud of?
Not being found out…
If you won the lottery, what would you do?
Try not to worry too much.
Who are your garden heroes (no more than three)
Geoffrey Jellicoe, William Kent & Carol Klein
What skill would you like to learn and why (does not have to be gardening related)
If you could visit any garden right this minute, which one would it be?
One without rain. Probably the Isola del Garda in Italy
What is your current plant obsession?
Which garden tool is never far from your hand?
My secateurs and my telephone
What is your favourite gardening/plant related word?
What do you wish you could do better?
Organise myself.
What is the most important lesson you have learned so far?
Today is much more important than tomorrow
What makes a perfect day for you?
Sunshine and a packet of Jaffa Cakes
If you had one piece of advice to offer to someone what would it be?
Never, ever work for someone you don’t like.
Gnome or no-gnome?
Like triumphal arches, Hypericum, coloured paving, grottoes and scratchy underwear, Gnomes have their place. Somewhere.

Next Time:  Sara Venn

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.