Thursday, 21 September 2017

Glee Birmingham 2017 - more amazing things under one roof.......

....... than you can shake a rake at.

Recently I went to my first Glee show at Birmingham NEC.  Now I have to say that try as I might I cannot find out why it is called Glee, its does not appear to be an acronym, but as it made me very happy so I think it is more description than a title.  Glee is the huge event where people go to show their products in the hope that retailers will want to market them.  It is not open to the general public, so I was lucky to be allowed in as a garden blogger.

Understandably then, it was one of those days when I set off not knowing what I was going to expect.  I had been sent the leaflet and floor plan a few days before attending and that told me to expect large.
This was extremely useful and I spent the evening before the day I was attending doing my homework.
One scribbled on plan later and I was ready for the big day.

Except I am not sure I was ready as there were three enormous halls at the NEC full to bursting with so many interesting stands.  The show says it is the world's number one pet, leisure and garden event and I made sure I was there for opening time so that I had plenty of time to explore it properly.  There was much to explore.
Stands competed to catch the eye as they want their products to be featuring in retail outlets nationally and internationally.  King Cole's pink hedgehog caught my eye.
as did this gaggle of gnomes, or is a hive, or a bothering?

Now here is a clever thing that I saw, this is a pack of sunflower seeds from SeedCell.
You tear the disk into its segments and plant them in compost, add water and they have everything they need to give them the best chance to grow.
The company is family-run by two brothers and is based in the UK.  All the components that they use are sourced from the UK and everything is biodegradable.  What is not to love!  They have a variety of seeds on offer including, cucumbers and grow your own pizza herbs.

Moving on I arrived at the Burgon and Ball stand.  I love these decorative vases and pots.  The cactii vases particularly caught my eye as did the hanging pots.
The Wonder Weed Puller is a new product that won an award at the show.  I was allowed a little play with one and it is simple, light and looked like it should work.
There are three prongs that you stab into the ground around the weed, you twist and pull and the weed pops out in a little plug of earth.

The wandering continued, I spent maybe a little too long thinking about twine,
I might also have considered brushes and boot jacks for longer than many others would.
and this rain poncho from EcoChic had poppies on it and packs up really small, ideal for garden visiting.
and then I found the crocodiles...
---and other turf-friends having a picnic.
These woven-effect plant holders from Stewart Garden really caught my eye.
I also stood and admired Veg Trugs for a while, I loved the detail of the triangular bug hotel fitted into the frame, you can see it if you look carefully.  What a great detail.
I then got distracted by a floating unicorn, as you do....
... before moving on to look at plants, yes there were plants there too.
This Senecio Angel Wings from Wyevale Nurseries also won an award at the show.  It really is the most magnificent plant.  It is probably best that I could not reach up and touch it as it has leaves just begging to be stroked.  The plant is meant to be fine for growing indoors or out which I think makes it a prime candidate for my exotic border.  I am going to be looking out for this plant to buy one.

I also had some very interesting talks with various stands and you can expect to see some product reviews over the next few weeks as a result.  I am now looking forward to next year.  I have to thank Glee Birmingham and HornbyWhitefoot PR for enabling my visit.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

The Big Mow

Every year, usually in September, I give the lawns their first full cut of the year.  For most of the year I allow the Wild Garden to grow wildly and I mow paths through it.  Then at that moment, when the wind changes and the air starts to feel like Autumn, I know the time is right for the big cut.
One of things I like about the Wild Garden is that you cannot really see it until you are quite close.  The mowed formal lawns lead up towards it, with the Exotic Border on the left.  The pleached hornbeams create the boundary between the near and far of the garden.
I also like that each year the Wild Garden has a slightly different character.  Some years it seems to be mainly nettles, some years there are many thistles, this year there was a lot of ragwort.  The insects and wildlife love the Wild Garden.  It buzzes and hums with life.  It is usually full of moths and butterflies, bees and hoverflies.
Step one of the big mow weekend this year started on Friday after work.  I rushed home and mowed all the formal lawns.  This usually takes around an hour to do, depending on how long I have allowed the grass to grow.

Actually before Step 1 there is Step 0 which is the scything of the Wild Garden.  This tends to happen a few days before the actual mow.  Partly to pace myself, partly to let wildlife leave the area before the mower is deployed.  I use an Austrian scythe which I have had for several years now and it cuts down the weeds and long grasses effectively.  It makes the remainder at a reasonable length for the mower to tackle.  So, scythed and formal lawns completed this meant that next there would be mowing.
About an hour later and the mowing is complete.  It has only had a high cut so far and I will mow it again  probably this weekend with a slightly lower cut.
The Big Mow changes the character of the garden for the autumn and winter months.  It makes it feel more open.  Suddenly the boundaries and corners reappear.
The trees in the Wild Garden also become more distinct.  They seem to stand taller and in reality they are getting taller, a little bit every year.  Some have been in the garden quite a few years now and suddenly they seem to be like real trees.  This is rather exciting.
I also uncover and carefully mow around the jewels that appear in the garden.  These beautiful red berries of the Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum).
The timing of the Big Mow also enables the pink cyclamen to be admired.

At some point soon I will sow some more yellow rattle seeds.  I have been sowing it for a couple of years now and whilst it does self-seed I like to give it a hand as I am trying to increase the amount I have.  The Wild Garden remains an important part of the garden.  It does reduce a little year on year as I cultivate a new area or think of a change I want to make, but I cannot imagine it will all disappear.  Certainly for now, long may it last.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

An overdue visit to Easton Walled Gardens

I have a confession, I have managed to inadvertently miss the sweetpea season at Easton Walled Gardens.  I have not missed the sweetpea season there for three years and I did not intend to this year but its been a busy year and things happen as they do.  Suddenly it is September and autumn is in the air.  So when I heard that there was an Autumn Fair at Easton Walled Gardens I jumped at the chance to visit.
The fair was very good, fudge, a pen and soap were purchased.  I could have bought a lot more but there is another fair in November so I thought I should behave myself a little.  It was difficult to behave myself as the fair was packed with interesting stalls.  Crafts and foods were available and all were relatively local to Easton. Once the purchasing was complete we went for a wander around the gardens.  It was quite a grey day and rain kept trying to make its presence felt but this was not going to get in our way.
The long border was looking very good.  The colours and planting all working together extremely well.
The vegetable gardens were neat and tidy as ever.  I always like the vegetable patch as it is so well managed, better than I could ever achieve.  I am always delighted to see the tiny tractor waiting in the borders for its tiny tractoring work.
We wandered behind the greenhouses and noticed these brightly planted borders.  I don't remember seeing them previously and I thought they were very well done.
Niches are filled with pot plants,
.... and I loved this display particularly.
Into the Pickery and there were still some sweetpeas to be seen......
...... but it was dahlias that were stealing the show.
Look closer, this dahlia is just an amazing spike of pink craziness.
This border of amaranthus merged into grasses and zinnias,
again it was a look closer moment.  This combination is just stunning.
Even on this grey day the sunflowers were shining to give us some colour.
Yes I am again going to say look closer, because I am fairly sure that these salmon dahlias should look rubbish with these sunflowers but they really do not.  The colour mixing is spot on.

We left Easton happy with our purchases, somewhat full of cake and agreed that the gardens were looking top notch.

There is going to be an Artisan Food Fair at Easton in November, so I am going to make sure I get back there for that.  I have always been fond of Easton as I think it is a special place and this visit did nothing but reinforce this.

Wordless Wednesday - Snow Princess


Sunday, 10 September 2017

A decade of gardening at Blackberry Cottage

It does not feel that long ago that I wrote this blog post after living in this house for four years:  http://www.blackberrygarden.co.uk/2011/09/first-four-years.html  I reread this post when thinking about what I was going to write and I found it fascinating to see the rawness of the borders at that stage.  I also find the photographs of when I first moved in a great reminder of how things have moved on.
This photo really makes me smile as it shows the Conservatory Border and how it looked after I had made my first plantings.  There is the now long dead tree fern, looking rather spiffing.  One of the other patches of green is the cardoon that still flourishes in that border.
This is almost from the same position taken in June.
This is the view from the top of the garden.  There is no pond, there are no Prairie Borders.  The eating apple tree was a wonky divided trunk and the house stands baldly.
This is not quite the same position as I am closer to the apple tree, but its fair to say the house is less exposed now.  This is the view across the Woodland Border.
So happy anniversary garden.  I have never gardened anywhere for ten years before.  I am now knowing the joy of watching plants and trees mature that I have planted.  There is a sense of settlement in the garden and the rawness is long gone.  Whilst I still make changes there is a sense of structure now and a framework to work around.  This garden is without doubt the reason that this house is my home.  My connection to this patch is strong and its power to be my sanctuary where I go to recharge and take refuge from the world is beyond measure.  I have no idea if I will still be living here in ten years time, I suspect I might be; but where-ever I am this garden will be a happy memory.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Tree Following: September 2017 - leave it hanging

Q
was a Quince that hung Upon a garden tree; Papa he brought it with him home, And ate it with his tea

(Edward Lear) 





but not my quince, no picking from this tree, not yet.  I watch the quince carefully, I dare not touch it or breathe on it.   The Quinceling is too precious to be picked.

Thanks as ever to Squirrelbasket for hosting this meme.