A surprise lily and not so surprising lily beetle

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I was pottering around the potatoes and to my surprise I found a pot of lilies!

I don’t know how this got put with all my spring bulb pots, which are ready to be stored away and refreshed in the autumn.

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I salvaged it immediately but to my horror I also found the dreaded lily beetle.

I don’t like killing wildlife of any sort but these are an invasive species in the UK, which makes ‘disposing of them’ a little easier to cope with. The RHS have a good page all about the lily beetle if you want to know more about its origin and distribution in the UK.

We only started to find these in the allotment last year and for such a lovely looking little pest they do a lot of damage.

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When Adam tore down our old shed he found a lot of them and gathered them into a little pot. He was very eager to make me listen to them. I wasn’t impressed by this but they did make a very loud squeak!

I have other lilies growing elsewhere in the garden. Lovely yellow day lilies in the front garden and a few dotted around the allotment.

foxglovesA few lilies are planted in the higgledy-piggledy wildlife garden. Hope they don’t attract the ‘wrong’ wildlife though!

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How has your garden been for pests this year? What’s your worst pest? Have you seen any of the giant Spanish slugs yet?!

 

Published from the plot! Taking time out in the garden

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I started my blog for many reasons, one being a reminder to switch off from work and concentrate on the things I enjoy in my life.

Gardening helps me to achieve a healthy work-life balance and it hasn’t been a problem lately. In fact I’ve been outside so much that my blogging balance has taken a serious hit! I also work for a much better company now and I’m not subjected to 24/7 corporate bashing anymore and I find it far easier to leave work behind.

Talking of which, this week I do feel in need of a rest, I want a break! So I’ve taken myself off to the plot with Molly (my newish dog) to do some serious chilling out.

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Can you see Molly sniffing around under the turkish bed?

Adam’s been building a new shed (wait till you see this ‘shed’ – it’s more of a summer house/chalet!) so there’s bits and bobs of rubble all over the place waiting to be re-homed.

I’ve done some pottering and I’ve also been chatting to my fellow ‘allotmenteers’ Norman and Bill. Oh to be retired and do this every day!

allotment messI’m still waiting for my strawberries to turn red in amongst all the rubble.

I’ve also been sitting in the sunshine with my feet up, watching all the bees doing their work in my  higgledy-piggledy wildlife border.

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gooseberriesMy wildlife border started out as my fruit border but now we mix the soft fruits in with perennials and annuals, or in the case of the foxgloves – biennials.

I’ve lost count watching the bumblebees buzzing in and out of the foxgloves.

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I loved sitting and chilling but as usual the British weather has brought the clouds, so I’ve decided to catch up with my blog.

In my last garden update I said I was having trouble finding time to blog and joked about an internet connection in the greenhouse! Well, today I’ve actually made that happen.

I’ve plugged my iPhone into my laptop and turned on its wireless hotspot. I’ve  successfully uploaded my photos and typed up this blog post on-line from the new shed! Let’s see what happens when I click publish…

new shed being builtA quick glimpse of the new ‘shed’. We still need to paint it and Adam wants to do something amazing with the roof! Watch this space!

I could really get used to this lifestyle! If only the ‘shed’ was my full time home office.

Have you ever thought about working from the garden? Do you find time to chill out and enjoy your outdoor space?

The allotment in June – what’s growing on?!

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The weather has been amazing! I hope it’s been good with you too. As a result of this I’ve been busy in my greenhouse, garden and veggie patches and I’ve neglected blogging for some time. I’ve literally been getting home from work, gardening and sleeping for weeks now. Great work life balance, but not so great for the work blog life balance!

However, I’ve been given a bit of a kick start back into things via Michelle at Veg Plotting who’s inspired a load of bloggers to get involved in the The Bloggers’ Cut for the Chelsea Fringe 2013.

I’d never heard of the Chelsea Fringe before but it sounds cool! Definitely a people’s event with a focus on the environment, community and art and more importantly participation. So over on Veg Plotting you can see a number of bloggers’ links sharing their recent exploits in their gardens.

I actually started this post last week, so this is what my garden and allotment looked like back then. The only difference over the week is that my alliums are in full flower, the clematis and the aquilegias are out and everything is really coming on. The warm weather combined with a good dose of rain last week provided the perfect growing conditions.

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The tulips are still flowering at home and at the allotment and they’ve been outstanding this year. As well as some new bulbs we planted last Autumn the tulips I planted under my trees at least 5 years ago are still going strong and just get bigger and better with age.

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I planted them under my trees after a visit to Levens Hall in Cumbria where they had planted perfectly spaced big red tulips under the topiary. It reminded me of something out of Alice in Wonderland and I just loved the red/green combination. Mine aren’t perfectly spaced but then neither is anything in my garden, I just took the inspiration and made it my own.

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The bulbs have multiplied over the years and the tulip heads are literally huge! Many people replace tulips each year because they just don’t last but some are perennial and will actually naturalise, how long for I do not know. On my recent trip to Great Dixter, head gardener Fergus Garret was talking about some research they’re doing on tulips and trying to work out how to tell if they’re perennial or not. He suggested that the larger the bulb the more likely they are to keep coming back. Sounds about right since these were huge bulbs to begin with.

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Veggie wise I still have a lot of seedlings in the greenhouse but outside things are coming along nicely too. My potatoes are all through, onions are growing, broad beans have been flowering for a while but still seem shorter than usual and my peas are growing nicely, but not as good as Bill’s (my allotment neightbour)! The fruits are doing very well and I also have tons of broccoli, kale, squash, courgettes, pumpkins and beetroot.

In the greenhouse I have chillies, sweet peppers, cucumbers, spring onions, my pink onions are still in there, half my giant leeks (the other half are outside), tomatoes, celery and probably some other stuff that I’ve forgotten about! No crops as yet apart from some small broad beans, lettuce and spring onions.

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I also have tons of sweet peas and begonias ready for planting out. I’ve kept the sweet peas outside for a while now so they don’t go soft. I did a few sweet pea experiments this year and found that the seeds sown before winter that came up in the cold greenhouse around February are the strongest, biggest and best looking! I think they like a bit of a cold start perhaps?

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Back to the other theme of The Bloggers’ Cut, Michelle wants to know what our favourite kind of cake for gardening is. This weekend I enjoyed eating some jam and cream doughnuts but I’m very easy going when it comes to cake and will eat pretty much anything.

Something that sprung to mind, however, was a very special cake I made last year during the Queen’s Jubilee bank holiday – ‘Herman the German Friendship Cake‘. I was reminded of this because Adam started a bank holiday project last week but was still finishing up this weekend – our new shed! I’m so excited! Anyway, last year we had some of our dearest friends staying, the weather was gorgeous and Adam started his first bank holiday project, the appropriately named ‘Jubilee Bench’.

He finished the bench in time for us to share a lovely BBQ and to finish off Herman. Have you ever heard of this cake? I was given a yeasty cake mix and told to ‘feed it’ regularly then bake it. I have to say it was one of thee most amazing cakes I’ve ever had!!!! We all loved it. Here’s a photo from that awesome day (Adam on the left) where we celebrated the arrival of the Jubilee Bench. Sorry no photos of the cake, it all went down just far too quick.

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How are things getting on in your garden? Have you been enjoying some good weather? Have you started any new projects or perhaps you’ve baked a cake?

Container gardening in my small front garden

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I think some people on my street think that they don’t have a front garden. The council must think this too as they don’t supply us with bins for garden waste, yet they supply the houses just around the corner. When I moved here the neighbours across the street had an amazing container garden and I was keen to have a go too. The first thing I did was rip out the elephants ears to the left of my door, pebble it and add a bench. I left the honeysuckle, clematis, climbing rose and skimmia. Then I added the pots. I grew my first ever tomatoes right there too while I was waiting for my allotment.

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I moved in during the Autumn and I planted a load of bulbs. I was so happy when they emerged the following spring and my little garden was full of colour. Spring is extra special to me now because it reminds me of that first year. I do something a bit different at the front every year now and I still look forward to seeing what will emerge each spring. Adam also enjoys planting up the pots and we planted most of these while night gardening last year because we had so little time at the weekends.

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To the right of my door we plant into the ground and have a mixture of spring and summer bulbs plus perennials and grasses.

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Look at how this little pot has come on in the last few weeks.

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I love my Skimmia Japonica (below), it was tiny when I moved in and has really flourished.

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Even a house with no garden can have a window box – providing there’s a window ledge! We really enjoy planting up matching boxes for the front windows and changing them throughout the seasons. I’m really happy with the trailing pansies this year.

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My friend recently said that she couldn’t grow anything on her shady patio, but I look at her patio and think that I could do so much! I’ve bought her a book about plants for shady areas for her birthday so she will either love me for that or it will live on her bookshelf forever! My front garden is south facing so I have the opposite problem and there are some plants that just dry out and bake but trial and error over the years has told me what works and what doesn’t and I just relocate plants from the front if I feel they’re struggling.

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So for anyone who says their garden is too small, too shady, too sunny, needs too much watering I think perhaps they’re not so interested in gardening because where there’s a will, there’s a way. After all, nature has a plant for all these ‘problem’ areas. Even in the height of summer the plants in my sunny front garden thrive in the pots with just a quick watering in the morning and evening.

Have you got a too shady or too sunny area in your garden and how have you got around it? Do you enjoy container gardening?

Meet the people – interview with Robin Parker of Gabriel Ash!

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You may have gathered that I adore my greenhouse, which Adam built a couple of years ago. The photo above was taken last year and the greenhouse is in there somewhere! Because I have such a ‘thing’ for greenhouses I recently decided to allow North West UK company Gabriel Ash, the only manufacturer to have its entire range endorsed by the Royal Horticultural Society, to feature as a sponsor on my blog because it’s a company I genuinely believe in. I’m originally from the North West too so I was keen to find out more about Gabriel Ash and how they started their company. So, for the 2nd interview in my ‘meet the people’ series I interviewed their sales and marketing manager, Robin Parker…

Q. Hi Robin, I’m really intrigued to know more about when and how Gabriel Ash started its business?

Hi Anna. Gabriel Ash started a long time ago, and actually grew out of our then sister company who manufactured Aluminium greenhouses. We wanted to create a top of the range cedar greenhouse and joined with a Chester joinery company to start Gabriel Ash. We’ve got 70 years of experience manufacturing and engineering greenhouses (I’ve been doing this for 17 years now!) so we like to think we know what we’re doing, and our customers tend to agree, as do the various RHS gardens that house our greenhouses.

harlow_carr_new_greenhouse_insideInside the greenhouse at Harlow Carr during my visit before Christmas

Q. What does being endorsed by the RHS actually mean to you?

It means a great deal. The RHS is the pinnacle of gardening in this country (if not the world) and they are massively respected by everyone that knows anything about gardening. To have not only their approval but their endorsement is a huge bonus, not only for us, but for our clients who know that they are purchasing a greenhouse from the ONLY greenhouse company in the world to have their all their products endorsed by this world famous society.

Q. Have you installed your greenhouses at the RHS gardens?

Yes we have, we’ve got greenhouses at a couple of the RHS gardens; RHS Rosemoor in North Devon was the first of the RHS gardens to get a Gabriel Ash greenhouse back in 2004 (before they endorsed us) for their Kitchen Garden. It was one of the larger of our range (a Classic Planthouse) and has now faded to a lovely silvery grey.

The 2nd RHS garden to have a Gabriel Ash structure (well 2 in fact!) is RHS Harlow Carr in Harrogate. In 2009 they asked us to design and install a teaching greenhouse for them as part of their new £3m Bramall learning centre at the gardens, and early in 2010 we installed a bespoke 12ft x 60ft greenhouse that is currently being used to teach the next generation of horticulturalists from all over the Yorkshire area. It makes us proud to know that to date over 35,000 schoolchildren have been weening their horticultural skills in one of our greenhouses. Lizzie Balmforth – the curator at RHS Harlow Carr liked our greenhouses so much that in 2012 they purchased another for their kitchen garden, and appropriately it was our Harlow Carr model!

harlow_carr_new_greenhouseThe Harlow Carr in situ photographed on my visit in January

Q. Do you create designs based on individual requirements, odd garden shapes etc..? What’s the most interesting/tricky greenhouse that Gabriel Ash have installed?

We do manufacture bespoke structures, and I get asked on an almost daily basis if we can replace existing structures exactly as they were in the Victorian era. The reality is that whilst we can manufacture a greenhouse to most sizes and shapes, even Gabriel Ash have their limitations! Sometimes we get a situation that is so tricky that we have to turn the customer down, but not before we’ve given them the benefit of our extensive experience and other options within their garden.

I think the most tricky design we’ve ever installed was a large 6m x 8m structure linking 2 buildings together. It was quite a simple structure, but because of the dimensions everything gets a little trickier as you need to take into account the weight of the structure (and the fact that we want it to still be there in 50 years time!)

Q. What’s your take on sustainability when it comes to using all that lovely wood?

We are quite passionate about sustainability here at Gabriel Ash. We are the only greenhouse manufacturer to have their own PEFC certificate, meaning that not only is the wood that we use PEFC certified but our whole chain of custody is certified to guarantee that any Gabriel Ash greenhouse bought has been made from cedar that is from a responsibly managed forest.

greenhouse_tomato_seedlingsQ. Do you think that greenhouses and cold frames are becoming more popular nowadays and why do you think that might be?

I think you’re right Anna, I think they are becoming more popular as people have more free time and are choosing to spend that time in the garden. Couple that with the increase in food costs and the social desire to be ecologically friendly and ‘grow your own’ and we are seeing that more and more people are buying greenhouses – of all shapes and sizes.

Q. What kind of external factors can affect your business, such as weather or the economic environment?

The weather definitely has an impact on our business. If there is snow on the ground for example then people just aren’t thinking about their garden, which is ironic because its exactly at that time of the year when having a greenhouse lets you go out and enjoy your garden.

The economic climate has effected every company is one way or the other. We realise that whilst we manufacture the highest quality Cedar greenhouses that you can buy, we don’t sell necessities (unless growing is a necessity!) so therefore when customers have their finances squeezed it is the discretional spend on items like greenhouses that will suffer.

Thankfully Gabriel Ash has a good following and because we are such high quality we have managed to weather the storm and we’re starting to see the green shoots of recovery now.

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Q. What is the best thing we can do to care for our own greenhouses?

Keep them clean and tidy. It may sound obvious, but clean windows let in more light than dirty ones. Wooden greenhouses need very little maintenance if they are made from Western red cedar (like Gabriel Ash’s) so just keeping them clean is the key, and normal soap and water – or even just water and a brush – will mean your greenhouse lasts longer.

Q. Thanks Robin! Can you give us some more top tips for our greenhouses and cold frames over the next few weeks?

Well thankfully the weather seems to have picked up and whilst we’ll still be getting some frosts the greenhouse should be getting nice and full now. Remember in the summer plants are like people, they need lots of water on hot days, and make sure you open the windows when it gets really hot – unless you’re lucky enough to have a Gabriel Ash greenhouse, in which case the autovents should work just fine.

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Well, I certainly found the snoop into Gabriel Ash and the world of greenhouses really very interesting. As for the top tips and care advice I always wash my greenhouse with soapy water and air it before I put my spring seedlings in there. I’m also really enjoying opening the greenhouse in the morning, really makes me feel like summer is on the way!

I can’t wait to do my ‘what’s growing on update’ because there’s lots happening in my greenhouse but I need to find some time to do it! I’ve not stopped sowing and pottering and planting out since the weather got milder and with a new dog to take care of too, writing is somewhat suffering! Reading blogs is my favourite pastime though and I’m missing getting round to reading and commenting on all my favourite blogs so hopefully I can make time for that soon. If only I could get an internet connection in my greenhouse…hmm…now there’s an idea!

How do you make time for blogging and gardening? What’s your best greenhouse top tip?

A trip to the RHS Great London Plant Fair

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It’s taken me ages to get round to posting my trip to the RHS Great London Plant Fair but I’m so glad I’ve finally managed it because I’ve really enjoyed looking back through my photos and remembering just what a cool time I had at this little show. We stopped off here on our Easter trip to Great Dixter in Rye. Some of these photos are a little blurry because I took them all with my iPhone, a handy little camera but not that great on quality.

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The show was spread across the two small RHS halls and it was just the right size to cover in the mere 3 hours we were able to spare on our way to Rye. It had a lovely spring feeling to it, which made a nice change since spring hadn’t sprung outside. As well as enjoying the impressive displays I found it quite educational and it gave me some good ideas.

Something I particularly liked was the use of baskets and containers. Anyone who claims that their garden is too small or difficult to grow anything should really try container gardening. It’s so easy and can be very impressive. Just look at the pelargoniums in this photo below if you need more proof!

RHS-London-39RHS-London-21 I’m loving the hyacinths in the suitcase! I also love to see helebores in containers too. I’ve seen them growing really successfully in containers a few times now and they look great in the basket above.

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The heucheras and heathers in the two pictures above, as well as looking good in baskets and pots, are the real unsung heroes of the drab few months we’ve had. These plants really come into their own and provide intense colour in the winter months when there’s little else going on.

Luckily we’re now getting some better weather but the warm purples and reds of these plants still stand out and provide a brightness while we wait for summer to arrive. I have some heather planted at my allotment but why didn’t I fill the hanging basket outside my door like this?! Next year….

Talking of containers, check out these edibles! The spinach in the paint pot and carrier bag looked cool.

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The part where I really lost myself was amongst the amazing displays created by members of the Alpine Garden Society. I just love these little plants and when you think about the effort that goes in to creating such perfect specimens for show I know that there’s many other people who love these intricate little plants too.

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The hepatica (above) was so cute I just wanted to stare at it for hours.

Back in the other hall there was an awesome display of sempervivums planted in troughs, pots and wooden fruit boxes. They’re so easy to grow and as a result I have these ‘houseleeks’ growing in the most random of places and I love it when they shoot up their totally alien looking flowers.

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I really enjoyed this little show and yes, we came away with a couple of purchases (no surprise there). I bought a tiarella and Adam bought some ‘Flexi-Tie’. The tieralla loved its little journey down to Rye and then onto Oxford (we visited the botanic gardens there so I’ll post about that some point) and it’s now happily living in a little container in my garden.

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I sooo want one of these mini mountains in my garden!

It seems like such a long time ago now and I can’t believe it’s taken me ages to get round to this, the truth is I’ve just been enjoying the milder weather so much that I’ve been spending all my time outside in the garden :) It’s so brilliant to finally see new shoots appearing and my seedlings growing stronger. I’ll do a ‘what’s growing on update’ soon.

Did you visit the Great London Plant Fair? Do you enjoy these types of shows? Could you get lost for hours looking at the little alpines too?

Why I love my greenhouse – or any greenhouse for that matter!

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A couple of weeks back on Gardeners’ World, Monty Don introduced his new greenhouse and it was just awesome! A really high roofed greenhouse built on a brick foundation and he seemed completely over the moon with it. That’s exactly how I felt when Adam built ours.

When I first met Adam I had no idea just how good he was at wood working but he did enjoy spending time at the allotment doing the odd bit here and there.

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His first major creation was our ‘Turkish bed’ that he made after holidays in Turkey, Thailand and Borneo where we just loved these big lounging seats. It went down very well with the other folk at the allotments who loved it too and they soon started to refer to my allotment as Adam’s!!! Hang on, hang on, I plant all the veg?!!?!!

It seems that wooden structures are admired by many and when Adam built our greenhouse in spring 2011 it was adored by everyone and it seems the plants we grow inside it love it too.

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I’ve always had a ‘thing’ for greenhouses since my parents bought a beauty when I was about 8 and I love to snap photos of them whenever I can. My latest obsession is the new one at Harlow Carr and of course the alpine house is just out of this world.

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I also love this quirky number below that I snooped on at my parents’ allotment site. My fellow allotmenteer Michaela has a gorgeous greenhouse too. Another corker is this new one at mytinyplot.com.

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So, where’s this going? Okay, I’ll come clean. You may have noticed a new banner on my website for Gabriel Ash who sell amazing greenhouses that are endorsed by my beloved RHS. They even have a range named after the RHS gardens. As you can imagine I fell in love with them and I’ve put a banner on my site for free. I get nothing for that being there. Not a bean.

I’m toying with the idea of having a few tasteful adverts on my site in the future and Gabriel Ash are just the kind of advert I’m happy to have, unlike the adverts my WordPress hosted site used to run, which to my horror some of my visitors clicked on. I decided to go self-hosted so that adverts for products that I definitely do not love would no longer appear and I could instead promote the products and companies that I genuinely admire. So this first step is a way of trialing banners/sponsors without getting too involved. I’m also hoping that as part of my ‘Meet the people‘ series that I can get some expert tips from them about greenhouses. So, it’s a partnership of sorts and maybe it will lead somewhere, maybe it wont. I do think their range is just fab though.

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Our greenhouse is really starting to fill up with seedlings now and although I’m fleecing them over at night, last weekend I noticed the temperature in the daytime had reached 30 degrees! Good job I got there in time to let some air in. I’ll attempt to describe just how Adam built our greenhouse at some point, it involves beer and blood! He’s going to build a replacement shed this year too and I can’t wait!

Do you have a greenhouse? Do you love it? Do you want a greenhouse? Do you have a strange obsession with garden ‘structures’ of any kind?!

Pink Onions – finding Rosanna at another local market

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I’d never heard of pink onions but as part of my quest to ‘shop locally’ I visited another market in Leeds last weekend and made the discovery. Slightly different to The farmers market at Horsforth, Kirkstall Abbey deli market is actually set in the grounds of a 12th century Cistercian abbey and the stalls include everything from crafts to cheese.

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There was a large selection of produce based loosely around the local theme. I was happy to see Thistlemist Farm who I met at Horsforth last time and I restocked on their amazing soups! They use a combination of home grown and locally sourced farm veg and the soups are made in Leeds, which for me can’t get any more local.

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I was disappointed there were no vegetables for sale? Perhaps a deli market isn’t the place for veg even though the sign for the market kind of indicates there would be some? Never mind, I went to Horsforth market yesterday and did my ‘big shop’ there!  I’ll definitely be going back to Kirkstall though because markets are clearly the way forward and especially in such a lovely setting. Plus, if I visit Headlingley market next weekend that that will be 3 weeks in a row that I’ve managed a weekly shop at a market instead of a supermarket – result!

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One stall that immediately grabbed my attention was the Kirkstall allotment society. I took half a dozen ‘Rosanna’ onion seedlings. I was sold on the fact that they’re ‘not white, not red, they’re pink’. It was enough for me to become interested and then I googled Rosanna for more information when I got home.

Key’s of Lincolnshire describe the pink onion as having, “delicate pink-coloured outer skin and beautiful pink flesh and is exclusive to Key’s of Lincolnshire”. Then Tesco announced last year that they were the exclusive suppliers of this onion that had been grown in the Stour Valley on the Essex/Sussex border by Stourgarden. Exclusive hey, well not anymore.

They are still fairly elusive though with the only seed supplier I’ve found for Rosanna being Thompson & Morgan. I wish I’d bought more seedlings now and I’m very excited to see how they grow and taste. I’m keeping them in my greenhouse until they get considerably larger and will plant them out only when we’re frost free.

kirkstall_deli_market_5Loving the hop box bar!

Speaking of onions, I was hoping to plant my onion sets and potatoes out last weekend, the sun was shining but the ground was far too cold. It wouldn’t have damaged my veggies but they wouldn’t have started to grow, so instead I pottered around and I got my plastic poly tunnels out to start warming up the ground.

As I hoped, this weekend was just brilliant! The ground is warmer and I planted all my onion sets, one row of potatoes, some new perennials from my favourite local nursery B.Whiteley and continued sowing. Two full days of gardening right into the evenings and I’m feeling a few aches! As the saying goes, I’ll sleep tonight!

Have you planted your onions or potatoes out yet? How are your seedlings getting on? Have you had some spring-like weather?

A great day at Great Dixter house and gardens

Great_dixter_16It’s not every day you have an experience that has an amazingly profound effect but our little pre-Easter visit to Great Dixter has done just that. We haven’t stopped talking and thinking about it ever since.

We felt so privileged to be invited by Naomi from out of my shed to a bloggers meet at Great Dixter, one of her favourite places – and I can see why it’s a favourite. Luckily Adam could come with me, it’s such a long journey so we made a little holiday out of it. Staying in Rye for a couple of nights and stopping in Warwick on the way down and Oxford on the way back.

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Great Dixter is the former home of gardener and writer Christopher Lloyd and since his death the garden has been managed by Christopher’s friend and head gardener Fergus Garrett.

As part of our meet up Fergus gave us a brilliant talk about Great Dixter and everything they’re doing there. We also had a house tour, nursery tour, met the woodsman and deputy head gardener Siew Lee showed us round the garden. Everyone we met had a genuine passion for Great Dixter, it felt very much like their home and their garden that they share with visitors.

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To me it felt like a living breathing garden where no corner is left unloved. Heritage, preservation and innovation all coming into play.

With the house and the bones of the garden being preserved and loved in the memory of Christopher Lloyd the planting is carried out in a spontaneous and experimental way that ‘Christo’ himself would have done and would be proud of.

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I love the way you can get up close and personal with the plants.

Great_dixter_9 Great_dixter_3 Great_dixter_10 Textures and unusual planting schemes really grabbed my attention. It’s one of the most visually interesting and tactile gardens I’ve visited. Soft evergreens contrast with the spikey exotic or the barky. This is really a garden where there is interest throughout the seasons.

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Great Dixter are experimenting with planting schemes that aren’t just for the hell of it but for the wildlife and for the future of gardening itself.

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Something both Adam and I found totally inspiring was their meadow planting and they’re encouraging local land owners to join with them in this to really make a difference to our British countryside. Fergus mentioned that the reduction in flowers at nearby Romney Marsh has lead to a decline in the number of bees, so if Great Dixter can encourage the local land owners to also do their bit with meadow planting then this should help restore the bee balance.

The knowledge they have on how to manage a meadow, leaving it till the last seed head has dropped at the end of the summer before chopping, is superb. Their experiments really are carried out so they can get the best out of what they’re doing and then they pass it on. If you visit in summer you will see the meadows under the topiary, a very unique planting combination and mixing the two styles has roused some controversy but in my opinion is pure genius.

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Fergus on the right, busy at work in the long border. Just look at all the textures in this photo. 

A few weeks back I reviewed a book by a fellow blogger and mentioned that I feel gardeners are people who ‘share’ and this was very evident here. Fergus shared his passion and experience with real honest enthusiasm as did everyone else that we met.

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Great Dixter really feels like it’s all about gardening rather than a show, even though this place was an absolute show of colour, skill and uniqueness. No bed was left bare and this was something that Christopher Lloyd started and is being carried on. The stunning views, the oast house, the colours of the wood. Fergus said they could turn the medieval barn into a café to make more money but they don’t want to because they “prefer having a man with a beard in there making things out of wood.” I prefer the man with the beard (Simon) too, he was an absolute crack up and his traditional craft work with green wood and traditional tools was fantastic.

Great_dixter_19 Great_dixter_29Great_dixter_20Above is the exotic garden with its bananas wrapped for the winter. This used to be a rose garden but could easily be a conifer garden depending on what Fergus and his team decide to do.

This is an evolving garden that can change, allowing the learning process of gardening to be at the forefront of what the Great Dixter experience is.

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Great Dixter is like a little haven of unspoilt paradise. You feel like you’re a million miles away from everything here, there’s a magical feeling of being in the presence of a house and a garden that was and still is, so well loved.

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Even the house appears textured…

The day we returned home we had guests coming to stay. I popped down after only 5 minutes of them arriving and greeted them, the first thing Amy said was “Adam’s just been telling us all about your brilliant day out at Great Dixter!” Wow! They must have had a Great Dixter onslaught as soon as they walked through the door!

I’m not surprised though because I just don’t think Adam or I have been quite so inspired by a place as this one. I don’t think this will be the last time I blog about it either as it really will influence my gardening from now on.

 Great_dixter_13Naturalistic by nature.

I love the fact they leave their perennials throughout winter for all the same reasons that I do, they look interesting, add odd textures and are great for wildlife. The architectural forms of the teasel (above) left standing were like beautiful memories of the summer and winter just passed. 

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The planting was just stunning, where most gardens this time of year are looking rather bare and bleak the succession planting at Great Dixter meant that everywhere you looked something was growing, even in the most random of places. This is something I’ve wanted to achieve for ages, whenever I see a garden that is awash with colour and interest it’s a step closer to me being able to do that myself and I certainly got some ideas here.

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Just look at what they create here with clever under-planting techniques and planting schemes for all seasons. If the colours and textures are like this at the start of spring this place must be bursting out of its seams with colour in the height of summer.

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I also bought a couple of plants from the amazing nursery. I chose an arum italicum, (apparently slug resistant) perennial that looks a bit like a hosta, which Siew Lee pointed out to us. It sounds great for shady areas providing glossy green colour in winter and berries in the summer. Adam chose a helianthemum also known as a rock rose because it flowers for such a long time, sustaining colour in the way Fergus talked about.

I brought so much more back with me in terms of ideas though and a good feeling that what I’m doing with my garden is right. Not just what I’m doing though, what anyone is doing. The act of gardening no matter what your style, is right. Fergus’ talk instilled within us that you should follow your heart with gardening and work with nature. In the nicest possible way I couldn’t wait to leave and get back into my own garden and get planting.

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Talking of good gardeners who share it was a pleasure to meet all the bloggers and thanks to Naomi for sharing one of her favourite places.

Blogger list:

 Great_dixter_65Great_dixter_64 Great_dixter_66Thanks for a great day Great Dixter!

I can completely relate to the gardening at Great Dixter. My own garden isn’t based on design or trying to be something in particular. I simply love it being crammed full of anything I like and anything I can get hold of basically. I’ve even been known to salvage ‘past their best’ plants because I couldn’t bear to see them being discarded and they added colour and interest to a bed that I’d just ripped a load of marigolds out of. I love the fact Siew Lee embraced the ‘common plant’ too. All plants are natural and equally beautiful in my book, there’s no place for ‘snobbism’ in my garden or at Great Dixter.

When Fergus ended his talk he simply said, “we love gardening…we just absolutely live and breathe it here” and you can’t half tell.

Have you ever fallen in love with a garden that isn’t your own? Have you ever been inspired to try new things after visiting a garden? Have you ever been to Great Dixter?

Now I know why they’re called spring onions

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Scallions, otherwise known as spring onions were a tricky item in my veg growing schedule for a long time. I could never get them to grow. No matter what I tried or when I sowed, I either got nothing or I got little stragglers that faded away never to get past about an inch high.

Here’s my simple how-to guide.

I very nearly wrote them off but then my mother-in-law, Tina, showed me her ‘spring onion production line’ in her greenhouse. She had a big pot full of them and effortlessly sprinkled some new seeds in a fresh pot right in front of my eyes before uttering the words, “see, it’s easy”.

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Not wanting to let ‘mother-in-law’ down, I tried again. This time it worked! I sowed the seeds straight into big pots and all last summer I had a production line going and I felt like I could carry on growing them all year round. I sowed my last batch around the end of September and then nothing happened. The little seedlings didn’t appear and I thought my luck had run out. So I cast the pots aside and made room in the greenhouse for my tender plants and bulbs that would live in there over the winter.

Then about 3 weeks ago I saw them. The most beautiful spring onions ever! They had grown over winter, outside in the freezing cold! I couldn’t believe it. They had over-wintered! What an amazing revelation! An accidental surprise, or to my mother-in-law, a perfect example of my veg growing ability ;)

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Anyway, this is no miracle, this is what is supposed to happen when you sow spring onions at the end of summer. I’m over the moon though because it gets me even nearer to the challenge I set myself recently to source more local food and to have more of my own crops available all year round. If I can pull this off again it means I can have spring onions ‘in stock’ March to October.

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So there it is, the easiest over-wintering I’ve ever done and this year I’ll be sowing more. Amazing how a couple of pots of spring onions have changed my whole outlook on growing veg over the winter!

Are you eating an over-wintered crop now? Have you got any spring onion tips?

 

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