Sunday, 21 February 2010

Last Ditch Planting and Family Affairs

My mother always laughs at me about gardening on the draining board. And it is true, I do. But what the uninitiated do not appreciate is that sometimes things need planting, as in, right now. And sometimes it is too cold, dark or busy to do it any other way.

So far Broad Bean Aquadulce Claudia has been enrobed in a confit of compost in my kitchen (you see what I mean. This is an autumn sowing variety that really should have been in by January, but better late than never and they will probably be ok…). Sweet pea ‘Heirloom Bicolour Mixed’ has gone in too. I have some more sweet peas to do later – and some ordinary peas and mangetout as soon as I get a chance (the picture is of an ordinary pea). The old variety ‘Carouby de Maussane’ is good and I’ll grow ‘Purple Podded’ if I can find some. I also want to try my hand at growing grasses; they look good in swathes but this is expensive to achieve with garden centre plants.

Teasing aside, my mother is a fine and deserving lady and as offspring go, I am pretty slack when it comes to remembering Mother’s Day. However I have just discovered that the RHS is running Mother’s Day events and teas and lunches too. A romp round Wisley or Harlow Carr as a precursor to cake sounds good to me and although it has been chilly so far, the daffodils are getting a stern talking to so it should all be looking pretty good by March 14th.

Unrelated to plants but still on the family theme, my li’l brother has just been described as a 'highlight' in Time Out for his Sonic Sideshow cabaret performance at Volupté, alongside Tom Baker. Good work.

In the wake of my new-found galanthophilia, I was pleased to get a snowdrop Galanthus elwesii ‘Cedric’s Prolific’ from the Beth Chatto Garden a week or so ago. (I have always wanted to visit this iconic garden and it is their 50th Anniversary this year so I should probably make a trip over to Essex). With John Grimshaw’s damning words about planting in the green still ringing in my ears I swiftly gave it a choice, moist spot under a flowering currant. Still looking good…

Not really listening to anything notable today but a friend looked at the Beth Chatto press pack earlier and wondered vaguely why that large bird from The Gossip has a garden named after her. You can’t help some people.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Crimes Against Plants

I have decided to start a register of crimes against plants, as mostly perpetrated by municipal planters but it seems no plant is safe.
First up: Rubus cockburnianus. In summer this blackberry relative is not really all that, but in winter it comes into its own. Powdery, mauve-white stems arch delicately and thornily across the border, a striking contrast to other seasonal gems such as Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ and early spring bulbs. Yes, it is a bit of a thug; and yes, the colour is best on young stems so it needs hard pruning, but I would suggest that it is generally better to do this in early-mid spring. Not to cut it back to six inches high well before Christmas, people. That is when you are supposed to be looking at it.

It has been a busy few weeks. Went to the launch of the National Gardens Scheme’s illustrious Yellow Book – a directory of gardens open for charity. And mighty fine they are too. The picture above is Tithe Barn, Berkshire. Watched with mild awe as they gave some stonking big cheques to good causes.

This was chased up by the Garden Press Event at the RHS Halls which had lots of new stands and products – I am looking forward to trying the soil conditioner from Carbon Gold, was excited (in a rather girly fashion) by the Laura Ashley gardening collection and can’t stop smiling when I see my new backdoor shoes. They have grass on. Cool.

Also did some slightly inconsequential gardening, mostly planting roses, and finally got around to applying for my press ticket to Chelsea Flower Show. (Time was that my Glastonbury ticket was awaited with such anticipation…).

In print this month: In the March issue of Period House writing about Englefield House which has 400 year old garden and is home of Richard Benyon MP. Also in the Feb issue of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire Life, discussing Waterperry Gardens.

Listening to Pop Party 6. Would prefer not to be. Not my choice.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Save Our Gardens

Settle down vine weevil, aphids go to sleep; one of the most pernicious and vexatious gardening pests to stalk the land is the garden grabber and I am not sure that there is yet a decent solution. Pellets, or something.

Round the corner from me is an attractive and imposing Victorian house, one of the nicest in the neighbourhood with a large, landmark garden containing a protected yew tree.

A few months ago, it went on the market and there was a genteel scramble as virtually every family in the neighbourhood with more than two children made an offer, keen to realise a dream. It went to sealed bids. It went to a developer at an inflated price. It then went back on the market only, this time, with less than half of the original garden and some rather ugly plans were submitted.

The other part of the was bulldozed, plants, garage and summerhouse all flattened. The neighbours are pretty unimpressed. Objections are rife. This is an area with narrow roads and limited parking. We need pleasant gardens and green space, not more houses, cars and congestion. To object click here before 10th Feb.

Saw a band in Bristol last weekend. Bristol is a good city, it radiates a casual kind of cool and is an ideal place in which to misspend ones youth. The music had a rootsy sort of feel, the kind of thing that Bristol excels at, segueing cheerfully from originals to covers. Bit like spending an evening up close with a Skins soundtrack.

It got light at seven this morning. Hallelujah.

I don't have a suitable picture to illustrate garden grabbing or moral outrage, so here is a sunflower instead.