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Showing posts from March, 2010

Allow me Lord, to Rock Out…

….frequently* Music advisory: This post is going to be more about gigs than gardening, so those of a sensitive disposition or seeking horticultural antics and tips on seed sowing please check back in a few days. Those who have been paying attention, will know that of late I have been organising rock concerts rather than gardening. Live music is a very good thing. And even parents want to go dancing sometimes. Or all the time, in some cases. So I am happy to report that the pioneering family-friendly gig at Ace Space in Newbury last night was a glorious success and complete sell-out. So thank you to the fantastic bands – Big Hand , The Screenbeats and Brendan Driscoll who stepped in at the last minute with a nicely thought-out blues set. Thanks to everyone who bought tickets (and sorry if you couldn’t get one!). To all the kids (and grownups) playing air guitar (and air trumpet) and power sliding across the dancefloor – good work! Hooray for those people who danced their socks o

Pop and Perennials

While it is still regularly below freezing, the perennials are poking their first leaves above ground. It has been pretty grim out there but every time I poke my own nose outside some new plant is optimistically back on the scene. There are finally tête à tête daffodils, the tulip foliage is looking sturdy and there are shoots on the tree paeony, Geranium phaeum and phlox. I have a shocking track record for growing poppies, although I love them, so I am happy to report that it is looking good on that front too. The sunshine-yellow Helenium (whose name escapes me) is basically slug bait and takes half a season to get more than 2” high, despite sharp grit and copper barriers, although it is doing its best. Curiously Helenium ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’ does not get nearly so chomped. Echinacea ‘Fatal Attraction’ was an impulse purchase Hampton Court Show last year and I am waiting with bated breath to see if it has made it through the winter. Bet it hasn’t… Perennials need regular

Of Orchids and Art

Have just been alerted to the rather lovely sounding RHS Orchid Show on 20-21st March. A selection of the 22,500 species available will be on display alongside the RHS's biggest ever botanical art show. In 1897 the RHS commissioned Nellie Roberts to paint a portrait of every award-winning orchid (her Brassocattleya is above), a tradition that has continued up to the present day with current artist, Deborah Lambkin. Usually tucked up in the Lindley Library, it should be an interesting look at the evolution of orchids in art since the Victorian era. (And at just a tenner the preview evening is a cheap mother’s day present !). Botanical art is an interesting one, some love it, others hate it. For me it is either awe-inspiring or slightly pointless, depending how good it is. When I worked in publisher sales shortly after graduating, some buyers were rather nervous of buying prints by American  botanical artist Georgia O’Keeffe . “Rather biological” they explained, embarrassedly

Chocolate Apples and Floating Pumpkins*

It is officially Spring. Jackdaws were collecting nesting material this morning; the sun is shining, the birds are singing and the snowdrops and crocuses are finally out in force. Buds are swelling on the climbers and on the apple tree – which means one thing: I am rapidly losing ground on the pruning. Apple pruning should be done while the tree is dormant in winter – but not when everything is frozen solid – and has proved something of a headache the last few years. When we moved here, the two apple trees had been clipped into a dense, snaggly lollypop shape and then neglected to grow long antlers. (Above is a picture of the tree in my garden in Jan 07, it looks better than that now!) I have spent several winters on a mammoth thinning and rationalisation exercise, but while it is possible to use secateurs and even a pruning saw with a baby under one arm, long handled loppers? Forget it. So the unidentified Malus (probably Bramley and Blenheim Orange) keep getting away, but cont

All Sorts of Compelling Mayhem

While making the tea the other night I idly wondered how much green potato you would have to eat to get solanine poisoning. Potatoes are in the nightshade family (look at the flowers – similar to tomato flowers, above) and I am sure I once read that if they were introduced now they would not be approved as a food plant. According to a swift web-trawl , the answer is, apparently, not all that much. Solanine develops due to the action of light on potatoes but the green colour that the potato skin becomes is down to chlorophyll rather than the toxic glycoalkaloid. So although the two things are related, the green-ness is no absolute indicator of how much solanine is present. Solanine is part of the plant’s defence against pests and apparently commercial varieties are screened to minimise human consumption. And since the lethal dose is around 5mg for each kg body weight, green potatoes are best avoided as the alternatives can include diarrhoea, vomiting, dizziness, hallucinations, paral