Sunday, 27 July 2008

NGS Meltdown


What an absolutely fantastic weekend it has been for the weather. This is how summer should be and I have had a wonderful weekend visiting two gardens open for the National Garden Scheme. The first one we visited was in Wimborne, Dorset called The Secret Garden at Serles House on Saturday evening http://www.dorsetlife.co.uk/articles/ArticlesDetail.asp?ID=609. The house is a small Victorian semi which looks quite small from the front. The front garden is immaculately kept and you just get the feeling looking at it from the road that the house hides a real gem behind. To enter the garden you go through the house which is completely amazing, with all its original features and into a wooden conservatory (past a man playing the piano) and into this wonderful garden full of follies and wonderful artifacts which have been collected and placed around the garden.
This time instead of tea and cake, we were treated to wine and nibbles - very sophisticated!

Whenever we visit a garden, I always joke with my boyfriend that we will probably be the youngest there, which doesn't happen very often now that we are in our early forties (does almost being 44 still count as early forties?) but low and behold there were two people there younger than us. Maybe the promise of alcohol lured them out but they seemed interested in the garden, so perhaps the younger generation will catch onto the wonders of gardening. Perhaps gardening will become the new rock n roll? Oh dear perhaps that's not such a good idea. We will all be dressing in beige next!
The second garden we visited was Hilltop at Stour Provst in Dorset.
I always make sure I visit this garden once a year, as it's my favourite.




http://www.hilltopgarden.co.uk/ This garden is the perfect cottage garden in every way. No photograph could do it justice and certainly not today and the sun was too bright for photography. I took a few snaps as a memento; it's just simply gorgeous and worth a visit if you live in Dorset.
Of course we had the obligatory tea and cake and it was so cool sitting under the great oak tree as it was scorching in this south facing garden. The best of all is that Brian sells the plants he grows and as cottage garden plants are my favourite, I always come away with one or three especially as the garden has 600 dahlias which are my favourite plant.






We've dug up all the potatoes this week and they are delicious. They really are worth growing as home grown potatoes have a flavour which can't be matched from those in the supermarket.
We are munching on the cut and come again lettuce, so I think I will sow some more in the space left by the potatoes.
One of the butternut squashes have a baby squash growing on it, which is so cute. There are lots of flower buds forming on the other squashes, so I hope the slugs don't get them before they start to turn into the fruit, although the cat found a toad on the lawn which we put amongst the vegetables, so I hope he likes slugs because they're on the menu.

Monday, 21 July 2008

The Good Life

When The Good Life was on our screens in the 70's, the concept of growing vegetables and caring for livestock in our back gardens was stuff of comedy. Yes lots of people grew vegetables but on their allotments and not in their front gardens!
I absolutely loved watching Tom and Barbara, Gerry and Margo and still love the repeats today. Thirty years on, the idea of 'The Good Life' is no longer a joke. For those not able to own an allotment, those wanting to grown their own are turning to their gardens and growing vegetables in raised beds, amongst the flowers or in pots just like Tom and Barbara.

Today in my lunchbox was a salad of lettuce, red onion and tomato all picked from the garden. I couldn't quite manage the olives or butter beans but give me time and global warming and maybe I would grow the olives! I shouldn't joke about global warming but if more people grew veg and we pressured supermarkets to source vegetables closer to home, then we could help to make a small dent in this ever looming problem.

The garden is perking up after giving it a liquid feed or two. My sweetcorn is suffering from blackfly but I blasted them with the hose on full power so I just need to keep on top of the little buggers. My butternut squashes are starting to flower. I need to limit each plant to three flowers to ensure lovely large squashes.

My raspberries have finished but I am a little confused as I bought them as Autumn fruiting raspberries and they seem to be over but putting on lots of growth which points to Summer fruiting raspberries. I think I will contact Marshalls for some advice. I might get a second crop. Ooh what lovely thought, more scrummy raspberries.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

It's like pulling onions

At last some success. I have pulled my red onions but had to put them in the summerhouse to dry out and not as tradition would have it, on the soil and in the sun. Also I have started to dig up my Charlotte potatoes; we have them for tea tonight with roast chicken - yum.

I am rather worried about my sweetcorn. Instead of healthy green stems they are starting to yellow. I have read that if the soil is sandy and there has been high rainfall, then the nutrients will leach out of the soil. This is what I think is happening, so I have given them a liquid feed and some magnesium sulphate so I am hoping that might green them up. The wind and rain has rather battered my butternut squash. Some of the stems have almost broken so I am not holding out too much hope for some of them. Its a mixed bag really, with some highs and some lows. Still, looking at someones else's beautiful garden with the promise of tea and cake, usually raises the spirit, so this afternoon we took ourselves off to an NGS garden in Ferndown, Dorset. This was a tiny garden but absolutely chocked full of gorgeous plants. The front was cottagy, my favourite sort of plants and the back was quite tropical. In 2005 the garden was a finalist in the Daily Mail garden of the year competition.

The front garden had a meandering path to the front door with lots of cottage garden favourites like clematis, monarda, phlox, sidelcea, crocosmia and astrantia to name but a few. They had plants for sale so I bought crocosmia lucifer, a favourite of mine and astrantia major. I love the pin cushion flower heads of the astrantia. The back garden had a Spanish feel to it and plants had a more tropical appearance.There were even a couple of bananas in the corner. It felt quite sheltered with all the tall plants creating a cosy atmosphere. And of course at all good open gardens, they provide refreshments, with proceeds going to charity.
You can find all the details of the NGS yellow book at http://www.ngs.org.uk/gen/default.aspx where you can pinpoint local gardens to you and their opening times. What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon with plants, tea and cake. (I think I have been here before!)

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Wild and Windswept


Is it actually July and has a tornado ripped through my garden?

OK, so that is rather an exaggeration but it is damn windy for July, isn't it?

I think my potatoes are nearly ready but after my disastrous garlic, I am a bit reluctant to lift them. After reading and researching, I have come to the conclusion that I pulled my garlic too early. Better luck next year.
I have run out of space for my Butternut Squash. They need far more room than I anticipated. It's funny how I thought my two veg beds were quite big when they were empty but now I have come to realise that they really are too small for the job. I also thought that I would put the Butternut Squash where the potatoes are but my timing is way out.
So to get over this dilema, we have covered the spot where my new veg bed will be with plastic, popped peat free grow bags on the top and planted two squashes in each. It doesn't look very pretty but the plastic will kill the grass underneath, so we can dig it over my easily at the end of the season.
All the other vegetables are growing well. The lettuce is ready to cut. The carrots have had their first thinnings. I hate choosing which one to pull out, how do you choose, apart from the weakest and always feel so guilty.
I have found a local horticultural society, who meet the 2nd Tuesday of each month, which is this coming Tuesday. It's only £3 to join and you get 10% discount at 4 local garden centres, so it has to be worth popping along to check it out. There's not many places I go anymore, where I am the youngest but I bet I am going to be hard pushed to find someone there who is younger than me. I might be pleasantly suprised - we'll see.


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