Archive for January, 2014

Hedgehog Survey- Can You help?

photo by Hedgehog Champion Mark Sant

‘2014 Hibernation Survey

We need your help to collect hedgehog records from 1st February until 31st August 2014.

Simply tell us every time you see a hedgehog, noting its location and whether it is alive or dead…..’

Click on the link above for more information

Old School Gardener


A couple of interesting ideas for recycling tyres into useful garden equipment.

Strips of old tyre rubber used as edgings for grass- practical, how aesthetic?

Old tyre rubber re-formed into strips as edgings for grass- hmm… practical? aesthetic?

A neat row of tyre containers- herbs? grass-lined seats?

A neat row of tyre containers- herbs? grass-lined seats?

Cyclamen still looking good in the courtyard
Cyclamen still looking good in the courtyard

To: Walter De Grasse – 30th January 2014

Dear Walter,

Is it too late to wish you Happy New Year?! I hope that you have a great year, especially in your wonderful garden. It seems ages since I last wrote to you, probably because we’ve had all the activity that comes with Christmas and New Year and then gradually getting back into the rhythm of something approaching a normal routine! It’s been an interesting couple of weeks here at Old School Garden, though I must admit that only in the last week have I begun (sometimes with muscles and bones screaming ‘don’t do it!’), to get back into the garden for an hour or two each day (well some days).

Seeds sorted- I'v e been through my supply and filed them in date order for sowing
Seeds sorted- I’ve been through my supply and filed them in date order for sowing

I’ve managed to finally collect the last of the leaves (mostly Oak, that seem to be the last to fall), pruned the Grapevine and Apple Trees and continued to tidy up dead and untidy foliage as new growth starts to emerge. I also sowed my first seeds the other day; a mixture of early veg (Calabrese and Leeks) with some annuals and perennials. It was quite pleasing to review my seed purchases alongside spare seed from earlier years and to start to place the packets in my seed box in date order for sowing. I’m fully expecting  my dining room to soon be full of seedlings in the process of growing on prior to putting outside in the cold frame or greenhouse (or even under cloches/fleece). I’ve purchased some rather more exotic annuals and perennials this year as well as ordering some ‘heritage’ varieties of vegetable from the Garden Organic Heritage Seed Library. Oh, and I mustn’t forget my Christmas gift of some carrot seeds called ‘Nigel’!

Greek Squashes grown last year- a 'heritage' variety, more of which I plan to grow this year
Greek Squashes grown last year- a ‘heritage’ variety, I’m planning to grow more ‘heritage veg’ this year

I’ll tell you more about these different plants as they get growing, but I’m excited about the greater diversity of food and flowers I’ll be growing this year. I should by now have done plan for the kitchen garden, but haven’t managed this, partly because I’m a little stumped as to how to do it now that I’m aiming to grow a wider range of smaller quantities in successional sowings and mixing in more ornamentals too. I must devote a few hours to thinking this one through – I’ll put the final version in a post soon – hopefully!

Though I know that you’ve been more affected by me by the wave of storms and flooding we’ve been having in the UK, but even with this, the lack of any really cold spell makes me wonder if we’re going to get a ‘real winter’ this year! As testimony to the mild weather I’m amazed at how the Melianthus is still putting on new foliage and plants like the Scabious and Fuchsia I have in the courtyard are still flowering!

I’ll be putting in a few more hours outside as the days continue to lengthen, including finishing off pruning the roses and moving and dividing some herbaceous plants I didn’t get round to in the Autumn. Well I say that, but I may have to curtail my own gardening time in the next few months as I’ve taken on some new teaching work at a local high school (working with Foundation skills students to develop their school garden and especially food growing). I’m off there later today to work with two groups, focusing on what they’d like to grow in their plots, which we can hopefully get into soon and begin the work of preparing the ground etc. The School Garden is a potentially wonderful resource, with two large greenhouses with electrically operated vents and water supplies, lots of tools and equipment and a south-facing aspect with what seems to be good soil- once the weeds have been cleared and its been turned over and fed of course!

I’m also hoping to repeat my Garden Design and Grow Your Own Food courses for adults (assuming we get the numbers required). These are due to kick off next week, and it looks hopeful that they’ll run.

I’m also carrying on with supporting the local Primary school in its ‘Learning Outside the Classroom’. In fact as I write this the School is being inspected for its latest accreditation on it’s outdoor work, hopefully an addition to its ‘level 5’ achievement in the RHS Campaign for School Gardening. I’ll be getting over to the School after half term to help them get seed sowing underway and hopefully getting the youngest children involved through use of the ‘pallet planters’ we built last year, plus a mini greenhouse for propagation, all of which can be placed near to their classrooms.

I guess that my support for individual households in food growing may also pick up soon, as I’ve promised help to  three of the students on the first ‘GYO’ course that ran in Foulsham last Autumn. Sadly the ‘Master Gardener’ programme in Norfolk is about to be reduced due to the ending of some grant funding, but I’m likely to continue to be involved in the Breckland area, where the local Council is supporting the work.

No doubt you’re well ahead in your plot? I’d love to hear what you’re up to and your plans for the year. I’m contemplating repeating our opening of Old School Garden to the public once more, as this was such an enjoyable day and one which raised funds to support worthy local projects – most of which involve gardening. Maybe you and Ferdy would like to join us – it’ll probably be in late June/early July? Well, I’ll sign off for now, wishing you and her well and looking forward to hearing from you.

all the best,

Old Schoool Gardener

Biomimetic Products- ExhibitionLotus Leaf

‘What is biomimicry? Derived from the Greek word bios meaning ‘life’ and mimisis, meaning ‘imitate’, biomimicry refers to the copying, emulating and imitating of nature in all its forms and functions.

Dedicating an exhibition to highlight the many everyday products, objects and buildings that have used nature as a source of inspiration, Designs by Mother Nature presents an intelligent, interactive and thought-provoking display of objects, videos and photographs that demonstrates the power of biomimicry….’

Click on the title for more information

Old School Gardener

PicPost: Sherry Amour

Grapevines in Jerez, Spain

My Botanical Garden

Location of Emona within present day central Ljubljana, from:

Ljubljana is celebrating 2000 years since Emona, a Roman settlement, was founded. Emona belonged to the province of Italy and had around 5000 inhabitants. Modern Ljubljana overlaps with site of old Emona. Roman remnants are to be seen in archaeological parks, galleries, architecture and museums across Ljubljana. I’ve found a ’73 year booklet about Emona frescoes  yesterday.  It is fascinating to discover Emona homes were as neatly decorated as they are today. I am particularly fond of floral motifs used on Emona  frescoes  , they tell us the story of nearby flora of the time , of the artists of the time, of the pigments used and of the social importance of the beauty that is telling its story even after 2000 years! Here are some illustrations from the booklet:

Ljudmila Plesničar Gec,  Emonske freske, Ljubljana 1973









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Municipal Dreams

Imagine a Hampstead Garden Suburb built for working people.  Better still, if you’re in London take the Tube and get off at Acton East and visit the Old Oak Estate where you’ll find just such an estate.

We’ve looked at the work of the LCC’s Architects’ Department Housing of the Working Classes branch before – at the Millbank Estate, at Totterdown Fields, and at the White Hart Lane Estate. These are all fine arts and crafts-inspired estates but to Susan Beattie, Old Oak stands as ‘the culminating achievement of the Council’s venture into garden suburb planning before the first world war’ – a work of ‘splendid maturity’. (1)

Rising costs of land and labour were forcing the LCC to look to what were then the London fringes.  In 1905, the Council purchased 54 acres in Hammersmith from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners at a cost of £29,858.  Eight acres…

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Tree Grants for Schools and Community Groupsschool trees

‘Grant applications for the 2014 planting season are now open.

The Tree Council’s Tree Futures offers help for tree planting through two grants programmes, the ‘Trees for Schools‘ and ‘Community Trees‘ funds.  Any school or community group within the UK that is planning a project that actively involves children under 16 is encouraged to draw on the fund to plant trees and make a greener future.

The Tree Council’s National Tree Week (from 29 November to 7 December in 2014) is the focus for these projects and successful applicants organise their planting events in conjunction with our annual celebration of the new tree planting season.

In addition, we are offering funds for fruit tree planting by schools and community groups through our Orchard Windfalls fund, first launched for the 2013 planting season. We are able to fund projects between £100 and £700 and successful applicants will receive up to 75% towards their planting costs. For example, if your project totals £700, The Tree Council would offer up to £525. The remaining 25% will need to be secured by your school or organisation.

With the generous support of an anonymous donor we have been able to produce a Key Stage 1 & 2 teaching and learning resource which will be sent out free of charge to all successful grant applicants. To see taster pages and information about how to purchase the CD ROM please click on this Tree Ties link.’

Old School Gardener


OK, I’m not serious. This was how Old School Garden looked on 16th January last year. Day time temperatures were hovering around zero degrees Celsius, compared to the ‘balmy’ level of 5 today.

Still, wintry showers were forecast for today (though they haven’t yet materialised), so I thought with Janaury days fast running out, this was my best shot at publishing the latest poetry offering from Jack Kett’s anthology ‘A Late Lark Singing’. So, all I can suggest is to try and think back a year, maybe use the photo for inspiration, or perhaps more likely, just listen to Jack’s description of a snowy Norfolk January day.

‘Silently came the snow before the dawn,

And in the countryside new beauty’s born.

We see around us on this glittering morn

New wonders now revealed. Small footprints show

where birds and tiny, hungry creatures go;

Gulls, white against the sky, come swooping low,

And turn against the dazzling field to grey.

The sunbeams dancing on the snow convey

A brightness even to the sombre pines,

And where a leaf breaks through the snow it shines

With brilliance that is usually unseen

At times when all around is brown or green.

Deep winter’s here, but though chill winds may blow

They bring to us the glory of the snow.’

John (Jack) Kett

from ‘A Late Lark Singing’ (Minerva Press, 1997)

PicPost: A Cut Above

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