Archive for July, 2015


31st July 2015

To Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

Ticking over. Or rather, ‘just about coping’ in Old School Garden, this month. In fact I’ve just spent 11 hours wallpapering our stairwell as part of our (it seems, never ending) decorations, and just dashed outside to take some pictures so that you can see how the garden is looking. It was quite a surprise as I haven’t been out there seriously for a good while. Still, things don’t look too bad, proving that nature can take good care of herself! (I did pull up a few large weeds, though).

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The harvest continues with good crops of potatoes (I will dig up the second row of Charlottes over the weekend); strawberries; raspberries (though the Autumn Bliss seem, once again, to have put on no flowers towards the back of the row); courgettes; calabrese; onions; and our first squashes (New England Sugar Pie- just hardening them off). And the greenhouse tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers are doing splendidly I’m mightily impressed with my new aquaponic growing system for the tomatoes which seem bigger and more plentiful than I’ve ever had them. I’ve sown some carrots and parsnips recently and these seem to have germinated and now require a weed. Also, the apples and pears on my ‘super columns’ are really plentiful. I’ve also managed to summer prune my trained fruit bushes and planted out and netted some cauliflowers and purple sprouting broccoli.

Though it’s been quiet in general in the garden, I have managed to do a bit of tidying up- especially resurrecting our fire pit. Though we’re away a good deal in the next couple of months, perhaps we’ll get round to using it before autumn sets in.


About this time last year (and for some time before that), I was complaining about moles in the garden, especially how they wreck the lawn. Well, as I hinted recently, I bit the bullet and got a pest controller in. He set around 10 traps and caught just two moles (the body of one, complete with trap was taken away in the night, probably by a fox). Though I feel a tad guilty about killing these little earth movers, it would appear, for now, that mole activity has ceased, so I shall be raking off the remains of the mole hills and cutting the grass in the next couple of days, hoping that we’ve seen the end of the damage; at least for the rest of the season.

The last of mole hills?

The last of mole hills?

Well, old mate, sorry that there’s not much new to tell you, but you know its been full on with the decorating in the last few months, so the garden has taken a back seat.

WP_20150731_20_11_41_ProAll the best for now,

Old School Gardener




One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World?

Stephanie Brittain

InfographicLaunched today by Agriculture for Impact, a new Sustainable Intensification database aims to explain the ecological, socio-economic and genetic approaches that together contribute to the Sustainable Intensification of agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa in an easily accessible way, illustrated by more than 80 case studies.

Never has there been a greater need for a new paradigm for improving African agriculture. Worldwide, more than 800 million people suffer from chronic hunger. Meanwhile, Africa’s population alone is set to double to 2.4 billion by 2050, putting additional pressure on our planet’s resources to achieve food security for all. A 2011 FAO publication estimated that 1.2 million km2 of land will need to be converted to agriculture by 2030 to meet the increasing demand for food; most of which will need to occur in South America and sub-Saharan Africa. On top of that, climate change is likely to…

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Municipal Dreams

Last week’s post looked at the LCC’s open-air sculpture exhibitions but arguably the more significant contribution to the worthy attempt to bring art to the people lay in its ‘Arts Patronage Scheme’ inaugurated in 1956. By 1964 when it (and the LCC) were wound up, over 70 works of art had been purchased – adorning schools and housing estates across the capital.

Henry Moore, Two-Piece Reclining figure No. 3, the Brandon Estate, Lambeth  © Steve Cadman and made available through a Creative Commons licence Henry Moore, Two-Piece Reclining Figure No. 3, the Brandon Estate, Lambeth © Steve Cadman and made available through a Creative Commons licence

Many of these were significant pieces by some of the leading artists in the country. Nearly all were modernist works and its efforts were not, therefore, without controversy but they remain: (1)

outstanding in their ambition and coherence…In this respect, the LCC may be said to have assisted in the democratisation, if not the socialisation, of art.

The origins of the scheme are marked by their time…

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Natalia Maks

Evening sky over Vicenza, Italy.


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WP_20150621_11_23_49_ProWe were staying with our daughter and her boyfriend in London. It was Fathers’ Day and a special day out was planned, incorporating a trip to Holland Park, a quick visit to St. John’s Wood Church Gardens (where we discovered the grave of John Sell Cotman, a well-known watercolourist of the Norwich School and a favourite artist of mine) and a vintage car event nearby. The weather was kind and the day was brilliant.

I really enjoyed Holland Park, which Wikipedia describes:

‘Holland Park is about 22 hectares (54 acres) in area and is considered one of the most romantic and peaceful parks of West London. The northern half or so of the park is semi-wild woodland, the central section around the ruins of Holland House is more formal with several garden areas, and the southernmost section is used for sport.

Holland House is now a fragmentary ruin, having been devastated by incendiary bombing in 1940, but the ruins and the grounds were bought by London County Council in 1952 from the last private owner, the 6th Earl of Ilchester. Today the remains of the house form a backdrop for the open air Holland Park Theatre, which is the home of  opera Holland Park. The green-roofed commonwealth Institute lies to the south.

The park contains a cafe as well as the Belvedere Restaurant that is attached to the orangery, a giant chess set, a cricket pitch, tennis courts, two Japanese gardens – the Kyoto Garden (1991) and the Fukushima Memorial garden (2012), a youth hostel, one of London’s best equipped children’s playgrounds, squirrels and (impressively for a London park) peacocks. In 2010, the park set aside a section for pigs whose job was to reclaim the area from nettles etc., in order to create another meadow area for wild flowers and fauna. Cattle were used subsequently to similar good effect.

The new Holland Park Ecology Centre (2013), operated by the borough’s Ecology Service, offers environmental education programs including nature walks, talks, programs for schools and outdoor activity programs for children.’

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I loved the scale and variety of the park which is broken up into separate gardens and spaces, each with its own character, and including a range of formal, semi formal and wild areas.

There is a delightful series of mural paintings on a wall beside a covered  walkway, which captures the park in earlier days.

I especially enjoyed the Japanese gardens, which use a range of typical design features to great effect in a relatively small space; tumbling water cascades, clipped evergreens, Acers, rocks etc. I think I will try to use some of these in my own pond project here at Old School Garden; e.g the clever use of interlaced thick bamboo poles to form a semi permeable screen. However, it did seem rather open and lacking the sorts of intimate, small spaces associated with ‘quiet contemplation’. Maybe this is down to the relative youth of the gardens- we can expect some of the trees and other planting to fill out with time. It might also be a conscious design feature, bowing to the inevitable demands on such a space in a public park; the many feet and bodies that undoubtedly pass through it.

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This Park is obviously well-loved and well looked after, a true community resource and one which serves an area much larger than its immediate posh neighbourhood in Kensington and Chelsea. Well worth a visit if you can.

Old School Gardener

Spello, Perugia, Italy

Spello, Perugia, Italy

My friend Jen sent me this picture of a floriferous garden in Hastings she saw yesterday on a rain-soaked walk. Thanks Jen!


Old School Gardener


A recent gardening session at Blickling Hall focused on tidying up the borders behind the Orangery, including ‘editing’ out a large number of Foxglove seedlings. The hot, humid weather started to take it’s toll, so my fellow volunteers and I decided to take an early lunch, via a quick trip to the Rose Garden, which was created about 2 years ago in an enclosed and rather shady area beneath some majestic trees.



Using traditional musk and damask shrub roses, the area is starting to fill out, the roses forming a low, wave-like surface with some beautiful blooms and fabulous fragrances, and despite the limited light, the plants seem to be doing well.








Head Gardener Paul tells me he wants to gradually introduce some other planting to extend the seasons of interest and to broaden the colour pallette from pink into mauves and purples.


Old School Gardener


I’ve seen some super planting on traffic roudabouts recently, so I thought I’d start sharing some pictures of them. I saw this yesterday in Plymouth, Devon, featuring a wonderfully billowing composition of Dierama (‘Angels’ Fishing Rods’), and Stipa gigantea. I braved the traffic to get close up…



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