Archive for November, 2015

PicPost: Sweet Swirl

Lavender swirl- possibly the Yorkshire Lavender Garden?

Lavender swirl- possibly the Yorkshire Lavender Garden?

Some of this year's squash harvest- should keep us going for a few weeks.

Some of this year’s squash harvest- should keep us going for a few weeks.

Old School Garden – 29th November 2015

Dear Walter,

As we move towards winter, this month has been one of small steps forward, old friend. We had our first frost last week, and I managed to get the tenderest plants under cover in the greenhouse.

Tucked away from the frost...

Tucked away from the frost…

I’ve noticed that the leaves on the Cannas have started to brown so it won’t be long until they and the Dahlias are also brought in. I won’t be cutting down or removing much else as I like to see the grasses and many herbaceous stems stand over winter- I think this is also good for wildlife.

Cannas on the turn- soon to be dug up and replanted in the greenhouse

Cannas on the turn- soon to be dug up and replanted in the greenhouse

The piles of leaves continue to grow, and though many have fallen, there’s still a lot of oak to float down and then be gathered up. I’ve already cut back and placed most of the Pelargoniums into trays for over wintering and once the remaining pots on the terrace are empty, I’ll plant out the four or five packs of tulips I have in the shed.

Tulips ready to go in some of the other terrace containers and borders

Tulips ready to go in some of the other terrace containers and borders

In the kitchen garden I’ve pulled the remaining carrots- they are a well-sized and tasty crop. The parsnips and a few leeks are all that remains for winter vegetables, with the promise of Purple Sprouting Broccoli to come in spring. As I reported last month, I’ve used my latest batch of compost to mulch the fruit bushes, strawberries and raspberries and added some manure over the rhubarb and asparagus bed, which hopefully might give us a few spears next year.

I dug up one of the remaining two blackcurrant bushes the other day and took this in to the local Primary School, where I was helped by 7 pupils to divide it and plant it out in their developing fruit garden. It was fun to be back among some familiar (if older) faces and they were very responsive and involved in the hour we spent talking about roots, stems, water and so on.

Awaiitng a Redcurrant, to go alongside White and Black!

Awaiitng a Redcurrant, to go alongside White and Black!

So, here we’re left with one large blackcurrant bush (after having three for several years – the freezer is still bulging with the last few year’s crops). I’m now waiting on the arrival of some bare root red currant and raspberry canes at the local nursery, so that I can fill out the summer fruiting raspberries and replace the blackcurrant, which will give us one each of Red, White and Black currants.

Looking ahead, my friend Steve volunteered to order me some seed potatoes, so I’ve gone for some first and second earlies which should be here for ‘chitting’ in January. I also recently ordered some seeds from the RHS scheme for members, which is good value for money. With the seeds I purchased on my visit to Wallington Gardens in September (as well as some harvesting at other gardens we’ve visited), I can see that February will be a busy time (as usual), propagating a new range of interesting flowers for the borders; including one ‘long wanted’ variety,  Cephalaria gigantea.

My Pond garden project is moving ahead slowly, with the reclamation of some large York stone flags from one of our outside sheds (we’ve had a new concrete floor put in here to replace the stones) and the use of the stony soil from under these to build up the surrounds of the pond area. Before going much further outside on this I want to firm up my design on paper, so the drawing board is out again and I’m sketching out some ideas, including a stepping stone bridge (this is what some of the flagstones will be used for), boggy borders and a ‘beach’. My collection of plants for this area is growing nicely so I’m factoring these into the design too.


On a broader front, I went over to Gressenhall the other day and began to clear up for winter (including some overdue shearing of the lavender and leaf clearing) and planted out some Catmint I took out of the courtyard planters at Old School Garden. Together with the new plants I purchased recently these will make a good show in a number of half barrel planters we have there.

You’ll have also seen something of my regular visits to Blickling Hall, where the winter clear up and preparation for next season is well underway. Did I tell you that I’m hoping to run a new Garden Design course at Blickling? Based on the one I’ve run in the past at Reepham, it will be slightly extended but will still focus on helping participants to design their own garden or area. I hope for a good level of interest, especially as we shall be able to use the gardens at Blickling as a showcase for many of the ideas and concepts I’ll be covering. If I get the numbers I need this will begin in early February.

Having just replaced the broken glass in our wood burner I think its time to light it and get something to drink!

Very best wishes,

Old School Gardener



'Pony Tail' grass (Stipa tennuissima)

‘Pony Tail’ grass (Stipa tennuissima)

Shine A Light

November 2015

The Norfolk Collections Centre covers an area a little over 800m2 and provides us with approximately 3,645m3 of storage space. We store a vast array of different objects meaning the job of collections care is no simple task. To help meet the collections care needs of these objects, we have launched an annual deep clean, the first of which took place over five days in September.

We started where the need was greatest, the roller racking in Store 1. This predominantly houses large social history objects from the Museum of Norwich’s collection. We were fortunate to secure the assistance of Norfolk Museum Service’s Teaching Museum trainees who made up the bulk of our workforce. In turn the deep clean was set up as a training exercise which enabled participants to learn new skills and gain additional knowledge.


Roller-racking in store 1

As each pallet load was brought down…

View original post 386 more words

Inspired by recent examples of ‘capturing the essence’ of things by crystallising them into a dozen or so objects, I thought I’d do something similar for gardening. So, here’s the first in a new weekly series of my personal take on gardening essentials (in a sort of logical order)…

compost-heapThe humble compost heap doesn’t look much, but it symbolises gardeners’ efforts to maintain or improve their soil and to help meet the nutritional needs of plants. Home made compost is just one, important source of organic material that both enriches the soil and improves its texture- whether your soil is light and sandy or heavy clay (the former being ‘the least back ache, the most heartache’ and the latter, vice versa!).

Do you make your own compost? I do, but don’t really have enough for a garden the size of the one here at The Old School!

I tend to use my two cubic metres a year  on the plants that are the hungriest- principally fruit bushes, canes and strawberries- and supplement it with manure (for roses, rhubarb etc.). And I do get a pretty good supply of leaf mould, which, though relatively low in nutrients, is a good winter mulch to protect bare soil, and can be turned in at spring time to improve soil texture.

Compost bins, like the one pictured, can be made from ready-to-buy kits or from recycled pallets and other wood. It’s useful to have removable slats at the front to make it easier to turn the pile and remove the finished compost.

Old School Gardener

Iris 'Black Affair'

Iris ‘Black Affair’

Old friends Jen and Dave are currently visiting Cambodia and Vietnam. Yesterday I had an email from them with some interesting pictures of public gardens in ‘the  French equivalent of Simla’ as Jen describes the mountain retreat of Da Lat. After the heat of Ho Chi Minh City they are enjoying the ability to walk around in only 24 degrees (it’s been hovering around freezing here in Norfolk)! Jen describes the nearby Flower Gardens as a ‘complete revelation’ and says:

‘Everything was sternly ordered with avenues of bonsai. Cosmos was planted in strict rows, Gertrude Jekyll eat your heart out!’

Here are her pictures, her favourite being the Vietnamese flag flanked by a topiary teapot (I must admit at first glance I thought the teapot was some sort of squirrel)!


Old School Gardener

Municipal Dreams

I’m very pleased to feature another fine guest post (and would welcome others), this one from Dr Ruth Cherrington.  Ruth runs the Club Historians website and is the author of Not Just Beer and Bingo: a Social History of Working Men’s Clubs. You can follow Ruth on Twitter at @CHistorians.

I wasn’t sent to Coventry: I was born there. Though I left a long time ago I regularly visit family still living there and the familiar sites of the estate where we grew up: Canley. We can take ourselves out of our childhood homes, but do they ever really fade away from our own sense of attachment and place? For me, the answer is a resounding no. I’m still very much a ‘Canley kid’ at heart after all these years.

I’ve seen many changes, of course. But the constants are clearly visible such as the strong element of working…

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One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World?

ID-100334531Malnutrition, in its various forms, is thought to affect over 2 billion people in the world and, as such, has far reaching consequences for societies, economies and livelihoods. Tackling poor nutrition is both complex and opportunistic in that there are links between nutrition and a whole other range of factors. In other words by tackling nutrition directly we may positively contribute to other developmental problems but there are also multiple ways to address undernutrition indirectly. While there is broad consensus on the need to take direct nutrition interventions such as promoting exclusive breastfeeding or biofortification of crops with micronutrients such as vitamin A or zinc, there is also an urgent need to tackle the underlying and inter-related determinants of malnutrition. The Lancet, for example, suggests that direct nutrition interventions, even if implemented at 90% coverage in high-burden countries would only reduce global stunting by 20%.

So-called nutrition-sensitive approaches are…

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