Archive for January, 2016


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A magnificent Kitchen Garden 'out front' in Drummondsville, Quebec, Canada

A magnificent Kitchen Garden ‘out front’ in Drummondsville, Quebec, Canada

Front Gardens under the Spotlight

A new study to help understand what impact front gardens have on their owners and passers-by has been commissioned by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). Scientists from the RHS are teaming up with academics from the Universities of Sheffield (UK) and Virginia (USA).

They’ll be employing a PhD student to help determine how gardening affects the mood and psychological health of people who have not gardened before, by helping them, amongst other things,  to ‘green over’ once paved front gardens. The societal value of gardens will also be evaluated by gathering information on the extent to which gardening encourages communication and engagement between garden owners, neighbours and passers-by. Here’s a video about the creation of the ‘kitchen garden out front’ in Quebec, Canada.

Part of the RHS campaign ‘Greening Grey Britain’, the new research will seek evidence to make the case for gardening to local and national government, supporting what many of us instinctively know- that green spaces have positive impacts on health and well-being.

On a similar theme, the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show this year will feature four front gardens designed and created by winners of a new competition being hosted by the RHS and BBC Local Radio to design a front garden.

Anyone can enter a ‘feel-good garden, celebrating the health benefits of gardening and taking inspiration from where they live.’

See here for more information and how to enter.

Source: RHS ‘The Garden’ Magazine, February 2016

Old School Gardener

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National Trust Press Office

An internationally important collection of cider apples, with almost 300 different varieties, has been given to the National Trust to help secure its future and stop many of the rarer varieties becoming lost forever.

Apples growing in the orchards at Killerton, Devon. The apples are collected and made into cider, using a traditional cider press, by volunteers. Apples growing in the orchards at Killerton, Devon. Credit National Trust Images/Ross Hoddinott

Slack-ma-Girdle, Netherton Late Blower and Billy Down Pippin are just three of the apple varieties in the ‘National cider apple’ collection established over the course of more than 25 years by collector and donor Henry May.

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One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World?

By Katrin Glatzel

Alvise Forcellini 2006 urbanisation blog Credit: Alvise Forcellini, 2006

“How to feed our cities? Agriculture and rural areas in an era of urbanisation” – that was the theme of the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture, or for short, the GFFA, hosted in Berlin in mid-January. With Habitat III taking place in October in Quito, Ecuador, urbanisation features on top of the agenda of many meetings and conferences in 2016 including the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ annual flagship report and the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). These forums are important as they draw attention to what urbanisation will mean for rural areas, the agriculture sector and those millions of smallholder farmers, upon which urban areas rely for their food supply. This is particularly important in a developing country context.

Urban and rural transformation

According to UN figures, in 1950 only about a third of the world’s population…

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Hellebores one of a few winter flowers currently on show...

Hellebores one of a few winter flowers currently on show…

Old School Garden – 29th January 2016

Dear Walter,

I looked back at the letter I wrote you this time last year, just out of interest. Even though that letter (written from a snowy landscape), painted a picture of relative inactivity, I did at least have potatoes chitting and the first seeds germinated. Alas, even though the weather has been mild (if a bit wet) I seem to be way behind this year.

I do NOT have potatoes chitting (I’m waiting on my friend who’s ordered the seed potatoes this year) and I do NOT have seeds sprouting (I brought the propagators in yesterday along with the seed box for sorting through).

I am looking forward to seed sowing though. Apart from some interesting perennials I bought at a National Trust Garden in the summer, I’m waiting on my selection of seeds from the RHS Seed scheme. These, with early vegetables (I planned out this year’s crops for the Kitchen Garden before Christmas) will give me a lot of seed sowing and seedling potting activity in the coming weeks….

Apart from NOT doing the things I needed to, I HAVE done a few other garden related things. As you know, I’ve been constructing some cupboards in two alcoves in our entrance hall. I’m rather pleased with the result. I bought some solid oak cupboard doors and sourced some oak framing and tops from a local timber merchant (the smell of freshly cut oak in the car on the way home was delightful). These are now finished and being repopulated with photo albums, sewing machines and other stuff… and I’m pleased with the result, and not a little surprised at my own skill level (YouTube ‘How to’ videos are a wonderful invention).

One of two new cupboards I've been building from solid oak...

One of two new cupboards I’ve been building from solid oak…

Well, I was left with a few pieces of spare wood, and had begun making a key cabinet to also go in the entrance hall, but upon putting this together using glued dowels I discovered my skill level wasn’t quite up to that challenge and also concluded that the thickness of the wood looked out of place for such a small item….So, having abandoned that project I had a lightbulb moment and decided to adapt the three sided box I had into a ‘bug hotel’, with a focus on nesting places for solitary bees and the like. Here’s the result…

One Bug Hotel!

One Bug Hotel!

It is rather heavy, but certainly solid. I’ve used a selection of old canes, some willow plant support and an old bamboo window blind, cut to fit and jammed together. I’ll now need to finalise where to put it up. I gather it needs to be in a warm sunny spot at least a metre off the ground. I may try to fix this to the fruit fence in the Kitchen Garden; this is the place where effective pollination is especially important.

Oh, and I nearly forgot that I’ve tied in the summer raspberries – at last! I’ve pruned the apple trees and vine. I’ve also finally dug up the dahlias and apart from a little tuber rot, these seem to be OK, so they are currently drying off in the greenhouse and will be put into slightly damp, second hand compost shortly, to stay under cover until they are ready to plant out later in the season. I also dug up two Osteospermums and put these in pots inside, as I think they might be prone to dying off before the end of the winter if left outside.

I’m pleased to say that my new Garden Design Course, ‘Get More From Your Garden’ looks like it will run as I have achieved the minimum number needed to make it viable, so I’m looking forward to meeting this new group of people and using the wonderful venue at Blickling Hall to explore and develop their own design projects.

Deborah and I have followed your lead and joined our newly established, local U3A (‘University of the Third Age’) group in Aylsham. We went along to a fascinating talk about ‘PAT’ (Pets As Therapy) dogs yesterday, the ones used in schools to help shy children learn to read, as companions for older or disabled people and so on. I’ve also joined a new gardening group and met the dozen or so other people in the group last week for an initial get together to discuss what we want to achieve. It looks like this could include visiting each other’s gardens to discuss problems and ideas, swapping plants, visiting open gardens etc.

An ahhhh moment...

An ahhhh moment…

So, I look back. And whilst I’m behind in some garden-related things, hopefully there’s still time to catch up (especially with the seed sowing). I’m pleased to hear that your new terrace has been laid and look forward to seeing it when we visit you and Lise at Easter. No doubt you’ll be planting up the pockets you left amongst the paving soon?

all the best for now,

Old School Gardener

 

 

Hawthorn has been spotted in flower at New Year, a whole five months earlier than expected Alamy

Hawthorn has been spotted in flower at New Year, a whole five months earlier than expected Alamy

‘It’s unheard-of: after the warmest and wettest December on record, more than 600 species of British wildflowers were in bloom on New Year’s Day 2016, a major survey has shown.

In a normal cold winter, botanists would expect no more than 20 to 30 types of wild plants to be in flower in the British Isles at the year’s end – species such as daisy, dandelion and gorse.

But a survey by the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) has discovered that on 1 January, no fewer than 612 species were actually flowering, including some from late spring and high summer – an occurrence which seems to be without precedent, and has left plant scientists astonished.’ For more read the full article here.

 

Old School Gardener

Picture by Pockets1 on Flick

Picture by Pockets1 on Flick

WP_20160121_13_37_53_ProThis week’s gardening session focused on the avenues in the wilderness garden at Blickling. Gardener Ed led the volunteers to continue felling, gathering, shredding and stacking wood from the trees and overgrown shrubs alongside one of the routes radiating away from the House.

Having delivered two trays of birthday cakes (held over from last week), I made my way over to the Temple area where it was clear that some serious wood cutting was going on. You may recall in an earlier post, that the avenues have not received regular attention and so various trees have forced their way into what were once clear, straight lines of Oaks and similar trees. The main culprits are Yews and Hollies though some ‘rogue” Oaks have also found their way into these areas too.

WP_20160121_10_54_13_ProEd set to work with an impressive chainsaw attachment on an extended pole which made cutting off offending boughs look pretty easy. He later used a more conventional chainsaw to reduce some overgrown hollies to stools, form which bushes will re-sprout.

The shredder which managed to consume vast quantities of brashings from the trees was an impressive machine. ‘The Wolf’ gobbles up quite thick stems and so we were left with just a couple of piles of very thick cuttings that we later stacked in a wood pile for firewood. I imagine the shreddings are mixed in with other organic material to from compost.

I mentioned last week a talk to the Estate volunteers about the Walled Garden Project from Project Manager Mike. This was well attended and proved to be extremely interesting, with plenty of photographs of how the Walled Garden looked over the years since it’s birth in the 1600’s, when fruit was definitely the thing to grow. It was interesting to hear that the original garden was twice the size of the current one, and that the current garden formed the orchard area whereas the adjoining car park was once the area for soft fruit and vegetables etc. There are some fascinating old aerial photographs of Blickling taken in the 1930’s which you can see at this site .

Here’s one taken in 1928 and showing the walled garden in the foreground. About two thirds along from the left  and just up from the bottom there is a feature stretching away vertically on the picture, just to the right of a group of trees; this is thought to be the pineapple growing frames which were orientated to capture maximum sunlight. Apparently the Lost Gardens of Heligan in cornwall have grown pineapples in recreated frames and have calculated that it cost them some £10,000!

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

 

Rethinking Childhood

I am on record as saying that I am no parenting guru, and that there are too many people trying to tell parents how to do their job. So why did I recently agree to give FQ magazine – “the essential dad mag” according to its website – my six top parenting tips? (And no, it wasn’t because they paid me!)

The thread that links all my work is that children want and need to expand their horizons: to have everyday experiences of freedom, adventure, exploration and responsibility as they grow up. It is the core of my vision of what a good childhood looks and feels like.


Most of my work to achieve that vision focuses not on parents, but on all the other people and institutions that influence children’s lives: schools, educators, residents, voluntary organisations, play and leisure services, charities, regulators, designers, planners, campaigners, local and national…

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Salt of Portugal

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If you’re traveling in Alentejo, follow the advice of ancient travelers and spend some time in Évora. The city is included in the Antonine itinerary and is mentioned in Pliny the Elder’s Natural History as Ebora Cerealis in reference to the surrounding fields of cereals.

Évora was occupied by Celts, Gauls, Phoenicians, and Persians. But it was Quintus Sertorius, the general who conquered the city in 80 B.C., that gave Évora its architectural jewel: a Roman temple with elegant corinthian columns. Known as the temple of Diana, it is more likely to have been dedicated to Jupiter.

There’s much to see in Evora: a beautiful basilica, elegant university buildings, and peaceful convents. And the food and wine are great everywhere.  You can choose a restaurant blindfolded and have a wonderful meal. If Pliny was writing today, he might call the city Ebora Delicia.

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