Tag Archive: june

Oriental poppies can be sheared hard after flowering.

Oriental poppies can be sheared hard after flowering.

If May is the busiest gardening month, June is the month of nurture and bringing the garden to its midsummer best. You’ve made those sowings and now’s the time to plant out, protect and pamper. Here are my top ten tips for activity this month. I hope they’re useful.

1. Keep on mulching

Apply loose organic mulches to the soil now to keep it moist and deter weed growth. Choose a mulch to suit the situation, and apply it when the soil is wet and weed free. A mulch can also improve the visual appearance of a bed, and will act as a safe habitat for all sorts of beneficial creatures, such as centipedes and beetles, that eat slugs and other pests. You can use wood chips after they’ve been left for a year, so that when you put them on the soil they don’t rob it of nitrogen as they decompose. Or sow a ‘green manure’ cover crop on any bare ground. Buckwheat, phacelia, mustard and fenugreek are quick growing green manures that can be sown now. They’ll help to improve the ground, suppress weeds, make a good ground cover for beetles and other predators and, if you let them flower, buckwheat and phacelia are very attractive to bees – and people.

Wood chip mulch (as long as it's at leas ta year old) can be a good mulch to add around planst to conserve moisture and add goodness

Wood chips (as long as they’re at least a year old) can be a good mulch to add around plants to conserve moisture and add goodness

2. Fruit fooling

Put netting over ripening soft fruit to keep the birds from getting it before you do. A special fruit cage is great, but a temporary structure covered with netting will do just as well. Strawberries should be forming and ripening fast and other soft fruits are coming on stream (though with the mild winter this all may be a couple of weeks earlier this year). The fruitlets on fruit trees should be swelling. I’ve noticed another good show of blossom on most of my fruit trees this year, as last, and with no frost to speak of, the plum in particular seems to be developing a lot of fruit, so hopefully we’ll have a bumper harvest. Once the fruitlets are visible they can be thinned on apples, pears, plums and other tree fruit – and gooseberries too. This is vital if the ‘set’ has been good to ensure good sized fruit.

It’s also time to start summer pruning trained fruit like plums and cherries as well as trees or bushes. For trees and bushes, after getting rid of dead, diseased or dying branches try to encourage an open, wine goblet shape. Take out strong vertical growth or crossing branches to reduce the weight of the branches and congestion – a maximum of about 10-20% of living material can be removed. Keep watering fruit trees and bushes as much as you can, even after it has rained. Continue to harvest Rhubarb into July. Harvest the stalks with a gentle ‘twist and pull’ motion, rather than cutting them.

Simple net cages can help to protect fruit and veg from birds and butterflies

Simple net cages can help to protect fruit and veg from birds and butterflies

3. Veg and herbs

Earlier sowings of vegetables should be growing well now, with some early harvests possible towards the end of the month. I’ve yet to have my first pickings of autumn sown Broad Beans, but they’re on the way! Small, first pickings of the season are always particularly tasty. Don’t wait until everything is fully grown before you start to harvest. Also, if your first sowings and plantings have failed or are looking weak there is still time to sow some more. Runner beans should be in the ground and need to be encouraged to climb up their supports. They twist the other way from most other beans – clockwise when viewed from above.

Keep an eye on Brassica crops, such as cabbages, sprouts and calabrese, which are favourites with many pests, from aphids and whitefly to pigeons and rabbits – net these with a fine gauge mesh for reliable protection and remove insects by hand or water spray. Plant out pots of basil and other tender herbs. Snails seem to love basil, so use plenty of deterrents and controls round new plants. You can also keep Basil indoors, on a sunny windowsill for larger, lusher leaves.

Encourage runner beans to twist around their supports

Encourage runner beans to twist around their supports

4. Weeds

Hoe regularly to keep weeds under control. Keep the blade sharp and hoe when seedlings are small and in dry weather for the best results. Dig out bindweed on sight! This perennial weed hates disturbance, so as long as you can dig it out as soon as it sprouts, it will eventually give up. However, rockeries and shrubberies are difficult. Unless you lift everything out and dig the area over you won’t succeed. Mulching with a durable light-excluding material can work here. But there must be no light, and no holes. The bindweed must be completely smothered.

Create a ‘ Weed End Bag’ – this is a way ofrecycling’ pernicious weeds, such as bindweed, which you shouldn’t add straight to the compost heap. Stuff the plants into a black plastic sack or an old potting compost bag. Leave in an out-of-the-way corner until it all becomes sludge, then you can compost it.

Hoeing regularly makes weed control so much easier

Hoeing regularly makes weed control so much easier

5. Steady as she goes

Finish off all top-dressing, staking and pruning tasks in the ornamental garden that may not have been completed last month. Cut back spring-flowering clematis this month, and cut down daffodil and other spring bulb foliage now. If possible add a slow release fertiliser (e.g. Fish, Blood and Bone) to feed the bulbs that you’re leaving in the ground – otherwise dig up the bulbs and store in a dry place (important if your soil is heavy and tends to retain moisture which will rot the bulbs left in). Tidy up spring-flowering shrubs now if necessary, by cutting out one third of the old wood to encourage strong new shoots. Forsythia can be hard cut to strong new shoots to encourage new growth that will flower next year. I’ve yet to do this, and the likes of Weigela, Deutzia and Kolkwitzia will also need doing soon, once they’ve finished flowering.

Cut oriental poppies back hard after flowering (mine are later this year, just coming into flower) – ideally, there should be something planted alongside to take over the space (e.g. hardy fuchsias). Deadheading many flowers as they go over this month can result in a second flowering, in particular this is worth doing for your hardy and half-hardy annuals, to ensure their one and only season lasts as long as possible. Perennials will also benefit – for example, later in the month Lupins and Delphiniums can be deadheaded to encourage a second flowering later in the summer.

6. Flower planting

Fill any gaps in your borders with annual bedding plants. Water them regularly, particularly in drier weather and in the days after planting. Watering in hotter months is always better done in the morning or evening, to avoid scorching plants in the heat of the day. Sow biennials such as Wallflowers and Foxgloves for next year. If you are short of space these will be perfectly happy in pots in a sheltered spot until the autumn when they can then be planted in their final positions (though Wallflowers seem to do best in open ground). Water pots and baskets daily – even when it’s raining! Plants are growing vigorously and June sun can be very strong, so watering twice a day is sometimes necessary.

Phacelia is a 'green manure' and its flowers are a great source of food for bees

Phacelia is a ‘green manure’ and its flowers are a great source of food for bees

7. Greenhouse care

Temperatures in greenhouses and conservatories will (hopefully) soar this month. Even a couple of days will be enough to cook plants. Ventilation and shading is essential. If you’re going away and have no helpful neighbour, put plants outside, or leave the greenhouse door wide open. Standing a bucket of water in the greenhouse will help to maintain humidity.

Keep newly planted veg well watered- an automatic seep hose system is great if you're going on holiday

Keep newly planted veg well watered- an automatic seep hose system is great if you’re going on holiday

8. Green, green grass of home

Lawns don’t need watering. Grass may not look at its best in a drought, but it is a great survivor and will come back again when it rains. Unless you have newly laid turf to water in, leave the lawn to look after itself. Don’t mow the grass too short. Cutting height should be about 2.5cm/1” for the summer. If possible, rake before you mow. This lifts weeds up so that the mower blades catch them.

9. Trimming and growing

Give Box and Yew hedges and topiary and bushes of Lonicera nitida a clip/trim, though, if like here, they seem to be well ahead this year, you might have already done this. Ideally do this on a dull, damp day to avoid the cut leaves of Box turning brown as they dry out in the sun. Give them a feed with a slow release fertiliser after clipping to help them recover. Repeat in September to keep topiary and hedges in a good shape over the winter. When trimming hedges, watch out for nesting birds. Some will still be feeding newly hatched chicks. Leave these areas alone for a few more weeks. June is a good month to take cuttings from some plants, and to save seed from others – early flowering plants, such as Aquilegia and Hellebores, will be setting seed from now on, though the Hellebores seem to have been early this year. If you collect Hellebore seeds before they form a hard seed coat, you can save yourself a lot of time and waiting. The seeds look black and shiny and are still slightly soft and wet. Sow these seeds immediately and they will germinate in a few days, instead of having to wait till the following spring. Take cuttings from hardy fuchsias and penstemons to grow more plants.

Give any Box topiary or hedges a trim this month- tradtionally done on 'Derby Day' in the UK!

Give any Box topiary or hedges a trim this month- traditionally done on ‘Derby Day’ in the UK!

10. Wildlife friendly

As we head into summer, bear in mind any little garden visitors you may have. If possible, why not put out a little extra food for birds and also for hedgehogs – warm and overly dry weather can mean there’s a lot less natural food available for these animals. Remember to fill up any bird baths and feeders as often as you can, and consider leaving a small bowl of water out for the hedgehogs too. Contrary to popular myth, hedgehogs should not be fed bread and milk, but actually ordinary cat or dog food is good for them!

Oh, and one last thing- spare some time to sit and enjoy your garden as (hopefully) the warm days of summer arrive!

With thanks to Garden Organic

Old School Gardener

If you’ve enjoyed reading this post and others on this blog, why not comment and join others by signing up for automatic updates via email (see side bar, above right ) or through an RSS feed (see top of page)?


30th June 2015

To Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

A short letter this month, I’m afraid. I’m sitting here, having just got access to the computer amid builders’ mayhem, with dust everywhere… and I’ve just been interrupted to see to a pigeon in the fruit cage! It certainly is all go.

I thought I’d write little and let my pictures speak for my gardening activity this month, if that’s OK?

First, we’ve been down to Devon a few times and thankfully completed my Mother-in- Law’s move to her new flat. A bonus was some rather nice pots she kindly gave me as well as a few cuttings of some interesting plants…one of the pots is a ‘Pig Salter’, I gather it was used to salt raw pig meat; it looks handsome with its bright yellow bamboo.

I’m also rather pleased with my efforts at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum, little though they are. My visit last week revealed the gardens looking grand; I especially liked the swathes of Pony Tail grass just coming into flower…

At home, Old School Garden is also looking rather good, I think. And the harvest has begun too; Broad Beans, First Early Potatoes, Strawberries, Raspberries, Gooseberries and this week the heads of Calabrese are looking just about ready for picking. I’m also encouraged by the new system I’m using for growing tomatoes- ‘Quadgrow’. This is a system of watering via a reservoir under the pots with a wick up into each pot. You add water and feed to the reservoir and away they go- and they are looking healthy, vigourous and are producing lots of fruit, though to date I’ve just had one ripe tomato.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Hopefully the building works will be more or less completed this week and I can then begin my own efforts in decorating three and a half rooms plus a stairwell and corridor…I might be done by Christmas…

All the best old fellah..remember to keep cool in the promised heat wave this week!

Old School Gardener





Old School Garden

30th June 2014

To Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

As I sit looking out at the courtyard here at Old School Garden, the sun has returned after a series of heavy showers that have dominated the weather here over the last few days (some have been thundery). The last month has been a mix of sunshine and rain, the heat building, but not yet above the low 20’s Celsius- quite pleasant, though.

The month in the garden has been typical – the bulk of the ‘heavy’ work was completed in May and this month I’ve been rather focused on ‘preening and planting’ (when the weather permits). Having said that I did undertake a project to reinforce the ‘Fruit Fence’ I erected a few years ago. You might remember seeing this in the kitchen garden. It sits on the northern boundary of the garden next to a wood and effectively forms the edge of a raised bed I created to make use of some surplus soil and create an elevated space for food growing.

I have a Cherry and Plum I’m training into fans against this fence, but over time the posts have leaned over and some work was needed to strengthen this and put in a proper edge to the raised bed (I used sleepers on the other edges). Having got hold of some pallets I decided to try to use these, along with landscape fabric, to create the edge and add in some further posts to buttress the existing ones. I’m pretty pleased with the outcome (see pictures below). As you know, old friend, I’m a fan of recycling in the garden, and especially if it involves those modular wooden wonders, pallets.

The project involved digging out holes next to the four uprights and screwing these to the existing posts. I then cleared an area of nettles and dug out a trench on the woodland side to receive the pallets, which I’d earlier cut into halves. I fixed a length of batten to the frame to which I could then fix the pallets, I used landscaping fabric to ‘wrap’ the pallet sections along the length of the frame, and then extended this for a couple of metres over the adjacent woodland floor, to provide a new storage area for things like plastic plant trays, baskets and chicken wire.

Finally, I used plastic green shading fabric to provide a full backdrop to the frame. I reckon this should help both to shelter the plants a little, as well as providing a dark surface to absorb the sun and so warm the area for the fruit. The additional storage area, which is screened from the main garden, is a real boon and I plan to clear a further area of nettles to keep the woodland edge at bay. And talking of ‘recycling’, you may have also seen my recent post on the old bike rack I converted to a plant stand or ‘theatre’, on which now sit six rows of pelargoniums, nicely lined up in small terracotta pots.

The finished 'Plant Theatre'

The finished ‘Plant Theatre’

The last couple of weeks has seen the first crops of fruit and veg from the garden; we’ve had Raspberries, Strawberries, Calabrese, Broad beans, Chard, Mangetout and early Potatoes in good quantities, testimony to the mild and wet winter and spring we’ve had. Here are some pictures from the Kitchen Garden…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The potatoes were a real surprise. I left the first earlies in the ground and waited for the flowers to die down before investigating – a bit too late as it turns out as when I dug up the first row I was amazed at the size of some of them – as the pictures below show, we had some real whoppers! However the first row (which was the one receiving the most sun) was as productive as the other three rows put together! Two rows of second earlies, harvested at the same time, have produced an equivalent amount of better- sized potatoes. The first of these (‘Charlotte’) were delicious the other day.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

However, I’m disappointed with the apples this year- I think the mild and wet weather brought a dose of ‘blossom wilt’ (as well as some insect damage), so there are relatively few fruits developing on the trees. In contrast the pears and plums are looking good, and we’ve had the first crop of (large) Gooseberries. The blackcurrants are already dripping from the bushes, so that’ll be a another harvesting job for the coming week (we’re still eating last year’s harvest from the freezer!). We’ve also had a couple of  ‘ridge’ cucumbers grown outside in a pot and more are on the way, as are the tomatoes, mainly growing in the greenhouse. Here are some pictures of the produce and the kitchen garden.

Pest control has never been far from my mind, recently. The new ‘plastic owl’ bird scarer I bought seems to have had little effect, I’m sorry to say, so the only sure-fire method of keeping the birds (mainly wood pigeons but also blackbirds and smaller birds) at bay is netting. I’ve adopted and adapted an old-fashioned method of protecting bush fruit by using some lengths of ‘Enviromesh’  draped over the Raspberries and this seems to have been pretty effective. I believe that in days gone by old net curtains were used to achieve the same result! I’ve also netted the Strawberry patch over some more plastic hoops and this is working well.

Apart from birds, slugs and snails seem to have been effectively reduced (I must admit to using an emergency dose of pellets to cure this particular problem a few weeks ago), although the Hostas in the courtyard seem to have suffered a little. The other main problem is moles – they seem intent on re-creating a scene from World War 1 on the edges of the lawn and in the borders too, undermining newly planted flowers and creating, ridges, trenches and mole hills in all sorts of places! I think it may be time to recruit a mole catcher to deal with this particular issue which is getting out of hand!

But I mustn’t really complain, as the ornamental aspects of the garden are looking good, if not quite at their peak as I write. We bought three large terracotta pots yesterday and these now provide homes for three tender, exotic looking specimens and together add a nice feature at one end of the Terrace Lawn. You recall that I mentioned the amount of flower buds on the Philadelphus which I moved around  10 years ago and which hadn’t flowered since? Well, it’s now beautifully covered in the small white flowers of this super shrub and of course the citrus fragrance of ‘mock orange’ is a delight. Here’s a gallery of the latest images from the ornamental gardens.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On a broader front I’ve continued with my support of gardening at two schools.  As I write it looks uncertain if the project at Fakenham Academy will continue however, due to budget cuts- a shame as I was starting to think the at least some of the youngsters were ‘getting into gardening’ and actually looking forward to their sessions outside. You may recall that I’ve been working with three groups of ‘foundation skills’ students from years 7, 8 and 9? Next week sees what will effectively be the last sessions this term, so we’ll focus on harvesting the potatoes and doing some general tidying up, I think.

Here are pictures of the Fakenham set up ‘before’ and ‘after’ to give you some idea of the amount of work involved in getting these plots back into production. First, how things looked back in January…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And now the scene in June. six months later….

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

At the other School where I help, Cawston, we had an interesting twilight training session run by the RHS Regional coordinator for their Campaign for School Gardening. This saw just under 20 teachers and volunteers from local schools hearing tips about school gardening and outdoor learning and I was able to contribute a little about how the school gardens and grounds have been developed. Here, too, attention is now turning to harvesting; potatoes as well as autumn – sown broad beans, onions and garlic.

On Saturday I did a stint on manning the Norfolk ‘Master Composter’ stand at an event at Sheringham Park, run by Victory Housing Trust- effectively a ‘garden party’ for its tenants from across north Norfolk. This was a lively and well- attended event (and included free ice cream!). I talked to several people who are interested in starting composting at home and it’s always fun showing the children the Wormery and the ‘products’ from this, including a bottle of ‘worm wee’ as well as the beautiful, fine compost they leave behind.

Well, the sun beckons Walter, so I must get outside and shear back a few early flowering perennials and do a number of other ‘odd jobs’ before the rian returns this afternoon. I hope you and Ferdy are faring well, and looking forward to some sun too- especially as I believe you’ve had rather more rain than us – as usual!

Al the best for now,

Old School Gardener



IMG_6053” ‘T was a hot afternoon, the last day of June and the sun was a demon….”

Remember the tune? I’ll give you the title and artist at the end of this article….

Well Sunday afternoon was certainly hot (the hottest day of the year so far) and whilst some may have headed for the beach, hundreds found their way to Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse Museum, Norfolk.

One of the Museum’s ‘Days with a difference’, the event saw a range of stalls selling, advising and demonstrating garden – related topics. I was there for the afternoon as a Master Gardener, offering advice on growing your own food, composting and just enjoying a chat or two with some seasoned garden folk. I particularly liked the ornamental ironwork display with some large pieces that would look good as eye catchers in the garden. And there was a very interesting vegetable stall selling plug plants of some unusual varieties – if I had more space in my kitchen garden I’d have bought some! Here’s a gallery of some of the stalls and their offerings.

And the gardens at the museum (you may recall that I’m a volunteer gardener here), also drew many positive comments and questions about the plans looking good at present – especially the ranks of Salvia sylvestris ‘Mainacht’ fronted by a low hedge of Lavandula angustifolia ‘Little Lady’ just coming into flower. The other gardens also looked good – the ‘Rambling Rector’ rose a colleague and I carefully pruned and tied in earlier in the year is particularly floriferous , tumbling over the metal arbour in the Wildlife Garden as well as draping one of the museum’s walls. Anmd the veg in cherry tree Cottage is starting to fill up the beds well. The Cafe Garden, looked after by volunteer Sue, is superb this year with a varied display of shrubs and perennials witha good mixtures of height, form and colour. Here are some pictures of some of the gardens and the newly reopenend ‘Seed Merchant’s Shop’ on the day.

…and the song?  ‘Summer (the first time)’ by Bobby Goldsboro (1973) – a classic summer song!

Relive it here:

Old School Gardener

If you’ve enjoyed reading this post and others on this blog, why not comment and join others by signing up for automatic updates via email (see side bar, above right ) or through an RSS feed (see top of page)?


‘Iron Man’ Gorilla outside the County Council tent- one of many hand painted gorillas that have just been put on display around Norwich in aid of a local children’s charity.

Yesterday I spent an enjoyable day at the Royal Norfolk Show, the County’s long established ‘agriculture plus’ event that has its own show ground at Easton near Norwich. My main reason for being there was to help man the ‘Master Gardener’ and ‘Master Composter’ stand, offering information and advice about growing food at home and, of course, how to compost effectively.

Before this afternoon stint I was able to stroll around, camera in hand, and soak up the atmosphere on this first of the two day show. Over both days the organisers are expecting around 90,000 people to attend, and they are aiming to ‘break even’ financially. It’s interesting that the show has managed to survive the tough financial times as some other county shows have folded completely due to dwindling attendances, not moving with the times or a lack of facilities to cope with poor weather. No signs of that at Easton, where there was a busy, joyful atmosphere, especially as the weather (until the very end of the afternoon) was warm and sunny.


As expected the crowds were a curious mix of ‘old and new’, or perhaps more accurately, different social groups  – the well dressed ‘County Setters’ in their blazers, shirts and ties, flowery hats and summer dresses (most involved in farming in some way), alongside groups of school children and more casually dressed families, teenagers and older couples. A microcosm of the local community in what remains predominantly a rural, agricultural County. Of course an agricultural show wouldn’t be the same without the ranks of huge and intricate machinery, some old, some brand spanking new as well as age-old crafts like horse shoeing and sheep shearing – including an impressive display by the Gressenhall Fam Manager, Richard Dalton, using a set of 100 hundred year old hand cranked clippers!


It’s always impressive to see some of the ‘beasts’ entered for the various cattle, horse, pigs and other animal competitions and the efforts put into their grooming and presentation for the judges. On the horticultural front there was an impressive floral display in one marquee, including some delightful orchids, chrysanthemums and looser mixed arrangements of garden plants nicely in flower and leaf. There were also some amazing floristry displays and the usual competitions for different types of home grown fruit and veg- some impressive Gooseberries caught my eye in particular. I managed to come away from the Norwich and Norfolk Horticultrual Society ‘plant tombola’ with a hand full of very nice seed packets, so I now have a supply of purple Pansies, Amaranthus, Morning Glory and Carrots to add to my seed bank!


And the varieties of food on offer reinforced the summery feel too – tumblers full of freshly cut fruit, strawberries and cream and of course ice cream a plenty. And not wasting food was one of the key messages of the Norfolk Waste Reduction Team’s display, which also hosted the Master Composter/Gardener stalls, along with some fascinating crabs illustrating the work of the Fisheries Conservation Agency. This was a great draw for the children who continually asked ‘which one is the most dangerous?’- in truth none of them really, as despite their fierce looking claws, the staff were able to pick them up to show the to the crowds without any apparent fear – or nipping!


My afternoon was spent talking to show goers about growing their own food and composting. I had some very interesting chats including a teacher from a local High School who teaches horticulture there and sounds to have a splendid school garden, several couples about starting or improving their compost, helping children to make paper pots and sow seeds to take home (along with all the other ‘trophies’ they collected from the stalls at the show), and other show goers clearly just enjoying growing their own food and with whom I shared tales of the late spring, compared potato growth rates and discussed rhubarb diseases.  The next door County Council tent with which we were associated also put on a splendid carousel of displays and activities (including live music) illustrating the array of ways in which the Council serves Norfolk – in fact it (and we) were so good that the whole stand won the Show’s top prize for ‘trade’ stands, so congratulations all round!

So, as you can tell, I had both a very pleasant day out – and one that boosted my energy, interest and optimism for gardening!

Old School Gardener

If you’ve enjoyed reading this post and others on this blog, why not comment and join others by signing up for automatic updates via email (see side bar, above right ) or through an RSS feed (see top of page)?

The GQT Panel doing their stuff

The GQT Panel doing their stuff

200 eager gardeners packed the marquee at Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse Museum, Norfolk yesterday. Rather than post my own article answering gardeners’ questions I thought I’d devote this week’s GQT to a report on the real thing!

Well, it turned out to be a fascinating event, especially watching the ‘well oiled machine’ that is GQT in operation. Celebrating its 65th year of broadcasting this year the programme, as chairman Peter Gibbs said, ‘has become a national institution’ attracting some 2.5 million listeners a week. Pleading with the audience not to blame him for the recent weather (for non Brits he’s a well-known TV and Radio weather forecaster as well as a keen gardener), he recalled his time in Norfolk and visiting the Museum with a young family about 15 years ago. He went on to chair not one but two editions of the programme (I’ll give you broadcast dates later). And we were not disappointed with either the range and quality of the questions or the depth and humour of the Panel’s answers.

Earlier I had been involved in a ‘pre recording’ session with some fellow gardeners and the original Museum curator, Bridget Yates. Matthew Wilson and Bob Flowerdew, two of the panelists quizzed us on the history of the place and some of the more recent developments in the gardens. I was mightily impressed with the professionalism of the production team and the two panelists who seemed to conjure an interesting and relevant discussion from the barest of facts – you’ll have to listen in for the full version!

The GQT Team at Gressenhall- from left: Matthew Wilson, Chris Beardshaw, Peter Gibbs, James Wong and Bob Flowerdew

The GQT Team at Gressenhall- from left: Matthew Wilson, Chris Beardshaw, Peter Gibbs, James Wong and Bob Flowerdew

After this I was pleased to have the opportunity of interviewing Matthew Wilson myself, for the online newspaper ‘The Breckland View’. A well known Garden Designer and Director of an historic plant nursery in London, Matthew talked about his (positive) impressions of the Museum gardens and we went on to talk about growing food at home. Matthew believes this is important, not only for the freshness and flavour of the home-grown produce, but as a way for people to ‘reconnect’ with nature in an increasingly ‘virtual’ world. Though his own garden is small, he tries to ensure that his young children are able to experience nature and growing things close up. He seems to be undecided on the ‘GM or not GM’ debate, as frustrated as me on the apparent lack of ‘hard’ evidence to help us decide how to proceed with the urgent business of ‘feeding the world’, though he feels we can still achieve improvements in crops from some of the older techniques of selection and breeding.

The Question time proper featured a dazzling array of questions. The panelists – serial Chelsea gold – winning medallist Chris Beardshaw and ‘new wave’ botanist James Wong  joined Matthew on stage for the first session  – seemed effortless in their answers to questions as diverse as:

  • whether the museum’s collection of historic gardening books and other material is still relevant (a resounding ‘yes’ from all to that one),
  • trying to explain why one poor gardener could only produce some ‘micro rhubarb’ (pencil thin stalks 10 centimetres long) – the ‘answer lies in the soil’ it would seem, specifically the lack of rich, organic matter and the right position, according to Matthew
  • what kinds of veg could be grown in a wet and dismal summer – James came up with some interesting oriental varieties that in a normal hot dry summer would bolt, but in a more dim and damp period would turn out just right
  • selecting some ‘exotic’ but hardy plants for a patio. Chris initially shocked his audience with a suggestion of ‘black negligee and stockings’, but quickly added that these were references to some interesting plants – sorry, the names have eluded me after the initial image he created…!

And I can confirm that, as the programme repeatedly states, the panel were not privy to the questions before they were asked! The audience was very receptive to the ongoing banter and humour between the panelists and seemed to maintain their enthusiasm right through a second session (where James was substituted by well-known Norfolk organic gardener Bob Flowerdew). Chairman Gibbs praised our fortitude and two hours later it was all over! It had been an enjoyable evening and one where gardening colleagues were welcomed from far and wide the gardening Team from Peckover House, Wisbech and Master Gardeners from King’s Lynn being some of the furthest travelled.

The first programme should be broadcast at 3pm on Friday 5th July (repeated Sunday 7th July 2pm) and the second (from a more anonymous ‘Norfolk’ location this one) on the 23rd/25th August. So, tune in to BBC Radio 4 at these times (or try it online via www.bbc.co.uk, on their ‘i player’ or ‘listen again’ facility if you can’t listen ‘live’).

And for anyone within striking distance of Gressenhall this weekend, the Museum has a special interest day on Sunday focused on gardens and gardening, so why not pop along and meet me at the Master Gardener stall, visit the many other attractions on offer and see the gardens, which I must say are looking splendid (but then again I would say that)!

Thanks to Kings Lynn Community Allotment for the photographs

Old School Gardener

If you’ve enjoyed reading this post and others on this blog, why not comment and join others by signing up for automatic updates via email (see side bar, above right ) or through an RSS feed (see top of page)?

PicPost: Thanks Vermillion

Oriental poppies in Old School Garden today

Finding Nature

Nature Connectedness Research Blog by Prof. Miles Richardson

Norfolk Green Care Network

Connecting People with Nature

Discover WordPress

A daily selection of the best content published on WordPress, collected for you by humans who love to read.

Susan Rushton

Celebrating gardens, photography and a creative life

Daniel Greenwood

Unlocking landscapes

Alphabet Ravine

Lydia Rae Bush Poetry


Australian Pub Project

Vanha Talo Suomi

a harrowing journey of home improvement & garden renovation

How I Killed Betty!

Mad as a box of frogs? Most probably ... but if I can’t be perfect, then I’ll happily be fabulously imperfect!

Bits & Tidbits


Rambling in the Garden

.....and nurturing my soul

The Interpretation Game

Cultural Heritage and the Digital Economy


Sense of place, purpose, rejuvenation and joy


Notes from the Gardeners...

Deep Green Permaculture

Connecting People to Nature, Empowering People to Garden Sustainably


A girl and her garden :)

%d bloggers like this: