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Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Evenings in Summer

So it's official, according to the newspapers. We have a heatwave...all five days of it. And today, on the Summer Solstice, is going to be the hottest of all - it's already 33 degrees.

For those of you living in Southern Europe, many parts of the USA, Australia and New Zealand, you are probably wondering what all the fuss is about. The late 20s for you  is nothing, but for us here , it's hot!

I'm not complaining though, I'm embracing it! Because the best part of a heatwave, is being able to sit outside,  eat al fresco  on consecutive  June evenings, revelling in those extra hours of daylight until nearly ten o' clock. And we have to make the most of it, because the chance to do it doesn't happen all that often here. All too often, it's so cold or it's raining to make the most of the summer evenings.

On Saturday after supper in the garden , I sat outside with the broadsheets and a glass of wine, relishing the view, and the warmth. In the next village down the hill, there was a party in an open field. The sounds of music drifted up the hill and I could hear laughter from at least four fields away.

On Sunday we were up in the Yorkshire Dales for a very enjoyable family gathering, and at  six o' clock we were still so replete after a huge outdoor feast, and the heat was still so intense. We went for a stroll around the village to admire the local church and admire the mosaics in the dim, cool calm inside.

My sister in law Mandy  says attending church there in winter is like praying in a ice box, but on Sunday evening it was rather lovely.

On Monday night , I sat in the garden again until dusk. It was so silent, so still, all I could hear were the house sparrows who've built their nest here . The scent of the honeysuckle was competing with the fragrance of lime flowers in the courtyard. it was so intoxicating. As I pottered around doing the last bit of watering the plants, I thought how blissful it was.

Last night, we were just outside our village with friends. "Come for a drink and nibbles around seven  "Jay and Caroline had said....

As you can see they have the most wonderful garden

Beer for the boys, prosecco of course for Caroline and I.

We sat in their orchard with apple, pear, cherry and mulberry trees...

There's one thing I can never resist (apart from prosecco) is a Caroline and I walked down to the lawn below leaving the menfolk nattering

I had a lovely time on the swing and we did have a giggle

We made our way back to the house for more prosecco and nibbles...

When Caroline said nibbles,...she lied, it was two full mezze boards and we sat eating, drinking and laughing as dusk turned to darkness and then we realised the time...nearly midnight. Time to go, after such a lovely evening.

So tonight, the night of Summer Solstice, I know where I will be as soon as I've finished work. In the garden, so grateful for summer evenings like these....and the memories of them will be something to cherish during the dark, cold winter months.


Friday, 16 June 2017

Press Day at Gardeners' World Live

This year's BBC Gardeners' World Live at the NEC near Birmingham is a milestone - the 25th year of the show. It's also just happens to be the best one I've been to here.

I know that's quite a statement, but for me, the show which celebrates 50 years of BBC Gardeners' World on our television screens, is a delightful celebration of our British gardens through the last half a century.

Also this year, you won't be able to miss some of our best loved television gardeners , they're here every day on stage at the BBC Gardeners'World Live Theatre, in the potting shed, and at the Demo bench in the Floral Marquee. Carol Klein, Monty Don, Alan Titchmarsh, Joe Swift, Adam Frost , Toby Buckland, Uncle Tom Cobley and all will be around the show. You'll be tripping over them...we were on Press Day !

But what about the actual gardens? Well, there are some absolute delights and the show garden which made me smile and took me straight back to my childhood was the Nostalgia Garden.

This was a loving recreation of a garage, with a village shop and  nursery attached from the 1960s and 70s.,. The attention to period detail was superb

Gardening photographer Julia Stanley and I were admiring the hump back bridge over a stream in the foreground....and there was even an orange flymo left in the long grass, which was a clever touch which made us giggle. No wonder this garden designed by Paul Stone won a gold medal.

The garden which caught my heart though was Wyevale Garden Centres: Romance in the ruins. Partly broken brick walls, pergolas wreathed in fragrant roses, this was a wistful, romantic notion of the faded grandeur of castle ruins.

The subtle , muted colours, the layout, all were so evocative of what was and what is. There's so many castle ruins still in our country, and this was a homage to them all I feel. A stunning design by Claudia de Yong who oh so rightly won the award for Best Show Garden.

I spoke to her briefly while she sat on the grass opposite about the roses she chose....the white Desdemona, Albertine , Wedgewood and the Generous Gardener rose which is one of the most highly scented..

I wish I could have taken more photographs and spent more time in this garden, but there was so much filming going on in there, I didn't get a chance. Unlike radio, where I can slip in and do a fairly quick interview, telly has different demands -and they're very time consuming.

Close by was the Anniversary Garden ;A brief history of Modern Gardens . This has been designed by Professor David Stevens - he's the one who's won oodles of gold medals and four best in shows, and again he's got another gold medal.

The garden was divided into five small sections, each one representing a decade from the 1960's to the present day..

The  first one reminded me of my grandfather's garden at the back of his Victorian terraced house , the line post cutting the garden into two, with the shed, and bedding plants. Ooh they loved their bedding plants back then didn't they?  Neatness, precision and crazy paving ruled.

Demonstrating that the vintage lawn mower worked ( I have virtually the same model in the shed next to our piggery) was Peter Dowle from Howle Hill Nursery who's done well this year after getting Best in Show at Malvern earlier this year.

No wonder he looked rather happy as he relaxed

I wandered up along APL Avenue as it's called...where members of the Association of Professional Landscapers showcase their work.

I did like Big Fish landscapes "Wetland Plants- the idea of Wilderness Garden".

All so often a wilderness garden can look ....well, wild and rampant. Here, this wilderness garden is a contemporary garden which would work anywhere yet would still encourage biodiversity.



Here you can see the quote from Edward Abbey the American writer who was a passionate advocate of environmental issues who died in 1989.

Further along, the Pro Gardens "Clic Sargent "Garden was awarded a silver gilt medal. Straight out of a children's picture book, this is a place to definitely be a child again. Something that children with cancer don't get the chance to be ...they're too busy trying to survive and be brave.

A very popular , and award winning gold garden was Living Gardens "It's not just about the beard" .

It got my vote for the most intriguing titled garden in the first place! Now, you can't ignore Peter Cowell and Monty Richardson who are Living Designs. Both with bushy beards and braces, you couldn't miss them on Press day..

And the irresistible aroma of barbecued jerk chicken led people by their noses to their garden  which uses reclaimed construction materials and featured a bar as well as the barbecue. A hipster garden for sure, but one which really worked as a garden to relax and entertain in.

I really liked this living wall of thymes tactile, and as I brushed past the wall, they released their lovely tangy Mediterranean fragrance.

But BBC Gardeners'World Live isn't just about show gardeners, there's so many accessible displays here with new, quirky, simple ideas which work so well.. The Beautiful borders category for instance,
 the Meal in a wheelbarrow feature for instance and there's so many plants to buy.

Let's not forget the Floral Marquee either.On Press Day, many of the stands were still being built, plus there was still so much titivating to do to make each plant was perfect....

Judging didn't place until yesterday, but I'm not surprised that Barnsdale Gardens won a gold for their wonderful display with a bust of the legendary and much loved Geoff Hamilton at its centre. What an inspirational gardener he was to thousands of viewers over the years on Gardeners' World.

My favourite stand in the Floral marquee though was this one from W.S.Warmenhoven. It stood out for so many reasons...the stark simplicity, the oh so precisely placed alliums, the plants at their peak of desirability...I loved it. Unfortunately when I was there , there was no one to talk to on the stand....I had so many questions....

But a five o clock, we all gathered outside for a photo...not of the press you understand, but a photocall of all the Gardeners' World presenters.

It was herding fish trying to get them all together.....and even when they were just about posing perfectly, everyone had to wait while Carol Klein adjusted her bra strap which was just peeping out from her dress. Obviously none of the others had a similar problem.

This show has so much to the weekend is set fair (it's going to a scorcher tomorrow) why not venture along to the NEC and celebrate the last fifty years of gardening here in Britain?


Sunday, 4 June 2017

#mygardenrightnow for Chelsea Fringe

"What a good idea" I thought when Michelle at Veg Plotting announced this weekend would be a special digital gardening  event  #mygardenrightnow for  Chelsea Fringe.

And here am I skidding in at the last moment to be part of it. I feel this digital gardening event couldn't come at a better time to appreciate the beauty on our doorsteps, to revel in the wonderful colours and plants in our gardens, and to be inspired by other gardeners' creativity.

I know I've been sitting in my garden today, relishing the peace, as I think of what happened in Manchester on 22nd May and in London last night.

I live in a tiny hamlet far away from city life and mine is a county cottage garden,backing onto fields.

Star of the show in my garden is June is this spirea arguta (bridal wreath) ...

On the right hand side of the garden is a long, long four foot wide raised bed, beside the right hand border

There's redcurrants, whitecurrants, gooseberries, broad beans, peas, rocket, chives, rosemary , oregano, and sage...

And a clump of irises which were put there to overwinter about four years ago with some dironicums. A temporary measure only, but four years later they are still there....

Closer to the cottage is the old privy...which I'm pleased to say has not been put to its original use for many many years!

On the left hand side of the garden, there's a sweeping border with an apple tree, roses, hebes, rue, holly and honeysuckle....

Close by is the old cattle trough filled with strawberries

Above, still dominating the lawn is what remains of our old ash tree, a hundred and forty year old ash tree which was irreparably damaged by Storm Doris, which has now been taken over by my lovely terrier Eric and his Mum Boo who use it as a lookout post.

At the end of the garden is the old broken down piggery which I use as  a composting bay, but which is terribly overgrown at the moment with brambles and comfrey

And there's nettles and comfrey too growing like hell in the ha ha.

And back by the cottage, there's a wildlife area, with the last of the bluebells and forget me nots, geraniums , lavender, thistles and poppies. There's also this wiegelia, oh and me.

I've really enjoyed having a nose around everyone's gardens this weekend, so thank you Michelle for allowing us this lovely breathing space in a world gone mad.