April Fools

So here we are on the first of April and it’s a weekend and we are both at home. Somehow does not seemed to have happened for along time and if you also throw in some fiendishly good weather you have everything for a great start to the day. People have been asking us how our garden is a lot recently. Our stock answer for the past couple of months has been that it isn’t doing much and there isn’t a lot to see. However, a couple of hours out there today has proved us both wrong. There is a lot happening.

At first glance there is a lot of bare soil but the tulips have popped up, albeit very sparsely. I seem to remember planting hundreds and hundreds of bulbs. Gradually everything is coming back, the geraniums, the verbena, alliums, reum, gaura, geum all making their way back into our lives. In addition the roses are in glossy leaf and the wallflowers Glenn grew from seed are so bushy and perfumed you never would have thought it possible. I am heartened that a few things I thought were dead are showing me they most certainly are not. We gave everything a mulch last month which has helped to keep things looking neat and cushioned against a cold night. The woodland area at the bottom of the garden still needs work and despite lots of primroses, anemones, hellebores, primulas and snowdrops, there is still space for them all to stretch out and be wild.


Our favourite spot, the boat seat, is back in action too now that it’s warm enough to be able to sit outside and have a cup of tea and stare at the world. The plum tree has more blossom on it than last year but it’s growing in a really bad place, right in the shadow of the sycamore and will never give us the glut of fruit we want. Right now it’s smothered which is promising but we both know it’s all for show.
So we are back in the swing of it, weeding, seed sowing, moving things, planning things, cutting things but mostly sitting and looking at it which was the plan all a long really. And all the while in the back of our minds is…….the allotment.

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Thank-Kew

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It would be fair to say that Kew Gardens is one of the most visit worthy places in Britain. Even if you don’t like gardens or horticulture or history, it’s still a good day out and a nice long walk. We had booked this visit in a long time ago, it was on our gardening bucket list if you like, not that we have a gardening bucket list. August, hence the rainy skies and cold biting wind but it made for a more dramatic picture.

The first thing which took us by surprise was the entry price and the charming way the lady in the kiosk made a comment about her surname being the same as ours and would we like to add a voluntary contribution to the overall mortgage inducing price. “Oh yes” we replied as we puzzled about how we may be related but probably weren’t.

The next thing which surprised us was the lack of seating in the cafe we scurried to in the rain. Not because it was busy but because there weren’t many seats. Coupled with a quite extraordinary price for a muffin, we needed a seat to get over the stinging feeling in our wallet. But hey, it doesn’t matter, we were having a day out and this was a treat so let’s pay nearly £5 for a cake and to hell with it.

Thankfully nature smoothed things out and the rest of the day was spent wandering and exploring and generally marvelling at the scale of everything. Which I think is the whole point, showing off with plants.

The Great Broad Walk captivated us with its’ colour, grandeur and sheer sassiness. Yes we can do huge because we have the room so let’s do huge. When you visit a garden on a grand scale you are being given a glimpse into another world and often another time, an era when this was the norm for a lot of people. Well, ok maybe not a lot but a fair few. These days it seems unnatural and despite your best efforts, it’s never going to be possible to recreate any sense of this no matter how much you try. My only consolation is that you can plant hunt and get some nifty ideas for new things you haven’t seen before. This visit was no different. Glenn enjoyed the carnivorous plants which are a new found growing interest and I snapped a lot of textures and patterns for various arty projects.

So did we enjoy Kew? Yes we did. Would we recommend it? Yes we would. Is it value for money? Probably, we could have spent the same on a day out to Alton Towers but this way I didn’t vomit.

Names

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I knew Glenn had been up to something in the garage in the run up to Christmas. And here it is, my own knitting bowl with my name on it but not only that, my name is functional and integral. When I was little, finding stuff with my name on was almost impossible. As I have grown older my name has become commonplace but having my own belongings with my name or initials on still thrills me. This is mine, it belongs to me and no one else. The fact that it was clearly made with love makes it the most prized possession.

Relax

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I completely love umbellifers. They draw me in. Every shape and size is of equal appeal. I sketch them, photograph them, paint them, collect their seed. Seeing them in drifts like this makes me stop and sigh. It’s like lacey fairy snow on a summer’s day. They are so dainty and detailed and yet so robust and virulent. I should really know more about this group of plants but all I do know is that they are the parsley family and some have edible roots, like carrots. I also know that if you cut them to bring inside for a huge blousey display, they drop their petals within minutes and smell like cat’s wee. So perhaps it’s best to allow them to roam free.

Just near our home is a large expanse of wild ground. In summer it is drenched in this stuff and you can wade through it waist high. If that isn’t relaxing I don’t know what is.

Long Time No Blog

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It’s been a while since we last uploaded a proper blog and now we have a heap of followers it’s only right we give you all something to read about. So why the long pause? It was summer, it was sunny, we were outside – a lot. There has been a lot of this…

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Today is a very grey day however and as it has been raining most of the morning it’s been a good opportunity to go through the hundreds and hundreds of photos from the past few months and put them to good use.

Autumn has hit Wiltshire this week. Our first frosts and properly cold days that never seemed to warm up. The heating has been on and meals are hearty and filling again (hooray). However, since the weather has taken a turn the garden has not. We still have many, many flowers. This is such a wonderful thing for us as last year we planted with Autumn in mind. Our wedding was the focus, we needed October flowers and we got them. This year we got them again and more besides. I am stunned by the amount of vibrant colour we have, something which we have never had in a garden before.

We have spent the year gardening but also visiting gardens, going abroad, buying plants, collecting seeds, planting hundreds of bulbs and in addition, work and family have had their place. There also seems to have been a lot of baking if the photos are anything to go by. So what will follow will be a swift round up of the past few months in tiny bite sized blogs. Mini blogs, blogettes.

Topics will include; Kew gardens, Croatia, the Boat Seat, the allotment, cut flowers, the Isle of Wight, Stratford upon Avon, the great dahlia debate and much much more. So put that kettle on and cosy up by the fire.

Next time on Sowing, Growing and Cups of Tea; Every Garden Needs Cake

Daily Prompt: Flames

img_5787via Daily Prompt: Flames

Take an old washing machine, hack it to bits, do some very clever stuff with metal, fill with wood and dry garden refuse, light with a match and voila!

Our burner has pride of place and gives off a mighty heat. Enough to make toast, grill sausages and melt s’mores. A three course meal fit for a wintery evening.

It is also extremely useful for destroying evidence, many bank statements and disgraceful photographs have disappeared forever.

An enviable, bespoke up-cycled item no self respecting garden should be without. Home delivery available, order yours today!

 

Tiny

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Most of the photos I take appear to be close ups. I like detail. This image was taken at Charlecote, a National Trust property outside Stratford upon Avon. If you need a culture fix and an overload of Shakespeare, come to this part of the world. You will not be disappointed. As much Tudor as you can take. Anyway back to the lichen. Teeny tiny plants gripping onto a barren surface totally oblivious to the fact I am bearing down on them with my camera and about to have a cheese scone and coffee in the NT cafe. A world within a world.

The Good Life Gone Wild

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At some point in the spring we found ourselves having the conversation about adding to our empire. We had a great garden that was keeping us busy but not so busy we couldn’t  sit and look at it. We had all the planting planned, seedlings on the go, colour schemes and a succession of bits of gorgeousness waiting in the wings. The greenhouse was full and that may have been the tipping point. The greenhouse was full and we had nowhere to put anything else, at all. All the windowsills in the house were claimed by seed trays. The garden table was a nursery zone. We had nowhere to go, or did we?

So this is how we found ourselves discussing whether we were ready for an allotment. It was surprisingly easy really. Salisbury has many, many allotment sites and we were able to put our names down for one nearest our home. We didn’t have long to wait and within a couple of months we were skulking around our local site inspecting vacant plots, choosing our new piece of land.

In the end we chose Plot 51 purely because it was the least overgrown and had the least amount of rubble, bedsteads, concrete mixers and man traps. Oh and it was the only one with a free shed so we took it.

The very kiIMG_5372nd lady at the council said that we could start working on it straight away so off we went one Wednesday night to survey the land. The great news was that we had to clear it all by hand and it was all grass and thistles. Amazingly in one hour we met both our neighbours and the site warden who gave us some garlic plants and a massive amount of info about the soil and the flooding in the winter. Flooding?

So we set to work. After much plotting and planning about what to do with everything and how to go about it, we decided on the black plastic approach. According to our site warden, Terry, our plot had only been vacant for two years. We could just about make out the remnants of some old beds so we followed one to give us a starting point.

Our aim was to smother as much as we could in plastic and leave it to fester until early spring 2017 whilst cultivating a small bed this year. We had chard, courgettes, beans, chinese cabbage and squashes that needed a home. And then we uncovered a strawberry patch.

IMG_5415Glenn started planning some compost bins and we started ogling all our neighbours to see what they were growing and how. It was pretty impressive. Lots of flowers and fruit and chickens and show stopping soil condition but everyone we passed said hello and chatted and were terribly, terribly friendly. Within a week we had cleared a long lost bed and put in some basic crops. We had sourced a free mini poly tunnel from Gumtree and bought a ton of fantastic black plastic for the larger part of the plot. We weighed it down with junk and rubble we found around the allotment site and asked the warden if we could pillage vacant plots. Yes was the answer so we helped ourselves to a compost bin

There was still an issue of large amounts of grass which we couldn’t cut with shears and our mower is electric. So in a moment of sheer manliness Glenn went and hired a behemoth called a POWER SCYTHE.

Behold the POWER SCYTHE!

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I imagine this would be pretty effective at removing toes. The man at the hire shop persuaded Glenn this would be more demonic than a petrol strimmer and after Glenn had almost popped a vertebrae getting it into the back of the car I think he was in agreement. If you have uneven ground, do not hire one of these. It is very heavy and very unwieldy. Hire a strimmer. Our plot is uneven so this was no mean feat. However, after Glenn had mastered the beast we had well chopped land which was more under control and gave us a great starting point.

Our plan at this point was to grow veg and flowers on the bulk of the plot with an area for fruit down one side. Our layout was still a bit vague and we were going to just live it for a bit and then…..

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We went to the Lavender Farm in the New Forest. I had been there last year plant hunting while we were finishing our garden for the TV series. It was August and the flower meadow was in full cosmos phase. I took Glenn with me this time and after we had eaten cake and drunk coffee we immersed ourselves into wonderland and this is were we had our allotment epiphany.

So many of the species we love and are already growing in our home garden were here in massive amounts and so as we sat on a small bench on a mown path, with flowers up round our ears, we decided to try and create our own version on our allotment. Yeah, who needs potatoes?

Next time on Sowing, Growing and Cups of Tea; July Has Busted Out All Over

 

 

Actual, Proper, Real Gardening

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We had come through the winter with not a great deal happening in the garden. We had a couple of months to enjoy being newly weds so we did just that. We had also plotted and schemed, pouring over catalogues and bought many packets of seeds in readiness for a full growing season which we hoped to stretch out as long as possible based on our new found knowledge. Our colour scheme was going to remain for a second year and having planted hundreds of bulbs which we bought on honeymoon in the Lake District, we were anticipatory for spring.

Following the showing of our episode of Big Dreams, Small Spaces we were asked to give a series of talks on how we made our garden and our involvement with the BBC and Monty Don. March saw us in our own gazebo in Salisbury Market Square at the Homes and Gardens Show. We had a wonderful day, met some lovely people and had a free pizza. What’s not to like?!IMG_5072

Oddly enough, most of the members of the great British public who we spoke to were convinced were were garden designers which gave us plenty to think about and talk about. Could we? Should we? How on earth would that even work out if we did?

Totally non-plussed but enthused with all things garden we got back to work at home. There was so much to do and the first thing we needed to get sorted was chopping back the overhanging trees at the bottom of our plot.image1

Sadly we do not own the trees but there is enough branching out over us that we can get them hacked back. They are an Ash and a Sycamore, both late coming into leaf and quick to lose them again in the Autumn so as trees go, it’s a pretty good combination.

And while that was going on the garden came into life. To be honest, the planned swathe of daffodils never happened. Slugs, squirrels, too wet, planted too late, R in the month, sheer bad luck. Who knows the reason but the pink and black tulip ocean I had planned didn’t really take off either. However, all was forgiven by the appearance of the alliums. They started in April and some are still coming into bloom as I type this in July. Utter value for money. We planted five different varieties and they vary hugely in size but are all either purple, blue or white. I cannot remember their names but we love them all equally and the seed heads are just as perfect and delightful against the roses which are now in full bosomy bluster.

Next time on Sowing, Growing and Cups of Tea; Two Shows for the Price of Two

 

 

 

 

One Week in Showbiz

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It’s been a bizarre and genuinely exciting time for us. Ever since we heard from Lion TV that the BBC were finally going to show the series we took part in last year we have been on a bit of a media ride. Hence this blog, it had to be done.

Take today for example, we were stopped in the street by a lovely little old lady. I say lovely, she might not have been of course but she at least seemed it. She came out of nowhere, grabbed Glenn by the arm and said to us “You’re the gardeners! Well done!”. We were bowled over, thanked her and carried on our way laughing in disbelief. We have both been recognised separately in the last week, today was our first joint outing so we could enjoy the experience together.

We have had many emails from old friends who happened to see us on TV. Many lovely comments from colleagues, friends and of course, family. Social media in all its forms has been incredible, so much positivity, encouragement, new contacts and opportunities. We have been in the local and national press which has cost us a small fortune as we have bought each one we appeared in and now have a great stack waiting to be archived. Local BBC radio has been to interview us and we were asked for our tips on garden design. This totally floored us and we had to fumble for a decent answer as it was for an RHS competition, no pressure. Most exciting has been the invitation to give some talks and a demonstration at the Salisbury Home and Garden show on March 20. We cannot wait! The demonstration side of the day will need some thought. Based on our experience we could demonstrate endless hours of digging and soil shifting with some sleepless nights and tortuous discussions on planting schemes thrown in. Not sure how well that will go down with the gardeners of Salisbury though.

The weather though cold has been less dreary and we have been feeling refreshed and enthusiastic for a looming growing season. Probably spurred on by the fact we have applied to open our garden via the National Garden Scheme. Today we went to Baskets and Blooms in Fordingbridge to buy hellebores and primroses. We also found a lot of summer bulbs we were planning on buying via mail order. They were so cheap we couldn’t walk away, always an eye for a bargain. The last time we went there it was to panic buy as many plants as we could fit in the car but more of that another time….

We have planted many annual seeds this week, determined to make a proper impact with our cutting garden. Sweet peas will feature heavily as will all our favourites from last year. I am also trying out some varieties we didn’t have time to grow; ammi, gypsophila, echinacea and large quantities of cerinthe are a priority. The trees at the bottom of our garden had a much needed trim. Glenn had his eye on the logs as potential mushroom growing hosts. It turns out almost any wood is good apart from ash and sycamore. Guess what the trees are we had chopped? Plans B, C, D; wildlife homes, structure in garden, burn in outdoor woodburner.

The next few months are set to be busy but a lot of fun. Our new found passion has taken our lives in a direction we hadn’t considered a year ago and it all began with an email.

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Next time on Sowing, Growing and Cups of Tea; It’s All Glenn’s Fault