Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Dullas - Episode 3 Soil Wars

The heat's been turned up at Southforktofork but if you can't take the steam get out of the shower!!

Click on the links if you've missed them episodes Dullas 1 and Dullas 2

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

A Highly Organised Veg Patch

May's coming up quickly and that signals Artist's Open House's in Brighton. We've bought various bits of artwork over the years from local makers but now I find the main excitement to be having a jolly good snoop around other people's houses. 'Socktowers' lies in a designated 'Artists Area' and we have to be careful to keep our front door closed on May weekends.  I once left my door open whilst bringing the shopping in from the car only to find that a load of Open House viewers had trooped in after me and were milling around in my hall offering to buy my photographs I have framed on the wall!

The 'Open' idea has recently extended to Brighton gardens too - not the ones that have been primped,  primed and perfected ready for the National Garden Scheme (although those are of great interest and the Socks will be making a point of visiting more of them this year) - no, these are just small, town, gardens that owners feel have enough of interest to warrant the small viewing payment which goes to local charities.  I've visited some which were interesting and others which made me feel less charitable and I wondered what on earth they felt their garden had to offer anyone other than a lawn and some shrubs bunged in around it. Not that there is anything wrong with having the latter other than there isn't really anything to view.

Cambridge Gage
So last weekend a planned trip to see Michelle Wheeler's 'Open Veg Patch'  (part of  the community events for  'Food Week' in the village of Milford-on-Sea) left the Socks wondering what to expect.  We arrived after lunch in the company of the 'Highly Organised' Helen Reeley with her notepad and pen at the ready to jot down all her inspirations - I think there were quite a few of them! As we walked past the front garden which was very much 'under development' the Sock immediately had 'fan trained plum' envy! This was exactly what we had wanted for this year but left too late to buy - Michelle had put up a poster naming and describing the plum 'Cambridge gage' and it is now a definite purchase for us next autumn. Result already! This was just the kind of information I wanted and we hadn't even got to the Veg Patch yet!

Round the back of the house to view the garden - a very decent size but not 'Monty Don style' huge. Very much a garden we could relate to and combining many of the elements we would like to have if we ever get to move somewhere bigger.  Michelle has done much of the design and work over the last year and it divides into four areas a patio with table (and more importantly Michelle's Mum's very good homemade cakes), family/lawn area with decent sized garage and chic shed,  veg and greenhouse area and then a luxury pad and run at the back for some very lucky chickens!

Veg and Visitors

As Michelle was busy with a constant stream of visitors who were obviously very keen and asking lots of questions, Helen and I took the opportunity to have a thorough snout around.  The lawn borders weren't fully filled out yet but what was there was an interesting mix of edibles many of which had architectural (and perhaps a little Diacono) interest.

Szechuan pepper
somethingorother berry
These included a Szechuan pepper, another on my wishlist, (although seeing it 'in the flesh' it is a bit of a spikey 'berberissy' brute which might make it harder to place in my garden) and growing along the fence to the chicken run a 'somethingorother' berry.  This was really pretty and apparently the fruit are very tasty and I want one.  Had I been as highly organised as Helen I would have written the name of it down on a notepad but I'm sure someone will tell me what it was!

Mark Diacono's influence was felt elsewhere as his and some other usual suspects' books were laid out on a table. The Bedsock was rather taken with Alys Fowler's 'Thrifty Gardener' and no collection can be complete without the lovely Landscape Man's 'Making a Garden' as displayed to you here by my glamorous assistant the 'highly organised' Helen.

Although I am always going to see my garden as predominantly filled with the colours and texture of flowers there were certainly plenty of ideas and inspiration for edibles that we could take from Michelle's and incorporate in our own.  There is a rumour I was sneaking around the back of the greenhouse to photograph the one untidy area - the truth is I was checking out the slimline waterbutt with a view as to whether I could squeeze one in behind my own greenhouse.

Mich - A Portrait of a Lady with Secateurs

The final visitors disappeared, the Open Garden closed and we enjoyed a chat and glass of wine with Michelle who was no doubt exhausted but I would imagine very happy with both the visitor numbers and their genuine interest in her garden.  For myself and the Bedsock it was not just the Veg Patch but a chance to meet up again with some fellow tweeters and learn more about them too.  A thoroughly enjoyable experience and perhaps one that other garden bloggers and tweeters might think about doing - all you need is a garden, some cake and the confidence that people aren't looking to see perfection but a chat, a few new ideas and something they can relate to.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Great Gardens of Italy - Reducted

 As a public service the Sock has pared down everything you need to know about Monty Don's 'Great Italian Gardens' into one short film. So now you don't have to watch it all. Speakers on everybody!

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Shiny Happy day out at Nyman's

The Sock and her friend Lazy Trollop went for a wander around Nyman's on Thursday - a day well chosen being the warmest of the year so far. The very best sort of Spring day brilliant deep blue skies the first fresh burst of buds blossoming on the trees...

Shiny Happy People* enjoying the sunshine..

Shiny Happy leaves unfurling on a copper beech

A chance to practice with the macro lens showed just how extraordinarily intricate and beautiful the details are

Shiny Happy magnolias

The Sock was going to show you a picture of a Shiny Happy Lazy Trollop but she might retaliate with a picture of the Sock on her blog. Thus we have established a Mutually Assured Destruction scenario.

Wisteria in waiting...

The walled garden was carpeted with a wonderful mix of frittilaria and daffodils providing a naturalistic display of colour and texture that the Sock wouldn't have expected to work but somehow did. The Sock's never had much luck with the meagre clumps of frittilaria planted in the past and they looked so much better planted en masse. Sadly my photos of the larger display failed to do them justice so all you get to see is a clump.

Nyman's 'Bulb of the Month' was frittilaria persica - a great choice and made the Sock want to rush out and buy some.

So drawing on all her critical faculties how would the Sock assess these gardens?

Well they were lovely, just absolutely lovely, everything that Spring should be about. Blue skies and Shiny Happy People.

Although if you want just one teensy little criticism... the Sock would have liked a nice cheese scone to go with her quite good veg soup in the café.  Nobody EVER does nice cheese scones any more!

* In the unlikely event you should want to refresh your memory of the Shiny Happy People song you can singalong with it here

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Out to Lunch..

A sunny Sunday at the end of March led the Sock to two of her favourite pastimes - a great lunch out followed by a bit of Matthew Wilson stalking.

Lunch was at Petersham Nurseries which has recently gained a Michelin star.  Not that we use the Michelin as our food bible any more but it does give a reasonable indication that the cuisine is a cut above the norm (and consequently so are the prices).

The food at Petersham was more than a cut above - starters were the stars with the sweetest of scallops for the Sock and a wonderfully fresh mozarella salad with shaved radishes and fennel drizzled with an exquisite olive oil for the Bedsock.

The restaurant is gorgeously informal an eclectic assortment of tables, chairs and plants within the glasshouse setting.

It did seem a shame that since the Socks last visit the nursery aspect of Petersham had been very much trimmed down no doubt to expand the café/restaurant area. The Bedsock drank the lemonade but a couple of glasses of wine put the Sock more in the mood for an afternoon nap rather than an 'Ask the Gardeners' talk at the London Wetlands Centre.

The question and answer session was interesting with Matthew 'Landscape Man' bringing his usual wit to the occasion.  Not so sure about his attempt to be nice to a child by speculating that the brown patches on her lawn might suggest the remains of an old Roman settlement full of treasure underneath it. Also doubtful whether her parents will be impressed to find said child has called  in Tony 'Baldrick' Robinson and the Time Team crew to dig up the entire garden.

Much of the talk was about Rain Gardening and we were told that Nigel Dunnett had trashed an existing sustainable show garden at wetlands designed by Cleve West ten years ago in order to construct a sustainable Rain Garden complete with bug hotels.  There must be some irony in that.

Rain Garden
The Socks were left with the feeling that although there were many interesting ideas put forward at the talk whilst some were theoretically all very well - in practice they were less workable.

 Encouraging people to use plants that don't require much in terms of care and watering is fine if you can get hold of them at your local Wyvale or B&Q etc. It is these big chains that need to make the change instead of selling people plants that can't possibly thrive in local conditions.  The Socks are prepared to drive around the countryside searching out small specialist nurseries for particular plants but that does nothing to reduce their carbon footprint.

Nigel Dunnett's suggestion that even the smallest garden could plant a tree as "global warming will mean that we all need shade" horrified the Sock whose first thought was "Not in my back yard". Our elderly neighbour planted what he described as a small tree right next to our dividing wall despite the Sock voicing her misgivings.  The 'small' tree shot up and half of it overhung the Socks' small garden which meant we had to cut back and dispose of it at some trouble to ourselves.  It looked absolutely horrible - half a tree - and took much of the pleasure away from the view of the garden the Sock had designed.  When the roots started cracking our already crumbling wall the Socks had to put a lot of pressure on the neighbour to remove the tree which eventually he did but with much bad feeling.

The Sock feels that sustainability is not sufficient justification for anti-social gardening and that all gardeners should be aware of the impact on their neighbours when their planting encroaches on other people's light or space.  There were certainly people in the audience who didn't share the Sock's view although this wasn't a subject explored at any length.

[On the subject of  sustainability the Sock was annoyed to receive this hideous bit of unwanted junk with her Thompson and Morgan plug plant order.

Far from being pleased with this 'free' hanging basket of extremely poor quality the Sock was pissed off at having to find some way of disposing of it. What a ridiculous waste of resource on all fronts!]

An enjoyable afternoon though but only time for a quick wander around the Wetlands area itself. Sadly no picture of Landscape Man for you - you will have to make do with a duck* instead!

*picture from National Geographic