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Sunday, 26 September 2010

Red Love - such a delicious apple

I said I would post about the new 'Red Love' apple, exclusive to Suttons. And I did (last night), on my Wild Somerset Child blog. So to avoid duplication, please click on the blog link and go to the end of Saturday's post (Sat 25th Sept). I wish you could taste its juiciness and see the heart in the middle of a cut apple. And the bright red juice made from a quantity of the apples is pure fruity bliss; not too sweet, as many apple juices are. I think I will have to find space in my recently created eco-garden for one of these small trees.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Malvern Autumn Show - on now!

I know I haven't posted anything for a long while, and thankyou to those bloggers who have hung in there, maybe wondering what had happened to 'Grandma'. Quite a lot, actually. But tonight I'm again at Malvern (which sparked this blog in the first place back in the Spring), ready for 'the off' tomorrow of the RHS Malvern Autumn Show: a 'celebration of nature's harvest' and edible gardens in the Good Life Pavilion, and much, much more. Watch out for 'Red Love' tomorrow or Sunday!

The focal garden in the Pavilion is 'Living Landscapes' created by Paul Hervey-Brookes. Atmospheric, amazing, so talented, so 'Malvern'. It's not until you read the catalogue that you realise its significance. Maybe I'll lift the description and add more photos, if the laptop batteries in the motorhome - and the lights! - hold out.

Monday, 14 June 2010

An Irish organic smallholding

organic vegetables, salads, fruit and herbs growing on an Irish smallholding in County Wicklow

Before we leave Ireland, I must tell you about a wonderful organic vegetable-growing smallholding I was priviliged to visit earlier this week on our press trip to Ireland. Castleruddery Organic Farm is situated on the western flanks of the Wicklow Mountains, just outside the village of Donard and not that far from Dublin. Their shop is open twice a week (see website), serving the local community, and they also have a stall once a week at Naas Farmers' Market. The owners, Dominic & Hilda King, strongly believe that food produced and sold locally supports the whole area: one euro generates twenty; for some shoppers this requires a considerable shift in thinking - but how much fresher and tastier are vegetables, salads, fruit and herbs grown within a few miles of one's home, saving on both food miles and fuel costs to reach the supermarket.

Hilda and her husband farm 15 acres of which 8 are woodland. They have one cow and seven sheep; three part-time workers all year round and three or more extra in the busy season. Polytunnels are used to fill 'the hungry gap' - that time of year in Spring when crops are in short supply. Abundant wildlife provides a natural preventative against pests; soil is kept in good heart through rotation and clover leys, and mulching with spent chicken manure.

Hilda King weeding the tomatoes in one of her polytunnels

Much of out press tour was by coach and this gave me the perfect opportunity as we travelled from south to north to record the local flora. I have a very long list which will appear in my travel journal eventually. To me, the wild fuschia (f.magellanica) has always epitomised Ireland; I did not expect to see it out so early nor in this part of the island, so took a quick snapshot of the first one we saw, thinking we might not see another. Later we spotted much better examples - I might cheat in my journal and use a photo taken the last time we visited Ireland.

Fuschia magellanica growing in a roadside hedge

If you would like to read a little more about our visit to Ireland (I appeared to be the only journalist sourcing garden subjects), take a look at my other two blogs which will outline the trip in installments. Click on links to the right of this post. Enjoy!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Cut flowers

I spotted this bouquet of flowers whilst shopping yesterday in the Ludlow Food Centre. To me they epitomise early summer, and as they are grown locally save considerably on flower-miles. We are in Ireland for a few days (or will be in a couple of hours) and I plan to photograph as many wild flowers as I can, weather permitting; garden flowers as well, if we can squeeze in a few visits.

The blues, greens, purples and yellows in the bouquet exactly replicate those I have used to edge the pages of a travel journal I a keeping whilst on our 'Irish Rhapsody' - I'll be blogging about that whenever I can access WiFi, across all three of my blogs. The sea is the colour of silk as I write on the 'Stena Adventurer'; silk in such subtle shades of green (se the alchemillia leaves above) and that of the catmint, too, plus a sort of sandy grey as the sun shines through the haze. I can visualise a sea-garden and wonder which of the many gifted designers I know could replicate what I have in my mind, using hard landscaping (not too much) and plants that do not mid salt-spray or wind. It's silly to contemplate a garden by the sea when we actually live almost in the centre of the England.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

After Malvern

It's been quite a while since I have posted on any of my blogs - always the case after a Show, when there is much to follow up and DO. Then there has been the garden, here in our Cotswold acre, and a visit down to Devon to the trial grounds of a well-known seed supplier (that's for a future post). Meanwhile, it was so good to meet some of the garden bloggers who stopped by and shivered under the  'Meet at Malvern' gazebo (wasn't it cold !!). One of these days I will sort out who is who and visit your blog/s.

plug plants awaiting potting on

The last few days have been almost too hot to even weed (and there are plenty that have shot up whilst we have been away). Today as it is cooler will see me planting out dozens of young vegetable plants that have spent the days since we returned from the Show under shade netting, soaking up diluted seaweed feed from time to time to keep them 'just so'. Then to complete my 'Malvern Journal' which took shape over the three days we were at the TCAS Showground but has since languished in my art-basket. By rights, this should be posted on my Journaling the Journal blog, but meanwhile, here's a sneak preview of the front and back cover (front at right, back cover, left). I was trying new techniques and working in the motorhome in the evenings - warmer than being on the showground!

page size 4in x 6in; watercolour paper stained with koh-i-nor dyes, 
stencilled text and paper napkin images

And tonight we ate our first ever home-grown cauliflower! It seems ridiculous that, after 40 years of gardening, we have never grown these, thinking them difficult or likely to be riddled with caterpillars. This one in fact was meant to be purple-sprouting broccoli (which has long since sprouted and been eaten). They too were plug plants last summer, planted out to over-winter. This cauli was clearly in the wrong batch in the garden centre; like the ugly duckling, it did not grow tall and beautiful, but survived the snow and weeks of freezing temperatures down to -9C at times. Then last week I noticed the leaves incurving and saw the embryonic creamy curd. It was delicious .... now I must plant some more for late Autumn or early Spring 2011.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

From the Showground - Day Three

the sort of plants I would love to grow, circumstances permitting

We've been dodging the rain all day, but it hasn't deterred the plant hunters (me included). It's been the perfect opportunity to trawl the hundred or so nurseries exhibiting in the Floral Marquee, along with other visitors of like mind. I added to my eclectic collection of edible plants, but was so busy buying, I omitted to take photos (see them in-situ in my garden, in forthcoming posts, once they have been established). For the curious, I bought a pelargonium with rose-scented leaves, a cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) which can be used medicinally - it has glorious violet-blue thistle-like flowers beloved by bees, and a Crambe maritima (sea-kale) for my perennial veg patch, which I hope will do better than my last plant which did not like the prolonged -9 degrees celsius of our last winter. It succumbed.

a 'green' auricula (I have a passion for green flowers)

I drooled over stalls selling a couple of my favourite decorative plants - the auricula and iris. I love both because they can be stylised in my creative work (I sometimes paint auricula flowers onto terracotta plant pots.) I grow a certain number of iris because they remind me of mediaeval manuscripts, but in general, at the moment at least, most of my garden is taken up with plants for culinary uses.

progression - iris from seed to flowering

I was clearly quite abstemious with my plant purchases. Stands selling fold-up carts were doing a roaring trade, and I felt for the couple of girls I spotted guarding either their own purchases, or those of friends.

what a shopping spree - such pleasures; but now they must all be transported home

childhood dreams (but they say childhood is re-visited in old age!)

In the permanent exhibition halls, there was still more to see and buy. I admired the miniature garden on display near one entrance; it took me back to my childhood when I was continually making similar ones (though nothing professional as this one was) - either miniature gardens, or miniature theatres. It's a perfect way to get young children involved in thinking about gardening, and in using their imagination to make something from odds and ends. That perhaps is for another rainy day (as this day was). Real gardening is so much more fun, and Raymond and I ended the hours of trekking from stall to stall back in the open, to buy an apple tree for three of our grandchildren, to celebrate a special family occasion.

"the apple tree do lean down low, in Linden Lea"
(no prizes for identifying the source of this quote)

And so our three days have come to an end. One of the highlights for me has been the brief get-togethers with fellow gardening bloggers at 'Meet at Malvern'; trying to put faces to names and then discover whose blog is which. Thankyou, Michelle and Helen, for all your hard work to make this possible. Let's hope we can keep meeting in cyberspace - and perhaps again at the Malvern Autumn Show? (A 'Celebration of Nature's Harvest, 25th & 26th September, 2010).

bloggers all - adding immeasurably to 'gardening togetherness' despite the published words of a fellow journalist (I won't even do him the courtesy of naming and shaming him) whose comments smacked of unprofessionalism, or sour grapes

Friday, 7 May 2010

Malvern Spring Gardening Show - Day Two

in the lee of the Malvern Hills - what a backdrop to the showground

I am writing this in the cab of our motorhome (my away-from-the office-studio); it's almost dusk, with grey rain-showers massing over the Malvern Hills, spread as a chain before me - a sight that captivates me at every show we attend. Unlimited WiFi access means I can post for as long as I can see (possibly even by candlelight). I won't continue with what being here at all year after year means to me, for this is A GARDENING / GARDENER'S BLOG and I should not be wittering on about the location or my own feelings.

picturesque, but actually a very good use for an old wheelbarrow - mixed herb-salad seedlings on the Cottage Herbery stand in the Eco Garden & Home section of the show.

But it is the location that to my mind sets the scene for a very special Show - a Show for which I have been writing selective reviews for the last five years. Which is a privilege, and a responsibility, for with a limited word-count, to select all that I want to pass on to readers is in a way confining and well-nigh impossible; I must be too brief - I can but offer a taster. Which is why a personal blog is so liberating - I can pick and choose.

It's 25 years since the first spring gardening show, and some of the exhibitors have been attending every show since then - Pennards Plants had a display of all the many varieties of seed potatoes they still sell; each labelled with name and year of introduction

What concerns me right now is that the links I wanted to provide to the gardens I illustrated yesterday, and any links for today, are non-existent. I need a magnifying glass to check them in the Show Guide, or a torch. It is discourteous not to do so, but they will follow. For now brief captions must suffice.

Another 25-year link with the show - a visit from HRH the Princess Royal (Princess Anne) - see my blog 'Wild Somerset Child' for the significance of her being at Malvern today.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Malvern Spring Gardening Show - Day One

Rain, at first light a drizzle, then clattering down. Low cloud over the hills and everyone feeling - and looking - SOGGY. I'm typing this in our motorhome, looking at the mesmirising Malvern Hills and wondering how soon my one-hour WiFi token will run out! I'll post as-is when the hour is almost up, and buy more cyber-time tomorrow. If I run out of time, I will list the garden credits tomorrow - very unprofessional I know, but time is of the essence to get anything at all posted this evening.

The gardens are amazing, some spectacularly so. Who could not fail to be impressed by the ingenuity of design, the plant schemes, and the sheer hard work that goes into providing Show visitors with such pleasure.

After our arrival yesterday and a sneak preview of show gardens and other areas of the showground, I am spinning the green thread that will weave my two commissioned magazine features.

To the acompaniment of a beautiful young Philippino girl singing 'Moon River' on stage in the Design for Living Theatre, I stand awaiting the day's events, scribbling in my notebook which accompanies me everywhere.

I interview Chris Beardshaw about the mentoring scholarship candidates of the last three years - some revealing facts are emerging (but that's for another post); and then talk to the beautiful Maria (from Granada, in Spain) - this year's recipient of this very prestigious scholarship.

More tomorrow .....

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Welcome to my new blog

part of the shady cider garden and one corner of the 'square foot' plot

Hello and welcome to my garden blog. Gardening and gardens have featured in both my other blogs over the last two years, but as I am supposed to be creating an illustrated diary / scrapbook of our plot for a magazine feature later this year, I thought that blogging about it on a regular basis would encourage me to take photos and rationalise my many scrappy notes. At present they lie in folders, are scribbled in numerous journals and on bits of paper; and I can never find any of them when I want them.

the latest section to be re-claimed - the eco-plot with border at the back of productively useful shrubs and herbs

The story behind Grandma's Garden began a long while ago - forty years ago in fact. That's the real garden (long before I was a Grandma !). But then there is the imaginary one as well. The tale of both will unfold in future postings, but for now, I rushed out to snap these pics - should have used a tripod (camera shake). It is bright and sunny; there is far too much to do outside, and I should be packing to leave for Malvern and the RHS Spring Gardening Show - and the 'garden bloggers meet'. I felt I had registered under false pretences, but now, with a blog devoted solely to gardening, perhaps I can hold my head up high and say 'hello' as a real gardener.

pear trees in the orchard, and my spreading patch of cowslips - the stakes are to deter my husband from mowing over them!

I hope you will join me on my journey, both the real and the imaginary one.