Archives for July 2011

Alys Fowler's broad bean falafels

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Alys Fowler Alys Fowler | 07:00 UK time, Sunday, 31 July 2011

I went to the big smoke last week. Summer suits it - the burnt umber grasses of Hyde Park, overflowing window boxes, people thronging to every and any green patch and picnicking for lunch. It was hard not to be charmed. I ambled about enjoying the sun and found the most beautiful vintage skirt in a charity shop. It has a great swing and huge pockets, pockets perfect for collecting eggs and stuffing with greens.

I learnt about apron greens in Paula Wolfert’s wonderful 'Mediterranean Grains and Greens' (a treasure trove for the home grower, out of print now, but worth hunting for online). These are wild greens collected by Greek woman where you have one pocket for bitter herbs (dandelions, chicory, sorrel, thistles) and one for bland (nettles, cleavers, Good King Henry).

By splitting up these greens in your apron pockets you can always keep the right ratio (roughly one part bitter to three parts bland) for cooking. When I ran my fingers along the rail and felt the heavy weight of vintage fabric and spied those great pockets I knew exactly what I’d be doing in this skirt. I like fashion that speaks to you in such ways.

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Growing a giant pumpkin

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Toby Buckland Toby Buckland | 14:45 UK time, Thursday, 28 July 2011

Last summer was my first ever attempt to grown a giant pumpkin. It was filmed for Gardeners' World and not only did the production team set me the challenge of growing one for TV, it had to be big enough to enter the Southampton Pumpkin Festival, held at Royal Victoria Country Park every September.

Boosted by my not entirely shameful 7th place - with the Award for Prettiest Pumpkin and a weight of 18 and a half stone! This year I am having another go.

Toby Buckland's giant pumpkin

You can't just grow any old pumpkin seed and grab a winning rosette. It has to be the progeny of a champion to stand a chance against the weighty competition.

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Growing the biggest and best leeks for Tatton Park

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Gary Hillery Gary Hillery | 07:00 UK time, Sunday, 24 July 2011

After exhibiting five Back to Back gardens Finchale College, Durham is building their first Show Garden at RHS Show Tatton Park. The garden called the ‘Schedule’ celebrates the time when every village in the North East had at least one leek show.

The garden is designed by the College staff and students and we have grown most of the plants for the garden. This year has been completely different from all others. We have grown a selection of vegetables that would have been entered into the classes for most of the shows in our region.

Giant leeks

Potted leeks the star of the show

Pot leeks being the star of the show. A pot leek must be less than 6 inches from the button (the place where the leaf joins) to the base of the plant. Then the circumference is measured and the two measurements give a measure of cubic inches. Good growers can produce over 250 cubic inches and can be in excess of 300 cubic inches. This was not the case when I grew leeks twenty years ago when 150 inches won the show.

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A guide to RHS Show Tatton Park

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Sally Nex Sally Nex | 07:00 UK time, Saturday, 23 July 2011

It's billed as the biggest garden party in the North, and the RHS Show Tatton Park, Cheshire, always lives up to its reputation for fun and a laid-back, friendly charm. This year I thought there was a confidence in the air: a feeling that here, too, you can reach the heights and break new ground.

It was reflected in the medals: six show gardens and 40 exhibits in the Floral Marquee struck gold. Three new rising stars were on show, too: here was where, we'll later recall, tomorrow's talent found their feet. Definitely a show for catching a glimpse of things to come.

Show gardens

Some show gardens try to capture beauty, style or atmosphere; others tell a story. The HMP Everthorpe garden, 'Save a Life, Drop the Knife' (gold and Best in Show) was firmly in the narrative category: the moving story of young lads struggling to turn away from knife crime.

Save a Life, Drop the Knife Show Garden at RHS Show Tatton Park

Save a Life, Drop the Knife Show Garden at RHS Show Tatton Park

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Grasses with Grace

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Sue Beesley Sue Beesley | 17:00 UK time, Friday, 22 July 2011

I have a new love. Like all the newly smitten, I am just a little bit obsessed with summer flowering grasses. Yes, I know they are not the most obvious objects of desire, but let me explain. Until a few years ago, I thought of ornamental grasses as large feature plants for autumn interest.

In East Sussex where I grew up, fluffy plumes of Pampas grasses punctuated nearby front gardens in October. And when I lived in Surrey for a few years in my twenties, some of the larger gardens sported muscular clumps of Miscanthus, their fat beige flower heads arching over tall hedges into November and beyond.

Stipa gigantea and Stipa tenuissima were familiar exceptions, both in flower by July, but somehow I still hadn’t really grasped just how many gorgeous grasses are at their best in mid-summer and how fabulous they look when combined with perennials.

All that changed when I first saw a fluffy Deschampsia in full flower in late June, partnered with a rather stiff, pinkish Kniphofia. The soft, gauzy panicles of the grass filled the air spaces between the flowers, added some much needed movement, and were still there sparkling in the frost seven months later, long after the pokers had died back. I adored it.

Grasses with Grace Show Garden at RHS Show Tatton Park

Grasses with Grace Show Garden at RHS Show Tatton Park

From that moment on, I began to see summer flowering grasses everywhere and the idea for ‘Grasses with Grace’ as a show garden was born.

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Designing a Flower Bed for RHS Show Tatton Park

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Chris Evans Chris Evans | 17:20 UK time, Thursday, 21 July 2011

It's interesting to see how a bedding display can change the whole feel of the place it's in. It can add drama, colour, create another dimension or just lift its surroundings. A good bedding design can stop people in their tracks, some enjoy the whole experience and others pick it apart plant by plant (not literally!).

When I took over the design of the flower beds in Bournemouth, in 2002 planting was very traditional and regimented. There's nothing wrong with that, in certain circumstances it's the best solution. I was asked to reduce the amount of beds and consider other ways of more sustainable planting. It's quite a challenge.

Bournemouth Borough Council Flower Bed at RHS Show Tatton Park

Bournemouth Borough Council's Flower Bed at RHS Show Tatton Park

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Save a Life, Drop the Knife

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Glen Jackson Glen Jackson | 18:45 UK time, Wednesday, 20 July 2011

My experience of building a show garden at RHS Show Tatton Park this year has been amazing. Despite all the pre-planning there are certain anxieties that lend themselves to the occasional sleepless night.

A good friend of mine once said to me that there are certain things you have, total control of, partial control of and no control of - it’s the latter two that cause all the anxieties.

I have been very fortunate that our key partners in the build; ISG, have been instrumental in project managing and supporting the initiative.

Save a Life, Drop the Knife

Save a Life, Drop the Knife Show Garden at RHS Show Tatton Park

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A day in the life of an amateur gardener at Tatton Park

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Dori Miller Dori Miller | 07:00 UK time, Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Imagine starting your working day driving in the early morning sunshine towards a Tudor Old Hall, spotting red and fallow deer roaming freely across 1000 acres of immaculately landscape gardens with the odd rare breed sheep. Just idyllic.

And then spending the rest of your day digging out and replanting willow trees and water plants, slowly filling in a 'flooded area' with water for hours and frantically phoning around growers in the North of England to ask them to lend you... 400 water cresses. It might sound not so idyllic- and yet, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world right now.

When the waters rise garden plan

When the waters rise garden plan

I am at Tatton Park and I have only a few hours left now to complete, 'When the Waters Rise', an Oxfam garden which will showcase at the RHS Show at Tatton Park this week. The show is opening to the public on Thursday and the pressure is definitely on.

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To shade or not to shade

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Jim McColl Jim McColl | 07:00 UK time, Sunday, 17 July 2011

The Serac Greenhouse at Beechgrove

"The Serac Greenhouse at Beechgrove - As I recall, the house is of French design but is no longer available."

When there isn't enough light, plants become lanky and drawn, anaemic and disease-prone. On the other side of the coin, too much strong light will scorch the leaves of plants and in some cases it may even 'bleach out' the colour.

The sun is providing more than light itself of course, it is also responsible for heating the planet and it is this aspect I'd like to deal with as it affects plants in our glasshouses.

One of the problems we experienced in the Beechgrove Garden this spring was the incredibly fine weather! Lengthening days came with clear skies from morning to night. So what is the problem? Too much of a good thing, perhaps? The seedlings and young plants in the glasshouses romped away, quickly becoming overcrowded, so much so that we had to start the hardening off process earlier than normal to give them more space.

Truth to tell, some plants were getting rather large by the time it was safe to plant them out. "Should we apply some shading?" asked one of my young colleagues and that brings me to my point.

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Garden news

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Sally Nex Sally Nex | 07:00 UK time, Saturday, 16 July 2011

In the news...

The pot of lottery money reserved for restoring, renovating and reviving our parks hit a milestone this week: Parks for People has now given a massive £100 million to projects across the country.

cityscape

Some seriously iconic open spaces have returned from terminal decline with injections of cash from this fund, run jointly by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Big Lottery. Some are downright irreplaceable: the Palm House at Kew, for example, bailed out to the tune of £15 million earlier this year.

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The Hampton Court Hack

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Helen Yemm Helen Yemm | 14:45 UK time, Thursday, 14 July 2011

For flower-junkies like me May and June and are prepared-for with a precision that belies the deliberately random look of the planting. The aim of all the elaborate border corsetry, the primping, poking, fuss and bother - the most gentle of gardening, it has to be said - is that my garden will transform itself into a seamless tapestry of colour that will last, with a bit of daily grooming, for the weeks that form the classic show-off time for an English garden.

That's the theory, anyway, and barring freaks of wind and weather, things generally go according to plan. At the risk of sounding smug, high summer in my stuffed little garden is sublime - wafting around it deadheading at dawn and dusk give me enormous pleasure.

High Summer at Eldenhurst

High Summer at Eldenhurst

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A blog in which I create a new collective noun for brambles

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Alys Fowler Alys Fowler | 07:00 UK time, Monday, 11 July 2011

Yellow peppers and Amaranth at the RHS Edible Garden

Yellow peppers and Amaranth at the RHS Edible Garden

I've waited a long time to come away from a show with my notebook bursting with ideas. This year the pages run over. There were brilliant combinations to try, such as the lovely paring of the pale yellow green of sweetcorn with the dusky dark purple of red cabbage in the small garden, An Urban Harvest.

I loved the use of Amaranth and yellow peppers and the very dark purple leaved chilli next to the pale pink carnations in the RHS Edible Garden. It was delightfully informal and looked effortless, although it must have taken many, many hours.

I was so pleased to see so many vegetables being left to flower, such as the black Tuscan kale, as it adds another dimension to a more laid back edible garden. It provides something for pollinators and teaches an awful lot about what family a vegetable comes from.

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The Stockman's Retreat and WorldSkills TeamUK

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Chris Beardshaw Chris Beardshaw | 07:00 UK time, Monday, 11 July 2011

The journey to RHS Hampton Court with the WorldSkills Garden began last winter when I was introduced to the team of young men who had competed to receive training in Landscape Gardening under the UK Skills programme. It is an incredible initiative that is run by the National Apprenticeship Service and deserves more recognition for the active part it is playing in providing training and experience to young men and women who are then able to forge careers and contribute to the UK.

WorldSkills TeamUK at The Stockman's Retreat Show Garden

The WorldSkills TeamUK at The Stockman's Retreat Show Garden

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Raising the bar on community gardens

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Alex Bell Alex Bell | 07:00 UK time, Saturday, 9 July 2011

A Show Garden can be many things. It can be just a garden for people to enjoy at the show; it can push the boundaries and the concepts of what we think of as a garden space, it can also provide us with a message and encourage us to look deeper into the gardens theme, raising awareness and the profile of the theme.

The Deptford Project: An Urban Harvest, a Hampton Court Small Garden

The Deptford Project: An Urban Harvest, a Hampton Court Small Garden

The garden I have been involved with this year, The Deptford Project: An Urban Harvest, will hopefully raise awareness of community gardens and show that they do not have to be areas that are untouched or unused, they can also be stylish and inspiring.

While I have never been involved with a community garden before this project, I have really enjoyed the working with the people involved from all different cultural backgrounds. I've learnt that if people are involved in a project they are inspired by, they also take away with them a sense of pride and ownership - even if they do not directly own the project themselves. I hope that this sense of ownership and pride carries on after the show when the garden is re sited at The Deptford Project, Deptford High Street.

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Bringing Eucalyptus to Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

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Tom Hart Dyke Tom Hart Dyke | 10:50 UK time, Friday, 8 July 2011

Tom Hart Dyke's Eucalyptus stand at Plant Heritage Marquee

Tom Hart Dyke's Eucalyptus stand at Plant Heritage Marquee

It's with heaps of horticulturally endowed excitement that I Tom Hart Dyke - 'The Gum Nut' (a person obsessed with Eucalyptus Trees!) can exclusively reveal to you that we achieved a Silver-Gilt Medal at our first ever RHS show - Hampton Court. This is the first time at a flower show in this country that there's been an exhibit of my beloved Eucalyptus as a national collection.

All of my chlorophyll has reached boiling point and has transferred itself into steam through my ear holes, nostrils and jaw dropped mouth - bloggers it's been overwhelming stupendous. From the months and months of preparations, to the 4 day build-up leading to press day on Monday - the entire World Garden Team have been absolutely superb. It's been such a team effort.

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Roses at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

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Rachel de Thame Rachel de Thame | 13:00 UK time, Thursday, 7 July 2011

The Queen of Hearts at the Floral Marquee, at Hampton Court

The Queen of Hearts at the Floral Marquee

If you’re mad about roses, there’s only one place to be this week. RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show always showcases the very best in its Festival of Roses. This year, the marquee is called a Wonderland of Roses, in keeping with the Alice in Wonderland theme. The staging is excellent, with witty references to Lewis Carroll’s classic at every turn, a tea party complete with cup cakes made of rosebuds and plenty of red and white standard roses.

I’ve spent several hours this week filming in the marquee for the BBC coverage of the show. Being surrounded by roses for a whole afternoon is my idea of heaven and the exhibitors have surpassed themselves this year, with displays of an incredibly high standard.

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What has technology got to do with gardening?

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Nigel Jones Nigel Jones | 16:00 UK time, Wednesday, 6 July 2011

With the RHS using its shows to promote 'grow your own' and the value of artisan crafts, you would be forgiven for thinking that it sees horticulture and garden design as something that should be inspired by an old episode of The Good Life. However, like Glastonbury last week, the RHS appreciates that progress cannot be ignored and so its shows cater to diverse tastes. Who would have thought that Glastonbury would welcome Beyonce? And who would have thought that the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show would feature an underground garden, an upside down garden and a garden in the dark?

My Life in the Cloud conceptual garden

My Life in the Cloud conceptual garden

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Trooping the colour at Hampton Court

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Philippa Pearson Philippa Pearson | 12:00 UK time, Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Straining at the leash, my first port of call at this week’s RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is the Floral Marquee where 90+ mostly British growers are showing their wares. I’m a bit of a colour queen and use a lot of colourful plant combinations in my show and private gardens, so here’s my pick of what caught my eye in Hampton’s glorious Floral Marquee.

The azure blue flowers of Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue' look striking next to Helenium 'Mardi Gras' at Cath's Garden Plants

The azure blue flowers of Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue' look striking next to Helenium 'Mardi Gras' at Cath's Garden Plants

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Why chalk streams matter

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Fiona Stephenson Fiona Stephenson | 16:30 UK time, Tuesday, 5 July 2011

When WWF contacted me about creating a chalk stream garden for their 50th anniversary, I have to admit I was not completely sure what or where a chalk stream could be found... so I went about researching chalk streams and their habitats. The journey has been fascinating, inspiring and very educational.

Why we care about chalk streams show garden

Why we care about chalk streams show garden

Most people when they think of WWF tend to think of their work in far flung places across the globe, but the whole message with this garden; entitled Why We Care About Chalk Streams, is to highlight the work WWF does on their doorstep with water conservation in the UK and to highlight how we can all be mindful of our water use.

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Designing a conceptual garden

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Anoushka Feiler Anoushka Feiler | 10:31 UK time, Tuesday, 5 July 2011

I've asked myself a thousand times whether it's wise to do a concept garden vs. a more conventional show garden. It's been such an investment both on my part and that of my friends and family. Is it a wise investment? Surely it's more sensible to create a garden that someone might actually want to hire you to create in their own back garden? After all I need to earn money at the end of the day.

Excuse me while I kiss the sky

Excuse me while I kiss the sky conceptual garden

So why did I choose to do a concept garden? Well for me conceptual gardens give designers the chance to create something that is less restricted by practical considerations and a 'client' and only limited by the extent of your imagination. It gives designers the opportunity to push the boundaries and make statements that entertain and / or make you think or see things in new ways. Garden design has perhaps lagged behind other arts when it comes to finding new pathways in design. Conceptual gardens help to push garden design in this direction.

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Garden news

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Sally Nex Sally Nex | 07:00 UK time, Saturday, 2 July 2011

In the news...

One of the nation's best-loved gardens closed its gates this week, and gardeners of a certain age have been reliving childhood memories ever since.

Blue Peter Garden

The Blue Peter Garden

Since 1974 the Blue Peter Garden has been making TV gardening history. Percy Thrower first wielded his trowel there, and two time capsules – that very Blue Peter phenomenon – were buried there and then dug up again (a third is opened in 2029). Also buried there – but hopefully not dug up again – is George the Tortoise, who died in 2004 at the age of 83. Then there was the time vandals made scandalised headlines by smashing up the garden in 1983.

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Buried treasure

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Mark Diacono Mark Diacono | 09:54 UK time, Friday, 1 July 2011

salsify seed

Salsify seed

Plants that keep their treasure underground need a little faith - you can’t see what’s going on where it counts most, so you’re never quite sure whether you’re about to feast like crazy or if the slugs and worms have beaten you to it. Contrarily, that’s the part I like: the big reveal at the end of the season.

As well as potatoes, parsnips and other familiar roots and tubers, there are a few lesser known subterranean harvests that really are worth giving a try.

Popular on the continent and once much-loved here, salsify is enjoying something of a renaissance. Imagine a pale parsnip with side roots and a flavour somewhere between globe artichokes, asparagus and a hint of oyster.

Growing them is as simple as it is for carrots and parsnips - thinly sow in lines in spring for an autumn/winter harvest. Boil them for 15 mins, skin them in cold water, throw them in a pan with butter, then once lightly coloured add cream, parsley and parmesan and you’ll wonder why you waited so long to try them. If you enjoyed Cleve West’s use of flowering parsnips in his Best in Show garden at Chelsea, leave a few salsify to grow on the following year - their flowers and seed heads are strikingly beautiful.

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