Tuesday, September 28, 2010

He that has a good harvest must be content with a few thistles

As the astute may have noticed, I went to the Malvern Autumn Show at the weekend. For those who have been to the Spring show, the autumn show is rather less ‘gardeny’ and rather more ‘harvesty’. A  mix of fancy chooks, grotesque veg, fresh food, perfectly primped flowers, nurseries, spluttering steam engines and a couple of autumnal show gardens. I really enjoy it – it pleases me to know that there are people that take time, energy and pride to show the ugliest swedes in existence.

My previous post looks at some of the competition flowers. But the veg are even more astounding.

IMG_7041 A parade of leeks, roots as bristling as a walrus’s moustache

IMG_7044   The mother of all pumpkins. Like the stomach of a fat man, flolloping over his trouser belt


A plethora of pumpkins in the Good Life Pavilion


Artfully arranged apples on the Roger’s of Pickering stand


We happened across this garden blogger in the Harvest Pavilion. Here, he is explaining why he calls the plant in his hand the ‘splat plant’ (I’ve forgotten the real name of it). A very interesting talk covering a wide range of plants. I am now tempted to buy a Sarracenia or two, although I fear that having these plants in the garden will further scupper my attempt to try and introduce a little bit of unity into the garden. Oh well.

And as for the thistle to which the title of this blog post refers? Dear reader, how dare you think it refers to the gardening legend above. No, the thistle in the harvest, driving its spines into my enjoyment of the day is this creature. I think it may be some form of genetic modification experiment, crossing the heir to the throne with a poor unfortunate porcine recipient. It may be smiling, but behind that smile I can hear its sadness. But I’m sure somebody loves it – that’s the joy of gardening.IMG_7072 

For other posts from bloggers who visited Malvern this autumn, please visit VP’s Meet @ Malvern blog.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Shampoo and Set

I feel bad that I don't like some plants. It's not their fault, after all. It's just an irrational dislike of some things over others. I suppose it's human nature. Some things press my button and will bring a grin to my face and an acquisitive itch to my palms. Others just make me cringe.

This time last year I introduced my dislike of hydrangeas. This year, I introduce a plant (or rather a flower) which causes me to press my fingernails into my palms. Or rather, just one small section of a group of plants.... exhibition chrysanthemums.

I'm not even sure it's the plants that annoy me so. It's the thought of someone spending hours primping the petals into carefully coiffed constructions. Perhaps it's the old lady analogy again - but instead of pants, this time it's a shampoo, colour and set.


But I won't have a bad thing said about dahlias. I adore them. All of them.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth"*

My first garden design lesson was last night. We learnt about the importance of unity. We examined a wide range of images of gardens (show gardens, small gardens and large, famous gardens) and looked at what gave them unity, and what elements gave discord to the scene. Such an interesting exercise, which opens your eyes. As the tutor said, we instinctively know what 'feels right' but we need to learn why we react in that way, and work out which elements bring either unity or discord. Sometimes, a little bit of discord can be a good thing - but you need to have a deep understanding of the rules before you can break them. I don't, so I couldn't.

The challenge our tutor has given us is to start looking critically at gardens and ask ourselves questions.

I look at our garden and I see discord. Oh dear. But at least now I'm beginning to understand why.

*Quotation from Bahá'u'lláh

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day Sept 2010

Last year, I was thanking Carol for giving me the opportunity to slow down and look. This year, as my job starts to speed up again, after 8 months of relative calm, I look to the garden for energy.

It's been pretty rainy the past few days, but when the sun shines, the flowers shine out, especially amongst the dappled shade of taller plants. Looking closely at the flowers in the sun is worthwhile - the flowers of the Schizostylus and Crocosmia especially scintillate and sparkle in the autumn light.

IMG_7000 IMG_6951 IMG_6954 IMG_6957 IMG_6962 IMG_6967 IMG_6974

But the plant that most captivated me in the sunshine was the tree fern – the tracery of the veins shining white against the green. Not a flower, but beautiful.


Visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens for her own GBBD, and flowers from bloggers around the world.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

“Cultivate a hobby – it gives a fine pleasure to life”*

I love learning. This is a good thing, as I have a job which involves learning, and then passing on that learning in easily digestible chunks (if I’m doing it right). I’ve always loved learning. When the nights started to draw in, and mornings started to get a little bit chillier, I was pleased to be able to climb back into my uniform and go back to school. I realise that I’m lucky to have had an enjoyable learning experience throughout my life.

And so I carry on learning. The climbing back into school uniform is no longer required, but this week sees my return to college. I’ve completed half of the RHS Level 2 Certificate (the old style qualification) and return to college to complete the other half – the ‘first’ part. I really enjoyed the part I’ve just completed, which covered :

  • The Root Environment and Plant Nutrition (Flora)
  • Protected Cultivation
  • Plant Selection, Establishment and Maintenance
  • Plant Health Problems
  • It’s a theory-based qualification, but the tutors do a great deal to make it relevant to the students, and made the whole experience really enjoyable. My main triumphs after studying this half are a lawn that actually looks rather good for once (and will hopefully look even better after this autumn’s scarification, aeration, top dressing and feed), and a better understanding (and recognition) of pests and diseases.

    This semester’s topics see us studying:

  • The Plant Kingdom
  • Plant Propagation (Flora)
  • Outdoor Food Production
  • Garden Planning
  • and I’m really looking forward to propagation, as I’m not very good at this. I have to admit that I studied one year of undergraduate Botany as part of my Zoology degree, so am hoping that I might have a bit of a head start on the Plant Kingdom unit, but I’ve forgotten it all, except for some esoteric facts about plant evolution around the Cretaceous period. Probably not of much use.

    I enjoy learning theory and facts (although SomeBeans probably enjoys it less so – I think by the end of the revision session and me reciting plant names at him, he could also have passed the exam). I am less good at practical things, which is why I’m looking forward with more trepidation to a new course I’m starting tomorrow – Advanced Certificate in Garden Design. I did do a 10 week ‘leisure course’ on garden design last September and thought I’d like to take it a bit further this year. I have no illusions – I don’t have the imagination or artistic flair to take garden design further, to a career, and there are plenty of designers around without me trying to make a living at it. But  if I can improve my own garden, make useful suggestions to improve areas of my family’s gardens, and have a better understanding of what makes a good design so that I can more critically look at other gardens, then that will be enough for me. I’d like to be able to understand what history lies written in gardens, why some designs work, and why others don’t. I’m quite nervous – I love art, but had to give it up at school as I couldn’t study both art and physics. I'm not sure I’ll be very good at accurate measurements, nor at designing something that will look good and be practical. We shall see.

    And so it is back to school. And I’m very excited.


    * Title quote is from Arthur K Bulley, creator of Ness Botanic Gardens.

    Wednesday, September 01, 2010