Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Inelegant Gardener’s Almanac for 2011



  • Plant out the tulips that I failed to plant when they arrived. Purchase crowbar to push through frozen soil and wedge tulips into crevices. Desultorily fill in crevice with sodden soil, as excitement of bulb planting quickly wears off as I start to lose feeling in my fingers.
  • Use newly purchased crowbar to try and prise last year’s parsnips out of the frozen ground. Parsnip lollypops could be the ‘next big thing’.
  • Get over-excited with the seed catalogues, forgetting the avalanche of packets in the garage, bought in the autumn. Realise that the rush of excitement when buying seeds must be how normal women feel when they buy a pair of high-heeled shoes.
  • Peer at feet, troll-shaped from many years of welly-wearing, fail to imagine them crushed into a pair of Manolo Blahniks. Buy more seeds.
  • Order seed potatoes as I will have forgotten to have ordered them in the autumn.


  • Rue the fact that once again I failed to buy any snowdrops last year
  • Sow parsnips, forgetting that they always fail to germinate as I have planted them too soon and the soil is too wet and cold.
  • Panic when two deliveries of seed potatoes arrive, as I hadn’t forgotten to order them in autumn. I have enough potatoes to start up my own Spud-U-Like franchise.


  • Fail to remember to buy snowdrops in the green.
  • Make plans to successional sow a range of veg for the allotment, to avoid gluts
  • Sow parsnips, forgetting that they always fail to germinate as I have planted them too soon and the soil is too wet and cold.
  • Try to finish harvesting and eating last year’s parsnips, which the hard, frozen ground has only just yielded. There appears to be a 7 day window between prising the parsnips out of the ground and the parsnips becoming heroically wooden. The recipe for parsnip cake comes out, and SomeBeans starts to look worried…
  • Survey the relatively weed-free plot and think ‘Yes, we have finally conquered the horsetail, couch grass, docks, ground elder…’


  • Make mental note not to order lettuce seeds for the next three years, as over-excitement at seed buying time (see January) has led to enough lettuce seeds to supply Tesco (if Tesco were willing to take holey, slimey, slug-ridden lettuces).
  • Forget mental note instantly.
  • Remember that one year, all the courgette seeds that I planted died, so sow at least 10 courgette plants, to make sure one or two survive.
  • Sow parsnips, forgetting that they always fail to germinate as I have planted them too soon and the soil is too wet and cold.
  • Realise that the reason there were few weeds in March was because they hadn’t started growing then. They have now.


  • Get parsnips to germinate!
  • Remind myself of the importance of successional sowing, so that we get a regular supply of a range of veg.
  • Become over-excited by all the different squash and pumpkin seeds, buy six different types, and plant all of the seeds
  • In a vain attempt to keep the ground elder down, try using it as an ingredient – foraging and wild food is trendy, apparently. Realise that although the Romans may have brought ground elder to Britain to eat, a couple of thousand years of evolution of cooking ingredients means that we now longer have to eat this stuff. It’s nasty.


  • Transplant a plethora of squash and pumpkin seedlings to the allotment. after all, they are still tiny, so won’t take up too much room
  • Realise that the birds have found the ripe redcurrants and gooseberries before me. Yet again.
  • In a frenzy of hoeing, chop off half of the onion and shallot tops. Oops.
  • Forget to successional sow anything
  • Rediscover the furry loveliness of the inside of a freshly picked broad bean pod.


  • Realise that I have forgotten to successional sow. Again.
  • Rediscover some poor, lanky sprout and cabbage seedlings languishing in the back of the greenhouse, where they have been since March. Hope that, despite the brassica equivalent of Chinese foot-binding, if I transplant them they will rally round and provide greenery for the Christmas table.


  • Ahh, bulb catalogues. Time to order the little globes of anticipation. Vow to plant the bulbs as soon as they arrive
  • Not waving but drowning under an avalanche of courgettes, as all of the plants I sowed in April survived, and it felt cruel to kill some of them.
  • Give up on weeding. It only makes them angry. I wouldn’t like them when they’re angry.


  • Hack bravely at the pumpkin patch, which is making a concerted effort to take over Cheshire. It resembles Audrey 2 from the Little Shop of Horrors.
  • Bulb order arrives. I’ll just store them in the garage until I’ve got a little time to plant them
  • Wonder why work colleagues run away from me when I stagger into the office weighed down with plastic bags full of courgettes and runner beans


  • Drool over the newly arrived seed catalogues and buy things that look exciting, forgetting that there is often a reason why some veg are allotment stalwarts, and some don’t catch on. Like achocha.
  • Become smug at the huge haul of pumpkins and squashes I have cultivated.
  • Try to reassure self that the blood over the pumpkin, where I have tried to carve it for Halloween but ended up carving myself, will make it more scary to any visiting trick or treaters.


  • Celebrate first (and last) ripe tomato shortly before the first frost.
  • Think that the parsnips will taste better after the first frost, so delay harvesting any
  • Realise that the excitement of pumpkin soup palls after the first few litres. And that was just with one pumpkin.
  • Uneasily eye up the large pile of pumpkins in the conservatory.


  • Having delayed harvesting parsnips, they are now frozen into the soil
  • Rediscover the unplanted bulbs in the garage. Pretend I haven’t seen them
  • Hibernate until the days start getting longer
  • Think about all the garden jobs I failed to do properly in the year, and vow to do them differently next year. After all, only a fool would repeat the same mistakes, year after year…

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Christmas

I hope that you get where you want to go; I hope that you stay warm; I hope that you have a happy Christmas and a happy and healthy new year.

In 2011, may your seeds germinate, your compost gently steam and your slugs take a long holiday somewhere else.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Let it be warm and sunny

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Back to basics

I haven’t tweeted or blogged much recently – I find the very cold weather depressing and can’t rouse myself from apathy. Except to rant about Gardeners’ World, of course. The garden has been abandoned for the past few weeks, in a listlessness borne of shortening days. As nights grow longer, I withdraw deeper into my shell.

One thing that has been taking up my time as I hide in the house waiting for longer days is grappling with garden design principles. I’ve mentioned previously that I was starting a shortish garden design course, and I have been really enjoying it. So far, I have:

  • bored SomeBeans and my father rigid with talk of unity and progressive realisation in various garden design periods;
  • tried to distil this into a short (3000 word) assignment – writing the essay wasn’t difficult, but getting the word count down from 6000 to 3000 was excruciating;
  • traipsed around some very forgiving people’s garden, with 10 or so classmates, tripping over each others’ survey lines;
  • done battle with a scale rule to produce a pretty accurate base drawing.

The biggest challenge so far, however, was something I’d kept quiet in class about until this week.  At the start of term, we’d all splashed out on various bits of equipment, as keen students do. Because of the theory we had to initially cover, this equipment stayed on a shelf at home, until last week.

It’s a strange feeling to be worried about pens. I’ve been using pens for many, many years now. You learn how to use pens at school, and since then, I’ve probably used one every day. So it was rather embarrassing to be in possession of some pens which I was too frightened to use, even if I had known how to fill them up with ink. Oh, the ignominy.

But it turned out that nearly everyone else had had the same worry and the same sense of foolishness at not knowing how to fill them up. We had all bought them, looked at them, looked at the instructions, looked at the ink bottle, looked at the pens again and quietly put the lid back on.

However, after our lesson on Monday, and a patient tutor, I have discovered the joy of  ‘inking’. It makes feeble pencil drawings look almost good. It will take quite a lot of practice to become proficient, to produce graphics that look like they should, to make sure that I don’t smudge and to make sure that I keep the pen at the right angle, but I have conquered my fear of the Rotring pen. Hurrah!

Next week we’ll be learning ‘colouring in’ as SomeBeans calls it – another return to basics!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

A poem

A poem by E.J. Thrip*,

So. Farewell then
Toby Buckland
The nation’s gardener.

The BBC have placed you
On TV’s compost heap

But you showed us all
How to tickle
The soil to hide your footsteps

It’s a shame that
The BBC see fit
To do the same to you.

*with a very large nod to E.J. Thribb.

The problem with the public... that they are generally wrong. Well, they are if they disagree with me.

The BBC have been garnering intelligence on what people like and don't like about gardening on the BBC. In what appeared to be a hastily constructed forum called 'Over the Garden Fence' they encouraged us to tell them what we liked about the BBC's contributions to gardening.

I don't know if the two are related, but tonight I have found out (thank you, Twitter folks) that Toby Buckland will no longer be heading Gardeners' World. A shame. Also adieu to Alys Fowler.

Toby's reign had a slightly wobbly start (the Cool Wall, anyone?) but had improved and had some more interesting and occasional technical pieces in it, which made it worth watching. I had all but given up the previous incarnation, apart from to count how many times the Lord of Cord said "Here at Berryfields" each week. I found it condescending. And dull.

One positive remains - Carol Klein will still be on the show. Rachel de Thame returns - into each life a little rain must fall.

I hope the BBC didn't make these choices based on their half-baked intelligence-gathering forum. I'm sure they didn't. Because who would let the public decide such madness as this?

Roll on long Friday summer evenings, a glass of wine, a comfortable garden bench and the TV off switch.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Monday, November 01, 2010

A handy little piece of equipment

Whilst at the Malvern Autumn Show in September, we spent some time wandering around the steam enthusiasts’ ‘village’. It’s quite something to see the dedication these men (and yes, they are almost exclusively men) have ot their machines. I suppose it’s technology on a scale to which we can relate. The machines might be large, but of you twiddle a knob, you can see what effect it will have. Open up a car engine nowadays and all you’ll see are plastic-encased boxes.

I was admiring a display of oil cans, as you do, when the chap on the stall challenged my father and I to identify the piece of equipment in the photo below. He’s been given the piece by a lady who knew he collected odd bits and pieces of machinery.

We failed the identification test, but do you know what it is?


Sunday, October 31, 2010


From this…


to this


in only one week.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

From marsh to English landscape

Continuing a mild obsessions with learning about garden history at the moment, and taking advantage of a visit to see my father in Malvern, we went on a trip to visit Croome Park, an example of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s English landscape garden. I’ve been boring friends and family over the past few weeks with talk of progressive realisation and unity of materials, so thought I’d bore you too.

Brown started work at Croome Park after leaving Stowe, where he had been head gardener. George William, the 6th Earl of Coventry, employed Brown to drain the ‘morass’ and landscape it according to the new style. The new style was naturalistic parkland right up to the house, doing away with all those old-fashioned parterre style gardens.  To draw the eye, the pleasure gardens were artistically strewn with neo-classical buildings. A glimpse of a building around the corner or in the distance draws you on, revealing more of the garden, opening out views and surprising the visitor. Many of the buildings at Croome were designed by Robert Adam.



Major works were required to drain the marshy ground – you can still see some of the culverts that Brown had put in to drain water away from where it was not wanted, to where it was wanted. The bricks were made on site.


Previous, formal, gardens close to the house were destroyed, along with a church which the Earl felt was too close to the house. A new church, in a gothic style, was built in a much more attractive place – on the rise of the hill.


Brown oversaw the excavation of lake and river, using the serpentine curves indicative of the English landscape style. The river is entirely artificial – no mean feat when dug by hand. The lake took advantage of  a boggy area rather unattractively called ‘Seggy Mere’. Now, it is a contemplative space, with mature trees reflected in the still waters. IMG_7315-1

The pleasure grounds curve round the view from the house, with pastureland in the foreground. A circular ha-ha keeps the animals in without restricting the view.


The landscape looks natural but is entirely manmade. Picturesque clumps of trees aren’t just plonked – they are designed to beautify the view. It’s amazing to think that as you look over the scene, it was done by hand, by men. No flowers, except some shrubs in the pleasure garden. No ornate parterres and symmetry as went before, but nevertheless man’s hand on the landscape. A little bit of knowledge may be a dangerous thing, but in this case a little bit of knowledge has allowed me a greater understanding of some of the gardens I have visited. This is particularly so in the case of the English landscape movement gardens, where before I just saw fields and trees. A very interesting visit.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The edge of heaven

It’s around this time of year that the tips of the branches of trees and hedges take on a golden highlight. They always remind me very much of highlights in George Michael’s Wham era hair. I don’t know why – I was never much of a Wham fan.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A throne is only a bench covered with velvet

I’m currently studying for an Advanced Certificate in Gardens Design. Our first assignment is a 3000 word essay on garden design principles within four eras of garden design history. We’ve learnt about Italian Renaissance, French Baroque and the English Landscape Movement, and also about design in the Victorian era. So today, inspired by our lectures, I set off to Biddulph Grange to see an excellent example of Victorian eclectic design, my mind buzzing with concepts of unity, proportion, progressive realisation and transition.

What a place. Not subtle, but a smack in the mouth – the Victorian equivalent of a theme park. The home of James Bateman, he designed the gardens as a tour of the world, so you travel from the glens of Scotland, go through a tunnel and emerge in a pastiche of China. I adored it. It’s mad. And the benches were fantastic - I got a bit obsessed. There are horse chestnut leaves and fruits, ferns and berries, acorns, lily-of-the-valley – beautiful. Who needs a throne when you have benches like these?

IMG_7267 IMG_7197 IMG_7198 IMG_7216 IMG_7232 IMG_7233 IMG_7234 IMG_7238IMG_7239

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A taste of autumn in a spoon

I just wanted to tell you about the delicious soup I've just made.

Using one of the squashes I harvested last week, a couple of onions which have survived the summer rains and haven't succumbed to rot, half a red pepper I had hanging around in the fridge, some veg stock and some Chinese five spice, I've made soup.

I think some of my friends believe that soup-making takes hours of rendering and boiling, but the whole experience took 30 minutes, and 15 of that was me trying to skin the squash without removing a limb from myself.

The result? A rich, flavoursome, amber coloured soup which reaches down to warm you from the toes upwards. A taste of autumn in a spoon.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – October 2010


Ahhh, the eternal passing of time. It’s GBBD again, and I see that the flowers this year are rather similar to last year’s. However, Autumn hasn’t progressed quite so rapidly with the witch hazel – the leaves are still very green apart from a slight colour change clinging to the edges of each leaf.

 IMG_7081 Toad lily – a highlight of white in a shady border that looks best in the spring.

IMG_7078     Actaea simplex. Cimicifuga was a name that you could roll around your mouth; Actaea is a much spikier name.


Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ and Cercis ‘Forest Pansy’ leaves


Aster (possibly ‘Andenken an Alma Potschke’ – areal mouthful of a name)


Another aster, only about 30cm high. It is a wall of flowers at the moment.


Ivy flowers – swarming with flies, hoverflies and wasps


And waiting in the wings for November’s GBBD – Fatsia flowers.

Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting GBBD. Visit her to see flowers blooming around the world.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sunday, October 10, 2010

All is safely gathered in

It's the time of year when squirrels are hoarding nuts, when jays are burying acorns, and when I gather up the harvest. There's something instinctive about hoarding food before the harsh winter arrives. It sits deep in the psyche.

I have a book by Victor Osborne, called 'Digger's Diary', about a year in the life of an allotment-holder. Osborne frequently refers to his ‘Inner Saxon Peasant' or ISP. The Inner Saxon Peasant is the one which burst forth when I see the potatoes being ravaged by blight, when the pigeons take out the tops of the newly planted cabbages, when the carrot root fly reduces the carrot harvest to a 3D maze of holes. We’re lucky to be in the position of having our allotment as a hobby. We won’t starve if the caterpillars eat our kale. But the Inner Saxon Peasant fears the beasts that eat its produce.

And so it is good to appease the Inner Saxon Peasant and lay down a good store. Despite the wet summer here, it wasn’t warm enough for blight to strike, so this year, thankfully, I wasn’t digging up putrid potato tubers. We do have some wireworm damage but I’m not sure how extensive it is.

The ISP is particularly pleased with my attempts at preserving. I’ve made jam before but never so extensively, and I’ve supplemented the jam with mincemeat, fruit cordial and chutney.

IMG_6939 But the real success which means that my ISP is happy to move towards the long days of winter is the food that stores itself. The pumpkins and squashes have been making a bid to take over the whole allotment site over the past couple of months, but they have provided us with food in handy hard cases. The ‘Crown Prince’ squashes should last until early spring.


IMG_7136 Comforting autumn and winter food. My Inner Saxon Peasant approves.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Persevere: Look ahead: Be optimistic. It pays!

I’m taking a leaf out of SomeBeans’ book and using a blog post to write a reminder of a book I’ve just read. The book in question is ‘A Pioneering Plantsman – A K Bulley and the Great Plant Hunters’ by Brenda McLean, courtesy of Chester library.

Over the past 12 months I’ve read several books about the great plant hunters and the trials they endured to bring new species (and even new genera) of plants to the attention of the British gardener. If you’re interested in this subject, there can’t be a much better illustration of the dangers and privations that plant hunters suffered than the biography of David Douglas – the man who brought the Douglas-Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) into cultivation. Although this tree commemorates Douglas’s successful seed saving in its common name, its Latin name celebrates its discoverer, Archibald Menzies. If you’re interested in reading about Douglas and his arduous (and ultimately fatal) plant hunting expeditions, I’d recommend this book.

But what of the people who financed these expeditions? They did not have to put themselves through the dangers of hunting out the plants, but without their backing our gardens would have been a lot poorer. Perhaps one of the most famous backers of plant hunters in the Victorian time was the Veitch Nursery of Exeter and Chelsea. This link gives some information on the Veitch Nursery, and this one lists some of the introductions of plants by plant hunters employed by the Veitches – an impressive list which includes the beautiful Davidia involucrata, the seeds of which were collected by E H ‘Chinese’ Wilson, one of their most famous hunters.

IMG_5936 Davidia involucrata (growing at Bodnant Gardens)

A less well-known sponsor of plant hunting in the early 1900’s was A K Bulley. Born in 1861 to a cotton merchant family in Liverpool, Bulley developed an early love for natural history and plant cultivation. He was a committed socialist, standing unsuccessfully as a Parliamentary candidate in three elections, including as a Women’s Suffrage candidate.

In 1897, Bulley bought some land at Ness, on the Wirral peninsula, where he built a house, Mickwell Brow, and started to develop the gardens. From the start, the gardens were freely open to the public between dusk and dawn, every day except Christmas Day. The gardens are still open to the public now, (although not freely!) after being gifted to the University of Liverpool by his daughter in 1948.

Bulley started a commercial nursery in the gardens in 1904 – Bees Ltd., as well as continuing his cotton trading.  The title of this post comes from a Bees’ advertisement. The nursery sold seeds of all types of plants, many of which were displayed in the extensive herbaceous borders at Ness. However, Bulley’s main interest throughout his life was in alpine plants.


In the early 1900’s, the cotton trade was doing well, so Bulley felt that he had sufficient funds to be able to support a plant hunter to expand his plant collection. In correspondence with Sir Isaac Balfour, of the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh, the name of George Forrest was recommended. And so Forrest was sent to North west Yunnan, China. This area was decided upon as it was not quite on Veitch’s and Wilson’s stamping ground, but would supply the alpine and hardy herbaceous plants which Bulley craved both for his own interests and for his business interests. New introductions of seed could command high prices.

Forrest was subjected to difficult conditions and hostility, as well as the vagaries of Bulley’s purse strings. However, he discovered large numbers of new plants, and collected their precious seeds. Pieris formosa forrestii was discovered by Forrest, and a plant from the original seed still grows at Ness. As the Bees nursery grew, Bulley recognised the opportunity for advertising his nursery through the names of newly discovered plants, and so introduced Primula beesiana, Jasminium beesianum and Allium beesianum. Bulley himself is commemorated in many plant names, including Primula bulleyana (candelabra primula) and Androsace bulleyana. Forrest also collected seed of the previously discovered Primula viallii.


 Primula viallii growing at Ness Gardens

Bulley continued to support Forrest’s expeditions for several years, despite Forrest’s concerns about payment – Bulley on occasions left Forrest without sufficient funds.

Another plant hunter supported by Bulley was Frank Kingdon-Ward. This was a man who loved the adventurous life of an explorer, but wasn’t quite as systematic in his plant-hunting as Forrest, which sometimes frustrated Bulley. Neverthless, Kingdon-Ward provided seed of many species new to cultivation which were subsequently sold by Bees. These included Gentiana wardii, Primula chungensis and Rhododendron wardii. Kingdon-Ward went on to collect seed from many rhododendron species in China, such as Rhododendron lanigerum.

IMG_4848 Rhododendron lanigerum at Ness Gardens.

Moving on from China, Bulley was looking to the Himalayas, and employed a young collector called R E Cooper. Cooper busily collected alpine plants from Sikkim, but to Bulley’s dismay these high alpine specialists were almost impossible to grow in the UK, and those that did grow were not marketable enough to make a profit. Cooper’s second trip for Bulley was to the ‘hidden kingdom’ of Bhutan, where he discovered plants such as Cotoneaster cooperi and Viburnum grandiflorum. However, Cooper’s finds were generally of more interest to botanical science than as plants to grow in a garden, and Bulley never recouped in sales the amount of money that Cooper’s expeditions cost.

With the onset of the First World War, Bulley reduced his sponsorship of plant hunters, though he had a part share in Reginald Farrer’s expedition to China. After the war, Farrer set off to Burma, where he found the beautiful Nomocharis farreri. There was tension between Bulley and Farrer, as Farrer was of gentrified stock as opposed to Bulley’s merchant background, and Farrer did not enjoy being beholden to Bulley’s rather stingy and often late financial support. Farrer unfortunately died and was buried in the Burmese hills whilst collecting.

Still obsessed with alpines, Bulley also supported exploratory expeditions to the areas surrounding Mount Everest, providing money for the expedition  in return for seed collecting. A range of new rhododendrons were collected, as well as a new primula – Primula wollastoni, named after the naturalist on the expedition, Dr A F R Wollaston.

With his obsession for rare and beautiful alpine plants, Bulley was always looking for new ways of growing his precious collection. This led to an experiment which caused a backlash in the press of the time, and something which we would consider very bad form nowadays. Bulley had seen the alpine gardens which have been made on some mountains in the Alps, and thought that they could be emulated in the UK.

P7180036 Podophyllum hexandrum (from the Himalayas) growing in the Alpenblumengarten on Kitzbuheler Horn.

He rented 500 acres of land on Mount Snowdon in Wales and planted up a range of alpines, many of which had been discovered by his plant hunters. His idea was to naturalise and experiment with exotics in the wild. He was aware that there might be concern over this, but knew that the plants were temperamental and very unlikely to escape from the ‘garden’ and outcompete native plants. However, the press exaggerated the scale of his experiment, and the negative publicity associated with the scheme, as well as poor survival rates of the plants, meant that he eventually had to abandon it. Bulley continued to support plant hunters, though now as one of a number of subscribers rather than the sole sponsor.

After his death his daughter, Lois Bulley, gifted Ness Gardens to the University of Liverpool, who still own it. Nowadays it is a botanic garden, still containing many of the plants that were grown from seed by Bulley’s gardeners. The rhododendrons and camellias impress in the Spring, as do the candelabra primulas.

IMG_5157 The pine woods and rhododendron border at Ness.

We are both ‘Friends of Ness’ and visit it regularly. If you get there when it opens, you often have the place to yourself and it is easy to imagine that the gardens belong to you. But of course, that was never how Bulley intended it. The gardens were always for everyone. Partly a showcase for his seed company but mostly because he felt it was his duty to make his gardens available, for free, to anyone who wanted to visit them. As he said to other gardeners in a radio talk given in 1934:  “I want you to throw them open. It is your delightful privilege. …every now and again, you will get the exceptional pleasure of seeing someone like yourself, who goes round really understanding and appreciating the difficulties you have met, and the successes you have scored. It’s fine. Start this spring. Goodnight.”

Thanks to VP for pointing me in the direction of this book.

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.