Yesterday found me in Oxford - at the Botanic Gardens on a glorious September day. Thanks to Patrick of Bifurcated Carrots, a number of food growing bloggers met to chew the fat and also some produce. It was a nice mix of bloggers present - some of whom I read regularly, some I lurk on from time to time and others were completely and delightfully new. And with a real international flavour, as not only had Patrick and Steph come over from Amsterdam, Kate (Hills and Plains Seed Savers) had stopped off on her whirlwind tour from Australia to be with us for the day.
The day kicked off with non-stop chatter. That's the great thing with meeting bloggers, there's no introductory barrier to get over first. Ben from The Real Seed Catalogue had to be very assertive and insist he start his talk. At this point we gave up on the hired room and decamped outside to listen to his whirlwind tour of seed domestication over the last 11,000 years and the reasons why seed saving is important. Patrick then followed with a talk on garlic - he grew 100 varieties this year, so it's a subject close to his heart. Simon (The Plot Thickens - great to meet at last, hurrah!) finished off the morning's proceedings with some thoughts on allotments (including one of his poems), plus a fun quiz based on his blog.
Lunch then followed with us picnicking on the grass - for once we had to seek a shady spot. How often has that happened in England this year? The pictured bowl of tomatoes was full to the brim when the picnic started. Cat (Manor Stables Veg Plot) also supplied a delicious pie filled with apples from her neighbour's garden.
Next we had a seed swap. I was feeling rather a fraud at this point as my disorganisation meant I'd bought no seeds. Besides, mine would have been paltry fare compared with the heirloom varieties, seeds saved in Australia and Patrick's unusual garlic varieties on offer. So I held back for a while until encouraged by the others to take a few packets. So I've made a deal with myself as a result - I'll not only save some seed, I'll also make sure some of it gets passed on to someone else. I'm particularly looking forward to trying Rebsie's (Daughter of the Soil) tomatoes and Patrick's garlic. I'll also try out his tip about mulching garlic with straw to even out the temperature over winter.
The day ended with a stroll around the gardens - I was impressed with the standard of labelling. In most gardens it's usually non-existent, sporadic or wrong. There pretty well everything was labelled and we had a fine time going around the glasshouses and were pleased to find a good food crop display both in there and outside. We only went round a fraction of the outside gardens, so I've made a mental note to return soon.
It was a great day in great company. I was particularly pleased to meet Emma (Fluffius Muppetus) and thank her personally for donating a prize for my Open Garden fundraiser. Mustardplaster, Soilman and Spade Work were friendly first timers for me. It was inspirational and educational too - so thank you Patrick and Steph for arranging such a great day for us.