Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

ABC Wednesday 5/ Garden Visit: K is for...

... Kilver Court

A couple of weekends ago, my SUP friend S and I visited Kilver Court: this was in the same trip as last week's ABC Wednesday Jaunt which led us past the lovely prairie-style planting in Radstock.

This garden's been on my must-see list for a couple of reasons: it was opened to the public last year after an extensive restoration and also because it features a rather prominent viaduct - a relic from when the Somerset & Dorset railway ran through the town of Shepton Mallet. This is a listed building and so is set to stay. I was intrigued how the garden's design would utilise this 'feature', especially as Chippenham has a similar - and equally historic - viaduct slap bang in the centre of town. I was looking for inspiration and ideas for a possible public planting transformation.

The gardens were initially developed by the local factory owner for his workers in the 1800s. In the 1960s, the Showerings family (of Babycham fame: it was brewed just over the road - might still be - and we were followed all afternoon by the delicious smell of cider making apples) took over ownership and asked George Whitelegg to recreate his Gold medal winning Chelsea Flower Show rockery garden. Now the founder of Mulberry - it used to be their headquarters - owns the garden and has restored it to that seen today. I don't know how much of the rockery garden in the first photograph reflects the original design, but I'm sure the principles of it are there.

The garden has a number of distinct areas: the rockery garden seen in the first photo and the above view shows the formal parterre by the entrance. This area is backed by one of the former factory buildings, now a dance studio. As it was a warm day when we visited, the presence of this was a distinct disadvantage as a class was in progress. At various intervals during the afternoon extremely loud music boomed out through the open doors over the tranquil scene, which reverberated off the viaduct. Hardly conducive to a pleasant visit and luckily for us only served in relatively short bursts in the latter half. It may have contributed to the relative lack of visitors whilst we were there and it's probably best to check what classes are on if you decide to visit.

Herbaceous beds formed some of the transition areas between other parts of the garden. These were being 'planted' with stained glass suncatchers whilst we were there. This particular bed and formal hedge area led through to...

... the millpond and boating lake. I suspect this previously provided the water supply to the factory and it may still supply the cider making over the road?

The pond and lake area had a Japanese feel to it, especially as autumn leaf colour was beginning to show it's hand. The water weed in the pond at this time of the year also accentuated this mood as it was reminiscent of moss.

The far side of the millpond was shady, so ferns featured strongly as did this dovecote. I liked the texture of the paint on the door which also echoed some of the leaf colour clothing the building - see also Sign of the Times today for a closer, more textural photograph (and last Friday for another view of the parterre; this coming Friday will feature the bench where S and I had our picnic). Judging by the interior, this building is available for weddings.

The back of the viaduct was less dramatic than the rockery at its front, consisting mainly of very well kept lawns and some tough as old boots shrubs and herbaceous plants at the foot of each archway.

Across the lawn at the garden's boundary we found this prairie-style planting. I was rather surprised to find it and whilst I liked it as a stand alone border, I felt it didn't really fit with the more traditional, Victorian/1960s feel to the rest of the garden.

Back in the rockery area, I liked these Persicaria edgings to the pathway. A nice change from the usual heathers found with this style of planting. I thought the use of grasses could have been a bit bolder though, especially as strong shapes featured throughout this area of the garden. Quite a lot of the lawn looked rather fiddly to maintain too and some of the alpines had seen better days. However, I did like the mix of Acers and conifers in this area. Despite conifers and rockeries being deeply unfashionable as gardening styles at the moment, they did echo the strong verticals and stones of the viaduct and so I thought they were an appropriate use in this context. The Acers provided good contrast in both form and leaf colour. There were nice touches streamside too, particularly the Primulas in the water.

Having enjoyed our visit on the whole - despite the dance class - S and I retired to the adjacent farm shop and cafe (part of the same complex, owned by the same people, but probably run as a separate business) for well-earned refreshments. A pot of tea, a mug of coffee and two slices of cake came to an eye-watering £9.30*. This made for a very grumpy end to our afternoon, especially as one of the slices of cake was nowhere near the same size as the generously proportioned one given to another customer. If you visit - which on the whole I do recommend - I suggest you visit nearby Dobbies Garden Centre afterwards for much more reasonable fayre, plus a gander at their bedding, chickens and porcelain loos.
* I regret not taking the option to pay up front because we would have definitely taken my advice and gone elsewhere. The problem was that the beverages menu was clearly displayed on a blackboard and relatively reasonably priced, whilst the cakes menu was on a separate piece of paper in italicised, much smaller print and extortionate. The local garden centre may not have organic offerings, but it's still delicious, cheaper and the staff are much more cheerful. We did also remark about the noise at the time of our visit, but of course there was really very little that the friendly lady at reception could do about it, particularly as she was in the worst position of all - right next door! I'll be sending a link to this piece to the garden owners for comment.

For more posts bought to you by the letter K, do visit the ABC Wednesday blog.

Update 7/10: Kilver Court's marketing manager replied yesterday (see comments for a full transcript) - they'll have a word with the Dance Studio manager to see if the noise can be kept to a reasonable level and I've been offered a free re-visit :)

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Public Space Workshop: Overview

Having introduced the speakers to you yesterday, I've divided the workshop into the following chunks:

I'm mixing and matching the presentations into those key areas and because some of you won't know the people who made the remarks, I'm not planning on making them attributable in this post. I can change that if needed. My asides are in [square] brackets.

Overview - some facts and figures

  • It's estimated that there are 5 billion day visits made to the countryside, 1.5 billion to the coast and 2.5 billion to parks in the UK per year. On that basis, why isn't more fuss made about the (usually poor) quality of our urban open spaces?
  • Many of our open spaces are mainly grass with a few trees around the perimeter. If that was the norm in France, every single member of the Local Authority (LA) parks department involved would be sacked.
  • There are lots of initiatives around trying to improve the quality of our open spaces. However, these tend to be piecemeal and localised. There are few national initiatives and little in the way of an overarching body to co-ordinate things. [This is something that's particularly struck me whilst researching public planting this year: I have a huge number of bookmarks and papers - no books yet - to sift through, but nothing really giving me an overview]
  • There needs to be more opportunities for the various stakeholders to talk to each other e.g. If landscape architects don't talk to nurserymen, how can they (nurserymen) know what to stock or where trends are going?
  • Only 18% of public parks are described by the public as good; 39% of LA's admit to declining quality - with the 'better' open spaces attracting most of the attention and funding; there has been an overall drop in the funding for open spaces by 15% since 1990 (contrast with indoor leisure facilities' funding increasing by 12% in the same period).
  • 90% of the population believe parks improve health and the quality of life, yet 60% of them think the LA are inappropriate managers of open spaces. Their biggest criticism of open space design is its irrelevance. Both of these issues could be tackled by better consultation and community involvement in both the design and management processes.
  • There are economic and other benefits to improving our open spaces: improved health (both physical and mental), reduced crime, educational opportunities and increased social interaction. [Lots of studies and figures were quoted, but there were too many of them to summarise concisely]

OK, having agreed that public planting is important and it deserves to be better, how should it be designed? I don't have all the answers, but after taking a break for ABC Wednesday tomorrow and Muse Day on Thursday, I'll summarise some of the ideas I gleaned around the design approach for you on Friday.

NB I'd like to finish this series of posts before I do my wrap up one for Out on the Streets. Therefore there's around a week left for you to contribute your own views of public planting in your neighbourhood, should you wish to do so this month :)

Monday, 28 September 2009

Breakfast with Mr Beardshaw

The hotel's outdoor venue for lunch at the public spaces workshop I attended last Thursday

Here's the main points I've mentioned thus far from last week's workshop:
  • We must say NO! to mediocre quality in our public spaces and,
  • Community involvement is key to success
It's time now to put some flesh on those bones and to tell you a little bit more about what the workshop was about. About 100 of us attended, drawn from students, local authorities, charities, landscape architects, garden designers, other horticultural professionals and a tiny sprinkling - at least 2 others - of the general public like me who are passionate about public planting. We were treated to some extremely good speakers who were:
  • Nick Coslet - Marketing Director of Palmstead Nurseries, our hosts. Nick gave a few pointers on public planting from a nurseryman's experience in addition to welcoming us all for the day
  • Kate Lowe - Editor of Horticulture Week, who chaired the workshop and gave an industry overview *
  • Chris Beardshaw - the well-loved TV gardener, giving us the socio-political background to public open spaces. I was impressed by his knowledge and passion for the subject. I'm also glad he gave a different presentation to the one advertised (though Ideas for Exciting Planting would have been good too), as I'd been seeking just this kind of overview in my background research and failed
  • Richard Bisgrove of Reading University's Landscape Management department - an expert on Gertrude Jekyll and William Robinson, who also spoke about climate change
  • John Tweddle - Westminster council's open spaces manager, who looked at open space management issues from the Local Authority (LA) viewpoint. John freely admitted he's in the privileged position of having a unusually large budget when compared with other LAs, but he still has to deliver value for money
  • Brita von Schoenaich - the open space story from the naturalistic and landscape architect's viewpoints. Brita has also indulged in a little guerrilla gardening in her time!
That was the morning session. In the afternoon we headed off down the road for a guided tour of the most impressive nursery. That has to be a separate post to do it justice. Having started to summarise the presentations, written loads and only summarised two of them, I now realise I can't squeeze the rest into one piece. I'll have to break it down into bitesize chunks, so having introduced the main speakers to you, I'll leave it there for now.
However, I did have one fantastic surprise, which I must tell you about before I go. I bumped into Catherine Kenny of Weeding Between the Lines at lunchtime. She'd been searching for me all morning and of course I should have realised she might be there, seeing I was pretty much on her doorstep. It was lovely to meet her and I can happily report she's very well, extremely busy with all her garden design projects, so doesn't have the time to blog right now. Though I do see a few green shoots over there at the moment :)
So where does having Breakfast with Mr Beardshaw come in? Well, we did exchange pleasantries over the scrambled eggs and grilled tomato trays, but Breakfast at the Diagonally Opposite End of the Dining Room from Mr Beardshaw, doesn't grab the attention quite so much does it? ;)
* = I can't provide you with a meaningful link to her work as you need to subscribe to Horticulture Week in order to do so. As I find that makes me really cross when that happens with links on other blogs and websites - imagine me stamping my foot in annoyance at this point - I'm not going down that road here. Harrumph.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

From Blogging Friends With Love

Since the beginning of the year I've been participating in Anna's Gardening By Letter Project, one of those wonderfully simple ideas you always wished you'd thought of yourself. Several of us cheerfully volunteered to send the others a card or letter, plus any extra goodies we had to hand, to make the blogosphere and gardening buddies in particular just that little bit closer and personal. Anna's been co-ordinating the parcels all year and last month it was my turn. Of course it's difficult to get 11 people lined up on time, so my parcel arrived in the middle of last week. I didn't mind, the good things in life are worth waiting for!

Here's a glimpse of the wonderful cards and letters I've received. I've been catching up properly with everyone's generosity and thoughtfulness in the garden this morning. What better place is there to do so, especially as September's warm sunshine we've been enjoying is still here?

If you glance at the right hand side of the photo, you'll see that I'm not showing you the complete picture. I'm such a tease. I also have a marvellous stash of gardening gifts that'll especially help to cheer up the winter months ahead. I'm not showing them now as it'll spoil things for the remaining recipients, but rest assured I will be doing so later :)

So my heartfelt thanks goes to:

It's been great getting to know you and I'll pop over to yours to thank you properly very soon. Today all those miles which separate us, seem no distance at all :D

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Unusual Front Gardens #3: Chippenham

This used to be Golddiggers nightclub in Chippenham, an early Richard Branson owned venue, from which concerts were often broadcast on the BBC. NAH and I went to see Howard Jones play there in 1984, shortly after we'd married and moved down south to seek our fortunes. Before all of that it was a cinema.

Now it's been rebuilt as retirement flats with space for shops below: all of the latter aren't let at the moment. I don't quite understand the thinking behind building a complex which hasn't taken into account some of the elderly will require ground floor living.

As you can see the lack of a garden hasn't deterred some of the residents.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Help Decide Our Forests' Future & Win a Prize!

Another key message from yesterday's seminar was how community involvement in decision making is crucial in the delivery of good quality public planting, so it was especially good timing to find an e-mail from The Woodland Trust this morning about England's public forests. This must be the ultimate 'public' planting - the forests managed by the Forestry Commission on our behalf, including the wonderful Westonbirt, the national arboretum not far from here. If you've ever been for a walk, a mountain bike ride, attended a open-air concert or other event in one of our public forests in England - like the pictured scene from last year's Festival of the Tree, then you also have an interest in the following:

The Forestry Commission in England wants your view on the long-term role of the forests and woods it owns.

If you believe as we do that forests and woods in public ownership are an important national asset then now is the time to have your say in their future.

Please add your voice to this very important consultation, and give your backing to the Trust's contribution.

We believe that the public forests are crucial to the protection, restoration and expansion of native woods in the future. They play a vital part in helping us meet the challenges faced by our changing climate and providing habitats for numerous animal and plant species; not to mention the recreational, health and educational benefits they bring to everyone. I am sure you will agree that we can't lose them!

The deadline for your response is Monday 28th September.
[Hence my telling you about it today, in view of the short notice - you have until 5pm - VP]

This public consultation will be a major piece of evidence in the overall study of the future of the Forestry Commission's estate. Please spare a few minutes to contribute. You can write a letter, take the online survey or print out the full document and return it. Whichever method you choose, everything you need is here.

Thank you.

Hilary Allison
Policy Director, The Woodland Trust

The Trust's website gives a good overview of the consultation. There's actually 2 online surveys, a full one which asks lots of policy related questions which most people like me would struggle to answer. However, there's a very quick version - just the first question of the full survey - which simply asks you to select the 5 aspects of public forests most important to you.

You can also possibly win a prize by completing the shorter survey :) You can choose from either tickets to a 2010 concert, or a 12-month season ticket to the public forest of your choice. As half of England lives within 6 miles of one of these, I think the latter prize is particularly good, though I did also thoroughly enjoy seeing Jools Holland at Westonbirt a few years ago.

NB if you're using an internet email service - as I suspect most of us are - you'll need to save the survey to your computer, then email it. You're given more information on this plus the email address at the end of the survey, but I found I couldn't cut and paste it into my email software. So here it is, just in case it's the same for you:

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Thanks Everyone

Phew. I've just got back from today's tremendous public planting seminar and I've so much to tell you about it. The main message from today is: DO NOT ACCEPT MEDIOCRITY. We do deserve something much better with our open spaces. I don't have the time or energy to say any more after an absolutely packed day and a 4 hour drive back, but rest assured I'll have plenty to say over the next few days, if not longer ;)

However I do want to take the time right now to thank everyone who's voted for Veg Plotting in the first round of the Blotanical awards. I'm quite stunned, but absolutely chuffed to have 4 nominations going forward into the final round of voting. I'm even more pleased so many of my favourite blogs which missed out last year have garnered the recognition they deserve this time around. And I must say to everyone who's missed out this year - don't get downhearted. Stick with it, join in the fun and I'm sure you'll be the one grinning from ear to ear next time.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

ABC Wednesday 5/ OOTS: J is for...

... Jaunt

I'm on my way over to Kent at the moment, for a jolly day tomorrow at Palmstead Nursery, where I will be immersed in a seminar on public planting best practice in the morning, followed by a tour of the nursery in the afternoon. There will be lots of purchasing opportunities, though I suspect these are expected to be by the odd thousand or two - as the seminar's aimed at local authorities and landscape businesses - rather than the few things I can manage to fit in the boot of my car :o

I'm expecting to learn loads from Chris Beardshaw et al. which I'm hoping to not only write about later, but also talk to my local council about :)

The picture's from another jaunt, recently made with my SUP friend S. We stopped off in Radstock on the way to Wells 2 weekends ago, to admire this stunning public planting right in the middle of town. It just goes to show it doesn't have to be all hanging baskets or eye fryingly bright bedding. More to come.

In the meantime, much more in the shape of J can be found over at ABC Wednesday.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

OOTS: Britain in Bloom

Tomorrow sees the annual knees up for this year's Britain in Bloom awards in Torbay. Finalists from all round the country will be putting on their gladrags to find out whether they've won that coveted Gold award, showing they've reached the pinnacle of horticultural excellence for their community.

Over 1,000 places take part in Britain in Bloom, now in its 42nd year, from tiny villages to the largest of cities. It's not just their showcase areas such as parks which are important: those just like we've been considering here in Out on the Streets have an equal contribution to make when the judges make their rounds. Attention to aspects such as litter and weed-free public spaces, environmental projects and community-wide participation are also key to success.

Chippenham hasn't participated this year, if ever recently, but I have been able to visit or pass through several places over the summer that do, including Tetbury (see picture above) which has made the national finals this year. Whilst I haven't had time to look at all the aspects making up Britain in Bloom (BIB) in detail, I have seen lots of things which highlight some telling differences between Chippenham and these other towns.

A good BIB place needs to make a good impression at its entrances. This usually entails some kind of planting around the signs placed roadside to welcome travellers and good attention paid to major roundabouts, like the pictured example I saw in Bath on Sunday. I don't think the High Street entrance to Monkton Park is anywhere near the same league. In addition, key buildings in the town will have especially good displays. This won't be just the key municipal buildings like the town hall and tourist information office I've shown you in Chippenham already, major firms and other notable buildings will usually have some kind of display, just like the one I found in Wells pictured at the top of this article and this solicitor's in Devizes to the right.

About three times as many hanging baskets of the standard Chippenham managed this year are needed to line the main street. Displays to brighten the more mundane, but well visited areas such as car parks are also encouraged. Businesses are usually invited to sponsor public displays as well as having something outside their own buildings. All members of the public are encouraged to join in: this was particularly apparent off the main streets of Tetbury, where most of the houses had some kind of floral display outside their front doors.

The standard of bedding is very high: compare the above example from Wells, complete with luscious Cannas, Salvias and Dahlias, with this other example I found recently in our town centre on the left, or my oft-bemoaned red mulched beds.

Whilst the majority of examples I've shown you have used mainly annuals, the RHS guidelines do include all types of planting such as perennials, shrubs and trees. Bath for example does have some wonderful prairie beds by the station, but there wasn't a suitable place close enough for me to stop and take photos on Sunday. It's not just about summer displays or the high street: when the judges make their visit, places have to show evidence of year-round excellence, community-wide projects - such as with schools and other key groups - and sustained improvements.

The RHS manages the Britain in Bloom process and it's interesting that participation is considered to have the following benefits:

  • Developing social cohesion and civic pride
  • A positive impact on the local economy
  • Providing a springboard to introduce environmental initiatives

That sounds like just the kind of shot in the arm Chippenham needs at the moment, whether it's sought via BIB or other means. Whilst I've not been entirely fair in picking examples from many towns, similar examples were to be found across all of them, thus showing what Chippenham should be aspiring to.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Garden Visit: Special Plants

Last Thursday, Threadspider and I treated ourselves to our first visit to Special Plants, one of Dan Pearson's favourite nurseries. Whilst it's not that far from us, for some reason we'd never been before and I can't really think why that is. However a combination of sighs of envy from Karen and Helen when hearing about our plans, plus the added attraction of nursery owner Derry Watkins' adjacent garden being open for the NGS, meant we could hold ourselves back no longer.

The garden's situated on a very steep slope, so 'good bones' had to be installed, whilst still allowing the extensive superb views over the adjacent farmland and valleys to be retained. What's emerged is a very sheltered garden, with a series of terraces, drystone walls and gentler slopes with plenty of room for plants, many of which are tender in their nature. This is the first view you see of the back garden as you emerge from the house.

At the top of the slope next to the house are very well drained areas ideal for gravel planting and many tender specimens. I was taken with the mixture of shapes and heights with combinations I wouldn't have dared try at home.

Surprisingly, there is little in terms of sculpture and ornamentation in the garden, but what's there earns its keep. Both Threadspider and I were very taken with this 'carnival of animals'.

Immediately below the gravel garden is a long border, crammed with plants and also box balls to add winter interest. The Nepeta edging ensured this part of the garden was abuzz with insects. Whilst we were admiring this part of the garden we struck up a lively conversation with a lady who turned out to be Derry's mother-in-law. This then led to us having a long chat with Derry herself :D

Not everything is terraced. There is a long, sloping section which hosts the Black and White border - Derry did a black and white garden at Chelsea a few years ago. As you can see, plants of other hues are allowed now! This border housed a fantastic Clematis durandii: it's most striking and wonderful scent followed us around much of the garden.

After a long break for tea and cake so we could just watch the changing light over the garden and fields, we adjourned to the very well stocked nursery, where the plants are set out by the kind of situation they like e.g. dry shade. There are many treasures to be found.

This Calceolaria 'Kentish Hero' was a new discovery for me and it looked like it had teeth! Not my first choice of plant, but I did come away with some Dahlia merckii - thanks to Constant Gardener's inspirational photos of her plant - and Rudbeckia maxima seeds. This latter plant was another discovery and as soon as I saw its tall (it grows to 5-6 feet), dramatic blooms (with a massive 3 inch long central cone) beckoning to me from its tucked away corner, it became an instant 'must have'.

Having broken my nursery 'duck', I suspect it won't be too long before I return again. Derry has been running Special Tuesdays, a weekly series of talks since spring, which still has a few weeks to go. It includes such diverse topics as seed saving, grasses and putting the garden to bed for winter. The garden's also open on Wednesdays and there's the final NGS opening of the season on October 15th. There's also further treats to be had over the winter months as Derry puts together the most impressive list of speakers for the Gardening Club at Bath University. Fergus Garrett's the first one she's lined up, scheduled for next month :)

Sunday, 20 September 2009

How Advertising Works at Garden Organic

  1. Stock an extensive range of environmentally friendly goods in your shop at Ryton
  2. Make sure you include items not usually found in other organic shops or gardening catalogues
  3. Wait for a blogger with a squirrel problem and a camera to spot a deterrent she's not seen before, in spite of extensive research into the problem
  4. Wait a little while longer until she spots something's wrong with the translation (click to enlarge image if needed)
  5. Et voila!

Having spent a small fortune squirrel proofing our loft last Autumn only to find they've now moved into the chimney pot instead, I was initially kicking myself for not finding this product earlier. Now I'm not so sure ;)

Friday, 18 September 2009

Help Protect Our Muck and Magic

In my Signs of Autumn post a few of days ago, I mentioned I'm obsessed with all things muck and mulch at the moment. That's because it's plot preparation time up at the allotment and I've started to cut back some of the dead vegetation in the garden. Don't worry, not everything will be left clinically tidy, there'll still be plenty of shelter and food left out for the wildlife over winter :)

So it also seems to me to be a good time to remind you about last year's hoo ha over manure and how herbicide contamination devastated a number of allotment site's crops. The culprit, aminopyralid, was withdrawn from use and we plotters breathed a huge sigh of relief. Simon first alerted me earlier this year that there's now a move to reinstate the use of this herbicide - boo, hiss. I immediately signed the protest e-petition he linked to over on the government's website, but failed to urge you to do so at that time :(

Now Sue Garrett of Green Lane Allotments has been in touch. She not only has a great allotment blog, but her allotment society in Wakefield have also been brilliant at pursuing this issue and ensuring there's detailed and up to date information available on their website. She also reminded me about the e-petition and I'm only too pleased to point you in the right direction, so that you can also sign it if you haven't done so already. You have until October 23rd, but why not take this link and sign up now? Note that when you sign an e-petition, you get an email to confirm the validity of your 'signature'. If you don't reply to the email, your name doesn't get added to the list. It's more than likely that this'll go into your spam box, so do look out for that.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

OOTS: Chippenham's Double Whammy Chestnuts

Last year I told you about our horse chestnut trees in Chippenham and how leaf miner moth is bringing an early autumn to them. At the time there was some speculation that a severe winter could bring this pest to its knees. If you click on the above picture to enlarge it, you'll see the leaves on these trees are starting to go brown. This picture was taken in early August, about 6 weeks ago. Well before autumn starts round these parts.

Alas, our worst winter in 18 years hasn't killed off the moth and our trees are now looking worse than ever. The picture above shows where the moth larvae have burrowed between the upper and lower leaf surfaces and thus destroyed those parts in the process. The guidance now is to collect all the infected leaves in the autumn and burn them, so that the larvae don't emerge in the spring to start the cycle all over again.

I had pondered whether composting might do the trick, but my research shows this isn't advisable in garden situations unless you can provide very hot composting conditions to kill the moth pupae or can put a few inches of soil over the piles of leaves to stop the larvae from emerging in the spring. I could do the latter, but I'm severely limited in the amount of leaves I could collect and store. Chippenham has many stately horse chestnut trees, so re-infection from nearby would be swift to follow for any trees I did manage to clear of the pest. I suspect our local council won't have the resources to do a major leaf clearance for the hundreds of trees affected locally.

Then Threadspider told me about the state of some of the horse chestnut trees towards the top of our estate close to where she lives. I went to inspect them and the picture above shows what I found in addition to the usual leaf miner damage I've shown you already. A quick look on the internet later confirmed our suspicions: these trees have bleeding canker caused by the Pseudomonas syringae pv aesculi bacterium.

The Forest Research website* has lots of information about bleeding canker - as well as leaf miner moth* - and it looks like it may have more serious implications as the disease can kill if it girdles the whole tree, which could happen in a few years time. Horse chestnut leaf miner is not considered to be a killer, it just impacts on the tree's vigour as photosynthesis is affected from around July when severe infestation occurs. This seems to happen about 2 years after the first attack from my observations and to me it also looks like the numbers of conkers are noticeably less, thus affecting reproductive capability as well as disappointing many children wanting to have their traditional autumn conker fights.

I was feeling pretty depressed about the trees on our estate, but research for this post has thrown up some potential cheer. The RHS recently announced that treatment at Buckingham Palace* on 5 trees with both bleeding canker and leaf miner moth may lead to them being given a clean bill of health. It also appears there's a treatment based on garlic extracts on trial at the moment, which has been successful in combating bleeding canker and has the additional effect of being a moth deterrent. This treatment is expensive, but should be cheaper than the cost of cutting down and replacement with another kind of tree.

And that's not all: a wasp predator of the leaf miner moth has been found. Schoolchildren in Bristol* are helping the university to research whether this might be a suitable future treatment for trees suffering from moth infestation alone.

Now I'm waiting for someone from our local council to come and see me so we can discuss what's going to happen to our horse chestnuts. I'll keep you posted on what happens.

Don't forget Out on the Streets is all about your contributions and there's been some brilliant ones already. Just write a post about the public planting in your neighbourhood some time in September, add your link here and we'll come and visit :)

* = links no longer available.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

ABC Wednesday 5: I is for...


Some of the bulbs in my garlic harvest this year have these intriguing mini cloves part way up the stem. They're too small to use for cooking, so I'm wondering what will happen if I plant them instead. I usually save some of my crop for next year's sowing anyway, so I'll be finding out very soon!

According to the Boundary Garlic Farm's website, these mini cloves are actually called bulbils and are an exact clone of the parent plant. Most bulbils occur when the plant forms a scape at the top of the plant. Scapes can be eaten, but if left to mature they form what looks like a flower head, but it actually contains lots of tiny bulbs which can be used to bulk up garlic seed supplies over 2-3 years. Sometimes bulbils are found in the stem instead, which is usually a sign the plant's been stressed. We've had a lot of garlic rust up at the allotment this year, I wonder if this is what triggered the bulbil formation?

The variety's Albigensian Wight: this is a softneck variety - one with pliable stems which can be plaited and store well - so I'm surprised that bulbils have formed as all the references I've looked up say they occur in hardneck varieties. Hmm, come to think about it, those stems look more like hardneck ones, but they've definitely come from the bed where my Albigensian Wight cloves were planted. Another indication that the plants were stressed perhaps, or maybe a case of mislabelled bulbs from the supplier? Have you seen anything similar in your garlic harvest this year - stem bulbil formation and/or softneck garlic looking more like hardneck? If you did, what happened and in which varieties?

For more stories bought to you by the letter I, do visit the ABC Wednesday blog.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

GBBD - Golden September

I love the quality of light in September. It's a warm, golden colour which slants through and highlights the plants in a most wonderful fashion. And there's still plenty to highlight, even though the garden's beginning to look a little worn around the edges. The Dahlias are still on song and many of the early flowering Clematis are now producing a welcome second flush of blooms.

I'm taking a slightly different approach with my Blooms Day post this time: there's no slideshow or collage. Instead, I've selected just a few photos - which you can click to enlarge - to show some of the differences in my garden this month. If you'd like to see more, the slideshow I produced last September will fill in a lot of the details as will this post from last month and my pictured Chrysanthemum from yesterday, which is brightening the area by my front door.

First up is Cyclamen. I always choose a different one each year and Franks Plants has made my task slightly easier by producing trays of a single colour this time. Apparently, they came through a little earlier, thus enabling this to happen. It's the first time I've seen a white cyclamen with a tiny ring of pink, so I had to have it.

I believe I planted this Aster 3-4 years ago, so of course I now have no idea of which one it is. It's the first time it's bloomed, on stems around 2 feet high. It's usually been heavily shaded by my Teucrium fruticans, but this was severely checked by the cold winter, so it seems to have given the Aster sufficient room to reach its full potential this time.

I bought this Helianthus 'Lemon Queen' at a charity nursery plant sale earlier this year. As you can see the bees love it. It's also a reminder of my visit to the Inner Temple garden at last year's RHS Show, where I saw this plant for the first time. It reminds me of the superbly planted autumn borders there as well as a grand day out.

I also bought this Cosmos 'Chocamocha' at the same plant sale. It's always been in flower since May, still has lots of buds, and smells deliciously of chocolate every time I brush past it. No wonder I think of it as my 'plant of the year'.

I've had this Clematis 'Kermesina' for quite a while and I planted it to add some late season interest to the Rosa Rambling Rector' clothing my side fence. It's a really bushy plant for the first time this year and has made a determined bid for freedom outside my garden. Here you can see it scrambling through my winter flowering honeysuckle and into the ash tree on the public land next door.

And finally, I know it's not a flower, but I couldn't resist taking a picture of our native wild Clematis vitalba aka Old Man's Beard. The sun was backlighting it magnificently this morning, where it's currently serving as a curtain to walk through from the front garden to the side of the house. It's totally dominating a field maple tree on the public land and is probably the last opportunity I'll have to take this photograph. The tree's beginning to touch our house, so I need to get the council to come and do some maintenance before the winter winds are upon us.

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Monday, 14 September 2009

You Know It's Autumn When...

September's officially the first month of autumn and whilst we're enjoying some lovely warm, sunny weather at the moment, there are unmistakable signs of the changing season.

You know it's autumn when...
  1. The trees start taking on their autumn hues
  2. You reluctantly take down the frames used for growing peas and put them back in the shed
  3. You're frantically making pickles, chutneys and jam to hoover up the rest of your harvest before the kitchen literally explodes with produce
  4. You need to wipe off the condensation from your car in the morning before going out
  5. You can ignore the moss in your lawn no longer as it's the only thing left
  6. Chrysanthemums and Cyclamen supersede the summer plants used in your pot displays
  7. Autumn digging reveals the onions and potatoes you missed during harvesting
  8. You can't go anywhere in the garden without walking through a host of giant cobwebs bedecked with stripy spiders
  9. The earth takes on a distinct decaying smell and there's a lovely golden light in the garden
  10. The cats are getting reluctant to go out in the morning
  11. You bring in the solar lamps and get out the waterproof seat covers
  12. The owls start hooting at bedtime
  13. You get a reminder about ordering spring bulbs and lots of attractive catalogues start plopping through the letter box
  14. Displays of goods for that event beginning with C start to appear in the shops and the garden centre
  15. You seriously contemplate buying a juicer/dehydrator/insert expensive gadget of your choice to cope with your harvest
  16. You're still behind with your gardening jobs
  17. The mosquitoes have moved into the house
  18. You seriously think about starting an RHS course or something similar to while away the dark evenings
  19. You become obsessed with muck and mulch - their creation, acquisition, storage and spreading
  20. It's time to collect/dry seeds and take advantage of the hedgerow harvest
  21. What else can you add to the list?

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Heritage Open Days: Cleveland Pools

Yesterday NAH and I took advantage of the gorgeous sunshine to find one of Bath's best kept secrets: England's oldest outdoor pool. Twixt the river and the railway, Cleveland Pools is the only Georgian example, dating back to 1815. When NAH and I first moved to the south-west in 1984, it was still open to the public, but closed shortly afterwards. Until a few years ago, it was being used as a trout farm.

The buildings are in a state of severe disrepair - it's in English Heritage's Buildings at Risk Register - but much of the complex is still visible. The main pool with its changing cabins was for the gentlemen: there was a tiny enclosed space housing one for the ladies and there's a separate childen's pool situated further up the hill. Apparently the spring-fed water was very cold and bathers used to leap into the adjacent river to warm up!

The pools aren't usually open, but are this weekend as part of the annual Heritage Open Days scheme. They're currently owned by the local council, but their sale to The Cleveland Pools Alliance is in the process of being agreed. The Alliance is hosting the weekend as an awareness/fundraising exercise and have plans for restoration of the pools to their former glory.

I particularly enjoyed overhearing a lady talking to her companion about bringing her children to the spot for picnics during the summer in the 1960s as it reminded me of similar childhood trips to Droitwich Lido. As the Alliance's display said: if towns with much smaller populations such as Droitwich and Shepton Mallet can support an outdoor pool, why not Bath?

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Tomato Troubles

Here's the sum total of my tomato crop this year - pathetic isn't it? It's marginally better than last year, which in turn was far better than the big fat zero from the year before. I had vowed not to grow any tomatoes this time, but the promised 'barbecue summer', plus a freebie 'Sungold' crumbled my defences and I grew some after all - four plants in total, the other three were 'Gardeners' Delight'.

They succumbed to tomato blight - yet again. I might as well give up growing tomatoes. I've tried the blight resistant varieties: they resisted for all of 10 extra days and didn't have much taste in my opinion. I've tried the aforementioned early ripening varieties too and I'm not keen on spraying Bordeaux Mixture over something I'm going to pick and eat. There's nowhere I can put a greenhouse, so I can't switch to growing them indoors where blight tends to be less of a problem.

But ohhhhhh, the taste of each of those few tomatoes in that tray: far superior to anything shop bought. It breaks my heart to think I might never have that taste again. Any ideas for a possible winning strategy next year?
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