Archive for the ‘Thoughts, Musings & Miscellania’ Category

Education with a conscience

Nothing to do with gardening but a this a great article by a friend of mine who is a journalist out in Indonesia:

 

Education with a conscience.

When the weather brings both wonder and despair

As someone who gardens for a living the past few weeks have been particularly trying; the unseasonably warm weather in March resulted in a rush to start getting on with jobs in clients’ gardens and a nice early tan but since then, due to rain of Biblical proportions, it has been difficult to get on with a number of jobs where clearing beds of weeds has been the main task.

In one instance the constant rains of April and early May turned turned the heavy clay into a claggy, gloopy mess from which it was near impossible to extricate anything successfully; stepping on the beds was possible though highly unadvisable as it resulted in rusty water oozing out from within the clay and severe compaction.  Where there has been the odd sunny interlude or dry day I have pressed on, juggling clients according to need and always hoping that tomorrow the weather will hold.

In my own garden the ground is largely saturated and in some places the water is thigh deep and requires wellys to wade through.  A clump of three large Delphinium that were looking stately and vigorous have been ravaged by a combined onslaught of slugs and snails (mainly the latter, of which there are so many this year, a consequence perhaps of not having any sustained period of cold over the winter); two have been almost entirely taken down to within a couple of inches from the ground, my only consolation being that they have had in effect an early ‘Chelsea Chop’; the remaining plant is still standing and I wake every morning hoping that it has made it through another night without suffering the same fate as its brethren.

Mutilated Delphinium

But all is not as ghastly as it sounds and indeed there is much to be enjoyed: the water that sits and glistens on the leaves of Alchemilla and Euphorbia is enchanting,

Euphorbia characias subsp. 'Wulfenii'

the vibrant and invigorating colour of the first Alliums never fails but to leave one slightly overawed and enraptured,

Allium hollandicum 'Purple Sensation'

the gentle flowers of Polemonium ‘Bressingham Purple’ are by contrast shy and timorous but none-the-less beguiling

Polemonium 'Bressingham Purple'

and the sun piercing a stormy sky fills the body and soul with an elemental energy that is drawn from myth and swirling history.

Sun following a storm

Weather infects our moods, both caresses and lashes at our senses and dictates the labour that we may or may not undertake.  It reminds us, or atleast it should do, of our fragility, mortality, and our position as caretakers rather than as masters of this world that we share with so much other life.

March, the month of so much

The garden is alive with activity: on the warmer days bees are out in force looking for early nectar, bumping into me as they go; seeds are being sown at a frenetic pace ; a new border has been made on the edge of the drive using topsoil, garden compost and mushroom compost (that has been sitting around since last autumn), planted up and mulched with bark chippings; the first autumn sown sweet peas have been planted out as they were outgrowing the root trainers and starting to get rather unruly; pruning of Cornus, Buddjela, Hydrangea, grasses etc. has all finally been completed … the list of jobs that need to be done seems to grow far more quickly than I actually get things done!

On top of all of this life is taking a new and exciting turn; I am now working a couple of days week at Perryhill Nurseries in Hartfield, East Sussex.  Despite having only done this for a few weeks so far I am learning a great deal about plants that I think it would be difficult to pick up just from reading books and pottering about in my own garden and the garden of clients …. yes indeed, clients! I am now fully set up as a gardener (a.k.a Crafting Your Garden) and enjoying the challenges that this raises.  Today I spent 4 hours pruning a mass of Cornus and the list of things to be getting on with week-by-week grows with each visit.

Gardening for others is quite different to gardening for oneself; all those little shortcuts that you might take in your own garden you certainly don’t do in a client’s garden, everything must be completed to the highest standard.  I also think that it takes time to become completely comfortable both with the client and with their garden; it is necessary to watch and to learn how the client interacts with their garden, which parts and plants they most value, and to try and understand what their garden means to them.

So there we have it, short and sweet as I think most posts will have to be from now on as the season gets into full swing. Happy gardening to all!

Pollinators and wildflowers: a timely reminder from Sarah Raven

For some time now there has been increasing concern about the plight of the Bumblebee but this extends further to include pollinators in general, wildflowers and the insects that rely on these flowers.  Sarah Raven’s BBC2 programme ‘Bees, Butterflies and Blooms,’ the first episode of which aired last night, is a timely and important reminder of the swathes of wildflower habitats that have been lost in this country during the course of the last century and the detrimental impact that this has had on pollinators and other insects, let alone the survival of wildflower species and the landscape as a whole.

As with so many environmental catastrophes created by mankind, it is only when we are at a state of crisis that we begin to try and repair the damage.  It can only be hoped that campaigns such as Sarah Raven’s and others start to really get into the public consciousness and cause a change in the general attitude towards how we manage our environments, both urban and rural.

It is shocking to think that it is in rural areas where the problem is greatest; monoculture farming, the removal of hedgerows, and the use of pesticides is nothing but destructive and it is time that such practices were addressed more forcefully than they currently are.  We can no longer plead ignorance about their impact.

Of course there needs to be some sort of economic benefit for farmers, otherwise they just won’t get on with planting wildflower strips on the margins of their fields to increase biodiversity (this is a reality that unfortunately can’t be escaped; money seems always to trump any environmental concern); education on the subject, at all levels, doubtless needs to be improved also.

The other despairing thing about the programme was the palpable reluctance of many of the folk of Creaton, Northamptonshire to give over even a small part of the vast village green to wildflowers (should a Parish Council really be able to delay or even completely reject a plan of this kind?).  It seems that unless a TV camera is on-hand such things are easily swept under the carpet.  The old photograph of the green full and alive was far more appealing to my mind than the perfectly clipped state the village green currently exists in.  Hopefully the villagers will now press forward and do more and be a beacon to others to do the same.

So there we have it.  Simple really: learn, campaign and practice what you preach and maybe attitudes and practices will change.  The RHS has developed the ‘Perfect for Pollinators’ label after being approached by Sarah Raven to support her campaign.  A full list of these plants is available as a PDF.

Other sites to look at:

Bumblebee Conservation Trust

National Hedgelaying Society

Plantlife

Article on Biodiversity and Agriculture from Global Food Security

Broadwater Warren RSPB Reserve

Broadwater Warren sits in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), close to the village of Groombridge, and for many years has been the site of a large conifer plantation with only a few pockets of the natural heathland remaining.

 

Grasses at Broadwater Warren

 

In the 1990s it was proposed that a substantial landfill site should be built at Broadwater Warren but, thanks to the tireless efforts of the community group Groombridge and Eridge Alternatives to Rubbish (GEAR), this was rebuffed and the site remained a place for both wildlife and walkers.

In 2007 the RSPB acquired the site with the aim, over a 10 year period, of ‘restor[ing] the area to its original habitat of a wildlife-rich mosaic of heathland and native woodland species with some clumps of pines, a wet woodland, a rare woodland mire and forest ponds.’

To get an idea of what the Warren may look like in years to come and what wildlife and wild plants one might hope to find, we can compare it to the Ashdown Forest, set further south and in the heart of the High Weald AONB, the two main ecological habitats of which are heathland and woodland.  It is home to a variety of birds, mammals, insects, plants, and more and I, for one, am greatly looking forward to seeing Broadwater Warren grow into something similar.

 

Formerly either side of the path was enclosed by conifers, now the view goes on and on.

 

The work to restore a such habitats to Broadwater Warren has begun in earnest and much of the site looks drastically different today to a year or so ago; vast swathes of conifers have been removed to give the heathland and other woodland species the conditions necessary to take hold.  This does mean that in the short term much of the Warren looks akin to no-man’s-land but this is a temporary state and it will not take long for the scene to change.

 

Where once there were only conifers ...

 

Should anyone question what the RSPB are doing it is best to imagine what the site would have been like if the landfill bid had been successful.  Thankfully we can look forward to a restored heathland, a cornucopia of wildlife and wild plants, and the comfort of knowing that this land has been saved in perpetuity.

Liebster Blog Award

Liebster Blog Award

From time-to-time you see other bloggers posting about an award that they’ve received; well today it is my turn and I have to thank Karen over at The Garden Smallholder for her kindness in bestowing upon me the Liebster Blog Award (from what I can fathom Liebster is German for dearest, beloved or favourite), an award given by bloggers to up and coming blogs with less than 200 followers.

I’ve been blogging for about a year now and if I ever hit 200 followers I think I’d fall over, get back up, then fall over again!  This is my first award and I suspect my last so I will enjoy it.  As with many things in life, however, there are conditions; nothing too onerous, I just need to do the following:

1. Copy and paste the award on your blog. (As seen above)
2. Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them. Tick.

3. Choose five other blogs to award with less than 200 followers and leave a comment for them.  So, who to choose? There are three blogs that I particularly enjoy and that  I know are still posting regularly (I hope the awards committee won’t punish me for not choosing five!);  what I can’t tell you, however, is if they have less than 200 followers or if they may have received this award before, but never mind that, please have a look and enjoy:

 

Florist in the Forest

The Anxious Gardener

My Hesperides Garden

 

To those who I have nominated for the award please don’t feel obliged to accept or to disperse it further as I know that this is time consuming, but do enjoy your award!!!

New tools … new start?

Now I’m not one for shopping in the sales; past experience has taught me that most of what is on offer is trash and that trying to shop in the sales is to witness human beings very possibly at their worst.  The internet, however, has changed all this and I can now find bargains whilst sitting in the comfort of my own home, looking specifically for what I want rather than through what is piled on tables and racks.

And what did I want? Tools of course! I’ve been after decent hedge shears and lopers for some time and after doing a bit of research decided on some made by Bahco.  Next was to find what I wanted at the right price.  Having looked at a few websites the best price I could get was through My Tool Shed, not a site that I’ve come across before but one that I’ll be using again I’m sure.

New tools ... new start?

And what is the new start I here you ask?  The book might give the game away, Paul Power’s ‘Start & Run a Gardening Business,’ one that I would highly recommend to anyone thinking of setting up for themselves.  I’m not yet up and running, still doing the research and planning to make sure that I start on a sound footing.

The reason for the intended move is twofold: firstly I have felt for sometime that my current career isn’t really going anywhere and that I’d like to be my own boss and to work doing something that I truly enjoy, namely gardening, and work outdoors rather than at a desk; the second thing that has encouraged me is the recent hike in the rail season ticket to London (now just short of £4,000, about 18% of my salary) coupled with a 5% pay decrease that I had to take last year.

Commuting to London to sit at a desk doing something that isn’t really going anywhere becomes senseless.  And so, readers, ‘Crafting Your Garden’ is born (the observant amongst you will have noticed the spin on my surname!) and hopefully in the coming few months we will have lift off, assuming that I don’t lose my nerve or that I’m not talked out of it.   Watch this space.

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