Saturday, 18 December 2010

my letter did get published!

Very excited as Oxford Times have now published my letter regarding the closure of 20 libraries. And they didn't change the text. Don't read the letter also published, from Keith Mitchell*, unless you want to get really seriously pissed off...!

*leader of the Tory dominated County Council and all round bastard.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Tories now closing 20 local libraries

This is the letter I wrote to the Oxford Times, in relation to an article published on 2nd December, about the fact the County Council is going to close 20 local libraries. It wasn't published, but luckily a letter by someone else who made similar points was published.
The County Council is making library staff at 20 libraries around the County redundant, and threatening the communities with closure of these libraries unless volunteers come forward to replace paid staff.

The County Council should not be blindly accepting the cuts from central government. It should be fighting the cuts to keep important and already over-worked and underfunded staff and services such as libraries, schools, hospitals and social care, open and accessible to all. In fact, these services need more investment, not cuts. But our County Council is dominated by Tory ideology of ‘small government’.

The Tories are using 'Big Society' as a cover for their small government ideology. As expressed by volunteers themselves in last weeks’ article, these, like many other cuts planned for by the County Council, are jobs that require trained professionals.

And what will happen to all the staff who lose their library jobs? They will be forced to go on benefits, and then work for their benefit. I can see it now, trained library staff being forced to do a job they once were paid for, to now work as a ‘volunteer’ so they can keep their benefits. The so-called ‘Big Society’ isn’t about us all working together as Mr Cameron, his government and the Country Council claim, it’s about coercion and slave labour.
Julieanne Porter, Oxford
Just really pissed off at the ConDems. Thankfully UK Uncut is coming to the rescue and giving us a place to direct our anger and get out there and stop the cuts.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Winter visitors

As winter has come early, with snow on the ground in late November and going to work in -4 degrees, my spirits have lifted by a new visitor to my garden bird feeder.
Hummmm, time to steal the other birdies nuts...

Ummm, where are the nuts?

Ah-ha, there they are.

Don't ask me if it is a Lesser or Greater Spotted Woodpecker, I haven't got the foggiest!

BTW: so far this has been the only nut feeder that the blasted squirrel hasn't broken; it's broken 3 of the wire-type ones this year. In fact it seems to have given up and goes to the nut feeder closer to the house, which is good because I get to laugh at it's acrobatics in it's desparate attempt to get to the nuts. Must photograph it some time when I'm not laughing too much. tee hee.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Certificate in Permaculture Design

I'm a proud bunyip. On the weekend I completed my Permaculture Design Course and now have a Certificate in Permaculture Design.

I've learned so much from the course, especially the tutors Hannah, Phil & Pete and Peter, who have a phenomenal amount of knowledge and a generous willingness to share and 're-explain' when you are a bit slow! I also learned much from other course participants who come from a wide variety of backgrounds with an enormous breadth of skills.

Unlike organic gardening which just focuses on the gardening side of growing and nature, permaculture is much more holistic, designing ways of living that is sustainable and appropriate for the environment in which you live. I like permaculture as it brings the many aspects of my life together: gardening, nature, feminism, political activism and designing sustainable future. It has a very positive approach to everything and sees problems as solutions waiting to happen!

Each participant had to do a design and present it in order to complete the course. A couple of class-members were very brave with rather large designs. Toni, focused on a permaculture design for the whole of Florence Park, a large park that my house backs onto. And Sarah presented a design for a community garden/orchard for her village, Blewbury.

My design was much smaller in scale. I did a design for one end of my back garden, the 'kitchen garden'. At the moment it comprises of beds around the edge, a crooked-in-much-need-of-repair fence, and large strawberry patch in the middle, (the kitchen garden starts just past the arch):

As it is the hottest part of the back garden, getting sun all year round, I knew I could do more with it to maxamize the yield of a not very large space. My design aim is to create a productive and attractive space in which I can grow some veg and also relax and chat with friends, and to include a greenhouse to use to trial a small veg plant nursery.

The idea for the latter, which is my kind of little business idea, is to sell the veg plants on at the local farmers market in Spring. I've liked the idea of having my own plant nursery for a while, and earlier this year discovered that there are more people wanting to buy veg seedlings than are available. So I want to trial the idea of a veg plant nursery (which, by the way, will be with heritage varieties, not awful F1 patented we-own-your-DNA-and-the-air-you-breathe varieties) and see whether it might be a viable scheme to scale-up more professionally at a later time.

I did a base map of our whole property (left), then an overlaid micro-climate map (right), specifically focusing on the sun and shade patterns throughout the year:

With Kevin's help (because I cannot for the life of me do this kind of math and he has a Physics degree so why not tap into that skill?!), I also did a site elevation map.

From the elevation map you can see that the last bit to the right is not that effected by shade. This is where the kitchen garden will be. And here is the plan for the new design:

You probably cannot see the writing, but the little kind of rectangle above 'D' is a fold down seat. Fold out for sit on when enjoying the space with friends, fold down when I'm working on that bed and need to get to the middle easily. Voila!

The pergola will have grape vines growing up either side of the seat in the centre. Being deciduous, these will give light to that area in winter where I'll be able to grow some winter salads, and shade and fruit in summer. E - the east facing bed, using the principles of a forest garden, will probably have a couple of hazelnut bushes, some lower growing fruit for the middle layer, and low growing herbs such as thyme for the bottom layer.

I'll be starting to work on implementing the design in January. In the first instance, I'll be using bits of planks and breeze blocks from skips to make the greenhouse shelving, and purchase some clear plastic from B&Q - this will make a temporary greenhouse. It allows me to trial it and the veg plant nursery out with minimal expense, to see how it works. The final greenhouse will be built bespoke, along with the pergola, but probably not for another year due to financial reasons (!). I am hoping to build the raised beds and paths during next year (depending on Kevin's and my time). I will go for the same type of raised beds that is in the front garden. These look good, and give some coherence to different parts of the overall garden space on our property.

Importantly from a permaculture perspective, if the plant nursery doesn't work, it won't effect the overall design. I still want and need a greenhouse, and the bespoke greenhouse will be designed to have adjustable shelving that can be moved around. I'll be able to put tomatoes and aubergines in pots and grow them in the greenhouse, giving a longer and hotter fruiting period, and adjust the shelving so that at the plants get bigger, there will be more space for them.

Another reason for holding off doing the permanent greenhouse and pergola is that we also need to repair or replace the fence, and it of course makes sense to do that before building these two permanent items. The raised bed in the middle and the paths are not dependent on the state of the fence. And that's what the course taught me. The incredibly useful value of carefully studying your site over time, thinking about every element to be considered and resources available, so that you implement a well thought-out design that is practical, sustainable, and beautiful.

So yep, I'm a happy bunyip. Got my design, got my certificate, got a well-rounded outlook to go forward with. It's all good.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Garlic varieties - November 2010 update

I finally got around to pulling together some notes and photos from my garlic harvest. Rather than writing a long blog about each variety, I'm linking here to my Garlic Varieties record sheet (Nov 2010 version). This has a photo of each variety I have grown, plus comments about using each in cooking.

This is a work-in-progress, as I haven't cooked with all the varieties yet! I'll update every now and then. I'll also be keeping a record of the storage viability of each. Many of the ones I am growing are Hardnecks, which don't necessarily have long storage traits (Softnecks store for longer*). I found it hard to track down information on most of the varieties quite difficult to non-existent, so hopefully keeping a record of how I have found growing, storing and cooking with each variety might be of use to others.

When it comes to taste, remember, this is all just my personal opinion, and my taste buds may be quite different to yours!

Thanks again to Patrick from Bifurcated Carrots for giving me many of the varieties that I now have to play with!

And here is the list of varieties you'll find in my record sheet:
  • Arno
  • Burgundy
  • Estonian Red
  • Georgia Fire
  • Georgian Crystal
  • Gypsy Red
  • Irkutsk
  • Martin's Heirloom
  • Metechi
  • Music
  • Persian Star
  • Purple Glazer
  • Rosewood
  • Silver Rose
  • Solent Wight
  • Susan Delafield
  • Vekat Czech
*For more info about Hardnecks and Softnecks, garlic varieties, pests and diseases, and storage, I find Bifurcated Carrots (search 'garlic') and the Boundary Garlic Farm websites useful.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Garden visit: Audley End

Last weekend we were in Cambridge visiting Audrey, and the three of us ventured out to Audley End to enjoy some late autumn sun and see the gardens. As you will see from the photos, the sun disappeared by the time we got to Audley End! However, it was lovely to be out, even if it isn't really a winter garden.

I was most interested in Audley End because of the Kitchen Garden which is run by Garden Organic, of whom I am a member. Of course, it wasn't exactly the right time to see a kitchen garden, being the end of the growing season...

So I'll clearly need to go back in summer. I still found some things of interest though. I was fascinated to find some apple trees that still had all their leaves on, like it was early autumn and not nearly the end of autumn.

This is a Wanstall Pippin, c. 1800s. I don't know anything about why it still had all it's leaves, when almost all other apple trees had lost theirs.

I was also intrigued by the clearly very old grape vine. It's base and roots were growing on the outside of the greenhouse, with the rest of it, ie. the fruit-producing parts of the plant, on the inside.

Turning to the rest of the garden (ie. non-kitchen) at Audley End. I'm not someone who likes topiary. As someone who is a bit of a control freak, topiary is an step beyond even my control freaking ways. There is something about the deliberate attempts to squeeze nature into oversized representations of rabbits and Roman columns that I find a little frightening. Some would say all gardening is an attempt at controlling nature. There is some truth in that, but good gardeners, in my view, work with nature, not torture it. So given my opinion of topiary, it was interesting to see Audley End's interpretation of a hedge-come-topiary.

Although I wouldn't want it in my house (ok, the hedge is bigger than my house, and garden...), I found it interesting, kind of arty and tactile, in the way it's been shaped. It's not quite topiary, but it's more than a hedge. I'm not quite sure what I think, to be honest, but it didn't bring a chill to my bones, which is what topiary usually does.

The parkland at Audley End was designed by, yawn, Capability Brown. I have little time for the 18th century landscape movement, of which Brown typifies. I'm sure admitting to dislike of Brown and his ilk is probably sacrilegious amongst much of the English gardening world, but there you go, so be it. It bores me. Stowe - big yawn. So it's not surprising that the part of the garden that I really enjoyed (outside the kitchen garden of course), was the Elysian Garden. I suspect that was because it was the most 'natural' part of the parkland.

At one end of the Elysian Garden is the 'Temple of Concord', seen here graced by Audrey's and my presence.

However, it was the stream and autumn leaves that really appealed. I suspect this is because it could be a view of any pretty part of the English landscape in autumn, that I love.

What is it about autumn leaves that is so beautiful?

Behind the house, (or is it the front?), is the parterre. I read it was a must-see, but I didn't feel that way. I think the beds of not-yet-flowering polyanthus rather put me against it. I don't like polyanthus. Give me primula vulgaris any day. I think they really should add some plants with structure to help hold interest during the late-autumn and winter months. Under the bluey-grey sky I found it a little bleak and flat.

The verdict. Apart from the 'interesting' hedge, and the 'natural' Elysian Garden, I found the parkland rather uninspiring. Though that's not surprising given I'm fairly anti-Mr Brown and his lot. However, even at the end of season I still found things of interest in the kitchen garden and I do want to go back and see it in summer. They grow quite a lot of heritage vegetables and I would be interested in seeing them in full bloom and fruiting.

I picked up a couple of very interesting looking heritage pumpkins/squash from the Audley End shop. The shop sadly didn't know what varieties they were, so I've taken photos of them and will send them to HSL for identification. I'm going to make lots of yummy pumpkins dishes, gratins, roasted, soup, and will save the seeds and try growing them myself next year.

Despite the parkland and parterre, the final scene as we were leaving, was quite peaceful, and reflected the point that we did have a very enjoyable few hours walking around Audley End.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Yoghurt lid day

Merlyn loves yoghurt*. He cannot hear us call out to him to come in at night, but can hear a yoghurt pot opening from a mile off.

Of course, you are not really supposed to give cats dairy, even though they really love it. So what we do is just give him the yoghurt lid. About once a week, when I've finished my breakfast yoghurt pot, rather than scraping the yoghurt off the lid for me, I give it to Merlyn. Merlyn loves yoghurt lid day.

 Mmmm, yummy yoghurt

Hey - it's trying to get away and there is still some yoghurt left!

Get that damn camera out of my face and give me more yoghurt!!!

*which for some bizarre reason, English people call "yog-it".

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Garden visit: Savill Garden

For my birthday this year Kevin and I took the day off and visited the Savill Garden down on the Surrey-Berkshire border. As my birthday in England corresponds with autumn, it's become a 'tradition' to visit autumn gardens as my treat for the day.

Savill Garden is purely an ornamental garden, i.e. no kitchen gardens or veg patches. Autumn seems to have only just arrived from a tree point of view in the last week or so, somehow seems later than previous years. We had a cold snap early-mid October, maybe that slowed the trees down. However, plenty of the Savill Garden trees did put on quite a show. Here's my favourite, a composition of the different colours of autumn in southern England.

It is so rich and warm, it takes the chill out of the approaching winter air.

Next to the Rose Garden was beds of Molina caerulea 'Heidebraut' which I found especially beautiful.

My garden isn't big enough for a whole beds of the grass, but I'm sure I'll be able to fit in a clump or two. Kevin took a 'Gwenfar in her natural habitat' pic...

The biggest surprise for me, and my favourite area of the garden, was the rose garden. I'm not keen on roses or rose gardens. Don't get me wrong, scented roses can be beautiful, but on the whole, they require way too much attention. Between black spot and aphids, and the fact they often only look good for a few weeks in a year, I consider them more effort than they are worth. I love flowers, but I want them to largely look after themselves whilst I focus most of my energies on growing veg. Roses don't really meet that criteria. The Savill Garden have done something interesting though. They have mixed the roses with grasses, such as the Molina, and Miscanthus sinensis 'ferner osten' and with great effect.

I'm curious about what they have done, in that the roses are quite bushy, instead of the usual sticks with lots of soil showing, and they are still flowering even though we have had some hard frosts. Though maybe they didn't have the hard frosts in Surrey that we had in Oxfordshire in October?

They also had this wonderful viewing platform, which gave great vistas over the garden, as above, and looked great from the paths looking back at it.

Kevin and I had a bit of a Titanic moment when on the platform. Minus the iceberg.

As well as foliage, autumn tends to bring the bark of many trees to the fore. I was rather taken with the bark on this Arbutus x andrachnoides.

Although Savill Garden doesn't have a veg garden, they had a great display of pumpkins and squashes, some of which were grown by local children. After having such a poor pumpkin harvest myself (a total of one medium and one small pumpkin), I was in a fit of jealously about this bunch!

The Savill Garden is a good autumn garden to visit if you are in the area, and I really recommend it just on the rose/grass garden itself. It was relaxing, I enjoyed turning 42 again, and we had some fun with the grasses.

October round-up

October was rather busy with work, and my back continued to give me problems, hence the lack of blogging. Here is a round-up on a couple of things that I/we got up to.

Earlier in the month Kevin, Jackie and I went to Waterperry Garden's Apple day. Apart from taking one of their tours around the orchard and learning about the process of making apple juice, we (Jackie & I) also bumped into an ex-Fam (ex-Oxfam) friend, Alison. Alison has set up her own small business, Felt Special, and she makes rugs from the fleece of rare breed sheep and lovely hand-felted wool and silk scarves.

I bought a scarf not dissmilar to the one showing here, only mine is more teal/purple. It looks smashing on me!

Kevin and I were delighted to catch up with our friend Suad, who was over from Santa Fe. Kevin originally worked with Suad's partner, Scott, at CSIRO in Melbourne. We've all moved on, us to the UK and Suad & Scott, first to San Antonio and now to Santa Fe, but managed to stay in touch and manage to catch up once every few years.
Scott's schedule meant we couldn't catch up this time, he had various scientific conferences to attend, but it was great to see Suad again. Just as cheery and lovely as always, and doesn't she complement my garden!

My reading group was at our place this month, and it was interesting seeing 11 people plus cat squeeze into our lounge room.

Merlyn was quite determined to sit in his usual place despite the number of people trying to crowd him out.

It was my birthday on 28th October, and I turned 42 again. Again?! Yes. I've decided to stay 42 until I get to 50, because 42 is the answer to life, universe and everything it means I'M THE ANSWER to life, universe and everything. Cannot fault that logic, right?!

Kevin and I took the day off and we visited the Savill Garden. It's becoming a bit of a tradition that for my birthday we go and visit a garden. Last year it was Painshill and Westonbirt.

I'll write a separate blog about the garden visit itself, but I can say we had a lovely day and suitably celebrated being 42 again.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Food Speculation and Worst Lobby Awards

Back in June I mentioned WDM's new campaign on food speculation, Stop Betting on Hunger. I've been meaning to write more about it, but have been so busy with work and my naughty back playing up, that I've not had a chance to blog much recently, let alone about this campaign. Anyway, now I don't have to, because Kevin has blogged about it, and as he has covered it so well, I figure it's better to direct you to his blog about Goldman Sachs and food speculation.

His blog conveniently links to the EU Worst Lobby Awards, where you can vote for the worst lobbyist in the EU. And rather unsurprisingly, who turns up on the list of Worst EU Lobbyists, but Goldman Sachs. I urge you to vote because by being part of the Worst Lobby Awards, you are helping to highlight the issue of the behind-the-scenes lobbying by corporations and their industry bodies in the EU. And how fun would it be to see Goldman Sachs trying to avoid being given an award for worst lobbyist!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

West Papua - Cameron replies

Back in July I blogged about the West Papuan's who hoped that David Cameron might be the hero they were looking for. Cameron let the West Papuan independence movement believe he supported their aims. I finally received a response from Cameron's Foreign Office*, via my MP Andrew Smith, a copy of which I'm inserting here.

Sadly, though as I expected, Cameron and his government have no intention of supporting the West Papuan's in their call for independence. The letter makes it clear:

"The UK supports the territorial integrity of Indonesia and does not support the calls for independence of the provinces of Papua and West Papua. This has been the policy of successive governments and it remains unchanged by the current Government."

So no, Cameron isn't going to do anything about the terrible situation in West Papua. And Indonesia can continue to attack and destroy West Papuan's and their homes, or just outright murder them.

*The letter comes from Jeremy Brown, Minister of State, on behalf of Cameron and his dodgy government.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Harvest Fame

After blogging about the Harvest Festival on Sunday, I was called up by the Oxford Mail (no correlation, I doubt the Oxford Mail reads my blog!) and interviewed me about the festival. An article is going in tomorrows paper, and even has a dorky photo of me. It's already online. My first 5 minutes of fame used up...

My one gripe is that I'm NOT a Miss. Ugh! It's MS PORTER. And yes, it does matter. I'll define myself, thank you very much. grrrr

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Harvest Festival

Yesterday was the harvest festival at Barracks Lane Community Garden. I don't know why I haven't written more about the garden before, given I love it and I work for it two days a week! Somehow I've never got around to it. Anyway, I'm working as a freelancer roughly 2 days a week, particularly working on their Local Food Programme, ie. organising workshops such as how to keep chickens or bee-keeping, and events such as plant swaps and yesterdays harvest festival. It's basically my dream job, someone paying me to work and talk about gardens and growing! How cool is that?!

I pretty much organised everything, and was lucky enough to have some great volunteers to help pull it together on the day. My lovely friend Jackie, seen here on the right, helped out with the refreshments for a couple of hours. As well as tea, coffee and biscuits, we had baked potatoes, baked in the garden's tandoor oven, and had gorgeous carrot and coriander soup from the Magic Cafe (great veggie cafe in East Oxford).

One of the most successful parts of the day was making apple juice. Lots of people brought apples from their gardens and allotments, and we were kindly loaned the use of a 'scrattle' and press from Braziers Park.

Making apple juice is fairly straight-forward. Cut up the apples (eating/juicing apples, not cooking apples) a bit then throw the pieces into a scrattle (or scratter). This helps break it down to pulp, which you then put in the apple press, press down and voila! Fresh juice. And it tasted amazing. The perfect mix of apple sweet, but not too sweet, no sickly over sugaring as you get from shop-bought apple juice. Kids really enjoy it and I loved seeing them use the scrattle then get excited about drinking the juice they made. It is a very effective way of bringing local food to them in a fun and healthy way.

We also had a 'fruit and veg swap'. This is something I made up, it came to me when on holiday in Shropshire in July. The idea was that people would bring some of the fruit and veg they had grown, or turned into jam etc, and swap it with something else they didn't have. We collected it all together for a couple of hours, then at 2pm did the 'swap'. It was quite lively, lots of people chatting to each other. I had brought some carrots, tomatoes and garlic to swap, and luckily picked up some Damson and Apple jam. Damson jam, my favourite!

The little round carrots in the picture above is Paris Market, which I grew for the first time this year. They are great for pots as they are short and wide rather than long and thin. I was quite excited to pull them up and find they looked just like the picture in the Organic Gardening Catalogue. Score!

I also gave away some of my garlic and managed to enthuse quite a few people are how easy they are to grow. Most people don't seem to realise that you plant one clove, and get a whole new bulb with lots of cloves the following year. So it was fun to chat about this with people, and some seemed very keen to get growing. See, I get paid to talk about growing garlic!!!

We also had a winter veg plant swap. This pretty much turned into a plant giveaway. For some reason most people find the idea of plant swaps odd. It seems if money isn't involved, people don't know what to think. My idea was rather than the usual plant swap, which is usually help in April/May and includes lots of plants to grow over summer, that we have a 'winter veg plant swap', just focusing on plants that grow over the cooler months and can be harvested in winter. So I brought along a bunch of seedlings including spinach, chard, kale and winter lettuces. Although people were shy initially about taking plants, I sweet talked many around and again got some people keen about growing some veg for winter.

At the end of the day, I was pretty much shattered, and still feel pretty tired. But also very happy. We were blessed with stunning autumn weather and lots of happy chatty people, and yummy food. I wrote a short press release where you can read a little more about the day, and uploaded some further pictures on the garden's Flickr album.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Pretty picture

I've not have time or the energy to blog in the last week or two, so here's a pretty picture of something* flowering in my garden at the moment.

Don't even ask me about the lottie, I haven't been about to get there for nearly 3 weeks now (been ill with a virus). I dread to see how it is looking. Hoping I haven't lost my beloved potatoes to blight. Hoping to get down there on Sunday to survey the damage.

*Cyclamen. I think it is Cyclamen hederifolium. I've had a particularly good display this year. And we can see them from the kitchen window as we do the dishes. *smile*

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Front garden - brief update

Since completing the redesign of the front garden back in April, it's been coming along slowly but nicely. I've already had in the raised beds broad beans and lettuce growing, eaten and removed and since sowed more vegetables, such as kale, spinach and chard. My pear trees are growing well, but being only 1 year maidens, they don't really show up much in photos yet! However, you can see the lovely Merlyn, having a snooze by the rosemary.

I'm pretty pleased with how it's going, and have been most gratified by people passing by stopping to say how much they like what I've done. I just hope it inspires them to grow veg!

One of my favourite flowers, for it's beauty and long season, Helenium 'Moerheim Beauty', has been flowering non-stop since June. I've dead-headed it occasionally and it just keeps sending up more and more shoots and new flowers. Here it is. What a beauty!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Garlic harvest

Dug up all my garlic on the weekend and its now drying in the Lemony. As you can see, I've carefully separated out each variety so I can continue to collate information about each. I plan on saving the ones with the best qualities to plant next year. That will be this year as all these are autumn planting varieties. Or if they aren't, I've made them so!

However, before I save them, I have to taste each one. So the next stage will be trying each one out with a couple of my basic recipes, such as a simple pasta sauce, to see how they taste and compare. So only the varieties I really like, and which have show good characteristics will actually be planted next year.

The other qualification will be storage ability. As I am allergic to and intensely dislike onion (I guess 'cause it makes me ill...), garlic is my substitute and my aim is to grow enough to keep me in garlic throughout the year, so I don't have to buy the bland shop-brought varieties. It's hard to believe that you could buy garlic with so little taste, but multinationals have achieved this with gusto.

Will update you on the taste testing in due course!

Friday, 13 August 2010

The Potato and Tomato must have - Blightwatch!

Thanks to VP for alerting us gardeners to Blightwatch. If you grow potatoes  (me, 17 varieties this year!) or tomatoes and worry about blight, then this is the service for you. Read all about it on VP's blog and then sign up.

Ok, maybe not much use to my Aussie and Kiwi pals, who probably dream of having such exotic problems like blight whilst they battle drought after drought. But for those of us in the UK and Northern Europe, just the info we need!

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Garden visit: Wollarton Old Hall Garden

The second garden visit of our Shropshire holiday was to Wollerton Old Hall Garden in North Shropshire. Unlike the Dower House Garden, Wollerton is more like a pleasure garden. For me, the difference is that Dower House Garden includes food production, where Wollerton does not. However, as much as I prefer gardens that include fruit and vegetables, it does not follow that I do not enjoy pleasure gardens; I do! And Wollerton gave plenty of pleasure.

 Vista from the Lanhydrock Garden back through the Sundial Garden, towards the house.

There has probably been a garden at Wollerton for 500 years, but the current design began in the 1980's. This is a garden of vistas and garden rooms. Vistas such as the one above, which dissolve into rooms as you move forward into, as depicted in the photograph of the Lanhydrock Garden and Rill Garden's below.

 Lanhydrock garden, detail

 Rill Garden

Although I do not have the inclination, time, or money for designing and maintaining large borders myself, I do admire those who do. Wollerton's main perennial border was lovely.

Wollerton is also a plant persons garden, and for me, it's collection of Salvia's gave great delight. Blue and blue-purple Salvia's are figure amongst my favourite flowers.
 Salvia patens (Cambridge Blue?)

 Salvia nemorosa variety

mauve Salvia patens variety

Other plants I also feel I must obtain for my garden include:
Dahlia 'Bishop of Auckland', enjoyed by hover flies too

Dahlia 'Ragged Robin'

Clematis 'Black Prince'

Echinacea 'White Swan'
Kevin and I found ourselves wandering around, stopping for a cup of tea and scones, then wandering around again only to discover something we missed the first time around. I suspect if I went back the next day, there would have been further plants and glimpses to discover.

I do feel Wollerton could have done with a lovely vegetable garden, I'm sure they would do it quite beautifully! But that's just my personal preference for gardens to also be productive. Wollerton is definitely a pleasurable garden to visit and I would return again.