Thursday, June 09, 2005

Kew - inspirational!

Yes, we were at Kew last weekend this was my first visit this year and, as usual, it didn’t disappoint! We timed the day very well. Just as we were enjoying cake and tea from the cafeteria (ah, you can’t appreciate Kew on an empty stomach!) we were approached by Bill enquiring whether we would like to join him for a guided tour around the grounds – whilst taking in the Dale Chihuly exhibition currently on show. Would we mind? No, not at all Bill! Over our two hour tour we learnt a lot about Bill and the Royal Botanic Gardens…

In true Irish style Bill regaled us with stories from his life and the Gardens. It was a privilege to have had such an enthusiastic guide, so passionate about the work Kew is involved in. We learnt about the academic, investigative and conservation work that Kew is committed to. The history of the Gardens is pretty interesting too! For instance the Princess of Wales conservatory is not named after Princess Diana but, Augusta, Princess of Wales who establish a Botanical Garden on a 9 acre plot back in 1751.

I highly recommend a trip to west London for a lovely day out… and see if you can catch Bill!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Garden giants

Niall and I feasted on Jerusalem artichoke at the end of last year. Relieved to be able to pull up all the twisted, mangled stalks that we had been threatening to remove every week since mid summer! The tubers were delicious, if a bit knobbly! I thought that I had dug them all up for the dinner table. But no, they are back again and have multipled? After consulting with Niall’s sister, Sinead – who originally provided the artichokes, they will be receiving a trim once 1m in height instead of turning into towers that keel over at the first strong wind. Better get my secateurs out soon. I guess this means Jerusalem artichoke is back on the menu!

The other giant in the garden is the aptly named giant hollyhock… this perennial has the ability to reach the stratosphere! I (reluctantly) removed all the established plants we had by the apple tree earlier this year as they were covered in rust. Again, it appears that I didn’t catch all of them… there are two plants starting their bid for vertical dominance. I’ve continued removing all leaves showing the unmistakable signs of rust just in case it starts to spread.

My foxgloves have been basking in their glory for the last couple of weeks, columns of pink and white attracting plenty of attention from the bees and me! I can’t help to stop and admire their tubular flowers and mottled colouring. Then invariably a bee appears and I’m detained even longer. What a great distraction!

Friday, June 03, 2005

Our amphibian resident

Hey our toad is back, that or it’s his offspring… He (I tend to think of the toad as a ‘he’) appears from the lemon balm which, I guess, offers a roomy, and fragrant, abode. It helps when the lemon balm is adjacent to one of Burt’s piles of stuff which houses zillions of gastropods the toad’s favourite snack!

Niall enjoys stomping on the snails (slugs are a little bit more difficult to squish) along the path, for the toad to munch on. Well it’s either the toad or slugs chomping away. I don’t mind which, because even if it’s the slugs they are then leaving my plants alone!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Purchases from SW3

After our exhausting circuit of the GP Dee and I decided to find our wallets and switch from observer to consumer. We already had an idea of what we were after. I thought it best only to buy plants that I had already grown from seed… We loved the aquilegia display by ‘Three Counties Nurseries’ and the seeds that I bought are Mixed Barlow – the smaller variety. They are gorgeous! I have some cultivated varieties in the garden that are big and blousy but I fancied something a little more delicate.

Ah the foxgloves on ‘The Botanic Nursery’ stand were magnificent towers full of flowers. The colours ranged from deep pink to white to an almost creamy green. I decided on the Digitalis pur. ‘Pam’s Choice’ which will be white flowers with dark throats growing to 30cm (hopefully!). We also picked up some more foxglove seeds from the ‘The Royal College of Pathologists’ in the Lifelong Learning in the Garden section. That was a really interesting and informative stand providing examples of where plant extracts are used in a clinical setting. From the Sunflower Street Gardens we picked up some sunflower seeds (of course!).

Unfortunately I can’t remember where we found the poppy seeds but looking forward to seeing them in the ground. There was a lone poppy the first year we moved in, under the apple tree, and I haven’t seen one since! So I’ve plenty to keep me out of trouble (and the shops!)!

A day out in SW3…

Yes, you guess it I was at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show on Friday and it was AWESOME!! A visual, sensory and information overload! By the time I got home I was exhausted – managed to grunt hello to Niall and just hit the sack!

This was my first ever flower show and I had no idea what to expect. To tell you the truth I was little bit nervous… Is everyone who attends these events an expert in their field? Have they been gardening for years? As you know, I’m just an enthusiastic (weekend) gardener, passionate about plants but not necessarily too hot on design – just see my patch of green!

We managed to acquire tickets for the day so off the Thiruchelvam / Gorman posse went, armed with sandwiches, water and sensible footwear to keep the spirits high! Margaret took command and decided upon on arrival that heading into the Great Pavilion (GP) would shelter us from the ready hot late morning sun. The GP (see I’ve got the lingo already!) was rammed… After completing a circuit of the perimeter we decide to stop for lunch and headed outside to listen to a jazz band and enjoy the hotter afternoon sun. Another two hours later we had covered all angles of the GP and were ready to meet my youngest sister, Shar, who had a ticket from 3pm. By this point my feet were already aching and I was beginning to flag.

But with an extra body full of enthusiasm mum, Margaret, Dee, Shar and myself set off to see the show gardens. Did I mention that it was rammed before? It was heaving by 5pm! The gardens were lovely it was just a shame that you couldn’t walk through them and feel the textures of the planting – oh I understand why the organizers/designers wouldn't want that. But gardens aren’t just visual entities; you stick you nose in the roses and Sweet Williams; you rub the herbs for their smell; you touch the flowers for their softness; you stand or sit in a garden allowing the senses to absorb the ambience…

Having said that, the day out in SW3 was fantastic. So much inspiration, food for thought, practical advice and just the joy of seeing good quality plants. I bought some seeds – don’t worry you’ll be hearing a lot more about them!