May Miscellany continued

Stunning location for an allotment - Knucklas, Powys

I am writing this post just one day after the one I posted yesterday, on Sunday 26th May. Only because I am taking a holiday which for me is unusual – working trips away, yes, but time away without a professional slant is something I have not experienced for over two years. Already, before we have even left home, I have a list of activities that in fact impinge on this, and other blogs and magazine features. For one of my favourite allotment sites is located within walking distance of where we stay with our caravan; in fact you can see it from the c’van kitchenette window when I prepare our usual away-from-home salad supper. It will have to be visited for up-to-date photos!

Much to enjoy and observe at Berrington Hall near Leominster
Then, I look at the map, and think of all the places within reasonable distance that I might like to visit, or that we can stop off en route – and would you believe it they relate to what I write about! But that is hardly surprising, for I am fortunate to be able to write about the things I love. So maybe a visit to the National Trust’s Berrington Hall with its manicured orchard and swathes of trees and shrubs will soothe the soul as well as augment my image library. Look for underplanting in shrubberies, ground-hugging plants that suppress weeds.

Quirky wasp trap in the
walled kitchen garden
at Packwood House,
I made a pact with myself earlier this year to make more regular visits to our local National Trust gardens, and others open to the public, not just for the ‘ooh-aah’ factor but to record the seasonal progress therein, obtain ideas, and make notes thereof, and generally build a picture of the vision of head-gardeners to maintain and modify the gardens for which they are responsible. Most are approachable and pleased to offer advice. And if it is vegetables you love, there are many properties that are restoring former kitchen gardens, as at Packwood House near Solihull, Warwickshire.

Runner bean St.George scrambling through my herb bed
Climbing Beans can be transplanted around now, for all danger of a late frost should be past. Sadly, we will run short this year – our first sowing in the greenhouse was a failure, just so cold the beans rotted; whilst the second lot, which were just emerging, have been eaten by mice – even though they were well protected. Hopefully the third batch sown this morning will survive, with double protection. The mice seem to wait until the beans are just germinating and manage to evade mouse traps – such a waste of time, and a diminished harvest will leave us short of produce come the late Summer. 

A mixed bed of brassicas is as decorative as it is useful (Aberglasney, Wales)
Vegetables are not just for eating! Many are highly decorative and warrant a place in the flower border regardless of whether they will find their way into the kitchen. Chard with its brightly coloured red or yellow stems, the almost black crinkled leaves of Cavola Nero kale – which I first saw growing in Italy, the deep crimson of cabbage good for pickling, and purple-leaved pak choi – all have a place beyond the veg plot. I am currently infilling gaps in my new ‘Wilderness’ with bright green perpetual spinach (my husband will not eat this nutritious veg, but the hens will, and thrive on it).

Grandchildren checking 'their' plot (note protective covers on canes)
Encouraging children to help in the garden is useful in many ways. They are less likely to play football over a plot they have helped maintain, particularly if it is a space they have been ‘given’ for their personal planting. Our children helped by clearing stone from our veg plot – though they were bribed (a penny a bucket, back in the early 1970s), and our grandchildren helped to clear a small area of ground in which they planted their choice of veg in two small raised beds. I gave them a selection of plants from which to choose which included strawberries, lettuce, cabbage and beans. Strawberries were the favourite. I showed them how to sow radish seed sparingly and at each subsequent visit, they tidied their ‘square foot’ bed and checked its progress. Gardeners of the future and well worth encouraging, for what you learn in childhood so often becomes a life-time passion, as it has with me.

Don't forget to  visit the Dobies' website for all your gardening needs and requirements. You may particularly like: vegetable seedsvegetable plants, flower seeds, flower plants, herbs, fruit and equipment. And don't forget their regular mailings and special offers online. Just keep visiting so you don't miss anything special. I'll be back again next month.

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