Tag Archives: History

Garden Visits: Hampton Court Palace Garden

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roses in the old vegetable garden

roses in the old vegetable garden

Wimbledon may be nearly over, but we can look forward to another busy week in south west London as the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) holds one of the world’s largest flower shows at the Royal Palace of Hampton Court, on the banks of the Thames.

pond gardens, Hampton Court Palace

pond gardens, Hampton Court Palace

The RHS Show is held in the grounds rather than the gardens, and it is an event that we thoroughly enjoy. But as we spend all day at the show, there’s no time to see the Palace and gardens, so last September, we visited the gardens. Here we share some of the delights of this historic garden with you.

Hampton Court vine

Hampton Court vine with grapes ready to pick

The Great Vine was originally planted in 1768 by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, who is probably better known for his restructuring of many formal gardens into sweeping landscapes on estates across the country.

The Privy Garden Hampton Court Palace

The Privy Garden Hampton Court Palace

The Privy Garden is a re-creation of the 1702 design for William and Mary. The formal rhythms and use of much evergreen topiary makes it a quite a contemporary space, and offers ideas that could be transposed into an easy maintenance twenty-first century garden.

Hampton Court Palace from the Privy Garden

Hampton Court Palace from the Privy Garden

Hampton Court’s Maze dates from 1690; it’s supposed to take about twenty minutes to reach the centre – I think Nathan took a short cut though.

Hampton Court maze

Hampton Court maze

The Exotic Garden was developed for many botanical species that were brought to Hampton Court Palace for the monarchs William and Mary. Their collection had over 2000 specimens, grown in large pots which were relatively easy to move between their summer home in the exotic garden and their winter home in the orangery.

the exotic garden, Hampton Court

the exotic garden, Hampton Court

The plants needed winter protection as most would not tolerate a British winter, but could still be on display. The Hampton Court Lower Orangery Gardens is a unique restoration and very much a living history display of botanical and social importance.

lemon tree in the exotic garden

lemon tree in the exotic garden

The great fountain gardens are visible if you visit the RHS Flower Show. When you walk across the Long Water to get from one section of the show to the other, look towards the Palace.

great fountain gardens

great fountain gardens

We’re looking forward to visiting the Flower Show next week and being inspired by gardens; promise we’ll share some of our favourite gardens and plants with you from this year’s RHS extravaganza.

Marie Shallcross, Senior Partner, Plews Garden Design

Resolving your Gardening issues with inspirational ideas and flexible solutions

“In Your Summer Garden with Plews Garden Design” – the newest in our series of gardening almanacs is now available on both Amazon and Smashwords

In Your Summer Garden with Plews Garden Design - cover illustration

In Your Summer Garden with Plews Garden Design – cover illustration

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Strawberries and Wimbledon

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strawberries in strawberry pot

strawberries in strawberry pot

Summertime brings major tennis tournaments for us to watch whilst eating the fruit of our labours in the garden; strawberries, raspberries, salads. In Britain we host Wimbledon for a couple of weeks in June and July.

One of the delights of a summer garden has to be picking your own strawberries and eating them straight away, sweet and still warm from the sun. Strawberries do well in containers, and in small areas; special strawberry pots with holes around the sides or hanging baskets both maximise space and are often easier to keep slug free. These could be kept outside or kept in a cool greenhouse for an earlier crop.

Kent growers supply virtually all the 8000 punnets of strawberries that tennis watchers eat daily throughout Wimbledon fortnight. Yes, you did read that right, nearly 8000 punnets of strawberries a day. On the positive side, they are local fruit, Wimbledon being in the South West of Greater London (or in Surrey, or London Borough of Merton, boundaries sometimes being in question) so it rubs geographical shoulders with The Garden of England.

strawberry flowers

strawberry flowers

Strawberries were eaten by the Greeks and Romans. This wasn’t the cultivated ‘garden’ strawberry (Fragaria ananassa) that we know today, but a much smaller fruit, the wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca). Although they’re both members of the rose family, the garden strawberry is a hybrid. It was first bred in Brittany, France in the 1750s, and then further developed in America; its parents are from both South America and North America. Nowadays, Kentish strawberries at Wimbledon are world famous, so it’s turned into a very cosmopolitan fruit!

Strawberries are also seasonal; ie this is the time of year for strawberries in the UK; which is why the legend of King George V introducing the eating of strawberries and cream whilst watching tennis at Wimbledon is so popular. In 1907, George V, then Prince of Wales attended Wimbledon and did eat strawberries and cream. But it is perhaps more memorable a date for being the first time the Centre Court was protected by a tarpaulin. Typical British summer weather, then!

pink roses

pink roses

As for the tradition of eating strawberries and cream, according to the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum, it started with the first Wimbledon tournament in 1877. So why strawberries and cream in particular? Well, we’re back to seasonality. We may now be able to eat strawberries year round, transported from various parts of the globe; back in 1877 it was a different story. Although frozen meat was beginning to be transported by this time (mutton was first shipped from Argentina to France in 1877) it involved quantities of ice. The first refrigerator patent was licensed in Germany in 1877; but it took a while for this to become a reliable method of preserving food. Strawberries are more difficult to transport any distance, as soft fruit is easily bruised and it’s more difficult to freeze them without causing discolouration and loss of taste, for example.

So what is the connection between tennis and the Monarchy? Apart from strawberry eating that is. ‘Real’ or ‘royal’ tennis is so-called to distinguish it from ‘lawn’ tennis – which is the game played at Wimbledon. There are ‘royal tennis’ clubs in both Boston (home of the Tea Party) and Washington in the USA. It’s known as ‘court tennis’ in America, to distinguish it from lawn tennis.

Hampton Court Palace royal tennis court

Hampton Court Palace royal tennis court

In Britain, Hampton Court Palace has its own indoor Royal Tennis Court, the oldest surviving ‘real’ tennis court still in regular use in England. It was part of the original Palace as rebuilt for Cardinal Wolsey in the early sixteenth century; before he thought it politic to give it to his lord and master Henry VIII. Henry Tudor must have played ‘real’ or ‘royal’ tennis in this court; he was quite an athlete in his youth. The court was last refurbished in the reign of Charles I, another tennis loving monarch.

Hampton Court is also known for its maze, its vine; its haunted gallery and the Royal Horticultural Society’s Flower Show in July; but that’s another blog…

Marie, Senior Partner, Plews Garden Design

Resolving your Gardening issues with inspirational ideas and flexible solutions

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strawberries in pot with birds

strawberries in pot with birds

You Can Bank On Chartwell!

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Well done all the gardeners for your hard work – such a lovely display despite the vagaries of the Britsh climate this year!

chartwellgardensnt

If you’ve watched or heard the news today, you can’t have failed to notice that Chartwell was the location for a pretty special announcement today. Those of you that missed it can play catch up by clicking right here. We’re mighty proud that Sir Winston Churchill has been chosen as the new face of the £5 note and even prouder that the Bank of England chose Chartwell as the place to launch the news. We’ve had a teensy heads up on this story for a little while now which means we’ve been working extra hard in the garden to get everything looking spic and span for the visit of the Churchill family, Bank Of England Governer Sir Mervyn King and the various television film crews.

One of the areas we concentrated on was getting the Pink Terrace looking its best as this was where a reception for the visiting…

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Spring Gardens: “sow” much to do

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Narcissus-bulbocodium-praecox

Narcissus-bulbocodium-praecox

Feeling overwhelmed with spring cleaning tasks in the garden? Why not take some time out to relax with Plews & discover how soap is made from your garden plants; you do after all need soap in order to get things clean.

Spring cleaning in your garden is one part of the general tidying and cleansing that we indulge in or make ourselves take part in over the year. Spring cleaning as a tradition has a number of origins, from ritual cleansing for religious festivals such as the Jewish Passover to the more mundane reasons of March being warm enough to have the windows and doors open to sweep the winter dust away.

In the garden this may include spring lawn tasks such as scarifying, last minute pruning of apple trees, buying seeds and cleaning pots and seed trays. Because there are so many potential chores that need our attention, I thought a quick foray down memory lane to look at some garden plants that have been used for spring cleaning in the past.

It could be fun and economical to use homemade soaps and cleaners to clean both your house and garden; by garden, I’m thinking mainly about paths, patios, decking, greenhouses; garden tools and of course plant pots and seed sowing equipment. Alternatively, you may just enjoy reading about it and letting someone else do the hard work! Museums and historic houses frequently use the softer traditional alternatives to modern detergents for washing delicate fabrics, so if you’re a devotee of vintage clothing, you may like to try out them out too.

We have been using soap, rather than just water, for cleaning at least 5000 years. Archaeology also shows that the Romans used to plant Soapwort (Saponaria officianalis) near their bathhouses to use the leaves as part of washing themselves clean. If you fancy a go at making your own soap with Soapwort, the process is quicker using the leaves than the roots, although the roots would seem to make the more efficient soap.

Pompei-road

Pompei-road

The Romans also used the oil from Olive trees (Olea Europea) as a soap base. If your Olive tree has fruit you may like to try the following (the extract is taken from our eBook “In Your Spring Garden”)

“Olives, the quintessential tree of sun drenched Mediterranean slopes and groves are relatively hardy in more temperate areas of Europe and North America. Olive oil was the main ingredient in the original ‘castille’ soap. Mixed with a little wood ash it makes an historical and fairly useful soap. Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) and Beech (Carpinus betulus) are both good ash to use, but Apple (Malus) results in a paler soap. The resulting soap is abrasive, so if preferred the oil can be strained; add scented oils or dried flowers for perfume.”

 

 

old toothbrushes for cleaning seed trays

old toothbrushes for cleaning seed trays

 

 

 

This homemade soap could be used for cleaning out your seed trays ready for sowing those seeds that need to be started indoors. An old toothbrush is good for getting into the crevices so that no old soil or growing media is left that might cause problems.

For cleaning larger decks and patios for clients, our Nathan likes a pressure washer to be used. In keeping with the ‘homemade’ theme, he suggests that vinegar can be used with a stiff brush to remove mould and moss from a wooden shed. The addition of vinegar helps reduce the likelihood of them returning, as vinegar is a weed killer.

For more on seed sowing there’s a short blog on the website but for more information and gardening tips about your garden in spring, why not look at our new eBook “In Your Spring Garden”

“In Your Spring Garden” eBook would make a good Mothers Day or Easter present for the gardener in your life.

Hyacinth-blue

Hyacinth-blue

Winter Garden visits: Chartwell

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Chartwell-garden-seatIt is difficult to fit in essential tasks when a garden is open to the public all year; even mowing the croquet lawn can be tricky; mowing a visitor by mistake wouldn’t do. Many chores are left to the winter for good reason – because they’re time consuming or messy. But whilst cleaning pots is easy to achieve regardless of visitors, relaying paths and swathes of turf requires areas to be fenced off so that garden visitors don’t tread on newly laid paving by mistake.

I kept forgetting that Chartwell, home of Winston Churchill had changed its opening hours so the gardens are now open all year. Typically, I chose a freezing cold afternoon with snow on the ground to visit. The positive side was that I had the gardens virtually to myself; even the staff had the sense to find indoor tasks.DSC05416

The name “Chartwell” comes from the well on the estate and ‘chart’ meaning ‘rough ground’ in Old English. The gardens are grade II listed, meaning they are of historical importance. This doesn’t mean they are locked into a time warp; the gardening team create and maintain interesting displays throughout the gardens. They have risen to the challenge of accommodating visitors all year round; visitors who, if a garden is open to the public during the winter, expect that there something worth seeing.

Visiting a garden in winter shows a whole new perspective on a familiar landscape. I was accompanied for some of the time by Franklin,  one of the resident cats; he posed beautifully in the rose garden, a fluffy blackness against the white snow and the formally pruned rose bushes. Churchill insisted that there was always a marmalade cat with white socks called Jock at Chartwell, but he was obviously inside in the warm when I visited (probably on his Facebook page – do you think he ‘likes’ ours?).Franklin-in-winter-rose-garden

Naturally my main focus was the winter border as I had been promised some delights of scent and colour by one of the gardeners.On the way I took in the orchard with its winter pruned apple trees, including Malus domestica ‘Newton’s wonder’. This is not, as you might think, an offspring of the famous tree that dropped an apple on Isaac Newton’s head so he discovered the laws of gravity. That was Malus ‘Flower of Kent’. ‘Newton’s wonder’ is a culinary apple, a nineteenth century cultivar like the popular ‘Bramley’, but sweeter in taste.Malus-'Newtons-wonder'

The Sarcoccca confusa or sweet box, sits lushly by the gate to the vegetable garden at the lower end of the winter border. Normally packing a wow of scent even in winter, it was struggling a little due to the extreme cold and lack of sun, but a closer sniff proved it was still in business. The sloping border offered colourful Cornus (dogwood) with lime green stems contrasting with the red brick wall. This shrub proves its worth time and again as winter interest and can easily be accommodated in smaller gardens and borders. Pruning the stems in March frees up space for summer herbaceous flowers to grow in front; with the advantage of colourful fresh young Cornus stems to delight the eye the following winter.

Closer to the ground I admired the snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) braving the snow. I liked the pairing of these with Ophiopogon planiscapus nigrescens (black grass). Not all was monotone; the Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) has a yellow flower that perversely I find more attractive closed rather than open. The Corsican Hellebore (Hellleborus argutifolius) added some texture to the border, and complimented the green foliage of those bulbs that were poking through the snow. I do love Hellebores; I feel a trip to the national collections at Broadview Gardens and Hazles Cross Farm may be in order soon…snowdrops-in-the-snow

At the top of the sloping winter border I was rewarded with the gorgeously scented Daphne bholua. The scent admired, and having reached a high point of the garden I thought I might briefly sit and enjoy the views that tempted Churchill into buying this estate. On seeing the seat though, I changed my mind; stood a while admiring the landscape, then headed off for the warm, well pleased with my snowy garden visit. I’ve now started to follow the Chartwell garden blog – a good way of keeping up between visits.

Seasonal offer: 

Our eBook “In Your Winter Garden with Plews Garden Design” has been drastically reduced in price as “In Your Spring Garden with Plews Garden Design” is due for release in about a week.
Available in formats for PC, Kindle and iPad from Amazon and Smashwords

Daphne-bholua

Roses are red; violets are blue

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red-rose-bushes

red-rose-bushes

The modern Valentine’s Day may or may not be named or based on the actions of an early Christian martyr.
But we owe our red roses and blue violets to Spenser’s ‘The Faerie Queen’:-

“She bathed with roses red and violets blue, and all the sweetest flowers that in the forest grew”

However, if it’s a mixed bouquet of red roses and blue violets that you’re after to give to your beloved on Valentine’s Day, you may have given yourself a quest as difficult as any that Spenser’s knight had to overcome.

Red roses and sweet violets (viola odorata) are traditional floral gifts for Valentine’s Day but you’ll be struggling to find any naturally outdoor flowering roses in the in February if you live in Britain or northern Europe or the United States. There may be a few still on an unpruned rose bush, looking like an icing sugar confection all rimmed with frost. Or more prosaically like a chewed tennis ball the dog was playing with on the lawn and then forgot about.

I don’t think those flowers would be appreciated by your loved one. If its roses you’re after they’ll have to be the expensive imported hot house ones. Although on the bright side, whilst they cost you round about £125 for a dozen the price has been fairly constant over the last 10-15 years – which makes a change.

If the supermarket rather than florist variety is your style try to be ‘green’ and ethical and buy Fairtrade roses. They’re more likely to have been grown sustainably, which is better for the environment here and in Africa, particularly Kenya – where Valentine’s Day roses can be a major part of a small farmer’s or grower’s annual income. The use of that rare African resource – water – for growing roses for export to Britain and Europe is, however, questionable. It has been suggested that a ‘water ecological footprint’, ie a label on the pre-packed bouquet of roses, would help shoppers to realise the situation. It may also encourage the Valentines Day buyer of red roses to use their economic clout and demand that funding is used to sustain Lake Naivasha and encourage more growers to use hydroponics as a means of production for those delightful Valentine’s Day red roses.

sweet-violets-variegated

sweet-violets-variegated

If all this politics is too much for you, why not give your beloved violets instead? The Victorians were especially fond of sweet violets and included them in posies on Valentine’s Day. Their heart shaped leaves make violets especially apt as a lover’s token on Valentine’s Day. Some of those Victorians may have raised the violets in their conservatories, so that rather than the British native sweet violet (viola odorata) which may just be flowering for February 14th, they were giving their Valentine viola ‘parma violet’. In my opinion this has the most divine scent of all the violets, and can equal a lily’s punch packing aroma for all it is much smaller.

The ’Violet capital of the world’ during the nineteenth century was in New York state. Rhinebeck earned the name of ‘The Crystal City’ as a result of the vast number of glasshouses largely growing violets for the Valentine’s Day, Mothering Sunday (or Mother’s Day) and Easter markets. Violets were worn as corsages on ball gowns year round but the flower was especially popular at Valentine’s Day. Today there are barely any violets grown in Rhinebeck, although a handful are still available for those romantics and traditionalists who prefer their sweetness to the red rose’s gaudiness.

For more on Valentine’s Day, Lupercalia, Roses and violets why not pick up a bargain? Our eBook “In Your Winter Garden with Plews Garden Design” has been seriously reduced in price as our new eBook “In Your Spring Garden” comes out in a couple of weeks. You can buy it on Amazon and Smashwords

penstemon-and-lilies

penstemon-and-lilies

Herbs – A Potted Garden History

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willow-tree-by-moat

Herbs are a wide ranging subject and one which is best discussed over various blogs. An herb is generally considered to be a plant with medicinal, culinary or cosmetic uses. However, it can also be defined as any annual, bi-ennial or perennial plant which has a soft stem that dies down in the winter. For example, herbaceous perennials are plants such as border or hardy geraniums; the top growth above ground dies back overwinter to sprout up again the following spring. In this blog we’re interested in the former definition where an herb is a plant specifically noted for a use other than the purely ornamental or indeed edible.

Many plants can be functional in other ways, for making furniture or baskets, but these are not usually considered as ‘useful herbs’ in the same sense, although some are useful to us in more than one way. For example, willow (Salix) is used for baskets, fencing, cricket bats, reducing pain and curing headaches. Willow bark was mentioned (ie written on clay tablets) as being used for pain relief, especially for rheumatism, over 5000 years ago by the Sumerians. The Sumerians lived in the ‘land between the two rivers’ the fertile river plain of Mesopotamia.

nettle-urtica-dioica

nettle

So the benefits of herbs have been documented for thousands of years. They were in use long before then as archaeological evidence shows at Neolithic sites. In Iraq, the Shanidar cave discovery of Neanderthal bodies included plant remains which were very likely used for medical purposes as the species found are known for their healing properties. By the by, the discovery of this cave and its 60,000 year old inhabitants inspired Jean Auel to write the novel ‘Cave of the Clan Bear’.

Early humans were hunter-gatherers and their diet was largely plant based. By a process of elimination they would have discovered not only which plants were edible and which were poisonous, but also which plants healed. This could be something as simple as rubbing dock leaves (rumex obtusifolius) on nettle stings (urtica dioica) to take away the heat and itching. It’s a simple remedy that we have probably all tried at some time, especially as children playing among undergrowth, in fields and on waste land.

Nettles are an incredibly useful plant and are most definitely herbs as we are defining the term. They have been used in cloth manufacture from the Bronze Age until the early twentieth century; and are rich in vitamins and iron. Nettle has anti- inflammatory properties and was used to treat arthritis.

replica-bronze-age-loom-from-crannog-centre-scotland

replica-bronze-age-loom-from-crannog-centre-scotland

Herbal remedies for ailments have been well documented. The Egyptians, Greeks Romans, Indian and Chinese provide us with many uses for herbs, culinary and medicinal, and there was a great swell of Herbals in Europe with the invention of the printing press in the fifteenth century. These herbals were largely based on research rather than just repeating earlier works; for example there may be detailed descriptions of different types of soil and which might be suitable for a particular plant.

Herbals document both the plants themselves and the ailments which they can help treat; the herbal remedy is generally referred to as a ‘simple’. This means that it is a remedy to be prepared at home, by a non-professional, and doesn’t require complicated equipment. Some of the remedies can be complicated or time consuming to prepare, but the term still applies. ‘Housewives simples’ is another term used, often disparagingly by the (male) professionals, but it is also a descriptive one, as it was the woman of the household who would have been in charge of her family’s health.

Many of these simple remedies are still in use today and some have led to the development of modern drugs. Aspirin was developed from Willow bark and the flower heads of Meadowsweet, both of which contain salicylic acid.

Interestingly, Meadowsweet (filipendula ulmaria) is named not for the meadows it inhabits but for its use as flavouring in mead and beer. It’s been in use in this way for 5000 years or so, as pollen was found in the remains of a mead like drink in Bronze Age burial sites in Fife.
Plews can offer garden designs to include a separate herb garden or mixed borders with a range of plants. Or have a look at our recipe for herby lavender biscuits: yum.

english-lavender

english-lavender

Winter Evergreens in your Garden and in your Home

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Pine WP

There has been a lot of talk about the garden being ‘a part of the house’ or ‘another room’; at this time of year the roles are reversed as we welcome greenery into our homes as part of our festive celebrations.

There are Christmas trees of pine or fir, Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe. Often other evergreens are added: laurels with their smooth glossy leaves, or Rosemary added to Christmas garlands for scent. Christmas trees are the most obvious festive evergreen that we take into our homes. But do you stop to ask yourself why?

Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria, is celebrated as starting the tradition of Christmas trees (fir trees) in Britain in the mid nineteenth century; a tradition brought over from his native Germany.  However, it seems that the custom of decorated fir trees in Germany was begun in the seventh century or thereabouts by the English monk Boniface (later Saint Boniface). Legend has it that during the Winter Solstice, he came upon some pagans who were about to sacrifice a child at an Oak tree. That magnificent tree so beloved of the Druids was chopped down in one fell swoop of his fist by Boniface. (Sounds a bit like our Nathan, who’s well known for lifting tree stumps with his little finger). And lo, at the roots was growing a small fir tree, so Boniface had the fir tree become the symbol for Christmas.

Another suggestion is that the fir tree became the acceptable evergreen for Christmas decorations thanks to Martin Luther (founder of the protestant faith in Germany) in

WP pinetree

pine tree WP

the late fifteenth century. He was walking through the forest at Christmas time and was amazed by the beauty of the stars shining through the evergreen

branches of the fir trees. It reminded him of the Star of Bethlehem and so he cut down a tree, took it home and decorated it with candles so his family could share the delightful sight.

Nathan has added a further Christmas tree legend to this blog. The first Christmas tree was very probably put up and decorated in Latvia or Estonia in 1510 by the gild known as the Brotherhood of Blackheads or Schwarzhäupterhaus. Documentation also suggests that it was taken out into the market square and burnt as part of the celebrations; which brings us back to the pagan rather than Christian winter festivals where fires are lit to encourage the sun to return.

Holly and ivy appear in many Christmas carols and songs and come a close second to the Christmas tree in popularity when it comes to decorating the home.

Holly (Ilex Europea), or “ouch” as it is known at Plews (we often have to prune  Holly; and the leaves stay sharp even when dry) is a festive favourite with its shiny spiky leaves and bright red berries. A small sprig tops off a Christmas pudding, the berries mirroring the red of the cherries in the pudding itself. A welcome addition to garlands, Holly is probably best used where you won’t accidentally walk into it…

Ivy (Hedera helix) is another berry-laden evergreen; its rich black fruits are a delicacy for your garden birds but if you bring them indoors put them out of reach of any inquisitive toddlers, as they are toxic and can cause stomach upsets.

WP Holly_smooth_leaves

Holly_smooth_leaves WP

 

Both Holly and Ivy developed their spiky and poisonous leaves as a defensive measure, to prevent animals from eating them. Which is why, if you were to cut branches from higher up a holly tree, you would see that the leaves have serrated but not prickly edges. As for the birds eating the berries, they’re not poisoned, because their digestive systems allow them to pass the seed contained within the fleshy, outer part of the berry all the way through and out again.

 

 

 

 

As this is the last Plews blog of 2012, we’d like to wish you all a Happy New Year from all of us.

And if you have Christmas money to spend, but don’t fancy hitting the sales in the shops, we’d like to remind you about our Special Offers

, Gift Vouchers, maybe for gardening lessons in your own garden; and our  Winter eBook (available from Smashwords or Amazon).

Marie, Nathan and the rest of the Team

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Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree WP

 

 

Gardens of Remembrance

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The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Even gardeners stop for two minutes to observe the silence.

Remembrance Sunday is about gratitude and respect for those who gave their lives to protect us. The planting around the headstones and in the graveyards is in the charge of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC).

Sir Frederic Kenyon summed up his vision for the Commission cemeteries in February 1918 thus:

“The general appearance of a British cemetery will be that of an enclosure with plots of grass or flowers (or both) separated by paths of varying size, and set with orderly rows of headstones, uniform in height and width.”

Many of you will be surprised to learn that the CWGC is one of the world’s leading horticultural organisations. To keep the cemeteries looking good seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year in all weathers is not an easy task. Not only does the planting need to offer something in all seasons, but the number of visitors in all weathers puts particular stress on the turf paths and lawns.

The headstone borders are generally planted with a mix of roses and herbaceous perennials. Of these latter some will die back over winter and regrow in the spring; others will retain their foliage year round; the Heuchera in the photograph is an evergreen herbaceous perennial except in the hardest of weather. Care is taken in choosing plants for each cemetery, for example, there are Maples from Canada at Dieppe.

Designing the planting requires thought to the length of flowering season, of foliage interest, so that visitors have something to see. It also needs to be reasonably low maintenance, both for the border planting and for the turf, or grass. Not merely from a time and therefore economic perspective, but also because it would interrupt the mood for those paying their respects to have a gardener trundling around with a mower for a couple of hours. These particular pressures have encouraged the War Grave horticulturalists to be innovative in planting designs and in the equipment they use. Petrol lawn mowers were introduced in the 1920s; and many of the mechanical tools developed for the CWGC have since become standard domestic gardening tools and equipment.

Climate change has its own requirements and a proactive approach has been taken. Drought tolerant planting, including turf have been introduced and trialled.

So next time you buy a poppy for Remembrance, important though it is as a symbol, remember it’s not the only flower that grows in Flanders fields.

 

 

 

For garden design and planting ideas; or Christmas gift vouchers for garden lessons in your own garden from a qualified teacher, why not drop us an email? info@plewsgardendesign.co.uk

Pumpkins, Hallowe’en and the Three Sisters Garden #2

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Are you ready for the ‘trick or treat’ mob? Maybe this year you should quiz them in the uses of pumpkins and apples before handing out the sweets…or should I say turnips?
In the last post we looked at cultivating pumpkins, in this we look some of the links between pumpkins, apples and Hallowe’en.

Jack o’lantern is a term commonly used for the carved pumpkin faces seen at Hallowe’en. It originally described the eerie lights seen over marshes and peat bogs. These are also known as will o’ the wisp or ignis fatuus, literally ‘foolish fire’ or ‘false fire’. The lights are actually gases (including methane) caused by decaying organic matter – but I don’t think you’ll see them over the compost heap!

The origin of Hallowe’en dates back at least 3,000 years to the Celtic celebration of Samhain. This celebration, the Feast of the Dead, was held on October 31st and was a not a morbid festival, but one that honoured those loved ones who had died. It was one of the turning points of the Celtic year, the change from light to dark, from summer to winter. This was an agricultural society and the changing seasons were important markers in the year.

On the night of Samhain, glowing jack-o-lanterns, carved from turnips or gourds, were set on porches and in windows to welcome deceased loved ones and to act as protection against malevolent spirits. If you’re wondering why turnips, this is because pumpkins were introduced from the ‘New World’ by Christopher Columbus in the late 15th century, whereas turnips were grown throughout most Europe from Roman times or earlier. Oh and ‘jack o’ lantern’ when applied as a description to the carved out pumpkins dates from the 19th century.

Games were played, including one similar to the apple bobbing we indulge in now. The apple was important in Celtic mythology, an apple tree was found on the Isle of the Blessed. And the ‘bobbing’ may have reflected the heroes journey to obtain the magic apples. More prosaically, the apple harvest would be finished by Samhain so there would be plenty of apples to eat.

Pumpkins – winter squash – are an excellent crop for storing and will keep until February in the right conditions, cool, dark and frost free. As for what you do with the flesh scooped out from your Hallowe’en lantern, you could try pumpkin soup; a recipe we use can be found here.

For planting ideas to grow your Jack o’ lanterns for next year, why not drop us an email? info@plewsgardendesign.co.uk