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Packwood revisited …

10 Jun

Back in February, I visited the kitchen garden at Packwood House. It was a great time of year to appreciate the structure and layout of the area and to spot all the lovely little details.

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Above is a picture taken in February when very little was growing.

Now in June, the garden is starting to fill out.

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Here the strawberries are flowering prolifically. Some plants were being grown in grow bags , on low tables – in order to avoid the slugs maybe ? But they would obviously need more watering. Others were grouped in hanging bags on short posts – easy to pick and decorative.

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The box hedges are growing fast and are a beautiful saturated green. They must be due a trim – box is traditionally trimmed on Derby Day in the uk – this is a prestigious horse race and this year it was 6th June. There’s nothing scientific about this particular day but early June does give the plants plenty of time to recover from the trim and for new growth to harden off before any chance of frost in the autumn.

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Peas are safe from pigeons under runs of chicken wire held above them by beautiful clay pots.

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The herb beds are almost full with parsley, marjoram, thyme, lovage, fennel, dill,sage and many more I couldn’t identify. What I’d give for a herb bed this big !!

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Vegetable planting becomes art here when even the potatoes are sown in neat patchwork patterns.

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And the auricula theatre was still putting on a good performance ! Can’t wait for my auriculas to grow as large of these ones !

And finally I still had time to pop over to the main garden quickly.

The relatively newly planted herbaceous borders were growing apace. The planting was dominated with Allium ‘Purple Sensation‘ .

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Normally I love Allium ‘purple sensation ‘, and I’d normally say you can never have too many ! But here I think they may have over done it ! They really do dominate the bed and as they’re all exactly the same height and same colour they rather smother the rest of the planting. In my view , half as many would have looked better. They will blend in better once they go to seed.
What do you think ??

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Busy times in my greenhouse

9 Mar

when the weather is a bit changeable it’s nice to be able to dash into my greenhouse where it’s warm and cosy. 

A couple of weeks ago I dusted off my propogator and started the ongoing process of seed sowing. 



My propogator has 10 individual trays with  their own lids so it’s easy to regulate the temperature for each variety I sow. And I find the small trays discourage me from sowing too many of anything ! 



This year , as you can see from the photos , I’ve added a good handful of perlite to my seed compost . I haven’t used it before but it’s meant to help moisture retention and  improve germination. 

I have also sown a box ful of mixed salad that hopefully will give me baby salad leaves in a few weeks time ! 

Fast forward 3 weeks and everything has germinated beautifully. With the exception of the foxgloves – maybe I’m just too ahead of myself as they are biennials and wouldn’t naturally be germinating at this time of year. 







I also planted a tub full of broad beans 



My greenhouse is also full of overwintering geraniums – some of which look happier than others, and sweet peas that I sowed last year. 



And I’ve also rescued some chrysanthemum cuttings that were outside and brought them in for a bit of cossetting. 



I’m now running out of space ! So the geraniums are going to have to get growing quickly so I can throw them out  to make room for all these seeds that will need pricking out very shortly !! 

Busy times !!! 

The Kitchen Garden at Packwood House

19 Feb

I made a lovely discovery recently – the beautiful walled kitchen garden. Apparently it’s been open to the public for about four years and I’m sure I’ve been to Packwood in that time, so I’m not sure how I’ve missed it !

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And I have to say, it’s really delightful. Whoever has been responsible for its redevelopment has a great eye for detail, and even visiting in mid February there was so much to see.

There is good basic structure in the form of compacted earth paths , box hedges and pergolas.

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They have retained a couple of ancient fruit trees and planted many new ones – step over and espaliered against the old walls.

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Children will be delighted with the beautiful wendy house and teddy bears picnic.

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Despite the lack of vegetables, there’s much to catch the eye.

Beautiful original cloches sheltering small lettuce.

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Terracotta rhubarb forcers keeping the rhubarb crowns in the dark to produce delicate pink stems.

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A jaunty scarecrow to keep off the pigeons.

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A dipping pond, currently covered, but in the summer apparently they encourage the kids to dip small watering cans in and to water the garden – child labour !!

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An auricula theatre awaiting its treasures in a few months time.

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Plenty of bug hotels to encourage the good insects – not sure how they keep out the less welcome ones !

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Mole deterrent ! Very Heath Robinson !

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I can’t wait to return in a few months time to see all the vegetables in place.

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The curse of my allotment

13 Jan

Mid Jan and it’s time to sit down to review how my allotment has performed over the last twelve months and start planning for the next season.

And yet again I’m having to admit to myself that I’m disappointed – my allotment rarely lives up to my high expectations. Expectations built on glossy magazine articles, weekly newspaper columns and even some lovely posts here on the blogosphere !

I’ve just never found the whole vegetable growing thing easy. Flowers I can do but veg no. Every year I say to myself that this will be the year when I spend much more time on my allotment, I will nurture the soil, I will succession sow, I will water more frequently etc etc. but it just never happens – there’s simply too much going on elsewhere.

Last years performance was mixed as usual – great raspberries, pounds of blackberries, no gooseberries, good lettuce, mediocre onions, amazing cherry tomatoes ( that all succumbed to blight within a week !!!) , so-so beans, plentiful artichokes, miserable courgettes……. Do I need to go on ?

So here I am saying this year will be better. I will do all the aforementioned things – more time, more manure, more water etc etc and if all the stars are aligned and the moon is in the right phase and we have a warm wet summer I just may pull it off this year !

So the next task is ordering seeds – this is an element of the equation that I think I have got pretty sorted – see my post this time last year to see my decision making process.

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I think I’ll be ordering pretty much the same as last year

  • Spring onion ‘Holland Blood Red’ – red spring onions
  • Broad Bean ‘Superaguadulce’ – good for an early sowing, in fact must sow mine soon!
  • French Bean ‘Blue Lake Climbing’ – very prolific
  • French bean ‘Blauhilde’ – purple bean
  • Dwarf Bean – Rocquencourt’ – brigh yellow pods
  • Dwarf Bean ‘Purple Tepee’ – purple bean
  • Runner bean ‘Painted Lady’ !
  • Beetroot ‘Bolthardy’ – the default variety
  • Beetroot ‘Chioggia’ – beautiful stripey pink and white variety
  • Carrot ‘Purple Haze’ – purple and orange roots
  • Courgette ‘Romanesco’ – ridged fruit
  • Lettuce ‘ Merveille de Quatre Saisons’ – crumpled red and green leaves
  • Lettuce ‘Black Seeded Simpson’ – good crunchy green
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    I’ll be turning my propogator on shortly and getting the first of my succession sowing under way.

    I’ve also picked up some interesting flower seeds over the year and will be giving them a go, either for cutting or in the garden at home.

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    Tune back in in twelve months time to see if I’ve finally cracked this vegetable growing business !

    Looking back and forward…..

    3 Jan

    It’s that time of year again when it’s deemed appropriate to review the last 12 months and express disappointment in one’s performance and blame unexpected family commitments, unplanned overseas travel, or un scheduled box set binges. And then to look towards the approaching new year and to promise more commitment to the task in hand, combined with less procrastination.

    Well, in a year long effort not to beat my self up too much about the few things I don’t actually achieve, and to take a little more credit for so much of what I have actually achieved….

    I can say that I really enjoyed visiting this….

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    And this…

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    I learnt a few new things like this….

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    And this …..

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    I shall grow more of these….

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    And these….

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    I want to photograph more things like this….

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    And this….

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    I want to spend more time here….

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    And here….

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    I want to fill my house with more of these…..

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    And these….

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    I want to eat in more places like this….

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    And this….

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    I should probably eat more of these….

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    And less of these….

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    I must spend more time wearing these….

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    But still make time to do more of this….

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    And most importantly to make more time to appreciate things like this….

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    And this….

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    I’ll let you know how I get on !

    Photos ( all mine)

    1. Derek Jarman’s garden in Dungeness Kent
    2. Sissinghurst Kent
    3. Porcelain hearts
    4. Appliquéd hare from workshop with Mandy Pattullo
    5. American Dawn dahlia
    6.asstd chillies
    7. & 8. Beach combing still life
    9. Loch Duich Rosshire Scotland
    10. Isle of Lewis Outer Hebrides
    11. Sweet peas
    12. Flowers at Worton Organic
    13. Worton Organic Oxfordshire
    14.beach restaurant Istanbul
    15. Amazing tomatoes from Worton Organic
    16. Spiced blackberry bundt cake
    17. My work boots
    18. Liberty patchwork cushion
    19. My favourite view Loch Duich Scotland
    20. My favourite chair in my garden Warwickshire

    It’s been a chilli summer here

    25 Aug

    This summer, just to ring the changes, and because my tomato crop was so poor last year, I’ve been growing chillies in my greenhouse.

    I’ve grown them in the past with some success but last summer I came across Sea Spring Seeds at Hampton Court Flower Show and decided to try some of their varieties.

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    I’ve grown Purple Haze – described as hot with a respectable heat of 75,000 SHUs. This refers to the Scoville Scale, which ranks the heat of a chilli. Not sure how they do it – I’m sure it’s more sophisticated than just seeing if it blows your head off !
    So this chilli is pretty hot but compared to the hottest – naga jolokia coming in at over a million SHUs – it’s pretty tame !

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    It is however a very beautiful purple colour and makes a very attractive pot plant. My bushes are heaving with fruit and I should be self sufficient in chillies for the rest of the year !

    The other variety I have grown is Apache – a smaller green chilli – incidentally, both will ripen to red over the next month or so. Apache is described as dependably hot at 103,000 SHUs.

    So don’t be surprised to find chilli in everything from chocolate to jam to stir fries this autumn !

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    The perfect Job for a another wet day….

    16 Jan

    As we seem to be drowning under another deluge of rain, its the perfect excuse to sit inside in the dry and start choosing your seeds for the year.

    When it comes to vegetables I do grow most of them from seed.This is the most cost effective way and it helps that I do have an electric propagator and a greenhouse. But it is also the only way to get the exact varieties that you want.

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    When deciding what to order I make sure I sort thru which seeds I have left over from last year, then vow to throw them out and order a fresh batch! I don’t know how long seeds can hang around for – it will depend on the variety and how well they’re stored but its safe to say that you will greatly improve your success rate by using fresh seed.but inevitably I end up with several packets of some. Note to self: write date on packets then I’d know how old they were !!

    I think any vegetable you decide to grow should meet at least one of the following criteria –

    1.Taste – should taste substantially better than the shop bought variety e g tomatoes

    2.Unusual  – a different colour/size to what is available in the shops e g yellow courgettes

    3.Cheap – substantially cheaper to grow than buy e g fancy lettuce + soft fruit

    4. Family will eat it in quantity – there’s no point growing courgettes if the kids wont eat them !

    So based on those criteria these are the vegetable I will be growing this season

    • Spring onion ‘Holland Blood Red’ – red spring onions
    • Broad Bean ‘Superaguadulce’ – good for an early sowing, in fact must sow mine soon!
    • French Bean ‘Blue Lake Climbing’ – very prolific
    • French bean ‘Blauhilde’ – purple bean
    • Dwarf Bean – Rocquencourt’ – brigh yellow pods
    • Dwarf Bean ‘Purple Tepee’ – purple bean
    • Runner bean ‘Painted Lady’ – apparently you can eat the flowers – must try !
    • Beetroot ‘Bolthardy’ – the default variety
    • Beetroot ‘Chioggia’ – beautiful stripey pink and white variety
    • Carrot ‘Purple Haze’ – purple and orange roots
    • Courgette ‘Romanesco’ – ridged fruit
    • Lettuce ‘ Merveille de Quatre Saisons’ – crumpled red and green leaves
    • Lettuce ‘Black Seeded Simpson’ – good crunchy green

    I tend to buy my seeds in a variety of different places  – Marshals ; Sarah Raven ; Simpsons Seeds ; Seeds of Italy and of course the supermarkets and garden centres.

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