Three Crazy Days at the Allotments – Part 3

Part three of our crazy days at the allotments series of posts and we found ourselves back on site at 9:30  clearing up from our Halloween celebrations the night before and getting ready for our “Learn the Ropes” morning.

Arriving at the allotment site the morning following our Halloween celebrations, we were all exhausted but we had another activity day planned for the members. The site had a definite “morning after” look to it. Rather bedraggled and tired like us. Notice how long the shadows are in the pictures.

The rain had lashed down all night and the wind had howled around our communal huts. We had been so lucky with the weather the evening before, with not a drop of rain to spoil our fun. The area which was a hive of activity the night before looked deserted as we cleared up ready for the arrival of members who were attending our “Learn the Ropes” session and a “Walk and Talk” session around the site. We had a busy half hour but we were ready and raring to go.

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We got all the machinery out for Michael to demonstrate with and got the bacon sizzling away on our gas rings just as the first members arrived. Tea and coffee were ready for serving to keep everyone warm. We even had a few minutes to treat ourselves to a quick coffee before our members arrived.

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As members gathered around Michael bacon butties and hot drinks were served. Everyone was keen to see Michael demonstrate how the lawn mowers, strimmers and rotovators work and teach everyone how to use them safely and properly.

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This is what being a community garden is all about. In the photos below we have three generations of one family coming along to our activities. They had been at our Halloween Day and returned to our “Learn the Ropes” session the following morning. Phil on the left has an allotment on our site and he has brought along his daughter and grand-daughter.

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We had a good morning but we were glad to pack up and make our way home after our three very busy days at the allotments.

The day ended with the dismantling of the gazebos which had served us so well. When the last one was down a voice came from inside. “Help. I am still in here!” We had left Michael inside when we lowered the frame and canvas. He was in there to make sure the frame folded up properly. He had just spent the morning demonstrating our equipment to members and then we shut him up inside a gazebo! Still, it was good to end with a laugh.

 

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Three Crazy Days at the Allotments – Part 2

Welcome back to part two of my “Three Crazy Days at the Allotments” series of posts and in this one we are celebrating Halloween. We do this every year as it is a good excuse to have a BBQ, make our sheds look weird and to get together socially before the weather changes.

This year we decided to hold competitions for preserves, the weirdest vegetables, the best carved pumpkin lanterns and also invited members to decorate their sheds so that we could find one suitable to be hailed “The Spookiest Shed”. We set the afternoon and evening going with games for the children.

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Our members had been so busy beforehand and the judges had a hard time selecting winners in all the competitions. The photos below shows the table where members dropped off their entries into the preserves and weird veggies competitions.

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The competitions were judged as the BBQ was warming up. In the first photo one of our members, who likes to be known as Mrs Anna, is judging the Pumpkin Lantern competition. As you can see there were some very imaginative ideas. To her left is one of our youngest allotment members Edward, who danced his way through the afternoon but found a few moments to help our judge out. He did have to stop now and again for a rest and an occasional snooze. Pumpkins appeared all over the site – one member even decorated her compost heap with lots of small pumpkins. And of course Mrs Anna was appropriately dressed as one when she carried out her judging.

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The tea shop awaited its first customers, as in the background members can be seen arriving. The communal huts were decorated to welcome everyone. As well as all the children who dressed up many adults joined in. It took a long time for us to work out who the ghost was!

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I went round for a quick look at the Spooky Sheds while it was still just about light, to find so many different ideas.

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The winning shed was this one which was decorated around every side of the shed itself, across the bench and down the plot to where the skeleton was rising out of the ground. On another plot a hand with one finger missing was rising from a plant pot.

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One plot holder managed to co-ordinate her decoration with the berries of the Firethorn climbing up her shed. In another shed we found a witch had set up home!

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As with all our seasonal celebrations we found time for a BBQ. As the light continued to fade we “sparked up” our seasonal lamps. Glowing skulls!

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Some members took the chance to get dressed for the occasion. Here is Liz, our youngest committee member and Wendy who is one of our founder members.

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Wendy has formed our tea committee with her neighbouring plot holder Dee and we can see them here enjoying their BBQ while taking a break from their tea and coffee making duties.

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As the light faded, the children were getting increasingly excited in anticipation of the usual finale to out Halloween celebrations, our walkabout with our pumpkin lanterns. We trailed around the site looking at all the decorated sheds. One plot holder had even left a big tray of sweets on the bench for the wanderers. We were joined on our walk by real bats flying about our heads.

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So one day we were celebrating the success of Shrewsbury in the Britain in Bloom awards and our essential role in it and the next we were letting our hair down and celebrating Halloween. Crazy lot really! It just shows how much fun gardening can be.

In the third and final post in this series about our allotments we found ourselves back there on day 3 and back in work mode.

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Three Crazy Days at the Allotments – Day 1.

It is early autumn and we have just finished three crazy days on our allotment site, Bowbrook Allotment Community. Three very exciting days. It all began with measuring sunflowers for our annual Sunflower Competition where we determine which child and which adult has grown the tallest plant and the biggest flower. Just like last year the children showed the adults up when it came to growing giant sunflowers. For Little Henry here it was quite an effort to inspect his flowers. His plants outshone all others, children’s and adult’s alike, with the tallest plant towering to almost 3 metres and the width of his largest flower head measuring 33cm. We definitely have a gardener of the future here!

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While measuring the sunflowers my mobile kept ringing and as we wished to concentrate on the the job in hand I left it ringing each time until we stopped for our afternoon tea break. It was a most unexpected phone call when I did answer it, all about the BBC trying to organise for one of their film crews to film on the allotments starting at 5:30 on Friday morning. This was because that night the RHS were holding their “Oscars”, the Britain in Bloom awards and Shrewsbury were in the running with 71 other towns and cities to be crowned Champion of Champions. They wanted to know if I could arrange for the results to be announced at the allotments, should Shrewsbury win, as we were a key part of Shrewsbury’s entry. This was all at the request of the RHS.

A call at 10:00 in the evening informed us that Shrewsbury had indeed won and our allotment community gardens had been singled out for specific praise. The idea behind the early start was that the BBC wanted to announce the results during their early morning news coverage. The news was to be broadcast every half hour throughout the morning and they they wanted to film it all live from our site. Their “weather girl” was to make the announcement and talk to plot holders.

Our first job was to get the site opened to allow the crew to set up and get some BAC members there as well including a mum and her son. This involved getting up at 4:30! We did it but I still don’t know how! The first announcement of Shrewsbury’s success went out live and was filmed in the dark. Gradually throughout the period of filming the sun came up and the birds came to life. Our allotments looked great and we felt really proud. We had been singled out as a special element in our town’s success.

In the photos below Carol was learning her lines, consulting with the director and the lights were set up in the blackness.

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Two plot holders featured in an early slot still in the gloom. Mandy and son Elliot did us proud, with Mandy extolling the virtues of the town and our allotments and Elliot speaking up for the children and their “Roots and Shoots” club.

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The BBC outside broadcast studio in a van slowly emerged from the darkness as dawn broke.

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Life got easier as the sun came up. Alongside the arrival of the light came a sudden burst of bird song which quickly grew to a crescendo.

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I listened carefully to instructions from Carol with Mark and Gary from the town council property department alongside. Constant discussions went on between Carol, the camerman and the director.

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We went home for a few hours rest before returning to prepare for our Halloween celebrations the following day. (see the next post for details of how it went)

The RHS sent me their press release which went out to the media and on their website on Friday just as filming had begun. As chairman of the allotments I felt so proud as I read it. Included was a photo of one of our families on their plot. The children live here with their parents but in this photo are their grandparents who come from their home in South Africa each summer and spend time on the family plot.

“RHS judges were impressed by the high quality and importance of horticulture in what is the home-town of the “grandfather of popular gardening”, Percy Thrower, and the birth-place of Charles Darwin.

One Shrewsbury project that stood out was Bowbrook Allotment Community Site. As well as accommodating 88 organic growing plots and an impressive series of nature trails, individual gardens have been created to educate young people about native plants, conservation and edible growing.”

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To read what the world’s most important horticultural society had to write about us made me feel so proud of what our community has achieved so quickly. Just over 5 years ago all we had was a field and a vision.

My next post about our busy days on the allotments will be all about our celebration of Halloween, so some of the photos will be in the dark again. Night time darkness this time though instead of early morning!

 

 

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Aiming for an all year round garden – our garden in October

We are now into autumn and the trees are looking very undecided about what to do with their leaves. Some trees are already showing their Autumn hues but some are still displaying their summer greens. The wind as usual blows hard in October and snatches coloured leaves off all too early but does make colourful “carpets” beneath.

Off into the garden with camera in hand in a break in the gloomy light I shot a series of photos to give you an idea of what is going on in our garden in October.

I have decided to single out one plant which has started flowering just the last few days whereas its cousins flowered months ago. It is a Toad Lily – Trycirtis hirta variegata. The flowers are much paler than our other varieties of Trycirtis but they do still have the lovely marking typical of the family. Flowering this late does mean though that the flowers are viewed against foliage that is not at its best, with the gold edged variegation looking very faded.

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The best way for me to show you our October garden is probably via a gallery. So please just click on the first shot and navigate with the arrows. And enjoy!

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Post 500 – Tom Stuart-Smith at Serge Hill 2

As promised we return to Serge Hill for the final part of my Post 500 series, where we will discover the garden Tom Stuart-Smith designed for his sister and also take a look at his own meadow and prairie garden. (apologies for the poor quality of the photos but I was trying out a new camera for the first time)

His sister’s garden is designed to reflect her particular needs and interests, but it is easy to see his favourite plants and planting combinations throughout.

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I could’t resist taking the shot below. It looks as if he gardener was caught out by the arrival of all those visitors, so made a hasty retreat.

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The prairie garden was very popular, which made taking photos pretty difficult. In fact it was so busy when we arrived that we went off to explore the paths cut through the acres and acres of native wildflower meadows

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When we found a quieter moment in the Prairie we returned for a wander. It was a lovely contrast to the native meadows. I shall start with one of the favourite garden plants of both Jude the Undergardener and myself, Dianthus carthusianorum. We have a clump of three at home but here they were planted by the hundred. Incredible delicate looking wiry plant that moves in the slightest breeze.

 

 

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I had the pleasure of a quick talk with Tom Stuart-Smith himself and I proudly left his garden with a signed copy of his book under my arm, a book all about making his Barn Garden.

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Posted in garden design, garden designers, garden photography, gardening, gardens, grasses, hardy perennials, meadows, National Garden Scheme, Tom Stuart-Smith, Yellow Book Gardens | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Post 500 – Tom Stuart-Smith at Serge Hill

As promised for the third in my week’s posts celebrating my 500th post we go down to Hertfordshire to explore Tom Stuart-Smith’s garden designs at his own home and the home of his sister. The family home at Serge Hill is surrounded by mature planting. The new gardens  designed by T S-S are within its grounds. When these gardens open they are very popular with thousands of visitors making an appearance. It looks very busy and taking photos is difficult as the gardens are only open for one day each year as part of the National Garden Scheme, so people find it in the famous Yellow Book. The friendly herd of Guernsey calves greeted every visitor. We wandered through the gardens around the house which had been there a long time but the influence of T S-S can be seen.

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In the gardens at Tom’s and his sister’s, both designed to suit their particular needs, we felt we had found the nearest to perfection in meadow planting, prairie planting and courtyard planting. Come with us and see what you think.

Firstly I shall share my photos of the courtyard at The Barn. It has an atmosphere of such calm. Those loungers must provide a wonderful place in which to relax and be content with the world. The rectangular corton steel pools with their sheets of water dyed black for extra reflection mirror so clearly the moving clouds and any overhanging plants. Looking into them it appears as if they are bottomless.

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The planting is so simple but effective. Every plant has its place and complements its partners perfectly. Chartreuse and purple flowers and bracts work together so well against their background of grasses and coloured foliage.

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Reaching the prairie we found fellow garden fellow visitors exploring every pathway that were winding throughout.

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Close by a huge area had been planted as a native wildflower meadow which provided a wonderful contrast to the more vibrant prairie. We shall look in greater detail at the prairie and meadow as well as Tom Stuart-Smith’s sister’s garden in the next post.

 

 

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Post 500 – Part Two – a further visit to the “Oudolf Field”

As promised I am returning to the beautiful county of Somerset where Jude and I spent a day exploring the exciting new “Oudolf Field” and the gallery buildings at the Hauser and Wirth’s Durslade Farm.

We left off as we were looking at the pool and giant clock. This is the first time we have seen any water designed into an Oudolf designed garden and indeed the first one to include a giant clock. The pool afforded clear reflections of the trees surrounding the site and was only planted around the margin closest to the buildings to give the maximum area of reflecting water.

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The tall clock towers over the pool and its white face stands out against the brightness of the blue sky. I would imagine it would look great against black clouds too! It casts a beautiful lollipop shadow across the golden gravel. Its face looks like a big circular disc but it is in reality asymmetric in design, which causes the minute hand to move out into clear air as it moves into the narrow side.

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Although the planting is lower than in his previous gardens Piet Oudolf still uses many of his favourite plants such as Sanguisorbas, Echinaceas, Verbenas and Heleniums.

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We had a break for coffee and to look around the galleries before wandering the gardens again as the sun dropped slowly in the sky and the light gave the meadows a fresh look.

We were enthralled by a gallery where a display of Oudolf’s garden designs helps reveal how this garden designer’s mind works. We loved the designs and working drawings and “idea jottings” of this garden here in Somerset as well as those from the New York High Line and the Wisley Garden.

Moving from gallery to gallery each courtyard space is softened by more of Oudolf’s plantings, featuring trees underplanted with grasses and perennials. The sculptural pieces sit comfortably among the old farm buildings with their richly textured surfaces.

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Enjoy the gallery of photos taken in the sparkling late afternoon light. It is amazing how different plantings can look as the light changes within just a few hours at this time of year.

The next post in my 500 Celebration series will find us over in Hertfordshire where Tom Stuart-Smith lives. We had the privilege of visiting his own garden and the one he designed for his sister.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in architecture, buildings, colours, garden design, garden designers, garden photography, garden ponds, garden pools, garden seating, gardens, gardens open to the public, grasses, hardy perennials, light, light quality, meadows, ornamental grasses, outdoor sculpture, Piet Oudolf, reflections, sculpture, Tom Stuart-Smith, water garden, water in the garden | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments