Celebrating Spring at our allotments

At our allotments, Bowbrook Allotment Community, we celebrate each season of the year. We celebrated Spring in late April, with activities and games for the children followed by a BBQ sat around our new fire pits.

One of our members, Sherlie had planned craft activities for the children including painting faces on pebbles complete with moving eyes and decorating plant pots.

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Our social celebration days provide the chance to catch up for a chat and to get to know each other better. It lets new members meet their fellow gardeners too. The fire pits draw people in like magnets.

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Out tea committee, the Tea Bags, were on hand to keep us all plied with tea and coffee and cake of course!

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Michael, our machinery expert always finds time to look after our machines and teach others as well as looking after his own plot. He showed us how to use our new strimmer and demonstrated different cultivators and tillers. This gave members the chance to try machinery out with Michael on hand to help out and advise. Everyone feels so much more confident after advice from Michael.

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We always try to involve children in some gardening activities too giving adults and children a chance to discover skills together. At our Spring Celebration we sowed wildflower meadows in pots. Everyone joined in from the youngest upwards. The youngest gardener is Edward who loves his gardening already especially watering. He has a wonderful sense of humour so he really enjoyed showering me with a hose!

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The children are now looking after their mini-meadows and we have made them responsible for watering and checking on them regularly. It is good to see how keen the youngsters are to sow seeds and tend them afterwards. These meadows will form a part of our display at this year’s Shrewsbury Flower Show – in fact we hope they will be the centre piece.

We also provided the children with games to play which involved them in exploring the site and its wildlife areas. We challenged them to fit as many tiny objects as possible into a matchbox, and challenged them to take their parents and/or grandparents off on a scavenger hunt. We love to see different generations getting involved in our activities. It is so heartening to see how involved children can be learning about and enjoying being close to nature and gardening.

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We finished off with a BBQ as has become a tradition here at our allotments. Our new table and benches proved a real hit. What a great day we had!

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Posted in allotments, community gardening, meadows, Shrewsbury, Shropshire | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What our visitors saw! Our first NGS open Day of 2015

This year we are opening our garden five times, once each month from April to August so that visitors can see it develop as the year progresses. Our first opening was on 15th April, a sunny warm day so we were pretty busy. This blog is a wander around our Avocet garden with my camera just before our visitors arrived. Enjoy a wander with me.

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Our next opening will be in May when the garden will look very different.

Posted in flowering bulbs, garden photography, gardening, hardy perennials, National Garden Scheme, NGS, ornamental trees and shrubs, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, shrubs, spring bulbs, spring gardening, The National Gardening Scheme", Yellow Book Gardens | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

My Garden Journal – April

Back to my garden journal where we can see what was interesting me in our garden at Avocet during the month of April. My journal for April begins “As March gave way to April the weather responded with the sun making regular appearances and for the first time this year daytime temperatures made double figures. The garden celebrates!”

It celebrated with bright colours of spring flowers such as Celendines, Pulmonarias and early chartreuse flower s and bracts of Euphorbias.

My quote from Jenny Joseph’s book “Led by the Nose – A Garden of Smells” speaks of the delicate scents of the garden and in the countryside that are so important in spring.

The flowers that had come out in the sheltered places on banks and in woods – violets and primroses kept fresh by the rain at the beginning of the month – had been too shy and careful to part with much of their scent. Now they opened to the sun, and woods and walks began to have a lighter sweeter air. The air began to be a mingling of fragrances.”

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As the water in the wildlife pond warmed up we thought we would have our first dip with our net to see what wildlife was in evidence beneath the surface. In the journal I wrote “What fun as we reverted to childhood!”We were surprised by just how many different creatures had already stirred into life. I chose to paint the nymphs of Dragonflies and Dameslflies and a Backswimmer. The Damselfly Nymph will hatch out into an Azure Damsel and the two Dragonfly Nymphs into a Hawker Dragonfly and a Darter Dragonfly. They were quite a challenge to paint in their subtle earthy hues.

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Continuing on the watery theme on the next page of my garden journal I wrote “Jude gets excited each time she catches a newt when she is on her regular pond maintenance forays. The first this year appeared in early April. Such excitement at Avocet!”  We were so pleased to find so many newts out and about and so active this early in the year. As well as enjoying seeing them using our pond we are even more pleased to know that they are helping us with out pest control out in the borders. They spend much of their time out of water and are partial to slugs. Welcome visitors indeed!

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Now these little critters were even more of a challenge to paint than the other pond creatures! Anyway here are the results.

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On my next page I wrote, “During Easter Weekend, usually associated with cold and rain, the sky turned the deepest, clearest blue. Temperatures suddenly doubled and the garden buzzed and hummed with the arrival of bees and hoverflies. The most popular of all plants is the flowering currant, Ribes sanguineum.” 

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April is the busiest month of the year in the greenhouse. We raise vegetable plants for our allotment plot and annual plants for our garden, but a lot of space is taken up with Jude growing hardy perennials to sell on our open days.

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Towards the middle of the month the ponds were getting livelier with Water Boatmen, Pond Skaters and Water Beetles in evidence whenever the sun shone on the water. We set up our live moth trap for the first time this year to see what was about when darkness fell on the garden. Moths have such wonderful names, mostly given to them by English country clerics with far too much time on their hands. We found Small Brindled Beauties, Muslin Moths, Common Quakers and Early Greys.

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I next wrote “Goldfinches are searching the uppermost branches of our trees for the best nest site. We have at least one pair nest every year”. I then got out my watercolour paints and pens and attempted a painting of a Goldfinch.

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My final page in my journal entries for April featured two colourful beetles which we found in our garden in that month. “A tiny and very welcome visitor, a 14-Spot Ladybird came to our garden on our first Open Day of the year. A tiny but very unwelcome visitor to our garden also appeared on our first Open Day, a Lily Beetle. We welcome the 14-Spot as he eats aphids but we hate the Lily Beetle as it devours our lily leaves.”

 

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Posted in birds, fruit and veg, garden photography, garden ponds, garden pools, garden wildlife, gardens, National Trust, natural pest control, NGS, ornamental trees and shrubs, Shrewsbury, shrubs, spring gardening, The National Gardening Scheme", water in the garden, wildlife, Yellow Book Gardens | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Weekend Promoting Gardening for Wildlife

Tim, the plant manager of a local plant centre asked if I would do a weekend there to help promote wildlife gardening. The centre is going to set up a “plants for wildlife” section and this weekend was planned to launch this innovative idea.

Tim and his plant centre staff had put a collection of suitable plants together with their new sign and Caroline, one of the centre staff had created a bug hotel from an old wooden veggie box.

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Jude the Undergardener and I set up our display alongside. We had lots of photos and books to display along with my garden journals. We wanted to illustrate the diverse range of suitable plants and to show how easy gardening with wildlife really is. The main focus was on convincing people that wildlife gardens can attract and provide homes, food and shelter for wildlife of all sorts and still look beautiful.

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It was great fun talking to so many different people who were interested in gardening for wildlife, gardeners of all ages, all levels of experience but united in their desire to help our wildlife by gardening with it in mind.

Posted in garden design, garden wildlife, gardening, gardens, log piles, natural pest control, wildlife | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Walking the Shrewsbury Battlefield – Part 2

Back at the site of the Battle of Shrewsbury we return to look more closely at the church and the sculptural tree. First though it might be a good idea to say a little about the battle itself. The Battle of Shrewsbury took place in 1403 just north of the town. Here two armies met in what was to be a ferocious and bloody battle. The rebel army of Sir Henry Percy, locally known as Harry Hotspur, met the Royal army of Henry IV on the land of the medieval Manor of Albright Hussey. There is now no sign of the village but there is a building known as the Albright Hussey which was built over a century after the battle in 1524. So many lives were lost during the battle that a memorial chapel was built in 1406 in their memory.

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This church is now known as St Mary Magdalene’s Church. Below is my photographic record of our visit to the church. We loved the detailing around the door knocker with its design based on a crown, and all the different gargoyles around the top of the building from which would originally have spouted rainwater.

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Inside the church we soon found its famous stained glass windows, but we were also drawn to the reed lamp holders and the oak carved figures on the ends of the pews.

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The ancient lych gate is looking worse for wear but its intricate carved detailing is still here to be enjoyed and appreciated, but I wonder for how much longer.

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Over 5000 men died in this battle and their remains lie in an unmarked mass grave below the churchyard. Some of the headstones found in the churchyard here are very simple and others show very stylised carving.

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When we finished looking around the church and its surroundings we made our way back along the footpaths around the site of the Battle Field. Half way back we spotted a pool in the middle of a field which still showed signs of medieval ridge and furrow farming patterns. Close to the hedge we saw a wonderfully sculptural old tree. The tree must have fallen years ago and has now lost its bark so was smooth in texture. This is Mother Nature at her most creative. Please enjoy looking at my photos of this natural piece of sculpture.

 

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Posted in buildings, Church architecture, countryside, hedgerows, landscapes, memorials, outdoor sculpture, remembrance, sculpture, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, trees | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Walking the Shrewsbury Battlefield – Part One

Although we have lived in Shropshire for years it is only now that we have finally visited the site of the famous Battle of Shrewsbury and the Church of St Mary Magdalene built there to commemorate those who died in battle.

There were absolutely no clues that a battle ever took place here as we walked the footpath across the site of the battle, but we enjoyed wandering along the hedgerows with the song of Skylarks high above us and the distinctive call of the first returning migrant warbler, the Chiffchaff. We enjoyed seeing and hearing a Yellow Hammer a scarce farmland bird.

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Signs of spring were to be seen every step of the way, freshly bursting buds with the brightest of greens emerging and the earliest of blossoms.

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The willows were giving a light show, as the sun shone through their catkins.

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Some trees were still bare skeletons against the blue skies.

 

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As we approached the scatter of buildings around the church, a shallow stream flowed alongside with banks of water plants coming to life.

 

 

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In the woodland around the church we discovered the remaining fish ponds used by the college chaplains.

 

 

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We wandered past the church and made our way to the nearby Battlefield Farm Shop which luckily had a coffee shop! We decided to have a look at the church on the way back when we would be well-refreshed. In converted old farm buildings an exhibition explained all about the Battle of Shrewsbury.

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We began our walk back around the battlefield site following a narrow gravel path between a tall hedge and an old chestnut fence. In a field showing signs of ancient ridge and furrows agriculture we spotted a drainage pond rich in vegetation and a old fallen tree with the most amazingly shaped trunk and branches.

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In part two of our look at the Shrewsbury Battlefield site we will look at the church and the skeletal tree in more detail.

Posted in birds, buildings, Church architecture, colours, countryside, landscapes, light, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, trees, wildlife | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Croft Castle Month by Month – Part 4 – April

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It is already time for our fourth visit to the National Trust’s Herefordshire property, Croft Castle. On this visit the sun shone on us and we enjoyed a lovely warm spring day.

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The first noticeable change was that there was now life in the trees as buds were bursting and delicate bright green leaves were making their entrance.

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The ancient Sweet Chestnuts were beginning to show glossy ribbed fresh green foliage.

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Different wildflowers  added colour to the little meadow area that we pass on our way to the walled garden, Lady’s Smock with the softest possible pink petals, white and purple Fritilleries and buttercup yellow Dandelions.

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Beyond the meadow we passed through the gateway in the stone wall and got a glimpse of the castle and its chapel. We then walked along the deep long mixed border.

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We arrived expecting to see big changes in the walled garden itself and immediately we were struck by how lush green everything looked.

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In the bothy we read the job list for the gardeners. The greenhouse had a surprise in store for us, these zingy orange Clivia flowers. I couldn’t resist taking a shot of the peeling paint on an old wooden seat.

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Although there was little sign of growth on the vines the Apples were showing their first blossoms and the Rhubarb plants were producing strong stems. The garden staff had already picked a large crop. In the Rose Garden Tulips provided bright patches of colour.

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In readiness for the next school holiday the staff had put out games from times past. Jude the Undergardener just couldn’t resist it!

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Close to the Hopscotch game our noses were attracted to the scent from the Wisteria flowers.

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We loved this sign explaining why some grass was left uncut.

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We discovered colour in every border in the walled garden, flowering bulbs and early shrubs.

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Next visit to the gardens at Croft Castle will be in May when Spring will be in”full swing”.

Posted in colours, flowering bulbs, fruit and veg, garden design, garden photography, gardening, gardens, gardens open to the public, hardy perennials, National Trust, natural pest control, ornamental trees and shrubs, spring bulbs, spring gardening, The National Trust, trees, walled gardens | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment