More Awards for Bowbrook Allotment Community

There is nothing better on cold dull days of winter than looking back.

When the RHS gave us our first award we jokingly started calling ourselves an “Award Winning Allotments” and then as we get more and more we now call ourselves the “Multi-Award Winning Allotments”. Well last year in the autumn we were invited to another award ceremony jointly held by the RHS and Britain in bloom.

We enjoy these ceremonies as it affords us the opportunity to meet gardeners from other community gardens and see what they are getting up to. This year the ceremony was held in a hotel with well-laid out gardens too so we enjoyed a wander before our lunch.

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Our allotment gardens, Bowbrook Allotment Community, affectionately know as BAC, fall under the RHS Its your Neighbourhood Scheme for community gardens that improve their local areas. We are measured against a set of criteria which consider horticultural excellence, environmental enhancement, wildlife friendliness and community involvement. Assessors from the RHS make visits and spend several hours on site marking us against set guidelines. The awards are awarded at 5 levels starting with beginning at Level 1 moving up to Level 5 Outstanding. They can also give out discretionary awards to individuals and community gardeners.

We were pleased to receive a Level 5 Outstanding Certificate in 2015 for the 5th year running. We were totally surprised when we were called up at the end of the award ceremony to be be awarded an RHS National Award of Distinction, one of only two awarded. We were given this as we had achieved a mark of 100% in every category. Can’t be bad! It truly reflects our great community spirit!

I thought it would be interesting to add photos of the banners displayed in the hall as they give clues to the spirit of this award scheme.

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My Garden Journal 2016 – January

I will once again be keeping my garden journal during 2016 recording my thoughts on our own garden here at Avocet in the tiny hamlet of Plealey situated just inside the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the South Shropshire Hills. I will share the sounds, sights and aromas of our garden and make mention of the wildlife that shares the garden with us. In 2015 I found a quote every month from a little book, ” Led by the Nose” written by Jenny Joseph. In 2016 I will look back at what I recorded in my first garden journal which I began in the first full year of living in Plealey. Although we moved here in August 2004 my journal began in January 2005. It will be interesting to compare 2005 with 2016.

So, welcome to our “Avocet” garden in 2016. I hope you enjoy the journey through the months with me.

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My first page for 2016 features my gouache painting of a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a few words about this charismatic garden visitor.

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“The Great Spotted Woodpecker makes its presence felt in our garden. It is black and white with splashes of bright red. It announces its arrival with a loud call as it flies in with its undulating flight. It hits the bird feeders hard so they swing around. These hungry birds stay feeding for far longer then any other bird.”

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On the opposite page I write “Gardeners often pose the question“What is your favourite season in the garden?” It is easier for some to answer this question and they quickly give a definitive answer, while others find the choice impossible to make. For me? Well, I admit  I always answer “The one we are in.” Not many gardeners will say “winter” viewing it as a “non-time” in their gardens. Many put their gardens to bed for the winter by chopping a huge percentage of the plants to the ground. Their interest only returns when spring bulbs burst into flower. I absolutely love the winter garden!”

I illustrate the page with my watercolour painting of two hips from Rosa “Graham Thomas”, a David Austin New English Rose which we grow as a climber. It gives joy to the gardener for many months of the year with its profuse golden sunny yellow blooms and when it finally gives up in December it begins to produce its green hips which quickly turn to yellow then orange.

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Turning the page over I write “As the weather turns colder at the end of the first week of the new year we are delighted to see the garden full of birds. Often we hear our feathered visitors before we see them. While spending a day in the garden cutting down soggy perennials we heard the Buzzards mewing over our heads and the grating call of Mistle Thrushes defending their favourite berried trees. The high pitch calls of Goldcrests are barely audible” Below these words we find my gouache painting of a pair of Goldcrests.

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Foliage features on the opposite page where I write “In winter flowers generally give way to interesting foliage on both shrubs and evergreen perennials. There is such a wide variety of shapes, colours and textures to be found in our January garden”.

A selection of photographs which I took in the garden on the same morning follows.

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Turning the next page my text is all about the scents of winter flowering shrubs.

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“Scent is such a powerful force in the winter garden and it is shrubs that put in a strong performance. We plant these scented shrubs close to paths so that we can enjoy them close up. On still days though their perfumes can be appreciated all over the garden. Cornus mas, the Cornelian Cherry, has a delicate scent but striking flowers of a bright yellow to which sunlight adds a hint of lime green to make it really zing.” 

A much more strongly scented winter flowering shrub grows close to the main path in our back garden and is generous with its scent spreading it all over nearby borders, is Daphne bhuloa “Jacquiline Postill”.

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On the page opposite I put the spotlight on a plant called “Physalis alkenengi” as I had come across the skeletal remains of its fruiting head while gardening in the Hot Garden.

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I write “Physalis alkekengi is a strange little plant. It is inconspicuous for most of the year apart for twice when it gives splashes of colour. We rarely notice its off-white flowers in mid-summer but bright red papery “lanterns” soon follow. Inside its lanterns are hidden glossy orange berries. The wet decay of winter breaks down the papery cases which turn biscuit coloured before the flesh falls away leaving a lantern shaped net within which sits the orange berry.”

I illustrated this page with a watercolour painting of this little garden treasure. It was a great challenge!

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My next page is about two gardeners at work. Jude the Undergardener and I produce our own bean poles and pea sticks to use on our crops which we grow on our allotment plot.

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“Bean Poles and Pea Sticks

We have reached the stage now where our garden has matured enough to allow us to produce our own bean poles and pea sticks to use on our allotment. Our two Hazels provide us with the majority, but other shrubs add to our stash when we prune them.”

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On the page opposite I share my photos of the first frost of 2016.

“The first frost of the year arrived in the third week of January. It added a new white dimension to foliage which sported rims of tiny white crystals.”

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My final words and pictures in my January entry in my garden journal look back at my 2005 garden journal and a current garden project.

“Looking back at my January entries in my garden journal of 2005, I notice that I was then building a heated propagator in our new 14 foot by 8 foot greenhouse. This has served us well over the years making seed germination so much easier. This year I am making a much bigger propagating bench. For this version I will need support of my Undergardener, Jude.”

I hope you enjoy my photographic journey through this most enjoyable two day project. It was a good task to do while the weather outside was too cold, windy and wet to get any outdoor gardening done. The greenhouse was warm and snug so a good place to be working.  When describing our efforts I used short captions for each photograph.

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Using recycled wood we made a new bench. We checked it was perfectly level.”

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“We fixed in a double layer of insulation boards after adding an edge of 6 inch board. Then we fixed on a layer of plastic sheet.”

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“We added a 2 inch layer of soft sand. The control box, thermostat and probe were fixed to the box.”

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“Then we laid out our heating cable carefully. The cable had to be covered in soft sand.”

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A second layer of soft sand was added to a depth of 2 inches. We carefully made it level. The final touch – a layer of capillary matting”.

Here ends the entries from the first monthly entry into my Garden Journal for 2016. See you in February when we will start to use our newly constructed heated propagation bench.

 

 

 

Posted in birds, diy, garden photography, garden wildlife, gardening, gardens, grasses, hardy perennials, ornamental grasses, ornamental trees and shrubs, roses, Shropshire, shrubs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Are you sitting comfortably? Part 8 of an occasional series.

Here we are back with yet another post in this very occasional series all about garden seating. For parts 8 and 9 we will share with you a collection of seats we found while spending a few days in Devon.

The first set of seats are to be found in the woodland garden of the Stone Farm Cottage Garden and Nursery. This garden boasts the National Collections of Betulas (Birches) and Alnus (Alders). We will look at these trees in a future post.

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In the next post in my garden seats series we will share with you the seats we discovered at the RHS Rosemoor Garden.

 

 

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Garden Entrances and Archways – No 1 of a very occasional series.

This will be another occasional series, similar to my “Are you sitting comfortably?”series which has been around for quite a long while now. Here I shall share with you those little features in gardens which entice us to take a particular routeway through a garden, enter a garden room or tempt us to follow a path or open a gate.

These features can be a beautifully crafted arch of metal or wood, perhaps even with a seat included to encourage us to sit and ponder what lays ahead ……………

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….. or simply a path framed by trees or borders to entice you onward …………..

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……. or even just a gap between two beautiful apple trees or a narrow pathway to a comfortable seat.

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Hampshire Seaside – Lymington

Here is another post to remind us of warmer sunnier days. It is the story of the second seaside town we visited while in Hampshire earlier this year.

Holidaying in the New Forest gave us access to beautiful countryside, trees aplenty to give us autumn colours and just to please Jude, the Undergardener, proximity to the sea. We spent two afternoons at the seaside, the first at Lymington and the second at Milford on Sea. In this post we will share our day at Lymington.

We got lost getting to the car park  in the town centre but after skirting the coast we went all around Lymington and by luck ended up parking right next to the quay.It was a better place to enjoy the town from than where we had intended to park and to make it even more convenient as we got out of the car our noses caught the aroma of fresh coffee! Brilliant car park! The coffee house was a converted boat house with views across the quay.

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Once suitably refreshed and loaded with caffeine we wandered the old narrow streets close to the quay. We were taken by the amusing and original shop names and their signage.

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We left the old town and wandered along Quay Road which ran parallel to the estuary. The many old boathouses have been converted into homes, business premises and holiday accommodation.

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We passed several boat repair yards, marinas and boat builders. We were attracted to the sign of this boat builder, with its two letter B’s depicting yachts with wind-filled sails.

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Jude the Undergardener could not resist playing in this old fashioned seaside entertainment.

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Our walk took us away from the waterfront and back to the town’s main street, where we found buildings of different ages, old shops, churches and cinemas.

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After a stop for coffee and cakes we walked back through the old village with its cobbled streets and tiny shops.

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We had enjoyed our day by the sea even though we found no sandy beach to walk on or even shingle to crunch through.

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Hampshire Seaside – part two – Milford

To bring some sunshine to a very dull January let us turn the clock back and enjoy a visit to the Hampshire coast.

While in Hampshire we drove down through the New forest avoiding cattle, donkeys, pigs and ponies on the road and down to Milford on Sea.

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Just like Lymington this small seaside town overlooked the famous stretch of water, the Solent and beyond the Solent we had views of the Isle of Wight. Frequent ferries trundled passengers and vehicles over to the island and back. The Solent as expected was busy with yachts and launches.

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The cliffs here defied any sense of scale. In the photos below the cliffs look as tall as any along the south coast, but in reality were merely 12 ft or so in height.

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Whenever we visit the sea we look out for beach huts as they are so colourful, so full of character and a close look reveals interesting details of colour and texture. So we were delighted to come cross a small street of them at the end of our beach promenade.

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As usual when we find them my camera worked hard to capture their spirit. I hope you enjoy my little gallery dedicated to them. As usual click on the first pic and then navigate with the arrows.

 

 

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The Dorothy Clive Garden in January – Part 2

So here we are back at our feature garden for 2016, the Dorothy Clive Gardens on the border of Shropshire and Staffordshire. I will start with some views from around the garden. It will be interesting to see how these views change through the year.

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Let us now look at the bright red colours of berries and the more subtle browns and biscuit colours of seedheads of Hydrangeas and Phlomis.

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The delicate beauty of these seed heads deserved a very close look to fully appreciate them.

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We walked down the gentle slope towards the pond and the scree garden around it. Throughout the other seasons the borders here will be glowing with colour and full of exuberant growth.

Different textures together add interest to the winter garden where the bare stems of deciduous shrubs and perennials sit alongside bright new growth which are the promises of spring and summer.

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The Rose Garden looks very bleak in the winter when its bones are revealed, the obelisks and arches of black metal and the bare unpruned stems of the roses.

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Near the bottom of the slope we came across a stand of three old Birches and a single tall specimen nearby. In the border here obelisks have been created from the trunks of felled Birches. It is good to see them given a second life.

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We spotted this architectural looking plant as we walked back up the slope and we were both unsure what it was but came to the conclusion it was a Tetrapanax.

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We are not really fans of conifers but admit that in the winter they can give strong structure to the garden.

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I will finish off with a selection of photos, a rustic seat, a terracotta bird box on an old brick shed, a larger then life statue of a stag above a stream and pool and finally a snow topped sundial on a sunless day.

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That is it for our January exploration of our featured garden for 2016, The Dorothy Clive Garden. We are already looking forward to our February visit when we may see more signs of spring bulbs in flower and some more early flowering shrubs.

 

 

Posted in flowering bulbs, garden photography, gardening, gardens, gardens open to the public, ornamental trees and shrubs, spring bulbs, Staffordshire, trees, Winter Gardening, winter gardens | Tagged , , , , , , , ,