Our Allotment Open Day

The highlight of our allotment year is our open day. This is the fifth year in a row that we have opened Bowbrook Allotment Community under the auspices of the National Gardens Scheme as one of the lucky gardens appearing in their famous Yellow Book. We enjoy letting anyone who wishes to visit our community gardens come to see what we get up to.

The day began at 8:30 am when some of our young families toured our wildlife areas with members of the Shropshire Wildlife Trust and the Shropshire Mammal Society who had set live mammal traps the evening before. We periodically link with the trust to discover aspects of the biodiversity of the site. This gives our young members the special experience of seeing close up the mammals living on site and the trust members help them use charts to identify the creatures trapped. The children had the chance to see some or our birdlife too, and at times wander off to enjoy their own special places.

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We then started sorting out everything we needed ready to open up the site to our visitors at 2:00. We gathered together all the plants we had ready to sell on our plant stall.

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“The Tea Bags” our refreshments sub-committee, began putting together their tea shop with the help of many volunteers. Gazebos had to be erected, tables and chairs arranged and all the cups, saucers and other paraphanalia needed sorted and organised. All day from 8:30 onwards our members delivered home made cakes and biscuits.

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A gazebo had to be positioned to create our ticket sales and info area. Jill and Geoff manned this area while we were open greeting all our visitors and giving our information sheets, quiz sheets, trail guides and the important competition voting slips. The photographs entered by our members into the photo competition were pinned to a board ready to be voted on by our guests during the afternoon.

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Every year our guests are asked to judge various competitions including our scarecrow competition. This year our theme was “Heroes and Villains” and here are a few for you to enjoy.

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Our competition this year for children was “Making A Miniature Garden in a Yogurt Pot”.

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We also invite our guests to vote for their favourite photographs in the selection entered by members.

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We invite local conservation groups to come along too to show our visitors all about their work, and this year the Shropshire Mammal Society, the Shropshire Wildlife Trust and the Shropshire Beekeepers Society all joined in.

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Our Tea Bags tea shop soon got busy and by the end of the day the Tea Bags had served hundreds of cups of tea or coffee along with a wonderful choice of home made cakes baked by our members.

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Close by a local Ukele Band entertained our guests as they enjoyed their refreshments.

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One little lad was mesmerised by their magical sounds. He turned his back on all other distractions and sat down to listen.

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Lots of our members work on their plots or sit close by their plots to greet our visitors, answer queries and share their secrets of growing good crops. Even our younger members are proud to show their produce to our visitors.

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After the last of our visitors left and the site grows quiet once again the task of returning the allotments back to its usual character quickly began. The Tea Bag tea shop soon disappeared as helpers put away their cups and saucers, tea urn and generator and tables and chairs.

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And the winner of the scarecrow competition was Robin Hood made by Pete and Sherlie!

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After a busy morning setting up, a busy time looking after our guests and then a busy time returning everything to normal the site finally became quiet, we locked the gate and wearily made our ways home. When we took stock of the day we were delighted to discover we had been host to 355 visitors and sent nearly £1700 to the National Garden Scheme and their wonderful charities.


Posted in allotments, community gardening, National Garden Scheme, NGS, Yellow Book Gardens | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Are You Sitting Comfortably? – Part 6 of a very occasional series

Number six in a very occasional series of posts all about the seats I find in gardens. Use your imagination and have a sit in each and see what you think! I hope you enjoy the view from some – you will have to use your imagination!

A visit to the famous Herefordshire garden, The Laskett, created by the couple Sir Roy Strong and Doctor Julia Trevelyan Oman, provided many unusual garden seats for us to try out and to photograph.

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At the Laskett even the toilet seat is quality!

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We will now look at another C20 garden, the gardens at Preen Manor near Much Wenlock not far from Shrewsbury. This is a garden of many”rooms” and each room seems to have a different style of seat.

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On a visit to a Yellow Book NGS garden a good mixture of seats can be found, such as these four at Upper Shelderton Hall gardens.

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Another Yellow Book Garden, Dovecote Barn in Herefordshire revealed these two seats, one well placed for a secret rest hiding in the polytunnel and the other a little precarious with a bit of a backward slope to it.

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So there is my sixth selection of garden seats – I can now look forward to trying out lots more in my search for the seventh selection!

Posted in garden design, garden furniture, garden photography, garden seating, gardening, gardens | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Miserden Park, a Gloucestershire Garden

We were journeying south towards Hampshire and searched for a place to break our journey. We were pleased to discover Miserden Park was close to the road we travelled. We expected it to be easy to find as we knew which village it was on the outskirts of but poor signage directing us firstly to the village and then to the garden itself made it difficult.

When we saw the house at Miserden we were impressed with the way the gardens around it helped it sit so comfortably in the landscape. The pale blue planting looked so good with the pale limestone of the building.

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We soon realised that this was one of those gardens which impressed with the tiny details of individual plants and colour combinations but also with the bigger pictures it presented.

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Metalwork impressed us from the imposing gates to the intimate seats.

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We loved the contrast between the formal gardens and the wilder “Robinsonian” areas. Paths mown through the long grass in these wilder areas led us to surprise plants to appreciate such as this Aesculus.

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On the paved area which surrounded the house containers planted up with gently coloured plants enhanced the colour of the stonework.

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An unusual rill garden had been created to celebrate the Millenium and a nearby conveniently positioned summer house gives visitors a good chance to rest awhile and admire it.

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A shrub border full of deep purple leaves provided a rest for the eyes after studying brighter coloured plantings.


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The grey stone walls of local limestone were a perfect foil for gentle coloured roses.



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One area had been developed much more recently and afforded impressive contrasts of style.

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We couldn’t really work out what this strange stonework integrated into the base of an ancient tree was all about.

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We finished our tour of the gardens at Miserden with a long slow walk along the double herbaceous borders.


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It is always a bonus to visit a good garden when taking a break in a journey further afield. Miserden was well worth stopping to explore.

Posted in architecture, colours, garden buildings, garden design, garden photography, garden pools, gardens, gardens open to the public, hardy perennials, National Garden Scheme, NGS, ornamental trees and shrubs, outdoor sculpture, roses, shrubs, trees, water in the garden, Yellow Book Gardens | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Our Two Gifted Children

Looking back into our families’ past when we researched our family histories we discovered that on my side, the Mollarts, a common thread was that of creativity. We found ancestors who were pottery workers in Stoke including pattern designers and model makers, silk workers and gardeners. We found that one of my pottery ancestors was involved in creating the famous Willow Pattern and one of my gardener ancestors helped with the creation of the Tuilleries in Paris. so it comes as no surprise that our own children, Jamie and Jodie and several of their cousins have creative streaks in them.

Our children are now 39 and 37 years old but we still feel the same sense of pride when they come good. This year has seen important times for both of our offspring.

In April our son Jamie had his first novel published. We attended the launch and book signing in a book store in Leicester, where he now lives. We were proud when we spotted the window display in the local bookstore. We couldn’t wait to get inside to see how Jamie was coping with the anticipation.

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He was easy to find. A big piles of new books awaited with lots of bubbly!

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The crowds gathered as Jamie prepared to read sections of his book in between being interviewed about writing “The Zoo”.

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The book reading began and we felt so nervous for him, but it soon became apparent we didn’t need to be.

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It is interesting to see the changing expressions of the interviewer and interviewee!

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Book signing followed. Sister, Jodie looked proud of her big brother as he signed her copy of the book, closely followed by more friends and family.

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Jude, aka the Undergardener, waited patiently looking proudly on until her turn to have a book signed arrived.

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Luckily for Jamie that big pile of books kept getting smaller!


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So from that day on Jamie’s “The Zoo” was on sale! We longed to get home and start reading our own signed copies.

In July our daughter, Jodie put on an exhibition of her jewelry work, following courses on working with silver and gold. Her display at Westhope College showed final pieces and all the work it took to prepare for their completion.

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We always enjoy studying the plans and sketchbooks of artists and craftspersons at exhibitions. Jodie displayed this aspect of her work well and showed just how important these stages are.



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The centre piece of the display was this amazing necklace.

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And so it has been a good year for our two and of course for us as well!

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Roses, roses and yet more Roses – Mottisfont.

We had planned to visit the National Trust garden at Mottisfont to see its rose garden for many years so took advantage of being in Hampshire for a short break in June. Little did we know that hoards of others were planning the same visit! The car park was overflowing when we arrived but we managed to find a space. Why had we not realised that this garden is famous for roses so most people would visit in the month of roses, June?

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A short wander from the car park into the garden took us over the River Test via an old stone bridge. As a fisherman seeing the River Test is an exciting thing! Peering down from the bridge we spied big Brown Trout seeking out flies and other insects right below us. These were “Brownies” that anglers dream of!

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The building at Mottisfont was originally a monastery and a quick look inside soon revealed its past. We found ancient dark vaulted cellars and even a mason’s mark. Outside roses clambered over the ruins of stone buildings.

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A  mosaic decorated a section of wall created by the artist Boris Anrep to depict the likeness of the mistress of the house Maud Russell in the 1930’s. The style was far from modern.

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We made our way towards the walled garden where Mottisfont’s collection of roses is grown. On the way we found a dipping well fed by a tiny clear stream, a diversion from the Test.

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A walkway featuring cream coloured roses trained up pillars took us into the richly coloured and scented rose garden. Insects found the roses as appealing as the visitors and we enjoyed spotting all the bees and hoverflies feeding delicately on the nectar and pollen.

Luckily there were plenty of herbaceous perennials to add variety of shape and colour and give the nose a break from the scents.

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Please enjoy my gallery of roses. There were so many people looking at and smelling the roses that taking these pics was a real challenge. Click on the first photo and take a tour by clicking on the arrows.

The walled garden was not only full of roses but also of people. We were not the only visitors who thought it a good time to make the journey to Mottisfont! After a while we found the volume of people just too much and left the Roses in search of other interesting things. Surely there must be more than Roses!

We decided to make our way back towards the River Test and follow the riverside walk. As we left the Rose Garden the gentle colours of this group of perennials was a relief after too many roses. This was just the first of several interesting features here beyond the Rose Garden.

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Walking away from the walled garden we spotted in a large area of lawn this intriguing group of trees and to its right an old wooden trailer.


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A wide circle of tall, mature trees encircled a smaller circle of dead trees inserted upside down in the earth. Some were decorated with gold leaf.


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The little wooden caravan turned out to be a shepherd’s hut used during lambing time. It contained a bed, heater, stove and all the basic home comforts.


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The Ice House was hiding in a group of trees whose shade added a few degrees of cooling. The storage area was much larger than we expected and as we peered inside we could feel the coolness which was used to keep food cool and to keep ice frozen for a while.

Leaving the Ice House we passed a neatly planted avenue and continued on our way towards the riverside walk.


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The cool shade afforded by the trees along each bank of the Test was welcome after the heat out in the open. We wandered alongside the clear waters of the fast moving river enjoying occasional glimpses of impressively sized Brown Trout leaping for flies passing overhead. Can you spy this big old Brownie hanging in the flow of the river?

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This was the home of dry fly fishing and considered by most anglers to be the best fly-fishing river in the world.

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It felt like touching angling history to explore the old fisherman’s lodge. An old creel hang from the wall among other fishing memorabilia.


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We found interesting objects such as these two very different but equally impressive chairs made from willow harvested from the river banks.


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As much as we enjoyed the roses at Mottisfont we were delighted to find there was lots more to see and appreciate.

Posted in buildings, gardens, gardens open to the public, ornamental trees and shrubs, outdoor sculpture, roses, The National Trust, trees | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Somerset Willows

I love Salix (willows) – they are one of my favourite trees almost on a par with Betulas (Birches). I always have liked them, our own native species and the garden varieties we can grow. We have several at home in our garden and use them on our allotment communal gardens where we have a Withy Bed with 17 different varieties with different coloured stems and leaves. From these we have made a Fedge, which is a living hedge and a Willow Dome and Willow Tunnel for the children.

I used to like seeing them as a child when I fished a local stream. We moved from one ancient gnarled willow to another. Many were hollow pollarded specimens completely open on one side. We explored the hollow ones as we could often get inside them and look up at the sky. They were great shelters when rain showers stopped us fishing.

When we found ourselves in Somerset we realised that we were close to the Wetland and Willows Centre, so we just had to drop by and have a wander.

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We followed  a sign taking us for a tour around the productive land around the centre. We passed over a bridge with sides constructed from willow with decorative willow features within.

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The path took us to an area full of willow structures mainly places for children to explore, even including a willow snail!

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As we moved on we came across a willow drying fence where the harvested willows were hung out to dry. A little further on as we made our way through a wooded area we found this willow spider in its web, a beautiful hedgehog and a buzzard flying through the branches.

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Leaving the wood we found ourselves walking through the wetlands, the drainage of which was controlled by windmills, sluices and a series of ditches. Large areas were willow plantations, the productive heart of the wetlands.


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As we were reaching the end of our tour of the wetlands we discovered the drying racks where the harvested willow wands were left to dry.

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Before leaving we just had to look at the centre’s museum. We were amazed at how many things are made from willow and all the other items from the past. My first museum photo gives a taster of the delights in the museum. To find out more look through the gallery below. To enjoy my gallery just click on the first picture and use the arrows to negotiate your way through.

We enjoyed our visit to find out more about willows and came away simply amazed! We came away with this unusual willow bird table.

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Posted in countryside, landscapes, meadows, trees | Tagged , , , , , , ,

My Garden Journal – July

I can’t believe we are in the second half of the year but as this is the post about my garden journal in July then we most certainly are!

I began my July journal entry with a reference to the weather, the obsession of the British especially gardeners. “The month of July burst in with a heatwave. Some plants objected by wilting but flower colours were enriched in the sunlight. Lilies and Clematis joined the colour pallette provided by June’s Roses and Geraniums.”

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Our Oriental Lilies were the best we have ever had this July and we have been growing them for many years. We grow them in big pots so that we can simply drop them in where and when they are needed to add splashes of dramatic colour. Enjoy my little gallery of Lily photos. Just click on the first photo and then use the arrows.

I then wrote about our July pond dipping adventure, “A pond dip early in the month showed young newts still present in abundance alongside nymphs of Dragons and Damsels. This little creature (painting below) caught my eye. At just over a centimetre in length the Water Lice, or Isopoda, is the wet equivalent of the more common Wood Lice. They cannot swim but simply scramble around devouring detritus and decaying plant material. They are common prey of the larvae of Damsels and Dragons.”

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I moved on then from pondlife to birdlife and looked at two of the most beautiful birds that visit our garden. “We have been visited by two of our most colourful birds over the last few weeks, Bullfinches and Redstarts.” The Redstart made a fleeting visit on our last open day at our garden when it was full of visitors, which seemed a bit brazen for a normally shy woodland bird.


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Agapanthus featured next in my July garden journal as our collection in our Beth Chatto garden were budding up nicely promising a beautiful display before too long. We have been building up our collection of favourite Agapanthus for a few years now and it is now coming along well. “Our collection of Agapanthus in our Beth Chatto Garden is slowly getting more colourful as flower buds burst. Surely these are the slowest of buds to become flowers!”

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To see some of our Agapanthus up close, some still in tight buds some opening up, please enjoy the little Agapanthus gallery below. As usual click on the first picture and use the arrows to move through. Next month promises to be a month of Agapanthus flowers rather then buds. Can’t wait!

My next double page is about the weather and our min-meadows.

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My journal continues, “This year the heat of the early part of July was not set to continue for us in Shropshire. Dark grey masses of clouds took over from clear blue skies.”

Mighty Mini-Meadow is the title of the next page of my journal which features photos of the little but very floriferous meadow we sowed in early May in vegetable bags. The seeds germinated so well that we have been treated to a mass of blooms reminiscent of a summer meadow from the days before intensive agriculture changed our countryside into huge barren fields of monoculture. It sits beneath my collection of antique garden tools. These native wildlflowers attract insects as if drawn in by distant memories, bees, hoverflies and butterflies.

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What an honour Mother Nature bestowed on us this month! This is how the next page of my journal begins. It is all about a special time in our garden, a moment we will never forget.

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“Early one morning we noticed that a Dragon Fly larva had crawled from our pond, across the decking and up the door of our summerhouse. The green colour of the door must have fooled it into thinking it was tall rushes. Once in place the back of the larva opened up and a Dragonfly very slowly emerged. At first it was wingless but as warmth increased they popped out looking as if they were made of plastic. The creature shivered itself into life and the sun helped pump life and rigidity into its wings. An hour later we watched an adult Dragonfly off.”

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I illustrated this amazing spectacle with a simple i-pad drawing and a photo of the head of the Dragonfly gripping the empty shell of its former self.


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So with this amazing experience my journal closed up for July and will soon re-open for August.


Posted in bird watching, birds, garden photography, garden ponds, garden pools, garden wildlife, gardening, gardens, hardy perennials, meadows, poppies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments