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Another Yellow Book Garden – Tea on the Way

We enjoyed a visit to another garden which appears in the National Garden Scheme’s Yellow Book, the scheme which our own Avocet garden is a part of. We spend many an afternoon visiting our fellow gardeners who open their gardens for charity.


In mid-May we set off through the Hope Valley near our home and on through South Shropshire through the village of Clun up a narrow lane that got more and more narrow and rougher and rougher until we reached a field designated as a car park for the day. The garden of Guilden Down Cottage awaited a short walk away. We soon realised that we knew of this garden already in its other guise as “Tea on the Way”. The cottage owners serve refreshments to walkers passing by. But on the day of our visit they were open to raise funds for the charities of the National Garden Scheme.


At the entrance to the garden we spotted produce for sale in a lane side stall.

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We waited to pay our entry fee and order our usual tea and cakes to prime us for our garden exploration! I noticed a beautiful woodstore and beside it a sleepy old sheep dog.

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We soon began to realise that this was gong to be an interesting visit, perhaps not so much for the plants but more for its quirkiness and cheerful atmosphere. As we wandered towards a seat on which to enjoy our refreshments we spotted the first quirky artifacts. Even the seat we sat upon was home made and full of character.

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Once refreshed we took off on our exploration and first off found this well planted container. The planting around the front lawn looked lush and was set off by the bird bath.

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A flight of stone steps with rustic trellis either side welcomed us into the main garden. Being an organic garden we were on the look out for unusual ideas and gardening methods. As always though we were searching out the plants!

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Some plants were planted in interesting containers or within collections of artifacts.

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The kitchen garden was beautiful with a network of paths made from woodchip entered via handmade gates created using wood harvested from the garden.

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Close to the kitchen garden we found a polytunnel and a fruit cage and some signs of organic principles in action, an insect home, comfrey liquid fertiliser and worm pee fertiliser.

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A few more artifacts and craft pieces spotted at Guilden Down Cottage will end this post nicely.

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Aiming for a year round garden – our garden in September

We hosted the final visit by a garden group to our garden for the year at the beginning of this month. We were pleased that there was still plenty of interest for our friends from the South Shropshire Mini-group of the Hardy Plant Society.

As usual we shall start this month’s wander in the front garden. In the gateway our pink pelargoniums continue to flower below our house nameplate on our gatepost.

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The “Chatto Garden” is beautiful every day of every year and today is no exception. The red leaf blades of the grass, Imperata cylindrica “Red Baron”,  seem more colourful in the late summer sun. Nearby the dying flowers of the Agapanthus “Black Panther” still glow blue against the biscuit colours of the grasses.

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The first of our many Michaelmas Daisies are now flowering and close by our latest small tree, a wonderful Acer pectinatum, with red stems and leaf petioles has settled well.

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The other front garden borders still have plenty of interest to look at.

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By our front door the shrub, Buddleja lindleyana continues to flower on after many months. Also in our Freda Garden the strange yellow flowers of Kirengeshoma palmata are on the verge of opening into its bell shaped blooms. These two unusual flowers grow side by side and look beautiful together with their complimentary yellow and blue.

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In the back garden the Shed Border is still punctuated by the yellow spires of the Verbascum which look even brighter with the red hybrid tea rose blooming alongside. Even more colourful is the Tropical Garden with this star shaped Dahlia starring with Ricinus. The bee arrived at the very centre of this Dahlia just as I pressed the shutter button.

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Next to the hot colours of the Tropical Garden the pastel shades of our Sweet Peas that clamber up the wall trellis cool things down a little.

In the Rill Garden the red-flowered Clematis flowers of Hagley Hybrid clamber around behind the succulent reddish-black leaved Aeonium affording a fiery combination.

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In the seaside garden the airy Cosmos plants still flower profusely in whites and pale pinks.

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The little Pollinators Bed on either side of the Insect Hotel still displays a few flowers such as the white Lychnis coronaria and the last few petals hang onto the Leonotis which now shows its cylindrical seed heads. Close by our grapes are colouring up promising tasty, juicy fresh fruits soon. Another brown seed head  of the Eryngium “Miss Wilmott’s Ghost” is now full of black seeds ripe and ready to drop to the soil to produce next year’s plants.

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The Secret Garden always provides plenty of colour interest and variety of texture. Geranium Rosanne seems to be perpetually in flower and it looks particularly good with grasses. Our Aesculus x mutabilis “Induta” has a few seeds forming and as they ripen little shining brown “conkers” show in the cracking cases.

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In the Spring Garden Rosanne stars again and the final few flowers of Cosmos polidor look golden against the silver of the Betula’s silver trunk. Close by in the Chicken Garden apples await harvesting and Miscanthus grasses colour up attractively.


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I shall finish with two special plants, an Acer turning buttercup yellow and Persicaria amplexicaule rosea.


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After finishing this post the garden seemed to change as autumn approached, so I decided to take a few photos right at the end of the month to illustrate how the garden changes with time, sometimes a short time. So look out for a colourful gallery in Part Two.

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Aiming for a year round garden – our garden in June – how our visitors saw us.

This year, 2014 will be the year we open our garden under the auspices of the National Garden Scheme, so we saw our garden details published in the famous Yellow Book. This is a landmark for any gardener in England and Wales, albeit a pleasing one and a worrying one. So many questions pour into your mind when you see the description of your garden in print.

I had to provide 9 photographs of our garden taken in previous years at the same time of year we are due to open. It was hard to choose shots that gave the right “feel”. We wanted to give a taste of what our plot is all about and these pictures give further ideas for the visitor after they have read the paragraph we presented to the NGS. Luckily I could look back into the archives of my blog. To check out the photos I selected go to the NGS website,, click on “find a garden” and type in Avocet where you are asked for a garden name.

We have also been asked by a couple of garden groups if they could visit. So the first of these we set for mid-June and we felt it would provide a practice run for the big day in August. The group were the Shrewsbury Mini-group of the Shropshire Hardy Plant Society, so we knew them already which made the day a bit less daunting. I took a series of photos in the morning of the day they were coming to give an idea of how they would see our little quarter acre of garden.

This post also serves as part of my series on “Aiming for a Year Round Garden” where I look around our garden to see if our aim to have interest throughout he year is working.

The first photos show how we welcome visitors as they find our gateway and look up the drive.

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Next we take a quick wander around the front garden to view the gravel garden (The Beth Chatto Garden), the stump circle and the driftwood circle, as well as the mixed borders around the lawn.

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We have worked hard this year to make the drive and the side of the house more welcoming using antique galvanised containers planted up with Dahlias and Calendulas and brightly coloured Pelargoniums are planted in the hanging baskets and other containers.

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The next “port of call” is the Shade Garden followed by the “Fern Garden” and then into the “Seaside Garden”. I always seem to follow a set pathway around the garden when taking photos but I have to admit that I designed the garden to give visitors choices and so have created a situation where no two people wandering around need to follow the same route. I want each section of the garden to be viewed and approached from several directions. So although I am trying in this post to show our garden from our visitors’ viewpoint it is in reality just my own personal route.

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And so to the back garden which has a different feel to it altogether as the individual garden compartments are all hidden in some way. It is a garden where you have to go looking – you cannot sit and look and take it all in in one go. Unlike the front, where from the seat under the arbor you can view most of the garden borders in one go, there are parts you can’t see so you are enticed to go to them for a close look.

In the back garden we find the water feature among Hostas and Toad Lilies on the end of the Shed Bed and from there you can look down the central path with arches draped with trained apple trees, roses and clematis. Another arch to the side of the main path affords glimpses of more borders.

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From the central path we can peer over the cloud pruned box hedge into these borders, which hopefully will entice the visitors to explore further.

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By turning right off the central path visitors find themselves between the Chicken Garden and the Secret Garden and after a mere half dozen steps must choose which one to look at first.

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Within the Secret Garden alongside a comfortable cream coloured seat visitors can enjoy our latest creation, the Alpine Throne.

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If however our visitors chose to go left at the central path they would find further choices, the Japanese Garden, the Wildlife Pond and Bog Garden to the right or the Long Border and Crescent Border to the left.

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Back closer to the house we can find the “Pollinators’ Border” complete with insect hotel, the Shed Scree Bed and the new Tropical Border.

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So there we have a quick tour of our garden in mid-June just as our first group of garden visitors saw us. We enjoyed the kind comments they left and felt it had been worthwhile, particularly when several said they would be back when we opened for the NGS in August.

The only downer was that the Bearded Iris had given us their best show ever, a true extravaganza for the three weeks or so prior to the visit. On the day just one bloom remained to show everyone what they had missed. Gardeners always say “You should have come last week.” and for us this may well have been true, at least where the Iris were concerned.

Our next big day is our NGS Open Day on the 3rd August so we are hoping we can maintain interest in the borders until then. A second mini-group of Shropshire Hardy Planters will be visitors a month after that so we will have to be “on our toes” for a while yet!

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Aiming for a year round garden – early spring.

We looked at our garden in late winter to see if our aim of creating a garden with interest all year was paying off. Now in Early April things have changed a lot in the garden since our last look so I thought we could have a look at it in early spring. Are we getting there?

I shall start with a look out over our gravel garden, The Chatto Garden, which illustrates just how important Euphorbias are at this time of year. The second shot illustrates how our new border has developed since we planted it up earlier this year.

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Foliage is still a key element in early Spring including fresh foliage of newly emerging herbaceous plants.

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Plants don’t have to be new to be good! Just look at the old favourite shrub, the flowering currant – just ask the bees and they will say how important they are! And of course daffodils and muscari bring life to our spring gardens every year without fail. All bulbs give little splashes of colour to brighten the dullest spring day.

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Our Hellebores are still going strong.

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And now a quick visit to our Japanese Garden and the pond side border alongside. There is a lot of colour to find here.

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Our native Primrose is perhaps our favourite plant in our garden at this time of the year with the delicacy of its scent and colour. Other small flowers star before their larger neighbours take over the borders.

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The star plant in our garden for early spring has to be the Chatham Island Forget-me-Not, Myosotidium hortemsium, with the flowers in a shade of blue that is so intense it is impossible to describe in words or give labels to. It lives in our Shade Garden so we have to make an effort to go and see it. It deserves our effort.

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One part of the garden that we have given a spring clean to is the Seaside Garden which was in need of a face lift.

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And for a promise of scent and colour soon to come  we need to turn to the Viburnum family.

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There are just too many photos left so I shall move into a gallery for you to enjoy.

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Revamping our Strawberry Bed

We have now had our allotment for 5 years and this means our strawberries and raspberries are getting weaker and producing poorer crops. After this period of time the threat of virus hangs over them.

We renewed our raspberry canes last autumn and so it is time to renew our strawberry plants. A bright warm early spring day found us digging up and composting our old plants which had become woody. We got rid of the old weed suppressing membrane and dug over the flattened soil below. We then added lots of organic matter in the form of old growbags, our own chicken manure and composted chicken bedding. A quick rotovate and the soil looked good, full of organic matter and a great texture.

We made the wooden surround from recycled scaffold boards which fits our 3-Rs policy which we follow on our plot. Reduce – Reuse – Recycle.

To protect our strawberry plants from pests and to help effective pollination we have sown a wildflower strip close by.

Soon we had new membrane down and we spread out our new little plants spaced out to give the best yields.

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We planted the little plantlets very carefully as they felt so delicate. When we had finished they looked tiny in their new raised bed. We now have 12 Honeoye and 12 Cambridge Scarlet which will hopefully keep us in strawberries for the next five years.

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The little plants looked so vulnerable when we had finished but just a week later we checked on them and they were showing signs of strong bright green growth.

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Aiming for a year round garden. Part One – The Winter

Over the last few years we have worked hard planning to make our garden look and feel good all year round. So today I took a wander with camera in hand to see how well we had done so far. See what you think. Are we getting there?

Of course flowering bulbs come into their own at this time of year and we now have a wide selection of crocus, muscari, miniature narcissi and Iris reticulata throughout the garden. Grasses are of equal importance but only recently have they been accepted as an essential element of the winter garden. The first photo shows how well our Pony Tails Grasses contrast with the foliage of Hebes. In the second crocus team up with grasses to create a great combination of colours and textures.

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A have a soft spot for celandines, enjoying the glossy yellow native plant that lights up our hedgerow bases as well as the cultivated bronze leaved Brazen Hussey and the “Giant Celandine” in the photograph below.

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Euphorbias are another of those families of plants that are all year round essentials in our gardens but at this time of year their new bracts glow on overcast days. Foliage is perhaps more important than flowers in the winter garden as it provides variations of colour, pattern and texture. Phormiums, Heucheras and grasses are most effective.

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Scent can play its part as it pervades the calm air and delights us as we wander with the thought of brighter warmer days. Daphnes, Sarcoccocas, Cornus, Mahonias and Viburnums all perform well in our garden.

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Textured bark on our trees in our Spring Border looks especially good in winter light. The peeling orange bark of the Prunus serrula and the birch is like slithers of brittle toffee.

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Hellebores star in most gardens in winters since so many wonderful easily grown specimens have become available in most garden centres and nurseries.

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Here some of our many hellebores  are twinned with coloured stemmed cornus and salix.

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Any flower brave enough to appear in the winter is worthy of mention be they primulas, witch hazels, pulmonarias or bergenia. They would perhaps seem quite ordinary if they flowered among the stars of the summer garden but in the winter they are extraordinarily good garden plants.

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A recent discovery is the shrub Drimys with its red stems, glossy green foliage and buds looking fit to burst into life.

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Structures such as our cloud pruned box hedge that lines our central path become much more important and noticeable in the emptier garden of winter. But we hope our garden is now richer in this the coldest and darkest of our seasons.

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We must not forget the role our feathered friends play in adding colour, sound and movement to our garden in winter.

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Part Two of our search for the all year round garden will consider our garden in Spring. Signs of that season are already giving hints of what is to come such as in the buds of the quince fruit tree.

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A Garden in January – Trentham – Part Two

Welcome back to Trentham in January where we find ourselves in the part of the garden featuring the Italian Garden re-designed by Tom Stuart-Smith.

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From the raised terraces of the Italian Parterre we can see how symmetrical and rigid the structure is. Tom Stuart-Smith has designed a brilliant garden within this structure using grasses and perennials similar to those used by Piet Oudolf. If anything the planting is more varied. The impressive thing about his design is the way soft flowing plant combinations can look so good in a formal setting.

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I always particularly like these corner beds with their plantings of low grasses, sedum, phlomis, marjoram and knautia. The little box edging is a most effective foil for the softness of the planting.

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Our walk around Tom Stuart-Smiths plantings was interrupted by a shower of freezing rain accompanied by cold winds. We sheltered in the loggia conveniently located nearby. This afforded us a good view over much of this area.

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We managed another five minutes exploration of this garden when the heavens opened once again. Conveniently by this time we were close to the coffee shop which is always our half way stopping point so we retreated to enjoy a welcomed beverage and slice of something sweet. The cafe is housed in a beautifully designed modern building based on a semi-circle. It sits snuggly within a clump of trees. The seating fits all around the floor to ceiling windows giving great views over the Tom S-S gardens.

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The wind was moving the grasses around and skewing the water in the fountains. It illustrated how important grasses can be in any garden, as even the slightest breeze sets them waving.

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Within the grasses the seedheads of the perennials were the stars of the show.

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The garden team were busy cutting down the perennials in the beds which had been worst effected by the winter weather. If you look carefully you may spot the one gardener’s amusing headgear! When she bent over it looked as if it was Yogi Bear doing the work!

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We made a diversion into the area beyond the cafe and tall trees where the show gardens are. We found a few new gardens including a “Stumpery” (a favourite garden feature of Mrs Greenbench) and this row of colourful dogwoods, Cornus Midwinter Fire.

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The glass panels in one of the gardens looked brilliant alongside the russet coloured grasses.

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Close to the cafe is an area for children’s play with climbing frames, a maze, a bare foot walk, road ways for sit-on toys and these superb sandpits. Because of the poor weather they were sadly deserted today but they are usually very popular. It is so good to see children absorbed in play that does not involve screens or batteries!

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As we neared the end of our wander we walked beneath the metal archways of the “Trellis Walk” running alongside the David Roses border. Here there were roses still trying to bloom and others with hips on. The gardens are maintained organically so within these borders we found lovely insect shelters and clumps of Phacelia plants both designed to bring in beneficial insects. Four beautiful relief panels were spread out along the border depicting different garden movements  from the past. We could see through the trellis walkway back to the “River of Grasses” and in the ever-darkening late afternoon light the grasses really seemed to glow. We now look forward to re-visiting in February to see what is going on.

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A Morning at the Allotments – Checking the Bird Boxes

We usually check out the bird boxes around the allotment site in late autumn but as the autumn and early winter were so wet and windy we didn’t fancy using the ladder on the soft, waterlogged ground. Eventually in mid-January we got it done.

Pete and I wandered around the site with step ladders and trug and of course both wearing a good pair of gloves to avoid any little nips from the nest mites that may still be in residence. They would normally have been killed off by now if we had had cold spells but with the milder than usual temperatures we were taking no chances.

As usual all the holed boxes had been nested in by Blue Tits and Great Tits so we removed the old nest materials of fine grasses, horse hair mosses etc. and put them on the communal compost heaps to rot down.

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A bonus find was a Dunnock nest at the bottom of a cotoneaster shrub in the Autumn Garden, built just 9 inches from the ground. These secretive little songsters are normally very shy, spending much of their time skulking in hedge bottoms searching for insects and invertebrates. This pair were confident enough to build their nest right alongside a pathway, just a couple of feet from where people regularly pass following our “Interest Trail”.  The nest is hard to see but try to spot it in these photos.

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Completely different in character to the Dunnocks Great Tits are far more brazen. A pair had nested in this nest box fixed to the Communal Hut 2, one of the busiest places on the site. They gave hours of entertainment for members who could watch them taking nesting materials in, then the male bird feeding the female as she incubated the eggs and then the busiest time of all when both parents fed their hungry youngsters. Free entertainment when we enjoyed our tea breaks.

The nest boxes and bird feeding stations around the site afford members, their families, friends and our many visitors with plenty of entertainment and of course for the children they have an important educational role to play.

Of course being an all organic site we rely on our feathered friends to help us with our pest control. When feeding their nestlings the adult birds catch thousands of aphids and caterpillars.

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None of the open fronted boxes were used last nesting season so we are hoping for success this year. We have tried moving a few to more secluded places where the birds may feel more confident to try them out. As our extension opened in the spring this year we have more nest boxes to go up – a job for the next week or two.

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What’s on the Plots? An end of year wander around the allotments.

Mid-December often sees the allotment site under snow or at least coated in frost, but not this year. We wandered around today with camera in hand and we were appreciative of the bright clear blue sky overhead. The midday sun cast long sharp shadows and it had enough strength in it for us to feel its warmth.

Having checked the post box for messages, and left a few magazines in the communal hut for others to enjoy, we started our tour at Wendy’s lovely plot. There is always something of interest to see and new things going on. We were not to be disappointed today. The sun caught the bright fiery colours of the willow hedge surrounding her compost heap.

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On an obelisk where the soft bark paths cross the striped flag glowed alongside a sparkling glitterball, while this character decorated her shed door. A cranky old monk? Brother Cadfael perhaps when he was dropped by the BBC.

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We next moved to the Autumn Garden and our newly planted section alongside our young fedge. The tree here is a Crataegus prunifolia which gives rich red autumn colour and deep red berries which is underplanted with bulbs. The border is planted up with sedum, asters, ferns, some perennial native flora and small shrubs. The cones and catkins of alders are beginning to get their purple hue. Cotoneaster leaves are as red as their berries.

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On many plots old crops sit forgotten in places whilst others await being picked throughout the winter. The sprouts will grace a plot holder’s Christmas dinner spread.

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Chard leaves on a sunny day are delightful. The reds, yellows and purples of their leaves and stems glow with the sun behind them.

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Further along the borders of the Autumn Garden we passed Trevor’s plot where there is always an interesting development to find. Today we discovered his new shed number. He must have problems remembering his plot number or needs to arrange to visit an optician.

In the final section of the Autumn Garden the grass Calamagrostis acutifolia “Overdam” stand tall and to attention and gentle honey scents flow from the lemon flowered Mahonia.

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On the shed roof of Plot 68 the massive scarecrow is looking worse for wear after our recent weather featuring heavy rains and strong winds. In the summer he won our annual scarecrow competition. It is hard to believe how he wowed our visitors on our Open Day.

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In the first orchard the last fruit hangs on, a golden crab apple. Fennel is already sporting new foliage on Alan’s plot and the last of the Raspberry fruits sit awaiting a hungry Blackbird. Close by in the first Buddleja Border a Shistsotylus bravely blooms on with an early Primula.

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The Globe Artichoke in the second Buddleja Border will soon burst and finches will flock in to feed off them, especially Goldfinches and Linnets.

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We then took a detour to see what is happening on our own plot, Number 37. The last of the flowers in our wildflower mini-meadow are bravely hanging on and a few of our parsnips have gone to flower producing chartreuse umbrella heads. A few autumn raspberries provide welcome food for Blackbirds.

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We moved on towards our old oak tree past plots where winter grown crops await Christmas dinners in members homes, leeks with their glaucous strappy leaves and sprouts behind netting protected against marauding Wood Pigeons.

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This little scarecrow bravely guards overwintering alliums.

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The Oak invariably looks wonderfully majestic but on a winter’s afternoon it excels with its long sharp shadows and silhouette of bare branches. In the spring Garden nearby the first bulbs are coming into flower, a pale Muscari, pushing their way through fallen oak leaves.

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On Sharon’s plot her frog thermometer shows it is mild for December and near by a lone apple hangs waiting to give sustenance to the Blackbirds.

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Glyn’s plot is well covered in a mat of green manures, so no heavy rain is going to leach away the goodness from the soil. Now that is good gardening!

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In the Sensory Garden the rose hips sparkle away in the winter sun which glows through the last of the rose bush’s foliage. Grasses here always look good but add extra movement in the gentlest of breezes.

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In the big meadow the last of the Red Campion and the Honesty are gamely flowering still. A lone bloom of Rosa Shropshire Lad casts a beautiful fruity scent across the picnic area.

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The bunting on Brian’s shed looks faded now but still adds cheer. The sunlight beams through the Dedge and intensifies the flat plate flower heads of the late Achillea.

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The Winter Garden is beginning to come into its own with peeling bark, powdery white stems and fluffy grass seed heads.

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Moving on into the site extension we find our newest insect hotel still standing after recent strong winds. As usual I have string and my Opinel garden knife in my pocket so tie it back to the fence. The bamboo looks settled in its new home at the end of the proposed Garden of Contemplation. From here we can see the mass of “keys” adorning every branch of our ancient Ash tree.

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Our long shadows look out across the site.

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In the second orchard the crab apples still have much fruit left on and these give bright patches of colour visible from all over the site.

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The stems of the coppiced willows in the Withy Bed shine as they start to show their late winter colour. This is something we are looking forward to. We have 17 different willow here in every colour possible.

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We are just beginning to prepare the ground for our new Prairie Garden which we shall make in the new year. This big patch of bare ground promises to become a riot of year round colour. We can’t wait to get started. On nearby plots we spot a patch of another green manure, Grazing Ryegrass and another lone apple on a tree.

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On Ian’s plot a big pile of farmyard manure waits the time when he digs it into the soil to add nutrients, humus and structure. It won’t take him long – he is a strong chap.

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Returning to the communal hut along the wide path we spot this old beer can acting as a cane top rattling away by the old sweetcorn stalks. On Mandy’s plot this little insect home will be looking after hibernating friendly critters who will emerge in the spring to eat pests such as aphids. Dave’s flags hang sadly atop their poles.

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As we returned to the car we noticed the first signs of growth on our spring bulbs. The first leaves of the daffodils have just made their way through the bark mulch. A promise of golden flowers to come. Our wheelbarrows give a big splash of colour in low sunlight.

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allotments autumn community gardening conservation fruit and veg garden wildlife gardening grow your own hedgerows natural pest control spring bulbs trees wildlife

The Big Planting – a new hedge and more bulbs for the allotments.

In mid-November we held another working party on our allotment site, Bowbrook Allotment Community. This will be the last one this year and our aim was to plant a new hedge along the bare green fence that serves as the boundary to our site extension. We hoped also to plant the thousands of bulbs donated by our members. The green security fencing looks so bare at the moment so we can’t wait for our new hedge to hide it.

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Recently we have been trying to involve whole families in our working parties and we hoped some youngsters would turn up to our hedge planting day as it was a rare opportunity for them. These days few children get the chance to plant a native tree.

We were awarded a pack of 460 native trees to plant by the Woodland Trust and had been given others by members and locals so we had well over 500 to plant. They were seedlings of hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel, rowan, birch, oak and all about 18 inches tall. We had guelder rose, dogwood and dogroses to add from elsewhere on the site. The Woodland Trust were able to give many sites like ours packs of trees because of the generosity of Biffa, Ikea and Nicky’s.

The trees, canes and tubes arrived at our house a few days before and the boxes were mighty heavy to deliver up to the lotties.

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The day before the working party we mixed the plants up to make sure the planting looked random and natural. We placed a selection of little trees, canes and protection tubing alongside each section of hedge ready for a quick start in the morning.

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With heads down and bottoms up Pete and I busily made our way along the stretch of fencing – we did need some time out around noon to straighten out, rest our backs and refresh ourselves with coffee and biscuits.

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Twenty five members of all ages turned up to help us plant our new hedge including children, their parents and grandparents. Several were started way before our planned starting time. It was heartening to see them all sharing the experience together. We were amazed how the children all managed to find little creatures as they busily planted away, such as worms, beetles, slugs and spiders. Little hands carefully held them like precious jewels as they were all studied in great detail.

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Jude, our community secretary and my “better half”, caught up on all the children’s news since we last met with the two little girls from our neighbouring plot. She heard all about the birthday party they held on the allotments using the picnic benches under the old oak tree and enjoyed following the trail and doing the quizzes with their friends.

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Three generations, Syd, his daughter and granddaughters, helped each other to plant the little plants, but progress was slowed every time a mini-beast was discovered as granddad had to move them to safety, even a big slug!

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Within half an hour of our ten o’clock start members were heads down hard at work along the whole length of fence.

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Below Margaret is enjoying her first ever Bowbrook Allotment Community working party having started on her plot in the spring, while close by Anne and Charlie work in top gear to get as much done as possible before they have to go elsewhere for a family gathering in the afternoon.

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The day started off chilly but before the end of the morning jackets were discarded and hung up on the fence. Sherlie and Pete in the photo below had been hard at work since 8:30 so straightening up afterwards was a bit of a struggle.

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There were some stunning wellies on display.

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Amazingly all the plants were snug in their new homes within an hour and a half. It goes without saying that we had earned our lunch break. The children went off at lunchtime as they all had other activities to attend in the afternoon such as dance lessons. We hoped they were not too tired to enjoy their afternoon activities. Those who stayed for the afternoon creaked more than a little when they returned to new tasks.

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After a good rest with chatter and laughter we moved on to plant thousands of bulbs. Tulips, Daffodils, Muscari, Alliums, Camassias, Crocus, Iris and Fritillaries. We already have planted thousands of flowering bulbs, both spring and summer flowering over the four autumns we have been in existence. This year we intended to add to those already in the two orchards, the car park borders and under the mature oak and sycamore trees. In late winter and early spring these flowering bulbs will appear to brighten us up and provide our pollinator friends and our natural pest controllers with some vital nutrition.

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To finish the day off a few of us stayed to move some hedging plants from elsewhere on the site.

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A busy, successful and most fruitful day, which displayed just what a true community of gardeners can achieve by working together. We hope these activity days help to ensure we encourage and nurture interest in our naturalists and gardeners of the future.