Oct 092011
 

Walthamstow

Yesterday I went round to Mel’s for afternoon tea. Before we all got a bit giddy on prosecco, smoked salmon sandwiches, scones, crumpets, chocolate brownies, jelly and ice cream and ginger cake* (phew), I had a nosey around her garden. Mel is chairwoman of Plant Heritage’s London Group and her garden, not surprisingly, has the mark of a plantswoman. It’s packed to the gunnells with interesting plants and she often opens it for the Yellow Book.

The peachy-coloured rose that you can see in the foreground is ‘Compassion’. It smelt amazing and Mel says it hasn’t stopped flowering since early summer. She’s pruned quite a lot of it back but leaves some to climb up the house – a prickly burglar deterrent.

*Mel’s ginger cake came courtesy of the National Garden Scheme website – they’ve started publishing recipes on there, which is a nifty idea.

Oct 052011
 

RHS Hall

To be honest, I’ve never really got exhibition veg. Why would you go to extreme measures to grow an onion the size of a football or a parsnip that’s a couple of feet long? It seems like a very blokey thing to do – I’m not aware of any women who are into it. I’m more interested in growing tasty veg to eat.

But then I got talking to the twinkly Ray Bassett at theĀ  RHS London Autumn Harvest Show. He’d won first prize for his French beans and second prize for runner beans in the Fruit and Vegetable competition and told me some of his secrets. To make the beans poker straight, he gently manipulates them into shape by hand. Once they’ve reached a certain size they grow straight all on their own, provided there’s nothing in the way. Ray said that ‘Stenner’ is the best and tastiest variety and promised to send me some seeds.

I didn’t like to point out that a couple of Ray’s beans seemed to be have been snapped in half, but apparently that’s all part of the judging. One judge calls out a number between 1 and 9, and then another calls left or right. And then a particular bean – say number three from the left – is snapped in half to test that it’s not stringy. Look closely at the pics and you’ll see the line where the beans were snapped.

Ray and I then had a lovely chat about love, life and gardening. Apparently his wife of 45 years likes horticulture too – she’s into the flower side of things. But it hasn’t always been that way – they used to be into TT racing and often say how surprised they are that they’ve ended up as gardening nuts. Ray says that life has never been better and he just wants to be in the garden all the time. And I can totally relate to that.

Oct 012011
 

Regents Park

Yesterday evening I walked through Regents Park. It was busier than I’ve seen it all year, full of people enjoying the summer we never had. They were quaffing wine, having picnics, playing football and eating ice cream, seemingly oblivious to the fact that in less than an hour it would be completely dark.

I find this time of year a bit difficult. I love summer, and wouldn’t mind autumn either were it not for the fact that it’s followed by winter. We often get some late lovely weather, as we are this year, but there’s no getting away from the fact that the show’s almost over. And yet lots of plants, like the people in the park, seem oblivious to the fact that soon they’ll be nipped by a nasty frost or plunged into darkness, and are still innocently flowering their socks off.

But enough of this doom and gloom. This weekend, I’m going to ignore the fact that it’s October. Apparently there are ripe raspberries and strawberries at my allotment and the forecast is 28 degrees. So I’m going to don my sunnies and flip flops, pretend it’s July and forget all about the predictions of snow at the end of the month.