Monday 26 August 2013

The garden opens this Sunday 1st September! visiting details and pictures to entice you....

So the day is almost here! I'm very happy that the garden is looking lush and exuberant and excited that the great cake baking frenzy is being planned. Come and visit! come eat cake! come see some nice plants! see how things are growing! come and have a nosy! 

The big thing about NGS is also how important it is as a fundraiser last year we made just under £1000 and NGS as a whole raised £2.5 million which went to various charities including Macmillian, Marie Curie and Help the Hospices.
So NGS says....

A garden to surprise and delight with ponds, sunken terrace and bold, big leafed lush plantings of exotics that reach for the sky in late summer, achieving a crescendo of colour with dark dahlias, bananas and tetrapanax. Huge ‘secret’ garden with more jungle plants, beehives and greenhouse of carnivorous plants for the brave. Featured on BBC Gardeners World 24 Grove Park, SE5 8LH, Sunday 1st September 2-5:30pm

I also want to plug Patricks garden which is opening for the first time this year and is so new it is not in the Yellow Book! if you like my garden you will love his.
 NGS says A unexpected primeval grove lies behind a traditional Victorian facade offering an host of delights. The dramatic heart of this surprising and totally original garden consists of a grove of 25 tall tree ferns clustered on a carpet of lush, low-level ground cover and surrounded by a host of exotic and dramatic large-leaved plants. A labour of love - and watering
8 Calais Street, London, SE5 9LP

We have also just been featured in the Independent! slightly odd to see myself in the paper as Im generally happier with pictures of the garden than of me, however I do think Anna Pavord is a brilliant journalist! Read the article here

To find us we are at the Chadwick Road end of Grove Park, exact location is found here Driving should be relatively easy as there is lots of street parking, and we are about 10 mins walk from either Denmark Hill or Peckham Rye Rail stations.
Of course if it is raining we will be completely British and ignore this! we will also cover our terrace to give a large dry area to sit and eat cake in!
Eating wise we are lucky to have lots of fab local restaurants, my favourite close ones 5 mins away are Ganapati (Indian) you will need to book, Victoria Inn (pub food), and Begging Bowl (Thai) however save lots of room for cake! If you also fancy an uber cool Peckham experience check out Franks cafe/bar which is a pop up at the top of the multistory car park with the best views of London you can imagine
this is us....
mmm cake!

mmm nice places to sit and survey the scene....

oooh beautiful plants
oooh more beautiful plants!
 mmmm more cake!
 2011 and the rain canopy

and people enjoying eating cake on the terrace!

 lots of happy people
Plants as they are looking at the moment...

Please come and visit! I hope you enjoy the garden! I am certainly not pretending to be the world expert at all this, and think a lot of gardening is about having a go and seeing how things turn out, however I hope that you like what you see and enjoy your visit and help us raise money for charity! thank you! 

Tuesday 20 August 2013

A fabulous NGS garden opening on the same day as mine: Fernoholics paradise in a tree fern forest in Camberwell

So having started volunteering with the NGS the first garden I visited was Patrick's ..someone who I had met at a couple of other openings and who had described his garden as ‘just a few tree ferns’

It was so easy to which house was his as it had an exuberant front garden which was really well cared for in fact his neighbors mirrored his as he did them as well!

Going through the house to get to the garden was like entering a mysterious tunnel transporting you to New Zealand as on emerging the other end you are surrounded by a forest of tree ferns and lush foliage. I was gobsmacked as this was my idea of heaven and exactly my taste. It was also very inspiring

I came away intent on growing Petasites in containers and giving them more love as Patricks look magnificent.  I also hadn't seen Cyathea australis properly before....and here they were fabulous, and I actually now prefer them to Dicksonia and will try and get some in spring.

This is a magnificent garden....visit it! Come to Camberwell and do both.....

A unexpected primeval grove lies behind a traditional Victorian facade offering an host of delights. The dramatic heart of this surprising and totally original garden consists of a grove of 25 tall tree ferns clustered on a carpet of lush, low-level ground cover and surrounded by a host of exotic and dramatic large-leaved plants. A labour of love - and watering! 
Sunday 1st September 2-5pm
8 Calais Street,  London,  SE5 9LP

Monday 19 August 2013

Keeping bees: what it’s really all about and my journey so far

This is a good bee month...last weekend we managed to get 60 jars of honey! This has all reminded me that I haven’t posted much about the bees so thought I would do a bit of an overview of my journey and what beekeeping is really like....

Misunderstanding #1 ‘How many bees in a hive’
It is funny when you ask people this as generally they say a few hundred to 2 thousand. Very rarely do people guess right in that it is 30-50,000

Bees are still very much in the public consciousness with all the debates about pesticides and pollinator friendly plants. There are also a lot of people interested in beekeeping or wanting hives in their garden which was how I was feeling last year when Charlie (my beekeeping partner in crime) and I got some hives.

Misunderstanding #2 bees are out to sting you
I had thought that bees would be like cartoon bees and as soon as you open the hive fly towards you with their stings pointing at you ready to sting. In reality I was sting 10 times last year and 3 this one...generally they don’t want to sting you as when they do they die.. 

The first year was a baptism of fire....the two colonies of bees swarmed within a month....this is where the old queen flies off to a new home with a big chunk of the bees left in the hive leaving behind eggs with baby queens... This first happened when we were gardening and was like something from a horror movie with 1000’s of bees in the air circling round making a loud noise like a Hoover before settling in a watermelon sized clump
Last year we got no honey, and had to introduce a new queen as the baby queens failed to mate properly (they fly off to have masses of sex which then can give them sperm for 5 or so years!) they were a pain, literally.

yes the dark mass is a huge clump of bees
Swarm catchers trying to collect another swarm from the top of a tree
Misunderstanding #3 that bees look after themselves
During the winter and spring they can eat shed loads of sugar syrup....and my arms are Orang-utan like from carrying bags of the stuff back to boil up to make syrup. You also need to inspect the hive (i.e. look at all the frames) from March/April till potentially September)

This year I thought it was all ok....they went through the winter ok (nationally 30% of colonies died out) and as they had swarmed last year I had thought they were ok this year. WRONG! In May one colony swarmed and the other was thinking about it....UG! However we caught it in time and they actually got their act together and got strong! This may have had something to do with the chronic cursing of the bees that I was doing on a regular basis....I also told Charlie how if there was no honey this year they were out.....

Misunderstanding #4 ‘Opening the hive and being surrounded by bees is therapeutic and helps you connect to nature’
Sod that, when you have bees crawling up at you and hundreds in the air including pingy bees (those that fly at your veil in an aggressive manner it is now calming!

So onto the honey....and a quick guide are to how we get it

This is the hive...basically a set of boxes filled with frames of wax that the bees draw out into honeycomb. The one at the bottom is their ‘nest’ where they breed and above it is a mesh that regular bees can get through (the queen cant as she is a fatty). Above this box is what’s called a ‘super’ which is full of smaller frames which the bees will fill with nectar when there is loads around (a honey flow)

a full super
The bees bung nectar into the little cells then dehydrate it at which point it becomes honey and they cover it with wax. When 80% of the frame is covered in wax you can remove the frames and collect the honey.

Firstly after removing the bees (this sounds so simple!) you then cut the wax off the frame with a bread knife

You then put the frames into a giant centrifuge

The honey (and gunky wax) collects at the bottom

Which you then strain

And then let settle (unless you are super impatient like us)

Then it goes into nice jars! Tah dah!

 Misunderstanding #5 you don’t always need protective clothing
Last year I had a pull on smock (ie a jumper with a fancy hat) this year I have a full on jumpsuit and wear it with Wellington boots and washing up gloves. People do bee keep without much on but Im not one of those people. It is also one of my favorite Charlie moments where he says ‘I don’t need gloves our bees are very docile’ before promptly being stung on his hand and putting them back on

Misunderstanding #6 beekeepers are all old men with beards
I had thought this may be the case, and for my first London Beekeepers Association meeting I had grown a bit of a beard especially so was very disappointed to find lots of nice ladies (without beards). One of the nicest things about beekeeping is the people as there are some lovely folk out there and beekeepers are everywhere!

Misunderstanding #7 bees just sit in the corner of your garden and don’t worry anyone
Kind of true however don’t get in the way of the flight path (especially if you have a perm as they will get tangled in your hair and sting you) you can fence them with a net as cleverly they fly up to the height of this and then stay there however this still needs a good chunk of space. They also like to drink water and love hanging around your drains/cherub water feature.

So a bit of an essence beekeeping is a lot more complex and harder than you think! Every bee keeper will also tell you a different thing and always remember that bees are wild animals.... If you are interested do link to your local beekeepers association. In London the LBKA do a mentoring program where you go beekeeping with an experienced person for a year to see what it is like and learn about bees. Do this and then decide if you want bees.

PS a great blog about beekeeping is here

Sunday 18 August 2013

The day Anna Pavord came to visit

So there I was having a few work stresses when all of a sudden an email popped up from Anna Pavord....mmm that name is familiar I thought, then opening it, I saw it was indeed from THE Anna Pavord....well renowned author, journalist and gardening royalty! So she wanted to come and do a piece for the Independent which was very exciting....

Of course you can come he said, forgetting the ensuing panic to get the garden up to scratch and mop up on my Latin binominals....So the day came last Thursday, and for the previous two evenings I had been out watering the garden in a bit of a panic which was probably a bit more about the upcoming NGS opening than Anna....’if only these plants would just grow a bit more’ I said as it started to rain. Did I stop? No because it may be just a light shower he thought as the rain got heavier. The people in the overlooking flats just looked at me with bemusement.  I watered more, I even watered established plants that didn’t really need it as, well it may just perk them up a bit.

On the day its self I rushed around desperately throwing weeds that had just popped up to the back of the shrubbery, stabbing myself with a yucca and breaking a sweat before she buzzed.

She had come up from Dorset for the day which I was rather humbled by (please let my garden be good and worth it) and was all that I had imagined, lovely and very easy to chat with....I could probably have chatted all day if I didn’t have a work away day to lead and rush back for.  Talks of Christopher Lloyd, fabulous gardens and different plants. I was of course very jealous of her job as it would be a dream career to be paid to go and see other gardens and write them up.

In all we had a 2h walk round the garden and there were even plants that she didn’t know (I had thought she would be testing me!) and things were looking fab....all being ok, and if there is sun so that the photographer can take some pictures there may be an article in the Independent the day before the opening...I hope it is ok and that it happens as it will be great promo for the opening, however just the chance to meet and share has been worth it.