APPLY NOW TO BECOME THE NEW GARDEN CLUB LEADER FOR THE 2010 SEASON
We are seeking an enthusiastic and self-motivated person with a passion for getting people (of all ages) gardening and enjoying plants. They must also have an interest in and empathy with the innovative vision for the garden. The successful candidate will be a local advocate for the project and must be a self-organiser as they will work largely independently at the site. The Leader will be responsible to and employed directly by the Friends of Abbey Gardens who work closely with us and London Borough of Newham to realise the project.
Deadline for applications - 5th of March 2010
Announcement of shortlist - 8th of March 2010
Interview date - 10th of March 2010
Immediate start preferable
You can download all the info here on the FOAG Blog
As if the trees weren't enough excitement for one day, Karen, Dasha and I wrapped up on Saturday by completing the seed order for the new season. I always find this so exciting - imagining what will grow. As we still have a lot of seeds left from last year plus those we've gathered we did have to try and hold back a bit ... trouble is that Chiltern Seeds catalogue is so damn tempting.
Karen and I completed a full Abbey Gardens day with Haggis Neeps and Tatties - delicious turnips sown last season at Abbey Gardens.
... planted by a big team who turned out on Saturday. Karen led the day with a sobering lecture on planting for the future, she countered disappointed faces at the thought of waiting two years for fruit, with the observation that (if cared for correctly) the trees should now out live most of us!
We love this fantastic bespoke cushion that a friendly gardener dropped off to us at the weekend for the shed, the logo detailing is wonderful. We all had a go whilst eating our pack lunches at the tree planting! Joan are you the illusive maker?!
Just a quick note about this Saturday's fruit tree
planting session at the garden from 10.30am - 3.30pm
Tree planting is one of winter's great gardening pleasures, full of anticipation for spring and Nature's bounty. This is especially true for fruit tree planting, where you're providing a legacy for many years to come. If well maintained, even severely-trained fruit - especially pears and apples - can be productive for over one hundred years.
At Abbey Gardens we are cordon training each plant on a 45 degree angle up to circa 2metres in height, though for the stone fruit such as apples this height may take 5 or more years to achieve. The sunny wall will be great for fruit ripening but the dryness at any wall base will mean we will need to water the plants carefully at least for the first few growing seasons. Pruning for most of the trees will be in late summer though as we plant we will do some light formative pruning too.
There's a handy quick pruning guide online here.
One thing we're doing which I myself have not done before, is cordon training berries including redcurrant and gooseberries - this means pruning their usual bushy disposition into a single stem. The technique produces less fruit but has significant advantages - the fruit can ripen more evenly, larger berries and trusses will result, and of course the cordons will look darned good too. The soft fruit will yield sooner than the pears, cherries and apples too (for which we will need to patiently wait 2 -3 seasons) thus giving us some tasty grazing even as soon as this summer.
Here's the delicious list of what we're planting:
Redcurrant Jonkheer Van Tets
Whitecurrant White Versailles
Apricot Gold Cott
Apple Autumn Glow
Pear Comice (Doyenne de)
Pear Merton Pride
Peach Red Haven
Apple Winter Gem
Apple Falstaff (Red)
Apple Baumans Reinette
Apple Pitmaston Pine Apple
Apple Herefordshire Russet
Plum Denniston's Superb
Plum Coe's Golden Drop
This radio programme tonight sounds good - The New
Diggers on Radio 4.
Though clearly there's a gap in their research if they didn't speak to us ;-)
"Alice Roberts meets the new Diggers - groups and individuals across the country determined to tackle the looming food crisis by making the wasteland grow"
I'm sure of you miss it, it will be on Listen Again.
This event will NOT now be held on January 16th as advertised, the weather has been so cold that the tree nursery have not been able to supply the young trees as planned, so we will keep our fingers crossed for better weather and confirm a new date ASAP ...
A couple of websites I have recently re-discovered and which are full of interest if you have any downtime amidst the festive chaos:
Parks and Gardens UK
a rather nerdy, partly academic site that collates historic
gardens big and small, private and oublic. Detailed searches mean
you can specifically look for gardens from certain eras (1968 -
2000 for example!), of certain styles, or by certain (often
blissfully obscure) individuals.
Must get Abbey Gardens up there soon!
I read with interest recently, this news story about the rediscovery of a long
lost gardener's notebook at the historic Ickworth
House, which has unlocked countless mysteries for the
present gardeners - said one:
"It means that we don't have to make blind guesses and can now be really true to how Ickworth was created to be in future work. Any gardener would kill for this kind of information, it's amazing to think it's just been sitting there all these years.'
Acclaimed garden writer Noel Kingsbury also made a recent heartfelt appeal for information, in the journal of the Hardy Plant Society. It seems scarcely believable to keen gardeners that such information does not exist in the public domain and yet all that Noel seeks to collate (for PHD research towards improving the diversity of planting in public space, I believe) is straightforward feedback from amateur gardeners about which herbaceous plants do well in their gardens and why. It seems so simple doesn't it? But this kind of word-of-mouth knowledge is rarely if ever written down, and - despite many good garden blogs - as the knowledge generally rests with the older generation, we don't see it online much either. Gardening books, naturally, are written by experts who delight in nurturing horticultural delicacies and seldom do they feature the kind of adhoc grassroots gardening most of us practice.
Now, the knowledgeable / nerdy (like me) amongst you will know of the extensive field trials done by the Royal Hortcultural Society in their gardens, which often lead to the coveted 'AGM' award being given to the best and most 'gardenworthy' of tested plants. The thing about these trials though, is that they are carried out in one of only a small handful of geographically diverse locations by - and there's the rub - professional gardeners, not mere mortals like you and I with other things on their minds and in their lives: Yes, occasionally even RHS gardens suffer drought, pests and disease but on the whole these trials offer optimum conditions whereas what most of us offer plants is just-about-getting-away-with-it care.
Now, many Abbey Garden-ers this year have had
to put up with Nina and I's insistent mantra "Always label your
plants!", and behind the scenes with Chris
Cavalier and Dorian Moore we have busied
ourselves on an expansive database of all our plants and their
cultivation, on this very website. It takes a lot of work, but then
it holds a lot of information, much of which can be 'automatically'
retrieved online in future years of growing. Web site users can
wander bed to bed online, looking at what's growing, when it's been
harvested and what it looks like.
This doesnt sound like rocket science but believe you me, when you spend as much time as I do looking at other garden websites you realise how few ever get round to as much as a plant list - only this year did the National Trust (an organisation relatively rich in resources) even attempt to begin a nationwide plant survey of their properties, which include iconic influential gardens like Sissinghurst.
As a gardener myself, I know from experience how hard it is to
force yourself to find a pen and label when you're out, muddy
handed and enjoying the actual physical action of gardening. You
always think you'll remember it later and get round to it. You
almost never do. Multiply this minor act of human frailty by the
number of us active at Abbey Gardens and then add
it to all the other gardens in the world and you have a mass
amnesia that costs us much shared wisdom.
At least the Ickworth House story shows us that we are not alone!
(One of my favourite Christopher Lloyd stories involves a garden visitor asking him - on his hands and knees weeding - the name of a rare and treasured plant in his borders. Christopher :"Do you have a pen and paper?". Her: "No, but I'll remember it" Him: "You won't. So I'm not telling")
But IMHO the point of labelling and taking note of harvesting
dates etc is less to do with making sure people know they're
pulling a carrot out and not a parsnip and more to do with the
When I garden anywhere I am blissfully aware of my microcosmic act of communion with a tiny part of the macrocosm of Planet Earth. I love the physical and immediate aspects of soil, roots, tools and seeds, but then I also increasingly realise that the temporal is counterbalanced with a desire to share this experience, contribute to a global ecology, develop networks with like-minded people and organisations, and leave behind a lasting legacy of the trial and error and successes of my lifetime's gardening.
Opening my garden for the National Garden Scheme, giving talks, blogging and projects such as WWTHB? are all part of this ambition.
Moreover, I have a strong belief that what seems like minor ephemera today changes to gold-dust in a hundred year's time - again look at the Ickworth notebook, probably considered a casual aide-memoire by the gardener of the day (who almost certainly had his ranks of careful plant labels removed during the neccessary vandalism of the wartime 'Dig for Victory' campaign that turned all country gardens into allotments). Little did he know that a century later the information within would be the only record of his travails.
Blogs, websites et al can be the gardener's notebooks of our times. Yes, they're harder to update if your hands are muddy and your laptop's back at home. But their advantage is beyond the imaginings of any Victorian gardener: they can connect effortlessly with anyone else who is interested. Over recent years I've had some fascinating conversations with Dorian Moore our web programmer, about the future of the WWW, how the increasing fluidity between sites like Flickr and Google Earth has the potential to create accurate biodiversity maps of unprecedented detail, showing and archiving plant distribution through space and time, something scientists and researchers have attempted and failed to do for centuries. The impact of this in the uncertain, climate-changed future will be immense. It's what the web was made to do and it's up to us to get on with it so that future generations aren't left looking for the notebook behind the garden shed.
Sites like WWTHB? already contribute to social, academic and scientific knowledge about biodiversity and horticultural practices - they are historic documents in the making, without which all of our combined efforts at Abbey Gardens remain part of a local, oral history - fascinating and valuable, but frail and gone when we are.
As it turns out a surprisingly bountiful one!!
As well as still being able to see summer annuals in flower (scabious in the snow!) I was able to bring home an excellent Christmas haul from the garden this week: Celeriac, some little beetroot, chard (the green that keeps on giving), parsley, celery, curly kale, cavolo nero plus some flowers ... really fantastic.