Abbey Gardens viewed from the Webcam

Sad news

Our condolences go to all at Chiltern Seeds, our wonderful seed sponsors whose founder Douglas Bowden recently passed away. Meeting Douglas (the company is based near me in Cumbria) and experimenting with their vast range of seeds was a turning point in my gardening life, an one that leads directly to my approach to Abbey Gardens.

I have reproduced an article I wrote on Chiltern Seeds in 2004, on our Somewhere blog here.
Here is an extract:

Over a cup of tea in the living room, I compliment him on those idiosyncratic catalogue entries so beloved of CS fans -an example, characteristically witty but not without pathos 'Magnolia campbellii....Such glory takes many years to achieve but, an object lesson, had we sown a packet when we arrived at Bortree Stile in 1980 (seems but yesterday!) we would have something marvellous to look forward to to this spring - we didn't and we don't! " He concedes that he enjoys the sourcing and describing of new items the most of all aspects of the business and cites a heavy US tome 'Cornucopia' from which he derives much advice on edible plants. Cunningly, if a plant is shown to be edible it escapes VAT, so his scholarly curiosity accompanies a shrewd business sense, confirmed by his dedicated lobbying on the subject of US export legislations. Sales are stable, he says, despite TV makeover shows making seed-sowing look like a very distant cousin to the plants shoe-horned into the average suburban plot.

Topics: [seeds]

Foodshare - a very good idea

If you listen to Radio 4's Gardener's Question Time (and if, not why not?!) you may have heard about Foodshare, which WWTHB? should for sure take part in in 2010:

It's simply a surplus produce network, offering 'gluts' to good causes. The charities near to you (e.g hospices, homeless shelters etc) can sign up on the website, as can you if you are a grower - you then simply arrange how / when to transfer your produce.....

A New Post at Abbey Gardens

Our first GCL Chris with Karen at Saturday's tree planting
Our first GCL Chris with Karen at Saturday's tree planting


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

Seedy Excitement

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.

The trees are in ...

Tree planting event Photo: Nina Pope
Tree planting event Photo: Nina Pope

... 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!


Katerina displays our new gift! Photo: Nina Pope
Katerina displays our new gift! Photo: Nina Pope

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?!

Fruit Tree Planting weekend reminder!

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:

Cherry Stella
Cherry Inga
Redcurrant Jonkheer Van Tets
Redcurrant Junifer
Whitecurrant White Versailles
Peach Peregrine
Apricot Gold Cott
Apple Autumn Glow
Gooseberry Invicta
Gooseberry Pax
Pear Comice (Doyenne de)
Pear Merton Pride
Pear Concorde
Peach Red Haven
Apple Winter Gem
Apple Falstaff (Red)
Apple Baumans Reinette
Apple Bountiful
Apple Pitmaston Pine Apple
Apple Herefordshire Russet
Plum Denniston's Superb
Plum Curlew
Plum Coe's Golden Drop

The New Diggers

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.

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