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Friday, 17 September 2010

Autumn Glory

Waterperry Gardens in Oxfordshire are proof that even when nature is starting to shut up shop for the year, you can still have a spectacular display.

Yesterday, as the sun came out, the famous herbaceous border had people literally stopping in their tracks as they rounded the corner and saw it for the first time. Most of the plants are the sort you can come across in any suburban garden, but the planting - against the mellow bricks of the old kitchen garden wall - shows them to perfection. Michaelmas daisies, goldenrod, helenium and sedums are replacing the delphinium, achillea, verbascum and phlox and are set to bloom until the first frosts.

The Formal Garden is also ablaze with colour, much of it from an intricate knot garden with swirls of different medicinal herbs, which lies immediately behind the 'Lamp of Wisdom' statue.

Behind the sunlit patch of this corner near Seb's Garden, a path leads down to the River Thame. The swathe of island beds have been planted so they can be enjoyed from any angle.
Waterperry began life as a School of Horticulture for Ladies early in the 1930s. After this closed in 1972, the grounds were extensively developed and now cover 8 acres. Herbaceous nursery stock beds (such as those above) provide a living catalogue of plants. The teaching tradition also continues. On the current agenda are three Grow It Yourself workshops:
24th November 2010 - Hardwood cuttings, root cuttings, herbaceous plant division
16th March 2011 - Growing plants from seed
15th June 2011 - Softwood and semi-ripe cuttings

Another Waterperry Gardens must-see is the parish church of St Mary the Virgin, right next to the old manor house. It has an unusual wooden tower, the original Saxon chancel arch, some beautiful 15th century brasses and stained glass dating back to 1220.
Waterperry Gardens are open every day and are near Wheatley in Oxfordshire. OX33 1JZ . Regular events include an Apple weekend (Oct 8, 9 and 10) and a Great Pumpkin Hunt (Oct 23).
ph 01844 339254

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Ready for action!!

Here are some of the Mapesbury fruit harvesters, about to tackle two huge apple trees in a garden in London, NW2. By the end of the morning we'd picked 150 kg of cooking apples which might otherwise have gone to waste. Instead, they've been taken to a homeless charity, and some are being made into apple pies to raise money for the Pakistan flood appeal.
Our running total for this picking season is now 458 kg - and we've only been going a few weeks! Many thanks to all involved, and to the garden owners who are so generously letting us in to pick.


Thursday, 9 September 2010

A most unusual royal garden party...

Gigantic sheep climbing a ladder to insulate a loft, a string of washing flapping in the breeze, reusable shopping bags being made from old royal curtains......
Not what you'd expect at a garden party.
But the Garden Party to Make a Difference, in the adjoining gardens of Clarence House, Lancaster House and Marlborough House, in central London is the brainchild of Prince Charles, and aims to show how just a few small steps can help build a sustainable future. So it's out with the champagne glasses and in with resuseable waterbottles for guests as they explore more than 100 displays on everything from building green homes to saving electricity and growing your own veg.
I went down for the morning, but ended up spending most of the day there.
I loved this Ark art installation (above), where children from 10 Oxfordshire primary schools show what they'd take if they were to sail away to a low-carbon future. Garden Organic was giving away seedlings of rocket and chard to encourage visitors to grow something edible, and the RSPB demonstrated how to build a nest box from recycled materials.
There are serious messages too. The washing-line of t-shirts (opposite a thatched summerhouse built for Queen Mary) seeks to persuade people to dry their clothes naturally - using a tumble dryer every two days could cost over £100 a year. And another sign reads: "Be thrifty with your food" - 8.3 million tonnes of food is thrown away by UK households every year, costing the average family £680.

I was tempted by almost everything on sale in the Farmers' Market, and admired the line-up of electric eco-cars. It was also a real thrill to be able to see first-hand what Prince Charles has achieved in the grounds of Clarence House since he moved in after the Queen Mother's death in 2002. (More to come on the blog about this and the recycling of his curtains.)

The festival is part of the Prince's Start initiative, which has seen him touring the country in the royal train (which runs on bio-fuel) looking at projects that help the environment and discussing with business leaders how companies can source goods ethically and recycle more.

Entrance to the Garden Party to Make a Difference is on the corner of Green Park and the Mall and is open from 10 am - 6pm until Sept 19. Tickets cost £15 for adults.
More details: