This week I planted out 40 Kale plants in the Batty Langley vegetable garden that have been quietly growing along in the greenhouse since September. We are trying three varieties, ‘Red Russian’, ‘Cavolo Nero’ and ‘Borecole – Green Curled Dwarf’.
Kale does well over the colder months, so will hopefully add some interest in the garden over the following darker months. As pigeons take a fancy to stripping the foliage off plants in the Brassica family, the precaution of placing net over the kale plants has been necessary to stop them becoming just tattered stems!
I have used two beds to grow the kale in, with 20 plants in each one, and to create a neat formal look the use of a tape measure was implemented to ensure even spacing.
The botanical name for kale is Brassica oleracea var. acephala, ‘Brassica’ being the genus consisting of cabbages, ‘oleracea’ meaning that the plant can be used as a vegetable and ‘acephala’ meaning ‘without a head’, i.e that the plant is loose leafed rather than with a head as many cultivated cabbages have. Kale has a long history as a food crop, being one of the most important green vegetables in Europe up until the end of the Middle Ages.
At this time of year a lot of plants are starting to go to seed, so it is a good time to go around and collect some of them so we can grow new plants for next year. Some can be sown straight away (as we are doing so in the greenhouses), others can be stored to be sown in the spring. We are also taking cuttings of some of the plants in the garden, and hopefully by next spring we will have lots of lovely plants to sell or plant back out in the garden.
We are trying seeds collected from plants including Alcea (hollyhock), Lychnis (rose campion), Lupin, Astrantia, Galega (Goat’s Rue), Poppy and Phlomis. Some, such as Lychnis, have already germinated, others we are still eagerly awaiting for signs of life! The interesting thing about seeds is the genetic variation that can occur, so often the resulting plants will show some variation from the parent, especially in the case of the hollyhocks, where the colour of the flowers on each plant will be a surprise!
Cuttings taken include Lavender, Rosemary, Jasmine and Philadelphus. These are all semi-ripe cuttings taken from this year’s growth, so the base is firm but with soft growth still on the tips. They are put in pots together, and then when roots start to show at the base of the pot, they will be separated and given their own pot to grow on. Unlike seeds, cuttings create clones of the parent plant, so you know exactly what you are going to get.
We look forward to seeing how our seeds and cuttings do, and in the meantime they have a trusty guardian to keep an eye on them!
If you take a walk along the top of the Upper Wilderness to the far end and gaze underneath the large Yew tree, you will see the tiny but perfectly formed Cyclamen hederifolium coming into flower. A mixture of pink and white, the tiny flowers appear before the foliage, which as its name suggests is ivy-shaped (‘hederifolium’ coming from the Latin ‘Hedera’ for ivy, ‘folium’ refering to the leave shape). The common name ‘ivy-leaved cyclamen’ is self-explanatory, but its other common name ‘sowbread’ intrigued me. A bit of research concluded that it comes from the fact that ‘The root resembled a loaf and pigs were believed to enjoy eating it’.1
This plant originates in the Mediterranean, and was introduced into Britain around 1596, so would have been available in the early 18th century when the gardens were at their peak.
After the flowers have been pollinated, the stem coils around to take the seed heads closer to the ground, forming interesting little corkscrews underneath the flowers that you can see if you look closely. The reason they do this is not clear, but a possible theory is that ants may distribute the seeds further from the parent plant. All in all, a very interesting plant that is worth a closer look!
1. Campbell-Culver, M. 2001. Origins of plants: the people and the plants that shaped Britain. London: Headline Book Publishing.
Nearly time again for our amazingly popular low-tech family fun day.
Skittles, sack races, hopscotch and egg and spoon races bring three – or more – generations together this Thursday (11-3.30pm).
We run this event every year in conjunction with the local branch of the U3A (University of the 3rd Age) as a fundraiser for us and them.
We love that every year this generation’s kids are thrilled by such old fashioned games as hook-a-duck, quoits and skipping. Grannies and granddads feel extra special showing them how to play.
These activities run all day alongside, fabulous face painting from GlitterCreep, dances from the Lawrie School of Dance and sing along fun from the Generations Choir and shanties from the Lichfield LightHouse choir. Meet the RSPB, explore the maze, follow the trails…
All for £2 each for everyone over 5years. Old fashioned prices too!
Cafe and shop open. Picnics welcome
- All tickets £2 (under 4s free)
- £8 for a family day ticket (up to 5 people, maximum of 2 adults)
- Free for Family Activity Annual Pass holders (up to 5 people, maximum of 2 adults, including named cardholder). Pass costs £40 and lasts 12 months.
Five weeks of good value summer fun at the Gardens
Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 12- 3.30… it’s Unplug and Play
Crafts, gardening and outdoor exploration. Children and families can enjoy outdoor play and/or craft activities under gentle supervision.
The mud kitchen, maze, dipping pond and some gardening activities available for families to explore any day during summer. Every week will have a different activity based on something in the Gardens.
Week one 25th, 26th, 27th July Get up and do
Recycled streamers, making chatterboxes and all things on the move: waving, bending, climbing, crawling flying, rolling , fluttering , creeping.
Week two, 2nd & 3rd August Wildlife disguises
Collages from leaves, green man masquerade masks, find the dancers in the trees.
(because of the Dogs Don’t do Ballet performance on Tues 1st – there will be no craft activities. Tickets for the performance £10)
Week three, 8th, 9th 10th August Make an impression..
Clay hedgehogs, leaf and bark rubbings, flowers and leaf pressed nature medallions
Week four, 15th, 16th 17th August Festival style! The recycled way.
Make your own flags and bunting from plastic bags, paper and other household things.
NB Thursday 17th is big Family Fun Day 11-3.30
Week five, 22nd 23rd, 24th August Teddies, picnics, making a picture
Sit and relax with teddy, make a den, explore the wildlife and create some art around the site
There’s 10 acres of formal gardens, lawns, holly maze and wilder areas, so lots of places to explore, play and run around whatever is going on.
- Café and small shop onsite. No need to book.
- Cost: £2 per person (free for under 5s)
- £8 for a family day ticket (up to 5 people, maximum of 2 adults)
- £20 for a family week ticket (up to 5 people, maximum of 2 adults)
- Free for Family Activity Annual Pass holders (up to 5 people, maximum of 2 adults, including named cardholder) Pass cost £40 and will runs for 12 months.
Contact: 0121 749 4100 Email: email@example.com
Transition to ‘Big School’ can be a nervy time for many pupils. The Gardens’ education department is offering a fun day out for Year 6 with a purpose.
A Taste of KS3 History gets the kids out of the classroom into the open in 10 acres of open space. Our historic garden gives us the opportunity to touch on topics across the KeyStage3 curriculum.
Sessions during the day include The Black Death and early medecine (our medicinal herb borders show the real plants), ‘Dig for Victory’ in our veg. plot and the opportunity to play like a Victorian on our Archery Lawn. They’ll also be the chance to taste ‘knot biscuits’ (shortcake based recipe) and carrot cookies (wartime recipe).
A day aimed at looking forward with confidence. £4 per pupil
Booking now for weekdays (not Wednesday)
contact firstname.lastname@example.org, 0121 749 4100
Those baroque Garden designers always emphasised bold theatricality in their layouts.
Although we are certainly not on the grand scale of Versailles or the Royal Palaces, our ‘wilderness’ areas, boxed beds and topiary are all part of that formality and dramatic approach.
We’re all the more pleased therefore, to be able to host both theatrical and musical productions in the Gardens. This year we have the Crescent Theatre celebrating Jane Austen’s anniversary with a charming rendering of Sense and Sensibility. During the school holidays Dogs don’t do Ballet (Little Blue Monster theatre) will be visiting causing exciting mayhem for the little’uns.. definitely not to be missed.
In September, on the same day as our Heritage Open Day tours, we are lucky to have local Gilbert and Sullivan aficianadoes the Birmingham Savoyards mixing drama with music.
Music too is becoming more of a regular feature here (hoorah!). The 40s weekend had us rocking. last weekend we were smooth and mellow with the West Midlands Light Orchestra and Devon Harrison. The Central England Concert Band come in August.
In between times we have the soloists accompanying our pop-up tea and music events, various entertainments during Apple Day and Advent and we’re still holding out for an amazingly talented group who can play 17th century music with vegetables! No they can’t .. yes the can, they’re K’antu.
We are an open air site, so wind and rain are always hazards here… but, as they say, our skin is waterproof and the show… must go on.
Check out our Events calendar on this site and make sure you secure your tickets for our theatrical and musical offerings. Not only will you have a great time, you will be helping us keep the Gardens open for more years to come.
We have 4 hives on site. Two are owned by Norman and are well established in the Gardens. They have been joined by two new ones, owned and looked after by Malcolm.
They’ve been a bit feisty settling in and Malcolm realised they were missing their queen…”where did you go to my lovely?”
Today Malcolm fetched two fresh Buckfast Queens and they’ve now been installed… and Malcolm even dressed , from top to to toe, in white for the occasion.
Welcome to the Gardens queenies both.
Popular childrens characters Peppa Pig and George will be making a visit to the Chelmsley Wood Shopping Centre this Wednesday.
Parents will know that Peppa is quite a keen gardener. He and George have planted seeds and grown flowers. We can of course only applaud this little piggies efforts….
Peppa will be inviting children to have their photo taken together with them (11 am to 4pm). To celebrate these gardening piglets we will give one free entry to the gardens to any child who can show us their picture taken with Peppa and George in Chelmsley.