Tag: plants

Dig for Victory

It is the bounden duty of those who have the smallest space to cultivate, to do so
intensively, that the brave may be fed and that the lifeline of the Atlantic be not unduly
strained

To mark the 75th Anniversary of VE Day, Matthew Biggs looks into the origins and success of the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign set up during WWII by the British Ministry of Agriculture.

Here below is his fascinating article sent from the Organic Gardening Catalogue 

Click on the link to the catalogue to find the full article

………………………

The 75th Anniversary of Digging for Victory – ‘Fighting on the Homefront’

“At 11.15 on Sunday 3rd September 1939, British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain announced that Britain was at war with Germany. With European ports closed, Britain’s supplies now had to come from across the Atlantic. But within hours, the Battle of the Atlantic also began, with the intention of starving Britain into submission.

In 1938, 55 million tons of food were imported by shipping and 90% of all onions from Europe – there was a vast chasm to fill. Now there was a war to be waged on the Home Front; the fight to feed the nation.

On 12th September 1939 a ‘leader’ in the London Evening Standard, by young journalist, Michael Foot, concluded with the phrase ‘Dig For Victory’. It rapidly became a rallying cry for all. There was an urgent need to educate the public and encourage them to ‘get gardening’.

The Royal Horticultural Society began lectures and demonstrations, a plethora of pamphlets, books and booklets were produced, Mr Middleton broadcast gardening advice on BBC radio at 2.00pm on Sunday afternoons and Lord Dedham, from the Ministry of Agriculture, announced the intention to create half a million allotments, raising the number to 1,330,000. All available land was to be used to feed the nation; stately home lawns, railway sidings, sports field’s, the moat at the Tower of London, lawns in front of the Albert Memorial, even a bomb crater in the grounds of Westminster Cathedral where all turned over to vegetables.

Everyone was encouraged to grow brassicas to replace vitamin rich citrus and bananas and to make their own compost heaps; the introduction of National Growmore in 1942 increased productivity in poorer conditions. They also began to wage war against another arch enemy – pests.

One vital crop was onions. In 1943, the Horticultural Committee of the Red Cross Agricultural Fund introduced a scheme to increase production by forming onion clubs of 12-20 members, who should aim to cultivate ¼ acre between them, to be sold to the NAAFI or Admiralty contractors, with the proceeds going to the Red Cross. If every allotment holder in the country gave 7lbs, 5 000 tons of onions would be produced.

Despite the pressures, an American Professor who visited England, in 1942 was astounded by the health of the people and at the end of the war, the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign deemed a success.

Growing your own is still the only way to capture the flavour, freshness and natural goodness that kept Britain fighting fit until VE day. Let’s celebrate ‘Dig for Victory’ once again. Growing your own fruit and veg has many benefits – from saving money, reducing food waste and your environmental impact, to improving your physical and mental health through gentle outdoor exercise.”

 

Matthew Biggs trained at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, has been a professional gardener for over forty years and is a regular panelist on BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time. He has guested on numerous TV and Radio programs and has written books on a range of horticultural subjects from houseplants to vegetables.

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Happy Birthday Will Shakespeare

April 23rd is traditionally celebrated as the birth – and death – day of local lad, William Shakespeare.

It is also a saint’s day in the old calendar: St George’s Day.

St George, with his dragon slaying and masterful horseriding is a very popular saint- being a patron saint not just in England, but also Georgia, Ethiopia, Catalonia, Aragon, Valencia, Portugal, Brazil, Bulgaria and …….

Our multinational friends at REEP have yet again provided a whole shelf full of lovely games and puzzles to amuse us and those learning English through Gardening.

There are some lovely games and resources about plants mentioned by Shakespeare. Apparently he mentions 180 …I’ve just counted we have about 86 of the in the Gardens click here to go to their shelf of games 

download some of the games on in pdf or online

REEP-2020-SHAKESPEARE-Decode-Plants, 

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Take a Candide virtual tour of the Gardens

You can get your fix of the Garden via our audio guide app, Candide.

They helped us create an audio tour and it has pictures!

So you can find out about the Gardens and see some of it from the comfort of your phone. Here is a link to our tour. https://candidegardening.com/GB/places/4a33aa4448ace3bdde9d0a3b9510920b

Download the free app (android and apple) to find us and lots more tours of fab gardens… and advice too.

Just search for Castle Bromwich Historic Gardens, scroll down for the tour… click on the pins on the aerial photo and then listen, Scroll up the page for the picture too.

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A Virtual Spring Flower Show

Our Gardens Trust is proud to be an RHS Partner Garden, a supporter of the National Gardens Scheme (and their nursing charities) and of the WGFA (Womens Farm and Gardens Association).

All three organisations are doing imaginative and interesting things while closed to the public. Although most of this years RHS shows either cancelled or postponed, you can’t keep a professional gardener from wanting to show off. So the first virtual flower show of the year is run by from fellow Partner Gardens down in Truro, Cornwall. Our Assistant Gardener Tanya, who also trained in photography, has entered some pictures of the Gardens she has taken over these last three weeks tending the site.

She has entered us into 4 of the ‘classes’. Feast your eyes on our and everyone else’s scrumptious pictures on Gary Long’s (of Trewithen Gardens and Parks and Cornish Professional Gardeners Guild) facebook page.  https://www.facebook.com/groups/760964517350697/
You can also find shared posts on our own facebook site here.

We’re told the prizes are virtual and will need to be returned before next year’s show 😊. Cornwall is of course ahead of us climate wise and their photos are stunning … but we give them a good run

Some of Tanya’s views  below:

The classes are:
Class 1 A view of the garden.
Class 2 Woody plant.
Class 3 Herbaceous plants or bulbs planted or in a pot. The whole plant or single flower
Class 4 Wildflowers, the whole plant or single flower, any plant you see growing wild on your exercise route
Class 5 “Extraordinary Times”

We’ll announce who the winners are after Tuesday 14th – wish us luck 🙂

 

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#wegrowtogether: a guide to companion planting

There’s a lot of wisdom out there amongst professional and amateur gardeners. Much folklore and science knowledge handed down from generation to generation. 

In the post second world war  ‘nuke everything with a chemical’ era, a lot of native knowledge about what grew well with what, was lost and indeed strongly poo-poohed as ‘magic’ and superstition.

Thankfully since then, largely due to the Organic Gardening lobby, a more rational approach and some good scientific studies have been instrumental in making the practice of ‘companion planting’ an accepted practice amongst mainstream gardeners.

In our veg. and herb garden (the Batty Langley), we tend to mix some pre-18th century practices with some modern wisdom. We don’t use chemicals and plant calendula, nasturtiums, borage, comfrey etc plants amongst the vegetables to encourage beneficial insects.

On the Schools plot we have also experimented with ‘Three Sisters’ planting. This is a techniques used primarily by native north american peoples and combines three main agricultural crops winter squash, maize (corn), and climbing beans.

“The three crops benefit from each other. The maize provides a structure for the beans to        climb, eliminating the need for poles. The beans provide the nitrogen to the soil that the other  plants use, and the squash spreads along the ground, blocking the sunlight, helping prevent the establishment of weeds. The squash leaves also act as a “living mulch”, creating a microclimate to retain moisture in the soil, and the prickly hairs of the vine deter pests. Corn, beans, and squash contain complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids and all eight essential amino acids, allowing most Native American tribes to thrive on a plant-based diet.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Sisters_(agriculture)

There is quite a lot of information out there on the web but we thought we would share a guide made by one of our helpful commercial partners, FirstTunnels.

Click here to be taken to their very comprehensive site

https://www.firsttunnels.co.uk/page/Companion-Planting-Guide

 

 

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Kale

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.

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New plants from old

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!

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Cyclamen hederifolium

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  

Cyclamen coils

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.

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Invasion of the Giant Flowers … half term activities

Did you shrink or did the flowers just grow?

Wander amongst our beautiful towering plants over 4 metres tall – they’re crocheted!

This May half term join in the festival atmosphere with our Alice in Wonderland sized installation… All week from Bank Holiday Monday (29th May) through to Friday (June 2nd) we’ll also running family friendly activities around our flower theme.

  • Add a pompom flower to our woolly field and make some pom pom bees to fly amongst them.
  • Help us build giant bug hotel and learn how to make your own mini-beastie hotel at home.

    http://www.wildaboutgardens.org.uk/thingstodo/inaweekend/bug-mansion.aspx
    credit: Sue Tatman & RHShome.
  • And why not construct a giant birds nest for the little ones to snuggle up in.
  • Little green fingers can also help us plant up our Jack and the Giant Beanstalk runner bean tunnel… plant now and come back to play in the tunnel over summer.

The giant flowers are here all week and weekend (Sunday to Saturday), the family activities are Monday to Friday.

Family Friendly sessions + entry to the Gardens £2 (for anyone over 5 years old)

Family Activities Annual Pass holders: FREE

NB Normal entry prices for non-family groups

 

Family Activities 12- 3pm Monday to Friday

Gardens open Saturday 27th – Sunday 4th

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wild wild tulips

As well as some delightful period tulips and daffodils in the Gardens we have, this year, introduced the ‘wild tulip’ … the mummy of all those later fancy ones.

Tulipa sylvestris, known as the ‘wild’ or ‘florentine’ tulip is a species tulip noted ‘somewhere in Italy’  as early as 1594. Our suppliers Thomas Etty esq describes it thus

“Violet scented almond-shaped lemon yellow flowers in mid April. Naturalises well in grass. Said, by some, to have first travelled to these shores attached upon the roots of grape vines brought from Italy by the Romans.”

Volunteers have been deadheading  the daffs along the Holly Walk bank revealing the wild tulips and allowing them to make their mark. A really special addition to the month.

Other varieties of note this year are;

  • the jolly scarlet and yellow of Kaiserkroon (‘kings crown’) from 1620,
  • the 16th century double white poeticus plenus and pheasants eye
  • and of the later varieties we have sneaked in – Queen of the Night tulip (pre 1939) and Rinjveld’s Early Sensation daff., 1926.

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