Year: 2015

The Horticultural Games

A beautiful sunny June morning finds me at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (QEOP). Waiting outside the aquatics centre a raucous bunch of fellow horticulturists formed. Excited not by also the pub meal but the tour of the park by Dr. Phil Askew, Project Sponsor Parklands and Public Realm at QEOP. Over thirty of us were in attendance from all walks of life in the horticultural world. The location was Stratford, East London, where over one hundred hectares where many languages are spoken. From its industrious two hundred year history the land was a polluted wreck. So how was this site going to become one of the historic highlights of British Olympic history? The answer lies in lots of planning and a legacy which has and will allow the site to become a haven for wildlife and an open space for people to enjoy now the games are well and truly in the past. Dr Askew explains that from the start the whole concept of the park was to have longevity unlike many other countries …

West Dean, a play in two acts

‘Ah ha, a piece of bindweed!’ That is what a lady said during the morning tour of West Dean gardens. Exactly where, and if it did exist I do not know, as I was too busy engrossed in all the garden theatre in the walled kitchen garden.  I say if too because these gardens are emmactulate. Lines are lines and swiggles are swiggles. There are no half measures.  The morning tour consisted of two acts. Sarah Wain, chief guide and host led a supporting cast of various lead fruit and vegetable plants and a dedicated supporting crew of volunteers. Lets not forget Jim Buckland now shall we! Then there is the props department. Glasshouses, terracotta pots, canes. They were all cleaned to perfection.     The iron curtain lifted to reveal an orchard setting in a walled garden. The ensemble sung in full part harmony. The baseline of fruit trees with fritillaries and cowslips providing undertones amongst the crescendo of Dandelions. (Dandelions you say.. well yes not the greatest meadow mix choice but alas are a …

The Working Garden

During April I was very lucky to able to visit a private garden in West Sussex. It was The Working Garden cared for by head gardener Benjamin Pope and team.    On arrival, the raked gravel drive to the house meanders via woody shady planting with shrubby structural greens and seasonal winter colour. The plant of the moment,  Disporum Night Heron was the star attraction with its chartreuse green against almost black tones. Fronting the the house, newly constructed feature raised block planters feature elegant flowering Cornus, each framed with Fagus sylvatica who’s marcescence will mellow its leaves to a classy brown and hide the blocks during the winter months. Continuing on, the curvature of the drive meets, matches and pics up the beautiful stone circular gated entrance leading to the main walled garden. Here you’ll find avenues of iterdispersed apple trees and box hedges clipped to a natural flow.      The borders within contain a multitude of goodies. Many herbaceous jewels revitalised softening the stuctural boundaries which frame them. The cutting borders and vegetable beds …

El Brujo de Trinidad, Cuba

Across  the railway by the cemetery were the directions I received from the Brujo. That was where he sold most of his plants. Pushed in his wheelbarrow through the cobbled streets of Trinidad, Cuba was his mobile market offering his latest rosemary, basil and guava plants. Wandering off the tourist radar, as per norm, I encountered the Brujo whilst on the search for Ron Mulata (a rum brand) served in a plastic bottle and not glass. Being fairly confident with my Spanish now, I struck up a conversation with him, spoke about plants and arranged to meet him on the Monday and partake in his birthday celebrations. Now the Brujo is a wizard. Well, a plant wizard. Many people come to him to buy herbal remedies. and if he hasn’t got it, he will get it for you. Many Cubans rely on natural medicine as most processed medication is too expensive to buy or unable to get hold of due to the embargo. The nursery site contained a large growing area. The soil rather red. Rows of …

Machete and rum.

Rum. Cigars. Salsa. These are three of the main words people associate with the country Cuba. I like to indulge in all three but as a whole, Cuba is so much more. It and its people have so much more to give. I dare you to venture out of Havana or the beach resorts of Varadero or Guardalavaca in the South. Beyond the five star resort strip of sand lies plenty of adventure, adrenaline and activity. For me I’m no beach bum. I like to touch, speak and feel Cuba from all angles. This is my second time visiting this archipelago in the Caribbean and every time I think I’ve sussed it out comes another surprise. Cuba, since the US embargo has learnt to do things differently. Resources are hard to come by. Medicines are expensive. Everyone has learnt to mend and make do. It’s also kept out the big pharmaceutical companies and those dreaded chemicals and gmos. The result is organic, fresh fruit and vegetables, thriving bees and a large natural medicine market. I …