Best Sheltered Scheme Garden

This is our entry for the 2016 Competition. Last year we submitted 132 photos showing how we have transformed the gardens from overgrown borders and fence lines to an inviting interesting space with something to catch the eye throughout the year.

Although we cut back for winter we are are careful to heap leaves under hedges and large shrubs to give wildlife including hedgehogs a refuge and hunting ground.

The first flowers appear in late Autumn with Cyclamen and Hellebores  this is quickly followed by Crocus and Daffodils …the old Forsythia and Japonica made a better show as two.years of cutting at the right time encouraged healthy blooms



New for this year.

One gardener decided he did not want to plant his daffodils and tulips as they slowed up his summer planting so we dug three bays that a resident could see from her 1st floor window and she was able to look out on spring colour.


Spring is when we really put on a show for the pollinators and the 90 meter back fence holds hundreds of foxgloves and a mass of forget-me -nots. These help to keep the weeds, brambles and ivy at bay from the jungle next door.



May saw masses of Lilly of the Valley in a bed which one resident holds dear to her heart.


Our formal bed gardener had already planted rows of Sweet Williams (Dianthus barbatus), Irises (Reticulata) Lillies and Dianthus. The perfume was wonderful in the hot days of July.


In the less formal beds as the foxgloves ended so the Aquilegia took over followed by Alliums, Penstemon and Veronica which made a cheerful show. Some of the roses have benefited from proper care and feeding and the first flush was very enjoyable.


Meanwhile in the Grow Wild bed  planted last year we had a surprise because the annuals which flowered last year made way for masses of perennials and bi annuals with Pink Campion ruling the roost. This together with our ‘nettle patch’  and planting eight Buddleia is an important part of helping pollinators including bees and butterflies. A first this year was to see the Goldfinches feeding on the flower heads of the Knapweed and Centaurea Montana


We have maintained the herb garden which was planted for an ex-resident who was a chef. This year we let the thyme,marjoram, hyssop flower but kept the Rosemary clipped. By July the lavender had started to show which gave this border a Mediterranean look.

We have now planted 120 french marigolds throughout the Scheme to give us more colour through August September and until the first frost. We grow much from seed and cutting. The tomatoes are a bit behind but we have already had two pickings of runner beans and will hopefully have courgettes soon.

New for 2016

The gardeners (residents) cut down two diseased trees and one gardener purchased a plum and a pear tree so hopefully we will have fruit next year.

The gardeners respect the wishes of the none participant residents and work hard to provide them with planting that they want and also endeavour not to encroach on their space. Some of them enjoy the idea of being able to ‘forage’ in their own grounds.

This is just a flavour of our year; we are struggling with the climate  and will be experimenting with drought resistant plants in some beds. We are also still restrained by some planting and fencing which is beyond our control but grateful that we have an understanding Landlord who recognises the fantastic value to health ( including mental health) of being able to garden in our scheme.

We have many more photos and would love to share them with you….

I forgot the last new for 2016

A close up of a couple of the lillies and our trbute for the Queen’s birthday a patriotic place to sit







#LifeBalance Harvest Time

Today a new Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition has his first Prime Minister’s Question Time. Should I watch it? I imagine that 100 years ago my great grandfather was up the allotment frantically getting in the vegetables to try to keep his 7 children in vegetables through the winter. He was to go on to have three more children. He could only plat the girl’s hair (mother could put rags in) My great grand father could also mend all the children’s shoes! Most of all he was responsible for putting food on the table.

I grow tomatoes from seed from a supermarket tomato that I like. So once again I have three varieties. One was called Santini by M&S another a small round tomato and the last a large round tomato which was tasty. No special names but the second year I have cropped from these seeds.


Six vines against a west facing wall

Hidden at the back of the herb garden

Hidden at the back of the herb garden

In between the runner beans

In between the runner beans

So in five different position six vines cut off at two trusses to be sure of them ripening before the weather breaks. Last year I had to bring them all in at the end of September because it was getting too wet. It looks like I will have to do that again this year but last year they all ripened.

This is food for free which is as important to me as it was to my great grandfather

If you like you can see how to put rags in here

Where do I start?…..Morning Glory ( Convolvulaceae) or is it?

I started a review of the summer one rainy weekend and have quite a few subjects left…but it hasn’t rained since and the asters, newly sown seeds, cuttings, marigolds and pots have had to be watered. Also the beans courgettes needed water even when it rained and the tomatoes have needed attention. Lastly we have been digging a few new little flower beds from scratch to set up a successive planting for next year WHEW. So just a few words about Morning Glory.

I tried to grow them from a bought packet of seed back in the 80’s as I love blue but they failed and as I am not one to buy any plant or seed I gave up. Last year I helped a friend with his garden and there climbing up his plum tree was Morning Glory (Ipomoea purpurea or Convolvulus purpureus 

I collected his seed and this year have my own in three locations. My neighbour hates our back fence and gets upset when I cut back the Japanese Quince (Chaenomeles_japonica) and the Forsythia. She said she even preferred to see the convulvulus bindweed with it’s white flowers than the fence. So I thought great the Morning Glory will please her.SAM_2062

I visited the Oxford University Botanical Gardens on the hottest day of the year and saw

Oxford Botanical Gardens July 2015

Oxford Botanical Gardens July 2015

I can do that

Three willow sticks leading up to a six foot bamboo cane

Three willow sticks leading up to a six foot bamboo cane

Also up the wall it will die at the first frost so I can easily cut it down

they will grow 15 feet up a piece of string!!

they will grow 15 feet up a piece of string!!

Sadly so far I only get about 3 flowers out at the same time. They seem to flower like Passion Flowers one at a time for maximum pollination opportunities. Ah well I can dream and check each morning.

Morning glory is the common name for over 1,000 species of flowering plants in the family Convolvulaceae, whose current taxonomy and systematics are in flux.

University Of Oxford Botanic Gardens is a great place to visit I found out the names of a few plants I had inherited without ever naming. It cost me (a pensioner) £3.30 to go in

Foraging (Rainy day review part 3)

Last year I wrote about the ‘field mushrooms’ growing in our gardens.

You can see how big the mushrooms are because there is a 50p at the side of them

You can see how big the mushrooms are because there is a 50p at the side of them

That was back at the end of October 2014 and I thought; if I save a couple and throw them by the hedge maybe there will be a few more next year. Well here we are September (in fact they appeared late August) and I have a bigger crop!

This time there is a 10p coin to give you an indication of size

This time there is a 10p coin to give you an indication of size

I have left three of the biggest in situ so may be next year I can feed everyone! I know I have no need to remind readers that some white mushrooms are poisonous and one named ‘Destroying Angel’ is a killer. I have included the link below which has excellent photos and advice in identifying mushrooms. The site also contains this message ”
Please forage with care and use numerous sources for identification of any wild mushrooms. Never eat anything from the wild unless you are 100% sure what it is!

My valiant attempt to Grow Wild ( Rainy day review part 2)

A long time ago well back in March I posted the photo of my Grow Wild kit I was so excited019

I planted and took a photo. There was a little bee home which I attached to the fence…but alas someone pulled it off. We have never been short of bees so I was not too worried. The first sowing came through all poppies001Grow wild corner may 2015002

Finally on my second sowing I achieved vaguely a patch like the Grow Wild photos I saw on the web,twitter and Facebook. SAM_2076Grow Wild photo c jan Smith-Gap Photos

This beautiful photograph  copyright Jan Smith-GAP photos is what I imagined but somehow the mix did not turn out like this.

To crown it all James Wong on Gardener’s World showed that research found that non native flowers actually extended the native season and were useful for our bugs and bees. We have so many flowers in our garden and lots of bees and bugs so did I need to try so hard to Grow Wild?Ah well I have one packet left so I shall try to sow this September for next spring.

James Wong starts at 17.00

Grow Wild

Supported by the Big Lottery Fund and led by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; Grow Wild inspires communities, friends, neighbours and individuals across the UK to come together to transform local spaces, by sowing, growing and enjoying native wild flowers.

We believe that this simple act of creativity can turn spaces into beautiful, inspiring and colourful wildlife havens; encouraging people to care for and delight in the nature around them.

An Australian Weed

The wet bank Holiday has given me an opportunity to review the gardening exploits of the year. The first plant I have to review is Crocosima x crocosmiliflora the orange variety commonly called Monbretia. The story goes back a few years when a border at the back of our scheme was full of the pointed green leaves which never flowered. At the time the thought of being responsible for all the untended beds was a challenge beyond us. So we agreed to let contractors clear the beds, lay a membrane and gravel. The next year to our surprise up popped the familiar pointed green leaves and this year….well the photo tells the storygravel Crocosima July 2015The Crocosima flowered from July onwards and made us smile. When the contractors had started I quickly dug up a few bulbs and put them in other beds. I need not have bothered they are surviving through the membrane!

When I checked to find out about this plant I discovered it came from South Africa as many of ‘our’ most colourful flowers do and that in Queensland Australia it is now considered a weed. Yet the red varieties were widely featured at Chelsea this year! Just goes to show that a weed is a plant in the wrong place.


What’s eating my Asters

A quick blog because I know someone out there can tell me. Last year we were quite successful and had a lovely show of asters through August until October

You can see them all along Michael's front garden

You can see them all along Michael’s front garden

They were amazing and called Tall Fraggle Mix

They were amazing and called Tall Fraggle Mix

So this year we decided to plant them all over using a Suttons Packet and some seed we saved. Neither the packet seed nor the saved seed have grown as well and what is worse some have been attacked.

2014 August 001

The only troublesome things we have noticed is pigeons and wood lice.

So dear readers it is over to you I hope someone can tell me so I can protect, if possible, the remaining plants.

I wait in hope

Before and after

Three tenants were recently persuaded to enter a gardening competition run by Soha. The terms and conditions required before and after photos. This put my mind in a whirl.

Before, three tenants and the seasons took off

Before three tenants and the seasons took off

View from 2014

After 2014 Dahlias, the seasons and the tenants change the atmosphere

5 Brian's Bed strt 2013

But that one flower bed had a middle. A lot of hard work, back breaking digging and expensive planting.

So it is with every corner of the gardens. Slowly, over the space of three years, there has been a transformation some of the photos are in the blog by that name.

Chopping down and digging up trees and 18 year old over grown shrubs was also very labour intensive for the three tenants.

That Beech Tree has to go

That Beech Tree has to go

Now for the root

Now for the root

At least 30 years old and intended as 'hedging' Two men could not lift it

At least 30 years old and intended as ‘hedging’ Two men could not lift it

Finished? Wait till you see the dahlias and gladiolus. in all their glory

Finished? Wait till you see the dahlias and gladiolus. in all their glory

So here is my problem with before and after. Being a gardener is more in the round. The designer who thought beech hedging was a good way of creating fences probably hated cutting privet so often. Beech only needs one hard cut a year. You see them all round old Government property like Harwell and Culham and of course around the old AERE houses. However when they are 30 years old and have not been kept clipped they are trees in the wrong place. Well done two tenants you did a grand job.

Interview with an allotmenteer

033 What variety are these Michael?”Maris Piper but by the raspberries there are Red Duke of York, two rows of Mozart, and a row of part”Blue Kestrel” and part White Duke of York.

035 What are these? “Banana Shallots given to me by another allotmenteer. It is a test because we are growing some from seed. We won’t know the results till next year

036White and red onions

bought as sets variety unknown bought from Wallingford market for 1.50 a bag

037 When you have as  many raspberries as this you don’t need a net and the birds are welcome to a few.

This photo was taken a week ago so this courgette is nearly twice the size

This photo was taken a week ago so this courgette is nearly twice the size

One of 15 tomatoes doted around so they get more air and less likely to get blight

One of 15 tomatoes dotted around so they get more air and less likely to get blight. I have done the edges, cut the hedge so I can get to the runner beans and had a bonfire. Busy week on the allotment







Are you a ‘plot holder’?

I was reading an article where a council issued an eviction notice to an allotment holder. It has come to the attention of the committee …..your behaviour towards ‘plot holders’. I thought someone who worked an allotment should be call an allotmenteer. I googled it (other search engines are available) and found it is used

Feeling better about my powers of the English language I turned to the photos of the two allotments I have visited and wondered ,’what is a good age to have an allotment’?

I can only conclude that any age is good and that the earlier you start the better. You don’t need to have been born into allotments as you can be adopted into the family. True you may have to put up with the occasional ribaldry but you will also glean wisdom if you ask the right questions and have patience to listen. In my last post on allotments I gave details of where and who to contact to find an allotment. If you got one now it could be wonderful by this time next year.

There is a special allotment owned by my two friends a twenty something and a thirty something. they have a vine surrounding their shed and like to have things standing up and ship shape

Looking good for a May photo

Looking good for a May photo

The other allotment managed by an octogenarian on his own. He is potato crazy with 5 varieties

You can just see Michael working away

You can just see Michael working away

How do you know which variety is which? "I know because I planted them" says Michael

How do you know which variety is which? “I know because I planted them” says Michael

Below are some links but I do hope, especially if you don’t have a garden and have children, that you consider an allotment. The children will love it

If you want to find out just Google How do I get an allotment in (Town Name) (other search engines are available)