Sunday, 23 February 2014

Delapre Abbey

As we have put up with weeks even months of rain when finally the sun came out today i decided to get out for a few hours. Delapre Abbey was to be the destination it is situated just outside Northampton the Abbey has a long history going back as far as 1145.

 Delapre was original started as a Nunnery which was built by Simon de Senlis Earl of Northampton. In 1460 The Battle of Northampton took place in the grounds of the Abbey. This was an important battle in the War of the roses the Lancastrian king was captured and held at the Abbey during this battle. In 1538 Henry V111 took over the Nunnery since then the Abbey has passed through several owners until 1946 Northampton Council bought the estate. 
In 2001 the council where trying to sell off the Abbey a group of locals set up The Freinds Of Delapre Abbey group. To prevent the Abbey being sold and kept as a community resource, since then the group and the council have worked together to try and restore the house and grounds back to there former glory. As you turn off the road you are greeted by an old long Lime avenue leading you up to the car park and house. in front of you you will find a lovely old Victorian stables with it's clock who's chimes echo through out the garden. The stables also house a lovely tea room run by the Friends group the scaffolding has just been put up on the main part of the house this is the start of the restoration project on the house.
The highlight of a visit to Delapre is round the back of the house just past the boarded up Orangery there is a gate in the wall. Walk through it and you are in an old Victorian walled garden still complete with it's original greenhouses. These have been part restored although they where empty of plants on my visit i am sure they will be full to bursting ready to fill all the empty beds in the walled garden.
As well as the greenhouse's which take up the south wall the whole of the east wall is one long herbaceous border. There are many other island borders, herb garden, fruit beds as well as a Vegetable garden.
 At the back of the walled garden there is an old shrubbery full of small ponds and carpets of Snowdrops it was a bit boggy under foot in place'. They could do with removing some of the dead trees and planting some new shrubs but otherwise it's a nice area.

After a walk through the woods you will come across a vast lake full off swans, geese and ducks with a path to walk all the way round. It is well worth a visit to Delapre Abbey for an afternoon out yes it needs a bit of work in the grounds to improve things. The Paths need improving as they are very boggy in places but it is Free to visit and a lot of the work is carried out by volunteers. So if you have got no other reason to visit Northampton then make Delapre Abbey an excuse to come to the town.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Spuds You Like

Its that time of the year again when thousands of seed potatoes start appearing in Nursery's, Garden Centre's and Hard ware stores. There are also the many potato days taking place up and down the country where there is generally a much wider range of variety's on offer. 

A good website to find a Potato Day near you is there are still plenty to go too up until mid March. But when faced with such an array of spuds which ones do you choose lets start with different types 1st Early's or new potatoes as some folk like to call them. 
These are the first to plant and the first to harvest They are planted March - April and are ready to harvest in June - July. 1st Early's are also ideal for growing in pots and in a greenhouse / polytunnel for an even earlier crop. They are also less likely to get potato blight as you are harvesting before it becomes a problem. 
Next is the 2nd Early's plant early to late April they are ready for harvest in July - August .
Then you have the Main crop variety's these are your keeping spuds most will store well through the winter given the wright conditions. plant these late April - early May and they are ready for harvest late August - October depending on the variety. 
Then choose what you want to do with them new potatoes, chips, roast, boil store them through the winter etc. Find out what other gardeners are growing in your area an experienced allotmenter will put you straight on whats good and whats not good to grow in your area. I always find that in the first year if you select a small quantity of a few variety's that way you can see what grows best on your soil and also what you prefer to eat Thompson and Morgan also produce a good guide to potato variety selection that you may find helpful.

Some of the best Spuds i have grown are.

1st Early
Red Duke of York
Maris Bard
Vales Emerald

2nd Early

Maris Peer 

Main Crop

Maris Piper
Sarpo Axona
Pink Fir Apple
King Edward
Belle De Fontenay 
Sarpo Mira

Once you have got your seed potatoes home give them a wash this gets rid of any soil on them and helps reduce the spread of some disease such as scab. Then place them in some seed trays or egg boxes to chit this is where the eyes of the tuber start to grow these are like baby shoots spray weekly with Maxi crop so you get good strong shoots. These seed potatoes should be kept in a light frost free place until you are ready to plant out. What variety's do you all like to grow ?

Thursday, 13 February 2014

What Is A Garden Centre

I remember as a boy going off with my dad to buy some plants if he wanted some veg we would go to the local market gardener. He would get his spade go to one of his nursery beds and dig a bunch of what ever we where after it would be wrapped in newspaper and we would be on our way. If we wanted some  flowers we would go off to a nursery get what we wanted and back home. Not a cup of tea, barcode or the contents of a department store in site then came the Garden Centre. 
 At first most garden centre's grew the majority of there plants and bought in compost, fertilizers etc to compliment the plants. But the whole affair was purely garden related with the plants being the headline act but not now. Most Garden Centre's are more like an out of town department store clothes, suit case's, shoes, toys, butches, bakers and i even went to one once that had a candle stick maker. Don't forget the 200 seat restaurant where you can get anything from a cup of tea to a three course lunch. Once you have worked your way through all this right at the back of the shop you will find the plants where once they used to be the star of the show they are now tucked away more as a side line.
Now don't get me wrong Garden centre's are very popular and i do enjoy going to one myself at the weekend it's just they are not what they used to be. Gardening is not the main purpose of  a visit to a Garden Centre any more they have become a destination for a day out some Centre's even have coach company's booking with them. You get a good day out at a Garden Centre it's all very well done clean, tidy and very good quality products on sale but now i feel one Garden Centre chain has gone a step too far with there offerings. The Garden Centre Group are set to open up W H Smith Newsagent out lets at some of there Centre's they already have one outlet at there Bicester branch and are set to expand out to other Garden Centre's. The same group is also bringing in Costa coffee outlets into some of there stores a lot of visitors go to the garden centre for the independent coffee shop and the nice home made cake but you wont get that from Costa. Will our Garden Centre's slowly turn into out of town shopping some of them are nearly there already introduce a few more multinational outlets to there centre's and they will be. Of course lets face facts they would never get planning permission for most of these stores if they where labeled out of town shopping centre's. But give them the title Garden Centre and it's a different story but no matter what i think the modern Garden Centre is hear to stay.
What do you think have garden centre's lost there way and become more like out of town shopping centre's or do you like the new look big shinny Garden Centre's that they have become ?.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

New Issue of The Potting Shed Uk

Things are beginning to grow

Well in the greenhouse they are with the never ending rain i have been spending a lot of time in the greenhouse recently. But it's only the last week that plants have really started to get growing the Fushia's cuttings i took last autumn have rooted well and filled there cells full of root so where in need of a potting up. 
 I potted them up into 9cm (3") pots in multipurpose compost with a bit of perlite added after potting up i pinched the tops out. these where put to good use as new cuttings. They are now happily sitting in the propagator with a little bottom heat to encourage them to root.
Geraniums where next on the list these where some plants we had growing in the garden last year at the end of the season i potted them up and have kept them in a heated greenhouse all winter. These have put on lots of growth so it meant lots of cuttings to be had I managed to get about 3-4 cuttings off each of the plants. I put these into individual cells so to lessen the root disturbance when they need to be potted on. 

You know spring is not long away when you start taking cuttings and sowing seeds there is many more cuttings and seeds to be taken and sown in the months ahead. lets hope we get a bit more sunshine to encourage them along.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Book Review Natures Treasure house

By John Thackray and Bob Press

I have visited the Natural History Museum several times and have always been amazed by the displays just walking through the main door is orinspiring. Not to mention seeing a full size model of a whale hanging from the ceiling but how did this great institution come to be this book takes you through the history museum from it's not so humble beginnings to the modern day.
The man we have to thank for the Natural history museum is Sir Hans Sloane although not the official founder of the. But if it was not for his vast collection the museum would never have begun Sloane was a great collector of natural history artifacts the rarer and the more unusual the better so he could impress his friends. On Sloane death in 1753 his will declared that his collection be kept together 63 trustees had been appointed prior to his death and they had the task to sell the collection as one. The government was petitioned to buy the collection as a whole it was agreed that Sloane’s collection and several other collection be brought together to form The British Museum. The museum grew and grew out growing many buildings through it's history until in 1873 the natural history collection gained it's own building. Which opened to the public in 1881 in South Kensington still under the management of The British Museum until 1992 when it became The Natural History Museum  as we know today.
This is a fascinating book well written with lots of great pictures and is a must read for anyone in to natural history or just history in general.

RRP £12.99

ISBN 978 0 565 09318 1

Available from the Natural History Museum and all good book shops

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