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The Gardening Coach

Catharine Howard is the Gardening Coach. Contact her for gardening advice and visit www.thegardeningcoach.co.uk for more information.

November 18, 2014 | Little Sparta - what did I think of it?

Standing in a white-walled contemporary  gallery,   I am looking at pieces of rock strung as a necklace.  Inspected through the chained magnifying glass the mica glints in cool electric light.  I have booked on line to take the bus from under the 20 foot high  message “We don’t stay here Because of Gravity.  We stay because we like it”.  Half an hour to go  and exhibits done  to death, I move on to stare vacantly into an empty perspex box.  “This object is currently orbiting the earth”.

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November 11, 2014 | Flaunt your bindweed

Or – Pattern of the DAY.  I have spent hours this year winding my convolvulus up canes and snatching off the luminous white flowers to avert seed splatter. To admit the truth, through gritted teeth, the battle has been lost.  And then I went to London to call on a friend and found my nightmare had taken over and turned beautiful.

Mural by Hugo Dalton.

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November 4, 2014 | Genius loci

If you were ever wondering what that is, read this and you will understand:

It is too long  since a post went up on this blog so here is a poem in small essay form.   Largely in the words of Marco Martelli, artist,  from Venice Biennale last year.

The Romans believed that every  space was inhabited by a minor divinity, a genius loci that guaranteed its uniqueness.  To settle into a place, to build and to live there required a dialogue, a negotiation with that god.

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October 14, 2014 | Pattern of the DAY

It is that time of the year when trees become ever more attention grabbing.  This is the hoary trunk of Morus alba, the white mulberry.

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October 10, 2014 | Yesterday I fell in love with the hop hornbeam

Ostraya carpinifolia. It was dancing in the wind at Cambridge Botanic:

Shaking hop dangly earrings in the sunny breeze.

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October 7, 2014 | Tomato horrors: some fell witch has visited my greenhouse

This is a story of how NOT to grow tomatoes.

Growing in the greenhouse  began so well.    I am new to protected cropping and took great pride in stringing up my burgeoning plants and weaving them upwards.  The cucumbers got the same treatment.   Watered, fed, shut and open doors and all that and  I religiously removed side shoots at their elbows.  Then I went away.  Twice.  Leaving proxy waterers  to heft the can of an evening.

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October 5, 2014 | This week I visited Piet Oudolf's own garden

This week I visited Piet Oudolf’s garden in Hummelo in the outreach zone of north eastern Netherlands and buried deep in agricultural land.  The Friesian cows were peering through the hedge and the rumble of active tractors was resonant in the otherwise still air.

The economics of the trip were such that it was pretty much even stevens for four of us to fly to Eindhoven, hire a car and drive there as against the price of a return train ticket to London from Suffolk.

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September 29, 2014 | Problem planting areas - slopes round ponds

or should I say moats?   In Suffolk, east of England,  moats are ubiquitous .   I have lost count of how many customers I have with the address “Moat House Farm”.

The problem is that the banks down to the water are steep.  So what are the options for maintenance and aesthetics?  Lush growth of weeds?  Regular strimming?  This gives a denuded look and chucks nutrients back into the water which is not good – bald looks apart.  So how best to plant the banks?  The soil is clay which cracks and dries out in the summer.  That rules out the list of marginals such as Lythrum virgatum that need to keep their roots wet.

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September 28, 2014 | This is my mistreated carrot

An extreme example of very poor soil preparation.  The wretched thing is coiled into a scream that stops it taking flight for a Tony Cragg Road Show.

We ate it and it was quite tasty.

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September 27, 2014 | Dahli AMAZIA: Why and how to grow dahlias

Dahlias yo-yo in and out of fashion.  Right now the spool is taut and this genus of perennials are spinning high.  Funny to reflect then that the first plants arriving from Mexico 200 years were introduced  as  food  – an alternative to the potato.  James Wong, ethno-botanist and TV presenter,  praises them for a flavour reminiscent of the jerusalem artichoke and recommends grating them into that delicious Swiss dish, rosti.  A word of caution, choose the dahlia that you will nibble with care.  The breeding for ornamental looks has been at the expense of flavour.  And BTW the bit you eat are the fat salami like roots.  Deer and rabbits love them too.

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