This Week’s Guest Blogger is Julie Quinn

Julie Quinn

As Gretta, my Mum got older she adapted her gardening to fit her abilities.  She had built huge waist-high raised beds which she filled with spring bulbs and summer bedding.  She could potter out there without bending or digging and she kept that going every year. Her front door area was a mass of pots which she painted in primary colours, also  filled with spring bulbs and then summer bedding.  Her pots were a famous landmark and she kept them going till the day she moved out just before her 100th birthday.

Mum at around 93 yrs old in front of her raised bed full of spring bulbs

Another photo showing the raised bed

This is Mum and me with her front door pots taken when she was mid 90s.  She loved pots as they were so much easier to garden with, as long as she found someone strong to move them about.  She also found watering them very relaxing and therapeutic.

Now in a Residential Home she is still gardening at 103 yrs old.  Here are her pots from last summer.

More colourful pots from last summer.  As you can see, she loves colour in everything she has.

Colourful containers she planted up last summer for the front entrance to the Residential Home.  She persuaded the Manager to pay for it all too.

The point I want to make for all your readers is that if you have gardening in your blood and you have the urge to do it, then hopefully one can find a way to garden in some way whatever one’s age or infirmity.  Even with a walking frame she waters the pots when they need it and she brings blooms into the communal areas for everyone to enjoy.
I inherited her love of gardening later in life, at around 40 yrs old and three years ago started my blog at londoncottagegarden.com which is another way to bring the joy of gardening into your life by sharing the passion with others.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Philip Oostenbrink

Philip Oostenbrink is the Head Gardener at Canterbury Gardens who was instrumental in ensuring that Gardening for Disabled Trust Charity was included as a beneficiary of the Open Gardens on May 25th and 26th May 2019.

Gardening in a historic environment

 Four years ago I became Head Gardener at Canterbury Cathedral. Before I had the interview I imagined that the planting schemes would be quite traditional, but even when I walked around during the interview I discovered a whole array of unusual plants, Japanese gardens and tropical borders. When I told The Dean how surprised I was to find all this on a 1500 year old site he explained to me that although the building was not changing much and mainly preserved and restored, he felt the gardens should change and go along with the times. Sometimes when I do a tour through the gardens I tell this story and not long ago a lady exclaimed it should be more traditional and the gardens should be resembling the gardens as they were during Monastic times. If we did that though, we would have skipped about 700 years of history because even before the first church was built on the Canterbury grounds in 597 AD there was a Royal Palace on that spot which no doubt had its own gardens and orchards.

One project we are doing at the moment is creating a collection of Magnolia. These Magnolia have a local provenance. They are bred by Amos Pickard who had a nursery near Canterbury from the 1960s-1980s. He bred 23 different Magnolias and we are hoping to get all of these together and planted around the Cathedral grounds. Obtaining these plants is difficult and shows the importance of the conservation of garden plants as some of them are very difficult to get and some of them may already be lost completely. Once we have a sufficient amount of plants we will apply for National Collection status with Plant Heritage. It will also be our aim to redistribute any spare plants/cuttings so they are less likely to disappear. After all if you can give 5 people a Pickard Magnolia it is more likely for them to be preserved for the future than if there is only one around.

So this is how on an ancient site we extend important conservation work to the plant world and not just the buildings.

Under the National Garden Scheme
Canterbury Cathedral Gardens are open on 25th and 26th May 2019.
Please come along and support this Open Garden as Gardening for Disabled Trust Charity, Perennial and NGS will benefit from a donation from the entry fee

Archdeaconry
19 The Precincts
22 The Precincts
The Deanery
15 The Precincts will be open to the public

Added attractions include a new plant fair incorporating specialist nurseries with unusual plants for sale. Cathedral Gardeners’ herb stall. Home-made refreshments. Dover Beekeepers’ Association, up close and personal opportunity with Birds of Prey and unique access to Bastion Chapel. Classic cars on Green Court

It is a  wonderful opportunity to visit and enjoy the private gardens within the historic precincts of Canterbury Cathedral. The Deanery Garden with scented roses, kitchen garden, unusual trees and wild fowl enclosure; the Archdeaconry includes the ancient mulberry tree, contrasting traditional and modern planting and now both a Japanese and New World influence. Other gardens offer sweeping herbaceous banks, delightful enclosed spaces, and areas planted to attract and support wildlife. Step back in time and see the herb garden, which shows the use of herbs grown for many purposes in the Middle Ages. The walled Memorial Garden has wonderful wisteria, formal roses, mixed borders and the stone war memorial at its centre, and the hidden Bastion Chapel in the city wall. A garden planted in the Friends’ name surrounds the Buffs’ statue.

The gardens of Canterbury Cathedral comprise not only of the private gardens but also the public gardens of the Precincts, including the Friends’ garden. Lovingly cared for by the Cathedral Gardening Team, the private gardens are quite diverse; from the large open spaces of the Deanery, with fruit and vegetables, showing off the Dean’s love of roses, bulbs and blossom to the small garden of No. 19, with its medlar tree and blue & white border set in the shadow of the Cathedral itself. The Archdeaconry has a slightly more formal structure, with standard roses and a quiet area with a Japanese influence, whilst the front paving is lush with well-loved hostas and beginning to reflect the New Zealand roots of the Archdeacon. No. 22, has a ‘secret’ garden to the rear with a stone water feature and gazebo and No. 15, the home of our Canon Missioner has deep herbaceous borders with the lawn crowned by the magnificent Copper Beech . Apart from the 5 residential gardens, the Precincts offers the Memorial Garden, Water Tower Garden, Friends’ Garden and of course our Medicinal Herb Garden. In this garden you will find a collection of herbs relied upon for their properties through the centuries – which are now linked to our copy of Gerard’s Herbal from 1597. An extra treat is the Lattergate garden, part of the historic King’s School. All of these gardens are set against the magnificent backdrop of the Cathedral itself. Should you wish to stay overnight, B & B is often available at the Cathedral Lodge which is within the Cathedral Precincts. For accommodation contact 01227 865350 or www.canterburycathedrallodge.org.

For further information contact 01227 762862 or www.canterbury-cathedral.org

Gardening for Disabled Trust Charity was lucky enough to catch up with Philip Oostenbrink the Head Gardener at Canterbury Cathedral, who is busy preparing for the open days.
His top tips of what to look out for include :-
Deanery: the garden is over 1,000 years old and features on the first ever plan of the Precincts. A large tree of heaven Ailanthus altissima stands at the end of the lawn.

No 15 garden: a lot of work has been done in there since Canon Nick (now Dean of Salisbury) left last September. The woodland walk has been planted up with more unusual trees and ornamental shrubs have been replaced with Kent Cobnuts to give more of a native woodland feel. The lower bank is still in development as an infestation of bindweed and ground elder needs to be addressed before new plants go in

Archdeaconry: a rare variegated Geranium maccrrorrhizum ‘Variegatum’ can be found at the end of the lawn, under the Pittosporum.

No 19: an espallier gooseberry was planted along the metal fence.

No 22: The lawn has been extended and new borders planted on the right hand side as you walk in to make the feel of the garden flow better.

Information
Saturday 25th May  2019 11:00 – 17:00
Sunday 26th May 2019 14:00 – 17:00
Refreshments:
Light refreshments on Green Court. Entry Info: Sat 25 May general precinct & gardens entry £17. Precinct pass holder £5 garden entry. Sun 26 May £5 garden entry (no precinct charge). Refreshments in aid of nominated charities.

Admission:
Adult: £5.00
Child: Free

Please note – on Saturday, in addition to £5 admission, precinct charges apply. On Sunday there are no precinct charges

Gardening for Disabled Trust Charity will be manning a stand at the Open Gardens so please pop along and see us.  We would like to convey our thanks to everyone at Canterbury Cathedral who has been involved in choosing our Charity as a beneficiary, we really appreciate it.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Anni Kelsey

The garden of delights

my edible perennial paradise

Everything that I do and understand about my garden changed radically when I discovered forest gardening in 2005.  I was amazed to learn that there was a way of gardening that meant I would have less work to do which would save me time, whilst at the same time giving me something to eat all year round and which would also be attractive and hospitable to wildlife. 

There are three key factors to making such a garden:

  • a layered structure
  • perennial edible and functional plants – otherwise known as an ecological guild or a polyculture
  • simulating and then facilitating an ecosystem

Layered structure

A forest garden captures the maximum sunlight by making use of trees, bushes, shrubs and herbaceous plants growing close together in layers – as you might find on the edge of a woodland.  It depends on the space available but the crucial thing is to make use of what you have choosing from

  • a tall tree canopy
  • medium height trees, bushes, shrubs
  • herbaceous plants up to about 3 feet tall
  • lower level / ground cover plants
  • root crops and plants with deep penetrating roots
  • a climbing layer

Polycultures of perennial edible and functional plants

  • perennial vegetables
  • plants to attract bees and other pollinators
  • plants to host a range of insects that keep ‘pests’ at bay
  • plants to fix nitrogen
  • plants to draw up minerals from lower layers of soil and make them available to the

I tend to use the word polyculture to describe this way of planting.  There are innumerable possibilities for combining plants with the different functions listed above into a polyculture so I will give some examples based on my own garden in Wales.  This is on an exposed somewhat wet and windy site with heavy clay soil and a lot of stones!  The plants that grow here do so without complaint (or I wouldn’t have them) and look after themselves year on year.  In other parts of the country with different weather and soil etc you can choose plants that are suited to those conditions.

My garden is not large and my polycultures are clustered round a range of small fruit trees and bushes.  My basic ‘template’ for this is to include the following plants:

  • fruit trees – apple, pear, plum, gage, cherry
  • fruit bushes – red, white and blackcurrants, jostaberry, gooseberry, blackberry, raspberry, wineberry
  • perennial green vegetables such as Daubenton’s kale, Taunton Deane kale, good King Henry
  • self seeding leafy greens – lamb’s lettuce, land cress
  • deep rooted and tuberous perennial vegetables – skirret, scorzonera, salsify, oca, Jerusalem artichoke, Chinese artichoke
  • alliums (onions) – chives, Welsh onions, garlic chives, garlic, perennial leeks
  • herbs – lavender, fennel, sweet cicely, parsley, wild marjoram, thyme, germander, catmint, yarrow, self heal
  • perennial and self seeding flowers – calendula, love in a mist, cowslips, forget me nots, poppies, creeping Jenny, lady’s mantle, nasturtiums
  • nitrogen fixing plants – annual peas and beans, perennial earth nut pea and vetches
  • climbing plants – blue sausage fruit, akebia quinata, Caucasian spinach.

This can be as simple or as complicated as you like – from one small fruit tree with chives, lamb’s lettuce, good King Henry, thyme, calendula and dwarf peas planted beneath it – to the twenty two small trees I have with all of the above and more. 

The pictures below show what this looks like in practice:

This spring time photograph shows a whitecurrant in flower that sent on to bear several pounds of fruit.  There is a gooseberry bush and sweet cicely to the right and a mixture of lavender, fennel, forget me not, mint, salsify, dandelion and land cress (yellow flowers) in front of the bushes.  There are literally thousands of tiny flowers blooming in the garden from spring through to late summer and these are crucial to making it a haven for bees and other pollinators.  The closely packed vegetation also means the ground is shaded and protected from what sun there is (!) and also from heavy rain.  There is also plenty of habitat for beneficial insects like spiders and beetles.

Jerusalem artichokes at the back with a mixture of early summer flowering plants – self sown foxgloves, astrantia (because I like it), mint for the kitchen and thyme for the bees.

This is a Welsh apple tree – Trwyn Mochyn – taken in late summer and surrounded by annual self seeding nasturtiums that virtually engulf it, there are also a range of alliums and herbs that have been temporarily engulfed – but not harmed by the nasturtiums.

Taunton Deane kale – a hardy kale that grows large but is easy to care for, ie it looks after itself!

A wider view of the polyculture patches showing how all the plants mix in together and grow very enthusiastically.

This garden is indeed very low maintenance – I cut back some of the plants that die back in the late autumn, but leave a lot for their seeds and structure for over wintering birds and insects and then do another round just before the spring bursts out.  In between I cut back or take out any plants that are not working with the rest, but much more time is occupied by harvesting the produce!

From early spring onwards there are so many bees in the garden that it seems to buzz most of the day, there are butterflies a-plenty and all sorts of insects that I cannot identify but which are all an integral part of this local ecosystem.  Birds nest in the hedges and feed from the bushes and plants, there are hedgehogs, mice, shrews, rabbits, frogs (even when there was no pond) and although they are present the slugs are not a problem and I don’t need to take any action to keep their numbers down.

When I began this style of gardening I was able to complete the ‘normal’ gardening tasks without a problem but as time has gone by I find I have much less energy and stamina than before and would not be able to garden as I once did, even if I wanted to.  However I love doing things this way, it makes my life enjoyable and puts good healthy food on the table whilst also benefitting the local wildlife and looking lovely too.  What more can I ask for?

More detailed information about the method of growing edible polycultures can be found both in my book “Edible Perennial Gardening” and on my blog “gardens of delight”.  I am also happy to answer any gardener’s individual questions sent by email to annisveggies@hotmail.co.uk.

http://www.permanentpublications.co.uk/port/edible-perennial-gardening-by-anni-kelsey/

or http://www.annisveggies.wordpress.com/

Two other interesting websites are Incredible Vegetables run by Mandy Barber and Julien Skinner in Devon and The Backyard Larder by Alison Tinsdale.  Both of these have information about all sorts of unusual and perennial vegetables and also sell them. http://www.incrediblevegetables.co.uk

http://www.backyardlarder.co.uk