Get Plants – A New Book from Kew (Review)

I was recently sent a review copy of ‘Get Plants – How to bring green into your life’ – the latest book from Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. I seem to have grown a fondness, bordering on obsession, with gardening-related books these days  so any chance of indulging this new habit is fine with me.

The book has been written by Katherine Price, a trained gardener who worked at Kew for 10 years specialising in alpine and woodland plants. She has also worked on four gold medal winning gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show. The introduction draws on research that suggest having plants around is not only imperative to our existence but also improves our mood, memory and positive energy as well as studies that show people who spend time with plants have better relationships – I think us plant lovers will largely agree that there are many beneficial effects of having greenery in our lives.

The book aims to give the back story to a large range of easy to acquire plants that are simple to grow and will fit in to the different areas of your home and outdoor spaces in pots and containers. Plants that will fit ‘your style’ and brighten your home and life and radiate more of that positive energy. It covers such a broad spectrum of plants that it should have much appeal as a generalist guide encouraging people to rethink their space and get that bit greener.

On initial flick through my first impression was ‘ooh, nice pictures’, it definitely has that coffee table look and appeal to it so I waited for a quiet night home alone so I could sneak upstairs early with a cup of tea and read it. There are a number of things I like about this book – the photography is lovely and as a keen, but very amateur, gardener I learnt a huge amount of things such as how to over-winter plants typically considered as annuals, how to take cuttings from a variety of plants as well as the origins of many plants. I had no idea until reading this book that it’s pelargoniums (and not geraniums) that you see all over the place in those iconic blue pots in Greece. It was also really interesting to read about NASA’s research with plants in preparation for our colonisation of the moon (still ongoing). They discovered that certain plants are particularly good at cleaning up our environments by removing toxins emitted by mass produced clothes, furniture and wall coverings. They also remove bioeffluents, mould spores and bacteria as well as refreshing our oxygen and raising indoor humidity which helps counter issues caused by dry air from central heating systems.

There are also ‘Kew Tips’ littered throughout the book and one I have to try suggests that the pots of growing herbs you buy from the supermarket can actually be split and propagated so that you can harvest them for months instead of days. There’s also an environmental awareness running throughout with information on peat-free compost and how to make your own, warnings on the provenance of plants, recycling and sharing of cuttings.

There were some things I found a bit frustrating – there are lovely quotes from Kew gardeners throughout the book, however, often there are no pictures of the plant that they are referencing on that page so I had to turn to google to look these plants up numerous times. The photographs aren’t labelled individually so you have to spend some time working out which is which from the notes and often they are quite generic descriptions such as ‘dahlias’ or ‘petunias’ without the specific type, which would have been nice to know. The real niggle for me was the language used in some of the chapter titles ‘Trashy’, ‘Romper Room’ and ‘Lurve’ which seemed discordant with the content and Kew Gardens. But maybe that’s just me with my overly-genteel sensibilities.

Despite my niggles, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Get Plants and it would make a nice gift, however, caveat emptor (buyer beware) this book will likely having you rushing out to your nearest nursery and spending a small fortune if you’re anything like me. I now ‘need’ an African Violet, Florist’s Cyclamen, Mother in Law’s Tongue, Hostas (all of them), Purple Aeonium, String of Beads, Blue Star Fern, Elephant’s Ear and a Hyacinth – told you! Not a bad shopping list from one book.

RRP £25 and it will be released on 1st July. Available here on Amazon

 

Food Beyond The Plate – Foraging and Foodie Events

 

One of my Gastronomy lecturers is working on a collaborative project between food educators, foragers, chefs, artists and producers in the Edinburgh area.

They are offering workshops and experiences from July 2017 which explore the world of food in its broadest sense in the beautiful Newton Walled Gardens at Millerhill just outside Edinburgh.

You can find out more about the project on their Facebook page here

Upcoming events include Wild Crafts: beautiful botanicals with forager and herbal medicine specialist Anna Canning , Killing Cooking, Writing – a workshop with Ethical Carnivore author Louise Gray and How and Why to Eat The Wild – explore the possibilities of using wild foods with Rupert Waites of Buck and Birch, wild-chef and co-creator of Aelder Elixir – all of which sound fantastic for those with a love of the great outdoors, food and cooking, self provisioning and home crafts.

You can find more details on their upcoming events here

Guess I may well see some of you at one of these!

Rocket Gardens – Organic Plantlings – Review

After last year’s disappointments  we’re hoping for a bumper crop of fruit and vegetables from our garden this year and have created a new raised bed and added some new and more unusual varieties to our growing list. Since starting my MSc in Gastronomy I’ve learnt a lot about soil science and food production and we’re putting some of these learnings into  practice – this year we’re all about biodiversity and organic methods.

So it was rather timely when I was asked if I would like to receive a box of organic vegetables and salads from Rocket Gardens – a Cornish-based company that allow you to pick and choose from a number of varieties and then deliver them to your door. Time has been a big issue for me with my studies so thought this would be a great way to get the gyo-ing going quickly.

All the goodies from my Family Favourites Vegetable selection

The ‘Family Favourites Veg Patch‘ duly arrived and I have to say, it was better than Christmas opening it up and unraveling all the layers. The plantlings had all been tucked up in a bed of straw for their travels. Not all the plants had labels on them but they were grouped together so it was easier for identification. So I spent a very pleasant hour laying them all out to see what was what.

Our box contained two different lettuces (Buttercrunch and Red Salad Bowl), yellow courgettes, rainbow chard, carrots, wild rocket, Beetroot (Detroit), Cucumber (Marketmore), Green Sprouting Calabrese, Cavalo nero (Nero di Toscana), peas (Kelvedon Wonder), Giant Winter Leeks, two types of tomato (Tigerella and Golden Sunrise), runner beans (Enorma), dwarf french beans (Tender Green) and seed potatoes (Electra).

Sadly we had some issues with a soil delivery so I wasn’t able to put them straight into the garden so popped them all into pots until we were ready. But they don’t seem to be any the worse for spending, what turned out to be quite a while, in waiting. They all seem to be growing away quite nicely now – I had wondered how they might cope with our altitude and colder climate compared to the South West.

All growing away nicely and happily acclimatised to our hills

We already had four lots of potatoes and four lots of tomatoes on the go so I gave those to neighbours but you can select a mixture of the plants that you want if you don’t choose a selection box. At £34.99 for 125 plants I think this is an absolute bargain – the price is comparable for what we’ve paid in Homebase or such like, and those had no organic credentials. This is definitely a service I would use again, they also do gift vouchers which would make a brilliant present for some of my green fingered friends.

A sneaky courgette in with the cukes

My only slight issue is that I now appear to have a courgette growing in amongst my cucumbers, they were very similar looking plants and not all of them are labelled, still it adds some extra interest to that pot.

 

Power of Food Festival – Events Programme – 17th-18th June

The full programme of events has now been launched, click on the image below to see what’s in store for this year’s festival…

The Power of Food Festival, a great celebration of community food growing, will be held in 29 gardens across Edinburgh on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 June.

2017 marks the third edition of the Festival and showcases community food growing as a way to promote greater societal well-being and environmental sustainability. The Power of Food Festival provides a unique opportunity to (re)discover the city and take the pulse of its vibrant and varied neighbourhoods.

There is a wide range of free entertainment for children and adults, including: music and singing, edible plants walk, yoga, talks & stalls about the impact of our food choices, bioblitz, bug hunt, dance performance, food-inspired poetry-making workshop, a drystone dyking course, as well as sharing in the pleasure of eating together.

Entry to the gardens and all Festival activities are free (food may be offered on a ‘pay as you feel’ basis), and all are welcome to attend.

There is a short film about the Festival which offers an insight into what the Festival is all about. You can watch it here.

The detailed programme includes maps for different parts of the city to help visitors plan their weekend’s exploration, sustainable travel information, and a schedule of timed events. The full programme is available here.

Background

The story of The Power of Food Festival itself is a simple one. With so many inspiring food gardens springing up around the city, transforming individual lives and communities, the Festival seeks to highlight community food growing as a powerful force for social change – connecting people, building trust, doing something together that’s greater than the sum of the parts. It aims to raise awareness of the environmental and social impact of our everyday food choices. It centres around a joyful garden gate open weekend and offer an exciting programme of free events and activities at local venues. Hosted by community food gardens, the Festival is the opportunity to be inspired by positive stories of collective action. Unlike traditional food festivals, this event gives the public the chance to go on location and experience how food is grown by local residents in their own neighbourhoods.

The Festival is entirely volunteer-run and operates without any grant funding. It seeks to harness the great human potential of our city and draws on people’s energy, enthusiasm and talents. The Power of Food Festival team would like to thank all those who are working hard to make the gardens and this Festival grow from strength to strength. It is a heart-warming sign of the community empowerment the Festival aims to celebrate.

Things are starting to happen…

A quick look around the garden this past week has given us a lot of pleasure – we have things now flowering and producing edibles that we’ve never tried before and we’ve also had three indoor cacti flower – a complete first.

Apples are starting to form

One thing I’m most excited about is the apples, we planted the tree three years ago and for the first time had lots of blossom, guess the pruning worked. We didn’t know if it was self-pollinating but, looking at the apples now starting to form, I guess it is.

Tomatoes are looking great!

The tomatoes that we grew from seed are doing remarkably well and even more exciting, the test container using Chase organics SM5 tomato feed already has tomatoes, guess it’s safe to say that it works.

The potatoes are flowering

The potatoes are flowering. We planted Pink Fir Apples, Salad Blue, Epicure and Mayan Gold this year. As well as Oca and Jerusalem artichokes, we’ll have plenty of tubers that’s for sure.

A cucumber flower

The cucumber is flowering, a new thing we’re trying this year, It’s remarkably similar to a courgette with it’s spiky stem and leaves.

We have strawberries…

And mange tout, another new thing…

Blackcurrants

As well as lots of other edibles that are just quietly doing their thing just now. Here are the cactus flowers, so pretty…

Flowering Cactus Mammillaria