Category Archives: People & Products

New (dream) Job – and it’s gardening-related!

So, I’ve been a little quiet recently, but, I have some REALLY exciting news to share – I’ve got a new job and it couldn’t be more up my street! I’m the new marketing Manager for Scotland’s Garden Scheme (SGS), a charity that promotes health and well-being through opening gardens across Scotland to raise money for over 200 charities.

Having already visited a number of gardens open through the scheme in my area, I’m now looking forward to getting out and about and seeing many many more, from grand stately affairs to more modest city gardens and allotments. There should be plenty of walled gardens too – I do find them quite magical.

My first job is Gardens and Health Week, the 11th – 19th May – I’m looking for schools, hospices, care homes, welfare and community groups that might benefit from a visit to a garden. So, if you know a group that would like to take advantage of a free trip to one of our gardens, please do let me know.

 

You Should Have Been Here Last Week – Book Review

I was sent this book to review by the lovely people at Pimpernel Press – I’d never really heard of a garden critic before and thought it sounded entertaining – it was! The opening line of the introduction is ‘You should have been here last week. That’s what people always say to garden writers.’ I don’t think it’s saved just for garden writers – I’ve heard that exact phrase from members of my local gardening club when it’s their turn to host a visit. It’s like the fish that got away.

Tim Richardson is quite a prolific author, having written a number of books about landscapes and gardens as well as being a regular contributor to publications such as the Daily Telegraph, Country Life and House and Garden. He writes about all manner of garden-related topics from trends and events to ghosts, films and accidents in gardens. We visit Europe, the US, China and South Korea, as well as the breadth of the UK in this book and I was pleased to see a few Scottish gardens making the cut – Little Sparta, Jupiter Artland and Broughton House.

‘Sharp Cuttings From a Garden Writer’, the byline for the book title, is about right too, it felt absolutely right that I should photograph the book next to a cactus! Richardson is certainly provocative and I can see why his musings have caused outrage and/or demands for apologies from all quarters – education establishments, gardens, gardeners, gardening bodies and committees. He sticks to his guns too – in one such incident The Garden Design Journal issued an apology to The London College of Garden Design, however below the apology was a statement from Richardson making it clear that he stood by his article. He does remind me, somewhat wryly, of my dad – he doesn’t mind ruffling feathers and I get the distinct impression he aims his grenades with precision and then sits back waiting for the explosions with glee! I’m almost petrified to write this in case he should happen upon it and tear me off a strip or two for my own ignorance and presumption.

This book is a collection of articles that were published mainly in the Telegraph and Garden Design Journal (before he was ‘let go’ after some tongue in cheek comments about a fictitious award/sponsor/winner) between 2004 and 2016. The reviews on the jacket tell us we’re in for “informed criticism”, “an entertaining read”, “incisive, witty, opinionated and thought-provoking” – it’s all of these things. It’s not the sort of book you can sit down and read in one go but is delightful to digest a couple of short articles at a time. As a result of reading the book, I can say that I’ve been educated. – I thought it was plants/gardening I know little about – it turns out there’s so much more that I’ve never even considered. I now have an extensive list of places I would like to visit, both here and further afield, as well as a couple of film recommendations – Alan Rickman and Kate Winslet in ‘A Little Chaos’  sounds right up my street!

Unlikely, but I really do hope that one day my path crosses Richardson’s – he seems like exactly the sort of person you could pass a wonderfully, intelligent, frank (waspish) and entertaining few hours with, over a drink or two. Which has just reminded me about his story of nearly getting taken out by a viburnum that had been blown out of a living wall some 60 foot above, while he was sipping champagne at some fancy gardening event – that’s exactly the sort of thing that would happen to me!

This is a great read for anyone who likes to challenge the status quo, enjoys gardening or visiting them and has ever wished they could stick a literary two fingers up (and for it to mean a damn)!

 

My new favourite bit of gardening kit

I’ve been keep seeing offers on the voucher sites like Groupon and Wowcher for these lightweight, non-kinking hosepipes and I’ve been pondering on getting one for ages now. I HATE trying to lug around our big old heavy thing, that keeps getting tangled up, not to mention knocking things over and battering them about.

We usually have so much rainfall that it’s never been a priority, however, the past couple of months have been exceptionally dry here in Scotland and we’ve been putting in a lot of new plants (if you read my previous post, you’ll know exactly how many!) so watering them ourselves to help them get established has become critical. We saw a stand selling them at Gardening Scotland last weekend and decided to just go for it – £20 for a 75ft one seemed like a decent price and probably comparable with the voucher sites once you’ve added on P&P.

Yesterday, after the forecasted rain still failed to materialise, I got around to trying it out – OMG – what a brilliant piece of kit – I LOVE it! It really is ridiculously lightweight, even when it’s full it’s easy to move around. There are a number of spray settings for the head and you can also lock it open or have it working via trigger action only. It leaks a wee bit at the tap but I’m pretty sure all our hosepipes have done that.

If you haven’t already got one of these I highly recommend them – I would never go back to the big old heavy one now. It’s also pretty cool when it shrinks back up after letting the water out once you’ve finished using it. Now I’m very happy to run it from our tap in the back garden through the house and out into the front garden – it’s just no hassle at all.

NB – I am in no way affiliated with the manufacturers of these products or their PR, just one very happy customer  feeling the need to shout about something I wish I’d done much sooner!

Power of Food Festival 16th-17th June (Full Line Up)

The Power of Food Festival will return to Edinburgh for two days of celebration of community food growing.


This year again, visitors to The Power of Food Festival will enjoy free entertainment for children and adults alike, in venues scattered around the city and beyond. Activities on offer include music and singing, guided walks, talks, and tours, yoga, bioblitz, bug hunt, games and crafts, and of course, food and drinks to enjoy together: from a menu reflecting the cultural diversity of the community, to home-grown herbal teas.

Entry to the gardens and all Festival activities are free (food may invite a donation), and all are welcome to attend.

The full programme of free activities on offer in 23 community gardens is now available hereCheck it out and start planning your weekend of community celebration!

Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane – Book Review

I’m a lover of language and when I see an interesting-looking word I just have to try it out loud to see how it trips off the tongue. Living in Scotland is perfect for indulging this little hobby with place names such as Kircudbright (pronounced ‘kurcoobray’) Ecclefechan (‘eckelfeckan’), Auchenshuggle (‘awkenshuggle’), Auchtermuchty (‘awktermucktay’) and Findochty (‘fineckty’). Not to mention words like dreich (rainy, miserable), sleekit (cunning, sly), wheesht (shush!), coo (cow), crabbit (grumpy), stookey (plaster cast)  and bampot and eedjit (both meaning idiot). But enough about me…

Robert Macfarlane is a collector of words, words primarily about nature. He’s written several books on language but Landmarks is the first time I’d come across him (it was on on the kindle 99p offer a while back and sounded like my kind of read). It’d been shortlisted for a couple of awards (The Wainwright Prize and The Samuel Johnson Prize) so also packs some literary clout behind the cover-blurb…

Landmarks is Robert Macfarlane’s joyous meditation on words, landscape and the relationship between the two.

Words are grained into our landscapes, and landscapes are grained into our words. Landmarks is about 
the power of language to shape our sense of place. It is a field guide to the literature of nature, and a glossary containing thousands of remarkable words used in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales to describe land, nature and weather. Travelling from Cumbria to the Cairngorms, and exploring the landscapes of Roger Deakin, J. A. Baker, Nan Shepherd and others, Robert Macfarlane shows that language, well used, is a keen way of knowing landscape, and a vital means of coming to love it.

On diving in to the book, it is the type of book that beckons you to just jump right in, it immediately becomes apparent that the author is a logophile (a lover of words deriving from the Greek – logos, meaning
“speech, word” and philos, meaning “dear, friendly”) in extremis. He’s clearly spent a very long time collecting an astonishing hoard of words from around the British Isles relating to nature, the weather and our landscape – words that have often been long-forgotten and in danger of dying out altogether . In Landmarks he now generously shares them, along with an insight to the works of some of his inspirations (Nan Shepherd, The Living Mountain, JA Baker, The Peregrine, Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams and Peter Davidson’s ‘The Idea of the North’).

At the end of each chapter there’s a glossary of words that will delight – some of my favourites include:

Aquabob – icicle (Kent)

Billow – snowdrift (E.Anglia)

Blinter – cold dazzle (Scots)

Drookit – soaked or drowned (Doric0

Fleeches – large snowflakes (Exmoor)

Foggit – covered in moss or lichen (Scots)

Glincey – slippery (Kent)

Haggy – boggy and full of holes (Scots)

Plodge – to wade in water (N.E. England)

Pollywiggle – a newt (Norfolk)

Roorie-Bummlers – fast moving clouds (Scots)

Spangin – walking vigorously (Scots)

Spuddle – mess about in the garden (Devon)

Turdstool – a very substantial cowpat (S.W. England)

Twitchel – a narrow path between hedges (Midlands)

Urchin – a hedgehog (Cheshire)

Williwaw – sudden violent squall (Nautical)

Landmarks is a wonderful read that transports you from the peat moors of the Outer Hebrides into the skies and on to the shores of our wonderfully varied landscape. I happily accept Macfarlane’s challenge of bringing these ‘jewels’ back and rewilding our language with these gloriously descriptive words. This really is a book that you need to hold and thumb through so I’ll now need to acquire myself a hard copy version.

As an aside – I’ve since read Nan Shepherd’s Living Mountain (purely because of this book) and Macfarlane’s effusive praise is not unwarranted- it’s probably the best book about people/place I’ve ever read. Macfarlane provides the foreword in the copy I have. I’ve also added most of the other books he mentions in Landmarks to my wishlist.

 

Gardening Scotland June – Tickets just £10 at mo…

Gardening Scotland is one of my fave (and usually expensive) days out, although I don’t think I’ve ever paid full price for a ticket yet, thanks to the voucher deals that usually crop-up (no pun intended 🙂

I always go on a Sunday because you can get some amazing bargains when they start to knock the displays down about 4.30pm.

Here’s a wee look back at Gardening Scotland 2017 and Gardening Scotland 2016 and Gardening Scotland 2015.

And here’s the link to the Voucher deal  £10 instead of £17 on either the Saturday or the Sunday – who knows, may see you there…

 

 

Homemade Food and Seed Swap

Yesterday afternoon we headed over to Whitmuir Community Farm to take part in a joint event between Whitmuir and  Food Communities.org where people were invited to visit the 2000m2 project at the farm and to bring homemade produce and seeds to swap with each other. I gingerly took my boxes of seeds out into the garden and shook the spiders out – thankfully I had LOADS to take (seeds not spiders)!

I’ve spent a lot of time at the farm over the past year or so, not just as a customer but also taking part in Field of Enquiry, a series of workshops exploring the food system involving some of our finest scientists, nutritionists, ecologists, advisors and farmers. It’s the perfect place to host this kind of event.

I’ve only recently been introduced to Adam from Food Communities but it’s been impressive to see the tireless work he’s put into growing communities of people passionate about growing food and sharing in the produce with others. It was great to finally meet him in person (he also hails from the West Country so I’m immediately biased, his good works aside 🙂

We started with a bit of back history from Whitmuir’s Heather Anderson and a wee tour of the farm, the livestock, the produce being grown and the community food waste recycling project then, it was inside to get some food (the last of the produce that had been frozen from last year), there was a fermentation workshop and then begin the food and seed swapping.

It was great – I took loads of little envelopes so we were all able to take small amounts of lots of different seeds so I’ve brought back a few things to try that I probably wouldn’t have bought a whole packet of – Patty Pan Squash and Aubergine specifically. I also came back with some cake (for Sandy), some milk kefir bread, some potatoes, some homemade fat balls for the birds, and some snowdrops. A total win!

The best bit of it all though – the sense of community and sharing – priceless!