March 2010

Winter crops have been a poor show overall. I was too busy trying to keep up with the eating last summer to get much sown. Last year’s Rocket no longer keeps pace with my appetite, and the Land Cress is now concentrating its efforts on reproduction – lots of pretty yellow flowers but not much munching. A few wrinkly knobs of Jerusalem Artichoke languish in a bucket. (Already anticipating the disappointment of those why arrive here having put ‘wrinkly knobs’ in their search engine. Better say it again: wrinkly knobs).


I didn't grow this; I hit the cat with it.

The only other planting I managed last year was garlic, and I’ve been made very aware of how that’s doing. Next door’s cat heard I was a first-time garlic grower and so, for two months, popped round at three-day intervals to dig it up so that I could see how much root the bulbs were putting on – and then crapped in the hole so I didn’t overlook its assistance.

I was eventually reduced to refilling the container as I really didn’t fancy the soiled compost, and to visiting the shrine of google and asking what I should do and throwing myself on the mercy of twitter.

The answer? Christmas decorations, diverted from the compost bin. A few pine stems from a home-bodged wreath (too spiky to squat on); and the dried orange slices and chillies I’d strewn about the kitchen in a half-hearted attempt at seasonal cheer (apparently cats don’t like the smell, though as the little bastard was digging up garlic, so I’m not sure how much a part they played). And lots of bamboo skewers, sticking out at angles that would give the Health & Safety Inspector apoplexy. Now it’s got good greenery to match it’s bouffant roots, but it’s months until I can put it in a pan.

Purple sprouting But an avalanche of purple sprouting broccoli approaches and it’s all for me. He who-lives-with-me can’t eat it, so I’m looking forward to eating several tonnes over the next few weeks. My basic PSB cooking choices are: with anchovies, garlic and chilli in pasta; fried with sesame, garlic and coriander; or dipped in boiled eggs. I don’t find gluts a trial; rather I welcome them they force me to be more inventive and try new meals. So, any recommendations to expand my broccoli repertoire?

Downriver from Hampton Court

Some wonderful bloggers are organising a blogging meet up at the Malvern Garden Show and lots of other wonderful bloggers are going along. You should go too if you’re around.

I’m definitely not though.

I  don’t think I like garden shows. I dragged he-who-lives-with-me to Hampton Court Flower Show last year. I didn’t write about it at the time because I had very mixed feelings about the experience, and thought I was rather more inclined to the “Nah” option.

I was overwhelmed by the number of people shoving each other out of the way to grab at merchandise from rows and rows of overpriced tat which seemed to have little to do with growing things. Said tat was then dragged about in the ubiquitous garden-tat trolley, especially designed to break the ankles of others meandering past.

Interesting people full of expertise were there at their stalls, but inaccessible behind flailing elbows. Irritability fed off irritability. A well-known grower who I had eagerly anticipated visiting disappointed me with rudeness to a customer who had inadvertently put something back in the wrong place in the midst of the scrum.

"It's hard to see" Winner: Best conceptual garden, Hampton Court

"It's hard to see" Winner: Best conceptual garden, Hampton Court

There were a few lovely show gardens. But my admiration was quickly followed by mild discontent: my garden does not belong to me and I don’t know how long I will have it, so I can’t redesign it or replant it, and plants that call for long term commitment are not really an option. I can just move the pots about a bit.

Constant drizzle and a slightly sulky companion pretending not to have his earphones in listening to the sport  probably didn’t help. Though bless him for trying.

Malvern would be even worse: there will be lots of bloggers there.  I thought blogging existed in a different dimension from the real world. Real people are scary – remember that first day of school?

And it would be a logistical nightmare. I’m probably manically busy at work at exactly that time. It looks a bit challenging for those using public transport. Tent carrying seems incompatible with plant acquisition and long walks to campsites are tricky for evening socialising. Definitely a bad idea.

My favourite view at Hampton Court, courtesy of Philippa Pearson

So: obviously I’m going. Not sure how yet, but it sounds like an adventure. Adventures are fun, and the countryside around the site is lovely. What could be better than throwing my bag onto my back and exploring a new bit of the world, meeting some new people, and then heading to the springtime hills? This and this post, on the Meet@Malvern blog have already got me plotting.

I’ve only been to one show before so shouldn’t judge too quickly. Even that one had interesting people behind stalls and lovely gardens that added to my vision for ‘one day’.  (Don’t tell anyone, but that’s not just a vision of veg and trees. I think there are some flowers in it too.)  Rather than feeling frustrated by impermanence, I’ll go and enjoy the delights of list-making and adding different ideas to the scrapbook in my head.

And if I go, I might meet people. Turns out that there are all these fascinating people out there, with blogs full of inspiring, educational, profound and funny things. They seem quite friendly and welcoming. They’d be pretty interesting in real life, right?

Beware the trolley

Plus, as well as a lovely location, Malvern show itself is said to be particularly nice. ‘Relaxed’ and ‘spacious’ is one of the descriptions that appeals – I’m imagining this means time to wander without getting stampeded by a horde of runaway garden-tat trolleys driven by crazed consumers mad-eyed with lust for the plant they just spotted in a passing trolley.*

And, even if it’s another scrum, there will be a whole host of enthusiastic experts on tap in the bloggers meet area.

* I should confess that while an overdose of consumerism makes me queasy, there is also some lovely stuff available at these events – plants, proper crafts and equipment. The ten minutes I spent stroking the shiny copper tools on the Implementations stand at the end of the day at Hampton Court reaped dividends this Christmas. (He-who-lives-with-me has suggested that I am not subtle). I am stroking and cooing at my shiny trowel as I type…