We have three chickens. Fritillary is a Speckledy hen (named after the checkered lily). Victoria is our ‘bog standard’ Goldline. And Lavender is our Cambridge Blue (of course we had to get a Cambridge Blue). Lavender is a bit of an odd, um, duck, as her tail feathers are missing. Apparently she had a tragic tail feather accident at Cambridge Poultry. Perhaps that’s why she immediately leapt into our cardboard box as soon as we set it on the ground. How could we resist?
Julian with Fritillary at Cambridge Poultry.
Although the hens were meant to lay only after several weeks, two of them were laying within two days, the clever clucks. We might have know, as their combs were quite a deep tomato colour, which is a sign of maturity.
Victoria inspects the security measures.
To protect from foxes, I surrounded the coop with a ‘skirt’ of hardware cloth that extends 18 inches around the coop, and placed bricks on top of it. The hope is that a fox would be unable to tunnel into the coop, which happened to a neighbour of ours here in Romsey. But the most important security measure is to lock up the chickens at night. They do put themselves to bed (which is very charming) but if the door is left open then the fox could get in.
Best of all--eggs! The speckled one is from Fritillary (cos she’s speckled).
Audley End is a Jacobean mansion that was built early in the 17th century. A big draw for visitors--if their advertising is any indication--seems to be the servant’s quarters, which contain a large number of very beautiful copper pots, along with those disconcerting videos projected onto various walls showing ‘servants’ from 1880 about their work. (Not as creepy as the animatronics on the SS Brunel, but still a bit weird.)
Somebody gave up trying to make this look like topiary bunnies.
Capability Brown designed the landscape park, reshaping the land, damming up the river to create a lake, and placing neoclassical temples where they can be appreciated from a distance. The Parterre garden and roses will have to wait for a summer’s day, but I marvelled at the HUGE walled garden that has been renovated over the last 15 years or so by English Heritage in partnership with Garden Organic. If you ever want to see an impressive display of fruit tree pruning, this is the place. There are dozens of cordoned and espaliered apples, plums, damsons, and more.
As a North American, it never ceases to amaze me the effort that is put into these training systems. It just seems so elaborate. When you have a huge estate with rolling fields, why not just grow apples normally, in an orchard? I can understand all the painstaking trellising against walls for tender fruits like peaches, but apples grow all over the land--even by the roadside. Perhaps it has to do with keeping all the produce in one place, perhaps it is helpful to control pests and diseases (it is an organic garden), perhaps it’s just showing off.
To read more about the kitchen garden, here’s a nice piece in Essex Life by Philippa Pearson (pdf).
Grapevines arching into the greenhouse. The rootstock is outside the structure. The grapevines look very old, and so must have survived the period when the garden and greenhouses were in disrepair.
During the war, Audley End was the secret headquarters of the Polish Special Operations Unit, although there’s no interesting evidence of that except for a large memorial urn.
Somebody left the mulch on top of these snowdrops for a bit too long, I suspect.
Available from Timber Press--and check your local bookstore, too.
So when I read about this new high-density urban farm being built on top of a Vancouver parking lot, I wondered if it was just gimmicky.
Alterrus’ VertiCrop vertical-farming technology uses hydroponic technology to grow leafy green vegetables and herbs in a greenhouse, without pesticides or herbicides. Its produce will be transported directly to local Vancouver markets, significantly reducing its carbon footprint. (Business in Vancouver, Aug 22, 2012)
The company, Alterrus Systems Inc., that is installing the farm has a slick website that is actively seeking investors. Their branding for the produce is Local Garden, and they make a point of talking about their locavorism, non-GMO seeds, and integrated pest management approach.
This is no touchy-feely community effort; it’s a different kind of factory faming. The plants--mostly herbs and greens--are grown on trays stacked 12 feet high, fed nutrients intravenously. The conveyor belts are inside greenhouse structures, which somebody at BuzzBuzz was able to photograph.The growers claim that water use is just 8% of that used in conventional ‘in the dirt’ farming, that they need no herbicides or pesticides (the herbicides makes sense because there’s no soil in which weeds can grow, but how do they control fungal diseases I wonder?). And even though they talk about seasonality, they also boast of growing an amazing array of fresh leafy greens and herbs year round.
So why does this bother me? It seems like a good technological approach to intensive farming, makes use of wasted space, and I have no reason to think that the produce won’t taste just fine. I just think the marketing is a bit slick. Alterrus can’t call themselves organic, because there are no organic fertilizers that can be used in a hydroponic system (and then there’s the fungicide issue). But the emphasis on being GMO-free seems like pandering. There’s no reason for them to boast about using non-GMO seeds, because there are no GMO lettuce, bok choy, or basil varieties, and they aren’t growing soybeans or corn in their rooftop shelving system. This just seems like opportunistic greenwashing, which makes me suspicious. If there really are huge benefits in terms of less water and energy use, surely that’s enough of a selling point?
I’m going to dig a little deeper into this soilless farming (hah!) If anybody knows any more about it, drop me a line.
If we were discussing the hairdos of famous garden designers, we would have to put Piet Oudolf up at the top of our ‘fab’ list. But because we’re not that shallow, we can talk instead about his vision, his deep knowledge of plant communities, and his unwavering commitment to perfection.
I went to the High Line Symposium at the Garden Museum in London. Well, not the whole symposium, which cost a bomb, but the Sunday event, which featured Mr. Oudolf, the designs for the London High Line competition, and a lot of bagels for lunch. It was also a delightful opportunity to meet up with some of the twitterati, with whom I was able to enjoy a lovely coffee and natter after the event.
The proceedings were opened by one of the two founders of the High Line, Robert Hammond, who told us that when he began the project, he had no money, no connections, and no horticultural or architectural background. An artist, he met Joshua David at a community meeting in 1999 where they learned that the High Line, an elevated rail line built in the 1930s, was due for demolition. They formed the non-profit group Friends of the High Line, and worked with the City of New York (who own the High Line) to develop the site.
There’s a full history and a ton of information at the High Line website (including excellent planting lists). But most of the audience at this event were there to hear Oudolf, the high priest of waving perennials. If you ever get the chance to hear him speak, do so. He has a dry wit and his projects--which include many private and public gardens--are magnificent. Here a few gems I took from his talk:
- Good planting is about plant communities. At his nursery, Oudolf works with combinations of plants over many years to understand which plants will work together.
- Natives matter, although I don’t think he has the strictest definition of the word ‘native’. The term ‘American native plant’ is essentially meaningless, if you consider the range of wildly different climates across the continent.
- The High Line garden is divided into sections, each with its own environment, from grasslands to woodland. I’m not sure botanically what the ‘Diller - von Furstenberg ecosystem is, but clearly one big reason for the High Line’s success is due private sponsorship.
- He bases his planting plans on a lower growing ‘matrix’ of structural evergreens from which grasses, perennials, and bulbs emerge.
- He hates irrigation systems, especially this ugly intrusive hoses on the ground. In his opinion, the gardeners should be keep an eye on the plants and watering by hand as needed. Yep, all 1 ½ miles of plants.
- Piet Oudolf has awesome hair.
Finally, make mojitos in two varieties: ginger and cucumber.
There is absolutely nothing else you need for a fine event. Hope they do it again at next year’s Fringe.
One of my favourite roses was the one shown in the photo here, ‘Wickwar’. I got it in a gallon pot from John Greenlee, who said he took cuttings from a specimen in Rosemary Verey’s garden at Barnsley. It’s not a common rose, but it’s a stunner. Clusters of single white flowers, highly fragrant, with lovely grey foliage and practically no thorns. But it’s a monster rose. This photo was probably taken after only 2 or 3 years in the garden--if it’s still there it’s probably taken over the chicken pen on the other side of the wall by now.
I am attached to this rose but I don’t think I can get another one until (unless?) I once more have sufficient space. It’s almost impossible to find in the US, but I have seen some through specialist nurseries here in the UK. The RHS Plant Finder lists 3 stockists. One of them gives the size as 3m x 3m--should I risk it? Perhaps if I put it in a container?…. I think I’ve just talked myself into it.