The two borders of rocket.
THERE have been two recent examples that living in a gardening mess is a virtue. THERE have been two recent examples that living in a gardening mess is a virtue.
Whenever I watch Alan Titchmarsh, Monty Don or Beechgrove on a Sunday morning, everything looks pretty — and sickeningly — darn perfect, and to a large degree removed from the orbit of the ordinary gardener.
Most of us mere mortals either haven’t got the time or have other things in our lives.
I garden in a different way, without too much time to devote to appearance. With that comes benefits.
And, among them was striking black gold in my lawn — and it would never have happened without a degree of laziness.
Osteospermum tends to overhang the narrow border and needs cutting back. Needless to say that was ignored and the edge of the lawn was shaded out and died.
A few days ago, I thought I would re-seed the dead bit. I got out my hand fork to loosen up the soil and discovered what at first sight was a large stone.
On closer inspection, it proved to be a beautiful summer black truffle in its prime, living its symbiotic life with the nearby oak.
Now these are prized by foodies and, while I have to say this one did not have much of the musk about it, it weighed in at more than three ounces.
It was a valuable but perishable find. What to do with it, though?
Andrew Palmer, at the Priory Bay Hotel, very kindly and most generously decided upon a truffle evening where my find could be grated on all manner of delicious dishes.
I picked Andrew out because he is a great fan of local produce and foraged food.
Thank you, Andrew, for the food and the hospitality headache — whch proved a good ’un the morning after.
Another big bonus of that gardening style this year has been allowing my greenhouse to be overtaken by rocket before the tomatoes were due to be planted.
The rocket has been a key ingredient in innumerable soups and added heat to salads — and wouldn’t have happened if I’d been a slave to neatness.
Most gardeners grub crops out when they reach the end of their useful lives.
I tend to leave them in. Brassica flowers are attractive to bees, and my spinach, Chinese mustard, borage and marigolds self-seed year on year, as has my rocket.
The rocket carpet has been reduced to two path-side borders but I will again allow it to flower and seed, providing a valuable addition to winter and spring salads next year.
Now my tomatoes are safely ensconced in part of the former rocket patch, I find I have ended with more varieties in my little house than ever before — but more of that next week.
Talking about tomatoes, my great thanks to Eddie Grove for producing the Island’s own Queen of Heart tomatoes, which went down an absolute storm with readers, My apologies to the disappointed.
I could have sold four times the quantity to raise a little cash for charity and will, perhaps, try to think of how to do more next year.
Poplar gift to the Island on group’s birthday
AS A birthday treat it was a special one.
To mark the tenth anniversary year of the IW Green Gym, the band of hardy volunteers, who have helped improve 140 countryside spots around the Island, planted three rare black poplar trees.
The ethos of the group is to keep fit and have a good convivial time while achieving something useful.
They chose Gift to Nature’s Pan Mill Meadows in Newport for the poplars because, having volunteered there since 2006, it is a place which means a lot to them.
As far as anyone knows there are just three mature black poplars on the Island — and there’s good reason for that. It is because they are dioecious.
Male and female flowers are borne on separate trees and that means on the Island fertilisation is most likely to only be from other poplar species, creating hybrids. That is why there are so few new black poplars here and why there is a dearth in the rest of the country where it is Britain’s rarest timber tree.
Three black poplars were propagated by Paul Coleman at the IW College from cuttings taken from a mature specimen at Flowers Brook at Ventnor, where the group had worked with Ventnor Enhancement.
Mark Russell, from IW Green Gym, said: "It is a good Island story with locally sourced trees and the IW College providing their expertise.
"Using local provenance trees heightens their chances of survival as they are already proven to prefer the Island’s climate."
l For more about the IW Green Gym visit www.iwgreengym.org.uk
The IWGG blog site is at http://iowgreengym.blogspot.co.uk/
Gardens open in a good cause
THE beautiful gardens at Westover House, Cal-bourne, open again this year on Sunday from 2pm to 4.30pm in aid of the All Saints’ Church roof appeal.
The church dates back to the 13th century, is Grade II listed and its roof needs specialist attention, which does not come cheap.
Westover has a large estate, of which about nine acres will be open to the public, including long borders, the vegetable garden, walled garden and wooded dell.
More energetic visitors are invited to walk round the perimeter of the estate, taking in the views, including The Solent in the distance.
All Saints’ churchwarden Sue Mansfield said: "We are serving the usual scrumptious cakes and teas on the lovely lawns in front of the house.
"There is a great variety of things to see and fantastic value at £3 entry."
l Meadowsweet is open under the charity National Gardens Scheme on Sunday, too.
It is an example of the 'Good Life’ for its owner and for wildlife too, showing just what can be done to transform a featureless, windswept, two-acre field, which was previously good only for grazing.
A great feature is its natural, mainly native, planting, which really shines at this time of year.
Admission is £3, children free, between 11.30am and 4.30pm.
The Island in flowers
A GREAT Day Out on our Island is the theme of this year’s flower festival at Holy Trinity Church, Bembridge, which runs from tomorrow (Saturday) to Tuesday.
There will be at least 20 displays, covering attractions ranging from Dinosaur Isle to Seaview Wildlife Encounter.
Celebrating 150 years of Island life, it promises to be a fantastic festival of flowers.
Entrance is free although donations are welcome towards the flowers, the church and its newly beautifully restored ceiling
Tonight, between 6pm and 8pm, there is a preview. Tickets for that are £5 and can be purchased from The Ink Shop, Lane End, Bembridge.
Organiser Olive Light said an excellent team had been put together over the last few months and, under the expert tuition of Sue Badnell, the standard was now very high.
THE Island Flower Club has organised another national demonstrator, Coral Gardiner, to come to the Medina Theatre on Wednesday.
The event, entitled Put Your Garden on a Pedestal, is at 2.30pm and tickets are £10 on the door.
The club’s Kate Newcombe said: "It should be an afternoon of laughs and beautiful flower arrangements."