The best things are free

By Richard Wright

Published on Friday, August 15, 2014 - 14:33


The best things are free

An artichoke flower. Picture by Roseanna Wright.


IT IS true. Some of the best things in life, and gardening, come for free.

It was re-affirmed to me only the other day in a chat down on the allotment that plotholders were Reducing, Re-using and Recycling decades before the catchphrase existed. They were composting and using and re-using all manner of objects, harnessing rainwater in butts and all that sort of thing.

In other words, achieving results for free or at least for very little.

Generally, it was to save cash but there is virtue and satisfaction in not going out and buying all you need off the shelf — just as raising a plant from a tiny seed and enjoying the fruits of its life and your labour is so much better than going to the supermarket.

Some times, too, perennial plants mark out places in time — like the red-flowered ornamental horse chestnut planted by my daughter, Bella, when she was tiny and by the apple seeds popped in pots by both my girls, which we are now waiting to graft to see just what we will get.

Ruth Hencher’s garden in Newnham Road, Binstead, is one such living and growing time capsule. Two of her most favoured plants have memories attached to them — and, better yet, they were free.

Her beautiful white rambling rose reminds her of her son because it was grown from a cutting taken from an old rose of an unknown variety growing in his garden a good few years ago. Each year it blooms beautifully in her old apple tree.

She also has a greengage, which she grew from a sucker after it appeared from a neighbour’s garden under her father’s garden wall, probably in the 1920s.

"I’m 78 now and delighted to be able to have these connections in this old cottage garden, which dates from 1897," said Ruth.

"I’ve lived here for 25 years in a cottage previously owned by the original family that built it."

Two examples of beautiful, free bonuses at my Sandlands allotment recently were borne from untidiness.

That wonderful architectural plant, the artichoke, produces flowers that must be loved by all, the electric blue being more satisfying, I reckon, than eating the thistle relative’s buds before they bloom.

Garlic and leeks produce interesting flower heads too when they run to seed — and make an unusual and free flower arrangement.

Gardens open to the public

THE owners of Crab Cottage at Mill Road, Shalfleet, are among the stalwart supporters of the National Gardens Scheme (NGS), having opened their garden regularly for many years.

The one-and-a-quarter-acre garden opens again on Sunday to raise funds for NGS charities.

It is a garden of great variety and its crowning glory is the glorious view across the croquet lawn.

Admission between 11.30am and 5pm costs £3.50, children free.

A new garden joins the ranks — and marks the end of the NGS season.

Eileen Pryer’s Sunny Patch in Victoria Road, Freshwater, demonstrates her passion for plants and for creating garden 'rooms’ with them.

She first opened her garden to the public in May and next Friday, August 22, it will, of course, in late summer be very different to how it was in spring time.

In addition to the many and varied plants, there are two ponds, a fairy wood and a folly.

Gardening tales, tips and questions can be sent to me at or Brannon House, 123 Pyle Street, Newport PO30 1ST.

Flower is a symbol of the Island’s beauty

WE ARE blessed on the Island with beauty that is freely and easily accessible to all of us — those with or without gardens.

This beautiful example of the pyramidal orchid — our county flower — was photographed recently by Martin Bilson, from Gurnard.

There were several in showy bloom on Brook Down, which has just the conditions it needs — chalky soil and a particular fungus in the ground that has to be there for it to bloom.

It’s a step too far for hungry slugs and snails

KEITH Tindell, from Shanklin, has come up with a slug prevention method that isn’t free but certainly doesn’t cost the earth.

He said: "I read with interest your article on slugs and snails. Like most of us, this year I have been plagued with them. I have found the method depicted in my photos is very good.

"I grow my vegetables in raised beds and the netting you see in the photo is purchased very cheaply at Lidl and comes in packs of three, approximately five metres long. "It is very springy and I lay it round my patch in the fashion shown, and it really works.

"The effort needed to climb up and over the net is too much for the slugs and snails. The net does not need to be stretched flat. This picture is my very late-sown runner beans. The seed was sown directly into the ground and not a sign of damage.

"I do sprinkle slug pellets inside the netting for those pests that are already there. This may be a method others could try."

Is collecting seaweed legal?

I HAD never given too much thought in more than 40 years of collecting seaweed — that great and free slug deterrent — until Linda Marques dropped me a line.

"Can you tell me if there are any restrictions on gathering seaweed from the Island’s beaches? My mother and I have done this in the past but, in conversation with someone at a garden show recently, they said we weren’t allowed to do this.

"Is this true? It seems odd to me as we are helping to keep the Island’s beaches clean."

Well, Linda, your garden show contact was both right and wrong.

I went to the IW Council for the official line and discovered the authority has a refreshingly pragmatic and eminently reasonable approach

A spokesman said: "In theory, yes, consent is needed to take anything off the beach.

"However, in practice, small amounts for personal use only are normally not a problem.

"But if anyone is collecting seaweed or anything else for commercial purposes — for example to sell it on — we might take a stricter line.

"This is because in some sensitive areas removal of a lot of seaweed would damage the sensitive and internationally protected foreshore habitats."

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