RHS London Shades of Autumn Show

I mentioned the other day that the RHS has two London shows in October, the first was the harvest show, the second London show is the RHS London Shades of Autumn Show.

This year the RHS Shades of Autumn Show has had a make over, the RHS are working with Cityscapes, a London garden festival, to bring a show garden into the Lindley Hall . The Cloudy Bay Discovery Garden, which won a Silver Gilt medal at the 2013 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, is being rebuilt so that it can be enjoyed again. The show garden has already been a popular attraction this summer on the bank of the Thames, where it has been remixed four times by different designers in the courtyard of the Oxo Wharf Tower. It will have its final reincarnation at the RHS Shades of Autumn Show, recreated by its original designers Andrew Wilson and Gavin McWilliam. After the show the materials and plants will be donated to a community project.
Last years floral display
As well as the show garden a number of specialist nurseries are presenting floral displays, as well as the typical nursery displays and stands on exhibit in Lindley Hall.
Some autumn produce... (2012)
The Autumn show tickets can be bought via the RHS site. If you are going to make a short break in London whilst attending the show then there are a number of Holiday Inn hotels which would make a good base for for the show and wider activities in London, for example Bloomsbury, Regents Park, Commercial Road or Brent Cross.

The show is held at the RHS Halls in Vincent Square, there are a number of Tube stations near by for easy access by public transport and an underground car park adjacent to the halls if you are travelling there by car.

Enjoy the show!

Hall Place Gardens - Bexley

Situated in South East London is the delightful Hall Place house and gardens. The house itself dates back to around 1540 when wealthy merchant Sir John Champneys, Lord Mayor of the City of London in 1534, used stone recycled from a nearby former monastery, Lesnes Abbey, to build himself a country house on a site where a manor house was recorded some 300 years earlier in 1241.

Alterations to Champneys' house were made in 1560. In 1649, the house was sold to another wealthy City merchant, Sir Robert Austen (1587–1666), who added a second wing built of red bricks, doubling the size of the house but without trying to harmonise the two halves built in highly contrasting architectural styles. He was created 1st Baronet, of Hall Place in Bexley, on 10 July 1660 and briefly held the office of High Sheriff of Kent.

The hall and gardens are now looked after by Bexley Heritage Trust (a charitable organisation which runs Hall Place and nearby Danson House). Under the guidance of the trust Hall Place has been restored to its original Tudor and later 17th century designs. Among the most well-known of Hall Place’s rooms are the Great Hall (where medieval visitors to the house would have dined while being serenaded with the sound of lyres from the Minstrels' Gallery) and the Tudor kitchen where haunches of venison would have been spit-roasted on the hearth (the current fireplace is a latter day replica installed by Lady Limerick in the 1920s).

Recently Bexley Heritage Trust received a £2 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to develop and improve the site for the benefit of visitors. This grant enabled the construction of the new Riverside Cafe alongside the River Cray, and a new visitor centre. Attached to the visitor centre is the Stables Gallery, another building funded by the grant, which displays works by local artists.

Indian Bean Tree (Catalpa bignonioides)
Hall Place also has 65 hectares of landscaped gardens and grounds including a topiary lawn, herb garden, tropical garden and long herbaceous cottage garden-styled borders. The gardens also feature the Queen's Beasts topiary display. The former walled gardens includes a tropical house and a large vegetable garden. Model gardens have been created to show visitors how to make use of space in small urban gardens. Specimen trees in the grounds include an Indian Bean Tree (Catalpa bignonioides), a Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), and a Black Poplar (Populus nigra).

If you plan to stay in the area then the local Holiday Inn at Bexley is close by to the gardens, just 3 minutes away by car. Depending on your plans then there are also two other Holiday Inns within 25 minutes, the first at Rochester and the second in Maidstone. If you want to check out the Hall Place website has more details of both the House and the Gardens.
The house and gardens are well worth exploring, so I would say plan on spending a full day there.

RHS London Harvest Festival Show

The RHS has a busy schedule in October with not one but 2 shows. Both are two days long based at the RHS Halls in central London.

The first is the RHS London Harvest Festival Show on the 8 and 9 of October. The RHS London Autumn Harvest Festival Show is billed as the perfect place to get ideas and inspiration on late summer gardening and growing fruit and vegetables. The show includes the now traditional RHS Autumn Fruit and Vegetable Competition, with more than 130 classes, including grapes, apples, pears and vegetables, everything from beans to turnips.

Theres only so many ways you can photograph a table of apples
As last year the is a giant pumpkin competition and displays of fresh pumpkins and squashes grown by schools in the RHS Campaign for School Gardening. There will also be an apple identification expert to help you identify the trees in your garden plus a selection of apples grown at Wisley.

Last years winning Pumpkin
If you are travelling into London for the shows and wish to make a short break of it then why not stay in one of the many conveniently located Holiday Inn Hotels in London, for example in Mayfair, which is only 12 minutes away, there are two good hotels in Kensignton, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn, or how about the Crowne Plaza Hotel in the City. Any of these would make a great base for a short stay whilst attending the show, and with the transport links so easy to use will make getting to the show at Vincent Square easy to manage.

More information on the Harvest show can be found on the RHS website.

Enjoy the show!

Tasty Japanese Wineberry

Rubus phoenicolasius to give them their botanical name ( but also called Japanese Wineberry, Wineberry, or Wine Raspberry) is a species of raspberry that is native to northern China, Japan, as well as Korea. The Wineberry was first introduced into Europe as well as North America as an ornamental plant and for its potential in breeding hybrid raspberries. It has subsequently escaped from cultivation and become naturalised and sometimes invasive in parts of Europe and eastern North America. They are absolutely delicious and are coming into fruit now. They only open up their calyxes when the fruit is ripe and ready to eat.


Riverhill Himalayan Garden

On the edge of Sevenoaks in Kent is RiverHill House, a Grade II listed manor house. The house was originally built on the site of a Tudor farmstead in 1714 and Riverhill House and estate were purchased in 1840 by John Rogers. A keen botanist and a contemporary of Charles Darwin, Rogers purchased the property because of its sheltered location and lime-free soil. Rogers was an early member of the Royal Horticultural Society and a patron of Victorian plant-hunters. Much of the gardens were laid out in the 1840s and it is home to many magnificent trees and shrubs that came back into the UK at that time.

The house has been enlarged and improved since then, by subsequent generations of the Rogers family up until 1900. Today the house is still a private family home of the Rogers family and in March 2010 Riverhill House featured on the Country House rescue tv show on Channel 4 with Ruth Watson, which was when I first heard about it. Ruth suggested they made more of the exciting planting and open up the garden as a Himalayan Garden.

As Sevenoaks is close to the M25 motorway getting there is fairly straightforward, and if you want to make a short break of your visit then the Holiday Inn at nearby Ashford would make a great base for your trip.

The gardens open from Spring until the Autumn each year and more information can be found on their website.


Composting with Kids

We all hear that composting is good, but what are the benefits to the garden and environment? Composting doesn't cost you much, and potentially can be completely free, its a natural process that transforms your kitchen scraps and garden waste into a useful and nutrient rich food for your garden, which can save on purchasing compost from the garden centre.

The first reason that jumps to mind is to do your bit for the environment, by composting you are reducing the amount of waste that is taken by the council to landfill. It has been found that even households that are already composting their garden waste that almost half of the food waste they through away could have been composted. Don't forget through to consider what you buy and through out in the first place. If you don't waste it then you would save the money and not need to compost it.

Did you know, composting at home for just one year can reduce global warming gas equal to the CO2 your kettle produces annually?

Does that help make you feel a bit guilty... or hopefully enthused. When garden clippings and weeds are sent to landfill, air cannot get to the organic waste and it rots much more slowly. As the waste breaks down underground  it creates a harmful greenhouse gas, methane, which impact on global warming. However, when this same waste is composted above ground at home, oxygen helps the waste to decompose aerobically which means hardly any methane is produced, which is good news for the planet. And what's more, after nine to twelve months, you get a free fertiliser for your garden and plant pots to keep them looking beautiful.

Its great for your kids to get involved too, they all read about recycling at school but by setting up a compost bin at home, children can get involved and do more than just sending cans or newspapers off for recycling ,  they can see the actual process take place all the way through , from waste food scraps or other garden wastes though to something that is useful and not unpleasant to handle and is good for the soil. Contrary to the "out of sight, out of mind" philosophy, children who actively compost become fare more aware of waste as potential resources rather than just as something rubbish to be thrown away and forgotten. They learn through direct experience that they personally can make a difference and have a positive effect on the environment.

Not only that but they can then use the compost to grow new vegetables. How great would it be to take them through the whole process from waste, to compost to nurturing some new plants, to food, and back to scraps to start the whole process again.

If you don't do anything else this autumn in the garden.... start a compost bin!

This article was brought to you in association with DS Smith Recycling.

Irrigating the Patio

As the summer turns to Autumn I am thinking ahead to next year. We finished the patio makeover and used lots of pots and baskets which can take an age to water and look after. When you get home from work sometimes its better to sit in the garden with a nice cold glass of something rather than rush round with a watering can. With this in mind year one project we want to undertake on our patio is to set up an irrigation system to take care of all of the pots, tubs and hanging baskets so that next year the work is reduced!
You can buy what you need in a kit

With plans for a bigger and more vibrant display next year I want to make sure I get the best out of what we grow, this means looking at all of the options. Better compost and feed ensures the plants will grow strong, but without regular and consistent watering they will only do well until the warm weather arrives. This last summer the pots dried out so fast - although with the current rainy weather this is not a problem.

With all of these factors in mind the obvious solution is to fit an irrigation system. There are plenty of kits and systems available, but I really fancy having an automatic system to ensure I don't forget to turn it on.
Hozelock Automatic timer from Easy Watering
There are lots of manufacturers of drip equipment, and a wide variety of prices. I dont want to fall into the trap of buying cheap and poorer quality just to save in the short term, but also dont want to spend too much. As such Hozelock are one of the market leaders when it comes to irrigation and are pretty reasonably priced for good quality kit. Like many gardeners I have a number of Hozelock products already, hosepipes, and spray guns for example. There are also plenty of timers available, but this computer controlled water timer has really caught my eye (Hozelock Aqua Control Pro 2701). It includes a rain sensor so you can save water when you don't need to water your plants. It is also very simple to use, with various pre-set watering settings and also the option to be fully programmable to your own needs. I wouldn't want mine to be watering in the middle of the day or even in the early evening - although a good time to water I would rather not get dripped on under the baskets when it comes on! :)

You can buy what you need in ready made kits that include hose, pipes, drippers etc or buy the items separately if you fancy designing your own options.

There are a wide range of other manufacturers who make computer controlled water timers available, and whilst you can spend well over £100 on some timers,  Hozelock has the features I want and is reasonably priced at about £54.

As well as the timer you will also need to fit a supply hose to supply the water to the pots. It is a good idea to plan this before placing your pots as it will be a lot harder to retro fit the pipe when all your pots and plants are in place. This is why I indent to do this over the autumn period as the weather is still ok (i hope) but the pots can be removed. Doing it this way will allow me to hide the pipe as I don't really want to be able to see the black pipe at all, so will run it round the edge of the patio and hide it completely by the pots. In a couple of places where it will have to run along a wall I will probably paint it to match the white wall behind so it doesnt stand out too much.

The trick with the supply pipe is to have a bowl of warm water to hand when you fit it. If you have a tight bend to get round then place the pipe in the hot water to help soften it, you can then bend it into position without causing it to kink. Kinks would constrict the water flow/pressure and may mean that any pots near the end of the pipe run don't get enough water. For very tight bends you can buy rigid plastic angles connectors to get round the bend where it would be impossible not to kink the pipe.

Into the supply pipe you need to connect the micro pipe, which feeds the drippers and sprinklers. As I am watering pots and baskets I will just user drippers but if you were watering garden beds then sprinklers may be more suitable.

When it comes to the drippers there are a wide range available, see the huge selection listed on the Easy Watering website. I havent yet decided which to use, but will probably stick to the same type for the patio, perhaps adjusting the variety for the baskets.

With any luck I can enjoy the garden in the evenings after work next summer without having to spend any time watering. Although knowing me I will find something else to do.


Love gardening? Start your own business

It’s the classic dilemma. Should something you love to do be turned into a business? It doesn’t matter what the field of expertise is, how possible is it to make something that may be an enjoyable pastime into something different? In fact, it’s not difficult at all if the zest for doing something different is there, and if the love is of gardening there are excellent opportunities to develop and build a brand new business.

Make the gardening flower

It can be daunting to start a new business, but anyone who has a good understanding of how gardening works may be poised to do just that. It’s important that prospective garden business owners really know their subject, and what people and businesses will need from them. It’s all very well to know all the Latin names of flowers and foliage, but engaging prospective clients with jargon free information is an essential part of the initial sell.  It is important to simplify language, be outgoing but listen to what clients are asking for, and then deliver what they expect. It’s not difficult for those who are comfortable with their knowledge and have experience of growing flowers, trees or vegetables at home or in an allotment. The difficult bit is in knowing what needs to be done to start a business. Yet is by no means as difficult as some might make out provided the right advice is sought initially and is followed.

Starting a business

It can be terrifying but also hugely satisfying to start a business. Gardening may not appear to be an area to be considered for a business start up, but it offers many opportunities for those with green fingers to turn their skills and knowledge into a way to earn good money and to do something that they really want to do.

Business tips

When starting a new business it’s important to get the right advice. Depending on the way the venture is started, there are different regulations that govern what needs to be done. For a one-person operation, the sole trader set up is appropriate. It’s necessary to register with the tax authorities as being self-employed and to fill in a self-assessment tax form at the end of the year.

If working with someone else, a partnership can be set up. This must also be registered for tax purposes and a self-assessment form completed at year end. For sole traders and partnerships the liability for any debts or financial liabilities arising from the business apply personally to him or her, or the partnership equally.

Another option is to form a limited liability company, where reporting to various authorities in terms of tax, National Insurance and other potential liabilities can be complex. A good way to help with this is by using an umbrella company that can give great help with tax. An umbrella company can deal with all the tax, National Insurance and other issues that individual contractors or companies have to deal with. They can take the burden of these administrative aspects of running any kind of business from the business owner and provide an effective solution for the legal regulations that have to be followed.

Dahlia After Eight

Dahlia 'Twyning's After Eight'
Dahlias seem to be back in fashion of late, and its no wonder with stunning blooms such as the Dahlia After Eight. This one is pretty hardy too, coming back year after year.

Win The Ultimate Organic Hamper from Riverford

Riverford delivers award-winning organic vegboxes and food fresh from the farm straight to your door and for this months competition we have one of their delicious hampers to give away.

Riverford offers a range of weekly organic essentials like vegetables as well eggs, milk, meat, juices and cereals, they can even deliver wine and chocolate when you need a treat and their amazing Organic vegboxes start from just £10.45. The Riverford box scheme began when Guy Watson started delivering vegetables locally to 30 friends in Devon. They now deliver around 40,000 boxes a week to homes around the UK from their regional farms. Ordering is easy and flexible, delivery is free and you don’t even need to be at home.

The prize is a large vegbox with meet that will be enough organic meat and veg to feed 4+ people for around a week. Typically 12 veg varieties with potatoes, carrots and onions most weeks. You’ll also get 3 RSPCA award-winning meat items that will always include a joint and mince, plus a different cut such as diced chicken.

To be in with a chance simply answer the following question:

Which of the following is a variety of Leek?

A) Giant Musselburgh
B) Walla Walla Sweet
C) White Lisbon

Extra entries can be made by sharing this competition on Twitter (include #DiligentGardener) or by liking our page and sharing the competition on Facebook.

An additional entry can be made by "following" this blog via Google Friend Connect

Terms and conditions: This competition closes at 23.59 on 15 September 2013. Any entries received after this time will not be counted. Entrants must be UK residents aged 18 years or older to enter. By entering this competition you agree and consent to your name being published and by taking part in the competition, entrants are deemed to have read, understood and accepted all of the Terms and Conditions and agreed to be bound by them. The winner will be selected at random from the valid entries and will be announced here on the blog. Please make sure we are able to contact you if you do win.

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