Archive for April, 2011

April 24, 2011

Secret London Garden #1: The Scented Petal Garden, Wilton Way

by growingpeople

Starting off a new series of posts on London’s hidden green spaces is the Scented Petal Garden, situated within the grounds of Boscobel House on Royal Oak Road but best viewed from the pavement of Wilton Way (particularly on a sunny afternoon when the south-facing garden is bathed in light).

(l) a unicow, a penguin and flying fish watch over the garden, (r) Petra and one not very helpful helper

Maintained by the estate’s junior residents with support from the tirelessly brilliant Petra the garden is a frenzy of colour and creativity. The flowerbeds are watched over by Unicow, George the Ghost, Guerepowee (half gorilla half bee, since you ask) and Drumfly among other ingenious creatures, and the walls tell tales of blushing frogs, flying elephants and a gentlemanly worm.

Members of the Boscobel House Scented Petal Garden Club will be showing off their talents at the Wilton Way public street party on April 29th, unveiling their hand painted giant tea pot and two gold and gem laden rocking thrones alongside their many other creations.  The club will also have a designated wall space opposite the Wilton Way Café where party goers will be able to make their own artwork to take home with them as a souvenir of the day, and their handmade crowns will be passed down the street party banquet table so that grown-up partyers will get a chance to be King and Queen for the day.

April 17, 2011

Edible of the week: Borage

by growingpeople

It’s been many weeks since I’ve done one of these, but as I’ve just sown some in my garden it felt like a good choice to kick start the series with.

Borago officinalis is an annual plant and prolific self-seeder which can grow to 1m tall and just generally seems to take up a lot of space within very little time – perfect for filling up an empty space with colour. It’s a fantastic companion plant, both attracting beneficial insects and repelling the tomato hornworm. The leaves are rich in potassium, which is needed for fruiting, so it’s a good idea to use the leaves as a mulch around potassium-hungry crops such as tomatoes, peppers, courgettes and squashes. The leaves are also edible, but they are hairy and tough so best picked when young if being used in a salad (shred them finely in either case). They have a cucumber-like taste and were traditionally used in the preparation of Pimms before cucumber and mint became the norm.

The seed of the “Starflower”, as it is also called, is the highest known plant-based source of gamma-linolenic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid thought to be beneficial for the treatment of arthritis, eczema and premenstrual tension.  Hemp seed, Evening Primrose and Spirulina are among the other more well-known and widely-sold sources of the same substance.

Borage flowers are a curiosity in themselves as they start off pink, turn to blue in the mid-summer, and often revert back to pink as the summer draws to a close – the latter is thought to be the effects of UV on the flower. They work beautifully as a garnish in salads or cold soups, on cakes or frozen into ice cubes and added to summer drinks. Thanks to Eggs on the Roof for Gazpacho recipe and illustration.

April 13, 2011

Holiday ideas for kids (free and local!)

by growingpeople

Stuck for ideas on what to do with your kids this Easter?

Aside from the usual egg-decorating and treasure hunts going on around the capital this Easter holiday, there are several more unusual activities taking place that have me wishing I were a little bit younger or that my 6-month old were just a  little bit older…

The Dalston Eastern Curve Garden opened last year but seems to have blossomed this year into something truly remarkable. Sandwiched between the new Dalston Junction Overground station and the Kingsland Shopping Centre, it’s a little oasis of greenery in an otherwise decidedly urban area of Hackney. The volunteer gardening sessions take place every Saturday morning, but over the Easter holidays, the garden is putting on a huge range of free activities and workshops for children aged 5 to 12, including Scarecrow-making, poetry, garden den design and how to make “little windmills to help keep the birds away from all our new vegetable seedlings”. I’m so curious about that last one.

Tucked alongside the London Overground railway line, meters from Shoreditch High street on the Hackney and City of London borders, Spitalfields City Farm is another pocket of paradise in the city.  The farm’s Easter Play scheme runs from the 18th -21st April for kids aged 8 to 13 and includes gardening, horse riding, feeding and caring for the farm’s many animals, plus an offsite visit to the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve. See here for the full details and timetable.

The Geffrye Museum on Kingsland Road is running several workshops including Turkish Tapestry weaving, Tea-leaf reading, and storytelling for children aged 3 to 5, 5 to 8, 8 and above and 11 and above. See here for full details.

Kentish Town City Farm is welcoming children aged 8 and above to muck in and help out at the farm over the Easter holidays.  There are also a few very reasonably priced workshops (£4 maximum), including pottery-making, singing and art for under 5s and the opportunity to help build a working clay oven for the farm.

The Museum of London is running Victorian Pharmacy workshops in which kids can explore the herbs and spices used in Victorian medicine, as well as design and make their own herbal cabinet to take home. Sessions are running for 12.30 to 2.30 on the 19th, 20th and 21st of April.

April 4, 2011

April

by growingpeople

Spring is here. I can say that with conviction because I’ve worn sunglasses and flip flops for 3 consecutive days (granted, I’m cold blooded) and because I took the tomato seedlings outside for a sunbathe on Saturday. And Reda has started cycling to work again, which, as those who know him will vouch, can only mean one thing.

 

sunbathing tomatoes

...and Safi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So.

Technically there could still be some late frosts between now and the end of April so hold off on moving tender seedlings like peppers, aubergines and tomatoes out permanently until early May, but the vast majority of your seeds can be sown outside this month. That includes carrots, radishes, fennel, peas, beetroot, spinach, kale, chard, lettuce, turnips and spring onions.  I recommend starting kohlrabi, cabbages, cauliflower and broccoli off inside and planting them out in May though, when they are roughly 8cm tall.

Potatoes and other tubers can go into the ground now if they aren’t already.

You can also sow a huge range of edible or beneficial flowers around this time, including marigolds, sweet peas, borage, nasturtiums, chamomile. Sunflowers should be sown indoors for another few weeks.

And parsley, dill, sage, chives and coriander can all be sown outdoors sometime this month, while the more tender basil should be started off indoors and planted out in May.

Hold off on beans and courgettes – these are two common vegetables which really need warmth and which you need to wait until June to sow.

Have a look at these pages for ideas on what to plant together – particularly if you’re lacking in space or using containers.

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