Date(s) - 12/04/2019
Kilmington Village Hall
Steve is a regular speaker at gardening clubs on behalf of the Castle Gardens Gold Cub and he had put together a delightful talk on how to look at gardening from a different angle. Aware of the current focus on growing to eat, he started in the vegetable plot, introducing unusual varieties of familiar crops. Up first came strawberries – white ones, pineapple flavoured ones, and succulent large red ones grown in tall pots or trained over pergolas. Climbing French beans also look wonderful on an overhead framework with beans hanging down ready to be picked. His list of garden plants that can be eaten was full of surprises: leaves for a stir fry, roots to add to stews, steamed bamboo shoots for a Chinese meal and dandelion leaves in salads.
There is a New Zealand yam, Oxalis tuberosa, which has edible roots and stems that taste like rhubarb. He talked about the history of skirret, a medieval precursor of potatoes and parsnips, and liquorice which featured in recipes as early as the 11th century. A parterre is the perfect garden for combining growing vegetables in an aesthetically pleasing environment. The close planting provides ground cover, reducing weeding and enhancing pest control. Illustrations showed familiar crops in all colours and different leaf forms – chicory, radicchio and kale, all available from seed merchants specialising in heritage seeds. And to surround your parterre, what better than an edible hedge of rose hips, elderberries or sloes? Before moving on to ornamental plants, Steve warned everyone with this caveat: when tasting anything new, be aware of allergies and intolerance and always try a tiny bit first.
There are many imaginative ways of using plants in the garden. Not only can sedums cover the roof of your shed, they can also make splendid hanging baskets requiring much less watering than the traditional petunias. Steve showed photographs of how to cover one’s fences in greenery, either by fixing troughs of perennials on solid boundaries or covering the whole structure with climbers such as golden hops. Indoors too can be an alternative place. What about a hanging basket of pitcher plants in the kitchen or a bonsai wisteria in the conservatory? Outdoor favourites combine well as house plants in indoor planters as long as they all need the same growing conditions. There is an intriguing Japanese technique of cultivating miniature plants in moss balls called Kokedama. Steve showed photos of beautiful specimens displayed hanging from the ceiling, either as a single plant or a whole collection. He left us with a final challenge – to grow our own ginger root. We could have the best of both worlds: attractive plants and delicious ingredients.