July 2021

Great Hockham Gardening Club Corona Diary - July


At last! We had a proper great Hockham Gardening Club outside visit – to Fullers Mill near West Stow. For some time we have had this scheduled, but on the morning of the visit the weather was absolutely awful, but by the afternoon things had improved and while not perfect, it was quite doable. For those who have never visited, you should. I won’t describe it here as Googling it will tell you all you need to know. In addition to the joys of the garden there was the relief of finally being able to meet up again, having tea and cakes and catching up with all the gossip. 


Julie Brown feels the same: Hello Ed, How nice to be out and about. I enjoyed the visit to Fullers Mill, one of the Perennial's gardens. A friend of mine lived in Leeds and still lives in the area, she is able to visit York Gate in Leeds, it is a lovely garden too, smaller and with lots of topiary.


Liz and I had a nice chat with Heather, one of the gardeners who was edging the grass paths. I was surprised at the amount of lilies there were in the garden, they buy some of their bulbs from the same Farmer Gracy as I do. Heather was interested in the blue allium I have in my bog garden, 3 out of 10 bulbs but still worth it for the pretty blue globe. I was interested to know of two bulbs almost in flower, Galtonia Candicans and Hymenocallis festaus Zwaneburg. I will be looking into those and the Sternbergia Lutea, the Autumn Daffodil.

In her bucket were some cuttings and runners from a silver leaved plant I liked in the garden, Artemisia Valerie. I went home with a bag full of those runners and cuttings, we'll see how successful I am at getting them to grow into to new plants.


I am indoors at the moment watching Wimbledon, not much is happening in the garden, although I have been harvesting strawberries for breakfast, rainbow radish and lettuce for salads and I've had my first cucumber. My outdoor tomatoes are slow so not in their final growing position yet. I notice that down in the overgrown old kitchen garden that the red currant has ripe fruits hanging like jewels, better get down there and pick those or I will lose them to the blackbird.


I have almost finished the new bird feeding area in an alcove I made by planting a new privet hedge, the hedge has grown quickly and filling out nicely. The birdbath, made from the bottom of the old copper emersion tank, so not covered with insulation like the new tanks. I stood the copper bowl onto a chimney pot I had and when I put the bricks in a couple of years back I put the black grass around, they are growing well with each growing season. With the body of the tank, Tony made me copper plant labels. I just need to stamp them up with a die kit I bought. Now I will know where the bulbs are and not dig them up when planting something new.


My Vampire Lily has performed well this year with 9 flowers; short lived but dramatic for a few days and leaves like hands, little bit stinky but you have to attract pollinators for lunch somehow. I bought a white Echinops Arctic Glow last year, she has multi heads on her tall 5ft stems. I am looking forward to her bursting into flower; the bees love the globe like flowers. I am cutting out a couple of Lleylandii from the old hedge, only keeping it for the birds to use as shelter where I feed them on the other side of the garden. I need to get those cut down and into my brown bin for Friday. I dislike it not going out each fortnight and it has to be full. 


I better cut Megan's little hedge while I am outdoors, too, and get the sweet corn planted into Jean's vegetable garden now I've weeded it in preparation. Stan says I can harvest the first of the potatoes from Jean's garden. Good that they are doing the watering and encouraging the beans to climb the canes and the sugarsnap peas to cling. Plenty of guidance, help and support, together we will enjoy the fruits of our labours. Looking forward to the Wimbledon final, then I can crack on and get moving in the garden again. Best wishes everyone, Julie.


In addition to her television appearance, Susanne Thomas is, as usual, feeding the five thousand: Hi All, Pleased to say that eventually all my seeds have made an appearance, some of them taking over 4 weeks to appear. The rhubarb gin is going down well, and looks like some more will be required very soon. The strawberries have gone mad, picked about 30lb so far, and they don't look like stopping flowering anytime soon. Have had to have a change round in the pantry under the stairs to make way for the forthcoming jam harvest. Have a late variety called 'Florence', which fruits right up to the end of September, and sometimes beyond, but only a small bowl full at a time!! Hollyhocks are now 12ft tall, and keep setting the PIR lights off all night, and the blue campanula have reverted to white this year!! Tomatoes all have fruit on so will be into the chutney stage before we know it. If it wasn't for the mares tail and ground elder, we might actually be able to sit in the garden and relax. See you next time. Cheers, Sue.


One of our members, Jane Dalton, is also a member of the Wymondham Art Society and a few weeks ago she asked Prue and I to host an art session called plein air, a new word for me, it means painting outdoors. It all seemed to go very well, all rounded off with the inevitable cup of hot brown liquid. One of the artists, Sue Williams, kindly gave us the picture she had painted; something to treasure.


Keeping the grass trim can be very repetitive, but I should show more respect to this unassuming vegetation, as the family of grasses happens to be the most important plant on the planet – by far. Well-maintained grass is the one thing that really brings all the other aspects of the garden together. It punctuates the beds and borders and provides pathways through the garden. But we don’t always mow all of ours. Early on in the year we postpone the mowing for as long as possible, allowing wildflowers to develop and provide vital food for the insect life. This can look very untidy, but we think we have found a way to have our cake and eat it. By mowing just part of the area, usually chosen as the bits where there is a relative dearth of wildflowers, the entirety, in spite of having a tangle of blooms and blades, looks kempt and brings everything together.


Around here the road verges are not too often cut and this allows everything, including grass, to grow unimpeded to the point where the seed heads develop. Just in the distance I walk the dog it is very noticeable how many varieties there are, in fact the interweb tells me there are about 12,000 species of grass worldwide. Might it be that ‘grass’ is a simple term that may not fully do it justice?


Grass in in one form or another has been around for some time as its fossilised seeds have been found in the coprolites of dinosaurs, and for millennia, dried grass (hay and straw) has been used for winter livestock feed and thatching. More recently, straw is being utilised in many modern processes including biofuels, processed into bio plastic, packaging, and many others.


Now, as then, grass provides food for many wild animals, which in turn are preyed on by the world’s most iconic predators. It provides food for many domestic animals, which in turn are preyed upon by us. We also eat grass directly in the form of the cereal crops: barley, maize, millet, rice and wheat, which make up more than half the food energy eaten by us. Not only can bamboo be used for building, but is thought to have been used by early humans in eastern Asia as tools, where flint was not readily available. If grass had never existed the world would be a very different place. Something to ponder the next time you are mowning about having to cut the grass again.



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