Tuesday, 19 February 2013

RHS London Plant and Design Show

Today was the start of 'the season' - the first of the RHS shows opening with the two day Plant and Design event.  I went last year and was disappointed.  I can't say why exactly.  I don't think I was in the full throes of plant addiction then.  I was the gardening equivalent of someone that smokes only socially whereas now I am like an alcoholic who says they only drink to relax.  So it was only with half a heart that I set off, battling a tube full of children on half term.  At Westminster, the sun shone through the thin light of winter, Big Ben silhouetted against a pale sky.  As I walked into the Horticultural Halls, I was greeted by a sea of irises that bought tears to my eyes.

(Note to Helene from Graphicality - you NEED irises!)

Vast tables of spring bulbs lifted everyone's hearts out of the frosty morning. 

Orchids bloomed.

Hellebores gave off a radiant but delicate glow.

I have to explain at this point that Le Photographe refused to come to this show as he is already 'garden showed-out.'  This is worrying so early in the season.  It must be something to do with the different approach the French have to gardening.  They are all into order and topiary, chic and understated, less obsessed.  Maybe other French people might think he is a paysan if he is seen at shows.  I had to take photos with my mobile instead.

Slugs - or rather those who warrior against them were also represented.  I bought three of these anti-slug rings.

There was also a kind of anti-slug magic carpet for sale.

In an act of heroism to spare my terrace the weight of yet more overcrowding, I managed to buy only one plant.  Yes, just one.  Just an iris.  Iris reticulata 'baby blue.'

I decided today that anyone who is ill or upset should be able to have an iris prescribed for them.  You can only feel better for having one.  If you have had a bad day, I prescribe you one iris.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Irises are out

Spring bulbs are in flower.

Let's get this party started!

Monday, 4 February 2013

The Little Book of Slugs

According to these people, Britain has more slugs than anywhere else in the world. The Little Book of Slugs regales us with tales of frustrated gardeners spending nights outdoors spearing slugs with screwdrivers or creating networks of tiny electrified wires in order to kill them off. In a hundred pages, the frustrated gardener can learn of seventy different methods in order to help us deal with the enemy. Told in hilarious fashion and sprinkled with Shakespearian quotes (about slugs, of course), this would make a good read for for any gardener in need of entertainment during the winter nights.  by the The Centre for Alternative Technology, (CAT) and edited by Allan Shepherd  and Suzanne Gallant, the idea for the book was driven by the Bug the Slug campaign where readers contributed to www.ihateslugs.com with ingenious methods of slugbusting. The ihateslugs website is now defunct but the knowledge of generations of gardeners lives on in this tiny tome which is packed with ideas to slug it out (couldn't resist that one).

The book is divided into four sections. An understanding of the life cycle of slugs forms the basis of part 1 including fascinating facts such as slugs eat slugs and that throwing them on the compost heap can be a useful thing to aid the process of decomposition. Part two is a collection of seventy different methods of control sent in by the British public. The good, the bad and the ugly are all in here: instruments of death, sheeps' fleece spread on the garden, warm pee and someone who claims to swallow slugs whole believing them to be nutritious. There is also a list of slug resistant plants and the top 5 slug predators. Part 3 explains the CAT method, an organic approach of soil improvement, rotavating the soil (kills slugs eggs) and growing healthy plants that are strong enough to resist the onslaught. They claim that their methods mean that they rarely resort to traps or other means. Finally, part 4 reviews the effectiveness of each method, possibly the first of its kind in providing raw data on the traditional methods of barriers, beer traps and grapefruit skins.

The Little Book of Slugs is a great read, packed with puns that encourage us 'don't be sluggish' as well as a huge amount of information for such a small volume. It's brevity is its' strength; after all, who wants to settle down on at bedtime with an encyclopedia on slugs. There aren't any major negatives; however they don't explain how they arrived at the ratings for each method, whether that came from the campaign or they drew their own conclusions. As the book based itself on the www.ihateslugs.com website, it would have been better if they had done something to ensure the longevity of the website which is now defunct. Overall, these are minor points and the book would make a good present for any gardener with a slug problem and a sense of humour.