I first heard about Wendy Shillam’s wonderful rooftop garden via the Chelsea Fringe. It’s a small, but perfectly formed fruit, veg and flower garden, 5 floors up, and just round the corner from Oxford Circus in the heart of our metropolis.
I say perfectly formed, as this bijou veg patch also comes with a fully equipped writing shed,
and a very productive greenhouse.
It’s hugely impressive and utterly delightful.
Each time I visit, I’m wowed by how much veg Wendy grows in her 6 inch raised beds,
and how, over the years, she’s developed strategies for taming the wind on her rooftop to allow her to grow such a wide variety of plants.
This Spring, Wendy is running a number of workshops on growing year round salad leaves, edibles for a healthy diet, yoghurt making using herbs for flavouring and ‘preserving sweet flavours that are a million miles away from shop-bought cocktails and sugary colas’. Booking is now open, and I’m really looking forward to going on the first workshop in March.And talking of the Chelsea Fringe, the website is now open for signing up events if you’d like to participate! This year it runs from 20th May until the 4th June. Our community veg growing project joined in in 2012 and 2013. It’s massively enjoyable to take part,
and also great to see as many as possible of the hundreds of events that pop up each year (fernery in a toilet from 2013 above).
I can’t wait to see what the Fringe has in store for 2017……(Above-Geoff at the Inner Temple Gardens Dog Show in 2013)
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Posted in Allium, Bulbs, Lettuces, Mustard leaves, Runner Beans, Tomatoes, Vegetables, When to sow vegetable seeds, tagged Anise flavoured herb, Flashy Butter Oak, Forellenschluss, Front garden lettuces, Green frills mustard leaf gone to seed, Growing lettuces, Reine des Glaces, Sweet Ciciely, The Real Seed Catalogue on May 30, 2016|
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Lettuces started off in the greenhouse and planted out in my front garden about 5 weeks ago are just about ready to have leaves harvested. This is the gorgeous ‘Flashy Butter Oak’ (above) from The Real Seed Catalogue, looking a little tatty at the edges from slugs and snails, but as it’s survived so far (not all of them did), I’m hoping it will now flourish.Another little beauty from The Real Seed Catalogue is ‘Reine des Glaces’, a cultivar that’s about 200 years old. Lovely crunchy sweet leaves work really well with softer lettuces and its curly spikeyness is so darn decorative in the garden. I love it!
Forellenschluss (meaning speckled like a trout apparently) has similar colourings to the above ‘Flashy Butter Oak’, but it’s an Austrian heirloom Cos lettuce, so will hopefully develop some nice crunchy upright leaves. (I do like a good crunch in my salads these days.) It also looks a lot like Freckles, another delightful Cos, but maybe a bit looser in shape. Seeds available from the ever entertaining Chiltern Seeds. I’ll keep on harvesting just the outer leaves of these lettuces, so they should last me a good couple of months, and I know that it’s time to sow another batch of lettuces right now, although if I get round to this is another matter…
Lettuce seeds waiting in the wings are: ‘Cocarde’ and ‘Red Sails’ (from Nicky’s Seeds) and ‘Crisp Mint’, ‘Really Red Deer Tongue’ and ‘Devil’s Tongue’, (all from The Real Seed Company).
Should I develop a glut of leaves, Nigel Slater has a great recipe for lettuce, pea and mint soup in ‘Tender: Volume 1’. Very tasty and utterly refreshing. I wish I’d discovered this years ago.
My mustard leaves sown at the same time are now going to seed (‘Golden Streaks’ above), and although the leaves are getting spicier by the day, still taste great when used sparingly in salads, as do the flowers.
And Sweet Cicely adds a lovely aniseed note to the mix too.
It’s so lovely to have dinner on my doorstep, with the odd bit of decoration too. (Allium Globemaster just about to come into bloom there.)
And bed no. 2 has runner beans, tomatoes, sweet peas and radishes for more front garden veg (and deliciously scented blooms) later in summer. (Mustard leaf ‘Red Giant’ at the front of the bed, also just about to go to seed.)
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Friend Julia, who has an amazing memory, pointed out that I’ve mentioned this delicate spring perennial before. And so I have, back in 2011, first glimpsed when volunteering at Great Dixter. However, it’s such a gorgeous (and useful) plant, that I’m mentioning it again!
These lilac blooms seem to pop out of nowhere in early spring, flower for a good few weeks, and then, equally swiftly, vanish after giving their sterling performance.
En masse, they look wonderful with snowdrops and hellebores and strangely this year, with the rather early appearance of Leucojum (just nodding there in the background, and normally flowering in April). Along with the hellebores and snowdrops, it’s happy in shady parts of the garden and its lilac petals are such a welcome splash of colour in February and March, when the rest of the garden looks so dull and monochrome.
Over the last few years, it’s slowly increased its mounds of gently serrated green foliage, and as soon as it’s finished flowering, before it does its vanishing act again, I’ll be dividing a few clumps to plant in other parts of the garden (and maybe a few divisions will be winging their way to Julia’s garden too.)
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