Monday, 19 November 2007

Garden Writers' Guild Awards Lunch in London

Last week I was down in London for the annual Garden Writers' Guild Awards lunch at the Royal Lancaster Hotel by Hyde Park. It was a cold, sunny day to walk across the park; I had a late breakfast of crisp pain au chocolate sitting by a serene Serpentine watching coots, swans and Canada geese foraging in the calm water. Light glinted behind the fountains of the Italian garden and hoof marks in Rotten Row showed where horses had been exercised earlier in the morning.

At the hotel, the room was buzzing and it was hard to hear oneself talk! There were over 450 writers, broadcasters, editors, publishers and photographers and awards were given for books, magazine articles, photography and tv programmes - a bit like the Oscars, we were only allowed to know the shortlist at the lunch with the winner in each category being announced by Chris Beardshaw. As MC he gave a serious plea for everyone to encourage youngsters to get into gardening, relating stories from his own childhood. At the Gardeners' World table there was Monty Don, Carol Klein and Joe Swift; TV Broadcast of the Year was won by the BBC for 'Grow Your Own Veg', the award accepted by producer Juliet Glaves and Carol Klein. Andrew Lawson won Photographer of the Year about which I was delighted because I love his garden photographs - they are full of integrity and feeling.

There were so many there that I never managed to meet up with the people I was hoping to see, such as Sandy Felton who had also travelled down from the north and runs this website - On it there are books for sale, news on new products, designers, gardens to visit etc. and like me she also writes a garden blog.

Walking back across the park in the gloaming, with a golden light creating a halo behind the Albert Memorial, was made even more atmospheric by the exotic screeches of the resident parakeets flying between the trees! It was a world away from the wide, quiet spaces of Northumberland.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Pruning the vine

The greenhouse is looking beautifully tidy now that much of the foliage has been cut back; plants trained against the white wall have been pruned before their leaves dropped to save on clearing up work! It was a delightfully scented job, cutting the lemon verbena right back to its main stems, the balm of gilead to ground level (how I love its aromatic, antiseptic smelling leaves), reducing passion flower to its snaking vine, keeping the myrtles within bounds. Of the plants left unpruned, the pineapple sage is spared so that we can enjoy its vivid red flowers in deep winter - see blog photo from last winter.

A major job each year is pruning the huge grapevine which runs all the length of the greenhouse. There are always so many grapes that I let a home winemaker take them away. There's a photo of them on this interesting and constantly updated blog by Di Overton - - along with others of the walled garden that she took this July. I usually do the pruning myself but this autumn I was helped by my Spanish friend Francisco who grew up on a vineyard near Valencia. It's wonderful to watch him confidently wielding the secateurs as he conducts a running commentary on what he is doing and the various Spanish words for different types of pruning cut, as many as Eskimo words for snow! There are 'cascales' the weaker, less promising side branches and 'munyones' the congested lumps of previous cuts - all ruthlessly pruned back to the main branches. The result is clean lines, regular spacing of the strongest spurs and a rather more vigorous pruning than I would have achieved.