The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies. Gertrude Jekyll

Annie's Little Plot

Annie's Little Plot

Sunday, 1 September 2013


I've been saying the same thing each month this year and I'll say it again, I can't believe its September! This year is just flying by. Its a cool day today, a strong chilly wind, just to get you in the mood for autumn, but I hear that summer is back again next week! So a good day to catch up with my blog and read some others.
There are a few changes here, firstly non-garden related but we've sold my mums house and she's moved into a lovely flat, close to her old house. The downsizing from a 3 bedroomed house to a flat has meant a lot to sort out so its been a busy month. Mum has been kept busy and I'm slightly worried that now that everything is settling down this is when she will start to really miss dad. For me it come in waves, just little things that can suddenly remind me of him. He's never too far from my thoughts. 
But on a lighter note I've taken a step in a potential career move, its something that I've been thinking about for a few years, but this year things have fallen into place to bring it together. I've started as a trainee as part of the Women Returners To Amenity Gardening Scheme (WRAGS), a scheme that is coordinated by the Women's Farm and Garden Association (WFGA). I do 15 hours (2 days) a week and I get trained by the head gardener, I get a training allowance and have to fill in monthly reports detailing all my work in the garden. I've been looking into doing it for a while but there are a limited number of gardens that take on trainees, especially in the North of England. I was really excited when I heard that one of my favourite gardens, York Gate, on the outskirts of Leeds was going to start taking on a trainee. The interviews were in mid-July and I was lucky enough to get selected. So I've gone down to 3 days a week in my job at Manchester University and I work 2 days at York Gate. I'm just about to start my third week. It is a bit weird doing 2 jobs, both so very different and as with any new job its taken a few days to get used to the routine and how they work in the garden but I feel I'm settling in well and getting the hang of things. Plus experience is just what I need if I do decide to go into gardening full time. 
Those of you who don't know the garden it is quite small for a garden open to the public, at around 1 acre, but it a true delight to behold with immaculate design and a general feel of an arts and crafts garden. It is split into lots of 'garden rooms' with lots of intricate design details and lots of vistas within the garden. So I'm in heaven and I've already been kept busy pruning the many topiary features in the garden, along with daily tasks of deadheading, watering and maintenance. There is always that extra special feeling of being able to see a garden in the morning in that gorgeous soft light. So I've also been busy with my camera, which is becoming a useful tool for learning as I can take before and after photos. I'm also learning lots of new plant names. Here is a link to a visit I made to the garden in Spring 2011. At this time of year the main border is full of bright pinks and purples of Phlox.
The herb garden.
It was a bit misty when I arrived the other morning.
Anyway I'm really enjoying it so far and really looking forward to following the garden through the seasons.
My allotment has also kept me busy but what a year so far, almost every thing has been flourishing for me and I've had success with a few new crops.
The plot is looking a bit lush to say the least, with squash trailing all over the plot, sunflowers shining away and lettuce's sadly bolted.
Currently I've got masses of beans, courgettes and the last of the calabrese. But I'm very excited by my first cauliflowers, its the first time that I've grown them and I'm starting to get some nice heads, which I've now tried to cover.

I've got 3 Brussel sprouts plants that are growing well too and there are now small heads developing on the Broccoli 'Romanesco' which is always spectacular. My onions and garlic have done OK, the white onions 'Stuttgarter Giant' better than the red onions. Shallots have been better than last year, the best of the 3 varieties that I've grown were the banana shallots which look great.
One block of sweetcorn looks almost ready to harvest I'll be testing them this week and what a treat that always is.
As for my Squash, wowsers. This one is a monster and is still growing, its 'Blue Hubbard', I've also got 'Crown Prince' and a general pumpkin type variety, plus my summer squash, 'Patty Pan'.
Not so good this year have been my Florence Fennel of which half have bolted, I think I sowed that too early. I've grown a few different varieties of beetroot 'Boltardy', 'Chioggia' and 'Golden Globe' and as expected, the clue is in the name, the Boltardy has been the best, the Golden Globe was definitely prone to bolt in the dry spells that we have had. My lettuce started off really well but then a lot of that bolted too, though it does look very pretty.
The warmth and sunshine has been great for 2 crops which I usually struggle with, as I don't have a greenhouse, and that is cucumbers and tomatoes. I've had a really good crop from my 'Sungold' tomatoes and I even dared to try some plum tomatoes which are just turning red. I've had around 6 cucumbers and still more developing from the plants that I have grown outside in the allotment. Really tasty ones too.
Still to come are my celeriac which I'm hoping is growing well underground and also parsnips and leeks which are getting going now.
I'll be getting a few things together to show at our allotment show next week, we have to put a collection of 6 vegetables together, of which 3 have to be beetroot, onions and potatoes. I'm going to give it a go, I'm hoping my cauliflower will stay well, but not sure about what else to show. Will see how things look next weekend.
Flowers on the plot have flourished too. The bees have been loving the sunflowers and the flowers on the globe artichoke.
The Claret sunflowers come in a range of dark brown to orange colours and are multi-headed so I've even used them as cutflowers along with a smaller variety called 'Pacino' which has lovely small paler yellow flowers.
My sweet peas have been fantastic, considering I was a bit late sowing them. They are still flowering well now, I was Sweet pea-less last year and really didn't want that to happen again, so did a couple of sowings, the first ones didn't germinate in the cold or rotted off but the late ones were fine and grew away quick once we got the warmth. I've also had some lovely bright coloured Dahlias, Cosmos which has been great as a cut flower and Tithonia, to add some vibrant orange into the pink and purple mix. I've also grown Salvia viridis 'Blue Clary' which is all over my plot and looks set to flower well into autumn.
Hope you've had a good harvest, I'll be along to catch up with blogs later.


  1. I've always meant to visit York Gate and as yet have never got round to it!

  2. Well done getting a place on the scheme. Sounds like a great opportunity to work in a beautiful garden.

  3. Oh that traineeship sounds a most exciting adventure Annie whether you eventually decide on a permanent career change or not. York Gate is somewhere I'd love to visit - have read a lot about it over the years. Look forward to hearing how you get on at the allotment show and hope that the sun shines down on the day.

  4. I agree with you, this year is just zipping by. Your mum has such a big change in her life. My mum and dad downsized a couple of years ago from a three bedroom house to a two bedroom flat and they love it. Less upkeep and they've moved nearer to me too, which is handy. I hope your mum settles in well. Your training scheme sounds fantastic. I've been meaning to visit York Gate for some time now but haven't got there yet. It's not too far from me either. It looks like your allotment is doing really well for you this year. Well done on the cauliflower, it looks a great specimen.

  5. I'm glad your mum has moved and it will be hard for both of you but time is a healer and your dad lives on in your hearts and memories. I know what you mean about thoughts coming in though, I was the same when my parents died and it took a long time to adjust.

    Oh my, your gardening traineeship sounds incredible, how lovely to be in a garden all day, through all the seasons. I love the herb garden and that misty pic.

    Your harvest looks brilliant, what a variety you have there.....I wish I could sink my teeth into that sweetcorn....xxxx

  6. Lucky you, training at York Gate. I've read so much about it and would love to visit. I hope your Mum soon settles into her new flat, it will be a big change for her, not easy at the best of times. Your vegetables are fantastic, I'm sure you will do well in your show!

  7. Hi Annie! Your crops look so amazingly healthy! Loving your photos of your flower arrangements too. The photo of your plot with the smoke behind the sunflowers is gorgeous!! As for your news about working at York Gate, that is really cool!!!! I went to a party there about 7 or 8 years ago now, it was mad! We had a midnight tour of the garden haha! I don't know if it's the same head gardener back there again, I went to the party through a friend of a friend and the gardener was leaving to go travelling. He was only a young lad and I was really envious of his job as the garden is gorgeous and he lived on site! I love the fact you've taken this career leap, I'd love to do the same myself at some point :) Fab news!

  8. Oo - well done you getting on the training scheme - hope it all goes well for you - you sound as though you are enjoying it - wonder what it will be like in winter though. Your plot is doing really well this year - I think we all need a really good year every now and then to keep us going.

  9. A most enjoyable post, terrific pictures and interesting links.
    Well done on the new job, you sound like you're really enjoying working in one of your favourite gardens.
    You've done really well on your plot, and fingers crossed for the show.
    I like that dark sunflower, I had plenty but none that colour. Lucky you with the sweet peas, as you know mine didn't do well at all. Flighty xx

  10. Hi I just stumbled across your blog , your garden is amazing I love it

  11. What a treat to see all these flowers and veg. Lovely allotment too! Bulbous fennel bolted here as well, and the lettuce because as usual we planted too many. Enjoy the new job, sounds interesting :)

  12. Lovely allotment, and all these nice flowers and veg! My fennel bolted as well, salad too as we planted far too many as usual. Great pics. Enjoy your new job, sounds interesting :)

  13. What a wonderful career change for you!! The photos of the garden are great. You have grown some wonderful veggies this year too. Hope your Mum soon settles into her new flat.