Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Monday, 28 May 2012

Echalote Grise Update

It's still early days as far as my echalote grise allotment experiment is concerned, but already there's a noticeable difference between my shop bought and seed varieties.

The ones on the left of the photo are the sets I bought. Their growth is much more spidery in appearance and it looks like they're shaping up to give me lots of new shallots. To the right are the shop bought ones and their growth is much more onion-like. I suspect I'll be getting fewer shallots per bulb. Whether they're also much larger remains to be seen.

The picture shows another allotment experiment I'm trying this year. Despite the plentiful rain we had last month and for most of this one, the recent dry weather has taken the allotment back into really parched mode. So I'm trying out mulching around my crops with grass clippings to retain as much moisture as I can.

I saw this being used a lot at Glendale, a fantastic garden I visited on Vancouver Island last year and as they also train up Master Gardeners there, it looked not only a good thing to try, it's also a good way of making use of all my grass clippings. It's easy to push them back when I want to water everything and should also help to keep the weeds at bay. Fingers crossed they don't became a haven for slugs though!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Fulfilling a Childhood Dream: Meeting Sir David Attenborough

Before meeting Sir David Attenborough: Kew's Herbarium was our HQ for the day. Here we're
being shown how specimens are collected in the wild
A few weeks ago I received an email out of the blue inviting me to Kew to meet Sir David Attenborough and to preview his new series Kingdom of Plants 3D, which starts tonight on Sky 3D (with a simulcast on Sky Atlantic HD).

I sat there for 10 minutes emitting feeble cries of Wow!, until NAH asked me what on earth was the matter. Naturally he thought I was joking until I showed him the email. After all, the chance to meet a childhood hero, someone who's shaped the key choices I've made in my life doesn't happen everyday.

The result of my day at Kew was published yesterday over on the Guardian Gardening Blog (welcome if you've come over from there), but of course I have a lot more to tell you about the day itself.

One of the plants featured in the programme. Darwin predicted the orchid was pollinated by a
moth, but it wasn't proved until after his death. The moth has a tongue at least one foot long.

I had to suppress lots of giggles because we were referred by the names of the organisations we were representing, so I was called The Guardian for the day. About 12 journalists attended including the BBC, The Sun, TV Choice, and a couple of geeky gadget types. That was another source of quiet amusement because the questions we asked definitely reflected who we were representing. I just concentrated on sating my overactive curiosity ;)

The 3D Camera set up: 2 cameras at right angles to get the stereoscopic effect with a rig that's
about 4 times heavier than usual and it took around half an hour to change a lens. Extra lighting
was needed so the film is bright and clear. This lead to some problems with overheated foliage.
There was a lot of pre-filming testing to see what could and couldn't be achieved and everything
 was storyboarded to ensure the right shots were achieved with the minimum of filming. 
The PR company who arranged the day put on an impressive itinerary: including a tour around the Herbarium and a demonstration of how filming in 3D works, as well as watching a whole episode, plus extracts from the other two programmes.

I also chatted over lunch to one of the scientists featured in the programme, Carlos Magdalena, who has saved the world's smallest water lily from extinction. We also talked about how DNA testing is re-writing the plant kingdom's classification and its latin names. I was moaning about it from a gardener's viewpoint, but it affects him so much more in his everyday work. Sometimes the re-classification result is a complete surprise, but Carlos admitted that when they looked more closely, the taxonomic clues were often there to be seen.

Sir David Attenborough with the series producer, Anthony Geffen. They've collaborated on
quite  a few series previously and both care deeply about the quality of the programmes
they put together. For me this was a moment when dreams come true :)

Then it was time to meet the great man himself. Some of the journalists - like the BBC - got him to themselves, I was in a group with 4 others for a round table style interview. I felt most unprofessional when everyone else whipped out their mini recorders to hoover up everything that was said. I concentrated on the conversation, my notebook and pulling out key quotes. I like to think it made the writing process afterwards much quicker - it's much easier to look though notes than going backwards and forwards through a recording.

We talked about whether 3D is the future of TV. David Attenborough thinks the way it's watched (with those dark glasses) means it will only ever be a family event. I was also concerned at how limited the audience for the series will be because it's on a Sky channel with a relatively small subscription base. I learnt it's being shown on HD as well as 3D there - using the results of just one of the two cameras which filmed the series for the 2D version. However, availability across many media platforms IS the future with this kind of series: there will be an IMAX version (60 cinemas worldwide), there's the book, a DVD and an app of course, and 10 million people will see an extract on their Nintendo games machines.

I was pleased Sir David became most animated with my questions and I also made him laugh a couple of times. Filming starts on his next 3D series soon, in the Galapagos Islands (lucky man). He described how unwieldy the cameras are in the field - taking up to 4 people to hold them - which means a lot of the wildlife simply won't perform in front of them. I quipped that most of the programme will be about the giant tortoises. "You're absolutely right" he said "and believe me you have to be most careful if you're camping in a brightly coloured tent, because they can get very frisky!"

It was such an amazing day and one I'll cherish for a very long time. I also had time to gallop around Kew Gardens afterwards, but that's a story for another time.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Salad Days: At Chelsea Flower Show

My final post about this year's Chelsea Flower Show - and suitably for this month's Salad Days - is to bring you this picture of salad looking at its very best - if you ignore the QR code!

There was quite a bit of salad on view, if you looked carefully enough. Sadly the living wall of nasturtiums didn't make it onto Tom Hoblyn's garden for Arthritis Research UK. I'd been looking forward to telling you about seeing them just after their germination last November and how Jekka McVicar had had to chop them back and eat them several times so they'd be just right for the show! However, having seen the garden on Monday, I can see how they wouldn't have fitted in with the rest of the planting.

So I had to hunt around a little for an alternative salad fix. The Crocus Kitchen Garden Blog has featured most of the prime spots from the Great Pavilion already so I'm not proposing to repeat them here, even though I was blown away by Jersey Farmer Union's 'stained glass windows' made up of various coloured peppers. As it's National Tomato Week, here's a picture from the NFU exhibit instead.

Show garden wise Diarmuid Gavin's tower had an entire floor dedicated to Grow Your Own with a greenhouse and coldframe to covet. The charming dog kennel on Jo Thompson's Celebration of Caravanning show garden had a wonderful edible roof, including lots of herbs and tempting strawberries.

The most surprising find was the salad in the top picture and is from an example of planting which usually doesn't get a look in as far as most of the Chelsea coverage is concerned. A lot of the larger sundries stands have some kind of planting to augment the products they're trying to sell. Often these are put together by designers without a show garden at Chelsea that year, or by one of the nurseries exhibiting in the Great Pavilion, so a closer look can be very worthwhile. The pictured salad was grown by the charity Thrive especially for the show and I'm sure must have helped Alitex achieve their commendation from the RHS for their stand.

How are you getting on with your salad this month? Anything you'd like to exhibit? Do a show and tell on your blog and provide a link to your post via Mr Linky below.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Wiltshire Gold

In my previous visits to Chelsea, I've always been a little disappointed in the small number of exhibits which have a connection to Wiltshire. Not so this year :)

And what could be better than Best in Show? I loved Cleve West's show garden for Brewin Dolphin, a Wiltshire based company who are celebrating their 250th birthday this year. When I first saw the design, my first reaction was the gates reminded me of peering through those at Avebury Manor. Cleve told me they hadn't formed part of his inspiration, but I like to think serendipity played a hand in his choice.

I'm delighted the sponsors will be donating the beech hedges and some of the stonework to Cleve's current commission, Horatio's Garden for the Southern Spinal Injuries Trust in Salisbury. More on this garden to come.

I found quite a lot of Wiltshire gold in the Great Pavilion. The best story is the pictured Bentley Ferns. The exhibitor, John Wilson, only had 2 weeks notice to put his exhibit together. Not only that, it's his debut at Chelsea at 72 years of age!

Gold was also awarded to the Federation of Bonsai Societies and the Botanic Nursery. I'm especially pleased that Terry was awarded gold as he's the owner of one of my favourite local nurseries. He and his family were too busy putting their exhibit together when I stopped by on Sunday, so I'll compensate for the lack of photo by telling you their annual foxglove week - they are the national collection holders - starts next Monday, 28th May. 

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The Day of the Torch

Things are happening thick and fast at VP Gardens at the moment, but I couldn't let this morning's momentous visit by the Olympic Torch Relay team pass this blog by. Here's the first of the runners going through Chippenham at just after 10 am. NAH and I had a short walk to find our spot in front of the town's football ground.

Whilst we were waiting every cyclist passing by was treated to a massive cheer from the crowd, as were the many vans taking police officers to their assigned places. Then we had a cavalcade of police motorcycles with blue lights flashing and sirens blaring, plus various sponsors lorries and the coach taking the torch bearers to their designated spots.

I don't think I've ever felt so emotional about a complete stranger running by. The Olympics were here :)

Update: There's quite a few films of the torch relay in Chippenham posted up on YouTube now. Here's just one of them plus another which was taken just a few yards down the road from where we were. You can select further related ones to watch if you want.

Meeting Ringo

The absolute highlight of my time at Chelsea this year was meeting Ringo Starr. The combination of my favourite Beatle opening this Artisan garden for my favourite charity - WaterAid - was irresistible :D

I have Victoria to thank for this moment. Not only did she cover this story for the Indy, she made sure I got introduced too. So I had the opportunity to shake him by the hand and have a chat about Sing for Water and my Open Garden.

Ringo and his wife, Barbara Bach weren't token celebrities as far as this garden and WaterAid are concerned. They are passionate supporters. Victoria asked why. It's simple, was Ringo's reply, one of these pumps changes people's lives. Clean water is a basic right and WaterAid can give it to them. What could be better than that? 

So my Chelsea cup of happiness runneth over - especially when I bumped into them again later and they remembered me (with no prompting) and said hello.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Things I Wasn't Expecting To Do At Chelsea...

... but I did them anyway :D

I got a view of the showground from on high (AND unlike lots of others I didn't queue - a benefit of getting there early to see Roy Lancaster on the Plant Heritage's fascinating Veitch exhibit beforehand)...

... before whizzing down on a gert big slide. A bit of a scream on the way down (when I sped up), followed by lots of giggling at the end :D

If you can remember the scenes from Dr No when James Bond has to slide down lots of slippery pipes to escape from the cell where he's being kept prisoner, then I can tell you it was like that, but without the background danger.

I had to tell lots of people where I'd got my lovely buttonhole from (thanks to Georgie and the power of Twitter!) because they were pretty envious - apologies for the naff photo, but it was a bit of a positioning guess when I took it. I also had to avoid all the candy floss I'd got on my fleece - another surprise find (the candy floss, not getting it all over me) at the show.

Come to think about it, I didn't expect to be wearing my fleece either (AND I was wearing a posh top in honour of the event), but it was blimmin' cold. It's good to see the forecast for the rest of the week is set fair. At last those reluctant to flower plants will be looking their best for the crowds.

I certainly wasn't expecting to bring a plant home as they're not for sale at Chelsea Flower Show. However, World Vision's misfortune in not getting their lupins to flower in time meant I got given a very special plant - as well as some seed - to bring home. Emma Cooper's written a brilliant post on why this plant is so special, plus another about how Plantify grew the plants for the show.

More special moments from Chelsea Flower Show to come :)

Update: Victoria's blogged about Diarmuid Gavin's magical pyramid today, which also got picked up by The Independent, so that means I get a mention over there too :)

Monday, 21 May 2012

National Tomato Week

Apparently British Tomato Week starts today. So here are a couple of mine out frolicing in the garden in celebration ;)

Sadly the dedicated tomato website to this event doesn't seem to have much on offer. We have until 27th May to think of our own celebration. Shall we go Tomatina style or Totally Tomato?

Which tomato varieties are you growing this year? And your favourite?

Sunday, 20 May 2012

David Attenborough Meets Chelsea Flower Show

I'm off to Chelsea Flower Show for a couple of days, so I thought I'd leave you with this teaser of a picture of David Attenborough at Kew when he met himself constructed from plants by 3 times Chelsea gold medallist, Joe Massie.

As well as tales of Chelsea, I have another to come about the great man himself :)

NB Picture courtesy and copyright of Sky 3D.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Salads for Awkward Situations #2: Shade

A shady lettuce from my allotment - sadly not this year's!
I have a confession to make. My salads are most moribund. All the seeds I've sown for the outdoor season are either sulking, shivering or eaten by slugs. So I'm starting all over again when I get back from Chelsea Flower Show next week.

What's worse is I know I should have known better. I have plenty of experience of growing salads in the shade as one of main areas I used for them up at the allotment is underneath the apple trees, so I know what works and what doesn't. It's the perfect experience for dealing with growing salads in the miserable conditions we've had in the past few weeks.

So what went wrong? Seduction by Shiny Seed Packets, that's what. I have lots of new things to try this year, so I merrily sowed these instead of my tried and trusted friends of yore. Big mistake. Thank goodness I kept the pea shoot production line going, just in case*

Here's my list of salads which I've found work in shady areas:

  • Lettuces - shaded lettuces are also much slower to bolt if we ever get any of those soaring summer temperatures we're dreaming about
  • Rocket - this does surprisingly well seeing it has Mediterranean origins
  • Sorrel - a lovely sharp lemony flavour. I like buckler leaf because of the unusual shape of the leaves, though this type does seem to self-seed sooner and more prolifically than its rounder leaved cousin
  • Peas - podded, shoots, flowers or in any combination
  • Parsley - I prefer the flat leaved variety and it does really well
  • Coriander - another surprise because I think of it originating in warmer climes. However, it doesn't go to seed quite so quickly when grown in shade. 
  • Spinach - a good base for the stronger tasting stuff
  • Beetroot - I love 'Bull's Blood'. Great tasting leaves and the red stems provide a nice contrast to the other greens 

Chard and radishes** also work well in shade, but I don't usually grow them as they're not on our favourites list. Avoid tomatoes at all costs, they NEED the sun.

Don't forget it's Salad Days next week. Mr Linky will be here to showcase all your 52 Week Salad Challenge posts for May :)

* = a top tip from Alys Fowler at her talk I went to recently is to always sow some spares and have a backup in the form of sprouted seeds. How true.
** = though I love radishes grown as microgreens :)

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

GBBD: Lady in the Bath

One of my favourite plants for May is Dicentra spectabilis* because it always gives such good value in the shaded part of my garden. From the first sinister looking unfurling fronds in February/March - which look like dragon's claws - until it flowers in May/June, Dicentra adds a lot of interest and also helps to disguise the dying foliage of the daffodils. Until this morning I hadn't realised I'd placed it to catch the sun so nicely. Gardening serendipity is a Very Good Thing.

One of the common names for this plant is lady in the bath, which always makes me chuckle. Garden chuckles are another Very Good Thing in my view :)

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens - have a fantastic time at the Asheville Fling this weekend Carol!

* yes I know it has a new latin name - the more forgettable Lamprocapnos spectabilis - but I see most suppliers are still insisting on the old one

Monday, 14 May 2012

I Have a New Pet - Called Sourdough

One of the surprises after the Yeo Valley cookery demonstration I mentioned last week was the departing gift of my very own sourdough starter. I'd always wanted to have a go at making bread using this method, so here was just the encouragement I needed.

However, on getting it safely home, I was faced with the fundamental question of what on earth do I do next?

I looked through all my breadmaking books but they only referred to a more solid sounding starter, rather than the liquid form I had in front of me.

Thanks to the 52 Week Salad Challenge, I'd already become a regular Twitter and blog correspondent with Carl Legge.  He pointed me in the direction of the very thing I needed re sourdough starters: in his article for Permaculture magazine :)

I'm keeping my starter in a large, clean old coffee jar. The picture shows a nicely active starter a few days after I started taking care of my new 'pet'.

Since then I've managed to:

  • Keep my starter alive for a couple of weeks
  • Learn it doesn't matter if the starter's 'feed' of equal parts flour and water is a bit lumpy when added
  • Put my starter's progress on 'hold' by keeping it in the fridge
  • Revive my starter a couple of times after keeping it in the fridge
  • Frozen some active starter so I have some 'spares' which will keep for up to a year
  • Learn the starter is much livelier on a warm, sunny day (I'm keeping mine on the kitchen windowsill until we get scorchio summer temperatures)
I've also made my first ever sourdough loaf, but that's a post for another day :)

Sunday, 13 May 2012

High Tech Salad

One of our local supermarkets is trialling lots of new ways of increasing and displaying the fresh produce it has on offer (introduced to you recently in my How Advertising Works series). The most high tech of these is the misting unit which sprays water over the produce, thus helping to keep it cool and fresh.

Here you can see the herbs area which has delicious samphire on offer as well as the usual suspects. Another of these units is used for some salads and quite a few supplements such as beetroot and carrots.  Another unit has the leafier salads displayed on a bed of ice.

Of course it's all wonderful for consumer choice and relative freshness of the produce. However, seeing this display and the resources it must take has made me more determined to make my own salad challenge work.

What do you think - is this something you'd like to see at your local supermarket?

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Rhubarb Cheesecake: Seasonal Recipe

My last visit to Holt Farm was as a guest of Yeo Valley and the day included a fab cookery demonstration courtesy of Jaime, their head chef who conjures up the wonderful food at the garden's cafe.

We were shown how to make sourdough bread, tea smoked trout, and rhubarb cheesecake. We also got to eat the results, so I can vouch for their scrumminess. Each item on the menu included a technique I hadn't come across before, or one which I'd been wanting to try.

For the rhubarb cheesecake Jaime showed us how to make curd cheese from yoghurt. I had no idea how simple it is to do and with a glut of juicy rhubarb around on the allotment at the moment, I've been having a go at home :)

I've adapted Jaime's recipe into a lower fat version, so my cheesecake is still a treat, but your stomach's not grumbling about coping with the digestion overload you've just given it. You of course, may choose to go with the original recipe!


500ml natural yoghurt (Jaime used 0% fat Yeo Valley yoghurt which was new to me)
200ml half fat creme fraiche (instead of the double cream Jaime used)
140g digestive biscuits (approx 8)
50g low fat spread (I used Benecol instead of butter)
Freshly picked rhubarb - the longest, thinnest sticks (i.e. most tender) you can find
Orange juice (I used Orange, Mango and Passion Fruit which worked well)
Icing sugar to taste
Your choice of sugar for poaching the rhubarb (if needed)


For the curd cheese -
start 24 hours prior to making the cheese cake
  1. Line a sieve with a clean cloth such as muslin or J-cloth
  2. Suspend over a clean jug and pour in all the yoghurt
  3. Transfer to the fridge and leave to drain for 24 hours
For the rhubarb compote
  1. Trim ends off about 8-10 sticks of rhubarb, chop into small pieces and add to a pan
  2. Add a good splash of orange juice - you're looking to add enough to allow the rhubarb to break down and poach in its own liquid and for the juice to sweeten the rhubarb to take the 'edge' off its acidity without dominating the flavour
  3. Gradually bring to the boil and then simmer for around 10 minutes
  4. Taste for sweetness and add and dissolve sugar to taste - if your rhubarb is very tender you may not need any
  5. Allow the rhubarb to cool
To make the cheesecake base
  1. Melt the low fat spread in a bowl (I whizzed mine in the microwave for 30 seconds)
  2. Add the biscuits, roughly crumbling them as you do so
  3. Stir the biscuit crumbs and spread together, ensuring any large pieces of biscuit are broken down as you do so. Don't worry about making everything fine crumbs, a mix of large and small makes for an interesting texture
  4. Grease a small quiche dish and add the biscuit mixture (Jaime uses a 23cm spring form cake tin instead)
  5. Press everything down well ready for adding the cheese

To make the cheese and the base for the rhubarb
  1. Transfer the drained yoghurt (which is now your curd cheese) to another bowl - keep the liquid whey in the jug for using in e.g. sourdough bread
  2. Add the creme fraiche and mix well together
  3. Add icing sugar and mix well to taste - Jaime's recipe uses 2 tablespoons, but I found we needed far less
  4. Spoon evenly over the cheesecake base
  5. Chill in the fridge for 20-30 mins
To serve (serves 8)
  1. Divide the cheesecake into portions onto serving plates or bowls
  2. Spoon over the rhubarb compote as shown in the top picture - you will probably have some compote left over for another day. Alternatively you can marble the compote through the cheese mixture when making it, but you will need a bigger dish than the one I used
  3. Serve immediately and enjoy!
This would work well with any seasonal soft fruit you have available :)

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

How Advertising Works in Chippenham #32

  1. Start a local farm shop which stocks plenty of fresh, seasonal veg
  2. Add a very popular cafe to your business offering
  3. Seeing it's raining and unseasonably cold, tweet what a treat a hot chocolate would be
  4. Wait for a tempted blogger with a camera to spot there's a new type of veg on the block
  5. Et voila!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Talking Compost at Holt Farm

It's International Compost Week (6-12 May), so it's a good time to tell you about the talk I attended at The Organic Garden at Holt Farm recently. James (the Head Gardener) is famous for his enthusiasm for the stuff and has made the compost area the heart of the garden.

The above picture shows 2 of the large bays where the compost is made. As you can see they compost on a concrete base at Holt Farm which goes against the usual advice. They've not found it makes any difference to their compost making and the worms don't seem to have a problem in finding their way into the heaps to help turn the raw materials into the finished product.

Being a certified organic garden, compost is the main soil amendment used by the team, so they make as much of the stuff as they possibly can. Like all gardens there's never enough though, so perhaps it's just as well the garden is on rich clay soil. As the garden is 6 and half acres and next door to the farm, a large heap of the correct ratio of green and brown material can be constructed in no time. This means they have hot heaps, which are also turned regularly so the compost is ready in a matter of weeks rather than the year my cold, unturned heaps take.

Here James is taking us through cold versus hot heaps, what to add, what not to add and the compost activators they use. If you want further information on this, then the Garden Organic website provides a comprehensive guide.

We were also shown the mixes used at various stages of propagation and potting. Any leaf mould, loam or compost used will be sieved prior to use. The loam is made primarily from turf stacks when turf has been removed from various parts of the garden. This is something I'm aiming to make up at the allotment this year to add to my leaf mould and compost resources. The details of the centre and right mixes shown are as follows:
  • First potting mix - 4 parts leaf mould, 2 parts loam, 1 part grit
  • Mature plant mix - 4 parts leaf mould, 5 parts loam, 4 parts garden compost, 1 part grit
They do find they get weeds germinating in their mixes (as would be expected), so some vigilance is needed!

They also make nettle (though unlike the link they suspend theirs in a bag in a water butt to make life a bit easier) and comfrey foliar feeds (just packed tightly on top of some chicken wire at the bottom of another butt and then weighted down for the feed to eventually trickle out) which are then diluted and used mainly as a tonic on garden pots and in the greenhouse.

We also learned how to make compost tea for a few pounds instead of using an expensive shop bought kit which My Tiny Plot has summarised very nicely :)

Friday, 4 May 2012

British Leafy Salads Association

One of my online salad discoveries this year is the website of the British Leafy Salads Association. Whilst it aims to support and promote the interests commercial salad producers, there is still much of interest to anyone growing their own salads.

It's worth a browse on a rainy day - especially the Know Your Salads section. The recipes are OK, though not so good on the whole if you're aiming to stick solely with seasonal ingredients. This observation of course may change!

There are links from this website to a couple of other promotional websites of note:
  • Watercress - lots of information and recipes on my favourite salad ingredient. Note: the Watercress Festival this year is May 20th, at Alresford, Hampshire in the heart of British watercress land
  • Fresh Herbs - information and recipes for the most commonly used culinary herbs
Do you have any salad-related websites you visit regularly? It'd be great to build a list of online resources for everyone to share :)

Update: I've also found the following:

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Secret Wisley

Yesterday I was privileged to be whisked away to a 'secret' part of Wisley not usually seen in public, to witness the official opening of the RHS' new Field Research Centre. As you can see, the ribbon was cut by one of my childhood heroes, David Bellamy.

Readers of Veg Plotting since the early days, know about my passion for science and how I value supporting the independent research the RHS conducts on behalf of gardeners via my membership. It seems the new building has caught the imagination of lots of other members too, because its funding was raised in 9 months instead of the usual 12-18 month timescale the fundraising team work to.

The building might look like a large garage - and was described as such by RHS Head of Science Dr Roger Williams (pictured right) at one point in the proceedings - but its modest exterior disguises the state of the art facilities which lie within. It's temperature controlled to within 10C of a given point without the need for shading. There's a large pool of water beneath the building which acts as a heat sink during the day, so that the heat can then be released back into the building at night when needed. Other efficiency measures installed mean the centre uses less than 50% of the energy used by similar facilities elsewhere.

Environmental variables such as day length, humidity and air movement can all be controlled as needed, so that experiments are conducted in the most rigorous way possible or the impact of the variables themselves on plants, pests or diseases can also be researched thoroughly.

All images are clickable if you want to enlarge them. NB a native wildflower meadow mix sown to surround the building was just beginning to emerge, so we had to be careful not to crush their little green shoots.

Afterwards I was taken on a tour of one of the Plants for Bugs trials sites: it was so fascinating I'm saving the details for another post :)

Other RHS Science related articles:

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

GBMD: Ah Sunflower

Ah Sunflower, weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the sun;
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the traveller's journey is done;

Where the Youth pined away with desire,
And the pale virgin shrouded in snow,
Arise from their graves, and aspire
Where my Sunflower wishes to go!

William Blake (1757-1827)

Chosen in celebration of today's International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day :)

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