IT’S GREAT TO BE BACK!

Today was my first day back volunteering at RHS Hyde Hall and it really was great to be back!

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I’ve not been there in my volunteer role since the end of the summer term, although have been a few times (not enough for my liking) in my visitor and parent role during the holidays, and have missed the sense of peace and joy it brings me. Just walking up the hill at the beginning of the day is enough to restore ones equilibrium after a hectic school run!

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And so much has changed during those six weeks! The last day I helped out, the last activity we did was bug hunting in the tall, nearly waist high grass on the hill. Today I found the meadow has had its annual ‘trim’ and it was a totally different atmosphere!

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It was far quieter – no wind whispering through the grasses and only a few birds singing instead of the choir of crickets. The stillness is not better or worse, just different. And with its new, slicker ‘do’ the meandering pathways appear and treasures are revealed.

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Isn’t it a beauty?

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And all of this wonder before I’ve even met up with my fellow volunteers and had a catch up!
When I got to the top if the hill, I headed for the volunteers kitchen/break room to sign in and literally gasped with joy when I saw the amazing ivy on the wall. The colours are stunning!

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Today, after Charlotte’s introductory talk, we took the children out into the garden to look at all the different kids of rock used in the garden – they are learning about geology at school – and, while we were out , it gave me chance to take a few snaps.

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I love the different colours, texture and how the light bounces off the pond…so many things.

So what is my favourite sight this week? It has to be that amazing, ivy clad wall!

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If you would like to visit RHS Hyde Hall, then you can find more details here . Or, if you fancy a more hands on role, you can contact the volunteer coordinator Lara here .

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NO BETTER BERRY.

20140527-181059.jpgMmmm…first, home grown strawberry of the season! Such a tasty treat, especially as this one came from a hanging basket that was left over from last year that I have basically ignored!

I felt quite naughty really. I was on my way to collect the children when I spotted it and…erm…to save them from the argument about who should have it, I ate it and thoroughly enjoyed it’s super sweet, juicy, yumminess all to myself!

And what is this glorious variety called that appears to need no love or attention? Well it is Fragaria (which I think is Italian for strawberry!) ‘Tristan F1’ which is a trailing variety ideal for hanging baskets. I got mine at an event organised by the PTA of my children’s school, Grange Primary PTA, to raise funds for the school where our local green grocer, Krunchy Karrot, came into the school with a selection of flowers and vegetables for sale. This was a win win situation, as we got great products, a local business was supported and the PTA was given a donation by Krunchy Karrot!

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So, not only did my lovely strawberry taste great, I felt great (ignoring that I’ve deprived my children if this glorious first fruit experience!) as I supported causes close to my heart! Hurrah!

In an effort to redeem myself for stealing the first fruit of the season from my children (I do feel bad…honest!) I shall end with a quote from William Allen Butler

“Doubtless God could have made a better berry (than the strawberry), but doubtless God never did.”
William Allen Butler

SUNNY SUNDAY

This morning started bright and breezy and I felt inspired to get out into the garden for the first time this year. In true Miriam style, I faffed around until the sun had returned to the comfort of his blanket of cloud but I was determined to make a start on the front bed.

Before

I am waiting for some wild flower seed tape from Simple Sowing (who I found out about from a letter from the RHS which included a 25% discount code!) and am hoping to turn last year’s attempt at a mini wild flower meadow into an actual mini wild flower meadow!

Friend or foe?Pretty much as soon as I started pulling up all the grass, dead wild flowers and…um…weeds, I found I was not alone! There were loads of both of these little creatures, along with the usual worms, snails, slugs, etc but were they friend or foe? I have a feeling that the brown one is a Leather Jackets but the colouring doesn’t seem to be right.  I posted the above photo on twitter to see if any of my gardening followers could advise and so far, only one reply to say both are foes (thanks Viv). However, as I am not so keen on bumping creatures off,  until I get some more confirmation of their friend or foe status, they shall get a reprieve!

I did, however, have a more welcome companion while I was attempting to clear the ground whilst not slicing any of the juicy worms in half, my neighbours cat.  Isn’t he a beauty?!

My gardening companion

In addition to my gorgeous feline companion, I  am very pleased to say there was another little creature who joined me. I noticed a little ladybird on one of the plants I pulled up and thought it was dead. However, I decided that a) his shell looked quite bright to belong to a dead ladybird and b) felt sad that this little creature was now laying in the mud, so I picked him up and carefully dropped him in the middle of the clump of grass that I had decided not to dig up – it would make a great home or, if he was dead, a peaceful resting place. How happy I was when, five minutes later, I spotted him checking out his new abode!

Ladybird RescueAfter about an hour of clearing and digging, interspersed with nice catch ups with a couple of my neighbours, I felt I had made a reasonable start to the gardening season.  I have left the big clump of grass, aka Ladybird Villas and some self seeded Red Valerian (I’ve been waiting for it to float over from my neighbour’s garden since we moved in in 2007!), aka Bee Central both of which I think will add to the wild/meadow effect I am hoping for.

AfterI didn’t do as much as I had planned when I looked out the window at the sunshine this morning but, as my rather achy, upper arms will confirm, I had done enough to feel pleased.

WE WISH YOU A…COMPOSTABLE CHRISTMAS!

I had the pleasure of visiting RHS Hyde Hall not once but twice this week! Both visits were arranged to catch up with good friends, one who I haven’t seen for too long and one who I just can’t get rid of…only joking…who I see on a more regular basis but with our children in tow, so conversation is somewhat stilted.

I must confess that the second visit was spent entirely in the Field Café catching up with my friend over a cup of their lovely broccoli and stilton soup with one of their super yummy cheese scones. However, on the first visit of the week we popped out to have a look at the RHS Hyde Hall WI Christmas Trees which were fabulous!

Festive Feast of Furs

Festive Feast of Furs

RHS Hyde Hall had invited the ladies of the  Essex WI to decorate a Christmas Tree with the only requirement, this year, being all the materials to be ‘compostable’. All decorations had to be made of natural materials which could be spray painted to add interest and colour. The ladies really stepped up to the challenge and used reeds and grasses, nuts, teasels, poppy and other seed heads, fruits, paper and many more lovely, natural items.

I may have been a little inspired by the lovely trees and taken one or..er..two photos to share with you! My favourites include the little candles made of spray painted clementine skin with a twig and some string for the candle; the Sycamore seeds with rose hips; the wooden spoon angels; and the poppy seed head, conker and chilli tinsel!

Best in Show

Christmas candle Conkers and acorns  Poppy chilli conker tinsle Blue tree Kashew tinsel Monkey nut tinsel Orange peel spiralAcorn cups orange peel tinsel Orange tree Painted beans Paper cup bells Physalis aka Chinese Lantern Popcorn cranberry orange and lime tree Pumpkin seeds Red and white angel tree Red tree Spoon angel Spray painted beans Sweet potato tinsle Sycamore and rose hip holly

I hope you have enjoyed this whistle stop tour around the lovely WI Christmas Trees at Hyde Hall – do try and get along to see them in person!