As a regular columnist, I do try to include current and relevant topics in my articles, so with the country gearing up for the Olympic Games, I’m taking the opportunity to dedicate this column to .... Elvis. OK, it’s a tenuous link but if impersonating Elvis was an Olympic sport, then Abergavenny-based electrician, Keith Davies would take gold every time. I have heard all the accolades and read about the vast amounts of money Keith has raised for Charity, and he has even helped us out with some outdoor lighting a few years ago, but last weekend was the first time I had watched him on stage. And I’m hooked. (or should that be ‘all shook up’?)
Playing in Crickhowell, after flying into Beaufort Airport from Memphis (honestly, he said so) he belted out some of The King’s finest tracks and kept the audience entertained with his charisma, backing Mafia and sense of humour.
I have even been inspired to research Elvis’s ‘green credentials’. Admittedly I can’t find any records of him winning any RHS Medals but the sweeping gardens and tree-lined avenues of Gracelands are testament to the King’s appreciation of Nature and the outdoors.
The Pin Oak (Quercus Palustris) has become known as the Elvis Tree, for two reasons. Firstly the majestic trees line the drive to the Graceland Mansion, which provided shade for the countless caddies that were parked beneath them and secondly, when funeral attendants carried Presley's casket to his Graceland burial place, a large branch came crashing down, barely missing the procession. "We knew you'd be back," Elvis's longtime pal and pallbearer Lamar Fike wisecracked, "just not this soon."
The pin oak is a spectacular tree with stunning autumn colours which, just like Elvis, has a big presence, reaching over 20 m.
In 1965 Elvis sang about Petunia the Gardener’s daughter, followed by In the Garden (1966) and his mother, Gladys was obviously a keen gardener judging by the lyrics of Mama Liked the Roses.
I felt sure there must be an Elvis Rose but it seems it’s a bit of a grey, rather than green area. The Rosa Elvis seems to be available in France only and the Rosa Graceland is also now out of circulation. However, there is the Ammi majus ‘Graceland’, a hardy annual with the less graceful common name of Bishops Weed or Bullwort. Its elegant lacy flower-heads and long stems make a great cut flower and it’s also fabulous for attracting bees and butterflies into the garden. Ideally it should be sown before July but I am going to sow a few seeds now and see if I can get a late display. We haven’t had a summer yet, so it may all work out.
And at least one ‘bright spark’ is still spreading a little sunshine – keep up the good work Keith! Uh huh, uh huh. https://www.facebook.com/keith.davies.313
From Lynne Allbutt's column for The Abergavenny Chronicle 18th July 2012
Little heard of in the 70’s, oil seed rape is now the third largest arable crop in the UK. Today, it is not just being grown for the old markets of cheap cooking oil, margarine, cattle feed, candles, soap, plastics, polymers and lubricants but also as bio-fuel. Currently, most of the UK’s production is being bought by Germany for bio-diesel, making it a financially attractive crop to grow. But it is not as appreciated by those who suffer from hay fever. Oil Seed Rape Allergy is now a recognised complaint and is becoming more and more prevalent as the crops increase. There is no restriction where farmers can grow the crops, so land adjoining roads and residential areas is used more frequently, exacerbating the problem. Symptoms are similar to hay fever, including itchy eyes, streaming or blocked noses, sore throats, breathing difficulties and general debility.
Susceptible to numerous pests and diseases, oilseed rape crops receive on average three herbicides, two fungicides and two insecticides during the course of a growing season and the extensive use of chemicals is adding to health concerns.
from Lynne Allbutt's Green Scene column for the Western Mail https://www.walesonline.co.uk/ 2nd June 2012
With Tuesday being St Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d share a little bit about the Language of Flowers, or floriography, a means of communication that became popular during the Victorian time. Various flowers and floral arrangements were used to send coded messages which allowed individuals to express feelings which otherwise could not be spoken. These messages would often be created by several types of blooms in a posy or Tussie Mussie to convey the communication correctly.
Unfortunately the Language of Flowers has been surpassed by emails, Facebook, texts and Twitter but the meanings are still recognised. Obviously red roses are well known to indicate ‘I Love You’ but did you know that pink roses imply a lesser affection, coral or amber roses suggest desire and yellow roses indicate jealousy and infidelity. And the negative yellow theme continues into carnations, with yellow carnations meaning ‘you have disappointed me’, pink implies ‘you are always on my mind’ and like the red roses, red carnations indicate passion and deep love, meaning ‘my heart aches for you’.
Daffodils, being yellow, carry the dubious message of uncertainty although they can also apparently signify respect. Iris is an indication of good news, Lily of the Valley demonstrates trust and happiness and the snowdrop speaks of hope.
And if you have short arms and deep pockets, wildflowers are also willing messengers. Daisies signify true love, white clover means ‘I promise’ and celandines promise joys to come. Giving grass is seen as a sign of submission and although my little piglets are always pleased to see my mum arrive with a bag of (hand-picked) grass for them, I don’t know that such it would be so much appreciated by a partner; you may well end up submitting.
Don’t forget that shrubs and plants will last longer than cut flowers (though be warned, maybe only a gardener thinks that way). Primroses mean eternal love, lavender promises devotion and Campanula and Canterbury Bells both indicate gratitude. Rosemary means remembrance and thyme signifies thrift, so in these times of financial adversity they may be good given together to remind your loved one to be thrifty. Add Campanula and you have “I’d be grateful if you could remember to be thrifty!”
Vegetables and crops also have something to say. Receiving a cabbage (or wheat) suggests a profit or riches whilst a lettuce indicates a cold heart and a gift of straw (back to my pigs) suggests unity.
If you receive any of the following, it may be time to review you relationship. Mint means suspicion, birds foot trefoil stands for revenge and marigolds imply pain and grief, which is of course what you risk if you get the Valentine’s gift wrong.
A visit to the florists will never be the same but whatever bloomin’ choice you make, have fun making it and have a Happy Valentine’s Day.
from Lynne Allbutt's column for the Abergavenny Chronicle (Tindle Group) 9th Feb 2012
For someone who tries not to 'judge' too much, I am doing quite a lot of it next weekend! On Saturday I'll be judging the pumpkin competition at Llanbedr's Autumn Jamboree, being held at Moor Park, Llanbedr NP8 1SS, just outside of Crickhowell. Officially starting at 5.30, the pumpkin competition is followed by a fabulous auction including champagne, wheelbarrow, fishing, guided walk in the Grwyne Fechan, locally produced beef, pictures, food hampers, Jacob's fleece, quite a lot of wine, jigsaw puzzles, massage, antique prints, china, to name but a few things and obviously offering something to tempt everyone. There is also a BBQ, live band and the traditional bar! The event is being held in aid of the Vale of Grwyney Churches, which includes the beautiful Patricio Church, (link below) which everyone loves. https://www.churchinwales.org.uk/parishholding/monmouth/m159-en/church-life-en/church-of-the-month/july-09-patricio-church So go and pick your pumpkin, carve it up and I'll see you on Saturday. For more details contact Annabelle Elletson 01873 811 330 or 0774 053 7694
Then on Sunday I'll be at Newport Road in Castleton judging Blooms Cardiff Garden Centre's, 'Grow Your Own' plot competition. The winner will win a GYO plot for a year, rent free.
There are currently sixty-eight plots, out of the garden centre’s 103 plots, rented out to customers. People wishing to rent a plot will be required to sign up for a plot for one year.
Each plot is around 90 square metres. A basic plot, which costs £5 per week, includes a composter and access to a water trough; alternatively, people can have a site that includes a greenhouse and a shed, as well as a water butt to help with water capture and conservation, for £10 per week. Half of the plots have a greenhouse and shed, however, these can be provided for any site. The whole site is rabbit-proofed. For more details contact Jason Perman on 02920 777977 or visit https://www.thegardencentregroup.co.uk/garden-centres/blooms/Blooms-Cardiff-Garden-Centre/2X
4 Pounds (2 kg) of knotweed stems (the younger the better), leaves cut off and cut into chunks.
3 pounds (1.5kg) sugar
1 tsp yeast nutrient
Juice of one orange
Wine yeast (all purpose will do, but champagne yeast would probably work very well).
Enough water to make up to 1 gallon (4.5L)
Put the knotweed into a straining bag, and put that into a sterilised bucket. Bring the water, sugar, orange juice and yeast nutrient to the boil and pour onto the knotweed. Let it stand, covered, till cool, and stir in the activated yeast.
Alternatively, boil the knotweed with the sugar, orange juice and nutrient for an hour and strain. Keep the fluid in the covered bucket for around a week, till he fermentation dies down a little, and decant into a demi jon. Treat as for other wines from this point, but if you manage to retain a vibrant pink colour then don't stabilise when bottling as the sulfite makes the colour vanish.
You can also make tea with Japanese Knotweed by simply simmering the knotweed for 20 mins, adding sugar to taste and serving chilled. The Japanese drink knotweed tea and over there it is known as Itadori tea. It is high in resveratol which is considered to be a ‘super- antioxidant and can help lower cholesterol.
It is illegal to transport Japanese Knotweed so we are assuming that you will be harvesting from your own site. Please be VERY careful what to do with the knotweed trimmings; trim it on site when you pick it, as you don't want to be dropping ANY knotweed ANYWHERE ELSE. It's a voracious weed and THE most invasive weed in the Uk; don't even THINK about composting it.
High quality Italian seed suppliers, Franchi seeds, whose seeds are stocked by some of the top stores like Harvey Nichols and who have endorsements from top chef’s including Jamie Oliver and Antony Worrall Thompson, has put together a range of easy to grow vegetables which they consider would make an ideal present for newly-weds William and Kate. “It is the ultimate green gift for the couple that has everything.” claims spokesman Andrew Collings.
Also ideal for anyone new to growing their own vegetables, the collection consists of French beans, cut-and-come-again lettuce, rocket, spinach and courgettes. All seeds can be sown this month for harvesting later in the year. The ideal seasonal or starter gift is just £10 and comes with full sowing instructions from www.seedsofitaly.com
There are roses named after all sorts of celebrities and celebrations and the Royal Wedding is no exception. DIY Focus has launched a limited edition ‘Catherine’ Rose in honour of the royal bride-to-be, Kate Middleton.
Available from to the DIY stores only, it is a floribunda species that will flower throughout the year with delicate pale pink blooms and at just £9.99 is an affordable souvenir of the Royal Wedding that will bloom year after year. A percentage of the sales will also be donated to the Princess Diana Foundation Trust.
And did you know that the 29th of April is also known as St Catherine’s Day after St Catherine of Siena, one of the two patron Saints of Italy, (the other being Francis of Assisi) and who is often depicted carrying a rose.
The Sting is the invention of media gardener Lynne Allbutt https://www.lynneallbutt.com/ who appears at the show as a Barefoot Beekeeper in an Inspirational Garden to encourage visitors to make their gardens more attractive to Bees.
Lynne has persuaded a good friend of hers, who is dominating the news at the moment, to dress as a Barefoot Beekeeper, and 'The Sting' bears a striking resemblance to the famous stunt driver of Top Gear fame.
Lynne said: “We’re inviting visitors to the show to guess who The Sting really is, with correct answers going into a draw to win a prize connected to the artist in the costume. It’s a bit of fun but it will hopefully get people buzzing, and on Sunday we’ll reveal the true identity of the artist.”
Lynne is a regular contributor to TV and a gardening columnist, and her display features plants such as sedums, lavender and heather that encourage biodiversity and create ideal habitats for bees, whose numbers have been dwindling in recent years.
She is doing a barefoot 10k run in London this autumn and is spending as much time as possible barefoot to prepare her feet for the run. Lynne said, 'It's not getting a lot easier though it is feeling more 'normal' to be unshodden most of the time. I still wear my steel toecapped boots in work - to go barefoot you've got to be hardy but to be building dry stone walls and landscaping barefoot would be fool-hardy!"
Lynne will spend the three Show days barefoot and adds, "Come and say Hello, I'll be the one barefoot in a beekeepers suit - there shouldn't be too many of those!"
Preparations for the RHS Show in Cardiff are coming together and my brother and I will be building it on Tuesday and Wednesday and I'll be chatting about it on Thursday with Jamie and Louise on BBC Radio Wales; it’s been a real challenge getting it all together in just three weeks.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to all the people who are still answering their phone despite seeing my name come up on their screen. It’s been quite humbling how people have all rallied to help – even with the most bizarre requests. My brother has, as always has been terrific, raising the odd eyebrow at some of my ideas and tweaking others; my Mum has been patiently collecting little pussy willow ‘flowers’ as I have used them to recreate a ‘swarm’ and the lovely people at Sunnydale and Caerphilly garden centres have let me raid their plant sections.
And a fabulous group of people have helped me bring the ‘Who is the Sting’ competition together. We have dressed a 'celebrity' up in a bee-keeper's suit and I'm running a competition for visitors to guess who the STING is! Great fun ....
It hasn’t all been a bed of roses though. My 14 ft giraffe arrived flat packed (another job for my brother) and the stunning 20 ft Acacia tree we had organised was re-routed to be used at the Olympic site at the last minute. Lord Sebastian Coe obviously has a bit more clout than I have and I wonder if he wants a 14 ft flat packed giraffe?
Hope to see you at the Show - I'll be the one barefoot in the beekeeper's suit - shouldn't be too many of them there!