Dates for diaries

It always happens in this, the ‘down’ time of the gardening year: there’s planning for future events, thinking about the shape of the forthcoming year.

2013 was a good year for us, with two major awards, and a couple of projects coming to fruition. In 2014, we will be working on developing planters on the platforms at London Road Station, as well as revising some of our planting plans for the edible garden as we try to tame our thuggish raspberries.

Meanwhile, here are some dates for events in 2014:

Sunday 2nd February 2014: Seedy Sunday, Dome, Corn Exchange

Wednesday 26th February: BH City in Bloom Working Group Meeting  2pm Hove Town Hall – Mezzanine

Monday 24th March: Brighton & Hove City in Bloom 2014 Launch, Jubilee Library 11am

Saturday 7th June: Seaford 150 celebrations at London Road Station – celebrating 150th anniversary of the Brighton to Seaford railway line.

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Tea with the Mayor

With the mayor

At our tea with the Mayor of Brighton and Hove, Denise Cobb, on November 26, 2013, as part of winning the Edward Furey Community Cup. We enjoyed tea, and were delighted by the explanations given by the Mayor and her assistant (gentleman-at-arms), Darren, about the artworks, silverware and furniture in the Mayor’s Parlour at Brighton’s Town Hall. Below pictures of, among other things, cake-eating and mace-wielding. Not the average Tuesday afternoon gardening session.

Oh yes, and click here to see what our Mayor was doing just before she met us for tea.

Phil EB cake Mark and mace Mayor E mace Marlene mayor Mad at mayor Diane and mace Angie D tea A Mad tea

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Preparing Preston Circus planters for winter

PCP 16.11.13 2 PCP 16.11.13 3 PCP 16.11.13

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Shaftesbury Place tree down

CIMG4365Just got the photos from Phillipa of the Rowan tree which came down in the high winds two weeks ago.

CIMG4367We’ve been wondering why it came down. It was clear by the end of the summer that it was sickly in some way. The leaves went brown and shrivelled well before its twin on the opposite side of the station. I wondered whether it had suffered in this summer’s drought: the right side gets the full heat of the midday sun. But the tree didn’t uproot: the base seems to have snapped. It’s difficult to tell from the photos what was wrong, but we’re sad it’s gone.

Tree down and bike

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November seedlings

Basil seedlings 11.13I wasn’t expecting to be potting up seedlings in November but the basil, parsley and lettuce seeds we planted in August are growing strongly in the greenhouse. Along with the basil, we have some spiky leaved plants: did we get oriental mustard mixed in with our basil seed?

I potted up the basil this afternoon and have brought the seedlings indoors. By 3.30, as the sun fell behind the roofs, the temperature was dropping sharply. In the greenhouse, it was 12C; outside, it felt as if we could well have the first overnight frost of the autumn .

I’m hoping inside on a sunny south-facing windowsill, the basil seedlings will grow steadily until light and warmth pick up in the spring. We still have the lettuce and flat-leaf parsley to deal with. Lettuce and parsely 11.13I’ve covered them with fleece and propagator lids in the cold greenhouse. It’s a juggling act at the moment: with the door and roof lights closed, the seedlings and cuttings risk dampening off and mildew. If we keep the door and lights open, the risk is from the cold, the wind and that old familiar pest, the squirrels.

Squirrels just love to have fun. They are the merry delinquents of the urban animal world. They run around daubing everything in graffiti and chucking their fag ends and lager cans over their shoulders: digging up cuttings, upturning pots, scratching up the compost, sinking their teeth into uprooted bulbs, which they then discard, hanging upside down from the roof lights in the greenhouse. Yes, even with the door closed, they still get in.

They’ve clawed up several of the geranium cuttings and the alchemila mollis plantlets. I’m growing resigned to their damage, though I still shout at them like a banshee. We’ve still got a good stock of pinks, rosemary and hanging geraniums – the cuttings we made at the end of August have rooted and are growing on: it’s a magical process.

Cuttings 11.13 Pinks geraniums verbena b cuttings 11.13

We’ve also got three lavender cuttings which have rooted well and quite a few red/bronze heuchera. There are also around 20 verbena bonariensis – small self-seeded plants I dug up and potted on at the end of the summer – which will be great for the Preston Circus planters, along with the propagated pinks, geraniums and sedums. Unfortunately, they’ve picked up mildew – they always do – so I’ve sprayed with an organic fungicide.

I think we might manage a gardening session on Tuesday. No rain is forecast but the temperature will barely be 10C for the afternoon, falling potentially to 3C overnight. Feels like it’s time to put the heating (and the kettle) on in the conservatory and do some potting up inside. We need to get the lettuce and parsely into our large window boxes; they should be OK overwintering in the greenhouse. And with luck, we’ll have a good supply next season of the herbs which proved most popular in our public herb planters: parsley and basil.

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Bulbs before the storm

As part of the RHS’s Wild Gardens week, we’ve planted around 400  crocus bulbs in the shady triangle.

Bulb planting p di 10.13 Bulb planting eb di 10.13Unfortunately, Wild Gardens week at the end of October was, well, wild with exceptionally strong winds. We did our planting on Friday 25th October. Already the winds were starting and the heavy showers threatening. It was hard to do much more than just get as many of the crocus bulbs, donated by the RHS to community gardens, planted as quickly as possible before the rain started again.

By Monday, gale-force winds were battering Brighton. Trains were cancelled and in our patch, one of the Rowan trees in front of the station building was blown down. We had been going to plant crocuses around that tree pit, but hadn’t been able to fit that in on Friday before it got dark. Just as well ….

We were also going to try to install a bird box as part of Wild Gardens week, but again given the subsequent high winds, it’s probably good we didn’t. However, Tuesday’s forecast looks reasonable, so maybe 5th November is a good time to get out and take stock, as we start to close the gardens down for the winter.

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Our third harvest supper

LRSP Harvest supper 2013




We’ve just celebrated the end of our third growing season with our annual harvest supper: this year, the menu was onion soup, three leaf-four cheese lasagne, herby cassoulet, spinach-leaf salad, apple and pear crumble, and Irish cheeses complemented by figs, Ditchling Rise grapes and the last Tinsley Quince apple from this year’s harvest.

The harvest had actually come much earlier this year so our tomatoes, beans and courgettes were finished in early September, our lettuces had bolted and the cabbage whites had got to several of our cavalo nero plants. Raspberries were harvested mid-September and made into Angie’s rich chocolate and raspberry brownies for Big Dig Day. Our onions and garlic were lifted back in June to make way for other crops, but they have been stored ready for our onion soup.

LRSP Harvest basket 2013

Our harvest supper basket 2013

In the LRSP ‘extension garden’, we still had cavalo nero and chard. The challenge, though, was to create something really palatable: some of our number are not completely convinced by these leafy but fibrous vegetables. They are already wary, given my predeliction for bitter frisee lettuces and tough leaves.

Madeleine and I therefore set out to create a really appetising autumn leaf lasagne, along the classic Italian ‘spinach and ricotta’ model, with help from Delia and the BBC and Mad’s sister, who made a flawless béchamel.

Delia reckons the secret to this veggie recipie is the four Italian cheeses: ricotta, mozzarella, gorgonzola and parmesan. We reckon the star ingredient in our version was our carefully steamed mix of cavalo nero, chard and rocket, together with onion, chopped chard stalks, raisins and walnut pieces tossed in olive oil, and enhanced by some freshly grated nutmeg … It worked.

We also really enjoyed Diane’s red onion soup (red wine and red onions), Mark’s hearty pig n’beans cassoulet, featuring LRSP oregano, onions and garlic (OK – a key ingredient was really the deliciously spicy chorizo, but it was definitely complemented by the local herbs) and Sue’s crumble made from our Tinsley Quince and Mannington’s Pearmain apples and a Beurre Hardy pear. The fruit was perfumed, rather than sharp – a lovely English autumn smell/taste. Then tasty Irish cheeses (hard, soft and blue) and local bread, complemented by the rather tart grapes from my garden and our last apple. Oh yes, and some red wine.

We toasted our unexpected successes this year: a good RHS inspection score, the Southern Tsars and Stars (try saying that after a glass or two of red) ‘Best Community Station’ award, and the Ed Furey Community Spirit cup. Maire told us a bit more about Ed Furey – who had been a Labour councillor and very active in promoting community activities in Kemptown, including Kemptown in Bloom. We drank to his memory.






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