Archive for September, 2011

You may have noticed my persistent Fruitshare.net plugging on Twitter has lapsed for a little while over the past week or so. Proper work [preparing borders for new planting] has been responsible for the mini break. But, despite the Twitter quietness, pretty incredible things have been developing for Fruitshare’s ‘spread the word’ campaign.

It began with an article about Fruitshare in my local newspaper the Bolton News, [thankfully the online version doesn’t have the cheesy photo]. The article miraculously instigated two further publicity leads, a stint on BBC Radio Manchester with Heather Stott and, the cherry on top…an email from CBBC’s Newsround producer to say they’d like to feature Fruitshare! Obviously I said ‘yeah’!

I’m now in the process of gathering some ideas… potential gardens, Fruitsharers and Fruitseekers that would be up for a bit of stardom. I think I have sussed the first two…but just need someone from around Bolton or Manchester, preferably with kids [age 6 to 12], with a bit of a passion for baking [or jam making or whatever] to be our featured Fruitseeker. I shall thus be approaching those already registered on the Fruitshare website to see if I can find that special star…filming will take place over the next couple of weeks.

I’m very much excited about this little bit of national coverage for Fruitshare and keep my fingers crossed that it might just, maybe, possibly lead to a little bit more…I need to keep that publicity ball rolling. This week I will be around in the office a bit more so will continue the Fruitshare.net tweeting. If you happen to spot one, please do continue to retweet…it all really helps.

The number of registrations on the Fruitshare website keep rising, especially on the ‘Fruit Wanted’ list. My next mission is to try and up the numbers on the ‘Fruit Available’ list. Any Fruitseekers reading this, if you know of anyone living nearby that has a fruit tree growing in their garden please let them know about Fruitshare. This poster could be used in local shops or even posted through letterboxes to help spread the word in your area.

I will keep you all posted on how the Newsround feature develops and who will be the Fruitseeker star!

Thanks all and happy fruitsharing x


Read Full Post »

Some of you will have already clocked that I have a bit of thing for fruit. It was an unknown variety of strawberry that first made me swoon, an incredibly sweet and juicy one that simple knocks the socks off anyone who tastes them. That was the initial hook which consequently set about a heightened sense of awareness of what fruit, if any, was growing quietly in other people’s gardens …with a relentless desire to have a sneaky little taste.

My eagerness for wanting to find and try fruit was, all of a sudden, completely quenched with the onset of the apple harvest season. I gathered unwanted apples of all shapes and sizes from the gardens I worked on, made enough apple crumbles and apple Dorest cakes to feed the five thousand and had enough surplus apples to keep family and friends extremely happy. It was an overwhelming time and they weren’t even my apple trees.

Borne from this abundant apple frenzy is fruitshare.net. I wanted to find a way of sharing this unwanted garden grown fruit, not just in the area I live but to make it accessible to people across the country. The website was set up and then redeveloped a year later in partnership with another fruit enthusiast, Richard Borrie from orangepippin.com, into a fully working database driven website. We are now in the beginnings of our second harvest season and we are keen to spread the word about the Fruitshare initiative as the more people that know about it the more sharing of the country’s forgotten fruits will take place.

Hence, I am now on a little mission to get as much publicity as I possibly can, and by publicity I mean national… and beyond. I think the idea is a great one, but I am biased I know. What would be really really cool is if all of the grow your own/buy and source local/encourage sustainable food endorsing celebrities/organisations would give Fruitshare a big thumbs up and link up to us from their websites  …but, lets be honest, that would just be dreaming. So, back to reality, a press release is the normal first port of call. Done. This has been sent out to a whole raft of publications from local press [they’re getting a bit fed up of me now I can tell], specialist magazines, national newspapers to BBC Breakfast! If anyone has close friends or relations at any of the major news publications please do get in touch!

You’re probably sensing that I’m not getting very far with the traditional publicising route; well you’d be pretty much spot on. Time is ticking, I don’t have oodles of free time to be chasing illusive ‘contacts’ I’ve been dragging out of the internet, I need a new plan.

Twitter. You’re very likely to be reading this because of Twitter. Fruitshare.net wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Twitter [Richard from Orangepippin contacted me via Twitter]. My other half rolls his eyes every time I mention Twitter…like many other other halves I am sure. People love Twitter, people hate Twitter. Twitter has had bad press, has been blamed for the recent youth riots, but, it was also the cause for the mass community clean ups that followed. It has a good side and bad side; I want to bring out its great side.

With Twitter on my mind I have devised a new little plan, just to see how far I can publicise Fruitshare by just tweeting. As Fruitshare’s website is purely in existence today due to Twitter what better way to see the initiative evolve into an international phenomenon [there’s no harm in thinking BIG!].

So here’s the plan. If you think the Fruitshare idea is a great one and would like to get involved by spreading the word just simply retweet my tweets about Fruitshare. My mission is to tweet appropriate publications/media/organisations details of and a link to the Fruitshare site plus a link to this blog in the hope that they will give coverage to the scheme.

That’s it. Not rocket science I know. It may be a complete belly flop from which I’ll need to pick myself up and put my thinking cap on again. But, I’m up for giving it a go as I really would like to see people making the most out of the nation’s forgotten garden fruits. Please help by spreading the word. Thank you x


UPDATE 12/09/11

It is day 6 of the Fruitshare campaign and so far the blog stats have rocketed, the retweets have been immense and the lists on the fruitshare.net site are getting longer! Support and feedback has been really positive and I thank everyone who has spread the word so far.

One other idea I’ve come up with to help promote the Fruitshare initiative is a little A4 poster that can be downloaded from here, printed out and pinned to notice boards up and down the country [and beyond] in offices, cafes and shops. I’m demanding I know. I am duly printing them off myself and will be loading up the other half with them [who’s still rolling his eyes at me] to put up around his workplace. I shall go and hassle all the shop owners, with big smiles.

I am still persisting with the Twitter campaign, although I do sense most are now fully informed with the whole Fruitshare thing…I apologies for my one track mind and repetitiveness. It shall all be over with the end of the harvests! My mission is still to get some national media coverage [I’m afraid I’m still thinking BIG]; and would love anyone to contact me for the official Fruitshare press release [mentioned earlier], for a chat about the project or any other ideas on how to spread the Fruitshare word. As you’ve probably guessed, I’m a bit passionate about the whole affair and will even share my precious, maturing sloe gin with anyone who can steal me that national slot for Fruitshare!

Thank you everyone, happy Fruitsharing x

Read Full Post »

After a roller coaster RHS Tatton show, birthday/anniversary strewn summer holiday [one every week and consequently far too many cakes] and finally a peaceful week away in Cornwall, life is now getting back to a comfortable humdrum of a routine. The September version of the BL Magazine article is all about ornamental grasses, well, more like a pick of my absolute favourites… to be fair…

Ornamental grasses have become increasingly popular in recent years and I am one amongst the gardening fraternity that has also fallen hook, line and sinker for them. I think my love for them started with discovering the wispy fluffy plumes of Stipa tenuissima many moons ago. The slightest breeze will make them billow and sway, giving planting schemes movement and depth, especially when repeat planted.

Using grasses in perennial schemes is a style that was brought to the forefront of the planting design world by the Dutch plantsman Piet Oudolf. His planting schemes are jaw-droppingly sublime, magical and somehow manage to epitomise nature. This ‘naturalistic style’ of planting evolved through observing how grasses and perennials grew in the wild, concentrating on structure and the textural qualities of each plant. It is this link to nature that appeals to many [including me] and is probably the reason why grasses have become enormously popular today.

In true Piet Oudolf style, I will go though some classic ornamental grasses that have become my favourites to use in planting schemes by their structural form. Starting with transparent, and there are many in this category, is a form that tends to include the taller grasses that create a see-through screen. Molinia caerulea subsp. arundinacea ‘Transparent’ [ridiculously long Latin name I know] or commonly known as Purple Moor Grass has incredibly elegant feathery spikelets that will catch the slightest breeze. Their fine see-through flowering stems will reach around one meter in height and will contrast beautifully with bolder perennials. It will do well in most soil conditions as long as it is not too dry, will tolerate light shade but does best in full sun.

Stipa gigantea is another transparent grass but instead of a fine fizz of flowerheads this grass has golden oat-like flowers on huge arching stems; once established they can reach 2.5m in height. It is a lovely majestic grass, definitely for the back of a border and will add height and shimmer in the evening summer sunlight. One last transparent must-have grass is Deschampsia cespitosa Goldtau [pictured below]. Another elegant grass with finely textured flowerheads on long slender stems it will give your borders an extraordinarily magical, almost dreamlike quality. Plant as single specimens dotted amongst perennials for maximum sublime effect.

Grasses for foliage texture is another structural form and offers an important contrast to other plants. Carex comans ‘Frosted Curls’ [also pictured below] is a small evergreen grass with silvery leaves that curl at the tips. Its fine, wiry texture looks great next to broader leaf forms like Alchemilla mollis, even the purple sage in the picture, and gives you interest all year round. Also pictured here is another grass Molinia caerulea subsp. caerulea ‘Variegata’ [these Molinia’s like these long Latin names] which has unusual cream and pale green variegated leaves. This particular grass gives you the best of both worlds, textural leaf contrast as well as the transparent qualities from its purple flower spikelets, which reach around 0.6m high.

One last grass in this category is Hakonechloa macra [again pictured below]. I love this grass and first discovered it only a few years ago in a garden I went to visit [I think it was Dunham Massey, near Altrincham]. The specimen I saw was obviously very happy in its position and very mature as it was a substantial hummock of cascading fresh green leaves. If there is one grass that epitomises nature itself, lush green fields and meadows in the spring, it has to be this grass. On a recent garden design project my client wanted to reduce the maintenance of his garden [bad knee] and decided [begrudgingly] to dig up the lawn, in favour of a more practical patio area. I immediately told him about this grass and suggested we should surround the patio area with borders and plant them en masse with Hakonechloa macra. He went for the idea and now, a year on from planting up, reclining on that patio gives you the impression of a lush green field, albeit in the middle of a suburban garden.

The final category is plumes. This form is a soft, fluffy inflorescence that acts as a great companion to the more bold forms of plants. Astilbes and Filipendulas are classic perennial examples of plume flowers, but there are a couple of grasses that also fit the bill. Stipa tenuissima, which I mentioned at the beginning, creates a plume-like shape, great for softening and blending a planting scheme. Another plume grass is Calamagrostis brachytricha which has rather tall [up to 1.5m] fluffy flowerheads tinged silvery grey with a hint of purple. Use in the middle of a border to soften harder structural forms like Echinops ‘Taplow Blue’.

Ornamental grasses offer garden plantings a wealth of additional qualities that traditional plant types like perennials, roses and shrubs just cannot give. From majestic to magical, textural to just plain practical, there is one out there that will convert you; it’s just a matter of time.

Read Full Post »