Save The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew

Petitioning the Rt Hon Mr Owen Paterson MP to Urgently reverse existing, proposed, and further cuts to RBG Kew’s annual operating grant in aid

The Royal Botanic Gardens, with sites at Kew Gardens, London and Wakehurst Place, Sussex is a world-leader in conservation and botanical science, with over 250 years of historical excellence in these fields.
It now needs our help to ensure its globally-important plant and fungi collections can continue to be used to support plant and fungal science and conservation around the world.
In 1983, 90 per cent of Kew’s funding came from the UK Government as grant in aid. The current amount has dropped to below 40 per cent as of this year. Funding was reduced by £0.9M in 2009-10, £1M in 2010-11, and by an extra £0.5M year-on-year thereafter.
Kew has now been told to expect further cuts of at least another £1.5M before the end of 2016.
Under the 1983 National Heritage Act, the UK Government committed to ensure that Kew is adequately resourced to fulfill its statutory obligations, which include: research; providing advice and education; plant-related services including quarantine; caring for world-renowned scientific collections, as national reference collections available for study; and as a resource for the public to gain knowledge and enjoy. The UK Government is no longer fulfilling its role to allow Kew to meet these obligations.
Kew has been dramatically increasing income from non-government funding streams through the work of their partner charity Kew Foundation, and via commercially generated income, consultancy work, and research funding. Although there are plans to extend these efforts, they are no longer able to keep up with the rate of cuts in government funding and many areas of Kew’s work are not easily resourced externally.
Due to the cuts, Kew has announced that with a £5M deficit for this year, over 120 posts will be axed. The majority of posts will be lost in the areas of science and public engagement. Kew will lose dedicated, expert staff, and whole areas of work are likely to be halted.
A petition may have little effect on government policy, but it can demonstrate that a significant number of people value this institution and that work it carries out. You can sign the petition by following this link.

Thank you

In a Vase Monday: Blue Poole

Muscari Blue Magic

Muscari Blue Magic

It was very tempting to photography another posy of dwarf narcissi with Aquilegia leaves as the delicate flowers seemed to be dancing in the morning sunlight. Instead I chose a handful of Muscari in a small Poole Pottery pot. Not as elegant but the intense colour of the blooms is striking.  I particularly like the knobbly texture of the flower heads, although I’m not sure that the contrast of the ferny leaves of the caraway is quite right.  Most bulbs produce fairly boring strap-shaped leaves, so I’m struggling to find foliage for my posies.
I’ve photographed the arrangement from above because this little pot of flowers invites you to bury your nose in the blooms. These tiny flowers produce a heavy perfume that is rich with honey. No wonder they are a favourite with the early bumblebees!

Building an orchard

New Orchard Site

New Orchard Site

Depending on your perspective and philosophy of life, our activities in the croft garden can be viewed as ground breaking experiments, eccentric follies or totally bonkers. On a wet November afternoon when I’m moving barrow loads of sand from one part of the garden to another I know exactly which applies. However, I was promised an orchard and that was what I was going to get come hell or high water and that is what I got – all three!
A coastal headland on the north-west tip of a Hebridean island is probably not the ideal location for an orchard. Apart from the howling gales, the climate is perfect. If you can mitigate the effect of the wind and get the soil into good condition, provided that you subscribe to the delusion that anything is possible, the impossible is possible sometimes.
I would like to claim remarkable foresight, but I suspect it was pure serendipity that the part of the garden destined for redevelopment was probably the best place for our orchard. Sheltered to the south by the fruit cage and to the north by the existing Olearia shelter belt, with a 5ft fence and a newly planted Olearia shelter belt to the east and another 4ft fence completing the boundary, it is one of the more protected parts of the garden. Although most of the severe gales roar in from the Atlantic from October to March, we can get a howler at any time, so some addition measures were needed to protect the trees during the growing season. Predictably the Head Gardener had the answer: training the trees as three-tiered espaliers against a series of parallel fences in avenues.
So it really was a case of building an orchard – or rather the infra-structure for the fruit trees. Planting on either side of the internal fences there is enough space for 12 trees. A gravel path runs between each set of fences with the trees planted in deep borders under-planted with bulbs and herbs. This part of the garden has been used for growing vegetables so the soil had been improved by regular applications of well-rotted manure and seaweed. However, the top soil is only about 18 inches deep and thereafter it is pure sand. To give the trees a good start about 18 inches of sand was excavated from each extra-large planting hole and replaced with garden compost .
The trees were planted in late November and after settling were pruned to just above the first wire ensuring that there were three good buds pointing in different directions near the top of the stem. Provided all goes to plan, the top three buds will form the leader and the two laterals which will be tied-in next winter to form the first tier of the espalier.
It was tempting to choose some of the lovely old varieties, however as our conditions are far from ideal, there had to be pragmatic compromise. So we ended-up with Bramley’s, Newton Wonder, Egremont Russet, Blenheim Orange, Cox’s Orange Pippin and Spartan, all on dwarfing root stocks.
It is now April and the trees are beginning to show green leaves and whilst there is not quite a “host of golden daffodils”, there are bright splashes of  yellow to break up the harshness of empty borders and expanses of fence. It is perhaps a little too “National Trust” for my taste and not the orchard of my dreams; however, as the garden is surrounded by fields of wild flowers was just a matter of taking the trees into intensive care. It is a wonderful gift and I’m looking forward to my first apples, golden or otherwise, in about three years hence!

In a Vase for Monday: Sheltering from the Rain

Narcissus: Hawera, Baby Moon, Little Witch, Tete-a -Tete

Narcissus: Hawera, Baby Moon, Little Witch, Tete-a-Tete

This is my first contribution to the Rambler’s In a Vase for Monday meme. I promised a contribution before Easter and, as Easter is late this year, I’ve just scraped in. I like having a small posy of flowers in the house, so my tardiness has been a lack of flowers and foliage rather than commitment. Although there have been pots of bulbs flowering in the polytunnel, I decided to stick to the idea of using material from the garden. So this is my first posy of the year – a small glass of dwarf narcissi from the cottage garden.
I belong to the “a nice bunch of flowers in a vase with a bit of foliage” school of flower arranging rather than the floral art academy. Although with my shortage of material perhaps something more akin ikebana would be more appropriate.
So I have a “nice bunch of daffs”, which also have a lovely delicate scent, sheltering from the rain on my windowsill, the next step is the photography. It is far more difficult  to take a decent photograph of a vase of flowers than I had imagined . I was so captivated by the individual flowers that it was difficult to concentrate on the vase as a whole. First a few trial shots and then a tweaking of the arrangement, followed by elevating the glass to avoid the window frame, then setting the focus so it was soft but not blurred and finally attempting to preserve the translucency of the flowers by adjusting the light . Sometimes reproducing simplicity can be horribly complex and I began to feel in need of a cup of tea.
Not bad for a first effort, but definitely could do better on all counts, although I did grow the daffs, which after all are the stars of the show.