Its March, the beginning of a New Year in the Bath Women’s Institute Edible Garden ! Its been a long, wet, winter, the Garden has drunk its fill, and now its looking forward to some dry, warm Spring days. Everywhere around it, in the Botanical Gardens, the snowdrops, daffodils and pretty little wood anemones are cheering us all up; the birds are singing, and summer plans are in the air !
Yes, we have lots of fun vegetables, herbs, and flowers planned, for 2016 The Garden had such a wonderful time last year, with the Women’s Institute Centenary, that this year it wants to let its hair down and go for lots of colour and bling ! ( and that’s just the vegetables ! )
And there, at the front, are two Giant Pumpkins ! The biggest, brightest, and roundest pumpkins in the whole wide world ! We are going to cram them into a very small space, but the Garden Gurus love a challenge ! So, as they say, ‘Watch this space ! ‘
Pumkins are native to North America, the oldest seeds, dating between 7000 & 5500 BC were found in Mexico. The name comes from the Greek for ‘ large melon’. As its 92% water, us Gurus will be on a mission to keep it well supplied ! Do you remember that Pumpkin Juice is often drunk, in Harry Potter, by the Students at Hogwarts ? And of course there is that lovely fairy Godmother in Cinderella, who turned a pumpkin into her beautiful carriage. We hope that our pumpkins will be just as much fun. Soon it will be time to dig over the Garden, get our seeds germinating, and dream of the happy times ahead.
The Garden Gurus have had a wonderfully busy few weeks, sowing, planting, growing and nurturing all their little ‘charges’. The weather has thrown everything it could at us, do you remember the hail and rainstorms? Then the drought, followed by warmth and cold, and that all before lunch time! But we’re used to it and have trusted our instincts and ploughed ahead with our plans!
The chives look wonderful, masses of those fluffy lilac flower heads; and everywhere can see the vegetables growing strongly. The potatoes really grew fast this year – Helen earthed them up and they quickly shot above the soil again! Does that mean we’ll have a bumper crop? There they are behind Jean’s rainbow chard, which seems to double in size every few days! She grew these from seed which she harvested from last year’s plants and it’s really paid off. The lettuces are being grown in batches and the rosy red lollo rosso and oakleaf varieties look so pretty together. As we see they are flanked on both sides; Elaine’s dahlias to the left and the hollyhocks on the right. Last year we ate dahlia tuber rosti, and Elaine has planted a crop that she’ll harvest in the autumn specially for cooking! Yes, we really are an edible garden – if dahlia tuber rosti was good enough for our Mexican forebears, its good enough for us! I think we are all wishing our Giant Pumpkin well, fingers firmly crossed that Lilibet (as she’s been named by Sally, who did, after all, grow her) will thrive and do what Giant Pumpkins do best:grow and grow happy in her lovely playpen, crafted by our willow sculptress, Su. Helen’s Borlotti beans are romping up the two wigwams and the yellow and purple climbing French beans are doing their best but need to catch up. Jo and Gaye grew them and had to cope with too cold, too hot, and then cold again! We have been joined on the team by new guru June and Sue, our Super Snapper, records all the loveliness with her wonderful photographs. The Bath WI Garden Gurus are a close knit, supportive bunch of great gardeners and the results most certainly speak for themselves. Our hundreds of visitors love to watch the garden’s journey throughout the year, but for me this is the most exciting time , as nature takes over and surprises us yet again ! The Bath WI Garden is a close planted and very detailed kaleidoscope of herbs, flowers, roses and vegetables, and they all seem to love jostling happily together. Oh, if you are wondering what that crescent of round leafed plants are scattered rather untidily at the front of the photograph on the left, they’re nasturtiums! And will (hopefully) provide a great burst of oranges, yellows and pinks all summer long. We love them and so do the bees, which makes everyone a winner! Their seeds, pickled, are capers and delicious added to salads and quiches etc.
Please come and visit the Garden, sit on the lovely Iron Art bench and pause a while. Crush the aromatic sages and thymes, fennel or rosemary between your fingers and enjoy the peaceful oasis we have tried to create for us all to share in this busy world.
Kitty Lambah, Garden Team
Kitty’s Cuttings: An Early June Update on our Lovely WI Edible Garden
What a lot is happening in our garden! I have been away on a half term holiday and whilst my back was turned all our plants just went for it! Is there a more exciting time of year for plant-watching? I don’t think so and this beautiful bumble bee feasting on the flowers of our chives agrees with me. We do everything we can to encourage the bees; Elaine’s dahlias are always varieties that bees can access, as are the hollyhocks, nasturtiums, the camomile and all the other flowers.
On the right of the bath we can see how tall the potatoes have grown. They are a red variety called Desiree and some are in flower, it’s a pretty white flower with a bright yellow centre. The camomile in the bath is looking really lush and soon those white flowers with yellow centres will be brimming over the edges.
And lastly, a quick peek at our lollo rosso and lime green oakleaf lettuces. We’re growing them in succession this year and here they are nestled between the dahlias and hollyhocks. Both of those grow very tall, but what the lettuces lack in height they make up for in succulence and colourful deliciousness!
Our Gurus work hard to bring all the plants together in the WI’s little patch and, if you can, do take a stroll in the Botanical Gardens to see how well everything is doing. Sit on the bench and enjoy the view!
December 2016 – roundup
2016 has been a wonderful year for the Bath WI garden as you can see from the pictures below!
After a slow start, the plants did us proud and looked beautiful for our July garden party.
We were lucky enough to be finalists in the BBC Points West Garden Competition in the ‘Community Garden’ Section. We had a wonderful time at Bowood House as guests of Lord Lansdown.
We achieved ‘Outstanding’ in the RHS ‘It’s your Neighbourhood’ scheme.
The Bath WI garden and some of the garden gurus featured in October’s BBC Gardeners’ Question Time recorded up at the University. Our question was about next year’s planting, so come and see the suggested sunflower field.
We also had a visit from Caroline and Olly who are recording visits to local projects to be broadcast on Bath Hospital Radio at the beginning of next year.The most important part of our garden year, however, is the continued pleasure that our WI garden gives to our hundreds of visitors. We have our ‘regulars’ and our visitors from the UK and abroad who come and sit on our bench to look at the garden and admire the bath. And it’s always good to see our lovely Bath WI-ers.
The garden team love growing, planting and tending the garden. They are a dedicated, modest group and have created a garden that they should be truly proud of. Heartfelt thanks go to all of them (Elaine, Sally, Gaye, Jean, Jo, Helen and June, with honorary gurus Sue, photographer, and Su,
willow weaver), never forgetting our founders Melanie Roberts and Jess McKillop, as well as all the friends and staunch supporters of the garden.
The 2017 design has been drawn and we hope it’ll be a lot of fun and full of interest to all our visitors.
Our Bath WI edible garden was created for everyone who comes to enjoy it, and its success is really measured by the pleasure and peace that people of all ages find here. Please visit – relax on the bench surrounded by all those aromatic herbs, watch the progress of the plants throughout the year, and smile at our roll top bath brimming with camomile. We are all looking forward to another happy year with a lovely little field of sunflowers, another bright necklace of nasturtiums and lots more favourites, old and new, for us all to enjoy.