I do get a little agitated with the comments from some conservationists that gardeners could do a great deal more to aid the plight of wildlife. Whether we aren’t planting the right species in our borders, using too many slug pellets, spraying too much chemical on our veg or having too neat a lawn, the list of complaints keep coming.
The latest, of course, concerns hedgehogs and the view that garden fence panels are stopping these creatures from moving about freely. I have just noticed a little booklet called ‘The Last Hedgehog in Nottinghamshire’ and to tell you the truth I could not even open it up because of the sentimentality of the title so I won’t condemn it just from it’s title.
Back to the hedgehog road blocks. I love reading old country books and my favourites are those by G Bramwell Evans a revered countryman who for years went by the name of Romany Of The BBC. His broadcasts on country matters were as live and based on actual observations of nature in the raw. One of these was about a hedgehog he named Hotchi and he describes how this animal climbed a vertical stone wall rolled up at the top and toppled of the other side using his spines as a suspension mechanism when he hit the ground. He also mentioned that hedgehogs can climb trellis and also trees if they so wish and that’s why they are so hard to keep in an enclosed garden.
This, to me goes against what gardeners are being told now that we are stopping their movements which in turn is helping reduce their numbers. I would also say that a lot more slug pellets were used during the time that hedgehogs were seen in greater numbers and that those pellets were much more lethal than those bought now. I have my own ideas about why hedgehog numbers have reduced so dramatically but that’s another matter. All I ask is that we gardeners are given facts which will then help us make a balanced decision on our garden management. By the way I have just instated a hedgehog box as I am as concerned about their numbers as anyone else.
Sundays at 9am, and 2pm Thursdays on Radio Nottingham are very pleasurable times for me as this is when I answer gardening questions on air. Contrary to popular belief we don’t get the question before hand so, OK, you have to be on your toes but if you know your stuff and keep up with the industry then you should be able to answer most queries.
I have been doing this now for 39 years and worked out that I must have answered about 40 000 questions. I remember my very first query which was about pot chrysanthemum’s and why, after they had been dwarf in a pot, they had grown to 3 feet or so when planted in the garden. If you are interested, the answer is due to the fact that when potted they use growth regulators to keep the plants dwarf but once planted out the effect wares off.
From then on I became the Radio Nottingham Gardener – a grand title but which has enabled me to broadcast from such glorious places as Chelsea Flower Show, Keukenhof Gardens in Holland, St Hellier in the Channel Islands and even from a barge on the Chesterfield canal!
Well it’s Thursday once again so that means it time to head off for NG2 Nottingham to answer a few ‘more questions.’
This is me in the community orchard at Buckland Monachorum in Devon when I called in to see my lovely friend Celia Steven ‘the Bramley lady’ on my way to Saltash. What a beautiful and peaceful setting for an orchard full of local varieties and of course including a ‘Bramley.’ Well no orchard is worthy of the name without the greatest cooker in the world, just a collection of apples otherwise.
No one goes to see Celia ( more about her later ) without coming away with a goody bag and in mine I found apples, of course, a bottle of apple juice from the orchard and a super little pocket book called The Bramley Apple Stories. Oh yes I must also mention the lunch of pigeon with black pudding on a bed of mash in the Drake Manor Inn.
Why do I think that I have the ability to offer advice to people on gardening matters? I suppose it’s a question of experience and the fact that during my apprenticeship 50 years ago I was taught horticultural skills by master craftsmen.
The experience came after many years of practically following their teaching and having an ethos of carrying out work to as near perfection as possible. Each year brings a totally different experience to the gardener even when working with the same plant species or even variety, due to the varied annual growing conditions. The skill of the true horticulturist is to take these changes into consideration so as to plan or act accordingly for a quality end result. Therefore the more experience you gain the better the outcome.
Gardening is not an exact science and many different ways of doing things will often end with a successful result, more than likely due to the resilience of the plant rather than the skill of the gardener. A very simple example is that if you place turf, brown side up, you will still, eventually, create a lawn even though the process is considered wrong.
So I offer the skills that I have learnt and carried out during my career to anyone who is interested. I have done this in the past as a lecturer, practical instructor and during my near 50 years on local radio and television.
This is my very first blog so if anyone has any advice for me I would be most grateful.