21 June 2008


A break from digging and planting: the weather was lousy and it’s Art Trek time, part of the North Devon festival.

We drove out to the middle of nowhere to see three artists. Isabella Whitworth does textile work. She was working with indigo dye on silk when we visited Peters Marland. She shared space with Richard Meyer, who paints richly textured still life portraits.

What I like about Art Trek is that you can talk to artists and ask them about their inspiration and techniques. What I like less is that often you will be the only person in the gallery/studio. It can be difficult if you don’t like the work. Isabella and Richard were equally interesting and happily spent time explaining their work.

For their part, I’m never sure what they expect to get out of it or what, indeed, they do get out of it. Certainly there is a marketting element. Many of the artists earn their living from the art. But, I guess there is a part social aspect too. Being an artist treading a lonely furrow might be – well – lonely.

The Pannier Market at Torrington hosted several artists and my guess is that their displays were as much about marketting as anything else. I took a shine to Sarah Gallifant‘s almost abstract photos of plant life.

Our last stop was outside of Merton at an old chapel called, funnily enough, the Old Chapel Cottage. Painter Emily Clark gets inspiration from the Devon landscape though much of her work is landscapes in the mind.

For me, her studio setting was treat in itself. The bleak landscape at the top of the post is what I took away.


You Just Throw in Some Seeds and See What Happens

8 March 2008

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A break from digging as we went to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) ‘Grow Your Own Veg’ Day at Rosemoor Gardens.

We’re lucky to live just 8 miles from Rosemoor, one of the RHS’s four national gardens. Lucky, but until today we had never been there. Free entry on the day – instead of £12 – helped.


This is the second annual ‘Grow Your Own Veg’ Day, tapping in to the growth in interest in growing fruit and vegetables. I sense an excellent marketing campaign here by RHS. Not that I am complaining. I do think it is a generally good thing to encourage anyone and everyone to grow things to enjoy and eat.


Of course, the initial flush of enthusiasm will wane for many, even some who took an interest at today’s event. But, for many reasons, many of the same reasons why I want to grow my own produce, this is more than a passing fad.


It was a thoroughly miserable Saturday morning, cold, windy and passing drizzly showers. We were lucky to get a good 45 minutes in the dry to walk around the vegetable plot which I guess is about the size of six or so Blackhorse sized allotments.

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As it is early in the season, there was a limit in the amount of produce to see. What was there though was a treat particularly the fruit trees, many grown in the old fashioned fan style against south facing walls, and rhubarb.


Of the veg, I took a shine to the fine crop of spinach in cold frames and a good set of leeks.


As we were to learn later, what winds up in the Rosemoor beds is only a tip of what is cultivated. Most cultivation is started in greenhouses or propagators. So, if there are any failures, Rosemoor won’t end up with an empty patch on show to the public.

As a large group went on a guided tour of the patch, we headed back for a cup of coffee and then to the lecture theatre for a talk on cultivation – ‘Seed Sowing and Transplants’ with Garry Preston.

The hall was packed to hear an hour or so of detailed advice. I wasn’t expecting a huge amount of useful information as most of what will grow in the allotment will be sown direct – or so I thought – that which we will propagate we’ve done before.

Ah, but that was where I was wrong. Here are the notes I took.


– to maintain life, keep seeds in fridge

– use oxygen rich water, particularly on new plantings to aid germination; throw away stale water

– parsley needs dark to germinate and lots of water

– cucumbers (and other cucubrits) are difficult to transplant: grow in containers

– cultivate tomatoes and peppers in 7cm pots

– use 1 litre pots for peas and beans (directly sowed peas will be eaten by mice)
– sow peas in old gutters!

– sow leeks in 7.5 litre pots in March, transplant in June

– following transplant, keep seedlings moist and shaded for 1-2 days

– transplant when first “true leaf” appears

– peppers are moderately difficult to transplant

I never realised the complexity and variation of minimum, optimum and maximum temperatures for germination. All in all, a load of very useful advice. Now, it would be nice to get hold of the Powerpoint presentation.

We didn’t hang around to get writer, TV presenter and Devon resident Carol Klein to autograph her book.

Someone was offering guttering on Freecycle, but by the time I responded to the e-mail it had gone. Maybe another pea grower?