Sunday 30 August 2009

I'm a good author...

Well, that's according to book publisher Mitchell Beazley, who are publishing the Allotment Handbook for the RHS and for which I've written the section on vegetables.
But it's not necessarily because I write well - it's because my deadline is tomorrow and I sent all the copy last Friday! Now there's one advantage of not having a proper job and lots of time to fill.
Let's hope when they get round to reading the copy whot I writ they'll still have the same opinion. I guess the ultimate test will be how many copies the book actually sells. For those who are desperate for another veg/allotment book you'll have to wait until March 2010 to get your hands on it.

Sunday 23 August 2009

Writing, judging and general gardening

What a couple of weeks. I've finally finished judging the Gardener of the Year competition. The winners have been informed and will be revealed to all in the next issue of Garden News. Most of the gardens were absolutely brilliant and their owners such a fantastic bunch of gardeners - verging on the 'compulsive nutter' because of their love and dedication.
Since that finished, I've been busy writing the allotment book. The first few thousand 'gems' of information were due last week - a deadline I hit. The rest has to be finished by next Friday, so it's heads down until then.
I've also been doing a bit more work on the FIGO connector, which is going to be launched at Glee - the gardening trade show at the NEC in September. And guesting on Garden Bargains on Ideal World TV.
Then there's the Bosch Power Tools video to promote the company's new Ciso Cordless Secateurs, which we shot in a garden in London - no thanks to all the planes flying overhead drowning out the sound. I've also been working on the Garden Media Guild's Awards entry pack and online registration - which is due to go live tomorrow. And finally, organising my guest spot at Grand Designs Live at the NEC Birmingham on October 11 in The Garden Seminar Theatre, where I'll be giving a talk and providing advice.
At least next week's all clear - apart from the book! Maybe England will have won The Ashes by the end of today, so that won't be a distraction tomorrow. Fingers crossed!

Monday 3 August 2009

On the road again

Blimey, it's like I've never been away. Away from judging the Garden News Gardener of the Year competition that is. The last time I did this was in 1999 when I was Gardening Editor for GN. Some things just slot into place, no matter how long you've been away from doing them - the old 'riding/falling off a bike' syndrome.
So, photographers Tim Sandall or Pip Warters & I have been zooming up and down the country looking at some of the country's finest private gardens owned and looked after by some of the country's finest gardeners.
And interestingly, some of the gardens and gardeners I met back in the 1990s are still there, still reading GN and still entering their gardens into the competition. But the nice thing is most of them have made radical changes to their gardens - so it's a bit like deja-vu, but not quite. It's also really nice to be welcomed back by the owners, all of which have recognised Tim & I and welcomed us with open arms - not to mention open coffee cups, cookie jars and cake tins! Yes, we're piling on the pounds!!
As to the winners? Well, that would be telling and we're only half way through judging. Tomorrow we hit Oxfordshire and then for the rest of the week we're 'up North'. All I can say is that it's going to be difficult as some of the gardens are absolute belters.

Saturday 1 August 2009

Plants on trial

The summer is a great time for us journos because all the seed companies have their trial open days and we can get a glimpse of what's to come in the following year. The first of this year's trials/open days was this week at Thompson & Morgan.
You can always rely on T&M to have a bucket-load of new plants for gardeners to grow. As with all seed companies, not all of them are necessarily your cup of tea and some may just be a new colour of an existing plant, but there are always some jewels. My favourites include the following.
Calendula 'Apricot Twist': masses of fully double apricot flowers on bushy plants that are early to flower.
Cosmos 'Double Click Snow Puff': white pompom flowers with a hint of pink.
Cosmos 'Sweet Sixteen': a semi-double with soft pink flowers with darker pink picotee edges and a double frill in the centre.
Delphinium 'Centurion Lilac Blue Bicolour': bicoloured blooms with triple layered petals in lilac an day-glo blue with a white 'bee' centre.
Digitalis purpurea 'Pam's Split': a selection from 'Pam's Choice'.
Gazania 'Big Kiss Yellow Flame': huge flowers!
Petunia 'Sophistica Lime Bicolour': flowers variously marked with lime green and rose pink stripes and splashes. Interesting!
There were also some outdoor gerberas with absolutely massive flowers and a trailing tuberous begonioa whose flowers have a range of scents throughout the day (the smell is temperature dependent) - neither of which have been named yet.
In veg there was:
Brussels sprout 'Bitesize': small buttons that remain solid for a long time and well spaced on the stem for easy picking.
Brussels sprout 'Petit Rosy Mixed': a 'stir-fry' sprout! Loose, frilly edged buttons in purple, green and bicoloured. I've got to try this one.
Runner bean 'St George': red and white flowers - superior to 'Painted lady'.
There were also some interesting new fruit developments; a new family tree containing an apricot, peach and nectarine; and a plum, aptly named the water bomb plum, as it produces a mass of juice and as soon as you bite into it juice explodes everywhere - needs to be eaten carefully.
Thanks T&M for a great day.