I’m just back home after spending the day at ‘The Edible Garden Show’ at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, just outside Leamington Spa. Before I enthuse about the exhibitors, there are still two days when you can visit, if you are in the area, and grab a slice of the ‘Good Life’. Just click on this link for more details. High quality plants, seeds, equipment and advice were in evidence throughout the two halls and a marquee – all undercover, so no problems if the weather turns wet over the weekend. The Show focused on more than just edible plants: livestock and food stalls, plus plenty of gardening advice, given by individual exhibitors or in the Experts Theatre.
Particularly fascinating, as ever, was the BBKS stand (British Beekeepers Association). Not everyone has the time or knowledge to keep bees, but they are essential pollinators of our food crops. Clive Joyce, manager of the BBKA’s apiary at Stoneleigh, said that “even if you don’t want to become a beekeeper, you can still do your bit to help keep bees healthy by signing up to the BBKA’s ‘Adopt a Beehive’ scheme. And a new initiative was launched at the Show: the first pollination dating service bringing together beekeepers and fruit and vegetable growers: www.pollinationdating.com will match a local beekeeper with farmers, smallholders, allotment holders and even people with good-sized gardens or office roof, so that a hive can be set up in a specific area.
Unusual herbs are becoming increasingly popular and there were many unusual planters available – as well as herbs themselves. One much in demand was Stevia rebaudiana, commonly known as sweet leaf, sugarleaf, or simply stevia, and widely grown for its sweet leaves. I have to admit I had only recently heard of this plant but botanist and broadcaster, James Wong, was extolling its virtues, for “it has anti-bacterial properties, and due to its fluoride content, the plant is good for your teeth.” Evidently good for diabetics, too, and shortly to be available online through Dobies.
I then met Robert Longstaff and his wife Yvonne who, after 20 years of running a busy workshop, in 2000 developed The Oxford Garden Project to share with others their 35 years’ experience of organic gardening. Having achieved gold awards designing and building show gardens at Chelsea, Hampton Court and other major shows – and being ‘master composters’ for Oxfordshire – they now offer talks, demonstrations, exhibitions. group visits and courses both at their home base of Longworth and at venues around the country. Subjects include growing, cooking, preserving, bee- and poultry-keeping, and woodworking. They are happy to help with land-share, community allotments and composting schemes.
Which brings me full-circle and back to further planning in my own acre of orchard, veg plot and mini ‘magazine’ gardens. Out with the Dobies catalogue to pour once more over fruit and veg, salads and herbs, plus the flowers that will add colour and joy, and be beneficial to the productivity of any garden or allotment.