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You’ve seen the pictures, you’ve read the blog, now you can hear all about it from the Head Gardener herself.  A wonderful new app called Candide features audio tours of many of Britain’s top gardens – so obviously they needed to include us!  You’ll have to download the (free) app, then click on Places. At the moment we seem to be first on the list, if not scroll along to find Nant-y-Bedd.   Why the woodyard photo?  That’s where the tour begins!  Listen and find out why.

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All in all there’s almost thirty minutes of insight, background and commentary across 13 different areas of the garden.  Broken into manageable chunks of no more than 4 minutes at a time, you’ll get a real feel for the garden and how Sue sees it, whether you have been here or not (and if not, why not??!).

Big thanks to Ludo at Candide for getting us into it.  We think this could be the next big thing in promoting garden visiting.

At last all can be revealed — Nant y Bedd on TV!

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In various blogs, newsletters and the like, we been teasing you all for some months.  Not because we wanted to, but because the contract we had with the film company precluded us from saying anything.

But after the programme was broadcast last Tuesday, we can finally reveal that Alan Titchmarsh was here in May filming Nant y Bedd as the “inspirational garden” for an episode of the ITV series Love Your Garden.

For those who haven’t seen the programme, they find deserving people who need a better garden for whatever reason.  The garden in our episode was not far away in Pontypool, where the unfortunate Chris had lost his hands and feet to sepsis.  With a largish garden, three young children and a busy wife, Chris found himself restricted to the small patio outside the back door.  Alan’s team of miracle workers transformed the wilderness, described as “the hardest task we’ve ever taken on” in just one week into something that the kids could enjoy, where his wife could work from home and in which Chris could get his wheelchair to all parts.

We were chosen as the inspirational garden for a number of reasons; we weren’t too far away, we have big slopes, water features, mature trees, sheds, the rope bridge and the treehouse.

After a flurry of e-mails, another Chris, the Director, came to have a look around one Thursday.  They had obviously done a lot of research online as he seemed to know exactly what he was looking for.  Then on the Tuesday following at 9am in rolled Alan Titchmarsh, Series Producer Colin, Director Chris and a cameraman and sound recordist. The weather was magnificent and we were all carefully dressed in our finest with hair neatly styled!  “Oh, sorry, I forgot to tell you we don’t feature the garden owners!”  Oh well, never mind. Fortunately no-one thought to mention this ban to Smudge!

One always wonders if TV celebs are the same in real life as they are on screen.  We can report that Alan T is a really lovely man.  Chatting away between takes, reading us a poem he wrote in the car on the way here and telling a few anecdotes about garden owners of, shall we say, a rather higher social status!  He said his wife would also love our garden, but when I suggested he bring her, he said “No way, she’ll want me to transform our garden!”

During a lull to sort out a problem with the camera, he grabbed a stick and stated playing with the boat on the pond.  When offered a chance to go up into the treehouse, which wasn’t quite finished at the time, his response was “Just try and stop me!”  as he disappeared up a very tall ladder. Oh, and whilst waiting to film the opening shot he cried out “a stoat has just run over my foot!”

I did have to give him a ‘telling off’ for running on the bridge – setting a bad example for other visitors.  By the way no ducks were injured in the filming of this sequence – just a little bit surprised!!

Anyway enough of my prattlings, have a look at the clip below – make sure you have the sound on – as he says some really lovely things about Nant y Bedd

 

If you can, go to the ITV Hub and watch the full programme, but make sure you have a full box of tissues at hand! It was broadcast on Tuesday 22nd October.

Many thanks to Spun Gold TV for allowing us to use the above clip.  

Make your own Christmas Wreath at Nant-y-Bedd

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Unfortunately, this workshop is now fully booked.

Our final workshop of this year gives you the chance to make your very own Christmas Wreath for your front door.

The standard to aim for!

Led by Sue, who has many years experience working with her father and more recently her sister to produce fantastic looking wreaths for sale, you will go through the whole process starting with the bare wire rings, then adding moss and locally sourced foliage and cones.  Make up your own slant on the design as you go along. We will be using entirely natural materials, mainly foraged from the garden.

Take time out to enjoy a delicious two-course home-made lunch in Garden Room then, when you are happy with your handiwork, head off home and proudly display your skill on the front door!  When your neighbours ask “Where did you buy that lovely wreath?” you can tell them “I made it!”

With two leaders and only six places, personal attention is guaranteed!   Wednesday 4th December from 10.00 until 3.30pm.   Book early to avoid disappointment!

For more details click here:  Christmas Wreath Making Workshop

The Nation’s Favourite Garden?

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If you follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or get our bi-monthly Newsletter, you should already know that Nant y Bedd Garden has been shortlisted as one of the top 30 gardens in the

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and

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competition to find “The Nation’s Favourite Garden” !!  How about that?

The competition seeks to find the nation’s (that is England and Wales) favourite National Garden Scheme garden.

There’s over 3500 gardens who open for the scheme, so to be in the top 0.85% is rather heartening, to say the least.

And to make it better we didn’t apply to be in this; we were nominated by a person or persons unknown.

The prizes are to be split along NGS regional lines, so we are up against two others from Wales – Hurdley Hall, in Churchstoke and Ysgoldy’r Cwrt in Tregaron –  and two from England – Wollerton Old Hall in Market Drayton and Stockton Bury near Leominster –  in the Wales and the Marches section.

Looking down the overall list there’s a lot of ‘Halls’, ‘Manors’, ‘Courts’, ‘Old Vicarages’ and ‘Priorys’ plus a little-known place called Great Dixter!!!  Then there’s little us, so you can see we are rather pleased to be in such company.

Voting is open from now until the end of September at www.theenglishgarden.co.uk/ngs and one lucky voter will win a near £5000 cruise on the Danube (courtesy of Viking Cruises).

Scan this code to go straight to the voting page, then scroll down to Wales and the Marches. QR code

Please do vote for us.  If you haven’t been yet, we are open every Friday to Sun from 2pm until 6pm until the end of September (which coincides nicely with the closing date of the votes!)

Let’s see if we can get rid of that ? in the title of this blog!

UPDATE

Well we did get rid of that ?  Although you won’t find it on the magazine or NGS sites, we are officially or unofficially, Wales’ Favourite Garden.  As runner-up in Wales and the Marches we had the highest votes of any garden in Wales!   “Sorted!”

One small step

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This week 50 years ago we were regaled by what has gone down as one of the most iconic statements in the English language – “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”.

What’s that got to do with Nant y Bedd Garden, you may well ask?   Well we have finally achieved “one small step for Sue, one giant climb to the top of the treehouse” (with the greatest apologies to Neil Armstrong).

“one small step…”

Yes, after the gestation period of what seems like a whole herd of elephants, the long-awaited treehouse is finally finished.  Conceived back in March 2017 as – ostensibly – a birthday present for Finley, only a mere 29 months later we have the final article.

bare tree at start of project

“You could put a lovely treehouse in that one!”

 

drawing of treehouse

“Yes, just like that!”

Everything seemed be going to be very well when grandson Finley shinned up the ladder to help Mick lay the first bit of floor, on his birthday.

Finley and Mick lay the foundations

Finley gets to grips with the first piece

But it was to be a couple of birthdays later before it was finished.

Mick got caught up in other jobs and that solitary bit of floor stayed that way until late 2018, when Dan Tuckett came along on one of Sue’s garden workshops and let slip that his ‘day job’ was building round-timber structures!   “Ever built one in a tree?” asked Sue. “No, but it must be fairly similar.” Said Dan.

We managed to get both Mick and Dan together one day to discuss what one had planned and the other was going to build.   They seemed to agree and so Dan was given the task of bringing Sue and Mick’s ideas to fruition.

Working through the winter wasn’t really an option, with short days, wet surfaces and the cold winds ripping through the tree, so work was scheduled to start in March 2019 and be completed by our NGS open days at the end of May.

Dan had worked out that he couldn’t do it on his own and really needed someone used to swinging around in trees, as much of the initial work would require skilled ropework.  A good friend of his, Oli Stinchcombe – an experienced tree surgeon-  seemed to fit the bill and the two of them arrived with trailer loads of timber in mid-March.

first poles in place

It is going to happen!

Everything had to be carried the last fifty yards and across the rickety bridge to the tree.  The turbine house became an impromptu store cupboard for tools and bolts and things.

two men and a pole

Carrying onto site

From here on in things progressed smoothly, if not quite to timescale!  Some delays due to timber supplies and the other demands of modern parents conspired to ensure the end of May deadline came and went.  There was an obvious structure there, but it certainly wasn’t usable.

the ribcage takes shape

That’s a floor there!

Seasons go on and levels get higher

We can work in the dry now

Then all of a sudden with the cladding and roof in place, we had a treehouse.  Still quite a few things to do – and the inevitable ‘client’s changes to specification’! – dragged the finish date into July.   But now it is fully functional and a source of great interest to our visitors – it’s even had celebrity endorsement!

Dan basking in the glory (and sunshine)

nearly finished

The great thing about Dan & Oli’s structure is that is hardly impacts on the tree at all.  A couple of dead pieces were trimmed to fit but otherwise the entire framework sits on and around the branches of this magnificent Sycamore, which seems very happy with its new ‘friend’.  As you know we garden organically, and this has evolved organically, with the position of every new beam carefully thought through, rather than blindly following an architect’s drawing.

A big Well Done to Mick for his design ideas, to Dan for making them reality, to Oli for hanging around (literally) in the treetops in sun and rain and of course to Sue for having the original vision.  Me?  I just got in the way and made useless suggestions!

the new “Yoga Studio” / gin deck / kids den / bat roost ????

 

From this to ….

final view of threehouse

….this

And here’s a lovely little video taken by Dan.  (turn the sound up full to hear Sid!!)

Great, isn’t it?

In praise of peas

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Gardens can be colourful and full of flowers OR highly productive vegetable gardens but not particularly colourful or flowery.  Right?  Actually they can be both and the humble pea is a good example of how this can be achieved.

Heritage broad beans, peas and flowers all jostling together in the Potager

Some peas as well as being tasty (one vegetable the grandchildren will eat, raw of course but that’s fine) and highly nutritious can also be a very pretty addition to the garden.  So we can grow peas because they have different coloured flowers as well as producing something edible.  By the way flowers of culinary peas are also edible – but not sweet peas which we grow for the scented flowers.  The shoots and vine tendrils of culinary peas are edible and have the same delicate, pea-like flavour. But only vegetable pea flowers can be eaten. The petals can be added to salads, or cooked slightly and sweetened for a treat.  But not sweet peas flowers – they are poisonous.

I digress.  Here, at 1200 feet in the Black Mountains, we have some challenges in what we can grow due to the shorter growing season and cooler temperatures.  Butternut squash, for example, struggles.  So it’s interesting to look around at what grows in similar conditions elsewhere in the world and also what has been grown traditionally when we were much more dependent for survival on what could actually be grown in our gardens to feed our families. It’s also satisfying and usually successful to grow crops from seeds which a neighbour has given you.

So, coming back to peas, generally they do very well here and this year we are growing a good number which fall into all the above categories.

Let me start with donated seed.  A neighbour, who is a keen veg grower, sowed some pots with Rosakrone Heritage pea but as they had all germinated had far too many so gave us a large pot full.

Checking them out, as we do these days, on the good old inter web I found this description listed with Real Seeds:

Rosakrone NEW
A very unusual heirloom from Sweden, withs beautiful red/pink flowers borne in ‘crowns’ above the foliage. 

It grows to around 4 – 5 foot tall, and looks stunning on a wigwam or peasticks for a decorative feature that also produces lots of tasty peas. Given to us by Vivi Logan, we are delighted to add this to our collection.

Here’s a photo of them this morning.  They are indeed 5 feet tall, very vigorous and the flowers are stunning. We are looking forward to an excellent crop.  The fact that they originated from Sweden and were donated to Real Seeds by a donor in Pembrokeshire is encouraging.  They should do well here.

Rosakrone flowering in the Potager

Other peas also looking good are Ezethas Krombek Blau – a pea we have grown for many years originally acquired from Chase Organic Seeds (now run by Dobies). This also has lovely flowers followed by purple pods which can be eaten as mangetout but also are fine (although not particularly sweet) if you can’t keep up with picking them and they all turn into peas.  I usually have other sweeter peas maturing at the same time so just mix the EKB in with them when cooking and they are fine.

Ezethas Krombek Blau flowering

Purple pods of EKB – edible as mangetout if eaten when flat

We also grow Norli mangetout which are really prolific and we have been picking for weeks.  These have been grown from seed which we have saved from year to year.  Just need to remember to harvest them before the birds do!  Pea and bean seeds if stored in dry conditions will remain viable and will germinate 100% for at least 3 years.  If you store them for any longer than that some will still germinate but the percentage viability tends to reduce.

Norli Mangetout

This year our maincrop peas are Early Onward and Greenshaft, both old varieties that my Dad used to grow.   Greenshaft produces longer pods packed with sweet peas – the kind that win first prize for the longest peas in the village show! Garden writer, Sally Nex says of Early Onward Pea ‘You can eat from the same pea plant all season: tender peashoots in spring, flattened pods as mangetouts shortly after, big fat peas to finish with a few to dry for winter.’

Pea shoots early in the Spring

Just a few words about how we grow peas here with our short growing season and pesky mice which would like to eat them as soon as they are sown!

We grow pea shoots in pots for ease of picking and then once they are at the stage when the shoots are getting a bit tough (after 6 or 7 pickings) we plant them out with hazel sticks to grow them on so that we can save the seeds for the following year.

We sow all other peas early in the year in guttering and then place them in the Garden room which has a little background heat.  As soon as they germinate, they are moved outside still in guttering.  This year EKB and Norli were planted out in the second week in February and the rest the last week. We use our own coppiced hazel sticks for support.

Sowing peas in guttering in the potting shed

Germinated peas moved outside to harden off before planting out – this is in February.

That all seems a long time ago now.  We have been eating pea shoots for months and mangetout for weeks.  Eagerly anticipating the beginning of the pea season.  In the meantime we will be enjoying mangtout tossed in butter and mint for supper…yum.

Mangetout, lightly steamed and tossed in minted butter…

 

 

 

 

Climate Change? What a difference a fortnight makes!

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Having just climbed out of the pond after my second swim of the Easter weekend – a little bracing, but most satisfying – it struck me that only a fortnight ago I wouldn’t have even contemplated a dip.

Having sailed though March with barely a tremor weather-wise, dear old Mother Mature came and bit us on the bum on the 4th April.

April showers??

Where’s the daffs gone?

In common with the higher parts of Wales, we copped about 5 inches of that heavy sticky snow in just 24 hours.  Apart from flattening the daffs, it brought down a few branches including one which has necessitated some repairs to the rope bridge.

Rescued daffs

Within a day most of it had gone, so I had a good session on the hydro, although as so often it all came too quickly rather than just the right amount spread out over more days.

stream in spate

The next few days bumbled along feeling really cold in the wind, but warm and sunny out of it, with the odd frost overnight.

Then came the ‘Bank Holiday Heatwave’ and it has been shorts and T-shirts, skinny-dipping in the pond, barbecues and lunches on the patio.  Oh yes, and some garden visitors.   What a turn around!

bracing but lovely.

Sunshine!

 

 

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