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Coiled and ready to 'Mega Hose' promises easier and safer watering
Coiled and ready to strike…new ‘Mega Hose’ promises easier and safer watering

Half of all gardeners in the UK have injured themselves while tending to their pride and joy, according to research by TV retailer, JML. And one in five of these accidents seem to be accounted for by tripping over hoses.

JML commissioned independent research to look into the gardening habits of the UK. The survey found that Brits still love their gardens, with one in five spending more than an hour a day gardening. People spending most of their time gardening are those in the East Midlands (3.43 hours a week on average). Those in Greater London and Scotland spend the least time (2.55 hours a week).

The age that spends the most time gardening is over 60 (3.27 hours a week), but there are quite a few budding gardeners out there – those under 21 said they spend an hour and a half (1.52 hours) gardening a week.

But gardening can be a dangerous hobby – nearly half (47%) of all gardeners have had an accident while pottering among the plants.

The most common mishaps in the garden are:

1. Dropped something heavy on foot: 30%
2. Tripped on a hose: 19%
3. Stepped on a rake: 12%
4. Cut themselves with shears: 10%
5=. Fallen in a pond: 4%
5=. Fallen out of a tree: 4%

The research also found that flower beds top the list of proudest garden features (30%), followed by lawns (23%), vegetable patches (11%), hanging baskets (8%), and ponds or fountains (5%).

Recent wet (and cold) weather has perhaps relieved the need to use your hose in the garden, and you shouldn’t really water the lawn in any case. After a dryer, hotter spell a few weeks ago, my own hose (a heavy duty yellow plastic job), is lying in an untidy heap next to our back door, as its a real bind dragging it back and winding it up on its reel. The result? My wife is always complaining that it gets in the way when she’s hanging out the washing and I’ve tripped on it a few times too! And at 50 metres long it can kink and snag when in use with annoying regularity. It’s also heavy and can damage the borders unless I’m very careful. Hence my enthusiasm when JML offered me a sample of their new ‘Mega Hose’ to try out.

Oh that my hose would coil up as neatly as this....

Oh that my hose would coil up as neatly as this….

Mega Hose, launched this summer, is said to ‘never kink, bind or tangle’ and has the added benefit of  ‘starting small and light but growing to over 3x its length when filled with water’. When the water is turned off it shrinks back to its original size making it easy to store.

So far, I’m impressed. The sample sent, though expanding to less than half the length of my current hose, was long enough to water the containers and baskets in the Courtyard, here at Old School Garden. I’d fitted my own spray head attachment (this isn’t included in the hose pack), and after fixing the hose to the water tap with the supplied fittings and turning on the pumped water supply from our bore hole, the Mega Hose extended as promised and gave a nicely controlled water supply. The fabric-covered hose was good to use- light and bendable, and as promised didn’t kink or bend, and didn’t look likely to either.

The hose, once the water was turned off, shrunk back to a neatly coiled bundle, ready for its next session, or is easily stashed in the shed, avoiding the hassle of winding it up on a reel – and hopefully reducing the risk of trips too. My guess is that the fabric sleeve might wear a bit over time, but it looks pretty tough.

I’ll see how I get on with a few more waterings, and depending on this I may buy another length and join it to the other in order to reach the furthest bits of the garden. For those with smaller plots the Mega Hose I had is said to extend up to 22.5 metres, and smaller versions and other fittings are available.

Further information: JML website

Old School Gardener


Originally posted on One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World?:

ID-100219796A recent paper, No Dominion over Nature, authored by UK ecologists, Professors Mark Huxham, Sue Hartley, Jules Pretty and Paul Tett, describes how current approaches to food production are damaging the long term health of ecosystems, hampering their ability to provide ecosystem services and leaving them vulnerable to collapse. Focusing on continual (and unsustainable) increases in agricultural productivity, for example through intensive monocultures, will inevitably lead to a “boom and bust” cycle.

The “dominant narrative” in meeting the ever increasing demand for food (some estimate we need to increase food production by 100% by 2050 to meet this demand) is to intensify agricultural production, an approach, such as the Green Revolution, that has so far allowed food production to keep pace with population growth. Such a pathway, as authors argue, is causing ecosystem deterioration, eroding the ecosystem services we rely upon such as pollination, climate regulation and water purification…

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Originally posted on BeyondtheWildGarden:

I think by now you will know I am a big fan of the gardens at Powerscourt Estate. I have talked so much about their great trees and roses here before. It will come as now surprise to you all then that after a recent visit to the gardens I decided to dedicate my latest Kildare Post gardening column to the gardens. It was a great time to highlight the estate as recently it was named the third best garden in the world. An edited version of this article appeared in the print edition of the Kildare Post on 26th August 2014.

The world’s third best garden – By David Corscadden 

When it comes to Irish gardens that have had an impact on garden design a hand full of gardens come to mind. None standout more strongly to me though than Powerscourt Estate in Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow.

For me these…

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Physalis seed pods mark the move into autumn...

Physalis seed pods mark the move into autumn…

Old School Garden – 28th August 2014

To Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

The last few weeks have felt more like autumn than summer, here at Old School Garden. The first week of the month was thankfully sunny and warm and coincided with our holiday in Suffolk; you may have seen a couple of articles I’ve posted about some of our visits.

I feel that I’ve been very lazy in the garden over the remaining weeks, just focusing on the ‘ticking over’ tasks of grass cutting, dead heading, watering, feeding and harvesting- and the occasional bit of weeding. Taking it easier seems to have made my back problems disappear, at least for now.

I dug my carrots up the other day and I was relived that this year I seem to have had some success; though a few have been nibbled around the tops and one or two have split or forked, most are what would pass as good specimens for the supermarket (not that this is test of quality of course!). The celery and courgettes and runner beans continue to crop well; I think we’re just about on top of the courgette glut! We’ve discovered a great recipe for ‘Italian style courgette and Parmesan soup’ on the BBC food website- well worth a try if you like a creamy soup with a bit of ‘edge and bite’. cauliflowers and cabbages seem to putting on a lot of leaf, but no heads, so these may be a ‘no show’ this year.

The ‘heritage’ squashes are rampant and I’ve started removing flowers to try to concentrate the energy into fewer fruit; they are colouring up nicely. Cucumbers are exceeding our needs; I must remember to resist the temptation to grow two plants next year. The tomatoes are steady, if not prolific, though recent weather conditions have probably contributed to the re-emergence of blight in the greenhouse. Still,  it seems to be under control, especially as I’ve removed most of the foliage now to try to concentrate the growth into the fruit and to help with ripening.

I’ve also been regularly harvesting plums (including a wonderful crop of cherry plums from a wild tree on our street border), raspberries and more recently blackberries. Both of these berries all seem to be doing well, with good-sized, tasty fruit, though the mystery of my raspberries remains- for the second year now the back half of both the summer and autumn raspberries have not yielded much if any flowers or fruit. I wonder if this is due to some sort of soil deficiency, though many of the summer fruiting plants are old and in need of replacement; but I can’t understand why the back end is so poor, and the otherwise good autumn row is also affected. Yes, they are next to the wood, but they are in full sun  just like the southern end of the rows. Any advice would be welcome! Here are a few pictures of fruit in the garden at present.

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I’ve also harvested my first pears from the two ‘super column’ plants I put in about four years ago. These (Williams and Conference varieties) are looking great (and the first couple of Williams tasted delicious); I must ensure I get to them before the birds do! As I’ve reported before, the apples this year are disappointing; some large cookers have appeared and been used from one of the ‘super columns’, but more generally in the orchard there are very few fruit developing, due to a combination of pest attack and probably the wet, mild spring causing blossom wilt. I’ve now given all the trees and trained fruit their summer prune, cutting back the ‘water shoots’ to encourage spurs to form (I’ve also done the Wisteria).

Begonias keeping the terrace colourful

Begonias keeping the terrace colourful

The ornamental garden areas are hanging on in there, the late summer performers just coming into their own; sedums, grasses, asters, cannas, helianthemum etc. I’ve grown some autumn pansies from seed and also bought a couple of trays to brighten up the containers on the terrace, which are starting to look tired- apart from those full of ‘non stop’, bright red Begonias.

You remember I said that I was going to experiment with the ‘Chelsea Chop’ this year? I’m pleased with the results. I gave many of the sedums this treatment back in May and the plants are now looking squat, bushy and with lots of flower heads starting to colour up, obviating the need for staking and giving a nicely proportioned show. I shall definitely do this again next year.

Sedums given the 'Chelsea Chop'

Sedums given the ‘Chelsea Chop’

The courtyard fruit is also developing, though the recent lack of sun and warmth has obviously checked this to a degree. Still grapes, figs and possibly olives are all on the way; my miniature peach which suffers from Peach leaf curl has now recovered and put on a good show of healthy new leaves, though the fruit, as before, is disappointing. I must take a closer look at what I need to do with this next year.

I’m afraid the excavating moles are still going about their business, and the main lawn is looking very patchy as a result. I’m in two minds about what to do, if anything about this- do I leave well alone and see the, probably enlarged, mole family wreak even more havoc next year, or do I get a ‘mole man’ in to ‘deal’ with them? Despite reading ‘Noah’s Garden’ and its advocacy of an ecological approach to gardening (so I should convert my lawn to meadow to hide the mole hills), I’m not yet convinced of the case for ‘leaving them be’.

As I mentioned last month my gardening support at the two schools has come to an end, though I’m still puttign in some time at Gressenhall Museum to keep on top of a few areas i’ve been involved with. I shall start to look for other projects once September is done; one might be a new project at our nearby National Trust property, Blickling Hall, where they are intending to restore the large walled garden which is currently largely a ‘blank canvas’. I’ll keep you posted.

I hope that you and Lise enjoyed your holiday in Scotland, though I guess that you didn’t have much good weather in the last couple of weeks, like here? We’re off to Devon next week to do some walking. Now that Deborah has retired she has an ambition to do some ‘open moor’ walking, trying to reach as many Dartmoor tors as we can in four or five days- I may be longing for some work in the garden as light relief after this!

All the best Walter, as we’re away towards the end of September, it’ll probably be early October before you hear from me again. I hope that you enjoy the transition to autumn. We’re looking forward to our visit to you in October.

Old School Gardener




Having been over to Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum today to do some gardening, I couldn’t resist snapping the front border, which was my first design and create project there a few years ago. The combination of grasses, shrubs and annuals was looking great in the sun, so here’s a sample. Sorry to show off!

Old School Gardener

norwich 2035

This wonderful illustration and story titled ‘Norwich AD 2035 (A Prophetic Fantasy)’ written and illustrated by Mr W. T. Watling, an art master at the City of Norwich school has been unearthed by Norfolk Record Office.

The text describes a man taking a drug and finding himself transported to Norwich 100 years in the future! If you look closely, you can spot some notable Norwich landmarks in the futuristic landscape. The story was first published in ‘The Norwich Annual’ in 1935.

Old Schoool Gardener

'Wild Gardens' have a different kind of attractiveness - and value- to those that are more actively 'gardened'
‘Wild Gardens’ have a different kind of attractiveness – and value- to those that are more actively ‘gardened’

I’ve just finished reading a fascinating, beautifully written book about taking a more ecological approach to gardening: ‘Noah’s Garden’ by Sara Stein. Set in the suburbs of the USA, she describes how she ‘unbecame’ a gardener and developed her plot into somewhere that bore a closer resemblance to the native surrounding countryside. In short ‘restoring the ecology of our own back yards.’

I have her sequel, ‘Planting Noah’s Garden’ and another book called ‘Noah’s Children’ ready for my summer holiday reading! The latter is about ‘restoring the ecology of childhood’, and I’m especially looking forward to reading this because of my interest in designing and promoting ‘natural play’ spaces. Stein wrote these all about 15 years ago, but they still seem very relevant today (Stein passed away in 2005).

I’m left wondering if and how far the principles she advocates can and should be applied to somewhere like the UK. Here the climate has – at least up to now- enabled us to grow a very wide range of plants, and so has given us the chance to grow more ‘exotics’ than  many other places around the globe. Arguably this resulted in a diluting, if not replacement of a ‘native environment’ hundreds of years ago, especially from the foreign travels of the ‘plant hunters’ and the subsequent importation of exotic species, as well as the devleopment of new, hybridised forms.

I guess the principle of gardeners working with nature, acting as ‘managers of the environment’ not ‘controllers’ (or worse still, having no concern for the wider impacts of what we plant, construct or remove in our gardens), is still very valid, and we should always have regard to the impact of our planting on the wider environment – in terms of the wildlife habitats and food sources it provides, for example.

Sara Stein

Sara Stein

I was especially taken with Stein’s suggestion in the last few pages of ‘Noah’s Garden':

‘Let’s imagine a goal: that at some time in the future, the value of a property will be perceived in part according to its value to wildlife. A property hedged with fruiting shrubs will be worth more than one bordered by Forsythia. One with dry-stone walls that provide passageways for chipmunks will be valued higher than one whose walls are cemented stone. Buyers will place a premium on lots that provide summer flowers and fall crops of seed. Perhaps there will be formal incentives; tax abatements geared to the number of native species; deductions for lots that require neither sprays nor sprinklers. A nursery colony of bats might be considered a capital improvement. There could be bonuses for birdhouses.

Oh, brave new world!’…

Well, in the UK the arrival of energy efficiency ratings for houses is perhaps a step in this direction? Maybe we should encourage ‘Garden Ratings’ too?

Old School Gardener

montreal bot gdn

Montreal Botanical Gardens

Autumn Fruits

Originally posted on National Trust Press Office:

MRO in Knepp shepherds hut colour NH - CopyIt might still be August, but National Trust nature and wildlife expert, Matthew Oates, tells us why the signs of autumn are already on show.

“The signs are everywhere.  This is going to be a bumper autumn for nuts, seeds and berries, and most of these fruits are appearing remarkably early too.

“The hedges are already well-reddened with hips and haws, from wild roses and hawthorns.  A superb blackberry crop is developing, though it needs more sun and the tap switching off.  Many Blackthorn tangles are purple with sloe berries, awaiting the first frosts before they can be gathered.  Crab Apple jelly is also nicely on the menu for this autumn. Holly and Rowan berries are profuse and absurdly well advanced – in many districts these have been showing red since early June.  There should be a plentiful supply of Holly berries for Christmas, unless hungry birds eat them first. …

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IMG_9760I finally fulfilled a long-held ambition last week – to visit Hatfield House, Hertfordshire, especially to see the gardens. Visiting with old friends Dave and Jen, we were first blown away by the sumptuous house with its amazing range of paintings, furnishings, panelled walls and most of all the ceilings- a testament to old-fashioned craftmanship – and lots of dosh! The Hatfield House website says of the house:

‘Hatfield House is the home of the 7th Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury and their family. The Estate has been in the Cecil family for 400 years. Superb examples of Jacobean craftsmanship can be seen throughout the House.

In 1611, Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury built his fine Jacobean House adjoining the site of the Old Palace of Hatfield. The House was splendidly decorated for entertaining the Royal Court, with State Rooms rich in paintings, fine furniture and tapestries.

Superb examples of Jacobean craftsmanship can be seen throughout Hatfield House such as the Grand Staircase with its fine carving and the rare stained glass window in the private chapel. Displayed throughout the House are many historic mementos collected over the centuries by the Cecils, one of England’s foremost political families.’

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The outside areas were equally enjoyable, with a range of gardens and parkland, currently home to a display of provocative, beautiful and fun sculptures.

The West Garden was a little past its best when we visited, but was probably a wonderful display of colour just a few weeks earlier from the many herbaceous plants, roses and shrubs set out there. The climax, for me, was the wonderful Tudor Garden with its intricate box knots and clipped hollies. Here’s what the Hatfield House website says about the gardens:

‘The garden at Hatfield House dates from the early 17th century when Robert Cecil employed John Tradescant the Elder to collect plants for his new home. Tradescant was sent to Europe where he found and brought back trees, bulbs, plants and fruit trees, which had never previously been grown in England.

Visitors can enjoy the sundial garden and fountains, and view the famous knot garden adjoining the Tudor Old Palace where Elizabeth I spent much of her childhood. Following the fashion for landscape gardening and some neglect in the 18th century, restoration of the garden started in earnest in Victorian times. Lady Gwendolen Cecil, younger daughter of Prime Minister Salisbury, designed the West Garden as it is today.

The adjoining woodland garden is at its best in spring with masses of naturalised daffodils and bluebells.

The East Garden was laid out by the 5th Marquess of Salisbury. This part of the Garden has elegant parterres, topiary and rare plants are a delight for the gardening enthusiast and for those wishing to spend a quiet time in idyllic surroundings. Designed to be viewed from the first floor of the House, the East Garden is only open to the public on one day each week during the visitor season.

The Garden is maintained by Lady Salisbury and her small team of gardeners’

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Further Information: Hatfield House Website

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