Friday, 30 May 2014

Monkey Forest

Its bank holiday Monday so it's time for a family day out and Monkey Forest is the destination. The Monkey Forest is on the Trentham Estate in Staffordshire and is home to 140 free roaming Barbary macaques Monkeys. We left at 10.30am and headed up the M1 traffic was good so after a stop off at the services we got to Monkey Forest just after 12pm. We where greeted by a see of cars field's full although there was no problem on the roads getting in we soon found a parking space under a nice old oak tree. We grabbed our packed lunch and made our way to the entrance this is when we realized just how many family's had decided to make Monkey Forest also there destination of choice. It took over half an hour to get through the gate which was a bit disappointing luckily it was not raining but we did manage to eat the contents of the packed lunch while we where waiting to pay.
 At the pay both we where greeted by a friendly girl who took our payment quickly and we where in it was £24.00 for the four of us which i thought was good value. Once inside it did not feel like there was hundreds 
 of people there was plenty of space for every one our first stop was the toilet there was extra portaloos on hand but we headed to the main toilet block no cue even in the Lady's they where also very clean and tidy.
We made our way over to the Monkey enclosure we where given a brief talk on the rules of the enclosure don't touch the monkeys etc. The monkeys are in a mainly oak woodland with an under story of Rhododendron ponticum which was just coming into full flower. We walked through the wood looking up into the tree canopy trying to spot them they are difficult to spot at first as they are nearly the same colour as the bark of the trees. But once you have spotted one you soon start to see the rest as you wander through the woods you come out in a clearing where there was 30 odd Monkeys from baby's to fully grown adults. This is also one of the areas where they carry out the feeding every hour one of the keepers gives a little talk about the Monkeys while feeding them. The monkeys get real close here walking across the paths and swinging through the trees the Girls loved being so close to the Monkeys watching them peel the oranges and bananas. There are very helpful guides dressed in yellow through out the enclosure and are more then happy to answer any of your questions about the Monkeys. It's a really great way to see Monkeys up close with out a wire fence between you like in a Zoo and the girls really enjoyed seeing them jumping through the trees above there heads.
After coming out of the monkey enclosure we went to the Banana cafe for a cup of tea but it was unfortunate that there was such a big cue to get any food or drinks it was all reasonably priced only £1.50 a cup for tea. 
After tea we went over to the play ground area when the girls got to run around and act like Monkeys themselves on the climbing frames. But of cause we could not leave with out a visit to the Jungle shop which contained a vast array of monkey related merchandise so we now have two new Monkeys in our house.
All in all it was a great day out for the family and i would highly recommend a visit but get there early if it's a bank holiday to avoid the cue to get in.

Visit there website for further details

Enterance cost 

Adults: £7.50 each
Senior citizens/students £7.00 each
Children (from 3 to 14 years old): £5.50 each
Disabled/carers £5.00 each
Under 3 years old Free of charge

Opening times for 2014

Open weekends in March 10am - 4pm, last entry 3pm.

Open every day from 1st April 10am - 5pm, last entry at 4pm.

19th July - 31st Aug open 10am - 6pm, last entry at 5pm.

1st Sept - 25th Oct open 10am - 5pm, last entry at 4pm.

26th Oct - 2nd Nov open 10am - 4pm, last entry at 3pm.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Robs Nursery

The bedding plant season is now in full swing with millions of packs being sold every spring to keen gardener wanting to get a good splash of colour in there garden. B&Q sell over 10 million bedding plants through there stores every spring but if you want the best quality bedding you need to go to a specialist. This week i went off to Robs nursery in Moulton, Northamptonshire Robs is a family run nursery in the centre of the village of Moulton. 
As you come off the road you wind your way down a narrow lane you will go past some houses and in to a farm yard but keep going you are not lost and the greenhouses are straight in front of you.
Rob has been running this nursery for the last 30 years selling just to the public and specializing in bedding plants. You will find it hard to get better quality plants from any where else and at very reasonable price's too.
The first thing that hits you when you walk in is the colour Orange, Reds, Yellows right through to the pastel colours Blues, Pinks etc. Plants are available in small pots, strips right up to big pots with instant fan trained Geraniums and Fushias. 
 But lets not forget the hanging basket's and pots there are loads to chose from already planted up or let Rob plant your own container up for you.
But Robs nursery is not just about Bedding they also grow lots of Monkey puzzles and Wollemi pine from small ones to big ones Rob grows all the Monkey puzzles they sell from seed so all have been carefully tended for many year. 
Robs Nursery was also the first nursery in the UK to collect seed and germinate it of the Wollemi pine seed the videos below to see how Rob did it.

To visit Robs Nursery or get in touch with them they are open 9-5 Monday - Saturday and 9-4 on a Sunday
19a Church Street Moulton, Northampton. Tel.01604 495073
(between Church and Artichoke Pub)

Monday, 19 May 2014

Chelsea 2014

Its that time of year again where the great and the good meet in a London park to discus all things horticultural of course it's RHS Chelsea flower show week.
Unfortunately i can not make it this year but even though I'm not there there is plenty of news through Twitter, Facebook, the internet and of cause the BBC daily coverage to keep me and everyone up to date. It is where the worlds best growers and designers come together to show off there design and growing skills to the world with the ultimate aim of a RHS Gold medal. Although only the best are able to get one the judges have a very strict judging criteria to follow and slight imperfections can mean the difference between a medal or not getting one. One of the highlights for the plant lovers amongst us is the floral pavilion which is stuffed full of some of the best and rarest plants brought from all over the world. When you enter the pavilion you are hit with the heavy scent of perfume from all the flowers mixed up there is no other scent like it. This is also where you will find The Chelsea Plant of the year this is where the breeders and nursery men bring there best latest releases to compete against each other. This years winner is a Hydrangea macrophylla Miss Saori exhibited by Hillier Nurseries and Garden Centre's which is a lovely mop headed type white edged with pink.
 There is daily coverage of the show on BBC2 and BBC1 every day until Monday as well as all the extra short films by pressing your red button. I have already put next years Chelsea in the diary so that i don't get booked up for Chelsea week next year.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

The Big Allotment Challenge Review

The Big Allotment Challenge has come to an end Alex and Ed have been crowned champion of the allotment for 2014 but what did we think of it. It was hoped that The Big Allotment Challenge would do to gardening what The Great British Rake Off has done for cookery i feel we will see in the coming months if this is the case. In it's first episode the program averaged 2.5 million viewers which was 11.9% of all viewers watching between 8-9pm that night. Which is really good viewing for a gardening program the program was a cross between gardening and a cookery show that showed the produce from seed to plate. There was a mixed bunch of contestants from seasoned allotmenters to first timers but they where all as passionate as each other. 
I felt that it was a good all round program but it could have done with a bit more growing and showing off there allotments. Not just a best in show for the produce but best allotment as they looked like they where well maintained and a credit to ll the contestants. On to the cooking section there is only so many Jams and Pickles that you can make it would have been nice to have seen a bit of proper vegetable cooking. But it did attract the attention of the younger viewer and hopefully will get some of them into growing. My youngest was an avid viewer and got very cross if she missed an episode so hears looking forward to next years competition lets hope it gets better as the years go on.

Monday, 12 May 2014

The Greenhouse is full to bursting.

The beginning of May is a time when the greenhouse is full to bursting point all the plants are fighting for space. But it is still too early to put them out in the garden due to the cold nights and wind that will knock them back and at worst kill them. If you heat your greenhouse it's best to harden off your plants first it is too much of a shock for them move them into a cold frame several weeks before you want to plant them out. But if you haven't got a cold frame like me i just reduce the temperature slowly until it gets turned off completely this way all the plants get slowly hardened off. 
One of the problems i find when hardening off is you get a lot of condensation and damp either in the cold frame or greenhouse this can lead to a lot of fungus problems so you need to keep them well ventilated. It also helps if the plants are well spaced out so that air can get between but if you do get a out break of fungus and rots just give every thing a spray with a fungicide. 

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Is everyone a garden designer these days.

It seams that today every man or woman and his dog claim to be a garden designer you only have to look at peoples profiles on twitter and you come across thousands of them. Wife, Mother and Garden Designer Horticulturist, Dog lover and Garden Designer is it just a status symbol to class your self as a Garden designer ?. Is it for the extra money you can charge Calling yourself a Designer rather than a gardener or landscaper and is there really a big need for all these Garden Designers. The other problem is that most of these self proclaimed garden designers have actually very little practical experience they have simply done a 5 min internet coarse that has given them a certificate with the word Garden Design on. Now don't get me wrong there are many very good highly skilled designers out there doing very well that is not who i am moaning about. Its these short internet coarse that put false hope into peoples heads that they are all going to be the next Diarmuid Gavin the reality is that 99% wont, It takes many years of hard graft starting at the bottom with a shovel in your hand not a pencil that makes a true good designer. You have to know about how plants grow the conditions they like and there eventual size as well as the hard landscaping material choice, cement mixes and many more items that are all learned on the job over many years. Yes the designs may look pretty on a piece of paper but the reality is that most don't work when they are put in the ground i know many people who have spent a lot of money on getting a designer in to find 3 or 4 years down the line. They have to spend lots more putting right the mistakes made wrong choice of plants that have grown in to a jungle over planting. Wrong choice of hard landscaping materials and even damp in the house due to wrong levels when the site was leveled. The other problem is the large sums of money that individuals are paying for these online courses some company's are charging over £2000.00 for a design course. Horticulture is a practical job even if you are sat in an office you still need to have lots of practical experience otherwise it will all go wrong. Please don't be taken in by these courses if you want to be a designer start at the bottom in the soil with your hands dirty and then you will have the skills to make great designs that work.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Time to green up the lawn

My lawns have been looking a bit sad over the last year and this winters weather has not helped it all looks a bit yellow now.

I am using this product Westland Aftercut all in one so not only will i get a nice lush green lawn it will also get rid of all the weeds and moss as well. Which is good as there are lots in my lawn Aftercut contains all essential plant nutrients That help feed your lawn.I applied Aftercut to the lawn just before rain was forecast so that i did not have to bother watering it in it was easy to apply with the use of the Even-Flo spreader that is supplied with it. This also prevents any ending up on the borders where you don't want it all you need to do is keep pets and children off until it has been washed into the soil. It has been a week now since i applied it and the lawn is already lovely and green the weeds have turned yellow and are slowly dieing. I would defiantly recommend this product to anyone who is in need of treating there lawn the only down side i would say is that it has strange smell which hangs around for a couple of days. But otherwise a great product and well worth using.