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  • I've blogged about Stody Lodge Gardens before when I visited for Mustard TV last year. It was stunning, even though when I visited the Azaleas and Rhododendrons that Stody is best known for weren't quite in bloom. My visit at the weekend was perfectly timed to see the awesomely glorious display which truly does take your breath away. I have not seen anything like it before, it's something very special. 

    Stody Lodge Gardens are generously opened up to the public on a few days throughout the year to help local charities and run other events. My support of The Benjamin Foundation took me and hundreds more to visit this time. 

    As I am sure you all know by now, my favourite style of planting is a mass of flouncy blooms in a bundle of extremely bright colours and that is exactly what I found at Stody. The Azalea Walk is a bundle of fun with a perfectly planted selection of colourful blooms all under planted with pretty bluebells - and the fragrance! Amazing. You might imagine that the colours clash but they don't. They are meant to be.

    Across the perfect lawn with borders full of more Azaleas and Rhododendrons and the odd Magnolia there is a woodland walk the other side of the road. Its a clever transition from the grand lodge, bright borders and neat edges to a space where the eye is relaxed and you least expect what is to come. 

    A step into the Azalea water garden may take you by surprise. The colour, the back drop the winding paths within a bowl of beauty to a lake with stunning reflections seen in the ripples of the water is both serene and riotous all in one bundle of Norfolk class. 

    What could be better after a walk around a beautiful garden than tea and cake? On this open day The Benjamin Foundation took over the running of refreshments and it was all expertly done at that! The cake continuously kept flowing and the queue for drinks was constant. It was super to see such a great amount of support for a well deserved charity. The team at TBF work so hard with enthiusiasm to help young people who really need it. 

    I hope if you visited the garden the enjoyment was as much as mine and if you werent able to make it, check out the list of other dates the gardens will be open for various charities this year HERE

    Please also check out The Benjamin Foundation HERE and help out in any way you can.

    Find more photos on my FACEBOOK page.

     

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    Sometimes on my travels I stumble across a hidden gem. It could be an undiscovered plantsmans garden or a remarkable allotment full of heritage plants to the bigger, more well known gardens such as the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens and RHS gardens such as Kew and Wisley. But none are more fantastic than a community garden.

    A few years back I filmed a piece for Mustard TV at Grapes Hill Community Garden in Norwich. I had no idea where it was, didnt see it through the busy Grapes Hill traffic and never imagined it would be the urban haven it turned out to be.

    From scultures and art to wildflowers, fruit tress (including a beautiful Apricot tree) and raised beds rented to the community, Grapes Hill Garden is a real hub for the community. 

    So, I am excited to now be involved with the team at Grapes Hill to organise some workshops and events through-out the year. After the success of the recent Nature in the Garden Day (photos HERE), there will be lots more going on through-out the year! So keep an eye out on the FACEBOOK page to see if there is something you are interested in (I am sure there will be)!

    Pop along to visit the garden if you can. Its open all day and is a lovely place just to sit and read, taking time out of a busy schedule. If you'd like to get your hands dirty and learn about gardening whilst helping out the group of fantastic volunteers who run the garden, pop along to one of the Sunday afternoon volunteer days (there is cake involved). 

    It's community gardens like these that can benefit the community in so very many ways. The community keep it running and in return the garden provides a whole host of benefits to us - the community. 

    If you would like to use the garden for an event or activity, please get in touch! 

    http://www.grapeshillcommunitygarden.org

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    My favourite week of the year - whilst gardening is in my life every week of the year - 10th to 16th April is a week of encouraging new gardeners to grow. My favourite task! Mustard TV, as always, have fully embraced the gardening theme with a whole week of horticultural going on’s through out the week. 

     

    I spent time filming with some of our fantastic Norfolk green fingers including Strangers Hall Museum where Christine - expert volunteer - showed us the history of plants with medicinal uses. Then on to my favourite community garden, Grapes Hill, where Richard enthusiastically talked about the benefits of community gardening for all. It is a great place to learn and get social!

     

    Us gardeners are always banging on about the benefits of gardening for children so I was really interested to pop along to the Edith Cavell Academy in Norwich where trainee teachers were learning how to include plant science in the school day through the RHS Campaign for School Gardening. From there I met Peter at Thorncroft Clematis - I mean - who doesn't like Clematis!? Finishing up at the coolest of all nurseries, Urban Jungle Plants in Costessey where surrounded by a jungle of plants, Liz inspired us to do something a little different with our gardens. Not to be missed!

     

    So, catch Mustard TV every Monday to Thursday next week at 6.30pm and then repeated again at 8.30pm to catch a glimpse and on Friday a whole half an hour show from 6.30pm (repeated again at 8.30pm) on gardening! See all of my visits especially filmed to get you out in the garden over the weekend for National Gardening Week

     

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    Sometimes I feel like the luckiest girl in the world! Recently I travelled over to Dubai and then on to Sydney where I mainly toured gardens and landscapes for a few weeks. I did skip the Dubai miracle garden, whilst I am sure it is stunning, a whole bunch of Begonia’s, Petunias’s and Geraniums wasn't on the schedule this time. 

     

    If you visit Sydney, the Royal Botanic Garden is not to be missed and neither will it be missed since it's prime position just by the Opera House. There are points where the feeling of peace and relaxation with stunning views is actually quite overwhelming (and no it wasn't jet lag). You can simply walk along the waters edge and view the gardens from the pathway but exploring deeper into the gardens opens an imaginative and fascinating world of plants. Plus - its free! Just the way nature should be. From Rhododendrons to the stunning Silk Floss Tree, a Dry Garden, an Oriental Garden to a Fernery, Palmhouse and exhibitions there is so much to treat the senses. All with the backdrop of tall Sydney city buildings. Its a perfect combination of how we can live a modern city life with nature working hand in hand. 

     

    One garden I hadn't visited on my last trip to Sydney was the Chinese Garden of Friendship. I’d heard how extraordinary it is so I was excited to discover a new haven in the City. Just on the edge of China Town in Darling Harbour I wasn't really sure what to expect - apart from the obvious. Even the entrance hides what’s to come and the tall walls on approach show only the tree tops towering above. Creating that sense of exploration in visitors, there isn’t any point in the garden where you can see the whole garden but at every twist and turn there is something exceptional to admire. From beautiful waterfalls to bamboo, willows and pretty pavilions to just simply sit and relax. There is little noise from the City, whilst it can be heard, the trees and nature provide natural soundproofing and the sense of pure tranquility the garden takes you far away from normal daily life to deep within yourself. Thats what nature does. It’s good for the soul. 

     

    Another smaller spot to note is the Barangaroo Nature Reserve. Sitting on the edge of a new development at the other end of Darling Harbour down towards Dawes Points. There is a walk/run track and cycling path running along the water with a stargazer lawn, benches amongst jungle like planting to admire the views and enormous sandstone rocks making the area look beautifully in keeping with the spot. It's a lovely walk if you are heading out for a coffee.

     

    My conclusion - Sydney is a great example of how to do nature in the city seamlessly.

     

     

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    Another beautiful garden visit for me last week just as the Snowdrops, Crocus, Aconites and Hellebores are in bloom. Chestnut Farm in West Beckham has an absolutely beautiful show of colour with yellow aconites carpeting a woodland area at the front of the house - a lovely welcome! The surprise is to the rear of the property which clearly shows the owners have a love for gardening and have evolved the gardens over 50 years to be a Galanthrophiles (snowdrop lover) heaven. 

     

    From our common snowdrop to the more unusual varieties such as ‘Trumps’ and ‘Spindlestone Surprise’ there are many to spot, along with the stunning colours of Crocus and a back drop of many trees. The Hankerchief Tree being my favourite, the seedheads are stunning! It’s great to see many of the Snowdrops labelled as well which is incredibly helpful. Pathways have been created to help with ease of foot and the Snowdrop circles are almost magical. 

     

    Mr & Mrs Wilson are happy to welcome visitors any time of the year as long as you pre-arrange but they are also open for the NGS Open Days on Sunday 5 March (11am - 4pm), Monday 29 May, Sunday 9 July (11am - 5pm) for only £5 each and free for children. 

     

    For more information check out the NGS website HERE.

     

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    I’ve always known that gardening is good for humans. It’s been my place of quiet therapy for as long as I can remember. In times of sadness, in times of reflection, in times of looking towards the future and in times when I just really had to get the manure forked in! So to me the idea that horticulture can provide therapy isn’t new. It’s just a fact. 

     

    In order to really understand why and how it helps us I decided to delve a bit deeper with THIVE who provide social and therapeutic horticulture (STH) to those with with disabilities, mental health issues, isolated, disadvantaged and vulnerable. It felt to me like just saying it can help isn't enough, fully understanding ‘how’ and ‘why’ is the key to connecting people to horticulture to make a difference.

     

    I used to live in London and commute daily to work about 15 years ago and I always looked at everyone, dressed mainly in black hurrying to work just like a swarm of ants with the grey buildings towering above into the sky. I always noted the lack of greenery and craved my weekends back in Norfolk. My journey down to Regents Park, was no different. Just plain rushed without a sniff of nature apart from the odd Buddleja growing at the side of train tracks.

     

    Thankfully the workshop introduction to STH was in the middle of peaceful Regents Park and we cracked on with what both STH and THRIVE are all about. Run by Dr. Sean Morrissey, with the most sublime Scottish accent which was therapeutic in itself, Sean was both knowledgeable and passionate for THRIVE and its mission. We were given packs of information and notes on where to find free downloads on STH. We started with an introduction from everyone on the course, at which point I felt already humbled. From a dementia nurse to a retired doctor, a school teacher, artist working with vulnerable people, probation officer, a landscape designer and fashionista turned pursuit of the meaningful, here I sat with absolutely no knowledge of how to ‘care’ for anyone. I just have my love of gardening. 

     

    We learnt that research shows the first 6 months of engagement in STH shows great benefit to individuals and plateaus at 2 years. This is particularly relevant for Doctors prescribing horticulture as a way of helping patients with mental health issues. The question remains at 2 years - does progression need to be seen? Is it that this level then just needs to be maintained?

     

    We were posed questions on situations such as a visually impaired gardener wanting to sow carrots in a straight line and to be able to thin out appropriately. What would we suggest? Knots in rope, raised beds, wooden guides - many more options than one would think!

     

    The continuous topic of teaching horticulture in school is, as ever, important because this in itself could help with improved mental health, not just skills for the industry. Something which I am on a mission to push forward. 

     

    Amongst many other points and activities including potting a primrose with our eyes closed and a walk to an urban allotment plot, we discussed ‘presence theory’ and how nurturing a poorly plant to life is a great analysis of us nurturing each other and why gardening is important. There were questions surrounding what the term ‘therapist’ actually means. All agreed perhaps ‘practitioner’ is more appropriate. I had been thinking about that a lot. I am not a therapist, I would prefer to provide the space to let nature be that quiet, unspoken therapy to us all. After all, we are nature aren't we?

     

    To take a look at my YouTube vlog from the workshop day chlick HERE

     

    For more information on THRIVE go to their webiste at: www.thrive.org.uk

     

     

     

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    When you go about your everyday life and drive the kids to school or get on your bike to work…do you notice what’s going on around you? Do you see the thousands of Crocus popping up through grass verges and stunning Poppies on roundabouts? Whilst nature does it’s thing, a great deal of what makes our cities, towns and villages so pretty and great for wildlife is down to some incredible communities coming together to make it all happen. From Halstead to Filby and Norwich to Leighton Linslade competing in categories including best floral hotel, cemetery and different size villages and towns. It’s hard work for the dedicated entrants but exceptionally rewarding, exciting and an endless journey of learning and fun. 

     

    I am so privileged to now be a Trustee of Anglia in Bloom, working with the team of volunteers who plan, organise and judge our fabulous communities across the region. Each are winners in their own right contributing to making our spaces beautiful, providing essential help to wildlife and bringing communities together. I’m looking forward to sprucing up the Anglia in Bloom website and catching you all on social media to spread news and information. 

     

    If you are thinking of entering Anglia in Bloom this year or in the future, get in touch! The team at AIB will be happy to guide you through the process and you could just be picked to represent our region in RHS Britain in Bloom!

     

    Good luck to everyone - let’s make 2017 a great year for Anglia in Bloom.

     

    WEBSITE          TWITTER          FACEBOOK

     

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    December has arrived and I am still totally unprepared for Christmas but one way to get into the swing of festivities is to catch Mustard TV over the next couple of weeks as the team can always be relied on for a good giggle and lots of tinsel. I was sent on my way around Norfolk to film some lovely Christmassy gardening themed pieces to be shown on the Mustard show through-out the run up to Christmas.

     

    Hoping to give viewers a good idea of what can be done to make our homes and gardens festive in a fun, quick and cheap way, I met the lovely team at Taverham Nursery where we planted a huge pot full of gorgeous plants including Skimmia, Hellebores, Ivy and a mini glow in the dark Fir just for the kids. It took just a couple of minutes, its so easy just to pretty up a doorstep, patio or balcony.

     

    Then Shaun from Mustard and Vision Vid, found our way down to Great Hockham where we discovered Manor Farm Christmas Trees expertly run by Vince Thurkettle with a background in forestry his passion for trees was infectious and we felt full of seasonal joy! I even managed to come away with my very own Christmas Tree. Vince then showed us how to make a wood fire, how to chop the wood and prepare it for a roaring festive fire to keep us warm during the cold Winter evenings. Vince has a superb book called ‘The Woodier Handbook’ which is a great Christmas present if you want your other half to learn how to build a fire (now my husband probably knows what is in his Santa stocking)!

     

    Not ending there of course, I went to Swanton Morley House where I learnt how to make a Christmas Wreath guided by the lovely and talented Penny Nicholas from Crown House Flowers whilst Caroline the owner took some professional photographs whilst we were filming and allowed us to pick lots of gorgeous foliage from the gardens. Swanton Morley House is a beautiful setting for weddings and was decorated full of seasonal foliage and berries for the wreath making workshops held there with the Norfolk School of Floristry.

     

    Now, Christmas just wouldn’t be right without the love them or hate them vegetable of the season – sprouts! So we put on our wellies and went to Bretts Farm in Aylsham to harvest a load of delicious sprouts before heading over to White House Farm where Charlotte expertly rustled up both a sprout and pesto dish in her lovely farmhouse kitchen.

     

    Phew! Now that’s a lot of Christmas garden inspired films to be shown on Mustard TV, so don’t miss them! If you are unable to tune in, use the catch up service on the Mustard TV website and see them via both the Mustard and Ellen Mary Gardening YouTube channel after they have been aired.

     

    So, enjoy the festivities and bring a little of the garden inside!

     

    Watch Mustard TV from 6.30pm on:

     

    Mon 5th December - Taverham Nursery - Planting Xmas Pots

    Tues 6th - Manor Farm, Great Hockham - Choosing a Xmas Tree

    Mon 12th - Swanton Morley House - Wreath Making (two parts)

    Thurs 15th - Manor Farm, Great Hockham - Wood Fires

    Mon 19th - White House Farm - Sprouts from Plot to Plate

     

    Happy Christmas :-) 

     

     

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    I’ve been a Benjamin Foundation supporter for a few years now as their work with young people across Norfolk and Suffolk is both inspirational and essential. TBF help young people deal with all the many things life throws at them, things that the majority of us will never have to experience. One of those is being homeless.

     

    I love being warm, comfortable and enjoy my home comforts of which I am immensely grateful for every single day. So, why not sleep out in a car park for a night!? That’s what over 100 of us did on Friday 11th November for TBF as part of the Nationwide Big Sleep Out. We all arrived and made our ‘beds’ for the night which were pieces of cardboard on the tarmac, sleeping bags and a large sleep out bag provided by TBF. Some of us even had a cardboard box over our heads! I wasn’t particularly cold, I expect due to the merino wool layers, ski trousers and heat packs. Oh the irony.

     

    I slept on and off, uncomfortably. The next day I felt almost drunk with exhaustion and had an aching hip and shoulder. When I got home just before the rain started I showered, walked the dog and fell asleep for two hours in my warm bed.  It wasn’t until Sunday that I really spent time thinking  about the experience. That night we were amongst friends and it felt safe but just for a moment imagine being alone. Imagine having clothing not designed for winter nights, imagine having no friends around you, no family. Now imagine that as your younger self.

     

    Its been on my mind ever since. It almost brings me to tears. No one deserves to be homeless.  How do we help? Well, lets not judge for a start, you never know why someone is homeless and to make sure we are helping the right channels lets support The Benjamin Foundation in all their superb work they do for young people. They need funds to continue providing essential accommodation and help for youngsters in need of it, lets not rest on our laurels, the team at TBF never do. They are so enthusiastic and passionate about their work, they never stop and so we know our help is being used in the best possible way.

     

    When you close your curtains tonight and the wind is blowing, rain is falling and snow is on the way, just spare a thought for those with nowhere to sleep but the streets. Better still…do something about it. 

     

    Contact Chris Elliot or Joanna Storey at the contact details HERE.

     

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    We all need to eat more fruit and vegetables.  In fact, those who eat 7 portions of fruit or vegetables per day have over 40% less risk of death from all causes, compared to those who only eat one or two portions per day.  That's a huge percentage!  But as the Autumn and winter months approach, you may be struggling to use up your root veg and get enough veggies in your diet.  Here's my three top tips on getting more root veg on your plate. 

    1.  Grate carrots into sauces, stews and bolognaise - this is one of the simplest tips ever... if you grate your carrots and throw them into baked beans, bolognaise, stews and soups you'll be boosting your veg intake immensely (it's also a great way to hide extra veg from your kids, especially if you use a fine grater like a lemon zester). 

    2.  Make vegetable cakes and muffins - I'm a huge fan of vegetable cakes - from beetroot and chocolate to to butternut squash muffins.  These veg help to add a beautiful moisture to cakes and muffins, as well as lots of extra fibre and goodness. 

    3.  Batch cook your soup - As the colder weather draws in, you may find yourself gravitating back to warming winter soups.  Make a few huge pots at a time, packed with vegetables, and then freeze in batches for a quick lunch or warming evening meal.  Don't forget to add some protein to your soups, to keep you feeling full until your next meal - this could be some cooked lentils, chickpeas or beans, or a handful of cooked spinach.  My favourite winter warmer soup is carrot, sweet potato and coconut soup.  Just sautee some onions, celery and garlic, throw in a 3 chopped carrots, 2 peeled chopped sweet potato and some peeled butter nut squash.  Sautee and then add a teaspoon of turmeric and cumin, and a dash of cinnamon.  Cover with chicken or veggie stock and throw in a cup of split red lentils.  Allow to bubble for around 10 mins and all the veggies are cooked.  Add a tin of coconut milk and then blend until smooth.  Yum! 

    Catherine Jeans is a Nutritional Therapist and Owner of The Orange Grove Clinic in Norwich.  She runs a busy private practice, helping individuals and families to harness the power of food to feel well.  To find out more (and for more recipes) go to www.thefamilynutritionexpert.com

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