9 March 2015
Creative March madness
The last few weeks have been a bit of a blur here at Allt-y-bela; we've had James' organic kitchen garden course, followed by our rose dome and plant supports workshop and finally a two day course on basket making. Each week has bought new enthusiastic groups to Allt-y-bela to learn, share experiences, gain inspiration and to have fun. The one thing that seems to unite all of the courses I have seen or been involved with here is that everyone seems to enjoy their day and usually make new friends. Gardening, at its heart, is a life affirming, joyous activity and most of us who are involved in it are only too happy to share our thoughts and experiences with others.
Arne has been growing roses over domes constructed each year from hazel for many years now, but the secret really got out when he used them in his Chelsea Flower Show garden for Laurent-Perrier in 2012. Since then people have been trying to replicate them with differing levels of success. This year Arne decided it was time to run a workshop to show people how he has been building them in his garden and the response was that the course very quickly sold out. We ran it over two days because of the level of demand and everybody went home with rose domes and other creative plant supports bulging out of their cars, the sun shone and we all had a lot of fun.
Last week Judy Hartley came to teach a two-day course in hedgerow basket making. I had been working on a rather thin excuse that my inclusion on the course would help me to make better woven plant supports in the garden; luckily Arne saved me the trouble by encouraging me to join in! The two days were totally magical, often perplexing and ultimately extremely satisfying. At the beginning, Judy promised us that we would never look at a basket in the same way again and she was right. I can't pass a basket now without trying to work out how it was made, all baskets are still made by hand and the variety and skills on display are mind-boggling. At the end of the two days we all took home baskets, which we were all very proud of, and interestingly each finished basket clearly reflected facets of our own personalities. It was amazing that given the same set of materials, the same instruction and the same amount of time that each of us produced something so personal. I thought I was making a rather neat little basket, which in fact turned out about three times the size I was expecting! It seems to have become a favourite with my cats at home, I'm not sure that that was quite my intention but it gives me a good excuse to try making another!
Later this month we have Marina Christopher coming back to host a one-day plant propagation master class. She gave a very short talk as part of one of our courses last year and we all sat mesmerised as she explained away myths and misunderstandings with refreshingly scientific explanations on why some methods work and why some don't. I'm looking forward to having a pencil and paper at the ready this time to make some serious notes, she is truly inspirational, I think there are a couple of places still available for the day but I'm hoping that there will still be room for me! I would certainly recommend coming to listen to her, after last time I was ready to take an unpaid internship at her nursery, just to learn a little of her magic!
Words: Steve Lannin - gardener at Allt-y-bela
Photos: Kristy Ramage and Britt Willoughby Dyer