Tag Archives: heirloom

Fashion in gardening

Article and photograph by Jacqui Shannon.

Fashion trends are inescapable. Ever present in our clothing choices and in our culinary exploits,  perhaps it was naive of me, but I for one did not anticipate that the humble garden  was also subject.

Last fall I was part of a team that pruned a long standing allotment. Over the years, various stewards of the space had planted and grown many bushes, fruits and flowers  and we were there to trim the growth back into a manageable and healthy state. It was that afternoon that I was introduced to the Worcesterberry tree. Being February, the squat little bushy tree was remarkably undistinguished. Whist pruning I found its thorns, but aside from making my task slightly more tricky, I didn’t give it much notice. Afterwards, curious about a tree I’d never encountered before, I asked around. Eventually, a vague description of “like a gooseberry crossed with a blackberry” became the consensus. I decided to plant one of the clippings to see for myself.

A year on and after much research, it seems Worcesterberry is considered it’s own species. Once prized as a valuable “guardian of the plot” owning to it’s dense thorny growth, it has fallen out of favour with the advent of easier to harvest thorn-less varieties.  While I do understand the logic, I also feel it’s a shame. To date I have only found one woman who still grew Worcesterberry in her garden and she admitted they had been her mothers doing over 40 years previous.

This year my little Worcesterberry  pruning has flowered for the first time. It’s quite remarkable and beautiful. I do not want it to be lost and forgotten because people found it “difficult”.

Losing any species be it plant or animal isn’t a good thing. Our world’s species, even the thorny ones, need guardians. I challenge you, go out find a forgotten out of favour species and become it’s champion. There are lots out there.

Perhaps, when my lovely Worcesterberry is too big for my roof I will cruise out of London and plant it in the wild.

Worcesterberry in flower
The Worcesterberry was once a valuable member of the allotment. It’s naturally dense growth and spiky thorn acted as a deterrent shielding crops from predators, but it’s nearly forgotten now as gardeners seek out and favour new thorn-less breeds which are easier to harvest.

Potting on Tomatoes

Article and photograph by Jacqui Shannon, expat Canadian in the UK.

A month ago myself and several volunteers helped plant hundreds of Tumbling Tom and Golden Queen tomato seeds at Organic Lea. They will be both for the summer production on site and for the annual plant sales. For anyone who has ever eaten a perfectly ripe home grown tomato, it will come as no surprise that tomatoes are by far the most popular plants for home gardens in the UK.

These seedlings have a slightly blueish tinge, indicating that they've begun to lack nutrient.
These seedlings have a slightly blueish tinge, indicating that they’ve begun to lack nutrient.

The month old seedlings have really thrived in the three week warm spell we’ve been having and it was evident by the blueish tinge on their leaves that the nutrient in the seed compost was exhausted. It’s too early to put them in the ground, so potting on, into more nutrient rich potting compost was the only option. In order to avoid “leggy plants” each seedling is planted into the soil up to the first pair of leaves.

There’s really no excuse not to grow at least one tomato plant. Perhaps more than any other, tomatoes have a wealth of varieties to suit your available space, even a height restricted roof garden like mine has more than one option.

For three years now, I’ve planted heritage dwarf variety Tiny Tim (which grows to 30cm) and had exceptional results. They’ve got some lovely attributes aside from their stature. Firstly, for a tomato they’re remarkably un- fussy. These hardy plants do well in both sun and shade which works well since I am on the move. Secondly, despite their small size they really pack a huge sweet tomato flavour punch, meaning four or five picked and thrown into any dish makes an impact.

This year, just to try something different I’m planting Tumbling Toms from the plant sales.

Regardless of which variety you choose, your plant’s fruit will have flavours that far surpass their store bought brethren. With tomatoes we’re spoilt for choice and justly rewarded.