Saturday, 26 April 2008

Comedian Rhod Gilbert is top talking

Top Talk

Stand up comedian, Rhod Gilbert earliest gardening memories were rather painful. “My Mum used to send me out to the garden with a bowl to pick fruit for hours at a time. I remember picking gooseberries, then topping and tailing the damn things until my finger bled and all the horrible bits got stuck under my nails. It was like the workhouse. Blackcurrants weren’t much better, though I didn’t mind picking raspberries and strawberries so much. Has this traumatic childhood experience put him off growing his own? “Not at all,” he laughs, “I’ll do the same as my Mother and get someone else to do the picking!”

“The lads and I (Rhod shares the house with 3 mates) are intending to tackle the garden next. We’ve done a lot in the house, which I’ve talked about on the radio programme (Radio Wales Saturday mornings) though I still haven’t got any furniture in my room after 9 months and everything’s still in boxes. Getting started in the garden is proving to be a bit harder. We go outside, lean on the wall and talk about it but haven’t really got going yet. We’re all foodies, (it’s not all takeaways and beer here believe it or not) and we’d love to be growing our own veg and herbs. We’ve put four packets of herbs in window boxes already – the thymes doing well but I can’t remember what the others are. I s’pose I’ll find out in a while. The garden’s never going to be Chelsea Flower Show. I think it’s a lot easier to pretend I like weeds and I’m going for the natural look – I think a garden can look too neat. I wouldn’t want ours to look too posh.” he says drily!

“We can see ourselves spending a lot of time out there in the better weather. We bought a massive BBQ and proper cover for it last week but someone said it takes about 2 or 3 hours to put together so it’s still in the box in the kitchen at the moment. With the cover over it.”
“I definitely won’t be mowing the grass either,” he adds, “I used to mow my mother’s lawn until my mate mowing his mother’s lawn in his flip flips and Yep you’ve guessed! (He lost his toes). I stopped mowing grass then and have never done it since.”

“We are getting a composter too and we’ve talked about getting solar panels for the roof. We are quite good with environmental stuff really, we all recycle and we are changing to a green supplier.”

“Oh and after The Big Welsh Challenge (where Cerys Matthews coached Rhod to speak Welsh), I can now say ‘rwy’n mynd i’r ardd’ (I’m going in the garden). It won’t be long before I’m gardening in two languages!”

Gone To Pot

Most plastic flowerpots are made from polypropylene which few recycling outlets accept so I looked at for some ideas of recycling them closer to home.
Fill partially with sand and use as an outdoor ashtray (covering the drainage holes first presumably!)
Use as a scoop for compost or pet food
Use for collecting chicken eggs or fruit and veg from the garden.
Use larger pots for storage - kids toys, rags, cleaning products
Use as waste paper bins (putting a plastic bag inside will recycle those too)
Vertical Planting
I have recently been impressed by an ingenious growing system that utilises vertical spaces such as walls and fences and is widely and successfully used in Italy and France. The Living Wall planting grids allow you to literally vertically plant a wall and create a whole new look for your plot. Once planted, the system is watered via a reservoir which drip feeds each compartment. For larger areas, a drip feed system is recommended and with a little tender loving care the results are quiet beautiful. Visit for more details and some inspirational photographs.

Did You Know?

This is the time of year that you can hear the cuckoo heralding the arrival of Spring. Folklore suggests that if you are standing on soft ground when you first hear the cuckoo, you will have good luck but if you are standing on hard ground then hard luck will follow.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Latest from Lynne as she goes Dutch

Top talk

Some women get excited by shoes and handbags. For me it’s plants, so I was thrilled to find a new Nursery. When I say ‘new’, I mean new to me. The Dutch Nursery In Wales has been quietly indulging gardeners for nearly 30 years. Cwtched into the countryside just off the M4 at Cardiff Gate it is a plant-aholic’s paradise. No coffee shop, no gift section, no clothing just healthy, happy beautiful plants. And lots of them.
Owner Jap Deen is a Dutchman who has spent his whole life with plants and has a dry sense of humour. “If I wanted to run a coffee shop, I’d buy a cafe.” he says simply. “This is what I know, this is what I love, this is what I do. Plants are my life. I grew up in a horticultural family and was working in the Dutch bulb fields from a young age. As I grew up I wanted to better myself, so came to the UK and started landscaping. Then I bought this site and developed the Nursery. I think people should do one thing at a time and do it properly. Garden Centres try to do too much and now you even have Supermarkets buying garden centres . They have no experience of plants, they should stick to selling food”
Even more exciting is the fact his plants are cheap. Jap (pronounced Yap) takes that as a compliment, “We have three or four lorries from Holland in here every week. They have delivered to all the Garden Centres and then they come here last. I buy what they have left for what I want to pay. I get a good deal so the customer gets a good deal.”
“I used to drive my own lorry to Holland to buy plants from the nurseries and Auction Houses. The Auction House at Allesmere on the outskirts of Amsterdam is the biggest commercial building in the World. It could hold 55 soccer pitches. The plants are bought and traded like the Stock Market with buyers coming from all over the World. A million plants are sold every day. It’s not financially sensible for me to do that anymore. It’s cheaper and easier to get the plants to come to me now. That’s good business sense.”
I’m keen to learn from Jap’s knowledge and experience. “The secret of a good garden is the soil,” he explains. “ It has to be nice soil for the plants to be happy and do well. Good soil is nice to see and easy to maintain, you don’t need mulches and plastic covering it. You just work the hoe through it now and then. If you put plants into clay they don’t like it, it is hard work for the plants and for the gardener. Dig in chipped bark to loosen heavy clay soils, to get it workable. Sometimes it’s necessary to import new topsoil. You will never have a good garden with rubbish soil.”
“You have to manage a garden, especially plants and pruning is important. It’s complicated to know when and where to prune properly. You have to be brave. It takes Dutch courage!” He laughs.

Good with Wood
Wood Direct are on the same site as Yap’s Nursery and it’s an ideal opportunity to check out fence panels, sheds, decking and garden furniture while you are in the gardening mood. I also saw purpose built raised beds and a great children’s ‘den’ which has been designed to convert to a shed once the kids have got bored. I loved the Dancing Fern Screen (that will definitely be used in my own garden somewhere) and the folding benches. Contact Allan on 07736101128 for more details.

Get Stoned
And to complete your gardening theme or project, pop next door into Paul’s Pond Supplies. As well as stocking everything you need a water feature, Paul stocks an impressive range of decorative stone and gravel. Contact Paul on 07841238192.

Show Time
The RHS Spring Show is in all its glory at Bute Park, Cardiff Castle this weekend. As well as displaying inspirational show gardens and lots of plants, gifts and accessories to tempt the gardener, this year’s Show also hosts an owl sanctuary, street entertainers and lots of activities for children, ensuring a good day out for all the family.
Visit for more details

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Lynne talks to TV diet specialist Marisa Peer

Top Talk

TV’s Celebrity diet specialist and therapist Marisa Peer is straight to the point, “ I’m not great at gardening but I am a big fan of vegetables and herbs. Broccoli, cabbage and sprouts are wonder foods. Avocados are ‘super food’ too. People should eat more greens. The problem stems from people being made to eat them when they are children and they have very negative memories associated with the food. It’s not the foods fault. Try these foods again as an adult and you’ll be surprised how good they can taste. Food is medicine. If you eat the right food you can start to feel better and healthier in only a few days. It really doesn’t take long to see the results in your body.”

Celebrity Fit Club’s nutritionalist continues, “Fresh coriander is one of the best things you can add to your food. It promotes the production of serotonin, the body’s natural ‘feel good’ chemical. If serotonin levels are low – and processed foods stop the body absorbing the chemical – it can trigger eating disorders, mood swings and depression, so coriander can make all the difference. Cinnamon is brilliant too – it can lower blood sugar and is great sprinkled on porridge. Chilli flakes and other hot spices will speed up your body’s metabolism and help you lose weight. I’ve put lots of simple tips like this in my book ‘You Can Be Thin’ and eating healthily will enable you to lose weight easily and naturally. I have got a lovely little herb garden at home and cut herbs most days, they’re so good for you. You can even grow them on a windowsill indoors of course”

“One thing everyone should have in their garden is an open tub of margarine.” She explains, “I have had one in my garden for 5 years and nothing grows on it and nothing eats it. It’s so bad for you – the ingredients are almost the same as plastic. Not even rats will go near it. I call it Frankenstein Food. You don’t even get mould growing on it – try it, even on an outdoor windowsill. People say ‘Oh, it’s ok, I never eat marg anyway’, but it’s in popcorn, ready meals, even Horlicks. It’s hidden in foods. Cornflakes and crackers never ever go mouldy – they’re Frankenstein Foods too. In the USA they have ‘museums’ for food that is 10 or 12 years old and it’s not gone mouldy or disintegrated in any way. It’s so full of chemicals.”

“My philosophy is if it grows or roams you can eat it. If you can hunt or harvest it, you can eat it. Anything else, just leave it alone. Mind you, I did have a client who asked, ‘not much grows or roams in Sloane Square, what should I eat?’ Honestly! It doesn’t have to grow or roam on your actual doorstep!” She explains impatiently.

“And why on Earth, when we do we buy organic fruit and vegetables from the stores, is it wrapped in so many layers of plastic? There’s no need for it. Plastic bags should be banned too. If they’re banned you can’t use them – it’s that simple. I love the way they double bag your groceries in the States in those wholesome paper bags. I am quite green – I try to make little changes in my life. I always shower instead of having a bath, I often turn the heating down a degree or two and am forever turning the lights off after my 18 year old daughter. I‘ve also stopped using the tumble dryer and am going to disconnect it so my daughter can’t either!”

Marisa’s daughter isn’t quite as green then? “Well, she’s not big into it to be honest but I do make her take her clothes to the Charity shop as a gesture toward recycling. Some of her friends are a bit over the top. They think it’s their responsibility to change the World. I think that’s a bit ambitious and really it would be better if we all started by taking responsibility for our own lifestyles.”

Coriander Crops

It’s easy to grow your own coriander crop and if you haven’t got a herb bed, the feathery leaves are attractive in a bed or border and the plant will reach about 2’, making it a good ‘gap filler’. It prefers a sunny site and doesn’t like being too wet but otherwise is fairly easy going. Sow seeds thinly at the end of the month and leave them to grow where you sow as seedlings don’t like being transplanted. Sowing at intervals will ensure a continuous crop and once the foliage had reached 8 -10 inches, regular cutting will encourage tasty new growth.

Did You Know?

  • 17 billion plastic bags are handed out each year and the average person will accept 5 in a week.
  • A recent scheme to reduce the use of supermarket plastic bags resulted in sales of bin liners increasing by 400%
  • In 2002, Bangladesh was the first country to ban plastic bags as they were blocking drains and causing flooding during the monsoons. Closer to home, Modbury in Devon, was the first town in Europe to ban plastic bags from shops. One local said, ‘It’s considered anti-social behaviour to carry a plastic bag these days.’

Saturday, 5 April 2008

World Champion Joe Calzaghie talks to Lynne

Top Talk

It’s hard to imagine the great Joe Calzaghie being less than amazing at anything but the first thing he tells me is, “Lynne, to be honest, I’m useless at gardening”.
Maybe the softly spoken undisputed Super Middle Weight Champion of the World is being modest. “You must do something in the garden?” I encourage him.
“I sit in the mower and cut the grass sometimes, but only if it’s dry. That’s even a bit therapeutic. I like nice grass, I like to see it nice and short and tidy. My kids have got their football goals on the lawn. I think a garden should be used not just looked at. My neighbours got a great garden, better than mine, it’s full of flowers and stuff. I haven’t got time for proper gardening.
That’s probably an understatement as Joe has been training intensely for 3 months for his big fight with Bernard Hopkins in Las Vegas on 19th April.
“I live and breathe my training,” he explains simply. “I’d like to have a proper garden one day,” he continues, “maybe I’ll get a proper gardener to do it. Are you free?” He teases.
“Do you mind if I start stretching while we chat?” the muscle bound boxer is incredibly polite. Enzo comes in with Joe’s tapes and tells me, “you should teach him to grow his own fruit, he eats so much in training.”
“It’s tricky, all that growing stuff Dad,” Joe shrugs, “ I only eat the fresh stuff though and all organic. The berries are best - raspberries, blueberries and strawberries, they’re full of vitamins and anti-oxidants. Bananas are really good for you too. Organic fruit tastes good and I don’t need all those chemicals in my body. Maybe I’ll grow my own stuff one day just not yet.”
What about vegetables? Shall I start designing a veg patch for him? “I don’t eat as much as I should,” he admits, “only broccoli and cauliflower really and lots of garlic. Dad taught me to cook so I’m a one trip pony in the kitchen, I do a really good pasta sauce.” He laughs.
“I probably could be a good gardener,” he says, “because I love the fresh air. I love the peace and quiet here in Wales, it lets me focus on training. I love the hills and valleys and the good air. It helps me deal with the pressures of fighting and Press conferences. I’ve got to go to the States two weeks before the fight, to acclimatise. It’s my first time in America and I’m nervous about training there. It’ll be harder, the air won’t be the same as Welsh air.”
He invites me to watch him train and I can’t resist asking if he gets nervous before a fight. “I get butterflies and a few nerves,” he admits “but never scared. You need nerves to keep you sharp. You have to turn nervous energy into positive energy. Positive thinking is a big thing. There are lots of mind games in boxing. You wouldn’t believe the things that are said before a fight to try and anger you. You can’t be angry in a fight, you’ve got to be cool and calm. You can win or lose before you get in the ring, depending on your mind set. I’m a Champion. I have been since I was 13. I believe 100% that I cannot be beaten.” And after watching him training in the ring with his Dad, I do too!

Berry Good For You
The blueberry is a heathland berry from North America. There are two types (as well as the cranberry), the Lowbush Blueberry which is really a fruit of the countryside and rarely cultivated and better known as the bilberry or winberry. I remember picking these as a child with Nan, and although not as prolific, they can still be found on some moorland and mountain tops. They make great pies or can be eaten fresh.
The Highbush Blueberry, or Blueberry for short, can be grown in pots or in the garden if the soil is suitable. They need moist, acidic soil and soft rainwater. If growing in pots then use ericaceous compost (and water from butts) or if azaleas and rhododendrons grow well in the garden, then blueberries will be happy there too. As well as healthy fruit you will also be rewarded with great autumn colour. Choose two or three year old container grown bushes for planting now.

Simple Strawberries
Strawberry plants will soon be available in the Garden Centres and Nurseries and are always worth growing in containers on the patio even in window boxes and hanging baskets. They’re a great way to encourage little green fingers and some strawberry planters and pots will enable you to grow nearly 40 plants in a single container. Available from all good garden centres and DIY stores from £7.99 to £34.99 depending on size and quality.

Pure Oxygene
Hubby and I saw Jean Michel Jarre in Concert last weekend and I was reminded that the cover of his famous Oxygene album is of a human skull nestled into a World Globe. See It was designed to depict the fact that humans were destroying the Earth. Nothing new there – until you realise it was released thirty years ago – perhaps we should have taken more notice then!