One of the best things about the Horticulture course I did was meeting some like minded green fingered folk, including Winslow woman, Liz. Since completing the course we have carried out a number of garden themed projects and managed to have a real laugh whilst going about various sorts of gardening business. In 2008 Liz and her family rented accommodation in a building belonging to Winslow Hall.
Winslow Hall at the time was on the market and vacant, offering us the opportunity to walk around the grounds of about five acres. The Hall is rather special, built in 1700 perhaps by Sir Christopher Wren, certainly some of the records show bills signed off by Wren. Grade 1 listed the house at the time was tired and in need of some tender loving care. The garden was beautiful and maintained but a shadow of its former self. The walled vegetable garden remained but served more as a haven for wildlife. See below.
There were beautiful trees and handsome gates and space that garden lovers can only dream about.
There was a pet graveyard, signs of family life long since passed. All in all a very special place that we were lucky enough to have access to.
We got to know the gardeners working on the grounds at the time. they were still using the old work hut to store their tools and to have their lunch. The place was like stepping back in time with all the old tools and clay pots left untouched for many many years. Anyway in the area of garden rented by Liz and her family were the original greenhouses lying abandoned and ignored. This was too much for us, how could we not try and use the greenhouses to grow something. Over a cup of tea we decided to clean out the greenhouses and have a go at producing some stuff to sell. Permission was given for us to use the space so we set about emptying them of the clutter, chopped back all the Ivy growing through the walls and spent hours with bottles of Jeyes Fluid. Once cleaned we made lists: lists of what we needed, lists of what we wanted to grow, lists of where we might sell. We agreed that worse case we would be able to feed our families with anything we grew and best case we would see our produce sell and cover our costs. Working on the premise that most people like to grow their own, but in reality rarely get around to planting the seeds, we decided that we would sell our stuff potted up, ready to go straight onto the patio or terrace. ‘Potted’ was our name and we were going to grow herbs, flowers and veg and sell them ready to go.
We sourced plastic pots from all sorts of people, most were only too happy to get rid of theirs. We drenched them in more Jeyes Fluid and purchased some compost in bulk. We headed off to Kent with a lingering scent of Jeyes in our nostrils for a supply of brand new terracotta pots. We bought as many pots as we could fit in the car in various sizes and gently drove back to Winslow. We bought some pink and white Pelargonium plugs to grow on. We chose herbs and veg seeds. This was just great fun and gave both of us the opportunity to try growing seeds in a volume that we had never tried before. With the pots, we decided not to just stick to the terracotta, we wanted to recycle so we collected attractive tins from my local deli, Fennel, saving them from their recycle bins.
Then, through a friend I found out that the local Hospice shop had a source of tea cups which they could not sell as they were either cracked or chipped, so we made a donation to buy them and then we planted them up.
We learnt a great deal, including quite how much work was involved. Liz living on site ended up with the lion share of the work in that she had the task of ensuring that the seedlings and plugs were kept watered and in colder weather, we started in February, keeping them wrapped.
We grew Pak choi, Bok choi, Spinach, Courgette in variety, Rocket, Cavalo Nero, fennel. basil, Mixed salads, squashes. We had Parsley, Thyme, Coriander Rosemary, Chives. We created ‘mixed pots to go’ with a combination of herbs and veg. The success rate was high and walking into those greenhouses it was exciting to see everything growing and growing. Basil was our only real problem as it took about 18 degrees for it to germinate so it was late for our first sale.
We had pretty mixes of herbs and flowers using white or pink geraniums.
We set off to Village markets and School fetes and quickly discovered how time consuming it was, loading, unloading the stock, setting it up and clearing away after. The larger clay pots were heavy when full, of course, and difficult to move around and transport in one piece.
We sold lots, gave lots as presents, took lots home. We met some lovely people who were very complimentary about our efforts and most of all we had a giggle. Our four-legged friends were never far away and regularly diverted our attention from the task by getting up to mischief.
We kept Potted going for a season thanks also to a Winslow deli who agreed to sell our veg and herbs. We would load the best onto a wheelbarrow and wheel it round to park it in the deli window. By the time the school Summer holidays started we decided to finish as it was too onerous to keep everything watered and by this time Liz and her family had found somewhere to move to. I felt we were really fortunate to have the opportunity to use the wonderful old greenhouses before their ownership changed and to be able to visit the grounds of Winslow Hall in private. A really lovely time.