Thrive Open Gardens

Earlier this year Sandy at Thrive emailed me asking if I would be happy to answer some questions regarding various aspects of the charity from a supporter’s point of view. I was but rather than reply by email she phoned me a few days later and we happily chatted for almost an hour.  She asked if I’d been to any of their previous open days and when I said no she said that it would be nice to see me at one of this years.  I’m not keen on driving far nowadays so I asked Christine and her husband John, respectively show secretary and chairman of the horticultural society, if they like to go to one and would John drive.  They said yes and yesterday lunchtime we headed off to the Thrive Trunkwell Garden Project at Beech Hill near Reading.  On arrival we met Sandy for a quick chat before she introduced us to her colleague Neil who she’d asked to give us a guided tour.

The Garden Project is set in a Victorian walled garden covering 3 acres next to Thrive’s head office.  Each year the therapists work with more than 100 disabled people, aged between 14 and over 80.  The garden is designed to help gardeners develop their skills with a variety of plants and has areas for growing flowers, fruit, herbs and vegetables. There are various gardens, a glasshouse and polytunnels, a shop selling plants and more.

Neil showed us round the gardens – secret, woodland, herb, triangle, potager, cottage, oriental and Chelsea – as well as the allotment field, client plots, pond and five small gallery gardens each of which is designed round a specific disability showing how design and planting can meet those needs. We frequently stopped to admire features, flowers, fruit, plants, trees and vegetables with Neil telling us about each area.

This is the view from the Triangle garden looking towards the main building.

I turned to my left to take this one of the glasshouse beyond the client’s plots, the pink flowers in the foreground are Snapdragons (antirrhinum majus).

There are over fifty client plots, each about a square metre, creating a garden patchwork of wonderful colour and diversity. I’m sure that some of the pot marigolds are Flighty’s favourites as I sent them some saved seeds early in the year.    There are benches all round the gardens, some of which are almost hidden from view. This impressive stone one wasn’t, and is in the Oriental garden.

In one of the Gallery gardens this small pond and children’s proper watering cans caught my eye.

We thanked Neil for the tour then went to enjoy a cup of tea and chocolate cake, where Sandy rejoined us for another chat.

There was a real sense of tranquillity in these gardens helped by the brick walls and mature trees just beyond them.  The surrounding areas are all countryside with only a few buildings or houses visible, nor is there any noise from roads.  These are not show gardens but working and productive areas so they do look a bit messy and untidy in places but I’m sure that’s how most of our gardens or plots look at times. Not surprisingly the gardens are wildlife friendly as shown by a big clump of sprawling lavender outside the entrance to the main building which was buzzing with bees,  and the pond is home to Great Crested Newts which are a protected species, so only gets cleaned and tidied once a year. I’m told that the Loch Ness monster’s blue relative is friendly!

Thrive’s volunteers make a significant contribution but perhaps some people don’t realise that, nor do they get mentioned as often as they should. I briefly spoke to two who clearly enjoyed what they do. I admire them and if I lived nearby I’d certainly be one.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit, and meeting Sandy and Neil to find out more about Thrive , which is a wonderful gardening charity doing such good work.


Have a good weekend!

Posted in A good cause | 6 Comments

Plotting and blogging

I’ve not done much plotting lately as I’ve been mostly harvesting and pottering. Nor have I done as much dead-heading as I intended, despite which all the annuals are still nicely blooming away.

This sunny sunflower Music Box is barely knee-high, and it’s always interesting to see the backs of the pot marigold petals before they fully open.


The rhubarb was disappointing earlier in the year as it died off much too quickly, due I guess to the weather and dry conditions.  However it has fully regrown in recent weeks and I’ve picked several lots.  Normally it would be too late to be doing this but they’ve been well worth harvesting.   The frost in late April killed off new growth on the grape vine and I thought that I would lucky to see grapes this year.  However the vine is full of  them and I hope that they ripen as most years they don’t.


It’s good to see two blog friends posting again after an absence of around eighteen months. Glo says that she’s been  Away with the fairies according to her poem, and do have a look at the delightful video she’s made.  Julie’s welcome Back Into the World of Blogging post pictures some of the butterflies that she’s seen in her garden recently.

Another post well worth looking at is Nicola’s Wynyard Hall Gardens , which certainly looks like being a place to visit if you live in, or ever visit, that part of the county.

Have a good week!

Posted in Flighty's plot | 26 Comments

Crocuses, tulips and cosmos

It was mostly damp and dull the past couple of days so I spent the afternoons browsing several of the new bulb catalogues.

I’ve always grown crocuses on the plot, generally in the long planter and partly around the rose Pretty Lady. Last year I planted the white variety Snow Bunting under the dog rose and was pleased with them.  This year I’m going to plant the yellow variety Romance  by the rose Pretty Lady,  having dug up all the assorted old ones after they finished flowering and had died back.

I like to see tulips flowering en masse but really don’t have the room to do that so when I have grown them it’s just been in a container.  This year I’ve bought fifty Toronto which is a dwarf, multi-headed red variety.  I’ll be planting most, if not all, of them out on the plot but I’m still unsure whereabouts.

It’s been breezy, bright and dry today so I spent a couple of hours this morning just pottering as it really was too soggy to do anything after a day of almost continual rain yesterday. Thankfully the forecast is looking okay into next week so I’ll be continuing to dig up potatoes, lift onions and pick climbing beans.

I’ll be doing a post in the near future about the cosmos I’ve grown this year meanwhile here’s one of the yellow Xanthos which is still flowering floriferously.

Have a good weekend!

Posted in Flighty's plot | 20 Comments

Tree following, August 2017

Liz’s Tulip poplar –  Liz isn’t doing a post this month so we”ll have to wait until next month to see how much taller her tree has grown over in Lexington, Kentucky.

Flighty’s Dogwood – At long last I’ve decided that my tree is a Cornus sanguinea, and here’s a view of it taken from the roadway that runs through the allotment site.


I’ll have to prune it again soon to keep it to a reasonable height.  The foliage at the bottom of the picture are the Michaelmas daisies.   The berries are now black but there aren’t that many of them so I’m wondering if birds have been eating them.

It’s good to see that Lucy is tree following again on her new Loose and Leafy in Halifax blog, having recently moved there from the south coast.

Thanks as usual to Pat, The Squirrelbasket, for hosting Tree following.

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The start of August

I’m enjoying the sunflowers and here are two knee-high Music Box which have light-coloured centres, rather than the more common dark ones.


I’ve started picking, and eating, the first sweet corn cobs.

I’ve let the tomatoes get a bit out of hand and when I was trying to sort them out and tidy them up during the week I was surprised to see how much fruit there is on them.  Here are some of the small Gardener’s Delight and a large Legend.


They need some warm sunshine to start ripening them.

Plot neighbour Trevor gave me a small plant a couple of months ago but wasn’t sure if it was a courgette or squash.  It’s grown into a mound of very large leaves under which are plenty of big yellow flowers.








On Friday I found that it’s a white patty pan squash plant and here’s the first fruit. It’s about five inches diameter and a couple of inches deep at the centre.

As to what I do with it remains to be seen.  Apparently they can be eaten raw or cooked in various ways.  Maybe I’ll just give it away as I’m sure there’ll be more before too long.

Have a good week!

Posted in Flighty's plot | 18 Comments

I’m happy to say that…

…although I’ve not seen Foxy I’ve been told that she stopped limping a few days after I last saw her and now seems to be okay thankfully.


…the young robin continues to appear soon after I arrive at the plot and mostly stays around whilst I’m there.  Here he’s on the edge of the compost bin watching me clean some beetroot.


…I seem to have a pink corner on the flower patch as next to the hydrangea, which can be seen top left,  is this group of cornflowers Polka Dot.  The sunflowers are doing well, this one is the variety Holiday.


…I picked the first climbing French beans Sultana and runner beans Moonlight on Sunday, and have lifted the first few onions Sturon.


Have a good weekend!

Posted in Flighty's plot | 32 Comments


I’ve grown the annual flowers that I usually do, especially pot marigolds, cornflowers, cosmos and sunflowers.  Along with these I’ve grown viscaria which caught my eye in the Chiltern Seeds catalogue when I read the description…A cottage garden plant, thought by some to be one of the most beautiful of hardy annuals, that deserves a revival.  It’s not shown in several of my flower books, including The Flower Expert, so I googled it to find out more.  I bought a packet of Formula Mixed Colours , including azure-blue, salmon-rose, scarlet and white, which grow to around 18″/40 cm.  They took ages to germinate and were slow to grow then flower but were well worth the wait.

I’ll be growing viscaria again next year but will probably try Angel Mixed  which includes the same colours but only grows to 12″/30 cm, so should better withstand the rain and wind on my rather exposed plot.

It was the wonderful poet Wendy Cope‘s birthday recently when I saw a list of her ten best poems quoted including the delightful Flowers.

Have a good week!

Posted in Flighty's plot | 18 Comments