SWG009 Mid May: garden purples and wonderful wisteria

May21

May garden with wisteria and alliumsThere is no better month in the calendar than May. In my garden the lilacs, dusky parrot tulips, early alliums and herbaceous peonies all cavort with the aquilegias I never got around to weeding out (and I’m glad I didn’t).

In this episode of the podcast I’m sitting back and marveling at what this month does in the garden. All of the things I love best, including lilacs, rhododendrons and wonderful wisteria are at their fragrant, flowering peak.

Most of the tones in the garden are purples, with the occasional shot of Barbie pink from a herbaceous peony I’ve never managed to identify. If you’d like to come see for yourself, my garden here in East Lothian is open this Saturday 24 May from 10am-1pm, raising funds for research into an ultra-rare disease that affects a close family friend.

So in this podcast I’m also looking at some of the stunning plants donated for the “Rare Plants for Rare Disease Research” fundraiser. If you are within driving distance at all of Edinburgh, please visit us (postcode EH34 5DA if you’re traveling by GPS), and enjoy wonderful homemade cakes and teas, as well as a selection of plants from some of Britain’s best-known nurseries, many of whom just picked up medals at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2014.

All proceeds go to researching the causes and potential cure for neuracanthocytosis (NA), a neurodegenerative disease which affects just one in 7 million people: sadly one of those people is Alex, daughter of my very good friends in London. Please come on Saturday with a fat wallet and a full heart, and help us fund the research that can make such a difference to Alex.

Here are some of the plants I’m looking at in this episode:

  • Rhododendron purple splendour
  • Wisteria floribunda
  • Allium Hollandicum Purple Sensation
  • Tulipa Muriel
  • Herbaceous pink peony – unknown name
  • Narcissus Baby Moon
  • White lilac
  • Purple lilac Charles Joly
  • Rambling rose Lykkefund
  • Clematis Montana
  • Geum montanum
  • Aquilegia saximontana
  • Geum Borisii
  • Osteospermum
  • Mertensia lanceolata
  • Primula (alpine various)
  • Trollius
  • Scilla peruviana

 

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SWG008 Early May: white bluebells and water features

May1

white bluebells with parrot tulipThe abundance of May slightly takes me by surprise every year. So much of the greenery that strikes my eye, from the herbaceous peonies to the delphiniums, was invisible in January, but now it is all part of the greenscape that makes the May garden seethe with life.

This week in the podcast I’m appreciating how well white flowering spring bulbs look up against all those greens, including the unusual white bluebells that grow in this garden, as well as leucojum (the summer snowflake). In this episode I’m also looking at a few new sponsors for my charity plant sale on 24 May – including David Austin Roses (donating a raffle prize of a cut roses bouquet), Macplants, and Binny Plants – and I’m giving a brief rundown on the water feature I’m planning in the corner of this small garden.

Do you have a water feature in your garden? I thought and dreamed about one for years, but I could never find components that wouldn’t look twee or cost a fortune. I have finally found a stone-effect trough that is convincing to my eye, along with a classy wall-mounted fountain spout from Haddonstone. I’ll keep you posted as and when I get it installed, if I figure out how to make all the pieces work together.

What are you doing in your garden this week?

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Join us on 24 May in East Lothian to support rare disease research

April30

smaller-final-CHARITY-PLANT-SALE---MAY2014

Plant lovers and gardening addicts of Edinburgh and East Lothian, it’s time to do what you do best – pick up a fabulous plant for your garden. Come to my garden on 24 May in East Lothian, postcode EH34 5DA if you’re navigating by GPS, and support Rare Plants for Rare Disease Research.

This sale of familiar plants, alongside rare and unusual plants donated from some of Britain’s foremost nurseries, is a great way to spend a Saturday morning at the end of Chelsea week. All proceeds go to the Advocacy for Neuroacanthocytosis Patients, a charity started by my friends when their daughter was diagnosed with such a rare disease, they resolved to fund the search for a cure themselves.

We’re in Pencaitland, just a half hour’s drive from Edinburgh, and would love to see you if you can spare the time. More details in the flyer above — please share this with anyone you’re connected to, who might enjoy a lovely morning looking at lovely plants, and some fabulous home-made cakes from my wonderful neighbours.

Donations of plants have already been received with warmest thanks to Beth Chatto Gardens in Essex, Crug Farm Nursery of Wales, Sarah Raven, Kevock Garden Plants, Binny Plants, Winton House, Macplants and Frank Kirwan of Humbie Dean and organiser of East Lothian Garden Trail. We’re also holding a raffle for a luxurious cut roses bouquet from the stunning David Austin Roses.

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Gifts for gardeners in the UK? Support those who supported rare disease research

December10

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Something amazing happened this past spring. I contacted nurseries to see if they could help with a little fundraiser I was organizing for rare disease research. They didn’t just respond, they fairly broke down my door to help, with more than 300 plants donated. If you’re thinking of getting gifts for the gardeners in your life, please consider giving your business to those nurseries who gave so generously to our cause this year. These are knowledgeable, well-stocked nurseries, many of whom sell unusual, covetable plants you won’t find just anywhere:

http://www.birchwoodplants.co.uk/
http://shop.otterfarm.co.uk/
http://crug-farm.co.uk/
http://www.sarahraven.com
http://www.kevockgarden.co.uk/store/
http://www.bethchattoshop.co.uk/shop/index.htm
http://www.binnyplants.com/Catalogue.asp
http://www.macplants.co.uk/home.asp
http://www.davidaustinroses.com/english/Advanced.asp

With the support of those who donated plants, we raised more than £1000 for research into an extremely rare neurodegenerative disease, neuroacanthocytosis. When my friends in London discovered some years ago that their youngest daughter was suffering from NA, they’d no idea she was one of just a few hundred known cases worldwide. Today the advocacy they established is one of the few steady sources of funding for researchers wanting to investigate this ultra-rare disease. Thanks in part to fundraisers like our Rare Plants for Rare Disease Research sale, advocacy-sponsored scientists have made major strides. Researchers have discovered that NA is caused because a vital, missing protein leads to brain cell death, which in turn creates severe movement disorders. Every penny devoted to research into this rare condition matters, which is why I can’t quite find the words to thank the generous nurseries — and of course the avid gardeners and kindly donors of home baking from our village — who supported us this year.

To the nurseries, thanks go to Lesley at Birchwood Plants, Mark at Otter Farm, Sue & Bleddyn at Crug Farm, Alissa at Sarah Raven, Stella & David at Kevock Garden Plants, Beth & Asa at Beth Chatto, Billy at Binny Plants, Beryl at Macplants, and Michael at David Austin Roses. Have a happy and healthy 2013!

Want those web addresses again? Sure, you do. Go buy!

http://www.birchwoodplants.co.uk/
http://shop.otterfarm.co.uk/
http://crug-farm.co.uk/
http://www.sarahraven.com
http://www.kevockgarden.co.uk/store/
http://www.bethchattoshop.co.uk/shop/index.htm
http://www.binnyplants.com/Catalogue.asp
http://www.macplants.co.uk/home.asp
http://www.davidaustinroses.com/english/Advanced.asp

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Rare plants for rare disease research – supporting NA

April4

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A few years ago, friends of mine mentioned that their daughter had begun having some difficulty chewing and swallowing. I think she was just 22 at the time, and I remember she spent ages going from doctor to doctor looking for a diagnosis, as her balance and speech got worse.

Click for larger imageIt did not end happily. In fact the result was just about as bad as bad can get; Alex was diagnosed as one of only a tiny handful of patients in the UK who have something called neuroacanthocytosis. It’s a relentless neuro-degenerative disease that slowly robs the sufferer of their ability to chew, speak and walk. Probably the worst aspect is that it’s often adult onset: it can hit people in their mid-20s just at the time they should be starting their own independent lives, returning them to total dependence on their families. Even today, there are just 10 diagnosed cases in the UK of this disease, which bears resemblance to, and we believe could shed light on, other neuro-degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s.

Rare disease research: families are doing it for themselves

My friends started an Advocacy for NA Patients and a few years ago I started helping them by publishing NA News, the newsletter for their growing community of research scientists, patients and clinicians now studying the disease. There hasn’t been any Lorenzo’s oil style miracle yet, but thanks to the tireless efforts of the Advocacy and their research partners, scientists have identified the protein missing in patients who have one of the NA group of diseases (chorea acanthocytosis). Research is making good progress: if only they could depend upon long term funding from some reliable source.
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So I’m having a plant sale (jump to a list of the donated plants here: http://bit.ly/swgsale. One of my big messages is, rare disease research should not be supported by plant sales. It should be supported by long-term and I believe government-backed research, especially in economies like Scotland’s, where we have a tradition of excellence in genetics and have a fighting chance of finding the causes of these rare diseases.

My friends at the NA Advocacy have attracted some significant European funding and some pharmaceutical company attention, but for now, bake sales and plant sales continue to play a vital role. So on 6 May 2012, 10am to 1pm, I’m holding “Rare plants for rare disease research” here in Pencaitland, East Lothian. If you’re anywhere in the Edinburgh vicinity, please stop by for plants, cakes, and a pitying glance at my wisteria, whose frozen buds are now dropping by the handful onto the ground following our cursed late deep-freeze.

Stopwatch Gardener on Facebook? Yup.

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I’ll put updates about the sale and about my garden in general on the new Facebook page for Stopwatch Gardener that I’ve started — it’s a lonesome, newborn thing which would be most grateful for any likes. I’ve uploaded pictures of the plants that I know I have for sale. Notice the total lack of rare plants? But I’m hopeful. You can also follow the hashtag #swgsale on twitter.

I heard today that the wonderful and generous Beth Chatto team is going to donate plants, as is Frank from the gorgeous Humbie Dean garden near me. I’ve also been onto Brighton Plants, as well as MacPlants, Crug Farm & Kevock Garden Plants. By the sheer force of my obnoxious pushiness I hope to get more donations of unusual plants.

Could you donate a rare or unusual plant?

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Nurseries of the UK, please get in touch if there’s anything rare or unusual you could donate before 5 May. It will help us gain media attention for this event, which will mean everything to an organisation like the NA Advocacy. If you’d like to make a donation towards NA research but you can’t come to the sale, please visit our fundraising page: Rare Plants for Rare Disease Research. The Advocacy for Neuroacanthocytosis Patients is a registered UK Charity and every single donation, no matter how small, is much appreciated.

(Thanks to the clever people, too, at Fennel & Fern and to Elizabeth Buckley for tactical advice on how to sell cake!)

To the right throughout this post are some of what we’ll have on sale on 6 May. Do come.

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