CHRISTMAS SHOPPING

Start celebrating Christmas here with an eclectic mix of passionate people selling tasty treats, stocking fillers, decorations and special presents to suit every pocket.

  • Katy Cox’s Mighty Fine Things include locally sourced homemade fruit liqueurs, preserves and Christmas goodies. Lots of seasonal tastes and ideal presents.
  • Rune, The Norse Baker bakes fab biscuits and sources vintage goodies to bring a Scandi twist to your celebrations. 

  • Hiroko Aono-Bilson is textile artist using antique fabrics to make kimonos and scarves. And an addictive collection of handmade soft toys.
  • Cranbrook Iron make bespoke ironwork for home and garden, from firebowls to Christmas tree decorations, with lots to tempt avid gardeners.

  • Elizabeth Harbour is Country Living Magazine’s craft’s ideas person. She’ll be bringing handpainted wooden decorations and handprinted cards and wrapping paper.

  • Kate-Beth March is a beekeeper who’ll be selling her wax products, plus delicious chocolates, Christmas puds and cakes. Also Tobi Schwenn’s stolen and biscuits.

  • Odds and ends I think you’ll like from The Kitchen Garden. The usual eclectic mix: vintage, garden and kitchen stuff, plus books at rock-bottom prices .    

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I’ll also be selling hardly- used gardening books I’ve reviewed at reduced prices. 

Funds will go to help the Whitstable Calais Solidarity Group, as will proceeds from refreshments: glasses of mulled wine and homemade cakes and biscuits.

    Email me at francine@kitchen-garden-hens.co.uk if you need to know more.

    PASCALE WILL ALSO BE OPENING HER HOUSE AT 48 JOY LANE

HARVEST

This is my favourite time of the year, and a bright October is a bonus. The summer’s drought has broken, plants have a brief new lease of life before the frosts and we all bask in that mellow low light that increases endorphins and shows the garden off at its best.

Try and brave the spiders’ webs every morning to pick what’s ripe and ready, and warn your friends you’ll be a pop-up greengrocer for the next few weeks, even if it’s only endless bags of cooking apples. No eggs though, my hens are moulting their pretty plumage and eating me out of house and home as they hoover up extra protein to feather up in time for the colder weather.

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I’ve started collecting leaves and seedheads and we have a date for this year’s Christmas Shopping day: Sunday December 3 rd . I also have a publication date for my new book The Garden Farmer (Square Peg) on December 7 th . I’m really looking forward to both. Keep in touch via twitter and my new instagram posts.

TINY GARDENS

If things get out of hand and you find high summer overtakes your garden, try these small gardens. Alpines grow imperceptively slowly, creeping across their containers, round shells, driftwood and pebbles, creating tiny landscapes, like the first gardens children make at nursery school. I buy or scavenge old metal filing drawers, troughs or sinks, anything low and shallow, fill them full of plants and beachcombings, and keep them in the rain shadow of a fence slightly on the tilt so they don’t get waterlogged.

Although you’ll probably start with the search for an attractive container, for the plants, the most important element is the soil. Make sure you have plenty of drainage holes then scatter the base with crocks. Half fill with John Innes soil-based compost no 3 mixed with grit (I like silver Cornish grit) to keep it open and free draining. Pop in your plants and populate the spaces in between with favourite shells, fossils and driftwood.

I prefer the textured foliage plants, like mossy raoulias, cushions of sagina, ferny Leptinella squalida ‘Platt’s Black’ – a chocolate brown carpeting alpine; saxifrage ‘Bob Hawkins’, sedums acre elegans and spatheulifolium; sempervivums and thymes, the ones with tiny leaves and minute flowers, like T. ‘Hartington Silver’ and ‘Bertram Anderson’.

Once settled, these tiny delights need little care or comfort, just shelter from winter rains. A small pitched roof will keep the showers off, but still allow plenty of ventilation – imagine Swiss alpine conditions.