St Ives Flower & Produce Show 2015

Getting to the exciting stage!

Posters all around town. Programmes available to pick up at West End Stores, St Ives Town Council offices, the Corn Exchange, St Ives Library and the Farm Club. Big banner goes on The Waits railings in a week.

Just waiting for the first of 400+ exhibit entries to come in by the deadline date of Monday 31 August. No doubt it will be the usual last minute rush. Always amazes me that almost all the entries come in over the last two days. With cars frequently drawing up outside the house for just a few minutes, the neighbours must wonder what's going on.

Will we get 400 entries as last year? Or 700 for the previous year and all the problems of squeezing the exhibits in the hall. How about more than 700? And that's the exciting bit. Won't know until a mere four days before show day!

Lots more information at the show website, including a link to download the online programme.

Review :

This free annual magazine, available by registering online at, supports a web site whose aim is to grow a community of enthusiastic gardeners and allotment holders. There's also a Facebook site.

In exchange, members have access to discounts on a range of products. The magazine includes a handy chart about when and where to sow seeds. Also shows when to harvest.

Registration is straightforward. You're given a promise of no spamming and can opt to receive a bi-monthly newsletter highlighting the latest discounts. New providers and savings are added weekly.

Once in, you have access to a range of products typically offering a discount of 5% or 10%. The range is broad. Everything from an eco loo to seaweed fertiliser, garden benches to volcanic rock dust. Also discounts on a variety of seeds and plants.

Might be nice to see a mention in either the magazine or on the web site about how ensures the quality of products offered. There is a feedback email address.

Worthwhile registering? The suppliers aren't mainstream, but it's likely there'll be something of interest. With a serious browse of the Internet you may find cheaper prices. On the other hand, you might find what you're looking for on's web site and save yourself the hassle. It's free, so worth a try.

In praise of stillness

Had a go sitting in the middle of your allotment (garden, park, countryside...) to just listen and see? Try it. Not only therapeutic, it will surprise you.

Life is just too too busy. Rushing to work. Rushing at work. Rushing home. No longer work? Those constant demands on time still mean there's little time to relax.

And by relax, I mean relax. No mobile 'phone. No thinking about what you've got to do later or what happened yesterday. Find a comfortable spot. Just fill your mind with what you see and hear. Concentrate on the area immediately around you.

It's hard to do, especially if there's the sound of traffic in the background. But with concentration, what is happening just a few feet away will take precedence.

You'll notice things that have always escaped your attention. The symphony of birdsong. Colourful spiders hanging below a leaves. Ants on safari. A solitary bee, it's home a hole in the soil. A paintbox of flowers. Acrobatic dragonflies.

I've been nose to nose with a field vole, feeding on discarded beetroot. They're nearly blind, so a bit of careful creeping gets you really close. Watched a wolf spider patrolling beside my pond. If you have chickens, they're a source of constant amusement.

When to observe
Early morning or at dusk during spring, summer or autumn are the best times. Lots of wildlife needing to feed. But any time of day is beneficial.

Try it in winter? Are you crazy? Most wildlife is tucked up warm and cosy... just as you should be!


Is there anything as easy to grow as chives? Doubt it. Grow from seed, even better if you can get a few bulbs from a friend. Within a season you'll be splitting the bulbs, making yourself a bigger display.

In fact, you'll need to divide the plants every three or four years to keep them productive. And it's a good idea to cut plants back monthly during the growing seasons to maintain a steady supply of fresh stalks. If you cut back alternate plants every fortnight that will ensure you have a constant supply. That's about the only maintenance required.

Look great planted in a pot even before the bright purple flowers burst forth in May. Drying the flowers prolongs their use. I use them for decorative edging, as shown above on my allotment. They're great for attracting bees.

Milder in taste than onions or garlic, not only are a few chopped stalks great with cheese, potatoes or to liven up a salad, they season dishes with their more subtle onion flavour. The flowers are edible too. Rich in vitamins A and C, calcium and iron, their medicinal properties are like garlic, but weaker. So eating chives is good for you. They're good for other crops too. Planting chives between carrots repels unwanted bugs.

The best annual flower to grow from seed?

No question for me... cosmos. Here's my first batch for 2015. Four days from sowing to showing. Must be the fastest germinating seeds around.

Varieties from two to four feet. Big choice of colours. Heaps of blooms. Trouble free. Cover a big area for no more than £1, and best of all they'll flower right through to the first frost of winter.

Unconvinced? Just try them. You won't be disappointed. Just look below at the display I had last summer...

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