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The Plot Thickens

Hi, I’m Karen Meadows. Thank you for visiting The Plot Thickens.

I’m lucky enough to be the tenant of one of fifty large allotment gardens in the middle of the small and beautiful stone town of Stamford in England’s East Midlands. The gardens were first created by Brownlow Cecil, 4th Marquess of Exeter in the mid 1800s and their layout has remained virtually unchanged. Between the plots we have some 200 old apple trees, many of them rare varieties, and in 2017 Natural England awarded the gardens heritage orchard status.

Over the centuries at least 500 people have worked these plots. Follow our quest to discover who they were, what they grew, and what shenanigans they got up to. Be prepared for numerous diversions and musings along the way about gardening life here in our quiet (and occasionally not so quiet) little corner of Stamford.

If you haven’t discovered our website yet, do head over to Waterfurlong Orchard Gardens, where you will find a wealth of information about our gardens and gardeners, past and present.

And now for the small print...

The Plot Thickens is a non-commercial blog. All recommendations are based on personal preference and my own or our other gardeners’ own experience. Payments or free goods are not accepted in return for reviews of products and services. If an exception is made this will be clearly stated.

All words and images, unless otherwise credited, are my own. If you would like to copy text or images, I’d kindly ask that The Plot Thickens gets a positive mention and a link back to this blog.

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'You Think You Are Just Gardening'


paeonia suffruticosa © copyright Fanghong

When we took on our garden three years ago, decades of neglect had left it as overgrown and impenetrable as Sleeping Beauty’s castle. For passers-by there was nothing to see beyond the scruffy gate wedged into a tall, tangled thicket.

Once we fought our way in, we discovered twenty gnarled

apples and pears choked with ivy and a ‘boundary’ of rotten blackthorns held vaguely upright by bramble and barbed wire. That first summer we slashed, strimmed and dug, and as rusty corrugated iron, the skeletons of broken glasshouses, buried car parts and a set of peeling formica kitchen units were sent on their way to the local tip, the old fruit trees were unveiled and new saplings, shrubs and

climbers heeled in.

Our dawn to dusk slog was made bearable by the encouragement not just of gardening neighbours, but of the many dog-walkers and runners who came by each day. As autumn approached, first one passer-by then another remarked how lovely it was to be able to see the apples ripening on our trees and to follow our steady if slow progress.

It was around that time I came across a beautiful essay on other people's gardens by the American psychologist

Gretchen Schmeltzer. It made me think not only about the pleasure I hope others gain from our plot, but about the many gardens, window-boxes and tubs that have invoked a treasured memory or added a moment of joy to my own day over the years. Few of their owners would have had any inkling...

AN OPEN THANK YOU NOTE TO MY NEIGHBORS AND THEIR GARDENS

‘Thank you. Every day I walk past your yards and gardens and homes and every day I am the grateful and fortunate recipient of beauty and surprise and love.

You have no idea how much your snowdrops and crocus and daffodils mean to me in early spring. How much I delight and say hello to each one like a long lost relative. How much I appreciate your hard work in autumn that allows for such a sweet surprise in the spring.

You couldn’t possibly know that your peonies would bloom on the day that I had gotten bad news and so desperately

needed to see their full pink beauty, and put my face down into their blossoms to smell their sweet smell. How much