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.

On reaching the garden gate, it is tantalising to wonder who was opening it 50 years ago, 150 years ago, possibly even 250 years ago ... Who planted the old apple trees? Who trimmed the hedges and dug the vegetable patch? Who drank lemonade in the summerhouse and played on the swing? 

 

Follow our quest to discover our gardening forebears, 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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July 12, 2019

 Rosa Dorothy Perkins - a favourite of Stamford nurseryman James Brown

THE LOST ROSE 'BEAUTY OF STAMFORD'

Our most famous Victorian Waterfurlong gardener, Thomas Laxton, is still known for the peas, strawberries and apples he introduced, but one of his forgotten hor...

July 2, 2019

Rosa Madame Alfred Carrière

Despite June's drenching rain, it's been a wonderful summer for roses here. Our gardeners grow many different types - wander along the Waterfurlong lanes and you might spot lovely old ramblers like Albertine and Madame Alfred Carrière scrambl...

May 4, 2019

In the cowslip pips I lie,

Hidden from the buzzing fly,

While green grass beneath me lies,

Pearled with dew like fishes' eyes,

Here I lie, a clock-o'-clay,

Waiting for the time o' day.

While the forest quakes surprise,

And the wild wind sobs and sighs,

My home rocks as like to...

March 25, 2019

Usually Waterfurlong's first apple of the year to blossom, Lord Suffield was rated a superb early cooker by Victorian gardeners, receiving more votes than any other at the 1883 RHS congress. 

It was raised by Mancunian hand-loom weaver Thomas Thorpe at Boardma...

March 22, 2019

On the first day of spring my gardening neighbour Liz and I shared our mutual delight at the masses of purple and white violets blooming under our fruit trees and in the surrounding hedgerows.

Once cultivated in every English garden, more than 300 years ago plant collec...

February 22, 2019

 'What an apple, what suavity of aroma. Its initial Madeira-like mellowness of flavour overlies a deeper honeyed nuttiness, crisply sweet, not sugar-sweet, but the succulence of a well-devilled marrow bone. Surely no apple of greater distinction or more perfect balance...

February 16, 2019

'OLD JOHN' OF BARNACK WAS BURIED

16th February 1881 saw the burial of John Avery, a retired member of the Burghley gardening team who remained active to the last. Working under head gardener Richard Gilbert, 'Old John' had been involved in developing and trialling apple...

February 1, 2019

If last January the gardens were unworkable because of snow, this January the problem's been mud - thick, clogging, mud. So, for those of us who haven't escaped to warmer climes like Cuba and India (no hint of envy in my tone!) it's generally been an indoors kind of mo...

January 28, 2019

Early January is an exciting time in Waterfurlong for it's when our long-awaited apple DNA test results arrive. This year has revealed another rarity - London Pippin - otherwise known as Five Crowned Pippin because of its distinctive ribbed shape. It's a truly ancient...

December 17, 2018

What better apple to feature in December than local delicacy Allington Pippin, saved as a Christmas treat in bygone years because of the distinct pineapple or fruit-drop flavour it develops when stored?

Despite its comparative rarity nowadays, many Allington Pippin...

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