Now a trip to visit a fruit and vegetable garden may not be high on everybody's list of interesting things to do, but as a keen veg grower, I like to see what others are up to, maybe pick up some new ideas, and the walled gardens at Calke proved fascinating.
I think the first thing you notice is the size of the vegetable garden - large enough for a variety of vegetable beds, and an orchard too! A bit larger than an average garden, and even bigger than our allotments.
I've been to Calke many times before but this is the first time I've seen the vegetable 'patch' late in summer, when it's at its best with pumpkins swelling on their vines, apple, pear and even medlar trees laden with fruit, and weird and wonderful tomatoes ripening in the greenhouses.
In fact a lot of the produce was a little out of the ordinary, so I assume that,like other National Trust gardens I've visited, Calke are growing 'heritage' varieties, no longer grown commercially and therefore rarely seen. Take for instance red pears - somehow I expect pears to be green or yellow - or medlars - a really unusual crop which I've seen at another NT property, Belton Hall, but never in shops, and I've no idea what they taste like (they look like they'd be full of pips, to be honest!)
|Fully laden apple branches|
Gardens I visit always seem so orderly in comparison to my own. I've tried this idea of mixing flowers and veg, to encourage pollination and distract pests from the vegetables, plus of course it looks prettier in a small back garden, but my efforts generally end up messy and tangled, with something over-running the other plants and more of a neglected, weedy look to the space.
During one of the (many) showers of rain, we took shelter in a greenhouse, and were surprised at how many unusual types of tomatoes were being grown...
but how about a striped one?
It's not as obvious in the photo but these black cherry tomatoes are a strange burgundy/plum shade when ripe.
And these are definitely the largest tomatoes I've seen - they're called Andine Cornue and are easily four inches in length, maybe more!
Another oddity was this tomatillo plant with nightshade style flowers and chinese-lantern style husks hiding the fruit - something I've only previously heard of in gardening catalogues.
And yet another first for me - a purple pepper! The plant is small in habit, the fruits about the size of a marble and it's something I'd definitely like to grow on my kitchen windowsill.
Back outside in the sunshine, we investigated this archway with squashes, gourds and small pumpkins growing up and over it.
Again, I was amazed at the variety of shapes, sizes and colours. Most, but not all, are edible,and the others were harvested in the past for use as water containers and even musical instruments!
It's not all exotic produce though. This scarecrow was keeping watch over a bed of cabbages and brussels sprouts.
For me at least, it was a fascinating place, and maybe children of an inquisitive nature would find it interesting. Some of the produce is for sale, so maybe if we'd been earlier in the day, I could have tried some of the 'exotics'. Another time maybe ...
Other posts from this visit to Calke - #1 - flower gardens
#3 - decay, decoration, details