Category Archives: Gardening

Amsterdam – part 3

Amsterdam – day 3 aka Friday

One of the reasons why we were looking at going to Amsterdam in the first place, wasn’t the drugs or the prostitutes. It was for a tulip event that takes place between March and May at Keukenhof.
Of all the years we could go, ironically, this year the theme is “British”. Clearly that was a sign that we should go this year.
We could go any day during our trip (the tickets are valid for any time they’re open between March-May), but of the days we have left, a combination of different weather websites would seem to suggest today is the day when it’s least likely to rain, so today we go to Keukenhof.

Before leaving the UK, we booked the Keukenhof combi-ticket which is not only your entrance fee, but the buses to/from the place. It requires two buses – one to the airport, and another from the airport to Keukenhof. But we can’t use our combi-ticket on all buses, and sadly not on the much-more-convenient train that goes to the airport.
We made it from our hotel to Leidsplein. It tells you to catch a bus from there. But as we went via tram to Leidsplein, we’re at Leidsplein tram stop now, not Leidsplein bus stop. Where the hell do the buses stop?
After a bit of wandering around, we found a bus stop, and got our bus to the airport. (The taxi waiting area maps show where the taxis are, the tram stops show where the trams stop, but without knowing where the buses go already to find the bus stop, how are you meant to know where they are?).
I’ve said this before, but the airport is enormous. Our bus is due to make about 10 stops at the airport. The next part of the ticket/Keukenhof website instructions say to go to something plaza, and get a bus outside of arrival hall 4. We waited til we saw the plaza, and got off. Where is the OUTSIDE of arrival hall 4? It’s impossible to find, without going back into the airport, following the signs for the arrival halls, then no.4, then coming back out of the nearest exit. There’s no outside signage for this bus, really.
Maybe what the instructions should have said was “pick up the bus round the corner by the bins, in the bit that isn’t really a bus stop”.
Anyway, we found our next bus, and half an hour’s (quite warm and sweaty) journey later (due to no opening windows), we were at Keukenhof.


It’s very nice. It’s lots and lots and lots of tulips.
There are some other things like daffodils and a reasonable-sized collection of orchids, but the vast majority is tulips.
We’ve come so late in their season that some parts of it were closed. There’s no boat trip to see the tulip fields (because they’re no longer interesting to look at), and some of the plants are dying off.
Despite this, it’s still impressive and so enormous that we got lost and double backed on ourselves several times.
We saw lots of interesting things though. And we’ve got some ideas for improving our garden at home (and not just by filling the entire garden with tulips).
If you exclude the Chinese people (and why would you do that? What have you got against the Chinese?), we dragged down the average age of visitor by quite a lot of years. There was lots and lots of Chinese people of all ages, all taking photos. Much like with the sex museum, a lot more women than men. So Chinese women like penis-shaped ornaments, traveling, and tulips, it seems.

I took quite a lot of photos here, but here’s a handful of them.
















The “British” themed section was dreadful. Think of a terrible “British” cliche that you would put in something you were trying to make British. Go on. What would you have?
Bowler hats? Yep.
Umbrellas? Of course.
James Bond? Definitely.
Will and Kate? Yep.
Mr Bean? Never mind that he hasn’t been on British tv in probably 20 years, why not.
The Beatles? Really? Seriously though? (Yes they’re in there.)
A red bloody phone box? When was the last time anyone in Britain used a payphone? But yes.




And talk about London-centric. Why don’t you just name the displays after London tube stations or something.

Oh.. you have.

They have multiple cafes, and with a British theme, and one of the cafes apparently serving British food, you couldn’t fail to get a nice cup of tea, could you?
I despair. I really do.
The first place had only mint and lemon tea. What the fuck.
Rooibos? Come on. Nobody really drinks that piss.
Where’s the Twinings English Breakfast?
We found one of the cafes selling Ceylon, and while it’s a bit weak, it’s not too bad.
But hot water, teabags and milk all presented at the same time pre-payment. Children’s-style beakers without handles as per usual (does nobody drink hot drinks, yet not want to continually burn themselves, in Holland?).
My girlfriend had the novel idea of taking an extra cup to fill with milk, so our tea had a bit of time to brew. It ended up a bit weak, but other than that, not completely awful.

Possibly worse than the tea, and worse than the British cliches, was the RHS building. There’s several buildings. One has orchids in for example, and one had a lot of lilies. And one was stipulated as being set up by the RHS. I’ve never seen such a disappointingly dull garden-themed thing.
It was all printed cardboard backgrounds, and handy garden “tips”. There was a written piece about all the things people consider typifies a British garden. And that was it. Just words and pictures. Not a single real flower or plant in the building.


It’s a disgrace, considering the sort of artistic flair and clear expertise had been displayed elsewhere at Keukenhof, and how good RHS gardens usually are.


After a lot of flowers, we had two exhaustingly-crammed bus journeys back to the centre of Amsterdam, where we found somewhere for dinner. And after all that walking, who can be bothered to go looking for restaurants?…especially when there’s a branch of Pieminister we’ve already found.
Pie and mash each, and two cups of tea.
Two cups of hot water (with handles), with black tea teabags, and milk in a tiny motorway services milk jug.
I’m home at last.

Interestingly the pies are apparently still made in Bristol, using local ingredients (presumably local to Bristol, not local to Amsterdam). I can’t quite figure out how that’s possible. Do they make a load and get someone to ship them in, frozen? Do they fly them in, daily? They tasted great, anyway.
The tea was a tiny bit weak (builders tea just doesn’t seem to exist in Amsterdam), but the best we’ve had in a cafe here so far.


They all look the same, those lot

Earlier, I’ve commented how the buildings all look quite similar/aren’t that interesting to look at. I mentioned this today to my girlfriend, who was appalled at this suggestion. Then later on, her usually-incredible sense of direction failed her, when we got lost and she proclaimed “these streets all start to look the same”.
To be fair re buildings, I think maybe I’m just spoilt. If I lived in Swindon, I’d probably think these buildings were quite grand. But big doorways, finicky edging, etc. is easily and readily seen in Bristol. Meh.

Growing: Parsnips – completed

Here’s another post I should have written earlier.

Planted first batch: 2nd May.

These didn’t have the best start. The first batch were planted on the 2nd May, and none of them germinated. It was due to a combination of things, but I think it was mostly down to the fact that according to a few websites, parsnips don’t keep very well. The seeds I used were at least 2 years old.

So, I bought a fresh packet of seeds (which irritatingly contains about 300 seeds – so they will also get old and go past their best before I manage to use them all), which were planted on the 27th May.

So, more planted: 27th May.

These picked: 1st October.

Just over 4 months from seed-planting to edible parsnips. There’s been a smattering more of small ones on/off since that point.

Smaller than I expected

Note: I also planted a load more at the allotment on the 3rd July. They grew, but as the allotment isn’t that near my house, they were left in the ground too long, not looked after very well, and all eaten away by insects.

Surprise tomato plant

I meant to blog this a few weeks ago, but didn’t quite get around to it.

I tried to grow tomatoes this year. It went quite badly, as I’ve mentioned already.The end result was this:

So with all the compost, watering, transferring to larger and larger pots, etc., colour me surprised, when I spotted this growing in the garden, next to the compost bin:


A fully thriving tomato plant. No, I didn’t plant a tomato plant there. OK – it doesn’t have any tomatoes on it, but it looked a hell of a lot healthier than my own efforts.

I haven’t watered this area very much, and I certainly haven’t worked any compost in. It’s just ordinary garden soil, and poor quality clay stuff at that.

It just goes to show that if something is going to grow, it can do it with absolutely no human intervention.

The allotment

Through ways that are too convoluted to bother detailing, I’ve got access to part of an allotment at the moment. Have done for a couple of months, but didn’t get around to writing about it here. Needless to say, someone was struggling to keep their allotment up to the standards of the rest of the members (because a whole allotment plot is absolutely enormous), and had to do something about it – so they’ve kind-of sublet it.

This is good, because this year, I decided to plant far more than would actually fit into my garden. I had runner beans, sunflowers and sweetcorn growing in pots, with absolutely nowhere to put them. Then suddenly, I did. Continue reading The allotment

Bees and plants

We all know that bees are good for your garden. However, I’ve always been a bit scared of them. I once had one fly into my ear. I stupidly covered my ear, got a noisy buzz, removed my hand, and the bee flew out.

Incredibly, I’ve never been stung by one, yet I’ll still jump a mile if it flies right at me.

A few months back, at the Bristol Festival of Nature, I went along and saw Brigit Strawbridge (wife of the man with the tremendous moustache, and well-known green advocate) do a presentation about bees, their lives, why their numbers are dwindling, why necto..neonecto..nectoninnoids?..nectin….why pesticides are bad. From this presentation, I learnt that only one of the many types of bees has the ability to produce the right frequency and pollinate tomato plants (maybe I’m lacking that bee, and THAT’s the reason why my tomato plant failed! (A bad workman blames his bees)).

Especially after discovering that lots of species of bees don’t even have the ability to sting, I started looking forward to seeing them in my garden. I’ve noticed they tend to gravitate more towards some plants than others, and so I thought I’d document the top 6 bee-favourite ones, and show them here, in the order that they flowered this year.

Continue reading Bees and plants