There is some confusion within the Higgledy family as to which family member first started growing ‘Vanilla Ice’…it seems most probable that it was Binky Higgledy the famous Edwardian erotic illustrator. When Binky wasn’t in the studio chalking his lusty trade he would be found in his cut flower garden behind Kwik Save on the southern edge of Milton Keynes. Recently the national gallery curated a retrospective of is work and it was a joy to see that Binky had included lots of sketches of sunflower ‘Vanilla Ice’ amongst the flesh and the torrid passion.
‘Vanilla Ice’ has delightful pale lemon petals and deep dark chocolate centres….I think they are the most elegant sunflower available to modern man.
*When sowing in fibre pots or modules, use a good quality compost.
*The seed needs to be about a cm deep.
*If you are growing lots of types…it is worth labeling them…as the old Chinese proverb goes…’The palest ink is sharper than the best memory”…though I keep forgetting this proverb…
*I sow from early April and some here and there until late May.
*Plant them out after the frosts in a bed that gets at least 6 hours of full sun.
*I space mine to a little over a foot apart but some folk get good results up to half a metre apart.
*If your sunflower patch is exposed you will need to stake your plants…I never had and they have always managed very well.
*If you decide not to use the flowers for cutting… leaving the flower heads on the plant will provide food for the birds…and you can feel all smug and good about yourself.
TRIVIA: The Sunflower is native to the Americas…where the mighty fine Inca folk used to worship its image as an insignia of the sun God…
Raif Badawi – An Appeal
At the time of writing, the Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi remains in jail, sentenced to ten years and 1,000 lashes for the ‘crime’ of setting up a website devoted to free speech and liberal values. As the world now knows, Raif was subjected to the first 50 of those lashes last week, in a brutal public display of what, in Saudi Arabia, passes for justice. And for what exactly? You can read fuller excerpts from Raif’s writings here, but the spirit of his thinking may be captured in this quote:
“For me, liberalism simply means, live and let live. This is a splendid slogan. However, the nature of liberalism – particularly the Saudi version – needs to be clarified. It is even more important to sketch the features and parameters of liberalism, to which the other faction, controlling and claiming exclusive monopoly of the truth, is so hostile that they are driven to discredit it without discussion or fully understanding what the word actually means. They have succeeded in planting hostility to liberalism in the minds of the public and turning people against it, lest the carpet be pulled out from under their feet. But their hold over people’s minds and society shall vanish like dust carried off in the wind.”
In these eloquent words, Raif Badawi expresses nothing more or less than an embrace of liberal tolerance and, thus, a rejection of tyranny. There is nothing offensive or, with respect, hugely radical in Raif’s writings. Simply the desire of a young man to see his country and people enlightened by certain secular liberal values, which he sees as the values of our shared humanity. Nowhere in his writings does Raif Badawi insult Islam or the leaders of Saudi Arabia. Nowhere does he blaspheme or offer derogatory portrayals of religious figures (he was, in fact, cleared of the ‘crime’ of apostasy by the Saudi authorities).
For expressing these peaceful values – values shared by hundreds of millions of people around the world – Raif Badawi was, on the 9th January of this year, brought before a crowd of hundreds of people outside a mosque in Jeddah and, in breach of international law, publicly flogged – an act described by Amnesty International as “a vicious act of cruelty”. Needless to say, the act of public flogging is designed to cause the victim maximum pain and distress. Donald Payne, a Toronto psychiatrist and co-ordinator of the international health network for Amnesty International, says Badawi is at great physical and emotional risk from the punishment, particularly if it is allowed to continue. Payne has said:
“With this kind of torture there is general demoralization and depression and feeling of lack of control. (Badawi’s) wife said that he handled the first blows well and didn’t break down. But this will happen over a period of time, which makes it harder to resist. There could be a point where the reality of the situation can’t be held off any longer. Then he could get into really serious trouble.”
But Payne also goes on to add:
“Torture tends to make you feel hopeless. Knowing that people in the outside world are supporting him is important.”
With this in mind, the Higgledy Garden blog offers its full support to Raif Badawi. As bloggers ourselves, we know how beautiful and empowering the simple human act of writing down words can be. To provoke debate, to freely express ideas, to make someone laugh and, yes, even sometimes to offend, these are truly liberating and enabling things. To think that someone, anyone, should be beaten and humiliated for this is truly horrific.
As Donald Payne of Amnesty says above, Raif Badawi needs to know that he is being supported. Already a massive international backlash and wave of revulsion appears to have given the Saudi authorities pause for thought, with Raif’s second set of floggings being postponed.
Please join us in keeping up the pressure by supporting Raif using the links below, or by blogging, tweeting or posting your support. Let Raif Badawi know that he is not alone, and let the world know that no one should be beaten, imprisoned and tortured for an idea.
Sign Amnesty International’s petition to free Raif Badawi here:
Free Raif Badawi Facebook page
Five ways you can help Raif Badawi
Change.org petition to free Raif Badawi
‘A look at the writings of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi’, The Guardian, January 14, 2015.
‘Saudi Arabia’s flogging of blogger causes “pain, distress” Amnesty International says’, The Star.com, January 13, 2015-01-19
‘Postponement of Raif Badawi flogging on medical grounds exposes shocking brutality of punishment.’
Amnesty International – Saudi Arabia Report.
Annual flowers make up 95% of most of my cutting gardens and 100% of some of them…the walled gardens at Port Eliot for instance are made up entirely of annuals which are resown each spring…every year is a different flowery disco.
I’m not dismissing perennials…I have a dedicated perennial bed and I love them for their reliability but annual flowers are my schtick…and here are a few reasons why.
1. Growing annual flowers in your cutting patch will give you a huge variety of flowers to chose from.
2. You can have a completely different selection of flowers every year until you become a crooked old man.
3. A packet of annual flower seeds is usually less than two quid…as cheap as chips.
4. Most annual flowers will keep on producing flowers after you harvest them….they are flower making machines…..MUCH more productive than most annuals. Great if you only want a small cutting patch.
5. Annual flowers are easy to grow. Just follow a few simple steps….I have heaps of guides on the web site and also grow my flowers in ‘real time’ on the blog….so you can grow along with me. In fact I will be a couple of weeks ahead…just to give you time to get your act together.
6. Once you get your annual flower patch in full swing (and a small patch of biennials) you won’t have to buy rubbishy supermarket flowers (that look like spray tanned footballer’s wives) between March and November.
7. Bees and butterflies can’t get enough of annual flowers….their pollen rich blooms act as magnets for our pollinating chums.
If you haven’t tried growing annual flowers than I suggest you give it a go….it’s rewarding and people will think you are very clever.
NB Throughout January I am giving away a FREE packet of Cosmos ‘Purity’ with every order AND you get FREE shipping when you spend over £10…..I know…..WHAT a nice man….
Higgers and his charm of juggling Goldfinches.
I have been allocated a lotty plot near my home in North Cornwall….it is in a right state….full of nettles and docks and bits of charred twisted metal. This is PERFECT for a ‘Patch From Scratch’ exercise…I will be attempting to take this rough old bit of ground and turn it into a lip smackingly gorgeous cutting garden. The main section I am using for this project is 15 metres by 10.
I will of course be blogging up the progress and keeping a close eye on how many hours it takes to get the whole thing up and running.
Work won’t commence until the ground has dried out enough to work….ie when the soil doesn’t stick to the spade or to my boots….I think it will be March before anything starts to happen…with a view to sowing up the beds in April and having the first run of flowers from July until November.
I will still be maintaining the ‘Higgledy Garden’ down on the south coast and also the cutting gardens for the festival at Port Eliot….it’s this sort of commitment that gets a chap a MBE you know…..
PS I am giving away a free packet of Cosmos ‘Purity’ with every order in January….and free p&p when you spend over a tenner.
Let’s make no mistake…Borage can be a pest in some gardens…so you have to keep an eye on it. I find that it is tremendously useful in making eco-chic country style arrangements and the bees go slightly delirious in their pursuit of its delights.
Borage is mentioned in the old herbals as long ago as 1265…and Homer called Borage ‘nepenthe’ and in those mighty fine Greeky times it was steeped in wine to relieve sadness.
Many folk view Borage as being uncouth…but if you bypass its shonky and hairy stems….it has the most wonderful simple flowers….little blue stars….get to know Borage and you will come to love it. You can eat the young leaves…cook them as you would spinach.
…in fact Borage has always been popular in the herb and kitchen gardens of our continental cousins and is indeed commonly found in their markets.
Sow seeds about half an inch deep where you want them to grow. (You can sow in pots but I don’t bother…they do so well from direct sowings)
I space my plants about a foot apart.
I strongly advise you cut the plants down before they go to seed or you will soon have hundreds of little Borage seedlings…you may of course want exactly that….they can be eaten as tiny greens….which are very trendy down here in the flash Cornish restaurants.