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Why go for one, when you can get two!

The Belgian federation 'Tuinhier' starts 2020 with not one, but two new presidents.
After three years our previous president Roel Deseyn wanted to pass on the responsibility.
During his time at the wheel, our organisation became more professional in the way we communicate and our registration is optimised with a brand new IT-program.

What are the advantages of two presidents?
They can brainstorm and discuss ideas together before launching them. In some issues they will Thomas Lemmensbe able to respond more nuanced. Together they have more feeling with the local boards. And perhaps the most important, they can divide the workload and be more present on activities across the land.


Jan DesimpelaereWho are our new presidents?
Thomas Lemmens is a volunteer in a couple of our workgroups, he writes for the magazine regularly and he is one of our garden experts that teaches in our local boards.

Jan Desimpelaere is active as a president of a local board for several years now. He grew into our organisation via his father. He is also active in multiple workgroups.




Their main goals are?
Continue to work on more transparency, become better known as an association and encourage involvement of local boards to achieve our mission. They wish to exchange more information between volunteers and with our partners. Last but not least, their ultimate dream is to be recognized as the Flemish centre of expertise for leisure gardening.

We want to thank Roel for his effort and invested energy. We also wish our new presidents, Thomas and Jan, the best of luck for the coming six years!

Start into 2020

Malou WEIRICH Dear allotment gardeners

„If you want to build a boat, don’t begin by collecting wood, cutting boards or assigning tasks, begin by awakening in the souls of your workers, a longing for the vast and boundless sea” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry).

You have become members of our allotment garden movement because of your desire to get a garden plot and thereby have some exercise, a healthy diet, a pastime in the fresh air, all while surrounded by friends. Your behaviour on the plot also enables you to contribute to a healthy environment, a better quality of life in the cities and to respond to climate change.

To put this vision into action, we have to maximise the impact of our actions. For this, our organisation, both nationally and internationally, needs both a good health and the right means to achieve its goals.

We are a member organisation. In some places, the number of members is stagnating. So we must, first of all, deal with the problem of our membership, welcome new members, really include them and offer them services and help.

We have to attract young people, overcome the resistance of longtime members to change, challenge the alleged inadequacy of our sites and of our actions, react and become more attractive. We have to change our discretion, our frequent absence or less than optimal appearance on social media, to emphasise the benefits of our joined actions and our network, to organise projects and activities and offer training.   

Not all our associations and federations, are sufficiently motivated to make an impact, know what other federations do, or know how they could participate in projects to become stronger while being united. They have, however, to position themselves in such a way that they can work effectively and become attractive in order to fit into the scheme of life of our members. They cannot compete with people’s priorities: work, family, leisure ……On the contrary, they have to “market” themselves in such a way that interested people feel attracted and that they can integrate them in their life scheme, their priorities.

Different federations have already changed; other federations and the Officehave begun to change their statutes, so as to become more effective, to take into account today’s necessities and to make our vision for the future known.

The irrevocable disappearance of plants and animals is well-known and it is increasingly becoming a concern for the citizens. We need to pick up this issue more and more at all levels and carry out projects to react. Allotments are refuges for animals and plants. We have to continue to make soil analyses and offer training concerning natural gardening.

So as to support all allotment gardeners, the Office is working on a brochure: “The soil is alive”. Thanks to the awarding of the Office diploma on natural gardening, we also have a data base that can be a stimulus and an example of good gardening practice for all. 

Question your actions and give yourself the means to effectively put our allotment garden vision into practice during this new year.

For 2020 I wish you a good health as well as courage, ambition, perseverance and success.

Secretary general of the International Office du Coin de Terre et des Jardins Familiaux

The black Hellebore - a rose for Christmas

Text Simone Collet / Photo Bernard Villat

When the flowers of our gardens have faded, the corolla of the black hellebore finally blossoms - a miraculous star lighting up the desolate earth with grace.

NieswurzIn the productive family of the Ranunculaceae, the hellebores comprise some species which we rarely notice. Who cares about the evil Hellebore? The green Hellebore? The Winter aconite? The white Hellebore? Not many people you will certainly agree……
However, there is one who brings all the beauty to our eyes and is unanimously appreciated: it is the black hellebore (Helleborus niger). Known especially under the pretty name "Christmas rose", it brings to our gardens with a grace and a poetry like no other with its pretty white corolla hemmed with mauve or pink. Today one can even find varieties with yellow, pink, green, purple or red corolls.

An Alpine origin

In the icy kingdom of the very rare winter flowers, it is necessary to have a plant native of the Alpine summits, to be able to resist the attacks of the climate of the most rigorous months of the year. Unfortunately, even in its original Alpine cradle, the black hellebore tends to become rare and is now on the list of protected species.
A temperature of -15 degrees Celsius does not scare our brave plant! You will, however, help it by gallantly covering its base with straw.

Growing the hellebore in the garden

The black hellebore can be planted as early as November. As our plant fears the heat, choose a place protected from direct sun light. A shadowy place with only morning or evening will perfectly suit this plant. Do not expose it to full wind, but shelter it with a low wall or a shrub with leaves so to protect it from the attacks of the "bise" (cold and dry wind).

The quality of the soil is obviously important. This plant enjoys a moist and slightly sandy soil. You can enrich the soil with your compost or potting soil for flowering perennials. Before planting do not hesitate to dip down the root ball into water. Take care to separate the plants by about 30 cm to allow the roots to grow. Water the plants generously, then try to never move them again, because the black hellebore does not like moving.
Their maintenance is easy: You will only have to remove the withered or stained leaves or those in excess and you also have to remove the faded flowers, when necessary, which will stimulate the appearance of new blossoms.
It is in the garden that the Christmas rose finds the habitat that best suits it, but it can also be grown in a planter for the terrace or potted for the balcony, providing, however, some fertilizer.

Waiting for the flowering

You will then have to master an understandable impatience because, after planting, you will have to wait two years to see the first blossoming. But what a bloom!
"Everything comes to those who wait" says the proverb. It is indeed a wonderful bouquet that will spring from the ground in the heart of winter and will reward your patience. Better yet, your Christmas rose will bloom faithfully every winter and will delight you for many years, like a real gift of heaven.


"Once the black hellebore was used for black magic and its seeds were used to fight madness. But be aware, this beautiful plant is toxic: It is for your eyes' pleasure only!

Ivy as autumn and winter food

Last rescue for insects: Ivy as autumn and winter food.

1Who does not knows, the climbing ivy. It grows on living or dead trees, on rocks, walls, ruins or on facades – the native climbing plant simply grows everywhere. And that's fine, because at the end of the year, ivy flowers and berries are among the last food sources for insects and birds, and ivy blooms all the way to frost. Wherever it thrives, it forms an important habitat for small animals. The evergreen foliage particularly provides birds with a protected breeding ground that is safe from enemies.

Only old ivy plants bloom

2However, the plant needs several years in order to form flowers at all. Only once the main branches become woody, ivy develops flowers. If you always radically cut the plant down, you are depriving it of the opportunity to form flowers, and thus also many insects from finding the last food in the year.

The flowers not only provide nectar in autumn, but also plenty of fruit in winter. In fact black berries will develop from the yellow flowers and these belong to the favourite food of many native garden birds. Because their diet is quite meagre in winter these fruit enrich their food supply.

Hands away from scissors

If you want to cut your ivy, then you should do it from beginning to mid-February. Later you may disturb breeding birds. If the plant becomes too big, you can prune it at the end of June (after the breeding season). Old specimens quickly catch up with the cut and still form flowers in autumn.

What else can be said about ivy?

We know ivy as an undemanding climbing plant, which grows even in deep shade. However, it can do even more: always green it inhabits plant boxes and tubs, fills gaps and enlivens with coloured leaf drawings. Its tendrils climb trees and house walls, creating a touch of romance. However, in addition to the small, narrow-leafed varieties with a slow growth, there are also species that proliferate and become annoying.

The many meters long tendrils of the climbing plant either root on the ground or hold on to the vertical with small adhesive feet. Anyone who has ever had to remove ivy shots from the house facade knows about the strength and unattractive traces left behind by these adhesive organs.

Planning is an advantage.

3If you plant ivy, you should think twice about it. Fast-growing species such as the common, simple ivy (Hedera halix) only need a few years after a short growth period to cover large areas-horizontally (on the ground) but also vertically (e.g. a complete house façade). After all, these areas are then permanently greened, because ivy does not lose its leaves even in winter.

Slow-growing ivy species (Hedera helix spp. helix) are better suitable for smaller areas or for planting tubs or boxes. Here you can choose between normal green varieties and colourful foliage varieties with green-white or green-yellow or even reddish leaves. Moreover, the leaf forms are different and can be round, narrow, pointed or wavy.

A survivor

The plant grows both in deep shade and in full sun. However, the more light and warmth ivy gets, the more water it needs. It does not mind short periods of dryness or stagnant water. Just an easy to care for plant, which – when used with the necessary caution – can well serve animals and offers food and nesting places.

Ecological significance

4At the beginning of the 20th century the ivy leaves, which are non-toxic for goats and sheep, were still used as a fodder plant in winter. And because ivy blooms late, it offers many insects, especially bees, the chance to absorb nectar on late sunny autumn days. Birds, such as the wren or the summer golden cockerel find a place to sleep and nest in the dense ivy, and towards the end of winter the ripe fruits are a popular source of food for blackbirds, thrushes, starlings and woodpeckers. By the way, it was found out that up to 30% of the heating costs can be saved by covering a facade in ivy and in summer the apartments in such a house are cooler. But be aware, its adhesive roots can cause damage under shingles or roller shutter boxes.

The ivy is, contrary to many opinions, not a parasite and, therefore, does not harm trees, on the contrary - the trunks are protected by it from strong solar radiation.

Alwoodley Allotments; Water, water everywhere but not a drop to use!

1I have had involvement with this association since its conception a good number of years back when I was an Allotment Advisor with the nationwide project, the Allotment Regeneration Initiative. It has now got a brand spanking new allotment site with 70 plus full size plots in NE of the City of Leeds following years of negotiation.

The site was full the minute it first opened. It is situated just up the road from a very large reservoir but had no mains water supply near it. So some funding was sought to drill for water. It wasn't cheap but it was decided to go ahead.

2Two huge wagons arrived, one to do the boring and one with a huge power generator and the drilling equipment. It would take 4 days once set up, but with all that valuable equipment security would have to be supplied. This was provided in the form of two plot-holders staying all night in their cars one either side of the trucks.

On the chairman's night on watch there was a massive lightning storm and he really enjoyed the spectacle but was just beginning doze when all of a sudden there was a huge bang and his car fair jumped in the air. His colleague in the other car came running over to ask if he was ok saying he thought the lightening had struck him. It turned out there was a scorch mark on the ground a metre behind his car.

The drilling proceeded day after day until finally on the fourth day and after drilling down 48 meters water was struck.

The well has a pump fitted and has been capped. All that remains now is to fit a large holding tank at the head of the site so a gravity fed supply can be installed.

Phil Gomersall

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