Lions, leaves, Vera Lynn and lettuces! Wet weather returns to help the garden grow …

Vera Lynn at our wartime garden launch - fine 1940s original photo form with some original sheet music

Vera Lynn at our wartime garden launch in fine 1940s original photo form with some original sheet music

After a few parched weeks as summer begins and ends in September with plenty of  leaves falling (why do so many garden blogs become obsessed by weather?) the welcome overnight and early morning rain has returned to perk up our early Autumn crops of salad veg (iceberg lettuce, pak choi, spinach beet, radiccioand leaf salad). Soon some leafy stuff should be big enough to thin out, feed the thinnings to our many animals (so nothing is wasted) and hope the rest bulks up before slugs, wet weather and rare frosts here finish them off (Newquay Zoo is in a sheltered valley close to the sea).

October gives us a chance to get some fresh choices of seeds sown for next Spring, choose an apple tree to put in to celebrate Vera Lynn (she’s still in the charts at 92!) and another of our Vera Lynn links – sweet peas, a variety named after this wonderful woman.  (My brief family connection with wartime gardens, evacuees and Vera Lynn is mentioned in earlier blogs).  Find out more about her musical contribution to wartime Britain at

More buckets of leaves collected from the wartime zoo gardenbefore our veg are buried under autumn colours are going down well with various zoo animals as places to hide food, new scents, dig for bugs or unusual bedding. Fishing leaves out of the Humboldt Penguin pool near our wartime garden is an unpleasant but necessary task at this time of year, as left in the pool it greens up quickly despite UV filters. Strange dark shapes of masses of leaves spook penguins into thinking predators are lurking, like submarines below the surface.   Penguin Poo on the other hand (guano) would prove a fine natural fertiliser if we could let it build up and dry off – traded for many years, especially useful in wartime, it’s one reason why many penguin beaches were dug up and damaged.

Lions featured heavily in wartime propaganda as a national symbol, including the disturbingly titled film The Lion Has Wings. I hope not!  The Lion House lawn (that we partly dug up wartime style to make our veg garden) is an especially busy area at the moment, but not to admire our leeks. It’s used more to get a good view of Charlie, a newly arrived male lion from Longleat as company for his retired older sister Connie our Lioness, all filmed for TV and our website. Some fabulous YouTube links on the Newquay Zoo website feature short films by staff on  ‘behind the scenes’ activities including Charlie’s arrival).

Maybe we’ll make one in the spring about how our wartime garden grows …

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