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Byline: LynneAllbutt

Best of the bunch If you can, check out the valuable evergreen shrub fatsia japonic.

It's also known as the false castor oil plant, has huge tropical-looking, hand-shaped deep green leaves and brings some architectural interest to shady spots in the garden.

It can grow to around 3m x 4m (10ft x 12ft) if left to its own devices, but can be kept smaller by pruning without too much fuss.

In late autumn, the leaves are joined by rounded clusters of large, fluffy, cream-coloured flowers and then black berries similar to those of ivy.

It isn't fussy about its soil, but is best grown in light shade.

Come dine with us A recent survey by Gardman indicated that there has been a 15% increase of small birds visiting their 'project garden' during the autumn months.

Maybe that's because of a lack of berries and food in the hedgerows this year.

The RSPB is encouraging people to provide food for our feathered friends to help them get through the cold winter months and it's also a great way to provide outdoor entertainment, as a constant stream of chirpy visitors come to dine. Choose from lots of different feeders from the traditional to the quirky, like the Bungee Bird feeders.

I found one on Amazon for less than PS8. There are lots of ways to make your own feeders too.

I have threaded juicy apricots and raisins onto wooden skewers, filled open pine cones with a suet and peanut mix and threaded unsalted popcorn onto string and hung them all up in a tree outside my office window.

Venue with a difference Growing your own veggies can make you a bit intolerant of tasteless shop-bought varieties so I was pleased to be served with tasty, home grown salad leaves at The Clink Cymru restaurant, at HMP in Cardiff last week.

The majority of ingredients, such as vegetables, fruit, meat and poultry and herbs, do in fact come from the farms and gardens department at HMP Prescoed, Usk, where prisoners plant, maintain and harvest crops as part of their horticultural qualifications.

In the Clink Cymru restaurant and kitchen, more than 30 category D prisoners work and train toward gaining their City and Guilds NVQ qualifications. This basically means that inmates cook and serve the wonderful food. The restaurant is the idea of award-winning chef Alberto Crisci, who has worked at Marco Pierre White's Mirabelle Restaurant in Mayfair, London.

The main aim of the project is to reduce reoffending by giving prisoners a chance to gain qualifications and experience of working in a professional restaurant.

To be eligible to train and work at the restaurant, prisoners must have between six and 18 months left on their sentence.

They must also have resolved any issues, such as alcohol and drug dependency or anger management. Sex offenders are banned from working at Clink Cymru.

Stephen Terry, of The Hardwick in Abergavenny, was appointed its chef ambassador when it opened in September and will be cooking alongside the prisoners on December 11 for an exclusive Christmas fundraising lunch.

I had a great welcome when I went there last week and the service - and food - was excellent.

If you'd like to book for the 11th e-mail Information on Clink Cymru is also on their website, My week I love the way in which a phone call or e-mail can suddenly set an idea or project in motion.

I think it was Mark Twain who said, "A crank is someone with an idea, until it catches on".

Thank you to those who have helped one of my specific projects reach another level this week.

You know who you are and I look forward to being able to share more with readers in the New Year.

In the meantime I want to add my support to a project of another type, the Hands Off Bronllys Hospital Again campaign which a friend of mine is spearheading.

Powys Teaching Health Board wants to make changes to services provided in the two main hospitals within Mid Wales - Bronllys and Breconshire War Memorial.

The proposals look at moving many services, including stroke provision, out of Bronllys.

You can read up about the ins and outs of the issue and make up your own mind at or Good enough to eat As you pack your supermarket trolley with nuts to last through the festive season, it might be worthwhile trying to grow some of your own.

Walnuts may not be the easiest things to grow in our climate - and indeed, the walnut tree originates from Persia - but new self-fertile varieties are proving more successful in this country.

Certain types can tolerate our wet, cool conditions and crop well. Walnut trees should be planted in a sheltered sunny spot and protected from late frosts which may destroy their new growth and flowers.

Choose varieties such as Buccaneer or Rita (even the smaller varieties grow up to 7.5m) and plant them in the autumn, staking the tree for several years, until established.

Keep it well-watered during its early years and enrich the earth around it with compost.

Fully ripened walnuts can be harvested in September and October, when the husk starts to split.

They should be dried straight away by a boiler and then put in well-ventilated bags and kept in a cool, airy spot.



Clink Cymru restaurant at Cardiff Prison
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 24, 2012
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