Puzzle Corner: Connections

I love pub quizzes with friends. They're fun and sociable, with the added frisson of a possible prize if we're on top form.

Sometimes one of the rounds is a Connections puzzle, where the answers have something in common. Often getting the connection early on can help with some of the more tricky questions... or lead us completely up the wrong tree if we get it wrong!

One of our quizzes came up with a Connections round which I thought was worth tweaking and twisting a little for Veg Plotting. I hope you enjoy it.

What you need to do
Answer the questions below, and take the letter as indicated from your answer to complete the blank boxes. For multiple word answers, take the letter from a particular word as indicated, otherwise it's taken the first.

The answers to the questions and the completed line of boxes all have something in common. What is the newly formed word and the Connection?

QuestionAnswerTitle of a novel by Jeanette Winterson (1985), also adapted for TV (5)

The Allotment at Home: Some Progress

I've made a guest appearance this week on the Thompson & Morgan (T&M) blog with some of my top tips for allotment growing alongside regular Veg Plotting commenter Sue (yay!), plus a whole host of experienced allotmenteers.

Those of you who read my National Gardening Week post last May may be a little surprised as I confessed then I no longer have an allotment. My response to T&M's questions apply to what I've been doing here at VP Gardens and show grow your own is feasible whether you have just a windowsill right through to a full-blown allotment.

My update on progress since then is long overdue. In a nutshell I produced more in 2019 than many an allotment year despite the more restricted space. It's not been a perfect time owing to family circumstances, so I look forward to 2020's growing season confident even more progress can be made.

Two of my key projects last year were to improve soil health and to increase my growing space with some raised beds …

Fresh flowers for the New Year

It's always good to get out in the garden (rain permitting!) in the darkest days of winter and take my annual flower count. The blooms may be smaller, but they're a welcome sight and there's always a few surprises.

This year's count stands at 12: not my best result, but there were signs of plenty more waiting in the wings. This year we have:
the pictured rosemary - now reclassified as a member of the Salvia aka sage family, though I'm sure it'll keep its familiar common name, This is a great plant to have flowering for any bees venturing out at this time of the year3 different kinds of winter flowering clematis - Clematis balearica, Clematis 'Freckles' and Clematis urophylla 'Winter Beauty'Single snowdrops a-plenty - Galanthus nivalisStrawberry 'Just Add Cream'Primrose 'Cottage Cream'Double flowered hellebores, but no sign of the Christmas roseViolasErigeronperennial cornflowerViburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn' Other hellebore…

Festive and Green

Fun times with friends (thanks for the photo, Clare) and a festive Slovenia made for a very special time when we visited recently. As you can see Bled was both festive and green, and being a garden blogger it's natural that I should celebrate both with this post about my travels there.

Let's see what I found...

We loved the Christmas lights in Ljubljana, with each street having its own theme. One had musical notes to accompany the classical music being played there; another had planets, comets and galaxies which made the crowd go 'Oooh!' when they were switched on in the early evening.

The pictured street was more intriguing, with it's double DNA helix, a sperm, a nucleus, and a female egg. Too bad we found out just a few hours before we were to leave that there's a guided walk around the lights, which reveals the artist Zmago Modic's intentions. I'm speculating that as a Catholic country, this represents the immaculate conception.

There are lots of di…

Postcard from Slovenia

I'm back from a long weekend in Slovenia, thanks to my friend F from WI who organised a girls' weekend for four of us after she fell in love with the country on her summer holidays this year.

The view is of Lake Bled with its island and castle. We decided to take the local bus there from the capital Ljubljana, which was an adventure as it wound its way through tiny Alpine-like villages to get there. As you can see we had perfect weather for our walk around the lake, before retiring to a cafe for a delicious lunch.

The Slovenian people are welcoming and convivial, with a quiet confidence born out of their love for this recently formed country. The food and wine are fantastic, and there is so much to see and do, whether you prefer cultural exploits, exploring the natural world, an active or sporty holiday, or a mix of all three. Our time there was a perfect antidote to the winter blues.

I'll be back in a few days time to show you some the festive delights and greenery from …

Weekend Wandering: Enchanted Christmas

Last weekend I had the good fortune to see Westonbirt's Enchanted Christmas thanks to a press pass 45 minutes ahead of the public's entry. After what seemed like weeks of rain and miserable grey weather, it felt good to be out in the crisp, fresh air. It was a perfect evening, albeit rather chilly - a great excuse for a sneaky hot chocolate afterwards!

It was the first time I'd visited the famous and award winning Christmas show, despite the Arboretum being a few miles away. The crowds I'd heard about had put me off, but seeing the show's trail is in the Old Arboretum and entry is staggered into various slots over the evening, there is actually plenty of room for everyone to have a good time.

We're starved of light at this time of the year, so a festive offering which shows off some of the Arboretum's most stately trees makes sense and is the perfect antidote to the winter blues. Some of the lights stay the same, but many change through a rainbow of colour…

Review of the Year: Tomatoes

I ate my last home-grown tomato for breakfast this morning, so I thought I'd have a look back today on how this year's crop fared. It's been my best tomato season ever, partly helped by the weather and then boosted much further with the gifted 'Crimson Crush' seeds via Dalefoot Compost, who invited me to trial their new tomato compost this year.

A few years ago I almost gave up growing tomatoes, because I can only grow them outdoors where they're at their most susceptible to blight. However, recent success from Simon Crawford's tomato breeding programme has resulted in not only strong blight resistance in his tomatoes, they're full of flavour* too. 'Crimson Crush' is one of his and were supplied for this trial by Pennard Plants, yay.

I almost despaired this year too. June was unseasonably cold and my tomato plants took on an alarming purple hue. Luckily the weather soon turned warm and when my friend from Oz came to stay in early July, she rema…

Unusual Front Gardens #31: Halloween II

Like the film of the same name, there had to be a sequel to the Halloween garden I found in 2013. Today's example takes the display a little further with the introduction of a "Chamber of Horrors" aka the "Brexit Nightmare" garden.

It injects some fun into these less humorous times and like the garden's creators I'm posting this photo as such, not as a political statement. They've placed buckets on their railings in order to raise funds for an inspirational local charity, Jamie's Farm. Last year they raised £1,500.

Unlike my previous Halloween garden, which just focused on some of the more traditional imagery, this is an example which won't stand the test of time.

I have an inkling the display was created before this week's vote on having a general election. Otherwise their "Chamber of Horrors" may have been called "The Nightmare Before Christmas" instead. 😉😜😊

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: 'The Floozy'

I have a late season surprise from the garden for this month's Blooms Day. I'm calling her 'The Floozy' because she's flaunting her frilly knickers in the heart of her bloom and also because I've no idea where she's come from.

Poppies have a great way of scattering their seeds by launching them through the top of their seed pods whenever the wind blows, but I haven't seen any in my neighbours' gardens, so I don't think this is the source of my welcome visitor.

Nor have they come from the prolific poppies I showed you a couple of years ago from the main road nearby. Those were Papaver rhoeasaka common or corn poppy. This is a completely different species, Papaver somniferum aka the opium aka breadseed poppy.

Poppy seeds can last for decades and spring forth again when the soil is disturbed, so perhaps this is the source of my surprise? Possibly, though seeing the land here was a farmer's field previously, it's unlikely. Besides, this is …

A Muse for National Poetry Day

Today is National Poetry Day and this year's theme is 'Truth'. I've chosen Rudyard Kipling's poem at the end of the Elephant's Child because its guidance helped me through most of my career. When I worked in IT I'd often write What, Where, When, How, Why and Who at the top of my notebook when I went off to meetings, especially at the start of a project. I was even given a nickname - Mrs Why - by my colleagues!

Before then I must have had them in my subconscious as a scientist, and I've since realised these simple words are at the heart of my blogging too.

Now they're worth bearing in mind when reading and watching anything on the internet 😉

I took the photo at the top of this post earlier in the year; staring out of our bedroom window to the birch tree at the bottom of our garden is where you'll often find me pondering... or day dreaming.

There's a display of poetry in Chippenham's shop windows today. I'll take a stroll into town l…