Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: 'Just Add Cream'

Veg Plotting's Blooms Day would be incomplete without the occasional foray into Grow Your Own flowers, so I'm pleased to bring you my 'Just Add Cream' strawberry plants for this month's floral focus.

This is a relatively new variety from Thompson & Morgan's own breeding programme, who also provided me with a few plants to try in 2017. Naturally I've given them a tough time by forgetting them entirely deliberately growing them on in the smallest of trays for a year before I finally planted them out. I'm pleased to say they've passed this test with flying colours.

I'm growing these at home instead of on the allotment where VP Gardens demands food plants look attractive as well as being productive. Apparently pink flowered strawberries have proved rather bland and unproductive in the past, but this variety is bucking those particular trends.

It's an everbearer strawberry which means the crop is spread over many months in the summer/autumn i…

Garden Visit: All smiles and sunshine at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens

This picture taken by my friend Karen last Wednesday sums up our day at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens perfectly. Warm sunshine, gorgeous autumn colour, plus time with my garden hero Roy Lancaster and gardening friends from the Garden Media Guild is day well spent in my book. No wonder I'm looking so happy.

Roy worked at the garden for many years and had a huge fund of stories to tell. I reckon we could have followed him round the garden for a month and the supply would be far from exhausted.

I think autumn's come early this year in terms of colour and this pictured swamp cypress agrees. It grabbed lots of attention from all garden visitors who passed it, some even taking advantage of strategically placed benches to wonder at that glory for longer.

Interestingly there's another on the bank (just peeping through on the left hand side as you look at the photo) which is much taller and still green. It shows how different conditions affects what we see and whilst having swamp…

Meanwhile on't other blog...

I had a great day at Malvern Autumn Show last weekend. Head on over to my dedicated Malvern blog for more...

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day +1: Clematis heracleifolia

Regular readers know I love clematis, but I wasn't sure about the Clematis heracleifolia I planted in VP Gardens a while ago. In fact, I'd mentally decided to replace it with something more garden worthy earlier this summer.

Of course that meant it's since pulled out the stops and is flowering beautifully for my slightly later than usual Blooms Day this month. I guess like many of its clematis cousins it subscribes to the Sleep, Creep, Leap method of garden establishment.

This clematis is herbaceous rather than the more familiar climber grown, and flowers late summer and into the autumn. The leaves are quite different too, and it's only when the individual flowers in each hyacinth-like cluster are examined more closely, that its clematis heritage is seen more clearly.

The RHS describes it as a sub-shrub, and the true-blue flowers are borne in clusters on stems of around 3 to 4 feet in length. These are currently threading through and filling in the gaps in my upper te…

How to make a show judge's life harder

It's been great to see lots of people showing off their produce and show prizes on social media the past week or so. Prime village fete season is here and I'm delighted to be judging at Foxham again after my debut there last year.

I dusted down my judging clipboard this week to find most of the 'equipment' I use is still in there. Can you spot what's missing in the above photo? NB there's a clue in the next paragraph...

I also see there's some hastily scribbled notes on what I was looking for, plus some general observations on last year's standard of display. I thought I'd expand these, so that my job is harder this year. These notes should be good for anyone thinking of dipping their toes into showing off their produce, not just at Foxham Show.

Before the show
Have a look at the schedule and spot which items in your garden and/or house are likely candidates for you to show. It's been a tough growing season this year, but don't let that put …

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: In the pink

It's great to return to Blooms Day at last and with a new flower to boot. My gardening year started late - in mid May - and in many respects I've had to take what's available and a few shortcuts instead of making my own choices or growing for myself.

Whilst pink isn't my usual colour choice - neither are petunias - I'm now glad this was one of the few annuals left to fill some bare pots I had in the garden earlier this year. They were an unlabelled bargain I picked up in June and looked scrawny when I bought them, but I knew a good cut back would soon get them looking as good as new again.

They've rewarded me with plentiful blooms, which look particularly good in the pictured grey planter on my patio wall. The hot summer has also suited them well. In the background you'll see there's a little souvenir from Austin popped in there too; a Texas Lone Star which glows in the dark.

Thanks for all your good wishes, messages and cards. I'm pleased to say I…

Seasonal Recipe: My version of Tzatziki

We went from zero to glut in one day as far as cucumbers were concerned last week. That turned out to be no problem as the variety I'm growing this year is relatively small and I've found my own delicious version of Tzatziki uses them up with ease.

I've not been well recently* and the medical advice going forward is to eat a low fat diet. I'm marvelling at how my body has accepted this so readily, not even turning a hair at all the tempting treats such as cheese on offer in the fridge. I'm sure it's its way of protecting me from harm.

I've discovered how delicious Skyr** is this week. This strained Icelandic version of yoghurt is super thick and is a fantastic substitute for mayonnaise when making a tuna filling for sandwiches or jacket potatoes. It's extremely low in fat and has lower sugar and higher protein levels to the usual natural yoghurts.

The recent spell of hot weather got me thinking about cooling foods, so it was only natural I should use i…

Our Jess

Three weeks ago we had two cats and now we have none. I found our Jess in the kitchen on Sunday morning, her face pointed towards the garden through the patio door. It looked like she was going to join her brother. Like him, she was so peaceful in her final sleep.

If Skimble was the stately cat, then Jess had a touch of the clown and scamp about her and kept us in stitches. She'd also purr for ages after you'd been near her, even if no stroke or cuddle was on offer. I went to sleep on Saturday night hearing her last purrathon from the bathroom where she'd taken up residence to keep cool.

The house is empty without our favourite pair. Thank goodness NAH comes home from holiday today, so we can share our grief. Then tomorrow we'll set them free to play in the garden.

On Sunday I completed this year's big butterfly count in her honour. There's nothing she liked more than chasing them around in the sunshine.

You can read more about our cats' adventures here.

Farewell Skimble the Bold

Two weeks today we lost our darling boy Skimble. NAH found him in his final sleep on our patio when he went down to get breakfast. He looked so peaceful, as if he'd just paused on his way back in to see us. Needless to say we are heartbroken.

We'd been concerned about him for a while as he'd got very thin, though he seemed to be on the mend and was enjoying the garden again. He'd even earmarked a spot under the figs as his hiding place of choice for the summer. He had a different spot each year.

Jess had a good look at him with calm acceptance. We fear its only a matter of time until we say farewell to her too.

We lit a candle in the evening on the spot where he was found and then we watched the bats fly round the garden, just like he used to do. He even caught one once.

I miss my garden helper.

You can read more about our cats' adventures here.