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.

A green bouquet

The Eryngium leapt over the central terrace wall into the lawn many moons ago. NAH's threat to 'mow the meadow'*, as he calls the wild and woolly lawn, prompted me to cut back the emerging flower heads to make his job a little easier.

Instead of composting them as I usually do, I decided they would make an interesting green bouquet for the house. It looks like they last quite well in the vase, a week at least.

Green allium seed heads made a long lasting bouquet in my Flowers for Mum project last year. It meant she had flowers (in the widest sense) in her room whilst I was on holiday. I'm definitely warming to the green bouquet concept.

I rather like the effect of these architectural stems (and one of the new filters on my editing software), what do you think?

* = of course if it was a real meadow, he could leave it until much later in the year 😉

Postcard from Texas

I'm back from a wonderful week in Austin where the Garden Bloggers Fling was held this year. We saw plenty of amazing gardens, and a few extra days plus our downtown location meant there was plenty of time to see what else the city has to offer.

It's the Fling's 10th anniversary this year, and it was apt to return to where it all began, though in quite a different format to the first time. I was struck by the incredible hospitality of our hosts, who opened their homes to us pre, during and post Fling. Pam deserves a special mention as she not only had 90 Flingers visit her garden, she also broke away from her preparations to take Barbara and I on a tour of some of the key sights of the city. It was great to see Austin through her eyes and here's her take on our trip together.

The photo shows a view from Mount Bonnell, Austin's highest point with great views over the city, Lake Austin and the surrounding hills. I chose this photo because it shows some of the key el…

So, sow good

It's major catch up time this week, with seed sowing underway at last*. Quite a few have been sown at home, and the others are set to be dealt with at the allotment this weekend, once I've cleared the raised beds of all the naughty weeds that have sprung up. I'm particularly looking forward to trialling the new Optigrow seeds I've been given (at the bottom centre of the picture) as they might just help me make up for lost time.

So far I'm particularly impressed with the cucumber seeds I'm trialling courtesy of Mr Fothergill as they all germinated within 4 days. These come with their own mini greenhouse and coir based compost; the latter was great to watch grow from its 1cm high starter disc to an impressive 5cms when I added the water**.

Our curries have been transformed this year by the use of fresh turmeric, which in turn gives a wonderfully fresh flavour. I was delighted to find there's lots of information about growing and the use of this in Matt Biggs…

A different kind of tea

I'm delighted to offer a different kind of cuppa for #nationalteaday as I'm allergic to the usual stuff*. Instead I'm exploring a different kind of tea via those found in Henriette Kress's Practical Herbs 1.

For those in the know, Kress's double volume has been available in a pdf format for a number of years and it's clear from the interweb she's a well regarded herbalist in her field. Now it's available in book form and for me, the first volume I received to review for today's tea blog tour has the clearest and most detailed explanation I've found of the preservation of herbs and their use as herbal oils, salves, syrups, vinegars, tinctures and teas. There's the added bonus of what to do when it all goes wrong - which is often omitted in all kinds of reference books - and here we have the voice of experience to help make things better, in the herbal world at least.

We're quite early in the foraging season which combined with our slower…