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Unusual Front Gardens #36: Lollipops

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  These tightly clipped trees have brightened many a lockdown walk as they remind me of lollipops. I've spent so much time smiling to myself when I see them that I've totally neglected to identify them. Sometimes it's good to just go with the flow and enjoy things for what they are. A closer look at what lies beneath reveals more formality in the shape of a traditional urn and circles of clipped hedge. These remind me of a similar sight at West Green House , where apple trees and tulips are planted inside similar circles and other shapes to make a spectacular show. I've wanted to do something similar for our front garden for a while, though my attempts at growing enough box cuttings to make a start were a dismal failure a couple of years ago. I think I'll start again with some Euonymus 'Green Spire' instead to avoid the dreaded box caterpillar or blight. I'm also toying with the idea of some Camassia or alliums within the circles and I await further i

Weekend Wandering: Wildflowers

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It's the May bank holiday and coincidentally peak flowering time for two of our most iconic spring wildflowers; fritillaries and English bluebells .  It's a good year for the fritillaries at North Meadow in nearby Cricklade, so NAH and I headed out yesterday morning to see them. It's hard to show how marvellous this location is in a photograph as the fritillaries are small and there are dire warnings not to leave the marked footpaths so the flowers can get on with doing their thing. We chose the blue route which is the longest walk around the meadow, around two miles in total. It doesn't encompass them all and soon we were walking amongst thousands of fritillaries, with a pale pinky, purple haze on the horizon showing there were thousands more still to see. It's a few years since we were last there, and I'm sure there were more white forms dotted amongst their darker cousins this time. I haven't managed to find what determines the variation: genetics, or en

Gardening is good for you

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It's National Gardening Week and it's timely the RHS have published the results of a recent study they conducted with Sheffield University on gardening and wellbeing. The results and the infographic above speak for themselves. To quote one of the researchers - the RHS's Alistair Griffiths - on Twitter: "The more 'doses' of gardening you get, the better your wellbeing :) " I hope those who discovered gardening as a great stress buster during Lockdown are motivated to continue - I've always said 'Gardening is the answer'. You can read the full published paper here . Happy gardening!

Weekend Wandering: A new sculpture trail

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I returned to one of my regular walks last week and found a delightful surprise along the way. It took me most of Lockdown 1.0 to find Westmead's owl shown above as I usually walk on the lower paths from town instead of those by the car park at the top. I now marvel it took me so long because once you know where it is, you can't miss it! It's been joined recently by lots of other wildlife sculptures to form a trail through the newly planted woodland nearby. Luckily this time I've found them just as they're being installed. The robin was the first one which caught my eye as it's easily seen from the Avon Walkway nearby. I simply had to investigate and find them all, as were a family of four whose children were excitedly running to each new discovery as they found it.  Not all of them are installed yet, so this is something to return to another time so I can snap all eleven. There'll be benches installed for us to rest and ponder the view and perhaps stay a wh

A cowslip survey

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Regular readers know how much I love the cowslips at the entrance to our estate. They usually bloom around now and I'm delighted they've increased in numbers consistently over the years. Here you can see the original roadside bank from which they've spread into the meadow below, and now they've also leapt across the road to the opposite verge. An estate setting like this is more unusual as they're more of a wildflower meadow favourite. I think we're seeing the results of some seed spreading which took place over 20 years ago when the road builders established this mini-meadow and wetland to cope with runoff from the A350 nearby.  Last week I learned the sight I love is becoming increasingly rare owing to habitat loss and the remaining populations may not be as healthy as they could be. As a result, Plantlife is asking for anyone who knows of a local patch of cowslips to conduct a short survey . I've just discovered cowslip plants have two different types; o

Garden Blogger's Blooms Day: E is for...

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... Epimedium aka barrenwort, bishop's hat or fairy wings. Here's another example of Sleep Creep Leap .  I planted my Epimediums two years ago and this is their first flowering. It was worth the wait. Whilst the blooms are tiny, they're plentiful and add grace to my revamped border at the bottom of the garden, where they thrive in the partial shade there. I really should have got down on my tummy for a better photo, thank goodness they also look pretty from above! The one pictured is 'Amber Queen'. I bought a bargain collection of 9 plants with three examples of each cultivar in the pack. 'Pink Elf' is just coming into bloom and therefore it's not quite ready to take a bow on Blooms Day.   Epimedium x versicolor 'Sulphureum' has yet to make its flowering debut; its name tells of yellow blooms to come. The heart shaped leaves turn bronze with age and thus makes this a year-round plant of interest. They're plentiful too, so I don't need

Unusual front gardens #35 Scissors

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I've passed these on many a walk and thought they must be plastic, but a closer inspection revealed our local high street barber uses topiarised plants to advertise his services. They always make me smile and it's a neat modernisation of the traditional red striped pole which showed barbers used to offer additional services as surgeons. I wonder which tools are used to keep these in trim - garden or barber's clippers? 😉 Hairdressers are set to reopen today in England and I'm looking forward to a haircut later this week. Sadly my hairdresser isn't quite so inventive with their display; they usually opt for one of the burgeoning hanging baskets set to grace the town in a month or so's time. I'm looking forward to both haircut and hanging baskets. Have a great week!

The seed tin of happiness

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Like many gardeners, Easter is my starting gun for major gardening activities and also like many of them, I always feel a pang of guilt at starting seed sowing now. Everyone else seems to have lots of healthy seedlings and it's easy to be a little envious of their bounty. However, it's best if I ignore that and crack on now instead. I don't have a greenhouse and only a limited windowsill capacity so I've found a later start works better for me. That way everything should be at peak perfection for planting out in VP Gardens at the end of May.  Having culled all the old or unwanted packets of seeds, my seed tin really is full of happiness with the promise of colour and harvests to come. It's looking a little different in there this year as there are as many packets of flower seeds as well as my usual vegetables.  Some of these are earmarked for the newish border at the bottom of the garden. I'm being a little cautious with the revamp here because there's plen

Easter chicks

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At least one Knatty Knitter has been at it again in Chippenham with a seasonal postbox covering, just like what happened at Christmas 😍  They really do help to bring a smile to the town and I'll be on the look out for more over the weekend. Have a great Easter everyone x

Sometimes 'wrong place' can be right

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I've seen quite a lot of online chat about this striking plant lately. Firstly asking for an ID - it's Arum italicum subsp. italicum 'Marmoratum' by the way - quite a mouthful, eh? With the ID duly confirmed, the conversation then turns to its renowned thugish qualities, with many a resolution made for it to never darken the commenter's garden ever again. I can offer an alternative viewpoint. It's never been a problem here at VP Gardens . Its marbled foliage brightens many a winter's walk here and then it quietly starts to fade away into summer oblivion around about now.  I reckon the key to my success and higher regard is I've planted it in the wrong place. The commenters' dire warnings centre around the plant's spathe replete with tempting red berries poised ready for the birds to eat and distribute its seeds elsewhere. Mine has never done that and a quick check of the plant's requirements shows its preference for sand or loam soils. Mi