Showing posts from May, 2008

VP - The Next Monty Don?

Media speculation over who will replace Monty Don as the head presenter of Gardeners' World has been pretty rife recently. However, I'm surprised to find I'm included in it this morning. In the interests of balance, the Joe Swift campaign is running a poll to see if theirs is the one true candidate. I'm included (yes, I'm amazed too but I'm quite chuffed actually), though it's also suggested I'll need to wear a balaclava. I believe that's to preserve my anonymity, not ugliness. I think the proposed headgear might present some problems with diction, so I've suggested a knight's helmet might be more appropriate - with the mouthpiece part of the visor up of course.

The problem is, GW has been much better of late - partly due to the extension to an hour's programme I know, but will the BBC actually want to fiddle with a format that's beginning to work? If they do, then I'm sure someone a little better known will be chosen as the figur…

Something for the Weekend

3 willow obelisks I made at an evening class at Lackham Agricultural College last year
Tomorrow is Open Farm Sunday, an annual event where farms across the country throw open their gates to anyone who'd like to visit. The link will take you to a search facility so you can see which farms in your area will give you a warm welcome. Lackham, my local agricultural college is one of them - this is where I intend to study for my RHS Certificate in the Autumn, so I'm hoping to persuade NAH for a trip out there tomorrow.

Hints & Tips from National Trust Gardeners - Roses

Rosa 'Fantin Latour' - picture courtesy of Threadspider who took this specially for me yesterday morning as I have no roses blooming in my garden at the moment. Thanks Judith :)
One of the great things about volunteering at Heelis is having access to their Intranet aka internal website. There's so much of interest and ooohh the photographs are gorgeous. I have to ration myself each time I'm there, otherwise I'd be spending my whole time surfing instead of getting on with my volunteer duties. One thing that did catch my eye this week was a long promised 'Rose Recipe'. Ed Ikin, the Head Gardener at Nymans has revealed how he and his team keep the roses in their care healthy for the whole season:
Early April - spray once with conventional fungicide e.g. Roseclear 32 weeks after first spray - apply bicarbonate of soda fortnightly: 2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda per litre of water, plus a couple of drops of washing up liquid (Ecover) and vegetable oilSwitch to m…

Getting Foxy Amongst the Digitalis

Digitalis purpurea 'Excelsior Hybrids' - a form of our native biennial foxglove with flowers all round the 7ft high stems

After a morning's hard graft at the allotment today, Threadspider and I rewarded ourselves with a delicious afternoon at The Botanic Nursery. We've been there before for some of Terry's monthly workshops, but this time it was for Foxglove Week. The nursery holds the only National Collection of foxgloves, so this was an opportunity not to be missed as it's pretty much on our doorstep.

The nursery looks so different to my last visit a month ago. Lots of lush, choice plants in flower and quite a few people around ready to buy them. The collection itself is found in a serried row bordered by a yew hedge and my first surprise was the perennial species far outstrip the more widely known biennial ones. There are 22 species and Terry has 20 of them, plus 10 forms of our native Digitalis purpurea, making a grand total of 21 species. We saw that a numbe…

ABC Wednesday - S is for...

...Shadowy Self-Portrait

This was taken in late January this year not far from my house on the way back from taking photographs to illustrate my piece on World Wetlands Day.

Stroll on over to Mrs Nesbitt's Place for a multitude of striking S Photos

No ifs, no buts - butt

This post's for Rose and all of you on the other side of the pond who've been rather puzzled when I refer to my water butt. I'm not being rude as over here I'm not talking about cigarette ends or my bottom, though NAH says I talk out of the latter sometimes. It's simply a way of storing water. This one's on my allotment, about half way down the plot. I'm the furthest point away from 2 water standpipes and as my plot's on a slope, I choose to fill my butt up from time to time and water from a central point on my plot instead. Much easier! It also means I have a water supply over winter when the standpipes are turned off.

One of the projects on my ever growing list is to fix up some guttering on my shed, so that I can use rainwater instead of the limey tapwater supplied. This means I'll be able to water my blueberries using my butt instead of leaving out washbowls to collect the rain for these. However, before I can do that, I've either got to mov…

Jingle Bells

Things are always a little different in Chippenham during our late Spring Bank Holiday weekend. There's the sounds from a multitude of bells, stomping feet, accordions, drums, fiddles and the odd banjo. We're invaded by 20 or so Morris dancing sides, folk dance troups and clog dancers, folk bands and singers, clowns and story tellers. All gathering this year for the 37th Chippenham Folk Festival.

Temporary camp sites spring up overnight, similar in fashion to The Quidditch World Cup in Harry Potter. People arrive in multi-coloured attire often with a musical instrument slung over their shoulder. Whole families roam the streets with brightly coloured festival passes round their necks. It's a very different weekend to the other 51 of the year!

There's dancing in the streets, parks and almost every other public building and space in the centre of town. Open mic sessions are held in pubs, there's almost every possible folk music, song and dance workshop you can think of,…

Plot Views - Hoping to Pass Muster


Chelsea Round Up

Simple, yet effective public planting outside Heelis, the National Trust HQ - 19/05/2008

It's been a thought provoking week looking at the coverage of Chelsea. Having a blog and an easier access to the thoughts of other gardeners has added a new and fresh dimension to the extensive 'official' coverage by the RHS and the BBC. I confess that Chelsea always leaves me in a bit of a whirl and with a feeling of inadequecy. So many choices, so much excellence and my own small space always seems so dull in comparison. I always have to give myself a shake and a good talking to post Chelsea. After all, my space has to work for 365 days, not just a few. However, I'm resisting the urge to rip everything out and start anew more so than ever. I think that's the influence of my gardening course and a lack of a major gardening project this year beginning to kick in as well as the usual effect the show has on me. However, I've just about managed to hold myself in check - extensi…

Cat Sitting & Skimble the Bold

It's typical British Bank Holiday weather today, so our bed cats are back!

Our neighbours over the road are away, so we're cat sitting for them at the moment. M came over to hand over the house keys a couple of days ago and cheerfully announced Fluffy's gone off cat treats. Since when do cats not go for cat treats I ask you? I think our two have in-built radar for when a hand goes for the treat jar in the cupboard, they appear that quickly. Honey decided to greet 'Uncle NAH' yesterday by crapping on the floor - luckily in the conservatory and not the carpet this time. So it's a lot of fun over there - I think I'll let NAH continue to deal with them for the time being ;)

Last night our next door neighbours came round for drinks, nibbles and a good old catch up. A arrived home from a GNO earlier this week to find Skimble eyeball to eyeball with a fox in front of our house. Neither animal was giving in until A got out of her friend's car, broke the spell and…

Thanks for Visiting

Last night, just after I'd finished blogging for the day and was in bed writing up my garden diary, my 10,000th visitor crept in (at 23.45.07 to be precise) after Google searching for water butt, where they were taken to my ABC Wednesday G post. I do hope they enjoyed my musings on vertical gardening in Chippenham as there was only a fleeting reference to what they were actually looking for. Sadly the potentially more apt piece for them didn't mention water butts, it just had a picture of a most unusual one instead.

So, to whoever it was in San Francisco and to all my other 9,999 visitors since I started last November, I salute you and here's the most unusually positioned bunch of flowers I've ever seen as my gift to you - captured at Chippenham station last Monday morning. Now, having a bunch of flowers next to your driving wheel might be considered a little quirky, but to team those Gerberas (do click on this link - the photography's stunning) with a bright yello…

Rising to the Challenge

Skimble's reaction to his mum's latest doggerel

By popular demand (well, er Rach actually), here's a special poem to commemorate the inaugural Fork 'n Monkey awards:

The talk's this week of Chelsea
And who has won the Gold,
Of simplicity & greenness
And planting oh so bold.

But Garden Monkey's been playing
Amongst his blogging pals,
With promised fame and glory
For all the guys & gals.

Thus was Fork 'n Monkey created
An award to beat 'em all,
Full of fun and mayhem
To keep us in his thrall.

So we cogitated & nominated
And added Comments too.
All the votes were counted,
Then all the winners knew:

So here's to Wilb & Esther
And Alex in his shed,
To Fuggles & to Patrick
And Frankie on her bed

To Monty we say "Get well soon"
And James - "Keep the writing flowin' ",
Cleve - "You've been currying favour"
And from me? Another bad poem ;)

Use Your Initiative

Sign at Stanley Mill, King's Stanley near Stroud. A Grade 1 Listed building and a venue for the Stroudwater Textile Festival.

I have a choice of initiatives for you today. Firstly it's National Learn at Work Day. Part of Adult Learners Week (17-23 May - yay they know how long a week is for once!), this year's theme is Sustainable Workplaces. The above link has plenty of ideas for you to update your skills under the sub-themes of The Environment, Work/Life Balance and Learning Through Life.

Secondly, it's International Day for Biological Diversity. This year's theme is Biodiversity & Agriculture. You may think the two don't go hand in hand, but if sustainable agricultural practices are adopted, we have a chance to feed the world without impacting our natural heritage.

I feel strongly about both initiatives. I was quite scared of being bored at work, so always sought out work in different departments and projects. At appraisal time I always felt it had been a go…

Blooming Marvellous?

Judging by this planting on the way to the station, it seems Chippenham won't be winning any prizes in this year's Britain in Bloom competition. What do you think?

Awww Shucks!

Hurray, hurrah, harroo! I have my first award as voted for by the blogging community :o At last my bad poetry has been given the recognition it deserves. So my thanks goes to: The Garden Monkey for putting on the whole damn show in the first place; whoever it was that nominated me; everyone who voted for me; NAH who has nothing at all to do with this blog; my mum, etc etc etc...

There, that was a relatively short acceptance speech and I didn't burst into tears like Gwyneth Paltrow did at the Oscars. I'm pretty chuffed actually :D

The award winners are:

Is There Anybody Out There?Esther in the GardenThe Favourite Way of Wasting TimeShedworking The Adam Pasco AwardVeg Plot Proud ParentFuggles (for the dancing frog beansprout photo) Vegetable MatterBifurcated Carrots What’s New PussycatThe Big Sofa - well Wilb actually (hugs from Skimble & Jess!) Inky/Green FingersBlogging at Blackpitts We Are All in the Gutter Veg Plotting (yes, me, me , me!) Crash Bang WallopCleve West’s poppadom pho…

ABC Wednesday - R is for...


I took this photo two days before Christmas last year and knew straight away it would be my 'R' shot when I decided to take part in ABC Wednesday. As you can see it depicts two of the rules applicable to allotment sites in Chippenham. There are a whole lot more detailed in the plot contract I had to sign when I was assigned my plot just over four years ago. These include no subletting my plot to others, not making a profit from my plot, not keeping animals, keeping it cultivated and tidy at all times etc. These rules vary slightly from town to town, for example I know of sites where animals such as chickens and bees are allowed.

All the plots on my site are let and there is a waiting list in Chippenham now, so this year the allotment committee is being much more fastidious about adherence to the allotment rules and contract terms. Regular plot inspections are being held and plot holders informed if theirs doesn't meet the more detailed guidelines issued in the last…

Stories from Chelsea

View from our bedroom window - this morning at 9am.

I'm still getting to grips with this year's Chelsea, but have two major impressions thus far - simplicity and green. Last year's Chelsea had some very complex designs and structures, this year seems to be more restrained. There is a place for both and simplicity doesn't mean there's less in the way of ideas. Green is manifesting itself in both eco-friendliness and planting styles. I'm all for the former, but I do like a touch of colour in my garden too.

I'm not going to review every single garden - the link I gave you yesterday will allow you to judge for yourself. However, two of the gardens I've seen so far have a particular resonance.

Firstly the Dorset Cereals Edible Playground has put vegetables to the forefront of it's design with a mouthwatering result. I think it's important for children to make the connection with what's on their plate and where it comes from. Seeing children up at t…

Please Bear With Us - Garden Viewing in Progress

Peony amongst Weigela florida 'Variegata' - on Friday in my garden

You may find your UK garden blogging pals a little quiet this week. It's the annual gardening feast that is Chelsea that's to blame you see. Many will brave the crowds to visit - the rest of us will be glued to the TV for the daily lunchtime and evening broadcasts, starting this evening. This will result in major anxieties for us gardeners - I don't have the right colour/ plants/ accesories for this year; there's not enough in bloom in my garden; I need a water feature; I so loved that garden, I need to create my own tribute to it; I simply must have that... (insert your own long list of beauties here) etc. etc. As a result, we'll be making even more visits to our local nurseries/ garden centres/favourite plant sales websites and spending more time frantically working in our gardens to get them up to scratch.

So do bear with us during this stressful time - we'll be back with you shortly ;)

Be Kinder to Nettles?

Unbelievably it's Be Kind to Nettles Week (14-25 May - note it's another example of time being stretched) and I don't think they mean the cultivated kind like the picture above taken in my garden yesterday, but the wild sort shown below from our neighbouring public land a few moments later.
I don't think my niece will be celebrating, in spite of efforts by major organisations like the Natural History Museum in London. She fell into a bed of nettles at the age of four whilst we were walking in the Cotswolds (oh the inconsolable screaming!) and has had an aversion to them ever since, poor thing. There also appears to be a campaign against them up at the allotment at the moment as several patches (including 1 on my plot) look like someone's put weedkiller on them. It's a shame really as they are such a versatile plant. So much so that this author has found 101 uses for them. I already knew about their attractivess to butterflies, the foul smelling concoction you c…

Strange Brew

I think NAH is trying to tell me something - he's decided to plaster the pictured fridge magnets all over our cooker. Our fridge door is wooden, so we have to be a little more inventive with where we display our magnet collection. I believe NAH's message isn't just a reminder about our reusable carrier bags - which I've been using for the past two and a half years, well ahead of him. What do you think?

Any road up, I took said bags shopping with me yesterday. Whilst there I experienced a bizarre role-reversal conversation. I bumped into our Doctor and asked her if she's feeling better now - she's been on sick leave following a back operation. We both grinned.

Back home, I switched on the TV to catch the local weather forecast only to hear the announcement that Radio Wiltshire has installed a webcam in a bluetit nest box. Am I the only person to think that's a bit strange or is everyone used to the multi-media world we live in now?

Memes, Polls and Early TV Gardening Memories

I love the way blogging takes you in totally unexpected directions. A little while back I tagged Aunt Debbi with the '6 random facts meme', which she answered a couple of days ago - cheers Debbi, nice one. In it she revealed she doesn't like folding socks - alongside a number of others I commented that life's just too short for all of that. Debbi's now taken it a whole stage further by running a sock poll on that vital question 'Should socks be outlawed?' You betcha. You have just 5 days to get over there and add your vote and even add to the debate if you want.

Which brings me to the Fork 'n Monkey awards - voting closes tomorrow, so get over there now and vote! For one of the awards, The Most Unusual Vegetable Based Blog, The Garden Monkey reminds us of those glorious Sunday evenings when Cyril Fletcher held court on That's Life. As well as his odd odes, he often produced pictures of the most curiously shaped vegetables sent in by viewers. This is…

GBBD - Now is the Month of Maying

On May Day I could only show you May blossom in bud, but on Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day I can now show it to you in its full glory.

The garden has really taken off over the past few days owing to the hot and sunny weather of the past week and a half. It means I have flowers in abundance to show you, so I've replaced April's Flower Shower with a Now is the Month of Maying slideshow on the sidebar. You'll see I have Clematis in abundance - they only opened their fat buds just 2 days ago. Phew, just in time! There are still flowers on the allotment - April's fruit tree blossoms have been replaced by those of the soft fruit - particularly blueberry and strawberry, plus rogue flower shoots amongst the rhubarb. These weaken the plant, so they were cut down straight after being photographed and added to the compost heap. Apart from that everything's been left to flower their socks off.

GBBD is bought to you by Carol at May Dreams Gardens [Shouldn't this be renamed H…

Plot Views - Maytime


ABC Wednesday - Q is for...

...Quercus robur

One of the most venerated of our trees, otherwise known as the pedunculate oak. This one stands guard over the nearest water standpipe to my plot and also the subject of my recent ABC Wednesday 'N' posting. I often go and sit under its stately branches on a hot summer's day when it's time for a break from my hard labours. It also causes me great amusement during the Autumn when its many acorns rain down on our allotment loo. As this is a 'tin box', the noise can be quite something until you get used to it!

It's one of two native oak species, the other is the sessile oak (Quercus petraea). It grows to over 100 feet - so is not a good choice for most of our gardens! Our allotments were once part of a country house estate, so I suspect it's part of the original landscape planting. It's magnificent size suggests it's pretty old anyway. They can live for up to 1000 years, can host up to 423 insect species and is said to be an indicato…

I'll Show You Mine if You Show Me Yours

San over at A Life With a View is a new discovery for me thanks to Authorblog (g'day David). I'm enjoying her stories of Life in Santa Fe, which also bring back memories of our last stateside holiday in 2001 as we stayed there for a few days. She's tagged everyone who wants to play with the meme I've seen on several people's blogs recently and as I've been wanting to participate for a while, who am I to say no?

As you can see, the meme is to show everyone your desktop. Mine's looking much tidier than of late as NAH cleared off all the unused icons a couple of weeks ago. That's not the reason why I wanted to show it off though. NAH chose the screensaver for me about 5 years ago from my first forays into digital photography. Whilst I now have thousands more photographs to choose from, I never tire of seeing this one when I turn on my PC. It's another Acer - Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum' *, aka the Golden Leaf Full Moon Japanese Maple (who on eart…

Yes, I've Won a Lettuce

This popped through my letter box on Saturday. I'd completely forgotten I'd entered the competition on the RHS' Grow Your Own Veg website. I'm not happy about the (just about recyclable) plastic packaging though. It contains a 'patented granulate' which soaks up water. The seeds are meant to be at the top, though whether they've stayed that way whilst being conveyed through our postal system remains to be seen - I'll keep you posted (!).

According to the growing instructions, the container should be filled right to the top with water which should be replenished each time the granulate starts getting lighter. It also says helpfully that the Lollo Rosso lettuce is edible and goes with all meals.

The Wiltshire Wailers

Here we all are in full flow on Saturday
Do click on the image to enlarge it :)

Photo courtesy of Chris Samuel

In an English Country Garden

Just feast your eyes - isn't it exquisite? It's Stourhead, a world class landscape garden owned by the National Trust. This is the view which greeted us as we arrived yesterday for The Festival of the Voice, 30 choirs singing in 8 locations throughout the gardens from 11am to 6pm.

Our choir merges with 2 others to form the Wiltshire Wailers, a 100 strong group for special occasions. It was our second public performance ever yesterday (I blogged about the first one here) and we must have been the largest choir there. You can see both places where we performed - stretched out on the bridge in the morning and then perched on the steps of the Pantheon across the lake in the afternoon. The second performance in particular was magical. As Chris our choirmaster said 'We formed last September, this is our second ever perfomance and we're going to sing our socks off!' So we did. My friend overheard someone say 'That choir [us] were amazing and we had to follow them!'…

Be Upstanding for the Alliums

We had a most dramatic thunderstorm on Friday night, so yesterday dawned rather dull and misty. As you can see, the polite alliums I showed you on Friday are now standing to attention instead.