Showing posts from June, 2008

Hard Times for Nurserymen?

As you know there's been much doom and gloom in the media lately concerning inflation, the credit crunch, falling house prices etc. So unsurprisingly it's already found its way into the garden industry - for example many of the 'big boys' like B&Q have felt the pinch resulting from an early Easter, our poor spring weather and rising costs. I think I've seen it too - there's been noticeably fewer customers at Franks Plants this year. So my conversations with Terry at the Botanic Nursery over the past few months have been interesting - we've been discussing the current challenges at the small specialist nursery end of the market.

The great thing about being the only workshop attendee sometimes is the conversation is further ranging than usual. I'd asked Terry about which shows he attends (pretty much all of them, sometimes 3 in one week) and they're a major sourse of his income - either at the show itself or from the subsequent mail orders received…

What a Mess

Early yesterday morning NAH disappeared off for one of his regular trips up North, therefore I'm combatting the low feeling that always prevails, finding lots of things to do and keeping the cats close for company. So it was lovely to be spontaneously invited to Sunday lunch by A & R our immediate next door neighbours when they learnt of NAH's imminent departure.

Having lived next door to each other for 9 years, we've reached the point where visiting each other is more like going to part of our extended family and we'll happily chat away whilst whoever's hosting goes about their daily chores. However, yesterday's nice weather meant we could just sit outside and catch up, especially with 2 daughters just back from University. Their youngest's very proud of his cooking prowess, though I'm unclear how much he actually did, bearing in mind the amount of teasing he was getting from his sisters. Whatever, lunch was superb and we finished up with one of th…

Introducing Our Patio

Click on the collage to see a larger image if wanted Clockwise from top left: 1. Looking East 2. Circle & brick detail 3. Looking West
4. Wall top detail 5. House brick colours 6. Edging detail
7. Central steps up to patio 8. Wall top & edging detail
9. Central steps entrance pillar detail + accessories
At the end of last month I discovered Gardening Gone Wild and their Garden Bloggers' Design Workshop. I've been meaning to introduce our garden's design to you for a while and this month's theme of Porches, Decks and Patios is a good place to start. I haven't really shown you our main patio before, though there have been some glimpses - the most recent was my introductory piece for this month's Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day, featuring one of our patio benches.

I thought I'd share with you some of the thought processes that went into the final product. We moved here in 1999 to a complete blank canvas as the house was newly built. All we had was a 15 metre…

Have a Closer Look at Your Garden Insects

Humming-bird Hawk-moth feeding at Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve' flowers - in our garden 2 years ago (click to enlarge if needed and look at the middle of the picture!)

Today is the end of National Insect Week, which has been marked particularly well already by posts from Simon and Louise over on their respective blogs. However, I've chosen today to tell you about it as a couple of important surveys are continuing well past this special week for insects.

Firstly Butterfly Conservation are interested in any sightings of Painted Lady butterflies or Humming-bird Hawk-moths in your garden as they would like to build a picture of their annual migration from Africa and the continent respectively into our gardens. The second is a garden moth count of species which are good pollinators/food sources for birds and bats to see how their populations may be changing. You don't need to be an expert to take part in either survey - the above links have plenty of guidance to help you.

Psst! Soot Sir?

There's been a great deal of frivolity over at The Garden Monkey this week as Gardeners' Question Time has been going all out for a radio comedy award. Last Sunday's show was invaded by a madwoman from Glasgow, asking where she could get some soot. Despite Bob Flowerdew's dire warning of rampant dioxins in the soot of today owing to the burning of plastics, Monica (for it was she, complete with pseudo Prunella Scales accent) would not be swayed from her path and demanded the team should reveal their soot suppliers immediately. Do hurry and click on the GM link which contains the secret location of the remnant recording from this exchange, as it will be wiped forever sometime tomorrow. You will cry with laughter I promise.

Strange happenings have also been unfolding chez VP's plot lately. As previously reported, one of my nettle beds was treated with weedkiller. Since then, I've found a number of surprising things I didn't know I've had for the past fou…

Green Leaves Are My Delight

Well, we've had Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day on the 15th as usual, but as a counterpoint Emma from the aptly titled 'A Nice Green Leaf' has gathered a bunch of us together this month to present the 'The Big Green Leaf Day'. It's been great to focus on leaves for a change and to have a good look at just how many forms and colours there are in my garden just from the foliage alone. It's given me a greater understanding of the importance of green in the garden, even when June is considered to be the high time for flowers. I've included some vegetables as usual, but these are from my patio instead of the allotment this time around.

Sing For Water - Radio Update

Yes, we've been on the radio again today!

As it's been broadcast on Friday, you have until early Monday to have a listen to us if you'd like to. You need to forward until 1 hour and 5 minutes through the show. You'll have a quick trip down memory lane with Steppenwolf until we're on at 01:08:30. It's on for just 4 minutes and features Let's Go and Free Yourself. Chris Samuel, our regular choirmaster features in both the interview and singing sections.

To listen you will need to have a programme called RealPlayer installed on your computer. Download it for FREE from the BBC's audio help page if you need to -

Striding Out in Harlech

My posts about our Welsh sojourn are almost at their conclusion, but I couldn't resist showing you a couple of holiday snaps from our trip to Harlech last Friday. We'd spent quite a bit of the week hearing this place being talked about, but had mistaken it for a lot of throat clearing by native Welsh speakers. It was only when we visited the Tourist Information office in Tywyn that we realised our error. We'd gone in there to check film times at Barmouth's Dragon Theatre, only to be told they weren't showing that week and 'cough cough' (Harlech) was our nearest cinema whilst Tywyn's was closed for decoration.

In the end we didn't get our film fix, but I thought another trip on the train to have a gander at Harlech would be a good thing for our holiday's last day. We'd gone for the train trip option because a) train trips are fun b) there's a long detour to get round the Mawddach estuary by car and c) we were facing a long car journey hom…

Lacock Tripping and a Blotanical First

Before I get going with the main thrust of this post, I want to say a BIG thank you to my fellow Blotanical buddies who've voted Tuesday's Feeling Flat post onto the Top Posts page. It's my first time to make it there, so I'm feeling pretty chuffed! Special thanks go to Sylvia (sadly blogless, so I can't link to her from here) who started the ball rolling by being the first to Pick and to Stuart who fixed the problem with the Post's title not showing up pretty sharpish. So I started out yesterday feeling good about life and no longer feeling flat - thanks guys :D

S, one of my SUP buddies insisted we do lunch this week to have general fun and catch up on GW Live gossip, so we fixed up to meet yesterday. I suggested Lacock as they have a flower and garden festival, but I managed to get us there the day after it finished. We still had a great time though, it just meant we had to neb (i.e. be nosy) over the garden walls and gates instead of actually going in there f…

ABC Wednesday - W is for...


Ever since joining ABC Wednesday I'd always planned W to be something to do with Wiltshire as it's where I live. However, last week's last minute holiday to an even bigger W, put paid to all of that. We may have only travelled a couple of hundred miles, but Wales certainly feels like being in a different country. The fact that around 40% of the population are native Welsh speakers plays a major part and we were staying and travelling around stronghold Welsh speaking communities in North Wales so got to hear it most of the time. The radios playing in shops are tuned to Welsh speaking stations, TV's Channel 4 shows the Welsh version and the word on the street is in it. In fact I was so entranced by the sound I even followed (surreptitiously I hasten to add) a young father and his toddler girl around Woolworths in Porthmadog just to hear them, in spite of having absolutely no idea of what they were actually talking about - probably something along the lines of …

Feeling Flat

Talyllyn Lake - 8pm last Friday evening
Coming home from holiday's always a bit flat don't you find? For me it's doubly so as I spent lots of time last week staring out of the bedroom window at the cottage (my favourite form of procrastination - this blog comes a close second though) watching the play of light across the Welsh hills. Wiltshire has a distinct lack of mountains, though it is beautiful in its own way. The pictured scene is just a few miles from where we stayed and is the shot I'm constantly replaying in my mind's eye this week. Unbelievably we'd always driven past this spot to/from the cottage on past holidays, but finally got round to staying there a while on our last evening. It's an idyllic place with a quiet pub conveniently to hand. In the lake shallows plentiful trout fry darted about with the occasional leaping out to catch a midge or two (thankfully the non biting kind). Swifts and swallows were constantly strafing the lake and it was a…

Plot Views - Windy


The Chelsea Chop - An Allotment Version

I never got round to trying the 'Chelsea Chop' on my Sedums and Geraniums in the garden as I'd intended this year. Luckily Patientgardener did and gives a detailed account of her experiences here. However, I did find myself needing to use it under more unusual circumstances - on the allotment just before going on holiday. I tried growing Nasturtiums as a companion plant in my first year and they've self-seeded themselves ever since. I don't mind - they're attractive and we eat the leaves and flowers in salads during the summer. Normally they don't get going until July, but this year they're well underway already and were competing too well with my potatoes. So out came the scissors and they've been chopped right back as you can see below - click on the picture if you want to see it in more detail. I did this on a sunny day and found the Nasturtiums wrought revenge for their treatment - the plentiful juice that dripped from the scissors onto m…

Right at Home with Artistsgarden

Yes I'm really there! In Artistsgarden, by her upper pond, on some good Welsh slate, looking at all the big fat tadpoles...

Naturally Artistsgarden has pipped me to the post - giving her eloquent account of our time together last Monday. I'm really touched by what she said and can only feebly say that I feel exactly the same. It's a constant source of amazement to me that when I meet a fellow gardening blogger, it's like continuing a conversation with a dear friend rather than meeting a total stranger.
Who cannot feel excited at what lies ahead when the whole train journey is as delightful as this? This is the Cambrian line just coming into Fairbourne with Barmouth in the distance.

NAH had gone to play at trains for the day on the Talyllyn Railway, so I had the perfect excuse to take up Karen's kind invitation to join her for lunch. It must have been meant for us to meet up - even the usual non-existent mobile signal at the cottage turned into one sufficient for me to…

Magnetic Poetry - June

I previewed this poem last month on Authorblog in response to his 'shortest 4 line poem' challenge. I then followed it up with:


That prompted quite a bit of discussion on the theme 'But is it poetry?' Quite.

ABC Wednesday - V is for...

I believe our American cousins are more familiar for this term to describe those pesky self-sown seedlings and plants that crop up on our plots and gardens in unwanted places. At home its sycamore seedlings that are my bugbear, on my plot it's potatoes. Mind you, last year's volunteer spud crop was my best as they didn't suffer from blight. This year I appear to have a special climbing variety that's managed to find its way into one of my compost bins.

Bet you thought I was going to talk about the other kind of helpful volunteer ;)
For other ABC V posts, hop on over to Mrs Nesbitt's Place.

Back Shortly...

I'm away for a few days in sunny (I hope) North Wales along with this little lot to keep me going. The book at the bottom of the pile is the one I should be reading, but I suspect that's where it'll stay.

I'll post some shorter pieces whilst I'm away - ABC Wednesday will appear as usual, plus my magnetic poem for June on Friday. A few other surprises may appear depending on how much time I get on here in the lead up to our departure!

And Artistsgarden - see you soon :)

GBBD - June is Bustin' Out All Over!

Some of you may have noticed my June's Garden Bloggers Blooms Day slideshow entered this blog a little earlier than the 15th. That's because I'm on holiday at the moment and I've left you this post to pop up magically on Sunday with this lovely sunny bench for you to settle onto and enjoy the show.

Here the yellows of the spring have now truly given way to my summer scheme of mainly purple shot through with a little blue and pink. The alliums are in full flight now like fireworks in the border, particularly my A. schubertii and A. Christophii whilst the A. 'Globemaster' has tightly packed flower heads in my front garden. I also have a number of new Clematis to show you this month and I'm pleased to say that my garden obelisks 'planted' in the garden 3 years ago with 3 clematis left to clamber up each one are showing themselves this year just as they did in my mind's eye. On the allotment, most of the flowers are long gone, but the flowers of my …

Tea in the Garden

'Tea in the Garden' is the favourite phrase of one of my fellow SUP members. We had plenty of it (plus 2 different kinds of cake and lashings of elderflower cordial) at regular intervals last Sunday when we got together for a textile painting session. We'd come back inspired from our trip to Stroudwater Textile Festival a month ago by looking at fabulous artwork like this:

It's by Pauline Burbridge and reminds me of the reedbeds where I do my research out in MallorcaAnd this:
The others weren't as keen as I was on this piece by Maggie Baxter. I thought it had an African/Asian batik feel. They were reminded of murdered body outlines at crime scenes!

So we each made our own little textile painting on calico. My companions made very tasteful pieces using a tracing of a William Morris tile and a flower stencil respectively. My piece comes more from the primary school approach to artwork. However, like the work of the artists above, I did combine several techniques (tracin…

Gardeners' World - Live at the NEC

Slugger Off revisited
Yesterday was very special - I visited Gardeners' World Live at the NEC in the delightful company of 2 of my fellow students from KLC. We managed to fit in a few things to do with gardening whilst catching up with the regular student activities of drinking coffee and talking nineteen to the dozen - something we can't do usually as ours is a distance learning course. On the way to the NEC I had the bizarre experience of a hearse passing me by on the M42, so I can now say I've been undertaken by undertakers. I also managed to time my arrival with a massive deluge, so spent most of the morning looking like someone had thrown a bucket of water over my jeans. However, it was a most enjoyable day in the best of company.

We took the advice of some show old hands I met just after parking my car and spent most of the morning in the floral marquee. It was good advice as we managed to get a good look at everything - the place was packed by the time we left at lun…

Plot Views - Snoozy Days

PS I haven't lost the plot :D

ABC Wednesday - U is for...


I haven't worn a uniform since leaving school (mumble mumble) years ago except for one brief period, when I volunteered at the Special Olympics in 2003 in Dublin. The company I worked for at the time was the main sponsor and pledged to provide 1,000 volunteers for the event from its own workforce i.e. 1 in 17. Here in the UK we'd been getting pretty fed up of hearing about all the marvellous things people were doing in Ireland without us having even a whiff of the action. So we were mightily pleased when it was announced just before Christmas 2002 that the company would fully sponsor 10 volunteers from the UK (1 per subsidiary company or section) to go and work for 10 days at the main event itself.

There was a scarily long form to fill in - a bit like the one for The Apprentice, so I submitted mine and thought nothing more of it. In the new year I got the special phonecall from HR to say I'd bagged the Central Operations place - whoopee! The other winners were ann…