Showing posts from July, 2008

GBDW - Gnomeless

Thanks to everyone who commented on my Garden Whimsy piece at the weekend. Happily you were positive so I needn't have worried about what I showed you but as Niels quite rightly said about Pig pig pig, to each his own and I think that certainly is the case with that most polemical item of garden whimsy, the garden gnome.

Some think they're an icon of England. You either love them or hate them. I fall into the latter category, but I had a colleague at work who not only collected them, she positively went out of her way to find new ones. I spent quite a few of our business meetings after her confession actively trying to erase this fact from my mind, otherwise our time together would not have been so productive. It was quite a distraction for a while.

I don't know whether garden gnomes are so prevalent in non-UK gardens, but here they can be prolific. Most people who buy them don't seem to stop at one. Often their first purchase will be the classic gnome with a fishing ro…

ABC Wednesday - B is for...


Not the bulbs of the gardening variety you may have been expecting me to show you, but another image from the fantastic steam fair I visited a couple of weeks ago, which also featured in last week's ABC Wednesday. Once again we're back at the Steam Yachts at sunset, so the showman had just lit all the lamps on the ride.

Do go to the new ABC Wednesday blog to see what inventive poetry, prose or photographs the other participants are showing on the theme of B, courtesy of Mrs Nesbitt.

Magnetic Poetry - July

A very short poem - I was feeling extremely stressed out in a new role at work and was desperately trying to keep smiling. I think that comes across here...

BTW this is from July 2004 - things are much more in proportion these days, thank goodness. Very early retirement has a lot going for it!

Plot Views - In Which Jess Approves the New Seed Bed


To Show or Not to Show...

... that is the question. This little notice (click the picture to enlarge if needed) went up on our communal shed a couple of weeks ago. It's the 40th one after all, so it should be just that bit more special - complete with some new 40-related categories to celebrate. I must get hold of the RHS show book to see if my veggies might pass muster. Or there's the photography, jam making, baking... Ooh, so many categories to choose from!

However, I'm also working on an exciting blogging garden/allotment show and tell which is taking up quite a bit of time at the moment - watch this space for further details ;)

The New Rebellion - Knitting

I just had to buy The Grauniad today after Bath Crafting Cranny's (thanks Jess!) tip-off about the free rebel knitter's guide give away. This turned out to be 12 knitting patterns by Marisa Turmaine, who hit the headlines recently following her freebie Dr Who monster knitting patterns on the internet were seen as a bad thing by the BBC.

I rather like the idea that something as innocuous as knitting seems to have taken a more edgy, subversive turn. In the guide I learnt that there are knitting guerillas from a group called Knitta, who adorn public artefacts such as signs and statues around the world with bits of knitting. This seems to be a more extreme form of the Innocent drinks' The Big Knit, where over 400,000 mini hats were sent in by knitters from all around the country last year to adorn Innocent drinks bottles, thus raising over £200,000 for Age Concern. I'm hoping that my SUP friends will be joining me in this year's campaign in the Autumn.

I'd heard ab…

GBDW - Garden Whimsy

Maisy and Daisy amongst the Ash leaves - November 2007
My dictionary defines whimsy as self-conscious semi-humorous sentimentality. And I feel a little self-conscious today in presenting some of the more whimsical features of my garden. After all, what makes me laugh will probably be judged by some others as pointless tat, kitsch and in bad taste. See also my previous post on Garden Centre Kitsch for some examples - whilst these certainly amused me, I haven't added any of them to my collection.
It's this big! A whim is defined as a sudden impulse or thought and all the whimsical features in my garden are testament to that. Unlike most of my garden's other features (excepting plants, and we all have impulse bought at least one for our garden haven't we?), no thought or plan went into the purchase of these objects. They simply made me stop and giggle (or think), then buy them. Here's a small selection of some of the objects that form the finishing touches in my garden…

Snail Smile

I never thought seeing a snail in my garden would make me smile, but this stripey number on my hosepipe yesterday did just that. Guess what happened next...

ABC Wednesday - A is for...


The sight of this fairground ride really made me smile on Sunday. The attention to detail is fantastic: the little cars, the petrol pumps, the cashiers area - it all just looks totally right. It also took me right back to my childhood as living in Northfield (if you click on the link, there's a couple of photos of the church where NAH I got married), we were in earshot of 'The Austin' factory in Longbridge. I always knew when it was five o'clock as we would hear the horn sounding the end of the afternoon shift. Whilst I believe this make of car was never made, it reminds me of the A40 - my next door neighbour had one and her black model is one of my earliest memories of cars.

My family has quite a few associations with 'The Austin' too - one of my uncles was an electrician at the factory and my dad worked at Triplex, the company supplying car windscreens. When I was little, my gran (mum's mum) lived in the Austin Village at Turves Green in one of t…

All the Fun of the Fair

Sitting outside in the garden over the weekend was a little surreal as I was in earshot of Carters Steam Fair which had hit town on its way for its summer season at Weston Super Mare. The swirling wind carried the sounds of the fair right here, mostly the plinkety plink of the various traditional fairground organs playing, overlaid by Elvis' In the Ghetto and other pop music from time to time - just like a giant mistuned radio. Naturally, I had to go and take a look. You couldn't avoid the posters over town all week and besides, it was only a five minute walk away.

It was a fabulous affair. Gloriously old fashioned - the kind of fair from my childhood. Everything sparkling and smart in matching paintwork and with meticulous attention to detail. The photograph is part of the steam yachts ride - yes, still powered by steam with one yacht sporting a giant Union Jack on its roof, the other with the Stars and Stripes.

I'll be showing you more fun of the fair over the next few we…

Up On Solsbury Hill

Yes, I do mean theSolsbury Hill of Peter Gabriel fame. It's about 10 miles from where I live and is the site of an ancient fort. This is the view looking towards where a community orchard will be (where the lines of trees meet and it will be about 4 acres in size), the greener grass marks the public footpath. A lovely, peaceful typical English countryside scene right?

Here's the view looking the opposite way. Two of our choir members live on Solsbury Hill and they'd invited us to join them on their property to Sing Our Socks Off (shhh don't tell Kate, James or Aunt Debbi - else the Sock Wars et al. might start up all over again). There's a natural amphitheatre in the field, backed by their barn on one side and a wall at the top. Andrew wanted to see what the acoustics would be like when the site was filled with loads of singers and about 100 of us were keen enough to try.

The day started with walking for those who wanted to, followed by a leisurely picnic - that'…

The Independent on Sunday

If you've hopped over from your Sunday newspaper or online reading, many thanks for joining me.

Click here for the leafy slideshow referred to in Emma's article, or you may want to orientate yourself by reading the New Reader articles in the sidebar on the right. Otherwise, do dive in and help yourself to a wide variety of topics including lashings of gardening, allotmenteering, and Chippenham life.

And yes, I do love Heucheras - I've even sneaked one into the flower Slideshow on the right!

Recycling Result :D

A while ago I wrote about how I'd found that Wiltshire was the only entire county in the country without any means to recycle Tetra Pak cartons. In shock at this finding, I wrote to both Tetra Pak and Wiltshire County Council at the time asking why this was the case. Today I'm pleased to report that the 10 Household Recycling Centres in the county are now taking these cartons. Just in time too - I was just about to post this little lot off to Tetra Pak. From now on I'll just need to put them in the specific bin for the purpose at the recycling centre when I take my other stuff up there :)

I hope my letters helped to make this difference. Next stop - getting them included in the house to house recycling collections like some of the more enlightened local authorities do.

Grafitti Spread

I've reported previously on the appearance of grafitti art in Chippenham and I see it's also arrived in Trowbridge now. This sight's been greeting us on the way to choir rehearsals over the past few weeks. I particularly like the cheeky play with words by the artist on the picture's subject matter and that very well known graffiti artist...


A big Veg Plotting and Chippenham welcome to those of you who've joined me from Gardeners'! Do come in, settle down and have a good read. If you need a little orientation, my New Reader links in the sidebar should help you get started. Be prepared for my wittering on about any topic I find interesting, but rest assured there are large healthy helpings of gardening and allotmenteering to make you feel right at home.

Many thanks to James Alexander Sinclair for his piece on Gardening Blogs of the World posted on his blog at Gardeners' and featuring Veg Plotting so prominently. There's plenty of other interesting blogs mentioned there for you to discover, if you haven't done so already. And do check out his other blog, Blogging from Blackpitts Gardenforan object lesson in quality gardening writing, photography and unusual titles for articles.

Butter Bag

NAH came back from the supermarket at the weekend with this tub of butter. Am I just being devious or has anyone else spotted how easily you can ensure you're a winner? Assuming lots of people haven't done the same before you of course. Luckily NAH's random selection without looking approach also worked so I can keep a clear conscience.

ABC Wednesday - Z is for...


Otherwise known as Arum or Calla Lilies, these magnificent architectural specimens were flowering profusely on Doug and Hilary's allotment plot at the end of June. I loved the way the sun was shining through their leaves when I was up there that morning. It's the largest clump I've ever seen and I suspect never lifted, thus proving that the white form at least can be hardy - our site is pretty exposed and windy at the best of times. Their lovely, trumpet like blooms seem almost unreal don't they?

I was bought one of these as a gift a few years back. I kept it in a small pot whilst I was deciding where it was to go in the garden. Sadly it didn't survive the winter and all that was left was a sad soggy white mess in the pot when I came to look at it in the spring. Last Sunday I 'rescued' a couple of specimens from Homebase - reduced to £1.99 from £7.99, so I'm prepared to take the risk again and try to treat them a little better this time a…

GBBD - Summertime and the Living is...

I'm very excited this month. The above photo of my Agapanthus'Blue Peter' may not look very much. In fact, it's not how it looks today - you'll need to have a look at today's new Slideshow in my sidebar for that. No, I'm excited because this is the first year I'll have more than one Agapanthus flower. I bought them 5 years ago - we'd just come back from a long trip to Australia where they'd been blooming profusely in everyone's gardens. It's one of my strongest memories of that time, so I decided I'd buy some to plant in a couple of pots I have at the side of the house as a souvenir. Each year since I've had lots of lush foliage, followed by a single gorgeous bloom for the past 2 years. When I took the photos for my submission to Emma's Big Green Leaf Day, I noticed that the foliage was even more lush this year. I didn't dare to hope, but at the beginning of this month I found not one, but 10 Agapanthus flower stems and …

Phytophthora - A Head's Up

Healthy Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn' foliage - at least for now
It's not often that you have lunch with someone whose books you're using pretty much every day, but that's what happened to me today at the National Trust. Unfortunately I didn't know at the time (no-one told me - hrrrumph!), otherwise I'd have asked Tony Lord (no, not the one from Hawaii 5-0 he's Jack Lord, this one) lots of probing questions about the RHS Plant Finder and his Encyclopedia of Plant Combinations, both of which are very well thumbed here at VP Gardens.

Putting that to one side, the main conversation over lunch was the potential threat of Phytophthora to National Trust gardens. You may know it by its other name, Sudden Oak Death - this refers to the first known appearance of the disease in Tan Oaks in California in the 1990s, not our native oak species. This fungal-like disease first appeared in the UK in 2002, probably from plant material imported from the States. The Departm…

RHS Radish Trial

Radish 'Rudi' in the foreground with 'Mirabeau' at the back
For the past few weeks I've been taking part in the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Radish Trial. Each year, the RHS trials certain vegetables, fruits and flowers to see which ones should be awarded the prestigious RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM). This award recognises those cultivars which are the best performers for home gardening, based on the following criteria:
It must be of outstanding excellence for ordinary garden decoration or use It must be availableIt must be of good constitutionIt must not require highly specialist growing conditions or care It must not be particularly susceptible to any pest or disease It must not be subject to an unreasonable degree of reversion in its vegetative or floral characteristics Most of the trials are conducted at the trials grounds at Wisley. However, some are extended to include the results from volunteer growers all over the country. I think this is an excellent …

Tagged and Playing With Words

Click on the word cloud to see a larger version in the Wordle Gallery. Thanks to Katie from GardenPunks for telling me about this wonderful new way of wasting absolute shedloads of time :)

Viooltje has tagged me (yay!) for another round of the Six Random Facts meme, so I thought some random words from my blog over the past few days was a great illustration to start my response. Alex - do note the prominent placing of the word 'shed' in the centre of the piece, Victoria - you're in there too ;)

So here are the facts pulled out randomly from my brain, squinting and blinking into the light this morning:
I was a Footballer's WAG* for a while. However, I'm the person least like Posh Spice et al. and it was also in the days when being a WAG was not the glamourous and jet setting lifestyle it is today, especially if your footballing fiance played for Leyton Orient. I realised just in time I was in love with the idea of being married rather than in love with the person, so I …

The Arte y Pico Award

Victoria of Victoria's Backyard has awarded me the Arte y Pico award for services to singing. I'm chuffed and chuckling - it sounds like I've won an OBE or something. Thank you so much Victoria, I don't know what I've done to deserve this, but I'm very happy to accept your accolade, especially when I saw who else you've nominated - I'm in very illustrious company. It's also been a great way to refresh my Spanish a little!
Here's the 5 rules bit for this award:
1. Choose 5 blogs you consider deserving of this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and contribution to the blogging community, regardless of the language.
2. Each award should have the name of the author and a link to his/her blog to be visited by everyone.
3. Each award winner should show the award and put the name and link to the blog that presented him/her with the award.
4. The award winner and the one who has given the award should show the Arte y Pico blog so ever…

Shed's Up

What better way to mark National Shed Week than to have a new shed appear on the allotment? As I suspected in Monday's post, the 'shed in bits' is now complete. George (the proud owner who didn't want to appear on here) was round the back when I took this photo this morning, painting his shed a natty shade of Lincoln Green. In the best of allotment traditions, the inside is already full of stuff. The shed went up on Tuesday and was a prime example of allotmenteers helping each other out. Russell turned up complete with the tools to complete the job and it was lovely to hear their team work and banter going on all morning. There was a tricky moment however, they'd got the base down and three sides up, only to realise the fourth side was too small. A quick visit to the DIY store and George returned with a classic 'two for the price of one'. The remaining right sized sides were both broken, so they had to make one good side out of the two before being able to…

All Steamed Up

Last Sunday, NAH and I braved the rain to go to the Heddington & Stockley Steam Rally and Country Fair. It was a welcome return as it's been cancelled the past couple of years. It's a real local event - held in some fields behind the most idyllic thatched country pub. I was hoping to report on the lawn mower racing as a possible new feature for a Top Gear style revamped Gardeners' World, but sadly they weren't doing it this year. They did have tractor pulling though - souped up tractors pulling an ever increasing resistance the further the tractor goes. The commentator described the course as a 'tractor breaker' owing to the rain. It has a real following in the farming community as evidenced by the audience. It's a bit like Formula One with mud.
NAH always gets a bit misty eyed when looking at a steam lorry like the one in the collage as his grandad had a similar vehicle in Poole. Other engines included ploughing and threshing engines and a demonstration…

Singing For Water - For Real

Our weeks of hard work paid off on Tuesday night and we gave our all for the performance. I had an absolute blast and it seems to have gone down well, judging by the audience's reaction and the piece on yesterday's radio. You'll need to fast forward to 1 hour and 25 minutes into the programme. We're on for 8 minutes this time - mainly because they played a whole song - Let's Go. The whole concert will be broadcast at some point - I'll let you know when that happens. Hopefully it'll include the set from our support act The Chausettes - one third of the group I told you about here and including Chris and Ali, two of our choirmasters. Their finale Hit Me Baby One More Time had me in fits of giggles, especially when Chris was a Bass version of Britney Spears!

The link will work until around midday next Wednesday. Like all good fundraising concerts we also had a…

ABC Wednesday - Y is for...


We need cheering up on this very rainy day in southern England and I think these Helianthus are perfect candidates for the job. They're the perennial version of the usual annual sunflowers we grow and bear the name Helianthus decapetalus 'Monarch' - golden sunshine in anyone's book. These have started flowering in my garden only this week, thus marking the transition from the mauves and blues of my early summer garden into the golden and fiery reds of late summer/early autumn. Whilst they grow to around 3-4 foot high in my garden, they're perfectly well behaved, don't need any staking and are very easy to look after. They're also attractive to insects, especially bees. They just thread themselves through the back of my lower terrace bed and look good whatever the weather.

Do pop over to Mrs Nesbitt's Place for more ABC pictures to cheer you up.

Plot Views - Awaiting New Neighbours

They're going to need all the help they can get

Shed Seven

It's the start of National Shed Week over at We Heart Sheds (or should that be love?) today, so to mark the seventh day of the seventh month I couldn't resist bringing you pictures of seven very different sheds taken up at the allotment this morning (dodging between showers) in celebration.

Of course I couldn't leave out my own shed - inherited with the plot 4 years ago and unaltered since. Mr & Mrs Robin + family have now quit their home - I hope to bring you a picture of their small but perfect residence above the door later this week.

Unfortunately not all sheds have such lovely residents as Mr & Mrs Robin. This pesky pigeon's on next door's shed, eyeing up his brassicas.

Our latest arrival, next door but one has yet to put this rather swanky looking shed up, but I'm sure it won't be long before he does bearing in mind how hard he's worked to clear his plot and fill it with crops.

Work in progress - a triumph from Freecycle.

Why have one shed w…