Showing posts from October, 2008

GBDW - Sheds & Outbuildings

Our frost tinted garden shed - late October 2008

I've been struggling to write something about my shed for this month's Garden Bloggers' Design Workshop. It was the word design I was having difficulty with. At first I thought about the implication you've either made it yourself or done something spectacular with your garden building. We've only repaired the roof felt this year, plus given it a couple of coats of eco-friendly preservative to see it through the winter. I haven't got the trendy living roof I considered earlier in the year and our shed was certainly an off-the-peg purchase.

But then I gave myself a shake and started to consider design as finding something fit for purpose and occupying the space available well. Here I think our chosen building fits the bill. The lower patio in the garden is diamond shaped, so the traditional square or rectangular shaped buildings wouldn't make the best use of space. And choosing something that looks more like a …

The Fat Lady's Sung

That's it - the frost's turned my Dahlia leaves to mush. But oh, what a finale to see us out until next year. These are the dark leaves of D. 'Moonfire' on view with their delicate white tracery for just a few short hours yesterday morning. The best was saved 'til last.

ABC Wednesday - O is for...

... Oranges
and lemons, plus juicy reds and maybe a hint of mauve too. The deciduous trees are changing fast and a carpet of colour is on our streets. I've returned to childish pleasures - kicking through as many piles of leaves on my daily walks as I can find. Here's a summary of some of the seasonal goodies I've found around my garden so far this autumn.

Do visit the ABC Wednesday blog for more Original ideas for the letter O. Arrrgggghhhh - the quirkiness of Blogger! For some reason I can't get the collage to load in a clickable form, but over at the ABCWednesday blog it has! I've also reloaded it, but it still won't enlarge. So if you want to have a better look, I'm afraid that option's only available here at the moment :(
Dave at The Home Garden has started a Garden Bloggers Fall Colour Project inviting everyone to show off their peak autumn colours this year. There are some mouthwatering contributions to check out as well as a link to this ve…

Changing Chippenham - Plans for the Town's Centre

Royal Mail's sorting office - from Chippenham Railway Station - late February 2008

Brrrr - how chilly it's been today! Just as I'd decided to embrace Autumn at last, it's gone all wintry here. It's even tried to snow - with a very fine layer settling on the fields over at Lackham agricultural college. I can't remember when it last did that in October.
As well as the changes in our season, Chippenham's undergoing major changes in its character. It's hard to continue to describe it as a market town; more like a commuter town for the surrounding places like Bath, Bristol and Swindon - even London. Another 3,600 houses may controversially be built (thus increasing the town's population by about a third) - perhaps on the outskirts, on greenbelt, flood-plain land no less. Surely this is madness? ASDA (aka Wal-Mart) are taking the recent refusal for their plans to build a major new store to appeal in the High Court (does a town with a population of 30,000…

Tomato Trials

Windowsill ripened tomatoes - October 2008
We're expecting a frost tonight and an icy blast is forecast from the Arctic for the next few days, so I've been running around the garden today picking the last of my outdoor grown tomatoes and making sure the Dahlias are tucked up nicely for the winter.
I'm a bit surprised by my tomatoes this year. In August I'd written them off as tomato blight had well and truly set in. And yes, 7 plants were so far gone they went straight in the bin. The remaining 6 had a good dose of that treatment of last resort, Bordeaux Mixture. Three plants remained sickly looking and the other three (a good way away from the others and with much healthier foliage) soldiered on regardless. The upshot is I've had a couple of months of moderate tomato production. Enough for our daily salads until now - a much better result to last year when I managed to grow zero fruit. I've erred on the cautious side this time and picked the fruit as soon as the…

Getting Connected

In what feels like another life but was only a few years ago, I was a freshwater biologist. As a result I belong to a few online fora such as the British Ecological Society and Estuarine Science, which still have the odd announcement to interest me from time to time. A couple of days ago I received this:

'Dear all,

I'm a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, where I recently finished my Ph.D on the philosophy of perception. With a team of people from Stanford and Cambridge, I've just launched a website,, which does two things: - It shows researchers around the world in a 'tree' format, organized according to the institutions and departments that they are associated with.

It enables researchers to see updates on the latest news in their area - the latest people, papers and talks. We are hoping that will eventually list every researcher in the world -- Faculty members, Post-Docs, and Graduate Students. Researchers can add their departments,…

Oh What a Circus, Oh What a Show

Click on image to enlarge it if needed
I went to Bristol's new temple of consumerism, Cabot Circus yesterday to meet some friends for lunch. The architecture's very striking and even the Christmas decorations are on a gigantic scale. I found myself not dashing round the stores in a shopaholic frenzy, but instead thinking for the first time ever about a striking contemporary garden - containing lots of clean lines with mixed textures and materials.

Most inspiring but probably not what the owners had in mind for me at all.

Monkeying Around

Am I the only person to find this latest story from the front of our local newspaper absolutely hilarious? It's a great combination of bizarre, lots of detail in a short space, yet leaving so many questions unanswered.
NB the clock's a reminder they go back an hour at 2am on Sunday.

No Care, Less Acer

Remember this? I found one third of my lovely Acer tossed casually onto the top terrace amongst the Dahlias this morning. We're having the house fascias renewed at the moment, in the hope it'll prevent the squirrels getting into the attic again and nesting there. One of the workmen moved my beloved tree yesterday in order to start working on the back of the house.

I don't know what makes me more annoyed: the fact that four branches were thrown onto the garden in the hope I wouldn't notice the damage; nothing's actually been said about it yet (and they're not here today for me to raise it with them), never mind the lack of apology; or my oldest plant (24 years), nearly as old as my marriage, nurtured from a tiny tree and survivor of three house moves, will never look as magnificent again.
Hopping mad doesn't really cover how I feel at the moment.

ABC Wednesday - N is for...

I'm surprised at how my gardening tastes are changing. Until recently Nerines were definitely in the 'not in my garden in my lifetime' category. However, I decided to start exploiting the garden's gravel areas last year, and these are perfect for the baked westerly facing sector right next to the house. During the summer evenings our brick walls radiate their stored heat back into the garden, so this is the warm, sheltered spot they need.

I investigated the possibilities at last month's Inner Temple and Malvern shows. I'd already decided Nerine bowdenii wasn't the one for me - the long drive from Dublin airport into the city sees lots of tired, bedraggled specimens in every single garden along the way and their floppy, sugary, baby pinkness was just too girly in my view. At Malvern I fell in love with the bright red Nerine 'Fothergillii Major', but no bulbs were on sale by the time I decided to buy some. Plenty were available at Lytes Cary …

Apple Day

It's Apple Day today, Common Ground's nationwide celebration of all things pomme. And to help my festivities (picking the last fruit in the garden before those pesky squirrels nick the lot), I've just received my favourite catalogue of the season. I discovered Adam's Apples three years ago after becoming interested in heritage apple varieties. The result was this internet discovery: lots of choice (over 100 varieties), far cheaper than most suppliers, who was doing a special offer on 10 trees suitable for cordons. E-mail and telephone conversations ensued where I described the soil, aspect and climate of my plot and some of the trees I'd like to have - Ashmead's Kernel, Falstaff and Egremont Russet were on my list. Adam then suggested some further varieties (e.g. Discovery to replace Beauty of Bath) and I ended up with a selection of 5. By then I was so confident of Adam's expertise, I left the choice of the other 5 to him. My 10 trees are a combination of …

VP's Guide to Good Manors

Click to enlarge image if needed

A return visit to Lytes Cary Manor for their 'Prepare for Spring' event yesterday. Plenty of colour left to admire; hints and tips from the Head Gardener's tour; crisp structural hedging; lots of lovely bulbs and plants to take home; polished off with a warming tot of ginger whisky liqueur courtesy of R. Pete Free. A perfectly relaxing afternoon.

Big on Pigs

We had a SUP outing yesterday. Not a tapestry in sight, but amongst the pigs arranged on display in Bath's Royal Victoria Park we found designs by Kaffe Fassett, Brandon Mably and Candace Bahouth. We went to the Farewell to the Pigs event - a chance to see all 105 pigs which have been placed around Bath and its environs all summer. Judging by the numbers in attendance yesterday, this fantastic public art event can be confirmed as a roaring success.

Plot Views - Autumn's Coat


All Stitched Up and Ready To Go

I sent my consignment of tiny little hats to Innocent yesterday to meet today's deadline. I wonder if you or I'll spot any of my contributions in Sainsbury's next month?

Rather appropriately it's National Knitting Week, though I do prefer Flighty's discovery about Chocolate Week. Yum.


Following on from yesterday's post about memes, it seems appropriate to continue with a recent fun discovery. A little while ago I was checking some of my newly found blogs when I saw this. It in turn led me to a lovely booky site which has lots of information about the Sorted Book Project. Being a lover of books I just had to join in, but I found my initial restriction of just keeping it to gardening titles a tad difficult. Finally inspiration struck yesterday (at 3 in the morning to be precise) and I came up with the theme for my first set of sorted books. It's a homage to a certain radio programme. The best part's the book on the bottom of the pile: it's signed by the panel who were at the recording I went to three years ago.

After that, I found my own piece of gardening advice:

I'm glad The Garden Monkey has also joined in the fun. What Sorted Books can you find on your shelves - gardening or otherwise?

GBBD/ABC Wednesday - M is for...

Dahlia 'Moonfire'

... Memes

Stick around the blogosphere for very long and it soon becomes apparent there are all sorts of memes out there. There's the award kind - such as You Make My Day, I Heart Your Blog, You Give Good Chat and so on. Or there's the type requiring an answer. They're often along the lines of: 5 things you don't know about me; what I was doing 5, 10, 20 years ago; show me your screensaver etc. These are often called viral memes because they're designed to be spread and shared around, usually with links back to their originator. As a consequence, many bloggers dislike them and don't participate. I've chosen to join in as I've found them fun and I've found things to say on whatever topic is asked for. If any of that changed, then I wouldn't join in either. So far I've also chosen to pass them onwards, but without any obligation to the recipients. I do understand why some people choose not to participate, particularly …

VP's Open Garden & Sing for Water Update

Firstly if you've popped over here from Gardeners' or my Open Garden blog, you're most welcome! There's plenty to look at and I do hope you'll make yourselves at home.
I've got loads of good news today - not bad seeing the gloomy news that's prevalent elsewhere.

I must confess I'm in Threadspider's bad books a little as I've hung onto my first bit of good news for a week. Thanks to you, I've met and exceeded my Open Garden £1,000 fundraising target. For once I'd hugged this good news for myself - I'd been thinking you might be getting a bit fed up of my Open Garden entries on here. But Threadspider's right, it's an achievement that needs to be shouted from the rooftops alongside the loudest thank you possible to all of you who've helped to make it so. As you know I've extended my garden's opening by popular demand, so I'm resetting the target to £1,300. According to my Sing for Water sponsorship form,…

To Avebury

Yesterday's unseasonably warm weather (20 degrees centigrade) and cloudless sky cried out for a good afternoon walk. NAH completely surprised me by suggesting Avebury as our destination. We're blessed with being close to several World Heritage sites and Avebury is by far my favourite but each time I suggest it for one of our forays, NAH without fail greets it with less than enthusiasm. However, it's ages since we've been there, so I cheerfully agreed to go.

The landscape beyond Calne dramatically changes to that of chalk upland. It's relatively empty with big skies and the signs of current habitation are far outweighed by the signs of our ancient Britons. I always feel like I'm entering a different world. It's the same landscape which hosts the more famous Stonehenge, but I prefer the more rugged and oddly shaped stones of Avebury. I also like how the stone circle encompasses Avebury village: it's as if ancient times are dominating our more recent histor…


In view of this auspicious day, I couldn't resist another post - especially as our two have been particularly endearing this morning. JAS has warned against the perils of cats on beds in his contribution, but it appears to have fallen on deaf ears chez nous:

Skimble in his usual cat on top of the bed mode

But what's this?

Ah yes, it could only be - Jess under the duvet!
For some reason Jess decided not to leap onto the top of the bed this morning, but to snuggle straight under the duvet instead. There she stayed, purring happily next to NAH's leg whilst we had breakfast. We think it harks back to her antics as a kitten. She would often climb up one arm of NAH's dressing gown, across the shoulder and down the other and nestle into the crook of his arm. Yes, this was whilst NAH was wearing it!

This time I've enlisted the power of Google to find the poem below - this one's particularly appropriate for Skimble's usual behaviour. As a quality alternative, TS Eliot al…

LAPCPADPOUB - A Celebration

Skimble is still my harshest critic when it comes to poetry...

When the idea of Lets All Post Cat Pictures and Dire Poetry on Our Blogs day was first mooted, I thought cats - yes can do that easily, but poetry? Oh dear, JAS has banned me from writing poetry after the great transatlantic sock wars. I've been flouting this openly ever since by posting my Magnetic Poetry anthology from 2004. I'm unchallenged thus far (perhaps JAS isn't reading my blog anymore - boo hoo), but I'm ready to argue the ban is to 'never, ever, ever, ever, ever write another poem' and I was in fact publishing archive, not fresh material.

But why am I being such a wuss? Hurrah, the inaugural LAPCPADPOUB day has released my chains and freed me from such despotic tyranny! I'm standing firm with my fellow brothers and sisters who are incensed that blogging about cats and writing bad poetry should be struck off from the ether! Why such censorship when even worse crimes are committed in …

Traveller's Tales

the garden of the three r's: reduce: reuse: recycle = responsible - at Gardeners' World Live in June

I'm delighted that after a bit of encouragement behind the scenes, Maggi has at last ventured into the blogosphere with The Intrepid Explorer. I was invited to her launch party yesterday and can report the signs are looking very good. Some of you know a little about her already - she won my first Open Garden's prize draw; she's created the lovely Emsworth to help raise further funds and she was also a chicktastic winner at EmmaT's village show. But all this pales into insignificance compared to the tales Maggi will be relating over the next few weeks. Next month she's off to Africa - Uganda no less, to work on a community gardening project in Kampala's slums. So do go over and wish her bon voyage.
I've met some pretty enthusiastic people on my gardening travels this year. The most bubbly of them all is Claire, whom I first met at Gardeners' World …

Treasure Chest

Woo hoo my big bulb order has arrived! I've felt a bit bereft the past couple of years as I haven't been able to indulge my passion for bulbs as my borders are full and the opportunities for Guerrilla Gardening them nearby are becoming more limited too. However, a change in my winter pots strategy has enabled me to order a satisfyingly large boxful this year.
Being a gardener of the lazy sort, I haven't really done that much with tulips so far. Just a sprinkling of species tulips here and there, plus contrasting dark T. 'Queen of Night' and T. 'Purissima' in the mirror beds in the front garden. These I feel are safe enough to leave from year to year and look stunning. It's the idea of the autumn planting followed by early summer lifting that's put me off from planting more - much as I love the form and beauty of the flower, that's just too much of a faff for me.
However, I've made the decision not to f**t around with fiddly little pots of pans…

Magnetic Poetry - October

It's National Poetry Day today and this year's theme is Work. By an absolute coincidence this month's magnetic poem, written in October 2004 is about my work at the time, so it seems appropriate to share it with you today. This is the only poem I've written where I've been consciously inspired by another poem. Until yesterday I was only familiar with the first 4 lines:
I keep six honest serving-men (They taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When And How and Where and Who.

These lines are oft quoted in business courses and motivational materials. I've experienced it on Total Quality Management, Train the Trainer, project management and my Diploma in Business Analysis courses. It's any easy mnemonic trotted out as being the holy grail to ensure success in requirements gathering, assessing training needs and problem solving. And yes, I've used it many times with much success in my work.

However, by the time I wrote my poem, my honest servi…

ABC Wednesday - L is for...

In Threadspider's garden - July 2008

... Love-in-a-mist
When I offered saved seeds to my Open Garden donors on Sunday, I didn't think Love-in-a-Mist (aka Nigella damascena) would be that popular. After all, they're always being given away on the front of gardening magazines, so everyone must have some right? It looks like I'm wrong as this is the most requested seed packet thus far. I can see why: an evocative name with lovely jewel-like flowers above all that floaty foliage. The seedheads are pretty too, each capsule containing plenty of seed, which can be used in Indian cooking. It's an easy annual, once sown always filling in some gap in the garden. Don't worry if this is your requested packet, I should have enough to go round.
This afternoon my SUP friends are coming round to help me make the seed packets ready for sending your selections. I'm really looking forward to it as we haven't all got together since our jolly trip to Weymouth in August. There&…

Autumn Acer

I first showed you my prized Acer in May, bedecked in its Spring finery. Now it's telling me Autumn's well and truly here. Not that it needed to prove that much to me - the gales and lashing rain of the past few days have been enough to confirm that summer (what summer?) is well and truly over and it's time to start collecting leaves for leaf mould making.

NAH and I have had our annual battle over when to put the central heating on. I take my old school's stance of no heating until October - a woolly pully should be enough for daytime and there's always the winter weight duvet to be pulled out of the cupboard to snuggle under at night. I finally caved in on Saturday. We called it honours even - we'd lasted until October, NAH had had a month of complaining he's cold.

Hat's Off, Scarf's On!

I was glad to be wearing this out in the garden today!
The scarf's finished and off on the next stage of its journey to Pakistan. However, I couldn't resist showing off the final product to you, courtesy of NAH. I'm wearing it in the style I imagine it'll be worn and I hope one girl in a very remote mountain village loves it as much as I do. I can also vouch for its warmth, it was distinctly chilly in the garden early this morning - trust me to brave it out there in just a T-shirt.

Kathryn at Plant Whatever Brings You Joy updated us a couple of days ago on where our contributions are headed. It's worth a look - the photographs are absolutely jaw dropping. She has promises of 63 scarves so far - another Blogging With a Purpose success :)

Seed Saving Saturday

Leaving seeds to dry - Geranium 'Splish Splash'
Yesterday saw me whizzing round the garden picking up the last of the seedheads I want to save before the forecast winds and heavy rain lashed them into damp submission today. The less time it takes them to dry, the sooner I can send them out. These are the seeds I'm offering to my Open Garden donors. I'll be contacting everyone involved to ask what you'd like, but you may like to peruse the list below prior to my getting in touch. You'll see that some of the seeds have been kindly donated by Threadspider and Patient Gardener and I've tried to cater for both veggie and floral preferences. On Wednesday, my SUP friends will be joining me to help make the seed packets, so quite a few people will have been involved in putting it all together :)
There's still time to grab yourself a packet of seeds simply by visiting my Open Garden and leaving a small donation if you haven't done so already. You Grow Girl ha…

Plot Views - Autumn Digging Begins

I have tennis elbow - ouch! Any ideas on how I can get the autumn digging done? And you're right - asking NAH isn't an option!

VP's Guide to Garden Bargains #2

This is a brilliant excuse to bring you another picture of the fabulous borders I saw recently (they look much better if you click to enlarge the picture) at the RHS Inner Temple Show. Amateur Gardening (AG) magazine has their account of the event in this week's edition. As The Garden Monkey points out, having the power and immediacy of the internet, we bloggers were well ahead of their game, though they did have a rather nice piece on the Head Gardener, Andrea Brunsendorf.
However, I do need to correct an inaccuracy in the AG report re when the garden's open to the public. It implies there's only a couple of occasions - during the London Open Garden Squares weekend in June and the National Garden Scheme (October 4th 2009). I've been looking into the Inns of Court gardens (of which The Inner Temple is one of four) in a little more detail since my return from London, and can reveal they're open to the public every weekday lunchtime (at the Inner Temple's discreti…

How Handy!

This book arrived on Monday. As you can see it was just in time for last month's Allotment Show - not. First published in 1953 (this is the seventh edition, updated this year), it contains many gems of advice to potential exhibitors, such as trimming fingernails prior to picking fruit or vegetables to prevent damage.
I ordered it on August 3rd - next time I'll order directly from the RHS instead of Amazon.

ABC Wednesday - K is for...

Knitting a scarf in this household has some particular furry hazards. Skimble loves to tread any knitted garment and seems to think balls of wool are kittens that need to be moved out of his mum's way! This is the scarf I'm knitting for Pakistan - just one more foot to go and then it'll be off to Plant Whatever Brings You Joy.

If knitting a five foot long scarf is a bit much for you, but you'd still like to get involved in a knitting project, then look no further than Innocent drinks' the big knit. It involves knitting miniature hats which are then placed on their 330ml drinks bottles for sale in November. Each sale results in a 50p donation to Help the Aged. Over £200,000 was raised last year. I'll be knitting some after I've finished this scarf, so I'll tell you more about that another time. The deadline's 17th October, but as the hat is tiny and relatively easy to make, there's time to make a shedload of them and still meet the date…