Friday, 29 August 2008
We're 2 weeks in to my open garden season, so it's time for another random prize draw. The total raised stands at a magnificent £618 - thanks to everyone who's contributed this week. We're pretty close to a significant milestone which I'm confident I'll be able to tell you about during the next few days. I've also been promised a couple of exciting new prizes - more on that later :)
As you may have guessed, I've pulled a prize from my magnificent book stash out of the hat today.
And the winner is...Louise. You've won The Bird Book - the link takes you to its entry on Amazon, so you can get a preview of what you'll be getting. I love the artwork, and I hope it'll add to the lovely posts on the birds you've seen in your garden over at This is My Patch. This book was donated by Jane Perrone (via The Garden Monkey), so my thanks must also go to her for making this possible. Louise - we have family coming down for the weekend, so I'll be in touch early next week to arrange getting your prize to you. Hope that's OK.
Tune in next week for another great giveaway for my garden donors - I may ring the changes with a wizard wheeze. In the meantime, hop on over to my garden and donate, if you haven't done so already!
PS - went to Jekka McVicar's open day at her Herb Farm today. I had a fab time, which Emmat has described so well over at Baklava Shed Coalition - complete with a sneaky mobile phone photo of my lower torso, the minx ;) It was lovely to meet Emma and we chatted away like mad. As you can see from the above photo, Jekka has happily donated a signed copy of her Complete Herb Book to the cause. She was delighted to meet the mysterious VP and to sign my newly bought copy of her book!
Thursday, 28 August 2008
I know lots of you will have had lots of tomatoes already, but I only grow them outdoors. Therefore my season starts later anyway and this year's cool summer hasn't helped either. This little beauty was harvested pre-spraying and was delicious.
Wednesday, 27 August 2008
NAH came back from swimming training yesterday morning and announced 'I think I'll bake a cake'. I almost choked on my breakfast - it shows he still has the power to surprise, even after nearly 25 years of marriage.
Tuesday, 26 August 2008
We can never resist buying something - I love these clocks, but feel their novelty would wear off after a while. In previous years we've really splashed out, such as three very striking chairs from Malcolm David Smith a couple of years ago, and a very fine two foot long cedar bowl last year. This year the purchase was more modest, but equally beautiful - this rather nice pear made from spalted ash, a product of a tree's natural defences trying to combat invading fungi. It results in a pigmentation such as that seen below and is much prized by wood carvers and turners. The wood carver who sold me this piece told me that ash is a unique wood as far as spalting is concerned. It results in both grain and cross-grain effects and it is the only wood were advanced stages of decay result in a yellow pigmentation instead of the usual black.
Sunday, 24 August 2008
A few days ago Aunt Debbi did a great post on Murphy's Law for Gardeners. You know the kind of thing - there's never enough compost; if you water plants in the morning, it rains in the afternoon; it'll turn cold as soon as you plant out your more delicate specimens etc. etc. She asked for other observations to add to her list, so I contributed my one on Houdini Plants - i.e. a plant you mentally decide to get rid of because it's not thriving, makes a miraculous recovery.
Her post reminded me that I'd been planning a follow-up one to my Houdini Plants, on another irrefutable law as far as my garden is concerned: publicly voice your misgivings about a plant and it will surely die. A few years back, Chippenham Garden and Allotment Society hosted Gardeners' Question Time (GQT)* and I was invited not only to be a member of the audience, but also to provide some of the 'soundbites' aired as the scene setter at the start of the programme. The questions are provided by members of the audience, and NAH and I duly filled out our cards for consideration by the chairman (Eric Robson) and the panel that night (John Cushnie, Bob Flowerdew and Anne Swithinbank) before the recording started. Imagine our surprise when my name was called out as the first questioner and NAH's as the first reserve i.e. an extra question in case the edited programme fell short of its allotted broadcast time.
So we asked our questions - mine was how to train a wisteria as a standard 'tree' (a question NAH had said would never get accepted as the programme's question guidelines had said ones on wisteria flowering were a complete no-no - hah!); NAH's about the sentinel conifers either side of the middle patio steps. One of them had been damaged by an insect the year previously and was growing into a loose, 'flared' shape, whilst the other was retaining its tightknit form.
Our questions were answered to our satisfaction: John Cushnie describing me as too young to be contemplating a project that takes at least 20 years to complete, though the other two were much more encouraging. NAH and I also nearly fell off our chairs when we realised that the programme's microphone holder (and deputy producer) was a woman called Jo King. Her steely glare when she gave us her name, prevented us from actually laughing out loud though. So we went home happy after gaining an insight into how one of our radio's great institutions works and duly listened to the broadcast a few months later. NAH's question didn't make the cut.
So what happened next? Well, my 20-year long project never really happened as 2 years later my wisteria died. And this year (another 3 years on), the conifers are beginning to die back and will have to be removed. I reckon because my question was actually broadcast, the effects of the 'Curse of Gardeners' Question Time' was much more potent than it was for our conifers.
So remember this irrefutable law: mentally get rid of your plants and they will thrive; publicly voice your concerns about them and they will give up the ghost. Broadcast your concern on the radio and the potency of this law is increased 10-fold.
* = broadcast on the BBC Radio 4 every Sunday afternoon and one of our longest running radio programmes (since 1947). Most of the recordings are hosted by gardening clubs and the waiting list for a visit by the production team is several years long. NB if you click on the GQT link, it includes the opportunity to listen to the latest programme.
Saturday, 23 August 2008
The Olympics may be nearing its final conclusion, but today I set off in my own quest for a gold medal. Following my raspberry entry at EmmaT's Emsworth Show, I decided to enter the one at my local garden centre today. I was up at the plot bright and early to pick my freshest, ripest, juiciest contenders along with some dew laden leaves with which to set them off.
It was the third show at Whitehall Garden Centre. Most of the classes are aimed at children and the it's meant to be fun. However, there were some serious looking contenders at set up time, their trolleys laden with produce, flowers and baking to set out in the show tent. Set up time was 10.30 am and we had to clear the area for judging by 10.45. Prize giving was at 4.45 pm, though the results were ready to view from midday.
I set my entry up in a similar fashion to my Emsworth entry and returned at 4.30 to see the verdict. It was good to see a nice red card for First Prize next to my entry!
The garden centre is run by 3 generations of the same family including Mrs Self, who at the ripe age of 100 handed out the prizes. Gold medals and garden gift vouchers were presented plus all entrants went home with a mug.
I thought I'd finish with a final image from the children's flower arrangement class. I feel JAS in particular will appreciate the inventive use of a cheese grater and crisp packet by the winning entrants.
Friday, 22 August 2008
And the winner is...
Maggi - Congratulations! So Maggi, do let me know if you'd like Nerys as she is or made up into a lavender bag or pin cushion.
Maggi is one of my fellow KLC students and I first met her at Gardeners' World Live in June. She deserves a very special mention as she has just signed up to volunteer with The Great Generation. She'll be off to Uganda for 2 weeks in November to help set up a model Community Garden in the slums of Kampala. This was an opportunity I also had a look at when KLC advertised it on the student forum so I'm pretty envious, but of course I wish her well. So, if any of you are interested in hearing more about what she'll be doing, you can have a look at her fundraising page here.
Tune in next week for another great giveaway - random or otherwise ;)
Logo courtesy of: WaterAid
Thursday, 21 August 2008
Imagine, if you would, that one sunny morning you were suddenly plucked from your existing garden and plonked into a new one. The transfer was so unexpected (perhaps like this) and so swift that you were only able to take six plants from your existing garden.
So. The question is which six plants would you choose ? Do you go for something big - a favourite cherry or a noble oak? maybe an evergreen to liven up your winter. A rose planted to commemorate an anniversary, a herb without which your cooking would be bland or maybe just a piece of herbaceous fluff which stirs the soul ? Remember these will be the only six plants that you are allowed: your new garden has no access to any nurseries or garden centres.
What will you choose ?
James of course has already supplied his answer. And so have quite a few others - very good ones, I urge you to take a look. I've provided my answer too - and like most of the others it's been a struggle to select just six. The list has changed many times and I've had a few arguments with myself. We had 20 people over for curry the other night and as I was showing them round the garden (yes, between the inevitable showers), I told them about James' post and they'd pick out a plant and say 'Well, you must include this one' (Fuchsia 'Garden News'), or 'That's lovely' (Dicksonia antarctica), until the list was as long as the garden's planting plan again.
So, what's my list? Well, the published version (for now and extended from my comment over at Blackpitts) is:
Snowdrops - because they give so much hope in the dark depths of winter. Plus they're the only plant I bother to count to make sure they're on the increase in mine and the guerilla garden next door. But then I haven't included sunshiny yellow daffodils, nor the alliums, such as A. schubertii, whose firework presence in my front garden makes me giggle every May/June. And what about the Dahlias...
My mystery Clematis - she's such a floosie and the only plant that's stayed on my list throughout. I'll post about her in more detail later.
Heuchera 'Licorice' - all year interest and contrasts wonderfully with the snowdrops. Ah, but have I picked the right one? But then there's my lovely new Brunnera 'Jack Frost' to consider.
Echinacea - bees love it and it's so well behaved. But what about the Monarda across the way, or the Helianthus, the Erysimum that flowers non-stop for 12 months, the ...???
Lavender 'Hidcote'- for the Echinacea to float over and because its oil is so precious: 'First Aid in a Bottle'. But then the Echinacea also floats over a nice planting of Sedum 'Autumn Joy', or if I'm going for something that's useful, what about any of the herbs I use for both culinary use and ornamental effect?
Golden Fastigate Yew - representing my 'future garden'. I feel like ripping out pretty much all of my plants at the moment - I consider the current planting to be my 'learning garden': the relatively easy plants I've used to begin to understand what planting and year round colour and interest is all about. Now I feel ready to try something a little more choice and unusual, so I bought my Yew last year to start the process. The rest (and the potential for a completely new list of six) is about to follow...
Now I have to say my other plants are in a bit of a sulk. My Acer's in particular's going 'Oi, I'm your oldest plant (bought 25 years ago) - I've followed you round all of your houses, of course you must pick me!' And then there's the topiary box balls I've trained myself (which I could also take cuttings from to make a lovely wavy hedge like James's); the Himalayan silver birch where I hang the bird feeders; my bay tree - I'd love to train one properly into one of those twisty trunk styles - aargghh, I can't cope!
Then there's a six from my allotment to consider (just as an added extra for my own fun) - but I think that's for another time.
What would your choice be? Tell me - and James!
Wednesday, 20 August 2008
A lot of the plants in my garden early on were grown from seed, including this Monarda 'Panorama Mixed', which scents the top terrace bed at this time from July onwards. It disappeared for a couple of years, but last year's wet summer revived it to make a reappearance, and it's a welcome sight for me and the bees again this year. So this lovely cottage garden flower has well exceeded my expectations.
And so have you. I have some further donations to report for my Open Garden fundraiser. Anna, one of my regular commenters has come up with a very thoughtful idea. I'll let her tell you what it is in her own words:
I would love to contribute something towards your fund raising activities. As I am not a crafty soul and you already have some books, I would like to donate a membership to The Cottage Garden Society for a year if you think that this would be appropriate. It is an organisation that has given me pleasure and inspiration over the years. I have especially enjoyed their seed distribution scheme. I imagine that you may well be familiar with the CGS but if not they have a website which gives information about the benefits of membership : http://cottage-garden.org.uk/
Also Patient Gardener has donated some choice seeds saved from her garden - a selection of: white foxgloves, Primula japonica (which incidentally makes her 'desert island' plant choice over at Blogging from Blackpitts), Carex elata 'Bowles Golden' and Mathiasella. I hadn't come across the latter plant before, so it's great to make its acquaintance.
Last but not least, there was so much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over R. Pete Free's winning of Matthew Wilson's book on Monday, that Matthew has kindly agreed to donate another signed copy. So dry your eyes everyone, especially EmmaT - the game's still on! Incidentally, Matthew and his garden should be making an appearance on Gardeners' World this Friday - should be well worth a look. Friday is also the day for my next prize giveaway, so get donating if you haven't already - you have to be in it to win it!
Do hop over to the ABC Wednesday blog for more pictures on the theme of E.
Tuesday, 19 August 2008
Leaf miner damage to trees isn't new, but Forest Research are concerned that the horse chestnut leaf miner may be more troublesome than most. There's evidence of reduced vigour in young trees affected by the moth and the trees I've seen do seem to have far fewer conkers on them. I don't think there'll be many conker fights in Chippenham's school playgrounds this autumn. Forest Research are keeping a close watch on the spread of this moth across the country and have produced a very good leaflet describing the moth and the damage it causes. It also gives details of how you can help them by sending in samples of suspected leaf miner damage to their Entomology laboratory for analysis.
Monday, 18 August 2008
Sunday, 17 August 2008
I feel very humble today. When I came up with the idea of 'opening' my garden as a fundraiser, I initially felt very excited about it. However, the doubts soon crept in - would anyone visit? Never mind about making a donation. I wanted so much to make the experience worthwhile for everyone who came to visit, yet it was very much stepping off into the unknown.
Well, you 've exceeded my expectations. Not only have you visited, but the fundraising target's been exceeded on the very first weekend! And you've said there's so much content, it needs several visits to take it all in. Plus you think it's like visiting my garden for real. Then I find lots of you have put a piece on your own blogs and provided a link. Keep passing the message on - the more people who come to visit my garden the better :D
So today, I need to say a big thank you to all of you. I'll be visiting you soon and putting up a blogroll of honour. I need to work out the first couple of prize giveaways too. I've also got an exciting new donation for the prize giveaways to tell you about. Please bear with me, there's lots of comments, e-mails, links and donations to get through, so I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment.
But most importantly, the blogging community is making a difference - right here, right now.
Saturday, 16 August 2008
|Make a Smilebox greeting|
Psssttt! You're all invited to come and join me in the garden - at any time from now until the 21st September. It's a new blog packed with articles showing you my garden like you've never seen it before. It's to raise funds for WaterAid and you may win a prize too! Grab a drink and I'll see you there...
The new blog also forms my entry for Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day this month, hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. There's lots of flowers to see; you can take a trip around the whole of the garden and also get an overview of how we went about designing it eight years ago.
Thursday, 14 August 2008
BTW - it's also National Allotments Week.
Wednesday, 13 August 2008
I'm not surprised it's him in a way - but the scenario in my head was that if it couldn't be Matthew Wilson, then Carol Klein would get the main presenter role and someone like Toby would join as the junior member of the team. But that's been turned on its head and Toby's the main presenter.
So I'm sad it's not MW, but I had wondered how he'd fit the GW job with his new swanky RHS role. As for Toby, I feel neutral. I enjoy reading his articles in Kitchen Garden magazine, but feel he's too similar to Joe Swift in interests and style for GW to get the shaking up it deserves. However, I'm happy to be proved wrong, wish Toby well and tune in September to find out.
For more entertaining interpretations of today's announcement, The Garden Monkey is hard to beat, though the BBC Gardeners' World Message Board is trying very, very hard. Arabella Sock is in deep mourning with an amended self-portrait to prove it, but has fiendishly swapped sides and is peddling themed merchandise already. EmmaT has resorted to posting cute pictures - shame we didn't see it earlier Emma, it may have helped sway the decision. Victoria is in her best journalist mode and asking for everyone's reaction to the news. As for me? Just as well Esther didn't knit me a balaclava after all...
Update: JAS has commented in style, including a classic reference to Reggie Perrin
Look out for your invitation on Friday. Rest assured there will be lashings of cake available for your visit - whether you make it to the first day on Friday, the last one on September 21st, or somewhere inbetween.
Hop on over here for lots of other ABC Wednesday posts on the theme of D.
Update: Here's the answers to yesterday's fridge magnets post:
- Paella dish - Mallorca (to remind me of Margalida's cooking from my wetland research project)
- Mountain scenery - Colorado
- Cog wheel - Pike's Peak Railway, Colorado
- Whitewashed house - Finnikounda, Greece
- Boomerang - Australia
- Trolley car - San Francisco
- City Sights - Boston
- Sheep - Dublin (plays When Irish Eyes are Smiling. It was a Secret Santa pressie from work as I'd been going to Dublin a lot!)
- Reindeer - Stockholm (10 days mapping glacial flows in gravel pits)
- Harbour Bridge - Sydney (also reminds me of Newcastle where I lived for 6 years)
- Clapperboard - Universal Studios, Florida
- Flying Doctor Service clip - Cairns
- Ancient Indian settlement - Mesa Verde National Park
- Road sign - Australia
- Taronga Zoo - Sydney (I worked on their Platypus reseach project for a while)
Tuesday, 12 August 2008
Monday, 11 August 2008
My self-imposed rule of not re-using any of the words from the Magnetic Poetry calendar began to provide much more of a challenge from this month onwards in 2004. The poems are more like statements. Here I was thinking about taking my niece and nephew to the park in Wakefield one weekend when we were staying with my brother-in-law. They insisted on playing for what seemed like hours around the various animal sculptures and rocks. Finally my nephew conceded that it was quite hard for me to join in their game and could stop for a rest - 'Because you're a girl, aunty VP.'
No E, because you're full of unlimited energy.
Sunday, 10 August 2008
And if any of you are in the Alveston area on the weekend of 29-31 August, I'd recommend popping in to Jekka's Herb Farm as it's the last open weekend for this year - if not, she does do mail order too. See you there!
Saturday, 9 August 2008
- A spokesman for a local company said he had 'no comment at this stage'. Can I have his job please? I think I might be able to cope with that.
- Someone who drove away after filling up at a local petrol station without paying at 11.50pm was described as 'wearing denim jeans with Calvin Klein underwear showing'. If they could spot that at that time of night, how come there's no detailed description of his facial appearance?
- A local crop circle spotting group camped out all night in field without finding anything. A rather spectacular, large and intricate six-sided star design was found in the same field an hour after they'd left.
- A promotion for a forthcoming advertisement feature asks the question 'Do you serve food to die for?' I do hope not.
Friday, 8 August 2008
Thursday, 7 August 2008
Another feature was the unintentionally hilarious ferreting display by a young man who obviously loves his job and wants to tell everyone (a distant audience of 10 in this instance) in the minutest of detail. His rabbit warren was built in the best of Blue Peter styles - all plastic drain pipes and camouflage netting. After about 20 minutes of talk and no action he finally whipped out a ferret from a box and put it into the 'warren'. The ferret promptly escaped out into the field whilst he wasn't looking and the man's two sleepiest of dogs just carried on with their nice little nap and didn't alert him to the fact. Neither did we. In the meantime, he was using various stuffed toy rabbits dropped in strategic places around the field to demonstrate various capture techniques. It took him some time to realise what was actually going on!
I won't reprise the kind of photos like the ones I took at the last show, but I couldn't resist this fine example of the stationary engine displayman's art. It's the best I've seen yet.
Wednesday, 6 August 2008
Some of you will have already seen one of the exciting parcels I've received in the past week. Monday saw the very latest - from our own Mrs Nesbitt! Denise was very intrigued by one of my teaser remarks about my new blogging project and contacted me to find out more. It got her all creative and beavering away - shall we have a look at what she sent me?
So why is Denise sending her good wishes? Well, on Friday August 15th, you're all invited to the opening of my garden for charity. It's in aid of Sing for Water, the subject of my recent choir activities, which fundraises for WaterAid. We're off to London on the 14th September to take part in the big concert, so I've set up a shiny, new blog packed full of stories about my garden and allotment to celebrate and fundraise. There's loads I haven't told you about already - a full tour of the garden, how the design was put together, some of my absolute favourite plants, a peek inside the sheds and plenty more. I'd love you to join me for a cup of tea and a slice of cake, so I've put the next best thing in there - some of my favourite recipes.
Logo courtesy of: WaterAid
Do join me on the 15th August - tell your friends and family too, everyone's welcome, I can comfortably accommodate you all! I've plenty of prizes to give away to those of you who give a donation, including Denise's cards. Watch this space for more details. Don't worry if you can't make the 15th, unlike non-virtual garden open days, mine will be open until Sunday, 21st September.
It's so good to have a positive blogging story to report after yesterday's nonsense. Thanks so much Denise!
Click here to visit more ABC Wednesday stories and photographs.