Sunday, 30 November 2008
Saturday, 29 November 2008
Membership cost £41 this year and my benefits according to the RHS are:
- A monthly magazine (The Garden) rrp @ £4.25 - however, I believe the net value to me is nearer £10, (not RHS' £51) when compared with other subscription bargains like Gardens Illustrated, who discount theirs and give away a free book. I'd also like to know how many non-membership sales there are of this magazine
- Free admission to the four RHS Gardens - I'll be an infrequent visitor as they are so far away, so no real benefit to me. I also feel the same about the RHS seed scheme - I could probably get the same seed cheaper elsewhere, though I do like the idea of growing something that may have come from Wisley!
- Discounted admission to RHS Shows - I've visited 5 this year, saving £15
- Discounts on special events - my membership has given me free visits to Jekka McVicar's Herb Farm and my workshop attendance at The Botanic Nursery - a saving of £6
- 2 other benefits are not exclusive to members, so I feel they don't really count - Garden Advice and Plant Selector information. In addition e-mail updates are optional and tend to be mainly of a marketing nature, so are of minimal benefit
So far, I'm feeling rather neutral about my membership. Perhaps I need to look at this whole thing a different way and ask the question, What does my membership give the RHS?
- From the latest Annual Report available online, I see I'm one of 372,000 members providing just over half of the RHS' income (total income £20.9 million, membership income £11 million)
- In effect membership could fund the four RHS gardens (£9.6 million) with a little left over OR fund Science & Learning, Governance and Editorial costs (£8 million) with slightly more left over (NB total expenditure for the year was £17.6 million)
Although I'm unlikely to visit say, Wisley very often, I do like the idea of it being there and I'm sure I'm indirectly benefitting from the RHS trained horticulturalists who look after some of the gardens I do visit. I'm also hoping to gain my RHS Certificate (at least), so I'll be trained to RHS standard myself at some point. I also value the Award of Garden Merit scheme, and I enjoyed being able to contribute in a small way earlier this year by taking part in the radish trial. I also love the Lindley Library and a lot of RHS publications have made their way into my own gardening reference hoard. I make extensive use of the RHS website, in spite of its many drawbacks **. So whilst I could benefit from all of these things as a non-member, I do value them highly enough to feel supporting them via my membership is worthwhile.
However, that doesn't make me a blind follower. This whole debate reminds me of what the National Trust found last year when they surveyed their members. Most of them didn't think of the National Trust as theirs at all, feeling quite removed from their fee and what the Trust does. As a result there's a major project underway to reconnect the membership to Trust relationship. Perhaps the RHS is in a similar position? When I worked at Earthwatch (an environmental charity supporting scientific research) 10 years ago, there was a similar disconnection and it took an awful lot of work to put it right. There needs to better information available on the good work the RHS does - I feel it's poorly communicated at the moment. This needs to be done at both member and non-member levels. Might I suggest a campaign called something like Membership Matters, starting with space for it on the website and in The Garden?
Conclusion: Membership for me is a bargain (but you may feel differently), however the RHS needs to work extremely hard for it to remain that way.
* = VP's Guide to Gardening Bargains
** = Yes, the website has improved visibly over the past few weeks, but there's still a lot of room for improvement. I would dearly love to sit down with the website people for a few hours and make them see how it looks and feels from a real user's viewpoint. I also understand the website is relatively underfunded, perhaps there's an opportunity for the RHS to mobilise the IT savvy part of its membership and provide some web development volunteer opportunities?
Friday, 28 November 2008
Stuart of Blotanical fame has set a 160 character challenge this month: to provide an answer to the question Why Do I Garden? Here's my response.
Inspiring & Creative
Doing not Vegetating
Sadly it looks like Blotanical is no more, so I can't take you there via a link to discover hundreds of fellow gardening bloggers :(
Thursday, 27 November 2008
The shed can be viewed and delivery is also promised - though to Joy's place in Canada might be stretching their goodwill a bit far. The reserve price is £80 (around $120 USD) and in view of the success of the TARDIS category in Shed of The Year, I'm sure it'll raise far more than that. Sealed bids should be sent to: Elm Tree Fencing & Landscaping, Broadway, Market Lavington, Devizes, SN10 5RH by December 12th.
Imagine if it was a real time machine though - there'd never be a problem in completing all those gardening jobs ever again!
PS Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers. You may like to have a look at the post I wrote last year especially for you ;)
Update 24/12: The winning bid was £250 - I don't think that's a bad price for what you get!
Wednesday, 26 November 2008
I was most amused when Anna (thanks Anna - I'll link to you when your Blog's ready) contacted me a couple of weeks ago with the information there's an annual sprout festival held in Worcester. It appears a local chef there believes the sprout is a much maligned vegetable and is doing his best to redress the balance. Unfortunately I couldn't tell you more about it at the time, but it did get me thinking about the other unusual food, vegetable and gardening related events we have here in the UK. I've mentioned one of them already, the rhubarb festival held in Wakefield each February/March. There's loads more and it struck me that this is exactly the kind of valuable service You Ask, We Answer (YAWA) should be providing for its readers: a diary of the more unusual or eccentric events we have in Britain. So I've started to compile one - I already have the above two festivals, plus mistletoe, chilli, tomato, potato days, apple days, and the national giant vegetable championships on my list. I'm also trying to track down the national Mangold Wurzel throwing championships - I think that happens around here somewhere. The annual cheese rolling in Gloucestershire deserves a place and perhaps the woolsack race in Tetbury too? I'd also like your help in compiling the list - do let me know of any events you know about with any website links, if you have them, in the Comments below. I'm happy to include non-UK events too! As soon as I have the list, I'll issue it as a YAWA supplement on here with a link to everyone who's helped in its compilation.
In the meantime, here's a hilarious sprout game you may like to have a go at! NB I think it'll only work if you have Flash installed.
PS As you may have guessed, YAWA will be making further guest appearances on here from time to time ;) And I've just noticed this is my 500th post - yay!
Do move over Swiftly to the ABC Wednesday blog for more Stories from the letter S...
Tuesday, 25 November 2008
BTW Apologies for not replying to your Comments, messages and e-mails over the weekend, but we were up north visiting NAH's family and only got back late yesterday afternoon. I'm still in catch-up mode with my scheduled postings, but hope to get back to you soon. You've been particularly talkative whilst I've been gone - thank you :D
Monday, 24 November 2008
Friends of the NGS 2009
Thank you for your interest in joining Friends of the NGS. We have made a few changes to Friends for 2009 and I am delighted to announce the details. For just £8.99 a year, Friends of the NGS will receive:
- A copy of The Yellow Book in February 2009 which lists 3,500, mostly private gardens all over England & Wales which open to the public in 2009 and early 2010
- Friends of the NGS Newsletter in Spring and Autumn
- Discount and promotional offers for NGS events, including for 2009 an evening hosted by Alan Titchmarsh
- 2 for 1 entry at selected attractions
Guess what's just gone on my Christmas pressie list...
Update: Helen (Patient Gardener) has pointed out the NGS link's instructions aren't very clear. If you want to buy a gift membership, then the above link takes straight to where you need to be. However, if you want to join, you have 2 choices - either buy the Yellow Book in February, fill out the form on the inside flap and send it to the NGS OR visit the above website, take the Friends link on the left hand sidebar, click on the link to the form under the Join Now heading and fill out the online application. Failing that you can phone them on the above number. The NGS will then send you your copy of the Yellow Book when it comes out in early February next year.
Sunday, 23 November 2008
It also means the frequency of strangers turning up in my site statistics has increased lately. It's always worthwhile having a look at these sites, especially as you never know what bells and whistles they're using on their blogs which are a bit of fun or potentially useful. A few days ago I ended up at The Cow-Herd Speaketh!!!!, a blogger based in Bangalore, India. In addition to a very interesting article on Hinglish (the mixing of Hindi and English in India), the blog had a most intriguing widget - How Much Is Your Blog Worth? The value's based on the number of links and index listings a blog has, so older blogs and/or those containing more articles have a greater chance of showing a higher value.
This evaluation's from the more business oriented side of blogging and I suppose the sub-text is: the higher the blog's worth, the more potentially interesting it is to advertisers, the more chance the blogger has of making an income from blogging etc. etc. And of course it's just one of many ways of measuring a blog's "success", should you wish to do so. However, I do think it's a fun thing to have a look at and it does have a message for us all, even 'fun' bloggers like me: post frequently and with interesting content, and your blog becomes an increasingly useful resource, not only to yourself, but to other people too. Whether that can be measured wholly in dollars and cents is a different question. What do you think? How much is your blog worth using this metric (no need to say if you don't want to) - do you think that's a fair reflection of the amount of time and effort you spend on it?
Saturday, 22 November 2008
I'd given my boss plenty of warning that the workload was too much. A well-liked colleague joined the team as a result over the summer. The workload doubled because the business area we supported was rapidly expanding. We examined the roles that were needed for the team. There were twelve (not necessarily full time, but each one very different) - I was doing eleven of them. We got in a project manager to lighten the load - he was no good so was asked to leave after a month. We had someone on loan from our call centre to help with the administration - he needed more supervision than was needed to do the work. In the end three consultants joined the team on the same day and I was expected to induct them all and still do my own work (which had also increased again). That was on the first of November. Then on the second things went really pear-shaped...
That's all I'm going to say on the situation, except I now think of the whole experience in a positive light: something that was actually worthwhile living through. I know a lot more about myself and I've learnt to say no. I was able to be honest at work about what was going on which I think is enlightened for a mental health situation and I found a most wonderful set of colleagues as a support network on my return to work. It also made me re-evaluate my life. Being a successful business analyst, the one who copes really well in a crisis and exceeding everyone's expectations year on year is no longer where I want to be. It's here, at home, exploring what else life has to offer that's most important. I'm happy and so very lucky.
Friday, 21 November 2008
Thursday, 20 November 2008
Guess what? I've been distracted by the garden again! Drizzly rain leaves the finest of raindrops everywhere. Magical - even on a dull day.
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
What a timely R this has turned out to be! I've just had my reminder from the RHS that now's the time to get my seed order in to them. Each year, RHS members are offered a choice of seed saved from the various RHS gardens. This year's catalogue runs to 23 pages, so there's quite a variety of seed on offer. It's not just choice specimens, there's plenty of the kind of plants everyone wants to grow in their gardens, so this is a good way to obtain or try new varieties, but from a prestigious source. Up to 20 packets can be ordered for a fee of £10 - which covers collecting, drying and administration costs.
You may remember the arrival of my previous order earlier this year and my consternation that most of it was from the 'challenging to grow spectrum' as most of them either take a long time to germinate or need particular treatment such as cold stratification, or both. This year, I'm going to sit down with a large cup of coffee, last year's seed sowing instructions, my seed collecting book plus my garden wants list and make sure I order seeds where I'll see the results next summer!
Further information on the RHS seed scheme can be found here - however, do note this is only available to RHS members.
For more Really good Reading on the theme of R, do have a look at the ABC Wednesday anthology blog.
Tuesday, 18 November 2008
Romantic visionary VP has found the house of her dreams - a large, isolated stone-built cottage with over 2 acres of land. It's affordable (just) assuming the auction doesn't go that far above the guide price. However, it's a 'project' (i.e. lots of work) and NAH isn't fully aware of how badly VP would like to live there. Can she persuade NAH the cottage is his dream too?
Now read on...
We've been to see the house! Just on the outside and in the pouring rain. To my eyes it's even lovelier in the flesh than it is looking at the catalogue or on-line. There's so much potential and it's just about liveable in. All sorts of possibilities are going round my head re the land. Most of it is southerly facing and in a long rectangle - lots of garden rooms, possibly a small holding, all the apple trees I could shake a stick at. I make encouraging noises to NAH like 'you could have that workshop you've always wanted dear' and 'remember when we were in Cromford and you said you'd like to convert that barn?', but so far he's being Mr Practical, as usual. 'How will we finance it?', 'we can't sell our house just like that, not in the current climate' are his replies. And bah, he's right - I'm used to us not having a mortgage and it's taking a rather special place to make me contemplate having one again.
So I'm going to use a little psychology in the next round. I reckon if I show him a 'project' that's loads more work than the house we've just looked at, it'll make the one I like seem a viable prospect. So I'm going to show him this:
It makes me laugh every time I look at it.
Monday, 17 November 2008
BTW we've been clearing out our garage lately, where NAH found some homemade wine I made over twenty years ago. It's surprisingly drinkable and the remains of the bottle of sloe wine also found its way into the casserole alongside the herbs. Once I'd finished taking my photos of course.
Sunday, 16 November 2008
The evening's objective was the launch of his new book, Country Garden Quilts. I'd been intrigued when I heard of this as the quilts are not only all on a theme that's close to my heart, but they were also photographed at Great Dixter, a garden on my must-see list. I'd wondered whether the strong colours and luxuriant foliage of Great Dixter's borders might clash with the vibrancy of Kaffe Fassett's work. On the whole I needn't have worried.
Prior to the book signing (and after a brief introduction from another of my needlepoint heroines, Candace Bahouth), we were treated to an hour long talk and slideshow, where Kaffe Fassett took us on a whirlwind tour of the world, showing us pictures from his wide-reaching travels. These had inspired subsequent knitwear design, needlepoint, quilts and fabrics. It was a jaw dropping explosion of colour which made me itching to get started on my first quilt and to pick up my needlepoint again. Kaffe Fassett first came to the UK in the 1960's and spent much of his time in and around Bath, so he had plenty of anecdotes to share with us, from both locally and world-wide. He also revealed that he started painting white-on-white in his early painting career, which was most surprising. His easy, relaxed style was inspiring, amusing and thought provoking. An absolutely fabulous evening and of course I left with another book and treasured signature!
You may be wondering where the above photograph fits in. The first pig is called Primavera Pig and was designed by Kaffe Fassett using the flowers from his Primavera fabric design. It gives you an inkling of the whirl of colour we were treated to last week. I took the photo at the Farewell to the Pigs event I told you about last month, where the pictured pigs were in a secured area as they were considered to be the most valuable. On Thursday we were told that Primavera Pig had raised over £5,000 at the subsequent charity auction. No wonder it was under guard!
Saturday, 15 November 2008
So, onto my garden's blooms. I'd say the majority of my remaining flowers are hanging on rather than blooming. I've also left some flowers to sport their dried heads in the garden. For the moment they're looking attractive and of course provide food and shelter for wildlife, but I'll cut them back as soon as they become dreary. I've just one new flower to show you this month. My Clematis cirrhosa 'Freckles' is budding in profusion and a few of them are fully in flower as of a couple of days ago. They are a welcome sight, even if the blooms start at eye level and work their way upwards. I've been really surprised by my potted Cyclamen. They're still here and increasing in flower. I was expecting to use their pots for my tulip bulbs by now. These will have to wait! Another surprise is the self-sown Lobelia by my stone bench on the patio. I was expecting them to have gone by now, but their proximity to the patio and the stone bench must have given them enough protection from the frosts that cut down the rest of their annual cousins. Finally I couldn't resist a tiny touch of autumn in my new sidebar slideshow: the Cotoneaster has been such a rich red leaf this year - it's almost impossible to see the berries amongst the leaves!
Friday, 14 November 2008
Afraid you've missed the latest gardening gossip from England?
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English and feeling left out? Then rest assured our YAWA online American Perennial Edition went into beta test earlier this week. Watch this space for more exciting details!
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* = some names may have been changed to protect the innocent.
** = calls may be recorded for training purposes. Terms & Conditions apply.
*** = rates and expert will vary depending upon availability, selected question complexity and our cashflow status.
**** = originals available to view on request, on payment of a small fee, preferably a jar of honey.
Thursday, 13 November 2008
The picture shows my car boot yesterday. As you can see it's poised for every allotment eventuality I may care to throw at it. I don't keep this stuff up there in case it gets stolen. It looks this way in spite of a GNO earlier on in the year in Bristol, where I returned from our meal to find I had a flat tyre. Luckily there was someone (painting railings in the dark at 10 o'clock at night - why?) at the car park to help me change it and a similar view to the one above greeted us as I fished through it all for the spare tyre. The incident wasn't sufficiently embarrassing for me to tidy up and put everything away, hmmm.
Mind you, I'm a bit worried about when I get my pressie. If I do get my car boot organised, it means I'll be able to get 10 times as many plants in there. I'm already considering opening up my garden's nursery area for business - it's seriously rivalling our local garden centre for stock at the moment. At least with a car boot the way it is, it keeps a natural rein on my plant buying tendencies.
What do you keep in your car boot (aka trunk, dear American readers)? Is it all absolutely essential, just like that pair of ear defenders are in mine? ;)
PS If any of my family happen to be reading this (unlikely, but you never know), I quite fancy the Bill and Ben Emma's earmarked for Arabella. They're so awful, they're great!
Wednesday, 12 November 2008
It's only in the past few years I've got to know our edible Quince tree, Cydonia oblonga. Until then, I'd only really been familiar with the ornamental or Japanese Quince, Chaenomeles japonica. I grew the latter in my previous garden to give some late winter colour and it's a regular sight on my walk to the railway station as several of the Victorian properties on my route use this shrub for hedging. Sadly, most of the specimens I see are rather uncared for and a mass of tangled, thorny branches. It's a shame as the shrub's blossom is a welcome sight in late winter/early spring and its fruit are adequately edible as a preserve.
The quince tree as seen above at Lytes Cary Manor is a different kettle of fish. A nicely rambling, not too tall an affair with lovely spring blossom and large, tactile, knobbly and heavenly smelling fruit which ripen during September and October. A few centuries ago, the fruit were used medicinally for treating lung complaints, particularly asthma. Today one of the tree's main uses is as a dwarfing rootstock, particularly for pear trees like the ones I'm training as epalliers on my allotment.
The word marmalade is derived from the Portuguese marmelo, or quince preserve. I'm a lover of the Spanish version called membrillo, a heavily scented, sliceable conserve that's utterly delicious with slices of salty Manchego cheese. Just writing that has taken me back to the project in Mallorca I work on, where we'd be sitting under the white poplars taking our daily lunch of chorizo, cheeses and fresh bread. If you can remember those boxes of Meltis New Berry Fruits which used to be given as presents at Christmas, you'll have some idea of membrillo's texture, but sadly not its taste.
The next time I visit Lytes Cary Manor in the autumn, I'll see if I can scrounge some of the fruit to make The Cottage Smallholder's version of membrillo. I particularly like the look of this recipe because it uses less sugar, yet recreates my remembered preserve's texture and deep, rich colour. Perhaps R. Pete Free will let me have some fruit if I donate my surplus jars of preserve for the Manor's shop?
For more views on the letter Q, do have a look at the ABC Wednesday anthology blog.
Tuesday, 11 November 2008
The space on today's post isn't a mistake or formatting error. It's the space I've left for reflection this morning at 11 am. Ninety years to the date and time since the end of WWI. I'll be thinking how lucky I am to live in more peaceful times.
I've also been reading this amazing blog during the past year - it tells the tale of one ordinary English soldier using photos, letters and postcards to/from his family plus materials found in his regiment's archive about that first global conflict. I'm glad I've only had to try and imagine how horrific it was rather than having to live through those kind of times.
Monday, 10 November 2008
I love auctions - some of my unusual planters and indeed plants and trees in my garden have been bought this way. You can find bargains too, as long as you do your research first and don't get carried away by the thrill of bidding. I've seen many examples of the latter both at the auctions I've attended locally and on the programme.
I peruse our local paper each week to see what's coming up in the next auction round. That way I spotted my dream garden a while ago, even if it was totally impractical seeing it was thirty miles away and had no living accommodation attached. Like a lot of people, I secretly hanker after a stone-built cottage, but of course being on the edge of the Cotswolds here, that means they're prime property and cost a small fortune. An addiction to Grand Designs hasn't helped either and I'm also a sucker for anything involving enormous chunks of solid English oak.
So the only way to fulfill my dream is via the auction route and to buy a 'project' - for that read requiring a lot of work. Naturally it's also got to have a decent slice of land to go with it, so I can design and build my dream garden cum veggie plot cum orchard. I think I've found just the thing this week - an isolated cottage not far from here, complete with garage, stables and just over 2 acres of land. Now how do I persuade NAH it's his dream too?
Sunday, 9 November 2008
It's Sunday morning, so it's time to see who's the winner from last week's book giveaway - Gardeners' World Top Tips - A Treasury of Garden Wisdom. Sadly there were no new names to add to the hat apart from the person from Portland, Maine who became my 25,000th visitor here last Tuesday evening. You were most welcome!
And the winner is... RB. Congratulations RB, I'll be in touch to arrange sending your new book to you. By the way those of you who gave me your seed selections last month as Open Garden donors, I'll be sending them to you shortly. Getting the seed information and sowing instructions together has taken me longer than I was expecting, so my apologies.
If you haven't made a donation already to my Open Garden, remember it's still here for you to take a stroll around. I also have some seeds left over to send out as a thank you for your donation.
Scarf Update: Kathryn is sending no less than 70 scarves to Pakistan, including my small contribution :D Her lovely update on what's happening can be found here. You'll see the scarves have quite a dramatic journey to make before they reach the girls and boys of Askole village. Helen's summed up my feelings about mine and Kathryn's projects very well in her post here today.
Saturday, 8 November 2008
The rules with this award are; nominate six blogs that you believe deserve this award and also list six things that you like. I'll come to the nominations a little later on.
- Hear - the birds in and around my garden. I'm particularly enjoying the hooting of tawny owls most evenings at the moment when I'm sitting here tending to my blog. We also seem to be the new territory for a green woodpecker.
- See - the sea. I may be living inland, but I have an urge from time to time to get my seaside fix. The wilder and stormier the better.
- Smell - freshly baked bread. I've rediscovered my bread making skills this year and I'm loving the results.
- Taste - chocolate. Especially Whole Nut, or chocolate covered brazils. And preferably plain if it doesn't have nuts in. Of course plain chocolate with nuts is double plus good.
- Touch - cat fur. So snuggly and warm. And very special when I'm not feeling very well. Skimble and Jess know when this is so and are the best of nurses.
- My sixth sense is my companion for life - NAH. He's the only person who makes me laugh so much, infuriates, surprises, delights. The whole shooting match - even after 25 years of being together. Yes, I can even think of the negative emotions in a positive way, because they're only negative because we care so much. I believe indifference to be the killer in a relationship. Our life together's been quite a roller coaster ride, but I know we don't want to get off. Sorry if I'm sounding very sickly and mawkish, but that's the way it is.
- Artist's Garden - for her comics. This week's was the best yet.
- Arabella Sock for her Scents and Sustainability series. You'll never watch Gardeners' World in the same way ever again. Arabella's in Oz at the moment, so this will be a nice welcome home present for her in a month's time
Have you ever received a gift from a stranger? If so, what was it?
Friday, 7 November 2008
Thursday, 6 November 2008
Wednesday, 5 November 2008
Like many cities in the UK over the past 15 years or so, the centre of Bristol has undergone a complete transformation. When we moved down here in 1984, the historic docks area was mainly derelict and run-down, with the odd attraction and bright spot, such as Brunel's SS Great Britain. Today the docks are almost totally transformed (with a couple of sites still awaiting their makeover) - the cosy dockland pubs are still there, but trendy bars and restaurants have joined them. Expensive apartments line the waterways which in turn, are alive with ferryboats and a host of other watery attractions and craft. There's the headquarters of one of our major banks (Bristol is a major financial centre), a vibrant media centre and several museums.
Bristol has had a hands-on science centre for a long time. Initially called The Exploratory, it was originally sited next to Temple Meads railway station (the latter until recently was the inward destination of my daily commute). It was a great place to get children interested in science, or as a place to take them on a rainy day, or even both. But the site was relatively small, so in the 1990s it moved to a new, much larger modern building in the revamped docklands and re branded as @ Bristol. As part of that move, the open space outside was turned into a place for public art based on the twin themes of reflection and exploration. On hot days, the Aquarena water sculpture becomes impromptu paddling pools and a vast play area. Dominating this part of the site is the giant reflective globe of my picture.
You may remember I had a picture of me on here in my blog's early days. It was also taken in the same area on the same day. But after some discussion with NAH concerning the potential perils of the internet, I decided to take it down. Besides, I didn't want to scare you away. However, if you look very carefully in the centre of the picture, you'll see I'm still on here, albeit as the tiniest of reflections. On the Allotments 4 All forum I've added the subtitle Get me out of here! to this picture ;)
Some time ago, Mr. McGregor's Daughter likened Bristol's 'globe' to Chicago's 'The Bean'. I wonder how many other similar structures there are scattered across the world?
For more perfect P's, do have a look at the ABC Wednesday blog. As it's Bonfire Night here in the UK today, I wouldn't be surprised if there's a few pyrotechnics on there!
Tuesday, 4 November 2008
Monday, 3 November 2008
Being a gardener of the lazier sort and fortunate enough to live in the south west of England (I reckon it's about zone 8, for those of you reading this over the pond), I've decided to leave my Dahlias in the ground to overwinter, just like I've done for the past few years. They're in the terraced part of the garden, so this is a warmer, more sheltered spot for them anyway. In order to ensure their survival until the spring, I give them a thick snuggly duvet like the one shown in the picture. I've cut off the blackened foliage and stems from last week and then covered the plants with a few inches of thick mulch - the used pet bedding from next door's pet guinea pigs and hamster in this case. The wood shavings and straw are ideal and will rot down sufficiently over winter, so the emerging plants in the spring won't suffer a nitrogen deficit. I reckon the rotted pets' poo will also give them a boost.
Of course with this method, eternal vigilance is needed come April/May next year to ensure the emerging foliage is not attacked by pesky slugs and snails. I reckon it's worth it though, otherwise I'd have to tidy up my shed so I can fit them in somewhere for the winter.
Sunday, 2 November 2008
I've already given my blog some presents - a tweaked new layout, a new header and a few shiny badges to wear. I'd love your feedback on the new layout - I've tested it out in a few browsers (Internet Explorer, AOL and Firefox), but don't have access to them all. If you have any problems or even plaudits, do let me know. You'll see that one of the badges to the left is for something called NaBloPoMo. I came across this via Flighty and I've signed up to their challenge to write a post a day for the whole of November. I know some of you are thinking that's not much of a stretch for me, so I'm additionally having a go at Your Messages - a 30 or 300 word response to a daily theme posed here. The Garden Monkey sent me the link last night. It's extremely good timing as I've just started on a creative writing course where I'm well outside my comfort zone - that's putting it mildly. Hopefully these daily challenges will help me overcome my panic.
I also have a pressie for someone. Victoria's sent me her review copy of the pictured book and she suggested I could use it as prize for my Open Garden fundraiser. You may know I've extended its opening until February with a revised goal of raising £1,300, so a new prize is most welcome. I'm not setting a quiz or having a random draw this time. Instead you have up to three chances to win:
- If you've visited my open garden, made a donation, but not won a prize yet - your name's in the hat already
- If you visit my open garden between now and before 8am GMT next Sunday morning (9th November) and make a donation (new or additional) - your name will also go into the hat
- If you're my 25,000th visitor on here, I'll add your name too. It should happen within the next few days, so keep watching!
If you've visited my garden already, you may not have seen the additional content I've been putting on there over the past couple of months. I've added some illustrated plant lists for each of the flower beds, plus I've archived all my monthly slideshow contributions to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. So there should be plenty for new or returning visitors alike.
Saturday, 1 November 2008
Robert Frost - New Hampshire 1923.
The poem's about spring's fleeting moments, and that's what I'm dreaming of today. The autumn gold in my garden will also fade away soon enough. Except for my pictured Yew tree of course.
Have you noticed how the trees seem to glow at dusk at the moment? Threadspider and I were discussing it the other day - it's just like all the year's captured sunlight is being used to light up our autumn evenings. Utterly magnificent.
Garden Bloggers' Muse Day - poetry on the 1st of the month, hosted by Carolyn Gail at Sweet Home & Garden Chicago.