Showing posts from July, 2009

ABC Wednesday 5: B is for...

Bristol's naughtiest boy has been let loose on the city's main museum for the Bristol Museum vs. Banksy exhibition. The building was closed for 3 months whilst he secretly curated his own exhibition and turned the entire place upside down in the process. It opened in June and so far around 200,000 visitors drawn from across the world have come to view, gawp and laugh. I don't think the museum staff quite expected such an explosion of interest.

I've seen quite a few Banksy originals on the streets of Bristol and was curious to see whether an exhibition in an 'establishment' venue would dent his political stance or sense of humour. I needn't have worried. Banksy has pretty much turned the museum into his own playground. As well as the rooms dedicated to his art, he's made 'additions' to pretty much every cabinet and wall elsewhere. I suspect the porcelain, maps, natural history and artwork have never been examined so closely by visitors.…

Friends & Family

It's time for friends and family to take their rightful priority and for me to take a little blog break for the next few days. My post for ABC Wednesday will appear as scheduled and your daily fix of Veg Plotting will return in time for Garden Bloggers' Muse Day on August 1st. Who knows if I'll need to take the advice from the pictured leaflet before then ;)
Take care and see you soon!

GBDW: Bulbs

When we moved here just over 10 years ago, the first 'vision' I had for my garden was masses of daffodils. It was the day after we'd moved in - on a cold, bleak February day - when I found out the steep bank at the side front of the house wasn't the responsibility of the local council, but was ours. As I watched the builders install the fence at the bottom of the slope to divide our lands, all I could see in my mind's eye was yellow. Later - in November - I took my first baby steps towards making the garden my own, by planting 3 large sacks of daffodils on that slope in the pouring rain. Their burst of brightness the next year was sufficient reward for my soaking.
Since then, I've literally poured bulbs into every corner of the garden: a thousand snowdropsbought in the green by NAH as a birthday present; various Alliums to add fireworks in May through July; Convallaria for scent in the woodland area; and Dahlias to remember childhood happy times as my dad organi…

Some Local News For The Weekend

Regular readers know I have a certain fondness for my local paper - The Gazette & Herald - particularly when it's at its most local or eccentric. Imagine my delight to find the headline: Patrol cycles will fit the bill last week. Apparently the Chippenham Neighbourhood Policing team have been kitted out with push bikes to replace pounding the beat. They're police specification Smith & Wesson mountain bikes, which makes me wonder if they have any extra features.
I also realised I've been reading my local paper for over 20 years without spotting a classic editorial decision. Our two local MPs write weekly columns which are published either side of the Obituaries. That's the work of genius.
Have a great weekend everyone :)
Stop Press: I've a guest post over at The Garden Monkey's Book Flange. It's all about the unexpected booky treasures I found whilst in Norfolk :D

Unusual Front Gardens #1: Box

This is the first of a new series* which celebrates some of the more unusual front gardens I've found here in the UK. We're known as a nation of gardeners and sometimes as being rather eccentric. I'm aiming to merge the two into one glorious whole.
First up is this garden just a few miles from me in Box. It's been featured in several magazines and was also glimpsed briefly in How Britain Got The Gardening Bug on TV recently. I'll probably return to this one in December as the engine's usually decked out in lots of Christmas lights to raise money for charity.
Box also has Brunel's ultra long railway tunnel and is probably the place which inspired Thomas the Tank Engine as this is where the Reverend WV Awdry lived as a boy:
I, along with my brother George, born in 1916, inherited our father’s love of railways, and after moving to Box, Wiltshire, in 1917 our house was within sight and sound of the Great Western Railway’s main line line near Middle Hill. I use…

ABC Wednesday 5: A is for...

... Advertising
aka How Advertising Works in Chippenham 6 - a very occasional series of mine: Set up a new service for your business on the A4 in CorshamSelect and adapt a couple of vans to promote itPlace said vans along the A4 - one in Chippenham and the other on the far side of CorshamWait for a Blogger with a camera to spot the bucket on top of the van and find it funny - especially as she saw it just a week or so after the pink umbrellasEt voila!Has anyone else noticed how Hand Car Wash businesses seem to be cropping up everywhere? We saw quite a few of them in Norfolk too. Is it a sign of our times or a business reaction to the credit crunch perhaps? The van on the other side of Corsham doesn't have anything on top of it and therefore isn't as effective as the Chippenham one in my view. You can view the previous post in this occasional series here.For other Absolutely Ace posts, do visit the ABC Wednesday blog.

Things in Unusual Places #4: Porcelain Flowers

NAH and I took a little trip out to Shepton Mallet last week because I'd heard on our local TV news their garden centre has a most unusual use for porcelain flowers. They're the work of Clark Sorensen, an artist based in San Francisco - aren't they just fabulous? If you click on the link you'll not only find lots more examples of his work, you'll also see the eye watering prices they command. Each urinal is signed and the flower identified: in this case we have a red Hibiscus, an orange Orchid and a Slipper Orchid. I wonder which one gets used the most?

Ladies - if you're thinking we're rather left out, just look at what I found in our loos. I had a lovely time playing with them :)
These aren't the first flowery loos in the UK: last year Barton Grange in Lancashire installed a slightly different set in their garden centre. I do hope they catch on elsewhere because let's face it, we do need to mix a bit of fun with our gardening don't we?
And finall…

Garden Visit: Hanham Court

It's ages since I put a slideshow together and sorting through the dozens of pictures I took on my recent visit to Hanham Court, I feel this is the best medium to convey a sense of the place. Lavish planting requires a lavish presentation! Hover over the image if you'd like to look at anything for a bit longer - I suspect you'll want to with this wonderful garden. My SUP friend S arranged a trip there a couple of weekends ago, having first visited in May and raved about how lovely it was. She's not wrong.

This is the first year the garden's opened extensively to the public, though it has been open under the National Gardens Scheme in previous years. Architecturally, there's something from almost every century since the Norman conquest and at one time the house was part of Keynsham Abbey. This influence can be seen in a number of the found objects used in the garden. In 1993, the celebrated garden designers Julian and Isabel Bannerman decided to make Hanham Court…

The Future's Bright, The Future's... Orange

My local garden centre and the city of Bath may have chosen pink geraniums as their seasonal planting, but in Bristol it's bright orange instead. I snapped these on the outskirts of Broadmead last Thursday, but also saw examples around College Green and in the Centre. BTW the camber of the streets is a bit strange where I took this photo, which is why the new Primark store in the background looks like it's falling over, yet the traffic lights and people are nicely upright.

I like this planting. It's bold and just the thing on a rainy day, which is when I saw it. The more I look at seasonal bedding, the more I believe the mass plantings of one or two varieties only are the ones which work best for me. I even like the grass that's used (!) because it adds some needed height to this very large border and because its darkness contrasts so well with the brightness of the Geraniums. However, I've forgotten which one it is, even though it was particularly trendy last year …

Facing the Fuchsia

I've come to realise that the main reason why I'm feeling rather morose about my garden at the moment is the state of my Fuchsias. They've always been one of my late summer mainstays but this year they're looking far from their best. The reasons for this are twofold: our cold winter and a rather pesky bug.

Although I only grow hardy Fuchsias, the winter cold has laid them to waste somewhat. I've said goodbye to all the ones I had in pots plus F. 'Mrs Popple'. Others like F. 'Lady Boothby' and F. 'Garden News' are still at the rather pathetic shoot stage. Only F. 'Hawkshead' and the F. magellanica cultivars are really strutting their stuff so far.

Then there's the state of the pictured F. 'Genii'. As you can see it's looking rather blistered and bruised. It's the same at Threadspider's and we initially thought it was a virus. However, when I came to photograph my plant for this blog, I noticed lots of tiny hol…

The Fourth Plinth: Alive Dad

My only must-see for our trip to London last Sunday - apart from my Serendipity meeting - was to go and gawp at One and Other, Antony Gormley's 100-day installation on the empty fourth plinth in Trafalgar square. This started on July 6th and 2,400 people each have (or had) the opportunity to be a living statue for an hour where they can do anything they like on there as long as it's legal and doesn't involve getting off again until their time's up.

It was Graham, aka Alive Dad posing when we were there, a homage to middle aged dads everywhere. He'd assembled a flat-pack deckchair and - I was glad to see - placed a Canna at each corner of the plinth. When we arrived he was taking pictures of the square and waving at everyone. He then sat in his deckchair and proceeded to read a newspaper - a copy of The Independent. He was wearing a t-shirt bearing a silhouette of himself sitting in a deckchair, plus the logo Just Be It. A neat twist on the Nike logo.

Alive Dad'…

GBBD/ ABC Wednesday 4: Z is For...

... Zing!
Happy Mouffetard may have plants which go Fwing!, but I think my Dahlia 'Moonfire'have more of a Zing! to them. I love that combination of very dark foliage topped by single flowers of burnt orange when they first open, which then mellow into a deep, sunny yellow. As you can see, the bees seem to like them too.
I was convinced our really cold weather had destroyed my Dahlias as I never dig them up, but instead cover them with a snuggly quilt for the winter. I was delighted at the beginning of May to find that my 'Moonfire' and D. 'David Howard' had survived. Sadly D. 'Romeo' and D. 'Happy Party' hadn't, even though they're not that far from their surviving cousins. I think the wall immediately behind the survivors may have contributed to their success. BTW, I received an e-mail from the RHS on Monday saying their hardiness survey is now live on their website. Now's your chance to turn your winter losses and unexpected surviv…

Seasonal Recipe: Pea & Mint Soup

Lately I've been glutbusting by making some mangetout* and mint soup and I'm delighted The Guardian Gardening blog has published my delicious invented recipe today. Of course it'll work just as well if you have a glut of the usual kind of peas. My recipe also uses some of my new potatoes which got damaged whilst harvesting - and therefore need eating up pretty quickly - plus a nice large freshly harvested onion.

Don't worry if you haven't grown any peas, or you don't have a glut of them or indeed you don't have the potatoes or onion. I've also found a very simple recipe using store cupboard and freezer ingredients which means you can make this lovely soup pretty much whenever you want. I found it a while ago in A Celebration of Soupby Lindsey Bareham and it serves 6.

900g/2lb frozen peas900ml/1.5 pints chicken stock or 1 chicken stock-cube and 570ml/1 pint water1 tsp concentrated mint saucesalt and pepper275ml/0.5 pint single cream or milk or

Voice of the Tweehive

Firstly, a very warm welcome if you're a Tweehive participant - I'm not on Twitter, but I am one of your gardens for today - so do tell your friends I'm here. You should find a couple of flowers waiting for you on this blog - hosted by this post and another one which tells you all about my trip to Norfolk Lavender where we were surrounded by bees :)

For those of you who haven't a clue what I'm wittering on about, don't worry - I will reveal what the buzz is all about - eventually. This weekend was one of those times when lots of stuff on one topic came my way - bees in this instance. Firstly, my Diary of a Novice Beekeeper friend e-mailed me to ask if I could ID the above plant. Happily I could - it's Centaurea macrocephala and as you can see, it's attractive to bees. Thanks S, for letting me use your photo to head up this post :)

Then an ex-colleague who now works at the Soil Association (SA) alerted me to a most important e-petition they've started…


Serendipity* is the discovery of something by happy accident. That's how I made friends with someone in northern California after a mix up with our email addresses. We got writing to each other a few times a year and finally after 11 years correspondence, I got to meet her (with lovely husband who took the above picture) in London yesterday. I for one hope it's not the last time we get together - yesterday was too short!
So for once, I'm breaking with tradition on my blog and showing you a very happy photo from yesterday which includes myself and NAH. This was taken at the presentation to me of my friendship quilt and was instantly emailed for opening when I got home last night. I still have a massive grin on my face after yesterday's exploits - more touristy/public planting kind of posts to follow. For me, it's amazing how that tiny confusion with an e-mail address, led to us finding a like-minded, fun friend a mere few thousand miles away.
Serendipity indeed.
* …

Things in Unusual Places #3: Pink Umbrellas

Every time we drove through East Rudham village we couldn't miss the bright pink umbrellas outside Brownies tearooms and kitchen/garden shop. They looked like they'd be more at home at a beachside bar in Mallorca* than in a tiny sleepy village in Norfolk. However, we did look out for them every time we passed by!

*= I'm not being snobby about it, just truthful as it's exactly the kind of thing I see when I go out there on my research trips, particularly at my friend's bar in Muro ;)

Norfolk Lavender

It's a month since we visited Norfolk Lavender, but it's been in my mind a lot this week because mine is really on song at the moment - that's the visiting bees for you - and the harvest in Norfolk should be well under way by now. At first glance the site looks like a glorified garden centre with its plants sales, shop and cafe, but scratch (and sniff!) beneath the surface and there's much more to discover. Most of the lavender production (both flower and oil distillation) is off-site these days: we visited the historic place where it all began in the 1930s where Linn Chilvers started his successful experiments, not only in finding lavender plants to rival those he'd seen in Provence, but to also distill his own top quality oil.

An old lavender perfume recipe was successfully revived and the business grew until today there's around 100 acres of lavender fields under cultivation in Norfolk, including some on the royal estate of Sandringham. The site we visited …

12:34:56 on 07/08/09: Attempt #1

Do you know what you were doing at 12:34:56 yesterday? Did you record it in any way? If you did, post a comment below with a link or even if you didn't, you can still tell me about it :)
For the record, I was checking my Cosmos astrosanguineus 'Choca Mocha' does indeed have a wonderful chocolate aroma as well as gorgeous velvety blooms. Thanks to Anna's tip last month, I've placed them in a warm sunny spot to encourage their scent and it's worked! This plant is a native of Mexico and likes a moist, well-drained soil. They grow about a foot tall and have a lax, almost trailing habit and so will look good threading themselves through the front of the border. If you keep deadheading them they should keep blooming from July to October. Of course my plants didn't read the label and came into flower in May, though the chocolate scent didn't come on stream until the warmer weather last week. As they're a tender plant, I'm growing them in pots this yea…

ABC Wednesday 4: Y is for...

... Yoghurt
Mmmm - what could be finer than raspberries freshly picked from my allotment just 10 minutes ago, topped with some organic Greek-style yoghurt? I know you're shouting Cream! at your PC right now, but trust me, this is heaps better :D

For other Yummy posts, do checkout the ABC Wednesday blog.

Out on the Streets: June's Wrap-up

OK, we're well into July, but the delay has enabled me me to bring you a bumper edition of what's been Out on the Streets for June. Many thanks to all of you who took part, and to those of you who haven't posted yours yet, don't worry I'm happy to add in your findings at a later date. My main picture for today is from my local garden centre, where these planters and baskets are placed at the head of the parking bays closest to the buildings. The planter also shows the parking space is reserved for Mrs Self, who is 101 years old and still works at her family's business 6 days a week. Her grandson, Peter Self is featured in this month's edition of Garden Answers.

As expected, there's been a wide and varied set of posts from you. However, I was completely taken by surprise when I saw Rothschild Orchid's contribution. She took almost exactly the same shot of my local garden centre's planting! Do have a look - her picture's much better than mine. …

YAWA: Your Events Diary for July

It's been a bit topsy turvy since our return from holiday: things are flowering when they shouldn't and we're eating autumn raspberries already. I'm also going through a period of loathing my garden at the moment - apart from the Clematis of course. Threadspider asked me recently what was looking good apart from them and I struggled to find an answer. Perhaps my restlessness is because the garden's on the wane from its late spring/early summer look and the later season plants haven't really started to strut their stuff yet.
On the other hand, I'm totally in love with my allotment after hating it for most of the year. Various injuries have meant I've been in catch up mode since last Autumn and I've finally accepted it'll stay that way for the rest of the year. At last I'm feeling relaxed about it and really enjoying my visits. Harvesting lots of produce has also helped to change how I feel!
The hot weather recently has found me outdoors wheneve…

Art in the Garden

Until 2 days ago, my only encounters with garden art and sculpture had been on the grandest of scales - at garden festivals, show gardens, stately homes, sculpture parks and museums - I'm sure you know the kind of thing. But on Thursday, Threadspider introduced me to a place where art is used in a more intimate setting - just a few miles from us - at the 125 Gallery near Bath.

The gallery's at the home of Carole Waller and Gary Wood and Threadspider knew of it because she's been attending a course there, tutored by Carole, for the past few weeks. From the roadside it looks like an ordinary unprepossessing 1930s bungalow, but the inside is totally different. Once there, you're in a huge airy, white space filled with Gary's wonderful ceramics and Carole's beautiful jewel-like painted textiles. As it was so hot, there was a giant fan in the main room and this added to the display as some of the textiles fluttered in the 'breeze'. The work of other artists …

Frugal Recipe: Recycled Lemon Sorbet

I'd been mulling over how it was a shame not to make better use of the lemons from my elderflower cordial last week. I considered the possibility of making some lemon marmalade, but NAH wasn't keen on the idea as he's more of a jam man. Then the heatwave struck and my thoughts turned to ice cream. A lightbulb went on in my head - how about making lemon sorbet?

I consulted my trusty Good HousekeepingCookery Book. Result - not only was there an easy peasy recipe, it needed the same number of lemons as I'd used for my second batch of cordial. The outcome is absolutely delicious and as I've reused one of the main ingredients, I've essentially made a luxury item for just a few pence per portion. I'll give you the original recipe and then show you how I adapted it for using my leftovers.


225g (8oz) sugar
Grated rind and juice of 4 lemons
2 egg whites
600 ml (1 pint) water

Dissolve the sugar in the water over a low heat, then bring to the boil and …

Three For Thursday

It's a while since we've had much in the way of veg talk here, so I'm rather pleased to have found three veggie related bloggity blog fun ideas to share with you today. First up is Carrie, from Grow Our Own, who's rather a whizz with her camera and has come up with a clever quick meme for us to show off our allotment or house signs.

I don't know whether it's the same for all allotments (aka Victory Garden if you're across the pond), but my agreement says I need to have my number clearly displayed at all times. I actually have a couple of them as it's easy for my plot to be mistaken for 2 narrow ones. In fact when I took it on I thought I only had the left hand side (looking from the top) until I realised my number was actually on the right. Unlike Carrie's allotment site - which has the lovely quirky individuality I envy - our numbers are all on the same little black metal stakes as pictured. If you'd like to join in Carrie's meme, post a pic…

GBMD/ABC Wednesday 4: X is For...


In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree,
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea,
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round.
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossom'd many an incense-bearing tree.
And here were forests as ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But O! That deep romantic chasm which slanted,
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover.
A savage place! As holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon lover.
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this Earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced,
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst,
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail,
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever,
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meander…