Showing posts from August, 2009

YAWA: Your Events Guide for September

September sees us slowly slipping and sliding into Autumn, but I'm ever hopeful for an Indian summer this year to make up for some of the dull days we've had over the past weeks. In a few days I'll be launching this quarter's Out on the Streets, to explore what's in your neighbourhood re public planting. But before that gets started, let's see what the You Ask, We Answer team have found in the way of events to tempt us outdoors this month.
4-6th:The Gardening Show - the closest national show to me and based at the Royal Bath & West showground at Shepton Mallet. It includes the National Dahlia and National Giant Vegetable championships.
5th: Chippenham Gardening & Allotment Society Annual Show. Our very own produce, cookery and handicrafts show which I entered for the first time last year. It's also the annual Gardeners' Question Time garden party at Harlow Carr.
5 or 6th: Dig Together Day. Lots of awareness raising events for local gardening clubs…

Dog Daze

The adorable Tilly - an 11-week old labradoodle - has entered our next door neighbours' lives recently, so they've had to have a rethink of the contents of their garden as many of the plants are toxic to dogs. I offered to take all the branches of one inch thickness or less and I also collected those they'd pruned from where my Fuchsia was overhanging their drive: it's been full of wasps lately and proving to be a hazard to any passengers getting out of their car.
I set to this morning with my shredder and now have three enormous bags of chippings to mulch some of my paths up at the allotment. And because I've saved my neighbours from a trip to the tip, I've been invited round for Sunday lunch, plus more fun and games with Tilly. Result!

Cat Tales

Skimble on top of the fridge again

We've just had this note popped through our letter box:

Our newly acquired kittens have taken a keen interest in catching small animals: unfortunately today they bought in a live guinea pig. We have taken the guinea pig to the vets - it is dark brown/black all over. If you are missing a guinea pig please contact us on the number below.

We are trying as much as possible to stop the cats catching animals, but as you probably appreciate there is only so much we can do.
As the note is signed by someone with the same name as NAH, our neighbours have been all a-giggle and agog as soon as we stick our noses out the front door. I've had to remind them our two are no longer kittens.

However, one of ours did bring a bright orange hamster home and left it for me to find at the foot of the stairs a couple of years ago. It bore a striking resemblance to next door's beloved pet, but thankfully Harry was merrily going round in his little wheel when we went…

Unusual Front Gardens #2: Moreton-in-Marsh

Whenever NAH and I travel up north to visit relatives, we always go up the Fosse Way, an ancient road dating back to Roman times. Sometimes it's arrow straight and with some rather alarming dips - helpfully signed High Risk Crash Area THINK! and BIKE! from time to time - which passes through fine, mellow Cotswold villages like Stow-on-the-Wold and Moreton-in-Marsh.

A couple of years ago, I spotted the pictured garden in Moreton-in-Marsh and it's this very one which inspired me to start my Unusual Front Gardens strand. We usually don't have time on our way up north, so I was pleased to take this picture on Tuesday when I stopped for a break after my fantastic day out with Maggi. As you can see it's a typical front garden, but elevated to the unusual because the owner has decided to use rather a lot of hub caps in the design. I was rather hoping he or she would come out for a chat whilst I was taking the photo, but it wasn't to be. Later on, I saw a hub cap lying in …

Official Announcement: It's The Year of the Wasp

I've made a few passing remarks recently on how bad the wasps (aka yellow-jackets if you're reading this across the pond) are this year. There were early signs of trouble up at the allotment at the beginning of July when a newbie plotholder asked me what she should do about the nest on her plot. Later that month I was stung rather badly when a wasp objected to me picking their raspberries. Harrumph. Victoria's reported on her problems with them - with rather public consequences - and they've been a rather annoying presence on various garden visits recently.

Now it's official. It's the worst year for wasps in a decade. In fact the dour pest controller interviewed on Breakfast News a couple of days ago said it's one of the 2 worst instances he's seen in thirty years. Last week the cafe at Dyrham Park - a National Trust property close to here - had to be closed temporarily whilst a nest nearby was dealt with. I understand the situation there's much bet…

ABC Wednesday 5: F is For...

... Fence
I went to Garden Organic at Ryton yesterday to meet up with Maggi and to have a mooch around a place that's been on my must see list for ages. A fuller report to follow, but I thought I'd give you a taster of just one of the gardens I saw yesterday. I was particularly struck by this most unusual fence which frames the entrance to the Elysia Biodynamic Garden.
Apologies for the short post, but I have a migraine :( In the meantime, if you go here, it'll tell you lots more and also has a rather good slideshow of the garden in August.
For more ABC Wednesday posts, do Follow this link to the Fullest of blogs...

Garden Visit: Lytes Cary Manor

After a year of trying, I finally managed to get the SUP team together last week for a visit to Lytes Cary Manor. As you can see we had the perfect day for it: the only (minor) downside was the amount of wasps, but then it does seem to be a particularly good year for them everywhere. If anything the gardens are even better than last year: there's lots more pots and many, many sultry Dahlias, including D. 'Arabian Night', which I'm also enjoying in my garden at the moment. S and D have fallen in love with the place: have a look here and here for my reports on my previous visits - with lots of photos - and I think you'll fall in love with it too.

Whilst we're on the subject of garden visits, I'm delighted my latest guest post is on this very topic over at The Guardian Gardening blog today. I'm exploring the issue of how garden visiting is becoming the victim of its own success and what can be done about it. I'd welcome anything you can add to the deba…

Psst! Are You Self-sufficientish?

I'm not really a campaigning kind of person, but I am trying to take some baby steps in leading a greener lifestyle as part of my New Life's Resolutions. Therefore, it's always good to discover websites which are there to help with guidance on how this might be achieved. Today, I've found out about The Green Village - i.e. they emailed me - which is a relatively new UK-centric website and is about:

... helping people to be greener, live more self-sufficiently and ethically, and providing people with the information they need to make responsible decisions about how they live their lives. We are a community of like-minded people who know the importance of looking after the only planet we have and celebrating the diversity it contains.

In tandem with my post on Incredible Edibles last week, I've thinking quite a lot about food issues lately and how our diet will have to change over the coming decades*. I've been doing some background research and came across the Sel…

Hi Diddle Dee Dee, A Writer's Life For Me? *

I've been tagged by Soilman at er, Soilman with a writing meme. I'm rather flattered as he says he's tagged pro or semi-pro writers and seeing I earn s*d all from writing, even semi-pro's a pretty good compliment in my view** :)

OK, let's see...

Which words do you use too much in your writing?
So - I haven't really got the hang of joining words yet - says she quoting the kind of thing her primary school teacher used to say ;)Well - Well, I try and write like I'm having a conversation, so (!) that one tends to creep in here rather a lot.Here - tends to creep in here rather a lotI also have a dreadful habit of repeating almost exactly the same phrase in the next sentence: luckily, self-editing usually weeds them out ;) Add my most over-used word or phrase of your choice: I'm sure there's plenty I've either forgotten about or haven't spotted yet. Feel free to tell me in the Comments below...Which words do you consider overused in stuff you read?


Gardening Vertically

Gardening vertically's in vogue at the moment. We have Patrick Blanc's amazing creations which look like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon; the RHS shows have been full of edible verticals this year, like Freshly Prepped at Chelsea. There's lots of absolutely stunning ideas and results. I've also seen a couple of vertical gardening products at the shows, so you can go and get the look yourself.
I even considered them for my boring fence project. Using climbers, vines, trellis and wires is just so yesterday, especially when you can install something exciting to do the same job, with very different plants. However, I still haven't got a clue how you'd look after those fancy planters effectively and without bringing the fence down. Sometimes it's good to get out and about and have a look at what the neighbours are doing. The pictured Euonymus from just round the corner, is a good reminder that sometimes simplicity is best.

Public Planting: Chippenham's Summer

At last I have some positive news about Chippenham's public planting :) The hanging baskets are up, the tubs are filled, and large, strange shapes are stationed strategically outside some of Chippenham's civic buildings, such as the Town Hall. Even a wet day like yesterday failed to dim the pictured assemblage outside the Yelde Hall and Tourist Information Office at the top of the High Street.
The show is so good this year, it's even made the letters pages of the local newspaper. 2 weeks ago, B Vincent was moved to write:
May I through your newspaper congratulate those responsible for Chippenham's hanging basket flower displays - they are again fantastic and much appreciated...
Then the response last week from Michael and Philip Glen of Showell Nurseries was:

Having won the contract to supply the hanging baskets in Chippenham again this year, it was very pleasing to read B Vincent's letter of appreciation.
A great deal of care and effort went into producing them.

ABC Wednesday 5: E is For...

... Evison, Raymond Evison
Regular readers of this blog know of my fondness for Clematis, especially those grown by the lovely Mr Evison. I call him that because he's such a courteous, dapper gentleman who helped me solve my clematis mystery last year when I met him at the RHS Inner Temple show. I spoke to him again at Chelsea in May, so imagine my excitement when I opened my gardening club magazine to find he's coming to my local garden centre next month to give a talk on Clematis for today's gardens.

Raymond Evison is the top Clematis grower, who exports all over the world from his nursery in Guernsey. I find his plants are the ones which settle into my garden most easily and draw the most comments from visitors, like those who came to NAH's curry evening last week. If you have Clematis in your garden, chances are at least one of them will have been introduced by him. The clue is in the code after the plant's name: if you see the letters EVIPO + 3 digits or EVI + a…

A New Blog Theme: Incredible Edibles

A few things have gelled in my brain over the past week or so. It started with the weeds on my plot and my joking over at Soilman's and last month's Blooms Day they're my best crop this year. Then I posted about my Monstrous Weeds for this month's Muse Day and found out that at least one of my them - fat hen - was indeed a crop until usurped by spinach. A quick perusal with Mr Allotment Warden last week confirmed I had at least one other weed/crop in abundance on my plot: Good King Henry.
Whilst I don't make New Year's resolutions anymore, I've had the resolve in the back of my mind to make better use of hedgerow harvests this year. Elderflower cordial and plum jam are the results thus far. Next month will see hazels - as long as those pesky squirrels leave me some - elderberries and sloes added to the list. My River Cottage Preserves book has highlighted some surprising additions: beech leaves for a very alcoholic beverage called beech leaf noyau - sadly …

VPGGB # 10: Plant Rescues

I had a bit of a plant buying frenzy a few days ago. I suspect I was feeling a bit left out after Patient Gardener bought a rather lovely red herbaceous Potentilla at Hergest Croft last week. She also knows I've been after some Echinacea since we met up at Malvern in May.

So I should have known that a trip to my local garden centre with Threadspider last Thursday - on the pretext we hadn't been there for absolutely ages - would break my recent plant buying duck, especially as she was being all encouraging and up for buying a few plants herself. I showed you the Achillea and Scabiosaon Saturday, plus I bought six superbly scented Lavandula angustifolia to start a lavender hedge on the patio. I also showed you another view of this Echinacea 'Kim's Knee High'. However, I didn't tell you it was an absolute bargain :)

Whilst Threadspider went off to get a gorgeous Dahlia 'Bishop of Canterbury' which had taken her fancy, I homed in on the Achillea and Scabiosa.…

How Advertising Works in Chippenham #8

Decide which products will be on special offer in your retail storesOrder the advertising materials, ensuring they're spellchecked and everythingDistribute to your stores who duly display them on their shelvesWait for a blogger with a camera to spot what the spellchecker couldn'tEt voila!Let's hope they're not using old has-beens in their salad ;)This is number eight in an occasional series which I thought would never get past 3. Click here to see the previous one, or here for the whole lot plus additional views of how it's done in Bath and Devizes :)

GBBD - New Flowers on the Block

This post's a bit hasty today as we're off to a wedding in the Cotswolds, so bridal bouquets are more on my mind than all that's blooming in the garden. A quick run round this morning found me concentrating on just this year's new additions which are now strutting their stuff. From top left circulating clockwise (click on the image to enlarge it if needed) we have:
1. The new patio bed - more on this to follow - I really am writing this in haste! 2. Dahlia 'Arabian Nights' 3. Anthemis tinctoria 'E. C. Buxton' 4. Rosa 'The Fairy' supported by an enormous pot of Lavandula angustifolia, which in turn is surrounded by bees 5. Echinacea 'Kim's Knee High' 6. Part of the revamped single terrace bed showing the Fuchsia genii has indeed recovered from its capsid bug attack :) 7. Scabiosa 'Chile Black' 8. Achillea 'Walther Funke' 9. Echinopsritro with bees 10. Begonia boliviensis 'Bonfire' enlivening the 'boring fe…

Book Review: The Alternative Kitchen Garden

Ever since I knew Emma Cooper was writing a book about her Alternative Kitchen Garden, I'd been intrigued how she would make it stand out from the many books about vegetable and fruit growing currently found in our bookshops today.

Thankfully she's taken a different approach to the usual monthly/seasonal calendar and come up with a unique guide on how to transform a garden into a productive one. Like many of us, Emma started with just a few pots, but soon realised this wouldn't be enough for her. Today, her garden is dedicated to growing fruit and vegetables - and chickens! - with a 'grow dome' installed to extend the productive season and to grow her more tender crops.

It's not a 'How to' book - there's plenty of those on the market already - but there are lots of hints and tips within its 371 pages. Instead it's an A-Z of enthusiasm, ideas and experiments, where Freecycling, Osteopathy and Zero Waste cheerfully rub shoulders with Achocha, Peas a…

Three Gardens In One Day

On Monday I took a trip up to Malvern to see Patient Gardener for a good old natter and to do a little garden visiting together. Naturally my first garden visit was Helen's own hallowed plot. Goodness knows why I left my camera in the car whilst I got the full tour. You'll have to take my word that her garden's looking on top form at the moment and it made a great start to the day. Next time, I promise you lots of photos...

Our first port of call was Hampton Court Gardens. No, not that Hampton Court, the Herefordshire one! Both Helen and Anna at Green Tapestry have enthused about this garden previously, so I leapt at the chance to see for my myself when Helen suggested it. Our first sight of this property was a most romantic castle, which predates Hampton Court Palace by about 80 years. The walled garden dates from Victorian times and we started our tour in the marvellous kitchen garden. This has lots of veggie beds edged with Lavender or Nepeta and the bees were in overdri…

ABC Wednesday 5: D is For...

... Deficiency

For the past couple of years my raspberry foliage up at the allotment has tended to look rather sick and this year is no exception. I've ruled out a virus as these tend to give the foliage a mottled appearance rather than the distinctive veined patterning you can see in my picture. I'd also ruled out the usual mineral deficiencies, such as iron or manganese I've previously seen in my garden as these tend to affect the younger foliage first. In my photo, the younger foliage at the top of the plant is a healthy green and the problem gets worse the further down the plant you go.

But then I got pondering the ideal conditions for growing raspberries: a neutral to acid soil and loamy, perhaps with some sand. Mine's the complete opposite as it's lime with clay. Clay soils are notoriously fickle about hanging onto their nutrients, even though they're considered to be a nutrient rich soil. Time for a bit of Googling...

...and there you have it. Looks like I…

12:34:56 on 07/08/09: Attempt #3 x n

Many thanks to all of you who took part on Friday or stopped by to leave comments. It's been great to see everyone's 'moment in time', even if Carrie missed it by twenty minutes. In view of what she found, photographed and emailed to me (click to see a bigger image), all is forgiven :)
As I suspected, lunch featured heavily on the menu. You've already seen my cookathon in progress: however, I do need to tell you that such scenes of domesticity are rare, just in case you were worried. Patient Gardener made me hungry all over again with her pictured chicken noodle soup. Luckily she's given us the recipe too. Karen at Artist's Garden was at lunch in glorious surroundings and found perfect happiness in her moment. Greenwalks Karen was at a restaurant and cleverly involved her companions in both choosing the shot and being her subjects. Constant Gardener was serving a lunch-wrapped pill to her faithful companion whilst Elizabethm had some tricky lunchtime manoeuv…

Things in Unusual Places # 5: Chickens

The garden centre with the flowery loos also has chickens roaming the plant sales area. I got quite a shock when one of them suddenly appeared from underneath one of the plant stands. They're allowed to strut about and scratch through the display beds and bark mulched areas during the day, then retire at night to rather superior hen house accommodation. They're for sale too - the garden centre notice says: Grow your own eggs fresh from the garden.

NAH and I were quite taken with them as were my niece and nephew last week when we took them along to discover the delights of this garden centre. They were most reluctant to go at first, but the chickens and the flowery loos soon won them over. They also loved the carnivorous and sensitive plant display indoors.

We also made another discovery, but I'm saving that for another time :)

How Advertising Works in Chippenham #7

Decide on a completely new retail strand for your DIY businessDistribute the goods and advertising materials to your storesWait for a blogger with a camera to notice and wonder where this fits with your business modelEt voila! I wonder where it might end - the advertising strapline says Now you can look after your pet as well as your home. Hmm - let's see... How about selling food too and saying, Now you can look after yourself, your pet and your home?Mind you, that would probably bring them into direct competition with the mighty Tescos, so that's probably not a good idea. There's conflicting advice on offer to businesses for when the going gets tough: some say focus on your core business and do it really well, others say diversify, diversify. It looks like this company's doing the latter. However, I'm wondering if their choice is wise: in this week's Gazette & Herald there's a piece on how the local pet shelter in Bath is full as lots of people are ab…

12:34:56 on 07/08/09: Attempt #2

Lunch was a little later than usual for us today, which is why I'm showing you an ingredient instead of the finished result for my 12:34:56 on 07/08/09 photo. I went to my local supermarket late yesterday afternoon and hit a rich seam of bargains in the greengrocery section and I've been frantically processing my spoils ever since. My haul included: the pictured 6 small avocados - just right for a spot of guacamole for today's lunch with some of Tracey Smith's delicious rubbish flatbreads. I used just half of the avocados today; the rest need ripening to give us lunch for another time. Putting them in a paper bag with an apple for a couple of days should do the trick. In the spirit of Tracey's flatbread recipe - and when I saw her at Corsham festival in June - I also used up some very floppy carrots in the bread mixture!5 x 150g bundles of asparagus. 1 bundle is for tonight's tea - asparagus and new potato frittata with salad - the rest I preserved in oil just …

Flowers for Bees: VP's Dozen

It's Tweehive time today, so once again it's a warm welcome to both my regular readers and any new ones, especially you busy bees gathering nectar and pollen for today's task. There should be a flower popping up here for you today, plus a couple of others elsewhere - have at look at the end of this post for some clues. I thought I'd also give you a nice collage of bee friendly plants found in my garden.

From top left reading clockwise (and you can click on the image to enlarge it if you want to) they are: Pulmonaria saccharata 'Redstart' - note I'm showing a plain leaved pink cultivar because this flowers much longer for me than the nicer, spotty leaved ones - from December until AprilRosmarinus officinalis 'Prostrata'Allium sphaerocephalonLavandula stoechas - I prefer Lavandula angustifolia, but I don't seem to have a decent photo to handSedum 'Autumn Joy'Monarda aka bee balm 'Croftway Pink'Eryngium - I think it's a different…

Seasonal Recipe: Hedgerow Plum Jam

It looks like it's going to be a bumper plum crop this year, so I was pleased to see my hedgerow 'stash' close by was looking ripe and plentiful a couple of days ago. I'm not sure whether the trees were planted as part of the hedgerow or have sprouted from discarded stones. On closer inspection it looks like there are 3 different plum trees: one looking like an Oullins Gage, one which could be a cherry - though there is a cherry plum - and another bright red variety - about the size of a damson - which fits in between the other two sizewise. I did ponder whether the yellow plum might be a Bullace - a wild plum usually found in hedgerows - but having looked at lots of photos on the 'net, I'm happier with the gage variety.
All of these trees are ready for picking early on in the season, so I had a very happy half hour the other evening resulting in 4lbs of them in my bag and still plenty to go! Some were stewed for tea, but I used the bulk of them for jam, follo…

ABC Wednesday 5: C is for...

... Cafe Garden and other delights beginning with C!
One of the best things about visiting people like Esther, is you get a different perspective on familiar places. I've been to Portland many times, but always hurried along to the end to marvel at the area around Pulpit Rock.
This time we took the bus and had a marvellous 'mappers' view of the whole of Chesil Beach as the bus lumbered up the steep hill. My picture of it is more of a 'ground view': the link will give you an idea of what we saw on the way. We alighted in Easton and I appreciated the slowing down of time this afforded as we ambled down the street. We were able to have a really good look at things: there's bright public planting in the park and the rows of terraced houses lining the street have stone troughs of cheerful flowers around their doorways instead of gardens. Esther really liked the Erigeron we found in some of them and I wouldn't be surprised if there's some decorating her garde…

Product Test: Air-Pot Update

Back in June I introduced you to the Air-Pot, a product I'm testing to see how good it is for growing potatoes on the patio. I'm evaluating it against the compost bag trial I'd started a little earlier. I must admit I've not been too good at watering the pots and bags over the past month, but then I've had more than twice July's average rainfall according to my garden rain gauge. I'm hoping that'll be sufficient to negate the instructions about watering the Air-Pot even when it's rained.
As you can see there's plenty of foliage, though it's rather leggy in nature. I think this is my fault rather than a feature of this growing method because everything's on my shaded lower patio. I'd put them there so they were tucked away: I suspect I'll have to be a little more public with any future home veggie growing. Whilst the plants are raised off the ground, this hasn't stopped the slugs from finding lots of juicy foliage to nibble o…

Postcard from Esther's

Dear all,
I expect this postcard will reach you well after I'm back from Esther's*. I'm having a lovely time - it's good to be able to have a good old chinwag for once. Blog comments and emails are all very well, but there's nothing like a face to face conversation. Ming, Didcott and Worthing are charming - I was prepared for Didcott and Worthing to change ages, but I think they must be on their best behaviour, or else they're doing it whilst I'm not there.
Esther's garden is amazing. There's 2 large Victorian greenhouses and her garden boy plucked us a lovely pineapple for tea on my first day there. As you can see from the postcard, Esther's espaliered apple tree is in fine fettle and the globe artichoke bloomed just in time for my arrival. I must ask the gardener what's his secret if I get the time - it's all go here! There's no sign of Mrs Rustbridger next door, though Esther's other neighbour - Lucy - has been taking her duties…

YAWA: Your Events Diary for August

August is the time for events, travelling and holidays, so the You Ask, We Answer team have had some difficulty in editing this month's choices into a bitesize chunk for your delectation. Therefore, I'm not doing my usual preliminary preamble about the month, but handing over to them straight away...
1-31st: Pershore Plum Festival. A month long celebration from the heart of Worcestershire's plum country, culminating in the Pershore Plum Fayre on Bank Holiday Monday.
4th:Egton Bridge Gooseberry Show. Dating from 1800, this is the country's oldest gooseberry contest, where the heaviest takes the prize!
7th: Don't forget to take your entry for my 12:34:56 on 7/8/9 meme and to let me know how you got on
8th: Chilli Fiesta, West Dean Gardens, Chichester. West Dean have a number of good events throughout the year, but with over 200 different chillis grown there, this one's their hottest ticket by far
10-16th: National Allotments Week. Lots of sites will be opening their …

GBMD - Monstrous Weeds

In a grudging way, you have to admire the cheek of weeds. Without an invitation, they turn up anyway to the party and then proceed to take it over, elbowing out the delicate flower aesthetes who had gathered for an intellectual discussion of colour and texture.
They remind you how thin is the skim of garden over wilderness. Weeds were here first, and they don't want you to forget it. Turn your back and they creep silently back into their territory, garotting the newcomers as they advance...

... Fat hen, one of the commonest weeds of arable land, with succulent leaves and heads of small, bobbly green flowers, can carry up to 28,000 seeds on one plant. Most common weeds, such as groundsel or annual meadow grass, produce at least 500 seeds each.
Anna Pavord's Gardening Companion (1992 ). August - Monstrous Weeds.
Monstrous weeds have been my allotment's most successful crop this year and Anna Pavord sums it up for me completely. She's also made me realise that I've total…