Wednesday, 29 July 2009

ABC Wednesday 5: B is for...


...Banksy

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. Even the exhibit to celebrate Darwin's bicentenary has had Banksy's own touch applied to it. In the art rooms, a sign which reads A Local Artist is a clue the picture next to it may not be one of the regular exhibits.

The queues are huge and NAH and I joined the one last Wednesday morning. We waited for nigh on 2 hours to get in - we were told later by one of the staff the record's nearly 3 hours so far. The time passed really quickly though as we got nattering to a charming family from Dublin behind us. Waiting really only served to heighten our anticipation and the exhibition itself is free.

The picture gives you a bird's eye view of the main hall. Don't be fooled by the statues down the sides. I didn't give them a glance at first. Then I noticed the one at the bottom right's called The Angel of The North and the items round her feet are sculpted ice cream cones and litter. Yes, all the sculptures are Banksy's as is the ice cream van, which doubles up as the museum's Information Point for the duration. Just in front of the queue on the right is a marvellous disclaimer saying the views of the artist might not coincide with that of the museum's, plus the wonderful sentence:

Please be aware that some of the historic relics now on display throughout the museum are fakes.

The museum's guide has also been 'adapted' for the show and ends with: PG Contains scenes of a childish nature some adults may find disappointing.


NAH and I weren't disappointed, nor were the dozens of visitors of all ages I saw going around the exhibition with huge grins on their faces. In one of the main rooms stuffed full of Banksy pictures, there's an insight into the methods he uses out on the streets. There's a workshop containing little sketches of ideas, full blown stencils, spray paint and spattered cans. In the middle of it all he's placed a pixellated 'self-portrait'. There's even some preliminary sketches of the exhibition's itself, including one of the room you're standing in at the time with the legend underneath which says:

Call and see if this is possible.

Well it was possible and it's totally marvellous. Whatever you may think about graffiti art - and we had a bit of a debate on it last year - I defy you not to come away from this exhibition without having had fun and your perceptions changed a little. In fact, I spent the next couple of hours going around Bristol expecting every sign and hoarding to have been changed into something else. And I did find a few examples to show you another time.

The exhibition is open 10-5 every day until 31st August, though the hours may be extended until 8pm on Wednesdays. I'm going again on August 8th with my friend H: it's that good. The link also has a tempting trailer to show you what you might be missing.

There's more Bouncing B's today over at the ABC Wednesday blog.

Monday, 27 July 2009

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!

Sunday, 26 July 2009

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 snowdrops bought 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 organised the Dahlia and Chrysanthemum show at work, even though he didn't grow any himself. To that heady cocktail I've added crocuses (both spring and autumnal ones), Cyclamen, Muscari, Crocosmia, Gladioli, Anemone (blanda, coronaria and nemorosa), Iris reticulata, bluebells, tulips and winter aconites. And I love each and every one of them when they appear, as if by magic. Which one's my favourite? Whatever's flowering now. When times are good, I have bulbs in flower for 12 months of the year; when they're bad, then it's just for 10.

I've also learnt many things: that we usually use the term bulbs to cover a much wider range of plants which emanate from a fleshy, underground source - true bulbs, tubers, corms and rhizomes. I've found I care enough about the hope snowdrops give me in the depths of winter to count them each year. I've seen that the stems of the Allium family track the sun each day until their flowerheads become too heavy for them to do so. I've come to value Crocosmia not only for their richly hued flowers in the summer, but also for their sword-like leaves which glow in the morning sunshine, because I've put them in just the right spot without realising. I've noted daffodils are flowering up to 3 weeks earlier than when I first planted them here and that I can find their first shoots poking bravely through the soil on that darkest of days, the winter solstice. I've continued to love Dahlias even when most unfashionable, especially the dark leaved ones. There's lots more I could tell you, but I'll leave those stories for another day.

I decided last autumn I was in a bit of a rut which resulted in me ordering way too many tulips. I had to resort to growing them in lots of plastic pots as well as the terracotta ones I'd earmarked for the job. It's a technique I also plan to use later on this year. My newly planted Gladiolus byzantinus have flowered already and I'm also growing Nerines and Eucomis for the first time. I'm not in a position to show those yet. Instead you'll have to make do with the handsome foursome at the head of this article: this year's newbies in full flow at the moment - Begonia 'Bonfire', Dahlia 'Dark Star', Dahlia 'Dark Angel Rose' (there's also Red and Yellow versions still to flower) and an unknown yellow tuberous Begonia. The latter's a freebie from the company which supplied B. 'Bonfire' and the Eucomis :)

Do I like bulbs? You bet :D

BTW the other photos illustrating this piece are: Allium sphaerocephalon with ladybird* instead of the usual bee, Croscosmia 'Lucifer' and Dahlia 'Moonfire'.
*= the YAWA team have gently reminded me that ladybird=ladybug if you're reading this across the pond ;)

Garden Bloggers' Design Workshop is bought to you by the good folk at Gardening Gone Wild.

Friday, 24 July 2009

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

Thursday, 23 July 2009

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 used to lie in bed at night, listening to the engines struggling up the hill to Box tunnel, and imagining that they were talking to themselves.

With that heritage around the village it must be only natural to have a steam engine in one's front garden :)

* = it may also be very short as I've only found four so far ;)

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

ABC Wednesday 5: A is for...


... Advertising

aka How Advertising Works in Chippenham 6 - a very occasional series of mine:
  1. Set up a new service for your business on the A4 in Corsham
  2. Select and adapt a couple of vans to promote it
  3. Place said vans along the A4 - one in Chippenham and the other on the far side of Corsham
  4. Wait 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 umbrellas
  5. Et 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.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

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 finally, I leave you with this extra link, which proves the noble art of headline writing and punning commentary isn't dead. So don't be po faced - let your humourous comments commence!

Monday, 20 July 2009

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 their home. Since then they've undertaken a number of notable commissions, including Prince Charles' stumpery at Highgrove, Arundel Castle and the British 9/11 memorial in New York. All this and an extensive restoration of their house and garden into what you can see today. I can't vouch for the house - though you can stay there - but the gardens do reflect their noted voluptuous, romantic style.

Happily, the tea, coffee and cakes served in the Loggia are also generously portioned, just like the garden. There's still time to visit this year: Hanham Court is open weekly at 11.00 am to 4.30 pm on Friday through Monday until Monday 31st August inclusive.

Update - Sept 2011: The Bannermans have now sold Hanham Court. Whether it will continue to be open to the public remains to be seen.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

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 - can anyone ID it for me?

I had a reunion with some of my ex-colleagues at lunchtime - which was great - so I also took the opportunity to have a quick run round Bristol beforehand. Some outdoor space design best practice and Banksy will follow shortly :)

In the meantime, I hope you're having a good weekend.

Update 21/9/2009: At last I have an ID for the grass as I found a labelled plant at Kilver Court yesterday: it's Pennisetum glaucum 'Purple Majesty'. It seems to have been the plant of choice for adding height to summer borders in public planting schemes this year.

Friday, 17 July 2009

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 holes close to where the worst of the blistering was. This made me reach for my RHS Pests & Diseases - a great book to have in your library because the guide is mainly picture based and you can start at the level of 'Leaf Problems' and work your way towards finding the cause in a matter of minutes. Sure enough on page 29 my culprit was laid bare: capsid bugs aka Lygocoris pabulinus.

Bugs are a sucking insect and their mouthparts are modified into a feeding tube. They can be a transmitter of viruses, but in the case of capsid bugs their saliva is toxic to the plant. This leads to the formation of tiny holes in the leaves where their feeding took place, plus the blistering of the plant material around them. Flowers can also be damaged or not form at all. The main months for damage are May and June, though there can be two lifecycles completed over a full growing season.

Organic control is to inspect plant shoots and to remove any of the critters by hand. This can be a little tricky because I've found they tend to fall onto the soil at any sign of plant disturbance. This link shows you a photograph of what to look for (towards the bottom of the page) alongside some of the other bugs which may be mistaken for it. They can be brown or green: this link shows you a picture of a green one.

It's not just Fuchsias that are attacked. My friend L emailed last week to ask what was putting the loads of tiny holes in her Hydrangea and Caryopteris leaves. Sure enough when I asked her whether the foliage was also blistered, she confirmed it was. The RHS says they can also attack Chrysanthemum, Clematis, Dahlia, Forsythia, Magnolia, Phygelius, roses and Salvia - eek! They like fruit and vegetables too, particularly apples, bush fruit, potatoes and beans.

However, it's not all doom and gloom. I've spent the past week or so resigned to having no blooming Fuchsia in my single terrace bed this summer and I've even contemplated removing it altogether. Tonight I'm glad I've stayed my executionary hand: I've just been for my usual evening stroll around the garden and there are definitely shoots of recovery to be seen. I'm now going to cut back all the damage to see if that encourages further healthy growth and some flowers at last :)

Thursday, 16 July 2009

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's wife was handing out leaflets about why her husband was there - unfortunately when I caught up with her they'd all gone - she was really enjoying the experience, though perhaps a little overwhelmed at the event and the response her husband was getting from the masses of people in the square that afternoon. Luckily I'd taken a photo of the leaflet and from that was able to track down a copy of it on One and Other's website. Just as well because without that information it would be extremely difficult to find.

There's much to like and ponder from Alive Dad's manifesto:

I'm an introverted man - so I'm dying to ask him what prompted him to do it

I socialise under gentle pressure from my wife - so was it her idea then?

I am my father. (except for the gardening) - so what's with the Cannas - and why Cannas and where did you get them?

There is a sculpture called Dead Dad of a little dead dad - this one's interesting as it turns out the Dead Dad sculptor is an exponent of the 'hyper realistic' movement. What could be more (hyper)realistic than a living sculpture?

I want to be honest about who I am. I am not a performing seal.

I am reading a newspaper because democracy only works for as long as people are informed about society and interested in different opinions.

Quite. And it's obvious from the manifesto he's thought quite a bit about why he's there and what to do with his hour. Even though on the surface it looks very simple and just what a lot of people might do on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Except they won't be doing it in a very public place. Or as part of an art installation.

I've thought quite a lot about my visit since then. Of course the whole thing is also an internet event, so you can view it live. I've checked in a few times to see what's going on. On Sunday night there was a man sitting with a laptop and shouting through a megaphone - ironically the internet sound wasn't working at the time; on Monday a girl who describes herself on the website as extrovert, was simply sitting on the plinth and writing in her journal. A local guy from Bath used his hour this week to conduct an orchestra assembled for the occasion below him. As I write this it's a lady with a brolly dancing and singing in the rain. It really is a most bizarre event, but also strangely compelling and wonderful.

Then I found the previous participant's hours are also available on the website and I finally managed to track down Alive Dad's. Naturally most of the footage is focused on him, but every so often it cuts to the audience in the square. At around the 24th minute there's a brief glimpse of me arriving and also later on at around the 37th minute. Does that make me part of this art installation too?

Some of the comments on the website are interesting. A number say - it's all rather boring - well, most statues don't do anything at all, so aren't they even more boring? Another commenter says - the majority of the participants are white and middle class, so it's not a representation of our society. I think that would be almost impossible to achieve and then, looking at the usual kind of statues we saw on Sunday, they're not particularly representative either - mainly kings, queens, nobles, great achievers and elder statesmen.

Anything like this is always going to be a topic for a debate on whether or not it's art, but I still wanted to go and see for myself. Before I went I thought it would either show the British at their most eccentric, or be quite boring. I don't think it was either at the time of my visit, though I'm sure it'll be both at other times. And because it's made me think so much, I for one am happy to call it Art with a capital A.

Update: The 10-11pm BST slot on 16th July was one of the more eccentric ones. Have a look here to see Velorose for yourself. His write-up shows an amazing connectivity with Trafalgar Square too.

There's loads more to see on the website - I'll give you one last link which has various photos and YouTube videos participants have put together. I'm particularly taken with the pinhole camera image at the top of the page. A nice connection to another, older form of art.

NB you can still apply to take part. If you did and were accepted, what would you do with your hour?

Update 17/7/2009: Hurrah - as of today the site's much easier to search for a particular Plinther - is this a new word for the English language? - following mine and a few others comments on how dire this was previously :)

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

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 survival stories into data to help the RHS' scientific team.

Whilst I'm delighted with my Dahlias, I've decided to be a little different this Blooms Day. Last week, I mentioned my allotment's star is in the ascendant when compared to my garden at the moment. As my posts from there have been rather lacking so far this year, I've decided to present you with some of my allotment flowers this month.


Main picture: view from the top of the plot; Top Row: squash flowers with babies, pea, fennel, leeks with bee; Second Row: potatoes, nasturtiums around the onions, parsnip and celeriac, a velvety red nasturtium; Third Row: the self-sowns - Stachys and Campanula; Bottom Row: the weeds, my best crops this year! Willowherb and feathery grass heads

For extra Zingy Zeds, do go to the ABC Wednesday blog. Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

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 Soup by Lindsey Bareham and it serves 6.

Ingredients
  • 900g/2lb frozen peas
  • 900ml/1.5 pints chicken stock or 1 chicken stock-cube and 570ml/1 pint water
  • 1 tsp concentrated mint sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • 275ml/0.5 pint single cream or milk or reconstituted milk
  • A pinch of sugar
Method
  1. Cook the peas in the stock or water plus cube, with the mint sauce and a pinch of salt and pepper for 10 minutes
  2. Allow the soup to cool slightly, then whizz through with a hand blender until the liquid's smooth
  3. Add the cream or milk and bring back to the boil
  4. Remove immediately, taste and adjust seasoning as necessary, adding a pinch of sugar if you like
  5. Serve with croutons, either hot or cold
* = the You Ask, We Answer team have alerted me to the fact that mangetout are called snow peas elsewhere. Hopefully the picture from my plot and a YAWA dictionary entry will help to clear up any confusion.

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. You're probably aware that bee numbers are dwindling alarmingly and as a result the future productivity of our crops is under threat. Neonicotinoids have been cited as one of the contributory factors, and thus a number of European countries have banned the use of this pesticide. The SA are lobbying our government to do the same and have simplified the process of signing a government e-petition. If you live in the UK do click here, it'll just take a few seconds to add your name to the list.

Finally, Emma Cooper over at Fluffius Muffetus posted about her Blogging for Bees blog carnival she's starting this Friday. For those of you who haven't come across a blog carnival before, it's essentially a 'magazine' of blog posts on a particular topic. These can be one-offs, or as Emma would like for hers, something published on a regular basis. Each carnival is usually a synthesis of news on the chosen theme, plus links to relevant blog posts from a number of contributors. I've already submitted this post and I wish Emma every success. If you think you have something suitable to contribute, irrespective of where you are in the world, then do have a look at Emma's kick-off post for more information.

So where does the Tweehive come in? Emma also mentioned it on Saturday. It's a simulation game being played via Twitter. You can sign up to participate by joining this ning community and there's a choice of different bee roles you can adopt. On three days - today, August 7th and September 5th - the organisers will be setting tasks for the participants to complete. One of these tasks will be to go out foraging for nectar and pollen and that's where I come in. I've signed up as a gardener, so on game days any posts I've designated as being important bee or sustainability related posts - like this one - will lead to flower(s) magically appearing on my blog somewhere for any foraging bees to come and discover. If you'd like more information on what this is all about, then do have a look here. Or you can follow the game itself, by going here.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Serendipity


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.

* = I thought you might like to know a little about the origins of the word serendipity. It was coined by Horace Walpole, explaining it further in a letter he wrote in 1754 to his friend Horace Mann, who was living in Florence at the time:

I once read a silly fairy tale, called The Three Princes of Serendip: as their highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of: for instance, one of them discovered that a mule blind of the right eye had travelled the same road lately, because the grass was eaten only on the left side, where it was worse than on the right-now do you understand serendipity?

According to the Times Higher Education supplement a few years ago, the word serendipity hasn't been used that much in our language even though a number of our most important scientific discoveries - x-rays, penicillin and gravity for example - are said to have resulted from it. I am therefore more than happy to increase the score for serendipity today.

What discoveries have you made that can be attributed to serendipity?

Saturday, 11 July 2009

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 ;)

Friday, 10 July 2009

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 houses the national collection of lavender (pictured) of 200 cultivars spread mainly across 3 species - Lavandula angustifolia (7 varieties of which are grown for commercial oil production), Lavandula stoechas (which we also call French lavender) and Lavandula x intermedia. The collection itself needs re-accreditation with Plant Heritage because much of it has been replanted this year owing to the poor summers of the past 2 years.

NAH and I took a guided tour - an hour long and well worth doing - especially as we were the only ones on it. This gave us the historical background to the company and an insight into the drying and distillation process. Heaps of harvested flowers are left to dry in a barn, which also has slots in the floor so that warmed air can circulate all the way round. Last year was the first time in memory the lavender had to be turned during the drying process. The flowers from each field are distilled individually for their oil because buyers want particular fields and lavender varieties for their products. Extensive records are kept of a field's harvest and the resultant amount and quality of oil distilled each year.

I was surprised to find out that L. angustifolia can be grown almost indefinitely if it's cut back when in flower - as happens of course with the lavender grown commercially. I want to admire my flowers though, but learnt I can make my plants last a lot longer by cutting them down to about half an inch of green growth in September. I'd just been cutting back the old flower stems, which is why my plants are so woody and need replacing. L. stoechas needs to be cut back in August as it's tender in this country and so needs slightly longer for the plant to harden up after its haircut. A cutback in spring of any cultivar is not recommended for the UK.
During our tour we were given a sample of the dried flowers and the intensity of their scent was fantastic. I kept my sample in the pocket of my shorts and had a delicious whiff every time I took out my hankie during the rest of the holiday. We were also struck by how different the scent can be between both species and cultivars and decided L. 'Imperial Gem' was the best. NAH declared he loathed all L. stoechas but thought L. angustifolia was lovely. Throughout the rest of the holiday he was found sampling and sniffing the scent of lavender plants wherever we went. I might get him to like plants after all!

Naturally our visit ended with a cup of tea at the cafe, where we sampled some lavender cake plus some equally delicious lavender scones topped with strawberry and lavender jam. It was warm enough to sit outside, so we sipped our drinks surrounded by hundreds of honey bees, exploring and drowsling away at the lavender flowers. All in all, a grand afternoon out :)

Thursday, 9 July 2009

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 year, so I can overwinter them in my cold frame. After last winter I'm not taking any chances! I've put them by the pergola at the side entrance for now, so there's a delicious waft of chocolate as you enter the garden.

For our American cousins, yesterday's date is written as 07/08/09, which is why the time 12:34:56 yesterday was unusual for them. For us in the UK who write the month and day the other way round, we get to have another go next month. Anyone care to join me for Attempt #2? It would be great to get a snapshot of what everyone's doing at one particular time - allowing for the fact that 12:34:56 might be at a different point in relation to me, depending on where you are in the world* - on a single day. Tell all your friends about it - they might like to join in too :)

* = I thought I'd get that in before you did ;)

Update: Judging by the comments, I haven't made myself clear in the above post. As the Americans (and probably lots of others too) write the 8th July as 07/08, their sequential time and date was yesterday, which was when I took that photo as Attempt #1. BUT here in the UK we write our month and day the other way round, so don't have the sequence until 12:34:56 on the 7th August. So I'm inviting everyone to take a photo of what they're doing at 12:34:56 (their time) on that date (7th August), irrespective of where they are in the world or the format they use when writing out the date, and to post it on their blogs later that day. I'll be putting my photo up ASAP after 12:34:56 on 7th August, so my post will be there for you tell me - and others interested in having a look - your post's up. It's too late for us all to do it using the American date format, so let's use the British one instead. For me it'll be Attempt #2.

I just like the idea of trying to capture a snapshot of everyone's life at one particular arbitrary point in time. Most of it won't be gardening related and I expect a big chunk of it will involve lunch or dashing round the shops, but that'll be interesting too - to me at least. The choice of subject matter is up to you, as long as it's to do with where you are at that time.

NB If you don't want to post it on your blog but would still like to take part, then I'm happy for you to send your photo to me at the email address shown at the bottom righthand sidebar. Include a few details of where you were and what you were doing at the the time and I'll put together a collage or something.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

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.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

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. As you can see, bright pink is this year's in colour. I've also seen a couple of roundabouts in Bath sporting exactly the same shade of bright bedding Geranium in similar copious amounts.

Roundabouts (aka traffic circles) have again featured well this time round. Jim over at Art of Gardening showed us a heritage one no less in Buffalo, whilst Monica The Garden Faerie gave us a sumptuously planted one as part of her excellent guided tour around Ann Arbor. Both show good quality planting can be achieved in our public places where there's a will to do so.

Rose has taken us on a grand tour of her neighbourhood and pulled out a number of key themes which are coming through loud and clear as our regular forays Out on the Streets progress through the year. She's shown how often planting can be unimaginative as the same plant is used again and again (in her case daylilies); how key community groups and initiatives are to improving an area; and how sometimes less management can lead to greater interest when native plants are allowed to prosper and flower.

Karen at Greenwalks has found a good example in her post entitled Cool Thoroughfare Planting. She's always a rich source of material and in June gave us a Streetside Potato Farm and a driving tour around Seattle too. There's also a couple of posts from Chicago: Carolyn Gail of Sweet Home and Garden Chicago has been musing on the country wildflowers she found in the heart of the city and no OOTS in June would be complete without a trip to the wonderful Lurie. I've chosen Gail's Clay and Limestone post, not only because it was the first one I found whilst looking at all the Spring Flingers' news, but also because hers has photos of many of our fellow gardening bloggers for you to have a neb* at!

Back in the UK, giant 'plant statues' have featured strongly - I must find the picture I took of the dinosaur one in Salisbury last year to add to this collection. In the meantime, Carrie of Grow Our Own found a fun fishy shape over in Northern Ireland and Happy Mouffetard found some wonderful ones involving bicycles over at The Inelegant Gardener. Both posts are bound to make you smile.

Elsewhere, Greentapestry's Anna took us on a tour of some stylishly revamped gardens in Liverpool via some amazing collages she put together and in contrast, Valeri from My Small Cornish Garden showed us a wonderfully tropical planting in a Falmouth garden. Hermes, my fellow Wiltshire resident and Gardens of a Golden Afternoon author, found a recently planted area outside the library in his home town of Westbury. He's also promised to return to show us how it develops over the season. Whilst we're at the library, Patient Gardener has a cracking example in Malvern. Note to self: must see what Chippenham's up to, especially as I spotted some top quality planting in Calne recently.**

Finally, back at VP Gardens I've shamelessly shown you a few of my holiday photos by posting about Norfolk's public planting and also asked whether plastic flowers can have a role to play. Closer to home (literally), I looked at the wildflowers in a couple of managed open spaces just a few minutes walk from here.

So there you have it for this quarter. Naturally I'll be posting some more on the subject of public planting over the next few weeks and if you can't join me, I do hope you'll able to do so in September for the next Out on the Streets :)

* = A fine northern expression meaning being really nosey

** = Little do you know how controversial that sentence is. There's an intense rivalry between Chippenham and Calne and by simply suggesting that Calne might just have something better than this town is very likely to have me lynched by a marauding posse of native Chippenham citizens!

Monday, 6 July 2009

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 whenever I can be, except in the heat of the middle of the day. If I'm not in the garden or up the allotment, trips out have been most welcome. So with that in mind, let's have a look at what's in the pipeline for July shall we?

6th for 100 days: One and Other - a living sculpture by Anthony Gormley will see 2,400 people occupy the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square for an hour each. The link tells you about some of the more eccentric hours taking place. Today's also National Kissing Day and NAH's away :(

7th - 12th: RHS Hampton Court Show. The more relaxed, family orientated version of Chelsea Flower Show in a stunning setting.

8th: If you write your date the American way, then you might like to mark the time 12:34:56 on 7/8/9 in some way e.g. by taking a photograph of where you are. We'll have to wait until the 7th August for our turn...

17th: Talk like a Brummie day. As a native speaker, I'm happy to give you a lesson if needed, just to make sure you're totally authentic ;)

18-19th: Wem Sweet Pea Show. Thanks to the hybridisation work carried out by Henry Eckford over 100 years ago, this small Shropshire town is the home of the modern sweet pea.

22nd - 26th: RHS Tatton Park Show - the most northerly of the RHS Shows.

27th - 2nd August: National Parks Week. What better excuse is there to visit one of our fantastic National Parks and get some really fresh air? Well, it's also the 60th anniversary of the opening of the first one in the Peak District, so there's something to celebrate too.

I suspect the YAWA team have left loads of events out as they've been out enjoying the summer weather too, so why not let me know of any more by leaving a comment below?

Sunday, 5 July 2009

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 was on display too, so there was plenty to discover. As you wander through the house, you can't help to be drawn to the garden outside as each window frames some wonderful 'pictures' of it. It's clear the garden has been staged as carefully as the art inside.

You may have come across Carole's work before. Six of her largest textiles were encased in glass to form the entrance to Westonbirt Garden Festival in 2003. She exhibited alongside Kaffe Fassett and Candace Bahouth in Bath last year and she also featured at this year's Chelsea Flower Show. In the garden her work was everywhere - curved walls (similar to the one commissioned for the reopening of The Pound Arts Centre in Corsham), encased banners leading you through the garden, plus the coolest of fountains - the latter most welcome on an extremely hot day. There was pottery on a massive scale such as the large raku pots and fountain, but also in smaller details, like the head shown at the top centre of the collage, plus a large circle of blue pottery balls (see Gary's website) placed on the grass. I also liked the touch of using a planter to go underneath a table or just in front of a bench.

The whole garden was a masterclass in focal points, surrounded by exquisite planting. I was surprised to find the Spirea I was so doubtful about in my recent post about my front garden providing just the right highlight amongst a mainly green planting of Sedums, Astrantia, horsetail and mind-your-own-business. And for anyone wanting a Mediterranean look but knowing an olive tree won't survive in their garden, look no further than using a beautiful contorted willow to drape over your white rendered walls.

The garden's on a very steep hillside and the art plus a winding pathway of slate and plentiful benches lead you upwards to views back across the Avon valley and towards the house. Here you can appreciate - from your bench - just how much hard work must have been put into both home and garden. It's been an eleven year project so far. There's an exhibition held at the gallery twice a year and I'm now on the mailing list so that I have an opportunity to visit again. Since coming home, I've been eying up my patio to see where a wonderful raku pot could be placed, or perhaps the most colourful of banners. Something else to be added to my fantasy garden alongside Wednesday's pleasure-dome...

Friday, 3 July 2009

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 Housekeeping Cookery 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.

Ingredients

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

Method
  1. Dissolve the sugar in the water over a low heat, then bring to the boil and boil for 2 minutes
  2. Remove from the heat, add the lemon rinds and leave to infuse for 10 minutes
  3. When cool add the lemon juice, then strain into a shallow freezer container. Freeze for about 2 hours until mushy
  4. Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Turn the lemon mixture into a bowl, fold in the egg whites, then replace in the container and freeze until firm
  5. Transfer to the 'fridge for 45 minutes before serving
Makes approx. 1 litre (1.8 pints) and serves 6-8.
Adapting the recipe for lemon leftovers:
  1. Reserve the elderflowers and lemon slices/peel when straining the cordial mixture ready for bottling. Don't squeeze the liquid out too much as you need some of the cordial syrup mixture to replace the lemon juice needed for the above recipe
  2. Separate the elderflowers out from the lemon and compost them. You don't need to be too thorough with this, just make sure that the stalks and most of the flowers are removed. If this sounds like a bit of a faff, it isn't and remember - you don't need to do the fiddly grating of the lemon rind bit from the original recipe as compensation!
  3. As for step 1 in the original recipe
  4. Add the reserved lemon mixture and leave to infuse until cool. I've infused everything and for longer as I'm not using lemon juice. I want to get maximum flavour from my leftovers
  5. Strain into a shallow freezer container. Make sure you squeeze as much liquid as possible from the lemon slices and peel before discarding them for composting. Freeze for about 2 hours until mushy
  6. As for steps 4-5 from the original recipe
As the lemon mixture contains some of the syrup from making the elderflower cordial, you can safely reduce some of the sugar used in the original recipe if you wish. I used an ounce less without affecting the final result. You might also want to try adding some of the peel (finely chopped) from the lemon leftovers to your sorbet, for a slightly different texture. I wouldn't recommend this unless you're using unwaxed lemons.
Don't worry about having 2 leftover egg yolks - Threadspider suggests using these for making the delicious strawberry ice cream from this strawberry & vanilla ice cream recipe. You've probably got a glut of strawberries anyway, or if not there's some good special offers for English strawberries in the shops at the moment, or you could have a fun trip to a Pick Your Own farm this weekend. Though I suspect if you do the latter, 2 egg yolks won't quite be enough!
Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

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 picture of your number and leave a comment over at her blog.


Last year I missed Matron's trug display by a couple of days, so I'm pleased she has another produce show 'n tell for us this year at Down on the Allotment. She has a Worldwide Veggie Show at the moment and you simply have to show her 6 of one of your crops which will either make her salivate or smile. Of course both would be double plus good. I cheekily suggested aphids were my best crop this year, but the critters wouldn't stay still long enough for me to get a good shot of them. My second best crop this year is grass. You wouldn't believe how difficult it was to find 6 grass heads of 1 species that were similar in size and colour. I think the use of my water butt lid to stage my entry is a rather nice touch ;)

As with all my show entries last year, I couldn't resist showing off my Autumn Bliss raspberries, plus some results from my RHS mange tout & sugar snap pea trial - the variety's Sugar Ann. Finally, I made use of some of yesterday's Scrumptious thinnings before consigning them to the compost heap. If you'd like to take part, all you need to do is send your entry to Ahhmatron@aol.com by 14th July. She's got further details and lots more examples if you go and visit her here :)


Finally, Pat and Steph of Bifurcated Carrots fame are proposing another Food Growing Bloggers' Meeting for 2009. I went to the inaugural one at Oxford Botanic Garden last year and it was a great day out with lots of like-minded people. This year's will be in September or October depending on most people's availability; will probably be at the same venue and may take on a potato and seed saving flavour depending on the extra guests Pat and Steph can assemble for us. The cost is likely to be around £15, which includes room hire and admission to the Botanic Garden. Interested? Then do leave a comment for Pat and Steph here, where you'll also find more information about the proposed day.

If you've seen any other blogging fun going on at the moment - veggie related or not - do let me know.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

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

...Xanadu

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 meandering with a mazy motion,
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran.
Then reach'd the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean.
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from afar
Ancestral voices prophesying war!

The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device
A sunny pleasure dome with caves of ice.
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw.
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song.
To such a deep delight 'twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air!
That sunny dome! Those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there!
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes! his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread!
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.


Kubla Khan (1798) - Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)

We're experiencing a heatwave here in the UK at the moment, so I'm having nights of broken dreams and fragments of memory. I imagine they might be a little like Coleridge's interrupted slumbers, but thankfully without the effects of opium and the presence of the rather shadowy Person from Porlock.

It's like venturing out into a warm, wet flannel, so gardening's confined to early morning and the afternoons given over to musing on where Xanadu might be - I suspect anywhere you'd like it to be, real or imagined - and which stately pleasure-dome I might decree for my fantasy garden. A climbable folly affording views from miles around, or a mysterious, glittery grotto would be rather fun, but a bit too big for my real garden unfortunately. But a girl can dream - if you had unlimited space and money, what would you choose?

I've deliberately not posted a picture today, so your imaginations can have a free reign!

Garden Bloggers Muse Day is hosted by Sweet Home and Garden Chicago and all the eXtra posts on the theme of X are over at the ABC Wednesday blog.
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