Monday, 30 November 2009
Anytime: Want to blow away those winter blues and cobwebs? Getting out for a brisk walk during the daylight hours, particularly on a cold, crisp, clear morning could be the perfect antidote. Here's some ideas of where to go.
Throughout December - Christmas Markets, Fairs and Fayres. Many of our towns and cities hold some kind of Christmas market, usually in early December. I've had the pleasure of attending events in Bath, Birmingham, Bristol, York and the Eden Project so far. This website has details of all of these, plus all others in the UK and much further afield in Europe and the USA. A great way to get in the festive mood.
Until 8th December: The Mistletoe Festival in Tenbury Wells continues. Mistletoe auctions will be held on December 1st and 8th, and the Mistletoe Queen will be crowned on December 5th. If you're buying fresh mistletoe for your decorations this year, it's likely to have come from here.
5-6th: Tree Dressing Day. A new 'tradition' started by Common Ground in 1990, to celebrate our trees by decorating them on the first full weekend in December. Note that these decorations are not usually Christmas ones, though judging by what happens in Chippenham, it's also the time when most people put theirs up.
8th: Holy Thorn Ceremony, Glastonbury. The eldest pupil at St. John's School will cut the branch from the legendary winter flowering Glastonbury Thorn, which will be sent to the Queen as a Christmas greeting.
21st: Winter Solstice. Be of good cheer, the days will be getting longer from now on :)
25th: Happy Christmas everyone!
26th: Boxing Day aka St. Stephens Day in Ireland. The traditional starting day for pantomimes and for mummers plays to be performed. Marshfield's is the closest one I know of and other ones not far away from here are at Gloucester and Langport.
31st: New Year's Eve. Hogmanay in Scotland is the event tonight. However, if you want to party in Edinburgh, you'll need to get your tickets in advance. Here's all the details you need. If you're looking for something more dramatic, then Stonehaven's Fireballs Festival could be just the thing. Across the border in Northumberland, there's also flaming tar barrels in Allendale, a tradition dating back to medieval times.
Sunday, 29 November 2009
So you can imagine my delight when the nice people at Dobbies offered to send me a sparkly Snowtime Fibre Optic Sunburst Christmas Tree for me to try out. A package promptly arrived from Scotland via Parcel Force and as I was away on holiday at the time and my neighbours were out, it was taken to my local post office for me to pick up later.
I unpacked the box this morning and assembled everything within a mere 5 minutes. There's 3 legs to attach to the base, the tree's branches (a single unit for this 4ft tree) to slot into it, plus the transformer to plug into the base and the wall socket. The base also contains the light and the revolving disc to drive the changing colours within the fibre optic lights spread throughout the tree. There's 175cm (just under five feet) of cable from the transformer to the plug, so you'll need to put your tree fairly close to the socket, or else use an extension lead (with care!) if you want to put the tree further away.
With everything duly assembled and all the branches pulled down into position to make everything look much more tree like, I then switched it on... and nothing happened :(
Being the electrical and electronics engineer that he is, NAH of course has just the right equipment to hand to test things out and was able to quickly confirm the transformer's as dead as a dodo. I'd noticed when I unpacked the box (which was in good condition) that the transformer had come out of its carton. On closer inspection, the carton wasn't fully taped together and its protective cardboard packaging wasn't taped around it either. NAH thinks this may have been enough to damage the transformer whilst in transit from the manufacturer or from Dobbies to me. Alternatively it might not have been working before it was put in the box.
I don't blame Dobbies at all for this problem and I see they have a clear returns policy shown on their website where faulty goods can be returned to them within 28 days for either a replacement or a full refund. I've emailed Ian at Dobbies - who asked if I'd like to review a tree - to see what he'd like to do next and to show there's no hard feelings, I've ordered some outdoor Christmas lights on the strength of Karen's review. Ours finally gave up the ghost last year, so I'd been planning on getting some anyway and hadn't found any I liked locally.
If a tree's more your thing, then you might like to know Ryan has a giveaway for UK readers over at his blog at the moment. You can choose any tree, artificial or real from Dobbies range and if you leave a comment there before the close of Friday 4th December, you may be lucky enough to have Ryan's glamorous assistant pull your name out as the winner!
NB OOTS alert! It's nearly time for our quarterly look at public planting. December will be a sparkling festive edition where I'll be asking you to show us your neighbourhood's decorations. There's more to come on introducing this to you in the coming week, but I know how some of you like plenty of notice so you can get your cameras out ;)
Saturday, 28 November 2009
First up is this sparkly new bit of bling, courtesy of Kitchen Garden, aka The Constant Gardener with her vegetable growing hat on. I also see Rothschild's Orchid has given this to me this week, so that makes it double bling. Rather cheersome, after a week of wind and wuthering weather. Thanks both of you, it's much appreciated :D
As usual I'm going amend the rules for this award so that they work for me. I see it's been doing the rounds of most of my regular gardening reads already and I'm confident it's only a matter of time before everyone I have in my sidebar links, plus all my bookmarked favourites will receive this award. So instead of nominating 15 of my gardening friends, I'd like to draw your attention to a non-gardening blog which I've come across recently via my site statistics. It's called White Girl, Arab World and chronicles the life of Shirley Dockerill, who's called the Middle East her home for the past 25 years. It's a fascinating read, which is helping me to understand a completely different culture, and that's precisely what best blogging's all about.
A fascinating watch for me last night was Carol Klein's Gardeners' World special on women gardening pioneers. She covered such a wide range, from the 'herb wives' of medieval times through to the appointment of Inga Grimsey as RHS Director General in 2006. In between were stories of artists and writers; the woman I always think of as one of the first guerrilla gardeners; the first women horticultural trainees at Kew in the late 1890s; the first women head gardeners at Sissinghurst; the role of the Women's Land Army during WWII and much more besides. It was a return to the kind of intelligent gardening programme we've been crying out for and my only criticism of it is I wanted to know even more. If you missed it and you live in the UK, do seek it out on the BBC's I-Player over the next week or so.
Finally, I'm pleased to see my latest guest post on Encounters With Remarkable Biscuits has gone up today. It's more of a non-encounter really, but you'll need to head over there to find out more...
Happy reading and viewing everyone!
Friday, 27 November 2009
We'd decided that the ferry was a holiday 'must do' and this was my first ever visit to Liverpool. Here you can see one of the classic Liverpudlian vistas: The Three Graces aka the Royal Liver Building, the Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building (from left to right). NAH and I think the view's been spoilt somewhat by the brand new Pier Head ferry terminal in front of the Royal Liver Building: you can just see the Liver Birds - legend has it that if they fall off then Liverpool's prosperity will cease. Needless to say they're very well tethered on their perches!
Liverpool has the most Listed Buildings in England outside of London, so the hop on, hop off city bus tour was a good way to see a number of them and to get an overall feel of the place. We stopped off at Mathew Street, home of the Cavern Club where it all began for The Beatles, but didn't have time to visit either of the museums dedicated to the Fab Four. NB The Cavern Club shown in the link is not the original, but a mere shadow of its former self. There's some rather kitsch street furniture around there, which will be turning up over at Sign of the Times shortly. A quick run around Albert Dock with its many museums rounded off our flying visit before we boarded the train* to head back to Cheshire.
* = I need a need little rant here - it cost us £3.20 return from Hooton plus 80p for a day's parking at the station and the parking was manned by a cheery man at the pay station on the way out. I went to Bath on Saturday, a shorter train journey which cost me £4.50, plus £4.50 (unmanned) car parking. Rip-off southern Britain or what?
Thursday, 26 November 2009
* = a thinly veiled excuse to have the largest slice of chocolate banana fudge cake ever in the tea room :o
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
So I wended my way down to the garden centre, where I was instantly stopped in my tracks. There was just too many of the darn things to choose from. Whilst I can appreciate the differences between anvil and bypass types, what hope do I have when faced by a plethora of numbered options, such as the Felco range sports? So I retired in all of a dither and got NAH to re-sharpen my secateurs, which then fell apart in September.
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
Her piece focused on our ability to pass on our vegetable knowledge to those that don't grow their own, which Soilman followed up by posing the following question:
Monday, 23 November 2009
The house itself is closed for the winter, but the parkland and gardens are open year-round. I was particularly keen to visit because a newly planted winter garden had been opened just a fortnight prior to our trip to Cheshire last week and I wanted to be one of the first to see it. It's meant to be the largest winter garden in England and we have only a few gardens open at this time of the year, so I was intrigued in seeing what this actually means. The celebrated plantsman, Roy Lancaster's been involved as advisor to the project, so I was confident the plants chosen would be top notch.
First impressions on entering the garden are favourable. This is the view looking north from the entrance gate. There's a good variety textures in the planting, using both evergreens and stem colour to provide interest. This view also shows much of the general structure to the garden: there's a network of gently curving paths which gave us a number of different walks around the garden to admire the various themed beds. There's also lots of healthy, mature trees and as soon as I saw these, the choice of a winter garden for this area started to make sense as their reduced canopy at this time of the year would allow the underplanting to start to shine through.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit, in spite of being there at the wrong time. I believe the garden will be even more dramatic in 2-3 months when the bulbs start to flower and it stands to be even better still once the shrubs begin to mature in a couple of years. Only then will I be able to judge whether this good garden is a great one - a good excuse to go back there then! In the meantime, anyone wanting ideas for robust plants to provide scent, berries, form or flower to their garden at this time of the year will find plenty of food for thought at Dunham Massey.
Sunday, 22 November 2009
I also have a trip to Dunham Massey to show you their newly opened winter garden; a tour of Port Sunlight, an early example of a Victorian/Edwardian garden village; plus a brief sojourn in Liverpool. We enjoyed ourselves immensely and plan to return to the area for a much longer holiday at a later date.
Anna, Happy Mouffetard, Lisa and Elizabethm - I'm sorry I didn't get in touch with you, even though I was just a few miles away from you all last week. Our trip was arranged at the last minute and because it was mine and NAH's holiday, I felt it wasn't fair on him if I was constantly galavanting off to see my blogfriends. He was getting grumpy enough at my constantly stopping to take photographs!
NB Hurrah - Blogger for once has allowed me to load more than one image into a post and make both of them clickable. Do click to enlarge either photo if you'd like a much closer look :)
Saturday, 21 November 2009
- Decide to make your living through writing in stone
- Find a derelict but prominent place to show off the kind of thing you can do
- Wait for a blogger to have a good look at your wares by the railway viaduct
- Wait for that blogger to tell the blogger with the camera what you've found
- Et voila!
In case you missed it first time round, just like I've done for so many years, compare the word area with the rest of the piece. My thanks to Mark for telling me I should take a look again at this body of work ;)
And here's a wider view of the first thing you see when you hit Chippenham's high street should you walk into town (like I do) from the west. Welcoming isn't it?
Friday, 20 November 2009
OK, it seems that only Helen, Mark and I have committed ourselves to National Blog Posting Month: Helen's been going great guns, telling us all about gardening life in Toronto and whilst Mark also lives in Chippenham, his brilliant blog is very different to mine or Helen's, so also well worth a look. I'm still on holiday (back tomorrow), but as you can see, I managed to set up my posts before I went away :)
If the thought of all of that is making you feel a bit tired, how about having a go at National Comment Leaving Week instead? It could be just the thing now the nights are drawing in and it starts tomorrow, November 21st and ends on the 28th. All you need to do is leave five comments per day on other blogs and return one comment that's been left on your site lately per day. That's a total of 6 comments per day.
It could be a good way of exploring those blogs you've had bookmarked for ages but never got round to reading, or seeing how some of your old buddies you've lost touch with are getting along. If you're like me, you love receiving comments, so here's a way of making lots of people very happy over the next few days :D
Thursday, 19 November 2009
Who exactly I should be talking to:
- As I live in Chippenham, Wiltshire, it should be someone from Wiltshire County Council (WCC) right? Er, it depends...
- If the tree's on a main road or on a highway structure such as a roundabout, it's the responsibility of the Highways Agency, who are contactable via the county's CLARENCE hotline *
- If I want to discuss something like tree flailing which happened at the wrong time of the year, that's part of our estate's maintenance schedule. Therefore I should talk to the head of WCC's estate maintenance team
- For all other trees in public spaces, then the county's sole arborist (aka Mr Treeman) is the person to talk to
- Nothing will be done about the horse chestnut leaf miner problem as they don't harm the tree and there's no budget available to treat them or clear up the leaves anyway
- It seems there's pretty well no budget to do anything to any of our trees, unless the problem with them constitutes a health and safety hazard. Thus there won't be any tree thinning of the overcrowded trees, nor the removal of any of the branches touching our house - for now at least. I am however, most welcome to do any of these things - including clearing up the horse chestnut leaves - myself.
- The horse chestnut trees with canker will be added to the county's observation list. The county has no policy to remove these trees as they may recover from the infection. However, they are kept under observation, because trees with canker tend to drop their limbs, which is of course a potential health and safety hazard
- The trees at the side of our house aren't a danger to the house foundations (phew)
- The broken branch on the ash tree at the side of the house will be removed because it could easily fall on top of our heads when we're in the garden and therefore constitutes a safety hazard. A month later: we're still waiting for this work to be done and gale force winds in excess of 75 miles per hour are expected as I write...
- NAH and I are most welcome to contact Mr Treeman each year and request a review of the trees at the side of the house or any others we feel need attention. However, it's unlikely that anything will get done, because there's no budget available blah, blah, blah...
Confused? Annoyed? Yes, so am I. Threadspider is too because a couple of weeks after my meeting with Mr Treeman a whole gang of youths in hi-vis descended on the top of the estate and cleared away all the lavender nestling under the trees at the main entrance, hacked away at the tree roots and left everything looking extremely tidy but rather bare for now. It looks ripe for a weed fest next year. I think they were the estate maintenance team, so we'll be contacting them shortly to see when they're coming over to finish the job they've started.
Assuming there's the budget to do so of course.
* = NAH and I are constantly amazed that the reporting of our county's road and lighting - and now it would appear roadside trees - defects would appear to be named after a cross-eyed lion: one of the animal characters in the 1960s TV series Daktari. The acronym may have a perfectly reasonable explanation (Customer Lighting And Roads ENquiry CEntre), but the choice of accompanying logo - a lion - hardly helps us to take this system seriously.
Wednesday, 18 November 2009
It now nestles in a pot in a shadier corner of my patio. This particular Heuchera is descended from the woodland line, so it's not one for full sunlight - a lot of this can make the leaves look washed out. It also likes a moist soil and produces white flowers in the summer which are attractive to bees. As you can see, it's still wearing the lime hues that it's named after at the moment. I actually value it even more during the winter. As the colder, frosty weather kicks in, the leaves will take on a more buttery, yellow colour - a most welcome trait in the darker days of December and January.
For more posts bought to you by the letter R, do visit the ABC Wednesday blog.
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
This damascene conversion came about when I closely inspected the gravel path in the back garden early this year. A limey clay soil underneath the gravel (no membrane installed) which is waterlogged over winter and shaded for much of the day means moss is pretty much inevitable. Up close and personal it's rather beautiful, so I decided to let it stay for once and it's a lot less work as a result. I felt rather smug when Dan Pearson extolled the virtues of moss at the Hay Festival in May.
I've also let it remain in my lawn: so mine was the only one to remain green in our neighbourhood during September's drought. Patio crack infills? Yes, the moss has been allowed to stay there too. It means I'll have less dry mortar infilling to do: that job's always felt rather like Atlas rolling the stone up the hill anyway. Another type's colonising all the path edging bricks and looks like a green shaggy fur. That's fine. I'm feeling all chilled out and rather zen as a result of my change of heart.
NAH's agreed it all looks rather good, especially at this time of the year - he said it's winter interest for the patio - that was without any prompting from me either :o
However, these feelings of garden bliss do not extend to the moss on our front drive :(
Have you made any drastic changes in the way you look after your garden this year?
Monday, 16 November 2009
I had to go to Corsham last week to visit my dentist, but as I arrived early, I took the opportunity to have a brief exploration of the town's Millennium Garden. I've only really looked at it in passing before and whilst it wasn't the best of times of the year to have a closer look, there was still quite a bit of interest.
I was especially taken with the above Acer. Bright red stems and buttery yellow leaves did much to raise my spirits on the kind of miserable day which November seems to specialise in. I also admired its bright orange berries...
Hold on, Acers don't have berries, never mind bright orange ones!
A closer inspection revealed my error: the rowan tree nearby had lovingly adorned the Acer with lots of its berries.
Sunday, 15 November 2009
I'm actually on holiday as of yesterday, but I'm sure Friday's drenched flowers will be in bloom today - as is my Dahlia Delight - because we're having a spell of mild, rainy and windy weather at the moment. So whilst the garden's definitely very 'backendish', there's still quite a lot of floral bounty around. It just takes a little more time to find it. Lesson learnt this month: Cyclamen has a lovely ethereal scent. I hadn't noticed that before, but then I haven't put some in the hanging basket next to the front door before either.
Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.
NB I have posts set up for the whole of the week, but I'm going internet free whilst I'm away, so I won't be answering your comments until after I get back on Saturday.
Saturday, 14 November 2009
Friday, 13 November 2009
DowAgrosciences has developed a communications and stewardship campaign for users and distributors to further reduce the risk of problems arising from manure containing aminopyralid residues.
Thursday, 12 November 2009
...yes, I hate it. My mum still proudly tells the tale of how she put Marmite on my bread soldiers when I was little and I immediately threw them on the floor whilst pulling the most screwed up baby face you could ever imagine. NAH of course loves it, so I have to bear the sight and smell of this
I find it surprising how such a lovely product such as beer results in jars of yeast extract. Well, I suppose I shouldn't be really because the yeast used for beer making has enough at the end of the brewing process to start another 5 batches of beer. Thus a home has to be found for the other four fifths, otherwise over time our breweries wouldn't have enough room to produce any more beer and would be awash with loads of creamy, browny looking foam instead.
With our breweries facing such a disaster, some clever people in Burton-on-Trent decided the excess could be used to make yeast extract and that it would also be rather jolly if they put it in a jar modelled on the shape of a french stockpot, aka marmite.
What's more, it's choc full of all those tricky B-vitamins that were quite hard to come by in the diets of yore, so it could be marketed to mums like mine as a nutritious tea-time (or breakfast or lunch) treat for their families. Bet they didn't imagine screaming toddlers throwing it on the floor though, just happy, smiley family faces instead. However, there must have been plenty of each scenario happening all over the land, otherwise how else could the phrase Marmite Moment have come about? [for a practical example of the use of this term, you need look no further than this post here - Ed]
So, Mr. McGregor's Daughter (and not forgetting Gail), you can feel relieved that no lovely furry creatures like marmosets were harmed in the making of this fare, just lots of budding yeast cells instead. And if you're reading this in countries like Australia or New Zealand, I'm afraid your Vegemite comes nowhere near to being as yukky as Marmite actually is. And no, it's nothing like its deliciously meaty cousin, Bovril either, even if both brands are owned by the same company and they're made in the same town.
Unbelievably this post only scratches the surface as far as Marmite is concerned, so the You Ask, We Answer team have helpfully added this link [and this one, plus this one's rather fun - Ed] should you wish to know more.
Wednesday, 11 November 2009
My blog is often described as quirky and I take that as a real compliment: it's probably the best way I'd like you to think about Veg Plotting. But what does quirky actually mean? The Free Dictionary defines quirk (pronounced kwurk) as:
- A peculiarity of behavior; an idiosyncrasy: "Every man has his own quirks and twists" (Harriet Beecher Stowe).
- An unpredictable or unaccountable act or event; a vagary: a quirk of fate.
- A sudden sharp turn or twist.
- An equivocation; a quibble.
- Architecture - a lengthwise groove on a moulding between the convex upper part and the soffit.
odd, unusual, eccentric, idiosyncratic, curious, peculiar, unpredictable, rum (Brit. slang), singular, fanciful, whimsical, capricious, offbeat, out there (slang) We've developed a reputation for being quite quirky and original.
Well, perhaps I can't fulfill definition number 5, but I aim to do something with 1-4 and all those Thesaurus options ;)
Seeing quirky means unpredictable, perhaps the ABC Wednesday meme can be described in the same way? Hop on over to today's contributors and see what you think.
Tuesday, 10 November 2009
Last week it was the turn of the redoubtable Mary Keen, garden designer and regular Telegraph columnist. I'm not that familiar with her work or her writing, so I didn't quite know what to expect from her talk's title Looking at the Whole Picture. She took everyone by surprise immediately by declaring her talk was to be without slides. I'm sure from the sighs which followed that at least half of the 100 strong audience were quite disappointed.
What ensued was something quite thought provoking. I may not have particularly enjoyed her style of delivery - it was haughty and full of name dropping, which made Threadspider (I'd persuaded her to come too) and I feel we were back at school being lectured by our headmistress, Miss Miller - but I've been pondering what she said ever since.
After asking us which garden we'd most like ours to be like - most people wanted Sissinghurst - her first challenge was to say this is impossible, only Sissinghurst can be Sissinghurst and if your own garden isn't your favourite, then you need to do something about it immediately.
She also dismissed using pictures from magazines to convey what's wanted, especially those sections called Get the Look. Here she argued that pictures are a waste of time because they only capture that instant, which constantly changes. Her dismissal of Get the Look was because it's what's right for that garden, instead of what's right for you. Whilst I can see her point, I think it would be hard for ordinary mortals like me to dispense with pictures because I don't have a vast experience of design or a massive knowledge of plants - yet.
Her alternative approach is more wordy than pictorial - which was quite strange in view of her talk's title and her initial description of a garden being the equivalent of painting a picture. She's much more focused on a garden's theme (aka narrative), mood and the selection of key words of what the garden should be e.g. a sanctuary, fun, secluded, sensual etc. She argues that this approach results in a garden that's distinctive, belongs to you and conveys a sense of place (echoes of Dan Pearson's talk at Hay here), particularly if the garden has a sensitive use of local materials and plants (the latter reminded me of my Listening to the Locals post last year). She likened plants to cushions: they're the finishing touches. She's much more interested in getting the spaces in the garden right first, those places without plants where the eye is to rest, pause and take stock.
A couple of days later Threadspider and I met for coffee as usual and mulled over what Mary Keen had to say. We talked about our gardens not just being a picture, and how we try to engage our other senses - something we felt was missing in her talk. I also said my favourite garden is actually my own. Threadspider was quite taken by surprise because I'm always displeased with something and I'm always wanting to change things - to make it a better garden. But yes, my garden is my favourite one. It's not perfect, but it is mine and if I could choose any garden in the world where I'd like to be, my choice is my garden. It's taken Mary Keen's talk for me to realise that. However, I believe I'd struggle to adopt her approach wholesale, because I don't have her experience and I think in a much more pictorial and practical way.
You can see the gist of her talk by reading this recent article from the Telegraph. What do you think about what she's said? Where's your favourite garden and what picture or mood would you like to convey with your own?
Monday, 9 November 2009
Sunday, 8 November 2009
Liberty and freedom, motherland and home
A million blood red poppies, remember them and pray
Cyril Frederick Perkins (1920 - ), WW2 People's War
WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar.
NB This site also gives details on how People's War material can be re-used for publication. As Veg Plotting is a non-commercial site, a simple acknowledgement of the source as shown above was sufficient to grant me permission to use it.
Saturday, 7 November 2009
The creature on the right might be a crocodile - what do you think?
Friday, 6 November 2009
Of course, your fungi might be a little gourmet for soup, so you might like to google elsewhere for a more upmarket recipe for your spoils. However, if your haul includes field mushrooms, then this is the recipe for you. When I was little, we frequently visited my aunt and uncle near Swansea. One of my strongest memories from that time was going out mushrooming with my uncle. Their house was on common land and we had to get up early to beat one of the local smallholders to the pick of that day's crop.
I absolutely adore mushrooms. The merest mention of them in Tolkein's Lord of the Rings was enough to send me out to the nearest greengrocers immediately to get some when I was 10. I loved them grilled on toast back then. Whenever we visit NAH's aunt in Poole, garlic mushrooms always appear on the menu, even though she's not keen on them herself. I've combined both of these treats into a warming soup for November. Don't worry if you've not procured your own supply via a fungus foray, shop bought ones do equally as well, especially those from the budget end of the selection.
400g mushrooms (including stalks) wiped clean, but not peeled
- Put the stock and mushrooms in a large pan and bring to the boil
- In the meantime peel and finely chop the garlic and add to the pan
- Add the bread, roughly crumbling it into the stock as you do so
- Add the herbs plus the freshly ground black pepper
- Once the mixture is boiling, turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes
- Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary
- Turn off the heat and liquidise the soup
- Serve immediately with more fresh, crusty bread
Thursday, 5 November 2009
- Decide on a completely new product range for your garden centre
- Assemble your publicity material
- Ensure it has a prominent display in the latest Garden Club newsletter
- Wait for a blogger with a camera to spot something's wrong
- Et voila!
For me this is wrong on two levels: Victoria has also explored the topic of garden centres' chosen product ranges recently - worth a look not only for her views, but the ensuing conversation in the comments. My local garden centre's also displaying a banner alongside the main road which reads: Our themed Christmas store now open. Guess what the theme is?
In the interests of balanced reporting I should also add they're organising a project to coincide with National Tree Week, where representatives from each school taking part will have a session at the garden centre on how to plant a tree and look after it. They'll then choose two trees from a selection of native species to take back to plant in their school grounds :)
Wednesday, 4 November 2009
Tom has crossed hundreds of different potatoes to produce new ones. In order to do this he has selected potatoes with a tendency to produce berries - the seed capsules sometimes seen on potato plants - in addition to their more usual tuber production. As the seed is the product of a cross pollination made by Tom, the seeds will take on characteristics from both parents - unlike the tubers which will be an exact copy of the parent plant. From these seeds, further crosses may be made or further generations of seed produced until Tom has a stable line that he is happy with. The pictured potatoes are some of these and he has made tens of thousands of crosses.
In addition to berrying, Tom is also selecting for a number of other positive characteristics in his crosses. Flavour is one, as is improved nutrition, particularly in the production of anthocyanins (often seen in red and blue/black skinned potatoes and thought to have anti-cancer properties) and higher mineral content. He's also produced varieties with shorter cooking times and longer keeping qualities. Blight resistance of course is a bit of a holy grail at the moment, particularly with the recent emergence of a new vigorous strain of late blight - Blue-13 - which has already seen some of the traditionally resistant varieties such as Cara, succumb in this country.
Tom is an independent plant breeder and has spent the last couple of months touring Europe to spread the word about his life's work. Whilst in this country he also visited the Sarvari Research Trust who are responsible for trialling and introducing the new blight resistant varieties we've seen on sale recently, such as Sarpo Axona and Sarpo Mira. It'll be interesting to see if anything comes out of his visit, particularly as some of the pictured potato varieties Tom has bred - e.g. Pam Wagner - have good blight resistance.
Tom is very keen his work has a much wider uptake and is providing materials to kick start projects. I'm happy to say that I'm the lucky recipient of some of these and so I'll be growing potatoes for Tom next year - as part of my Incredible Edibles strand - and sending him any seed the potatoes produce. In order to spread the risk over a number of plots and thus increasing the likelihood that one of us at least will get a decent crop, I'll be getting my allotment friends to help out next year. Threadspider's already volunteered without me needing to ask her :)
For more Perfect P's, do visit the ABC Wednesday blog.
Tuesday, 3 November 2009
Update: I've looked back at my photos from the Inner Temple Show and the pink one is D. 'Karma Lagoon'.
Monday, 2 November 2009
Five years ago, it was the date I finally 'phoned in sick at work and told them I couldn't take the stress anymore. A year later, it was when I and several of my colleagues commenced our Diplomas in Business Analysis *. Then two years ago I decided to join my local choir and I also finally realised my career break really needed to become a little more permanent.
It was that very same day I decided to start this blog without a clue about what I was doing and where it might lead. Your company on the rollercoaster is much appreciated, it's been heaps of fun over the 800+ posts I've made. However, now we're at the notorious terrible twos stage, who knows what tantrums I'll find alongside the uninhibited giggles?
* = the marking for the oral exam is rather enlightened as one of the categories assessed is Enthusiasm. I was awarded an A+, probably because once I'd been asked a question, they couldn't shut me up despite them fielding a rather tricky one on Profit and Loss accounts!
Sunday, 1 November 2009
Why blow'st thou not, thou wintry wind,
Now every leaf is brown and sere,
And idly droops, to thee resigned,
The fading chaplet of the year?
Yet wears the pure aerial sky
Her summer veil, half drawn on high,
Of silvery haze, and dark and still
The shadows sleep on every slanting hill.
How quiet shows the woodland scene!
Each flower and tree, its duty done,
Reposing in decay serene,
like weary men when age is won,
Such calm old age as conscience pure
And self-commanding hearts ensure,
Waiting their summons to the sky,
Content to live, but not afraid to die.
Sure if our eyes were purged to trace
God's unseen armies hovering round,
We should behold by angels' grace
The four strong winds of Heaven fast bound,
Their downward sweep a moment stayed
On ocean cove and forest glade,
Till the last flower of autumn shed
Her funeral odours on her dying bed.
So in Thine awful armoury, Lord,
The lightnings of the judgment-day
Pause yet awhile, in mercy stored,
Till willing hearts wear quite away
Their earthly stains; and spotless shine
On every brow in light divine
The Cross by angel hands impressed,
The seal of glory won and pledge of promised
Little they dream, those haughty souls
Whom empires own with bended knee,
What lowly fate their own controls,
Together linked by Heaven's decree;
-As bloodhounds hush their baying wild
To wanton with some fearless child,
So Famine waits, and War with greedy eyes,
Till some repenting heart be ready for the skies.
Think ye the spires that glow so bright
In front of yonder setting sun,
Stand by their own unshaken might?
No--where th' upholding grace is won,
We dare not ask, nor Heaven would tell,
But sure from many a hidden dell,
From many a rural nook unthought of there,
Rises for that proud world the saints' prevailing prayer.
On, Champions blest, in Jesus' name,
Short be your strife, your triumph full,
Till every heart have caught your flame,
And, lightened of the world's misrule,
Ye soar those elder saints to meet
Gathered long since at Jesus' feet,
No world of passions to destroy,
Your prayers and struggles o'er, your task all praise and joy.
John Keble (1792-1866). A Gloucestershire poet, for a Gloucestershire scene.
Garden Bloggers' Muse Day is hosted by Carolyn Choi at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago.