Showing posts from 2010

Merry Christmas Everyone :)

It's time for me to take my Christmas break and to leave you with some uncharacteristically snowy scenes for the time of year. Already there's talk of this being the coldest December for a century.

These pictures are of the woodland and public footpath which runs alongside our house. Only a few minor clues gives evidence that 'civilisation' is nearby. We didn't make it up north as planned for our pre-Christmas trip to Leeds and are hoping that we can get up to Birmingham Botanical Gardens tomorrow to meet up with everyone there instead. We're also hoping to get down to Poole on Friday to pick up NAH's aunt who's coming to stay with us for the Christmas period.

Emergency supplies have been gathered in and then some. Though if we do run out, it looks like we do have an alternative within walking distance if we're really desperate ;)
A Merry Christmas to you all (or Happy Holidays if you prefer) and I'll be back in the New Year :)

Public Planting Resources: Publications

This is the first in a series of posts designed to make up the new Public Planting Resources Page. This overview gives you an idea of how I anticipate it'll work.
Newspapers, Magazines and Journals

Out on the Streets -
a Twitter newspaper I publish on a weekly basis. It comprises the tweeted links made by various organisations concerned with the quality of our open spaces which I've found on Twitter. There's a mixture of news, views and resources considered to be of note at the time of tweeting. NB there may also be off topic links depending on what's been tweeted!
Horticulture Week - the trade paper of the gardening industry which regularly features news concerning public planting which is also accessible online. As well as relevant articles highlighted the Latest News on the Home page when appropriate, it has a section dedicated to Parks and Gardens, plus a resource list of key research articles which help to put forward the case for our green spaces. There's alsoa…

Reading Veg Plotting on the Move

Blogger in Draft has a new template designed to make reading Blogger blogs easier on mobile devices. It looked good when I previewed it - much better than what the full web version looks like on a mobile - and seeing from my stats there are a few people out there who are reading Veg Plotting on the move, I've just enabled it for here.

Of course the best judges of whether the template works are those who actually use it, so if you do have an i-Phone, Blackberry, or similar I'd appreciate it if you'd have a look at Veg Plotting on there and let me know if it works well or not for you. If it's not working well, then I'll switch it off until it comes out of Beta and report the problem if you give me some details.

If you want to enable the option for your blog, you'll need to do the following:
Sign onto Blogger if you haven't alreadyGo onto your DashboardSelect Blogger in Draft Click on SettingsClick on the Email and Mobile tabEnable the mobile template option (you…

A Christmas Miscellany

If the above video isn't working, then try this link instead.
Instead of the usual Sunday Supplement, I thought I'd put together a few things today as a rather nice miscellany for Christmas.
First up is the above video which is my favourite Christmas carol ever, Three Kings from Persian Lands Afar. In fact this was the favourite of everyone at school, which is where I first learnt it. We all sang the soloist's part and the school orchestra would play the rest at our carol concert.
We also had something called Friday Songs, where each form would take it in turns to choose 3 songs for the entire school to sing. The last Friday of the Christmas term was always reserved for the Upper Sixth to choose 6 carols. Time constraints meant we rarely got to sing all the choices, but Three Kings was never dropped.
Art lovers may like to have a look at a selection of entries for this year's Turnip Prize, a Somerset pub's antidote to the Turner Prize where the award is for art w…

Today in Chippenham

Overnight our garden's been transformed into a winter wonderland. The cats took one look out of the cat flap this morning and immediately returned to 'central heating duty'. It's still snowing, so our planned trip up north today to see my brother-in-law and family's been put on hold.
Luckily we're within walking distance of a supermarket so we can get emergency supplies and also the town's main sorting office so I can post my Christmas cards. Somehow I don't think the van will be able to get to the post box on our estate to pick things up from there.
Then later I expect a spot of neighbourly street clearing will ensue once the snow's stopped falling. Looks like we're in for an active day :)

Soil Mates: Book Review

Companion Planting isn't new, but most guides to it so far have tended to be a bit dull and boring. Soil Mates is quite the opposite: it's funky and colourful and treats the concept as a fun dating agency for plants. Twenty 'love matches' are made from the familiar tomato with basil through to sweet potato with summer savory. The book is sturdy and well illustrated and the growing details for each pairing are followed by a delicious recipe. The growing guides (detailed under novel headings such as Turn-ons, Turn-offs, Needy Alert, Stalker Alert and Love Triangles) are followed by a general guide to garden preparation and care, all with a view to organic gardening.

That's the good news. However, I can't recommend this book as there's too much in there to confuse UK readers or is just plain wrong. It was written in the US and unfortunately the UK edition hasn't been re-edited for this market. Most of us probably know that zucchini = courgette but pests suc…

How Advertising Works in Chippenham #24

Start a blog Meet local blogging friend who has a thing about quirky 'adverts'Blogger with a camera spots something contradictory about adverts in financial advisor officeEt Voila!

This was in the financial brokers office [North Wilts Credit Union - Ed] next to McColls (post office) and Lee's fish bar off Hardenhuish Lane. The contradiction made me giggle. This is a guest post from Mark at Views From the Bike Shed with a little light editing from me (hope you don't mind!). Thanks Mark, your email was most timely seeing I've had quite a few family matters to sort out this week.

GBBD: Bouncing Back

Winter's come early to VP Gardens this year with nearly two weeks of snow and ice already, clearing just in time for this month's Blooms Day. It's been interesting to observe how the plants are bouncing back after experiencing their physiological drought (see D is for Drought in my recent ABC of Weather series of posts) which certainly made everything in the garden look very droopy and miserable for a while.

The Violas seem to have fared the best so far. I have a number of large planters dotted around the back and front gardens within easy sight from the windows. I try to colour theme most of the pots, so the back ones are filled with mauve and yellow smiling faces. As I buy mixed packs from Frank's Plants, there's inevitably some other colours to play with and these go in the front garden. This time I'm struck by the richness and warmth of my chosen Blooms Day picture for this month. The main flower may be a little dog-eared after its wintry travails, but al…

And the Winner is...

Plucked from my lovely new baby terracotta pot this morning, the winner is The Constant Gardener :) Congratulations and do email me at vegplotting at gmail dot com ASAP, I'll send you the shiny copy of A Well-Connected Gardener.
BTW there wasn't enough light indoors to take this photo earlier this morning, so I nipped outside in my PJ's - brrrrracing!

OOTS: Oh Christmas Tree

I always find that most outdoor large Christmas trees these days tend to look a little forlorn: the barriers which surround them (health and safety reasons? to prevent vandalism? potential opportunity for sponsors advertisements) don't really help and in daylight the strings of lights look like they're trying to tie the tree down rather than looking their magical best as they usually do when it gets dark.

This year, Chippenham's tree in the centre of town has been criticised as looking 'scrawny'. I thought it didn't look that much different to previous years, though admittedly there is something a bit strange going on to the right. As usual it's been decorated with ornaments made by local schoolchildren. I wonder if this is part of the scrawny problem? The tree's quite large, so the decorations look a bit 'lost' as it would have taken the children a lot longer to make sufficient decorations to really fill the tree. Perhaps we need a smaller tree…

Sunday Supplement #9

Sunday Supplement is an occasional round up of the virtual and real here at VP Gardens. I'd like it to be a weekly event just like the best bits and reviews you get in the Sunday papers, but I'm not promising ;)

Web Watch

I'd love to see the Aurora borealis, but until I do so these pictures from The Telegraph are a great substitute.

Trending Topic

The National Trust this week highlighted that mistletoe could disappear within 20 years in some parts of the country owing to the decline of many of our orchards. As well as asking my local farm shop where they've sourced theirs from, I'll be eyeing it up as a possible source of seeds for a spot of growing my own.

Link Love

There was lots of buzz about the changes to Gardeners World this week, but nothing beats Arabella Sock's unique voice on the subject over at The Sea of Immeasurable Gravy ;)

Blog Action

Don't forget, tomorrow's the closing date to enter my super book giveaway.

Thanks for your contributions to Decemb…

The Golden Prince: Book Review

The publishers must be rubbing their hands with glee with the timing of their launch of The Golden Prince as this tale of Prince Edward (Edward VIII) and his love for a relative commoner coincides with the recent announcement of  Prince William's engagement to Kate Middleton.

The year is 1911, a time of social and political change in Britain. Prince Edward is 17 and studying at the naval college in Dartmouth. It's a lonely existence for the prince - he has no real friends to speak of and belongs to an unloving family whose life and behaviour are constrained by royal duties.

A car accident in the country lanes of Hampshire whilst returning to London brings Edward in contact with the Houghton family: four young aristocratic women living at Snowberry, their grandfather's delightful home. Rose (the eldest) is an intelligent Oxford educated suffragette; Iris is plain and of the hunting, shooting and fishing persuasion; Marigold a sexy vamp; and Lily, the beauty of the family h…

The Well-Connected Gardener

Today it's hard to believe that garden history hasn't always been here. After all we know our garden heritage goes back many centuries, even if a lot of it has been swept away by subsequent fashions or ideas. That's why it came as a surprise to me when I first picked up The Well-Connected Gardener to find its study is only a century or so old.
Another surprise is that the distinguished career of Alicia Amherst (aka The Well-Connected Gardener) seems to have been almost forgotten. She was a contemporary of Gertrude Jekyll and a friend of Ellen Willmott (of Miss Willmott's Ghost fame), and for many years was a member of the management committee of Chelsea Physic Garden. She was the author of several seminal works and was active in ensuring that horticultural training was opened up for women. This was quite controversial at the time because women started to take on the role of head gardeners on major estates, although her main motivation was ensuring people with the right …

Grit: YAWA Dictionary

Yesterday I caused Susan at Bike Garden some confusion when I said:

Hurrah! The road round the corner is getting a grit bin. Too bad it's not in time for my expensive prang last week.
I wonder if she had something like the picture below in mind: I fondly remember breakfast style grits (which we know as polenta here in the UK) from various holidays we've taken in the USA...

Image courtesy of sashafatcat via Wikimedia Commons.
However, the grit I was talking about comes in one of these...

Being in the nether regions of a modern housing estate means not only are our roads not gritted when our wintry weather gets bad, we're also too far away to get the benefit of any salty runoff coming from the roads which are.
I usually walk when that happens, but I overslept after last week's GMG Awards excitement. So an undue haste to get to my beginners pilates class despite the snow whirling down at the time, meant I literally took my car for a spin.
The road round the corner from us …

Gardeners' World Gets a Retro Makeover

Toby Buckland (centre) at Malvern Autumn Show in 2008 - just after his helmship of Gardeners' World was announced

So Toby Buckland, Alys Fowler and Greenacre are out and Monty Don, his Herefordshire garden and Rachel de Thame are back in at Gardeners' World. Quite a shock for us garden enthusiasts to take in late yesterday afternoon which inevitably set tongues wagging.

I thought Sue Beesley summed up the BBC's retro makeover well in her Stop Press post about it yesterday and I'll endeavour not to repeat what she's said already. The reactions to The Telegraph's breaking of the news also make interesting, if mixed reading. For those deploring the move, an equal number welcome it and inevitably the names Alan Titchmarsh and Geoff Hamilton also get a mention. There's also a call for fresh faces, but who that should be is much harder to tell.

What's clear from the many people outside our cosy garden blogging world I've spoken to recently is there is a genu…

Lights, Camera, Some Action

As you know I'm all for products which enable us to tread a little lighter on this earth, so how could I refuse when the people at Dobbies offered me these starry solar powered path lights to evaluate?

I've often wondered if this type of lighting might be just the thing for my front garden: we're next to woodland, facing north and quite some way from the nearest street light, so things can get quite dark around here. Our neighbour has invested in a set of individual stick solar powered lights which seem to work quite well around their lawn edge, so if we had a set of something similar, we could gently make the neighbourhood a safer place without too much in the way of light pollution or running costs. Besides, a path lined with twinkly star shaped lights looked kinda fun :)

A few days later the lights arrived and were very easy to assemble and set out alongside our front drive. I even managed to find a place to site the solar panel without it being shaded by any shrubs. I th…

We Dined on Quince*

The gift of a large bag of golden Japanese quince from Mark recently gave me the opportunity to try out some recipes much earlier than I'd anticipated when I bought my own quince plant. His crop was quite variable, ranging from teeny tiny fruit no larger in circumference than a 10p coin through to ones more like medium sized apples.

The small ones have been converted into jars of amber quince jelly a la River Cottage's Preserves as they would have been too fiddly to peel and core for anything else. Then Love and a Licked Spoon came to my aid by posting a timely recipe for Quince Tarte Tatin: just the thing for the larger fruit.

I view most recipes as a guide from which I can freely wander if needed and according to what I have to hand. This one was no exception: for her tarte tatin, Debora's preferred pastry was puff and the final tarte is assembled upside down prior to baking. It's only when it's served that the tarte is turned right side up and the perfectly arr…

Sunday Supplement #8

Sunday Supplement is an occasional round up of the virtual and real here at VP Gardens. I'd like it to be a weekly event just like the best bits and reviews you get in the Sunday papers, but I'm not promising ;)

Web Watch

I believe we need a winter warmer this week, so what could be better than this delicious mulled wine recipe from the Eden Project's chef?
Trending Topic

The continued cold snap this week has presented difficulties pretty much for everyone working in the gardening industry. Plants and trees can't be lifted to send to customers; landscaping and gardening activities have ground to a halt and many staff have had difficulty in getting to work. Lots of people (including a most grumpy NAH) have come down with a cold or other wintery illness. If that includes you or yours, I wish you a speedy recovery.

Link Love

The Constant Gardener has a fantastic advent calendar puzzle for you to unravel and win a prize :)
Blog Action

Don't forget, there's still time to en…

Bloggers Take Over at Awards Ceremony

A tinsel strewn festive entrance, complete with lawnmower. It's also worth clicking to enlarge to see what the sign says...

It's December, so it's time for the annual bash that is the Garden Media Guild Awards: a glittering ceremony held in the heart of London yesterday at The Brewery. Last year I was privileged to be there and had an absolute ball, so despite the ticket price I was determined to be there this time. Then Martyn invited me to sit at 'the best table in the house', comprised almost entirely of bloggers and tweeters, so I knew I'd made the right decision.
The event's format was pretty much as I described last year and it was good to meet up with first timers like Michelle, Letitia and Dawn over a glass or two (it might have been 3?) of fizz and find out where we were sitting. It was at the back of the room (but with a fab view as we were on the balcony): perhaps our reputation had preceded us? There would be no chance of anyone going up for an aw…

GBMD: Awake and Join the Cheerful Choir

Snowy evidence of a visitor yesterday, but alas no signs of a cheerful choir yet...

Awake and join the cheerful choir
Upon this blessed morn
And glad hosannas loudly sing
For joy a saviour’s born.

Let all the choirs on earth below
Their voices loudly raise
And sweetly join the cheerful band
With angels in the skies

To tell this news the heavenly host
Appeared in the air
And humble shepherds in the field
Those joyful songs did hear

Wise men from far beheld the star
Which was their faithful guide
And when it pointed forth a way,
Then God they glorified

From Britford, Wiltshire (notated by Geoffrey Hill)

Our choirmaster has found a local Christmas carol for us to sing this year. This snippet is very similar to what we'll be singing :)

Garden Bloggers'Muse Day is hosted by Carolyn Choi at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago.

Out on the Streets: Twinkle Twinkle...

It's nearly December, so it must be time for our latest edition of Out on the Streets! It's chilly out there, so it's time to have some fun with our public planting meme. What's going on in your neighbourhood this year? Is everything looking all twinkly and festive, or more like Chichester?

As you can see, we have our usual mini real Christmas trees adorning many buildings in Chippenham. I always think these are a simple but very good touch. We also have a Christmas tree in the centre of the town, which has been a little more controversial. More on that soon.
So now it's up to you to get out there with your cameras and show everyone your place. Festive lights are great, but there are opportunities to show us public planting too. For example, which plants in your neighbourhood are proving to be good for local wildlife? Does your town make use of the evergreens already in place and decorate these? Or perhaps there's a planting scheme you've found which is pr…

Introducing Pickles

Our Skimble and Jess have a rival for our affections in the shape of the pictured Pickles. He's been a resident in our neighbourhood for about 9 months now and for most of that time we thought he was trying to adopt us as he's the friendliest cat we've ever met.

It turns out he lives just around the corner, but craves affection when his owners are out during the day. This means he waits for the children going to/from school and also is firm friends with Nina, our neighbour's border collie. They frequently rub noses when Nina returns from one of her daily walks.

It also means that anything we do out the front comes under intense scrutiny whether it's simply taking the bin out to the kerbside emptying area, gardening or whatever. Walking can be quite hazardous as Pickles at some point will trip you up and looks quite hurt that you've trodden on him. Our postie was asking if we knew where he came from the other day: this cat's been following me for the past 1…

Sunday Supplement #7

Sunday Supplement is an occasional round up of the virtual and real here at VP Gardens. I'd like it to be a weekly event just like the best bits and reviews you get in the Sunday papers, but I'm not promising ;)
Web Watch
I had an email from The Woodlands Trust this week about their Visit Woods website. This is a collaboration between themselves, the Forestry Commission, Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and The National Trust, which allows you to enter your postcode or town to find woodlands you can visit near you.
You can also add pictures, stories, rate and review any wood you visit, so the site builds into a ever richer source of information. Seeing many of our woodlands are under threat at the moment, I'm of the opinion that use it or lose it should be our motto going forward, so anything which enables us to do just that has to be a good thing.

Trending Topic

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr winter's here! Snow's everywhere (the earliest we've had since 1993) and some parts of the UK …

The Plotting Daily is Out!

I never thought I'd have my own newspaper empire, but an application called is making me feel like I do. This clever software allows me to broadly define which content I want to look at via Twitter and then takes all links tweeted during a set time and re-formats and sifts them into various categories within a newspaper look-alike.
I follow quite a few people and organisations on Twitter who not only promote their own blog posts on there, they also tell their followers about other interesting snippets of news and blogs, post lots of pictures and pick their favourite things they've found on YouTube. To follow all the links they tweet about would take forever and it's often hard to tell whether it would be something I'd like to read anyway. That's where my newspaper is really useful, because all that content is re-jigged into just a few pages and I can see at a glance whether I want to read the full article, play the video or whatever.
There's also a ro…

Book Bargains AND a Giveaway - yay!

It's less than a month to Christmas, so what better time is there for me to have a fantastic book to give away, plus details of a bargain book discount available elsewhere?

First up is a copy of The Well-Connected Gardener by Sue Minter. This is the biography of Alicia Amsherst, who is credited with founding garden history via her book A History of Gardening in England published in 1895. She may have been brought up in a very privileged family (hence her being well-connected), but she was a very well educated, talented woman whose recognition in the gardening world seems to have been largely forgotten until now.

I'll be reviewing this book shortly. If you like what you see, then all you need to do is leave a comment on here between now and December 13th and the first name out the hat wins the prize. This'll give me time to catch the last parcel post, so you should receive it before Christmas. Sorry, this is available to UK readers only.

However all USA and UK readers can bene…

How Advertising Works in Chippenham #23

Operate a railway station in a small rural townGet all concerned about health and safetyPut up informative signs warning passengers how fast trains can be when they roar through the stationWait for a blogger with a camera to notice the train symbol is rather old fashioned for these modern timesEt voila!We do still get the odd steam train rattling through Chippenham, but it's around 50 years since they made up the regular service. We are on the main line to London after all ;)Fingers crossed it doesn't snow for my trip to the big city next week...

Public Planting Resource Page

At the beginning of the year when I was musing about how often to run Out on the Streets in 2010*, a number of you suggested I should produce a separate blog about public planting in its own right.
Whilst I like the idea, I also know it would be too much for me to try and run a separate blog to the same level of quality and success as this one. Besides, I believe a separate blog wouldn't reach as wide an audience and I do love weaving in these posts amongst all the other things which interest me.
Therefore, I was very pleased when Google implemented their Pages function earlier this year as this seemed to provide a good compromise. However, having started to sort through the hundreds of links I've bookmarked and filed under Public Planting, I've also realised that I can't really do them justice within a single page.
So I've classified the links I have into a number of key categories, which will be explained briefly on my new Page and over the next few weeks I'll…

Garden Visit: Biddulph Grange

Way back in the early summer we visited Biddulph Grange whilst on holiday in Staffordshire. I've had the title of this post lurking in my drafts ever since, and seeing that this garden is set to be featured in tonight's Alan Titchmarsh's Garden Secrets programme, I thought now is the time to give you a quick sneak preview alongside the 'postcard' I sent you a couple of weeks ago.
It's a prime example of how gardens developed during Victorian times. A combination of the craze for plant hunting in the remote regions of the world, plus the riches gained from Britain's industrialisation led to many gentleman of the time building smart large houses complete with a garden to show off their newly acquired collections of rarities and new introductions to the UK.
Biddulph Grange was built by James Bateman and has a number of themed 'garden rooms' reflecting the flora of the various countries comprising his collection. Thus you are transported to 'Italy&#…

An Evening With Dan Pearson

Last week Dan Pearson came to speak at the University of Bath Gardening Club. I first heard him last year when I won a ticket to the Hay Festival (see above picture). There he previewed his latest book Spirit (you can get a flavour of what he said from this YouTube video taken at Chicago last year), but this time we were promised a talk on the Millennium Forest.
We actually got three for the price of one as Dan chose to talk about some of the key projects he's been working on over the past few years. I was very happy as they're all projects in the public planting arena: Broughton Hall, Maggie's Centre and the aforementioned Millennium Forest.
If you take the above link to Dan Pearson's website, select Projects and then the Commercial option, you'll find that all three projects are featured on there and it'll give you a good idea of some of the slides we saw last Tuesday evening. Apologies for the slightly convoluted way of getting there, but unfortunately I c…