Showing posts from June, 2010

ABC of Weather: eXtreme Weather *

Worst flooding on the Wiltshire Avon since 1947: Lacock 16th January 2008
As we're a nation obsessed with the weather, any story about its extremes always hits the headlines. In contrast to the above scene, we're currently being bombarded with news of how dry the past few months have been and the north west of England in particular may need to have a hosepipe ban if there's no significant rainfall in the next few weeks.

They've had around 38% of their usual rainfall so far this year, so reservoirs in the area are already looking rather low. They must be pleased rain is forecast for tomorrow, but according to this article in The Telegraph, they're going to need lots more to make up the 4 inches of soil moisture deficit they currently have. It's rather ironic the north west is experiencing drought conditions, as it was here in the Lake District where the highest total of rainfall ever in 24 hours was recorded only last November. It shows how quickly the situation …

Garden Visit: Bolehyde Manor

There's been quite a contrast in my garden visiting recently in terms of both venues and distance travelled. Friday's was a round trip of over 200 miles to visit elegant Cottesbrooke and its excellent plant fair with Patient Gardener - who's already covered everything you need to know here. Today's visit was a relaxing cream tea in the cottage garden of my friends C and J from choir. A couple of days ago I ventured a mere couple of miles to visit Bolehyde Manor, open for just a single afternoon this year via the NGS.

I missed the best view of the manor as I drove past it on the way to the car park in the field next door. This is the view just after you've paid your entrance fee. I was thinking Where's the garden then? as I took this photo. The owner must have been reading my mind because he said It's to the left behind the left hand building in front of you just as I clicked the shutter.

So the rest of my afternoon was spent finding tempting little glimpses …

Question Time: Summer Edition

It's a while since we've had an edition of Question Time, so here's what I've found is on the mind of Veg Plotting's readers* over the past few days, courtesy of my blog statistics:
Empty plant pot
Here's an ideal opportunity to fill it with a plant you've just purchased, or if you don't have a suitable plant to hand, then it's great timing to buy something you like! Alternatively, if the pot is rather large and interesting, you could place it au naturel in your garden to make a focal point just like the one pictured above which I saw at Bolehyde Manor yesterday. However, if your pot is like this one, then it's best to use it as drainage crocks to line other pots. NB this search originally returned my response to Shirl's Plastic Pot Challenge, so you may like to look here for lots of ideas for reusing and recycling if your empty pot's a plastic one.
Should my elderflower cordial be dark brown?
Err no, it should be clear or a very pale yellow…

VPs VIPs: Juliet Roberts, Gardens Illustrated

Picture courtesy of Gardens Illustrated magazine
When I first met Patient Gardener a couple of years ago, we compared notes on our favourite magazines and agreed Gardens Illustrated (GI) was one of them. So when I had the opportunity to visit their offices in Bristol at the end of April to chat with the editor Juliet Roberts, I leapt at the chance.

Why Gardens Illustrated?
My first job was for a specialist magazine about film, and I worked at the British Film Institute in London for around 10 years on various film publications. I freelanced for a while, then I got the gardening bug and when the opportunity to work at GI arose eight years ago, it was simply my dream job.

You joined as editor?
No, that was Rosie Atkins [the magazine’s founder in 1992 and now curator at the Chelsea Physic Garden]. She was my mentor and a wonderful person to work with. Then Clare [Foster] was promoted to editor when Rosie left and I had the opportunity to stand-in for her when she went on maternity leave jus…

Snoozy Days Revisited

Snoozy days are with us again - see the right sidebar for 2008's version. My gardening activities are confined to early morning or the evening and in the middle of the day the patio is scorchio. Like my cats I retire for the afternoon, only unlike them I'm not content just to have a continental-like siesta. It's been lovely this week to catch up on reading and to put the computer to one side for a change :)

ABC of Weather: Weathervane

The first weather related instrument I had in my garden is this weather vane, which appeared in 2000 as a Christmas present. As you can see its accuracy can be questionable in the summer as the Rambling Rector rose - despite an emergency pruning last week so our miracle could happen - and Clematis 'Kermesina' tend to overrun it a little. However, I love its position on the fence between ourselves and the public land next door: it's more like we have a special garden lookout rather than an ordinary weather vane.
Whenever we go down to Poole to visit NAH's aunt, I always look out for a particular house in Charlton Marshall. It's the home of Dorset Weathervanes and there's nearly always a different one on display on the cottage. Last week it was this rather sunny number. If I ever replace my cockerel, I think I might just treat myself to one from there because they always make me smile.
How's the weather with you today? Here it's hot and sunny.
For more i…

June Drop

Spring saw the most fruit blossom I've seen on our trees: probably a combination of the hard winter then some relatively mild weather at flowering time which conspired to maximise the gorgeous froth we saw earlier this year. The weather was also mild enough before the frosts started up again to ensure the largest fruit set I've ever witnessed: each fruiting spur having at least 6 fruits (as many as 12 in lots of cases) beginning to swell and mature.
I was anticipating I'd have to do lots of fruit thinning this year. However, as usual nature is doing her job well and is sorting things out for me. There's now the most spectacular June Drop I've ever seen with my apple, pear and plum trees. It's the time of the year when damaged or smaller fruits simply drop off the tree, allowing their larger, more hale and hearty cousins to ripen into the harvestable fruit. I reckon the very dry weather we've had over the past couple of months is the reason for most of the fr…

Fringe Benefits

It's another first for our choir tonight as we're performing in the Corsham Arts Festival Fringe at 7.30 pm in the Town Hall. We'll be reviving the successful rendition of 'a traditional Welsh folk song', as seen in Stratford earlier this year and currently available above via YouTube in our Wiltshire Wailers incarnation.

Tonight we're the Pound Sound i.e. just those of us who rehearse at the Pound Arts Centre in Corsham. We're flying solo without our Bradford on Avon and Hullavington buddies. Our set tonight is a crowd pleaser* and includes (not necessarily in this order):Breaking up is hard to do - how on earth did this song get such a cheerful tune?Courage my soulForever youngHaul away Joe - a fantastic sea shanty with lyrics which make me giggle all the timeSiyahamba - a South African marching song which is featuring in the World Cup at the moment, whenever the vuvuzelas let it get a look inUnder the moon of loveWhy do fools fall in love - I get to do lo…

A Bit of a Belated Bloomsday

Things have been a bit topsy turvy since I got back from Staffordshire, so it's only now that I'm beginning to make sense of what's happening in my garden blooms wise. Here's just a small selection of what's actually there: the rest are filed away neatly so I have a full record, but these are the ones I particularly want to talk about this month.

The Clematis are in full flow (see the right hand pictures) and are the first thing which greet me when I go into the garden, particularly the obelisks in the top picture (also shown here) and C. 'Elsa Spath' in the middle. C. 'Dr. Ruppel' in the bottom picture is flowering for the first time, even though he's been in my garden for 3 years. I'm being a bit cruel to him by confining him to a pot in the shadier part of the garden. Perhaps I need to set him free elsewhere...

The roses have finally started to bloom too. Here we have R. 'Congratulations' (middle bottom picture), given to me last ye…

Honest Scrap: Did you sort the lies out from the truths?

Well that was fun and many thanks to those of you who joined in and to Tim for nominating me in the first place. Congratulations to Arabella Sock and Susan Tomlinson who both managed to spot which 3 of my 10 tall gardening stories were untruths. Juliet also deserves a special mention for sleuthing around Blotanical and finding out which garden I'd like to see before I die. Here's the complete lowdown:
I've been to a reception at Highgrove followed by a guided tour of the garden with Prince Charles
I still have the gold edged invitation with swirly gold writing if you'd like to see it. It's quite bizarre being followed around a garden by waitresses carrying massive trays of canapes and drinks, but one could get used to it ;)

I have a piece of Welsh hillside named after me - planted with 1,000 trees
In the 1990s I volunteered and then organised tree planting weekends for Earthwatch, who were supporting Professor Martin Haigh's research into regenerating soils on mine…

Miracles do Occur... Sometimes

I returned from walking with friends at Dyrham Park on Wednesday afternoon to find several young men in my garden. Lucky me, miracles do occur... sometimes ;)
It turned out they were from the group who've been maintaining the public planting on our estate over the past few months and it was the turn of our area to have a tidy up. NAH grabbed the opportunity and asked whether they were including cutting back the old hedgerow at the side of our garden which Mr Treeman last year had told us was unlikely to happen as there's no budget available. As you can see some of it was touching our house and this part of the garden was getting very shady.
It wasn't included but the friendly supervisor agreed to adjust the day's work schedule so it could be. So we now have no branches touching the house, the branch which could have fallen on our heads at any moment is no more and all the vegetation which was overhanging our front and back gardens - like neighbours leaning ov…

Here Come the Hens!

Here's Stuart with 3 of his harem of 5 hens outside our cottage last week. Whenever they appeared - which was frequently - NAH would shout Here come the hens! As a result I've had this song on my brain ever since.

So that's where the other 2 got to. We're missing their antics this week - the hens that is, not The Sugarbabes. We're missing Stella (the smooth coated lurcher) and Pickle (the tiny terrier who thinks she's a cat) too.

ABC of Weather: Volcano

When Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted in April, our first concern was the unprecedented disruption to air traffic over the UK and other parts of Europe. However, it wasn't long before questions were being asked whether the ash fallout such as the thin layer I still have on my car would affect our soils (unlikely here, but in Iceland...???) or on our weather over the coming months. Whilst volcanic eruptions can and do affect both weather and climate, this particular one appears to have had a negligible effect thus far.
From what I can glean from the internet, there are a number of reasons why this is so. Whilst the pictures we saw of the eruption were dramatic, they simply weren't forceful or long enough. Nor were they sufficient in volume to send the amount of dust into the upper reaches of our atmosphere needed to have a significant cooling effect caused by the dust particles reflecting back the sun's rays. Neither is the volcano spewing out sufficient gases…

Postcard from Staffordshire

The view last week from the front of our cottage...

... and the view from the back. Those dots by the trees are the owners'* hens who visited and amused us every day. We stayed in a tiny hamlet called Moneystone (too small for our satnav) in the beautiful Churnet valley. A place with an interesting geology which in ages past was the scene of heavy industry: it was here that the copper wire for the Transatlantic cable was made. You wouldn't know it now, except for the relics of old lime kilns, mines, canal wharves and a heritage steam railway which were dotted around the countryside, now being reclaimed by the local flora for us to explore on our walks and bike rides.
We were based just outside the southern edge of the Peak District with the same gorgeous scenery but without the many visitors the national park attracts. I suspect the majority of them who do come to this part of Staffordshire go to Alton Towers nearby and leave it at that. Lucky us then, because the rest is bliss…

ABC of Weather: Umbrella

A most necessary object to have to hand owing to the fickle nature of our British weather. This is the one I always have with me in my bag. Hopefully I'm not having to use it at the moment... How's the weather with you today?
For more Unusual posts have a look over at the ABC Wednesday blog.

Honest Scrap Award

Tim kindly tagged me aaaaaages ago with this Honest Scrap award which I've been ages in responding to (sorry Tim). I'm supposed to tell you ten things you don't know about me and tag a few of you, but seeing as I'll be away for a few days, I thought I'd mess around with the format a bit and have a little fun. No-one's going to be tagged - so you can come back, it's safe to continue reading - and there are 10 gardening (ish) things listed below which you probably don't know about me. Here's the twist, 3 of them aren't true. Can you guess which ones they are? Leave your answers in the comments and I'll tell you when I get back...
I've been to a reception at Highgrove followed by a guided tour of the gardens with Prince Charles
I have a piece of Welsh hillside named after me - planted with 1,000 trees
My ultimate horticultural ambition is to have enough land for a proper orchard
I have a plant named after me - a rather lovely Clematis
I've a…

Garden Visit: Whizzing Around Wisley

Victoria and Patient Gardener have already bought you their versions of our visit to Wisley, but I'd still like to show you mine. It's a whistlestop tour just like we had prior to our afternoon at Chelsea and I've tried to select different photos to those used by my companions. I was struck by this profound quote in the Root Zone area of the gigantic new glasshouse...

... but before we get there here's our first sight of the gardens. Even the water lilies are labelled...

... then we moved through the area I showed you for my Sunshine post recently, past some Acers into a wide space with a lake full of very healthy fish, a wildflower meadow illustrating biodiversity and up through the massive rockery you can just see at the top right of the photo...

Victoria showed you the view up the rockery, here's one looking down. Whilst I wouldn't dream of having a rockery in my own garden, I am rather partial to them when they're 'done' properly, like this one …

ABC of Weather: Thermometer

Last Christmas I was given this thermometer so that I could start recording our daily minimum and maximum temperatures in addition to the precipitation I've been logging for just over a year now. However, I'm rather disappointed with this model as it's quite difficult to reset, so I don't really trust the readings I'm obtaining. A mercury thermometer would be better but they're no longer on sale because of their toxic contents (and an incident at a local school recently resulted in four fire engines being rushed to the school to deal with the matter - a bit over the top in my view, especially as the teachers had already calmly evacuated the pupils out of the area).
I don't really want to invest in something more complicated (and therefore expensive) at the moment because I'm unsure of how dedicated I'll be with my record keeping. I've heard that the simple dial max/min thermometers are better than what I've got currently, does anyone out t…

Whilst I was at Chelsea...

My Clematis obelisks finally burst into flower in my back garden to welcome me home. Here we have C. 'Souvenir de Capitaine Thuilleaux' and a rather nice sport of C. 'Josephine' (the one with the rather frilly centre), which I don't think is available elsewhere.

And my mystery Clematis finally has a name. Sadly not C. 'VP' as we've joked about previously, but C. 'Diamantina' as launched by the lovely Mr. Evison at Chelsea this year. It's a sport of C. 'Crystal Fountain' which was spotted in his Guernsey nursery in 2002 and has been developed and trialled since then. It looks like I must have obtained an escapee when I bought it from my local garden centre in 2007.
It's a fantastic plant: it'll be in flower prolifically from now until the first frosts and people say wow what's that Clematis? when they come into the garden. I'll be able to tell them from now on.