Showing posts from October, 2010

Sunday Supplement #3

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 ;)

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Web Watch

The National Trust chose yesterday's AGM to launch their Outdoor Nation campaign. They ask why we as a nation seem to have lost touch with the natural world and aim to get us in tune with it again. They've also realised that most people are aware of their ownership of historic houses, but aren't so aware of the countryside and coast under their stewardship. The campaign aims to redress that balance too. As a National Trust member (and former volunteer at their HQ in Swindon), this is a campaign I wholeheartedly endorse.

Trending Topic

There's been quite a bit of coverage in the news this week on how foraging, particularly for edible fungi is affecting the ecology o…

Olympic Dreams

Just like our top athletes in training, there's currently a touch of the Olympic dreams about the land surrounding the stadium being built for London 2012. There was also a dream-like quality to Sarah Price's presentation at the Palmstead workshop last month: she's part of the design team involved with the Olympic Park project and much of what she showed us was similar to the above picture from this month's (October 2010) Garden Design Journal. You can see more examples on the Olympics website (click on the set called Parklands) as well as a marvellous aerial shot of the wetland awaiting its transformation.
I'm really excited about this project. The Olympic Park is the largest public park built in Europe since Victorian times. It'll be 40 acres of diverse landscapes including a fantastic brand new wetland area as the River Lea has been released from its former channelised constraints.
It's also a project which is (unusually) bridging the gap between garden…

Red Amongst Gold

A solitary maple leaf amongst all the ash leaves which have started to drift into my garden over the past few days. Autumn is finally making its presence felt much more dramatically, but this fiery colour is helping to keep my spirits up.
It's good to see Dave is running his Fall Colour Project again this year, with a weekly summary of participant's posts every Friday :)
NB the UK clocks go back Saturday night/Sunday morning. This is one of my gardening milestones as it means it's time to cover up the benches and to bring the more delicate ornaments indoors.
How's Autumn going down your way?

Future Fuchsias

Allotment clearing and reading Mark Diacono's book have got me thinking about a number of exciting projects for my plot. I've several new areas to play with, though I'm sure that if I sat down and listed all of the ideas I have running though my head I'd need much more than the space I actually have available.

One idea I've decided will happen is to have a fuchsia hedge across one of my quarter plots to divide it into two areas. The fuchsia produces an edible berry which is good for making jam as well as the other ideas found in Mark's book. He suggests that F. 'Riccartonii' is a good fruiting cultivar, but examination of the 2 bushes of this variety in my garden have revealed very little in the way of actual fruit.

A much better bet in my case is the pictured F. 'Genii', whose berries are much larger and surprisingly tasty. This also gets me over a dilemma because I've realised it clashes horribly with the rest of my planting (or any other …

Step Sitting Required

Karen's visit and James' talk last week have given me much food for thought about my garden. I've been feeling dissatisfied all year: it's 10 years old and much of the planting is well past its sell by date. Despite much step sitting (the place where I do much of my thinking about the garden) I haven't come up with much of a plan apart from taking out the two over large conifer trees (framing the above photo) and ripping out all the planting at the bottom of the garden.
Having blogged and read continuously about gardening for 3 years, I feel like I have gained so much new knowledge about plants and styles, but without the expertise needed to use them well in my garden. I'm also struggling with a space which goes from deep shade on one side to baked Mediterranean in less than 15 metres.
So it was good to have someone here to look things over with less jaded eyes. Karen and I spent quite a lot of time mulling over what James had said too. We agreed that the '…

Yesterday in Bristol...

... I was up to secret things at Cabot Circus ;)

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After about 1 minute 35 seconds you'll see me going down the escalator to join the rest of the group. I'm in the red and blue checked fleece wearing pink sparkly horns. We'd gone up the escalator alongside first pretending to be shoppers and listening to the surprised reaction of the real ones.

This flash mob was the fun finale to Bristol's first song festival: over a week of various song raids, workshops and concerts as it's aiming to be the UK's first choir city.

Sunday Supplement #2

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

Carrying on from last week's fruitiness, my website of the week is Fruit Share: a simple but effective idea which matches potential fruit sharers of orchard fruit with fruit seekers in their area, or vice versa. The website was launched at RHS Tatton Park Show last year, and has been revamped for 2010. Seekers and Sharers aren't restricted to the UK: there's quite a few entries on the website from the USA at the moment. It's a global outreach aiming to provide a local community solution :)

Trending Topic

It has to be this week's Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) because it will affect us all in lots of ways without any guarantee the 'nasty medicine' will work.
I'm particularly dismayed at the demise of CABE which was the lone …

Cooking with Pumpkins and Squash: Book Review

It's just over a week to Halloween and I reckon this book will solve a problem for many of us: what to do with all the pumpkin flesh left over after making our lanterns. If that's not your dilemma, then it'll be just as useful if you grow your own vegetables and are looking for a seasonal cookbook.
Cooking with Pumpkins and Squash is a handy little volume with 36 ideas and recipes, not only for the two cucurbits mentioned in its title, but also for courgettes [aka zucchini] too. As a vegetable grower, I'm finding cookbooks which focus on seasonality or a particular ingredient are better suited for my kitchen these days, rather than having to hunt through my [many] cookbooks to find the one perfect recipe amongst hundreds.
So far I've tried the spicy pumpkin and coconut soup with ginger and lime from the Soups and Salads section and the pumpkin risotto with pancetta and sage from Rice, Pasta and Grains. The results were delicious and the recipes easy to follow. I…

Easy Apple Juice: Seasonal Recipe

Do you have a glut of apples this year like I do? You don't have a juicer or press to hoover up those windfalls either? Then my timely discovery of a way to make easy apple juice, just might be the thing for you to try.
I was going to adapt the Family 'Beena recipe in my Preserves bible to make some apple cordial to use in my drinks bottle for choir. However, a tasting at the sieved juice stage to gauge how much sugar I'd need was enough to persuade me that actually I could use it as is, so long as we drank it straight away.

2kg eating apples1.2 litres waterMethod
De-stem and roughly chop the apples (no need to peel), discarding any damaged parts of the fruit (I'm assuming there's not too much damage to yours, else you may need to adjust the amount of water used)Place in a large pan and add the waterSlowly bring to the boil and simmer for 45 minutes, crushing the fruit with a potato masher or large spoon from time to timeRemove from the heat and perform a…

When a Blogging Friend Comes to Stay

When a blogging friend comes to stay different footwear is revealed ;)
She brought the gifts of time, laughter and inspiration. Many cups of tea and coffee (plus the odd glass of wine) were drunk and the opportunity to meet other blogging friends taken. There was a chance to compare notes, exchange news and to pause and reflect on the day's activities. One's own garden and blog were seen afresh through another's eyes and future plans laid. Serendipitous events involving other bloggers also happened.
When a blogging friend comes to stay, it's a very precious time indeed :)

Dyrham Park: Garden Visit

On Saturday I went to Dyrham Park, one of the closest National Trust owned places to where I live. The property was originally bought by the government [along with Cotehele] just after WWII as a memorial to land workers who'd been lost during the war and was then given to the Trust to manage during the 1950s. It has many long avenues of trees, just like this one which takes you from the car park at the top entrance towards the house. For ages it feels like you're heading towards the hills of south Wales, until...

... the massive hollow in which the grand house resides is revealed. The lower building to the left of the picture is where I met my guide for the afternoon as I was there for the tour of the perry pear orchards. Even further left is a narrow flight of steps which took us through the courtyard, past the stables and then out into a narrow lane where there's...

... a secret doorway into a world not usually seen by the public...

This is the old orchard, where the k…

A Hornet's Nest?

Things were perfectly normal, until I decided to get round to putting the washing away yesterday afternoon in readiness for Karen coming to stay. All was going swimmingly until I started piling up NAH's underpants when...
...BzzzzZZZZZZZZZ!!!!! An angry noise came from the last pair in the pile. Oh it'll be one of those stag beetles like the one I found in my car, thought I and peered inside.
But no, instead I found the face of a hornet staring right back at me. I had a bit of a panic, so I hastily screwed up the pants and shoved them out onto the windowsill. More buzzing ensued. I shook the pants, but nothing came out. More buzzing. I shook them again, nope not a sausage, not even any buzzing. I quickly found a pen and eventually managed to persuade the hornet to leave its home and take up residence on the windowsill. In the meantime, I also managed to drop the pants onto the patio 20 feet below.
The hornet just sat there grooming itself, so I fetched my camera to take this fuzz…

Sunday Supplement

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 you get in the Sunday papers, but I'm not promising ;)

Web Watch

My website of the week has to be Common Ground: it's a celebration of local distinctiveness and was the sourcebook of many of the traditions and unusual customs mentioned in my monthly events diary last year.
Now it has a tradition all of its own in the shape of Apple Day, which celebrates its 21st anniversary this Thursday. It was started not only to celebrate how good our apples are, but to also raise awareness of (and ultimately halt) the decline of our orchards.
There's events all over the country, not just on the 21st, so have a look in the link to find one near you. I'm going to the one at Lacock Abbey today, where there'll be a display of apple varieties with tasting of both apples and juice, guided orchard walks, games including the longest peel competition, an appl…

GBBD/Blog Action Day: Darling Dahlias and Water

I'm delighted with my darling Dahlias this month because there's just a precious few days before we're bound to get the first firm frost of the season and then they'll be no more. The pictured D. 'Moonfire' at the bottom and top of the picture are even more precious as they managed to survive the severity of last winter.

Not all my Dahlias were so lucky: it seems the protection of a neighbouring wall was a key factor for those that did. Therefore I'm currently eyeing up the nominal autumn tidying up I need to do in the garden to make sure I have an extra thick Dahlia Duvet of homemade mulch ready to take them through the coming chills.

I've also had mixed results with the supplementary Dahlias I planted out in the spring. A cold May and subsequent drought have meant they've flowered at a much later date than usual. Some didn't flower owing to my tough love this year, but I'm pleased to see sultry D. 'Arabian Night' (middle left) glo…

Separated at Birth? *

Twins spotted at Palmstead's Soft Landscaping Workshop and my local Sainsbury's supermarket recently.

For those of you who don't know who Landscape Man is, this link tells you everything. You may also like to follow @LandscapeMan on Twitter :)

* = with affectionate nods in the direction of Arabella Sock and Private Eye ;)

YAWA: Jam, Jelly and Cheese

Whenever I write about my jam making activities, there's always a bit of a stir (ha ha!) because it's a term not very well known across the pond. There jelly is the main preserve, which for us here usually means a very wibbly wobbly pudding instead. My opus on damsons confused matters still further by referring to cheese, which in this context has absolutely nothing to do with milk products. It also seems anything I write about jam becomes a massive hit with search engines (see the Popular Posts section on the right sidebar), therefore it was only a matter of time before the You Ask, We Answer team tackled this topic.

The picture shows some of the latest produce from my preserving activities: from left to right we have damson cheese, damson jam, apple cheese and apple jelly. This was an attempt to show you some of the visual differences between the products. It's worked better with the apple as you can see the cheese is much darker than the clear, almost jewel-like jelly.


Dread Diseases: Bacterial Canker

When I wrote about Gardeners' Question Timerecently, I also mentioned I needed to confirm with an expert whether one of my fruit trees is suffering from bacterial canker. It's now been confirmed that it is :(

The above picture shows the amber coloured oozing I found on my cherry tree recently. I was hoping it was gummosis, which can happen on healthy wood after the kind of hard winter we had earlier in the year*.

However this second picture shows other symptoms which helped to confirm it's bacterial canker: the lack of leaves on branches affected by the disease, plus the wrinkling and sunken nature of some of the bark (sometimes cracked elsewhere). I've yet to find an example of the numerous holes in leaves (aka shothole) to show you which can also develop on affected trees. I wonder if the brown spots seen on the leaf at the bottom of the picture are an early sign of this developing?

The advice usually given is to prune out all infected branches** back to healthy wood an…

Food Yards Foraging

I'm really lucky because we have lots of foraging possibilities right on the doorstep. I can reach over our fence and harvest elderflowers, elderberries, hawthorn and sloes from the remnant old hedgerow next to our back garden. If I go onto the public path at the side of our house there's more of the same plus blackberries, hazelnuts, crab apples, rose hips and nettles.

A little further afield there's all kinds of plums and apples. If I was even more adventurous I could tap the birch trees bordering my garden and make birch beer, or attempt some ersatz coffee making using the acorns from the oak tree up at the allotment. The beech hedge by Threadspider's house has possibilities too. I'm sure there's even more bounty out there which I'm not yet aware of.

However, my best find so far is that one of the houses round the corner has a number of almond trees in the back garden. I found these on the pavement recently and couldn't resist bringing them home. Of…

Yesterday in Chippenham...

...this notice in the car park at our local sports centre gave us all* a fit of the giggles. Picture courtesy of my nephew and his mobile phone.

*= me, NAH plus our niece and nephew

Allotments Meets Homes Under the Hammer

I was given a new role yesterday: I'm an Allotment Consultant now as my friend Steve drafted me in to go to a local property auction. A parcel of allotment land (which I've already shown you here) was up for grabs and he was interested in bidding for it. As Homes Under the Hammer is one of my favourite TV programmes, I was curious to see what happens for real.
It was held at the Corn Exchange in Devizes, a beautiful old building with the added advantage of having a bar to keep everyone well refreshed during proceedings. It was largest local auction the agents have held for 3 years, but I don’t think that was the main reason why the vast room was so crowded, as it turned out that the makers of Homes Under the Hammer were actually filming.

All the usual drama of an auction was there including someone so keen to buy they bid against themselves (auctioneer: I’d love to take your money sir, but the bid’s already with you); lots of properties withdrawn because they didn’t make thei…

Yesterday in Corsham...

... I had a fit of the giggles when I saw this sign :)

Hawkstone Park Follies - Extreme Garden Visiting!

A visit to Hawkstone Park Follies is like no other garden visit because it is a landscape of extremes. I don't think I've been anywhere else where: It's advisable to take a torch (though you can buy or hire one when you're there)It can be closed at short notice owing to unfavourable weather conditionsYou watch a health and safety video before entering the gardenThere's an emergency telephone about half way around the visitThere's notices like the one pictured above at various strategic points (this one is above the very aptly named Awful Precipice)An extremely fit NAH has been almost defeated by the walk round (there's lots of steps, very steep climbs and uneven or extremely worn surfaces)
However, if that little lot doesn't put you off then you are treated to a Grade I listed landscape dating back to the late 18th Century. It's a fine example of a Picturesque English Garden where trees, more naturalistic features and romantic ruins formed the backbo…

Seed Saving: Chillis

As the harvest season draws to a close, I've been pondering seed saving again. I thought I'd start with chillis this year as NAH uses so many of them for making his signature dish, curry. A friend gave me the pictured chilli to try recently so these last few seeds seemed good candidates for me to trial.

Saving chilli seed (and their sweet pepper/bell pepper cousins) is relatively straight forward. As the chilli was already at its final colour and of the right kind of shape for this variety, all I had to do was to carefully separate each seed from the rest of the fruit and leave them on a small saucer on the windowsill to dry.

I ended up with 24 viable looking seeds, plus a couple of misshapen ones which I discarded. I don't think these latter 2 would do anything - one had a hole in the middle and the other was brown and shrivelled. I left the rest to thoroughly dry for 10 days and I've just tipped them into a small paper packet (or you can make your own), sealed it, a…

A New Approach to Street Perennials

The UK debut of a revolutionary technique using perennials in public planting schemes was revealed by Bert Griffioen at the Palmstead workshop I attended recently. Bert hails from The Netherlands where his third generation family business focuses on the supply of perennials to garden centres and public space contractors across several countries in Europe.

Around 5 years ago he had a major problem as the demand for perennials fell sharply. When he asked his customers why this was, the response was cost of maintenance and the knowledge required to look after them. Bert then came up with an innovative solution: an example of the result is pictured above.

His technique is to mass plant a variety of tried and tested cultivars (typically 8-9 large plants/square metre) which can withstand close mowing by machinery in early spring just after the plants have started growing. These then grow back quickly to provide a low-growing, dense cover which suppresses weeds and reduces the need for irrigat…

OOTS: Latest Wrap Up

It's a while since I kicked off Out on the Streetsin August, so it's high time I thanked you for your contributions and summarised the findings of this edition. Once again there's a lot of variety to report :)
Helen was surprised to find good quality planting on an industrial estate in Toronto whilst Monica once again showed us why Chicago is regarded world-wide as a leader in public planting. Anna found an example of the common British style whilst on her travels in Portsmouth.
I wrote about Love Parks Week, which prompted Helen to revisit and share the Rosetta McClain Gardens with us. She also found some fantastic living moss walls whilst on holiday in Iceland.
We had several streetwise wildlife gardening examples: Mr McGregor's Daughter showed us the planting in parking spaces can be wildlife friendly and I responded with a UK example showcased by Garden Organic. The Constant Gardener found some sedum rooves gracing her local supermarket's trolley park.
Mr McGregor&…

Stop Press: Whitehall Garden Centre Buys Highfield Nurseries

I've just opened the latest edition of my local garden centre's Garden Club newsletter to find:
Whitehall are proud to announce the recent acquisition of Highfield Nurseries, mail order business of Gloucestershire.
I'm intrigued: the announcement has been made to Garden Club members but not as a news item via their website or the horticulture industry's news machine. It's not in the local paper either. I'd have thought they'd want to shout this good news from the roof tops!
It's not clear if it's just the mail order business that's been purchased or whether it also includes Highfield's garden centre. If it is, then the Whitehall group of garden centres is becoming quite large in this area. Highfield's nursery business specialises in the supply of trees (fruit and ornamentals) plus soft fruit. It'll be interesting to see how this fits with supplies to my local garden centre and I'd love to know whether this purchase has been made…