Showing posts from November, 2010

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…

Sunday Supplement #6

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

More stunning photography this week: Earth as art, courtesy of the Landsat satellite and The Telegraph.

Trending Topic

Lots of talk about the anniversary of last year's floods in Cumbria, plus the ones which happened in Cornwall this week almost to the day. All this rather overshadowed the reports about the Environment Agency's proposed river restoration scheme in Cumbria which is designed to reduce the impact of flooding amongst other benefits and was also timed to coincide with the anniversary coverage. The link is to an article in The Guardian which tells you more about it and also has a good debate going on in the comments. I first came across this approach in the late 1990's where it was piloted on the River Skerne in County Durham.
Link Love

On F…

How Advertising Works in Chippenham #22

Start up your local computer business in a small rural townThink about ways in which you can show off your expertiseInstall a webcam at the side of your shopWait for a blogger with a camera to realise it doesn't quite show off the town at its bestEt voila! I'm not really being fair as the company is located right behind where I took this photo, so they've had to work with what they have. I'm sure they'd have had all kinds of problems in getting permission to show off the Yelde Hall or the Buttercross in the marketplace at the other end of town. Besides, Brunel's railway viaduct is a grade I listed building too. NAH thinks it's an extremely useful webcam as it allows Westinghouse employees to see if they'll be held up in traffic on the way home. I on the other hand am used to looking at webcam views such as this one in Sydney. Chippenham's webcam updates every 10 seconds showing what's going on at the traffic lights at the bottom of New Road. If y…

Kitchen Garden Companion: Book Review

If you're looking for a comprehensive guide to growing fruit and vegetables, plus lots of recipes to deal with all of your produce, then you need look no further than Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Companion: I was lucky to be sent a review copy recently :)

Stephanie hails from Australia, where she is a very popular cookery writer. In addition she's pioneered getting children involved in both growing and eating food, resulting in her founding the Kitchen Garden Foundation, which has projects throughout Australia. It means the book is slanted towards getting children involved, though it's useful to all irrespective of age.

It's also a hefty tome, with over 700 pages featuring over 50 fruit and vegetables. The first part of the book is geared towards making sure the reader is adequately equipped for both garden and kitchen; plus there's a general introduction to getting started in the garden and gardening with kids.

The bulk of the book deals with each cro…

VP's Guide to 'Cataloguespeak' Part II

Threadspider and I took a trip to our local garden centre recently and saw the 'cataloguespeak' I discovered earlier this year has now found its way into the descriptions on display there. Here's a fun quick guide to the meanings behind what the signs say... Vigorous - will swamp all your other plants nearbyBest eaten fresh - doesn't keep or cook wellCrops heavily - you'll have much more than you'll know what to do withUnique flavour - tastes so bad you'll need to mix it with something to disguise the flavour such as chilli or ginger, or sweeten it with a whole bag of sugarBright light in winter - you'll need to leave the light on all day, especially as we've also advised you to keep it on a north or east facing windowsillFast growing - will engulf your house in just one seasonIdeal for cooking - it has no taste or is sour when eaten fresh. May also have a unique flavourChallenging - impossible to grow, so don't botherUncommonly found - no-one…

Windfall Apples

I picked a crate full of windfall apples at the allotment yesterday - do help yourself!

Unusual Front Gardens #10: Minimal

What are the options for our new build homes when you're given 2 minimal, postage stamp sized lawns either side of your front pathway? Here's one solution...

GBBD: Hanging On

Today has dawned foggy of the freezing kind, so it's only just brightened up enough for me to venture into the garden to see which flowers are hanging on for dear life this month. It's been a matter of finding tiny little vignettes dotted around, most of which I fear won't last the day once the sun's rays begin their feeble work. The night's frost was sufficient to preserve my remaining flowers in an aspic-like way, but this very act of preservation may serve to turn them into mush later on.

The Sedum 'Autumn Joy' pictured above is highlighted with tiny little frosted pin pricks. This flower will probably survive better than most as it'll still look attractive when the decaying flower heads turn brown later on. Elsewhere, I found frozen flowers of Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve', rosemary and Phlox paniculata 'Snow White' (see the last picture, below). Perhaps the most surprising of all was a solitary perennial cornflower (Centaurea montana, belo…

Sunday Supplement #5

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'm unashamedly going to plug Britain From the Air again and the BBC slideshow presenting some of the 100 images comprising the exhibition. Our landscape is so diverse and these pictures show that even man-made features can look beautiful when seen from a different perspective.

Trending Topic
The campaign to prevent the government's sell-off of Forestry Commission land continues apace (see Sunday Supplement #3). A complementary campaign I spotted this week is the Woodland Trust's More Trees More Good which is promoting the increase of trees found in our everyday lives. Their My View tool allows any street scene or landscape picture to be taken and enhanced to show how much better the view looks when trees are added.
I can see this being used widely…

How Advertising Works in Poole

A rather surprising item we found on the menu at the local Indian takeaway whilst visiting NAH's aunt in Poole earlier this year. Although I'm a trained freshwater biologist and so I usually take finding strange river beasties in my stride, even I didn't like the thought of eating this dish!

Britain From the Air

Bath is a fantastic place to see top quality photography at the moment, such as the pictured Britain From the Air exhibition on the streets surrounding the main shopping centre plus the precincts of Bath Abbey. As well as the pictured view of the second Severn crossing, I spotted an aerial view of the Longleat Hedge Maze and the garden and village at Portmeirion. The exhibition's on until February 2011, so there's plenty of time to see it, or you can have a taster by viewing this audio slideshow from the BBC.
In addition. the Victoria Art Gallery is showing a retrospective of one of my favourite photographers, Don McCullin called Shaped by War. His work is extremely powerful and the exhibition includes not only many of his most iconic images, but also the artifacts and letters spanning his career from the past 50 years. You need to be quicker for this one as it closes on November 21st. Entrance is free.
Both exhibitions are so good, I'll be going to Bath to see them again.

YAWA Dictionary: Crane

Previously on Veg Plotting when referring to cranes I've meant these:

Which confused quite a few people because they thought I meant this:

And the confusion will probably remain because I'm likely to write about either nowadays because the Common Crane (Grus grus) is in the process of being restored to the Somerset Levels and Moors here in south western England via The Great Crane Project. The above picture is courtesy of Simon at Serendipity, who took this photo on a recent trip to the fantastic London Wetlands Centre. Great spot Simon and many thanks for sending me the picture :)

The YAWA Dictionary: adding meaning to your garden blogging

Sweet Dumpling

Sweet Dumpling is my favourite squash this year. It has the most pleasing colour and shape and the flavour's one of the best. It makes a fine soup owing to its hint of sweetness and is lovely when roasted or pan fried. Some pumpkins turn out a bit mealy and floury in their taste, but not this one. It's also a good size for NAH and me as a whole pumpkin will make enough soup for us without any head scratching over what to do with the kilos of flesh left over. There's usually plenty of fruit on each plant and I've found they store well into January or February too.

The only drawback thus far has been its tendency to take a looooooong time to germinate. I'd almost given up on having any this year, but I'm glad I held on for a couple of days before consigning the compost to the bin. It took a whole 4 weeks for the first seed leaf to appear. I suspect our very cold start to the growing season didn't help, but sheesh 4 weeks is a long time in my experience all t…

Postcard From Biddulph Grange

We visited Biddulph Grange in June just after Alan Titchmarsh and his attendant TV crew had finished filming for Alan Titchmarsh's Garden Secrets, which starts tonight on BBC2 at 8pm. He'll be looking at four key garden styles over the centuries encapsulated in four great gardens and then seeing how the ideas from these can be translated into our humble smaller plots back home.
Biddulph Grange will be used to illustrate the Victorian era: a time of plant hunting and travel to far distant lands and how the styles and plant collections of these countries were often squashed into one garden. Biddulph Grange won't be featured in tonight's programme (it's the turn of the 17th century and Hatfield House), but soon I'll be taking you with me on my visit back in June.
Happy Mouffetard's been more recently and you can see what she made of it in terms of bling and benches.

Separated at Birth? Avenues

We may not live in a stately home such as Dyrham Park (though we are situated on the remains of the old Hardenhuish estate), but it's rather nice to feel that the avenue of relatively new trees which lines the main road echoes the design of its older, more aristocratic National Trust cousin.

We don't have a herd of deer whose bloodline dates back to the early 1600s though, hence there's no need for our trees to be protected from their marauding mouths.

NB for those of you a little confused by my pictures and text, it's traditional in Private Eye to swap the captions around on the two pictures ;)

Sunday Supplement #4

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

Kate Bradbury in her Gardeners' World blog this week reported on the study carried out by Gardening Which? recently on the effectiveness of commercially available wildlife shelters such as bee boxes and those used by hedgehogs for winter hibernation. Their study and Kate's own experience revealed many of these aren't actually used by the wildlife they're designed to help.
Nick Mann from Habitat Aid said pretty much the same thing to me earlier this year when I met him. He believes getting the habitat right e.g. providing a meadow rich with the flowers and plants attractive for bees is a much better option. From what Kate and some of her commenters say, perhaps combining a shelter with a 'messy area' comprising grasses, log piles, piled u…

How Advertising Works in Chippenham #21

Decide on your company's Unique Selling PointDevise some natty straplines along the lines of: No need to ask, everything's a poundDon't price anything in your stores, just have big display signs to remind everything in the shop is priced at £1Wait for a blogger with a camera to spot something's slipped through the netEt voila!For some reason I felt ridiculously pleased to find a little anarchy still rules when I found this on my trip into town last Thursday :)

Unusual Front Gardens #9: Tea Pots

I'm indebted to Mark at Views From the Bike Shed who sent me this photo a while back. He tells me that it was taken Just outside Narberth on the road to Colby Woodland Garden. It reminds me of one of the balcony gardens at the RHS London Plant and Design Show last year (see the second collage, upper right hand side) where Andrew Fisher Tomlin (I believe) used lots of brightly coloured IKEA watering cans to decorate his allotted wall space. Both make me smile.
Thanks Mark, and do visit his blog everyone as not only is he an all round good egg and blogger to boot, he's also taking part in NaBloPoMo this month and so needs every bit of support he can get.

Japanese Quince

I've always wanted a quince tree, but my sensible head tells me one will never fit in our garden. However, reading Mark Diacono's book got me all a-wanting again and also struck a memory chord of seeing a flowering quince (aka Chaenomeles) ornamental hedge complete with similar fruit on my commuter walks into Chippenham. A little investigating at Malvern Autumn Show confirmed my memory was right. Not only that, but also the fruit are edible like their true quince cousins and can be used in the same way, as long as you grow enough of them.

That decided the next allotment project for me to get under way after the Future Fuchsias hedge I told you about last week. My plot will have not one, but two hedges and the second will comprise flowering quince. But which cultivar to buy? Asking Mark what he grows, a bit of googling plus leaving questions on both UK Veg Gardeners and Gardenersclick revealed a wealth of possibilities.

Luckily for me a half price plant offer last month then had …

Autumn Colour

For the first time ever I like my local roundabout :o

Can you see why? The light and autumn colour were so good on my way home last Sunday afternoon that I rushed and grabbed my camera.

Orange and blue turned out to be such a good colour combination elsewhere on our estate and the low angled light from the day's setting sun added a luminous quality to the tops of the trees.

I've always loved this stately avenue - which lines the main road - at this time of year. I believe whoever planned the trees for our estate did a very good job :)

It's been a berry good year don't you think?
For lots more Autumn Colour, do visit Dave's Fall Color Project.

A Blogaversary

So Veg Plotting has survived the Terrible Twos and is in full toddlerdom at the ripe old age of three today. I've had several conversations with other bloggers recently on how hard it can be at times to keep going: there's a seasonal rhythm to writing about gardening which sometimes makes it feel like you're beginning to repeat yourself. I believe the third year of blogging is a bit like that 'difficult second album' which some singers and bands experience. The freshness and sparkle of starting something new has worn off and in my case it's the real desire to communicate and explain which keeps me going. And chocolate too of course ;)
There's been quite a few blogging milestones this year: the 1,000th post, 100,000th visitor and 10,000th comment. Your comments are the most important and I love the conversations and debates we have. Thanks to all of you who've visited, read and commented and here's to fresh projects in Veg Plotting's fourth year :…

GBMD: John Helps a wer an honest mon

John Helps a wer an honest mon;
The perry that a made
Wer crunced vrom purs as honest
As ever tree displayed.

John Helps a wer an honest mon;
The dumplings that a chewed
Wer made vrom honest apples
As Autumn ever growed

John Helps a wer an honest mon;
And I be sorry a's dead.
Perry and honest men be scarce
These days 'tiz zed.

F. W. Harvey (1888-1957)

Perry continues to be scarce, but hopefully perry pear days like the wonderful one I and My Tiny Plot attended recently at Dyrham Park will help to turn the tide. I'm not quite sure how we might cure the lack of honest men though.
The picture is of a perry pear windfall I found in Nichol's Orchard, the relatively new orchard at Dyrham Park.
Garden Bloggers' Muse Day is hosted by Carolyn Choi at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago.