Wednesday, 30 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 can change.

I've compared my rain gauge readings with the 30 year average available for my nearest weather station at Lyneham. The situation's not so bad here (around 80% of usual rainfall), though it still means I haven't been able to do any digging on my allotment for many weeks. The clay is solid and cracked and I'm wondering whether I'll ever be able to plant the squash, pumpkin and cabbage seedlings I'm so carefully nurturing at home. I believe the unusually strong winds we seem to be getting more regularly on fine days here is contributing to the situation being worse than my rainfall statistics would suggest.

So far I've resisted doing lots of watering both at home and on the plot as I believe in tough love with my plants thus encouraging them to grow deep strong roots so they can forage for water themselves. However, this morning I've had to start some watering at the allotment as my potted blueberries were in a most sorry state. We have hard tap water here because its mainly drawn from chalk and limestone sources, so I've had to choose between not watering and them dying, or watering them and their leaves turning a sickly yellow colour due to an iron deficiency. I've told them they're going to get a juicy seaweed feed with sequestered iron next time, to try and redress the balance of this morning's lime application a little. It's about time I put my allotment water butt by the shed so I can start collecting some nice soft rainwater for these plants...

For you stats fans out there, the Met Office has lots of extreme weather information for you and reports on various past extreme weather events in the UK.

How's the weather with you today? Have you ever experienced any extreme weather?

Do visit the ABC Wednesday Blog for more information of the eXcellent kind.

* Yes I know I've cheated a little for my letter X, but I did say at the outset this was the one letter I was struggling with for my weather ABC. I did think of Xeriscaping - as did some of you when I announced my theme for this round of ABC Wednesday - but that's more of a gardening technique in reaction to climate rather than a direct aspect of the weather itself. Besides, I wanted to talk about weather records at some point and this seemed the ideal time to do so!

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

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 of the manor like this one. We're not quite in The Cotswolds here, but the 16th Century house and its many garden walls are built from the same mellow local limestone, so we can pretend we are.

I'm no garden historian, but I think the gardens are more late 19th or early 20th century than 16th. There were many garden 'rooms' divided by structural yew and topiary as well as the aforementioned walls. Ironwork gates were another feature, some of them having luscious pears or grapes in their design. There were lots of lawns too.

But there was also plenty of structural planting such as this pond area.


Plus a rather nice potager of mainly triangular shaped beds, some of which was very loosely planted. Roses and a walled herb wheel made a central feature to this part of the garden. There were lots roses elsewhere too, including a wonderfully scented old rose in the orchard.


There were plenty of focal points, plus an an allium and agapanthus walk.


Here the formal topiary of the garden rooms closer to the house contrasts with the large meadow area which forms the edge of the garden to link the manor to its farmed hinterland.


This was a garden for relaxing and soaking up its atmosphere, plus making discoveries such as this rather covetable greenhouse which doubled up as the entrance to the tea and cake sales. I also found a new [to me] local nursery to visit as they were managing the plant sales area. But the best surprise of all was finding my SUP friend S, partaking in her favourite activity: tea in the garden. We both agreed Bolehyde Manor made a rather good escape from the constant World Cup coverage on the TV :)

Monday, 28 June 2010

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. It could be because you didn't fully submerge the elderflowers at the start of their infusion period. If the cordial already looked brown at that early stage, it could be because you overboiled the starter syrup when you made it so it began to caramelise. It's worth having a teeny tiny taste to see if the cordial tastes OK. Otherwise there's just about time to make another batch, especially if you have the later flowering elder, Sambucus canadensis in your neighbourhood.

What makes good bird scarers on vegetable plots?

The sparrowhawk we've had in the neighbourhood recently does a pretty effective job. If you don't have one of those to hand, then using old CDs scares the living daylights out of me whenever I'm up the plot as their roving shadows remind me of The Mysterons. My allotment's on a relatively windy site so the rattling made from old plastic bottles placed over canes is also pretty effective. However, I wouldn't recommend using old Christmas decorations like one of my allotment neighbours did one year. I can see why he did it: they were all shiny and sparkly in the wind. Sadly, they soon disintegrated and now his soil's full of bits of old tinsel.

How to dispose of parsnips gone to seed

On your compost heap as usual.

If you soak lots of fag-ends in water will it work as weedkiller?

Depends what you mean by lots and it'll be more effective if used as a pesticide, which is how tobacco has been traditionally used in the garden. Beware, many of the recipes on the interweb say this is an organic pesticide: it isn't as it'll kill beneficial insects as well as the nasties. It'll also harm plants from the Solanaceae aka nightshade family, such as tomatoes, aubergines, potatoes and Solanus. Therefore I don't really recommend it, so I'm not including a link to how you can make your own.

If you have lots of weeds to clear, then using the fag-end [aka cigarette butt - Ed] to start a fire would probably be more effective, though you'll probably annoy your neighbours at the same time. This also assumes fires aren't totally banned by your local council anyway and you haven't set fire to anything you'd like to keep in the process.

* = apart from how to make Rhubarb and Ginger jam, which has been my top post for 14 months now and is currently over 50% of my search engine hits.

Friday, 25 June 2010

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 just 18 months after I joined GI.

Has GI always been based in Bristol?
No, it was in London at first and moved to Bristol around 5 years ago – I was appointed editor around that time so things were quite hectic!

Tell me a little more about a magazine editor’s role
We’re an extremely small team here [5 staff including Juliet], so we can’t really afford to stand on job role demarcation lines: we need to work extremely closely together to do what’s needed to get the magazine out each month. It’s also very important that we enjoy what we do and have some fun in the process.

May’s GI issue has just come out, which month are you in at the moment?
Quite a few! I have a file outlining the content [colour coded by type of page] of each edition for the next few months and a list of forthcoming features running at least a year ahead. I also proof read articles and other content [e.g. advertisements] as and when they come in, so that could be for any of the editions we’ve got planned over the next year. At the moment we’re finalising the content for the June edition on our ‘flat plan*’ and I’m also researching features and setting up photography and commissioning words for April next year.

Are you planning to commission any more guest editor issues like Dan Pearson’s last year?
It was well received by those who read it but was a considerable amount of extra work and much to my surprise didn’t sell any better than our usual style, so we’d need to think carefully before doing something like that again [a pity because I thought that edition was really interesting and different – Ed].

What’s the role of the contributing editors? [Fergus Garrett, Carol Klein, Roy Lancaster, Alys Fowler and Dan Pearson]
They’re my dream team of advisors whom I can pick up the phone to talk to at any time. They help to ensure my vision for the magazine is kept on track and they’re also on my trusted team of freelance writers and photographers from whom I commission articles.

And your vision for the magazine is?
My current mantra is Beautiful and Useful. I’d like our readers to enjoy the simple pleasure of looking at the beautiful gardens and plants in the magazine, then be inspired to go out and do something as a result of reading the features.

Any specific plans for achieving this?
The style and content of GI will still emphasise the best that’s out there in the gardening world, but there’ll also be further resources available to our readers such as where to go to get further information if needed. We’re using our website to include things we can’t find space for in the magazine itself and are running special reader events, such as the recent lectures on sustainable gardening at the London College of Garden Design. We’re also sponsoring Cottesbrooke Plant Fair [I'll be there today with Patient Gardener] and a pavilion at Hampton Court in July which will bring the pages of the magazine alive and be a sort of one-stop shop for stylish gardeners.

You’ve recently revamped the website, any further plans to take GI into the digital age?
Yes, although we really need to keep our focus on the magazine, continue to do what we do well and keep our readers happy. The publishing world is going through lots of change at the moment with exciting times ahead. We also need to understand how an income can be made from the internet before diverting our resources and energy more into that area.

Thanks Juliet for taking the time to talk to me and to give me a great insight of what it’s like to work in the world of magazines. Let’s just say it’s very different to the image conjured up in The Devil Wears Prada and they have a gardening library in the office to die for!

* literally a large piece of plywood which shows a mock up of the magazine’s next issue. Each double page spread is shown in miniature and it’s easy to see how much of the edition has been completed and which pages have been finalised. I spotted James’ piece on his visit to the Botanic Nursery, my local specialist nursery, which he blogged about last year.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

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 :)

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

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 in the Way of W, do visit the ABC Wednesday blog.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

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 fruit falling. After all, the tree wants to get some fruit to a viable reproductive stage, rather than as many immature fruit as possible. Water is the key element from now on for that goal to be achieved.

Of course, I'll still have to do some thinning soon (and picking up the windfalls in August/September), but the job's looking like it'll be about the same as usual now. Guess which apple I'll be leaving from those pictured, if the others don't drop of their own accord over the next couple of weeks. The one on the left looks like it'll probably fall quite soon, but I'm not so sure the one in the middle wants to go. Ideally I'd like to keep the one on the right, but if this one drops, I'm sure the middle one will still produce a tasty apple.

It's tempting to leave all of them on there I know, but beware: too many fruit can stress the tree. You'll get smaller, not so tasty fruit as a result and also risk the tree not producing such a good crop the next year whilst it recovers. Worse still, it might switch into biennial bearing and give you a crop every other year instead of an annual one. If that happens, then follow this advice from the RHS to bring your trees back on track.

Monday, 21 June 2010

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):

Chris' male only choir, the AK47s will also be performing and will join us for Haul away Joe, complete with pirate outfits apparently. It should be a lively evening, especially as we'll be going down the pub afterwards ;)

* = so come on down if you can - we're a bargain £3 on the door :)

Update: Here's the review of our performance in the local paper - an 'explosion of musical delight' :D

Sunday, 20 June 2010

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 year by my friend C from choir and R. 'Zepharine Drouhin', a thornless rose I have in a very large pot by the pergola at the side entrance to the back garden. A good one to have there as it means no-one has a surprise when they brush past. She has a heavenly scent too, and is therefore a good welcome into the garden. However, when I bent down to sniff at this bloom when taking its picture, an adult vine weevil fell into my hand :(

The very middle picture is of assorted geraniums of the cranesbill variety. This is for the record as I'm about to start ripping out plants from this part of the garden (the single terrace bed) and who knows how these will do in the process. I think I'll do a precautionary belated 'Chelsea Chop' first...

The top left is Aquilegia 'McKenna's hybrid', the only one I have left of my original planting. The rest have died back and self seeded themselves into the usual muddy pink and purple forms. I'm wondering how much longer this one will last.

Then there's my 'river' of Allium christophii in the middle left. I used to think one could never have too many of this firework-like member of the onion family, but self-seeding over the past couple of years has shown me otherwise. I like the river effect, but there's too many of them vying for attention now and a little thinning is needed.

Finally there's loads of elderflowers just ripe for the picking to make cordial, elderflower & gooseberry fool or ice cream and all manner of other tasty delights. This is the bounty I have in my garden courtesy of the public land next door. There's sloes and hawthorn berries within reach (as well as elderberries) to follow in the autumn :)

Oops, my Blooms Day post appears to have magically transformed itself into a To Do list. There's nothing like multi-tasking is there? ;)

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

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 spoil heaps in south Wales. 1,000 trees were planted each late November for a number of years as part of National Tree Week. Martin always named each of his research plots after key people involved and I was honoured when he chose to use my name in 1994 - the year we planted them in the snow!

My ultimate horticultural ambition is to have enough land for a proper orchard

Too true - I wrote about it here.

I have a plant named after me - a rather lovely Clematis

Not quite - well spotted those of you who realised I was writing about my mystery Clematis which finally was named when launched at Chelsea this year. Mind you, I still have an unnamed sport of C. 'Josephine' in my garden, so Clematis 'VP' could still materialise one day...

I've appeared on Gardeners' World alongside Carol Klein, Joe Swift and Rachel de Thame

NAH has the evidence of when I was standing watching the filming at Gardeners' World Live 2 years ago. Joe Swift ended up standing directly in front of me, Carole Klein at my side and Rachel de Thame leaned over the fence. I was recognised by This is My Patch when it was broadcast!

The garden I'd love to visit above all others is The Alhambra in Spain

As seen on Blotanical.

When I was little the garden feature I wanted most was a bouncy castle

It was a swimming pool - an ambition I held until practical matters held sway when I bought my first house in Durham. Secretly I still hanker after one...

I've been invited onto a Chelsea show garden for a chat with the designer

I wrote about chatting to Nigel Dunnett last year here, not to mention the time spent with Mark Gregory this year :)

I've had a 10 minute chat with Prince Charles about controlling slugs

This happened whilst we were looking round the kitchen garden in the visit I told you about above. Bizarrely one of my lecturers at Newcastle was the world's expert on slugs, so we regularly had more than 10 minute conversations with him about them during crop pest practicals.

I have a degree in Horticulture from Newcastle University

It's Agricultural and Environmental Science which is very different (plus a Masters in Applied Hydrobiology from Cardiff - I seem to hanker after degrees with strange combinations or names!), but in my first job after graduating the woman looking after me during my six week induction course told everyone it was Horticulture, so I had to field lots of GQT style interrogations as a result. Must have been an omen ;)

Friday, 18 June 2010

Miracles do Occur... Sometimes



Before...

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 over the fence to have a chat - has been cut back. Wherever possible the branches have been left on the ground to provide a wildlife habitat and the rest has been chipped and a layer of mulch added to the bankside of the stream near our house.

It turns out the young men are participating in a programme designed to get unemployed people into the workplace. They spend three days a week doing the kind of work we've seen them completing over the past few months, then have a day in college improving their literacy and numeracy skills. They were polite, cheerful and clearly enjoying their work. No matter what I think about the results of some of what they've done with the public planting on the rest of the estate, they've made a good job of maintaining the trees and shrubs on the public land next to our house. Not only that, I have a garden full of light again :)


... After

Thursday, 17 June 2010

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.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

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 such as carbon dioxide to have even a short term impact on our weather (never mind climate change), nor are there enough sulphur compounds in the eruption to have an effect on the acidity of our rainfall. Phew. It was probably different in Iceland as eruptions like these often result in localised thunder, lightning and rainfall.

The last eruption I've found which did have a noticeable effect on our global weather was in 1991 when the pictured Mount Pinatubo erupted (photo courtesy of Fotosearch). It's estimated the summer that year was 0.9 degrees centigrade cooler. Other notable eruptions were Indonesia's Tambora in 1815 which resulted in the 'year without a summer' in 1816: New England experienced frosts throughout the summer months (see here for lots more information and references about weather changing volcanic eruptions). The most dramatic eruption ever was probably Toba around 70,000 years ago which is thought to have resulted in a 6-10 year volcanic winter which dramatically reduced the world's human population to around 10% of its previous level and may have had a cooling effect for as long as 1,000 years.

How's the weather with you today? Here there's not a cloud in the sky: it's warm and sunny but with a stiff breeze. The perfect weather for a brisk walk around Dyrham Park this morning with friends followed by a pub lunch sat outdoors :)

Doooo Visit the ABC Wednesday blog for more in the way of V...

Monday, 14 June 2010

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 blissfully quiet and definitely a place to recharge the batteries, unscramble the brain and birdwatch from bed :)

Contrast our daily view with this one from when we went to the local sports centre in Cheadle ;)

There's more posts to follow...

* they were very friendly, welcoming (lovely cakes and coffee - mmm) and had lots of ideas for exploration plus recommendations for good places to eat out.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

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.

Friday, 4 June 2010

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 appeared on Gardeners' World alongside Carol Klein, Joe Swift and Rachel de Thame

The garden I'd love to visit above all others is The Alhambra in Spain

When I was little the garden feature I wanted most was a bouncy castle

I've been invited onto a Chelsea show garden for a chat with the designer

I've had a 10 minute chat with Prince Charles about controlling slugs

I have a degree in Horticulture from Newcastle University

That's it - see you when I get back. ABC Wednesday will be here as usual with something I'm hoping I won't be using on holiday!

Thursday, 3 June 2010

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 is...


... now past our first double border (and missing out the Alpine glasshouses) ...


... to the demonstration vegetable beds. I couldn't go in because they'd just been sprayed, but I leaned over the fence to take this shot before running to catch up with my companions...


... only to find these amusing structures nearby: kohl rabi methinks...


... more borders on the way to the glasshouse. Mainly foliage at the moment giving hints of glories to come...


... outside the glasshouse we found this mass planting of Alliums...


... and the teaching garden designed by Cleve West...


... at last here we are in the glasshouse. It's enormous and has several different zones of varying heat and humidity. Here's part of the hot, dry zone showing just how effective a planting of cacti and succulents can be...


... the glasshouse is large enough to swallow a whole waterfall for breakfast...


... and tall enough so we could climb up the ramp and look down on lush foliage...


... but let's not forget the exotic flowers...


... nor foliage which is familiar to us because we grow something similar as a houseplant. This is Begonia 'Curly Fireflush'...


... back outside again...



... and finally into the garden designed by Penelope Hobhouse before completely ignoring the tea shop and plant centre on the way out :o

There's lots more we didn't have time to see, such as the trials beds and previous Chelsea show gardens. I'm so pleased Victoria suggested our tour though. Thank you :)

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

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 there have any experience of these or other advice for me?

How's the weather with you today? Here it's warm and sunny after yesterday's rain.

For more Tremendous posts, hop on over to the ABC Wednesday blog.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

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.
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