Monday, 30 August 2010
There was an interpretation board nearby which gave lots more information about what had been planted:
The planting in our car park has been designed to provide year-round interest for our visitors whilst providing food and cover for wildlife. Many of the shrubs and trees provide fruits, berries or hips, all of which are a magnet for birds. The tall stems of the ornamental grasses are left on over winter to provide cover for hibernating insects.
Spring interest is provided by flowering shrubs such as Berberis wilsoniae, Berberis verruculosa and Chaenomeles japonica. In summer, the Rosa spinosissima and Stephanandra incisa 'Crispa' come into flower, to be followed by autumn fruits on the collection of crab apples such as Malus 'John Downie', Malus x zumi 'Golden Hornet' and Malus huphensis. On a frosty winter's morning, the tall stems of the grasses Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster' and Stipa gigantea shine in the low sun, casting long shadows on the ground.
The hedges surrounding the car park have been planted using native British species such as hazel, field maple and hawthorn. Native trees and shrubs have been found to support many more invertebrate animals than introduced species of tree. This in turn attracts many other animals including robins, shrews and hedgehogs. As a result the entire ecosystem is enriched.
Hardly any of these plants are used in the public planting around Chippenham, so they would be great at increasing the diversity around the town, which I understand is one of the local council's goals with regards to our future quality of life. As well as enhancing car parks, these plants are also ideal candidates for the changed approach to roundabout planting I advocated in the last edition of Out on the Streets.
There's still plenty of time for you to join in with OOTS this month as I'll be extending it into September to give everyone a chance to take part. Simply write your post and add your link to Mr Linky here: this link will also tell you more about OOTS should you need it.
Friday, 27 August 2010
I've been wanting to show you some lawnmower racing for a couple of years now, but had to wait until last month until I saw any action. It's been a featured event at the Headington and Stockley Steam Rally previously and it returned there this year, so at last I was able to capture a few snippets on camera :)
Unfortunately my favourite racing class wasn't featured this year: where the competitors run behind their machines. I'd particularly wanted to show you that one but I understand from the helpful British Lawnmower Racing Association (BLMRA) leaflet given out at the time that this class isn't so popular anymore, despite it being the original form of the sport.
Instead we were treated to races in classes 2, 3 and 4: all variations on the type of seated lawnmower available. The above clip shows part of a class 2 race which is for cylinder mowers. It turns out that lawnmower racing has a competitive league and everything, and the races we watched were championship ones. There's a 12 date race calendar which starts in May and the season ends in October. There's a British championship, plus a World one, a British Grand Prix and a 12 hour endurance race.
It all started in the UK in 1973 at a pub in West Sussex and as NAH observed when we were watching, it must be about the cheapest form of motorsport available. This is because no modification of the engine is allowed and the sport isn't commercialised. It also means that the skill of the driver (or athletic ability of the runner!) determines who's best in this sport.
You can find out loads more on the BLMRA website, so who knows? There may be an event near you sometime - it's such a lot of fun to watch. For readers from across the pond, there's also an American Association, whose website can be found here.
I wonder if I should unleash NAH's competitive streak and The Beast?
Wednesday, 25 August 2010
This little movie of a dancing flame in our garden is from NAH's annual curry night yesterday. We had 16 hungry people descend on us for the evening anxious to taste the 4 currys on offer plus starters of poppadoms, samosas and onion bajis. It's a regular event that NAH's been holding for over 15 years now and there's always a mix of old and new faces, some of whom have waited up to 3 years for the experience. Such is NAH's fame as a curry meister.
It's rather nice that quite a few of the people attending also come to see the garden, so I thought yesterday would be the ideal opportunity to debut the pair of garden torches I'd won in a competition over at Love Thy Space. So instead of the balmy summer evening I'd been envisaging, mother nature decided to give us a cool, windy one instead.
However, having placed the 2 torches in the upper terrace border by the kitchen patio doors, they served to entice people out into the garden and to stay there as they lent a lovely atmosphere to the evening. I even had to lend people various fleeces and sweaters so they could stay there. I haven't really got much in the way of garden lights and my previous attempts at lighting the evening (tea lights in jam jars) haven't created the necessary ambiance for people to stay outside when the going gets cool.
It was pretty windy when I took the film on my camera, so if you choose to run the above clip you'll see that the stiff breeze didn't manage to blow out the flame. I was a bit concerned when I received the torches that there weren't any instructions with them, but they turned out to be a doddle to set up. I used lamp oil with added citronella, so we had the added bonus of no insects buzzing around us for the evening. The oil reservoir is sufficient to keep the torch burning for around 3 hours.
I'll certainly be using them again whenever there's a nice evening to sit out in the garden, even if it's just for me.
Monday, 23 August 2010
However, my attitude towards them this year has changed because I've decided to grow cabbages for the first time*, red cabbages to be precise as I'm really missing the red cabbage and juniper berry concoction which used to be served up at work from time to time.
Owing to the drought and concrete like conditions up at the plot, I started my seeds off in modules at home. I'm pleased I did for another reason: it's allowed me to keep a good eye on the seedlings and to watch out for the cabbage white butterflies muscling in on them. Here you can see no less than 2 types of eggs: the clustered ones have been laid by a large whites and the paler, solitary ones by the small white. You'll also see that I've been a bit tardy in my vigilance as some of the eggs have already hatched out into tiny caterpillars. From my later observations egg to caterpillar can take as little as 24 hours, so regular inspection and egg/caterpillar removal is required before these critters can really get down to business.
I'll be transplanting these out in the allotment soon: I need to construct my protective hoops first, which will then be draped with horticultural fleece to keep the cabbage whites and that other pesky pest the pigeon at bay.
* = which shocked Threadspider considerably last week as she knows all about my 'no grow' attitude towards Brassicas owing to NAH's hatred towards everything in the cabbage family **
** = though shhhh, don't tell him that rocket is a Brassica as he loves the stuff
Saturday, 21 August 2010
Keith came to give a talk to the University of Bath Gardening Club in January (which I blogged about here) and we were so blown away by his slideshow it was obvious that this garden, plus the previous one he developed at The Garden House should be the destination for the club's main summer field trip this year.
Despite the dull and rainy day, Wildside was a riot of colour. It's an extraordinary creation as the flat four acre site is in the process of being transformed by Keith into a multi-terrained garden with many different microclimates. He's then using his extensive plant knowledge gleaned over a lifetime to match the right plant to the right place, thus fulfilling his philosophy of filling the view with flowers. UK TV viewers may recognise this garden as it was featured in the Landscape Man series shown earlier this year.
For the ultimate in gardening road trips, do visit the other competition entries on display over at Gardening Gone Wild.
* = and to start to catch up with my backlog of garden visits to tell you about :)
Friday, 20 August 2010
- Sign up a well known gardening personality to your DIY stores' advertising campaign
- Get the marketeers to design lots of different posters, cardboard cutouts etc
- Make sure every store has a wide selection of them all
- Wait for a blogger with a camera to notice that the very small garden centre area with Mr Titchmarsh popping up every couple of yards or so (not to mention the tannoyed exhortation from him to Let's Get Gardening!) makes her feel like she's being stalked
- Et voila!
I'm wondering if every store gets the same amount of display material irrespective of size, so what works in the large superstore of Poole say (note to self: must check the next time we're there) seems a little claustrophobic in the intimacy of smaller stores like Chippenham. I also like the special touch in the picture's foreground, where what Alan is passionate about is obscured by the box ball, so you can supply your own word. My feeling of being stalked was further heightened as I received a press release about Mr Titchmarsh about half an hour after I'd returned home with this photograph.
Thursday, 19 August 2010
I hope they bring cheer on a not so good day for you Helen. I'm sure Plan B will be fine :)
Wednesday, 18 August 2010
I love how the red of the skin permeates into the flesh, giving it a glowing pink colour. It tastes pretty good too: a crisp juicy apple with a hint of strawberry which is best picked and eaten off the tree. Worcester Permain is one of the apples of my childhood as it was the local apple to where my cousins lived in Worcestershire and Beauty of Bath originated a mere 10 miles from here, so for me this apple is an apt marriage between childhood memories and today's living.
That's not the entire harvest BTW, NAH just picked enough for immediate consumption today. There's plenty more to come :)
Monday, 16 August 2010
- Matthew Wilson (aka Landscape Man) on how public plantings can be more dynamic
- Sarah Price will give a sneak preview of the 2012 World Gardens for the Olympic Games on how they might impact on future planting designs
- Andrew Wilson will look at the future of garden design
- Bert Griffioen lends his Dutch nurseryman's expertise on sustainable municipal perennial plantings
- Green Space's Paul Bramhill will discuss how the The Budget could impact our public greenspace
Sunday, 15 August 2010
The past two Augusts haven't been that drowsling owing to their rainy weather, but this year's is more than making up for it. It's been so dry here in Chippenham, that the trees are already taking on signs of autumn, particularly the silver birches. Even the welcome decent drop of rain a few days ago has done little to halt their downward spiral.
In the garden I've mostly left things to fend for themselves, only watering key plants when they're beginning to look stressed and keeping the pots topped up when needed. I've probably got away with this strategy because of our two previous wet summers plus I gave the whole garden a massive dose of mulch last autumn, so everything has had some reserves to draw upon. It does mean that my floral display has been affected a little: the Clematis have much smaller flowers this year for instance, but it's been an interesting exercise to see how my garden copes in drought conditions.
This year the Echinops have finally come into their own. I planted them last year and there was the odd small bloom. This year there's several massive blue globes on each stem with the bees and hoverflies queuing up to feed from them. My other main success this month is the pictured Clematis 'Kermesina', a viticella type whose delicate looking stems bear masses of wine coloured flowers. I've hardly got to see them in previous years because they've made a bid for freedom and clambered over the fence into the ash tree where I've almost needed binoculars to see them. This year I've managed to be a bit more disciplined and kept training the stems through the Rosa 'Rambling Rector' just as I'd always wanted them to do. It means that a gap has been closed and the long stretch of fence at the side of my garden has interest from when the rose first blooms in June to when its tiny red hips finally fall by the wayside in late winter.
You picture lovers are probably disappointed with my lack of display for Blooms Day. It's because I've decided to take a different tack with my posting and show you just one thing that really strikes me each month and to weave my words around that. It also means I can put off the day a little longer when I'll need to start paying Google for extra storage space for my blog. That day is coming ever nearer!
Garden Bloggers Blooms Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.
Friday, 13 August 2010
The welcome drop of rain a couple of days ago combined with the continued flannel-like humidity has put me on blight watch in my garden and up at the plot. I have a number of tomato plants * here at home, plus quite a few maincrop varieties of potato up at the allotment all in a potential state of vulnerability. At least my wuthering and worrying has been calmed down a little by the discovery of a really useful website called Blight Watch. It's aimed at commercial growers but has just as much relevance to amateur ones. It's pretty clever, operating on the principle that the blight fungus needs particular conditions in which to thrive (temperature above 10 degrees centigrade for 24 hours and relative humidity above 90% for at least 11 hours) and for these to exist for 2 consecutive days. This is called the Smith Period.
Local weather records are automatically monitored for the UK and near misses, 1 day and 2 days of ideal conditions are determined. By signing up to the service I can go onto the website and see just when any of these has been recorded for my postcode. An email alert will also be sent to me whenever a Smith Period is determined for my area. I can then use this information to decide if I want to spray my crops with a precautionary fungicide** or to step up my worry and vigilance. For instance, there's been one day of ideal conditions here in the past fortnight: on August 10th.
I've also been using the Potato Council's companion Fight Against Blight website - which is linked to via Blight Watch and has oodles of useful information - particularly the distribution maps of confirmed blight cases in the UK. For a while I was reassured to see no blight recorded in my area, then realised that's because there's no Blight Scout operating around here, probably because not many potatoes are grown commercially. I contacted them about this, suggesting that there might be a role for keen amateur growers to play in enabling a full monitoring service to be provided across the UK. It turns out that they want to do just that and are currently looking for people from e.g. allotment societies to volunteer as Blight Monitors and report any suspected cases from allotment sites to them. They're really keen to get the best monitoring network possible going and I've got further information if you or your allotment/garden society are interested. The process looks simple and straightforward, so just let me know in the Comments below if you're interested or do contact them directly via the Fight Against Blight website.
If you think your tomatoes or potatoes are showing signs of blight then you might find this Potato Council leaflet helpful. It has lots of clear photos to help you with identification and is applicable to both tomatoes and potatoes as the disease and symptoms are the same for both crops. It also has information on good husbandry practice (such as watering the ground not the leaves) which will keep infestation at bay for as long as possible. If and when blight does occur, then believe it or not all is not necessarily lost if you catch it early enough: the above leaflet also tells you what you can do to save your potato crop.
In the case of tomatoes you need to strip away any infected leaves from the plant, plus any others which prevent good air circulation. Avoid splashing the leaves when watering. A good feed of liquid seaweed at this point will add to the plant's health and thus its ability to fend off the disease for as long as possible. If you're OK with using a fungicide, then you might like to use your spray of choice at this point or you could try Alys Fowler's advice re using a weekly 50/50 spray of milk and water, though I suspect she meant this to be used earlier than when the disease has actually appeared.
If blight hasn't hit yet, then this information on how to prevent it taking hold for as long as possible courtesy of My Tiny Plot via the sparkly new UK Veg Growers website may be useful and applies to potatoes as well as tomatoes.
* = yes I know I vowed never to grow any ever again after the past two years' paltry crops, but I simply couldn't resist Serendipity's kind offer of spare tomato plants when he joined us at Malvernmeet. Thanks to him we've been enjoying home grown outdoor tomatoes since the end of June :)
** = I wrote about my misgivings about that here
Wednesday, 11 August 2010
It also gives an insight of where we in the UK stand re our success (and failure) in dealing with our waste problem. There's also plenty of case studies of projects from all over the world where waste is being tackled in innovative ways. There's also some striking pictures: who would have thought that an empty plastic bottle could be turned into a sign for the top of a taxi for instance? There's also a great directory at the back of the book which gives details not only of where you can get lots more information about recycling, but also those companies who are using waste such as ringpulls in innovative ways to create designer objects of desire. This directory isn't just limited to the UK, there's a good global coverage of what's out there. It's these features all in one handy reference which elevate the book above the kind of information you could find out on your own.
I have a great offer for you courtesy of the publishers. Veg Plotting readers can get a massive 40% discount on the book's price which means you can buy the book for £11.97 + approx. £2.75 P&P. Even with postage this is well below the book's price on Amazon at the moment - hurrah! That's not all: the offer isn't limited to just UK readers. Anyone outside the UK can buy the book at this discount, but you'll need to discuss the price and postage costs for you directly with the publishers first.
Interested? Then email Jess at Blackdogonline dot com (revising the at and the dot to make the correct email address as usual*) quoting "Veg Plotting Offer" in the subject line and giving your delivery details and she'll arrange the rest with you directly.
I believe this book is of general interest to everyone and would also make an excellent reference book for school libraries or any community project with a project tackling waste at a local level.
Whilst we're on the subject of recycling, I recently received this infographic summarising how all of the UK's recycling gets tackled currently and there's also important news that our new government is seeking your views and ideas on what needs to be included in their proposed waste policy. You have until the 9th September to add your thoughts. I've already added my views on the need for end-to-end thinking for labelling and dealing with plastic waste: a development of what I said recently in this post.
* = you may be wondering why I don't publish the email address with the @ and . in place or use the mailto command so you can click on it and up pops the email box all ready for you to use. It's my understanding that certain automated bots look out for precisely this kind of thing and start spamming the email address. If I'm wrong in this assumption, do let me know and I'll change the text so it's simpler for you to start placing your order. If you'd like more information first, I have a List of Contents I can email to you: get in touch via vegplotting at gmail dot com :)
Monday, 9 August 2010
Sunday, 8 August 2010
After reading that I had to check it out for myself and he's right! I typed Chippenham into Search to get up the appropriate map: it looked just fine, but by zooming in a few times, I soon got a map showing Lacock's Red Lion and a few other locations of local businesses. A couple of further zooms in and the relocated Somerfield store, Monkton Park Golf Course and Wiltshire Council were revealed. Switching to the Satellite View really showed how wrong the map is. I can't show you everything Mr Endacott wrote about as he covered a much larger area of Chippenham than can be found in Google Maps at the scale where these businesses etc. are shown. However, the above picture gives you an idea of what's there and how inaccurate it is.
Update: There's a fab conversation going on in the Comments re the implications of all of this for businesses, do have a look and join in :) If you have your own business, you may also find this article about using Google Maps interesting.
Friday, 6 August 2010
- Decide to hold a special event to show off all the possibilities of your swanky venue
- Advertise your event in the sparkly new What's On section of your local newspaper
- Ensure it's published in good time so lots of people will come
- Wait for a blogger with a camera to notice that your welcome on arrival might be a bit different to what's usually on offer at these things
- Et voila!
Whilst marquees and gazebos are an option that larger wedding parties might be considering, I don't think the venue's restaurant staff would be that thrilled at not having the opportunity to show off what they can do to get any event off to a good start ;)
Wednesday, 4 August 2010
A lot of my strawberries up at the plot are either nearing the end of their useful working lives or are so interplanted with weeds at the moment, I need to thoroughly makeover their homes. This has also given me an opportunity to review the varieties I'm growing and change things around a little.
I'm really pleased with the Mae and Christine varieties I'm growing: they're both early varieties (cropping late May, or even earlier if I ever got around to protecting them with a cloche or some fleece), crop prolifically and taste wonderful. They're also generous with their runners, so I'll be making sure they're potted up this year ready to make a new bed for them. That's strawberry bargain #1: lots of plants for free. The parent plants of each variety are still very vigorous, so I'm confident I'll have lots of healthy progeny ready for next year's crop.
Both were freebies given away with a couple of garden magazines a few years ago, so that's strawberry bargain #2, as were the Florence (a late variety) I found in one of my magazines last month. I had a quick poll a couple of weeks ago to see which strawberry varieties my Twitter buddies like and this one came highly recommended. I should be taking delivery of my plants very soon.
Strawberry bargain #3 are the pictured Marshmello. I first came across this variety a couple of years ago at Gardeners' World Live where Marshalls had basketfulls available for taste testing. They were scrummy and I returned several times just to make sure the flavour was as good as I found the first time ;) I was delighted to find Marshmello plants on special offer when I was at Hampton Court last month: 18 bare root plants for a fantastic fiver. As you can see they've grown into very healthy plants in a mere few weeks, which are already bearing flowers and fruit :)
Bargain #4 is the alpine strawberry seed which came with one of my copies of Gardens Illustrated magazine earlier this year. I'm planning a new area for my allotment to trial a no dig salad bed and I'm going to edge the raised bed I'll be using for this purpose with plants I'm raising from this seed.
So I have found a number of different bargains when it comes to one of my favourite fruits. I just need to find some Mara des Bois (another Twitter recommendation: it's an everbearer i.e. crops intermittently over the entire summer and into the autumn, and is reputed to taste like a wild strawberry, but at the usual strawberry size) at the right price now and my new strawberry collection will be complete :)
What are your favourite strawberry varieties? Have you found any good bargains lately, strawberries or otherwise?
Monday, 2 August 2010
I also have a promised post about the wonderful monastery gardens there and I'll try and find time to squeeze in a lot more about what I found during my short stay in the Czech Republic. I also have an update on Chippenham's trees on the High Street and who knows what else I might find this month?
Update: What impeccable timing! Tonight (2nd August) at 9pm BBC4 is showing Britain's Park Story with Dan Cruikshank exploring the history of our open spaces. The link shows a number of further broadcast times this week if you've missed it. A cracking start to OOTS this month methinks :)
NB to new readers using Mr Linky: This is a regularly held blogging meme where the idea is for you to write an OOTS post on your blog and to link to it here via Mr Linky, NOT to just provide a link to your blog as a form of advertising. I'll be removing these as soon as I find your 'contribution'. A couple have gone already, so you have been warned!
Sunday, 1 August 2010
- Windfall apples drop about my head and that of the allotment society chairman whilst inspecting my plot
- The grapes on my vines are tiny because I forgot to water them
- Alas I have no nectarines, peaches or melons
- But I am ensnared with flowers and it's been rather nice to have a little doze on the lawn this summer ;)
Garden Bloggers' Muse Day is hosted by Carolyn Choi at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago.