Sunday, 31 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 ;)



If there are problems with loading the above video, then do try this link instead.

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 of our woodlands. The problem is mainly arising in the area around London and other southern counties, where fungi are being collected for commercial gain.

I was mulling this particular issue just after writing my Food Yards Foraging piece and updated it recently with this BBC article which gives guidance on what is and isn't acceptable. Foraging for personal use is fine, but for commercial gain is stealing. However, gatherers need to be aware of their local bye-laws, such as those already in place for Epping Forest, as they may have a total ban. NB foraging on Sites of Special Scientific Interest is illegal.

A non-trending topic I have to tell you about is this week's almost unnoticed UN meeting in Nagoya where an international agreement was made to halve the loss of the world's habitats by 2020. At last some good news in the International Year of Biodiversity.

Link Love
In a week when Threadspider and I have been scratching our heads over where yet another wheelie bin (for plastic and cardboard collection) is going to fit in our gardens, I've been reacquainting myself with Leave Only Footprints. This blog has been on my blogroll pretty much from the word go and documents Polythene Pam's experience of gradually giving up plastic. If I can follow her lead, perhaps we won't need that extra bin!

Blog ActionIt's my third Blogaversary in a couple of days time :)

Comment of the Week: New reader Janet of Plantaliscious left a comment on last week's Trending Topic highlighting this week's revelations re the proposed Forestry Commission sell-off:

... just found out that our Esteemed Government wants to sell of our forests... Lots of articles, including Guardian, and a campaign to stop this happening at 38 Degrees.

The campaign's had lots of news coverage and a-twittering and has 30,000 signatures in less than a week. Impressive. @Savebritforests is worth following for campaign updates if you're on Twitter. An interesting article in yesterday's Telegraph asks whether the sell-off is viable. It's worth a timely letter to your MP asking that very question...

Keyword Search of Note: is Welcome and thanks for your visit - a message which I hope comes over loud and clear when you come a-calling :)

Back to Reality:

The fat lady's sung as far as my Dahlias are concerned with last Sunday night's frost finally laying them low. I've been tucking them up for the winter as usual this week with their duvet.

Time Out
I'm reading Stipple, Wink & Gusset, an entertaining book about how and why some people's surnames have entered the English language.

The video is a snippet I shot of our rehearsal of last Sunday's flash mob in Bristol. Luckily the day was sunny so we could sing outside in Portland Square as our group was too large for the rehearsal space at the amazing Circomedia. You may recognise some of the first lot of singers as they were our tutors from the Czech Republic holiday. The voice you hear at the end is me!

This time last year I was Smashing Pumpkins, and 2 years ago I was showing off my shed.

Friday, 29 October 2010

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 design and landscape architecture: Sarah is an award winning garden designer and I'm delighted Nigel Dunnett and James Hitchmough are involved as I've long been an admirer of their work in landscape ecology at Sheffield University. The main companies involved are LDA Design and Hargreaves Associates.

Sarah said the initial brief was along the lines of a botanic garden, where the planting would be by individual families. However, after much discussion a world plant community approach was agreed to include e.g. moist montane grassland, European meadows and the prairies of North America and South Africa. This approach also reflects the Olympic family coming together for the games. From this initial brainstorm a number of design concepts were also identified:
  • The British as a gardening people
  • Gardens as biodiversity hotspots
  • Plants from all over the world
  • The development of cultivated plants over the past 500 years
Much of the planting will be in strips of structural foliage layers with lots low foliage topped with plants with naked stems such as Echinacea so visitors can see through the planting. Part of Sarah's role was to visualise how these might look as shown in the above photograph. Lots of mood boards were put together too. From these visualisations spreadsheets for each community were assembled so that the plants and numbers required could be calculated. There's over 4,000 trees, 80,000 plants and 60,000 bulbs. Whilst the Games are for a specific time of year, the plants are designed to give year-round interest and will form part of their legacy.

Palmstead Nurseries, the workshop's hosts won the bid to supply the herbaceous plants and bulbs, so Nick Coslett was able to give us an insight from the commercial viewpoint. He admitted that the planting list includes a number of species and cultivars they're unfamiliar with and so they've forged a number of new partnerships during the tendering process.

Whilst Palmstead is a very large nursery, the sheer number of plants means they've had to sub-contract out some of their supply. For example West Kington Nurseries near me will be supplying some of the Gladiolus cultivars needed. I wonder whether the needs of the Olympics will have an effect on the availability of a number of plants to garden designers and garden centres and over the next year or so?

A little glimpse of the Olympic Gold meadows. on TwitpicWhat wasn't clear from the workshop was how much of the planting is in place, so I was pleased when Matthew Wilson said he was at the site earlier this week to record a series on how the build is going for Gardeners' Question Time for broadcast in about 3 weeks time. In the summer I saw this wonderful 'Gold Meadow' around the main stadium: a variation of the Pictorial Meadows some of you are already familiar with and which echoes what every athlete dreams of winning.

It was an experiment this year and Matthew tells me it will be repeated for the games in 2012. He also kindly provided the above picture of how the meadow's looking now via Twitpic. He also reports that 2,000 trees (around half) plus some of the wetland is there, but planting has yet to commence in the main gardens.

I was pleased to hear from Sarah about how the Games' impact has spilled out into the communities surrounding the Olympic Park. She's also been involved in a major revamp of Victoria Park in the East End, one of the first public parks ever built in the 1840s. I think this is a neat full circle between the first public park built for London and its latest one. There's also a Wiltshire Olympics connection as a local schoolgirl Hannah Clegg was a prize winner in last year's competition to design the 'Great British Garden'.

I've also asked whether there'll be volunteer opportunities to help with the planting up of the gardens. However, nearly three weeks on and I've yet to hear from the Olympic Delivery Authority. It would be great to be involved in some small way. I'll update you with any details as soon as I have them.

Update: The ODA never got back in touch after their standard 'we're dealing with your enquiry' reply. However, I've since learned from Matthew Wilson that access is to the site whilst under construction is strictly controlled, so there won't be any opportunities to volunteer in this way.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

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?

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

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 combination I care to think of) even though I like it as a plant in its own right. So transferal next spring to a useful working life on the allotment saves face all round :)

I also need more than one fuchsia bush to get a useful crop of fruit. I had just enough time at the weekend to take some last minute cuttings ready before more frost hit on Sunday night...


I selected a healthy shoot (with no sign of capsid bug damage) and cut it off at around the 9 inch mark. This gave me enough material for several cuttings: a tip cutting from the top and several internodal cuttings (i.e. taken between leaves and having a set of leaves in the actual cutting) from down the stem. All flower buds were removed: this isn't ideal as cuttings taken from shoots without flowers usually root more readily, but this late in the season I couldn't find any. The larger leaves were cut in half so that the cuttings wouldn't get stressed from excessive water loss.


Here's the cuttings in their pot: I've used a small pot because I don't have a proper propagator, unlike the person who has written and photographed this step by step guide to taking fuchsia cuttings. This kind of pot works well instead with a cosy cover made from recycling one of the clear plastic bags our mail comes in, secured in place with a red elastic band Skimble 'rescued' from the postman.

A potful of compost can take several cuttings at once and you can see I've put the tip cutting in the middle of the pot. With a little misted water they're ready to work their magic over the winter. I've used some cut down pea sticks in the compost to prevent the plastic bag touching the plant material. Once the cuttings have rooted, they should be watered from below to prevent botrytis.

Note that I don't use hormone rooting powder, nor any of the alternative compost materials such as perlite for my cuttings. I haven't had problems with this in the past and it does help to keep costs (and storage space) down. I'm right on the edge by taking these cuttings so late in the season, but I didn't have the idea of having a fuchsia hedge back in the spring or summer. You may of course decide to do things differently to me :)

I'm keeping the pots indoors so I can keep a beady eye on how they're doing and to ensure they're in a place with good light over the winter. I don't have a greenhouse and I'm not sure whether my cold frame would be the best of places for them, especially if it gets really cold like it did last winter. I've taken 15 cuttings in total: much more than I actually need to make a 10ft wide hedge, but I've taken a few extra as insurance. Come the spring those cuttings which have taken will be potted up into individual pots and hardened off in my coldframe prior to planting out on the plot.

And if they don't take, I can try again in the spring...

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

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 'hard stuff' was looking pretty good, so the basic structure I have in place is OK. I've decided not to have a water feature in my garden because I have the sound of the stream going past the side, so the 'wet stuff' doesn't need much attention either.

The two areas needing lots more thought are the 'soft stuff' (plants) and 'other people's stuff'. With the latter James spoke about the need to carefully and gradually blend the garden into what lies beyond. When he said that I realised that's working quite well at the bottom of my garden. You can hardly tell there's a fence plus 2 compost bins there and the greenery blends with the hedges of my neighbours. So ripping out all the shrubs down there isn't the solution after all.

I still need a better use of layers down there though, so perhaps removal of some of the shrubs like the thorny Berberis and the hidden Kilmarnock willow will provide some room to introduce some colour and different levels. I'm also considering a border of wavy grass to provide some unity and lightness, like the strands of silver leaved edging plants I used there when I first planted up the garden. Karen thinks I need to make better use of my focal points like the pictured shed too. I've thought about adding a Sedum roof to it, but I need to persuade NAH as well as researching which plants are suitable for under a shady birch tree.

This means I need to look elsewhere for the main injection of colour I think the garden needs. Karen's suggested digging up half of the lawn and putting in a large curved bed which will hide both the gravel path and some of the planting at the bottom of the garden. I think she's right, but I'm struggling to come up with ideas for its execution and the means to persuade NAH that such a bold move is the way forward.

It looks like lots more step sitting is required...

Monday, 25 October 2010

Yesterday in Bristol...

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



If there's a problem with loading the above video, try this link instead.

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, 24 October 2010

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 quango voice lobbying the government for the quality open spaces our local communities deserve. As a result, I believe our open spaces will now be delivered solely on cheapest price. We desperately need to build on GreenSpace's business case showing in monetary terms the tangible benefits quality in our parks and other green spaces bring to our society. For example, if patients in hospital recover more quickly if they can see greenery from their bed, what savings does this mean for the NHS?

I'm also concerned how DEFRA's 30% funding cut may impact the management of our national nature reserves. At the moment it looks like many of them will go to organisations such as our local wildlife trusts, but with the expectation they'll be managed from existing funds. I'm anticipating more appeals for donations and volunteer help from my local Trust in the future.

I'm sure we'll see similar results when some of the current centralised responsibilities e.g. the running of the Olympic Park are devolved to local authorities. There'll be more appeals for help from us for these and other 'extras': from tidying up our parks to keeping places like Kew afloat. I also expect the National Lottery to have an increase in applications for key project funding such as major park restorations.

Whilst much of the news has been doom and gloom, I'm happy to report the charity GreenSpace is looking at ways to continue to deliver quality open spaces. They're arranging a conference in Manchester on 24th November entitled Power to the Parks. In The Bench (their email newsletter) they say:

GreenSpace is committed to providing support to, and lobbying on behalf of the parks and green space sector. Bringing the industry together, through our upcoming conference and the GreenLINK initiative, will allow us to evaluate the new political landscape and find a way forward together.
Looking at the conference programme, I'd say it's money well spent: Wiltshire and Chippenham Town Councils take note.

Link Love
Gardens Illustrated magazine has lots of packets of seed left over from their front cover giveaways. Send them a £1.50 SAE and you'll get around 60 packets (flower and vegetable seeds) in return :)

James gave a fantastically funny talk at Bath University Gardening Club last Tuesday, coping with the heckling from Derry Watkins (who corrected him on the pronunciation of Pelargonium sidoides, a plant she introduced to the UK) and a lady who thought one of his ponds was 'rather plonked' with wit and charm. He's already given his account of the proceedings and if you look carefully on there you can see me, Threadspider, Karen and Tim in the audience!

Blog Action

Comment of the Week: is from Gardeningbren, a welcome newcomer to Veg Plotting who added her comment to my Easy Apple Juice post. She said: I would think this would freeze very easily, as we used to do that with excess apple cider when we had an orchard. A much simpler idea than my suggested sterilised bottles, thank you :)
Keyword Search of Note is apple day local authority replace roundabout. Nope, I'm not quite sure what they're after either. It seems Google got a little confused too because it plumped for my A New Approach to Perennials post rather than anything I've written about Apple Day or roundabouts.
Back to Reality

Threadspider and I are planning a trip to The Botanic Nursery tomorrow as they're having an Aster event. I said to Terry's wife at Malvern Autumn Show that it's rather late in the season and she replied it's the only time they have when they're not getting ready for a show, so that's fair enough :)
I'm up to secret things in Bristol today, which I hope I can share with you shortly ;)

Time Out

The GNO film this week was Made in Dagenham. The verdict: very good - funny but thought provoking. Well worth seeing.

I'm reading John Cushnie's Hedge Man whilst listening to a tawny owl patrolling the stream at the side of the house. It's that time of year when they hoot at bedtime :)

The photo is of some rather garish heathers Karen and I found on our trip to Cirencester on Wednesday. The only question we have is Why?

This time last year I was showing you this rather wonderful pie chart, whilst in 2008, I was Monkeying Around.

Friday, 22 October 2010

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'm particularly looking forward to trying the squash and sage frittata, the pumpkin fondue and the courgette, lemon & poppyseed cake with lemon butter icing from the Light Bites, Main Courses and Sweet things and Preserves sections respectively.

The book is rounded off by an opening chapter introducing the many varieties of squash, plus an ending one listing useful websites, organisations and suppliers. It's well indexed and the standard of photography throughout is excellent.

Highly recommended.

Note: I was given a review copy of this book, though I was able to choose it for myself from the publisher's catalogue (my idea of heaven!). However, this review is truly my own opinion and I've enjoyed testing the recipes. They make a great change from Allotment Soup :)

Thursday, 21 October 2010

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.

Ingredients
  • 2kg eating apples
  • 1.2 litres water
Method
  1. 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)
  2. Place in a large pan and add the water
  3. Slowly bring to the boil and simmer for 45 minutes, crushing the fruit with a potato masher or large spoon from time to time
  4. Remove from the heat and perform a final crushing of the fruit to maximise the release of juices - you should have a mush at this point which resembles apple sauce + peel
  5. Set up a (scalded) jelly bag and stand over a large, clean bowl (or use the upturned stool method) and add all the apple
  6. Leave to drain overnight
  7. Decant the liquid into sterilised bottles and compost the apple residue
  8. When cool store the juice in the fridge - you should have around 1 litre
  9. Drink within 2-3 days
You'll find the result is a cloudy juice, that's very pleasant to drink. It's pinkish in the picture because I used a large number of Scrumptious (red skin, pink tinted flesh) and Jupiter (red skin) fruit. I was shocked at the amount of sugar added to some shop-bought juices revealed on Channel 4's Food: What Goes in Your Basket? recently, so it's good to know there's just natural fruit sugars in mine. You could also press down on the fruit with a weight to extract even more juice, but I felt my jelly bag setup was a little flimsy for this. Besides, I don't think it would have yielded very much more.
You could also store the juice for longer by sterilising the bottles in a water bath after step 7. However, I don't think it's worth this extra step for the amount of juice obtained. If you have much more fruit than I did, then it would be worth investigating buying a juicer or press as these will be more efficient at juice extraction. These methods would also preserve more of the vitamins etc. in the juice, some of which I've probably destroyed during the simmering process.
NB This post is to celebrate the 21st year of Apple Day. The link has details of all activities in the UK many of which are yet to be held, so it's worth checking out what's on in your area. Worth considering for the upcoming half term perhaps?

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

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 :)

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

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 kitchen garden was until the Victorian fashion for walled kitchen gardens caught on and it was moved to elsewhere [sadly not part of the property today] and a woodland was planted. Unbelievably this rather unkempt area was once the scene of grand terraces, fountains, potagers and walkways for promenading.

Unfortunately, this also coincided with the start of the property's demise, so the woodland wasn't managed properly. This meant the protecting conifers weren't taken out when the beech trees had established and both sets of trees are now crowding out the ancient perry pear trees. There's several trees still left, but they're in a sorry state. Black Worcester (a variety dating back to the 14th century) and Cadillac are the two varieties that are found in this orchard.


We were then taken to the new orchard past the newly restored fernery [another Victorian fashion and Dyrham's example complete with weirdly shaped water eroded limestone is a recent re-discovery] and then this rather nice view...

... and past the cascade in front of the stables...

... to Nichol's orchard. These are some of the older perry pear trees. It takes 40 years before a tree reaches its full production potential. This year's harvest hasn't been a good one compared to last year, when 108 sacks of pears were harvested to make 3,000 bottles of perry.

The white blob in the photo is a beehive which is being used to tempt some wild bees into the orchard to help with pollination. A pheromone will be used to attract them.


The pear varieties here are Blakeney Red, Butt and another one: all are local varieties. Dyrham Park is in Gloucestershire, one of the three main counties [with Herefordshire and Worcestershire] where perry pears are grown and the many ancient varieties originated. I'd thought that Blakeney referred to Norfolk, but was quickly corrected by another visitor who proudly told me it comes not far from where he lives in The Forest of Dean.

There are also younger 10 year-old trees planted here which are grafts taken from the ancient trees in the old orchard :)


Finally our walk took us past mass plantings of Salvias with marvellously shaggy weeping pear trees at the foot of the slope...


... to the courtyard to taste some still and sparkling perry [6% alcohol] and to admire the new pear trees which have just been planted for training against the stable block wall. Sadly I missed My Tiny Plot, who was also there on the day and will tell you all about perry pears...

Monday, 18 October 2010

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 fuzzy picture - I wasn't going to get too close! I also rescued NAH's pants from the patio, expecting a dive bomb attack at any moment. But no I was left well alone and when I got back upstairs the hornet did a couple more washes of its antennae and calmly flew away.

I told NAH and Karen all about it last night much to their amazement. The hornet must have crawled into NAH's pants when I hung the washing out to dry last week, so it's been hanging around our kitchen for a few days without us knowing anything about it. I wonder if it thought it had found a nice snuggly place for the winter? It just goes to show that hornets have got a bit of a bad press: I couldn't have got away with all that shaking if it had been a wasp.

This morning I found NAH going through all his underpants in the drawer, looking for traces of a sting before he gingerly selected a clean pair to wear today...

Sunday, 17 October 2010

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 apple poet-tree, plus a cider bar featuring No Nunsense, the Abbey's own brew.

Trending Topic

Whilst my piece about Gardeners' Question Time and bad blogging has had a satisfying leap to other blogs both here and in the USA, it was a mere blip compared to the response to Andrew Marr's remarks about bloggers and citizen journalism at the Cheltenham Literature Festival this week. It crossed over to all the mainstream media just as it was probably designed to do. I particularly liked The Independent's list of good blogs.

The report that the BBC's Nick Robinson now ignores the Comments on his blog also got me thinking. Established 'traditional' media figures who now blog often encounter abusive, bullying remarks from some most angry people. I wonder if it is this opportunity to 'knock the establishment' which is helping to tarnish the reputation of 'good blogging' in addition to the issues we've already discussed?

BTW I can reassure you I'm neither a socially inadequate, pimpled, single (what would NAH say), slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed young man (!), sitting in my mother's basement (she doesn't have one) and ranting. Nor am I drunk at the moment. Phew ;)

Link Love

I've been enjoying rediscovering Val Littlewood's blog, Pencil and Leaf this week and marvelling at her talents. Do have a look at her exquisite drawings and paintings, particularly of bees. I also had an impromptu visit from Lia on Monday which was great fun, though I'm wondering whether her seeing all the dandelions in my lawn gave her inspiration to find a use for hers ;)

Comment of the Week
is a thoughtful reminder from regular contributor Petoskystone, who responsed to my Blog Action Day remarks on water a couple of days ago:

if it isn't already, water security looks to be a much harder problem to deal with than a lessening supply of petroleum.

Back to Reality

I'm very excited today because Artist's Garden is coming to stay :) She's on a course at Special Plants for a couple of days, which isn't far from here. We'll be having a good old natter in the evenings, plus we'll both get to catch up with Threadspider and hear about her recent trip to New England in the fall. Then we'll all see James as he's giving a talk to Bath University Garden Club on Tuesday evening. Karen's imminent arrival means I must get out in the garden and do a bit of frantic tidying up, so see you later in the week!

The photo is of one of the old railway wagons on display outside the restored Midsomer Norton station last Sunday. NAH's there today playing at trains on the heritage railway.

This time last year I'd been to Westonbirt and found this wonderfully coloured tree. In 2008, I'd just finished knitting some teeny tiny hats and who could forget the fun that was LAPCPADPOUB?

Friday, 15 October 2010

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) glowering again in my borders.

The other two are a complete surprise as they're examples of mislabelled-icanthus: the middle one should be a cranberry and white striped D. 'Duet'. It also looks like D. 'Sneezy' at the top is quite embarrassed by its chucklesome name, so its snowy white features have turned pink at the thought. No matter, they're a welcome last hurrah in my garden this month.

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

NB It's also Blog Action Day today and the theme is water. I found this water security map a few days ago which is most thought provoking. We think of our nation as being awash with rain, but you'll see many of us are pretty vulnerable because we're a small island with a large population using a lot of water hungry gadgets. Perhaps my experiment with seeing how the garden gets on without supplementary water during this summer's drought was a useful lesson for the future?

If anyone's wandered over from The Guardian today, you're most welcome :)

Thursday, 14 October 2010

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 ;)

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

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.

All of the jars contain the same basic ingredients: good quality fruit plus water and sugar (sometimes lemon is also needed if the fruit alone is insufficient for a good set), but the method used to reach the end result differs slightly. Jam and cheese are both made from whole fruit cooked together with the other ingredients in a pan in one go. Jelly is a two step process and uses just the juice from the cooked fruit. This is separated from the pulp by leaving the cooked fruit in a jelly bag (or similar) overnight to gradually drip into a bowl. The juice is then combined with the sugar and reheated until set point is reached, as for jam. It means that jam and jelly have a similar thickness, but quite a different texture.

Cheese is like a very thick version of jam, where the fruit, sugar and water are boiled down way past the set point, until the bottom of the saucepan can be seen for a short while when the mixture is scraped through with a spoon. However, it's not usually served in the same way: jam is a teatime favourite spread onto bread and butter; or used as a filling to sandwich together sponge cakes; or to keep marzipan on top of a cake. Cheese is usually a more savoury affair, being served with cold meat or even the other kind of cheese. Jelly can be used as either a sweetmeat or a savoury accompaniment; quite often it's used as the latter when herbs are added to the ingredients list.

Jam yields the most because nothing gets thrown away and it has less of its water content boiled off. It looks like cheese and jelly yield about the same judging by my apple preserving activities this year. This might be worth taking into consideration depending on the amount of fruit you have to preserve - making cheese or jelly will rapidly swallow up quite a glut! Another consideration might be if you have problems with the teeny tiny pips of fruit like raspberries: then a jelly might be a better option for you.

This only dips a toe into the world of preserve terminology: there's butter, chutney, curd, marmalade and canning to consider, never mind a whole host of other things I've forgotten about. However, I think that's enough for now and I'll save those for another day.

The YAWA Dictionary: Adding meaning to your blogging

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Dread Diseases: Bacterial Canker

When I wrote about Gardeners' Question Time recently, 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 and to burn them. However, I was concerned that doing this now might compromise the whole tree because the wounds wouldn't have time to heal before the onset of winter. This in turn would leave the tree vulnerable to further attack by more canker or other dread diseases.

It turns out I'm wise to stay my hand (+ secateurs/pruning saw) because I should have done this by the end of August at the latest and applied a protective paint to the wound. I'm now going to have to wait until next May, so that I don't put the tree at risk of developing silver leaf disease. Once the task is completed, my tools will need thoroughly disinfecting before I let them loose on any other of my fruit trees.

So it looks like I'll have a reduced cherry crop next year, but if I do the job properly there'll be much more in the years to come. I won't be taking the advice to spray my trees with Bordeaux mixture in August, September and October next year as I don't really like using this chemical where food is concerned even though it would be well after cropping time. However, if the disease returns I might change my mind...

* = NB most of the online references I've found use gummosis (such as this one here) as the general term for substances oozing from tree bark, irrespective of whether the cause is a physiological one or a disease. However, my copies of The Fruit Expert and Grow Your Own Fruit use the term to refer to substances oozing from healthy wood caused by adverse weather conditions.

** = thank goodness it's not on the main stem, otherwise I'd have to dig up and burn the entire tree to prevent the disease spreading to my gage, damson and plum in the same row.

Monday, 11 October 2010

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 course the owners get most of the crop, but it's rather nice to have found enough nuts for a celebratory feast later in the year :)

What have you found in your local area?

NB The above picture features hand modelling by NAH ;)

Update 21/10: I've often wondered whether I'm actually stealing when I do this. An interesting article by the BBC on the legality of foraging suggests it isn't, as long as it's just for personal consumption.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

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

Friday, 8 October 2010

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 their reserve price; plus one property nearly sold 3 times over because new bidders kept on popping up at the last moment to keep things going.

At last our lot came up for sale. There were many announcements before bidding started as the details in the catalogue were incorrect: the parcel of land was a different size and shape, plus the number of potential allotments revised downwards from around 40 to 32. I wonder if all this put people off as bidding was slow, finally reaching £47,000 for just over 2 acres of land. Whilst that was well over the guide price, it turned out it was below the reserve, so the lot was withdrawn.

We were surprised to find the plot was deemed to be worth twice the going rate of good agricultural land simply by putting some allotments on there. I was also amazed to find the annual rent per allotment is £185 which is more than 3 times the rate I pay for mine. Perhaps this was the tale the Homes Under Hammer team was hoping to tell as I spotted they were filming this part of the proceedings. Sadly because the story’s incomplete, we’ll never know.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

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 conditions
  • You watch a health and safety video before entering the garden
  • There's an emergency telephone about half way around the visit
  • There'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 backbone. This was a move away from it's earlier cousin, The English Landscape Garden (also explained in the above link) which was influenced by the classical features seen on The Grand Tour (embodied in gardens like Stourhead, which is much more familiar to me).


The statue at the top of this column is of Sir Rowland Hill, the first prominent member of the Hill family who bought this estate. He was the first protestant mayor of London during the 16th century. His great great great great grandson Sir Richard Hill had this column plus most of the other follies built after he took over the estate in 1783. It was an extremely windy day when we were there, so we clung to the railings at the top after climbing the 147 steps, rather than admiring the views over 12 counties.


Much of the surrounding land is extremely flat, but the garden was built on a sandstone ridge rising above the Cheshire Plain. This ridge is also scored by deep gorges giving a variety of views and rickety bridges to clamber over to get to the follies espied from afar.


The Romans also mined the sandstone which was then ripe for development into a grotto (hence the need for a torch) and it was quite easy to get lost whilst in here. There was also reference to this being a possible site for part of the Arthurian legend, but I'm unclear whether this was gleaned from ancient reference documents or just simple rumours used to make the garden more attractive to visitors during the 18th century or later.

Where natural features couldn't be exploited, then romantic ruins like this Gothic arch were built to enhance the landscape.


The garden was extremely popular at first, so much so the family built an inn nearby. However, their fortunes waned during the 19th century so the estate fell into disrepair and was split up during the 20th. A Catholic organisation bought Hawkstone Hall to use as a retreat (this link shows what an extremely grand building it still is) and the inn plus parkland were developed into a country hotel and golf club. The follies were neglected even further, until the hotel owners started a programme of repairs and revival during the 1990s. It means that unlike most of our great landscape gardens, the follies aren't set within the context of their great house and parkland. However, I believe they of such good merit they're good enough to be visited in isolation.


The way back is via a lower level full of more steps plus caves and passageways (more torchlight needed), where a well deserved cuppa and squishy cake await you after your 2.5-3 hours of breathless exertion.

The BBC have collected even more images together to give you a fuller flavour of what's there and surprisingly seem to have the only detailed description of the history of the site available on the web. My only gripes were that the interpretation panels are where the health and safety video is shown, which made it difficult to concentrate on the fascinating history of the place. There wasn't a guide book to buy either :(

However, it's well worth a visit if you're in the Shropshire, Cheshire or North Wales area.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

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, added a label and put it in my trusty seed tin for its winter hibernation. Time will tell what kind of germination rate I'll get.

I'm relatively new to vegetable seed saving (having only saved borlotti beans previously), so I've found this book by Sue Stickland to be a good value introductory guide to chilli seed saving and a whole host of other possibilities.

NB Before you start any seed saving activities, check that your variety is an open pollinated one (so the plants from your saved seed will be like their parent chilli plant) and not from an F1 variety (the offspring will be variable and most, if not all of them will be nothing like their parent plant and the seed may not be viable anyway). Most seed from commercial suppliers should have F1 clearly marked on the packet where applicable. Avoid anything with Plant Breeders Rights (PBR) too as you're not allowed to propagate any of this type of plant material whilst PBR operates.

If the chilli you're saving seed from is a hot one then you'll also need to think about wearing gloves and/or goggles to prevent any potent juices getting onto your hands or into your eyes.

Monday, 4 October 2010

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 irrigation. The clippings remain in situ, thus acting as a mulch. Great care is taken with soil preparation (even replacement where necessary), which Bert acknowledged is the key to the success of this technique.

Around 30-40 different cultivars have been identified as 'good doers' and Bert trials another 20-30 each year to see if they are suitable for addition to the mix. Choices include Salvia, Geranium, Hemerocalis, and Sedum. The kind of cultivar can also be very particular, for instance 'May Night' is the selected Salvia cultivar as it responds the best to this technique and as Bert said: the public doesn't care whether it's S. 'May Night' or S. 'East Friesland', they only see that it is blue.

Bert's company delivers the complete package design, preparation, planting and maintenance because then he knows that the technique won't be compromised and his reputation is retained. Typical costs in Holland are £35/square metre vs. £65/square metre for an annual bedding scheme. You can imagine that everyone in the room involved with public planting schemes sat up very noticeably when those figures were mentioned! I wish my local council had been there: we might have had a chance of replacing some of the gloomy green monoculture planting.

Scheme longevity was also discussed: when designs include bulbs, then 10 months of interest per year is possible and the plants can last for up to 10 years. However, some of the results shown on the day looked a bit 'blocky' to my untrained eye, but I'm sure it's possible for this to be easily addressed. As you can see from the photo at the top of this post, this roundabout scheme looks a lot nicer than most of the examples I've shown you previously. Yet it still retains plenty of visibility for both drivers and pedestrians so safety isn't compromised. I'm also interested to see there's planting leading up to each junction, which of course could be used to direct pedestrians to the safer areas to cross the road. It also ties in nicely with Ryan's OOTS post where he talked about rain gardening on San Francisco's pavements. Perhaps Bert's technique could also be used to provide a solution to rain runoff problems in our towns and cities?

It was obvious from the buzz afterwards that this talk was very well received and I understand that Palmstead are exploring the possibility of bringing this technique to the UK. It's good to be able to report some positive and innovative news about public planting for once :)

Many thanks to Nick Coslett at Palmstead Nurseries for sending me the above image, which is Copyright Bert Griffioen.

Update 6/10: I've received the following from Bert Griffioen after I'd sent him the link to this post. He adds so much great information that I'm including it here:

Thank you very much for your message, I enjoyed reading your article. You have understood very well what the technique is about.

Please allow one correction and one remark: we did not see demand for perennials dropping 5 years ago, it was the use of perennials in public spaces that had almost disappeared. The demand in the garden center market was (and still is…) growing and that made me wonder how a product that was more and more appreciated by gardeners, had lost it’s place in public plantings.

Your remark on the way we design, ‘blocky’ (there is no Dutch translation to that, but I understand perfectly what your mean) is something I might have expected. Nevertheless it has two reason: mixed perennial planting, which on request we also do, will soon, after the first year, start to look different from the original design. Simply because only very few perennials will grow at the same speed, which automatically means in the far majority of cases the stronger grower will take over. The weaker just will not withstand this and die.


By using the ‘blocky’ way, every plant will have it’s own space, in our concept for as long as perhaps 25 or 30 years. I have seen, also in Holland, beautifully designed perennial plantings, from which after a couple of years a big number of sorts has simply disappeared. Low maintenance, long lasting plantings simply do not go along with this way of designing.

Reason number two is the maintenance. In The Netherlands in many cases public spaces are being maintained by people with a slight mental disease. I’m sure you have these companies in your country as well. Knowledge of plants is simply not at hand, these people just will in some cases not distinguish a cultivated plant from a weed. This spring we have planted the roof of a big car parking, mixed, looked perfect, until the space manager reported all Euphorbia had been removed as the workers thought they were weeds….. Sometimes one needs these kind of experiences in order to feel confirmed you are on the right track…

Sunday, 3 October 2010

OOTS: Latest Wrap Up


It's a while since I kicked off Out on the Streets in 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's Daughter returned with a healthy report on what she found at her local chiropractor's whilst Fennel and Fern was tempted to dine on the chillis and chard she found.

I grabbed Garden Rant's piece on the state of planting at US public schools (NB not that same as UK public schools) and then I had a wake up call re the impact of spending cuts in our public sector. In contrast I found an improvement in Chippenham, particularly with trees.

We had fantastic new contributors in the shape of Town Mouse who told us about the Boulder Greenway System and Ryan found planting being used to solve the problem of rainwater runoff in San Francisco. This latter example struck me as an opportunity we should be considering in the UK as we become increasingly urbanised.

In addition to my bumper news round up, I'd like to congratulate Cricklade - the sole Wiltshire representative - on their gold medal in the Britain in Bloom awards this week and also highlight that Bristol Zoo was awarded Best Park at the same ceremony. Here's a fun video I found this week of their time lapse gardening technique:




The top picture is of Litomysl in the Czech Republic's take on an annual bedding scheme. Out on the Streets will return in December for another sparkly festive addition, but I will be continuing with my own posts under the Public Planting label in the meantime. Check out the second of my reports from the Palmstead workshop tomorrow.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

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 to expand the product range and/or improve the order fulfilment side of the web based part of Whitehall's business.

It looks like the mail order side of Highfield's business will continue, but rebranded as Whitehall Nurseries which will cover both mail order and website placed orders. I'll be picking up a copy of their catalogue when I visit Lacock later in the week as well as seeing whether I can glean any further information.
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