Showing posts from February, 2011

West Dean Gardens

I'm fast forming the opinion February is one of the best months for garden visiting. There's less crowds, the reward in the tea shop afterwards is far more comforting and there's a delicious sense of being let outdoors when it really isn't allowed.
Earlier this month I had a gallop round West Dean Gardens following my day's course there and despite the rain, what I saw was enough for me to be smitten instantly. Who can't help but fall in love with a garden boasting features such as a crinkle-crankle wall with matching hedge, plus a dear little hobbit-like building built into it?

When the borders lack flowery fireworks the attention is drawn to the garden's 'bones' instead. West Dean has particularly fine ones and as you can see I was rather taken with the brick and flint contrasts I found there as they add texture as well as visual interest.

West Dean is noted for its walled kitchen garden and I now have severe glasshouse and cold frame envy. Old…

Great Gardens of Italy: Book Review

This is the book to accompany the soon to be broadcast TV series of the same name. Monty Don takes a personal journey to 30 of Italy's major gardens. Most of these are clustered around major cities such as Rome, Florence and Naples. Top photographer Derry Moore had the enviable task of capturing each garden in photographs.

After a brief introduction where Don explains his journey and how Italian gardens have shaped and informed his own gardening activities, there then follows 6 chapters dividing the gardens by region: Naples, Rome, Viterbo, Tuscany, Veneto and The Lakes. Don's journey was made south to north and the chapters reflect the direction of travel.

Each chapter is prefaced by an introductory essay describing the regional setting in which the gardens reside. There then follows a 'word-scape' for each garden where Don describes his visit to the garden and his own impressions of it, the historical context, who looks after the garden today etc etc. After each ess…

ABC of Chippenham: Foghamshire

My walk into town takes me past the quaintly named Foghamshire which always makes me smile because I feel a bit Bilbo Bagginsish whenever I see it. It's just off the High Street and apparently used to form part of the main Bristol to London road in days of old when people wished to avoid the (then) unsafe Town Bridge*. Wikipedia also says it formed part of a medieval cloth route, which together with the making of woollen cloth itself was the source of the town's riches at the time.
It's a bit hard to imagine all the hustle and bustle of those times today as it's now a relatively quiet side street, quite narrow in places with some of the quainter buildings of central Chippenham. Sadly it was even quainter still until a number of the 17th and 18th century houses were demolished last century.
I'm getting to know this street a little more after two decades of largely ignoring it. Last December I started a pilates class in the studio housed upstairs in the street's o…

West Dean Rain Gardens

Last year I was lucky to be sent a list of West Dean's winter/spring workshop programme with the invitation to select one if I so desired for 'review purposes'. It was a mouthwatering prospect and my shortlist finally boiled down to either my vegetable guru Joy Larkcom in a rare foray from her home in Northern Ireland, or Nigel Dunnett on the subject of Rain Gardens.

I finally plumped for the latter and thus found myself on an aptly drizzly day driving down to West Sussex a couple of weeks ago for an absolute treat. Whilst I'm an admirer of Nigel Dunnett's work, I really only had the vaguest notion of what a rain garden actually is. It's a subject which has yet to catch on in Britain in a big way: the pioneering countries are the USA, Germany and Australia. Having spent a day thoroughly immersed in the subject and taking frantic notes, it's something I believe which needs to be taken much more seriously here too.

The Problem
No matter what you might think ab…

I've Got Bottle

I've been trialling a new water bottle over the past few weeks courtesy of Purekit and Fuel My Blog. I've been getting really cross with the plastic one I use for choir and the allotment as it leaks absolutely everywhere, so the offer of a 1 litre Sigg bottle came just at the right time.
The upside It's as light as a plastic bottleIt doesn't leak - hurray!I was given the 1 litre size, which is plenty for a 2 hour singing session or an afternoon at the allotment - I get very thirsty in that timeIt's easy to drink fromThey're usually very stylish - though I was a little disappointed with my streaky aluminium version. I'm not complaining seeing I got mine for free ;)Drinks stay cooler for longerIt can be washed in the dishwasherAnyone like my friend C who's concerned about plastics residues and health will be reassured that Sigg claims the liner used in these bottles doesn't have those problemsI'm sure it's very long lasting too, I just haven'…

VP's VIPs: Jekka McVicar

'Queen of herbs' Jekka McVicar hardly needs my introduction. Her dozens of gold medals from shows such as Chelsea, her commitment to organic growing and championing of herbs makes her a familiar face all over the world. I'm lucky that I live just a few miles from Jekka's Herb Farm and could easily pop over for a chat last Friday.

We started off with a tour of the farm where we were constantly followed by Hampton and Borage, the McVicar's dog and cat who are inseparable companions. Everything outside had been power washed ready for the new season and I caught occasional glimpses of Mac, Jekka's husband at work. I get ridiculously excited when I visit nurseries, even when they're relatively empty like they are now. Jekka joined in my excitement: It's a fantastic time of the year: we're frantically sowing seeds and everything's pushing their noses up through the soil.

In the heated greenhouse Claire was busy sowing thousands of seeds and many thousan…

What Garden TV is Missing This Year :(

Click here to go to the clip if the above video link isn't working.

Many of us have been enjoying Carol Klein's Life in a Cottage Garden recently and will now be wondering when the next intelligent garden TV programme will be gracing our screens. Sadly it won't be series 2 of the award winning Landscape Man as Channel 4 have dropped the series.

Matthew Wilson recently posted the above snippet on YouTube to show us exactly what we'll be missing. They may be dealing with a large pond, but this clip is packed with information for anyone considering putting a pond in their garden - large or small - or wondering how to improve an existing one.

It also reminded me of happy times as a freshwater biologist spending my lunchtimes amongst the meadowsweet and water mint at the Water Research Centre's* SSSI in Medmenham. However, I'm rather worried Matthew seems to have found the pair of waders I threw out last year because the rubber had perished ;)

*= Sadly this has sin…

ABC of Chippenham: Eddie Cochrane

One of Chippenham's claims to 'fame' is that it was the place of the fatal crash which lead to Eddie Cochran's death in 1960. He, his girlfriend and Gene Vincent and two other passengers were in a taxi taking them from Bristol to London on 16th April after a concert at the Bristol Hippodrome. The driver lost control of his car and crashed at 11.50pm.

Amongst the police who arrived on the scene was Dave Dee later of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich fame. Chippenham hospital is just a few yards away from the scene of the crash, and the assessment there showed the injuries were too much for our small cottage hospital, so Cochran was transferred to Bath where he died the next day.

Recently there's been an Eddie Cochran memorial weekend most years, where participants dress in their '60s gladrags; parade around town in big American cars, preferably with lots of chrome; and dance the night away to various bands from that era or of the tribute variety. This year…

GBBD: Winter Beauty

This is the time of year when my winter honeysuckle (Lonicera x purpusii 'Winter Beauty') comes into its own. Each flower is tiny but so prolific they make quite a show against the back garden fence. As the border is quite narrow at this point, I've trained it against the fence using my Rosa 'Rambling Rector' as a support. As both of these plants are quite thuggish and I have a lot of fence to cover, it means they're good companions: providing interest from June through to March/April.

At any other time of the year, these flowers would be unremarkable, but my Muse Day quote still holds true and their presence on bare stems - plus their beautiful scent - makes them most welcome in February. I believe this year is the best yet in terms of their profusion.

It's the time of year when the wind still has a wintry breath, but on days such as yesterday the sun's warmth can be felt on one's back. Everywhere is waking up around the garden and there's carp…

Birthday B's: Badbury, Beeches and Ballet

The ancient landscape that is Badbury Rings. Click on the picture to enlarge if needed.
Saturday dawned the nicest day of the week and was also NAH's aunt's birthday. 85th birthdays are to be celebrated, so we took G and her friend E (they've been friends since primary school days) for a meal at Prezzo's in Wimborne, just a stone's throw from the Minster and in the older part of town.

Nearly three hours later after a delicious meal, we thought it was far too nice a day to go straight back home to Poole, so we decided to visit Badbury Rings nearby. This is an impressive iron age fort dating back to 800 BC, but stands in an even more ancient landscape as there are several tumuli dating back to the bronze age on the way to this impressive structure. There are 3 rings of ditches and earthworks surrounding the central protective area now clothed in trees.

The late winter sunshine had bought out many other families to the spot and the car park was nearly full. The scene was…

Adverts and Blogging With Integrity

I've been meaning to write this post for a while because I'm in the process of compiling a new Page for this blog about my policy regarding advertising and links. Some of you may have noticed a new Sponsors section on the right, which shows I'm now taking some paid advertising.

I've resisted going down this route for 3 years because I appreciate the blogging community and it's been very easy to do so previously because it's clear that most of the many companies who do get in touch haven't read my blog at all. However, I was shocked late last year when I reviewed NAH's and my accounts to find just how much my blogging is costing me in terms of travel, entrance fees, arrangements for Meet at Malvern, postage for giveaways etc etc. Of course I would have done quite a lot of these things anyway as they're so enjoyable, but it's also true that blogging has intensified these activities: probably doubled them at least.

So after a great deal of thought…

A Seedy Italian Saturday

A couple of Saturdays ago Threadspider and I sought inspiration on a cold, grey wintry day amongst the dreaming spires of Oxford and the warmth of Italy. Our destination was Oxford Botanic Garden for a workshop given by Paolo Arrigo from Seeds of Italy.
We were greeted with good wholesome bread still warm from the oven, drizzled with a peppery olive oil from Tuscany and a squeeze of lemon. We quickly learnt that seeds, plants and food are one continuous thread in the Italian way of life: most refreshing! With this in mind our workshop was not only learning about seeds, but also seeing how pesto and passata are made, then tasting the results :)
Paolo took us through a number of seeds in the range, using his display stand as illustration. We learnt which tomato is best for passata (San Marzano because it's a juicy not fleshy variety), whilst another (Principe Borghese da Appendere) can be hung up to ripen at the end of the season and fresh fruit plucked off the vine well into November…

ABC of Chippenham: Donkey Field

Just five minutes walk away from our house is the Donkey Field: an area of open land bordering the Bristol Road, Sheldon School and the sports club. It's a much needed set of 'green lungs' at the western edge of the town: used by walkers, dog owners, school cross country runners and me when I used to commute to Bristol. It formed about half of my 20 minute walk to the railway station and was a welcome escape from the roar of the traffic on the main road.

It's neither park nor countryside, but something in between. There's two main areas: pictured is part of the smaller one where the grass is left longer to allow masses of wild cranesbill to bloom in summer. The other part is much bigger and mown a little more often - I don't really know why. There's also a couple of old hedgerows: one by the school and the other bordering Hardenhuish Brook where it flows near the main road. Both have many dens and swings made by children in the summer.

I haven't got to …

What's New for Your Garden This Year?

What's new for your garden in 2011? There's plenty that's what, as seen at my first ever garden press event at the RHS Halls in London last Thursday. This is one of the key events the Garden Media Guild organises and is the first opportunity of the year for all kinds of companies offering gardening and sundry products to show off what's new.

It's also the place for a good chinwag* and to spot a few gardening celebrities like Charlie Dimmock, Helen Yemm**, Peter Seabrook and Pippa Greenwood. Alan Titchmarsh was also present, but only in the form of a cardboard cutout on the Plant Heritage stand. However, he was very much the subject of the day's gossip as his move to ITV to present a new gardening programme had just been announced.

I was able to catch up with a couple of VP's VIPs [yet to be published - Ed] in the shape of HabitatAid'sNick Mann - who was launching his rather splendid Meadow Anywhere product on the Hillier's stand - and The Fat Garde…

A Warm Welcome to Grow Your Own Readers :)

I'm delighted Grow Your Own Magazine has chosen Veg Plotting as one of the first blogs to feature since its recent revamp. For those of you arriving here after reading your copy this month (or indeed any Saltburn allotmenteers arriving via their local magazine), it's lovely to see you and I hope you'll quickly feel at home :)
You'll see to the right there's some summary Pages to help you get started which includes a bit about me plus an introduction to my garden and allotment plot. Below this there's a selection of some of my Popular Posts: I see quite a few people lately are discussing whether tomato grafting is any good, so you may like to have a look at my post on this topic.
If you wish to home in on a particular subject, there's a Search box you can use at the top left of the page. This is just like Googling, except the search and results are restricted to what's here on my blog. Staying on the left hand side, but further down, you'll also fi…

ABC of Chippenham: Churches

A selection of Chippenham's churches. Clockwise from top left: St Andrew's, the Weslyan Methodist Hall, St Paul's and St Nicholas'.

I've selected just four of Chippenham's churches for today as they're the ones for which I have stories to tell. St Andrew's is the oldest (dating back to Norman times, though the site has evidence of building dating back to Saxon times) and stands in the centre of town just off the Market Place. It's main story is reserved for another time - it'll be well worth the wait! When I was taking the photograph a couple of weeks ago I was surprised to find the church has its own website. I felt it was strangely modern for so ancient an institution, but then we all have to move with the times don't we?

The Weslyan Methodist Hall stands on Monkton Hill just off the High Street. I usually pass by it on my way to town. It has a very steep garden (just off to the right of the photograph) which I've photographed a couple…

GBMD: The flowers of late winter

The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places
in our hearts well out of proportion to their size.

- Gertrude S. Wister
Garden Bloggers' Muse Day is hosted by Carolyn Choi at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago.