Showing posts from August, 2011

The Easy Recipe Finder

Judging by Veg Plotting's statistics, my seasonal recipes are one of the most popular parts of my blog. It's great when people take the trouble to thank me for a recipe they've tried successfully themselves :)

I'm also aware my recipe label isn't the best way of finding things, nor is asking you to use the search facility at the top of the blog. So I've put together this summary, showing what's on offer in the simple, seasonal recipe line both on Veg Plotting and my Open Garden blog.
Allotment (also a generic Glutbuster as are most of these recipes) Broccoli and Stilton Chestnut and Mushroom
Christmas Turkey Leftovers Courgette and Brie Garlic Mushroom
Last of the Summer - a Glutbuster way to use up lots of salad leaves and cucumber
Lemon Chicken with Orzo Mangetout (a guest post on The Guardian Gardening blog)
Moroccan Pumpkin Soup
Parsnip and Hazelnut Soup (the best parsnip soup recipe I've tried so Far) Parsnip Potage
Pea and Ham Pea and Mint
Roasted Squash

OOTS: Birmingham's Mini Roundabout

Birmingham's 'mini' roundabout* has cheered me up considerably on my recent trips to the city. Driving along the A38, you can't fail to miss it when you reach the massive 'gateway' roundabout at Longbridge. The car used for this planting would have been made just a few yards away.

The old mini production line** is no more: the site's reduced to rubble and signs nearby say there's 47 acres ripe for development. Overall, 468 acres comprise the area in Longbridge's regeneration plan. Who knew the area was so vast? Apparently there's 27 acres of public open space included, though I've yet to find out exactly what this entails. In another ironic twist, one of the roundabout's many signs says the planting is sponsored by a Jeep dealer in nearby Rednal.
However, I do welcome the humorous touch and sense of place that's been added to this roundabout - other towns take note. Coincidentally I parked next to a new mini (sadly no relation to the…

Meeting Blogging Friends in Seattle

Thank goodness arriving late for the party (by one day) didn't mean I missed out on a warm welcome when I joined the others at the Seattle Garden Bloggers Fling.
NAH decided to come with me too (after sending many emails to him with links to goodies marked Persuasion), which was the first time everyone met the both of us. On the way to breakfast on the first day, NAH suggested he went in first so that no-one would catch on it was him. We were both unprepared for the screams of delight when I showed up, not only from Gail, Frances and Victoria who were at breakfast together, but also from Barbara and Carol on the same table! Blog regulars Pam, Dee and Cindy soon joined in the welcome party :)
Tales of the gardens we visited will follow in due course. It was a packed programme with lots to see and marvel on each day, but I feel the most important thing to show you for my first gardening post from Seattle are some photos of my fellow friends from the Fling...

... after all, it was al…

Does Your Blog Need a Favicon?

What on earth is a favicon? You may have noticed recently all kinds of new little pictures popping up when you read a blog, or are looking at listings some people like me have on their sidebar (see Local Vocals to the right).
The large orange 'B' for Blogger and 'W' for Wordpress are still there (as is what looks like a speech bubble for Typepad), but in other instances such as Meet at Malvern listed to the right, or if you're reading my blog in a browser which uses tabs, you'll see another picture: in my case a tiny square version of my Avatar.
These are all favicons (aka favourite icon) and are used particularly by online businesses as part of their company branding. Where does this fit with blogging? Well, it mainly depends on whether you want to 'brand' your blog in a similar way to what a company would do, OR you want your blog to be distinct from others using the same blogging platform as yourself.
As most of my current online presence is using a …

OOTS: An Early Autumn

Autumn is arriving early here at VP Gardens: here I'm contemplating the leaves which have fallen onto our front drive from the public land next door. I've never had to think about sweeping them up in August before and it's not the first sign of seasonal change either. Before our holidays last month I was exchanging tweets with The Woodland Trust who were asking if anyone was observing autumnal signs back then. I'd been noticing the rowan trees around here were positively groaning under the weight of extremely ripe looking berries - that's during our mid summer!
Earlier this week the RHS issued a Press Release about early leaf colouring on the trees seen in various RHS gardens. Our evenings aren't dark enough yet to trigger this, so our extremely hot and dry spring is being blamed as the culprit. Despite the indifferent weather we've had since June, our soils still haven't had enough rainfall to make up for the loss they had from March through to May, so…

OOTS: This Year's Palmstead Seminar

I've had details of this year's soft landscaping seminar hosted by Palmstead in Ashford on September 28th and once again it promises to be a good one. Here's the day's lineup:Andy Sturgeon - starts the day and then chairs proceedingsNoel Farrer - a Landscape Architect who knows plants make great placesProfessor James Hitchmough - I'm a great fan of 'the Sheffield School' and this talk carries on from Sarah Price's presentation last year. He'll be discussing techniques and his designs for the Olympic Park meadows and gardensGill Chamberlain - Horticulturalist who offers a garden upgrading service for owners with staff mentoring and project management for designersand last but not least James 'will share his passion for plants and point out which ones are best for long term workloads'. Let's see he if he does shall we? ;)There's also a mini-exhibition of companies associated with landscape works; Michael Packard's specialist book …

Wildflower Wednesday: Mount Rainier's Delights

I've wanted to join in Gail's monthly meme for a while, so I'm happy that after our recent reunion in Seattle, the roadtrip NAH and I subsequently took provided the perfect material to do so. Firstly a little scene setting...
Mount Rainier is Washington State's highest mountain at 14,411 feet (4,392m) high and its image is found everywhere, even on car number plates. On a good day in Seattle [and we were told these are very few each year - Ed], it can be seen in the city even though it's over 50 miles away. There was much excitement on our coach on my first Fling morning after Gail cried out: oh look at the mountain, it's come out to play.

In the afternoon, I was also excited when I turned round at the Olympic Sculpture Park to find it posing right at the end of the path ahead (see photo at the top of this post). Now it just so happens that my Persuasion emails to NAH included a trip to find Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad. NAH has much more to tell about this part…

The Plot Thickens

As yesterday was possibly the only good day this week, I spent quite a bit of time up at the plot harvesting the various crops which are ready to be gathered in. I was feeling a bit maudlin about giving up half of the plot, when I heard distinct voices coming towards me.
I looked up and sure enough, the couple I saw had the appearance of people having a look around as prospective new tenants. I wanted to dive away and hide, but smiled and said hello. They were unsure of just what constitutes plot 14, so I showed them around.
It turns out they're the owners of The Priory, a care home in Chippenham and have already agreed to whichever half I'm giving up so that they, the care home staff and residents can take on the plot as their project. The member of staff in charge of this is a Ghurka army wife who intends to run this along the lines of how it would be done in her village in Nepal.
I'm absolutely thrilled at this outcome as it fits in so well with what I've been saying a…

Garden Bloggers in the Rain

As I said last Friday, our Fling trip to The Bloedel Reserve didn't have the best of weather. NAH and I hadn't really dressed for this eventuality, so it was rather a relief that the Reserve had a plentiful stock of umbrellas for us and quite a few others to borrow. My previous post on Meeting Blogging Friends shows NAH posing with ours.
Whilst we had an umbrella large enough for two, NAH did make sure he wiped each branch we went under so I was showered with raindrops. By the end of the day I was thoroughly soaked but instead of me getting all cross with him, it just gave us fits of the giggles. So what could have been a miserable day turned into lots of fun.
I had the same fits of giggles when trying to photograph Jim under his umbrella (see above) as I wanted a picture of the Reserve's logo. He's using the umbrella to protect his camera and tripod, but was finding the space rather tight to work within. So it ended up twirling around like something out of Singing i…

Minding My Peas and Cucumbers: Book Review

If you have an allotment: Read this book
If you want an allotment or are thinking about it: You need to read this book
If you don't have an allotment: Read this book anyway
Why? I hear you ask...
If you have an allotment: you will be squirming and giggling with that uncomfortable sense of delight that Kay Sexton has a plot on your allotment, but you haven't met her yet. You may even recognise yourself in the character(s) she portrays. Failing that there's quite a few recipes in there you probably haven't tried yet which will come in handy for those future gluts.
If you want an allotment: Kay really tells it like it is, including all the hard bits*. You will be going into the deal not only with your eyes wide open but also armed with lots of useful little nuggets of information all those shiny, authoritative looking Grow Your Own books have somehow forgotten to mention. Failing that, you will see how inventive allotment folk have to be to use up their annual harvest.
If yo…

Bloedel Reserve Special

Editor's Letter
Hello and welcome to this very special edition of Veg Plotting. Our final day's Fling in Seattle was spent in The Bloedel Reserve. We took the ferry across to Bainbridge Island (a treat in itself) whereupon the marvellously warm and sunny weather we'd been enjoying refused to come and play and we finally got a taste of the rain which the Pacific North West is famous for.
In addition to having exclusive blogger access to the Reserve on a day it's not usually open to the public, we were also treated to the wit and wisdom of David Perry who kindly agreed to provide 3 mini-photography workshops spread across the day in order to accommodate us all. There's lots more to come in later posts, but for now I'll just say that David's challenge to us was to pretend we were on assignment for a magazine and come up with the all important front cover shot, a story plus the photographs needed as illustration.
Today's post forms the first part of my respons…

OOTS: Don't Fence Me In

We arrived home from holidays to find the above pictured scene: one of the open spaces on our estate was fenced off right at the start of the school holidays. Needless to say it's the open space closest to the densest of housing on our estate and is the only one on their side of the main road.
Our local Residents' Association have been on the case and established that Crest (who originally bought the land making up the estate, then sold it off to various developers) still own this piece of land: it's enough to build another house or two.
Further delving by them elicited the following information from Crest via one of our local councillors (I've emboldened some of the wording):
I have spoken to Andrew Cox (Land and Property Dept) at Crest Nicholson at Bristol.

He informs me that shareholders have asked that all the odd pieces of land owned by Crest Nicholson are fenced off and put into a portfolio. What is to happen to these areas has not yet been decided. He did stat…

GBBD: A Spiky Visitor

I've taken advantage of the extra space up at the allotment this year to grow lots of Dahlias for cutting. Regular readers know of my love for this flower, particularly D. 'Moonfire', which miraculously survived our coldest December in over a century out in the garden snuggled under its Dahlia duvet. It's been flowering its socks off since early July.
I usually keep my flowers firmly in the garden, apart from sweet peas - which need lots of cutting so they'll keep on producing blooms rather than going to seed anyway - and any daffodils which get knocked over by spring winds or heavy rain. I feel that cutting my flowers shortens their lifespan, so I'd rather enjoy them outside and for longer.
However, it does feel rather decadent - and luxurious - to have an excess of Dahlias which I can cut for display on my kitchen window. Besides, I'll see these for longer if I bring them home, even though there's lots of work to be done on the plot.
It's the first t…

Hmm Hakonechloa (and other grasses)

You may recall that Hmm Hakonechloa was something I was pondering for my front lawn just after reading Neil Lucas' fantastic book, Designing With Grasses.
Sorting through my photographs from Seattle, I'm struck that this thought hasn't strayed that far yet. The above example from the Lane garden is just one of many shots I took of this grass and you'll probably be seeing more in later posts.
Seattle may have a similar climate and planting palette as our own - though both Victoria and I were struck by how much higher and lusher our familiar plants were growing - but I'm pretty sure gardeners across the pond are making much more use of grasses than we tend to do (or perhaps I'm more tuned into them nowadays?).
They're effective too - as I hope this quick trawl through some of the gardens we visited and the public planting I found (like the above example from the University Shopping Village right by our hotel) will show...
The meadow's grasses at the Blo…

Rethinking the Plot

As we're in the middle of National Allotments Week, it's an appropriate time to bring you up to date with happenings up at the plot. After a great deal of thought, sadness (and much growing of weeds), I've finally decided to give up half of the plot. Our distance caring responsibilities have increased enormously this year, plus I've gone back to work part-time, so I have to face up to reality and I can see that I can't keep things going in the way they should be.

I've written to the allotment committee and we'll be getting together shortly to discuss which half I'm keeping and the arrangements for handing over the other. I have the whole 10 lugs until the end of September, so there's lots of work to be done before my new neighbour (I hope they're nice!) comes in.
There's pros and cons to each half, so I'm swithering over which one I'd like. Not only that, there's trees to be moved and I'm hoping that not only can I delay movi…

OOTS: Downtown Seattle

Seattle has vast riches when it comes to public planting and the way it chooses to present its open spaces all over the city. Here's just a taste of what I found when NAH, Victoria and I set out on our post Fling sight seeing. These planters are on Pine Street. Note also the use of paving to add interest: I could do a whole post just on paving alone from what I found in and around Seattle.
The area around the famous and bustling Pike Place Market had chosen cheerful sunflowers as its signature plant for this year.
And many of the other local businesses had chosen to adorn their balconies or go in for full blown roof gardens.
Unfortunately I haven't got a photo of the amazing Freeway Park which covers 'the ditch' created by the criss-crossing of motorways in the centre of the city as we were always bowling along the I-5 on the way to the next Fling garden or back to the hotel. I'm hoping one of my fellow Flingers may have captured it. We saw vast curtains of vines and …

Out on the Streets: August 2011

It's August, so it's time for another episode of Out on the Streets! Our recent trip to the States also included a side trip to Victoria in Canada. Victoria is famed for its hanging baskets* and these adorning the walkway by the Undersea Gardens entrance in the harbour were a particularly fine example last Thursday.

The view across the pond has given me much food for thought and I've plenty to show you over the coming weeks. There's not only planting styles and examples, but also the use of planters, water and hardscaping to add to a sense of place. I hope my fellow Seattle flingers will join me: indeed they have already without knowing about OOTS and I'll add their links to Mr Linky below if allowed.

I hope you'll join me too: The Constant Gardener has already shared her thoughts on the spending cuts and the decline of the marvellous public planting she noticed recently on the Isle of Wight. Hers is a fitting start to this month's Out on the Streets.


Postcard From Seattle

Just got back from a fabulous vacation holiday. I'll be back with lots of traveller's tales once the jetlag has worn off...
In the meantime I hope you enjoy this photo of Seattle's iconic Space Needle.

NAH Has a Blog

After years of teasing me mercilessly about my blogging activities NAH now has a blog all of his own: Sentinel Steam Loco 7109. Some of you know this already because you've kindly popped over from my Local Vocals list on the right hand sidebar. What could be more local than someone else blogging from the same house?
As you can see, NAH's blog is completely different to mine and is charting his progress in restoring Joyce, described by him as his 28 ton girlfriend. She resides at Midsomer Norton and is in a much sorrier state than the above picture showing her in her heyday.
NAH is rather chuffed to be getting so many visitors from Veg Plotting, so he's written a welcoming post especially for you. He's even gone to the trouble to make it garden related. Not bad for an engineer. NAH has invented a blogname for me in a similar vein to how he appears here, though you'll have to take the above link to find out what it is ;)
If you haven't already, do pop over and say…

GBMD: The Flower Is...

The flower is the poetry of reproduction. It is an example of the eternal seductiveness of life.
Jean Giraudoux (1882-1944)
If the above quote is true, then in my view the Begonia 'Amour' by my front door is aptly named. I love the dark sultry leaves topped by the kind of shade of seductive red I don't usually go for. The plants nearby are green or have a similar shade of foliage, so it looks very much at home. Elsewhere in the garden it would clash horribly.
It was a chance discovery recently at my local garden centre and I immediately knew its purchase would solve the problem of finding something to fit well in my 'wheelbarrow' container for the summer. Most plants look out of place there, but the sprawling shape of this one is just right.
Garden Bloggers' Muse Day is hosted by Caroline Choi at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago.