Showing posts from October, 2011

An Evening With Bob Brown Part I

See the footnotes for the question I now have about variegated plants - your help with the answer is appreciated...
Another sign the nights are drawing in is the garden lectures start up again. For Threadspiderand I this means a monthly trip to Bath until May to hear whoever's been tempted over by Derry Watkins.
As usual it's a cracking programme and first up a couple of weeks ago was Bob Brown, the renowned nurseryman of Cotswold Garden Flowers. His subject was Propagating Your Plantsand he apologised for short changing us as his talk is usually combined with a practical session at his nursery. Sign me up immediately!
It was a most entertaining talk, shot through with a dry sense of humour and questions barked out at the audience. He gave us so much information that I'm going to divide this post into two. First up are some of Bob's observations on perennials...
There's a number of reasons why propagation by seed for perennials isn't usually as successful as fo…

Getting Ready for GMT*

Tonight the clocks go back, so we get an extra hour to play with - hurrah! It's also meant I've been getting ready for GMT* in my garden this week by taking advantage of the remaining light and relatively sunny weather. OK, we'll draw a veil over Thursday's miserable day ;)

As you can see, there's plenty to be done. The fallen leaves have been gathered up and used for mulching the garden. The shredder's been pressed into service to make further mulch from various prunings. Although the fat lady hasn't quite sung yet, this year's thick dahlia duvet is firmly in place.
I've had some further clearing up to do on the lower patio as last weekend's high winds brought down lots of branches from the overhanging silver birch. It wasn't anything too severe, it's just their super long thinness means they're always ripe for a little weather pruning. These got added to the mulch pile too :)
Also, the ivy from the neighbouring public land made a f…

A Tale of Two Welsh Gardens

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of enjoying Karen and Shedman's hospitality... lovely to find fresh flowers from the garden in my bedroom in this dotted blue vase :)

And how fantastic it was to have time to watch the early morning sunlight gradually creep through and light up the garden. I marvelled at how quickly the willow has recovered from its major haircut last year and how much the garden has changed and matured since I first visited it 3 years ago. It's also the first time I've visited in the autumn. As you can see there is still plenty of interest.
Later on it was even nicer to sit outside in the sunshine... In a T-shirt... In October... IN Wales!
When I showed NAH this photo he said Ooooh I'd like to go there. NB He has never expressed a wish to visit a garden ever.
Karen is gradually gathering all her Schizostylis into one spot. Mine seem to have disappeared from my garden :(
Karen caught me taking this picture of her grass. Oh how we laughed about that.…

Wildflower Wednesday: At Mount St Helens

Part of our USA road trip this summer included a visit to the Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument. Here's a view of what remains of the volcano today. You can see the Toutle River valley is still full of volcanic ash, even though it's many years since the volcano finished its eruption.

NAH took this picture, so you can see how different things were in 1980 and the drama of the first few moments of the eruption the mountain is famed for. I'd recommend a visit to the 4 visitor centres there, especially the talks given by the park rangers. It's not often you get to mess around with plasticine to see how plate tectonics and the various types of faults work! Nor is it every day that you get to have lunch outside with a volcano ;)

I'd spotted on the map there's something called a Sediment Retention Structure built by the US Army Corps of Engineers. It turned out to be this dam-like structure built across part of the Toutle River.
When the volcano erupted its ef…

How Advertising Works in Chippenham #25

Start a vintage sales area at your garden centreAcquire some wire salmon fish traps for said areaDisplay them prominently so the blogger with the camera is intrigued by the marriage of two of her interests: fisheries research and gardeningWait for her to notice that the suggested re-use isn't quite as desiredEt Voila! The price was quite eye watering too.

Fiskars Garden Tools: Product Review

Autumn's a busy time in the garden, so I have a selection of garden tools permanently trugged up and ready to go for easy carriage to wherever I need them. Most of the contents are the tools Fiskars gave me to test earlier in the year. Having given them a pretty tough time over the past few months, it's time I brought you the results.

Secateurs and loppers
I'm really impressed with the secateurs. These are the bypass type and have a rotating handle and comfortable grip. I found the handle's rotation a bit strange at first, but once I'd got used to it, I found it much easier on my hand and elbow, particularly when cutting thicker (up to 20cm) branches. The secateurs are geared too, hence their ability to cut thicker wood than usual.
I've had Fiskars secateurs before, but their lack of replacement parts previously meant I was very pleased to win some Felcos a couple of years back. I see the blade can be replaced now, which is a step in the right direction. Do I p…

Postcard From Wales

I'm back from a wonderful weekend spent with Karen and Shedman of An Artist's Garden. The photo is a view of one of my favourite places in the whole world, the Mawddach Estuary taken whilst out walking with Karen and Dobby on Saturday afternoon. As you can see it was sunny in Wales :o
It was so sunny and warm, lunch was taken al fresco and I've acquired a tan! We visited Elizabeth at Welsh Hills Again and Kate from Beangenie popped in for a while, so there was plenty of time to see blogging friends :)
A more gardeny post will follow...

A Simple Way to Help Our Orchards

I love apple trees, so October's pretty special because it's Apple Day on October 21st*. The decline of our orchards over the past 40 years or so is shocking, so I'm pleased I've found a simple way to help them, courtesy of Copella's Plant and Protect campaign.

They're planting up to 100,000 apple trees on October 21st, with the actual number depending on how many people pledge their support. I've signed up already: I've only had to supply my name and email address** and they'll plant an apple tree on my behalf. There's just under 18,000 pledges made so far and only a few days left to swell the numbers to meet their target, so it'd be great if you can add your name to the list too :)
I've also registered my apple trees. According to the National Trust's way of defining an orchard, I have one on my allotment as I have over 5 apple trees on my plot :o
The picture is of some of the apple varieties I sampled at RHS Wisley Flower Show las…

Keep Calm and Pot On: Book Review

Keep Calm and Pot Onis a pocket sized little book written by Liz Dobbs, formerly of Gardens Monthly magazine. Whilst its design is based on the famous (and seemingly ubiquitous these days) WWII poster Keep Calm and Carry On, it's certainly not warlike in character.
It's a dippable little book with a short quote or handy tip per page. It's the kind of thing that's good for a 10 minute break in the potting shed with a mug of tea and a couple of biscuits. I rather like the following quote from page 119 as it sums up the way I feel about my garden:
I am the fonder of my garden for the trouble it gives me.Reginald Farrar (1880-1920).
For those of you who prefer reading from cover to cover rather than dipping, there's a thoughtful cloth bookmark incorporated into the spine. Anyone with an hour or so to spare, won't need it as you'll be able to whip through in no time as the book's short and sweet.
NB don't believe all of the blurb on Amazon e.g. Ever looke…

GBBD: Dusky Rose

October's unseasonably warm weather continues, so quite a few plants are in a slower fade than usual this month. The one surprising me the most at the moment is the pictured Rosa 'The Fairy'. I chose it as a companion for my Clematis 'Crystal Fountain' to scramble around the latter's roots and keep them cool.

Both are in a very large, tall pot next to the stone bench on my sunny patio. Whilst the clematis reaches for the sky, the rose has launched itself over the edge to mingle with the potted lavender below. This turns out to be another happy companionship as the rose has hardly any scent, whilst the lavender has plenty.
I chose the rose's dusky red form (pink and white are also available) for its richness and I've been pleased with the result. It flowers prolifically from early summer until now and I like their simplicity. There's still plenty of buds to brighten up the next few weeks, depending on how the weather goes. The flowers are similar to …

'Writing For The Web' at Cheltenham Literature Festival

Last Saturday found me at Cheltenham Literature Festival for the afternoon. The town was abuzz and I walked past several familiar faces who were lost in the crowds before I could remember who they were. I'm sure they were some of the famous authors due to talk that day.

The last time I attended the festival was when Anna Pavord talked about her book Bulb at The Everyman Theatre a couple of years ago. And very good it was too. This time I decided to sample something from the workshop programme and Writing for the Web tutored by the RSC's digital producer, Suzanne Worthington caught my eye.
My experience of writing courses is slight* and I don't quite know what I'd been expecting, but a workbook to go through was quite a surprise. However, it turned out to be just what was needed to structure the afternoon well. Suzanne took us through a number of short exercises designed to make us think a lot and to sharpen up our prose ready for publication on the web.
You can see if …

All Change for Chippenham's Rubbish

Today sees a big change to Chippenham's kerbside (or communal in our case) rubbish collection. Now we have a plastics and cardboard collection one week and a land fill one the next. This replaces the weekly everything going to land fill rounds. The timing's quite ironic in view of the government's recent announcement on encouraging a return to weekly rubbish collections. I suppose our local council would argue it's still providing a weekly service.

So we now have up to three bins to find room for in the garden*: green for landfill; brown if anyone opts in for the weekly garden refuse collection** and a blue lidded one for plastics (types 1 -3, but only of a certain kind) and cardboard. Judging by the bins put out last night, my neighbours aren't quite sure what's being collected today, or they're mounting a silent protest and insisting the land fill collection remains a weekly one ;)
There's quite a lot which needs clarifying about the plastics collecti…

Exploring Caen Hill

On Friday NAH and I took one our favourite walks at Caen Hill flight in Devizes. I never tire of this view towards the town.

For once we didn't walk up the hill, but instead we ducked through the bridge under the main road and strolled towards Lower Foxhangers. Here I was surprised to find a few liveaboard boats as well as the holiday narrow boat passing by. It seems permanent canal life is spreading. A few years ago it was seen just around Bath, but now several other communities have sprung up, such as the one here in Devizes and also Bradford-on-Avon.

We'd decided to walk this way as we'd read in the Gazette and Herald about a new 248 berth marina about to open at Lower Foxhangers. It's a significant change to this part of the canal, but in reality too well tucked in to show you a decent photo. Perhaps I'll take one after it opens in a week or so's time, when we'll be able to get a bit closer.
Nearby, a boat hire company was busy with people arriving. NAH …

Some Thoughts on the BBC Cuts

There's been loads of comment on this week's announcements re the proposed BBC cuts, so I thought I'd add some personal and some more garden related thoughts to the mix, especially as there's quite a few things of interest which didn't made the headlines.

Overall, I think the Beeb's been pretty savvy in snipping away across the board, rather than facing the active campaigning lobbies such as those which sprang up against the closure of 6Music and when deep cuts to BBC4 and the World Service were mooted. That's not to say protests won't happen - for instance there's already a strong campaign to #savebbcbirmingham - and I've also witnessed - and rightly so - some lively debates regarding more TV repeats and the changes to the BBC's news services.
Here's some less well-known snippets: Gardeners' World, Countryfile and Chelsea Flower Show coverage are amongst the programmes set to move from Birmingham to Bristol. Whilst they'll still…

Bristol BlogCamp

Yesterday was definitely a 'do something different kind of day' as I'd signed up for Bristol BlogCamp, held in the newly reopened sparkly M Shed - formerly the Industrial Museum - shown above. Our venue for the day was in the events area at the top of the building, so I'm sure some aerial views of this scene will be appearing over at Sign of the Times shortly :)

BlogCamp is the one of many brainchilds of Sally Whittle, whom some of you will already know through Tots100 and the MAD Awards. She's cleverly spotted there's a need for bloggers to not only get together and have a good natter, but also to find out a bit more about blogging itself. There's only so much you can do online - and often the information on there is conflicting anyway - and many of the events available are aimed at businesses, with a price tag to match.
This event was free. It had lunch. And... it had cake :)
A broad range of topics were covered and whilst much of these were aimed at worki…

A Rescue Dig and a Fond Farewell

The weekend saw me bid a fond farewell to Plot 14 and this is the last picture I'll be posting of it in this way. It was taken last Sunday, the day after I ceased to be the tenant of the whole 10 lugs and during the hottest start to October since records began. From now on any plot views I post will be of just the right hand side: I agreed with those of you kind enough to post a comment on my Rethinking the Plot post and have gone for the side with the shed. This is now called Plot 14A, so I must remember to go and add an A to one of the plot markers...

As you can see, I've left Plot 14 (as the other side is called) looking quite different to when I last posted. The trees have been given a severe pruning and are now below the regulation 2 metres. The other trees further down the plot will be moved onto Plot 14A when they go dormant for the winter. The blue bin and dustbin are languishing on my side awaiting their new home.

At times the plot has resembled something of a rescue …

Postcard from Castle Combe

On Friday evening NAH and I had the treat of visiting the Manor Hotel at Castle Combe for a gourmet meal on behalf of Wiltshire Magazine. It was quite simply the best we've ever had :D
As it was so unseasonably warm, we decided to take advantage of the weather and sit out on the lawn (by those umbrellas) with our pre-meal drinks, peruse the menu, and for me to interview the chef, Richard Davies. Although it was light when we arrived, there was an owl hooting in the woods to serenade us, the sunset and dusk.
Our table was set in the bay window you can see behind the fountain for the meal itself, and then we took our post dinner tea and petit fours in one of the many lounges on offer. We chose a cosy wood-panelled nook in which to gird our loins for the trip home, some four hours after we'd arrived. Next time, I think we'll be staying the night.
For once I got a little squiffy and I've been floating on a bubble of happiness ever since, despite NAH's instructions for me …

OOTS: Green Places Magazine

Some of you may know I've started to review books for Green Places magazine and my latest effort (pictured left, click to enlarge if needed) was published yesterday. As you can see, the books I get to review are quite different to usual as they're aimed at professionals working in the landscape and horticulture industry. Even so, I've found them to be an enjoyable, sometimes challenging, always informative read so far.

You may not know of this magazine. It's produced by the charity Green Space and the magazine's mission is to:
...raise awareness of environmental, social, cultural and economic factors in the creation, management and use of public space. It aims to stimulate debate, promote best practice and create a forum for the exchange of information between all those with an interest in public space.
If that sounds too dry for you, then you might like to consider this month's contents. Did you know there's a project to build a mountain in Holland? There'…

GBMD: Wonder at Everything

Seen at the Chelsea Physic Garden in June, which itself was rather wonderful.