Showing posts from February, 2013

Chelsea Sneak Preview: What's Your Plant of the Centenary?

There's plenty of beavering away happening with the special preparations required for this year's RHS Chelsea Centenary Show. These include Roy Lancaster and his crack team of experts pondering and cogitating over their shortlist of nominations for 'Plant of the Centenary'. They have the task of selecting just one plant introduced per decade the show's been running. These will be exhibited in the Great Pavilion in a similar way to 'Plant of the Show' in previous years.

Visitors to Chelsea have the opportunity to vote for their favourite, which will then be named as 'Plant of the Centenary'. It'll be interesting to see which plants have stood the test of time, particularly those from the earlier days of the show. I'd also like to find out which plants launched previously during Chelsea still grace today's RHS Plant Finder, but that's research to do for another day.

It won't just be the show's visitors who'll have the chan…

Garden Tools Giveaway: and the winner is...

My garden tools giveaway proved to be most popular, so I'm trying a different approach to pick the winner this time. Much as I love my terracotta pot for drawing the winner's name, I'm trying to be more scientific in the way things get done.

I've used a random number generator to pick a winner from all those entered.

Before this, everyone's blog comment and/or tweet was logged onto a spreadsheet in the order of when they appeared. It's taken a while to match the blogs, tweets and times to ensure everyone's entry has been treated fairly. So without further ado, who is the mysterious number 7?

It's Jo at The Good Life! Congratulations Jo, I'll be in touch shortly to make arrangements for your prize :)

Many thanks to all of you who entered and better luck for next time. I'll be hosting another fab giveaway soon, so stay tuned!

For the future, what would you prefer? Random numbers and spreadsheets, names drawn out of a terracotta pot, or something …

Book Review: Decoding Gardening Advice

This is a timely book to review seeing I've just started my new Breaking the Rules series. I'm pleased to see my planned snippets aren't covered, so everyone can read something new from both reading this book and my future posts :)

Decoding Gardening Advice looks at the top 100 pieces of advice given [in the USA, though most also apply to the UK - Ed] to see whether they're good, questionable or downright bad. Unlike most advice we see in books or on the TV - which have an unwritten or unspoken assumption they're all good - the reasoning behind their categorisation is given.

So thinking about the advice I've seen or researched recently, on the good side we have...
Stop fertilising during very hot weather to reduce plant stressWater deeply and infrequently to encourage a strong root systemDo not plant trees too deeply
... and on the debatable side there's...
Follow spacing recommendations on plant labelsAlways stake young trees (Yay! Agreement with Tony Kirkha…

Salad Days: There Are More Questions...

With most experiments I've ever conducted (either in a professional capacity or my own amateurish potterings), the results often garner more questions than answers*. You may recall I concluded in last month's Salad Days there may be a slight advantage if winter indoor pea shoot growing is started off in a propagator.

However this answer inspired the following additional questions:
Were the results repeatable, or a one-off?Would later growth or potential cropping times be affected?Would using a heated propagator make a bigger difference?Is there a difference in windowsill growing upstairs vs downstairs? (I was speculating the difference in height might have helped January's emergence/growth)What difference (if any) did soaking the peas first make to germination times? What difference does windowsill aspect make? (I'm currently using south facing windowsills; I found last year I had to switch to westerly when the light and heat in March seemed too strong for my shoots) S…

Garden Bloggers' Five Questions

February can be quite a hard month for blogging, so it's great to see Shirl's had her thinking cap on and come up with a couple of great ideas for us to have some fun :)

We've had lots of bloggity laughs in the past, thanks to Shirl, which she's reminisced about as well as then going on to outline her latest ideas. Today's post is to share 5 questions. These can be answering them or posing them, or a mixture of both. It's an easy theme to adapt to suit one's own purpose.

Previously on Veg Plotting I've had a lot of fun writing some spoof Gardeners' Question Time posts based on googled search terms which have hit my blog. Once again this is my starting point - using some of the top search terms from yesterday.

James Wong wearing wellies pics bought a smile to my face. Sadly I can't oblige, but I'll look out for an opportunity to do so at The Edible Garden Show next month.

I also had Gardeners' Question Time Chris Beardshaw tip for deterri…

Chelsea 2013 Sneak Preview: Gnomes

It's Chelsea Flower Show's centenary, so things are going to be done a little bit differently this year. I was at the press launch a few weeks ago and couldn't hide my glee that not only are gnomes going to be allowed in, they're a central component of the celebrations.

Previously Jekka McVicar has impishly smuggled Borage  onto her exhibit (see left - he was in party mode at the GMG Awards) and even taken him on tour round the site. This time he'll have plenty of play mates, each decorated by a celebrity* and auctioned off to raise pots of cash for the RHS's Campaign for School Gardening**. Jekka has already told me Borage will be very much on display this time, though I've yet to confirm with her the design of his jaunty new jacket as a result of this rash behaviour.

Whilst the RHS has relaxed some of its rules for this year, it seems the celebrations won't include balloons or flags as the ban on these items is still holding fast. I hope the exclusio…

GBBD: The Ideal Iris

Why ideal? I planted these Iris reticulata 'Katharine Hodgkin' in the gravel at the side of the house when I bought them at the RHS London Show sell-off 4 years ago and they've come up every year since. I have quite a few of the purple sort elsewhere in the garden, but I love the more unusual pale blue and yellow of these.

Elsewhere I've been replanting the snowdrops which some pesky squirrels or birds dug up recently, plus some self-sown crocus I found in the back garden's gravel path. These gave me the opportunity to fill some of the gaps in the guerrilla garden at the front of the house. Whilst there, I've been admiring the first flowering of the hellebores J from choir gave me last year :)

The winter aconites have just started to appear, and the daffodils are showing much promise for the weeks to come. Indoors, the paperwhites which I potted up when disregarding the rules are doing rather well.

The floral year most definitely has begun :)

Garden Bloggers…

Seasonal Recipe: Sprouted Lentil and Pea Shoot Salad

Inspired by Mark's recent recipe, I decided to use my sprouted lentils plus some of my propagated pea shoots and devise my own version. As it's winter, I thought something along Indian influenced lines would be good, with a spicy dressing to warm things up a bit.

This salad could also be served warm, if desired. Use a little oil to quickly stir fry the ingredients (starting with the carrot first), adding the cheese and the dressing right at the end.


For the salad:
125g lentils (sprouted weight, used fresh), mine were puy lentils, but any variety of sprouted lentil will do. Sprouted chick peas would also work well35g cheese, cubed - paneer to keep with the Indian influence or whatever hard cheese you have to hand. I used a mature cheddar15g pea shoots (approx 10-15 stems), freshly picked then roughly snipped with scissors into shorter lengths1 large carrot, cubed
For the dressing (adapted from this vinaigrette recipe):
2 tablespoons (tbsp) vegetable oil1 tbsp extra vi…

Against the Odds: Snowdrops

Today's new blog series Against the Odds was inspired by the reaction to my recent Wordless Wednesday post Tenacity Required. Jane Powers remarked she loves seeing 'all those roof and wall opportunists' and I realised I've been subconsciously collecting (and sometimes blogging) pictures of them for quite a while.

Today's picture is from Painswick Rococo garden which Helen*, Victoria and I visited last week. The snowdrops there are on top form at the moment, so it's well worth a visit if you're in the area. We were all intrigued how the pictured snowdrops had managed to self seed themselves (I'm assuming this is the case) into a wall several feet below their more conventionally growing cousins.

There's also been some very good news involving snowdrops reported recently. Research shows galanthine extracted from two snowdrops species (G. caucasicus and G. woronowii)can help to improve the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. Now that's one snowdro…

Win a Set of Gardening Tools!

Here's something to cheer up the winter blues! 

Today I'm teaming up with Gardens Galore to bring you the first super competition for this year. The prize is a Draper fork, spade and mini trowel and fork kit valued at over £50 :) 

The weather forecast may be dire, but before you know it, the evenings will be light again and we'll getting outside to prepare for the coming season. A new kit of tools could be the very thing to help you get cracking!

If you can't make use of the prize, why not enter anyway? I'm sure there's a community project, school or something similar in your neighbourhood who'd welcome your donation.

All you need to do is leave a comment below to enter. If you tweet a link to this post or RT my link, that'll double your chances of winning. The closing date is midnight, Sunday, 24th February. Comments and tweets will be allocated a number corresponding with the order of entry and then I'll use a random number generator to determin…

Winter Twigs

I've been inspired by Elizabeth's walk around her Trees on the Boundary to finally get around to downloading the Woodland Trust's guide to Winter Twigs. Whilst I'm already familiar with a number of the common hedgerow species, there's still a few others I'd like to identify when I'm out walking.

The picture shows just half of the guide: I decided to fold my printed A4 sheet in half and laminate it so it'll last longer. The resultant A5 size makes it handier for keeping in my jacket's map pocket too. You'll see from the picture I've picked up a twig from our garden, to show you how the guide makes it really easy to identify our most common deciduous trees.

The Woodland Trust do a number of useful guides in their Nature Detectives series, including one which helps to look for the early signs of spring. Both this and the twigs guide could be useful activities for next week's half term holiday, if the weather permits :)

Preparing for Green Garlic

This week I'm sorting through last year's crop of garlic, to make sure what's left is still sound. It's about now that stored garlic remembers its previous life out on the plot and prepares for the next growing season by starting to sprout.

As the growing weather was poor last year, many of my bulbs are smaller than usual and quite a few of the cloves have been fiddly to deal with for cooking. I still have plenty of bulbs left, so I had a bit of a 'why on earth am I putting up with this?' moment and decided to separate out the larger cloves. As you can see, there's some smaller cloves left over.

I remembered my 'accidental' green garlic from way back and so I've sown these into various pots. The idea is I'll have 'clumps' of green garlic in a few weeks time which can be used for stir fries, stews and flavouring salad dressings. They're too small for bulb growing as little cloves in turn beget little bulbs. This approach means we…

Breaking the Rules: Bulbs

This is the first post in my new series called Breaking the Rules, in which I'll be looking at some of the gardening advice available to see if it can be bent or even completely broken. I'm not an expert, but I know there's some advice I followed at first, then found doesn't need following slavishly.

First up are spring flowering bulbs.

The picture shows a packet of tulips last Saturday. You may have come across something similar recently going for a song at your local DIY store or garden centre. Did you buy them too? I hope so. According to the advice, I should have planted them last December at the latest. But there's nothing wrong with these tulips. The bulbs aren't soft and soggy or mouldy, the sprouted tips are showing a relatively healthy colour and they aren't long and straggly. Planted now, they should still do well, though they'll probably flower a couple of weeks later than if I'd planted them at the 'right' time.

Why can I get aw…

GBMD: Subversive Bees

Previously on Veg Plotting, I told you about Everything in the Garden is Lovely. Everyone at choir fell in love with this set of wirework bee 'formations'.

Like them, I initially thought they represented the bees' 'waggle dance' or other messages they communicate to each other. But I then looked closer (click on the pics to enlarge if needed) and found...

... that even in art, there's an opportunity to be a tad subversive and get the viewer thinking just that little bit more :)

I've been trying to decide which one is my favourite...

... this one has resonance because I was in a similar situation when I left university in 1980 - though at least I was lucky enough to have a university grant during my studies - and I had to take a job I didn't really want (civil service) instead of one related to what I'd actually studied (Agricultural and Environmental Science).

This is a slightly different post for Garden Bloggers' Muse Day, but I hope you don&#…