Showing posts from March, 2013

A Timely Reminder

Don't forget we "spring forward" into British Summer Time this weekend, so at last the evenings will be light enough for gardening :)

The picture is of the clocks I found on the wall of one of the conference rooms at Yeo Valley HQ recently. Guess which one is showing the right time? Like their garden, there's lots of individuality and quirkiness to be found in this corporate HQ, which I loved.

Have a great Easter everyone!

A Bloggers' Day at Great Dixter

Just a quick extra post to thank Naomi for getting us all together for a superb and inspirational day at Great Dixter yesterday. Here we all are during our tour of the garden and taking lots of notes as Deputy Head Gardener Siew Lee shows us around.

I'll be writing a more personal response about the day soon and I've lots of other snippets for Against the Odds, Breaking the Rules (and Friday Bench over at Sign of the Times) to feature over the coming weeks.

I'll be using this post to round-up the posts from the rest of the gang about the day as and when they appear. We had the privilege of being there when the garden was closed to the public, but you can go there from tomorrow :)
First up is Jono - who's summed up many of my thoughts about Fergus Garrett's inspirational talk.Then Caro spills the beans on her Perfect Day :)And Gaz reveals which plants went home to the Alternative Eden as well as giving a guided tour.Veronica has a beautifully shot Part 1 - read it a…

YAWA's Madame Zelda Predicts: The Garden Just For You

Easter is when many gardens open their gates for the season and at last we're spoilt for choice on where to go. To help you decide at this most special of times, I've coaxed Madame Zelda out of her sherry soaked dreams to predict the very one to suit you - I feel there's slightly more chance of a successful outcome this way than my original idea of using a map and her hat pin.

To obtain the very best result she has cast aside her usual blue ball and is using her all-powerful magic blue mushrooms. I fear I may have woken her a little too sharply as she's seeing stars and has chosen to couch her reply using the signs of the zodiac ;)

Oh my dear, the impenetrable clouds part to reveal a whirling firmament - a galaxy of possibilities only the deeper mysteries can resolve. [she pauses to poke at the largest toadstool with her gnarled finger which promptly falls over] Ooooh, such pretties and colours and lush green vegetation you can only dream about my lovely.

But lo! My sho…

The Grow Write Guild: My First Plant

Gayla Trail at You Grow Girl has started a creative writing club for gardeners called The Grow Write Guild.

Every fortnight she's publishing a prompt. It's up to the reader to choose the medium in which to respond: writing, photography, artwork, a poem. Anything goes. The idea is to tell stories in some way, and that's great.

The first one was posted a few days ago: My First Plant. I can't remember mine, but that's fine. It's OK to relate the story of the first plant which resonated with you, so that's what I'll do...

My first plant... was the humble radish at the age of 17. I know I was aware of and grew plants before then, but coming from a family of non-gardeners, not a single one has stuck in my mind. The radish was the first plant I chose to grow and I grew it at school for my A level Biology practical project.

The Nuffield biology syllabus I studied placed a great emphasis on practical learning (e.g. we looked at Mendel's original experimental …

Book Review: Three For the Salad Challenge

I bought two of these and asked for a review copy of the other (The Speedy Vegetable Garden) to fill some gaps in my 52 Week Salad ChallengeReference Library. Note: all three of them are suitable as general references, not just for salads.

Martin Crawford is well-known for his work and courses about forest gardening. I've been pondering this system and the principles of polyculture Alys Fowler outlined when she spoke about Edible Gardens at Holt Farm last year. As a result I bought How to Grow Perennial Vegetables to expand my knowledge of what can be grown for eating from this plant group. In this regard it doesn't disappoint.

There are a few introductory chapters outlining why growing perennial vegetables is a good thing to do, plus the techniques and growing systems involved.  Finally a chapter on maintenance concentrates on how to keep plants in top condition, so pests and diseases find it hard to get a look-in.

The bulk of the book is devoted to an A to Z directory of the …

Salad Days: Mastering Lettuce

I've decided one of my salad challenges for this year is to grow as many lettuce varieties as I can, ready for the publication of my planned Factsheet* later on.

The idea is to grow as many of the Tried and Trusted lettuce varieties last year's Salad Challengers helped compile, then provide a visual guide and as many lettuce facts as I can muster. So far I've found around half of those listed**. Then naturally whilst I was out searching - because such is the way with seeds - a number of other varieties found their way home too ;)

A couple of weeks ago I sowed 22 varieties***. Just the simple act of sowing them has me intrigued. Why are some lettuce seeds black and others white****? They split into about half white to half black in my sample and as far as I can tell it's nothing to do with whether they're a type of cos, iceberg, or whatever.

I sowed them indoors and popped them into a propagator on the windowsill. The soil's too cold outside for sowing and it w…

Wordless Wednesday: Pegging Out


A Fab Day at the Edible Garden Show

On Friday, I visited The Edible Garden Show for the first time. Previously it's clashed with family celebrations and I'd also wondered whether such an early season gardening show would work. Well, it does work - very well indeed. Here's a taster of what I saw...

I spotted this intriguing basket on the way in. Taking edibles to the show? There must be a story regarding those leeks...

One of the show's strengths is the extremely full programme of talks. Here James Wong is in full flow in the Experts Theatre, which itself was full to overflowing whenever James appeared (apologies for the quality of the photos, the lighting was awful for taking pics!). I could have just sat down all day listening to talks here... and in the Cookery Theatre... and in The Potting Shed... AND in the smallholders area.

The concept of edible was present at the show in its widest sense. As you can see even the snails are moving too quickly for my camera's shutter speed! I had a long chat wi…

Red Nose Day: Salad Humour

It's Red Nose Day... with a tomato!

We break from our traditional Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day broadcast to bring you some salad based humour in honour of today's Red Nose Day in aid of Comic Relief...

For starters, how about a quick round of an alternative Gardeners' Question Time?

Q Why did the tomato turn red? A Because it saw the salad dressing 

Q: What is small, red and whispers?
A: A hoarse radish

Q: Why did the tomato go out with a prune?
A: Because he couldn't find a date

And then there's...

Knock, Knock
Who's there?
Lettuce who?
Lettuce in and you'll find out.

A man walks into the doctor's office with a banana stuck in one of his ears, a head of lettuce in the other ear, and a carrot stuck in one nostril.

The man says, "Doctor, this is terrible. What's wrong with me?"

The doctor says, "Well, first of all, you need to eat more sensibly."


And finally - a humorous quotation to round things off...


Wordless Wednesday: New Shoes


The PR Files: A Blogger Replies

The PR Files - an occasional series in which VP examines some of the more unusual correspondence she receives, simply because she set up Veg Plotting ;)

With enormous gratitude to the cuddlesome cashmere Ms Arabella Sock, whose special correspondence with her Senator, inspired VP to find a suitable way to reply, without sounding like a wailing banshee who's swallowed a whole lemon.

I have really enjoyed reading through your blog. I think you would be a great fit to write a sponsored post for our dog fence site. You would receive a Target gift card for $65 and $10 extra for submitting your post within 20 days,if you would write a post on creating an outdoor environment that is pet friendly. We are also hosting a garden & pet blogathon where several bloggers are writing a post titled “My Horror Story of Pet Damage to my Garden”, if that topic would be a better fit for you. Whichever pitch you choose would need to start with a line that this post is wri…

Book Review: Design, Grow, Sell

Design Grow Sell is one of a series produced by Country Living magazine which describe how to start a business from home. They also have a corresponding Kitchen Table Talent website designed to support and encourage those who have (or are thinking of starting) any small business.

Many people dream about starting their own gardening business. This book aims to show how it can be done. Having just filed the first tax return for my freelance writing income, does this book tell me the things I wish I'd known when I started out? The answer is well yes, ...partly.

It's easy to read and relatively short compared with most books I've read of this kindInspirational - there's a positive 'can do' message. It's definitely one for those who want to take their daydreams about starting a small business a step furtherIt focuses on how to start a gardening business, so it puts what can be a dry subject into an understandable contextReal people and case studies from …

Adverts: How Not to Say it With Flowers

Thanks for all your comments on yesterday's post - when I set it up, I'd forgotten I'd be attending a TOTS 100 Blog Summit in Bristol and 'no follow' would be covered there too.

Interflora shows how not to say it with flowers

I found out yesterday Interflora were penalised by Google recently. They manipulated their page rank by placing advertorials re Valentine's Day with around 150 national and local newspapers and got caught out. As a result they and all the newspapers concerned received page rank penalties. For Interflora it meant their ranking on the keyword 'flowers' went from 1 to 49 and they didn't even appear in page 1 of search results for 'Interflora'.

Whilst their page rank has been restored relatively quickly (within a few days)*, with Mother's Day happening tomorrow here in the UK, it's likely they've incurred a substantial loss of business as a result. Quite a spectacular own goal eh? It also probably explains why o…

Of Adverts, Disclosure and Spam

I removed the last of my blog's adverts last week as they've run their course and I don't have any more lined up, yet. I'm OK with that. I outlined my approach to Adverts and Blogging With Integrity a while ago, but since then the landscape of adverts on blogs - and working with companies in general - has changed. I feel it's time to say something about it.

Last year, Google made a real effort to prevent the artificially high return of items in their search results, because they wanted searching to reflect the content that's really valued rather than the content whose position's been paid for. That doesn't mean that all paid-for links are bad, but it isn't easy to build that distinction into a computer algorithm designed to reward real effort which is well regarded by real people.

Their algorithm changes caused quite a furore at the time. Some blogs were penalised by Google (their Page Ranking was reduced to zero) almost immediately all this came to…

My Plant of the Centenary

It's time for everyone to tell all! Last week I told you about the plans for the Plant of the Centenary, to be revealed at Chelsea Flower Show in May. I thought it would be fun for us to come up with our nominations for the accolade today, or if that's too hard, you can blog about up to 10 plants. We can then come over for a good rootle around your blog and help you choose the final one.

Angie left a fine comment last week with a lovely story about her nomination:

I would choose herbaceous Paeonies - not everyone's favourite, considered by some fussy and by others as twee but a main stay of a proper English country garden, in my opinion! From the minute those fat red shoots emerge from the soil in February - the anticipation of those fattening flower buds - the prayers that a heavy rainfall will not spoil their show - have you offered enough support - it's all part of the enjoyment!

My earliest memories of my grandfather are him tending to his huge paeony bed whic…

Supporting Horatio's Garden

I've decided I'm going to make some of the charitable organisations I support a bit more prominent on the blog. First up is Horatio's Garden, the first hospital garden built specially to suit the needs of spinal injury patients in the UK, which also just happens to be here in Wiltshire :)

You may remember I followed the amazing story of the building of this garden last year (you can read about it here and here) and I was delighted Wiltshire magazine commissioned a feature about it too.

Although the garden is now open and the patients are enjoying a taste of the outdoor world, the hard work and fundraising continues. Last year, one of my favourite gardens, the Organic Garden at Holt Farm hosted a series of talks from the great and the good in support of Horatio's Garden. I'm pleased to see they and Yeo Valley next door are doing so again this year.

I'm going to the Grow, Cook and Eat day which Sarah Raven's giving on March 19th. She's also doing a flowe…

Book Review: On Veg Street

How easy can it be to start getting a whole community to start growing their own? In Veg Streetwe learn all it needs is a serendipitous knock on a neighbour's door...

...Naomi Schillinger's lively debut shows how one simple action can unleash a sequence of events which ends in the floral transformation of a London neighbourhood and over 100 residents growing their own.

I always feel a bit nervous when reviewing a book by someone I know, especially when they've sent me the book. However, I needn't have worried. Veg Street is just as warm and thoughtful as Naomi's blog, Out of My Shed. I've always thought a community growing project must be a complicated affair, but it's reassuring to see the lure of cake is just as irresistible to neighbours as it is to those who visit gardens. The Cake Sunday events are a brilliant way to bring everyone together informally to share ideas and distribute resources. Naomi is equally reassuring the committee side of things can…

Buying Cards - The Orchard Way

I always have loads of cards and presents to buy at this time of the year, so the offer for a £20 allowance to go shopping on Orchard Cards' website was very tempting. As you can see, I couldn't resist!

I put together a wants list, then thought about other cards I've bought recently. This meant I was able to have a thorough look around the site with plenty of purchases in mind. I found they don't just do cards: there are related items such as ribbon, gift tags and bags too, so I took the opportunity to add a much needed roll of birthday gift wrap to my 'purchases' :)

Back to the cards - my wants list included ( = success):
Wedding anniversary and birthday cards for NAH (hope he's not reading this!) √√A Mothers' Day and birthday cards for my mum √√Exam good luck card for my niece (GCSEs loom large in her life this year)Birthday card for my nephewEaster card for NAH's aunt (she always sends us one)
It was too late for Valentine's Day and my MIL…

GBMD: Miracle on St David's Day

They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude
                 - The Daffodils,
William Wordsworth

An afternoon yellow and open-mouthed
with daffodils. The sun treads the path
among cedars and enormous oaks.
It might be a country house, guests strolling,
the rumps of gardeners between nursery shrubs.

I am reading poetry to the insane.
An old woman, interrupting, offers
as many buckets of coals as I need.
A beautiful chestnut-haired boy listens
entirely absorbed. A schizophrenic

on a good day, they tell me later.
In a cage of first March sun a woman
sits not listening, not seeing, not feeling.
In her neat clothes the woman is absent.
A big mild man is tenderly led

to his chair. He has never spoken.
His labourer's hands on his knees, he rocks
gently to the rhythms of the poems.
I read to their presences, absences,
to the big, dumb labouring man as he rocks.

He is suddenly standing, silently,
huge and mild, but I feel afraid. Like slow
movement of spring water or the first b…