Showing posts from 2014

Unusual Front Gardens #21: Nativity

Winter interest in the garden is always a challenge in December. Chippenham's Methodist church  solved the problem by planting a Nativity in theirs.

Merry Christmas everyone and here's to a peaceful New Year.

Wordless Wednesday: A Perfect Place for Plant Lovers


GBBD: Unexpected Honeysuckle

I expect to see my winter honeysuckle starting to bloom at this time of the year, so it was a bit of a surprise to find this summer flowering version instead on my walk around the garden this morning.

It's a self-sown flower too, so it qualifies as a double Against the Odds for my front garden this month. It suddenly appeared through my Euonymus 'Silver Queen' last year, presumably a gift bestowed by a passing bird. It must be a keen survivor as it germinated in a deeply shaded spot.

The scent alerted me to the second flush of flowers appearing after its usual summer blooming earlier this year. It's not one of the most spectacular of summer honeysuckles in looks, but it certainly makes up for it in terms of scent.

I'm undecided whether it'll remain in my front garden. Tough as old boots and scented plants are usually welcome, but like the old man's beard which has crept through from the hedgerow nearby, this one looks like it's set to dominate the gard…

Plant Profiles: Mistletoe

I walked past this spot for years before I noticed the tree had mistletoe. There used to be two distinctive balls of it sitting side by side, but when I went to take a photo for this post, I found there's now just one. As far as I know it's the only tree in central Chippenham which hosts this parasitic* plant. Having gone round the shops to find some, I see it's the only place in town to have it on display too.

Mistletoe (aka Viscum album**) is one of our most romantic native plants. I don't just mean because of our tradition of kissing beneath it at this time of year, there are also a host of other associated myths and legends. On Tuesday, I went to a fascinating talk at Bath University Gardening Club, where Dr Michael Jones entertained us with all kinds of tales from his years of research.

As a result I've been musing about growing some of my own as I've discovered there's a kit available and I'm tempted to ask my niece and nephew for one for Christm…

Evolution Plants: One Year On*

Late October saw my latest trip to Evolution Plants, to take stock of the first year and to see what else has changed since May's visit. It was a very busy summer and autumn for us all so the timing was much later than originally planned. **

The visual clue above hints at more changes at the nursery. I usually go though the gate, but now visitors are asked to take the side path on arrival.

But first I needed to take one of the standard photos I've taken for every visit; the view of the nursery from the gate. This time I poked my camera through a gap to get my desired shot. For once my arrival coincided with a beautifully sunny day, during that late unseasonal warmth you may remember we had in late October. A day which meant most of my time there was spent outside - yay!

When Tom and I discussed this series of posts, we agreed it would be good if I got to know the whole team at Evolution Plants. It was great that at last I had the opportunity to talk at length to nursery manag…

Tree Following with Lucy: November's Drama

This month's Tree Following post is completely different to the one I'd planned. I was going to explore the myths and folklore associated with my ash tree. The above picture contains a couple of clues to show why I abandoned my research.

Can you spot the taped off area and the ladder propped against my tree? The slideshow below shows you what happened next...

On November 17th my ash tree had visitors! After the tree's unexpected visit to VP Gardens last December, the local council decided the remainder of the tree was a potential safety hazard and commissioned a local firm of tree surgeons to give it a bit of a drastic trim.

The slideshow gives you a flavour of what happened. I apologise for the quality of some of the pictures, but it was a typical drizzly November's day. NAH and I hung out of our bedroom window watching what went on - judging by the tree surgeon's remarks, the trunk was quite slippery, so he was quite glad to be using crampons as well as all the …

GBMD: Thou Bleak December Wind


Wordless Wednesday: The Last Bloom of Autumn


Against the Odds: Canalside

During the summer NAH started a new volunteer role with the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust who provide narrowboat trips from their headquarters in Devizes. When our niece and nephew came to stay, we took them to see what he gets up to these days.

I was surprised to find a whole plant community thriving in one of the lock gates we went through. These plants are likely to get a thorough soaking many times a day when boats go through the lock as the water level rises then falls.

The stones lining the top of the lock have thriving mini communities too.

Wordless Wednesday: Up on the Roof


Postcard From Devon

Greetings from a wilder and more woolly Devon than most postcards show. We've just come back from a week in Exmouth, where blustery walks were the order of the day. The coastal resorts of Torbay and elsewhere might be more popular nowadays, but Exmouth is Devon's oldest seaside resort and has a nice quirkiness about it.

This view is looking across the Exe estuary towards Dawlish, where last week's weather once again halted the coastal trains for a while, though not as dramatically as the storms did earlier this year. Just out of shot to the right is the coastal spit of Dawlish Warren, a national nature reserve as well as a holiday resort. The Exe hosts thousands of overwintering birds, which we had the chance to see when we took a boat trip up the river.

We also experienced a little of Transition Town Totnes, where we at last caught up with our dear friends S and L who moved there just over a year ago. It was great to stay with them and also take part in a community quiz …

GBBD: Hanging On

The blooms at VP Gardens are breaking all kinds of records this month, with all of my late season perennials hanging on and flowering in profusion. My garden's had just one slight frost so far this autumn, which hasn't been enough to bring these plants to their knees.

I've been meaning to tell you all about my favourite fuchsia for quite a while, but I never imagined a November Blooms Day would be the ideal time to fulfil that promise. In most Novembers, the pictured blooms would be a soggy, brown looking mess by now.

I adore the elegant simplicity of Fuchsia 'Hawkshead'. Its porcelain white flowers remind me of dainty ballerinas dancing across the stage. They're a more delicate looking form which belies their hardiness. I see the common name for this species is Lady's eardrops, and I've often thought the flowers would make great earrings.

I forgot to prune the branches down to the ground in the spring and my neglect's been rewarded with the most p…

VP's VIPs: Our Flower Patch - The Finale

Our third and final chat with Our Flower Patch's Cally Smart and Sara Wilman takes a look at their favourite flowers, plus they give us some ideas for planting tulips - the perfect job for now. The scrummy pictures are courtesy and copyright of Sara Wilman.

What are your favourite cut flowers?
I love tulips in myriad colours and grow lots for cutting. I never grow them in the garden borders because they can look messy, especially when they go over but growing them close together in trenches on the allotment gives me dozens of buckets early in the spring. I also grow a lot of dahlias in jewel colours for late summer and autumn colour. I adore ranunculus.

Calendula is my favourite flower to sow from seed with children. It’s beautiful, easy to grow and so, so useful. It looks great in the vase with blue cornflowers, the edible petals look pretty in a salad and it has a history.

My Victorian dairy farmer ancestors used it to make their butter yellower and it was used on the bat…

Plant Profiles: Holly

It's around this time of the year when I rue not having a holly tree in our garden. I hanker after oodles of red berries like the ones in the above photo, ready to nourish the visiting birds and my designs on wreath making. I've found some holly trees in our neighbourhood, but they don't seem to berry that much.

Readers from a very long time ago may recall I did indeed possess a holly tree at one time. Encouraged by the one I'd admired in Threadspider's garden when she lived at the top of the hill, I impulse bought a fetching Ilex aquifolium 'Argentea marginata'. Sadly as I suspected when I blogged about it, I never found the right spot in the garden and it didn't survive my mistreatment.

However, we're now at the time when the garden beckons with all kinds of possibilities and plans are formed for the coming year. I'm rethinking the shrubbery at the bottom of the back garden, plus the front side garden. I don't think anything with prickly …

Unusual Front Gardens #20: Statue

I spotted this jolly scene on a trip out with my SUP friends recently. We were walking through the village of Holt and stopped to admire the sunglasses and umbrella on the statue. October was very warm this year, but umbrellas not sunglasses were needed on our walk that day.

Just as we were about to leave the cottage owner appeared, who smiled and laughed at our appreciation of her handiwork.

"Ah yes" she said, "I really must dig out her coat now that autumn's here".

It turns out the statue is well known locally. Often when she gives directions to where she lives, there's a cry of recognition - "Ohhhh, you're the lady with the girl in the garden!"

Tree Following With Lucy: Autumn's Demise

As I anticipated last month, Lucy's Tree Following project has allowed me to see how Autumn affects my ash tree in some detail.

This tree species is usually one of the later ones to turn around here and 2014 is no exception. Initially they spend some time deciding what to do and look more not quite green than properly autumnal. My tree looked like that from the beginning of October, and then on the 18th, the change began properly. Just one single branch - the lowest one - started showing distinct signs of yellow.

Then in what seemed a flash, the rest of the tree followed suit. It was at this point I tried to film what I call the 'the quiet rain' I remember from previous years. There is a point when the ash's leaves rain down silently on the garden, each twig quietly and suddenly letting go of its golden load.

Alas it was not to be. Each time I got my camera out to record the event, only a few leaves fluttered down obligingly. I think our exceptionally warm autumn mean…

Wordless Wednesday: Spot the Intruder


I Love November For...

... Pears

Now is the time when my Concorde pears reach their peak of perfection on the allotment. This variety has better storage properties than most, so we rarely have a problem with too many ripe pears at the same time.

This year is proving to be an exception to the rule as the tree blossomed at exactly the right time during a spell of exceptionally warm weather. This ensured every single bloom was visited by a bee and thus turned to fruit. The tree may be small, but I have over 100 pears and around a month in which to eat them with the juice running down my arms.

So I've devised a variation on my 'Windfall Cake' to soak up some of the abundance. I liked the idea of chocolate and almonds to complement the flavour of the pear and developed a recipe along those lines. It's still a work in progress - the balance of the pear and chocolate flavours with the sugar is right, but there is no hint of almond. A little almond essence is called for methinks.

It's still deli…

GBMD: A Society Grows Great

NB This year's National Tree Week is 29th November to December 7th.

VP's VIPs: Our Flower Patch Part Deux

Previously on VP's VIPs we learned how Cally Smart and Sara Wilman met then came up with the idea of Our Flower Patch. Today, they're going to tell us more about their business and how they are inspiring a new generation of  growers...

Describe how you work together. Do you have fixed roles?
At first we worked together on everything, although Sara knows more about growing flowers for sale than Cally does and Cally had more hands-on gardening experience with school aged children.

Over time we have taken on more specific roles. We meet together formally once a month to plan what is going to happen and discuss ideas and keep in touch via phone, text and social media, sometimes every day in the meantime.

In general Sara is the website geek and photographer and Cally is the writer, though we bounce ideas off each other across our roles. We both make the most of social media, tweeting and retweeting things our audience will find interesting via @ourflowerpatch.

We engage with parent…