Showing posts from November, 2014

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.