Showing posts from February, 2015

Unusual Front Gardens #22: Cotoneaster

When your door opens directly onto Corsham High Street and you have very little space for planting, how on earth do you have a front garden?

The solution in this instance is to go vertical and clothe your house with an evergreen plant. When I was writing my post on Pyracanthalast year, I remembered this place and sallied forth to photograph it as an example of how the shrub could be used. It was only when I went to take a close-up photo of the plant that I found it was Cotoneaster, not Pyracantha. Durrrr.

However, whatever plant it is, I think it still adds interest to the building. It'll provide some extra insulation for the cottage it clothes and the spring flowers will be a magnet for bees.

It's amazing to see what can be done with just 3 plants, though I'm itching to clip it into some kind of shape. I see the beginnings of some rabbits leaping along the top there, don't you?

The Allure of Orchids... and Photography

Many moons ago I organised some volunteer weekends at Kew's herbarium (which you can read about here). The first year coincided with their inaugural orchid festival and it was a real treat to be given a guided tour after we'd finished our fern work.

Fast forward 20 or so years and it was great to see the festival's gone from strength to strength. Most of the exhibits (and the most spectacular ones) are in the Princess of Wales Conservatory, but keen-eyed orchid spotters will find them scattered throughout Kew's other buildings. For instance, I spotted some at the International Garden Photographer of the Year exhibition (IGPOTY) in the Nash Conservatory.

Alluring Orchids runs until 8th March and the IGPOTY exhibition until 6th April.

Spuds I Like

I've decided to grow less spuds this year, but that's not stopped me from adding potatoes to my list of projects for 2015. I've decided to have a bit of a trial to see if there is anything which can shift my love for the scrummy, buttery Harlequin.

The key to this trial was a trip to my local Potato Day courtesy of my local allotment society and Pennard Plants a couple of weeks ago. There were around 30 different varieties there, with some I'd never heard of and therefore of particular interest.

One of the best things about potato days is visitors can buy as few or as many of each variety they want for a mere 22p per spud. I was tempted initially to buy one of each, but I soon replaced that notion with a cunning plan:

Select a few of the Early and Second Early varieties to try. Late blight can be a major problem up at the plot, so by avoiding the later harvested Maincrop varieties I hope to sidestep this issue in 2015. This approach also helped me to whittle down my c…

Puzzle Corner: Jigsaws

NAH and I often rent a cottage for our UK holidays. Most of them have a stock of books and games to help wile away any rainy days and that's how we've rekindled our love of jigsaw puzzles. It's great to have something companionable to do on a rainy day or in the evening before going out.

It's got to the point where we're disappointed when there isn't one available, so we've started to buy them as presents to guarantee we'll get our puzzle fix. As you can see, NAH's latest choice for me was very appropriate.

I've just bought this jigsaw via eBay which depicts 2010's Chelsea Flower Show. It's doubly good as it's the first one I attended during the build as well as the show itself, thanks to Mark Gregory's generosity. His show garden is one of the ones featured on the jigsaw, so it's a great souvenir of happy times.

Now to persuade NAH we need an early holiday, so I can tuck it into our suitcase in readiness...

Do you enjoy ji…

Wordless Wednesday: Cocktail Anyone?


GBBD: Chilly Chilli Update

It's not the best photo I know, but I loved how yesterday's sunshine provided a range of contrasts on my overwintered chilli plant. It's time to update you on progress - as you can see I have new chillis forming with a few blooms showing promise of more to come.

I was surprised to find buds on January 29th and as the resultant chillis are forming on an indoor, overwintered plant, I now know it's self-fertile. A number of you asked about the perils of aphids when I posted in January; so far they've been mercifully absent, but instead I've had to be vigilant over mildew. Prompt removal of affected leaves, increased watering and brief airings on sunny days have helped keep this peril at bay.

Today marks the wonderful day when my garden - and windowsill - receives 10 hours of light, so it won't be long before repotting duties beckon.

This month's walk around my garden for Blooms Day also provides a cautionary tale. Note to self: I must never buy mini-plug …

The PR Files: Valentine's Special

It's a special time of year not only for lovers, but for marketeers as well; who can forget last year's storm over the Ultimate Love Bouquet?

This year's creativity reached new heights, with the following efforts deserving a special mention by The PR Files. 

NB names and website links have been removed to protect the innocent.


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If you’re struggling for a gift idea then help is at hand from Robomow’s range of robotic lawnmowers. A premium gift for all those who find mowing a chore or those who just want to put their feet up.  Think of all the time saved by not having to mow the lawn ever again.

Robomow mows the lawn at regular, adjustable intervals with no human input required. The machines are able to tackle lawns …

Plant Profiles: Snowdrops

I've had a wonderful time visiting a number of gardens noted for their snowdrops, but now is the time to hunker down and admire those in my own garden. It's time for the annual snowdrop count, where I reassure myself that my clumps of good old Galanthus nivalis and doubles (Galanthus nivalis f. pleniflora 'Flore Pleno') are not only thriving, they're multiplying.

My blogging pals ask how I achieve my count. I'm sure their mind's eye pictures my blooms in the same profusion as those I saw at Colesbourne Park with Victoria on Sunday. The current reality at VP Gardens is not so profuse*, so it's easy to work through each clump, gently putting the counted snowdrops to one side until each little patch is recorded. My snowdrops aren't at their peak yet and I reckon it's a week or so until I know whether last year's count of 3,127 is exceeded.

My count started the year after NAH gave me 1,000 in the green snowdrops for my birthday. It took me quit…

Winter Gardens

I hate February - it's tagged onto the end of a long winter and prevents my birthday from happening. I decided a different approach was needed this year and embarked on a mini-break to scoot around a number of gardens. My slough of despond improved no end.

I've always enjoyed seeing gardens in winter, but previously I've only managed the odd one or two per year. Seeing several over a few days was inspirational and gave me much food for thought. VP Gardens is currently exhibiting a wonderful shade of brown on the whole and the gardens I visited amply demonstrated it needn't be so.

For a pleasing winter garden, its hardscaping must work even harder than usual. I have the pictured low garden wall already, but this simple cobble contrast in the pathway is an idea I can take from its grander surroundings and make my own. I'd like to have that snuggly warm greenhouse too.

It was my first visit to Aberglasney and it won't be the last. Naomi and I had the privilege of…

Snowdrops on Tour

I've just come back from an enjoyable week dedicated to all things snowdrop. As you can see this involved the unusual step of taking some snowdrops on tour as well as visiting several key gardens.

It's all Naomi's fault: I'd agreed to help her with her talk at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, the first in a series resulting from her book. Tom at Evolution Plants agreed to lend her some snowdrops and so I found myself there in the polytunnel on a windy Wednesday making a selection of 10 distinctive ones. These were to serve as a live and scented illustration alongside her slides.

Thank goodness we went there a day early. It allowed the AV facilities to get sorted and for us to recce the snowdrop walk Naomi was going to lead after her talk. She was able to spot some of the more choice varieties in the garden's collection and weave in their stories along the way, such as the Greatorex Doubles. Here she's showing us the finer points of snowdrop identification…

Garlic Surprise

Just before Christmas last year, I was surprised to find 6 heads of garlic in my vegetable basket from 2013's harvest. The heads were much larger than last year's rust affected crop and so were easy to date. How on earth I missed them in there is a mystery.

I was even more surprised to find some of the cloves were good enough for cooking - they had retained a strong flavour and were relatively firm. Chopping them ready for the casserole I was making revealed the beginnings of a green shoot inside... and that got me thinking.

That green shoot suggests the cloves are still viable for growing and as they've survived over a year of storage (most garlic either shrivels away or starts to shoot at the start of the next growing season), I could have the potential for a very good strain on my hands.

So I've gone through the pictured remaining 3 heads and selected the cloves which are firm. I composted many more, but I was left with 16 fat cloves and 21 slightly thinner ones. T…

GBMD: A Blade of Grass

For my friend and ex-colleague Sue whose funeral I attended recently. This thought provoking poem was read out at her service and has stayed with me since.

It sums up Sue's character perfectly and also serves to highlight how much we take for granted, especially the everyday and familiar... and other things perhaps, such as our friends.

There is still beauty to be found in the pictured Hakonechloa flower, even in the midst of its winter decay.

It's sad that I thought of Sue before Christmas and made a mental note to contact her in the New Year, just like many of us do at that time. A few days later I found out she'd died, at around the time I was thinking of her.