Showing posts from March, 2015

A Different View

I've explored the cheaper options for getting to London lately as I've been tempted up there quite a lot in March. As a result, I've enjoyed a different view of our capital from the bus compared to my usual train journey.

Highlights are a quick glimpse of Chiswick House, plus the trip along the Thames Embankment and a view of the boat houses moored on the river, even a Thames barge last week. Then we go past Chelsea Physic Garden and the Royal Hospital grounds with the latter looking quite calm compared to RHS showtime. It's a surprise to see the Chelsea pensioners in the local Tesco Express dressed in their workaday blue uniform instead of the red finery we're used to.

Spotting the Thames boat houses made me itch to capture their varied gardens for my Unusual Front Gardens series, as does the green wall I spotted on the side of the Porsche showroom as we whisked through Chiswick. I've yet to find the best opportunity to photograph these as I've either bee…

Of Yellow Books and Garden Walks

On Wednesday I had the privilege of attending this year's launch of the Yellow Book. It was great to meet so many people involved with this organisation, to hear how last year's funds will be distributed, and learn what's new for 2015 and beyond.

The launch marks the starting gun firing for this year's garden visiting season, with nearly 4,000 gardens opening for the NGS from now until around the end of October.I'm particularly looking forward to visiting Karen and seeing how she gets on with her openings this year.

I shocked myself last September when I found myself thinking a trip to Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons was to a local event - compared to most things I'm invited to - which in reality turned out to be a 120 mile round trip. I also realised I've yet to visit many of the open gardens which are close to home.

Something had to be done about this sorry state of affairs.

So I went onto the NGS website and used their Search facility to see what the po…

How Advertising Works in Chippenham #36

Decide to ramp up your party's campaign for the forthcoming General ElectionDesign a snazzy leaflet outlining your plans for the Chippenham ConstituencyArrange delivery to every household in said ConstituencyWait for a blogger with a camera to notice the accompanying photos are of Bradford on AvonEt Voila! To be fair Bradford's part of the Chippenham Constituency too, but my inner imp was intrigued by two parties choosing to show an image from a much smaller town than the main one. It might turn out to be the only thing they can agree on ;)

For balance, I was going to wait and see what the other parties came up with before writing this post. However, they're being much tardier with their leaflets - I've had these two for ages.

Chippenham already has form with its election publicity backfiring despite the current Constituency only being in existence for this and the previous election. It was the subject for How Advertising Works #15and #16 in 2010, which included the sp…

Painting Paradise: The Art of the Garden

On Friday when most of the nation was craning its collective neck to see the partial solar eclipse, I instead found myself in the poshest of rooms without windows.

I was at a Bloggers Breakfast kindly set up by the Royal Collection Trust to preview their latest exhibition, Painting Paradise: The Art of the Garden. This is at the Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace from now, until Sunday 11th October 2015.

My visit turned out to be a real treat, from the coffee served by a member of the Royal Household through to the fascinating curator's tour which provided an accompanying slice of garden history without tears.

Amongst the delights are a number of firsts to view: the first portrait of a gardener (Jacopo Cennini, gardener to one of the Medicis, dated 1523); Ruralia Commoda, the first gardening manual - owned by Henry VIII - which contains detailed instructions for both landowner and gardener alike; and the first real English garden captured on canvas, viewed through the arches …

Let's Visit a Real Garden or Two

I'm showing you Susan's garden today because we've been having quite a conversation after her post earlier this week on Rules for visiting a private garden. By private she means ones like hers and mine.

Her gist is that visitors should be nice, be kind. I agree because I easily give myself 10 times the amount of criticism compared to anything a visitor might care to give. Susan's bravely illustrated her post with a picture of her garden's entrance, the kind of scene which might lead to the sort of negative remarks she talks about.

I saw that picture differently - it really made me want to visit Susan's garden because a) it has clues about her lifestyle and gardening in a different climate and b) I sense a kindred spirit. Here's why...

Can you see the similarities? Admittedly the area bordering our side path is mainly my utility and cold frame area, but I really should tidy it up a bit. NB that splash of red you can see at the end is the 'Anna's Red…

Wordless Wednesday: Totally Topiary


GBBD: The Onset of Yellow

Last Monday, I talked about March being noted for its yellow and its onset has indeed started here at VP Gardens. It's a dull day here, but the daffodils manage effortlessly to cheer up the gloom.

Walking around the garden this morning, I noted how much better the more dainty daffodils looked compared with their larger, more blowsy cousins. They're also less likely to be felled by the fickle winds of March. The blackthorn blossom is about to burst too - we may yet have another go at winter.

I'm meeting up with Victoria later to go round the Abbey Gardens which open for the NGS today. As the house is up for sale, this year might be the last opportunity for us to visit. She also has some spare Iris 'Katherine Hodgkin', which she is kindly giving to me - hurray.

I can't think of a better thing to do for Blooms Day than to meet up with a garden blogging buddy :)

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Plant Profiles: Hebe

The continued good weather means I've been able to crack on with the annual spring cut-back here at VP Gardens. It's even been warm enough to sit outside, which in turn drew my attention to the pictured Hebe 'Bronzy Baby' next to my garden bench.
I'd always thought hebes were the large shrubs dripping with flowers often seen at seasides, but our move to VP Gardens soon re-educated me. Firstly I discovered the tight evergreen dome of H rakaiensis, which served as a neat and relatively care-free version of a box ball, and then I discovered the smaller-leaved, variegated kinds like the one pictured above.
These grow to around 2-3 feet high and provide a neat foil to some of my pots. Spring colour is green with a white edging, then the cool of winter turns them contrasting shades of bronze, pink or red depending on the plant chosen. That colour change adds to their interest, particularly if - like me - you've chosen one which is a bit shy to flower.
They can get a bit…

A Purple Patch

Saturday was the first day that really felt like spring as there was a glorious light and a real warmth outside. I managed to spend a comfortable time tending to my garden's needs rather than retreating indoors after an hour to thaw myself with mug of hot chocolate*.

March tends to be a month noted for the colour yellow, but it was the fat patches of purple crocus which made me reach for my camera. They're not so profuse as in previous years; probably a combination of thieving squirrels and constriction by the encroaching ivy from the public land.

The ivy's taken over quite a bit of the garden whilst I wasn't looking, along with some wicked looking bramble which hopped over the fence and sneakily anchored itself behind a large shrub before popping into view.

I've been struggling to think of my summary word for 2015. I've got it now - it's Reclamation.

* though my mug of hot chocolate was welcome anyway ;)

Against the Odds: Cotoneaster horizontalis

We have several Cotoneaster horizontalisplants in the garden and just like the Unexpected Honeysuckle I wrote about for December's Blooms Day, I've never planted any of them.

Cotoneaster has had a bit of a bad press because it features in many a public planting scheme. It's tough as old boots and as you can see thrives almost anywhere. I suspect the pictured plant and the others at VP Gardens were brought to us by passing birds, possibly from the roundabout in the middle of the estate.

Another plausible explanation for the origin of the pictured plant is it's a seedling from the one which magically appeared in the large planter by the front door. Despite its proximity to our boots when we arrive home, it's definitely surviving against the odds.

I think the photo reminds us of its virtues. It has glossy green leaves and an attractive habit. In the spring it bears a profusion of creamy flowers which the local honeybees love, followed by bright red berries which the …

Some Thoughts on #TheDress and Gardening

A photograph of blue and black dress which looked gold and white to some caused a storm of controversy and a top trending #TheDress hashtag across social media last week. It even made the national news.

I put my thoughts to one side on how camera and computer settings, plus viewing angles can alter what we see, and had a think about the use of colour in our gardens.

My interest in this subject started not long after I'd met Threadspider. We were looking at a piece of turquoise cloth one day, which she clearly saw as green and I as blue. In that instant I realised how a simple difference in our eyes could alter our perception of the world. This was also discussed in relation to #TheDress, particularly how the number of cones * in the eye's structure can alter the range of colours we can see.

Apparently Christopher Lloyd was colour blind ** and he was often criticised for his combination of particular shades of pink and yellow at Great Dixter. I wonder how much his colour blind…

GBMD: Snowdrop

I discovered the above poem recently when I visited Hodsock Priory - John Armstrong wrote it especially for Chelsea Physic Garden. The poem's last 2 lines seemed fitting for today's Muse Day, seeing we've just entered the the first month of spring.

Today's the day when many of the snowdrop gardens close their doors for the season and we'll have to make do with our photographs and memories until next year. But then there are crocuses and daffodils peeping out the soil in greeting, and so our gardening year moves on to other delights.