Showing posts from December, 2015

Unusual Front Gardens #24: Santa Stop Here

Haworth in West Yorkshire is famed for its connection with the Brontes and is a popular tourist destination as a result. Its steeply cobbled main street has many tea rooms and shops, so it was great to spot one place where there is a home with much evidence of the hopes of at least one small child.

All the pansies were frozen into submission when I passed by last year, but once the seasonal cold snap stopped they'd soon be springing up again to brighten the stony street .

Veg Plotting will resume in the New Year; may you have a wonderful Christmas and New Year, wherever you may be.

Solstice Song

A winter day, the summer grass turned hay
Frost in the field 'til the dawn of May
A summer's light never shone as great or as bright
So dance in the shadows of a winter's night

~ Halsway Carol - Music by Nigel Eaton, words by Ian Frisk *
We've been learning a wonderful new carol at choir and it's great to have one which is about the turning of the year at the time of the winter solstice. I took the above photo to match the words.

However, the scene I found at Crewkerne, Somerset on Saturday was quite unexpected - and it looked wrong when I matched the words to it. What a topsy turvy December we're having. Coincidentally,  Halsway Manor is also found in Somerset and is the only residential folk centre in the UK.
If you thought the solstice was the 21st (which I did), this year it's today at 4.49am instead. Apparently the date can vary between 20th and 23rd December, though the 21st is the most common day. This link tells you a lot more.

* = the link takes you t…

Puzzle Corner: Christmas Traditions

Every family has its own set of Christmas traditions and it's no different for NAH and me. One of our favourites is the Radio Times (RT) bumper Prize Crossword of 60 or so cryptic clues, which marks the start of our festivities.

Puzzles such as this and the RT Trackword are a shared activity we both enjoy. It's a shame they seem to have dropped the Trackword Christmas special; perhaps they've run out of suitable Christmassy phrases for us to puzzle over. Those of you unfamiliar with the Trackword may like to try your hand with this online version I've found whilst writing this post. There's also an App if you're interested.

Over the past few years the crossword's become doubly delicious as a few of us get together on Twitter to exchange news on our progress. The first few days are sacrosanct: everyone is on their own to solve as many clues as possible, then little tidbits of help are offered in exchange for help elsewhere. It's only an extra hint mind,…

GBBD: A Winter's Collage and a New Form of Plant Hunting

It's amazing to have enough flowers to make a Blooms Day collage, not only that but have enough to leave some of them out! I've noted my current colour scheme is tending towards white, pink and red. It's an interesting mix of summer and winter flowering blooms and everything looks set for a record breaking garden flower count on Christmas Day.

Talking of flower counts, you may like to take part in BSBI's New Year Plant Hunt. This looks at wild and naturalised flowers (not planted or garden escapees) open on one day recorded between New Year's Day and 4th January. All you need to do is go out for three hours and record what you see. Help is available for identification if needed, and tea breaks or comfort stops are allowed! Take the above link to BSBI's website for more information.

You can also read about 2015's results, where it's surprising to see just how much was in flower last winter. This survey looks set to join January's Big Garden Birdwatc…

A Treasury of Garden Books

If you're stuck for a Christmas present or two for a gardening friend or family member, you may find something suitable in this selection of gardening books I've enjoyed this year...

For food growers
Grow for Flavour has turned out to be my hit of the year as it's the book I've returned to many times. James Wong has extensively searched through thousands of scientific papers and distilled the knowledge gained into this attractive and very readable book.

One of the reasons we grow our own is for the freshness and superior flavour our crops brings us. James examines the factors which influence flavour and delivers dozens of handy tips which are easily achievable.

It's not all theory and science, James also looked at which varieties do the best in our climate by commandeering some space at RHS Wisley to conduct a flavour trial. So for each popular crop examined you have a number of suggestions to try for yourself.

We noticed at the tomato trial earlier this year there …

A DIY Christmas Wreath

I spent a delightful morning at the Pound Arts centre yesterday making my own Christmas wreath to adorn our front door. I usually fish our willow one out of the attic, but this year I fancied trying something new.

Amanda from Daisy Chain in Corsham showed us the ropes, and accompanied by Bing Crosby's 'White Christmas' and plentiful chocolate biscuits to hand, it was the perfect way to get into the festive mood.

We started with a wire wreath ring. We fixed a thin wire onto this, then plenty of 'sausage shaped' damp moss with the wire wound around them to form the base and keep the foliage fresh. Then we snipped our greenery into lengths of around six inches. These were gathered into bunches of three and fixed onto the brown moss side of the base. We made sure the ends of the stems were together, so only a couple of turns of the pliant wire were needed to fix them. The foliage faced outwards and in the same direction.

Then came the fun part - adding the decorations…

Events With Capabilities

Lancelot Brown was nicknamed 'Capability' because he had a habit of telling his clients their estates had a 'great capability' i.e. potential for the kind of sweeping changes which made his fortune.

Sadly Capability Brown and his contemporaries swept away many of the gardens which pre-dated their work via the 18th Century's English landscape movement. However, the movement's legacy still has much to be admired.

Now 2016 is set to have a 'great capability' as far as garden visits and events are concerned. In addition to the usual suspects, there is the long awaited festival to celebrate the tricentenary of Capability Brown's birth. You can find out which events are happening near you here.

Then there are Brown's gardens and landscapes, and I've included views from some I've visited so far in this post. He was involved with more than 250 and the biggest number ever will open as part of the festival, including many not usually open to the …

Serendipity, Independence and Fermented Foods

Life's been in the doldrums of late, so I'm glad serendipity came to my rescue via my local independent bookshop.

I've wanted to learn more about fermented foods such as kefir and kimchi for quite a while, and here was an opportunity to do so (quite literally) served up on a plate. Did I tweet back immediately? You bet I did.

Then cheery messages from both the bookshop and the author, set up my anticipation nicely for a good evening. And all this happened before I found out there'd be cake.

It was so civilised to sit with wineglass in hand and listen to Charlotte Pike explain what her book Fermentedis about. Beforehand I thought I knew nothing, completely forgetting I've made yoghurt and sourdough bread before.

There's still lots to learn. For instance the possibility of fermenting fruits and vegetables beyond just sauerkraut opens up a new way of dealing with my allotment gluts.

The mysteries of various drinks using kefir and kombucha were explained, alongsid…

GBMD: A Little Learning

I've been trying to take a decent photo of this quotation for Muse Day for ages and at last, autumn's softer light enabled me to do so. It's given me quite a lot of food for thought over the past few months.

When I tell people I write a gardening blog, the most common reaction I get is I must be an expert on gardening. Anyone who gardens knows there is too much to learn in a lifetime, no matter how deeply we might drink from our own 'Pierian Spring'. My blog is simply all about what I've learned or thought about gardening along the way.

Sometimes the amount left to learn seems overwhelming, and it's tempting to think it might be best not to drink (or blog or garden in this instance) at all. However, as an advocate of lifelong learning, I've decided that would be a shame, and so I must drink deeply for as long as I possibly can.

Luckily Pope agrees, as Wikipedia's entry for Pierian Spring shows. Reading the rest of his poem reveals his true meaning:…