Showing posts from March, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: All Hail the Post Office Tower


To Fedge or not to Fedge...

... that is the question I'm pondering this rainy Easter weekend.

I've spent over 17 years fighting the ivy that comes over the fence from the public land next door. It's hard work - and a losing battle - to keep it under control, perhaps it's time to rethink things a little?

I'm tempted to treat the fence ivy like a hedge (aka a fedge*) and control it with shears, rather than removing it completely. That'll reduce the effort required on that part of the garden, so I can focus on keeping it at bay from the borders.

The ivy looks more attractive than the wooden fence, protects it from the weather, and also forms a good food source for wildlife. The bees love the flowers in autumn and it's been a joy to watch chattering flocks of long tailed tits flutter through and pick off the berries over the winter.

Sometimes it's better to go with the flow and work with what nature gives you, rather than stamp your own ideas all over the garden.

Fingers crossed it w…

All Change at Kilver Court

I was lured back to Kilver Court this week with the promise of brunch and flamingo-themed fun. This garden is often called 'Somerset's Secret Garden', so it's apt we start with this tempting entrance and a distant glimpse of an unusual object.

An unexpected - and fun - surprise I found in the topiary garden were these storybook sculptures by Robert James Limited. They're on display from now until April 6th, prior to their transfer up north to the Harrogate Spring Flower Show.

So what about the flamingos, I hear you ask...

... well, here they are with the garden owners and invited dignitaries welcoming them officially to the garden. Guess which song was playing when I arrived.

As you can see, the flamingos were busy on their island getting used to their surroundings - apparently Kilver Court has had them before, around 50 years ago. There was the potential for things to go very wrong with this opening, so the boatman is to be commended for keeping everyone safe.


Seasonal Recipe: Parsnip Winter Cake

This may seem a strange choice to feature now we're officially in spring, but Parsnip Winter Cake proved a great way to finish off my parsnips last week AND serve as a great reminder to start sowing this season's crop.

I also remember Happy Mouffetard's struggles to find a decent tasting parsnip cake, so it was time to see for myself...

... and here's the result. A yummy fruit cake with not a hint of parsnip, independently verified by NAH as 'delicious, can I have some more please'. Then I told him about the hidden ingredient and he still demanded more.

Anyone trying to increase the vegetable intake of  their loved ones take note.

The recipe worked exactly as written, even down to the timings in my fan assisted oven. The only change I made to Holly Farrell's recipe was to omit the 2 tablespoons of honey poured over the top. I figured the cake would be sweet enough already and NAH agreed.

Grow Your Own Cake is a match made in heaven for gardeners, particular…

Let's Go Pell-mell to the Mall

I've walked down the Mall lots of times, but not noticed this place tucked away in the elegant buildings there before. It turned out to be a pleasant discovery yesterday.

I was lured there with the promise of some contemporary garden art courtesy of the Mall Galleries and their Royal Society of British Artists annual exhibition. It promised to be a good follow-up to Painting the Modern Garden I saw in January.

I wasn't disappointed. I particularly liked Melissa Scott-Miller's Front Garden with Self Painting (click to enlarge and you'll see her), which reminded me of Renoir's painting of Monet at work. Melissa's work won the Galleries Bookshop prize and also graces their shelves as a greetings card.

It wasn't all about gardens as art. With 500 items on show, there was plenty more to explore...

... with a very convenient cafe, positioned perfectly for visitors to admire the view.

It wasn't all paintings or drawings either. I particularly enjoyed these de…

GBBD: The Darling Buds of March

Spring is continuing apace here at VP Gardens, with many plants in bud well ahead of their usual time due to the mild winter. I don't think any of my clematis had a proper dormant season at all. As a result they're showing buds aplenty and some quite malnourished looking growth.

My C. 'Diamantina' (pictured) grows strongly and as its pruning time is late winter/early spring, I can sacrifice these 'darling buds of March without fear of losing any later flower power. To make doubly sure I'll give the plant a good feed of pelleted chicken manure to ensure much stronger growth and flowers later on.

Another plant with plenty of buds (and flowers) is my trailing rosemary. This plant never read the label and is in bloom regularly from December onwards.

I saw the upright version in full bloom at a lineside garden on the West Somerset Railway last week, being bombarded by bumble bees in the bright sunshine. Proof of why I value this plant as an early bee magnet in my g…

A Potted Challenge

I've learned recently styling product images for a client isn't one of my fortes, so when I was offered the opportunity to style a pot using one of the Kew Long Tom range offered by The Orchard, I saw it as an opportunity to try again.

I've admired these crackle glazed pots for a while having first seen them at Kew a few years ago. In my head I saw a lovely spring arrangement complete with nodding daffodils, primulas and trailing ivy.

However when the pot arrived I found it didn't have a drainage hole. Another lesson learned: look carefully at the small print as well as the pretty picture.

Luckily NAH came to my rescue with a surprise birthday gift of tulips. I have very few vases and they were already stuffed with Cornish daffodils. My new pot proved to be the perfect solution.

I may pluck up the courage later to try to drill a drainage hole so it can join the terracotta long toms I have in the garden already. This blog post has a detailed guide. As for styling - I s…

Plant Profiles: Starter Plants

I always give in to temptation at the Garden Press Event. There are always new plants on offer to trial and it would be impolite to refuse.

This year I'm looking forward to trialling the new petunia 'Night Sky' I liked the look of last year, plus some of the pictured begonia 'Glowing Embers'. I've been pleased with other cultivars of these trailing begonias before, so I'm looking forward to a great display later this year.

It means I'll have a delivery of starter plants quite soon, which I'll need to keep alive until I can plant them out after the last frosts in late May. It's a little tricky as I don't have a greenhouse, so there's quite a bit of windowsill juggling going on in the early stages.

When the plants get bigger, I'll transfer them to my cold frame to start hardening them off, with fleece on standby for any colder nights.

Cultivation Notes

I'm pleased I found the pictured cultivation guide (and leaflet) on display as i…

Garlic Trials

No allotment season at VP Gardens is complete without an experiment or two, and this year is no exception.

First up this year is a garlic trial using 3 new-to-me varieties courtesy of Marshalls, where one of the trio (Red Duke) is reputed to have some rust resistance. I didn't grow any garlic last year because rust was so rampant on my plot in 2014. I did harvest plenty of usable bulbs back then, but of the fiddly, hard to peel kind, rather than the bulging fat cloves which are a joy to cook with.

Winter's been constantly wet here in Wiltshire, so I've been unable to get onto my plot to plant out my cloves. As you can see that hasn't held me back as I've resorted to my usual potted solution instead - handy for anyone who gardens on clay and loves their garlic.

The pots mean I've also been able to take advantage of the few frosts we've had - a necessary ingredient if my planted cloves are to become full heads of garlic themselves*. As you can see I've s…

Hurrah for NAH!

I'm taking a break from my usual content to celebrate the amazing achievements of my husband aka NAH (Non-Allotmenteering Husband).

For the past 5+ years he's spent most weekends at Midsomer Norton station tending to the restoration of his '28 ton mistress' aka 'Joyce' aka Sentinel Steam Loco 7109. NAH is joint owner of this engine.

Joyce is a unique engine in the UK, quite unlike most steam locos, who started her working life at Croydon gasworks in the 1920s. There is a gardening connection along her road to restoration, as she spent some time as part of Alan Bloom's collection at Bressingham in the late 1960s.

I was surprised when NAH suggested we visit Bressingham; it wasn't until we arrived I realised he had an ulterior motive. He went off to research Joyce's history (and see if any of her missing parts were there), and I happily pottered around Dell Garden and Foggy Bottom, bumping into Adrian Bloom for a chat along the way.

Then there's a…

GBMD: I Love Compost

I found this surprising (and welcome) quote at the Royal Academy's Painting the Modern Garden exhibition recently.

Octave Mirbeau was an anarchist writer* and seemingly enthusiastic about all things gardening if this quote from his one of his letters is anything to go by.** He considered his garden in the River Seine valley as an unspoiled utopia, and corresponded with Monet, Caillebotte and Pissarro.

* = described as such at the exhibition.

** = I don't know if there was any reaction to this comment from any woman who knew Mirbeau. Whilst I love gardening and compost, NAH knows better than to compare me to anything I spread on our garden. However, a former boyfriend once said, "I don't care if you looked like a washing machine, I'd still love you". Hmm.

Update: purely by coincidence, Flighty has posted about his compost bin. Like him and the gardeners at West Green House, I must get cracking and spread the good stuff from mine...