Showing posts from June, 2016

Poppy Appeal

A little bit of plant magic has happened here in Chippenham, with the appearance of thousands of roadside poppies alongside the A350 by our estate. Part of this road was converted into a dual carriageway recently, and it's this area where the poppies are to be found. I almost lightly guerrilla gardened this stretch, as there was a lot of bare ground left after the work was completed. Now I'm glad I stayed my hand and let nature take its course instead.

Poppy seeds remain viable for decades and they need bare soil in which to germinate. This is so they're not out competed by the grasses and other plants which make up our usual roadside sward. It's also why the poppy is such a potent symbol of remembrance - the soil churned up by WW1's activities gave rise to the blood red poppies seen in profusion on Flanders fields.

I pondered whether these particular poppies were sown deliberately by the road contractors as part of the site's restoration, but it appears that …

Review: Riverford Recipe Box with guest chef Sarah Raven

The arrival of a big box is always exciting, like Christmas come early, and last week was no exception when a trial recipe box arrived courtesy of Riverford. They currently have Sarah Raven as guest chef and this was the first week out of four different recipe boxes on offer, with seasonally adapted recipes from her latest book, Good Good Food.

The box contains everything needed* to create three recipes with accompanying goodies for two people and retails at £36.95. There's a suggested cooking order for each dish; I reversed 2 and 3 as the chicken recipe requires marinading overnight. The dishes were:

Tomato and Poppy Seed Tart served with salad leavesSangria Chichen served with red rice and salad leavesSweet and Sour Vegetable Curry served with red rice
My box arrived on its appointed day last Wednesday at 7.30 am, much to our surprise. It seems deliveries can start as early as 6 am, so luckily ours arrived when we were awake**

As you can see from the above collage, everything is…

Comfrey Update

It's been a couple of years since I took my first cut of comfrey for my compost heaps, and I'm really pleased how my plants have filled out in their allotted space on the allotment. They make a neat boundary between the compost bins/water butt and the upper growing areas on the plot.

I really like the flowers too, they're rather reminiscent of the frilly pantaloons my mum used to wear. I wonder what else can be tempted in to admire them more closely?

Ah yes, the ever acrobatic and hard working bees simply can't get enough of comfrey flowers.

A pause to watch their antics reveals they use the hooks on their legs to cling onto a flower whilst taking their fill of pollen and nectar. There's always something new to learn about bees.

I took these photos before I went on holiday, and seeing it's National Insect Week, now's the perfect time to show them to you.

The bees have taken their fill and the flowers have faded, so it's time post-solstice* to take my f…

Allotment Folk: Yorkshire Style

The journey from our holiday cottage to the market town of Helmsley proved a favourite one over the past couple of weeks. It took us up Clay Bank (as shown on Sunday's Postcard), then over Bilsdale and Ryedale moors through the most exquisite of upland scenery and a scattering of stone-built villages and farmsteads.

Our main objective for the first of these trips was to visit Helmsley Walled Garden - a blog treat reserved for another day - which I've wanted to visit for quite some time. A stroll around town afterwards proved equally rewarding, especially when I found the Yorkshire version of the Allotment Folk I wrote about recently.

I particularly enjoyed seeing the chap on the left. Evidence of May's Tour de Yorkshire greeted us in most places we visited or travelled through, with all kinds of brightly painted yellow and blue bicycles, oodles of bunting and proud Yorkshire flags providing evidence of the route taken by the race's cyclists.

They may have been long go…

Postcard from Yorkshire

We've just got back from a wonderful two weeks spent in a cottage tucked just inside the North York Moors National Park. The photo shows you the view at the back of the cottage - a glacial moraine crowned with beech trees; the greenhow from which Ingleby Greenhow takes its name.

You can just see the North York Moors behind the how (from the old Norse haugh which means hill or mound), towards Clay Bank which has the most amazing views across the Cleveland plain.

Here's the view down the hill from the how towards our cottage. The strangely shaped mound you can see in the distance is Roseberry Topping, an icon from NAH's childhood as a walk to the top was a favourite trip of his parents, plus the history and geography of the surrounding area was studied extensively by his mother. Part of the shape is possibly due to the local ironstone and alum works which may have collapsed.

The hill to the right is Easby Moor, home to Captain Cook's Monument, who went to school in Grea…

GBBD: Separated at Birth?

A while ago I blogged about my mystery clematis and then its Case Solved, but I've never actually shown you the blooms at the centre of the mystery together. Both are looking especially lovely here at VP Gardens this year, so I couldn't resist making them the subject of this month's Blooms Day.

The mysterious clematis is the one on the right, sold to me as C. 'Crystal Fountain', which is actually the one on the left. You can easily see why I was puzzled, and also why my bloom with its mistaken identity still has the wow factor with anyone visiting the garden.

Several years after it appeared here, Raymond Evison launched my mysterious bloom as C. 'Diamantina' at Chelsea Flower Show. It's a sport of C. 'Crystal Fountain', so I really do have a case of Separated at Birth in my garden.

What delightful mysteries have you had to solve in your garden?

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

Plant Profiles: Verbena bonariensis

May's always a tense time of the year... it's peak gardening time with lots of spring jobs clamouring for attention, and then there's the key question... have all my precious plants survived the winter? There are always some alarming gaps in my borders which can't be written off and replaced until the end of May.

These gaps are where the tender salvias, dahlias and short-lived perennials live, joined in my daily anxious searches this year by the Verbena bonariensis 'curtain' between my double terrace beds. The good news is a couple of the plants have survived... the bad news is a couple of them haven't.

This was a bit of a surprise as Verbena bonariensis is relatively hardy for my part of the world - rated as H4 according to the RHS - but the cold heavy clay of my garden always causes more winter damage than the hardest of frosts. We had a mild yet wet winter here in Wiltshire, so my plant casualties are a little more than usual this year. I'm sad to s…

Allotment Folk

Last weekend saw Chippenham's main event of the year, the Folk Festival and I'm delighted to find a couple of allotment folk appeared at the same time up at the plot. Coincidence? I don't think so, let's consider the evidence...

With that stance and style of hat, our first character has to be a folk dancer of some sort, and with a stick in her hand, I'd wager she's of the Morris persuasion.

At first glance our second character seems to have a more Cavalier attitude, but those dangling bells are a giveaway. It's another Morris dancer for sure. I love the ribbons used - they say, "You are my sunshine". I wonder which folk dance fits that tune?

GBMD: Another summer's Day

The rich purple alliums bobbling through my garden confirm it's June, and the start of summer.

Shame the weather here at VP Gardens today doesn't agree - I often think the phrase 'Flaming June' can be taken two ways ;)