Showing posts from July, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: At Iford


Book Review: A summer crop for your reading pleasure

The summer holidays are beckoning and thoughts turn to reading matter. Here are five review books and other discoveries I've enjoyed over the past couple of months...

The Little Book of Bonsai
This RHS book tackles a less well-known aspect of gardening. It's a jargon-free introduction, written by two of the UK's bonsai experts. Packed with lots of information and top tips, it's illustrated with plenty of photographs and clear drawings.

There are step-by-step instructions for you to look after an established tree or to grow your own. A guide to the most commonly used ones towards the end of the book, will allow you to select the tree of your choice.

I didn't know each shape has its own name, nor that wiring is an important step in the process of growing a bonsai tree.

There's a comprehensive list of other resources at the back of the book to help take you beyond this introductory text.

This is a thoughtful gift for a keen gardener, or for someone who'd like t…

The Great Green Wall Hunt: The story so far

It's a while since I announced I was embarking on a Great Green Wall Hunt. It's been great fun and is still a work in progress.

When I started I thought I'd just look at living walls, i.e. the stop-you-in-your-tracks installations like the one I saw at the Athenaeum Hotel last year. However, I soon realised that would ignore numerous other examples of green walls that are of value - look out for a post on the types of green wall coming soon.

I've uncovered a whole host of benefits attributed to green walls along the way, worthy of a post to itself too. Meanwhile, here's a brief summary of my findings thus far...

There are a lot more of them than I thought
A quick Google of Green Walls returns a lot of websites, which include the two main providers of living walls in the UK. They show dozens of examples in their online portfolios, and they're not just confined to London. Oswestry, Birmingham, Surbiton, Leicester, Leeds, Slough and Bristol are just a few of the …

Wordless Wednesday: Is that Jaws in the garden?


Herbs, deluges, and the need for sharp tools

I spent a fascinating study morning at Jekka McVicar's Herb Farm last week, where at last I had the chance to see what's changed since she converted her nursery to a Herbetum in 2013. The presence of herbs with their stories and uses was as strong as ever, with some unexpected additions.

It was a showery day, which turned Jekka's attention to our changeable weather. "We no longer have showers, we have deluges", she said as a particularly sharp one forced us to shelter for a little longer (and eat more delicious cake) before going outside. Jekka's husband, Mac cheerfully fetched a bundle of large umbrellas, so we could continue on our way.

Once outside, "How many of you sharpen your secateurs every week?", was our first and most unexpected question. We shuffled our feet guiltily, and most of us admitted we didn't. "How many of you sharpen your kitchen knives every week?" Now on a surer footing, most of us admitted that we did.


GBBD: Sleep, Creep, Leap

I'm delighted how my Anemone 'White Swan' plants have taken off in the garden this year. They've proved a real tonic in a shady part of the garden and positively shine out, even during the gloomy weather we're having.

At the time when instant makeovers and results are king, it's good to be reminded not all plants are at their best when planted initially. This anemone is in its third year here at VP Gardens, and really looked to be a poor doer for the first two years.

Luckily I was reminded of the garden adage sleep, creep, leap before I ripped them out in disgust. This saying refers to the way some plants prefer to establish themselves. The first year is the sleep phase, when the plant is settling down and letting its roots establish themselves. Then in the second year the roots and the leaves creep outwards - often imperceptibly - to create a place for themselves in the border. Finally, in the third year, the plant leaps to its full glory, just like my anemon…

Plant Profiles: Dahlias

There's been a switch thrown in my garden this week with this season's first dahlia blooms making their appearance. My beloved D. 'Moonfire' has returned right on cue, joined by a surprise reappearance of the pictured D. 'Bonita' above.

Why the surprise? Well, it's in a terracotta pot and had no winter protection, not even my famous Dahlia Duvet. It was so much of a surprise, its stems had been nibbled down to soil level by slugs and snails before I found it. Now it's looking good, and set to be a star of my patio all over again.

D. 'Arabian Night' and D. 'XXX' (as named by Thompson & Morgan when they sent it me to trial) are set fair to join them soon as I can see lots of buds forming. That's the great thing about leaving dahlias in the ground (if you can, and it's always a bit of a gamble, even this far south), the tubers get bigger with each year, and in turn bear ever increasing numbers of blooms.

I'll also be keeping…


Saturday was a big day for NAH as it was the official launch of his beloved steam engine, Sentinel 7109. You may remember I featured her back in March, when she steamed for the first time. Since then, she's had a smart new coat of paint, had the all-important numbers and letters added, plus her nameplate fixed to the side.

Official launches require a guest of honour, and NAH was delighted Paul Atterbury from Antiques Roadshow agreed to perform the ceremony. Paul has written several books on railways, so he was the ideal choice for the occasion, especially as NAH has one of his books (and got him to sign it!)

As you can see, no expense was spared for the naming part of the proceedings.

After a short speech and a quick flick of the pillowcase/peg combo, Joyce's name was revealed and Paul encouraged us to ReJoyce - trust NAH to coin the pun ;)

Then as befits her location, Joyce was doused in the finest Somerset cider to complete her launch and naming ceremony.

Paul spoke about h…

Product Review: Solar Lights

On the whole I'm very happy with my garden's layout, but sometimes I regret there's no lighting in the design. When Festive Lights contacted me with the offer to select some solar lights for review, here was an ideal opportunity to rectify my mistake.

As you can see I chose two quite different designs to review...

Glass Brick Garden Path Lights

It just so happened I was tempted by these glass brick garden path lights when I saw them on another website recently. They looked a good potential solution to brighten our garden steps or along our gravel path, so that was one choice sorted straight away.

No assembly is required for these robust lights, and there's a simple on/off switch on the base. They're about three inches square and the solar panel, single LED light and battery are well encased inside the glass. I simply left these on top of my garden wall by the central patio steps to see how they performed.

I had a problem with one of the lights which was solved aft…

On Richmond Hill

The great thing about my travels this year has been the surprises found along the way. Most of these have resulted in posts on Sign of the Times, so I was pleased to find something more fitting for Veg Plotting this week.

This is the delightful view I found on Tuesday morning. It's from Richmond Hill looking over the River Thames and London towards Hampton Court and beyond, as far as Windsor Castle on a clear day. I was standing on Terrace Walk at the time, a broad traffic-free walkway which is Grade II* listed.

There are some fantastic interpretation boards at the spot, where I learned this view is protected by an Act of Parliament. It was under threat from development at the turn of the 19th century, so parliament was lobbied and eventually the Richmond Petersham and Ham Open Spaces Act was passed in 1902.

The land you can see in the photo's foreground is Terrace Field, a steep meadow which is cut for hay in September to allow the six spot burnet moth to complete its life c…

Wordless Wednesday: It's a Dog's Life


In the Footsteps of the Plant Hunters: Fuchsias Part II

I had a great time at Hampton Court Flower Show yesterday, particularly as I finally had the chance to meet Kristopher Harper in my favourite spot in the show, the Plant Heritage section of the Floral Marquee.

I first wrote about Kristopher's search for some of James Lye's missing fuchsia cultivars - 'Nellie' and 'James Welch' three years ago. His quest particularly interests me as these cultivars hail from Wiltshire and it's always good to hear about horticultural excellence from my home county. My original post has quite a lot of the background detail, so how has Kristopher fared in the meantime?

Sadly his quest still continues and has expanded with various leads presenting themselves for further exploration, even as I was speaking to him. It's obvious that Kristopher relishes this painstaking work and is quietly amassing enough material to write a monograph, even if his search for missing cultivars to add to his collection hasn't been as fruitfu…

A Sweet Pea Summer at Easton Walled Gardens

Let's face it, summer's been a bit pants so far hasn't it? Now, what can I do to help improve the mood a little...

This view over the gardens at Easton Walled Gardens always lifts the spirits. My previous two visits were at snowdrop time, so it was great go there again last week to see how the garden's progressed since I was there in the summer of 2012.

Easton's making a name for itself for its sweet peas, including the sales of packets of its own saved seeds, so it's no wonder Sweet Pea Week has just got underway at the garden. I was privileged to have a sneak preview, and let me tell you, the scent wafting over from these flowers was sensational (or should that be scentsational? - Ed). The humid air served to trap the scent and the prevailing wind wafted it over to us for an extra special welcome.

I usually go for the deep purple, richly scented varieties, but for some reason I was drawn to the pastel and red cultivars this time. 'Patricia Anne' is th…

GBMD: What are we doing?

I loved the blackboard we saw on our recent visit to Helmsley Walled Garden. It's a neat, humourous version of the usual "what's looking good at the moment?" often seen at the entrance of various National Trust properties. I like that it acknowledges the hard work needed to keep a garden looking good, for now and the future.

What are you doing in your garden this week? I'm still catching up with the post-holiday weeding!

And what are you wondering or swooning over?