Showing posts from 2017

Unusual Front Gardens #28: Baubles

Decorating your garden for Christmas isn't a new idea, but I've found a new variation in the form of giant baubles dangling on trees in various locations.

The pictured ones are from Tetbury on Boxing Day last year after we'd gone for a walk at Westonbirt Arboretum with friends. They and the crisp winter's day added a real sparkle to my mood; I also have tree seat envy.

Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year, wherever you may be :)

Unusual Front Gardens #27: Christmas Greenery

Christmas wreaths are increasingly common feature on front doors in my corner of the world, and to make your own is a popular workshop (here's my attempt from a couple of years ago - I made something similar on Saturday).

I think this simple arrangement of Aucuba japonica and red Cornus stems tied together with ribbon is an equally effective seasonal welcome. It's an easy idea to source and copy using festive looking greenery and stems foraged from your own garden or nearby.

The doorway hails from Holt and it isn't the first time this delightful Wiltshire village has featured in my Unusual Gardens strand. I found an equally beguiling Statue nearby in 2014.

Postcard from Hampshire

Holiday postcards are sometimes received after the sender comes home, and so it is with my virtual one from Hampshire. My immediate return was taken up with #mygardenrightnow*, but I didn't want to ignore last week's much needed break.

We rented a cottage in Milford on Sea and fulfilled my dream of living in a place where there are marvellous walks to be had simply by stepping out of the door. The sea looms large in this dream, just like it does in the above view of The Needles. This scene is from the only duff day we had weatherwise, and shows scenery can still look good even on a grey day. The rest of the week was bracing and sunny, not bad for the end of November.

I relished the coastal scenery and the quite different wildlife on view to that of home. Milford borders the National Nature Reserve at Keyhaven and there were plenty of wading birds to spot, plus egrets and huge numbers of overwintering Brent geese. This was combined with an energy sapping** but welcome walk to

#mygardenrightnow: there's still plenty going on!

The great thing about memes like #mygardenrightnow is they let us pause and have a proper look at the garden. I've been on holiday this week and I thought the recent cold snap would mean a wintery drabness on my return. Yesterday's inspection showed the garden's having none of it. There's still plenty to see, plus a few surprises.

Autumn hasn't quite finished here at VP Gardens, which means there are flashes of colour and some floral delights everywhere I look. True, they're on a smaller scale than previous editions of #mygardenrightnow, but the current season means they're especially welcome. Those fat hellebore buds shown bottom right in the collage also show promise of winter delights to come.

We've only just got home, so I'll have to leave the festive part of this edition of #mygardenrightnow to other contributors. I'll focus on the hope part instead...

...I was delighted with the efforts of Clematis urophylla 'Winter Beauty' in Feb…

Garden Bloggers' Muse Day: Winter-time

For the first day of the winter months, here's a poem* which acknowledges how spectacular the sky can be at this time of the year. This was the scene from my bedroom window early one morning last week. I was struck by how much the sun moves around the sky according to the season. For us it currently rises straight ahead, rather than at summer's extreme left of the picture.

* = you can read the whole poem called Winter-timehere.

Coming soon: #mygardenrightnow

Our final #mygardenrightnow is a chance to show off the festive edition of your garden and to seek out any hope during the darkest time of the year. You may be surprised how much life you find! That's the beauty of this meme; it gives us a chance to go out and really look at at what we have out there.

Whether my autumn leaves are still yellow, or have started their transformation into a dark, rich mulch remains to be seen...

All you need to do is take one photo of yourself in the garden - more if you want - and post it on your blog or favourite social media. Don't worry if your garden is looking bare or a mess, we want to see real gardeners and gardens! Christmas decorations or green shoots pushing their way through the soil, plus any floral or winter structure you want to show off are especially welcome. Your favourite coffee cups/tea mugs and winter attire will be fun additions.

Use the hashtag #mygardenrightnow so we can find you and come a-visiting. The fun starts at the …

Weekend Wandering: Chippenham's Public Art

The past few months I've been wandering all over Chippenham looking for its public art. According to Wikipedia there are just 7 pieces for me to photograph. I currently have 49 items on my spreadsheet and the war memorial on Wikipedia's list is excluded from the scope of my survey.

It's a heartening quest as I thought there'd be just 15-20 items for me to discover, though as the sole Chippenham volunteer on Creative Wiltshire's project, progress is slower than I'd like. I'm also questioning exactly what counts as art; it's quite broad in the project's scope, so I've included transient items such as festivals, art exhibitions, graffiti and yarnbombing.

The ownership section is proving quite tricky. Who exactly owns a piece created via a community project? In some instances the Town Council maintains these pieces on the community's behalf but doesn't claim ownership. Other pieces were commissioned by North Wiltshire District Council, whic…

The Great Green Wall Hunt: All wrapped up with an interiors extra

I always try and multi-task with events when I go to London, and a planned side trip to Covent Garden last week held a surprise in the shape of this green wall next to the tube station. It's a double wall, so if you take the street you can see to the right of the photo (where you can just about make out the tube station)...

... you'll find Regal House is all wrapped up for Christmas.

There were problems with the Piccadilly line, so sadly I didn't have time to fully explore Covent Garden's seasonal delights as I was late for my first appointment. Instead you'll have to imagine the dramatic notes of Nessun Dorma sung by a lady opera singer, and take the link to see the wonderful mistletoe lights decking the market halls.

My morning's destination held another surprise. This is a great idea for creating a funky and stylish interior green wall on a budget. It would make a great room divider, and the use of plants such as the ferns shown in the middle and bottom of …

The Secret Gardeners... and a secret visit to Belcombe Court

Confession time: I've yet to visit Hauser and Wirth despite living quite close to Somerset. Until that day, I have the next best thing: the garden's story as written by my friend Victoria and photographed in glorious detail by Hugo Rittson Thomas in their latest book, The Secret Gardeners.

Here, we're very much in the world of the arts and the celebrity, a place quite removed from mine. They're notable and successful people with money no object kind of gardens... but what links these gardeners with me is we still have a shared love of gardening. We love our gardens, and we have a desire to make these spaces our own and the best they could possibly be. Stressful lives and the ways a garden or the act of gardening can heal are also explored. Again, this is something that resonates strongly.

So, which of the 25 gardens featured have stayed with me?

Anything to do with the Branson family is a good bet as NAH broke Richard Branson's father's school swimming records…

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: Windowsill Update

Following last year's Windowsill makeover, I'm pleased to report my basket of plants has filled out nicely and continues to look good in the kitchen one year on. The Aloe vera can be pressed into burns relief duties if needed, and the two Plectranthus on either side don't seem to mind being hacked back occasionally to keep them within bounds.

For this month's Blooms Day it's the plant on the left which is of interest...

... fifteen months on from when Barbara gave me a cutting it has a few spikes of delicate white blooms. I thought they looked a little Salvia-like, so it's no surprise she says it's one of South Africa's indigenous sages, aka Plectranthus grandidentatus, aka vicks plant*. As well as looking sage-like, I also think the flowers are sticking their tongues out.

Barbara goes on to say:

"... it was growing between the plum trees etc at a wonderful winery I visited in South Africa a few years back, Babylonstoren." The link takes you …


Chippenham's Knit and Natter group have been at it again. Like last year's Christmas display, their High Street poppies instantly became the talk of the town when they put them up on Monday night. Of course I had to photograph them for today's Remembrance Sunday, and I had several conversations with complete strangers doing the same. We all agreed how wonderful they are and a great help in our own Remembrance this year.

Restoration of the town's war memorial is complete, with a local firm paying for the re-gilding of the soldiers' names inscribed on the monument. Later today, two women from my WI will lay a wreath on behalf of Chippenham's four WIs. As our group is the youngest of the four, it's our first time to take part in the town's official ceremony.

It's not our only act of Remembrance, because Chippenham has a larger and more unusual memorial. Thirty three streets on the Pewsham estate are named after the WWI soldiers shown on the above monum…

A 300 to 1 shot...

Seeing it's November I decided it's time to pick the half-formed second crop fruit on the fig tree. It's a classic task for the month, when all the larger ones are picked (they won't survive our winter chills), leaving the smaller pea-sized ones to form next year's crop.

Imagine my surprise when I found a ripened fig nestled beneath the last remaining foliage. It's pretty special because it's unusual to find edible second crop figs here in the UK. We don't usually have a long enough season of warmth, unlike those lucky trees in more southerly climes.

My first crop was quick to ripen this year; 3 to 4 weeks earlier than usual, with me enjoying sun-warmed figs fresh from the garden on our return home on the 4th of July. Back then I'd secretly hoped I might just get a ripened second crop, even though Alan told me it wouldn't happen.

The result is one solitary ripe fig... and 300 unripe ones. Alan's still impressed, because he hasn't heard …

Explore. Dream. Discover.

I came across this quote recently when I was noodling around for yesterday's Muse Day, and decided that as it's Veg Plotting's 10th birthday, it's more appropriate for this post. It's a great reminder of what I've tried to do since that fateful day 10 years ago when I resigned from my job.

It was Scary. Unknown. Dark. ~ ~ ~ Explore. Dream. Discover. That's a much better attitude to have.

I'm amused the esteemed writer Mark Twain started one of his sentences with 'So'. Beware the wrath of certain people who comment on garden blogs, who'll say that's sloppy writing. I'll also add a frowned upon emoji for good measure because I'm in that kind of mood ;)

Colleen wrote a great piece earlier this week about gratitude. I love her posts; they're wonderfully observant, lyrical and comforting. She wrote about her gratitude journal, something I kept for a while many moons ago, which thanks to her I've opened again.

Today my entry r…

Garden Bloggers' Muse Day: November Night

With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees
And fall.

November Night by Adelaide Crapsey (1878 - 1914)

Adelaide Crapsey was influenced by Japanese poetry, particularly haiku and tanka, to produce her own form of the cinquain or quintet. This is the form of poetry she is most noted for, where she distributed 22 syllables (aka accents) across the 5 lines. 2 are in the first line; followed by 4, 6, 8 and a final 2 in the last line.

Which reminds me. A long time ago at the almost dawn of blogging there was a fine blog, where a merry band of people contributed posts on all things biscuitry. I was even moved to write a biscuit haiku about an empty tin. Happy days.


If the embedded video doesn't work, try this link instead.

I love the aspen tree which hangs over our garden, particularly the sound of its fluttering leaves as  they dance on the slightest of breezes. I took this short video a few days ago when the…

Spooky Chippenham

When my friend Diane suggested a ghost walk around Chippenham I expected it to be quite short as I hadn't at that point come across many spooky stories about the town.

Well I was wrong.

Not only did I manage to keep 15 women and a baby entertained for a couple of hours, they also added some tales of their own.

The stories started straight away with the tale of Old Maudy, who awaits her lover's return from the war whilst sitting on a bench at the railway station. Wendy and I are quite relieved we've not seen her on our commutes!

Naturally we speculated exactly which bench it might be. As you can see there are quite a few to choose from... and I haven't photographed them all.

Here are some of the places with tales to tell. Seeing there are so many old buildings centred around the Market Place - which also hosted a hangman's noose for quite some time and is rumoured to be cursed -  I should have guessed the walk would be a viable one.

We have a man in trilby hat; a l…

Things in unusual places #21: Ginkgo biloba

I've followed this tree up the ramp at Cabot Circus car park in Bristol many times. Its buttery yellowness and being forced to park on the top floor finally persuaded me to take a longer look, much to the annoyance of some motorists. I didn't care. I was 'parked' on a little step and could safely peer my camera over the edge to take this picture.

To my delight I found a Ginkgo biloba. It's surprising a tree can survive being planted in such a space, never mind one of the more unusual ones. Later that day I realised the city centre's street tree planters seem to have a special fondness for this specimen. They're everywhere.

Here's one of several I found later in Broadmead. It's not the first time I've got excited about this species... here's a golden tale from the garden at Bath's Holburne Museum.

For Apple Day

It's Apple Day tomorrow and what a bumper crop we have chez VP Gardens and on the allotment this year. Today's post comes as a slightly premature celebration as we have family matters to attend to over the weekend.

We enjoy fruit juice as a weekly treat on Sundays with our roast dinner, so it was a natural step to invest in a juicer. I swithered between this and an apple press, and in the end I plumped for a juicer as it's cheaper and fulfils our immediate needs. I did have a daydream about pressing oodles of juice for a full year's supply, but practical matters such as pasteurisation and storage swiftly brought me back to reality.

I'm enjoying the process immensely and it's a great way of using up loads of apples, especially any windfalls where only the damaged or bruised bits should be left out. It takes around 12 of them to produce enough juice to fill 2 glasses. Our season started off last month with single variety 'Scrumptious' and I'm current…

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: Scabious 'Kudos Purple'

I haven't grown many new-to-me plants in the garden this year; most of those delights are currently up at the allotment for my Flowers for Mum project. The exception is the pictured scabious 'Kudos Purple', a plant I've trialled courtesy of Thompson & Morgan (T&M) via February's Garden Press Event.

I'm having a bit of a 'Should've gone to Specsavers' moment because none of my plants are purple, but pink, and a look at T&M's online catalogue confirms they are indeed... er, pink. Why not call them 'Kudos Pink' then?!?

They've been rather shy to bloom too, preferring to fill out their pots with plentiful healthy foliage instead. They started flowering around three weeks ago, where they've been a welcome addition on the patio and making up for lost time. I'm dithering whether to plant them out in the garden now, or wait until they've finished flowering. They'll look grand in the sunny spot waiting in the lowe…