Showing posts from August, 2017

Wordless Wednesday: Umbrellas


Book Review: Botanical Shakespeare

I had a lovely surprise yesterday when a copy of September's Herbs magazine landed on my doormat. Tucked away inside is my latest book review, Botanical Shakespeare.

I took my copy when I went to New Place in April. There, my guide at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust confirmed he was an expert amateur botanist. They even had a copy of Gerard's Herbal on display at the time to illustrate the texts he studied.

John Hall, Shakespeare's son-in-law, was a physician and his garden at Hall's Croft is filled with the plants he would have used in his remedies. Perhaps his knowledge also enhanced Shakespeare's, as they were known to be close. I look forward to viewing this garden alongside my Botanical Shakespeare when I return to Stratford later this year.

For those of you who aren't members of the Herb Society, you can read the pdf version of my review here.

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: Persicaria 'Fat Domino'

This plant always makes me smile at this time of the year: it's a reminder of a wonderful afternoon at Knoll Gardens in the company of owner Neil Lucas's enthusiasm a few years ago. He had many Persicaria to show us that day, and it was 'Fat Domino' that stole my heart with its large flower heads waving to me from the nursery area.

It's proved to be an easy care perennial since I placed it in the lower terrace bed; it only needs cutting down at the end of winter and then given a topping of mulch to see it through the year. It's rewarded me with over 60 flower heads from one plant, and when I peered below the leaves yesterday, it looks like I have a plant ripe for division into two. This is earmarked for behind the white phlox you can see in the background as there's a hidden gap there which needs to be filled.

I've also cleared a space in front of the phlox, which is thick with alliums in spring, but now needs something added there for later interest. …

Are you looking at me?

I don't know who leapt the furthest, me or the frog I found in the garden on Sunday. I was tidying a quiet corner of the garden and this beautiful sight was my reward, once I'd got over the surprise! It got me thinking, I don't have a pond at VP Gardens, but frogs do seem to like it here. There's a stream nearby which helps, so what am I doing right to encourage them?

This article from The Guardian has some pointers. Apparently frogs spend two years on land before they breed and they love lots of leaf litter and log piles to hide in. These places are also a good source of favourite food such as slugs. I have plenty of leaf litter courtesy of the trees nearby and my 'compost direct' policy, plus I've hidden a number of small log piles in quiet corners. Shady areas and the clay soil probably help as parts of the garden remain damp even in exceptionally dry weather.

I've since realised I had an improvised pond in the shape of a small tub trug tucked away a…

Weekend Wandering: Countryfile Live

I've just got back from an amazing day at Countryfile Live at Blenheim Palace, the mother of all country shows packed with show rings, displays, talks, things to make and do, plus plenty of shopping for good measure. I particularly enjoyed the pictured display in the Equine Arena, where I also learned there are only 200 grey shire horses in the world. I'm sure the handsome 19 hands high stallion I saw there is doing his best to bring those numbers up!

The map extract above gives you an idea of how vast the show is and the variety of what's on offer. As well as the handy map, it also lists the 500 or so exhibitors, plus it gives the timetable for the various talks and displays on offer at the 10 theatres, stages and arenas throughout the show. There are also plenty of things to do such as canoeing, and off-road driving, plus all kinds of hands-on activities for you to try.

If you are going tomorrow, do grab one of these maps on your way in as the online map is woefully ina…

Plants for butterflies

I'm grateful to the company that offered me an expensive designer butterfly feeder recently because it led me to review how many butterfly friendly plants I could grow in my garden for the same money. The answer is loads and I'm happy to say not only do I have most of them already, they also feed a wider range of these delightful visitors.

It was also a timely reminder to grab a cup of coffee and spend a relaxing 15 minutes in the garden counting butterflies for this year's Big Butterfly Count, which runs until this Sunday (6th August 2017).

For this year's count, I paid particular attention to which plants were in the butterflies' favour. They were:

Perennial cornflower, Centaurea montanaGlobe thistle, Echinops ritroPerennial wallflower, Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve'Phlox paniculata (they seem to prefer the white over the pink flowers)Ice plant, Sedum spectabile (NB now renamed as Hylotelephium spectabile)Verbena bonariensis
We'll draw a veil over the variou…

Garden Bloggers' Muse Day: The Rose

Imagine the scene... you're visiting a garden which in the 16th century was home to France's most famous poet, who was a gardener who loved roses and also wrote about them.

You pass by a sheltered courtyard where the first roses of the season are in full bloom, then jump out of your skin as a deep disembodied voice starts intoning in French the poem shown above.

It was a magical moment at Saint-Cosme Priory in May, and seeing I have red roses in bloom in my garden today, the poem has a timely quotation for Muse Day. You can read the full poem here.

I wrote more about this garden for the Guardian recently, along with another favourite from my recent visit to France, the Abbey of Saint-George de Boscherville.