Showing posts from 2018

Things in Unusual Places #23: Alliums

As seen in Crewkerne parish church Christmas tree festival, December 2017. These are most probably the dried seed heads of Allium christophii aka star of Persia and therefore most fitting for the season. I wonder if the tree trimmers knew that when they chose those attractive seed heads for their tree.

They're great sprayed in silver or gold too, and smaller seed heads from other ornamental onions such as A. 'Purple Sensation' will look great bunched together in a seasonal vase, on their own or with other dried seed heads. They're not just for Christmas though; the ones I have at home in pots have lasted for years and are au naturel, just like Crewkerne's.

Have a great Christmas everyone. Veg Plotting will return in the new year.

Unusual Front Gardens #29: Dog

Spotted recently from the lounge window of my niece's student house in Nottingham where it forms the entrance to her neighbour's garden. It brightened up a typically dull November day and strangely it wasn't recognisable as a dog when we first approached it from the other side by car.

The autumn menu

Autumn has seen plenty of culinary experiments, with the need to keep up my 5 a day and various trips providing lots of inspiration.

In my Lancashire postcard, I talked about going to Booths and I came home with a number of recipes to try from their autumn leaflet and Christmas book. Their parsnip and hazelnut soup is a firm lunchtime favourite now, with the pear, blue cheese and prosciutto soda bread seen at the top of this post. I'm going to try adapting this into a bread maker recipe for a lighter loaf.

There's no recipe available online for the soup, but it's an easy peasy one. I've adapted it slightly by omitting the 250ml whipping cream and I don't think the result suffers. Simply toast 75g hazelnuts in a large pan for 5 minutes, then add 1 teaspoon olive oil, 500g parsnips plus 2 garlic cloves (both peeled) and saute everything for 5 minutes. Then add 500ml vegetable stock and 500ml semi skimmed milk, plus salt and pepper to taste to the pan and bring to th…

Postcard from Wiltshire: Season of Mists

Driving home across Wiltshire last Saturday towards sunset and nearly blinded by the light, it was well worth my discomfort to come across this misty autumnal scene across the fields near Charlcutt.

For once I've decided to crop the photo, so the result obeys the rule of thirds. I don't usually have much luck with misty photos as mine usually look quite dull and nothing like the scene I saw. Whilst there's still room for improvement, I'm happy with this one. The lower sun in the sky and the time of day (about an hour before sunset) must have helped 😊

Fireglow and gold

The weather's turned colder this week and most of the autumn leaves are down, ready to add their mulch to the garden over the winter months. I took a few snaps recently to show you as my final celebration of this season's gifts.

This post serves as a final record of the Berberis thunbergii 'Gold Ring' at the bottom of the garden. It comes into its own at this time of the year with the most incredible fireglow to warm this gardener's heart. However, who in their right mind adds a thorny shrub to one of their main garden beds? Well, I added three of them and it's high time I corrected that mistake. I'll ponder a replacement shrub over the winter; something with similar fireworks is my intention. Ideas anyone?

Elsewhere the wispy silver birches I can see from my bedroom window are being their usual seasonal barometer. I spend more time than I should simply watching them and I love seeing how they change with each season and the sky behind them.

At the front o…

Weekend Wandering: Liverpool's Waterfront

It's nine years since our last visit to Liverpool and my postcard, and the building work along the waterfront which was much in evidence at that time is now complete. Those familiar with previous times may mourn the loss of the old character of this part of the city, but for this visitor it made for a magical Sunday morning stroll.

We were staying in the city centre, so it's just a 5 minute walk to reach the start of our weekend wander at Albert Dock. I love strong shapes and combined with their reflections, I spent a while trying to do these justice with my camera.

'Laurel and Hardy' were being briefed outside the Merseyside Maritime Museum. Their day had just started when I strolled by.

Sadly I didn't have time to go into Tate Liverpool, but that didn't matter as there is plenty of public art on view outside. This is the Tate's latest by Ugo Rondinone. Like The Guardian, I'm not so sure about this one, but that's one of the strengths of being bol…

Garden Bloggers Blooms Day: Clematis 'Freckles'

The frosts of a couple of weeks ago turned all but the hardiest of my summer flowers to a memory, and now it's the turn of the winter bloomers to take a star turn in VP Gardens.

The earliest of these is Clematis 'Freckles'. The guidance says she blooms from November through to February; mine's been throwing out the odd bloom or three since July. This isn't a rare occurrence; it happens here most years and I know Alan has had the same experience this year.

I can thank NAH for this year's plentiful blooms. This is a pruning group 1 clematis, so I tend to neglect her dreadfully. NAH in Drastic Gardener mode cut her down to the ground last year when the huge tangle of stems invaded next door's garage. He left her for dead, but she's made of sterner stuff and has grown back more strongly than before. It was worth sacrificing last year's winter display ('Freckles' flowers on old wood) for what's there now.

The guidance says growth is up to 4 …

Remember Them

Early morning at the trials field at Mr Fothergill's this summer and the light was just right for highlighting the poppies they'd sown in tribute to the fallen and the centenary of the end of WWI.

Then a few hours later, my fumbling fingers just about managed to capture this happy juxtaposition.

A couple of Chelsea Pensioners are usually invited to Mr Fothergill's Press Day for the presentation of the cheque for the funds raised from their 'Victoria Cross' poppy and 'Scarlet Tunic' sweet pea seeds. 25p is donated per packet sold and over £70,000 has been raised so far.

We also learnt the traditional heavy scarlet tunic coat costs around £600 and is very hot to wear on a summer's day, especially in the hot spell we experienced earlier this year. It was one of those days at the trials field, but luckily it didn't dim the cheerfulness and twinkling humour of our two Pensioner visitors. The Royal Hospital Chelsea has launched the Scarlets Appeal, to ra…

A new flower for the garden

A strange flower appeared in my garden recently - it looks like I've discovered a new species. Those swirly purple and clear petals with a dark, mysterious centre are quite something aren't they?

I had a lot of fun creating my new flower at Court Street Gallery's fused glass workshop recently. Here I am cutting and shaping the pieces using the template I'd put together with tutor Alex's clear and friendly instruction.

You can also see some of the tools and equipment used... that dustpan and brush (bottom right photo) is most important as it stops the tiny pieces of glass which inevitably break off during the cutting process from going everywhere. The bottom left photo shows my final piece assembled and decorated ready for the fusing process.

Then it was time for cake and another cup of coffee. There's plenty on offer, plus the owners have created a lovely, warm and relaxed atmosphere at their gallery.

The petals and decorative elements are fixed on loosely dur…

GBMD: In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Lt. Col John Alexander McRae (1872-1918)

Allotment Folk: National Trust Style

As well as plenty of heritage apples to explore, Rufford Old Hall had a scarecrow trail when we visited. The volunteers on welcoming duty were anticipating hordes of visitors during half term and made sure we had a leaflet in addition to the estate walks one.

They sprang up in all kinds of places, including the Hall's vegetable garden, so naturally I grabbed this shot for my occasional Allotment Folk strand. The sign says 'A Lady Gardener'.

She wasn't the only woman toiling the soil in scarecrow form. The orchard area had a Land Army Girl too. She - and me as a bystander - was being bombarded by hundreds of ladybirds at the time. I wonder how many of them settled down for winter in her straw?

Weekend Wandering: Another Place

I've wanted to see Antony Gormley's 'Another Place' at Crosby for some time and it was one of the reasons why we chose to go to Lancashire for our holiday. The first thing that struck me when we arrived was the statues are much further apart than I'd thought. That doesn't matter; this installation is far better 'in the flesh' than any photos can possibly convey.

The first statue we 'met' after our walk from the station was one which is not usually submerged by the tide. There are 100 of them spread over an area 3 kilometres wide and 1 kilometre deep; plenty of opportunity for a good wander, weekend or otherwise.

Each statue is a cast of Antony Gormley's body - like many of his works his own form influences the result. In this case it's 650 kilos of iron per statue, known locally as the 'iron men'.

I loved exploring the form with my camera to see how the elements have affected each statue...

... and their relationship with the su…

Postcard from Lancashire

Sunday's Apple Day post delayed my customary postcard on return from holiday, but I think it's worth the wait. We've concentrated mainly on the eastern side 'oop north on previous cottage holidays, and the western side - namely Lancashire - proved just as rewarding last week.

Storm Callum didn't prevent us from having a great time at Moseley Old Hall in Staffordshire on the way up (and down - I think I've become addicted to the National Trust's cheese scones as a result), then we found ourselves staying at a mere 5 metres above sea level in the 'lettuce capital of England' (my words) where we were surrounded by hundreds of acres of lettuces, cabbages, glasshouses, and other market gardening activities.

Elsewhere in the village, the West Lancashire Light Railway was the friendliest heritage railway we've ever visited, and I've fallen in love again with Booths, the northern based supermarket.

We had time to see family and friends; and plenty …

A Northern Apple Day

We've been in Lancashire for a few days where I had the opportunity to discover some apple varieties which suit more northern climes. I'm delighted I wasn't that familiar with most of these and there's just enough time left to write this post for today's Apple Day celebrations.

The larger picture shows 'Lemon Pippin' with its unusual yet giveaway shape. Its site description says (which differs in some details with the one given in the link): An old apple of the 18th or 19th Century, origin either Norman or English. A dessert/cooker with a crisp flesh and slightly tangy in taste. Pick October to December.

The other unnamed apples shown are 'Duke of Devonshire' which resided in the basket of one of the scarecrow trail's figures. Judging by the crop in the orchard and on sale in the courtyard, this looks to be a prolific russet variety.

Here are the links to descriptions of the named varieties in the photographs:

'Pott's Seedling''S…

Wordless Wednesday: Today's recipe


Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: 'Just Add Cream'

Veg Plotting's Blooms Day would be incomplete without the occasional foray into Grow Your Own flowers, so I'm pleased to bring you my 'Just Add Cream' strawberry plants for this month's floral focus.

This is a relatively new variety from Thompson & Morgan's own breeding programme, who also provided me with a few plants to try in 2017. Naturally I've given them a tough time by forgetting them entirely deliberately growing them on in the smallest of trays for a year before I finally planted them out. I'm pleased to say they've passed this test with flying colours.

I'm growing these at home instead of on the allotment where VP Gardens demands food plants look attractive as well as being productive. Apparently pink flowered strawberries have proved rather bland and unproductive in the past, but this variety is bucking those particular trends.

It's an everbearer strawberry which means the crop is spread over many months in the summer/autumn i…