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Showing posts from 2019

Things in Unusual Places #25: Rhino

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I giggled when I looked at this photo when I got home as the autofocus on my camera chose the Stipa over the distant Rhinoceros. Perhaps my camera has got too used to plants being the usual focus of my attention? I also giggled at the time because a rhino and Stipa are an unusual garden combination.

However, in this instance perhaps it's not so unusual as I was invited to a bloggers gathering to celebrate the gardens at Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens. Ever since I've known Harriet was weaving her potted plant magic at the Park, it's been on my list to visit. Animals and plants, who can resist?


Now she and Head Gardener Tim Miles have written their own celebration of the gardens and were keen to share their enthusiasm with us. We weren't disappointed on the day and their book is a delight which forms a lovely souvenir. It's also a sneaky way of inviting us back as there are choice shots of the Park through the seasons.


Here are just a few of my highlights from …

Garden Bloggers Blooms Day: Hesperaloe parviflora

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Sometimes a plant gets under your skin; one to be pursued no matter how hard the chase might be. Hesperaloe parviflora - aka Red Yucca - proved to be such a plant for my garden.

I first came across it in Austin at the Garden Bloggers Fling last year. It's a native plant to Texas and was found pretty much in everyone's garden; also at the gorgeous organic nursery we visited in the rain; and thanks to the legacy of Lady Bird Johnson and the wonderful work of the Wildflower Center which bears her name, it's seen along all the roads and freeways around the city.


Of course it's a key plant for xeriscaping, its tough agave-like rosette leaves - without the skin piercing spikes and with intriguing 'stringy bits' (my technical term) - are ideally adapted for the harsh Texan conditions and whilst I'd mentally named it my plant of the Fling, with a sigh of regret I'd also consigned it to the 'not suitable for my garden' pile of potential plants.

However,…

All Aboard for the Summer Spectacular!

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Visitors to the SS Great Britain in Bristol are in for a treat over the next few weeks as a Summer Spectacular is added to the attractions already on offer. I was lucky enough to be invited to the preview recently and here you can see "Mr Brunel" himself welcoming us.

Soon I was talking to one of the volunteers dressed as a sailor who told me about his role. "Careful young lady," said Mr Bennett - Brunel's office manager - as he passed us by, "that sailor has a woman in every port!" It was an amusing and characterful addition to the evening.
But I digress. Let's have a look at the Summer Spectacular itself...

Before it starts, a bunch of suspicious looking characters wend their way through the audience onto the ship - see the people dressed in white at the centre of the photo? For it is they. There's a great deal of joking, pretending to work and tomfoolery on the deck until it's declared it's time to inspect the rigging.
This is what …

Flowers for Mum: The bouquet that keeps on giving

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You may have spotted I've been a bit quiet lately. That's because my mum passed away a month ago and life's been quite hectic sorting everything out.

So here are my final Flowers for Mum, not grown by me this time, but by Georgie of Common Farm Flowers instead. When I phoned her to discuss what I'd like for the funeral, her first thought was flowers from my garden, but I knew these were unsuitable for what I had in mind because I needed:

Flowers important to mum in some wayScent, because she reacted to that strongly in her final yearsOrganic because dad was a founding member and secretary of Birmingham Organic GardenersCutting material so I could give plants in mum's memory to everyone unable to come to the funeral 
We both got very excited talking through the possibilities and as you can see Georgie did mum (and dad) proud. I love these photos Georgie posted on social media which give you a peep behind the scenes: her flower trolley parked in the shade early in th…

Thursday Thoughts

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We've had a friend from Oz staying for a few days and whilst she's from the UK originally, she hasn't seen much of the wonders of our canal system. Therefore we deemed it necessary to take her to see the Caen Hill flight straight away. Besides, there's a jolly cafe towards the top where we could watch the narrowboats as they lock through the flight.

After lunch we walked along the canal to Devizes Wharf, speculating as we went on which of the moored boats are hired and those used for living. Which category do you think the photographed one belongs to? Whichever it is, I like the owner's philosophic musing together with the natty plant that echoes the paintwork.

On the way back we had the delight of following a majestic heron along the canal and the photo below shows our first sighting.

All in all, we had a wonderful afternoon together just wandering and not being lost. It's a philosophy I'd like to subscribe to more often.


May I introduce you to....

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... well, we're not quite sure who as they haven't told us their names.

Ginger and Tabby* arrived yesterday and have been busy exploring their new home. Stairs are quite new to them as they spent the first 12 weeks of their lives in a bungalow. They're not very talkative yet, though we've had purrs from one and chirrups from the other.

NAH found them via a fellow volunteer at Midsomer Norton. He'd taken in their mother - only a kitten herself at around 1 year old - not realising she'd been 'seen to' already by the local tom. Whilst he'd enjoyed their antics, he knew it wasn't a long term option for him and was looking to rehome the pair together as they've bonded really well.

We adore them already.


* = these are the names they came with. We've toyed with Buster and Keaton as their new names, but we're not sure. I suggested Mac (for the mackerel tabby) and Sandy yesterday. The search for their 'proper' names continues...

Great ideas from the Denver Fling

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In Denver I was asked why I come to the Garden Bloggers' Fling, especially as UK gardening is held in great esteem in the USA. Well, there's always the pull of seeing good friends and interesting places, plus I still have lots to learn and my visit was inspirational. Sometimes you have to get away from your own place to see things more clearly. Here are some of my key points from this year - many thanks to the organisers of this year's Fling and to all of the gardeners and organisations who made us so welcome.

Make an entrance...


This view has provided much food for thought since I've got back. I've seen large matching pots in doorways at many a Fling before, but these were exceptional. I have pots at my door too, but they don't match and they don't bring the front garden's planting nearer the front door. It's something to bear in mind as I plan my new front garden.


Here's a view which changed my plans for my front garden revamp. I'm planning…

Postcard from Colorado

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I'm back from a fabulous week spent in Denver at this year's Garden Bloggers Fling. The gardens - as usual - were amazing, but many of us found other stars of the show in the shape of the ever present mountain views and huge skies over the plains we passed through. It's a deceptive landscape because the flatter looking land hides the fact we were at an altitude of over 5,000 feet. Now I'm back I can understand the benefits of living that high: my regular Zumba class yesterday felt much easier and I could work harder without getting puffed!


This is a view from one of the private gardens we visited in the Boulder area and illustrates perfectly the importance of using the borrowed view in garden design. The owners of this property and many more we saw ensured they made the best of their natural resources, both in terms of scenery and local geology.

You can see the clouds building up over the mountains which brought rumbles of thunder in the afternoon and just a few spots…

GBBD: Hanging Baskets the Easy Peasy Way

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Most hanging basket guidance will give you a look that is burgeoning, beautiful, and relatively high maintenance. Last year's health woes meant I was not only later with planting up my hanging basket, there was also a limited choice of what I could actually put in there. Burgeoning was out and budget was in.

Then I remembered the clever use of Bidens I'd seen on holiday at Bishop's Castle a few years ago. Luckily there was still some left for sale, and the pictured basket was the result of just one plant. Not only that, it flowered right up to December. I learned later that Bidens can be grown as a perennial in the UK, though we tend to use it as an annual. Sadly my plant didn't survive past the first hard frost, though if I'd moved it from its north facing position to a warmer spot in the back garden, I may have had more success with overwintering.

Another accidental shortcut was my use of Dalefoot's Wool compost. Remember last year's drought? My basket f…

Spittle Spotting

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I've walked around the garden with more of a purpose than usual lately because I'm on the lookout for any plants with spittle, commonly known as 'cuckoo spit'. It's a sign a froghopper nymph (aka spittlebug) has taken up residence within the protective froth just like you can see in the photo above.

Until recently I'd thought these sap-suckers were relatively harmless, but now I see they're of concern as they're a chief carrier of the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa, which results in the disease and death of many popular garden plants.

It hasn't reached the UK yet and the RHS would like it to stay that way. They've teamed up with the University of Sussex and Forest Research, who need thousands of volunteers - like you and me - to help map the distribution of spittlebugs found in gardens, meadows, grasslands and woodlands from April to late June.

We're being asked to report sightings of spittle, in our gardens or on plants elsewhere, through iR…

Chelsea Memories

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By now the Royal Hospital grounds should be back to normal and this year's Chelsea Flower Show is fading into memory. Quite a lot of my show coverage this year was elsewhere on social media, so I'm taking the opportunity to scoop it all up and keep a record of it on here.

Before I do that, I wanted to take the opportunity to congratulate Tom Hoblyn on his Dubai Majlis show garden. This was quite a different take on what the Middle East has to offer and I loved the rusty linking elements together with the planted highlights using my colour of this year's show, yellow.



There were a lot of innovative displays in the Great Pavilion and this gold medal winning one by Roualeyn Nurseries was a delight, especially as I bought a 'Garden News' from them at Malvern.


Staying in the Great Pavilion, Kirstenbosch's display was awash with their signature native flora.


Green walls were everywhere, and I particularly liked its use as a map.

I'm always on the lookout for unu…

The benefits of #NoMowMay

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I cut a small posy of flowers for our kitchen on Sunday courtesy of the back lawn and keeping NAH away from it so we could have a #NoMowMay. I've talked about my Wild and Woolly Lawn before, and since then it's gone from strength to strength. I've enjoyed watching the large numbers of insects zooming around our garden this year* which I'm sure is the result of my relaxed attitude to the need for lawn perfection.

As well as the flowers on the windowsill, there are plenty more where they came from outside, and so I took part in Plantlife's Every Flower Counts lawn survey yesterday. With the decrease in wildlife habitats, there is an increasing recognition our gardens can provide much needed havens for wild flowers, which in turn support a wide variety of insects and other fauna.

Plantlife's survey aims to put a baseline figure on one aspect of this concept, by estimating how much our lawns can support honey bees when the grass is left to grow longer and the wild…