Showing posts from 2019

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: 'The Floozy'

I have a late season surprise from the garden for this month's Blooms Day. I'm calling her 'The Floozy' because she's flaunting her frilly knickers in the heart of her bloom and also because I've no idea where she's come from.

Poppies have a great way of scattering their seeds by launching them through the top of their seed pods whenever the wind blows, but I haven't seen any in my neighbours' gardens, so I don't think this is the source of my welcome visitor.

Nor have they come from the prolific poppies I showed you a couple of years ago from the main road nearby. Those were Papaver rhoeasaka common or corn poppy. This is a completely different species, Papaver somniferum aka the opium aka breadseed poppy.

Poppy seeds can last for decades and spring forth again when the soil is disturbed, so perhaps this is the source of my surprise? Possibly, though seeing the land here was a farmer's field previously, it's unlikely. Besides, this is …

A Muse for National Poetry Day

Today is National Poetry Day and this year's theme is 'Truth'. I've chosen Rudyard Kipling's poem at the end of the Elephant's Child because its guidance helped me through most of my career. When I worked in IT I'd often write What, Where, When, How, Why and Who at the top of my notebook when I went off to meetings, especially at the start of a project. I was even given a nickname - Mrs Why - by my colleagues!

Before then I must have had them in my subconscious as a scientist, and I've since realised these simple words are at the heart of my blogging too.

Now they're worth bearing in mind when reading and watching anything on the internet 😉

I took the photo at the top of this post earlier in the year; staring out of our bedroom window to the birch tree at the bottom of our garden is where you'll often find me pondering... or day dreaming.

There's a display of poetry in Chippenham's shop windows today. I'll take a stroll into town l…

Weekend Wandering: Avebury Manor

It's time for a proper wander around the gardens at Avebury Manor and where better to start than in the Monks' Garden, where the sunshine on the day of our visit helps to dispel the gloom of today's wet and windy weather.

Most people visit Avebury to see the stone circle, which is indeed our usual port of call; this time we sidestepped them as  I'd heard there's a sculpture exhibition in the Manor's gardens I was keen to see. A visit here is also worthwhile, as it's slightly different for a National Trust property. It's more hands-on than usual and you can even dress up there if you want to!

I find myself increasingly drawn to glass art and the work of Yvette Green and Jeannette Therrien in the Monks' Garden didn't disappoint. Their work had been placed carefully to match the themed colours of the garden's beds and many of the designs were inspired by nature.

The Manor's gardens consist of 9 'rooms' and visitors have extra encou…

Wildflower Wednesday: Jewelweed

I was surprised to find a-new-to-me plant on our walk along the canal at Bradford on Avon recently. It reminded me of the invasive Himalayan Balsam which is well established along many of our waterways, but a bright jewel-like orange instead of gaudy pink? Its ID had me stumped.

Back home I soon found I was at least half way there with my ID. It is indeed another balsam, otherwise known as Impatiens capensis, aka orange jewelweed, or orange balsam.

Whilst it was quite common along our walk, I was pleased to see it's not out competed the other grasses and wild flowers along the canal. According to its entry on the BSBI website, it's not currently considered to have a high ecological impact on our river and canal system, unlike its Himalayan cousin.

However it does also has an explosive seed capsule and buoyant seeds which helps with dispersal. This has resulted in its subsequent spread through our canal and river systems in Southern England. Have you seen it yet?

The website g…

Summer's Cookin'

My final twixt season post is a selection of new recipes I've enjoyed over the summer which have made the best of my garden's produce. No-one's told my vegetables it's autumn yet, in fact I'm only just coming up to peak tomato...

First up is Good Food's Egyptian Courgettes with Dukkah Sprinkle. As you can see it makes good use of tomatoes as well as courgettes. The dukkah sprinkle on top was a revelation and the whole dish bursts with delicious flavours. I served this both hot and cold depending on the weather, and I expect the warm version will begin to hold sway as we head off into proper autumn.

I omitted the recipe's butter beans (can't stand them) and peas (didn't have any) and increased the number of courgettes and tomatoes in the recipe to compensate and ensure it continued to deliver the recipe's claimed 4 out of 5 a day. I didn't have any almond flakes, so I substituted some roughly chopped whole, skin-on almonds instead. This is a …

Garden Bloggers' Muse Day: The Best of Summer

Thanks dear Dee for posting this quote on Facebook this week. It sums up succinctly my recent thinking about this time of the year, also hinted at in my Blooms Day post last Sunday.

I feel like I'm in an odd, twixt time; the meteorological calendar says it's autumn - since September 1st - yet  the horticultural calendar doesn't say so until the weekend. The current spell of warm, sunny weather is more summer-like too. I love the light in the garden at this time of the year. It has a softer, more translucent quality which makes the garden sing at any time of day.

My chosen photo of the Monk's Garden at Avebury Manor echoes my feelings well. It looks like summer there, yet the chosen colours for this part of the garden are more autumnal in their hues. It turns out that the Manor's gardens are in a twixt phase too. Box blight has devastated the garden and much of the formal lines are in the process of being stripped out in the hope that the larger topiary items can b…

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: First Flowers

I have a small part of VP Gardens which I've mentally called 'foliage corner'. It's quite shady, hence its lack of appearance on previous Blooms Days. This year's different because there are some new flowers on the block. They remind me of the ivy flowers on the fence nearby and are around the same size.

I lost this shrub-like perennial's label a long time ago so I have no idea of the name. It dies down each winter and re-emerges late spring. It looks like the supplier who gave it to me no longer has it in its catalogue: perhaps you recognise it and can let me know in the comments? Last week I admired the greenery of the leaves, then I turn my back for a short while and this happens.

At least when I look at the same bed from the opposite end I can kid myself summer's still here.

It's all a matter of perspective.

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Update: by the power of social media, it looks like we have an ID😊 Ar…

The Great Green Wall Hunt: Paris

Travelling across Europe by train from the UK often means a change of stations in Paris. On the way to Switzerland our walk from the Gare du Nord to Gare de l'Est was uneventful. The return walk was different: it held a surprise.

There's a choice of routes available: turn right out of the station and an elegant staircase and a five minute walk is one option. Turn left and and the sign says it's a ten minute walk. In view of our suitcases, we chose to turn left.

I'm glad we did because otherwise I would have missed Patric Blanc's green wall on the Rue d'Alsace. It's turned a dreary alley way into something spectacular. At the time of installation (2008), it was the largest he'd designed, with a surface area of 1,500 square metres.

In his book, The Vertical Garden, Patric Blanc says:

"When Fanny Giraud and Michel Piloquet invited me to visit the project site, I thought I was dreaming: an endless dark alley linking the Gare de l'Est to the Gare d…

Weekend Wandering: Gardens, the Swiss Alpine way

You may have guessed already that I loved our holiday in Switzerland. I adored the mountains and their views; the clean air; and the beauties of nature ready for us to drink in and admire.

My garden blogger antennae were also finely tuned to pick up anything of a garden nature and I was surprised to find a distinct style throughout every village, which in turn formed its own backdrop to our visit. It was a complete contrast to the more eclectic and individual style I see from the train in the UK.

The first feature I noticed were the window boxes on every chalet crammed with cheerful pelargoniums. Most of these were red, as if there was an unspoken rule on what a windowbox should contain.

It was good to see there were others willing to flout this 'rule'. I'd say pink was the next choice, followed by white. It was clear the Swiss love to have plenty of colour in their gardens. An antidote to the white of winter perhaps?

I was also pleased to see lots of apple trees, though …

Wildflower Wednesday: Alpengarten

A little while ago I wrote about garden visits which suit both NAH and me. Little did I know within a few days of that post I'd find a whole holiday. Don't get me wrong, all our holidays are enjoyable, but Switzerland was exceptional. NAH could happily play on the mountain railways and cable cars all day, whilst I could take in everything nature wanted to show me.

One day on a train journey up the mountain back to Wengen I caught NAH watching me with a smile on his face. 'What's up?', I asked him. 'I'm watching you taking it all in', he said. Little did he know that not only was I drinking in the gorgeous mountain views, I also had a running commentary playing in my head along the lines of:

"That view is fabulous; that's a wild flower I have in my garden... there's another, it's clover; and that's a Campanula; and there's a scabious like the one I have in my pots; here's a smaller version of the ox-eye daisy in my lawn; is …

Postcard from the 'Top of Europe'

I'm back from a wonderful week in Switzerland - my first time there - based in traffic-free Wengen where the only way to get in and out of the village is by rack railway or cable car. Most civilised!

This is the view on day one when we took the cable car to Stechelberg then walked to Mürren. The photo is from that walk looking towards the Eiger and Mönch mountains, with the Jungfrau just out of sight. There is a railway through the Eiger mountain itself to Jungfraujoch, which markets itself as 'The top of Europe' hence the catchy title for my post. This has the highest railway station in Europe as its claim to fame and the views are spectacular from there, stretching towards France, Germany and Italy on a clear day.

We took a tiny railway or cable car to the top of various mountains almost every day, except those when we steamed along the turquoise coloured lakes either side of Interlaken and looked up into the mountains instead. We also spent a day in Bern, the capital o…

Things in Unusual Places #25: Rhino

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

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.


All Aboard for the Summer Spectacular!

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 …