Showing posts from 2019

Weekend Wandering: Enchanted Christmas

Last weekend I had the good fortune to see Westonbirt's Enchanted Christmas thanks to a press pass 45 minutes ahead of the public's entry. After what seemed like weeks of rain and miserable grey weather, it felt good to be out in the crisp, fresh air. It was a perfect evening, albeit rather chilly - a great excuse for a sneaky hot chocolate afterwards!

It was the first time I'd visited the famous and award winning Christmas show, despite the Arboretum being a few miles away. The crowds I'd heard about had put me off, but seeing the show's trail is in the Old Arboretum and entry is staggered into various slots over the evening, there is actually plenty of room for everyone to have a good time.

We're starved of light at this time of the year, so a festive offering which shows off some of the Arboretum's most stately trees makes sense and is the perfect antidote to the winter blues. Some of the lights stay the same, but many change through a rainbow of colour…

Review of the Year: Tomatoes

I ate my last home-grown tomato for breakfast this morning, so I thought I'd have a look back today on how this year's crop fared. It's been my best tomato season ever, partly helped by the weather and then boosted much further with the gifted 'Crimson Crush' seeds via Dalefoot Compost, who invited me to trial their new tomato compost this year.

A few years ago I almost gave up growing tomatoes, because I can only grow them outdoors where they're at their most susceptible to blight. However, recent success from Simon Crawford's tomato breeding programme has resulted in not only strong blight resistance in his tomatoes, they're full of flavour* too. 'Crimson Crush' is one of his and were supplied for this trial by Pennard Plants, yay.

I almost despaired this year too. June was unseasonably cold and my tomato plants took on an alarming purple hue. Luckily the weather soon turned warm and when my friend from Oz came to stay in early July, she rema…

Unusual Front Gardens #31: Halloween II

Like the film of the same name, there had to be a sequel to the Halloween garden I found in 2013. Today's example takes the display a little further with the introduction of a "Chamber of Horrors" aka the "Brexit Nightmare" garden.

It injects some fun into these less humorous times and like the garden's creators I'm posting this photo as such, not as a political statement. They've placed buckets on their railings in order to raise funds for an inspirational local charity, Jamie's Farm. Last year they raised £1,500.

Unlike my previous Halloween garden, which just focused on some of the more traditional imagery, this is an example which won't stand the test of time.

I have an inkling the display was created before this week's vote on having a general election. Otherwise their "Chamber of Horrors" may have been called "The Nightmare Before Christmas" instead. 😉😜😊

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 …