Showing posts from 2020

Fun in the Garden

Like many of us under lockdown the past couple of weeks, I've had a bit of a spring clean, both in the home and the garden. Yesterday I turned my attention to a huge bag of garden stuff accumulated over the years from various events and realised here was an opportunity to inject some fun into the garden.

Our gardens are fast becoming our sanctuaries and a healing space for our times, but oh yes, some fun is needed now more than ever. I felt a little down on Friday and a cheerful task in the fresh air was just what I needed. Half an hour or so's work and my little flowerpot man now greets me as I step into the garden as do my welcome flowers. I rescued the arch from the bottom of the garden last year and decided it was crying out for the string of solar lights I'd found in my bag. Childlike I couldn't wait for it to get dark yesterday evening so I could admire my handiwork and was delighted the moon joined me for the photo session.

Skipper and Spot are always entertain…

Garden Bloggers Muse Day: We shall have...

I viewed this calendar picture throughout March whenever I was in the downstairs loo. It struck me as somehow appropriate for the times we're currently living in, though the dreams aren't exactly wonderful and the actual season we'll wake up in probably won't be spring. If only we could hibernate!

I hope everyone stays safe and well in the weeks to come.

Write Away and #Springnaturediary: What a difference a year makes

Last year I took part in the first #springnaturediary, an Arts and Humanities Research Council project which is also taking contributions this year. I'm chuffed last year's diary made the final cut and can be read as part of an illustrated booklet.

Now the world has changed for us all and it's useful to mark these strange times with another entry for this year's diary. Read on and you'll see everything has changed for me in another significant way. NAH had a heart attack on our wedding anniversary in early March and against the background of the looming Coronavirus pandemic - declared as such the day after on my birthday - I wanted to record a moment in our increasingly shrinking world.

Thankfully NAH's home now and started on the slow road to recovery. It was obvious the hospital was beginning to make preparations for the pandemic whilst he was there. All that can't be squeezed into a 150 word entry which focuses on the vernal equinox, but there is a snip…

Weekend Wandering: a new wildflower on the block

Oh how the world has changed in what seems like the twinkling of an eye. We're now confined to home here in the UK, let out just once a day for exercise. I have a goal to #walk1000miles this year, which is proving more of a challenge now walks need to start from my own front door.

I've devised a 3.3 mile circular route which will allow me to achieve my goal if I walk it every day... and just as I was getting a bit tired of it on Wednesday, up pops a new wildflower in a quite unlikely place in the shape of the white form of the sweet violet, Viola odorata. Have a look at the link for some delightful stories associated with this wildflower.

I found it just outside the entrance of one of the local secondary schools just up the hill from where I live. There's a narrow stretch of grass there by the tarmac path which is currently bejewelled with lesser celandine and a couple of clumps of my new discovery. As the school is built on the site of the former Hardenhuish estate, and …

Next Stop on the Blog Tour: Diary of a Modern Country Gardener

I'm delighted to be the next stop on the blog tour of Tamsin Westhorpe's new book, Diary of a Modern Country Gardener. I have to declare an interest here: I know Tamsin well and I've visited the garden in question - Stockton Bury Gardens in Herefordshire - twice, but don't worry dear reader, my thoughts on Tamsin's wonderfully warm and witty diary would still be the same if I didn't know her or the garden from Adam.

Designers often talk about finding the sense of place in their designs. Stockton Bury Gardens is firmly rooted in its farming landscape which has been in the stewardship of the family for 5 generations. You get a sense of both over her gardening year which starts in February. She isn't afraid of telling a warts and all story and her personality and sense of humour are woven into every page. Once you've stopped chuckling at her tales, you'll find yourself inspired to get out there and garden, even if it means getting caked in mud, or you…

Garden Bloggers' Muse Day: We may think...

What wise words these are! It feels like it hasn't stopped raining since September, so two whole afternoons of sunshine this week have provided a much needed pick-me-up.

The ground is far too wet to do much in the way of gardening, though everywhere there are signs nature is quietly getting on with the job of bringing in spring, thank goodness. Actually downing tools for a while and just appreciating what's growing around me has been just as beneficial to my mood as getting down in the soil and preparing the garden for the coming season.

I once didn't care much for Hellebores; I thought them a gloomy, down in the dumps kind of plant, but now I appreciate the hope they bring to the new year. In the right place they flower for weeks and they don't need much looking after. I've guerrilla gardened a few in the woods on the public land next door: they were such tiny thimbles when I planted them in the autumn, and a quick census a couple of days ago shows at least 50% o…

Stourhead Sudoko: The Solution

Last week I set a Sudoko puzzle with a difference, using the letters from Stourhead instead of the numbers one to nine.

Here's the solution. How did you do? Did you find letters easier or more difficult than the usual Sudoko puzzle? Would you do one of these again?

Other puzzles published previously on Veg Plotting:

ConnectionsCryptic Word GridGarden Scramble (the solution is here)Garden Wordsearch (NB no solution is given for this one as you'll know when you've found them all)Happy FamiliesShows of Hands special (quick ID quiz)What's in a Name?What's in a Name? Part 2

Puzzle Corner: Stourhead Suduko

This puzzle has been waiting in the wings for a while and I'm pleased to bring you a letter based Suduko using one of Wiltshire's most famous gardens, Stourhead.

In this case the letters of S-t-o-u-r-h-e-a-d are used instead of the numbers one to nine and your task is to add further letters to the grid below so that each line of nine both across and down, plus each box of nine only contains one instance of each letter.

The grid is based on one published in the Radio Times which had a difficulty rating of 11/20. A printer friendly version can be found here.

I'll post the solution next week, though you'll know when you've cracked it! If you enjoyed this puzzle, Sue Garrett over at Green Lane Allotments has another couple for you to try.

Other puzzles published previously on Veg Plotting:

ConnectionsCryptic Word GridGarden Scramble (the solution is here)Garden Wordsearch (NB no solution is given for this one as you'll know when you've found them all)Happy Fami…

Wildflower Wednesday: A floral celebration in stamps

Top left to right: Triphora trianthophorosCypripedium californicumHexalectris spicataCypripedium Reginae, and Spiranthes odorata

Bottom, left to right: Platanthera leucophaeaTriphora trianthophorosPlatanthera grandifloraCyrtopodium polyphyllum, and Calopogon tuberosus

It's not often that my worlds of nature, gardens and stamp collecting collide, so a recent email about a forthcoming stamp issue in the USA on Friday is cause for celebration. Even better when it means I can join in Gail's Wildflower Wednesday.

These are a selection of 10 from over 100 native species which grow in the wild (and in gardens) in the States. We have 52 native species here in the UK, many of which are so rare they can only be seen in a nature reserve.

Thanks to Facebook friend Jacqueline Soule who double checked with David Coleman (originator of the email), I also have their confirmed names as shown above.

Now to find them if I can in their native habitat, or at least pick up a booklet of…

Be My Valentine?

First thought: Perhaps only a gardener knows the value of a heart shaped potato for Valentine's Day 😉

Second thought: Crikey! I didn't know I was that wrinkly! 👀

Third thought: Reader, we ate it 😜

Pea super

A few days ago I was feeling rather peckish and knew this would be the worst possible time to walk to the shops and buy something for lunch; there's far too much temptation in there! My usual lunchtime options weren't available at home, so I started to think about other possibilities instead.

Thankfully my store cupboard came up with the answer: frozen peas, onions, stock cubes and herbs, so it didn't take long to come up with a tasty pea soup. It took just 20 minutes to plate up the perfect antidote to a dull winter's day.


1 litre vegetable stock (a stock cube dissolved in hot water is fine)1 medium onion, sliced thinly750g frozen peas (I used a bag of petit pois)Freshly ground black pepper to taste4 heaped teaspoons dried mint (or fresh when in season)A swirl of cream, low fat creme fraiche, or natural yoghurt per bowl (optional)Method

Pour the vegetable stock into a large pan and add the onion and peasAdd the black pepper to taste and bring up to the boil,…

Garden Bloggers' Muse Day: When the world wearies...

Words of wisdom from an 19th Century Poet, and that's where I plan to be today 😊

Have a great weekend everyone!

Puzzle Corner Connections: How did you do?

Last week I set you a Connections puzzle which I hope you enjoyed. Now it's time for the answers...
How did you do?
I asked you to answer the questions below, and take the letter as indicated from your answer to complete the blank boxes. For multiple word answers, I asked you take the letter from a particular word if not from the first.

The answers to the questions and the completed line of boxes all had something in common. How early did you make the connection? Did it help you with some of your answers?

QuestionAnswerTitle of a novel by Jeanette Winterson (1985), also adapted for TV (5)Oranges are not the Only FruitPlace in New York where John Lennon's memorial is situated (3)Strawberry FieldsName of the group with Freegle, Bingo, Droopy & Snorky as members (2, 4, & 6 of second word - just one of them will do)The Banana SplitsName of the purple piece in Cluedo (1 of both words - again, just one of them is needed)Professor PlumStar's surname of 'Some Like it H…

Puzzle Corner: Connections

I love pub quizzes with friends. They're fun and sociable, with the added frisson of a possible prize if we're on top form.

Sometimes one of the rounds is a Connections puzzle, where the answers have something in common. Often getting the connection early on can help with some of the more tricky questions... or lead us completely up the wrong tree if we get it wrong!

One of our quizzes came up with a Connections round which I thought was worth tweaking and twisting a little for Veg Plotting. I hope you enjoy it.

What you need to do
Answer the questions below, and take the letter as indicated from your answer to complete the blank boxes. For multiple word answers, take the letter from a particular word as indicated, otherwise it's taken the first.

The answers to the questions and the completed line of boxes all have something in common. What is the newly formed word and the Connection?

QuestionAnswerTitle of a novel by Jeanette Winterson (1985), also adapted for TV (5)

The Allotment at Home: Some Progress

I've made a guest appearance this week on the Thompson & Morgan (T&M) blog with some of my top tips for allotment growing alongside regular Veg Plotting commenter Sue (yay!), plus a whole host of experienced allotmenteers.

Those of you who read my National Gardening Week post last May may be a little surprised as I confessed then I no longer have an allotment. My response to T&M's questions apply to what I've been doing here at VP Gardens and show grow your own is feasible whether you have just a windowsill right through to a full-blown allotment.

My update on progress since then is long overdue. In a nutshell I produced more in 2019 than many an allotment year despite the more restricted space. It's not been a perfect time owing to family circumstances, so I look forward to 2020's growing season confident even more progress can be made.

Two of my key projects last year were to improve soil health and to increase my growing space with some raised beds …

Fresh flowers for the New Year

It's always good to get out in the garden (rain permitting!) in the darkest days of winter and take my annual flower count. The blooms may be smaller, but they're a welcome sight and there's always a few surprises.

This year's count stands at 12: not my best result, but there were signs of plenty more waiting in the wings. This year we have:
the pictured rosemary - now reclassified as a member of the Salvia aka sage family, though I'm sure it'll keep its familiar common name, This is a great plant to have flowering for any bees venturing out at this time of the year3 different kinds of winter flowering clematis - Clematis balearica, Clematis 'Freckles' and Clematis urophylla 'Winter Beauty'Single snowdrops a-plenty - Galanthus nivalisStrawberry 'Just Add Cream'Primrose 'Cottage Cream'Double flowered hellebores, but no sign of the Christmas roseViolasErigeronperennial cornflowerViburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn' Other hellebore…