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Primroses and The Flood Resilience Garden

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I've spotted primroses popping up in many places on my walks this week and it's a welcome sight to see them. I found the pictured ones in Old Hardenhuish Lane on my way to Lidl* yesterday. They're in a patch on the edge of damp woodland next to Hardenhuish Brook and I've also seen them close to the River Avon right in the middle of Chippenham. They're a timely sighting as I'm thrilled to be working with FloodRe's The Flood Resilience Garden team in a small way during the run up to Chelsea Flower Show. I'll provide the written content for their Plant of the Week spot on the garden's Instagram account over the next few months. It just so happens the primrose is my first entry this week - you'll find snowdrop, birch and dogwood there already, as provided by Naomi , the garden's designer. My primrose finds show they're an excellent fit with the show garden's ethos which is to demonstrate simple choices in design and planting can help a

Bumblebees on Blooms

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Regular readers know I do love a good citizen science project and I'm happy to announce the latest one is launched by The RHS/Bumblebee Conservation Trust today. What can be better than watching bumblebees bothering our flowers on a sunny day and help science to boot? From today until 31st May we're asked to submit our sightings from our gardens and parks around the UK. Why is this important? Well, bumblebees are a vital pollinator for our garden flowers plus crops such as apples, tomatoes and peas. When the weather starts to warm - even on the odd warm late winter's day - queen bumblebees emerge from hibernation to find nectar to help fuel themselves and gather pollen to feed the hungry larvae of worker bees back in the nest. Finding out the exact situation in springtime is particularly important as habitat loss/climate change may be affecting the availability of springtime flowers, which in turn will affect the successful establishment of bee colonies at the start of the

Hurrah for the NGS!

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This image makes my heart sing and is why I love the National Gardens Scheme (NGS). It doesn't cost much to visit a garden tended by an enthusiast, yet see how all those entrance fees can grow into something life changing. My visits are going to start early this year with a trip to Westcroft  next month, a Wiltshire garden near Salisbury which is stuffed with snowdrops and so is opening happily as part of the NGS's Snowdrop Festival. See you there Helen !

Season's Greetings

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As you can see, Chippenham's Knatty Knitters have once again cheered up the town with their postbox toppers. This one greeted me outside our main sorting office when I went to post our Christmas cards and there are more to be found elsewhere; some familiar from previous years, others are new like this one. We're in the process of changing our Christmas plans as my BIL and wife have tested positive for Covid, thankfully with just mild symptoms but we thought it best for them to concentrate on getting back to full health for now. We plan to meet up in New Year for jolly times, so we'll have a quiet Christmas here instead. Thank goodness we'd already bought our own turkey! Have a healthy, peaceful, and wonderful Christmas and New Year wherever you may be.

Testing Times: Tomatoes

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  I've run a couple of tomato trials this year. The first is a revisit of the biochar trial with Oxford University I attempted some years ago (with a different organisation this time), and the second is a trial of a water gadget called Plantsurge which I was given to try at Malvern Spring Show earlier this year. Most of you have probably heard of biochar already and the claim that this inert, carbon-rich material can help soil fertility and plant health. The RHS information in the above link says results can be mixed, with reduced effects found in alkaline soils. This may help to explain the lack of difference I found in my previous trial as VP Gardens is on a lime-rich soil. Plantsurge is a different beast altogether. It's a strong magnet which is attached to a hosepipe as shown in the photo above. It's claimed that it softens water, with the result more like watering with rainwater. The higher nitrogen found in rainwater is thought to be beneficial to plants. Gardener

Big Butterfly Count 2023: The results are in

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The Big Butterfly Count is one of my favourite 15 minutes of the year. Being in the garden without a thought of all the jobs lying wait, just admiring the natural world is time well spent in my view. I don't always document my count on here, but it's time to do so again this year as I have some new observations to make. Earlier in the year there was plenty of speculation on social media on the lack of insect life and what might be the cause - last year's dry summer, and/or cold winter, and/or climate change were often cited as potential causes. I often wondered myself especially during June when I was gardening without the usual accompanying thwing of various bees and other insects around me. I also thought our dreary July might affect the results. It was reassuring to find on my count yesterday that nature has restored itself over the past couple of months, in my garden at least. As well as more plentiful butterflies than usual - in numbers and species - there were plent

The Resilient Garden

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  Part of Tom Massey's Resilient Garden at RHS Hampton Court I've been pondering VP Gardens a lot lately. Last year's drought conditions set me off initially, then our harsher than usual winter combined with this summer's flip and flop weather means the thinking continues. It's a huge topic which I freely admit I'm struggling to get my head around. Tom Massey's Resilient Garden  at Hampton Court recently  tackled this topic brilliantly and was a timely interlude which gave me much food for thought. There he encapsulated the detailed research he'd found which informed both his show garden and book of the same name. I think it's one of the most important show gardens I've ever seen. It's clear the way I garden needs to change so that I have my own resilient garden. I haven't worked out the exact details yet, but Tom's book plus a couple of others (see below), alongside the rainwater management handout from the show garden's  sponso

GBBD: Unexpected item in the gardening area

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I have two huge pots either side of the central steps leading down off our patio which I decided a few weeks ago should be graced with Echinacea this year. This is a relatively short lived perennial* which sadly decided to leave my garden a few years ago, and it's lovely to welcome it back along with attendant butterflies, hoverflies and other insects in abundance. What I didn't expect was some rocket plants** to decide to join it to make a quite unusual planting combination. What do you think? I have no idea where the rocket has come from, though I'm pleased to add its leaves to my salads and sandwiches on a regular basis. I especially like how the yellow flowers echo the pollen rings that have appeared on the Echinacea's central cones. Sometimes it's good to go with the garden's flow and enjoy the unexpected items that appear in the gardening area 😊 Which combinations - planned or otherwise - do you enjoy in your garden? * = though Echinacea purpurea such as

Phoenix Plants

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Like many gardeners I've been evaluating the plant casualties in my garden resulting from last year's drought/cold winter/this year's record rain spring. Mine include some winter flowering clematis, dahlias, and some - but not all - of the Mexican fleabane. I also thought the hardy fuchsias in the front garden had gone, unlike their cousins in the back. I naturally assumed this was down to the front garden facing north not quite giving them the conditions they need to thrive. I even bought a replacement ' Hawkshead ' at Malvern show recently as I'm particularly fond of its more delicate, pure white blooms. And then, I saw last week the stems I'd cut down to the ground in the spring have sprouted lots of lush, new growth as shown in the top photo, so my latest 'Hawkshead' has a new spot in the back garden instead. I shall bear in mind the top tip I was given in Malvern and give all my fuchsias a thick layer of mulch in late autumn to help them through

Things in unusual places #26: Rubber Ducks

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  Rubber ducks lined up outside my local Lidl*, why? I don't mind because they gave me a giggle on the way home from the physiotherapist the other day. My guess is they're something to do with the virtual duck race Springboard School are running, but I could be wrong. There's news on our local Facebook group this morning that chocolate's appeared on the same route home and also in John Coles Park . Perhaps someone's on a mission to cheer up Chippenham? The mystery continues... * = NAH and I call it our corner shop seeing it's such a short walk away 😂