From a Day in the Life to Lockdown Life

A little while ago I told you about my latest WI project - A Day in the Life - which I started in May and included a blog post about my day under full Lockdown conditions. I had an amazing response with over 31 women taking part, that's around two thirds of our membership. I then spent most of May and some of early June collating it all into a magazine called Lockdown Life.  The picture above shows the front cover with a photo of a local community mosaic which I chose as its colours are similar in tone to everything else. It was such fun to do and I learnt a lot as it was my first attempt at such a thing; I now have a much greater appreciation of the editorial process. 
The magazine's reception has been amazing and I even got to talk about it on local radio recently! It's also going into the Covid-19 archives at our local library, museum and history centre, so we've definitely made our mark on the history of these strange times.

So how did I make the magazine? It was qui…

Loving my lawn

It's currently a real pleasure to walk on my lawn, not just because of the delicious feel of the cool grass on my toes, but also for this year's visual delights. There's an explosion of colour, and a new flower for my lawn compared to those I found for last year's #nomowmay survey in the form of the pictured purple common self-heal. I didn't know much about this plant before it appeared in my garden, but having looked it up, it's an interesting addition. Its common name alludes to its use in herbal medicine, particularly to treat sore throats and halitosis and it's used regularly in Chinese medicine. It's also edible, so I have another potential salad ingredient at my feet in the shape of its stems and leaves.

The bees love it too and it turns out it's an important plant for them as Jean Vernon told me on Twitter: " really helps as there is a huge June gap in terms of food plants for pollinators. So good you are seeing more bees." 
You …

June Drop

After a warm, dry spring and almost a hundred percent pollination I guess it was almost inevitable June's apple cull would be brutal. This 'June Drop' is nature's way of ensuring the tree can support its crop of apples.

Many of the fruiting spurs have five or more apples - eight in quite a few instances - which isn't sustainable. As you can see in the photo above there simply isn't enough room for all of the apples to grow to maturity, so some of them must go. Quite often there are some slow developers like the one you can just see in the middle and these are usually amongst the first to drop, followed by any damaged and deformed fruit. I've already seen some early signs codling moth have come a-calling judging by some of the frass they've left behind. There are some signs of bird damage too: two months of dry weather has left the ground rather hard and I suspect there's been slim pickings for feeding a growing family, so the birds have turned their …

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: Philadelphus 'Virginal'

There's the most gorgeous scent chez VP Gardens for this month's Blooms Day because you've arrived here at the peak time for my mock orange, Philadelphus 'Virginal'. Most of the year she lurks at the back of the border because without flowers she's easy to overlook, but at this time of the year the flowers and scent are simply knockout. We've had a little bit of rain the past few days (welcome after 2 months of near drought) and the ensuing humidity has served to deepen the rich, citrusy scent even more.

The buds are attractive too and soon the petals will fall from those blooms already open to spread themselves like confetti beneath the nearby apple tree.

This is a fully hardy, easycare deciduous shrub suitable for the back of the border. It doesn't mind lime and clay, so it's ideal for the conditions here in Wiltshire. It's in a relatively shaded part of my garden, though it will stand well in sunshine too. I've neglected it dreadfully ov…

Tasting Tomatoes

This must be the gardening equivalent of receiving a box of chocolates; an exciting tasting box of tomatoes courtesy of Burpee Europe, who've given me a sneak peek of their latest varieties, two of which have blight resistance in their breeding. All varieties are F1, which means fresh seed will be required each season.

From left to right we have:

'Nagina', a blight resistant medium plum tomato'Honeycomb', an orange cherry tomato bred in Yorkshire'Cocktail Crush', a blight resistant medium salad tomato'Veranda Red', a dwarf tomato suitable for growing in small containers or hanging baskets All varieties are suitable for growing outdoors here in the south-west, though northern based gardeners may fare better if they're grown in a greenhouse. I'm delighted to have the possibility of more blight resistant, outdoor varieties to try as I only have a sunny patio on which to grow my tomato fix - and we eat a lot of them!
Our absolute favourite was &…


I should have been at Press Day at Chelsea Flower Show today, but instead I'm thinking about it from the comfort of my own home. It's rather nice that a little bit of Chelsea has come to me instead, in the form of the pictured clematis, 'Olympia', which was due to be launched at the show today. I'd planned to reveal it in its full glory, but instead I've had a little insight into the kind of angst the growers and garden designers go through in their preparations.

It arrived a couple of weeks ago from 'the Lovely Mr Evison' (as I call him), packed with love and full of health, vigour and bud. And it's remained that way ever since, despite my finding it a special pot on the patio. I think last week's cooler weather held it in check, and - like many of the exhibitors this has happened to - I expect it to finally reveal its blooms during Chelsea week after the judges have passed on by.

I'll post an update when it does, in the meantime we'l…

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: Diascia

I came across Diascia (aka Twinspur) for the first time 20 years ago when I started going to Franks Plants sales here in Chippenham. The blooms resemble those of Snapdragons, though the plants are more compact and like their Antirrhinum cousin, they're sold as bedding plants.

Back then I used them as a filler plant for my borders; this year they're performing a similar role in some of my patio pots and provide a good dash of colour there in their preferred sunny spot. I learnt by accident* with my first planting that these can survive the winter and are in fact perennials, not annuals like most plants sold as bedding. It makes them a bargain plant in my view.

Salmon isn't my first choice of colour, but as many of you know getting hold of plants under Lockdown has proved challenging. Now it's here, the colour's growing on me ('scuse pun). I was really pleased to find out on the grapevine back in late March Meadow Farm Nurseries had a list of plants for sale, and…

A Day in the Life

My WI Our Town group can't meet under Lockdown, so instead I set a task for everyone - who wants to - to keep a diary on the day we would have met. So far over 20 members have responded with quite different accounts of their ordinary day in the most extraordinary of circumstances. Here's the account of my day to join with them...

My day starts with a walk round the garden after breakfast. I'm currently working out a mindful walk for a blog post to come - the idea is to provide a calming pause before the day's thoughts and emotions come crowding in. This scene's a little earlier to usual by a couple of weeks, probably due to April's sunniest on record. I'm used to coming back from Chelsea Flower Show later in May to find these clematis in full cry and they're currently my favourite part of VP Gardens.

A bit of computer work followed by coffee on the patio with NAH. Thank goodness the weather's been mainly warm and sunny under Lockdown.

Time for a wa…

Sunshine and Sunflowers

I'm a little late with my #NationalGardeningWeek post this year because my head's been full of making it happen for other people. We've put together cards and some small gifts for all our WI members this week and I suggested we give everyone some seeds to grow, so our gift keeps on giving. Now I'd like to say the timing was all planned, but actually serendipity played a huge part 😉

Luckily my stash had enough 'Russian Giant' seeds for us to have a tallest sunflower competition, and just one packet of lettuce 'Merveille des Quatre Saisons' yielded around 1500 seeds (the packet said approx 900) to divvy up. Everything was duly delivered yesterday in the sunshine and the response from everyone is full of smiles. Many sowed their seeds yesterday, so I'm playing catch up already.

My friend Judy from Botanical Interests* often says 'It all starts with a seed'. In these strange lockdown times, I'm happy to add they also help to sustain our fr…

It started with a lemon

It started with a lemon lurking at the back of the fridge...

Then thoughts of what to do with a leftover chicken carcass from the weekend...

Then the discovery of a forgotten packet of orzo at the back of the cupboard. And so...

A stock was made and the chicken stripped. Then the other ingredients plus carrots and a large leek from our stores, plus fresh herbs from the garden (oregano, rosemary and lemon thyme), plus plenty of freshly ground black pepper, all combined to give a soup invented for a rainy day with the taste of holiday memories.

I always smile and think of my mum when making chicken soup in whatever form as she would never let the carcass go to waste in her kitchen. Chicken stew with beans and dumplings was her go to midweek meal.

This version was yummy, so I've jotted down what you need to do if you'd like some of the same, plus I have some notes on suggested substitutions if what I happened to have doesn't fit with what you have. I do love the process of j…