Posts

A cowslip survey

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Regular readers know how much I love the cowslips at the entrance to our estate. They usually bloom around now and I'm delighted they've increased in numbers consistently over the years. Here you can see the original roadside bank from which they've spread into the meadow below, and now they've also leapt across the road to the opposite verge. An estate setting like this is more unusual as they're more of a wildflower meadow favourite. I think we're seeing the results of some seed spreading which took place over 20 years ago when the road builders established this mini-meadow and wetland to cope with runoff from the A350 nearby.  Last week I learned the sight I love is becoming increasingly rare owing to habitat loss and the remaining populations may not be as healthy as they could be. As a result, Plantlife is asking for anyone who knows of a local patch of cowslips to conduct a short survey . I've just discovered cowslip plants have two different types; o

Garden Blogger's Blooms Day: E is for...

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... Epimedium aka barrenwort, bishop's hat or fairy wings. Here's another example of Sleep Creep Leap .  I planted my Epimediums two years ago and this is their first flowering. It was worth the wait. Whilst the blooms are tiny, they're plentiful and add grace to my revamped border at the bottom of the garden, where they thrive in the partial shade there. I really should have got down on my tummy for a better photo, thank goodness they also look pretty from above! The one pictured is 'Amber Queen'. I bought a bargain collection of 9 plants with three examples of each cultivar in the pack. 'Pink Elf' is just coming into bloom and therefore it's not quite ready to take a bow on Blooms Day.   Epimedium x versicolor 'Sulphureum' has yet to make its flowering debut; its name tells of yellow blooms to come. The heart shaped leaves turn bronze with age and thus makes this a year-round plant of interest. They're plentiful too, so I don't need

Unusual front gardens #35 Scissors

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I've passed these on many a walk and thought they must be plastic, but a closer inspection revealed our local high street barber uses topiarised plants to advertise his services. They always make me smile and it's a neat modernisation of the traditional red striped pole which showed barbers used to offer additional services as surgeons. I wonder which tools are used to keep these in trim - garden or barber's clippers? 😉 Hairdressers are set to reopen today in England and I'm looking forward to a haircut later this week. Sadly my hairdresser isn't quite so inventive with their display; they usually opt for one of the burgeoning hanging baskets set to grace the town in a month or so's time. I'm looking forward to both haircut and hanging baskets. Have a great week!

The seed tin of happiness

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Like many gardeners, Easter is my starting gun for major gardening activities and also like many of them, I always feel a pang of guilt at starting seed sowing now. Everyone else seems to have lots of healthy seedlings and it's easy to be a little envious of their bounty. However, it's best if I ignore that and crack on now instead. I don't have a greenhouse and only a limited windowsill capacity so I've found a later start works better for me. That way everything should be at peak perfection for planting out in VP Gardens at the end of May.  Having culled all the old or unwanted packets of seeds, my seed tin really is full of happiness with the promise of colour and harvests to come. It's looking a little different in there this year as there are as many packets of flower seeds as well as my usual vegetables.  Some of these are earmarked for the newish border at the bottom of the garden. I'm being a little cautious with the revamp here because there's plen

Easter chicks

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At least one Knatty Knitter has been at it again in Chippenham with a seasonal postbox covering, just like what happened at Christmas 😍  They really do help to bring a smile to the town and I'll be on the look out for more over the weekend. Have a great Easter everyone x

Sometimes 'wrong place' can be right

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I've seen quite a lot of online chat about this striking plant lately. Firstly asking for an ID - it's Arum italicum subsp. italicum 'Marmoratum' by the way - quite a mouthful, eh? With the ID duly confirmed, the conversation then turns to its renowned thugish qualities, with many a resolution made for it to never darken the commenter's garden ever again. I can offer an alternative viewpoint. It's never been a problem here at VP Gardens . Its marbled foliage brightens many a winter's walk here and then it quietly starts to fade away into summer oblivion around about now.  I reckon the key to my success and higher regard is I've planted it in the wrong place. The commenters' dire warnings centre around the plant's spathe replete with tempting red berries poised ready for the birds to eat and distribute its seeds elsewhere. Mine has never done that and a quick check of the plant's requirements shows its preference for sand or loam soils. Mi

Weekend Wandering: The hunt for Lanhill Longbarrow

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Last weekend's walk was a new-to-me-route from home and full of surprises. The quest was to find Lanhill Longbarrow, something I've known about for a while and probably Chippenham's oldest feature, as it dates back to between 3,500 and 2,500 BC i.e. Neolithic times.  The first surprise I found was the pictured intriguing stone at the side of the road... it looked ancient - especially as my head was full of images of standing stones at the time - but what looks like a mason's mark towards the bottom made me think it's not quite as old as it might be.   Then I found the footpath to the barrow, which was surprisingly not at the top of the hill where I thought it would be, especially as there's a tell-tale clump of trees, but I liked the view over the surrounding countryside anyway.   As I walked down the hill, I suddenly saw a low-ish mound with a gaping black hole. I had found the barrow! The chamber is one of three the mound is reported to contain, but this is th

Let's hear it for the self-sowns

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Over the past couple of years it's interesting to see what has chosen to appear in the gravel path in the back garden. Some are plants which have hopped over from the borders where I planted them and others have reappeared many years after I last had them here at VP Gardens . I think most of them are from my own activities rather than blow-ins or bird distribution from elsewhere. They give me a neat dilemma: do I treat them like weeds and get rid, or should I do something with them? Luckily most of the plants that have appeared so far are either low growing, or not enough to prevent our use of the path for what it was designed for. They could stay put if I so desired. The warmer weather over the past week or so has signalled it's time - at last - to clear away the over wintering stems and the rest of the debris I left in the garden to shelter overwintering insects and to feed the birds. It's also decision time on what to do with those self-sown plants. I've decided to m

For World Poetry Day

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I spent some time this morning looking for a suitable poem about spring or blossom to mark today's World Poetry Day and the first day of spring. For some reason nothing seemed quite right, so I set off on my daily walk to help clear my head and come back refreshed. Little did I know I'd find some quite different inspiration towards the end of my walk. We must have a Dylan Thomas fan amongst our midst, who has hung up various covers of his works along the path by Hardenhuish Brook. A quick look at the pictured work online, and at last I have my poem - albeit nothing to do with spring or blossom - in the form of the extract below. It's the line about seeing the best side of people, not their worst which stands out for me. I readily admit I don't always manage that, but I do strive to see the best in a situation, and that resonates particularly in these strange times... "Every morning when I wake, Dear Lord, a little prayer I make, O please do keep Thy lovely eye On

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: Hellebore Bowl

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  I confess I find it difficult to cut flowers from the garden and bring them indoors, but after hearing Jonathan Moseley's inspirational talk at Malvern last year, I'm striving to change my ways. My first attempt is this bowl of floating hellebore flowers from the back garden. I'm so new to this game you can see I've pressed one of my cooking bowls into service in the absence of something more special. It doesn't really matter as what really counts is the result, where the beauty of the flowers is brought sharply into focus. I have a selection of unnamed doubles in the back garden, plus a couple of H. ericsmithii 'Winter Moonbeam'. The latter are a little past their best, but show hellebores can continue to look good after then. I have some single flowered ones in the front garden too, but because that's north facing, they've yet to bloom. I don't know what they are either; they were given to me by a friend from choir, so they're probably