Posts

For Houseplant Week

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I must have picked up the housplant week vibes (which ends today) because I've spent lots of time tending to my houseplants. This chilli 'Basket of Fire' is one of my more unusual specimens and I'm pleased to say it's now entering its third year of cultivation. It can be a bit rampant, but a severe haircut soon brings it back under control. The last one was back in November and as you can see it's ready to give me plenty of chillis for 2023. A sunny windowsill is all it seems to need and I'm growing mine in a self watering pot, so only an occasional top up is needed at this time of the year. I'm pretty frugal with feeding it too. I've also been tidying up the houseplants on our shady bathroom windowsill. They've been suffering from scale which is proving tricky to eliminate, so the unrescuable ones have gone, hence the empty pots awaiting fresh plants. Don't be alarmed by the jade plant on the left. This is a bit of an experiment as it had go

Planting Hope

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Happy New Year! It's a gorgeous day here at VP Gardens , so I've been out planting hope in one of the large pots in my front garden. It currently has some deep red Alstromeria , which more than takes care of the summer, but I reckon these daffodil and tulip bulbs are just the thing for spring. You may think these are rather late to plant, but I've checked the bulbs and they're still sound. Fingers crossed for some frosts and they'll still perform magnificently, though probably a couple of weeks later than if I'd planted them last autumn. I've also looked around the garden this morning and there are plenty of signs of other bulbs pushing their noses through the soil. It's always a good time to do this when the nights are at their longest because it all adds to that feeling of hope. Let's face it we all need as much of that as we can get these days. More floral hope can be found by taking part in this year's New Year Plant Hunt , which ends tomorro

Unusual Front Gardens #38: Lawnmower

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Sunday's scarecrow trail over at Pewsham provided the latest unusual front garden in the shape of a vintage lawnmower used as a plantstand. It's quite ironic seeing there's no lawn! ATCO  is a century-old* lawnmower manufacturer and judging by its appearance this is a relatively old one. Unusually it's been quite hard to find out much information about it online. According to this guide , my best bet is to go back and see if there are any useful looking numbers on the metalwork. * = just over as the company was founded in 1921

Wildflower Wednesday: There's an orchid in my lawn!

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My wild and woolly front lawn has just got a little woollier with the surprise addition of the above beauty. I spotted a strange looking spike emerging a couple of weeks ago and hoped it was what it's turned out to be: a lovely, lovely orchid. This one's a pyramidal orchid ( Anacamptis pyrimidalis ), which according to the link likes a milder climate and chalk or limestone grasslands. It also goes on to say that it's developed a liking for the more artificial kind of environment - such as beside roads and canals - so perhaps a front lawn on a limey clay soil is just the kind of place it likes to be nowadays. I'm delighted it's chosen my front garden! I've asked NAH to refrain from mowing the lawn for a while to enable it to set seed, though he's keen to mow the 'meadow' now No Mow May has finished. Perhaps we now have the perfect compromise, leave the front lawn so there's taller herbiage there with a lower back lawn to offer the shorter grass

Book Review: Attracting Garden Pollinators

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Jean's lovely book looks perfectly at home in my Wild and Woolly Lawn - my original plan was to photograph some of the insects featured, but Covid means I've been watching and reading lots about them instead. It's been great to use the fab photos in this book as a  spotter's guide the past few days. The review bus has ambled down the lane and I'm delighted I'm the next stop on the blog tour for Jean Vernon's latest book Attracting Garden Pollinators . It's great to have a volume which covers all kinds of insect pollinators - as well as bees - as the importance of many of them is often overlooked for our gardens. In the opening chapters stuffed with fascinating insights we find: without wasps we wouldn't have any bees (they evolved from them); some bees nest in snail shells as well as thrushes liking to find them (the snails that is); and hoverflies are highly useful pollinators as well chomping away at those pesky aphids. Jean neatly shows how inte

Have a Jubbly Jubilee

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It's Bank Holiday time for us to celebrate the Queen's Platinum Jubilee and amongst the usual Union Jacks and bunting, Chippenham has put its own special touches to the celebrations. Like many communities we have some special postbox toppers and I found the one above earlier this week gracing one in Monkton Park. I know our Knatty Knitters have other plans afoot, so I'm off to explore the centre of town later today. The Museum has had a couple of Jubilee projects I've been involved with. The Young Photographers group worked hard on their '70 Years, 70 Faces' and found at least one face per year of the Queen's reign. NAH and I went along to see ours at the Yelde Hall and add a new meaning to 'we were beside ourselves'! You may recognise a couple of the faces as Mark Allum (below me) and Lisa Lloyd (top right) from Antiques Roadshow live in Chippenham. I think NAH has fared particularly well in the photos, but then I'm biased! I - along with my WI

The Big Plastic Count

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It's citizen science week here at VP Gardens as I've signed up to take part in The Big Plastic Count which starts today. The aim of the count is to gather data from as many households as possible on how much and the kinds of plastic we throw away as part of our everyday lives. Around 150,000 households are said to be taking part, including myself and at least one of my friends. Once the results are in, the organisations involved will have a better picture of the scale of the problem we face here in the UK. They also will have better facts to take to government (both local and national) and the organisations who create or use the plastic - such as food companies - to lobby for alternative packaging solutions. Like with any project of this kind I'm sure the results will lead to further questions and the potential need to drill down further in the data. Whilst there are 19 categories of plastic in the survey, many of them are quite broad and only give an idea of numbers not

Weekend Wandering: Bluebell surprise

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Some days just make your heart sing and Saturday was one of them. One of my WI friends arranged for us to walk to Calne along the old railway line  and laid on the perfect day for us to enjoy six miles of walking in the finest of company. Lockdown made this a familiar walk for us all. it's one of the few which takes you to a destination instead of around in a circle and has more of a sense of a journey as a result. Familiarity doesn't mean there aren't any surprises - we were delighted to find extensive bluebell woods either side of the track once we were close to the Bowood Estate . I thought I'd found all the local, walkable bluebell woods during the past two years, and I'm delighted to be proven wrong. There was plenty of wild garlic too - walks there during the rest of May are going to be quite pungent! May the month of May be as delightful for you, whatever's happening in your neck of the woods.

Happy Easter!

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Sunshine, spring flowers and the Easter bunnies have been. It's a perfect day. A bunch of British daffodils is my weekly treat from January through to now, they are such happy flowers. This year in an unexpected turn of events NAH has made it two bunches! Have a good Easter everyone 😊

Extra virgin olives

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I harvested last year's olive crop from my patio allotment over the weekend. As you can see the olive growers of Spain, Italy and Greece can rest easy 🤣  Inspired by Andrew's recent post on Facebook and being a curious, experimental soul, I'm having a go at turning them from completely inedible* into something that might just**, grace one of the Greek salads we have on a weekly basis. I've have some of those teeny tiny jam jars -  saved from tea shop forays just in case they come in handy - and after discarding the wrinkly ones and the stems into the compost bin, I have just** enough olives to fill 2 of them. I found the instructions for dry salt-cured olives Andrew mentioned in his post, which in turn has a link to how to pit olives when they're ready to eat in around three weeks time. Wish me luck. Next up is olive tree pruning***, once we've got rid of this spell of cold weather. * = reader, I tried one 😬 ** = only just mind *** = I'm going for a loo