Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: First Flowers

I have a small part of VP Gardens which I've mentally called 'foliage corner'. It's quite shady, hence its lack of appearance on previous Blooms Days. This year's different because there are some new flowers on the block. They remind me of the ivy flowers on the fence nearby and are around the same size.

I lost this shrub-like perennial's label a long time ago so I have no idea of the name. It dies down each winter and re-emerges late spring. It looks like the supplier who gave it to me no longer has it in its catalogue: perhaps you recognise it and can let me know in the comments? Last week I admired the greenery of the leaves, then I turn my back for a short while and this happens.

At least when I look at the same bed from the opposite end I can kid myself summer's still here.

It's all a matter of perspective.

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Update: by the power of social media, it looks like we have an ID😊 Ar…

The Great Green Wall Hunt: Paris

Travelling across Europe by train from the UK often means a change of stations in Paris. On the way to Switzerland our walk from the Gare du Nord to Gare de l'Est was uneventful. The return walk was different: it held a surprise.

There's a choice of routes available: turn right out of the station and an elegant staircase and a five minute walk is one option. Turn left and and the sign says it's a ten minute walk. In view of our suitcases, we chose to turn left.

I'm glad we did because otherwise I would have missed Patric Blanc's green wall on the Rue d'Alsace. It's turned a dreary alley way into something spectacular. At the time of installation (2008), it was the largest he'd designed, with a surface area of 1,500 square metres.

In his book, The Vertical Garden, Patric Blanc says:

"When Fanny Giraud and Michel Piloquet invited me to visit the project site, I thought I was dreaming: an endless dark alley linking the Gare de l'Est to the Gare d…

Weekend Wandering: Gardens, the Swiss Alpine way

You may have guessed already that I loved our holiday in Switzerland. I adored the mountains and their views; the clean air; and the beauties of nature ready for us to drink in and admire.

My garden blogger antennae were also finely tuned to pick up anything of a garden nature and I was surprised to find a distinct style throughout every village, which in turn formed its own backdrop to our visit. It was a complete contrast to the more eclectic and individual style I see from the train in the UK.

The first feature I noticed were the window boxes on every chalet crammed with cheerful pelargoniums. Most of these were red, as if there was an unspoken rule on what a windowbox should contain.

It was good to see there were others willing to flout this 'rule'. I'd say pink was the next choice, followed by white. It was clear the Swiss love to have plenty of colour in their gardens. An antidote to the white of winter perhaps?

I was also pleased to see lots of apple trees, though …

Wildflower Wednesday: Alpengarten

A little while ago I wrote about garden visits which suit both NAH and me. Little did I know within a few days of that post I'd find a whole holiday. Don't get me wrong, all our holidays are enjoyable, but Switzerland was exceptional. NAH could happily play on the mountain railways and cable cars all day, whilst I could take in everything nature wanted to show me.

One day on a train journey up the mountain back to Wengen I caught NAH watching me with a smile on his face. 'What's up?', I asked him. 'I'm watching you taking it all in', he said. Little did he know that not only was I drinking in the gorgeous mountain views, I also had a running commentary playing in my head along the lines of:

"That view is fabulous; that's a wild flower I have in my garden... there's another, it's clover; and that's a Campanula; and there's a scabious like the one I have in my pots; here's a smaller version of the ox-eye daisy in my lawn; is …

Postcard from the 'Top of Europe'

I'm back from a wonderful week in Switzerland - my first time there - based in traffic-free Wengen where the only way to get in and out of the village is by rack railway or cable car. Most civilised!

This is the view on day one when we took the cable car to Stechelberg then walked to Mürren. The photo is from that walk looking towards the Eiger and Mönch mountains, with the Jungfrau just out of sight. There is a railway through the Eiger mountain itself to Jungfraujoch, which markets itself as 'The top of Europe' hence the catchy title for my post. This has the highest railway station in Europe as its claim to fame and the views are spectacular from there, stretching towards France, Germany and Italy on a clear day.

We took a tiny railway or cable car to the top of various mountains almost every day, except those when we steamed along the turquoise coloured lakes either side of Interlaken and looked up into the mountains instead. We also spent a day in Bern, the capital o…

Things in Unusual Places #25: Rhino

I giggled when I looked at this photo when I got home as the autofocus on my camera chose the Stipa over the distant Rhinoceros. Perhaps my camera has got too used to plants being the usual focus of my attention? I also giggled at the time because a rhino and Stipa are an unusual garden combination.

However, in this instance perhaps it's not so unusual as I was invited to a bloggers gathering to celebrate the gardens at Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens. Ever since I've known Harriet was weaving her potted plant magic at the Park, it's been on my list to visit. Animals and plants, who can resist?

Now she and Head Gardener Tim Miles have written their own celebration of the gardens and were keen to share their enthusiasm with us. We weren't disappointed on the day and their book is a delight which forms a lovely souvenir. It's also a sneaky way of inviting us back as there are choice shots of the Park through the seasons.

Here are just a few of my highlights from …

Garden Bloggers Blooms Day: Hesperaloe parviflora

Sometimes a plant gets under your skin; one to be pursued no matter how hard the chase might be. Hesperaloe parviflora - aka Red Yucca - proved to be such a plant for my garden.

I first came across it in Austin at the Garden Bloggers Fling last year. It's a native plant to Texas and was found pretty much in everyone's garden; also at the gorgeous organic nursery we visited in the rain; and thanks to the legacy of Lady Bird Johnson and the wonderful work of the Wildflower Center which bears her name, it's seen along all the roads and freeways around the city.

Of course it's a key plant for xeriscaping, its tough agave-like rosette leaves - without the skin piercing spikes and with intriguing 'stringy bits' (my technical term) - are ideally adapted for the harsh Texan conditions and whilst I'd mentally named it my plant of the Fling, with a sigh of regret I'd also consigned it to the 'not suitable for my garden' pile of potential plants.


All Aboard for the Summer Spectacular!

Visitors to the SS Great Britain in Bristol are in for a treat over the next few weeks as a Summer Spectacular is added to the attractions already on offer. I was lucky enough to be invited to the preview recently and here you can see "Mr Brunel" himself welcoming us.

Soon I was talking to one of the volunteers dressed as a sailor who told me about his role. "Careful young lady," said Mr Bennett - Brunel's office manager - as he passed us by, "that sailor has a woman in every port!" It was an amusing and characterful addition to the evening.
But I digress. Let's have a look at the Summer Spectacular itself...

Before it starts, a bunch of suspicious looking characters wend their way through the audience onto the ship - see the people dressed in white at the centre of the photo? For it is they. There's a great deal of joking, pretending to work and tomfoolery on the deck until it's declared it's time to inspect the rigging.
This is what …

Flowers for Mum: The bouquet that keeps on giving

You may have spotted I've been a bit quiet lately. That's because my mum passed away a month ago and life's been quite hectic sorting everything out.

So here are my final Flowers for Mum, not grown by me this time, but by Georgie of Common Farm Flowers instead. When I phoned her to discuss what I'd like for the funeral, her first thought was flowers from my garden, but I knew these were unsuitable for what I had in mind because I needed:

Flowers important to mum in some wayScent, because she reacted to that strongly in her final yearsOrganic because dad was a founding member and secretary of Birmingham Organic GardenersCutting material so I could give plants in mum's memory to everyone unable to come to the funeral 
We both got very excited talking through the possibilities and as you can see Georgie did mum (and dad) proud. I love these photos Georgie posted on social media which give you a peep behind the scenes: her flower trolley parked in the shade early in th…

Thursday Thoughts

We've had a friend from Oz staying for a few days and whilst she's from the UK originally, she hasn't seen much of the wonders of our canal system. Therefore we deemed it necessary to take her to see the Caen Hill flight straight away. Besides, there's a jolly cafe towards the top where we could watch the narrowboats as they lock through the flight.

After lunch we walked along the canal to Devizes Wharf, speculating as we went on which of the moored boats are hired and those used for living. Which category do you think the photographed one belongs to? Whichever it is, I like the owner's philosophic musing together with the natty plant that echoes the paintwork.

On the way back we had the delight of following a majestic heron along the canal and the photo below shows our first sighting.

All in all, we had a wonderful afternoon together just wandering and not being lost. It's a philosophy I'd like to subscribe to more often.