Postcard from Marcherland

Unusually for NAH, he took holiday destiny into his own hands and booked us in for a last minute week away in the Welsh border* just after Christmas. This is the view from our cottage door complete with frost, rolling hills, farm buildings, sheep and architectural trees.

I was a bit grumpy when NAH suggested it, convinced nothing would be open. I was proved wrong... there was just enough, plus the draw of a friend to catch up with who has recently moved back home after many years of living in Seattle.

We visited NAH's beloved Tal y Llyn railway and for me there were the gigglesome yews of Powis Castle decked out in twinkly lights beneath their green skirts. We partook of the world's slowest pub crawl in Bishop's Castle, where I taught everyone the delights of windmill dominoes.

We found the canal at Welshpool and revisited the marvellous lost-in-time Bunners hardware store in Montgomery. There were frosted walks for us all, plus mountain biking for NAH to complete the mor…

Garden Bloggers' Muse Day: This is My Life

A philosophy for life and a poem to mark the New Year. You can read the full poem here (note especially the last line). The scene is part of Jephson Gardens in Leamington Spa, taken on NAH's 65th birthday last September.

May 2019 be filled with dreams and wonders for you and yours 😊

Things in Unusual Places #23: Alliums

As seen in Crewkerne parish church Christmas tree festival, December 2017. These are most probably the dried seed heads of Allium christophii aka star of Persia and therefore most fitting for the season. I wonder if the tree trimmers knew that when they chose those attractive seed heads for their tree.

They're great sprayed in silver or gold too, and smaller seed heads from other ornamental onions such as A. 'Purple Sensation' will look great bunched together in a seasonal vase, on their own or with other dried seed heads. They're not just for Christmas though; the ones I have at home in pots have lasted for years and are au naturel, just like Crewkerne's.

Have a great Christmas everyone. Veg Plotting will return in the new year.

Unusual Front Gardens #29: Dog

Spotted recently from the lounge window of my niece's student house in Nottingham where it forms the entrance to her neighbour's garden. It brightened up a typically dull November day and strangely it wasn't recognisable as a dog when we first approached it from the other side by car.

The autumn menu

Autumn has seen plenty of culinary experiments, with the need to keep up my 5 a day and various trips providing lots of inspiration.

In my Lancashire postcard, I talked about going to Booths and I came home with a number of recipes to try from their autumn leaflet and Christmas book. Their parsnip and hazelnut soup is a firm lunchtime favourite now, with the pear, blue cheese and prosciutto soda bread seen at the top of this post. I'm going to try adapting this into a bread maker recipe for a lighter loaf.

There's no recipe available online for the soup, but it's an easy peasy one. I've adapted it slightly by omitting the 250ml whipping cream and I don't think the result suffers. Simply toast 75g hazelnuts in a large pan for 5 minutes, then add 1 teaspoon olive oil, 500g parsnips plus 2 garlic cloves (both peeled) and saute everything for 5 minutes. Then add 500ml vegetable stock and 500ml semi skimmed milk, plus salt and pepper to taste to the pan and bring to th…

Postcard from Wiltshire: Season of Mists

Driving home across Wiltshire last Saturday towards sunset and nearly blinded by the light, it was well worth my discomfort to come across this misty autumnal scene across the fields near Charlcutt.

For once I've decided to crop the photo, so the result obeys the rule of thirds. I don't usually have much luck with misty photos as mine usually look quite dull and nothing like the scene I saw. Whilst there's still room for improvement, I'm happy with this one. The lower sun in the sky and the time of day (about an hour before sunset) must have helped 😊

Fireglow and gold

The weather's turned colder this week and most of the autumn leaves are down, ready to add their mulch to the garden over the winter months. I took a few snaps recently to show you as my final celebration of this season's gifts.

This post serves as a final record of the Berberis thunbergii 'Gold Ring' at the bottom of the garden. It comes into its own at this time of the year with the most incredible fireglow to warm this gardener's heart. However, who in their right mind adds a thorny shrub to one of their main garden beds? Well, I added three of them and it's high time I corrected that mistake. I'll ponder a replacement shrub over the winter; something with similar fireworks is my intention. Ideas anyone?

Elsewhere the wispy silver birches I can see from my bedroom window are being their usual seasonal barometer. I spend more time than I should simply watching them and I love seeing how they change with each season and the sky behind them.

At the front o…

Weekend Wandering: Liverpool's Waterfront

It's nine years since our last visit to Liverpool and my postcard, and the building work along the waterfront which was much in evidence at that time is now complete. Those familiar with previous times may mourn the loss of the old character of this part of the city, but for this visitor it made for a magical Sunday morning stroll.

We were staying in the city centre, so it's just a 5 minute walk to reach the start of our weekend wander at Albert Dock. I love strong shapes and combined with their reflections, I spent a while trying to do these justice with my camera.

'Laurel and Hardy' were being briefed outside the Merseyside Maritime Museum. Their day had just started when I strolled by.

Sadly I didn't have time to go into Tate Liverpool, but that didn't matter as there is plenty of public art on view outside. This is the Tate's latest by Ugo Rondinone. Like The Guardian, I'm not so sure about this one, but that's one of the strengths of being bol…

Garden Bloggers Blooms Day: Clematis 'Freckles'

The frosts of a couple of weeks ago turned all but the hardiest of my summer flowers to a memory, and now it's the turn of the winter bloomers to take a star turn in VP Gardens.

The earliest of these is Clematis 'Freckles'. The guidance says she blooms from November through to February; mine's been throwing out the odd bloom or three since July. This isn't a rare occurrence; it happens here most years and I know Alan has had the same experience this year.

I can thank NAH for this year's plentiful blooms. This is a pruning group 1 clematis, so I tend to neglect her dreadfully. NAH in Drastic Gardener mode cut her down to the ground last year when the huge tangle of stems invaded next door's garage. He left her for dead, but she's made of sterner stuff and has grown back more strongly than before. It was worth sacrificing last year's winter display ('Freckles' flowers on old wood) for what's there now.

The guidance says growth is up to 4 …

Remember Them

Early morning at the trials field at Mr Fothergill's this summer and the light was just right for highlighting the poppies they'd sown in tribute to the fallen and the centenary of the end of WWI.

Then a few hours later, my fumbling fingers just about managed to capture this happy juxtaposition.

A couple of Chelsea Pensioners are usually invited to Mr Fothergill's Press Day for the presentation of the cheque for the funds raised from their 'Victoria Cross' poppy and 'Scarlet Tunic' sweet pea seeds. 25p is donated per packet sold and over £70,000 has been raised so far.

We also learnt the traditional heavy scarlet tunic coat costs around £600 and is very hot to wear on a summer's day, especially in the hot spell we experienced earlier this year. It was one of those days at the trials field, but luckily it didn't dim the cheerfulness and twinkling humour of our two Pensioner visitors. The Royal Hospital Chelsea has launched the Scarlets Appeal, to ra…