It's Dinner Time!

It's been a tough week trying to choose my dinner party guests since I announced this meme on Monday. My list has changed several times a day and at one point everyone's names began with a C and were likely to be a bit curmudgeonly. I nearly left it like that just to prove Alan Titchmarsh wrong, but decided on a different mix in the end.

My first guest is Charles Darwin - the man of the moment as his bicentenary is next week. His experiments and observations in his garden and greenhouse at Down House were central to the evidence he gathered over a period of 20 years for The Origin of the Species. Some of the techniques he developed are ones I've used in my own studies and I'd love to talk to him about the importance of his garden, daily walks and thinking time. Judging by a letter auctioned locally recently he could be a tad snippy, but I'm assuming the convivial company I've assembled here will put him in a good mood for us.

My second guest is a local man and photography pioneer William Henry Fox Talbot. Whilst delving into the archives at National Trust HQ, I've been reading a photocopy of the notes he made about his botanic garden at Lacock Abbey in the 1800s, fascinating stuff. I then checked the dates and realised he was doing all of this whilst working on his new process which gave us the world's first positive photographic image developed from a negative. Like me he had so many interests, but seemed to have time to fit them all in - I think any tips he could offer me on time management would be useful. I believe he and Charles Darwin would complement each other very well and I'm curious to know what he'd make of the National Trust's restoration of his botanic garden.

The magic of blogging means there's no language problems with my third guest Gregor Mendel, the father of genetics whose extensive study of peas in his monastery's garden helped him to formulate his ideas on heredity. I wonder what he'd think of today's plant breeding methods, particularly genetic modification. Would he agree the quest for a blue rose is worthwhile? I'd also like to ask him how long it took him to formulate his ideas from the data he'd amassed. I studied Nuffield Biology at school: this syllabus tended to give the original data the great and the good worked from and expected students to come up with the same answers via guided questioning along the way. At the age of 16, I just found this so hard, though of course it stood me in good stead for my later studies. Did he struggle like I did?

My final guest is Heather Angel. Her wildlife photography is magnificent, particularly of plants and fungi and features in many of the books in my collection. When I graduated from University, I applied to become her assistant, but got nowhere with my application. I don't want to berate her about that: I'd just like to hear the conversation she'd have with Fox Talbot about how photography has changed as well as picking up some hints and tips for my own. I wonder what she thinks of the digital medium?

Of course the food and drink I serve my guests will be plentiful, delicious and exactly what they'd like, just like the feasts are in Harry Potter. I did toy with the idea of inviting Christopher Lloyd along too, not only because his writing finally made me realise what gardening's all about, but also his cooking skills as evidenced in Dear Friend and Gardener and Gardener Cook were far superior to mine. However, I thought many of you might want to invite him to your dinner party, so I've left him for you to fight over.

Now it's over to you - I'm dying to see who you've invited. Do leave your name and the URL of your dinner party post in Mr Linky below (not your blog URL as this makes it slightly longer and more awkward to get around your posts), so we can all come along and drop in. That way we get to see all of our blogfriends too - yippee! Alternatively you can leave a comment here with your guest list, or email me (vegplotting at gmail dot com) and I'll make sure your list goes up on here. Don't worry if your party's late - Mr Linky and I will still be here and I'll be along shortly to say hello to you and your guests :D

Just before I go, I'd like to thank everyone who's helped with publicity this week - particularly Arabella, Shirl, Anna (Flower Garden Girl) and Karen - you've been wonderful. Shirl in particular needs double thanks as she's been really helpful behind the scenes with hints, tips plus lessons learnt from her recent Desert Island Challenge.


  1. Another great challenge, thanks VP - you have some great choices - it's always interesting how varied gardener's interests can be (but how they follow a certain trend - perhaps toward discovery and the need to document it?). My guests would be Hadrian, William Robert Guilfoyle, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch and Derek Jarman - definately going to need a TARDIS and a Babelfish to make the party a sucess. Partly the selection is biased towards Melbourne, but also I thought it would be fun to discuss the origins and the translation of the Romantic garden tradition over to the colonies - from one Empire to another - though Hadrian can have all the doormice to himself!

  2. Hi Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment, yes we are still hoping to venture out on Sunday...we will know by about 11 am whether we are going or will be on my blog if we go :-)

  3. Very impressive company, VP! I would have guessed you would invite some of the gardening gurus you often mention here, so I was surprised by your choices. With Darwin and Mendel, in particular, at the table, I wouldn't say a peep, just sit in silent awe.

    I hope to host my dinner party Sunday night; I'll sign up when I've got it all organized:)

  4. Hi VP, this should be quite the shindig. I love seeing who will be invited where. My post is up, a slightly different list. :-)

  5. I want to steal all your guests - great people though I'd swap the wildlife photographer for Oscar Wilde, simply because I love him. Though in saying that I adore photography too, but I like so many people's work I'd have to have a massive banquet for everyone through the history of the art, including present day people - it would be a nightmare and I can't cook!!
    I other words, can I come to your party and just bring Mr Wilde with me?? Please X

  6. VP, You have assembled such a stimulating dinner group, one that we would all like to join. I look forward to dropping in on the other parties around the world, and do thank you for your creativity as catalyst.

  7. Hi VP - My post is up - its Saturday (just) and I will be back later to catch up with everyone's guest lists.
    The dinner party at your house has some awesome guests - Christopher Lloyd was one name that nearly made it to mine!
    See you later
    ps word verification is

    "hophipti" quite sweet :)

  8. Going to a cook out tomorrow. Stop by my blog. I've got something for you. No good comment goes unpunished.

  9. Well, I've just had my dinner party and it was great fun. I think we should all do it again sometime!

    Thanks for being the great host that you are and for coming up with this meme.

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  10. Itinerant Gardener - welcome and thanks for joining in Sam :) The TARDIS and plenty of babelfish are at our disposal, no problem ;)

    Anne in Oxfordshire - will be over to check!

    Rose - Blogfriends followed by gardening gurus were the first 2 guest lists I put together. But I need to invite far more than 3-5blogfriends and I thought my gardening gurus will be so busy with everyone else, so it was great to go back to some of my much earlier influences who still have that gardening connection. No problem with a sunday dinner, Mr Linky and I will still be here. I look forward to seeing your choices :)

    Frances - it is quite a shindig :) It's fun seeing how inventive you and everyone's been with their guest lists :D

    Carrie - well, I only invited 4 so actually I could easily squeeze you and Oscar Wilde in too :)

    Daffodil Planter - welcome! Thanks for your compliments and I'm looking forward to the reaction to your guests ;)

    Karen - they might be awesome, but they're proving to be such good comapny - we've been nattering for hours, so we'll probably make a weekend of it ;)

    Aunt Debbi - I'm on my way!

    Carol - that's a great compliment from our GBBD host and I now understand a little more of just how hard you work every month to put Blooms Day together :)


    I didnt understand Mr Linky! Anyway here are my choices - as you guessed I have gone for Christopher Lloyd but I think you might find some of the others interesting. Like your selection

  12. Hi Helen - you just needed to type in your name and add the link you gave me into the slot below. I've done it for you and it works! Great choices and I've already paid you a visit - I think I'm going to be quite full by the end of today as I've already had dark chocolate cheesecake at Karen's and rhubarb crunble at yours. I hope some of the later dinner party hosts have got some Rennies in for me!

  13. Thank you VP, both Oscar and I are terrible cooks and terrible hosts as well - we much prefer going out to dinner. I'm sure you are a true domestic goddess; we will bring lots of flowers and wine. x

  14. Carrie - we were just running out of wine - so glad you and Oscar have bought another vat of it to keep the conversation flowing ;)

  15. This has certainly brightened up February VP so many thanks xxx . Wow, your assembled company are quite a collection to have under the same roof - I think that like Rose I would be awestruck. I'll be back this afternoon, when I can take a break from the preparations to have a reccie at other folk's guests lists :)

  16. Hi Anna - I think I was lucky we had all that snow this week, so it's given people plenty of time to get their thinking caps on and come up with such good ideas :)

    No need to be awestruck - they're turning out to be delightful company, just like your own guests are.

  17. I know it is january and many wants to loose a few pounds or a "stone" as their new years resolutions. Always wondered about these English stones - whether they are pebbles or rocks???
    I have also heard that using smaller plates creates an illusion of being served a bigger serving than using normal or bigger plates. But isn´t this setting of the table for the dinner party a little extreme???
    I hope you are not serving lobster soup as entre on those plates? If you are: add some Salvia Divinorum leaves to it - I am sure it will get the party going a bit!

  18. Very interesting choices you've made. Darwin was quite a coup (lol). It was a bit of a challenge to decide on my guests but I enjoyed the experience.

  19. I have a feeling Darwin has been on your list all along. (The "interest in nature" thing is what leads me to this conclusion.) What a fascinating guy he must have been. Already I can see how varied all our guest lists will be.

  20. Woohoo, this was fun! Thanks for thinking of it, Veep. I've just finished my post, and now I'm off to catch up on everyone else's dinner parties. I feel sort of like the Obama's must have felt--so many many balls to dance at, so little time...;-)

  21. That's a great list. Nuffield Biology - blimey, that takes me back. I did that at A level too - loved the genetics bits and even enjoyed the statistics! The main thing I remember, though, is an experiment where I put together a pooter wrongly and ended up with a big moth in my mouth. Yuk, yuk. Still makes me shudder...

  22. Ooops! Veep, I accidentally linked twice to my site--is there any way to delete one?

  23. Niels - LOL! I thought I needed to change my best silver service and china for something more suited to the occasion! And some Salvia will certainly be a giggle ;)

    EG - he was my must have guest that constantly stayed in my list whilst all the others changed.

    Susan - I'm certainly seeing what a tough job he had! And your wisj was my command re the double link :) Let me know if you'd like the name changed to Bicycle Gardener too as I deleted the last link.

    MMD - like our desert island plants, we have a stunning variety of guests. Just as well else they'd be getting rather torn/tired by now ;)

    Amanda - I nearly did that too. However, I did manage to pipette cow innards into my mouth at Uni instead :(

  24. Hi there VP:-)

    Well, well the parties are well underway! What fun. Congratulations… this looks like a great success :-D

    What fascinating choices you’ve made! I see you also considered the conversation between your guests. I liked you inviting photographers in too - you'll have plenty of images as keepsakes. Great stuff, this is also a great posting for getting to know the blogger. We are relatively new in coming across each other and I’ve learnt a bit about you today too. What a great challenge this has been :-D

    Mm… I hope coming in at No 13 with Mister Linky isn’t a bad omen for my party! Now… what’s going on in the others? I really have to pop in and see :-D

  25. Hi VP--Yes, I think I'd like to list is as the Bicycle Garden. Tried to change it myself but muddle it up--hence the double post.

    This was really an inspired idea, BTW. I'm so enjoying everyone's dinner parties.

  26. I have added my link. off to read everyone elses now

  27. Shirl - great to see you. There's no problem being number 13 as Bicycle Gardener doubled up on it first to make it totally safe for you :) And yes, it's been great to get to know you too!

    SOL - heading over your way, though I might catch up with you at one of the others first...

  28. Susan - forgot to say: I've amended your entry to read The Bicycle Gardener now :)

  29. You're the best, VP! I need to run off and check out the new parties...

  30. That was hard! I didn't dare look at other peoples' posts until after I had done mine, as (a) they would already have chosen my choices and (b) everyone elses choices would be so much better.
    Having now done my post, I will go and brose everyone's clever choices.

    Thanks VP!

  31. Fox Talbot is an interesting choice - I love the museum in Lacock. We have a print of one of his photos hanging above our stairs.

    I found when I thought about this that I didn't want to invite a lot of people I don't know: I would enjoy a gathering of friends a lot more. So my choices probably won't be of much interest to most people!

  32. Great meme, thanks for hosting ... I'd have invited Charles Darwin, too, only he had a prior engagement


  33. Now this is the sort of meme that elevates blogging above the "which- celebrity- would -you- most- like -to -be" format.(My answer is NONE!)
    A tad late to come to your dinner (I only noticed just now at Purple Podded), I'd love to co-host if you throw another one. Or perhaps I'll have my own literary/arty/botanical dinner?
    Ok, I'm bookmarking you now.

    WV is tatersta

  34. I'm exhausted cooking ... can't wait to see all the wonderful dinner parties hosted. Sitting back at mine ... time to listen. Big thanks for this fun venture :)

  35. VP, you've outdone yourself with this meme. I love your innovative choices, and I also played along. A great way to get through February.~~Dee

  36. Hi VP,

    Everyone is having such fun at their dinner party! I've been away and couldn't play! But next time I will! I am imagining all the dinner guests with their host/hostess in one big dining room, all at their separate tables...What a roomful of luminaries~~ Gail

  37. What a splendidly erudite list. This is a dinner party even I might enjoy. Makes a pleasant change from the standard moron's choice of Ronaldhino, Beckham, John Motson and Jo Guest.

  38. I'd be overawed at a party like that!

    But then, I'm not a dinner party kind of person.

    I was once waylaid by a reporter from our local paper who was very insistant that I tell him who I would invite for such an event. I couldn't make him go away. I couldn't persuade him I didn't want a dinner party, even in my dreams . . . in the end, there was a picture of a very tired, very morose looking me in the paper's weekend magazine, saying I'd invite only familiy who would be content with baked beans. Even they'd be lucky!

    Esther Montgomery

  39. I'm working on this and my rounds to see everyone. A nasty virus got me this week and my dinner guest all cancelled till I get better. I had to put all the food in the freezer of course.

    I could write a whole post on just your guest alone VP. It will take me a few wonderful ages to get through all the parties out and about. Way to much fun! I'll be back when I can take off my mask and not spread genetically altered bugs.

    I'll be back to comment more!

  40. Susan - no problem, the admin's really easy to do :)

    HM - as usual you've done a thoughtful yet humourous post, thank you :D

    Juliet - that's no problem. The idea is for you to invite exactly who you please.

    Joanna - I thought Charles Darwin would have plenty of other engagements too. Luckily he could fit me in ;)

    moreidlethoughts - welcome! I think this is a meme that can be melded to exactly what you want it to be. Have fun! So good to see you here and I'm off to checkout your blog

    Joey - you seem to have been doing catering for 2 parties ;) I love your response to this meme - so much care taken and use of imagination, thank you.

    Dee - hello! So glad you found the time to join us - your post's delightful :)

    Gail - there's plenty of time to play if you want. I hope you had a good time and enjoy the rest of your weekend!

    Soilman - that's a great compliment! Hope tonight's webcast goes well :)

    Esther - you've given me the giggles. I can imagine you giving the interviewer such a hard time! No need to be overawed, my guests are proving to be the best of company.

    Anna (FGG) - so sorry to hear you've been ill :( I hope you're feeling better now. There's still plenty of time to defrost your party food and be the hostess with the mostest!

  41. I told R that several people had invited Christopher Lloyd to their virtual dinner parties.

    There was a pause, during which R was clearly trying to work out what this had to do with gardening. Then he asked "wasn't he in Back to the Future?"

    Oh dear.

  42. Juliet - I've had a similar conversation with NAH!

  43. Sorry - I put my DP post on my other blog by mistake, and linked to it there - arrgh - but I have now moved it. Sorry that this means I'm on the list twice - it's the 2nd one that's correct.

  44. Hi EB - thanks for playing and welcome to VP Gardens! I've fixed your double entry now :)

  45. This was great fun, thanks for putting the party together.

  46. Whew! I finally made it! Can you imagine if we could hold a convention with all the dinner guests and hosts in attendence? This has been fun.

  47. Thanks so much for the meme of dinner guests. I don't usually participate in memes, but this was great fun today. I'm enjoying reading of everyone's guest lists.

  48. VP - me again - just a note to say a proper thank you for hosting the dinner part meme - it was such fun going around everyone and so interesting to see who people invited and why.
    Hope you enjoyed it too :)

  49. MA - thanks, glad you enjoyed it :)

    Michelle - now there's a thought! That way everyone could enjoy meeting each others guests and there'd be no fighting over the most popular invitees!

    CurtissAnn - I'm so glad you took part in this meme and that you enjoyed it.

    Karen - I've had so much fun and thanks for your special edition comic! :)

  50. Very interesting idea and lots of thought-provoking response. I typically shy away from memes but I read enough fascinating responses that I decided this was a topic worth exploring.

  51. Hi mss - welcome! I'm so glad you made an exception :) A thoughtful choice which has inspired me back into my garden library again!

  52. This was a lovely idea. Really got us to think. And I've enjoyed the peek into other gardeners' personalities that their choices offer — to say nothing of discovering new gardeners: dead and alive!

  53. Ms Wis - glad you enjoyed it :)

  54. well months behind but I just found you and am working through some of your blogs - all I can say is if you ever do manage to drag them back in time please may I wait at the table- couldn't aspire to be a guest but oh how I would love to evesdrop on the conversation- brilliant mix of guests.

  55. Alberta Ross - glad you enjoyed it. The great thing about blogs is there's always a gem in the archives ready to be discovered. Getting your comment today has given me the chance to revisit a very enjoyable time - it certainly brightened up a very cold February 2 years ago!


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