Showing posts from November, 2008

Pruning Rage!

Like Plant Mad Nige , I'm feeling a bit peeved at the moment. No, not at farmers like he is, but my local council. It would appear it's our estate's turn to have its public planting tidied up. Don't get me wrong, I usually would approve heartily, but WHY did it have to include all the lovely red berried Guelder-rose providing food for the birds AND all the dogwood and Salix stems that are meant to provide our open spaces around here with some winter interest? Surely the work plan this time around could have included just a quick tidy up of the dead or dangerous deciduous wood, plus all the evergreen trimming, followed by a visit in late winter (prior to nesting time and after the berries have been eaten) to complete the rest? They've made a good job of the evergreen stuff, even cloud pruning some of the nameless bushes we have - a nice touch above the ordinary don't you think? BUT we do have mass plantings of gold, green and red stems, which a couple of

VPGGB * #4 - RHS Membership?

Dahlias at the RHS Inner Temple Show - September 2008 There's been quite a lot of debate recently in the blogosphere about the RHS , where it's headed and the value of membership to its members. James has a particularly thoughtful article plus comments over at his award winning Blackpitts blog if you're interested in what's been said so far. It's been a timely discussion for me as my membership is due for renewal in January. NAH purchased it for me 2 years ago as a welcome Christmas gift. Last year I renewed it without a thought, but this year every purchase has to count, so here goes. Membership cost £41 this year and my benefits according to the RHS are: A monthly magazine ( The Garden ) rrp @ £4.25 - however, I believe the net value to me is nearer £10 , (not RHS' £51) when compared with other subscription bargains like Gardens Illustrated, who discount theirs and give away a free book. I'd also like to know how many non-membership sales

Why Do I Garden?

Stuart of Blotanical fame has set a 160 character challenge this month: to provide an answer to the question Why Do I Garden? Here's my response. It's: W onderful H ealing Y ear-round I nspiring & Creative D irty O utside G reat A ctive R ooted D oing not Vegetating E nvironmentally sound N ourishing ! Sadly it looks like Blotanical is no more, so I can't take you there via a link to discover hundreds of fellow gardening bloggers :(

How About A Time Machine For Your Garden?

Dr Who garden complete with TARDIS - RHS Show Cardiff, April 2008 How's this for the ultimate in garden sheds? A local landscaping firm is auctioning off their replica 10 foot tall TARDIS to raise money for the Wiltshire Air Ambulance Appeal. It was built for a Doctor Who themed float shown at Devizes and Pewsey's carnivals (note to self: must write about the local Autumn carnival season next year). One of the firm's owners was quoted in this week's Gazette & Herald : It would be a good Christmas present. We've had suggestions it could be used as an allotment shed, portable loo or a children's playhouse . The shed can be viewed and delivery is also promised - though to Joy's place in Canada might be stretching their goodwill a bit far. The reserve price is £80 (around $120 USD) and in view of the success of the TARDIS category in Shed of The Year , I'm sure it'll raise far more than that. Sealed bids should be sent to: Elm Tree Fencin

ABC Wednesday - S is for...

...Sprouts I have to admit sprouts aren't my favourite vegetable, in fact I agree with an ex-colleague who described them as spawn of the devil at an office Christmas lunch a few years ago. Nearly everyone else looks at me like I've gone mad when I say I don't like them. They ask What DO you eat on Christmas Day then? and look at me pityingly. Answer: roast parsnips plus leeks and carrots freshly picked from the allotment usually. No problem. You may have guessed the picture illustrating this post isn't from my allotment. You're right - it's from next door's. I was most amused when Anna (thanks Anna - I'll link to you when your Blog's ready) contacted me a couple of weeks ago with the information there's an annual sprout festival held in Worcester. It appears a local chef there believes the sprout is a much maligned vegetable and is doing his best to redress the balance. Unfortunately I couldn't tell you more about it at the time, but it

Mushroom Magic

As well as being a vintage year for autumnal leaf colour, it's been a great season for fungi around here, especially at my allotment. The weather plus my mulched prunings and next door's used pet bedding seem to have provided ideal conditions for various toadstools to thrive. The above picture shows a fungus that's new to me which I found growing near my apple trees. I've narrowed it down to either Stropharia cyanea (Blue Roundhead) or Stropharia aeruginosa (Verdigris Agaric) using the extremely useful Rogers Mushrooms website. However, from the description and photos there (or anywhere else) I can't really narrow it down to the species level - not surprising since the description of S. cyanea says it's often mistaken for the other one. Either way, it's not edible. I don't think it looks that appetising anyway - what do you think? Can anyone confirm which one it is? BTW Apologies for not replying to your Comments, messages and e-mails over the weeken

VP's Guide to Gardening Bargains #3

This post has a touch of the You Ask, We Answer about it as it's in response to Zoe 's comment about the Friends of the NGS (National Gardens Scheme) being a shade on the expensive side in my first Bargains post. I'm happy to report I've now been sent details of the scheme for 2009 and can confirm it is a bargain: Friends of the NGS 2009 Thank you for your interest in joining Friends of the NGS. We have made a few changes to Friends for 2009 and I am delighted to announce the details. For just £8.99 a year, Friends of the NGS will receive: A copy of The Yellow Book in February 2009 which lists 3,500, mostly private gardens all over England & Wales which open to the public in 2009 and early 2010 Friends of the NGS Newsletter in Spring and Autumn Discount and promotional offers for NGS events, including for 2009 an evening hosted by Alan Titchmarsh 2 for 1 entry at selected attractions If you would like to purchase a membership for yourself or as a gift please call

How Much Is Your Blog Worth?

Since I re-designed my blog a few weeks ago, you may have noticed I've replaced my regular quiz widget with Black Boxes (on the left). I found it on Suburbia 's blog when I was leaving a comment and I decided to add it here for a while for a bit of fun. I love inserting my own either/or questions and also seeing whose blog I end up at. It's often the same one, but that's not happening so much now - I suspect more bloggers are playing. It also means the frequency of strangers turning up in my site statistics has increased lately. It's always worthwhile having a look at these sites, especially as you never know what bells and whistles they're using on their blogs which are a bit of fun or potentially useful. A few days ago I ended up at The Cow-Herd Speaketh!!!! , a blogger based in Bangalore, India. In addition to a very interesting article on Hinglish (the mixing of Hindi and English in India), the blog had a most intriguing widget - How Much Is Your Blog Worth

Magnetic Poetry - November

Ever since I started my Magnetic Poetry strand back in January (the majority of posts on my Bad Poetry label), I've been debating fiercely with myself whether I would actually post today's entry. For the vast majority of my life I've been a most optimistic and happy soul and that's what usually gets portrayed here too. However, it wasn't that way on the 2nd November 2003. The signs were already there in my poems for September and October , but on that fateful day, I got absolutely no sleep at all - none for the rest of the week in fact. I was so full of adrenaline from stress at work, it was like I was completely wired open. I was shaking, my heart went haywire, it felt like I had fur being stroked on top of my head. It also felt like I was communicating with everyone from the other side of a misted glass partition. Naturally I couldn't have gone to work like that, so I called in sick. In time I recovered, slowly. But I never worked full time ever again. I&

Plot Views - Even More Clearing Needed

Now most of the leaves are down, it's time to sweep them off the path and onto the borders to make a natural mulch. I've also asked NAH to do the final mow of the lawn for the year, so the sticky mass of leaves on there will be shredded into the grass clippings to make a good mulch for one of the beds up at the allotment. Apart from that, I'll probably take everyone's advice from last month - leave things as they are and say I've created the ideal wildlife habitat!

A Study in Raindrops

Click to enlarge image if needed. Clockwise from top left: Spirea 'Goldflame', Berberis, Clematis, unknown alpine, fence & wire support, Cyclamen, Euphorbia myrsinites, Festuca glauca, cobweb detail Guess what? I've been distracted by the garden again! Drizzly rain leaves the finest of raindrops everywhere. Magical - even on a dull day.

ABC Wednesday - R is for...

...RHS Seed Scheme What a timely R this has turned out to be! I've just had my reminder from the RHS that now's the time to get my seed order in to them. Each year, RHS members are offered a choice of seed saved from the various RHS gardens. This year's catalogue runs to 23 pages, so there's quite a variety of seed on offer. It's not just choice specimens, there's plenty of the kind of plants everyone wants to grow in their gardens, so this is a good way to obtain or try new varieties, but from a prestigious source. Up to 20 packets can be ordered for a fee of £10 - which covers collecting, drying and administration costs. You may remember the arrival of my previous order earlier this year and my consternation that most of it was from the 'challenging to grow spectrum' as most of them either take a long time to germinate or need particular treatment such as cold stratification, or both. This year, I'm going to sit down with a large cup of coffee,

Grand Designs Revisited

The story so far... Romantic visionary VP has found the house of her dreams - a large, isolated stone-built cottage with over 2 acres of land. It's affordable (just) assuming the auction doesn't go that far above the guide price. However, it's a 'project' (i.e. lots of work) and NAH isn't fully aware of how badly VP would like to live there. Can she persuade NAH the cottage is his dream too? Now read on... We've been to see the house! Just on the outside and in the pouring rain. To my eyes it's even lovelier in the flesh than it is looking at the catalogue or on-line. There's so much potential and it's just about liveable in. All sorts of possibilities are going round my head re the land. Most of it is southerly facing and in a long rectangle - lots of garden rooms, possibly a small holding, all the apple trees I could shake a stick at. I make encouraging noises to NAH like 'you could have that workshop you've always wanted dear'

More of Autumn

Click on the picture to enlarge if needed. Clockwise from top left: Blueberry on Ash leaves, side garden carpet, Berberis, Field Maple Do you ever find you get distracted on the simplest of your tasks? I went into the garden late yesterday afternoon to quickly gather some herbs for the casserole I was making, and once again my garden made me stray from what I was doing! In spite of the drizzly rain, I just had to rush indoors, grab my camera and take some more shots of the autumn leaves in and around my garden. I've spoken before about the burnt oranges and reds we're having this year. However, they're the mere highlights. Most of our autumnal colour's bright yellow. It's mainly due the abundant birch, field maple and dogwoods we have around here that make it so. The yellow's tended to be the last colour to fall so lots of it's still on the trees. But as you can see we now have a thick, bright yellow carpet too - shining out despite the rain. BTW we've

A Whirl of Colour

My head's an explosion of colour at the moment, following Thurday evening's trip to Toppings (a lovely independent bookshop) in Bath with Threadspider and my SUP buddies to see Kaffe Fassett . Regular readers may recall we met him earlier in the year at Bath's Blue and White exhibition - that was so enjoyable, we were determined not to let a second opportunity pass us by in less than a year. The evening's objective was the launch of his new book, Country Garden Quilts . I'd been intrigued when I heard of this as the quilts are not only all on a theme that's close to my heart, but they were also photographed at Great Dixter , a garden on my must-see list. I'd wondered whether the strong colours and luxuriant foliage of Great Dixter's borders might clash with the vibrancy of Kaffe Fassett's work. On the whole I needn't have worried. Prior to the book signing (and after a brief introduction from another of my needlepoint heroines, Candace Baho

GBBD - Hanging On

By the A4 between Chippenham & Corsham 12/11/2008 Yes I know it's Blooms Day , but I couldn't resist showing you another autumnal picture. I spotted this one on the way to my creative writing class on Wednesday morning and I just had to stop afterwards and take its photo. Luckily I'd taken my camera as I'd wanted to photograph the new specially commissioned gate at the Pound Arts Centre . Aren't both of them beautiful? I can't really remember our autumns having so many trees sporting burnt orange colours like we've had this year. And whilst autumn came a little earlier than it has for the past few, the trees do seem to be hanging onto their leaves to make a real glow of things during the mainly gloomy days we've had recently. So, onto my garden's blooms. I'd say the majority of my remaining flowers are hanging on rather than blooming. I've also left some flowers to sport their dried heads in the garden. For the moment they're looking

You Ask, We Answer

My Dear American Cousins, Afraid you've missed the latest gardening gossip from England? Are you dying to know who is the 'Lord of Cord' and why ? Concerned your English friend uses her butt too often? Want to find the best garden itinerary for your upcoming tour? Do you find quaint terms like 'flowering their socks off' confusing? Worried you'll fail your University Diploma ? Then we have just the publication for you! Yes, You Ask, We Answer is the part work which solves the mystery of your English gardening buddies' eccentricity. Issued over an infinitesimal number of weeks (or until funding runs out), each edition builds to form the best, most complete library of English gardening knowledge, entertainment, heritage and terminology. We have gathered the creme de la creme of gardening expertise to answer your every enquiry, no matter how small. Our current panelist rollcall may be found here *. No finer depth (or maybe dearth - Ed.)

Putting the Boot In

EmmaT's been most lovely and organised and done her Christmas shopping for all her blogging buddies at B&Q's garden goodies sale. She's generously earmarked a car boot organiser for me; I can't for the life of me think why I need one, can you? :0 The picture shows my car boot yesterday. As you can see it's poised for every allotment eventuality I may care to throw at it. I don't keep this stuff up there in case it gets stolen. It looks this way in spite of a GNO earlier on in the year in Bristol, where I returned from our meal to find I had a flat tyre. Luckily there was someone (painting railings in the dark at 10 o'clock at night - why?) at the car park to help me change it and a similar view to the one above greeted us as I fished through it all for the spare tyre. The incident wasn't sufficiently embarrassing for me to tidy up and put everything away, hmmm. Mind you, I'm a bit worried about when I get my pressie. If I do get my car boot orga

ABC Wednesday - Q is for...

... Quince It's only in the past few years I've got to know our edible Quince tree, Cydonia oblonga . Until then, I'd only really been familiar with the ornamental or Japanese Quince, Chaenomeles japonica . I grew the latter in my previous garden to give some late winter colour and it's a regular sight on my walk to the railway station as several of the Victorian properties on my route use this shrub for hedging. Sadly, most of the specimens I see are rather uncared for and a mass of tangled, thorny branches. It's a shame as the shrub's blossom is a welcome sight in late winter/early spring and its fruit are adequately edible as a preserve. The quince tree as seen above at Lytes Cary Manor is a different kettle of fish. A nicely rambling, not too tall an affair with lovely spring blossom and large, tactile, knobbly and heavenly smelling fruit which ripen during September and October. A few centuries ago, the fruit were used medicinally for treating lung


This year's Remembrance commemorative stamps The space on today's post isn't a mistake or formatting error. It's the space I've left for reflection this morning at 11 am. Ninety years to the date and time since the end of WWI. I'll be thinking how lucky I am to live in more peaceful times. I've also been reading this amazing blog during the past year - it tells the tale of one ordinary English soldier using photos, letters and postcards to/from his family plus materials found in his regiment's archive about that first global conflict. I'm glad I've only had to try and imagine how horrific it was rather than having to live through those kind of times.

Grand Designs

When I was off sick from work a few years ago, I got addicted to the programme Homes Under the Hammer - daytime TV's like that when you're ill, I always knew I was well enough to go back to work when it ceased to be interesting. It wasn't the auction room tension or the 'yes you too can become a property developer and get rich quick' message which attracted me to the programme, in fact I always cheered when the property was actually bought to become someone's home. I preferred looking at the more unusual and interesting (sometimes unsellable) properties that tend to go down the auction route rather than via the more familiar estate agent sales. I love auctions - some of my unusual planters and indeed plants and trees in my garden have been bought this way. You can find bargains too, as long as you do your research first and don't get carried away by the thrill of bidding. I've seen many examples of the latter both at the auctions I've attended local

Book Giveaway and Scarf Update

Logo courtesy of: WaterAid It's Sunday morning, so it's time to see who's the winner from last week's book giveaway - Gardeners' World Top Tips - A Treasury of Garden Wisdom . Sadly there were no new names to add to the hat apart from the person from Portland, Maine who became my 25,000th visitor here last Tuesday evening. You were most welcome! And the winner is... RB . Congratulations RB, I'll be in touch to arrange sending your new book to you. By the way those of you who gave me your seed selections last month as Open Garden donors, I'll be sending them to you shortly. Getting the seed information and sowing instructions together has taken me longer than I was expecting, so my apologies. If you haven't made a donation already to my Open Garden, remember it's still here for you to take a stroll around. I also have some seeds left over to send out as a thank you for your donation. Scarf Update: Kathryn is sending no less than 70 scarves to Pakis

A Gift From a Stranger

Checking my site statistics late last night, I came across this delightful blog I'd never seen in there before. Nothing surprising in that you may be thinking, but Glanbrydan had linked to me because I've kindly been given the Kreativ Blogger award. That's quite a creative bit of lurking, I'm sure you'll agree :) The rules with this award are; nominate six blogs that you believe deserve this award and also list six things that you like. I'll come to the nominations a little later on. In trying to shortlist the myriad things I like, I decided to think about our five senses, provide one like for each and then end with my catch-all 'sixth sense' - something that fills all of my senses. Here's what I came up with - I can't guarantee I'd come up with the same first five another day, but the sixth one's a constant. Hear - the birds in and around my garden. I'm particularly enjoying the hooting of tawny owls most evenings at the moment wh

Sweets for my Sweet

NAH came home from evening class on Tuesday with this lovely jar of liquid gold. He'd done a good turn to one of his fellow students, who just happens to keep bees and this was his reward. We have a dilemma - scoff it all up now, or wait until after Christmas when supplies in the shops are projected to run out . What would you do in our shoes?

Plot Views - Clearing Needed


ABC Wednesday - P is for...

... Profile Picture From time to time I get asked, 'What's your profile picture?' or, 'Where is it?'. Until now my answer's been lost amongst the comments, but I thought today's ABC Wednesday's P was a p erfect time to p ut up a more p rominent p ost about it. Like many cities in the UK over the past 15 years or so, the centre of Bristol has undergone a complete transformation. When we moved down here in 1984, the historic docks area was mainly derelict and run-down, with the odd attraction and bright spot, such as Brunel's SS Great Britain . Today the docks are almost totally transformed (with a couple of sites still awaiting their makeover) - the cosy dockland pubs are still there, but trendy bars and restaurants have joined them. Expensive apartments line the waterways which in turn, are alive with ferryboats and a host of other watery attractions and craft. There's the headquarters of one of our major banks (Bristol is a majo

Re Cycling

I've got my Sherlock Holmes cap on this morning following a report in our local paper last week. Lacock Abbey's Head Gardener had her trusty ancient bicycle stolen at the Apple Day event on 19th October. Alibis have been checked over at R. Pete Free's place and I'm happy to report an innocent party in this instance. My attention's now turning to recent cycling injuries seen around Chippenham and its environs - the stolen bicycle has neither gears nor brakes.

Dahlia Duvet

Monica from Garden Faerie's Musings asked me last week if I lifted my Dahlias for the winter, so I thought I'd show you today what I've been up to over the weekend. The usual garden advice for the UK is to lift them, trim off the top foliage and any rotting tubers, and store them in sand or peat (or an alternative, more eco-friendly compost) in a frost-free garage or shed for the winter. Being a gardener of the lazier sort and fortunate enough to live in the south west of England (I reckon it's about zone 8, for those of you reading this over the pond), I've decided to leave my Dahlias in the ground to overwinter, just like I've done for the past few years. They're in the terraced part of the garden, so this is a warmer, more sheltered spot for them anyway. In order to ensure their survival until the spring, I give them a thick snuggly duvet like the one shown in the picture. I've cut off the blackened foliage and stems from last week and then covered

A Blogday and a Giveaway

It's my blog's first birthday today! Hurrah - let's break out the balloons, wobbly jelly, orange squash, squishy cake and have ourselves a celebration! Many thanks to those of you who've visited and commented this past year - almost 25,000. A number of you I count amongst my friends now, which is marvellous. And to think I almost didn't make it past the first week, never mind the first year. I've already given my blog some presents - a tweaked new layout, a new header and a few shiny badges to wear. I'd love your feedback on the new layout - I've tested it out in a few browsers (Internet Explorer, AOL and Firefox), but don't have access to them all. If you have any problems or even plaudits, do let me know. You'll see that one of the badges to the left is for something called NaBloPoMo . I came across this via Flighty and I've signed up to their challenge to write a post a day for the whole of November. I know some of you are thinking that

GBMD - Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf's a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay. Robert Frost - New Hampshire 1923. The poem's about spring's fleeting moments, and that's what I'm dreaming of today. The autumn gold in my garden will also fade away soon enough. Except for my pictured Yew tree of course. Have you noticed how the trees seem to glow at dusk at the moment? Threadspider and I were discussing it the other day - it's just like all the year's captured sunlight is being used to light up our autumn evenings. Utterly magnificent. Garden Bloggers' Muse Day - poetry on the 1st of the month, hosted by Carolyn Gail at Sweet Home & Garden Chicago .