Showing posts from January, 2010

Mixed Messages: Recycling Plastic Packaging

Rach reminded me yesterday it's a couple of years since I posted about how difficult it is to get clear information about recycling plastic . In that time it has got a little better as companies have started to label their packaging more clearly with recycling details. Or have they? Rach's excellent post showed one labelling scheme in operation, but this morning I noticed another one as used by the supermarket chain, Morrison's. Which packet do you think can be recycled? The one on the right perhaps? Wrong. Despite the green tick and the smiley face the small print actually says: Not recyclable everywhere yet. To find out about recycling in your area visit . As you may have guessed, I'm a little annoyed. I wonder how many people just go on the visual cues and happily recycle that bag with a warm eco-friendly glow as they do so? What are the consequences of that action? We seem to be experiencing a plethora of different labelling schemes for recy

Singing in the Biscuit Tin

I'm guest posting today over at Encounters With Remarkable Biscuits :) Here's a little taster to whet your appetite ;) Whilst over at the Malvern Meet blog, there's another taster of things to come to tempt you to join us in May...

ABC of Weather: Barometer

This object may not look that much and I'm sure it's not that valuable, but NAH had this barometer on the wall of his flat when he first took me home and so it is a precious thing. It probably doesn't measure the atmospheric pressure around us that accurately either, but I do like tapping it every so often to see how the arrows move and thus broadly showing how our weather will be over the next few hours. As you can see, things are set fair and very dry at the moment. That's because high pressure (i.e. an anticyclone ) has come over from continental Europe, and things are decidedly chilly again. Of course if this was the summer, we'd be cheering very loudly at this reading because it would mean sunny, hot days ahead. Just right for being out in the garden. We had some sunshine today too. I was glad today's task was shredding loads of stuff I'd cleared up in the garden as all that lifting and carrying counteracted the icy blast around me. Brrr! Changes in at

Meet @ Malvern

Helen and I are organising a garden bloggers get together at Malvern Spring Show in May (6th-9th), so I've just set up a new blog to keep all the arrangements and information in one place. We're at the stage of seeing who's interested and the dates you're able to come. Wanna join us or know more? Then see you over at the new blog :D

Food 2030

I reckon we'll be seeing a lot more of this kind of thing over the coming months/years. Both NAH and I were handed a food container and leaflet like the one pictured at our local supermarket on Saturday. Love Your Leftovers looks to be Sainsbury's rebranding of our government's Love Food Hate Waste campaign, which in turn is set to be a central plank in their Food 2030 strategy , published earlier this month. There's been quite a lot published concerning this document and supporting website already: you can see some of the very different blogosphere viewpoints and comments on here , here and here . Whilst I welcome the strategy, I'm also rather disappointed, particularly as the use of the word sustainable in what seemed like every sentence got in the way of the message rather. Having spent some time thinking about it further, my main gripe is because it's a strategy. There's lots of fine words, but very little in the way of how we as a country (and I do

Blog News

I forgot to mention I have another guest post this week: over at Encounters With Remarkable Biscuits this time, all about some amusing research my friend D told me about :) I'm also undertaking a blog makeover behind the scenes, so apologies if things go a bit skew-whiff from time to time. Blogger in Draft has the long awaited static pages option, so I'm giving it a whirl. Whilst it's a bit clunky (no lovely tabs like some WordPress themes have AND the formatting process currently leaves a lot to be desired, BUT you can test your links as you're adding them to the page), I've been meaning to simplify my sidebars for ages, so this is the impetus I need to do so. I'm currently planning pages on: About - introducing myself, my family and where I live Blog guided tour - looking at what makes up Veg Plotting My Allotment & Garden - a brief introduction + link to my Open Garden Blog Irregular Features - about some of my quirky themes, plus the mem

Public Planting: Eureka - The Very Thing!

Eureka! At last I've found just the kind of document I've been searching for :) I've been looking for an overview setting the context of why public planting is important, preferably backed up with references to research results which clearly demonstrate the benefits we all know in our hearts to be there. The Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) have done just that, in a clear and concise manner to boot as part of their Plant for Life campaign, particularly in the Greener Planning part of their website. Their recent report Greener Planning, Greener UK , shows there's been a 50% decline in planting and green spaces delivered in new building schemes. Of course some of this is because we're now packing our houses more densely onto the land available, but the report also says developers are failing to deliver on planting commitments outlined at the planning approval stage. Just over two thirds of councillors surveyed have seen this happen, with nearly a qua

Picture This: Winter's Beauty

Gardening Gone Wild have been holding a monthly photography competition for a while now, and this month I decided I'd try my hand at the given theme, Winter's Beauty . For once, we've had plenty of snow here in Britain to tempt us outdoors to try and capture our winter wonderland. However, I had to make do with a quick trip around the garden just as everything was beginning to thaw, whilst desperately scouting around trying to find something just that little bit different to show you. One of my winter joys is looking at the whorled seedheads of the many Clematis in my garden and some, similar to the one shown below (taken last December) have even sneakily crept into Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day from time to time. However, this picture could easily have been taken in the autumn, so it was reluctantly rejected as a contender. This one (a seedhead of my wonderful sport of C. 'Crystal Fountain') with its jauntily tilted cap of snow made me smile, but I felt it di

ABC of Weather: Atmosphere

It's ABC Wednesday round 6 with a twist(er): I'm attempting to keep to a theme for 26 weeks rather than thinking of something at the last minute like I've done for the last 3 rounds ;) We Brits are notorious for our obsession with the weather owing to its variability in our country. It's of interest to all gardeners and I'm also attempting to monitor what's going on in my garden. so it's got to be a sure-fire VP blogging winner*. I'm struggling with what will appear for X, but hey, that's ages away... So without further ado, let's put the spotlight on A for Atmosphere . Here's a nifty little diagram, showing how our atmosphere is divided into 5 layers above the earth's surface - you can click to enlarge it if needed: Diagram adapted from The Weather Book . Our atmosphere comprises a number of gases trapped by the pull of earth's gravity. The lowest layer, the troposphere contains about half of the atmosphere's total (th

VP's VIPs: Tim Matcham, Garden Designer

I have something new for you today: VP's VIPs , a series of interviews with people involved with the nuts and bolts of the garden industry in some way. First up is Tim Matcham, who battled through the snow last Wednesday to meet up with me at our local farm shop. After all that weather we'd both got cabin fever, so it was great to get together for a good old natter and feel like we were doing something gardeny for a change. Tim is a local garden designer , based in Neston [about 5 miles from Chippenham] who takes commissions from the Bath and Wiltshire area. He's also the owner of The Garden Network , one of the larger, well-established online gardening 'clubs' and if that isn't enough he also blogs from time to time :) What have you been up to during the cold weather? Getting to grips with Vectorworks [3D design computer software]. Whilst I can 'see' what a garden looks like from a 2D plan, most of my clients can't and this software has

VPGGB#13: Bulbs Revisited

Being desperate to find any gardening related activity last week, I resorted to trawling around the garden departments of the local DIY stores one afternoon to see what's new. It's mostly the usual suspects: summer bulbs, plus a few dormant herbaceous perennial roots. However, this year looks set to be big on Dahlias as I found lots more choice than usual with not a D . 'Bishop of Llandaff' in sight. I've stocked up on more D . 'Arabian Night' as this did so well in my garden last year as well as looking marvellously sultry. I added a contrasting D . 'Duet' to my shopping basket: a cranberry and white striped combination, plus pure white D . 'Sneezy' again for contrast, but mainly because the name made me laugh. All these were on offer at around the £2.49 mark for 2 good sized tubers, or three packs for a fiver. Good value, especially when catalogue prices are around £5.95 for three tubers + postage. However, the best bargain of the day w

GBBD: Soggy Blooms

From left to right; top to bottom: a rather damp Viola ; Clematis cirrhosa 'Freckles'; Primula 'Cottage Cream'; Galanthus nivalis ; Lonicera x purpusii 'Winter Beauty', Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn' After the cold and snow of the past few weeks, the thaw's set in just in time for this month's Blooms Day . I reckon January's the low point of the year gardenwise, with the fewest blooms to show you, so it's onwards and upwards from now on. Most of my flowers are really just buds, as the cold weather has made them shiver and close up for survival, but even perfectly formed buds are a cheerful sight at this time of the year. I have just 2 plants in flower, the Violas in large pots close to the house, deliberately placed there so they can be viewed easily and to get a little extra warmth. Their delicate perfume can also be sniffed when I venture outside. The other bloom is Primula 'Cottage Cream' in flower since July. Both

The Spirit of 1940

When NAH and I were on holiday in Cheshire last November, we visited the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port , one of three centres celebrating the heritage of our canals. On the day we visited, the museum was holding a wartime weekend, so there were lots of additional activities to show the role canal folk and the canal network played during WWII. Food was a central feature and whilst the pictured typical 1930s garden behind the canal workers terraced cottages was a little lacking on the Dig For Victory front, this wasn't the case in the museum's cafe, where we both decided to pass on the spam fritters and have corned beef hash instead. It got me mulling over my Incredible Edibles strand at the time and whether we might need to return to those days of rationing if we fail to meet our growing demands for food when the cost of importing around 70% of it (which is what we do at the moment) becomes economically unviable. I'm currently reading the government's F

ABC Wednesday 5: Z is for...

... Zonal Denial For ABC Wednesday this time last year, my chosen Z was Zones , the way of broadly categorising climate into regions so familiar to our gardening cousins across the pond. However, it was only whilst reading Noel Kingsbury's blog the other day that I came across the term Zonal Denial . I'm sure many of us are guilty of zonal denial, irrespective of whether we're guided by the zone system or the RHS hardiness classification used here in the UK. After all, it's all very broad-brush and as gardeners we know other factors affect what can be grown successfully, such as aspect, soil type and height above sea level. Besides, most gardeners also love to experiment, so why not try growing some plants which are borderline hardy? I'm sure talk of climate change and global warming have also fuelled our desire to have something a little different to our neighbours, plus the concern that we may no longer be able to grow some of our best loved plants

OOTS: December Wrap-up & 2009 Review

Many thanks to all of you who contributed to December's Out on the Streets . As expected, most of you showed us pictures of your town or neighbourhood's festive decorations, which certainly helped me to get in the mood for Christmas and I hope you did too. They were such fun, I'd do that all over again, with or without the existence of OOTS :) As Christmas is well and truly over, I'm not going to summarise everyone's contributions this time, but I'll give all participants a mention at the end of this post. However, I will talk about Helen and Anna up front because they both managed to find some public planting to post against all the odds. Both of their posts show grasses are a major force to consider if planting is to look good at this time of the year. Most magazines show them tinged with frost in their winter features and whilst they do indeed sparkle in that setting, I think OOTS is admirable in showing us what still manages to look good when the sun

Psst! We're Getting Another Bank Holiday

Whilst the media had a feeding frenzy over the state of our weather last week, our government chose to announce we're getting another Bank Holiday (aka public holiday) ... in 2012. I'm wondering if they carefully choose days to bury good news as well as bad . What do you think? Assuming our illustrious sovereign keeps going for another 2 years, we'll be having Tuesday, June 5th off to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee. The late May Bank Holiday will be moved to the Monday, so we'll have a long weekend, just like we did for the Golden Jubilee in 2002. Order your bunting and start organising your street party now! My beautiful RHS diary has a fascinating page at the back showing all the public holidays of various European countries. France has 14, Germany 17 and Spain 16. Lithuania has the most with a whopping 18 and the average across the 28 countries listed is 13.9. We get a miserly 8 most years (as does poor Romania), though Northern Ireland manages 10 public holidays pe

OOTS: My Guerrilla Planter

It's always really hard buying presents for my mother-in-law nowadays, ever since she's been in a care home because she's not in need of a lot of stuff . This Christmas was no exception, especially when we found out my brother-in-law had already bought the nice top and houseplant we'd come up with as ideas for presents. So I was mulling over what else could we buy V and came to the conclusion that the best present we could really give her is a better view out of her window. Currently all she has is an expanse of lawn, a couple of rather bedraggled trees plus the birdbath NAH's aunt bought her a year or so ago. It's no wonder her chair's usually turned away from the window. Now transforming V's view and the rest of the care home's landscaping to something a bit more exciting is a major project which will probably take some time to achieve, but I came up with a quick win that I hope will bring some cheer over the next few months. I've put togeth

It's Still Snowing

9am this morning and we're at the wonderful stage where everything has a snowy highlight and there's not a paw nor footprint to be seen. The sounds of the world are muffled and it seems a simpler place somehow, unless you have to go out of course. I have a reflexology appointment later on the other side of town and I don't think that constitutes an essential trip: everyone's been advised to stay at home unless their journey is vital. I've taken another video of the garden, but as it's so similar to yesterday's, I thought it wasn't worth loading up for display. The birds are still singing (as some of you observed), but today it's more of a token gesture. I was speculating where this winter might fit in the record books: so far it's the coldest since 1981/2 according to today's news . I remember that winter very well. I'd just left home in Birmingham and moved into my first house which I'd bought at Pity Me , just outside Durham

ABC Wednesday 5: Y is for...

...Yearly Review and Snow! Like many of you, it's been my intention to review the year here at VP Gardens (just like I did for 2008 ) and to look forward to 2010. However, a heavy head cold kindly donated by my nephew has held things up a little and today's the first day when I really feel up to the task. It didn't stop me hanging out of our bedroom window though, to capture the snow in our back garden. Spookily, last year's projects post shows it snowed on the same date and we went on to have the coldest winter in 18 years: a proper winter for once. This year's snow is on the back of the coldest December we've had in decades, so who knows where this one will stand in the record books? Last year I enjoyed trying things out. I took part in the RHS Mange Tout pea trial and tested the new garden version of Air Pots. The pea trial was far more successful than the yield from the Air Pots despite the latter's early promise. I also had a lot of fun finding out a

The Trials of a Novice Amateur Weather Monitor

Did you know last year was the wettest since records began? Well, it was here at VP Gardens because it was the first year I've been monitoring the rain gauge I installed in the garden in April . However, as you can see I'm having a little difficulty in totting up the final total for December as the rain/snowfall in the gauge has been frozen for the past 2 weeks and is likely to remain so for a while according to the latest weather forecast. I'm also struggling to find the ideal location for the Max/Min thermometer Santa bought me for Christmas. My initial thoughts were to put it somewhere on the patio, but the readings will be distorted by all the hardscaping thus making my garden seem even more scorchio than it really is in the summer. If I was a proper weather monitor I'd house it behind an unsightly Stevenson Screen , to ensure the real air temperature was being measured rather than that of the sunshine. I don't think putting it behind one of the shrubs or the Ro

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

On Saturday my friend H and I got the year off to a good start by visiting the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the City Museum in Bristol . It was strange to think this room had been one of the main ones used for the Banksy exhibition last summer as it was now back to a normal looking gallery rather than being full of fun and mayhem. However, evidence of Banksy was still to be found in certain other corners of the museum ;) As expected, the photographs were of an extremely high standard. My overall favourite was a black and white shot of millions of starlings , blurred slightly to give the feel of them whirling around in the air trying to avoid the predator in their midst. This photograph particularly resonated with me because I've attempted to count similar sized flocks in Mallorca, where they were often seen dive bombing marsh harriers . Also one of my clearest winter memories from my early days of working in Bristol were of tens of thousands of starlings co

GBMD: The Decade

Today's fresh blue sky from our back bedroom window If Christmas is all about our families, then New Year's Eve has always been about friends and neighbours for NAH and me. For most of our life together it's been simply a massive party with something suitably fizzy at midnight, first footing and a quick burst of Auld Lang Syne . Last night was no exception, but in the past few years things have also become a little more structured. Our neighbours started it all off by hosting a thrilling murder mystery evening one year. I played the part of a titled WWII codebreaker and we had to find the murderous spy in our midst. Lately we've had a quiz, with each family invited to bring a round of questions on a given theme decided by our hosts. For last night's events NAH and I were given the task of summing up the first decade of this millennium in just 10-20 questions. We had great fun putting our list together yesterday and finally decided to keep things short and sweet by