Showing posts from February, 2010

Winter Colour and OOTS News

If we have anything approaching a signature planting combination in our part of Chippenham it's gold and red stemmed Cornus alba edged with Cotoneaster horizontalis . This is a particularly fine example found outside Morrison's this afternoon in the kind of bright light you find just before the most rain lashing of storms. At this time of the year it really brightens up the neighbourhood, particularly when some of the Cotoneaster has been cloud pruned. Later on it fades into the background somewhat, but it's worth it for those 3 months of cheerful bright stems during our gloomiest times. I've decided to make a slight change to Out on the Streets this year. I won't be running it quarterly, but plan on asking for your contributions in April, August and December instead. I recall that many of you wanting to join in across the pond last time found March a bit early and as everything over here is much later this year, it seems sensible to go for an April edition i

ABC of Weather: Film

Weather is often a feature in its own right at the cinema. A violent storm is the classic device used heighten drama: it adds tension to a horror film or drives the heroic couple to seek shelter in the mansion or castle of fear. It's the portent of impending doom in many films, not just the horror genre. Strangely whilst thinking about this topic, I haven't come up with any cinematic examples involving good weather. Can you? Imagine a world of film without weather. Frankenstein's monster would have remained lifeless in the laboratory and Count Dracula wouldn't have found his fresh victim. Dorothy would never have been whisked off via a tornado to the land of Oz, nor would she have wistfully sung Somewhere Over the Rainbow . It also means Twister 's apparatus - used to measure what happens in a tornado - would have been anonymous rather than bearing her name. Neither the attendees at Monsoon Wedding nor Gene Kelly would have turned the misery of rain into a celebr

That's Shallot

The soil's too cold and wet at the allotment to do anything, yet the shallots are demanding to put down their roots and settle in to this year's growth. So I've decided to start them off in seed trays this year. Here's some Pessandor I saved from last year's crop. It's a large and long shallot with a lovely sweet flavour that keeps well. I also saved some Pikant: a round shallot with a little more bite and slightly red in colour. Another good keeper, from which I've managed to save seed from every year since my first crop in 2004. As usual I've over bought in everything. Despite saving my own shallots, I bought some more (a round, yellow type) at Malmesbury potato day. I also have masses of garlic started in pots because they hate the cold winter's clay up at the plot. In addition to my saved Albigensian Wight and Cristo, I have Music, Sweet Haven and Kransnodar Red which Patrick kindly gave me from his massive saved garlic stash at the Food

Garden Visit: Snow on Snow at Painswick

Last Friday I'd planned to visit Painswick Rococo Garden with Patient Gardener for a spot of 'snowdrop peeping'. However, Malvern was snowed in so we failed to make our rendezvous. Chippenham was snow free all weekend and because my grumpiness at not going in brilliant sunshine was increasing, NAH took pity on me and we went yesterday. It wasn't until we reached the Cotswolds that I got an inkling of the problems Helen had been experiencing. Still, snowdrops on snow's rather fetching isn't it? The garden at Painswick is most unusual. Rococo describes an ornate style of architecture, art and interior design dating from 1720 to 1760 and it's only recently that the corresponding style of garden dating to the same period has been rediscovered. It's really a transition style: from the formality of earlier French and Dutch influenced designs to the later grander and much more successful English Landscape style developed by Kent, Capability Brown and Repto

The Big Sing

The Big Sing, Bristol 2009 from Dee Jarlett on Vimeo . A look back to the summer of 2009: 1 choir, 630 singers, 7 songs All gathered together at Bristol Harbourside Over £37,000 raised for WaterAid Blink and you'll miss me! Update: If the embedded video doesn't come up for you or the logo continues whirling around, you can click on the The Big Sing, Bristol 2009 link below it to see and hear what we were up to.

You Ask, We Answer: Mushy Peas

A little while back, Monica confessed she was having a craving for mushy peas and wondered whether she would be able to make them in the USA. She'd found a recipe, but as it specified using Marrowfat peas, she wasn't sure if these were available in her local shops. This of course, is right up the You Ask, We Answer team's street, even if they have been a little tardy in responding to Monica's plea for help. As you can see, extensive research has been undertaken so you get an idea of what mushy peas look like. They're a traditional accompaniment to fish and chips (as sampled by George W when he visited Tony Blair) and if you also hear of someone eating pie and peas , that's the other main way they're served. When I lived in the north-east of England I found mint sauce is usually provided to go with the peas. Yum. That's all very well, but it doesn't really tell you whether you can get hold of the right kind of pea to cook muy autentico

ABC of Weather: Electric Storm

I seem to live in a place which quite often has electric storms. A couple of times at least during the summer I awake at night to find an eerily silent flickering across the sky. Naturally, I stay up to watch the free show: it's mostly sheet lightning of mainly yellow, white and orange hues, but I always watch out (and hope) for the more dramatic forked lightning stretching across the sky. Sometimes it might be accompanied by the tiniest rumble of thunder , indicating the storm has moved within hearing range. Thunder is usually heard when a storm is 30 miles away or less, lightning can be seen from up to 100 miles away. To be able to watch a storm these days shows I've conquered a most primeval fear. As a child I was really frightened of them and hated to be left alone in the summer in case one arrived. If there was any chance of one, I'd head off to the nearest shopping centre to be held safe amongst a crowd of strangers. My fear wasn't helped by being made to s

Garden Cafes: Boon or Bane?

The Loggia cafe area at Hanham Court , July 2009 Last week Threadspider and I attended a most interesting talk at Bath University Gardening Club given by the Head Gardener (Catrina Saunders) at The Courts . I'll have more on that in a later post: today I'd like to focus on an interesting discussion we had during question time at the end. Up until 5 years ago The Courts had no cafe facilities and a lady asked how much of a difference having one had made to the garden. Catrina immediately picked up on the hidden agenda within her question: she didn't really like the additional people the cafe brings and wanted her garden back. Catrina said initially as Head Gardener she hadn't really liked the idea of having a cafe at The Courts as she wanted people to visit for the garden itself, not just a nice place to have a cup of tea and cake. She then went on to say when she visited other gardens, how much she appreciated having a cuppa on arrival, particularly after a

GBBD: A Touch of Yellow Amongst the White

The main news for this month's Blooms Day is how the snowdrops have come out in force since their brave showing through the snow last month. All the flowers I showed you then are still very much in evidence (though less soggy, thankfully!), as is the iris I showed you last week . But it's the snowdrops which dominate this month's show: I just have plain Galanthus nivalis , plus its double form G . 'Flore pleno', but I love them nevertheless. Most of them were a birthday present a few years ago, bought in the green and steadily multiplying ever since, so I always feel like they're a present all over again when they start blooming in numbers. I've started my annual snowdrop count, which currently stands at 1033. It looks like they're around a fortnight behind last year's count, but there's plenty waiting in the wings still to burst forth, especially in the guerrilla garden area. I don't really go for collecting lots of Galanthus species: I

For a Certain Someone...


How Advertising Works in Chippenham #13

Plan to have your usual winter plant sale Design a seasonal banner to welcome customers at the entrance to your garden centre Wait for a blogger without a camera to notice the ambiguity of your main message Luckily her companion does have her camera :) Wait for her to notice the picture caption on the advert is also hilarious (click to enlarge picture) Et voila! My thanks to Threadspider for providing the picture. I can't believe this occasional series now stands at number 13, but then on the other hand perhaps I can because Chippenham's a rather quirky place. You can read the rest of the series (with a few added extras for good measure) if you click here .

Wildside: Keith Wiley's Field of Dreams

Last month we had the privilege of hearing Keith Wiley speak at the University of Bath Gardening club. Keith is a knowledgeable and humorous speaker with plenty of colourful slides to satisfy the most flower hungry amongst his audience. He also has quite a different approach to creating a garden which was a wonder to behold. Keith started his gardening career at The Garden House in Devon where he was Head Gardener for 25 years. Testament to his skills there has been paid by Tim Richardson no less, who named The Garden House amongst his list of the most influential gardens of the noughties in this month's Garden Design Journal . Change of ownership at The Garden House meant that Keith left in 2004 and the pictured well-written and illustrated book was also published that year. It not only shows how wonderful the garden was under Keith's care, it also tells of how his father's grand gardening projects combined with Keith's detailed examination of wild flower c

ABC of Weather: Drought

The definition of drought differs across the world: here in the UK an absolute drought is defined as a period of at least 15 consecutive days where there's no more than 0.2 mm of rainfall over that time. In other areas (such as Libya or Mongolia in China) this would be considered quite rainy! There an absence of rain over 2 years is needed before it's considered abnormal, rather than our two weeks. Living through the legendary drought of 1976 has made me particularly aware of this weather extreme. I'd just started studying geography A Level at the time which was following a new syllabus with lots more practical work. I chose a couple of weather related projects to count towards my exams because I found it such a fascinating topic. My first project looked at soil infiltration rates (a posh term for how quickly water soaks into soil) on different types of soils in our garden before and after rain. My other one was keeping a weather diary. How much rain actually fell durin

Grafted Tomatoes et al.

I first came across grafted tomato plants in the seed and plant catalogues a couple of years ago, but completely dismissed them as a bit of a gimmick and rather expensive for most vegetable growing mortals like me at around £9.95 a pop for three plants. Come to think about it, it must be grafted plants I've seen on sale at our local garden centre sometimes. It would explain their rather hefty price tag (around £4.99 for one plant). Then a couple of weeks ago Geoff wrote over at his GardenForum about how he's going to try them out this year. We got chatting in the comments, as you do: VP: I'm glad you mentioned grafted vegetables, because I can't get my head around what on earth you graft a tomato or pepper plant onto ? And having shelled out your £9.99 + p&p for 3 plants, do you get sufficient extra crops to justify the expense?And are the tomato grafts just as vulnerable to blight, bearing in mind I've lost my (albeit outdoor crop, not having a greenho

Aaaaah, That's Better

It's been good to have a couple of days in a row to get out into the garden and to start to make serious inroads into the late winter clearing. Borders are looking much tidier and I love the way my clothes smell after a spell in the fresh air. It's like bringing the outdoors inside for a while. In spite of the cold winter we've had, the plants can't resist making their plans for the spring. I found some fat pink buds of Dicentra spectabilis, lots of Monarda leaves pressed flat against the soil and the tiniest of miniature Lupin plants. Fingers crossed the slugs don't find the latter for a tasty snack. Bulbs are in bud everywhere and it's high time my annual snowdrop count started. My major delight yesterday was finding the first Iris reticulata 'Katherine Hodgkin' in flower. I bought these at the plant sell-off at last year's RHS Plant and Design show in London. I was going to plant them out in the main part of the garden, but thanks to a timely

VPs VIPs: Derry Watkins of Special Plants

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Derry Watkins at her home, garden and nursery - the acclaimed Special Plants - just a few miles along the road from me. I first met Derry at one of her open garden days last year and was keen to find out more about her wonderful garden and running an independent nursery. She specialises in tender perennials and regularly goes on plant hunting trips to find new treasures, particularly in South Africa. As well as running Special Plants and opening her garden under the NGS scheme , Derry holds day courses at her nursery, hosts Special Tuesdays from April until September, lectures and has written a couple of books. How did you find your way from Connecticut to the UK? I'd started a biodynamic vegetable garden in Connecticut and we used to have people come along at weekends to help out. A particular young man turned up: he returned many times and at the end of the summer I married him. So it was all down to love? Isn't that the

Unusual Front Gardens #7: Rowde

NAH and I went to Devizes for the afternoon today, which reminded me on the way that I'd taken this photo last October of a front garden in the nearby village of Rowde . I'd like to go back when it's dark after a sunny day (so the batteries are fully charged) to see what the effect of the solar lamp 'eyes' have on passing motorists. It could be rather alarming to see a bush which glows in the dark! Everywhere is full of Valentine's Day at the moment. There's special window displays replete with balloons, red roses, heart shaped biscuits and cakes with pink icing, chocolates, champagne, the works. Of course anywhere that serves food has some kind of Valentine's meal promotion. Most of them are the usual fayre: the one which stood out for me was at Wadworth's , the local brewery in Devizes. Their special comprises: a tour of the brewery, beer tasting, a 2 course meal and a souvenir bottle of Valentine Ale to take home at £20 per person. I hope the b

ABC of Weather: Clouds

I think the biggest proportion of all the time I've 'wasted' in my life so far is that spent watching clouds . I find them fascinating because they're ever changing - unless it's an unusually cloudless day of course. From the wispiest of clouds like the pictured cirrus , through to the threatening anvil shaped cumulonimbus of an approaching storm, they also form a rough guide to the weather we can expect over the next few hours. On the project I'm involved in Mallorca, I've been given the nickname 'weather woman' because I've managed to quickly absorb (without realising it) how the subtle changes in the haziness of the nearby mountains and any cloud cover they have affects the weather later on that day. It's proved useful on many occasions when arranging our fieldwork for the day. The work's outdoors in a reed bed and the last thing you want to be is the tallest thing around when a violent Mediterranean storm suddenly blows up! Clouds a

Guess Who's Coming to Malvern :)

NB this is a simulcast with Meet at Malvern to ensure everyone coming or thinking of coming to Malvern Spring Show has a chance to see this very important information. I thought it was about time I attempted to put together all my 'virtual scraps of paper' (i.e. emails, blog comments, tweets and direct messages) into a summary and publish a first cut view of who's coming so you can see the information I have from you plus who else is coming to the show. I tweeted a couple of days ago I needed a spreadsheet summary, ideally to publish on here and the lovely Frugilegus came up with the goods by suggesting I try this simple scheduling tool. It's done the job, shame it can't tell me when I don't put something in alphabetical order - so sorry Anna and Dawn :( If you click on link at the top of the box below, you'll see a summary of who's coming and when. I've also split each date into two, so you can see who'll be at the show or meal each day. Y

GBMD: Winter Garden

In winter's cold and sparkling snow, The garden in my mind does grow. I look outside to blinding white, And see my tulips blooming bright. And over there a sweet carnation, Softly scents my imagination. On this cold and freezing day, The Russian sage does gently sway, And miniature roses perfume the air, I can see them blooming there. Though days are short, my vision's clear. And through the snow, the buds appear. In my mind, clematis climbs, And morning glories do entwine. Woodland phlox and scarlet pinks, Replace the frost, if I just blink. My inner eye sees past the snow. And in my mind, my garden grows. There's no picture to accompany this poem today, so that you can imagine the garden of your dreams just like Carol Magic-Lady Cynthia Adams did. Update 20/7/2011: The poem's author Cynthia Adams has kindly been in touch to tell me that the internet source I used for this poem has the incorrect attribution. It was actually published in the Dec/Jan 2003 issue of Birds