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Showing posts from August, 2008

VP's Open Garden - Random Prize Draw #2

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We're 2 weeks in to my open garden season, so it's time for another random prize draw. The total raised stands at a magnificent £618 - thanks to everyone who's contributed this week. We're pretty close to a significant milestone which I'm confident I'll be able to tell you about during the next few days. I've also been promised a couple of exciting new prizes - more on that later :)

As you may have guessed, I've pulled a prize from my magnificent book stash out of the hat today.

And the winner is...Louise. You've won The Bird Book - the link takes you to its entry on Amazon, so you can get a preview of what you'll be getting. I love the artwork, and I hope it'll add to the lovely posts on the birds you've seen in your garden over at This is My Patch. This book was donated by Jane Perrone (via The Garden Monkey), so my thanks must also go to her for making this possible. Louise - we have family coming down for the weekend, so I'll be…

The Ceremonial Tomato

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A few days ago we had the ceremony of the first tomato. I lost all my tomato plants to blight last year, so it was a relief to have our first fruit no matter how small. However, it looks like our tomato season will be a short one, as blight has ripped through half of my plants this week. Fingers crossed I got to the rest of them in time with a last ditch spraying of Bordeaux mixture.

I know lots of you will have had lots of tomatoes already, but I only grow them outdoors. Therefore my season starts later anyway and this year's cool summer hasn't helped either. This little beauty was harvested pre-spraying and was delicious.

ABC Wednesday - F is for...

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... First and Fourth

NAH came back from swimming training yesterday morning and announced 'I think I'll bake a cake'. I almost choked on my breakfast - it shows he still has the power to surprise, even after nearly 25 years of marriage.
Me: Have you made a cake before? NAH: I made three when I was a student (i.e. more than 30 years ago) Me: So you'll be wanting a recipe - what kind of cake are you going to make? NAH: A fruit cake Me: A Halifax Building Society one? NAH: No, that'll be stealing your thunder Me: It won't really - you'll be wanting a good basic recipe then
So I got my BeRo recipe book out and found the page with the basic fruit cake recipe on it. A family favourite my nan used to bake a lot.
Me: This is a good one - it uses the rubbing in method NAH: What's that? Me: Oh there's a few basic methods used for cake making - rubbed in, creamed, melted... NAH: Does it tell me how to do them in your book?
We looked at the book together - no instructions, …

Festival of the Tree

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Spot the real conkers
I love Westonbirt Arboretum: there's space to breathe and lots of tip top trees of course, including over 100 Champion ones (i.e. tallest, oldest, most massive). One of my favourite times to visit is at the end of August for The Festival of the Tree. NAH and I first discovered it by accident a few years back when we visited the sadly now defunct Festival of the Garden. After looking around the show gardens, we realised there was something else going on worth exploring and we've been back every year since.

This was the first year we've not been on the Bank Holiday Monday, so for once we were able to see the chainsaw sculptors (aka Sculptree) in action. Using large chunks of wood from Westonbirt trees felled because of disease or age, the finished sculptures are surprisingly complex and intricate. These are auctioned off on the Monday in aid of Tree Aid and each sculpture raised over £1,000 yesterday. Smaller, more affordable scupltures and objects are al…

The Curse of Gardeners' Question Time

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2 matched conifers no longer matching :(
A few days ago Aunt Debbi did a great post on Murphy's Law for Gardeners. You know the kind of thing - there's never enough compost; if you water plants in the morning, it rains in the afternoon; it'll turn cold as soon as you plant out your more delicate specimens etc. etc. She asked for other observations to add to her list, so I contributed my one on Houdini Plants - i.e. a plant you mentally decide to get rid of because it's not thriving, makes a miraculous recovery.

Her post reminded me that I'd been planning a follow-up one to my Houdini Plants, on another irrefutable law as far as my garden is concerned: publicly voice your misgivings about a plant and it will surely die. A few years back, Chippenham Garden and Allotment Society hosted Gardeners' Question Time (GQT)* and I was invited not only to be a member of the audience, but also to provide some of the 'soundbites' aired as the scene setter at the start …

Going for Gold

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The finalists limber up - following the preliminary round up at the plot The Olympics may be nearing its final conclusion, but today I set off in my own quest for a gold medal. Following my raspberry entry at EmmaT's Emsworth Show, I decided to enter the one at my local garden centre today. I was up at the plot bright and early to pick my freshest, ripest, juiciest contenders along with some dew laden leaves with which to set them off.

It was the third show at Whitehall Garden Centre. Most of the classes are aimed at children and the it's meant to be fun. However, there were some serious looking contenders at set up time, their trolleys laden with produce, flowers and baking to set out in the show tent. Set up time was 10.30 am and we had to clear the area for judging by 10.45. Prize giving was at 4.45 pm, though the results were ready to view from midday.

I set my entry up in a similar fashion to my Emsworth entry and returned at 4.30 to see the verdict. It was good to see a nic…

VP's Open Garden - The First Random Prize Draw

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As promised, I've just done the first random prize draw for those of you who've donated to my Open Garden Fundraiser this week. Thanks to all of you who've helped to raise £488 so far. This time the prize drawn out of the hat is Nerys, a tapestry piece I completed earlier this year.

And the winner is...

Maggi - Congratulations! So Maggi, do let me know if you'd like Nerys as she is or made up into a lavender bag or pin cushion.

Maggi is one of my fellow KLC students and I first met her at Gardeners' World Live in June. She deserves a very special mention as she has just signed up to volunteer with The Great Generation. She'll be off to Uganda for 2 weeks in November to help set up a model Community Garden in the slums of Kampala. This was an opportunity I also had a look at when KLC advertised it on the student forum so I'm pretty envious, but of course I wish her well. So, if any of you are interested in hearing more about what she'll be doing, you can h…

Desert Island Plants

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Today's Gladiolus - an unknown variety because it was a freebie
JAS set a delightful, though very challenging poser a couple of days ago over at Blogging from Blackpitts:

I have a question for you. (Credit for this goes to my wife, Celestria)

Imagine, if you would, that one sunny morning you were suddenly plucked from your existing garden and plonked into a new one. The transfer was so unexpected (perhaps like
this) and so swift that you were only able to take six plants from your existing garden.

So. The question is which six plants would you choose ? Do you go for something big - a favourite cherry or a noble oak? maybe an evergreen to liven up your winter. A rose planted to commemorate an anniversary, a herb without which your cooking would be bland or maybe just a piece of herbaceous fluff which stirs the soul ? Remember these will be the only six plants that you are allowed: your new garden has no access to any nurseries or garden centres.

What will you choose ?
James of course ha…

ABC Wednesday - E is For...

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...Exceeding Expectations

A lot of the plants in my garden early on were grown from seed, including this Monarda'Panorama Mixed', which scents the top terrace bed at this time from July onwards. It disappeared for a couple of years, but last year's wet summer revived it to make a reappearance, and it's a welcome sight for me and the bees again this year. So this lovely cottage garden flower has well exceeded my expectations.

And so have you. I have some further donations to report for my Open Garden fundraiser. Anna, one of my regular commenters has come up with a very thoughtful idea. I'll let her tell you what it is in her own words:

I would love to contribute something towards your fund raising activities. As I am not a crafty soul and you already have some books, I would like to donate a membership to The Cottage Garden Society for a year if you think that this would be appropriate. It is an organisation that has given me pleasure and inspiration over the years. …

An End to Chippenham's Conkers?

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There's an autumnal look to a lot of Chippenham's most stately trees at the moment. They're not signalling an early end to our summer though, but are showing signs of damage by a pest that's marching across the country. Nearly all our Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastamum) trees are affected by leaf miner (Cameraria ohridella) now. I first noticed some minor damage to the trees by our house a couple of years ago. Now every tree on my walk home from the station and those bordering the allotment are showing severe infestation.

The leaf miner moth was first found on trees in Wimbledon in 2002 and has steadily spread across the country since then. The moth larvae burrow between the upper and lower surfaces of the leaves, resulting in the premature browning seen above. Premature leaf fall occurs during August, at least a month early and can affect 70-100% of the tree's leaves. According to Forest Research, it takes two to three years after first infestation for the dam…

VP's Open Garden - The First Prize Giveaway

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Moonfire with bee - yesterday in my garden

I've always intended there to be a prize giveaway if and when my fundraising target was reached. However, I thought it would be towards the end of proceedings, not the first weekend. I don't mind though as it means the potential for lots more going to WaterAid from the blogging community :)
So congratulations to R Pete Free who took the total to £250. The signed copy of Matthew Wilson's book is wending its way to you. It'll be interesting to see if its contents influence Lytes Cary Manor in any way. At the moment, the total raised stands at £365 and I'm thinking about a new target to aim for. How about hopping over to my Open Garden to see how things are going over there?
And don't worry, you'll see there's plenty left for you - look out for the next prize giveaway here later this week. Anyone making a donation (or has done so already) will be eligible for the prize.

News Just In - Open Garden Fundraising's a Success!

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Picture Courtesy of: WaterAid/Daniel O'Leary

I feel very humble today. When I came up with the idea of 'opening' my garden as a fundraiser, I initially felt very excited about it. However, the doubts soon crept in - would anyone visit? Never mind about making a donation. I wanted so much to make the experience worthwhile for everyone who came to visit, yet it was very much stepping off into the unknown.

Well, you 've exceeded my expectations. Not only have you visited, but the fundraising target's been exceeded on the very first weekend! And you've said there's so much content, it needs several visits to take it all in. Plus you think it's like visiting my garden for real. Then I find lots of you have put a piece on your own blogs and provided a link. Keep passing the message on - the more people who come to visit my garden the better :D

So today, I need to say a big thank you to all of you. I'll be visiting you soon and putting up a blogroll of honour…

GBBD - Extra Extra, Read All About It

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Make a Smilebox greetingPsssttt! You're all invited to come and join me in the garden - at any time from now until the 21st September. It's a new blog packed with articles showing you my garden like you've never seen it before. It's to raise funds for WaterAid and you may win a prize too! Grab a drink and I'll see you there...

The new blog also forms my entry for Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day this month, hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. There's lots of flowers to see; you can take a trip around the whole of the garden and also get an overview of how we went about designing it eight years ago.

Plot Views - Introducing the Front Garden

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Tomorrow's launch of the virtual open garden will concentrate on the back garden in a big way, so I thought I'd show you the front garden for a change. It's its debut - tough as old boots planting to avert football/basketball damage. Guess how many drain covers are in disguise on such a small plot.

BTW - it's also National Allotments Week.

And The (Gardeners' World) Winner Is...

...Toby Buckland

I'm not surprised it's him in a way - but the scenario in my head was that if it couldn't be Matthew Wilson, then Carol Klein would get the main presenter role and someone like Toby would join as the junior member of the team. But that's been turned on its head and Toby's the main presenter.

So I'm sad it's not MW, but I had wondered how he'd fit the GW job with his new swanky RHS role. As for Toby, I feel neutral. I enjoy reading his articles in Kitchen Garden magazine, but feel he's too similar to Joe Swift in interests and style for GW to get the shaking up it deserves. However, I'm happy to be proved wrong, wish Toby well and tune in September to find out.

For more entertaining interpretations of today's announcement, The Garden Monkey is hard to beat, though the BBC Gardeners' World Message Board is trying very, very hard. Arabella Sock is in deep mourning with an amended self-portrait to prove it, but has fiendishly s…

ABC Wednesday - D is for...

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... Donation

One of the most lovely things about the blogging community is how everyone gets behind a project when they get to hear about it. Last week I told you about my fundraising blog and how Mrs Nesbitt got all crafty and made some cards to donate to the cause. Here are just a few more of the donations made recently by blogging buddies. I went for coffee with Threadspider as usual last week and she gave the pretty sign you see at the top right. Fluffius Muppetus has donated a cheerful mix of wildflower seeds. And ArtistsGarden has made this lovely necklace. All three will be part of the prize giveaways to those of you who make a donation to my virtual garden opening starting this Friday. And the fourth item? Well, meet Nerys - I made her earlier this year and she'll become either a pin cushion or scented bag - depending on what the eventual winner chooses.

Look out for your invitation on Friday. Rest assured there will be lashings of cake available for your visit - whether you…

Happiness Is...

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...a small, sparkly fridge magnet called Claude.

Yesterday saw me taking a little time out for a trip down to the seaside at Weymouth with my SUP friends to celebrate D's retirement. We went on the train, so there was plenty of time to gossip on the way down and have a quick snooze on the way back after a thoroughly good day out.
I have a number of fridge magnets to commemorate holidays and nice events. My rules are to find something tastefully tacky for less than a £1. Claude came in well under that at all of 50p. Since we moved here in 1999, I haven't been able to display my collection on the fridge as it's covered in a wooden door, so I've resorted to displaying them on a radiator instead. Here's a small selection - how many of these places do you recognise? How many have you been to as well?
We had a thoroughly good time - fish and chips eaten from the paper whilst perched on a wall by the harbour; ice cream from a delightful cafe at Nothe Fort park (with views to…

Magnetic Poetry - August

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My self-imposed rule of not re-using any of the words from the Magnetic Poetry calendar began to provide much more of a challenge from this month onwards in 2004. The poems are more like statements. Here I was thinking about taking my niece and nephew to the park in Wakefield one weekend when we were staying with my brother-in-law. They insisted on playing for what seemed like hours around the various animal sculptures and rocks. Finally my nephew conceded that it was quite hard for me to join in their game and could stop for a rest - 'Because you're a girl, aunty VP.'

No E, because you're full of unlimited energy.

Book Review: Jekka's Complete Book of Herbs

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I believe Jekka McVicar is a national treasure. A herb guru and record breaking multi-gold medal winner at Chelsea, whose nursery is one of the few certified as organic in this country. I met her at one of the open days held at her Herb Farm last year - luckily for me it's not that far from where I live. It was a fascinating day out- it was just before Chelsea, so we got a sneak preview of the plants being grown for her exhibition stand, plus her new seed range 'Reds Under the Beds' to be launched at the show. It's a colourful mix of saladings which we also got to sniff and taste. I also met her lovely cat called Borage - as in the herb pictured above. She personally chose for me the lemongrass plant I have in the garden, as she thought the one I'd picked up wasn't up to standard. She then told me to try wrapping salmon in its leaves before baking in the oven - delicious. So I was already a fan.

Now The Garden Monkey has also persuaded her to donate a signed c…

Local News Just In

Just a quick post today as I'm working flat out on the new blog and I'm feeling a bit tired. However, a quick break this evening to catch up with our local newspaper revealed the following nuggets I'd like to share with you:
A spokesman for a local company said he had 'no comment at this stage'. Can I have his job please? I think I might be able to cope with that.Someone who drove away after filling up at a local petrol station without paying at 11.50pm was described as 'wearing denim jeans with Calvin Klein underwear showing'. If they could spot that at that time of night, how come there's no detailed description of his facial appearance?A local crop circle spotting group camped out all night in field without finding anything. A rather spectacular, large and intricate six-sided star design was found in the same field an hour after they'd left.A promotion for a forthcoming advertisement feature asks the question 'Do you serve food to die for?'…

It's Showtime!

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The lovely EmmaT is putting on a traditional village show in association with my Open Garden event. Hers is pretty much up market, being modelled in the spirit of P.G. Wodehouse and Lord Emsworth - a rather apt name in view of the show's creator in my view. Show dates are 15th to 30th August, but entries are already pouring in like hot cakes (or hot scones for one particular category) and are on display at her sparkly new blog. There's all the categories you'd expect from a village show, plus a few extras to reflect the world of gardening, blogging and Emma's delightful sense of humour.
Now you may recall that I was dithering about whether to enter my own allotment society show. Well, I have decided to enter (it is the 40th one after all), but as it coincides with my Open Garden times, I suspect I'll be entering less categories than I would like to. Our local garden centre is also getting in on the act by having a show on the 23rd August, so I now appear to be ent…

Yep, It's Nostalgia Time Again

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NAH and I had another trip down memory lane last week, this time in the form of Kemble Steam Fair. This event was similar to the one I reported on last month, but a lot bigger. It also had a number of unique features I'd not seen at other fairs. It's held on Kemble airfield, so if you get bored with all the usual vintage stuff, you can go and hang around some serious vintage airplanes instead, such as this Gnat jet trainer as formerly used by the RAF Red Arrows display team. Kemble used to be their base and they often return for a flying visit. Also from time time small aircraft take off as Kemble is one of the largest privately owned commercial airfields in England. Some of these planes then perform jaw dropping aerobatic displays seemingly just for the sheer hell of it.

Another feature was the unintentionally hilarious ferreting display by a young man who obviously loves his job and wants to tell everyone (a distant audience of 10 in this instance) in the minutest of detail.…

ABC Wednesday C is for...

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... Cards

Some of you will have already seen one of the exciting parcels I've received in the past week. Monday saw the very latest - from our own Mrs Nesbitt! Denise was very intrigued by one of my teaser remarks about my new blogging project and contacted me to find out more. It got her all creative and beavering away - shall we have a look at what she sent me?
Isn't she lovely and talented? But that wasn't all - Denise has also sent me a surprise. Yes, my very own card!


So why is Denise sending her good wishes? Well, on Friday August 15th, you're all invited to the opening of my garden for charity. It's in aid of Sing for Water, the subject of my recent choir activities, which fundraises for WaterAid. We're off to London on the 14th September to take part in the big concert, so I've set up a shiny, new blog packed full of stories about my garden and allotment to celebrate and fundraise. There's loads I haven't told you about already - a full tour of…