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Showing posts from April, 2009

YAWA: Your Events Guide for May

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It might be the month of Maying (see last year's Muse Day for picture and poem/song), but it's also the month of Clematis in my view. Already I have vast swathes of Clematis montana clothing the fence and this pictured Clematis alpina 'Francis Rivis' is threatening to overwhelm the contorted hazel supporting it. Looking like that though, I can forgive it entirely. Elsewhere there are fat buds of other Clematis bursting forth everywhere - if our mix of fair weather and rain keeps up over the next week or so, I'm sure they'll be the main feature for May's Blooms Day.
Without further ado, here's May's events as assembled by the ever diligent You Ask, We Answer team:
1st:May Day - traditionally the day when Britain's men get out their handkerchiefs and sticks and wave them at each other in a spot of Morris Dancing. There's also very quaint dancing round the maypole and the Queen of the May is chosen in each village. Sadly not every village does …

ABC Wednesday 4: O is for...

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...Organic
Ever since I bought the fantastic River Cottage Preserves book earlier this year, I've been toying with the idea of making Preserved Lemons so I can have a play with some middle eastern cookery. The recipe calls for unwaxed fruit, so I was very pleased to find these Organic lemons reduced to 15p a couple of days ago. Since bringing them home, I've noticed the kitchen has a lovely fresh lemony aroma - perhaps their usual waxing locks in the smell. Now I'm Off to make that recipe - byeee!

Off you go to the ABC Wednesday Mr Linky blog to find some more O's...

YAWA: Chia Pets

The You Ask We Answer team have been hard at work investigating Chiaand Chia Pets after Mr. McGregor's Daughter likened them to the plastic topiary I found recently. We don't have these in Britain, though we do have something a bit similar: usually around Christmas as a garden centre gift line, which then quickly enters the drastically reduced section in January. However, for all non-American YAWA readers who don't know what we're missing, this rather helpful clip from YouTube reveals all:



But who would have thought something so innocuous could be quite so controversial? And not only that, it would appear that Chia Pets might have some of the same issues as their live counterparts, with a potential environmental disaster in New Mexico resulting from the dumping of unwanted pets. So do remember you owners out there: a Chia Pet is for life, not just Christmas ;)

Monkton Park: Public Planting in the News

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Public planting seldom makes the news, but an almighty row has broken out in the local paper over the recent changes to the entrance to Monkton Park. I believe most of it's political point scoring ahead of the local elections - the two main councillors involved are hardly doing themselves any favours as they sound like children who have thrown their toys out of the pram - but I'd hardly call the work so far the expected 'stunning' result as quoted by one of them in the newspaper recently. I'm rather stunned in fact, though to be fair the work isn't complete yet.
This entrance leads from Chippenham's main shopping street into a parkland landscape of river walks, trees and large open spaces. It was tired and run down, so the council earmarked (a reported) £65,000 to improve it. I imagine the brief given to potential contractors went something like: Stabilise the river bank areaScreen the adjacent Emery Gate Shopping Centre so the parkland feel to the landscape …

Surprise - Why Hello Anemone!

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This one's for Frances who remarked on my Hope post recently that despite hiding them under a rock for several years, her Anemone blanda had defied the odds and rebloomed for her this year. This genus must be pretty robust, because I was delighted to make the re-acquaintance of this Anemone coronaria De Caen group in my front garden a few days ago. I didn't hide it under a rock, but as these are usually a relatively short-lived variety and I did plant them a few years ago, I am surprised to see this one after an absence of several years. As Carol Klein would say - 'Geeeeeeorgeous!'
This is another shameless interim Blooms Day post bought to you courtesy of Veg Plotting ;)
PS I scheduled this post for today not realising it's Frances' birthday: I can't think of a better way of wishing her well on her day than by coincidentally dedicating a post to her :)

Something for the Weekend: Introducing 'The Beast'

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A couple of weeks ago and completely out of the blue NAH and I had one of those milestone kind of conversations:
NAH: There's a petrol mower for sale at B&Q for under a hundred quid Me: @!#% a petrol mower? NAH: Yes, for under a hundred quid Me: But we've got the push pull mower! NAH: This one will cut the grass Me: So does the push pull and it doesn't use any fuel NAH (in a small voice): I'm not getting any younger dear...
Flashback to the last time the allotment was mown: our understanding is mowing is the sole help I get from NAH. We bought the push pull mower second hand and from time to time he'd sigh and go a-mowing, with very ill grace. Often on his own too - best to keep a safe distance. But last time we'd gone together as I was behind in my other tasks, as usual. After a while the reassuring gentle whirring of the mower slowed and then stopped. NAH was nowhere to be seen. I stormed up the plot where I found him slumped in the car looking rather grey around…

International Garden Photographer of the Year

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I can't think of a better way to celebrate a perfect St. George's Day yesterday than a trip to Lacock with Threadspider to see the International Garden Photographer of the Year exhibition. This features the results of the first IGPOTY competition held in 2007/2008 and Lacock Abbey is one of the few venues chosen to show these photographs. Where could be better than the garden where William Henry Fox Talbot experimented with his Pencil of Nature? The photographs were breathtaking and a number of the finalists demonstrated that it takes only a back garden and a keen eye to take a winning image, such as the stunning portrait of a grass snake taken by David Maitland in Calne - a mere 10 miles from here.

Ever since I'd known this exhibition was coming to Wiltshire I'd been intrigued as to how it would be staged in the open air. It looked like the images were printed onto a waterproof board - there was no sign of lamination. I also liked the sinuous path that the exhibition …

Pots and Lavender: VPGGB #9

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A rethink of my strategy for the boring fence project led me to seek out some large pots recently so I can put some screening plants on the patio. I was very pleased to find some large blue 'long tom' style pots - 20 inches high and 16 inches across - for half price at Homebase. I was even more pleased when they went through the till at one third price - that's £9.99. I've planted one of them with a holly tree from last year's Franks Plants and the one in the picture's housing Clematis 'Crystal Fountain' from that lovely Mr. Evison.
Revamping part of my borders saw me rip out quite a few woody lavender and I've had a bit of a guilt trip because I'm not replacing them with plants the bees love. Instead I was very happy to replace a very tired looking rosemary on the patio with three good sized lavender plants bought from Focus for a fiver. They're not a special variety, but the bees won't mind that. And don't worry about the rosemar…

ABC Wednesday 4: N is For...

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...Narcissus
Here's the last hurrah from my Narcissus aka daffodils from the back garden. This one's always the last to bloom, though I can't tell you what it is as it came in an extremely large sack of mixed bulbs. As you can see it's an orange rather than yellow flower and I rather like it. It's last partly because I believe it's one of the later varieties - if you plan carefully you can get blooms from February through May - plus it's also in the shadier part of the garden. In the front I have another late bloomer N. 'Pheasant's Eye', which has the rather lovely Latin name Narcissus poeticus. Sadly only a couple of them seem to be appearing this year - it looks like the ever growing hedgerow on the public land is beginning to shade them out.
Do have a look at the ABC Wednesday Mr Linky for other posts bought to you by the letter N.

Dig In for the Big Lunch

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You may have spotted this logo on your post lately and be wondering what it's all about. It's a fiendishly simple idea from the Eden Project (they don't just do a fabulous place to visit in Cornwall) where they're inviting us all to get together with our neighbours for lunch on July 19th to eat our homegrown produce. A great combination of community spirit and fresh food without the food miles. If you're also taking part in Gardeners' World's Dig In campaign, it could be a good way to combine the two - you could have some of your freebie tomatoes, lettuce and beetroot ready by then. I'm thinking it'll be a good idea to have a street barbecue with our neighbours - we haven't done one of those for quite a while.
I see I've had quite a few searches for the Dig In seed give away dates hit Veg Plotting lately - the above link will take you to the website with all the details. The Big Lunch website is well worth a visit too, irrespective of whether…

Girls Night Out

You may have noticed the GNO acronym explained on my left hand sidebar. It's mainly cinema evenings I arrange with some ex-colleagues of mine and we've been going to these for 10 years now. Over the years other things have crept in like celebrating really big birthdays, plus trips to Bath Christmas Market and an annual spa weekend. After loads of wine at Jamie Oliver's new restaurant in Bath last month (a great GNO), we're now contemplating a walking holiday (! and yes, these are the people I would have been Moonwalking with too). However, I thought you might like to see the kind of thing I put together each month.

It's cinema choice time! We've seen Slumdog (brilliant), I've seen Gran Torino (thoroughly recommend), so we need to select from what's left at The Showcase for next Tuesday [tomorrow]. Here's my shortlist for your perusal:
17 Again - Big meets Groundhog Day as aging exec. goes back to boyhood again. 12A, 102 mins @ 7.35pmThe Boat That Rock…

Tiptoe Through The Tulips

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What a difference a few days make: the tulips are now truly in control of the potted areas of the garden. I couldn't resist an interim Blooms Day collage to show them off on here as they will have gone by May. James, I see the T. 'Spring Green' are taking on the tousled look like yours had the other day ;) Click to enlarge the image if needed: from top to bottom left to right we have: T. 'A pink frilly thing - I've no idea, it was a garden magazine freebie'; 'Viridiflora'; 'Spring Green'; 'Ballerina'; 'Rembrandt'; 'A pink frilly thing' and 'Red Riding Hood'; 'I've forgotten but it's a very nice red one'; 'White Triumphator'; 'Purissima'; 'Viridiflora'; 'Red Riding Hood' and 'A pink frilly thing repeated just to make up the numbers and because I like the photo'.In the garden are further T. 'Purissima', plus T. 'Queen of Night', 'Tarda' …

Hope

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A couple of days ago I was delighted to find that at least one of my tree ferns (Dicksonia antarctica) has survived the winter. Not only did I mistreat this one woefully by not wrapping it in fleece, but I also kept it in the side garden nursery area for two years. I finally gave it a more permanent home in a large pot in the front garden a couple of weeks ago. Look how it has repaid my (eventual) kindness - aren't those unfurling fronds just gorgeous! This sight gives me hope that not only has the other one survived, I may have got off more lightly from the winter's ravages than I first thought. So far only the Echeveria has been consigned to the compost heap, which bodes well for my return for the RHS' winter hardiness survey.

How's your garden doing - what tales can you relate of survival against all the odds?

Garden Centre Kitsch: Part Deux

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Regular readers know I've got a bit of a love-hate relationship with my local garden centre. On the plus side they've started a garden plastic recycling scheme, which is very well used. However, they've outdone their selection of kitsch for this year by offering plastic topiary which doesn't even look like the real thing. Can you beat that for craziness?

Out on the Streets: Wrap-up for March

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Many thanks to all of you who took part in the first Out on the Streets last month - it was a fine set of contributions from everyone and I thought I'd add this flower bed I passed a week ago to wrap things up until June. It has a companion which I showed you last year and even more unbelievably this one's on the main road into Chippenham. The structure behind it is Brunel's railway bridge - another listed building and deemed to be such a grand entrance to the town it's floodlit at night. On that basis you'd think the planting would be more than one bed of mainly red mulch plus vast expanses of grass with daisies wouldn't you? Oh well, I suppose it's better than the subway that was there before. I promise a much more positive example from Chippenham in my next post on public planting and it will still feature that red mulch!
If you haven't looked at Out on the Streets for a while, I can thoroughly recommend the diverse range of posts chosen by those who …

GBBD/ABC Wednesday 4: M is For...

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... Mid Spring Blooms Day


I confess it's a rather contrived M so I can combine 2 Memes today - but we are in the Middle Month of the spring quarter of the gardening calendar - so I hope you'll indulge me a little. I feel the garden's in a state of transition: from the bright yellow I associate so strongly with March - particularly daffodils - to the more purple hues I associate with late spring. Along the way there's the tulips to enjoy and I'm really pleased with how the ones I potted up last December have turned out. For once 'Red Riding Hood' hasn't been ravaged by slugs and failed to bloom - a first for this garden. In the nursery area are the daffodils I didn't pot up until February (bottom right above - next to the cowslip picture) as you can see they've come on good and strong in spite of their very late planting! It's a very exciting time to be out in the garden - new plants and flowers are appearing daily - I'm sure you won't…

Salad: Feeling the Pinch

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I've resolved to try and get to grips with succession sowing my salads this year. However, it looks like the planned revamp of the little patch on the patio for this purpose will have to be changed as I have just taken delivery of an asparagus freebie which I thought wouldn't be here for at least another month. The bed earmarked for it up at the allotment is still full of gooseberry bushes and weeds, so it's now destined for the patio bed instead as this area will be relatively easy to clear and get the soil to the required consistency.
As I reported yesterday the current allotment priority is spuds, so it'll be a while before I'll be sowing salads up there. In the meantime, I've sown a pinch of each seed I use for saladings into small pots: as you can see from the above picture, I sowed bulls blood beetroot, coriander, mizuna, pak choi, rocket, spinach and sorrel yesterday. Mixed lettuce leaves and 'Little Gem' have gone into larger seed trays as we use…

A Hectic, Happy Easter

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What a weekend - I hope your Easter was great too. Friday saw us in Poole for the day visiting NAH's aunt - we were overfed as usual and NAH fixed the fence. The rest of the weekend has seen me in panic mode: the good weather has been perfect for gardening and whilst I've made great inroads into what needs to be planted out in the garden and up at the allotment, I'm about a quarter of the way through what actually needs to be done. I'm also staring at an enormous hole in the lower border having started clearing it for its planned revamp. I'm currently at the OMG what am I going to do with all that stage. So just to feel better I ripped out a horribly clashing set of plants in the single terrace border - apricot Diascia, Stachys byzantina and Fuchsia 'Genii' has got to be one of the worst combinations invented by anyone, not just me - and did an impromptu revamp of that border instead. Pictures to come, I promise.

The next big job is to plant the potatoes: I…

A Word About Verification

I love your comments. I'd like to make it as easy as possible for you to leave them as I believe the conversations we have are the lifeblood of this blog. However, yesterday's spambot incident means unfortunately Word Verification (WV) is back on here to stay. I've chosen WV over comment moderation because I've seen how you respond not only to what I've said, but you also react to the comments left already. I really like that and besides, I always seem to leave the worst spelling mistakes or links that don't work which I can't correct immediately where comment moderation is in place. Of course I realise that comment moderation is easier for you, but I believe the convenience to later readers outweighs this.

I know some of you do find the extra hoop of WV a real pain - it may also stop some of you from joining in - but that's the price I'll have to pay and you're still very welcome to lurk. If the word's unreadable, then refreshing the page u…

@*&! Spammers - My Apologies

This morning a delightful (not) spambot decided to start going through my blog leaving a comment on each posting. It would appear these were then forwarded to at least some of you as part of the spamming process.

Luckily I found out what was going on before the spambot had gone through all 600-odd posts on my blog: unfortunately it had managed to get through 140 of them. If you are one of the unfortunate ones who received forwarded email(s) as a result of this, I can only offer my sincere apologies and I do hope it wasn't from all 140 comments left on my blog.

Word Verification is back on now and this instantly stopped the spambot in its tracks. If you were affected, do leave me comment about your experiences (or email me at vegplotting at gmail dot com if this is easier for you) as I'd like to understand the extent of what happened ready for a post I'm now planning to do about lessons learned and Blogger options to stop spamming. At least that way some good may come out of …

How Advertising Works in Chippenham 5

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Allow your store's Head Office to dream up a new marketing campaignDisplay the promotional material you've been given at the roundabout where your store is locatedWait for a blogger with a camera to notice it and almost crash their car because they groaned so loudlyEt voila!This is the fifth item of an occasional series - some more are in the pipeline - the previous one can be found here.

How Ensure We Have a Hot Summer This Year

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It's a Bank Holiday Weekend, so naturally our expectations are low for getting some decent weather. And of course after 2 poor years, we're all keeping our fingers crossed we have a much better summer, especially as many more people will be taking their holiday (vacation) at Stopatham* this year. I've decided a much more scientific approach is needed to ensure we'll get what we want, so I've: Sown tomato and courgette varieties that don't mind a bit of cooler, dull weatherInstalled a gauge in the garden so I can measure all that rainOrdered a massive new water butt so I can store all that rainCan you add anything else to help? Have a good Easter everyone :D
* = a term used by an ex-colleague of mine a few years ago, which I prefer to the relatively recently coined Staycation.

Seasonal Recipe: Rhubarb and Ginger Jam*

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Once the euphoria of new season forced rhubarb has died down, I simply can't keep up with all the sticks my single Victoria rhubarb plant sends out. Perhaps I need to stop the annual manure feed in February and things might calm down a little.

This year I'm intending to make better use of my allotment surpluses. So bearing this in mind plus our dwindling jam mountain - we 'inherited' about 20 jars of varying vintages and flavours last year when NAH sold his mum's house - I made some rhubarb and ginger jam yesterday. Since leaving work, our jam consumption has risen significantly as NAH usually has some with homemade bread for lunch, so replenishing our stocks seemed a wise move.

My trusty Good Housekeeping Cookery Book - first published in 1948 and still going strong - has the recipe I use. It makes 3-4 jars as follows:

Ingredients

1.1 kg (2.5lb) rhubarb (prepared weight), chopped
1.1 kg (2.5lb) sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
25g (1oz) root ginger
100g (4oz) stem or cryst…

ABC Wednesday 4: L is For...

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...Listed Building

Red telephone boxes may be a British icon, but they're fast disappearing from our streets: our use of mobile phones for instance has drastically reduced the need for them. However, this telephone box won't be disappearing from Chippenham because it's a listed building.

English Heritage is the official public body which looks after the listed buildings register: in the majority of cases it's the owner's not their responsibility to look after the building itself. If a property is listed, it means it has a special architectural and/or historical interest and any proposed changes to the building require additional scrutiny within our planning system. You can find out a lot more about what listed building status means and the different grades awarded on English Heritage's website.

In 2000 and 2001 I was involved with Images of England. This was a Heritage Lottery funded Millennium project - completed last year - which aimed to photographically re…

Peas Please Me

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It doesn't take a lot to make me a happy bunny and yesterday's mail contained just the thing to get my week off to a good start: my free packs of peas for this year's RHS trial. I'll be growing mange tout Oregon Sugar Pod which I usually grow, and the new kid on the block for me is Sugar Ann, a sugarsnap pea. According to the packet Oregon Sugar Pod grows to 3 feet - as usual the plants I grow don't read the manual as mine frequently reach twice that size. I'll keep you posted on what happens.
The RHS are also asking for help in their winter-hardy survey 2008-2009, so there's a possibility some good will come out of all those tender plants we've lost over the winter. The survey is due in late spring - to give those dead looking plants every chance to come back to life - but you can start to compile some of the details needed now. Have a look at the RHS changing climate page for further information.
And finally whilst we're on the topic of making good …

The All New Gardeners' World: Roses or Compost?

Friday saw the start of the new Gardeners' World season on TV. New production company, totally new garden, plus relatively new lead presenter heading up the rest of the gang. How was it for me? Well, you'll find my initial reactions as part of the fun panel assembled by The Garden Monkey over at The Guardian's garden blog today. How cool is that? :)

Having had time to think about it over the weekend, I believe the producers have missed a trick and tried to squeeze two programmes into one. If you're going to start with a totally blank canvas by digging up a rugby pitch, why not show us the field of dreams in more detail? On Friday we had just a few glimpses of Toby Buckland's plan, so unless you read last week's Radio Times, you'll have no idea of what's in store. It would have been far better to have shown us the initial planning and development stages, the key parts of the new garden and given us an overview of what's to come in the next few weeks.

W…

Aiding International Gardening Relations

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READER!
Does intercontinental misunderstanding get you down?
Convinced your gardening buddy across the pond is talking in gibberish or tongues?
Does the mention of hoar frost make you want to snigger?
Then look no further, the team at You Ask We Answer has just the thing for you!
A companion volume to the wildly successful You Ask We Answer series, The YAWA Dictionary will steadily build into a must-read tome, to vastly increase your daily reading pleasure.
From Aubergine to Zucchini, you will always have to hand the meaning of all those tricky little words your blogging friends toss into their posts with gay abandon and nary a thought regarding cross-border communication and international relations.
Already the mysteries of butt, bramley apples, hoar frost, parsnips, verges and zones have been explained in great detail and to international acclaim. However, we've found some explanations can be more bitesize than our standard service and that's where The YAWA Dictionary is des…

A Day Out for NAH and Me

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Somewhere (last Friday) to please both of us - hmm let me see...

A place with shiny, snorting things for him...

... and a place with bright, planted things for her

YAWA: Your Events Guide for April

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April's always been tulip month for me - summed up by the Tulip Festival (sadly no more) held annually when I was a child in Birmingham. Cannon Hill Park became temporarily Dutch during the Easter holidays and the park's beds were packed with every conceivable colour and variety. Nowadays, I have to get my annual fix at nearby Abbey House Gardens in Malmesbury, where thousands are waiting to greet me at some point over the next few weeks. The other great floral event this month is the fritillaries at North Meadow, Cricklade; a nationally important nature reserve - the site has 80% of the nation's wild population - Wiltshire as a whole has 95% of them. They're beginning to peep through now - the link is regularly updated with how they're doing - and the meadows should be spectacular at the end of the month. Teas will be served in the village hall to raise money for the church - you can't get more English than that.

The presence of Easter also signals the start of…

ABC Wednesday 4: K is For...

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... Keeping up with climate change
We're all concerned what climate change will mean to us: could we overwinter our tender plants with impunity; might our spring daffodils disappear; what's the best way to look after our garden in times of drought; and a host of other questions yet to be answered definitively.
The National Trust is trying to find some of the answers. Nymans garden in particular is in the forefront of adopting greener gardening techniques: for example, they've found that by using a fungus inoculant at the time of planting up the borders, watering can be reduced to just four times from May to October without affecting the summer display. Remarkably this result was achieved during the hot summer of 2006 and an added benefit was a reduction in aphid infestation. The Head Gardener - Ed Ikin - believes this is because the plants' growth was more compact and lacking in the soft, sappy stems so attractive to this garden pest.
One of the perks of volunteering at t…