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Showing posts from April, 2010

OOTS: Roundabouts Revisited

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A couple of weeks ago I showed you the changes made recently to key roundabouts on the outskirts of Chippenham designed to welcome everyone to the town. At the time I also ranted about the design of the main planting on the roundabout itself, describing the mixture of trees and shrubs as being 'plonked rather than planted'. Unfortunately this is par for the course for many of our roundabouts and applies to many places, not just Chippenham.

However, a mere couple of miles away at the opposite end of the A350 bypass is a roundabout which has the same elements, but to me has the encouraging signs that things can be done a little bit differently and better whilst using the same plant formula. Here we see trees plus shrubs as before, but the choice of plants has been simplified to a single tree species with an underplanting of massed shrubs such as Cornus and Euonymus. The tree is a species found in the local countryside (note to self: must go and identify it) and the shrubs are co…

ABC of Weather: Occluded

Occluded fronts are part of our low pressure aka cyclonic weather systems and are usually a sign that they've reached maturity in their lifecycle. A front is the (unseen) transition between two masses of air with distinct differences in temperature and with our low pressure systems a cold front follows on behind a warm front.

The colder air mass travels more quickly than its warm predecessor and if it catches up with it, then the warm air is forced off the ground and over the colder air. It's at this time that an occluded front is said to have formed. The weather found along these can be quite variable and can be some of the more extreme weather associated with a low pressure system, such as thunderstorms and funnel clouds.

Each type of weather front is shown by a different coloured line and associated symbol on a weather map - see the example shown here. The way the symbols are pointing shows the direction of travel of the weather system. Occluded fronts are denoted by a purple…

Book Review: First Time Veg Grower

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This is a no-nonsense, budget, pocket-sized guide to the basics about growing vegetables. Written by Martyn Cox and aimed at the beginner, it covers the 16 most popular vegetables which people like to grow. Look elsewhere for a book covering the more unusual or exotic: this is all about growing the vegetables which will provide a meal just for yourself or your family.
At its heart are two key questions: How much time do you have? and What do you like to eat? Far too many other guides forget these fundamental questions and then we see plenty of articles wondering why enthusiastic gardeners give up with growing their own. All the basics are covered from getting to know your soil, tools of the trade, choosing which varieties to grow, sowing seeds and planting out. The practical possibilities of what can grown in the tiniest of places to a full-scale allotment are explored.
Detailed instructions for growing the 16 'Foolproof vegetables' are given - covering beetroot, broad beans, …

NAH to the Rescue!

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On Saturday afternoon this young song thrush flew into our garage door window. Luckily NAH was on hand to gently pick it up off the ground and take it down to the shed at the bottom of the garden. Unfortunately Skimble got a little too interested at that point, so NAH relocated it onto the pergola at the side of the house.

Not only was he able to take some photos of the stunned bird, he was also able to call me downstairs to have a good look. We think the deposit on the beak is some fat rather than damage, which we were initially concerned about. About 5 minutes after my arrival, this little one had recovered sufficiently to fly off into the trees at the side of the garden.
I'm rather relieved as surprisingly this once common species is now one of the UK's more endangered birds and has red conservation status. We see quite a number of them around the garden and I'd like to keep it that way. Which is an ideal opportunity to remind you about the garden biodiversity competiti…

Will Blog For Chocolate

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I imagine most people if offered the chance to try some luxury chocolate for free in return for an honest appraisal on their blog, they'll jump at the chance. So who am I to disappoint the good folk at Fuel My Blog and the suppliers Chocolate and Love?

And lo, a thick padded bag duly arrived containing the pictured chocolate. Luckily I'm a dark chocolate lover, because that's what I received. 2 plain chocolate bars of 71% (Filthy Rich) and 55% (Nirvanabar) cocoa solids respectively, a 65% bar flavoured with orange oil (Orange Mantra), another under the Conscious label containing lots of nuts (my favourite combination), plus a packet of Pacari organic chocolate covered guava which on closer inspection turned out to look like a luxury version of the Paynes Poppets of my childhood.

Chocolate & Love specialise in the luxury, ethical end of the chocolate market, hence the high cocoa solid percentages of each bar and the organic and/or Fairtrade sourcing of ingredients where…

How Advertising Works in Chippenham #16

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Put together a leaflet introducing your party's candidateSend out an enormous batch for your party faithful to hand deliverSay hello to the blogger working in her front garden as you walk byWait for said blogger with a camera to notice it's for the wrong candidateEt Voila!This leaflet is for a Dorset constituency campaign over 60 miles away. I'm amazed that no-one noticed before it was delivered to me, especially as it came by hand. There's so many differences which should have given the game away immediately ;)

ABC of Weather: Nimbus

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Picture courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net by Jennifer Renee

Nimbus is one of the 5 main cloud categories and simply means rain bearing (from the Latin). The others are: Alto – high, Cirrus – thin and wispy (see my previous post on Clouds for an example), Cumulus – puffy and Stratus – layer (Latin for spread out).

The latter four categories are cloud names in their own right. Nimbus is always combined with another to give a cloud name. All the categories may be combined with others to give us a wide variety of names, which if you know the above code it tells you exactly what the cloud is like: thus Altocumulus means a high, puffy cloud. The most dramatic is Cumulonimbus which is the very tall, puffy rain bearing cloud often with an anvil shape at the top. It's this type of cloud which gives us the stormiest of weather.

There are many sub-categories of cloud and the list is still being added to. For example there's Mammatus, which is a special bubble shaped form of Cumulonimbus. …

I Love this Tulip...

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... but sadly I don't know what it is because the packet said it should be the red version of T. 'Spring Green'. Its voluptuous duskiness has stolen my heart.

OOTS: A Host of Daffodils

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This post's courtesy of NAH who's just come home following a week's volunteering on the TalyLlyn railway in north Wales. He not only took this photo especially for me, he also waxed lyrical about the daffodils lining the roadside in Tywyn and Abergynolwyn just up the valley. The picture shows the daffodils on the way into Abergynolwyn and if we could rise above the trees on the left we'd see that the conifer plantation on the hillside above them is shaped like a dragon.
He said: It's like being serenaded every time you enter the place.
Now I know some people have been a bit sniffy recently about mass daffodil plantings, but anything floral which makes my down to earth engineer of a husband sit up and take notice has got to be worth it, yes? Besides, the daffodil is the Welsh national flower, so it'd be even stranger if they weren't there at the side of the road wouldn't it?
If you wish to take part in Out on the Streets this month, all you need to do is w…

Competition Time: Win RHS Membership :)

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The UN has declared 2010 as International Year of Biodiversity (IYB) and as part of its programme of awareness raising, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is teaming up with an number of bloggers to offer a competition with RHS membership as its prize :)
Concern about biodiversity isn't new as far as the RHS is concerned and it's one of the main reasons why I value it as an organisation. As pressure on our countryside is set to increase over the coming years, the role we gardeners can play in the conservation of wildlife and the preservation of its diversity is immense.
In a recent survey conducted by the RHS, 95% of gardeners saw themselves as 'stewards of the environment' and 96% said this was an important area of research for the RHS to do. Their recently revamped website now has a large section dedicated to Biodiversity and the gardener which outlines what the RHS is doing and also providing practical ideas, hints and tips on how we might all garden for wildlif…

GBBD: Blackthorn & Honey Scented Violas

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April's quite different this year: the blackthorn has only just come out (last weekend) in a cloud of white which completely brightens the old hedgerow next to the house. Two years ago I showed it flowering on 9th March, so it's a month later this year. However, its masses of blooms with contrasting fresh green leaves more than makes up for its tardiness.

We're experiencing a spell of quiet, warm, sunny weather at the moment, which means I can take my coffee breaks out on the patio. Here the honey-like scent of the masses of Violas I planted out in the autumn are almost overwhelming. I've never known their perfume to be so strong and it tempts me to linger well past my allotted time.
Elsewhere, the later Daffodils are adding their scent to the garden and the Tulips are now girding themselves to take over the baton. The picture shows one of the bargain bulbs I planted in the large bowls underneath the Violas last year. Finally, it looks like the blackthorn blossom is in…

ABC of Weather: Maps

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I love maps* and they're a key tool in weather forecasting, so there was only ever one possible M for me to feature today. I've sneaked in a few in already under Isobars and Jet Stream, but today I'm showing you the general overview for the UK, which gets updated every 15 minutes of so - how cool is that? Chippenham is approximately in the middle of Cardiff, London and Bournemouth if you want to get an idea of what's happening here weatherwise at the moment. Or you can have a look at what Accuweather has to say in my lefthand sidebar.
I believe many of us are fascinated by weather maps. Judging by the furore caused when the BBC changed the format used for its TV forecasts a few years ago it must be true. I still don't like them, especially when the sea sickness inducing pan around the country starts. I much prefer the maps of old, especially the stick on symbol days. That's because I (like many of us I'm sure) used wait in hope that they'd fall off whe…

OOTS: A New Ride on the Merry Go Round

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I've mentioned previously how awful I think Chippenham's roundabouts are, but never actually got round to showing any of them to you. As most of these mark a transition between countryside and urban areas, the standard approach seems to have been to throw together some trees and shrubs which just might be found nearby. This year a number of them have had a 'makeover': those that stand at the the entrance points to Chippenham have had a raised bed added over the past couple of weeks which are now filled with colourful Polyanthus with a Welcome to Chippenham plaque in the centre.

Yesterday the latest edition of the town council's newsletter Talk of the Town arrived which said under the heading Town Projects and Achievements:

As part of the town council's commitment to improving the quality of town life and its landscaped environment, residents will be pleased to see all the major routes into the town now benefit from enhanced florally decorated "Welcome to Chi…

How Advertising Works in Chippenham #15

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Decide on your party's campaign slogan and style Distribute large posters to your party faithful Display in a field at the side of the road Wait for a blogger with a camera to notice something's been added Et Voila! Chippenham's a completely new constituency for next month's general election and for the first time I find myself living in a marginal instead of a particular party's safe seat. For once my vote really counts and so I'm in even more of a dither about it than usual. In previous elections it's been noticeable how Chippenham town has been awash with orange (denoting Liberal Democrat devotees), but outside in the countryside all the farmer's fields are sporting Conservative blue. Now the constituency of North Wiltshire has been split into two along rural/urban lines and it'll be interesting to see if the 'visual poll' I've previously observed is reflected in actual results. In Wiltshire the Labour party doesn't get a look in, so …

Westonbirt Discoveries

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Westonbirt is noted for its Autumn colours, but I love it year-round. Spring is another good time for a visit as it has many examples of Magnolias, Rhododendrons and Camellias in flower as well as all the fresh young leaves on the trees.
We've had family staying over Easter and whilst spring is behind itself at the moment, we still thought it would be a good place to take my brother-in-law and family to a couple of days ago. We were too early for most of the flowers, but there was enough to herald what's to come over the next few weeks, plus plenty of fresh discoveries we hadn't anticipated.
Being the Easter holidays, there were trails for my niece and nephew to follow with the promise of eggy treats when completed. We all had a fun time looking for the pictures and specially decorated trees and helping to solve the puzzles. It may have been a shorter walk for us than usual, but everything was examined in much finer detail: the colour of tree buds, what might reside in a tre…

ABC of Weather: Lore

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We all grow up knowing all kinds of sayings and snippets about our weather which can be grouped loosely into Weather Lore. Many of these are based on ancient wisdom gathered by early scientists or more localised observations by those close to nature such as farmers and sailors. But do any of them have meaning for today? Well yes, I think they do...

I've already referred to Mackerel sky not 24 hours dry and It's black over Bill's mother's telling us that rain is on it's way when I looked at Clouds. When I wrote about Hair, I talked about how it changes with humidity so it's used by both amateur weather forecasters and the developers of early hygrometers. You may also familiar with the use of seaweed or pine cones to predict the weather. Both are used in the same way as hair as they react to the amount of moisture in the atmosphere.
I think my earliest memory of a weather related saying is Red sky at night shepherd'sdelight. Red sky in the morning shepherds wa…

Out on the Streets now that April's here

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It's April, spring is at last beginning to show it's true colours, so what better time to return to Out on the Streets (OOTS)? I thought you'd like this picture of a bicycle cum advert I found in Oxford last month. It certainly brightened up the chaos of all the roadworks - just about evident in the background of the photo, but absolutely everywhere in the centre of the city when I was there.
This is my regular feature where I ask you to show everyone the public open spaces and planting in your neighbourhood or on your travels. With the tough winter we've had here in the UK it'll be interesting to see if you find it's had an impact in your village, town or city.
I'm anticipating that change might be a bit of a running theme throughout this year's OOTS. So much so I'm asking you to keep an eye out for it. What's new in your area this year? Is there any visible effects from the economic downtown? Perhaps your public planting is changing or being loo…

Today's Important Message

We've been a bit light on the veg related information lately, so I thought it'd be a good idea to show you this most important video I've found on the care of marrows.

Unfortunately the website quoted at the end of the video doesn't seem to exist anymore, so you I'll direct you to this one instead.
Have a good Easter everyone :)