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Showing posts from February, 2012

Ah, the Language of Love...

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Today's Leap Day, the traditional day when women can propose marriage to their men. I didn't do that, but we did get married in a Leap Year so since then NAH and I have a running joke where I propose to him every Leap Day and he flatly refuses because he's a 'happily married man'. It's a shared joke which has me giggling and hugging to myself for days beforehand and it brings us closer together on the day.

Our cosiness was interrupted this morning by the arrival of the local florist's van and the proffering of the pictured Phalaenopsis to NAH. His concern I might have a secret admirer soon turned to relief when I showed him the accompanying message:
Dear VP, Sorry we couldn't get your original plant but hope you enjoy the orchid. Love the Flower Council of Holland (@meandmyplants).
My thanks to Victoria for her quick wit on Twitter this morning :)
You can see which of 30 houseplants is your perfect partner and have the chance to win a copy of a rather fun…

How Advertising Works in Chippenham #30

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Publish a popular weekly newspaper for the Wiltshire areaHave a regular Your Memories slot which has photographs from days gone byAsk readers to identify and locate the house shown in the latest photographWait for a blogger with a camera to spot a house in the Property section in the same edition looks very familiarEt voila! I hope my email to the Gazette and Herald got passed on to Nigel Brown so he can investigate further...

From Bristol to Brum: BlogCamp Meet & Greet

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Shock horror: for once I'm stepping out from the middle of my avatar - eek!

I'm off to BlogCamp again in April: to Birmingham this time and we've been asked to write a little 'hello' to everyone else who's going. It's a great idea, so here goes...
Name: Michelle aka VP on the blog

Blog:Veg Plotting is my main blog. I also have a photography blog, Sign of the Timesand I started Meet at Malvern2 years ago to get 30 garden bloggers together at Malvern Spring Show.

Twitter:@Malvernmeet if you want me chatty, @VegPlotting if you want the blog.
My Blog's About: gardening, allotments, quirkiness and Chippenham. Not necessarily in that order.
Likes: the stuff I write about on my blogs, plus films, books and I'm a subversive soprano in my local community choir.
Dislikes: Tea, *whispers* rats (!), rickety bridges and playground behaviour online.
I had a fab time at Bristol BlogCamp last year and I'm looking forward to meeting you in Birmingham in April. Oh, and…

Salad Days: Subversive Salad!

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Welcome to the second Salad Days - our monthly look at how everyone is getting on with their 52 Week Salad Challenge. You'll find Mr Linky at the end of this post for the links to your blog posts :)

This week salad suddenly got rather subversive. Who knew we could be growing something illegal just by growing mixed leaves? According to Horticulture Week some of the pictured innocent looking packets of seed contravene EU regulations, which bans seeds from more than one vegetable variety in seed packets. Presumably this is so customers know what they're getting and apparently the law has been on the statute book for some time.
Packets containing a mixture of just one species such as various lettuces should be fine. Those with a mixture such as e.g. lettuce, chervil and endive aren't. The regulations don't apply to unregulated seeds (which Sally - who alerted me to the news - thinks it means salad orientals such as pak choi and mustards), so whether a mixture of these pl…

Top Tips for Tree Care - The Kew Way

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Last week Threadspider and I went to Bath University Gardening Club and were treated to Tony Kirkham's talk on 250 Years of Trees at Kew. Those of you who've seen Tony on the TV programmes made about Kew or The Trees That Made Britain, know he's very knowledgeable with a great sense of humour.

His talk had the lot: history, royalty, people (especially his predecessors who shaped Kew's Arboretum) and lots of top tips re tree care. It's the latter I'm concentrating on today. Tree care has changed a lot over Kew's 250+ years of history where they still have a few of the trees originally planted (part of "The Old Lions") when Kew began.
The notorious Great Storm of 1987 (when 15 million trees were lost overnight in England, including 500 at Kew) and the learning from that one event has helped to shape the way Tony and his team look after Kew's trees today.
After that event they realised their tree care could be improved greatly by taking care of …

Now You See Them...

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Now you see them...

... and now you don't!
Regular readers are familiar with the 'sentinel conifers' in the middle of VP Gardens and my desire to get rid of them. They also know how long I take to get round to things, so Friday was a significant day in the history of my garden. It's taken years for this day to finally happen.
I haven't a clue what's going to replace them. What's become clear since they've come down is how many of the plants which surrounded them need to go too. Having moulded themselves around the trees' outline, they're too much out of shape to be brought back into line.
I'm struggling with how the terraced beds go from cool shade (from the public land next door) through to a hot, sunny Mediterranean aspect in just a few feet. Finding a set of plants which go together well within those constraints, whilst providing lots of seasonal interest and riches for wildlife is going to take quite a bit of step sitting first ;)

What's The Weather for Salad?

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NB I'm using that sparkly gold notebook to record everything and make notes about my 52 Week Salad Challenge :)

I've been looking into my local climate data this week to get an idea of when I can sensibly switch from indoor growing to outside. Previously I've found I can usually grow plenty of salad for us from April/May to October/November depending on how the weather's doing in a particular year.

I've looked at the Met Office website and printed off the 1971-2000 average climate information for my local area. I printed both the Lyneham and Boscombe Down weather station data because whilst Lyneham is the closest, it's quite a bit higher than where we are. In reality it turned out there's little to choose between them.
Many of our salad crops, particularly lettuce need 100C in order to germinate and will have some growth from around 50C. Therefore these are 2 key temperatures to look for in the climate data. I also looked at which months don't have an a…

GBBD: Gifts From Friends

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This month's flower for Blooms Day is more of a promise of delights to come rather than showing off what's looking good right now. It's part of a carrier bagful of Hellebores J from choir gave me the other day. She has loads of them in her garden and these are a few of the self-seeders she's dug up for generous bagfuls to give to her friends.

A few days ago I wouldn't have been able to take this picture. The wintry weather meant pretty much all the blooms in my garden had flopped terribly and were looking most sorry for themselves. It just goes to show what a difference just one day can make.
Looking at these Hellebores this morning reminded me there's an important factor which makes our own gardens so special to each one of us. It's not the garden's design, it's sense of place, or the plants we've bought ourselves - whether impulse or planned. It's true those are all important elements, but the gifts from our friends - from both nearby and …

Chelsea Sneak Preview: Celebrating the Unusual

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Coloured Plan for Chelsea 2012's Furzey Garden by Chris Beardshaw

I'm already looking forward to Chelsea very much particularly because some unusual, if not down right unfashionable gardens are due to hit Main Avenue this year.
If you'd told me previously a caravan was going to be a central feature to a show garden - even one as smooth and curvaceous (and show garden practical) as Doris - then I would have laughed. But having seen designer Jo Thompson's tweets and blogs on the subject of her design for The Caravan Club, I've been converted to the cause. NB Jo will be at the RHS London Show tomorrow to talk about her design.
Chris Beardshaw marks his Chelsea return with the pictured Furzey Garden. This will occupy the Embankment site, host to Diarmuid Gavin's 'Wonkavator' last year and it couldn't be more different. A woodland garden should suit the site very well and whilst rhododendrons and and azaleas are not the usual flowers seen at Chelsea, the…

A Closer Look at Microgreens

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The colder weather of the past week or so has slowed the growth of some of my salad leaves and sprouts, so it's been great to have some super speedy microgreens to fall back on to provide our salad interest this week. The lidded pots I'm using for these seems to have insulated them from the cold and so their production has continued.
It's not just the pictured radishes which are suitable for this method of growing. Fennel and Fern has come up with an impressively long list of seeds for you to try. Parsnip seems to be about the only seed positively struck off the list - @simiansuter confirmed these are toxic* during #saladchat, which was pretty timely as Mel asked if anything wasn't suitable in last month's Salad Days.
Microgreens are grown in compost (and no pre-soaking is required), so unlike their sprouted companions any spare packets of seeds you have (or ones already opened) are suitable for this method as there is no issue re eating potentially harmful (or nasty…

The Blurb About Chippenham

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About half way through my ABC of Chippenham series last year, I idly thought it would be rather nice if it was converted into a book. I instantly dismissed the idea as an impossible dream until...

... I discovered Blurb one wet August afternoon when NAH was away. This is a self-publishing application which includes the option to convert blog posts into a book. I downloaded the software, chose my book's size and layout options, then uploaded my blog posts into it and had a fabulous time editing my own 'book'.
As well as my ABC posts, I uploaded everything I'd written about Chippenham, together with all the comments. That initially gave me a book over 300 pages in length, which would have been hideously expensive. I finally plumped for the 120-160 page price point for my book and started editing accordingly.
I then had a look at the online help videos and altered the format of quite a few of my pages to add some variety. This freed up quite a bit of space and meant I co…

Spicy Parsnip Soup: Seasonal Recipe

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The chilly weather of the past few days and a bumper crop of parsnips means it's the perfect time for a warming bowl of spicy parsnip soup. I've blogged a parsnip potage recipe before, but have to confess this one from Jamie Oliver has superseded it as my favourite. His use of ginger and milk makes for a much more satisfying mouthful.
As usual I've made a few changes to the recipe outlined. Firstly I substituted a heaped teaspoon of garam masala paste for the powder. This worked well, especially as the oil of the paste helped with softening the onion at the start of cooking. I also added a little of the stock towards the end of this step to prevent the onions from sticking on the bottom of the pan.
I used skimmed milk (milk or coconut milk are the designated ingredients) which hasn't made the soup any less creamy in taste. The recipe says use chopped coriander leaves, but I found a few flat leaf parsley leaves were around when I went foraging for potential salad ingred…

Separated at Birth? Sprouted Seeds

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One of the things I've learned since starting The 52 Week Salad Challenge is that the beansprouts we find in the shops are sprouted in the dark and under pressure. I'd always wondered why the ones I grow on my kitchen window turn out so differently and now I know.

It got me pondering how different my sprouted seeds would be depending on whether I grew them in the dark or light. Sprouted lentils have become a firm favourite with NAH lately, so I resolved to try growing some in both light and dark conditions.
I've grown 2 lots of seeds in the same way as outlined in my Let's Eat Shoots and Leaves post, except for one batch has been sitting in the airing cupboard for 99.99% of its allotted 7 days. The photo shows the results, with the air cupboard grown lentil posing at the top.
It's interesting to see how the seedling part of the air cupboard grown lentil is pale and stretching itself to find the light (ie it's etiolated) but the root is much shorter and branch…

GBMD: Give it a chance

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Most people, early in November, take last looks at their gardens, are then prepared to ignore them until the spring. I am quite sure that a garden doesn't like to be ignored like this. It doesn't like to be covered in dust sheets, as though it were an old room which you had shut up during the winter. Especially since a garden knows how gay and delightful it can be, even in the very frozen heart of the winter, if you only give it a chance.

Beverley Nichols (1898-1983)
Time to stir and get going methinks - despite the chilly weather!