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Showing posts from September, 2012

An Award for Veg Plotting :)

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It's always nice to receive an award, especially when Veg Plotting is in such good company and the citation says:

Vegplotting was pointed in our direction as one of the ‘Queen of the Blogs’. Excellent. It lives up to its name.

I owe a beer to whoever said that :)

You can check out all the other winners here. There's plenty of excellence and a number of sites I'd not found before, which is great. As usual with this kind of thing, there are plenty of blogs, websites and whatever that haven't had the recognition they deserve.* Therefore I'm pleased to see My Garden School is asking you to mention your favourites in the Comments (via the above link), ready for consideration next year.

* = which I mused about in relation to a certain list of top influential gardeners published in January.

My thanks to Toby Musgrave for blogging about his inclusion, which led to my discovery. If you're interested in garden history, his blog is well worth a look :)

Horatio's Garden: A Sneak Preview

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Yesterday I had the privilege of attending the press preview of Horatio's Garden at the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre in Salisbury. It looks very different to my last visit at the end of May*, when just the outline of the garden's structure was in evidence.

I'm pleased to report the press weren't the first people previewing the garden. The patients had the first 'taste' of their garden the day before, which is just as it should be.

There were speeches, laughter and tears. Most of all there was plenty of time to talk to people about the garden. The most amazing thing is how it not only softens the brutalist architecture of the hospital it surrounds, but it also makes the place look outwards rather than in on itself. Annie Maw put it really well:

For once I'm turning my back on the spinal unit and at last I'm seeing the possibilities of the outside world. 

When Annie was a patient at the unit, it was months before she went outside. When at last …

Salad Days: The Fennel From My Seedy Penpal

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This month's Salad Days is doubling up as my Seedy Penpals progress post as this week I've been pondering the fennel Joanna sent me recently.

On the plus side germination has been quite good and I seem to have managed to sow thinly enough so I don't need to take out any of the seedlings.

However, they're quite leggy. The ivy on the fence above them is fruiting in profusion, thus casting quite a bit of shade for most of the day. I've now moved them into a warmer, sunnier spot on the patio. As we're past the autumn equinox, that extra bit of warmth and light is precious. So too is the ivy's fruit as it'll be hoovered up by the birds.

Whether I'll get any delicious fennel bulbs this year remains to be seen. I suspect not if the return to cooler weather continues and I may have sown the seed a wee bit too late. Whatever happens, I'm looking forward to adding some of those fronds to liven up our autumn salads.

How's your salad coming along this …

'Garden' Visit: Poppleton Community Railway Nursery

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NAH and I are great fans of the Heritage Open Days (HOD) held each September, so we were keen to find somewhere suitable whilst staying in Yorkshire. I was surprised to find something which combined our individual interests of gardening and railways, in the shape of Poppleton Community Railway Nursery (PCRN). Perfect :)

Upper Poppleton is a pretty village just outside York on the York to Harrogate railway line. Right by the flower bedecked station is a rich slice of little known railway history. PCRN is the last remaining garden nursery of the six which used to supply flowers and vegetables to stations and other railway properties up and down the land.

Its buildings and around a dozen greenhouses in various states of repair are squeezed into a narrowing slice of land right next to the railway. There's even a pit-house and boiler rooms more reminiscent of Victorian kitchen gardening than the nursery's actual beginnings.

One of the volunteers kindly took us round on a guided tou…

Wordless Wednesday: The Ideal Pit Stop for Travelling Gardeners?

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Seed Saving at Nursery View

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For some reason when NAH booked Nursery View cottage for our holiday, I didn't twig it meant a garden nursery. Here it is - the window you can see straight ahead was our kitchen window. With this view in reverse, suddenly washing up didn't seem such a chore after all.

Our hosts gave us the run of the tomatoes which ran down the whole of one side - you can just see some of them at the top right of the picture. There was nothing better at the end of a day's activities to go and pick some for our our tea.


One of the varieties merited special attention. This thin skinned lemon yellow plum tomato had a juicy, sweet flavour which burst into the mouth. It was more like drinking than eating.

The owners couldn't remember its name, saying it's nowt special. They saved the seed from a ripe tomato they were given onto a piece of kitchen roll and have been growing and saving ever since. As it's worked so well for them, I've saved some too :)

Update: Not all tomato seed …

Belated Bloomsday: Dahlias

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We arrived back too late for Blooms Day this month, but since then we've been thoroughly enjoying this year's Dahlias which came into peak production whilst we were away. It seems appropriate to use them instead to brighten up this wet and miserable Monday morning. The photos show them as a bit of a jumbled mess, but I'm loving the wider view from our kitchen window.

The removal of the sentinel conifers has given new life to dark, dusky D. 'Arabian Night'. Previously I was lucky to get three blooms at once. This year, I'm getting at least thirty at a time. Across the steps, I and the bees (as well as the pictured fly) are loving the simple yellow flowers of D. 'Knockout'.

I've also been trialling some mega big Dahlias courtesy of Thompson & Morgan. They're in the catalogue as v. 'XXXL' and the mixture of yellow, white and orange are what I was sent (though you can also order them in their single colours). They're certainly most …

Book Review: James Wong's Homegrown Revolution

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This is a fabulous book. James' easy and infectiously enthusiastic TV style translates well to the written page. Homegrown Revolution is all about more than 80 unusual fruits and vegetables James has trialled extensively in his Croydon garden (alongside 120 others which didn't make it) and knows are viable for growing in the UK.

Some of them may already be familiar because you either grow them already (e.g Globe and Jerusalem artichokes), or you've caught one of James' popular talks at the last two Edible Gardening Shows. However, I guarantee you'll be eyeing up your garden differently when you learn garden familiars such as Dahlias and Cannas are also edible and if you're growing the right kind of bamboo, that's exactly what you've been eating in your Chinese takeaway. It could be a novel way of taming the latter's invasive nature in your garden!

In the first part of the book James gets down to gardening basics with his Top Ten Commandments. The T…

My Salad: Rich Pickings and Starting Afresh

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The new salad beds sprouted lots more leaves whilst I was away, despite my giving them a good haircut to supplement my Ultimate Travellers' Salad. As you can see, regular picking's made these oakleaf types much taller than usual as happens with most salad plants picked in this way. I wouldn't expect them to reach this kind of height until they're getting ready to go to seed. A quick inspection showed they're still in leaf production mode.

I've come back to a leaf glut. It'd be great if you could help me by offering up your ideas of what to do with them, other than in salad. I already have recipes for lettuce and lovage soup (plus sorrel or watercress or spinach) and plenty of pesto variations. I'm looking for other recipes which use up lots of salad leaves or herbs, which I'll feature in a future post. If you've already offered them via Salad Days, previous Comments or via #saladchat don't worry, they're already included :)

Which remind…

Onions and Dahlias the Size of Your Head

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Last Friday I went to Harrogate Autumn Show for the first time. It was NAH's first flower show EVER and I'm happy to report we both had an excellent day. We particularly enjoyed the weigh-in for the heaviest onion class (top picture in the collage courtesy of NAH).

It turned out we witnessed a world beater, weighing in at an eye watering 18 pounds and 1 ounce. The grower of this particular giant was Peter Glazebrook, who's very well known in championship veg growing circles. Unknown to NAH, he was standing next to him at the weigh-in and was briefly glimpsed on the local TV coverage that evening as a result.

Peter Glazebrook swept the board in the six other heaviest/ longest/ biggest categories on offer at the show and thus earned the attention of the national media this week (and across the pond!). On Breakfast News on Monday he revealed his giant onion will be grown on next year to provide seed to add to his own world beating strain. I guess that makes it the world'…

Wiltshire's Greatest Girl

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The start of our holiday in August found us in London for the Paralympics to cheer on Stephanie Millward in the 100m backstroke, the first of her 5 medals from the Games. Yesterday she came home to Corsham to where it all started: at Corsham ASC.

I've spent most of the Olympics and Paralympics caught between a major high and on the verge of tears at how well Team GB and Paralympic GB performed at the Games. Last night was no exception. I wasn't the only one: the mayor was pretty overcome too when the time came to welcome her back.

Stephanie was her usual poised and smiling self. In her speech she said:

These medals aren't mine, they're yours because all your support helped me to achieve them.

Everyone had a chance to wear a medal as they then made the rounds of the people who came out to cheer, including NAH and me. They're really heavy! I was told the 5 of them together weigh around 2.5 kilos. Stephanie was also an Olympic torch bearer in the relay, so we got the …

Greetings From Yorkshire

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NAH and I received an image makeover whilst on holiday, courtesy of the activities available at Beninbrough Hall. In view of the recent furore over the Duchess of Cambridge's holiday photos, we thought it best to play safe and go for the totally-covered-from-head-to-toe look ;)

Sadly the paparazzo taking this photo didn't quite have the equipment required to offer you a highly enlarged version.

Be back soon for lots more Travellers' Tales :)

The Ultimate Travellers' Salad

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I've realised there's another advantage to growing salad leaves in light, plastic pots. You can take them on holiday for the ultimate Travellers' Salad ;)

See you soon...

OOTS: More Trees For Chippenham

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A couple of years ago I showed you the High Street transformed by the addition of 10 birch trees placed in strategic places. Chippenham was originally destined to have 20 trees and I've often wondered what happened to the others.

Well, this year some of them have been placed in front of the railway viaduct which dominates the town centre. I've often pondered this location: the viaduct is a listed building and part of Chippenham's heritage. But it's stonkingly big! It also cuts right through the centre of town. My visit to Kilver Court highlighted the possibilities. Their use of a tall, though  unfashionable planting of conifers* around a similar railway viaduct looks just right.

That kind of scheme wouldn't be right for Chippenham's viaduct, especially as access is needed for repairs and I suppose there might be a potential crime issue if too much became obscured. Personally I'd prefer the trees to have been planted to reduce the watering needed and for the…

Red vs Green Lettuce: What Do Slugs and Snails Really Like?

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As reported previously in August's Salad Days, we've been having an interesting #saladchat on Twitter recently about the seeming aversion slugs and snails have to red lettuces.

The majority of you reported this is so with the varieties you've been growing this year. This is a top tip, particularly for any wet year which leads to a population explosion of these pesky pests. Resistant varieties particularly mentioned were Red Salad Bowl and Dazzle.

Others said they hadn't noticed any difference, or indeed their slimy populations seemed to prefer red varieties such as Lollo Rosso, so it seems it's not quite as simple as red vs green. @littlesaladco said he'd found sappiness and leaf thickness was important, with the more sappy, thinner leaved varieties being preferred.

During this conversation, I vaguely remembered something I'd studied in A Level biology, where slugs  showed an aversion to plants producing compounds from the cyanide family (thankfully not en…

Echalote Grise: Final Update

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I've now harvested my Echalote Grise and so this year's experiment has come to an end. As you can see the differences I noted in my update earlier in the year have continued.

The ones from the sets at the top are relatively plentiful though mostly really small in size whereas the shop bought at the bottom are fewer and larger. The latter come close to the size of both types planted at the start of the year.

This year's wet weather meant that most of the crop rotted into the clay, so it's hard to make a comparison by weight. The difference in appearance makes me wonder which are actually Echalote Grise shallots.

The shop bought crop is quite soft, so these will need using up very quickly. Therefore I won't be trying growing these again as one of the beauties of growing shallots is their fantastic keeping qualities.

I've ordered some sets for next year's experiment: a comparison of growing with and without biochar.

GBMD: September

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The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel-
Ripe fruit, old footballs,
Burning brush,
New books, erasers,
Chalk, and such.
The bee, his hive,
Well-honeyed hum,
And Mother cuts
Chrysanthemums.
Like plates washed clean
With suds, the days
Are polished with
A morning haze.

John Updike (1932-2009), September