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Showing posts from November, 2013

Gardeners' Question Time Live

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A couple of Monday's ago, I had the hottest ticket in the county when Gardeners' Question Time came to record at the Wiltshire Music Centre in Bradford on Avon. A quick exchange of tweets a couple of months ago meant I was there in the super company of Cally and Sara (of #britishflowers fame), thanks to Cally securing the tickets for us.

We met up beforehand at a local farm shop for coffee and cake to keep us going - doors opened at 5.30pm and recording finished just after 8.30. We puzzled over our individual questions, before gaining all round approval of their worthiness then agreeing that all of them were far too long and we stood no chance of posing them to the panel. Thus we took our seats at the top of the auditorium safe in the knowledge we could sit back, relax and enjoy the show.

How wrong we were.

Eric Robson called out my name, followed swiftly by Sara's, so we had to make our way down to the front row to sit ready to pose our questions. For me this came with t…

Against the Odds: Zauschneria californica

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I saw this Zauschneria californica (aka Californian fuchsia or Hummingbird's trumpet) at Bodnant last month, which was working very hard to brighten up a very rainy autumnal day. Judging by the other plants in this wall, I think this specimen must have been self-sown. It's clearly thriving in its chosen home.

Despite hailing from the warmth of California, this is a pretty hardy plant (H4), which can be evergreen or deciduous depending on where it finds itself. I first encountered it leaning over the garden wall of the Methodist chapel in Chippenham a couple of years ago, and since then its been on my list of plants destined for the terraced beds.

I'm now kicking myself for not picking up the 2 plants I saw on sale in Bodnant's plant centre. The garden has its own propagation unit and the staff there are producing lots of healthy plants at very reasonable prices. I'll just have to go back when I visit Karen again :)

The Great British Elm Experiment

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Happy National Tree Week!

I can't think of a better way of celebrating than by planting a tree as part of The Great British Elm Experiment. This Conservation Foundation project aims to find out why some elms survived the Dutch elm disease epidemic during the 1960s and 70s which killed 25 million trees (around 90%) in the UK. If the why can be explained, it also paves the way for this iconic tree to grace our landscape once more.

Over two thousand trees have been planted so far and height, girth, wildlife, signs of disease and other data are being recorded as part of this long-term experiment. The disease usually strikes when the tree is around 15 years old, so this is a long-term project.

Trees are free for schools and community projects/non-profit organisations and there's a small charge for private individuals and businesses. Note: these trees grow very tall, so they need lots of space.

A fab elm fact:

Terry at The Botanic Nursery has surviving elms in his nursery garden in A…

Salad Days: Hunkered Down for Winter

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It's been a long, slow autumn this year, which means I'm still picking plenty of salad leaves - enough for a couple of meals a week. Here's a 'warts and all' view of my allotment salad. It's also overrun with salsify which has self seeded itself into my raised beds. Time to get weeding!

This week's colder weather means re-growth at the plot and in my home based cold frames has slowed right down. As I have plenty snuggled under protection, I'll still be able to pick lots of salad for a few more weeks, but now is the time to start my indoor sowings of pea shoots in readiness for leaner times.


I've been really pleased with this new lettuce variety 'Intred', which is providing a colourful addition to the salad bowl. It's thriving under a cloche, producing plenty of tasty leaves beneath a protective layer of tougher outer ones. My lettuce 'Marveille de Quatre Saisons' and chicory 'Treviso Rosso' seed tape leaves sown in Augus…

In Horatio's Garden

Horatio's Garden has just released a short film which explains what the garden is all about. It's beautiful and I guarantee you won't fail to be moved.

Horatio's Garden isn't just the wonderful garden in Salisbury any more. It's all about having similar gardens at every spinal unit in the country.

One down, eleven more to go...

 If the embedded film doesn't work, try this link instead.

Seasonal Recipe: For the Love of Quinces

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Last week I received just the kind of email I like from my friend M:

Are you going to choir tonight? it read, because I have a bag of quince for you.

And so it came to pass, a large bag of golden treasure was handed to me later that evening :)

For me, quince summons up happy memories of long leisurely lunches taken outdoors on my project in Mallorca. Manchego cheese topped with membrillo was an extra special treat for us to have before we cleared the table to examine the invertebrate samples we'd caught in the morning.

There were no freshly caught invertebrates yesterday, but freshly made membrillo - aka quince cheese or quince paste - is definitely on the menu along with the poached quince and cake I mentioned yesterday.

I still had fruit to spare, so I decided to roast a couple. We had roast chicken for dinner and there was just enough room in the oven to slide in a dish of quince for NAH and me to have for dessert.


Ingredients


2 small quinces, washed well so all the fuzzy stuff …

Book Review: Two for Vegetable Growers

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Do not judge this book by its cover, well the front one at least. For once I'm showing you the back as well as it's much more representative of the overall content.

What lies inside is a charming pictorial tale of life on Caroline Deput's allotment in colour drawings. Quite a lot of the narrative is in colour too.

This is a very inventive and humorous account from 2010 through to early 2012, packed with the trials and triumphs of allotment owner 'Floss'.

Amongst the usual allotment plans, lists of things to do and harvests achieved, there are exquisitely drawn details, such as the badger who's trashed the tayberries*. I particularly enjoyed the tale of 2010 told via a snakes and ladders board and the bindweed wars cartoon, which reminded me so much of Karen's comics**.

This is a positive allotment tale, which doesn't shy away from when things go wrong. In the process of drawing Plot 19, life is depicted in a much more realistic way than most allotment m…

GBBD: Cute Cyclamen

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Each year I'm pleased to see the return of my Cyclamen hederifolium in the front side garden. It's a bit of a miracle they survive really as my neighbour always covers them with several thick layers of leaves with his leaf blower. There were about triple the number of blooms on view, until the leaf blower made its first annual appearance at the weekend...

On the whole I don't mind my neighbour's antics as my border is benefiting from some more Compost Direct as outlined last week. However, I did worry at first my cyclamen wouldn't survive owing to the timing of their cover up. Now I see I can relax as I've spotted at last they're beginning to spread out from the spot where I planted them 10 years ago.

I don't usually go that much for pink flowers, but these are a delicate sugar pink which looks just right and helps to light up the shady spot I've given them. This morning's low slanting sunlight suits them rather well too.

We've enjoyed a mi…

Unusual Front Gardens #16: Derelict

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Whilst on holiday in Ireland, it took me a while to realise these 'houses' were derelict. The brightly painted windows and doors plus the flowers in front with the lush vegetation behind had disguised them. This was right in the middle of the village close to where we were staying, so it was a very prominent spot just a few yards from the entrance to Mount Usher gardens.

Quite a few derelict buildings in County Wicklow sported the painted treatment, but I saw no others with flowers.

I Love My Job

Last year I attended the RHS seminar Horticulture a Career to be Proud Of which looked at the skills gap crisis in horticulture and why it's rarely highlighted as a viable careers option in schools.

As a follow-up they produced a very good report earlier this year called Horticulture Matters. However, I think their latest offering of 10 short videos from young people working in horticulture under the #ilovemyjob banner is far more powerful. Watch John talk about his own business as a nurseryman and you can't fail to be won over.

If the above embedded video doesn't work, try this link instead.

NB if there are any teachers reading this, students currently studying horticulture at my local college have their pick of 5-6 jobs when they qualify. Not all of them are on low pay either. Here's a link to the Grow website which has lots of information about the wide variety of careers available in horticulture.

Here's the full playlist of 10 videos:

Breaking the Rules: Compost Direct

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Look at any list of gardening jobs published for this month and I bet most of them - if not all - will have 'make leaf mould' on there. Now leaf mould is a very good thing, but the problem is I have more leaves than my leaf mould bin can take. And like many urban gardeners with a modest plot, I've run out of space to build another one. Besides, when I come to empty it next year, there'd only be a thimble full* of lovely crumbly stuff to use.

This year I've decided to learn from my shady borders in my front and back garden. They're beneath the trees on the public land, so they quickly get covered with a thick layer of  leaves in autumn. It means I never have to mulch these borders and all the plants get snuggled down for winter with very little effort on my part.

So I've decided to extend this principle of 'compost direct' to other areas of the garden. Many of my plants - like my dahlias - need mulching in the autumn to protect them from winter'…

A Bargain Offer and a Book Giveaway: Counting Steps

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This is a very fine book written by Mark, my fellow Chippenham blogging buddy. I'm proud to have a signed copy with the message "in friendship" written inside.

If you like your reading thoughtful, funny, sad, memoir, raw, landscape, family, nature and a whole host of other things, then this is the book for you. This is writing which defies a single classification and stays with you for a long time afterwards.

This week there are two ways in which you can enjoy Mark's book for free...

The first way

Free download of Counting Steps - this week only
... for those of you who have a Kindle or the Kindle App and it's available for the next four daysonly on Amazon. 

There are no catches - just a free download instead of the usual £4.49. There's even an extract to read online. 

Giving away free copies might seem counter intuitive, but it's an established technique publishers use to rise up the rankings - and the impact on later sales is evidently positive. It costs…

And the Winners Are...

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Many thanks to everyone who took part in my socks giveaway. NAH has delved into my special terracotta pot to reveal the winners as follows:

Heat Holders wellie socks

Anna (Green Tapestry)
Dobby
Esther (Esther's Boring Garden Blog)
@plantaliscious

Workforce socks

Colleen (Rus in Urbis)
Flighty (Flighty's plot)
Katie Skeoch via Facebook
@prwilson101

Congratulations! I'll be in touch shortly to make arrangements to send your prize to you :)

Stay tuned for my next exciting giveaway...

I Love November For...

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... this Blog

Today I can quote A.A. Milne and say 'Now we are six' as it's my blog's birthday. However, unlike the poem, Veg Plotting won't be staying six for ever and ever, and the more I learn, the less I think I'm clever.

Thank you for your continued readership and thoughtful comments - it's like having my own team of cheerleaders :)

The picture is of me reading my blog in a new way  - to me anyway - in the garden. More on that to come...

GBMD - The Best Time to Plant a Tree

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National Tree Week is 23rd November to 1st December this year.

20 years ago I and around 30 other volunteers celebrated National Tree Week by helping Professor Martin Haigh plant 1,000 trees directly into a coal spoil heap in south Wales. This is a land reclamation technique pioneered in Bulgaria, which they found is more successful in stabilising the land and kick-starting soil formation than the grassing over we're more familiar with.

Martin was trying to find the right combination of native trees for the UK which would replicate the Bulgarian results. We planted alder and willow which could withstand the soggy, claggy material, plus Scots pine and oak. The idea was the first three species were sacrificial and would help protect the oak; this would then grow on to form the mature woodland.

In 1993 we planted in the snow - as well as having the odd snowball fight - and these trees went on to grow more rapidly than those planted in previous years. I like to think the harsher condi…