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Showing posts from April, 2015

Product Review: Weather@Home

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I'm a bit of a weather geek, so I was delighted when Oregon Scientific offered one of their Weather@Home systems for me to try.

The kit comprises the pictured base unit which measures indoor temperature and humidity, plus barometric pressure and one smaller unit which is placed outdoors and measures temperature and humidity only.

The base unit shows both the indoor and outdoor data and up to five outdoor sensors can connected up, as long as these are within 50 metres of the base unit. The pictured top set of results can be cycled round for the inspection of the outdoor data.

The time, trending information (little arrows showing whether the readings are up, down or remaining  the same), moon phase and a 12-hour forecast complete the information on view. The unit can also be connected up via bluetooth to a tablet or mobile phone using the Weather@Home app, which downloads 7 days-worth of hourly data.

An instruction booklet and 4xAA alkaline batteries complete the kit supplied, so e…

Hairy Bittercress: The 30 Day Challenge

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My garden's overrun with hairy bittercress this year. It even greets us by the front door when we arrive home. How did it happen? I'm sure it's because the latest specimens are tiny and almost unnoticeable. When I find them it's almost too late. Their seeds sproing everywhere when picked, their spread is relentless.

My usual solution to this problem is to add them to our salads. They're edible, so what could be a better revenge than to eat our weeds? Sadly, the latest specimens are too small; there's as much cardboard-like seed bearing stalk as edible basal rosette. They're not enough of a tasty morsel to include in our dinner.

I fear I may have helped with this plant's natural selection. By weeding out the more noticeable, normal sized specimens, I've allowed the smaller, almost unnoticeable ones to take hold. In some cases, I only spot them when the seed heads poke their noses above the patio. You have to admire that tenacity for survival, even i…

Cowslip Delight

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April is proving to be a vintage month for public planting here in Chippenham. After Monday's guerrilla'd Jewel Garden, here's the sheet of cowslips which currently greets us when we enter our estate. These get better and better every year.

Sometimes it's the simple things which make the most difference.

The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours;
In those freckles live their savours;
I must go seek some dewdrops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear.

From: 'A Fairy Song', in A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

It took the sharp observation of Shakespeare's verse for me to spot the rubies amongst the gold. Then my camera added a pearl to one of the cowslip's ears :)

Wordless Wednesday: Green Roof

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A Jewel Garden

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Someone's worked hard to make Chippenham a better place. These tulips are a few minutes walk from our house and they're exactly what springs to my mind whenever a jewel garden is mentioned.

These verges are by Chippenham's double mini roundabout which often gets clogged up with traffic. For once a traffic jam is a pleasant place to be.

Judging by the reactions on my Facebook page, the planting's brought plenty of smiles to others in Chippenham. It was probably done by one of the residents in the cottages nearby, but I don't wish to know exactly whodunnit.

That would spoil the magic.


Update: our local newspaper solved the whodunnit. It's a Brazilian lady who got up early each morning to plant the bulbs she purchased. She's due to leave Chippenham soon, but leaves us with a beautiful legacy. The article implies she had permission from the council to do this, I wonder if we could have an 'Adopt a Verge' scheme to get this spreading through the town?

A Poem for Salad

@readersdigestUK@Malvernmeet 3 Places To Find Salad: 1. Eatery. 2. Kitchen. 3. Garden. === To set tone- Homegrown. pic.twitter.com/evyG1yxAT6
— MaryElizabeth Rumsey (@MEinRhyme) April 15, 2015 On Wednesday morning I was delighted to find I've been gifted my first ever poem.

Even better it's a) about one of my blogging obsessions - growing salad leaves, and b) April is National Poetry Month.

I tend to gnash my teeth a bit when the online marketing 'experts' go on about the Return on Investment (ROI) for social media. For me, this kind of random connection and a gift from a stranger is all the ROI I need.

I must admit I was a bit suspicious at first and responded with my own brand of Bad Poetry.

@Malvernmeet Thanks for the FAV...Just a plain old poet. :)
— MaryElizabeth Rumsey (@MEinRhyme) April 15, 2015
A delightful conversation ensued...

@Malvernmeet I write my 3's all the time, & I'm always looking for topics. I came across you on Reader's Digest UK,…

GBBD: Tulip 'St George'

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In 2000, one of the improvements our garden contractor added to our sketched garden design, was a plinth either side of the central steps leading off our patio. For many years these were topped with a couple of box balls in pots, but the 'sentinel conifers' encroached on them too much and pulled them out of shape. They're beyond rescuing.

I'm undecided whether to start again with the box, so in the meantime I've gone much larger with the pots. Last summer saw them stuffed with a huge dahlia each, which I loved. This spring sees the classic combination of tulips and yet-to-bloom wallflowers, with a few pansies thrown in for good measure.

The tulip variety is 'St George', which I was given to trial last year, and judging by their height and leaves they're of the Greigii type. They're around 9-12 inches - a bit smaller than advertised, but that's probably because I'm growing them in pots and they're quite close together. I love the striped…

Latin Without Tears: Tomato

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Oops, forgot to add my regular Latin feature to last week's plant profile. As it was a long post anyway and I've found quite a bit of information, a separate post seems best.

Our word for tomato is rooted in the Aztec one, tomatl which gives us a clue to this plant's origins from the Andes in South America. We had a quiz question a couple of weeks ago: What is the Peruvian 'love apple' commonly known as? and I was relieved I had the right answer - tomato - especially as the rest of the team didn't believe me. I wonder if that's where the French Pomme d'Amour originates.

According to the British Tomato Grower's Association tomatoes have been cultivated in South America since around 700 AD. They arrived in Europe in the 16th century either via the Spanish Conquistadors, or Jesuit priests bringing them back to Italy.

According to Wikipedia, the latin name for tomato is Solanum lycopersicum, which shows it's been placed in the notorious nightshade …

Portland Inspiration: Lasting Impressions

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

We've just booked our flights to this year's Garden Bloggers Fling in Toronto - it's less than 2 months away, squeeeee!

I've looked at last year's photos to help me through the wait and it's interesting to see what has stayed with me. The sheer number and variety of gardens we visited; the bold use of art and orange in the garden; huge pots; serious plantsmanship and good design, which still has room for lots of fun and quirky detail; cheeky hummingbirds (holds back the green-eyed monster); lush planting with varieties I can use in my garden. I could go on.

Instead, I've produced a slideshow of my lasting impressions, restricted to a couple of photos per garden plus a few extra scene setters. Naturally I found it difficult to keep to two, so I cheated and sneaked in a collage at the end. Even so I could have made some more, but then the show would be too long.

Sit back and enjoy.

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Plant Profiles: Tomatoes

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Every year I have a tussle with myself about growing tomatoes. Home-grown have the best flavour by far, but as I only have space to grow them outdoors, it's a much riskier venture. Too often the summer weather is indifferent, or blight wrecks them at the point of ripening. As a result it can be the most heartbreaking of crops.

But then comes along a summer like last year and I fall in love with growing tomatoes all over again.

Tomatoes are one of the mainstays of our salads and to get anything remotely like a good flavour in the shop-bought line means buying them on the vine. This makes them an expensive buy, so home-grown makes good sense both in terms of taste and wallet. In a good year.

My internal wrangling means I always miss the prime time for sowing seeds. I could just about get away with sowing them now, but it would mean a later crop and an increased risk of blight annihilation. Besides, my windowsills have reached groaning point already without the added burden of tomato pl…

GBMD: Happiness

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Now we're at home, NAH and I are busier than ever and it's got to the point where we have to try really hard to make time for each other.

Last Tuesday afternoon was just such a time. What made it remarkable was instead of our usual foray to the local farm shop for a cuppa NAH said:

"Let's go a bit farther, I need to get out somewhere where I can clear my head. How about that garden in Holt? They have a cafe there don't they?"

In over 31 years of marriage, NAH has never initiated a visit to a garden.

And so The Courts conspired to serve up a perfect afternoon, with sunshine and the most wonderful light. The coffee, cake and company was nigh on perfect too.