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Showing posts from August, 2016

Product Review: A Photo Book from Saal Digital

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I'm usually blind to internet adverts, so I was quite surprised when Saal Digital's offer of a £40 voucher towards a photobook (via my newbie Instagram account) managed to filter through.

You may remember my ABC of Chippenham, which I made using Blurb's software a few years ago. I've wanted to do something similar with my Sign of the Times photography blog for a while, so the offer was timely.

It's not an automatic voucher; I had to apply for one, and as you can see from the above picture I was successful. Once Saal's application software is downloaded, you have two weeks in which to create your book and redeem your voucher at the checkout.

This short timeframe wasn't a problem as I managed to create the book I wanted over a couple of intensive days. However, I did spend quite a lot of time reviewing, shortlisting and sourcing the photos, plus sorting them into broad categories beforehand.This reduced the time needed within the application considerably.

My…

Weekend Wandering: The Other Chippenham

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Do not adjust your blog, this really is Chippenham. It's simply different to the one you're used to seeing here on Veg Plotting.

I found myself just a few miles from Chippenham, Cambridgeshire recently, with an hour to spare before I was needed. It was the ideal opportunity to have a look at my home town's little brother*.


According to Wikipedia, both Chippenhams have their names via the same Saxon roots; "Cippa's Hamm", aka "Cippa's enclosure in a river meadow", though Wiltshire's entry also suggests there may be a market connection instead via the Ango-Saxon word ceap. Both are listed in the Domesday book, Chipeham for Cambridgeshire, and Cepen for Wiltshire.



My approach to this Chippenham was dominated by a roadside wall, marking the boundary of Chippenham Park, a vast estate enclosed by Edward Russell, the first Earl of Orford in the late 17th Century.


Many of the buildings along the High Street show evidence of their connection with th…

Things in Unusual Places #19: Cricket

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Do you find August is the grasshopper and cricket month? They're the musical accompaniment to my allotment visits, with plenty of buzzing but not seeing going on. I even heard a familiar buzz at our bedroom window one morning last week, but thought no more about it.

Then a couple of days later I found this little chap on our way to bed. He seemed quite content, simply gently waving his antennae from time to time.

I haven't quite nailed the ID, but the long antennae shows it's a cricket rather than a grasshopper. I'm favouring the oak bush-cricket from Orthoptera's online ID sheet, as it says they can be nocturnal and may be attracted to light and found indoors.

I've also submitted my sighting to their recording scheme as they are looking to see how the populations of grasshoppers and related insects are changing in the UK. It seems my dahlia's earwig populations are also useful for this scheme!

Have you found anything unusual or unexpected lately?

Update 25…

Allotment Folk: Suffolk Style

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Here's my favourite scarecrow from the fun staff competition held at Mr Fothergill's trials field* last week. I've spared you the picture of Incy, the huge spider lurking in the opposite corner of the field, as I know some of you are of a nervous disposition. It couldn't be missed no matter where you were standing at the time.

When I posted my first Allotment Folk from Chippenham in early June, I had no idea I'd find some more in Yorkshire whilst we were on holiday. I'm on the look out for more now, as this is developing into a fun series.

* = OK, I know I'm stretching the concept of allotment by including a trials field, but you'll spot the similarities in a later post.

Salad Days: This summer's salad hits

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It's a while since I've blogged about salad, so I've jotted down a quick post about some of our favourite discoveries this year for future reference.

The book
It's a treat when I go to London to eat at Leon as their salads and wraps are fantastic. It's been great to bring their salad ideas closer to home via their latest book. I'm particularly pleased to see their superfood salad featured as it's one of my regular choices.

There are five chapters which feature classic recipes, fast, lunchbox (recipes for 1), friends, and family; plus sections for adding crunch to your salad, and ideas for dressings.

Most of the ingredients are readily available, but be prepared to improvise if some of the more unusual ingredients - I'm looking at you sumac and pomegranate molasses - aren't for you.

Our regular favourite this summer is Chicken Caesar Salad (without the anchovies or bacon) from the classic recipes chapter, which brings me on to...


Making it crunchy
Go…

Stamps with Capabilities

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It's great when my interests collide, as happened with my gardening and stamp collecting obsessions yesterday. This is the Landscape Gardens First Day Cover I received, which commemorates the tercentenary of Capability Brown's birth.

I know I've admitted to doing something a bit nerdy, but in my defence I've been collecting them since I was 11 years old. To fuel my inner nerd even further, I've opted for the special handstamp to go with my cover; in this instance it's Kirkharle, Northumberland, where Capability Brown was born.

The eight gardens featured were selected for their different ways in which they illustrate Brown's work (summarised from the descriptions in the accompanying card):

Blenheim Palace: where Brown decided to half-submerge Vanbrugh's 'Bridge in the air'Longleat: where he re-engineered the canals and serpentine into a mile-long series of lakesCompton Verney: working alongside Robert Adam, Brown softened and remodelled the exist…

GBBD: What the Dahlias are saying

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I couldn't resist a quite different Blooms Day post this month as this dahlia gave Alison and I a giggle at Mr Fothergill's trials site last week. It really is called 'Spartacus' and was my favourite from the hundred and three on display.

According to the National Dahlia Society it's classified in the Decorative Group and Large flower categories. They go on to say it was raised by M. Senior in the USA (where most of its suppliers appear to be), introduced in 1992, and suitable for exhibition purposes.

I'm going through a red phase at the moment, so a giant 4-5 foot high dahlia with a deep red blooms almost the size of my head fits my mood admirably. According to the RHS Plant Finder, this dahlia is only available from a couple of suppliers in the UK, so I hope it passes the trial and is listed in the next Woolmans catalogue.

There's more from the trials day to come, once I've stopped giggling ;)

Garden Bloggers Blooms Day is hosted by Carol at May Dream…

Weekend Wandering: Glasshouse envy at Helmsley Walled Garden

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Weekend Wandering: a new strand where I'll bring you some of my best articles away from the blog, or we'll stay here and look at a special place to go for a stroll. The restored glasshouses at Helmsley Walled Garden deserve a story of their own.

If you'd prefer to stay on Veg Plotting, here are a few more pictures to show Helmsley Walled Garden has more than just glasshouses. Nestled below Helmsley Castle, it's a garden with a strong story, great beauty and atmosphere. NAH didn't mind me wandering off to take oodles of photos. "I'll just sit here" he said, "Take your time, it's peaceful". Can you spot him in the collage?


Plant Profiles: Japanese Anemones

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Last year, one of my Japanese anemones confounded me by reappearing in my border after a leave of absence of many years. This year it's confounded me again, by flowering much earlier than advertised. Most sources say this is a plant of August/September in the border; mine's been in flower since early July. Judging by the number of buds left, it'll still perform its regular flowering duties.

Having cleared some of the surrounding ground, it's repaid my care by coming back even stronger. The Clematis jackmanii nearby has bent downwards, and its single flower plus plentiful buds gives notice of a charming combination to come.

Last year I was wondering why my plant bore no resemblance to the deep pink Anemone 'Hadspen Abundance' my garden scrapbook says should be there. The ever reliable Val Bourne in The Telegraph suggests my plant may be one of the pink doubles which are quite often mis-sold under the name.

I now have a dilemma. Do I leave my thriving plant as it…

Postcard from Devon

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We've just come back from an idyllic few days away in Devon near Sidmouth. We had the benefit of local knowledge as Barrie, a fellow volunteer with NAH at at Midsomer Norton lives nearby. He recommended the B&B which not only has the pictured wonderful view, the owners also provided a decanter of sherry in our summerhouse accommodation.

All future B&B stays will be measured against this benchmark.

We wove our time away around Reg Meuross's concert at Sidmouth Folk Festival. Little did we know that when we saw him accompany Jess Vincent at Westonbirt's Tree Fest 3 years ago, we would find ourselves sponsoring the vinyl version of his latest album, which was launched at Sidmouth.

Westonbirt proved to be a pivotal moment in our lives, just as finding the Erigeron steps in my last post was a pivotal moment for my gardening.

The concert was magical, followed by beach side fish and chips and a general soaking up of the festival atmosphere. The next day we discovered the…

The Secret of the Erigeron Steps

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There's a pivotal scene in Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps, when the hard pressed hero Richard Hannay asks the theatre act Mr Memory... "What is the secret of the 39 Steps?" A similar question has teased me ever since I read Christopher Lloyd's Succession Planting for Adventurous Gardeners 12 years ago... "What is the secret of the Erigeronsteps?"

They look artfully effortless don't they? And I'm sure the gardeners at Great Dixter have to do quite a lot of editing for their Erigeron steps to look so ravishing. Christopher Lloyd's book was my "lightbulb" moment, when suddenly this gardening lark made sense. It was a picture of those steps in particular which inspired me and became a must-have for the garden.



To achieve that aim hasn't proved quite as easy as I'd imagined. I've sown plenty of seed and planted healthy plants, all to no avail. Then a couple of years ago, a small seedling appeared in the spent compost of a …

GBMD: What the butterfly is thinking

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Caption inspiration from the Butterfly Dome at Hampton Court last month.

Suggestions so far include:

"Mummy!" from June and "Do you fancy a quick flutter?" from my friend C in Darlington, both via Facebook.

Do you have any further ideas for Muse Day?

This time last year, we had a look at What the Rudbeckia are thinking.