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Showing posts from March, 2009

5 Things to Warm The Cockles of This Allotmenteer's Heart

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The return of Mr & Mrs Robin to my shed - they've moved from above the door this year to take up residence on the shelf next to the Blood, Fish and BoneThe pictured notice on the allotment gateEnough red veined sorrel on my neglected plot to make delicious soupA green woodpecker a mere two feet away when I got to the allotment yesterday - I'm hoping it'll help to tackle the ants on my plotThreadspider's help in kick-starting this year's digging - my patch is starting to look cared for instead of abandoned. Thanks so much my friend :D

Temptation

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I'm finding it very difficult to heed my own advice from last Friday. Especially when the first bulb catalogue of the year has just arrived - 5 months earlier than expected - and I've been walking around the neighbourhood musing the guerrilla garden area could really do with some lovely dainty tiny daffodils as well as the big blowsy ones I planted nearly 10 years ago.
OMG there's a 10% discount if I order now. That's a very canny strategy - send temptation my way when I'm admiring mine and everyone's blogged daffodils and serve it up with a bargain. I'm lost dear reader, totally lost...

There, That's Better

Thanks for your patience re the strange looking left sidebar yesterday and today. Needless to say I've learnt a lot from the experience! As you can see I've switched templates to solve the problem and then edited it to regain the 3 column layout.

I hope you like the new look: I'd been thinking the old one might not be too good for people with red/green colour blindness anyway and so changing colours was on my blog to-do list. Yesterday's problem meant it just happened a little quicker :)

Many thanks to those of you who left supportive comments, helpful ideas and links to useful stuff over the past couple of days.

Vegetable Matters

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I sincerely apologise for the lack of veggie related posts lately. Unfortunately I've been unable to do anything to the allotment since returning from Bruges as I've aggravated an old back injury and my osteopath has banned me from doing anything strenuous like training for The Moonwalk, gardening, allotmenteering or anything involving stooping or carrying anything too weighty for a while.
This has resulted in me taking a rather inventive approach to gardening, such as finding ways of doing it whilst lying down. Having a raised central area to the garden has also helped me to continue at one of the busiest times of the year. My friend C from choir has told my osteopath what I've been up(?) to (she's the receptionist there), who finds it all rather hilarious. One of the more bizarre aspects of this whole episode - apart from the imagined sight of me gardening in a prone position - is my treatment involves being pummelled around a lot whilst staring at walls festooned wit…

Blog Layout

My apologies if my blog layout is looking a bit weird on the left hand side this morning. I've tried several browsers (AOL, IE and Firefox) and the same problem - photobucket bandwidth exceeded - is showing on all of them. I think it's something to do with the 3 column blog template I'm using, but I've run out of time trying to fix it this morning.

I will try again on my return this evening. In the meantime, if you see anything other than the Photobucket bandwidth problem, or if the blog looks fine for you, or indeed if you have any ideas on how I can fix the problem, do leave me a Comment. Thanks.

I've pulled today's scheduled post - whilst the posting part of the template isn't affected, I'm sure you don't really want to view an untidy looking blog!

Update: As I suspected the message is to do with the Photobucket URLs I'm linking to which give me a 3-column template in Blogger. These are held on someone else's Photobucket account, so unless t…

Spring: A Most Dangerous Time

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My dearest garden blogging friends,
My hearty congratulations to you all. It's spring and your gardens are looking fresh and lovely: there's lots of colour - especially yellow - plus lots of fluffy, fuzzy green is peeping above the soil and on all those branches. You've done a great job the past few weeks - you've tidied everything up, pruned and weeded where needed and now your plants are luxuriating under their new layers of mulch, compost and poultry poo.
What's that..., you think things are looking a bit gappy? I urge caution dear reader. You may have overwintered enough plants to stock a small nursery; you may think it's time to give your garden a bit of a revamp; you may find lots of plants crying out Buyme! at your local garden centre, specialist nursery or plant sale. But remember, you are at your weakest point. You've spent all winter looking at catalogues, dreaming of your ideal garden and how different things will be this year. Your resistance is a…

Una Gran Sorpresa

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A few days ago, a large padded envelope from Spain dropped importantly onto our doormat. It contained a big surprise - the pictured book above - a celebration of 20 years of s'Albufera, a Parc Natural (bigger in importance than a nature reserve, but smaller than a national park) in Mallorca. The reason why I'd been sent it? To thank me for the time I'd spent out there researching aquatic invertebrate populations. My name's in the book (as an investigacio and principal collaborador del Parc, doesn't that sound grand?), as are loads of stunning photographs like the one below. It sums up the memories I have of the place: the picture is of Ses Salinas, a now disused salt pan complex where salt was dried for use in cooking. Now it's one of the main feeding grounds for all kinds of birds (s'Albufera is a RAMSAR designated wetland), both resident and migratory, and it's also where two of my invertebrate sampling sites are located.

Photo copyright: Miquel Angel …

ABC Wednesday 4/VPGGB: J is For...

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...Jenny
During March, my local garden centre issues a half price plant voucher for any plant in stock - yes any plant - including enormous cloud-pruned creations at over £1,500. Of course I can't resist an opportunity to grab a bargain: a couple of years ago I invested in a golden fastigate Yew (still to be planted), last year it was a Clematis x aromatica (also still to be planted) and last week saw me bring the lovely Jenny home (guess what - she's not planted - yet) to come and live on next door's garage wall. It'll be a lovely warm south-westerly facing spot for this self-fertile kiwi fruit to clamber up the trellis next to Clematis 'Freckles'. Emma Cooper lost her heart to Jenny last year and I have to confess her smitten posts influenced greatly my final choice of plant this time round. At £7 instead of the usual £14, she's got to be worth a try :)
For other Juicy posts today, head on over to ABC Wednesday.

The Kind of AGM Invitation I Like

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I received an invitation to an AGM yesterday. Usually these make me feel tired instantly and they tend to go straight into the recycling pile. However this one's different, as you can probably guess from its cover. How about the following agenda:
12-2pm - Bring and Share Lunch and Registration 2pm - Formal AGM 3.30 - Tea and Coffee Break 3.45 - Green Care Lecture - Dr John Hegarty from Keele University talks about the importance of access to green space for our well being, plus Danny O'Sullivan talks about the Leaside Wood Recycling Project he founded 5.30 - Break Out Time - have a look at Fordhall's information boards or go for a walk 7-9 pm - Barn Dance and Hog Roast
In addition, younger shareholders who aren't interested in the AGM (though their parents might be) will have their own activities such as bug hunts and arts n' crafts.
If only all AGMs could be so imaginative! The Fordhall Farm story is an amazing one. It's about a young daughter and son's fight to k…

YAWA/OOTS: Verges

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Click to enlarge image if needed. Clockwise from top left: 1. Estate entrance (also bottom, right picture) 2. Bund side view 3. A view of both sides of the road looking south 4. Ditch 5. As 1 6. Behind the bund 7. Gravel soakaway strip 8. A view of both sides of the road looking north

When I first introduced this year's series on public planting, I was unsure whether verges should be included. I had 2 main responses at the time - yes, include them and what's a verge? I promised the You Ask, We Answer team would get on the case, so here at last is their preliminary guide to verges, aka shoulder if you hail from across the pond.

Most verges in the UK refer to a narrow strip of grass at the roadside, just like the edge you can see in the first and last picture in the collage. On more major roads, the design gets a little more complicated and I've chosen one such example to show you - the one closest to my house - on the A350 Chippenham bypass, a mere 5 minute walk away from VP …

You Know It's Spring When...

The weather forecast says it's going to snowThe birds have turned up the volume (see yesterday's post)The earth has a rich, damp growy smellYou're already behind with your gardening jobsYou've got a million seedlings to prick out and not enough pots/ compost/ labels (select which apply in your case)The roar of lawnmowers can be heard in every garden in the street (not us - we have a push/pull one)Your carefully nurtured plants aren't growing, but the weeds areYou have no more space for any more seed trays anywhere, but you've still got at least 50% of your seeds left to sowThe car park's full at the local garden centre - even on weekdaysYou bump into your neighbours for the first time in monthsYour cat starts chasing butterflies - for Jess it's bright yellow BrimstonesThe birds are pecking out the moss in your lawnYou find your first slug/vine weevil grubs/aphids/add pest of your own choiceYou also see your first bumble bee/ frog/ ladybird/ lacewing/add…

Just Listen

The warm weather here the past few days has signalled a magical transformation in the garden. There's signs of new growth everywhere, but the most noticeable change of all is in sound. The birds have found their LOUD button, now timed to start just as I'm beginning to be aware of the world at 6am and because we're at the Spring equinox, they're also at their loudest at the same time in the evening.

This week at dusk I've been entranced by an hour long concert from a song thrush. It's decided to sing in the ash tree on the public land closest to the house, a mere 15 feet or so away. There's such variety in its call, so I've been compelled to open the windows wide and just listen. As the light fades, I'm also aware of the rich smell of earth in the garden - it's as if the ground is opening up to greet the Spring.

The song thrush concert fades at about 7pm just in time for a female tawny owl to start calling for a mate. She patrols up and down the st…

GBDW - Wild About My Garden

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In contrast to last month's pets theme, Gardening Gone Wild's design feature for this month is Wildlife in the Garden. Whilst I didn't deliberately design a 'wildlife garden' per se when we moved here, the needs of wildlife was one of the things I did keep in mind. After all, I wanted a garden of year-round interest myself and by thinking about that, it only takes a small step for it to mean a year-round interest for birds, insects and other beasties too - my favourite visitors are the bats in the summer. As a result I've chosen many flowers loved by insects, especially bees and butterflies - eschewing double formed varieties of plants such as Echinacea as these aren't so attractive to them. Berried shrubs and trees mean food in the winter for birds - we currently have 37 species as regular visitors or spotted nearby - not bad and the list has steadily increased year on year.
My main philosophy however, has been to ensure the garden is attractive to the smal…

Hebe Haircut

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For a few years I've had a couple of potted Hebe 'Bronzy Baby' on either side of the stone bench on the patio. Their domed foliage tends towards yellow in the summer and colours to bronze in the autumn, making a plant of year-round interest and a good foil to my surrounding seasonally planted pots. I've been taking advantage of the warm weather this week to take my coffee breaks outside and as a result I spotted they'd become rather leggy and uninteresting. My first thought was to ditch them so I would have a plant buying opportunity - Franks Plants will be starting its Spring sales soon after all - but on looking a wee bit closer I spotted there was lots of fresh growth coming out of the base of each plant. Snip, snip, snip and hey presto! A couple of haircuts and two fresh new looking plants in ten minutes flat :)

ABC Wednesday 4: I is for...

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... In Bruges on market day
NB If you'd like to look at an image for longer, just hover your mouse over it and the pages will stop turning until you move your mouse again.

On our first day in Bruges we kicked off with a walk to the local market. I loved being merged in with the locals - trying to make out key Flemish phrases, hearing the cries of the hawkers and comparing it with markets back home. There's a lot of similarity, but I liked being able to try lots of fruit before buying and I reckon about half of the veggie space was devoted to Witloof chicory - hardly seen on sale in the UK. I did find some sprouts too. A small livestock section was a surprise and at last there were lots of garden plants on view. Judging by what was on offer, Bruges and its surrounding area must be on an acid soil. Nearly everyone was stopping off at the flower stall to buy an enormous bouquet to brighten their weekend.

Here's a selection of images from the 'living' part of the market, …

OOTS: If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium *

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Of course I couldn't go off to a new country and not have a think about public planting whilst I was there - click on image to enlarge if needed. Visiting in early March probably isn't the most representative time to draw firm conclusions, so I'm hoping Anne Tanne will visit this post and add her own observations as a Belgian citizen. Joy may have something to add too after her residency in Holland and frequent visits over the border.
Most of the pictures are from Bruges, but I have sneaked one in from a quick side trip we did to Ostende in order to be able to use the post title I've been dying to use for ages. We travelled by Eurostar to Brussels and then by Belgian railways to Bruges (travel tip: if you travel by Eurostar your onward rail travel in Belgium is free), so I spent a fair bit of time staring out of the window into a lot of back gardens. Two observations from this time: pollarding is BIG in Belgium as are back gardens of just lawn with an evergreen hedge …

In Bruges *

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Bruges (or Brugge as the residents prefer) is a beautiful city - postcards don't do it justice, never mind the couple of hundred snaps I took of it whilst we were there. It's the first time ever NAH has arranged a holiday for us, so that also added to my positive view of the place, plus he chose this hotel, so I'm feeling thoroughly spoilt and pampered.

It's a perfectly preserved medieval city - the prosperous times were in the 12th-14th centuries and the residents were so rich, they could afford to build most of their houses in stone. This has helped in its preservation. After that, the city went into relative decline and whilst its 'ownership' changed hands a few times, there wasn't enough importance attached to Bruges to either build it up further or to totally destroy it during various wars. Now the Belgians are fiercely proud of their heritage and we spent a couple of hours in the company of a delightful octogenarian who told us the story of his city. I…

GBBD - Bring on the Dancing Daffodils!

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The first thing I noticed about the garden on our return from Bruges was how the daffodils have finally exploded into full bloom. The odd splash of yellow available for Muse Day has gone and been replaced with them all in full flow. I've also observed my 'Jetfire' aren't so prominently orange trumpeted this year - has anyone else seen this? I'm wondering whether it's a general affectation after our harsher winter, or something that's particular to my garden.
I was very tempted to leave you with everything awash in yellow, but I couldn't resist another shot of my very ordinary purple crocuses and the absolutely gorgeously perfumed geisha pink of Prunus mume 'Beni chidori' seen in the two pictures at the top left (click to enlarge the collage if needed). A few Anemone blanda (top right) have also pushed their noses through the soil and the Pulmonaria has recovered magnificently from the snow (bottom right) to contrast nicely with my late flowering …

Collaborative Book Project: Your Votes Count

Work has continued apace since the last time I posted on this topic: the book's theme has been chosen by you dear reader (kitchen garden), Emma's set up a swanky Google Group for us to beaver away in and we've all been in there from time to time discussing which charity the book's profits should go to, ideas for content and even posted the first fledgling articles about garlic and composting. It's very exciting :)

Our thoughts have also turned to the all important, make or break name for the book. We've brainstormed all sorts of ideas and need your help once more in deciding which one is the best. We're aiming to sum up in one catchy title that whilst the book's about kitchen gardening, it's also by bloggers, so it's going to be very different to the usual 'how to' kind of manual. We'd like you to vote for the title which you think sums this up in the best way and would make you want to read the book. Miss Fuggles has set up a poll fo…

Red Nose Day - Gardening Jokes Anyone?

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The nation goes ever so slightly bonkers on Red Nose Day - hurrah! Previously, it's been very easy to join in - usually via a dress down day at work plus lots of people up to mad things at the station and in the office. Everyone smiling for once - it's a real feel good day and all in a good cause.
This year's different - every day's a dress down day for me now - my friend L suggested yesterday that perhaps I could have a dress up day instead and whilst that's a good idea, I confess that ballgowns and tiaras don't really feature in my wardrobe: scruffy student's always been my favourite look.
So my Red Nose Day contribution for this year is to compile a list of gardening related jokes. For each one (clean ones only please) you leave in the comments below, I'll make a donation of 50p to the cause. Here's a few for starters just to get you warmed up:
Q Why do potatoes make good detectives? A Because they keep their eyes peeled.
Q What did the grape say when…

Out on the Streets: A Blogging Miscellany

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Anna spotted this stylish planting complete with edible kale and chard whilst in France

Since I've been noodling around the internet researching public planting, I've come across all kinds of blog posts on the topic - so here's a miscellany of some of them:

Noel Kingsbury introduces his latest project for Bristol City Council; whilst Adam Woodruff writes about his vibrant design for the Bank of Springfield in Illinois on his own website and over at Gardening Gone Wild, where Frannie Sorin also told us about the vertical garden she found in Israel. Meanwhile Claire Potter shows us some tres chic French style from her travels.
Shirley Bovshow over at Eden Makers Blog raises the thorny issue of graffiti on trees.

Grow This questions the wisdom of shopping mall schemes in his neighbourhood; Julia bemoans the changes in London's St. James' Park, finds a good municipal planting for winter interestand has a look inside West Middlesex Hospital.

Catmint's been mulling over t…

ABC Wednesday - H is for...

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... Half Century
2 of these from yesterday...

... = 1 of these today.


For other Hale and Hearty H's, do visit the ABC Wednesday blog.

Veg Plotting is Away

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I've been whisked away by NAH for a few days as we have some rather special things to celebrate. In the meantime, here's some crocuses from my back garden to cheer you up - I'll be back for the next ABC Wednesday, where my H will tell you a little bit about why we're celebrating...
Besides, I've just realised this is my 600th post today, so I think a deserve a little rest :)
If you're looking to post your URL for this month's Out on the Streets, you need to go here. And even if you don't have a URL to post, you might like to have a look at what everyone else has to say on the subject of public planting.
Whilst I'm away, how about telling me about your favourite sign of spring in the comments below. Is it the crocus like those in my picture? Perhaps it's daffodils, snowdrops, intense birdsong, swelling buds, catkins - or something else?

Out on the Streets: Poundbury Bypass

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Hurrah - Lucy and I are doing another post together today - click here to see our previous one about an aptly named sponsor for a roundabout in Weymouth, which by a strange coincidence is covered in snow again this morning. Lucy's been sending me all sorts of useful stuff concerning public planting in Dorset and we agreed another joint (ad)venture was just the thing for this quarter's Out on the Streets. This time she's posting a photograph over at Pictures Just Pictures which shows just how steep the land on other side of the fence is and also the extent of the tree planting down the slope. She's kindly sent me a further two photos for posting here together with the results of her research on what this is all about:
Poundbury is an area of new housing and places to work on the outskirts of Dorchester.

Emotionally and geographically, it looms on the county town's horizon. Not everyone likes it. Its mixture of styles is seen as a mish-mash rather than eclectic, and it…

ABC Wednesday 4 - G is For...

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... Gathering earthworms
I'm feeling a little like I'm following in the footsteps of Darwin again at the moment as I'm using my garden as a laboratory AND studying earthworms. I'm taking part in OPAL's Soil and Earthworm Survey: this is an initiative set up to celebrate biodiversity and people's partnership with nature, something that's right up my street.

They're planning a number of scientific surveys in which schools and the general public in the UK can take part. The first of these is earthworms and my study pack arrived a couple of weeks ago. I have booklet detailing what I have to do, an earthworm identification key (put together by those lovely people at the Field Studies Council), a magnifying glass and some basic soil testing equipment. I'm surveying both my garden and allotment: I'm particularly concerned that my garden's earthworm population might be a little on the low side as I rarely see them when I'm digging.

As well as di…

Fairtrade - Chippenham Update

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We're three quarters the way through Fairtrade Fortnight, so I thought it was a good time to review how Chippenham is faring with its Fairtrade status. As I suspected last year, Chippenham is indeed not a Fairtrade town yet. The first and only town with that status here in North Wiltshire is Malmesbury. However, Chippenham Town Council have announced their intention to achieve Fairtrade status and as part of the work needed to attain that goal, launched Chippenham's first Fairtrade directory last week.
Most of the directory's 16 pages is geared towards explaining what it's all about. Places in Chippenham listed as selling Fairtrade goods forms less than a double page spread and that includes outlets in some of our nearby villages. Just looking at the town's cafes, only half of them have Fairtrade options on offer like tea and coffee. I also did a quick recce round my supermarket at the weekend and could see no increase in Fairtrade goods for sale compared to last ye…

Out on the Streets: Temple Quay, Bristol

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This is a place I went past nearly every day for 8 years as it's right by where I used to work in the centre of Bristol: in fact the office in the background of the top left photograph is the very building. At first glance, this example has the features I would usually say are what's so bad about our public planting: there's not many cultivars and most of it's just plain green and will stay that way. However, when I looked at it afresh last October, I believe whoever designed this has been quite clever. I'll tell you why and let's see what you think. You can click on the image to enlarge it if you'd like a closer look.

The bulk of the planting is fine leaved Hebe albicans and related cultivars. You see these everywhere around here as they're cheap, very low maintenance, tough as old boots and they're not really a plant of desire for people to want to come and nick them. They also flower in early summer, like the kind of soil we have around here, are …

GBMD - The Lent Lily

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'Tis spring; come out to ramble The hilly brakes around, For under thorn and bramble About the hollow ground The primroses are found.
And there's the windflower chilly With all the winds at play, And there's the Lenten lily That has not long to stay And dies on Easter day.
And since till girls go maying You find the primrose still, And find the windflower playing With every wind at will, But not the daffodil,
Bring baskets now, and sally Upon the spring's array, And bear from hill and valley The daffodil away That dies on Easter day.
A.E. Housman - A Shropshire Lad (1896). NB Housman was born 150 years ago this month.
The daffodils are much later this year: these Tete a Tete popped open only a couple of days ago in my front garden and the ones in the back are all steadfastly in bud, even Jetfire which is usually the first to bloom. Last year, they first opened on February 7th, so all that frost and snow over the past few months has knocked back their first flowering by 1…