Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Thursday, 29 April 2010

OOTS: Roundabouts Revisited

A couple of weeks ago I showed you the changes made recently to key roundabouts on the outskirts of Chippenham designed to welcome everyone to the town. At the time I also ranted about the design of the main planting on the roundabout itself, describing the mixture of trees and shrubs as being 'plonked rather than planted'. Unfortunately this is par for the course for many of our roundabouts and applies to many places, not just Chippenham.

However, a mere couple of miles away at the opposite end of the A350 bypass is a roundabout which has the same elements, but to me has the encouraging signs that things can be done a little bit differently and better whilst using the same plant formula. Here we see trees plus shrubs as before, but the choice of plants has been simplified to a single tree species with an underplanting of massed shrubs such as Cornus and Euonymus. The tree is a species found in the local countryside (note to self: must go and identify it) and the shrubs are commonly used on the nearby estate. Thus the transition from a rural to an urban environment is simply and clearly marked by using these plants.

From a distance, the trees are reminiscent of some of the woodland found in the surrounding landscape where small copses of trees mark the hilltops or ancient sites, particularly on the chalk downs between Chippenham, Calne and Avebury. The shrubs have been clipped into shapes resembling the burial mounds also found locally. On closer inspection the trees are arranged in lines which echo the lines of the roads leading to/from the roundabout, almost avenue-like in their aspect.

The planting can't have cost any more than the other roundabouts which are eyesores. The fact it looks planned to me gives out the message 'here's a town which cares a bit more about its appearance'. The other roundabouts give out the message 'we can't be bothered here', so this one's a vast improvement.

Then walking back home via my local supermarket I looked back at the roundabout again. They've even designed the planting here to frame the view. At last, someone's put some thought into the design of Chippenham's public planting!

As I continued my walk, I got more excited about the possibilities of a single tree species/ 1-3 shrubs massed planting. Each roundabout could have its own signature combination. Silver birch + Cornus would look wonderful in the winter, and imagine crab apples with a Rosa rugosa hedge surrounding them. The use of lavender hedging, weeping pears or willow, all kinds of Prunus as well as native hedgerow species combined with garden-worthy plants and shrubs listed in the Natural History Museum's postcode plant database would be fantastic.

The right combinations of trees and shrubs (crown lifted or close clipped where needed) would also mean that sight lines are maintained, thus reducing the likelihood of accidents: I'm convinced the tree/shrub combination on the roundabout closest to my house has been the cause of several near misses I've had as I'm lost to the view of oncoming traffic when turning right. These simple combinations would be cheap, effective, safer, low maintenance and also great for encouraging local wildlife.

Local authorities please note.

If you have a contribution for this month's Out on the Streets, you can add the link to your post here. There's still plenty of time to show us what it's like in your neighbourhood - it doesn't have to be about roundabouts either!

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

ABC of Weather: Occluded

Occluded fronts are part of our low pressure aka cyclonic weather systems and are usually a sign that they've reached maturity in their lifecycle. A front is the (unseen) transition between two masses of air with distinct differences in temperature and with our low pressure systems a cold front follows on behind a warm front.

The colder air mass travels more quickly than its warm predecessor and if it catches up with it, then the warm air is forced off the ground and over the colder air. It's at this time that an occluded front is said to have formed. The weather found along these can be quite variable and can be some of the more extreme weather associated with a low pressure system, such as thunderstorms and funnel clouds.

Each type of weather front is shown by a different coloured line and associated symbol on a weather map - see the example shown here. The way the symbols are pointing shows the direction of travel of the weather system. Occluded fronts are denoted by a purple line with alternating semi circles and triangles, so the next time you see these on a weather map and it's heading your way, watch out for stormy weather!

For more O's than you can shake a stick at, do have a look at the ABC Wednesday blog.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Book Review: First Time Veg Grower

This is a no-nonsense, budget, pocket-sized guide to the basics about growing vegetables. Written by Martyn Cox and aimed at the beginner, it covers the 16 most popular vegetables which people like to grow. Look elsewhere for a book covering the more unusual or exotic: this is all about growing the vegetables which will provide a meal just for yourself or your family.

At its heart are two key questions: How much time do you have? and What do you like to eat? Far too many other guides forget these fundamental questions and then we see plenty of articles wondering why enthusiastic gardeners give up with growing their own. All the basics are covered from getting to know your soil, tools of the trade, choosing which varieties to grow, sowing seeds and planting out. The practical possibilities of what can grown in the tiniest of places to a full-scale allotment are explored.

Detailed instructions for growing the 16 'Foolproof vegetables' are given - covering beetroot, broad beans, carrots, chilli/sweet peppers, courgettes, kale, lettuces, onions, potatoes, radishes, rocket, runner beans, salad leaf mixtures, salad onions, swiss chard and tomatoes. Once these crops have been mastered, then the gardener is well-equipped to try any others they might fancy.

The final section of the book is all about garden maintenance: watering, feeding, a glance at pest & disease control (though there is a more detailed companion volume: "Gardeners' World": Pests and Diseases on this subject available, which will also be reviewed shortly), composting, soil improvement, crop protection and attracting wildlife to be your 'garden helpers'. Finally harvesting and storage tips are given.

All this is packed into a pocket-sized book of 208 pages, plus a decent index and plenty of helpful photographs. Good value for the price and guaranteed to encourage the most reluctant of vegetable growers to have a go.

Monday, 26 April 2010

NAH to the Rescue!

On Saturday afternoon this young song thrush flew into our garage door window. Luckily NAH was on hand to gently pick it up off the ground and take it down to the shed at the bottom of the garden. Unfortunately Skimble got a little too interested at that point, so NAH relocated it onto the pergola at the side of the house.

Not only was he able to take some photos of the stunned bird, he was also able to call me downstairs to have a good look. We think the deposit on the beak is some fat rather than damage, which we were initially concerned about. About 5 minutes after my arrival, this little one had recovered sufficiently to fly off into the trees at the side of the garden.

I'm rather relieved as surprisingly this once common species is now one of the UK's more endangered birds and has red conservation status. We see quite a number of them around the garden and I'd like to keep it that way. Which is an ideal opportunity to remind you about the garden biodiversity competition I'm running with a year's RHS membership as the fantastic prize. You'll find full details here.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Will Blog For Chocolate

I imagine most people if offered the chance to try some luxury chocolate for free in return for an honest appraisal on their blog, they'll jump at the chance. So who am I to disappoint the good folk at Fuel My Blog and the suppliers Chocolate and Love?

And lo, a thick padded bag duly arrived containing the pictured chocolate. Luckily I'm a dark chocolate lover, because that's what I received. 2 plain chocolate bars of 71% (Filthy Rich) and 55% (Nirvanabar) cocoa solids respectively, a 65% bar flavoured with orange oil (Orange Mantra), another under the Conscious label containing lots of nuts (my favourite combination), plus a packet of Pacari organic chocolate covered guava which on closer inspection turned out to look like a luxury version of the Paynes Poppets of my childhood.

Chocolate & Love specialise in the luxury, ethical end of the chocolate market, hence the high cocoa solid percentages of each bar and the organic and/or Fairtrade sourcing of ingredients wherever possible. So how best to conduct the taste test? I decided to carry out a thorough survey first, at my local supermarket. I was surprised to find how many brands of chocolate are positioned at this end of the market. So I then tried to be like the magazines and conduct a taste comparison of the bars closest in nature to the ones I'd received. Thus I came home with a further 4 bars to test: 3 of 70% cocoa content (Green & Blacks, Seeds of Change and supermarket Fairtrade own brand) plus a Green & Blacks equivalent of the orange flavoured bar. Well someone has to do it, so why not me?

The plain chocolate bars

This kind of chocolate is totally different to the usual kind of fayre. There's a richness of aroma, a clean snap when a piece is broken off, plus a slowness of melting when placed in the mouth with a long, lingering after taste. All the bars exhibited these characteristics as they should. The 70-71% bars were much more bitter owing to their very high cocoa content, the supermarket brand markedly so such that it was quite unpleasant. The rest were about the same as each other, but I thought the Seeds of Change bar had the slight edge over the other two.

The revelation was the 55% cocoa solids Nirvanabar. For me this had just the right balance between cocoa content and sweetness. It's a shame I didn't find any others of this cocoa content level for a comparison tasting.

The orange flavoured bars

The chocolate exhibited similar characteristics to the plain chocolate bars but were totally different in taste. The Green & Black's bar tasted overwhelmingly of orange peel, whereas the Chocolate & Love bar hardly tasted of anything, despite having a distictly orange tang in its aroma. Neither bar particularly appealed to me and won't woo me away from a slice of dark chocolate Terry's Chocolate Orange

The rest

No comparisons here, just straight tasting. I was looking forward to tasting The Nutty One and oh, what a disappointment. No real chocolate or nutty taste, just blandness despite the 25% nut content. Give me Thornton's chocolate covered brazils any day.

So there was just the Pacari chocolate covered guava left and here at last was something worth having! The packet contains just 57g and purports to be 6 servings. This does give you quite a few individual 'pearls' for your portion, thus allowing for slow eating. Each one has a rich chocolate taste, which gives way to an almost red-wine like flavour as the guava fruit comes through. A real treat.


The 71% plain chocolate bar wasn't the best in its class and is quite a lot more expensive than its peers (£2.90 per 100 grammes vs £1.09 to £1.98 for the rest). As this richness of chocolate isn't really to my taste, I can't really recommend any of the bars in this category. The same applies to both the orange flavoured bars.

I liked the 55% Chocolate & Love bar, but can't say whether or not I'd recommend it over any other chocolate of similar cocoa content and ethical stance. If the results of the 70% taste test were duplicated in this category (and there are others of 55% content around, it's just that I didn't find them on the day), I suspect I'd be recommending a cheaper bar than the Chocolate & Love one.

The Nutty One is so unpleasant I've yet to finish the bar and is therefore one to avoid.

The organic chocolate covered guava was great and definitely the chocolate I'd love to have again. It would sadly only be an occasional treat though because at £2.95 per packet (+ p&p) it's a very dear way of achieving my chocolate fix, even though I could make the contents last for a very long time.

My thanks to Fuel My Blog and Chocolate & Love for the opportunity of trying lots of one of my favourite foods :)

Thursday, 22 April 2010

How Advertising Works in Chippenham #16

  1. Put together a leaflet introducing your party's candidate
  2. Send out an enormous batch for your party faithful to hand deliver
  3. Say hello to the blogger working in her front garden as you walk by
  4. Wait for said blogger with a camera to notice it's for the wrong candidate
  5. Et Voila!

This leaflet is for a Dorset constituency campaign over 60 miles away. I'm amazed that no-one noticed before it was delivered to me, especially as it came by hand. There's so many differences which should have given the game away immediately ;)

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

ABC of Weather: Nimbus

Picture courtesy of by Jennifer Renee

Nimbus is one of the 5 main cloud categories and simply means rain bearing (from the Latin). The others are: Alto – high, Cirrus – thin and wispy (see my previous post on Clouds for an example), Cumulus – puffy and Stratus – layer (Latin for spread out).

The latter four categories are cloud names in their own right. Nimbus is always combined with another to give a cloud name. All the categories may be combined with others to give us a wide variety of names, which if you know the above code it tells you exactly what the cloud is like: thus Altocumulus means a high, puffy cloud. The most dramatic is Cumulonimbus which is the very tall, puffy rain bearing cloud often with an anvil shape at the top. It's this type of cloud which gives us the stormiest of weather.

There are many sub-categories of cloud and the list is still being added to. For example there's Mammatus, which is a special bubble shaped form of Cumulonimbus. I saw an example of these last year on my way to Malvern Spring Show. Have a look here for a full list of clouds with links to their definitions.

For more in the way of N, do visit the ABC Wednesday blog.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

I Love this Tulip...

... but sadly I don't know what it is because the packet said it should be the red version of T. 'Spring Green'. Its voluptuous duskiness has stolen my heart.

Monday, 19 April 2010

OOTS: A Host of Daffodils

This post's courtesy of NAH who's just come home following a week's volunteering on the TalyLlyn railway in north Wales. He not only took this photo especially for me, he also waxed lyrical about the daffodils lining the roadside in Tywyn and Abergynolwyn just up the valley. The picture shows the daffodils on the way into Abergynolwyn and if we could rise above the trees on the left we'd see that the conifer plantation on the hillside above them is shaped like a dragon.

He said: It's like being serenaded every time you enter the place.

Now I know some people have been a bit sniffy recently about mass daffodil plantings, but anything floral which makes my down to earth engineer of a husband sit up and take notice has got to be worth it, yes? Besides, the daffodil is the Welsh national flower, so it'd be even stranger if they weren't there at the side of the road wouldn't it?

If you wish to take part in Out on the Streets this month, all you need to do is write something about public planting in your neighbourhood or out on your travels and put a link to your post here.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Competition Time: Win RHS Membership :)

The UN has declared 2010 as International Year of Biodiversity (IYB) and as part of its programme of awareness raising, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is teaming up with an number of bloggers to offer a competition with RHS membership as its prize :)

Concern about biodiversity isn't new as far as the RHS is concerned and it's one of the main reasons why I value it as an organisation. As pressure on our countryside is set to increase over the coming years, the role we gardeners can play in the conservation of wildlife and the preservation of its diversity is immense.

In a recent survey conducted by the RHS, 95% of gardeners saw themselves as 'stewards of the environment' and 96% said this was an important area of research for the RHS to do. Their recently revamped website now has a large section dedicated to Biodiversity and the gardener which outlines what the RHS is doing and also providing practical ideas, hints and tips on how we might all garden for wildlife.

All the RHS gardens will be running special trails on 22nd May as part of International Day for Biological Diversity, then the week after at Chelsea Flower Show the RHS Advisory Team will have the RHS Biodiversity Display (see above - picture courtesy of the RHS) as part of the Continuous Learning section in the Grand Marquee. This will show different ideas for planting combinations, and experts will be on hand to give practical advice.

If you can't make any of these events, then it's worth checking out the Biodiversity and the gardener link above, or visiting the Wild About Gardens website for lots more information and ideas for your garden. The latter is a collaboration between the RHS and the Wildlife Trusts: I've signed up for their email newsletter and get a monthly dose of timely ideas for encouraging wildlife into my garden. You may also like to read about my general approach to wildlife gardening here.

After that preamble, it's now time for the all important Competition!

All you have to do is email me (vegplotting at gmail dot com) a photograph demonstrating biodiversity in your garden, and a short description of no more than 100 words on how you encourage it. A winner will be chosen shortly after the closing date of Sunday 9th May. I'm hoping to rope in NAH as my independent judge, though he doesn't know it yet.

The RHS are kindly offering a prize of RHS membership for one year (worth £43) to the winner. Benefits of membership include free entry to RHS gardens (if you’re lucky enough to have one near you), free access to over 140 RHS recommended gardens (so a much better chance of finding something close to where you live - I used my membership to visit Westonbirt Arboretum last week, for instance), 12 issues of The Garden magazine, and free access to expert horticultural advice.

I'll announce the winner here ASAP after the closing date and the winner's photo may be posted on the RHS website. The judge's decision is final. The winner will receive one year's free membership of the RHS. Open to UK residents only.

Good luck and I look forward to seeing all your entries!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

GBBD: Blackthorn & Honey Scented Violas

April's quite different this year: the blackthorn has only just come out (last weekend) in a cloud of white which completely brightens the old hedgerow next to the house. Two years ago I showed it flowering on 9th March, so it's a month later this year. However, its masses of blooms with contrasting fresh green leaves more than makes up for its tardiness.

We're experiencing a spell of quiet, warm, sunny weather at the moment, which means I can take my coffee breaks out on the patio. Here the honey-like scent of the masses of Violas I planted out in the autumn are almost overwhelming. I've never known their perfume to be so strong and it tempts me to linger well past my allotted time.

Elsewhere, the later Daffodils are adding their scent to the garden and the Tulips are now girding themselves to take over the baton. The picture shows one of the bargain bulbs I planted in the large bowls underneath the Violas last year. Finally, it looks like the blackthorn blossom is influencing my recent plant purchases: I came back from Franks Plants last weekend with a Dicentra spectabilis 'Alba' to brighten a shady corner at the bottom of the garden, plus a couple of white Osteospermum for the pots on the bottom patio steps, and a white large Marguerite for the wheelbarrow by the front door. Soon it'll be time to see if my attempts at overwintering my summer potted flowers in the coldframe have been successful. If I have, then we'll be back to the more fiery reds and earthy browns I usually favour.

Garden Bloggers Blooms Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

ABC of Weather: Maps

I love maps* and they're a key tool in weather forecasting, so there was only ever one possible M for me to feature today. I've sneaked in a few in already under Isobars and Jet Stream, but today I'm showing you the general overview for the UK, which gets updated every 15 minutes of so - how cool is that? Chippenham is approximately in the middle of Cardiff, London and Bournemouth if you want to get an idea of what's happening here weatherwise at the moment. Or you can have a look at what Accuweather has to say in my lefthand sidebar.
I believe many of us are fascinated by weather maps. Judging by the furore caused when the BBC changed the format used for its TV forecasts a few years ago it must be true. I still don't like them, especially when the sea sickness inducing pan around the country starts. I much prefer the maps of old, especially the stick on symbol days. That's because I (like many of us I'm sure) used wait in hope that they'd fall off when the forecaster put the new ones on the map. Which they frequently did. Another classic moment was when Francis Wilson reviewed a map with OG writ large over East Anglia and apologised I'm sorry there's no F in Fog. Richard Angwin, our local TV weather forecaster, reveals his playful nature every Friday by having a theme to the locations he chooses for his map, such as places with flower names or combe somewhere in their title. Though beware: they've been totally fictional at least once!
The weather maps I studied in geography at school were wonderful too. They had all sorts of additional official symbols denoting things like the amount of cloud cover and wind speeds. It felt like we were deciphering a special set of runes which only we held the key to unlocking.
The website where I obtained today's featured map has lots of different free ones for the UK and Europe which are available for you to use. As well as the ones I've featured so far there's maps showing temperature, humidity and even lightning strikes. Well worth a look.
How's the weather with you today?
* = I'm very excited there's a 3 part series called Maps: Power, Plunder and Persuasion starting on BBC4 on Sunday at 9pm :)

Today's featured letter has a Multitude of starring roles over at the ABC Wednesday blog.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

OOTS: A New Ride on the Merry Go Round

I've mentioned previously how awful I think Chippenham's roundabouts are, but never actually got round to showing any of them to you. As most of these mark a transition between countryside and urban areas, the standard approach seems to have been to throw together some trees and shrubs which just might be found nearby. This year a number of them have had a 'makeover': those that stand at the the entrance points to Chippenham have had a raised bed added over the past couple of weeks which are now filled with colourful Polyanthus with a Welcome to Chippenham plaque in the centre.

Yesterday the latest edition of the town council's newsletter Talk of the Town arrived which said under the heading Town Projects and Achievements:

As part of the town council's commitment to improving the quality of town life and its landscaped environment, residents will be pleased to see all the major routes into the town now benefit from enhanced florally decorated "Welcome to Chippenham" signs for its visitors and community, raising our profile as a major market town in Wiltshire.

Well, here's one resident who's feeling pretty ambivalent about them. On the one hand I've said how the town needs to do more to make people feel welcome, but this wasn't the solution I had in mind. I'd like something a little more co-ordinated rather than these 2 completely different styles thrust together, looking more 'plonked' than planned.

It would also be good if the overall scheme did more to reflect Chippenham's character or surroundings. Using species found in the locale is a start, but the above example shows there's more needed than that. I've found one example which uses a similar palette of plants, but in a more effective manner and echoing some of the features of the local landscape - more on this in a later post, once I've taken the photos to show you.

What do you think? Does your area have something better that we here in Chippenham can learn from? I've found a cracking example in Poole which I hope to photograph the next time we're there.

If you have a contribution for Out on the Streets this month, you'll find Mr Linky to add the link to your post here.

Monday, 12 April 2010

How Advertising Works in Chippenham #15

  1. Decide on your party's campaign slogan and style
  2. Distribute large posters to your party faithful
  3. Display in a field at the side of the road
  4. Wait for a blogger with a camera to notice something's been added
  5. Et Voila!

Chippenham's a completely new constituency for next month's general election and for the first time I find myself living in a marginal instead of a particular party's safe seat. For once my vote really counts and so I'm in even more of a dither about it than usual.

In previous elections it's been noticeable how Chippenham town has been awash with orange (denoting Liberal Democrat devotees), but outside in the countryside all the farmer's fields are sporting Conservative blue. Now the constituency of North Wiltshire has been split into two along rural/urban lines and it'll be interesting to see if the 'visual poll' I've previously observed is reflected in actual results. In Wiltshire the Labour party doesn't get a look in, so voting here doesn't really reflect what our residents might think about today's Government.

This is the first election poster you see when arriving at Chippenham from Corsham. It's been amended to read:

Lib Dems have a clue

Cameron and Brown sniff glue

Nick Clegg

Somehow I don't think this particular slogan will be taken up by the Lib Dem campaign ;)

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Westonbirt Discoveries

Westonbirt is noted for its Autumn colours, but I love it year-round. Spring is another good time for a visit as it has many examples of Magnolias, Rhododendrons and Camellias in flower as well as all the fresh young leaves on the trees.

We've had family staying over Easter and whilst spring is behind itself at the moment, we still thought it would be a good place to take my brother-in-law and family to a couple of days ago. We were too early for most of the flowers, but there was enough to herald what's to come over the next few weeks, plus plenty of fresh discoveries we hadn't anticipated.

Being the Easter holidays, there were trails for my niece and nephew to follow with the promise of eggy treats when completed. We all had a fun time looking for the pictures and specially decorated trees and helping to solve the puzzles. It may have been a shorter walk for us than usual, but everything was examined in much finer detail: the colour of tree buds, what might reside in a tree's hollow, an ancient square pond, the vastness (and smell) of a badger sett. Much more rewarding as a result.

It also meant new trees to discover and admire such as the one shown at the top of this post, plus this one:

Both are Corylopsis: the one at the top is Corylopsis spicata and this is Corylopsis sinensis var. sinensis. The tree at the top reminded me a little of Garrya, but with more drama and a lightness, whereas Garrya can look rather miserable. The scent of the Corylopsis sinensis was absolutely amazing and possibly more powerful than its witch hazel cousin, though this might have been due to the size of the specimen we saw. By a spooky coincidence I found last night Robert Webber has also been waxing lyrical about the Corylopsis in his garden at the moment. They're meant to be an acid lover, but Robert has alkaline soil, very tempting...

We also found this sculpture in the woods. 4,000 wishes were tied to a nearby tree in 2003 which were then made into this seed-like bronze by an artist. It's hollow inside, so visitors have added additional wishes since then. Being nosey we pulled some of them out, expecting to find dreams of world peace and goodwill to all men. Instead I found the following:

It was our biggest surprise (and giggle) of the visit :)

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

ABC of Weather: Lore

We all grow up knowing all kinds of sayings and snippets about our weather which can be grouped loosely into Weather Lore. Many of these are based on ancient wisdom gathered by early scientists or more localised observations by those close to nature such as farmers and sailors. But do any of them have meaning for today? Well yes, I think they do...

I've already referred to Mackerel sky not 24 hours dry and It's black over Bill's mother's telling us that rain is on it's way when I looked at Clouds. When I wrote about Hair, I talked about how it changes with humidity so it's used by both amateur weather forecasters and the developers of early hygrometers. You may also familiar with the use of seaweed or pine cones to predict the weather. Both are used in the same way as hair as they react to the amount of moisture in the atmosphere.

I think my earliest memory of a weather related saying is Red sky at night shepherd's delight. Red sky in the morning shepherds warning [or sailor's - Ed]. This tells us it'll be a fine day in the morning if the sky is red at night, but miserable weather is due if the red sky is seen in the morning. However, I didn't know until I started to research this piece that it's referred to in The Bible: Matthew chapter 16, verses 2-3 to be precise. I wonder if this means this saying dates back at least 2,000 years to biblical times or from much later when The Bible was finally written down?

Another early weather related memory of mine is from car outings with my grandad when my cousins and I would shout Oh no it's going to rain whenever we saw cows lying down in the fields. The received wisdom is they can sense moisture so find somewhere dry to lie down, but my agricultural training says they've simply stopped grazing and are now in the next phase of digesting their food: chewing their cud.

My mum's always quoting If the oak flowers before the ash, we shall have a splash. If the ash flowers before the oak, we shall have a soak. I don't really know why because we could only see oak trees from our house, so we never knew which had come into leaf first. The splash predicts good weather over the next few weeks, and the soak miserable weather ahead. Today I have ash trees by the side of the house and oak trees up the allotment, but I always forgot to see if this saying comes true!

When I was 5 years old I attended my first Christmas party put on by the firm where my dad worked. I got thoroughly confused when it came to Santa's visit and present giving time that I went up with the 10 year olds and thus received a present more suited to their age: a copy of Zoo Fun Book. However I was delighted with my present and enjoyed all the plentiful animal tales (including my first encounter with the Aardvark), puzzles, jokes over many years. It also had a couple of pages on weather lore, 2 of which have stuck in my mind since then.

The first was Rain before 7, fine by 11. This refers to how quickly most weather fronts move across our country. Thus if you wake up and it's raining, it's more than likely it'll clear by mid morning. The other was Rain from the East, two days at least. This saying was accompanied by a rather jolly cartoon of a gentleman in a turban and curly slippers carrying a rain cloud instead of a silver salver with the words 2 days written on it. I can still picture it now. Rain from the east is a rare occurrence in this country, as drier weather tends to come across from our continental cousins. However, when rain does come from that quarter, it's here to stay.

I could tell you so much more about this topic - St Swithin's Day, Groundhog Day, the way some flowers react to the weather to name but three. However that wouldn't leave room for you to have your say. What's your favourite piece of weather lore?

And how's the weather with you today? Here the cold, chilly weather over Easter has gone and it's now set fair for the day :)

For much more in the way of L, do consult the ABC Wednesday blog.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Out on the Streets now that April's here

It's April, spring is at last beginning to show it's true colours, so what better time to return to Out on the Streets (OOTS)? I thought you'd like this picture of a bicycle cum advert I found in Oxford last month. It certainly brightened up the chaos of all the roadworks - just about evident in the background of the photo, but absolutely everywhere in the centre of the city when I was there.

This is my regular feature where I ask you to show everyone the public open spaces and planting in your neighbourhood or on your travels. With the tough winter we've had here in the UK it'll be interesting to see if you find it's had an impact in your village, town or city.

I'm anticipating that change might be a bit of a running theme throughout this year's OOTS. So much so I'm asking you to keep an eye out for it. What's new in your area this year? Is there any visible effects from the economic downtown? Perhaps your public planting is changing or being looked after in a different way as a result? Is any of your public land being sold off by your local authority in order to manage its debts or to keep costs down? Perhaps there's an increase in the use of volunteers to keep everything looking immaculate?

Here in Chippenham there's definitely some changes I'll be telling you about this month. Many of the roundabouts are sporting brand new raised beds which are in the process of being planted up, so of course I'll be showing them to you. On my estate we now have a Resident's Association who have arranged for a community litter pick on April 18th. Elsewhere I've seen both good and bad news about the impact of the credit crunch on our public spaces.

Of course your regular posts highlighting the good, the bad and the ugly are welcome too :)

I've set up Mr Linky below for you to add your OOTS posts when you're ready. As usual I'll put a link in the right hand sidebar so you can find your way back here in just a click. As things will be hotting up with arrangements for our Bloggers' get together in Malvern throughout April, I'm leaving OOTS open until that's finished. Expect a roundup post about May 10th.

In the meantime, see you soon Out on the Streets!

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Today's Important Message

We've been a bit light on the veg related information lately, so I thought it'd be a good idea to show you this most important video I've found on the care of marrows.

Unfortunately the website quoted at the end of the video doesn't seem to exist anymore, so you I'll direct you to this one instead.
Have a good Easter everyone :)
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