Seen at the Festival of the Tree

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

Monday, 30 August 2010

OOTS: Garden Organic's Car Park

This time last year I visited Garden Organic's HQ at Ryton near Coventry to have a look around their varied demonstration gardens. Before I'd even made it that far, I was struck by the planting in the car park: here you can see tall, wavy grasses topped off by crab apples trees (do click for a larger image if required). This is very different to the usual car parks seen around Chippenham, but it seemed to me it would be great if this kind of planting was adopted more widely.

There was an interpretation board nearby which gave lots more information about what had been planted:

The planting in our car park has been designed to provide year-round interest for our visitors whilst providing food and cover for wildlife. Many of the shrubs and trees provide fruits, berries or hips, all of which are a magnet for birds. The tall stems of the ornamental grasses are left on over winter to provide cover for hibernating insects.

Spring interest is provided by flowering shrubs such as Berberis wilsoniae, Berberis verruculosa and Chaenomeles japonica. In summer, the Rosa spinosissima and Stephanandra incisa 'Crispa' come into flower, to be followed by autumn fruits on the collection of crab apples such as Malus 'John Downie', Malus x zumi 'Golden Hornet' and Malus huphensis. On a frosty winter's morning, the tall stems of the grasses Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster' and Stipa gigantea shine in the low sun, casting long shadows on the ground.

The hedges surrounding the car park have been planted using native British species such as hazel, field maple and hawthorn. Native trees and shrubs have been found to support many more invertebrate animals than introduced species of tree. This in turn attracts many other animals including robins, shrews and hedgehogs. As a result the entire ecosystem is enriched.

Hardly any of these plants are used in the public planting around Chippenham, so they would be great at increasing the diversity around the town, which I understand is one of the local council's goals with regards to our future quality of life. As well as enhancing car parks, these plants are also ideal candidates for the changed approach to roundabout planting I advocated in the last edition of Out on the Streets.

There's still plenty of time for you to join in with OOTS this month as I'll be extending it into September to give everyone a chance to take part. Simply write your post and add your link to Mr Linky here: this link will also tell you more about OOTS should you need it.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Yes, Lawnmower Racing Does Exist!

I've been wanting to show you some lawnmower racing for a couple of years now, but had to wait until last month until I saw any action. It's been a featured event at the Headington and Stockley Steam Rally previously and it returned there this year, so at last I was able to capture a few snippets on camera :)

Unfortunately my favourite racing class wasn't featured: where the competitors run behind their machines. I'd particularly wanted to show you that one but I understand from the helpful British Lawnmower Racing Association (BLMRA) leaflet given out at the time that this class isn't so popular anymore, despite it being the original form of the sport.

Instead we were treated to races in classes 2, 3 and 4: all variations on the type of seated lawnmower available. The above clip shows part of a class 2 race which is for cylinder mowers. It turns out that lawnmower racing has a competitive league and everything, and the races we watched were championship ones. There's a 12 date race calendar which starts in May and the season ends in October. There's a British championship, plus a World one, a British Grand Prix and a 12 hour endurance race.

It all started in the UK in 1973 at a pub in West Sussex and as NAH observed when we were watching, it must be about the cheapest form of motorsport available. This is because no modification of the engine is allowed and the sport isn't commercialised. It also means that the skill of the driver (or athletic ability of the runner!) determines who's best in this sport.

You can find out loads more on the BLMRA website, so who knows? There may be an event near you sometime - it's such a lot of fun to watch. For readers from across the pond, there's also an American Association, whose website can be found here.

I wonder if I should unleash NAH's competitive streak and The Beast?

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

A Dancing Flame

This little movie of a dancing flame in our garden is from NAH's annual curry night yesterday. We had 16 hungry people descend on us for the evening anxious to taste the 4 currys on offer plus starters of poppadoms, samosas and onion bajis. It's a regular event that NAH's been holding for over 15 years now and there's always a mix of old and new faces, some of whom have waited up to 3 years for the experience. Such is NAH's fame as a curry meister.

It's rather nice that quite a few of the people attending also come to see the garden, so I thought yesterday would be the ideal opportunity to debut the pair of garden torches I'd won in a competition over at Love Thy Space. So instead of the balmy summer evening I'd been envisaging, mother nature decided to give us a cool, windy one instead.

However, having placed the 2 torches in the upper terrace border by the kitchen patio doors, they served to entice people out into the garden and to stay there as they lent a lovely atmosphere to the evening. I even had to lend people various fleeces and sweaters so they could stay there. I haven't really got much in the way of garden lights and my previous attempts at lighting the evening (tea lights in jam jars) haven't created the necessary ambiance for people to stay outside when the going gets cool.

It was pretty windy when I took the film on my camera, so if you choose to run the above clip you'll see that the stiff breeze didn't manage to blow out the flame. I was a bit concerned when I received the torches that there weren't any instructions with them, but they turned out to be a doddle to set up. I used lamp oil with added citronella, so we had the added bonus of no insects buzzing around us for the evening. The oil reservoir is sufficient to keep the torch burning for around 3 hours.

I'll certainly be using them again whenever there's a nice evening to sit out in the garden, even if it's just for me.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Pesky Pests: The Cabbage White Butterfly

I've encountered many pesky pests in my time and until recently I didn't count the cabbage white butterfly among them. If anything I thought of them as more of a plaything for our cat Jess, who likes nothing better to chase them as they flit about the garden.

However, my attitude towards them this year has changed because I've decided to grow cabbages for the first time*, red cabbages to be precise as I'm really missing the red cabbage and juniper berry concoction which used to be served up at work from time to time.

Owing to the drought and concrete like conditions up at the plot, I started my seeds off in modules at home. I'm pleased I did for another reason: it's allowed me to keep a good eye on the seedlings and to watch out for the cabbage white butterflies muscling in on them. Here you can see no less than 2 types of eggs: the clustered ones have been laid by a large whites and the paler, solitary ones by the small white. You'll also see that I've been a bit tardy in my vigilance as some of the eggs have already hatched out into tiny caterpillars. From my later observations egg to caterpillar can take as little as 24 hours, so regular inspection and egg/caterpillar removal is required before these critters can really get down to business.

I'll be transplanting these out in the allotment soon: I need to construct my protective hoops first, which will then be draped with horticultural fleece to keep the cabbage whites and that other pesky pest the pigeon at bay.

* = which shocked Threadspider considerably last week as she knows all about my 'no grow' attitude towards Brassicas owing to NAH's hatred towards everything in the cabbage family **

** = though shhhh, don't tell him that rocket is a Brassica as he loves the stuff

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Picture This: A Walk on the Wildside

The subject for Gardening Gone Wild's August Picture This competition is On the Road Again. It's given me the perfect excuse to select a photograph* I took whilst visiting Keith Wiley's amazing garden in Devon called Wildside at the beginning of July. Click on the image for a full screen view - heartily recommended :)

Keith came to give a talk to the University of Bath Gardening Club in January (which I blogged about here) and we were so blown away by his slideshow it was obvious that this garden, plus the previous one he developed at The Garden House should be the destination for the club's main summer field trip this year.

Despite the dull and rainy day, Wildside was a riot of colour. It's an extraordinary creation as the flat four acre site is in the process of being transformed by Keith into a multi-terrained garden with many different microclimates. He's then using his extensive plant knowledge gleaned over a lifetime to match the right plant to the right place, thus fulfilling his philosophy of filling the view with flowers. UK TV viewers may recognise this garden as it was featured in the Landscape Man series shown earlier this year.

For the ultimate in gardening road trips, do visit the other competition entries on display over at Gardening Gone Wild.

* = and to start to catch up with my backlog of garden visits to tell you about :)

Friday, 20 August 2010

How Advertising Works in Chippenham #20

  1. Sign up a well known gardening personality to your DIY stores' advertising campaign
  2. Get the marketeers to design lots of different posters, cardboard cutouts etc
  3. Make sure every store has a wide selection of them all
  4. Wait for a blogger with a camera to notice that the very small garden centre area with Mr Titchmarsh popping up every couple of yards or so (not to mention the tannoyed exhortation from him to Let's Get Gardening!) makes her feel like she's being stalked
  5. Et voila!

I'm wondering if every store gets the same amount of display material irrespective of size, so what works in the large superstore of Poole say (note to self: must check the next time we're there) seems a little claustrophobic in the intimacy of smaller stores like Chippenham. I also like the special touch in the picture's foreground, where what Alan is passionate about is obscured by the box ball, so you can supply your own word. My feeling of being stalked was further heightened as I received a press release about Mr Titchmarsh about half an hour after I'd returned home with this photograph.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

A Blooms Day Extra: For Patient Gardener

I was feeling a bit mean that I only gave you one picture for this month's Blooms Day, so when Patient Gardener asked to see the Echinops I wrote about last Sunday, I thought it would be churlish to refuse.

I hope they bring cheer on a not so good day for you Helen. I'm sure Plan B will be fine :)

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

First Apple Harvest

The first apple harvest of the year is always a cause for celebration at VP gardens and here's the first of this year's crop. These are Discovery, one of the earliest of apples which is a cross between Worcester Permain and possibly Beauty of Bath according to the wonderful The New Book of Apples. It's a double cause for celebration because last year the wasps got to the apples before I did and I lost the entire [small] harvest.

I love how the red of the skin permeates into the flesh, giving it a glowing pink colour. It tastes pretty good too: a crisp juicy apple with a hint of strawberry which is best picked and eaten off the tree. Worcester Permain is one of the apples of my childhood as it was the local apple to where my cousins lived in Worcestershire and Beauty of Bath originated a mere 10 miles from here, so for me this apple is an apt marriage between childhood memories and today's living.

That's not the entire harvest BTW, NAH just picked enough for immediate consumption today. There's plenty more to come :)

Monday, 16 August 2010

OOTS: Soft Landscaping Workshop

Palmstead Nursery are holding their 3rd annual soft landscaping workshop called Dynamic Planting for Public and Garden Spaces on September 22nd at the Ashford International Hotel in Kent. Timing is approx 9.30 to 16.00 (registration starts 9.00 am), costs £15 including lunch and there's a great lineup of speakers:
  • Matthew Wilson (aka Landscape Man) on how public plantings can be more dynamic
  • Sarah Price will give a sneak preview of the 2012 World Gardens for the Olympic Games on how they might impact on future planting designs
  • Andrew Wilson will look at the future of garden design
  • Bert Griffioen lends his Dutch nurseryman's expertise on sustainable municipal perennial plantings
  • Green Space's Paul Bramhill will discuss how the The Budget could impact our public greenspace
I attended last year's fantastic workshop (I posted about it here, which also links you through to my introduction and subsequent posts) where I learnt so much on the day :)
See you there?

Sunday, 15 August 2010

GBBD: Drowsling August

I've always described August as drowsling: a made up word where I attempt to sum up a feeling that everywhere is just about ready for an afternoon nap, lulled by the constant background hum of bees and hoverflies browsing through the plants. Summer's still there, but it's beginning to look a bit frayed around the edges and if you go out early enough in the morning, there's just a hint of autumn in the air.

The past two Augusts haven't been that drowsling owing to their rainy weather, but this year's is more than making up for it. It's been so dry here in Chippenham, that the trees are already taking on signs of autumn, particularly the silver birches. Even the welcome decent drop of rain a few days ago has done little to halt their downward spiral.

In the garden I've mostly left things to fend for themselves, only watering key plants when they're beginning to look stressed and keeping the pots topped up when needed. I've probably got away with this strategy because of our two previous wet summers plus I gave the whole garden a massive dose of mulch last autumn, so everything has had some reserves to draw upon. It does mean that my floral display has been affected a little: the Clematis have much smaller flowers this year for instance, but it's been an interesting exercise to see how my garden copes in drought conditions.

This year the Echinops have finally come into their own. I planted them last year and there was the odd small bloom. This year there's several massive blue globes on each stem with the bees and hoverflies queuing up to feed from them. My other main success this month is the pictured Clematis 'Kermesina', a viticella type whose delicate looking stems bear masses of wine coloured flowers. I've hardly got to see them in previous years because they've made a bid for freedom and clambered over the fence into the ash tree where I've almost needed binoculars to see them. This year I've managed to be a bit more disciplined and kept training the stems through the Rosa 'Rambling Rector' just as I'd always wanted them to do. It means that a gap has been closed and the long stretch of fence at the side of my garden has interest from when the rose first blooms in June to when its tiny red hips finally fall by the wayside in late winter.

You picture lovers are probably disappointed with my lack of display for Blooms Day. It's because I've decided to take a different tack with my posting and show you just one thing that really strikes me each month and to weave my words around that. It also means I can put off the day a little longer when I'll need to start paying Google for extra storage space for my blog. That day is coming ever nearer!

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

Friday, 13 August 2010

On Blight Watch

The welcome drop of rain a couple of days ago combined with the continued flannel-like humidity has put me on blight watch in my garden and up at the plot. I have a number of tomato plants * here at home, plus quite a few maincrop varieties of potato up at the allotment all in a potential state of vulnerability. At least my wuthering and worrying has been calmed down a little by the discovery of a really useful website called Blight Watch. It's aimed at commercial growers but has just as much relevance to amateur ones. It's pretty clever, operating on the principle that the blight fungus needs particular conditions in which to thrive (temperature above 10 degrees centigrade for 24 hours and relative humidity above 90% for at least 11 hours) and for these to exist for 2 consecutive days. This is called the Smith Period.

Local weather records are automatically monitored for the UK and near misses, 1 day and 2 days of ideal conditions are determined. By signing up to the service I can go onto the website and see just when any of these has been recorded for my postcode. An email alert will also be sent to me whenever a Smith Period is determined for my area. I can then use this information to decide if I want to spray my crops with a precautionary fungicide** or to step up my worry and vigilance. For instance, there's been one day of ideal conditions here in the past fortnight: on August 10th.

I've also been using the Potato Council's companion Fight Against Blight website - which is linked to via Blight Watch and has oodles of useful information - particularly the distribution maps of confirmed blight cases in the UK. For a while I was reassured to see no blight recorded in my area, then realised that's because there's no Blight Scout operating around here, probably because not many potatoes are grown commercially. I contacted them about this, suggesting that there might be a role for keen amateur growers to play in enabling a full monitoring service to be provided across the UK. It turns out that they want to do just that and are currently looking for people from e.g. allotment societies to volunteer as Blight Monitors and report any suspected cases from allotment sites to them. They're really keen to get the best monitoring network possible going and I've got further information if you or your allotment/garden society are interested. The process looks simple and straightforward, so just let me know in the Comments below if you're interested or do contact them directly via the Fight Against Blight website.

If you think your tomatoes or potatoes are showing signs of blight then you might find this Potato Council leaflet helpful. It has lots of clear photos to help you with identification and is applicable to both tomatoes and potatoes as the disease and symptoms are the same for both crops. It also has information on good husbandry practice (such as watering the ground not the leaves) which will keep infestation at bay for as long as possible. If and when blight does occur, then believe it or not all is not necessarily lost if you catch it early enough: the above leaflet also tells you what you can do to save your potato crop.

In the case of tomatoes you need to strip away any infected leaves from the plant, plus any others which prevent good air circulation. Avoid splashing the leaves when watering. A good feed of liquid seaweed at this point will add to the plant's health and thus its ability to fend off the disease for as long as possible. If you're OK with using a fungicide, then you might like to use your spray of choice at this point or you could try Alys Fowler's advice re using a weekly 50/50 spray of milk and water, though I suspect she meant this to be used earlier than when the disease has actually appeared.

If blight hasn't hit yet, then this information on how to prevent it taking hold for as long as possible courtesy of My Tiny Plot via the sparkly new UK Veg Growers website may be useful and applies to potatoes as well as tomatoes. [Sorry site membership (free) is now needed to read the information]

* = yes I know I vowed never to grow any ever again after the past two years' paltry crops, but I simply couldn't resist Serendipity's kind offer of spare tomato plants when he joined us at Malvernmeet. Thanks to him we've been enjoying home grown outdoor tomatoes since the end of June :)

** = I wrote about my misgivings about that here

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Book Offer - Recycle: The Essential Guide

If you want to know more about how recycling works here in the UK, or are simply needing guidance on where to start, then you need look no further than this recently updated guide published by Black Dog Publishing. It goes through each category of waste we generate, explains how the recycling process works for them and gives you practical tips on how you can reduce or reuse this kind of waste yourselves.

It also gives an insight of where we in the UK stand re our success (and failure) in dealing with our waste problem. There's also plenty of case studies of projects from all over the world where waste is being tackled in innovative ways. There's also some striking pictures: who would have thought that an empty plastic bottle could be turned into a sign for the top of a taxi for instance? There's also a great directory at the back of the book which gives details not only of where you can get lots more information about recycling, but also those companies who are using waste such as ringpulls in innovative ways to create designer objects of desire. This directory isn't just limited to the UK, there's a good global coverage of what's out there. It's these features all in one handy reference which elevate the book above the kind of information you could find out on your own.

I have a great offer for you courtesy of the publishers. Veg Plotting readers can get a massive 40% discount on the book's price which means you can buy the book for £11.97 + approx. £2.75 P&P. Even with postage this is well below the book's price on Amazon at the moment - hurrah! That's not all: the offer isn't limited to just UK readers. Anyone outside the UK can buy the book at this discount, but you'll need to discuss the price and postage costs for you directly with the publishers first.

Interested? Then email Jess at Blackdogonline dot com (revising the at and the dot to make the correct email address as usual*) quoting "Veg Plotting Offer" in the subject line and giving your delivery details and she'll arrange the rest with you directly.

I believe this book is of general interest to everyone and would also make an excellent reference book for school libraries or any community project with a project tackling waste at a local level.

Whilst we're on the subject of recycling, I recently received this infographic summarising how all of the UK's recycling gets tackled currently and there's also important news that our new government is seeking your views and ideas on what needs to be included in their proposed waste policy. You have until the 9th September to add your thoughts. I've already added my views on the need for end-to-end thinking for labelling and dealing with plastic waste: a development of what I said recently in this post.

* = you may be wondering why I don't publish the email address with the @ and . in place or use the mailto command so you can click on it and up pops the email box all ready for you to use. It's my understanding that certain automated bots look out for precisely this kind of thing and start spamming the email address. If I'm wrong in this assumption, do let me know and I'll change the text so it's simpler for you to start placing your order. If you'd like more information first, I have a List of Contents I can email to you: get in touch via vegplotting at gmail dot com :)

Monday, 9 August 2010

Fancy Getting an Allotment?

Today sees the start of National Allotments week (9-15 August), an initiative held in the second full week of August each year and jointly promoted by the National Allotment Gardens Trust and the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners. It aims to promote awareness of allotments, both locally and nationally, so there's probably an event near you.

There's also a strong likelihood there'll be TV and other media coverage this week to tempt you into thinking about becoming an allotmenteer yourself. After all gardening programmes make it look so easy don't they? It is very easy to start growing your own and I'll be the first to encourage you to do so but I'd also like to urge caution. Allotments can be very hard work, especially if the one you're assigned has been overgrown for a while. If you're already growing some of your own at home and would like to do much more, or are the kind of person who having decided on doing something you'll see it through, then having an allotment is a fantastic idea!

You'll need to contact your local allotment society (you can find out who and where they are via your town hall or parish council) to find out what's available in your area. At this point you're highly likely to meet the first test of your resolve as most allotment societies have a long waiting list. Chippenham's is currently over 130 people and stretches back to 2007. This means that only people who signed up 3 years ago, plus some of 2008's batch of wannabes are likely to be offered an allotment here in Chippenham later this month. You may be lucky in your area and get one straight away, but if not and you're not put off by the length of the list, do please get your name down straight away. Not only does that mean you'll get your allotment sooner, it also means your local allotment society gets the best possible idea of demand and can mount an effective campaign for increased allotment provision in your area.

In the meantime, do be flexible in your approach to growing your own. All kinds of herbs and vegetables can be incorporated into your borders, or maybe part of your garden could be converted into a mini veg patch. For the former, thyme, strawberries or lettuces can be used as edging plants and beans or peas grown up wigwams instead of sweet peas or clematis. This approach particularly works well in cottage style gardens. Then there's good old pot gardening: for instance I grow winter salads in pots in my cold frame as they're well protected there and it's not too far to go and pick some fresh salad for tea when the weather's cold. Herbs grown on windowsills can also work well, as can tomatoes: we grew them in the office when I worked in Oxford :)

It's also worth exploring other potential sources of land as well as via your local allotment society. Sign up with Landshare (who've already been a source of a small number of new allotments here in Chippenham): for example someone locally offered their back garden recently for fruit and vegetable growing. Keep your eyes peeled too for community garden schemes with a vegetable growing bias or for a potential site where such a project could be kicked off. If you live in a town or village which is interested in achieving Transition Town status or has a similar strong community initiative in place, then it's likely this kind of project has already started or is in the pipeline. Have a look at the Incredible Edible Todmorden website for further inspiration and ideas.

In the meantime, good luck and let me know how you get on!

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Google Maps: Good for a Sense of Place?

Oh how I love local newspapers! Particularly when they publish letters like this delightful one penned with a dry sense of humour by Geoff Endacott concerning Google Maps:

Something strange seems to have happened in Chippenham.
Last evening I was checking the website for the Chippenham Model Railway Exhibition which takes place at Sheldon Sports Centre on October 2.
There is a helpful link to Google Maps to show visitors how to find the venue and I'm glad I checked. The Sports Centre seems to have moved into the former maths block at Sheldon School. That will disrupt lessons.
Worse was to follow. I soon realised that major changes have been made in the Monkton Park area. The Olympiad [our local sports centre] has moved to Monkton House on the other side of the park and Wiltshire Council has been forced out onto the grass by the river. The building which used to house their offices is now Monkton Park Golf Course.
At least there is nearby shelter for the staff who have been evicted. All they must do is stroll along to the Town Bridge where they will find that the Red Lion public house has thoughtfully been transferred from Lacock.
I wonder if I can help by painting some new signs. I could easily get the paint from Focus DIY now they have moved to a pedestrian island in Emery Road, which used to be Ivy Lane.
They must have been forced out by Sainsbury's [supermarket] which now occupies their former building. Perhaps Sainsbury's wanted smaller premises after Somerfield [another supermarket, now replaced by Tescos in the town] moved into an office block at the bottom of Monkton Hill and Morrison's [yet another supermarket] transferred their business to a unit at the end of Vincients Road on the Bumpers Farm Industrial Estate.
I must wander into town in the morning to find out what else has moved. After all, surely Google Maps can't be wrong?

After reading that I had to check it out for myself and he's right! I typed Chippenham into Search to get up the appropriate map: it looked just fine, but by zooming in a few times, I soon got a map showing Lacock's Red Lion and a few other locations of local businesses. A couple of further zooms in and the relocated Somerfield store, Monkton Park Golf Course and Wiltshire Council were revealed. Switching to the Satellite View really showed how wrong the map is. I can't show you everything Mr Endacott wrote about as he covered a much larger area of Chippenham than can be found in Google Maps at the scale where these businesses etc. are shown. However, the above picture gives you an idea of what's there and how inaccurate it is.

That isn't all: the village of Kington St. Michael seems to have moved into the centre of town and switching into Street View mode shows that the correctly pictured Oxfam shop in its business details (revealed if you click on the little icon by Oxfam on the map) has now changed into the Giant Party Shop just up the road. In fact most of the shops and other local businesses shown aren't in their rightful places when checked via Street View: for example, Revolutions restaurant is on the bus passing the restaurant at the time and Atwell Martin - a local estate agents - has hopped over the road to take its place.

My local paper has picked up on Mr Endacott's findings and published their own piece, which ends:

Mr Endacott decided not to seek an explanation from Google, but has now got friends checking for errors in their own towns.

I conducted a quick straw poll via Twitter last night and I'm confident that most of you wishing to follow Mr Endacott's friends example will find a similar hilarious level of errors in your neighbourhood. However, there is something you can do about it because Google Maps' help function admits straight away that this kind of data is inaccurate. They also provide a Community Edit function for you to submit changes to the map*, which allows you to change road name labels if they're incorrect, move places marked on the map, or to edit business details provided.

I haven't tried correcting Emery Road to Ivy Lane yet, but I have had a go at moving Oxfam to its rightful spot. If you left click on the icon or placing spot for the place on the map you want to change, a further information box should pop up. There should also be an option called More on there, click on this and another box pops up containing options to Move Marker, Edit Details or Report a Problem. I've moved the Marker for Oxfam - though it doesn't seem to have translated onto the map yet and be warned: if the Marker is moved more than 200 metres Google says it won't be done automatically - and used the Report a Problem option to tell Google that Kington St Michael is in the wrong place - it turns out a house has been moved to the middle of Chippenham, not the entire village: I found that rather disappointing somehow.

In the meantime, I'll always be taking this kind of information on Google Maps with a pinch of salt when visiting somewhere in future, together with a hefty dose of local knowledge gleaned from the place's inhabitants!

How's your neighbourhood looking? Does Google Maps have a good sense of place there? What's the most glaring error you've found?

* = which is probably how some of these errors got there in the first place

Update: There's a fab conversation going on in the Comments re the implications of all of this for businesses, do have a look and join in :) If you have your own business, you may also find this article about using Google Maps interesting.

Friday, 6 August 2010

How Advertising Works in Chippenham #19

  1. Decide to hold a special event to show off all the possibilities of your swanky venue
  2. Advertise your event in the sparkly new What's On section of your local newspaper
  3. Ensure it's published in good time so lots of people will come
  4. Wait for a blogger with a camera to notice that your welcome on arrival might be a bit different to what's usually on offer at these things
  5. Et voila!

Whilst marquees and gazebos are an option that larger wedding parties might be considering, I don't think the venue's restaurant staff would be that thrilled at not having the opportunity to show off what they can do to get any event off to a good start ;)

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

VPGGB #15: Strawberries

A lot of my strawberries up at the plot are either nearing the end of their useful working lives or are so interplanted with weeds at the moment, I need to thoroughly makeover their homes. This has also given me an opportunity to review the varieties I'm growing and change things around a little.

I'm really pleased with the Mae and Christine varieties I'm growing: they're both early varieties (cropping late May, or even earlier if I ever got around to protecting them with a cloche or some fleece), crop prolifically and taste wonderful. They're also generous with their runners, so I'll be making sure they're potted up this year ready to make a new bed for them. That's strawberry bargain #1: lots of plants for free. The parent plants of each variety are still very vigorous, so I'm confident I'll have lots of healthy progeny ready for next year's crop.

Both were freebies given away with a couple of garden magazines a few years ago, so that's strawberry bargain #2, as were the Florence (a late variety) I found in one of my magazines last month. I had a quick poll a couple of weeks ago to see which strawberry varieties my Twitter buddies like and this one came highly recommended. I should be taking delivery of my plants very soon.

Strawberry bargain #3 are the pictured Marshmello. I first came across this variety a couple of years ago at Gardeners' World Live where Marshalls had basketfulls available for taste testing. They were scrummy and I returned several times just to make sure the flavour was as good as I found the first time ;) I was delighted to find Marshmello plants on special offer when I was at Hampton Court last month: 18 bare root plants for a fantastic fiver. As you can see they've grown into very healthy plants in a mere few weeks, which are already bearing flowers and fruit :)

Bargain #4 is the alpine strawberry seed which came with one of my copies of Gardens Illustrated magazine earlier this year. I'm planning a new area for my allotment to trial a no dig salad bed and I'm going to edge the raised bed I'll be using for this purpose with plants I'm raising from this seed.

So I have found a number of different bargains when it comes to one of my favourite fruits. I just need to find some Mara des Bois (another Twitter recommendation: it's an everbearer i.e. crops intermittently over the entire summer and into the autumn, and is reputed to taste like a wild strawberry, but at the usual strawberry size) at the right price now and my new strawberry collection will be complete :)

What are your favourite strawberry varieties? Have you found any good bargains lately, strawberries or otherwise?

Monday, 2 August 2010

Out on the Streets: August 2010

It's August, which means it's time for our summer edition of Out on the Streets! The above picture is another from my recent singing holiday in Litomysl in the Czech Republic. It's a rather simple but pleasing arrangement I found at the local Lido (outdoor swimming pool) adorning the outside walls of the changing cabins. Window boxes on ice cream toned walls with arrangements of one or two plants in abundance were a notable feature of the town and were a welcome addition wherever I saw them.

I also have a promised post about the wonderful monastery gardens there and I'll try and find time to squeeze in a lot more about what I found during my short stay in the Czech Republic. I also have an update on Chippenham's trees on the High Street and who knows what else I might find this month?

Now it's over to you: how is summer looking in your part of the world or on holiday? Good, bad or indifferent, I'd love to know. Helen and Monica have already been busy and given me an OOTS contribution ahead of this post, so Mr Linky below already has their articles for you to view ahead of you adding your own :)

As usual, I'll put up a picture link in the right hand sidebar for you to find your way back here easily to add your own link when you're ready, or for you to see what everyone has come up with this month. So see you soon, Out on the Streets!

Update: What impeccable timing! Tonight (2nd August) at 9pm BBC4 is showing Britain's Park Story with Dan Cruikshank exploring the history of our open spaces. The link shows a number of further broadcast times this week if you've missed it. A cracking start to OOTS this month methinks :)

NB to new readers using Mr Linky: This is a regularly held blogging meme where the idea is for you to write an OOTS post on your blog and to link to it here via Mr Linky, NOT to just provide a link to your blog as a form of advertising. I'll be removing these as soon as I find your 'contribution'. A couple have gone already, so you have been warned!

Sunday, 1 August 2010

GBMD: Thoughts in a Garden

What wondrous life is this I lead!
Ripe apples drop about my head;
The luscious clusters of the vine
Upon my mouth do crush their wine;
The nectarine and curious peach
Into my hands themselves do reach;
Stumbling on melons, as I pass,
Ensnared with flowers, I fall on grass.

Andrew Marvell, Thoughts in a Garden

If only - my reality is thus:
  • Windfall apples drop about my head and that of the allotment society chairman whilst inspecting my plot
  • The grapes on my vines are tiny because I forgot to water them
  • Alas I have no nectarines, peaches or melons
  • But I am ensnared with flowers and it's been rather nice to have a little doze on the lawn this summer ;)
The picture is part of the monastery gardens in Litomysl in the Czech Republic (I also showed another view + link to more info here), which had the most luscious of grass to fall upon on very hot afternoons. I have plenty of thoughts to share with you about this garden for this month's OOTS. Kick-off post is due tomorrow :)

Garden Bloggers' Muse Day is hosted by Carolyn Choi at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago.
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