For Apple Day

It's Apple Day tomorrow and what a bumper crop we have chez VP Gardens and on the allotment this year. Today's post comes as a slightly premature celebration as we have family matters to attend to over the weekend.

We enjoy fruit juice as a weekly treat on Sundays with our roast dinner, so it was a natural step to invest in a juicer. I swithered between this and an apple press, and in the end I plumped for a juicer as it's cheaper and fulfils our immediate needs. I did have a daydream about pressing oodles of juice for a full year's supply, but practical matters such as pasteurisation and storage swiftly brought me back to reality.

I'm enjoying the process immensely and it's a great way of using up loads of apples, especially any windfalls where only the damaged or bruised bits should be left out. It takes around 12 of them to produce enough juice to fill 2 glasses. Our season started off last month with single variety 'Scrumptious' and I'm current…

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: Scabious 'Kudos Purple'

I haven't grown many new-to-me plants in the garden this year; most of those delights are currently up at the allotment for my Flowers for Mum project. The exception is the pictured scabious 'Kudos Purple', a plant I've trialled courtesy of Thompson & Morgan (T&M) via February's Garden Press Event.

I'm having a bit of a 'Should've gone to Specsavers' moment because none of my plants are purple, but pink, and a look at T&M's online catalogue confirms they are indeed... er, pink. Why not call them 'Kudos Pink' then?!?

They've been rather shy to bloom too, preferring to fill out their pots with plentiful healthy foliage instead. They started flowering around three weeks ago, where they've been a welcome addition on the patio and making up for lost time. I'm dithering whether to plant them out in the garden now, or wait until they've finished flowering. They'll look grand in the sunny spot waiting in the lowe…

Weekend Wandering: Farewell to the White House

Chippenham lost one of its iconic buildings yesterday, known locally as the White House. This was the view of it from the end of the platform at the railway station. It was part of the Westinghouse (then Invensys then Siemens) site where NAH worked, and I always looked out for it coming home on the train from Swindon or London. Not only did the White House welcome me home, it was my signal to get up and leave the train.

A few weeks ago I arrived ultra early for a train one Saturday morning and knowing of the White House's imminent demise, I decided to have a final look. The site is being cleared for redevelopment and I've never understood why this building couldn't be incorporated into the housing scheme set to replace it. There is nothing quite like it in the rest of Chippenham and I'm sure there was scope for conversion into apartments.

Here's the full view of the building. As you can see its final incarnation was as a furniture store. This moved some time ago t…

Down to Earth with Monty Don

Some days are destined to be extra special and the last day of September was one of them. Not only did I get to swan around a secret garden in the heart of London, I - along with twenty or so other garden bloggers - had the good fortune to meet Monty Don and preview his latest book, Down to Earth.

What a perfect setting the Ham Yard Hotel turned out to be...

...nestled close to Piccadilly Circus and whisked up to the fourth floor, there's a different world waiting to be explored. It's a beautiful, productive roof garden complete with a bug hotel, bee hives and a green roof on the shed. It was a great space to explore with my blogging buddies and unlike my poor tomatoes, the hotel's were still going strong with not a hint of blight. I also envied the huge aubergines and curly chillies in the display.

There was plentiful space for entertaining, though we were too busy chatting and enjoying the warm afternoon in the garden to move onto the inviting sofas. Then Monty appeared…

Flowers for Mum: Some lessons learned

I'm still getting to grips with dahlias as a cut flower and it's important I do as they're the one flower still pumping out masses of blooms this late in the season. I've found picking time is crucial to success - too early and the flowers don't open; too late and they simply fall apart. They're not the longest lasting bloom either, but they form an important connection with mum as dad used to help organise the annual dahlia show where he worked.

Reaction has proved key to success for my Flowers for Mum project this year. As well as the dahlias, bright blooms get a thumbs up, as does anything with a scent or strokeable leaves. Sadly mum's special Portmeirion vase has gone AWOL for the time being; she loves pointing out the bee and butterfly in the design, so I hope it returns to her room soon.

My kitchen windowsill is now a colourful laboratory where I test which flowers last well in the vase. Whilst I have plenty of cut flower books to guide me, it's …

Garden Bloggers' Muse Day: I do not claim...

I was struck by the quotation I found for Friday's Thresholds post, and thought it worthy of a repeat for today's Muse Day. What a prescient notion in Fox Talbot's words.

This time I've superimposed it on a photo I took at 2014's Illuminating Lacock Abbey exhibition. The projected image is another of Fox Talbot's and a similar one was on display in Thresholds. It was a spine tingling feeling to 'hold' this image in my hand via the magic of Virtual Reality.

I wonder what's next?


I've been to another world! It's probably the closest I'll ever get to time travel...

...Thresholds is the brainchild of artist Mat Collishaw who's recreated the world's first public exhibition of photographs in Virtual Reality (VR). Lacock Abbey is a fitting venue seeing it's where the creator of those images - Fox Talbot - lived and many of the photographs he exhibited in 1839 were of the Abbey or plants in his garden.

Here you can see me all kitted up with battery back pack, wired for sound via the headphones, and peering into the blue screen of the VR headset. National Trust volunteer Bill is ready to guide me into the room where the action takes place... to take me over the threshold as it were.

Artist Mat Collishaw poses in the room where the VR magic happens. Before you get to this point you're guided up a slope and just as you enter the room, the screen suddenly changes from blue to another world. The room's layout is synchronised with the virtu…


I've often wondered whether a visit to GLEE would be worthwhile, so the call for blogger ambassadors at the event was a welcome opportunity. Was the trek up the NEC worth it? You bet - with jazz hands, an energetic dance routine, and knobs on.

GLEE is huge. There are 4 halls stuffed with 550 exhibitors showing all kinds of wares aimed at the garden retail industry. Naturally buyers are the key audience for this event, and as a result I feared bloggers wouldn't be made welcome. Happily that fear was unfounded, from the moment I presented my entrance ticket right up to closing time.

How to make sense of what's going on? Preparation is key. The GLEE website was an essential pre-read with lots of temptation, then I added some key headings I wanted to explore, such as 'funky pots' and The Great Green Wall Hunt. Finally I added some of my personal garden projects for next year, to see what the industry has to offer.

Even with that little lot to get through, I soon went …

Here comes the judge

I entered a new world at the weekend, courtesy of my friend Sally who invited me to judge the flower classes at Foxham Horse Show. After I said I'd love to, a little bit of jiggery-pokery ensued and I swiftly achieved promotion to fruit, veg AND flower classes.

I was totally unaware this event existed until Sally volunteered as show secretary this year. Not only does it exist, it celebrated its 30th birthday on Saturday. The horse show is the main raison d'etre with around 300 horses attending this year's competitions of all kinds. The produce classes were added a couple of years ago as a fun way of involving more people.

Foxham is a small village around 5 miles north of Chippenham. It's a pleasant drive which follows Maud Heath's Causeway for quite a way and goes through the hamlet of Kellaways. This is the source for the naming of the Kellaways Formation, a particular series of sands and clays from the Jurassic period.* It shows even a tiny dot on the map can ach…