Seen at the Festival of the Tree

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

Friday, 27 December 2013

Salad Days: Food for Thought

When I started the 52 Week Salad Challenge 2 years ago it was because I was horrified at the proportional cost of our weekly bagged salad fix, when compared with the price of the likes of top quality steak. In the video above (click here to view if the embedded version doesn't work) Jane Perrone explains this consumption has surprising  political (to me anyway) as well as economic implications. Some food for thought going into 2014...

Green salad from the cold frames
...December's mild weather means my under cover salad has continued to crop well. It's been interesting to note how the cos type lettuces ('Intred' in particular) are standing well in comparison to their looser leaved cousins. 'Salad bowl' has disappeared completely under its protective fleece and some of the 'Marveille de Quatre Saisons' have rotted off at soil level.

A spot of sunshine last week meant I was able to give everything a good airing and clear away any mushy leaves, which will help to keep things going. I have leaves to last into January and then the cores will be left to recover for early spring pickings. I can also see that the plants picked earlier in the autumn are healthier. Perhaps their being closer to the soil, plus the greater airflow around the plants has left them better prepared to meet winter's chills.

Refreshing the allotment leaves
A few nights of frost have started a real change to the radicchio up at the allotment - from a red freckled green to its characteristic deep crimson winter heart. I must remember to take my camera next time, so I can show you. One surprise is I'm still picking the unprotected buckler leaf sorrel and 'Green in snow' mustard. Their touch of citrus and heat respectively are helping to enliven our taste buds at tea time.

How's your salad faring this winter? There's no Mr Linky this month, unless there's plenty of salad to report. If you leave details of your salad related post in the Comments, I'll add a full link to this post.

Elsewhere on the salad front...

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

An Unexpected Visitor

Christmas is usually a time when unexpected, random things happen. Our share for this year occurred at 3.15pm yesterday afternoon when one of ash trees on the public land next door decided to hop over the fence for a visit.

Ironically, it was probably the last huge gust of yesterday's storm which brought it down. I heard a loud crack and then saw what at first looked like part of the roof falling past our bedroom window. It turned out to be the top of the tree brushing against the house on its way down. We were very lucky as there's only minor damage - just a small branch stuck in the gutter, plus my apple tree in the pot next to the house is no more.

The council's website says they'll respond to this within 5 working days. In view of the strength of yesterday's storm I suspect we'll be quite a way down their list of priorities, so I'm contemplating decorating it for Christmas ;)

Update 30th December: After a slight hiccup (the council initially said it wasn't their problem and closed the incident), a local contractor removed the tree from our garden this morning.

I'm pleased to say they've left all of the wood on the public land to help wildlife, so well done D W Oliver Tree Services Ltd!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Merry Christmas

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

One of my GNO pals put this fun ecard together. I've had such a giggle viewing it and I hope you do too.

Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year. Veg Plotting will be back briefly for Salad Days on the 27th and will then resume in January.


Friday, 20 December 2013

Garden Scramble

I thought it would be fun to devise a quiz for Christmas...

...can you unscramble the anagrams to find the hidden gardens?

The photos are further clues but aren't necessarily presented in the same order. All the gardens are found in the UK or Ireland and I've visited them all, but I may not have blogged about them.
  1. Back lace boy (6,5)
  2. O! He must run (5,5)
  3. Half edit shoe (8,5) * 
  4. Err yet warp (10)
  5. Hop to curt man (7,5)
  6. Rob nets wit (10)
  7. New dates (4,4)
  8. Axed gritter (5,6)
  9. Roy earns my talc (5,4,5)
* = Wellyman has helpfully pointed out you need to add a 'u' to this anagram to find the solution. He suggests Leafiest doh uh (or perhaps Uh! Leafiest doh) for the full anagram experience. My apologies.

I've put the solution here, ready for you to check your answers. How many did you get before you had a sneaky peek?

Update: Tuckshop Gardener has a fun Christmas-themed garden quiz if you fancy another stretch of your 'leetle grey cells' over the festive period :)

Monday, 16 December 2013

How to Make My Wellies Happy

Here's my variation on the famous 'Dig for Victory' single boot photo ;)

Picture the scene. You've had a couple of busy hours up at the plot and you've driven home weary but refreshed from all that fresh air and exercise. What's the single thought you have in mind? Get the kettle on. What thwarts me from that act every single time? Yep, my pesky wellies.

So I was pleased when Rich from the English Lamp Post Company offered me one of their boot scrapers to review. Previously I've resorted to using our doorstep to help with my welly removal and it's not been a total success. As well as taking a while, the picture above shows the damage I've caused to our doorstep. This is now awaiting a good rub down and re-varnish next year. My wellies aren't that happy either as I often chuck them across the garden afterwards in a fit of bad temper.

As you can see, the scraper I received is a sturdy piece of kit. We have a lobby area inside our front door, so I'm keeping it there ready for whenever I need it. Bearing in mind Cally's recent problems with her door wreath being stolen, I think that's a wise move, even though the scraper's pretty heavy as it's made from cast iron.

The brushes and scraping area are great for removing the mud from my boots, though NAH found it wasn't so good for the work boots he uses at Midsomer Norton. His boots have super deep tread, which makes his mud super hard to remove.

The best bit is the boot jack at the back. It makes my wellies a dream to remove and nowadays I'm inside putting that kettle on in super quick time :)

Sunday, 15 December 2013

GBBD: How Not to Look After Your Princettia®

My offering for this month's Blooms Day is a sorry tale of how not to look after your Christmas Poinsettia. Mine is a called 'Princettia'®, a more unusual pink version of the traditional red seen at this time of year, which is available from Thompson & Morgan.

I acquired mine in a much happier condition at the Garden Media Guild Awards at the end of November, where they formed the centre piece of each table. I hope the blurry photo I took at the time is sufficient proof that I did at least start with a nice, healthy looking plant.

I now offer you a handy guide, which I think you won't find elsewhere...

How not to look after your 'Princettia'®... or any other Poinsettia for that matter

You should NOT...

  • attempt to squash it into the watering can goody bag provided so you can leave one arm free to deal with your overnight bag
  • take it to a very crowded pub for a few hours
  • rest it for a while in a dark corner at the Turkish restaurant across the road from the pub
  • give it regular walks in the frosty open air for 24 hours after your acquisition
  • bring it home on the train the next day
  • leave it to recuperate on the kitchen windowsill

So I'm very sorry Thompson & Morgan for my woeful mistreatment of your gift. Despite this cultivar's noted resistance to draughts and the ravages of central heating, I suspect it's too late to save my plant, even though I've been following the RHS's guidance since I brought it home. 

Despite the falling bracts and leaves, the actual flowers on my plant (you can just see a couple of them in the photo) seem to be relatively OK. Time will tell whether that happier state of affairs continues...

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

Friday, 13 December 2013

Seasonal Recipe: Roasted Squash and Rocket Salad

Most food bloggers are busy with festive recipes*, so I'm going against the trend today by posting a salad recipe for December. Earlier this week NAH and I found ourselves overstuffed from our respective Christmas parties, so we were happy to have a simple salad the day after.

I was inspired to create this recipe back in October, after finding a delicious squash salad on the menu when I visited the Yeo Valley Organic garden. Their version had butter beans which I don't have, so I substituted some mixed toasted seeds instead.

This recipe is still seasonal for December and is a great way of using some of my Bucket o'Squash and eking out my remaining winter salad leaves, such as the rocket I've used in this instance. This recipe serves two and accompanies our usual salad of mixed leaves, plus some grilled fish or meat.

  • 1 'Jack be Little' squash (or equivalent), approximately 300g in weight
  • A generous handful of rocket leaves (or whatever you have to hand - preferably on the spicy side such as land cress or mustard leaves, or perhaps some baby spinach if making this earlier in the year)
  • 50g toasted seeds - I used an equal mix of pumpkin, sunflower and linseed
  • 4 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly milled black pepper

  • Heat the oven to 200oC (or 180oC for fan ovens) or gas mark 6. I took advantage of using the oven for our Sunday roast and cooked my squash a couple of days ahead of when needed
  • Pop the squash in the oven and roast it whole for around 25 minutes, until the skin is just beginning to turn brown and come away from the squash's flesh
  • Allow to cool then peel the squash (much easier than when raw), deseed it and chop the flesh into smallish cubes
  • Add the squash to a serving bowl followed by the rocket leaves and toasted seeds
  • Mix the olive oil and balsamic vinegar together with a couple of good twists of black pepper and add to the bowl
  • Gently mix everything together, until the dressing has coated everything - it won't take long!
  • Serve immediately

  • If a cold salad doesn't appeal at this time of year, then this salad can be served warm. Simply peel and cube the squash prior to roasting on a pre-oiled baking sheet, then quickly add to the other pre-mixed ingredients and serve
  • I like the idea of adding some ruby red pomegranate for a more colourful, festive looking salad
  • Add some crumbled feta or goat's cheese for a vegetarian meal
  • Use any salad dressing and herbs of your choice to ring the changes

* = I can offer you some Chocolate Spice Cookies from the guest post archives instead, if you're looking for something more festive.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Unusual Front Gardens #17: Chillies

The houses by Regent's Park in London are extremely des res, but without much in the way of a front garden. Instead, planters and windowboxes with lots of tasteful topiary and clipped shrubs with the odd bit of lavender are the norm. I was photographing some examples to show you, then to my delight I found the planting at the last house contained a twist which elevated it to my Unusual Front Garden series.

I think the addition of luscious red chillies amongst the more usual heather, cyclamen and Skimmia gives the planters a festive looking touch too.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Senzeni Na?

Last night amidst all the Christmas carols and mince pies, our choir sang Senzeni Na? to honour Nelson Mandela. We've performed this before as South African songs are a rich seam which we exploit with great passion and enjoyment.

The title's translation is What Have We Done? It's traditionally sung at funerals and is a protest song, so it's a fitting tribute.

The picture is from the opening ceremony at the Special Olympics in Dublin in 2003 which were opened by Nelson Mandela. He's a tiny dot because I was perched right at the top of the stadium. It was emotional to be in the presence of such a great man. You can read my account of that time here.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Great British Garden Revival

The nation's gardeners await with anticipation. I hope it's worth it!

Starts tonight on BBC2 at 7.00pm - every weekday evening this week + week beginning 6th January 2014 for another week. Full episode synopsis here.

Thought for the day: Interesting to see a TV trailer also published on YouTube...

Update 10th December: Last night's programme looks like it's been well received - I'll be catching up today as I was at choir last night.

NB The schedule has been altered slightly with no progamme tonight or tomorrow and a subsequent extension into week beginning 13th January. The above link has been updated to reflect this, so is worth keeping an eye on for any future changes.

Update 2: It's been amazing to see Twitter light up with reactions to the programmes as they're happening. I particularly enjoyed James Wong's tweets last week which showed further inspirational examples of roof gardens. It got me thinking: as so much of these programmes has let real gardeners tell their stories (one of the programme's strengths in my view), it would be great to capture further examples from viewers - either existing ones or in response to the programme.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Let's Kickstart Incredible Edible Todmorden

I'm delighted Joanna Dobson from Incredible Edible Todmorden is writing a guest post for Veg Plotting. You may remember I've mentioned this amazing project before, especially when I've written about public planting. I've enthused so much about what's happening in Yorkshire, even NAH knows what I'm talking about! *

So I'm thrilled Joanna has offered to write a blog post, which will appear here in the New Year; it'll be great to have an injection of inspiration in the post Yuletide slump ;)

So why am I telling you this now?

I noticed from the links Joanna sent me that she's written a book about the project (along with her partner Julian), called Incredible! Plant Veg, Grow a Revolution and is seeking funds via Kickstarter in order to get it published. It needs £10,000 for them to do a 'proper job' of the publishing process and to finance the first print run. When I last looked (on December 5th), they'd raised £7,843.

The fund raising period closes on December 12th (next Thursday), so time is of the essence and that's why I've written today's post. I hope you'll join me in helping with the final push to get Incredible Edible's story out there. There aren't that many projects which have international inspiration as a claim to fame.

The pictures for this post are courtesy and copyright Joanna Dobson. They illustrate a post called Hope: an update on Joanna's own blog. The wonderful plaques shown at the top of this post were made by Linda Reith.

Update: I'm pleased to report the fund raising target was reached on Monday evening. Thanks to everyone who donated or spread the word as a result of reading this post or my tweets :)

* = though seeing Michael Portillo visit it on one of his Great British Railway Journeys in 2010 may have helped a smidgen ;)

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

GMG Awards Sees a Fresh Perspective on Gardens

If the embedded video above doesn't work, click on this link instead.

There's been much comment this week on the viability of Amazon using drones for delivery purposes. If and when that happens is still some time away.

Last week I had the privilege of seeing the results of a drone actually in action at the GMG Awards. It introduces the romantic gardens at the fairytale Ch√Ęteau du Rivau* in the Loire region of France.

Sit back and enjoy both a birds-eye and visitor level view of this garden; it gives such a different perspective on the provision of garden information. Later on at the Awards, Dr Hessayon** spoke about the need for conventional garden media to become more inventive; to be something which can't be found via Google. I think the bar has just been set particularly high for those writing about or photographing gardens.

My thanks to garden owner and designer Patricia Laigneau for letting me use this video. She simply showed me this on her iPad last week and I was blown away by what I saw. What a wonderful way to introduce me to her chateau and garden.

Drones are relatively inexpensive and used for a wide variety of interesting applications such as aerial surveys of archaeological sites and historic monuments. I sense there's a great business opportunity here, not only for garden owners, but also for garden and landscape designers to add this perspective to their design portfolios. Also, the RHS have already made 360 degree views available for the show gardens at Chelsea, how about using this for the entire show?

* = Click on the EN in the top right hand corner if you need an English translation

** = yes, THE Dr Hessayon :)

Monday, 2 December 2013

I Love December For...

... Carols

I've missed my last two choir sessions, so tonight I'll be singing Christmas carols for the first time this year. I particularly look forward to these, because they were the first thing I tackled when I joined up 6 years ago. They also mark my transition from "Bah humbug Christmas always starts too early" to "Awwww, peace and goodwill, everyone" ;)

To help celebrate the season we're embarking on our traditional tour of local hostelries in Corsham and Bradford on Avon (BOA) this week, starting with the Christmas lights switch on in Corsham. Here are the details:

  • Friday 6th Dec, 6.20pm singing outside the Town Hall in Corsham
  • Sunday 8th Dec, 3pm carols in Dandy Lion BOA
  • Monday 9th Dec, 7.30 - 8.30pm in Pound Arts Centre, then to the Flemish Weaver pub for singing, beer & mince pies!
  • Sunday 15th Dec, 3pm carols in George BOA
  • Monday 16th Dec, 7.30 - 9.30pm singing, mulled cider & mince pies in the Pound Arts Centre (to be pre-ordered).
  • Sunday 22nd Dec, 3pm carols in Canal Tavern BOA

If you're in the area, come along and join the fun! Here's our set list - note that the familiar ones won't sound familiar as our choir master loves finding the more obscure versions.

  • Hark the Herald Angels Sing
  • Malpas Wassail
  • Diadem
  • While Shepherds Watched *
  • Ding Dong Merrily on High
  • I Hear Along Our Street (The Dunster Carol)
  • Awake & Join the Cheerful Choir (Britford) - a local Wiltshire carol
  • We might also do The Holly & The Ivy as a quick warm-up (it's v easy) and Hail Smiling Morn (only two parts and you'll be carried along with it).

* = for those of you familiar with I'm Sorry I haven't a Clue, this is our version of "one song to the tune of another". NB If you take the link and don't want the sound, the off button is in the top right hand corner.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

GBMD: Roses in December

A quick scoot around my garden this morning showed I don't need my memory this first day of December.

Icy blasts are forecast for later this week, so I shall treasure this fading rose while it lasts.
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