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Showing posts from October, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: A Good Year For Ivy

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Ashes to Ashes?

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I spent a huge chunk of the weekend peering up at the ash trees (Fraxinus excelsior) at the side of our house. They're always one of the last trees to decide it's autumn and last week they finally donned their seasonal clothes of buttery yellow. Saturday's blue sky and slanting sunshine made for perfect viewing. It's something I always do at this time of year, but this time was a poignant one because of the recent news about ash dieback fungus (aka Chalara fraxinea).

This fungus has attacked ash trees across Europe the past few years, for example decimating around 90% of those found in Denmark. Cases have been reported recently in East Anglia and Kent and many concerned groups - especially The Woodland Trust - have been actively lobbying the government to act swiftly to prevent the disease from spreading.

Today, a ban on the import of ash trees comes into force and a number of civil servants have been redeployed to cope with the extra work anticipated over the coming …

Book Review: Three From Haynes

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Haynes are well known for their car maintenance manuals with their anatomical-style cut-away pictures and step by step guides for home car care. However, the increasing complexity of our cars means we're more reliant nowadays on garage mechanics rather than doing it at home.

So Haynes have diversified their offering into other areas; adapting the style where needed, but generally keeping to their philosophy of using clear, colourful diagrams and pictures to get the information across to readers. I've been  offered the pick of their catalogue a couple of times this year, and have chosen three* garden related manuals to review.

First up is the Garden Landscaping Manual by Paul Wagland. This is aimed at gardeners who are considering the DIY approach to a major hardscaping project. It would be a good start for anyone who's bought a new-build house and is looking to create a garden from the brown, muddy patch or wall to wall lawn the builders have left them with.

Pretty much ev…

Salad Days: Tucking Up For Winter

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Today has significance at VP Gardens because it's the last day we have daylight for 10 hours until the middle of February next year. It means my salad plants won't be growing much over the next few months even if today's wintry temperature goes back to the unseasonal warmth we had earlier this week.

Salad leaves need both a decent temperature and sufficient light to grow. The experience we've had during the52 Week Salad Challenge so far suggests for many of us light is the more restricting factor in winter, even though quite a few salad crops usually do well in shade during the summer. I suspect in summer temperature has the major part to play as lettuce don't like things to be too hot and tend to bolt if they are. In that situation the shade is enough to keep them feeling comfortable.

We've found that plants grown indoors in reasonable warmth still don't really get going during most of the winter months, hence our anecdotal thoughts that light levels have…

Separated at Birth? Apples

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I have an exciting 'Case of the Mysterious Apple' to solve up at the allotment as my Spartan apple tree is also sporting some completely different apples this year.

The green apple shown on the right is confined to a sturdy upright branch. I've traced it back and it looks like I missed one of the growths from below the graft union when pruning a couple of years ago.

I'm in the process of asking my apple supplier if he knows which variety it is. He often grafts his own trees, so may have the information to hand. When I asked about rootstock at Marlborough Apple Day recently, the local nurseryman there was rather surprised as they're usually from a crab apple variety, rather than the larger apple I have.

I've yet to do a taste test as it isn't quite ripe enough for picking. I can tell this because it's staying firmly attached to the branch when I gently cup my hand around the apple and lift it up.

The usual advice would be to prune this extra branch out …

A Chance to Hear Charles Dowding

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I received an email from Sy yesterday, who's asked for my help to drum up support for a talk by Charles Dowding. Charles is an excellent speaker and as the talk is at a not for profit organisation, I'm very happy to do so. Please pass the word around to anyone you know who may be interested. Here's what Sy has to say:

Hi VP

It’s so great to find someone that has met Charles, your blog about your visit to his farm is fantastic - it takes me straight back there. I wondered if you would be able to tell people about this talk on your blog for me. No one knows about him where I live - that’s why I wanted to have Charles talk to my community of grow your own enthusiasts.

Little did I know how hard it was going be to find them. Stockwood Discovery Centre [the venue] may even cancel the talk as they are a charity and will not be able to make a loss. The text below is the email I’ve been sending to everyone.

Thank you for reading this.

I run Sweet Pea Gardening Services a…

Book Review: Kitchen Garden Estate

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I have dreams of having a walled kitchen garden and a vast orchard, but the reality of life means my ownership of such is a few fruit trees on my allotment and garden, plus regular visits to National Trust properties, or the likes of West Dean in Sussex to get my fix. I now possess another way of visiting; a rather nice way of doing it in the comfort of my own home.

Kitchen Garden Estate documents life on the country estates looked after by the National Trust. The introduction briefly traces the development of estate management over the centuries, and how the Trust now sees their role for educational purposes, their restaurant/cafe supplies and wider community involvement.

The bulk of the book is devoted to highlighting the produce an owner would expect from their country estate. This is much wider than what initially springs to mind. Not only are the usual fruit and vegetables; herbs and flowers; orchards and bees explored, the wider estate and its provisioning in the form of dairy …

Tried and Trusted: Other Leaves

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When I asked you for your favourite lettuce varieties recently, there were spontaneous recommendations for a host of other leaves and herbs. Today's post bundles them up to form a companion to August's Tried and Trusted: Lettuce :)

Top Bloggers and Tweeters recommend:
Agastache - 'Tasted an agastache leaf today. BLOODY HELL! Why'd no one tell me they're so utterly delicious?'Basil - 'amazing flavour'. 'Wow, what's the herb in our salad tonight?' - said NAH after I'd scattered the smaller leaved Greek basil over our summer salads Beetroot leaves - 'earthy'Bulb fennel - thinnings, fronds and bulb all add a great aniseed flavour to saladsChervil - 'virtually indestructible' Lamb's lettuce (added by me in 2013, as it's doing so well outside)Land Cress - 'I over winter land cress in my greenhouse, does well and spices up a winter salad'. NB @mandahill warns germination and growth rates for the variegated variet…

Wiltshire's Apples

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After last week's post about Wiltshire's Apple Days, I decided to go to Marlborough's on Sunday. This was on the strength they were having some Wiltshire varieties available for tasting and I'd been wanting to find out more about them for ages.

Marlborough has a community orchard project and they've decided the town's 'Diamond Jubilee Plantation' will "celebrate 60 years of HM The Queen's reign, and restore historic links between common land and local foods for local people".

Part of this project has been to find as many apple varieties as possible which hail from Wiltshire. I knew of 3 before Sunday; that knowledge has now expanded to 10 and I've also tasted 7 of them :)


'Roundway Magnum Bonum' came top in my taste test on the day, but I'm sure some of the others would have been strong contenders at other times. One was an early apple already past its best (in my view, though it was proving popular with others) and two of…

GBBD: Shiny New Salvias

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My thoughts are beginning to gel re the revamped terrace beds which I've been mulling over for quite a while now since the demise of the 'sentinel' conifers early this year. 1. Rosa 'Kew Gardens' to froth over a larger version of a peony basket which NAH has promised to make, and 2. Have lots more Dahlias of the single flowered kind for the bees.

3. has taken me a bit by surprise because it involves Salvias, something that's relatively new for the garden. I've tried (and killed) S. 'Hot Lips' before, but the small plant I acquired at Combe Trenchard in early June has thwarted any attempts for an early demise so far.

I did think I'd planted it in the wrong place as this year's Dahlias were threatening to shade it out completely. Instead it's sprawled comfortably from underneath them and looks like it's leaning over the terrace wall for a long chat. The Dahlias' days are numbered and next year the Salvia will be growing well way b…

Review: Into Gardens

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We're well into the Autumn, so it's time to curl up in the warm with a glass or mug of something comforting and a good book or magazine. Soon, it'll be Christmas, so I'm spending the next few Sundays reviewing some of the things that have grabbed my attention this year, which might also please the gardener in your life.

First up is the newly launched Into Gardens, an App which is available on the iPad and due to become available on iPhone and Android early next year.

I don't have an iPad, but I was able to nick borrow NAH's sister-in-law's brand new one when we were 'oop north' last weekend. The chaps and chapesses at Into Gardens have cleverly put a trial issue in the Apps store, so you can 'try before you buy'.

Downloading the App

There was no problem in finding the App in the store and selecting the trial issue (Issue 00). The first issue is also there to download for £2.99 (or £9.99 if you decide to take all the first year's quarterl…

Salad Glut Busters: Cucumber

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We're well into the cooler days now, so I spent some time earlier this week clearing some of the beds up at the allotment. The cucumber plants were past their best, so I rounded up their fruit and now have a glut!

I tweeted this fact on #saladchat and received some interesting ideas to share with you today:
Cucumber soup w/ dill or lettuce/bacon/pea/cue, cucumber stew, cucumber sauce for fish, yoghurt/chilli salad (via @Carllegge - with various links I've found since our #saladchat)Might not use up loads but I like making a big bowl of tabouleh with cucumbers in (and toms, parsley etc) - thanks @kitchgardengirl. Now it just so happens Liz at Suburban Tomato gave us a recipe for tabouleh in an earlier Salad Days. Her recipe doesn't include cucumber, but it's ripe for adaptation :)We are pickling glut cucumbers now said @cafebargeArgyll *. I asked them for a recipe and they suggested: Ours are about 6 inches. Quarter lengthways, salt overnight, pickle in rice vinegar/spi…

BUG Talks and Gardens by the Bay

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October sees the nights really drawing in, which I find a bit depressing. However, one bright spot on the horizon is the start of this season's talks at the University of Bath Gardening Club (aka BUG).

I'm particularly excited about the first one next week, because it features the pictured Gardens by the Bay. I first saw their Avatar like presence in one of the gardening magazines a while back and I've been itching to find out more about them ever since.

It just so happens the landscape architects responsible (Grant Associates) are based in Bath and offered to come to talk to BUG, so we have Andrew Grant and Patrick Bellew coming to tell us all about their work :)

By coincidence Grant Associates' PR company contacted me recently and gave me permission to use the above image. It also means I'll have plenty more for when I write up next week's talk. Not only that, I'm hoping Andrew Grant will be a VP VIP very soon :)

I see Derry hasn't updated her websit…

Apple Days: Going Local

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October 21st is now firmly established as Apple Day in the calendar thanks to the sterling efforts of Common Ground over many years. Until 2010 they published a great calendar of events which made it ultra easy to find a suitable one to attend.

Sadly the calendar is no longer kept up to date, though their Apple Day page is still worth a visit to find leads for possible events in 2012. There's also lots of information about apple lore and traditions, apple based games and a 'toolbox' of ideas to help you arrange your own event.

I've decided to go to a local Apple Day this year, so here's what I've found so far in case you'd like to go to one too.

What's on in Wiltshire 2012
Holt - Punkie Apple Day at The Courts - October 29th @ 12 - 4pm (included in admission price)Lacock - Apple Day at Lacock Abbey- October 21st @ 10.30am - 5.30pm (included in admission price)Marlborough - Big Apple Day - October 14th @ 9am - 3pm (free)Swindon - Celebrating National Appl…

A Cheat's* Guide to Salad Growing

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This post is for my new commenter Black and Tabby (welcome!) who asked after my Rich Pickings post recently:

Hi, have been following 'salad days' for a while but only just got my allotment up and running so only just sowing. Is it worth putting in a row of beetroot, or salad leaves now, or is it getting too cold for them. Appreciate any advice! #newbie

I gave some advice on what she could do then (too late now) in my comment reply, but her question and its timing got me thinking on what can be done when things don't quite go to plan e.g.

we don't get the timing right for a particular crop because other tasks got in the wayrampaging slugs and snails eat up everything in sight (how many posts and tweets have we had on that subject this year?!!!!), or some other plague or pestilence lays our salads lowour lovingly sown seeds don't come up (like my non-existent spinach this autumn)there wasn't room at the time, but there's some space magically free nowsupply you…

Wordless Wednesday: The Lure of the Cotswolds

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GBMD: All Gardening Is...

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I found William Kent's quote whilst visiting Beningbrough Hall last month. There was an interesting exhibition about landscape styles and designers using scenes from various National Trust gardens to illustrate them. Beningbrough's entry on the National Trust's website says:

The exhibition pairs contemporary landscape photography with portraits of 18th-century landscape designers. In partnership with the National Portrait Gallery.

If you go there you get to see that well known portrait of Capability Brown for real.

The exhibition continues until January 2013 and the Trust's partnership with the National Portrait Gallery was responsible for my recent Greetings From Yorkshire. Beningbrough also has its own blog :)