Tuesday, 31 March 2009

'These Boots Are Made For Walking'

K IS FOR ?





KEYS !

"I wish I could remember where I put things. I spend half my life looking for my keys. With the other half I look for my glasses."

~ Sara Paretsky.

Well, I must admit that I was really struggling to think of a suitable K word and it is only today that my K word materialised. I love kaftans but did not fancy modeling one for the occasion. I do not have a pet kangaroo and it was not windy enough today to fly my kite. I have visited some places that begin with the letter K but have no photos of my own. I could not think of any plants that I grow beginning with the letter K. I am partial to the double kerria japonica which my sister grows in her garden. Somewhere I have a photograph of niece when she was much younger where she is twirling on the spot in the garden. A kerria tiara adorned her head and she held a little posy of daisies. It is my favourite photo of her but it is pre-digital camera days. As yet I have not worked out how to use the scanner with this relatively new computer set up so that put an end to that idea.

Then inspiration struck this morning when I was unable to find the keys to my allotment. They were not hanging in their usual spot. We were at the allotment yesterday afternoon and I had locked the gate behind us when we left or did I ? The doubt sets in. Did I leave them in the gate for some passing opportunist to let themselves on to the site and cause havoc overnight ? If so my name would be mud and I would never dare show my face or trowel at the allotments again. Over an hour later I located them and after such a kerfuffle I was no longer sure whether I wanted to go to the allotment :) Earlier this year himself treated me to a little magical gadget which helps you to locate keys when they decide to hide from you. I attached the gadget to my house key-ring and it has been invaluable. Time to buy a magical whatsit for the allotment key-ring methinks !

This is my post for ABC Wednesday - the brilliant idea of Denise Nesbitt. If you are keen to gain more knowledge on that letter K have a peek there now.

Monday, 30 March 2009

'Lost in France' - Out On The Streets

 
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'I was lost in France
In the fields the birds were singing
I was lost in France
And the day was just beginning
As I stood there in the morning rain
I had a feeling I can't explain
I was lost in France in love.'


- from the song by Bonnie Tyler.


During the last few years we have been lost in France a few times in our campervan - himself at the wheel, me with the map but we have always managed to get back on track. Whilst travelling mainly in Normandy and Brittany I have been impressed by some of the public plantings both in towns, cities and their approaches. I have seen some of the most beautifully planted roundabouts that you could wish to come across. Somehow I could not persuade himself to stop for me to take photos, so short of me jumping out of a moving vehicle and risking life and limb I have to be content what we have managed to photograph when stationary.

If you click on the collage you will be able to see a larger image :

Top row from left to right - L'Orient, Brittany, Villedieu-les-Poêles, Normandy and a partially edible planting outside a church somewhere in Brittany.
Middle row from left to right - St.Malo, Brittany, Auray, Brittany and St.Malo again.
Bottom row from left to right - Villedieu-les-Poêles, somewhere in Brittany and Villedieu-les-Poêles again.

The plantings that made the biggest impression on me were those in Villedieu-les-Poêles. These were I suppose what would be called naturalistic in style and definitely designed for summer impact. I loved their colour and sheer vibrancy. Admittedly most of the plants would need tender loving care to overwinter here, but some would get through our milder winters e.g verbena bonariensis. What the photos of Villedieu -les - Poêles don't tell was just how hot it was on that Sunday afternoon - the temperature being well into the nineties. No wonder there were so few people about out on the streets but if you look carefully you can see that I managed to creep into one of the photos.

This post has been inspired by VP at Veg Plotting who is taking an in depth look at public planting over the next year. You will find some other thoughtful posts on the subject here.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Springing Forward!



'You may trace my step o'er the wakening earth,
By the winds which tell of the violet's birth,
By the primrose - stars in the shadowy grass
By the green leaves opening as I pass'


- Felicia Hemans

What happen when you turn your back on the garden for a few days ? Braving the cold wind and with one eye on the sky in case more hail should descend on my uncovered head, I had a thorough tour of the garden this afternoon.

The last ten days since my last diary entry have passed in a flash and I have been away for some of that time. So I was surprised to see what has been happening - a corydalis coming in flower nestling close the house, more pulmonarias and primroses in flower, lily of the valley poking their heads through the ground and the biggest surprise of all brunnera 'Jack Frost' has flowers in waiting - yaaaaaaaay ! I am not sure for definite but this plant must have gone in three years ago or so and has never flowered. I was thinking about moving it but it has come good in the end. Funnily enough I nearly bought one that was in flower at the garden club on Thursday night, but resisted as I had already bought two other plants.



It's not all good new though - Mrs Betty Ranicar, the most frilly white hellebore (top photo) has not flourished this spring unlike the other hellebores. She has fewer flowers this year and some of them have dropped off when still in bud. I wonder if somebody has been nibbling them but other hellebores close by do not seem have suffered. The other potential woe is that there is still no sign of clematis texensis 'Princess Diana'. I waited for an eternity for her to bloom, writing about my vigil here. After her first flowers in 2007 she really strutted her stuff last summer so where is she ? So far I have resisted the temptation to have a little poke around the area where she is planted, but may well have a closer inspection this week.



More sowings made in the greenhouse and lots more to do still in the next two to three weeks. Another mystery - two batches of peppers sown on the same day and placed in the heated propagator - one lot has germinated the other has not. Today I have bought more seeds of pepper 'Corno di Torro' and hope that they will germinate. The nicotiana mutablis I sowed on February 15th is ready to prick out along with the first tomatoes. Will make a start on that tomorrow to celebrate the first day of British Summer Time :)

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Identity Parade



I photographed this little blue beauty in my parent's garden a couple of days ago. Mum was given this a while ago and was told it was difficult to grow. It is obviously happy where it is. Mum would like to know its name. I am fairly sure that it's a bulb but forgot to confirm that it is. I am going to get the books out but maybe somebody might be able to throw light on its identity.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

It's Show Time !

J IS FOR ?


'JUST A WALKING THE DOG' !

'A dog is one of the remaining reasons why some people can be persuaded to go for a walk'. ~O.A. Battista



Whilst at the Holker Flower Show in Cumbria a few years ago we spotted these pampered pooches out on a jolly jaunt. This is my post for this week's ABC Wednesday. Just jump over there now for more Js.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Walk the Walk

 
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Himself has been trusted with caring for my greenhouse and its tender little occupants this weekend, as I am away down south visiting my mum for Mothering Sunday. I have left simple instructions and am keeping my fingers crossed :) So no garden or lottie for me for a couple of days. Earlier this week I enjoyed walking back from the lottie a couple of times in the sunshine. The above collage shows some glimpses of my route - please click on it for the larger picture. I shall be trying to do this walk regularly this year as I have some serious weight to lose and the doctor has spoken ! The lottie is about a couple of miles from home. It is uphill there and downhill back. At the moment I am walking back but later in the year providing that there is not much to take with me I will walk there. Well that's the plan.

So a quick description of the landmarks. Leaving the lottie this week I needed sunglasses as the forsythia blazes outside the main gate. Up a steep grass bank and onto the bus way with a most desolate view of a chimney sending out goodness knows what into the air. Turn left and into a residential area where there are plenty of gardens for me to have a surreptitious nose at, before coming alongside the golf course where I might catch a glimpse of himself at the nineteenth hole. Then on to the open space of the park where in the distance I can see lots of white specks on the ground. More litter I ask myself but I am pleasantly surprised when I get nearer and can see properly that the specks are clumps of giant white crocuses. To the traffic lights and turn left - here the fire station and power station in the distance can be seen. Past the doctors surgery and a magnificent tree in blossom. Then it's downhill all the way until I can see the town hall which is just across the road to us. This was once a private house and must have been grand in its day. Finally the last few steps down our lane and shoes off and cup of coffee here we come :)

Friday, 20 March 2009

'The Year's At The Spring'



"The year's at the spring,
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in his Heaven—
All's right with the world!"


- Robert Browning 1812 - 1889, excerpt from 'Pippa Passes'

The very first day of spring and oh what a glorious day once it got going. This beautiful tree is just down the road and has come into full blossom this week. Coffee break over and back to the greenhouse !

Thursday, 19 March 2009

The Pigtailed One




The last ten days or so has seen some warmer weather and much increased activity in the greenhouse, garden and allotment. Various seeds have been sown including various lettuces, mixed salad leaves, chard, beetroot, leeks, tomatoes,celeriac,cosmos (starting earlier this year) and a perennial white stock. The latter is gloriously scented, but my plant became rather scraggy after a while. Luckily my sister saved some seeds last year from the plant that I gave her. Peppers sown towards the end of February have germinated. Still lots more seeds to sow but I am going for the little and often principle this year. I have divided more plants for the garden club plant sale. Hopefully astrantias and campanula persificolia will be added to the haul next week.

I have managed a few trips to the allotment now so it is looking neater and tidier. This afternoon I picked the last of my sprouts and decided not to bother growing them again. Never mind their miniscule size and the long wait for a nibble. The deciding factor in striking them off the to grow list is that they seem to have been a magnet for all the local whitefly population and then some more. Clouds and clouds of them flew off them into my face every time I touched the plants even in December. Never again! I have now pulled out the plants which were going to feature on the menu for D's chickens last night.



On Saturday evening we toddled off to our local arts centre where the pigtailed one aka Bob Flowerdew was appearing. I have nothing against men with long hair, but I have always felt that I would like to cut Bob's pigtail off. I resisted the urge to put a pair of scissors in my bag. For those of you who have not heard of Bob Flowerdew is he is an organic gardener who is on the panel of the long running Gardener's Question Time radio series. He has also appeared in a number of television gardening programmes in the past. He is known for being somewhat unorthodox and has some quite forthright views. The evening was split into two sections. The format of the evening was a talk which was followed by a question and answer session. An interesting evening although himself briefly nodded off at one point and sadly there were empty seats in the auditorium. I have sent off for some seeds of 'Yellowstone' carrots following Bob's recommendation. Tomorrow I shall try another suggestion - I will be scrubbing a shop bought sweet potato, planting in a pot of compost and then placing it on the heated sandbench in the greenhouse. Hopefully this will eventually produce shoots which I can than take off and plant up individually to grow on. He also suggested giving ginger bottom heat so I will be trying this too. Advice for allotmenteers from Bob - get yourself a fruit cage, veg are labour intensive. Don't I know !

NB - I can't take credit for either of the above photos. Forgot to take my camera with me.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Seeing is Believing !

I IS FOR ?



ILLUSIONS !

"I've looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all."

- Joni Mitchell

I nudged himself in disbelief - was that the Queen Mother beckoning us to imbibe a cup of afternoon tea with her in a garden in Grange-Over- Sands, Cumbria ?

Now was this really Laurel and Hardy indulging in a spot
of fishing ?




Morever what were they doing in the close company of the cast of that long running television comedy 'Last of the Summer Wine'?



We stumbled upon this garden accidentally one June day as we went for an afternoon stroll out of the town. It certainly grabs the attention of any passers by being full of brightly planted containers, baskets and all sorts of kitsch garden ornaments. Nestling amongst the flowers are tableux of statues depicting a medley of characters - some real and some fictional from the worlds of literature and television. A plaque on the wall advises invites visitors to take photos and to show their appreciation of the garden by giving a donation to a charity box.

This is my post for this week's ABC Wednesday created by Denise Nesbitt. I have an inkling that if you amble over there now that you will find many more illustrious posts illustrating the
letter I.

P.S. Stan Laurel was born in Ulverston on the other side of Morecambe Bay to Grange-Over-Sands.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - March 2009.

 
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Here in my garden most of the snowdrops and crocuses are done and dusted. The little daffs are shining out, pulmonarias are beginning to stir and some primroses are open. The autumn flowering cherry is showing off its delicate little blooms for a second time.The flower of the month though is definitely the hellebore.

It looks as if it may be a beautiful day here. Yesterdays winds have dropped and the plan is to head off to the allotment later.


Clicking on the above photo will reveal a larger image.

You will find many other beautiful blooms at
May Dreams Gardens.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

'Mad March Days'


Cargoes

Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amythysts,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.


- John Masefield, 1878 - 1967

Today has really been one of those mad March days with such a gusty wind blowing. I was hoping to divide some more perennials for the garden club sale. Made a start but when the skies turned from blue to grey I decided to call it a day, apart from nipping out to the greenhouse to sow some beetroot later. I am now enjoying a coffee break whilst the compost warms up. 'Cargoes' is one my favourite poems from my school days and was nearly my choice for March's Garden Bloggers' Muse Day. I can still hear the enthusiasm in our English teacher's voice as he shared this poem with us.

Friday, 13 March 2009

The Last 'Drop



The last snowdrop to flower 'Galanthus Virescens' opened this week. This is the first time I have seen this one in flower as it was a new to me bulb last year. I am delighted with it. Meanwhile in the last couple of weeks Christmas and my birthday have been extended with the arrival of some more snowdrops to add to my small collection. What excitement has greeted the arrival of the postie.
The bulbs have been potted up but await dressing with some horticultural grit which I have run out of. A quick trip to the garden centre is planned sometime over the weekend so that I can finish the job. Then a years wait to see if they have survived and to enjoy their flowers- this gardening lark certainly calls for patience at times.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Mistaken Identity

H IS FOR :

 
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HAMPTON COURT !

"No two gardens are the same. No two days are the same in one garden''

- Hugh Johnson

Now think of Hampton Court and most people think of the beautiful palace and gardens near the river Thames, which King HenryVIII acquired from Cardinal Thomas Wolsey in 1528. By the time he finished developing the palace in about 1540, it was one of the most modern, sophisticated and magnificent in England. It also not surprisingly became Henry's favourite palace.

I am not referring to the palace though but to the castle Hampton Court in Hope-Under- Dinmore and near the river Lugg in the county of Herefordshire. This Hampton Court also has a rich and fascinating history. The estate was a gift by Henry IV to a knight Sir Rowland Lenthall, who fought at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. This gift was made at the time of his marriage to one of the King's cousins Margaret Fizalan. Lenthall built the original quadrangular manor house in 1427.

Last week I touched upon my passion for garden visiting. I did not have room to include the gardens at Hampton Court which we discovered for the first time last summer. We were returning home last July from a rather wet holiday, on a day which was grey, cool and spit spotting with rain. We decided to break off our journey to visit Hampton Court, which I had vaguely heard about but was not sure what to expect. Although there had been beautiful gardens at this spot they had fallen into neglect. In 1994 work began to restore them. Estate masons and carpenters have carefully restored many original structures and inspirational new features have been added. These include water canals, island pavilions, herbaceous borders, a Dutch garden, a sunken garden with a waterfall and a maze which was rather challenging. Umbrellas and mazes are not good partners. There is also an organic kitchen garden.

We were taken aback by our first sight of Hampton Court and the rest of the visit was just as magical. The gardens were absolutely stunning and took my breath away. This is really a garden with the wow factor. Luckily serious rain held off until after we left and now and again the wet stuff held its breath. I imagine that it took some years for the gardens to mature so maybe it was perfect timing for a first visit. We have vowed to return again this year so watch this space for a report on our return. I can't wait !

I'm afraid that my photos of the gardens did not do the subject matter justice. Hover over them with your cursor and click to see them in more detail.

This is my post for ABC Wednesday which is the inspiration of Denise Nesbitt. Don't hesitate but hop over there now and hang round for a while !

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Cutting Edge Decisions !




I am not sure why but last week's diary entry never materialised, so trying to recap on a fortnight is quite a challenge to the old grey matter. The most traumatic event has been the demise of my secateurs ! Now these were not the pair of Felcos that I hanker after but a cheap pair that I have treated rather roughly. They have been put down and forgotten about and left out in all sorts of elements, both here in the garden as well as at the allotment. They have been dropped, trodden on and have tackled all sorts of jobs with never a single complaint until one of the handles snapped earlier this week. There is alas no hope of resuscitation so I am now have to find a replacement. Now the dilemma is that I do have a spare pair. When I left work last year I was given several gardening related gifts from my lovely colleagues including the secateurs you can see staring out at you from this page. Now as soon as I see them I smile but they have still to perform a single task. Call me a softie but I am concerned about dirtying or scratching their shiny happy faces. Now what do you think - could you bring yourself to use them or would you look for another pair ? I will have to make a decision very soon.




What else has happened in the last fortnight ? Well weatherwise it still seems a case of one step forward and two backwards at the moment. After the fairly mild second half of February we have had a taste of winter again with an odd flurry of snow on Friday. However plants are stirring and the little daffs are out now as well as hellebores, pulmonaria and primroses. I have been able to get on with a fair bit of tidying up and sorting out. I have also divided one or two perennials for the garden club plant sale in May and potted up a few seedlings that have appeared in the garden. I hope to do more in the coming week or so to give these plants a chance to settle down and put on some growth before the sale.

Today it has really been one of those mad March days here - hail one minute then blue skies and sunshine with a gusty chilly wind blowing throughout. Gardening activity has been limited although I have ventured out to the greenhouse to sow more seeds - celeriac, tomatoes and a perennial white stock. I have switched the heated sandbench on so will do more sowing in the week. I watched the weekly weather forecast earlier today which predicted some beautiful spring like weather this week - yaaaaaaaay ! If it does materialise I will be heading to the lottie with my lunch to put in some much needed work there before everything takes off.

Friday, 6 March 2009

'Dust If You Must!'




'Dust if you must, but wouldn't it be better
To paint a picture, or write a letter,
Bake a cake, or plant a seed;
Ponder the difference between want and need?'

- Anon.


- well this has always been my mantra as far as housework is concerned but after spring cleaning my greenhouse, I have decided that I had neglected this task for too long. It's probably been a couple of years since I did this job thoroughly I am ashamed to say and all sorts of debris was lurking in the depths. Myriads of labels, squashed pots, my long lost dibber and gigantic spiders were unearthed. I had to resist the urge to scream on disturbing the spiders, as himself was indoors asleep having worked a night shift. I eventually worked my way to the back of the greenhouse where there is an old sink which himself thoughtfully installed. The idea was that I could use this for potting up but somehow it never worked out. Instead it has been an area where I shove various bits and bobs such as twine, old jars, some cane top protectors etc. Turfing everything out I discovered an old bamboo tray, which to my surprise contained a bird's nest complete with the remnants of an egg. I have been wondering since whether Mama Bird and I were both coming and going into the greenhouse last spring and if so how
we never met !

Postcript - the above is just one verse from a poem the rest of which can be seen here.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

'The Glory of The Garden'

G IS FOR :





GARDEN VISITING !

'"Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made
By singing:--"Oh, how beautiful!" and sitting in the shade'

- from 'The Glory Of The Garden' - Rudyard Kipling, 1865 -1936.

Much as I love time spent in my own garden, I rarely take time to sit in it and relax as himself pointed out just the other day. I was suggesting buying a little table and couple of chairs to go out at the front. In reality though whenever I sit down with that book and that refreshing drink, there is always something that catches my eye and off I go. So I love visiting other people's gardens where I can wonder at leisure, be inspired, sit down in the shade and drink in the sights and sounds. If I'm lucky there may also be plants for sale and a tearoom serving tempting goodies. Over the years I have been lucky enough to visit a fair few gardens both grand and pocket handkerchief size, including country estates, botanical gardens, town gardens and cottage gardens. Absolutely impossible to chose a favourite, so here is a trio all within relatively easy travelling distance of my own garden that I would be happy to visit time and time again.

Heading north to Levens Hall in Cumbria and its glorious topiary which is amongst the oldest in the world.



The topiary was laid out by a French man, Guillaume Beaumont, in 1690, who trained under Andre Le Notre at Versailles. Beaumont had only recently finished laying out gardens at Hampton Court Palace. Very little has been altered since that time. The gardens also feature the earliest known example in England of a "ha-ha", or sunken ditch.




Now in a southerly direction to Shropshire and the
The Dorothy Clive Garden
, a gorgeous garden and oh such glorious cakes. There is a touching love story behind this garden. Colonel Harry Clive the owner began work in 1940 on the Quarry Garden which was a disused nineteenth century gravel quarry. He wanted to create a secluded place where his wife Dorothy, who suffered from Parkinson's Disease, could take some daily exercise. Sadly, in April 1942, Dorothy died but work on the garden continued and in 1958, with the acquisition of more land the development of the Hillside Garden began. Colonel Harry set up the Willoughbridge Garden Trust in 1958 to preserve the garden as a memorial to his beloved Dorothy and to provide a place for the public to visit and relax.




Coming back home and almost on our doorstep is Arley Hall in Cheshire,with it's famous double herbaceous borders which were laid out in 1846 :



A few years ago now, we enjoyed a magical warm summer evening there, when a friend held their wedding reception at the Hall. In the evening after the gardens were closed to the public, we were able to wander through the gardens almost in solitude. Pure bliss !



This is my post for ABC Wednesday which if you gravitate towards now you will be able to enjoy other posts on the letter G. Finally the photo at the top of this post is not one of the three gardens mentioned, but a clue to next week's post which will all geared up to the letter H.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

GBMD - 'Sowing'





It was a perfect day
For sowing; just
As sweet and dry was the ground
As tobacco-dust.


I tasted deep the hour
Between the far
Owl's chuckling first soft cry
And the first star.


A long stretched hour it was;
Nothing undone
Remained; the early seeds
All safely sown.


And now, hark at the rain,
Windless and light,
Half a kiss, half a tear,
Saying good-night.



- Edward Thomas, 1878 -1917.

This poem is also sometimes titled 'March 3rd'.

This is my March contribution for Garden Bloggers' Muse Day which falls on the first day of each month. Garden Bloggers' Muse Day is hosted by Carolyn Gail at her blog Sweet Home and Garden Chicago, where you will find other March inspired poems. Do go and have a peek !