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…

Weekend Wandering: Chippenham's horse chestnuts

Chippenham has many stately horse chestnut trees, on our side of town in particular. Sadly all the ones I know of are heavily infested with leaf mining moth, and lend an early autumnal air to our townscape from July onwards. As the flowers of Aesculus hippocastanum bloom early enough to be unaffected, their candle-like blooms still make a welcome sight in spring.

It's a while since I wrote about this problem and at the time there was some hope in the shape of a parasitic wasp. Conker Tree Science led a citizen science project to see if  it could help to control moth infestations. Whilst there was indeed some impact, their results show it was insufficient to make the desired effect. Their research continues, as does research by the Forestry Commission.

Most online advice is reassuring about the moth's impact on tree health, and 2017 certainly looks a good year for conkers. I'd like to see some research conducted on the numbers produced, size and seed viability though.


Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: the return of 'Polish Spirit'

Just about in flower in time for this month's Blooms Day, I'm pleased to find sultry Clematis 'Polish Spirit' has returned to VP Gardens after a few years absence. This truly is an Against the Odds appearance because I've given this delicate looking viticella clematis the most challenging of conditions:

I'm growing it in a potI haven't watered the pot this yearThe pot is hidden beneath the ivy I'm growing along the fence Yet it's managed to pop its head up and stick out its tongue as if to say, 'See? My instinct for survival far exceeds your neglect'. I really must release it from its potted prison and give it proper garden room.
From my research for today's post I see I couldn't have chosen a better clematis to survive this treatment. The links I've chosen say viticella clematis tolerate dry conditions and 'Polish Spirit' in particular is a tough cookie. Perhaps breeder Brother Stephan knew this when he chose the name: t…

On trial at Mr Fothergill's

Oops that sounds more serious than it actually is! Let's take a deep breath and drink in the scene at the trials field at Mr Fothergill's* instead. It looked splendid last month, even on a rainy day.

There's always lots to learn on a press day at Mr Fothergill's and first up was news of their launch of Seasol seaweed plant tonic. I've used the powdered version of this product before and I'm a huge fan of all things seaweed based. Whilst they're not a feed per se, I've found the extra minerals does help keep plants healthier for longer. I must do a proper trial myself sometime...

What I didn't know previously was the potential for a dramatic effect on cuttings. As you can see from the photo, the plants in diluted Seasol, have a more extensive root system, which in turn should help the plants romp away when they're potted up.

Another dramatic difference we saw was in the new Optigrow® seed range due for launch early next year. This is a new non-c…

#mygardenrightnow becomes #mygardenbackthen

Phew how marvellous that was! Many thanks for all your contributions to #mygardenrightnow last weekend; we had over 400 posts, around 250 contributors and over 500 photos shared across blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Contributors came from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Italy, France and Ireland.

As usual there was tons of variety in your posts and I'm sneakily pleased about the number of washing lines included in the real gardens you shared. We spotted loads of garden wildlife too thanks to your posts; with our first sighting of hares and my excitement at finding a hummingbird hawk moth in my garden amongst the highlights.

We also had our first barbecue - at last. I declare dahlias and tomatoes as the most popular flower and vegetable featured, though onions and roses came close. Here's a summary collage of some of the photos I featured over the weekend. These are mainly from sunny Saturday - see last weekend's post for the mor…

Ulting Wick: drier than Jerusalem? One of the Secret Gardens of East Anglia

When an owner says their garden is 'drier than Jerusalem', the last thing you expect is to arrive in a downpour of biblical proportions. That's what happened when I visited Ulting Wick recently. 'Third time lucky' I thought when I made the arrangements, as I've tried and failed to visit the past 2 years. That thought was almost my downfall. Almost.

The rain was coming down so heavily when I arrived I could hardly see out of the car window and I was deafened by the noise. Bright flashes of lightning made the courtyard stand out in stark relief for a second before fading again into the murk. I was giggling so hard at the irony, I struggled to get into my rain gear. Also which of the buildings I'd glimpsed should I run to for shelter?

Luckily owner Philippa Burough quickly came to my rescue and guided me to the potting shed where she and new head gardener Lou Nicholls had taken shelter from the storm. It was a great opportunity for Lou to take a selfie of us …

#mygardenrightnow: the video

It's quite a different day to yesterday's warm sunshine, yet the #mygardenrightnow weekend's going strong and I still have stuff to share from my garden.

One of the things I love about blogging projects is they can take you in quite unexpected directions. I contacted Bren on Friday - one of the US bloggers I met at this year's Fling - to see if it was OK if I posted about #mygardenrightnow on her #gardenchat Facebook Page.

We ended up having an enthusiastic video chat instead (my first!) with Bren actually in her garden at the time, then she put together the video below of our conversation, illustrated with lots of photos from previous editions of #mygardenrightnow. It sums up perfectly how we all come together for a 'virtual peep over the fence' - thanks to Karen for that neat summary :)

If the embedded video doesn't work, try this link instead. Bren has put this and more on her own blog, Creative Living which includes photos from her own garden in Ohio -…

#mygardenrightnow: the autumn edition

It's the first weekend of September and time for the autumn edition of #mygardenrightnow! We had a fantastic response in March and June, and I look forward to seeing how your garden's growing this weekend. I'm expecting to see lots of late season colour and harvests from the plot, plus plenty of projects and garden tasks on the go. I wonder if we'll have clear winners in the flower and crop photos this time?
Mr Linky is lined up below for your blog only contributions, followed by some FAQs for those of you who are new to #mygardenrightnow. 
I'll also scout for your hashtagged submissions on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to promote your posts. Facebook entries can be a little tricky to find sometimes, so do please give me a nudge via my Facebook Page to help find them if this is where you choose to respond (NB a tip from my friend Bren in Ohio - make sure you set your post to Public, so we can find it).
A note for Mr Linky, please submit the URL of your blog post,

Garden Bloggers' Muse Day: Sorry you missed it

I found Barbara's cheeky and gigglesome sign* on the way into her garden when I visited her recently. It got me thinking: how often do we beat ourselves up publicly re the state of our gardens when someone visits?

I've resolved it shall be no more as far as VP Gardens goes. From henceforth all compliments will be received gracefully. I'm the most critical person when it comes to my garden, so I'll endeavour to find at least one good thing about it, whenever the critical demons come to call. After all, the good points need to be noted as well as the bad, in the pursuit of a better garden.

This philosophy chimes well with the #mygardenrightnow project which is designed to be simple to do and show gardens as they are; showpiece or not. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone's posts this weekend.

* = it looked fine to me, despite the biblical amount of rain we experienced that week.

Wordless Wednesday: Umbrellas