Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A seasonal message

May your gardens flourish,
Every seed germinate,
Rain fall, but not too much;
Roses never suffer from blackspot,
Your tomatoes be blight free.

Colour always be in your garden;
Hostas never nibbled,
Rudbeckias shine as bright as the sun,
Irises as blue as the summer sky.
Summers warm and autumns mild
Tulips bright as jewels;
May the coming year be good for you
And healthy for you and yours;
Spring will be with us soon!

Season's Greetings from the Inelegant Gardener.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A vision in turquoise and russet

Taken by my father at Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust on Wednesday.
No need for tinsel and fairy lights when nature supplies the decorations.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cockney Sparrers

No, not a post about Martine Mccutcheon and other former Eastenders actresses, but about the various accents of British birds.

This post is an elaboration of a comment made on Baklava Shed Coalition about the accents of vegetables. Somebeans and I have long agreed that different birds speak in different accents.

Obviously, the house sparrow speaks with a cockney accent - this goes without saying. But have you considered that the starling is in fact a Brummie? Blackbirds have a soft Worcestershire accent, and song thrushes the closely related but rather more rural Herefordshire accent. Robins have a relatively neutral accent, but are generally rather cross about life.

Seagulls all speak with a German accent - I think this one is due to having watched Watership Down at an early age. Crows are rather posh. Magpies have a Black Country accent (subtley different from the Brummie starling accent). Mallards are from Norfolk, and wrens from Newcastle. I'd argue that wood pigeons come from Dorset, but Somebeans says they have 'village idiot' voices - I won't comment on that, as Somebeans is from Dorset...

However, this may not be quite as far fetched as it seems - research has found that species of birds do have regional accents (as do dolphins, frogs and cows).

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Farewell to the imaginer of childhood dreams

Today, as I was driving in to work, I heard that Oliver Postgate had died. As a child of the 1970s, I was brought up with many of his creations. The Pogles of Pogle's Wood taught me about table manners (or rather, how not to hold my knife and fork). I got my passion for reading from our family's fortnightly visits to the library, where I read the sagas of Noggin the Nog. I avidly watched Ivor the Engine and Bagpuss (where I first found out what a butterbean was). And best of all, those knitted extra-terrestrials - the Clangers.

With the Clangers, I learnt about the important things in life. Mischief, blue string pudding, dustbin lids. And environmentalism - even in the early '70s, Postgate used to compare the dirty factories on earth to the carefully nurtured environment of the Clanger's home world. I was slightly scared of the scolding soup dragon. And I shared the fears of
Small Clanger when he became lost in the caves beneath the surface of the planet - I cried as he folded his ears over his eyes, as I cried when the Hamish pincushion went back to his lost tribe in a story in Bagpuss. I'm almost welling up thinking about it now. Such are our lives shaped.

But Oliver Postgate was also a political creature. Grandson of the Labour politician George Lansbury, he was a conscientious objector, spending time in prison because of this. He continued to write political commentary up until recent years. If you're a fan, read his autobiography 'Seeing Things' - a story of a fascinating life, including when he was summoned to the head of Children's Programming at the BBC who wanted to censor The Clangers, as Major Clanger had clearly sworn.

Oliver Postgate - you will be sadly missed but cherished in the hearts of a myriad of children, both young and old.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Winter roses

I know that roses frequently flower late in the year, but it always amazes me to see their delicate flowers in the dark of winter. What better decoration is there for a Christmas table than a rose freshly cut from the garden?

The rose bows its head when frost comes to it, but buds sheltered from the worst of the weather will ensure there are more flowers to come before the winter festivities end.

Rosa 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles'

Rosa 'Malvern Hills'

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Frosted Hebe

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Today, I dug up a whole pork pie which was buried in the front garden.

Friday, December 05, 2008

'Social amoebas'

I was going to title this post “dog vomit”, as that is what many people mistake slime moulds for on their lawn, but I didn’t feel it would really attract many people to read it. Neither will ‘social amoebas’ but at least it will sound a bit more socially acceptable.

I’ve had a vague interest in slime moulds ever since I first heard about them. Neither fungus nor amoeba, they are strange organisms which defy classification. There are a range of different species, and can be found all over the world.

It is their life cycle which is particularly fascinating. They start off as individual, single celled organisms, which eat bacteria. When food starts to get scarce, individual cells/organisms come together into a large, multicellular ‘blob’, like a miniature slug and can travel around, albeit very slowly. When food disappears, the colony forms fruiting bodies, which release spores into the air to disperse. Some of the organisms sacrifice themselves to become a stalk, whilst others form the spores which will carry on future generations.

Why have I mentioned these on a gardening blog? Well, why not – they’re amazing organisms that few people know about. But, OK, there is a horticultural link. Some slime moulds do cause problems in the garden, for example club root in brassicas, and they can also cause concern to the keen lawn carer, who thinks that a dog has up-chucked on his sward.

Another talent of the slime mould is its ability to find its way through mazes via the shortest route. They have also been used to control the movement of robots (fantastic headline).

Since starting to write this post, I have discovered that the film ‘The Blob’ was inspired by a slime mould (although I hasten to add that there are no reported cases of humans being consumed by slime moulds). Also, for fans of Spinal Tap, apparently the DVD version has an outtake which involves slime moulds.

This website has some great photos. This site has even better ones.

This post has been brought to you by the Slime Mould Appreciation Society.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Smiling Sky

I meant to write about this on Monday, when it happened, but didn't manage to get round to it. If you were lucky enough to have a clear sky on the 1st december, you may have looked up and seen a wonderful phenomenon.

Photograph by Gareth Edwards, from:

I didn't manage to get a photo, but the above photo shows it beautifully. Venus and Jupiter were in conjunction, and the cresent of the moon esclipsed Venus briefly. As I was driving home, it looked as though the moon had a tear, like the tear of a Pierrot in negative.

I wish I knew more about astronomy, but it makes my mind boggle when I start to think about the incredible distances, and even the thought that when you see a star, you're looking back into the past. Wonderful.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Arum berries

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

BBC Good Food Show - NEC, Birmingham: 26th to 30th November

If anyone is visiting the BBC Good Food Show over the next few days, pop along to stall number R68 (Hall 20) for some free cheese samples! If you're there on the Saturday or Sunday, come and talk to me about blogs and gardening, as I will be bored of talking about cheese and courses!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Spring, interrupted

In the midst of autumn, plants are already preparing for spring.
In the midst of a challenging economic climate, the world looks forward to a new US president.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


For those who haven't come across this word before, 'hiraeth' is a Welsh word and doesn't have a direct English translation. Yet, we all will have experienced it.

Although I spent the weekend in Malvern, which is where I grew up, this afternoon I still felt the pang of longing for this place. For two reasons - firstly some recent posts by Patient Gardener, who lives there and has taken some lovely photos of the Hills in their autumn clothes. And secondly when I was listening to a short radio programme about Edward Elgar this afternoon and his love for the local area. There are lots of theories about the Enigma Variations, including that the length of each was related to the size and shape of each of the hills in the range.

The hills have a fascinating geology, history and folklore - stay out of the shadow of Raggedstone Hill!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Beautiful plumage...

When it comes to great spotted woodpeckers, until today, I've always been the one who's going "WHERE? WHERE?" whilst someone else is saying "Surely you didn't miss that one".

So, imagine my surprise and delight on getting a wonderful view of a hen woodpecker this afternoon. I've been visiting my father,who is a keen photographer, in Malvern this weekend . He and my uncle have constructed a hide in a friend's small orchard. I went down to the farm with my father this afternoon, to help him top up the bird feeders before it got dark. There were a few forms darting about in the nearby branches as we filled the various seed holders up - we could hear great tits, blue tits and gold finches. We went into the hide to see if any of these small birds would come in once we'd hidden ourselves. Barely had we sat down when a gorgeous hen great spotted woodpecker landed on the peanuts, about 10 foot away. She ate her fill for around 5 minutes, occasionally chasing off cheeky blue tits who got too close to her. Then she flew away and we left.

The photo is not of her, but a juvenile male woody who got into the habit of visiting Dad in the summer, until he moved on to a more permanent territory. He's sat in a bamboo, in the back garden.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Plants I cannot grow

This post was inspired by Somebeans' comments at the garden centre this morning. He takes great pleasure in pointing out huge stands of Bear's Breeches (Acanthus spinosus). I've had gardens with a variety of soil types, aspects etc, where I have tried to emulate the spreading stands of this plant which my mother used to consider a weed in her garden. But the blooming plant just won't grow for me.

Since taking up an allotment a couple of years ago, I can add to the Acanthus most forms of brassicas. I can manage spring cabbage (just), but purple sprouting broccoli, calabrese, winter cabbage, cauliflowers and kohl rabi have all defeated me. These things want to grow, surely? Until they meet me. Up until this year, I thought I had the hang of tomatoes, but sat in the conservatory at the moment is the whole of 2008's tomato harvest - 12 puny specimens, only just starting to colour up. I may just get the first taste of home grown tomatoes this year by Halloween.

I also seem to extend the finger of doom towards clematis and pumpkins/squashes. However, this year I have triumphed with turnips. And mooli. Perhaps the local children will be impressed by a carved mooli with a candle inside on the front doorstep on Friday.

More changes...

The Hammamelis still has some leaves, despite the recent torrential rain and heavy winds. The colours have grown stronger and brighter as the weeks have gone by.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

October flowers, October colours

It's the 15th day of the month, which makes it Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day (GBBD).
There's still a lot of colour in the garden, and the wonderful low light which illuminates the plants beautifully.

Ahh, the joy of lazy photo blogging.
Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting GBBD!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

...and thanks for all the cats.

Thank you to everyone who took part, commented on or simply tolerated LAPCPADPOUB Day.
Thank you also to James who is in the process of final judging, once he has stopped vomiting in his hat due to a surfeit of kewt kitties.

And so, just for James, I have created my own LOLcat in order to draw a close to the painful poetry and frolicking felines.

I am currently listening to 'What's New Pussycat' by Tom Jones.
HappyMouffetard and SomeBeans trivia #1: We had a Tom Jones song played at our wedding ceremony. Not 'what's New Pussycat' - that would be stupid. It was 'Help Yourself'.
HappyMouffetard and SomeBeans trivia #2: Another song at our wedding ceremony was 'Mad About the Boy' by Eartha Kitt. She, of course, played Cat Woman.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

LAPCPADPOUB Day - thank you for your contributions!

Welcome to the Inaugural 'Lets all post cat photos and dire poetry on our blogs' (LAPCPADPOUB*) day. I've put this up slightly early, so anyone up at stupid 'o'clock on Sunday morning has somewhere to post that they've put up a pome.

The history of this event has been well documented here, here, and here. Whilst I'm reasonably certain that we won't plumb the poetic depths reached by William Topaz McGonagall, I'm sure we'll get a few corkers.

Guarding the top of this post are Bill (left) and Ted (right). Rescue cats, they came already named, but they are strangely suitable. Bill is scared and sweet. Ted is a bruiser, who has the habit of growling at dogs and at the postman.

Please do let me know if you have posted any delightful kitty photos on your site, and also your wonderful feline-based poetry efforts. James Alexander-Sinclair has kindly offered three of his signed books as prizes for the most nausea-inducing efforts on this day. In order to be in with a chance to win one of these, please leave a comment here on this thread and/or on his own blog, so we know that you've joined in. I think it is only right that James himself judges the poems, as all of this is happening in tribute to his own love of cat-based blogging ;-)

Buckets at the ready for cloying verses, sweeter than a vat full of saccharine!

I'm adopting a more minimalist approach, and have produced a haiku about each of our cats. Not least because it saves worrying about rhyming.

Bill - a scaredy cat
Must run away! I'm frightened!
But you have warm lap.

Darkness with a growl,
Ted - cat with real catitude;
Friendship on his terms.

Have fun and please do join in! Stealing cats for the purpose of the day is not condoned, but most cats are very free with their affections, and will pose for photos and as a poetry muse for a bit of fuss and promises of fresh tuna steaks.

Furry, purry, and a little bit surly,
Paddy, faddy and sometime a baddy,
Sleepy, peepy and sometimes downright creepy,
On the bed, easily led, that's our Ted.
Soft as a jelly, loves being rubbed on his belly,
Feared foe of mice, but usually nice,
Hides his face with his paw, never extends a claw,
Loves chasing paper to kill, his name is Bill.

*I am aware that I spelt this wrong, but it's just too late to change now!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Monday, October 06, 2008

First frost

Frosty white cars and roofs met my eyes this morning. The end of the beans and courgettes. The start of winter. Hopefully someone will tell the people in charge of the heating at work, so I don't have to sit with my coat on all day.

Next stop - Christmas.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Garden fripperies

Meet Myrtle.

Not a particularly good shot of her, and not in her normal resting spot, which was too dark and dingy for photography. She normally hangs out by the back door, admiring the tree ferns. She was a bit of an extravagance, but she's looked good (albeit sometimes rather chilly) in a couple of our gardens for several years now.

We ordered her from Tatton Show, although I'd had my eye on her for a while. What sealed the deal was the chap on the stand - wearing a linen suit and a Panama hat, he looked rather louche, and a bit Alan Rickman-ish. He spoke lovingly of Myrtle and her colleagues, and patted their bottoms proprietorially.

Here, Myrtle is sporting her summer hairdo. In the next few weeks she'll have to move to her winter 'do. I'm not sure what to give her this year. In the past she's had dwarf irises (rather strange and only looked good for a few weeks), houseleeks (long lasting but a bit common), and a Stipa tenuissima (bedraggled in the rain). I was thinking of an ornamental cabbage, but somehow I feel that she's too classy to have a smelly cabbage plonked on her. Any suggestions, folks out in blog-land?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

12th October - the inaugural LAPCPADPOUB day

After a thread (and ensuing comments) over on The Sea of Immeasurable Gravy, I suggest that we grasp the bull with both handfuls of nettle and appropriate a day to celebrate 'let's all post cat photos and dire poetry on our blogs' day or LAPCPADPOUB day as it shall henceforth be known. I may try and think of a slightly catchier and easy to remember acronym.

Let's celebrate the furry parasites that sponge food and warm radiators off us, whilst treating us with disdain! Let's revel in our ability to produce rotten verse!

Of course, bad poems about our cats are doubleplusgood.

So, on 12th October, I will be posting my photos of the feline creatures and, if I'm feeling brave, I might subject an ode to general derision. Let's make it a date!

(please don't let it be just me, turning me into some kind of internet mad cat woman...)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

'Hot Lips' - hot plant

Over the past few years, the plant that you see everyone carrying around at the Malvern Autumn Show has been Kniphofia rooperi. However, there is a new kid on the block; one that could be seen being carried aloft through the thronging crowds as well as on all the herbaceous perennial stands . The pretender to the crown this year is Salvia 'Hot Lips'.

The autumn show is best loved by me for its amateur show sections, including chrysanthemus, dahlias and vegetables. Not forgetting, of course, that autumn show dependable, the giant veg. I was going to write that the growing of giant vegetables is a strange, obsessive pastime. But then, so is blogging and you can't make a huge casserole out of a blog. I couldn't fight my way through to get a photo of the giant pumpkin, but managed a couple of shots. None of the shots were helped by the low light in the marquee, and the fact that I only took a macro lens with me. Be thankful that I didn't take a photo of the giant swedes. I will have nightmares about their alien shapes and strange protrusions for weeks. It seems that Perry ('cider' from pears) is now becoming a rather popular and trendy drink. Hailing from Worcestershire, I have had exposure to perry for quite some time (and not just through the 'delight' that is Babycham), but wasn't aware of the range of perry pears that have been bred in the area. They had some great names...

I did manage to see (despite the crowds) the gardens in the 'Plot to Pot' pavilion, including the one designed by the Chris Beardshaw mentee, Lyndsay Anglin:I also enjoyed Deb at Beholder's Eye's bronze medal winning garden:

My photographs don't do justice to the garden - better photos can be seen on her blog. Congratulations on your medal, Deb!

Rather annoyingly, the photographs I took outside of the steam engines came out much better than my horticultural photos. Here's some photos of some old tractor seats which, inexplicably, have been painted in bright colours. The colours did shine through the mist.

Finally, a couple of bargains were spotted for Arabella Sock...