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...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The beauty of inflections

I was listening to a CD of bird song as I drove home this evening. My heart and stomach lurched as the sound of a blackbird filled the car. It is only when I hear the melodies after an absence of some time that I realise how much they are a part of the excitement of the renewing year.

Life can be measured by the singing of blackbirds; in February, they start to sing in the darkness of early spring mornings. As plants start to burst into life, the singing swells up to a crescendo in late spring and early summer. As my birthday approaches, the frequency of the sweet and mellow song starts to decline and on that day I know that the days are getting shorter and winter is on its way. A melancholic day.

Poets seem to have a soft spot for the bird, for example Wallace Stevens (from whom the title of this post comes), Tennyson, and Seamus Heaney.

So, today I had a burst of spring time in autumn, a glimpse of lengthening days and the sound of hope. Perhaps you should too.

Seed head

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I did it!

Today, I took part in (and completed) a 10K run* to raise money for Cancer Research UK. Whilst all the UK garden bloggers have no doubt been enjoying the clorious weather today, I was swearing at the sun. It was hot work but a wonderful sight to see everyone running for one reason. A celebration of life, and an opportunity to remember those who lost their fight for life.


* run would be a generous description of my progress, but who cares!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Father and elder child only...

When I was a child, there used to be a TV quiz programme called 'Ask the Family', with Robert Robinson. I was a bit too young to grasp most of the questions, and was also concerned that members of the family were randomly picked to answer certain questions - my idea of hell. However, one of the questions I always used to enjoy was that of identifying a familiar household object* from a close-up. I was rubbish at it, but it didn't stop me trying.

Why not have a go?

(*Edit for clarification: this photo is most definitely of a plant).

Monday, September 15, 2008

September flowers

So, I'll have to face facts. This morning there was mist. There is evidence of fruitfulness - the apples flaunt their swelling sweetness in front of me. The weather is mellow. Autumn has arrived. And so we have a change in some of the main players on the garden stage. Some of the old stalwarts of summer continue, but shuffle sideways to make way for fresher talent.


But it's also good to take the opportunity to look at some flowers with fresh eyes. The busy lizzies (planted by SomeBeans - his first real foray into planting) have sat in the shade all summer, just getting on with the business of flowering, and not complaining whilst I admired the more 'exciting' blooms. But close up, their satiny sheen shines through the shadows.

Busy Lizzie (Impatiens)

Hardy Geranium

Helianthus 'Lemon Queen'

Knifophia 'Ice Queen'

Dahlia (unknown cultivar - mis-labelled)

Perovskia 'Blue Spire'

Schizostylis coccinea 'Major'

Aster frikartii 'Monch'



Californian poppy in the autumn sun

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

Saturday, September 13, 2008

...and colour as bright as your cheek


Where should I start? My father was a man obsessed - he grew dahlias for showing, and did it very well, although he no longer does so. My childhood was measured in dahlia growing seasons. From the taking of cuttings, setting out in the garden, the first buds, the smell of mothballs to deter earwigs. The forest of stems, rising up from a floor of straw. Hide and seek between the rows.

As showing season came, the smell of wet newspapers to hold the stems in place during transport. The conical vases designed to show off each perfect bloom to its best advantage. Rainbows of flowers, preened with paintbrushes. A litany of names I could reel off, but remember only vaguely now - Evelyn Foster, Rothesay Robin (my favourite), Klanlstad Kerkrade...

Second class blooms were sold to the local grocer, with me carrying them the short distance, blooms down, to keep the water in the stems. What a smell. What a sight.

And the shows - hundreds of blooms of endless types, sizes and colours. Only six or seven, I could look at the flowers and note imperfections - one bloom larger than the others, one gone 'daisy-eyed', drooping stems, a petal nibbled by an earwig. The types - cactus, decoratives, the semi-cactus; and the sizes, checked scrupulously with judging rings: giants, large, medium. But best of all, the pompoms. My father never grew these, much to my disappointment. I loved their neatness, their roundness, their firmness, and best of all, they were on a scale a small child could appreciate. A handful of perfection, which I was never allowed to touch.

And so, now I have my own garden, do I indulge my misty-eyed reminiscences? Well, I've grown a few, but the less showy cousins of the prima donnas grown by my father. The Bishop of Llandaff (but who hasn't?) and his children grown from seed. A few bedding dahlias (the shame!) and one or two other cultivars. But I have not indulged my desire for the pompoms. Child-sized wonders will be left in the past; but still, when I visit the Malvern Autumn show this month, I'll check for imperfections, and my palms will itch to cup the perfect, tiny blooms in my hands and inhale the scent of my childhood.

The title of the post comes from a poem by Lord Holland:

"The Dahlia you brought to our isle
Your praises for ever shall speak:
Mid gardens as sweet as your smile,
And colour as bright as your cheek."

Sunday, September 07, 2008

An autobiography in aromas

Standing by the kitchen door last night, I was struck by the smell of the honeysuckle growing close by. The olfactory nerves seem to have a direct line to our memories, which other senses don't.

Honeysuckle transports me back to summer holidays in Tenby, South Wales, where the blossoms perfumed the air as we walked into town in the evenings.

I've already written about the instant time travel evoked by the aroma of lilac, but other plants have a similar effect. Marigolds remind me of crisp autumn Sundays, helping to pull up the spent plants from the front garden, and desperately trying to wash off their 'distinctive' smell. I could wallow in the scent of wallflowers forever, remembering times when I could spend all morning investigating their smell and their silken blooms between my fingers. Sweetpeas too - what is a better start to summer than inhaling their perfume until you can't breathe in any longer? Even daffodils feature heavily in my olfactory memories, reminding me of the woods of Wales, gonks, car sickness, and (many years later) meeting SomeBeans.

Dahlias will have a post of their own soon, but nothing smells more like childhood than their scent on my fingers after a few moments deadheading.

And at the moment, the not unpleasant odour of slowly decaying vegetation, signalling the changing of the seasons, which makes me remember returning to school after a long summer of freedom. Plus ├ža change...

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A break in the storms

It stopped raining for an hour or two this afternoon, and we had the joy of being able to see our own shadows for a short time, whilst the sun was out. The insects were quick to enjoy the break in the storms of recent days, stocking up with nectar after 48 hours of rain.

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