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.