Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Gardeners Question Time: In which "Dog's bottom" may be said


My third visit to a recording of Gardeners' Question Time last week didn't disappoint. Eric Robson was in the chair (hurrah!), with Matthew Biggs, Anne Swithinbank and Chris Beardshaw ready to answer our questions.

I went on my own this time, but that didn't matter as there were plenty of people to chat to during coffee beforehand and whilst we took our seats. I met a mother and daughter celebrating their birthdays that day, plus I sat next to a couple who were at the same recording I went to three years ago.

All manner of plants and photographs were clutched by prospective questioners, all hoping to be called down to the front row of seats reserved for those chosen to pose their query. Producer Dan reassured everyone,  'If you're not chosen, it doesn't mean you're a bad gardener'.

Our powers of clapping were tested, and a few gardening jokes told to make sure we were in good humour, whilst Hester posed with her enormous recording boom, and Pete and Pete (or was it Paul and Paul, or a combination of the two?) twiddled their knobs both inside the theatre and in the van outside, to make sure everything was ready for the recording.


GQT question paper and apple trees

Did I get to ask a question? Well, yes I did, and there are several clues to what it's about in the collage above. The program airs tomorrow (30th September) at 3pm, with a shortened repeat at 2pm on Sunday (2nd October). I'll add the link to the program when it's up on the website - I'm the 5th questioner, after Matthew Biggs's report about a mysterious building in London.

You may get to hear me say "Dog's bottom", if they haven't edited it out...


You may also like


Gardeners' Question Time Live - my question recorded at Bradford on Avon in 2013
The Curse of Gardeners' Question Time - what happened to my garden after questions were asked at GQT in Chippenham in 2004

Monday, 26 September 2016

Review: Stihl Compact Cordless Blower BGA 56

Autumn leaves at the front of our house
A tiny part of the job - 1 day's worth of leaves at the end of our side garden and part of the public land

With autumn comes the usual seasonal tasks, especially the collection and disposal of leaves. This usually causes a moderately tense time here at VP Gardens as NAH likes things to be neat and tidy with not a fallen leaf in sight. I prefer the leaves to gather over time, so the task is completed in one go.

It doesn't help that our neighbour puts us to shame most weekends by blowing the fallen leaves at the front of our properties onto the public land next door. I used to have a blower-come-collector-come-shredder for gathering the leaves up ready to make leaf mould, but I found it far too heavy to use.

Since those days I've adopted a Compost Direct approach to autumn leaves, where I sweep them up into useful piles and then apply them directly to borders. It's easier, yet still hard work, best left for a cooler day when I need a good work out to keep warm.

Blower + accessories collage
Main picture: The overall view
Top left to right: Blower + battery charger (which can be wall mounted); The battery end
Bottom left to right: Battery release button; Check how much charge is left at the touch of a button

This year is different, as I'm now the proud owner of a battery powered leaf blower courtesy of the kind people at STIHL. I collected it from my local dealer, who were most helpful and showed me how to use it properly. This is a relatively simple piece of kit, though the first time I used it I still managed to forget the battery needs to be clicked twice into place for it to work. Silly me!

The blower is light (the battery is the only noticeable weight), quiet (much quieter than my neighbour's one) and powerful. NAH - who's an engineer with exacting standards - says the build quality is good.

The job out front, plus our side garden and patio was completed in 10 minutes with plenty of juice to spare (the battery lasts about 20 minutes per charge). I loved blowing out the leaves from behind my patio pots without having to move them - a chore I tend to avoid. It also cleared out the leaves stuck fast around the drains in the road, which is good as these are at the bottom of a slope.

A job which used to be a chore just got so much easier. It also means I've future proofed my gardening, and we can do our share for our neighbourhood. As for NAH and me, marital harmony has been restored now we have the right gadget.

This blower retails at around £199. There are cheaper ones on the market, but the ones I've researched are less powerful and/or have a shorter running time per battery charge.

The blower in action
The blower in action - my thanks to NAH who agreed to pose and use the blower for this post  

Friday, 23 September 2016

Unusual Front Gardens #24: Keep it simple


I don't usually go for coleus, but these three simple pots round the corner catch my eye every time I go past them.

They're placed below a window at the end of a drab drive, with colours that blend with each other well and also complement the brickwork of the house. This photo was taken on a dreary day and their fieriness helps to lift the gloom.

I think they're fabulous, how about you?



Latin without tears


Coleus is another plant which has undergone a name change recently, though like aster it remains as the common name and is considered to be a synonym of the genus Plectranthus

Most of the coleus we grow as ornamental plants are classified as Plectranthus scutellarioides. I haven't found the meaning of Plectranthus yet, and scutellarioides means it resembles the genus Scutellaria. This genus name is derived from the Latin scutella, which means a small dish or bowl and describes the appearance of the fruit's calyx.

Update September 24th: Diana left a comment which illustrates the joy of blogging. She's found the meaning of Plectranthus for me:

Plectron = spur and anthos = flower. From: Plantzafrica website
The website adds the words plectron and anthos are Greek in origin.
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