And now for something completely different

Morgan 3 Wheeler

Morgan 3 Wheeler

Long term readers will recall that I have an interest in fast cars especially vintage cars; they speak to the romantic in me. Strangely in a moment of serendipity on a visit to a local plant retailer earlier this week we happened upon a flyer for the inaugural Bromyard Speed Festival.  With the event being free and only some 30 minutes from home there was no question over whether we would go.

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What people may not realise is that Bromyard, a small market town in Herefordshire, has a long association with the British motor industry.  Early in automotive history the chairmen of Austin, Bean and Morgan all lived in the vicinity. Consequently it was fitting that in its first year Morgan, located in nearby Malvern, was the feature marque (brand) of the Festival.

Bugatti Brescia T13

Bugatti Brescia T13

Bromyard Speed Festival benefited from the support of Shelsley Walsh, located just 20 minutes away, which is the oldest motorsport venue in the world. Shelsley maintains an intimate charm with spectators being able to walk around the paddocks and stand next to the start line. Given its pedigree it is strange that it is such a small-scale spectator event; there are few, even people who live in the area, who know of its existence.  That charm and intimacy was replicated at Bromyard as the cars motored around the small town centre, revving up the slope and out of corners.  Of course they couldn’t reach the speeds they do elsewhere due to the narrowness of the road and the closeness of spectators but it wasn’t all about the speed it was really about bringing the cars into a new environment which might attract more spectators and of course bringing revenue into the town, which is known for its programme of festivals throughout the year.

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It wasn’t just vintage cars but also more modern cars including a Jaguar Project 7, one of a limited number produced and a mini that had competed in the Monte Carlo mini, numerous Austin Healeys and Morgans. But I still prefer the vintage cars and I wouldn’t let the family go home until we had seen them despite the weather getting chillier.  And I shouldn’t forget to mention the presence of the Sunbeam Bluebird land speech record breaker whose engines were heard in public for the first time in 50 years.  Being a somewhat long car it couldn’t go round the track due to the tight corners but it made its way down the High Street in one direction thrilling the crowd.

Bugatti Brescia T13

Bugatti Brescia T13

It was fascinating to see the expressions on the driver and passenger faces as they went past lap after lap.  Some had an expression of sheer joy, others a fierce determination, some concern as they negotiated the corners and increasing tyre debris and churned up grit from the road that increased during the afternoon.  As the laps for each class progressed the cars were either getting slower or in the case of the vintage cars, faster and more joyful.  Our theory was that having completed laps in the morning and being near the end of the afternoon session with their cars intact the drivers were going all out.  What was also great was to see numerous cars with children or grandchildren as passengers, some of whom were furiously waving to the crowds as they whizzed past.  The guys in the Morgan 3 Wheeler in the top photo took delight in trying to wheel spin their car; strangely after two warnings they didn’t appear for another lap – we assume they were told off!!

Talbot 105 Tourer

Talbot 105 Tourer

Our consensus was that Bromyard Speed Festival was a great event.  Well organised with out of town parking and shuttle buses, plenty of catering options, friendly, welcoming and fun.  We, as a family, hope that it continues as we will certainly be back next year given half a chance.

From small things

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I have been on annual leave this week and as ever had plans to spend time sorting the garden out, as well as redecorating the living room – I am always over ambitious! Firstly, the weather at the start of the week was not very conducive to gardening being dreary and wet and various unexpected family commitments eat into more of my time. It was becoming increasingly frustrating.  Finally on Wednesday having painted the woodwork I found myself outside exploring the garden to see what had emerged over the previous few days.  I am particularly obsessed with my epimediums at the moment and which ones are flowering.  Most of them seemed to be sulking last year but this year, possibly due to the wet winter, they are virtually all (there are some 14 different varieties at the moment) full of flower buds.  Anyway, during one of these forays into the flower border I somehow stepped backwards, caught my heel on the nearby step and managed to fall right over and literally roll down the garden and into the border stamping off Primula denticulata flower stalks on my way.

It really knocked the stuffing out of me and I had to sit on the offending step for a while before I risked standing up; luckily I hadn’t done any real damage which was a relief.  However, despite not banging my head, the tumble left me completely befuddled and I just couldn’t work out what I had been planning to do in the garden and what I had planted to do where.  Quite unsettling.

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So I drifted into the front garden to cut back a few plants that I remembered had been offending me for some time from my bedroom window.  Looking around I noticed the trough under the front window and how dishevelled the succulents appeared.  Suddenly, this trough become the focus of all my efforts and I spent probably an hour slowly removing all the plants, cleaning them up and replanting.  I planted the trough with hardy sempervivums back in April 2014 – you can see a photo in this post.   Since then it has fared well surviving only with the occasional splash of water as I water the pots outside the front door. However, as is their wont the semps have multiplied and multiplied, worse than rabbits, and basically they had run out of space and were growing on top of each other.  So much so that many of them barely had any roots in the soil.

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Interestingly, the semps that I planted in the gravel around the base of the sink looked a lot healthier.  They haven’t multiplied quite so quickly, probably less favourable conditions, and were looking full and glossy.   Having emptied out the trough and removed all the dead foliage I replanted possibly more sparsely than last time and then I used some of the leftovers to continue the planting along the edge of the border the sink stands in.  It is located in one of those narrow borders that builders insist on putting in against the front of a house but which are full of rumble and hopeless for growing most things.   As the rumble makes it very free draining I have over the years added compost and planted it up with lavender and bearded irises all of which are doing well.  I think the semps along the front edge will provide an interesting contrast and hopefully help to cover the ground.

Having completed this task and being pleased with the result I found that my head had cleared and got a second wind and started to work through my original plans for the back garden.  Over the last few days I have made significant changes to the Big Border which I think will move the garden forward over the next year.  So “from small things …. big things one day come”.

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End of Month View – March 2016

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I had a sudden panic today when I realised that tomorrow is the last day of March and I had forgotten all about the End of Month post, not very good when you are the host of the meme! I am on annual leave this week and have managed to get a few hours in the garden between rain and decorating the living room.  The grass lawn has been cut and edged and its amazing how it being neat makes the rest of the garden appear neat, which I can assure you it isn’t.

The border looks alright but I have plans as part of my bid to colour up the garden this year.  I have this week bought a Rosa ‘Hot Chocolate’ which will go in the border here.  I saw the rose in a garden somewhere between Dublin and Cork last year and have been looking for the plant for a while only to find it in a plant retailer just down the road.  It is a sort of orangey red, hard to describe, and I think will work well with the Amenthalea lessonia which also has orange in its leaves.  I will also be adding some red lupins and oriental poppies although I worry it might all be a little too much but we shall see.  I probably need to find some different, lighter tones of red or orange to lighten the planting and provide some depth.

Prunus incisa 'Kojo-no-ma

Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-ma

The Prunua incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’ which is the main structure in the border is just beginning to bloom.  I love this shrub with its pretty delicate spring flowers and then in Autumn the leaves colour up before the slightly twisted stems provide interest during the winter.  Today I have added Galanthus ‘Flora Pleno’ around its stem to provide interest early in the year.

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The other end of the border continues to perplex me but there is a niggle in the back of my mind that I might have a lightbulb moment.  The border used to be quite shady and I have sort of planted along those lines but it isn’t as shady as it was since the willow had a significant haircut.  There are  a lot of ferns in the border and the signs that the Cardiocrinum giganteum is returning, maybe it will flower this year.  I want some colour at this end of the border aside from green but I want to also improve the textures. I think some hostas would add a good contrast to the ferns and maybe some pale foxgloves but I can’t think what to add for colour later in the year – more pondering to be done.

You can see what the border looked like in February here

All are welcome to join in with the End of Month meme and you can use it as you wish; maybe focus on a particular border, or do a tour of the garden whatever you find useful then you can follow its progress through the year.  All I ask is that you link to this post in your post and leave a link to your post in the comment box below.

 

Notes from the Garden – 26/3/2016

Euphorbia x pasteurii 'Phrampton Phatty'

Euphorbia x pasteurii ‘Phrampton Phatty’

It seems as though we are due another wet Easter but at least yesterday was a gloriously sunny day.   The media is full of Easter being the weekend when people start to engage with their gardens which always surprises me as I have been engaged with mine all winter; but I suppose I am in the minority.

Narcissus 'Geranium'

Narcissus ‘Geranium’

The daffodils and narcissus are really coming into their own now. I was surprised at the reaction to me showing you Narcissus ‘Rip Van Winkle’ last week as I thought it was quite a well known narcissus.  So I thought I would follow up with this week’s favourite Narcissus ‘Geranium’.  It is a beautiful strongly scented tazette narcissus with on average three flowers per stem.

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Having spent the morning decorating it was a relief to get outside into the fresh air and make the most of the opportunity before the forecast rain came.  I have crowded my head with so many ideas and plans that it was a delight to just potter around the garden tidying up and weeding.  I found no less than 8 flower stems on the Epimedium ‘Egret’ ready to flower within the next week when the sun returns which is very exciting as there was only one flower stem last year.  Working my way through the border reminded me that the planting isn’t so bad and maybe coming up with grand plans during the winter isn’t the best idea!

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Despite the season seeming to settle down there are still some plants which have decided to flower early such as this Honesty – I think it is Lunaria ‘Corfu Blue’.  I’m a little vague as it’s a chance seedling which has decided to plant itself by the wood store but whatever it is its very welcome.

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And now a little boosting but I was so thrilled to receive a mention in this week’s Women’s Weekly that I cannot help myself. So if you have found yourself here from reading the magazine then you are very welcome. Now with the weather looking set to stay wet for the rest of the weekend I think its time to go back to the sewing.

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Notes from the Garden – 20th March 2016

Epimedium

Epimedium

Not such a gorgeous weekend as last weekend which was disappointing given it was the Spring Equinox but fingers crossed Easter will see a change and temperatures will start to improve.  The garden certainly appears to be waiting for the green light although the epimediums seem to have decided they have waited too long.    I am particularly pleased to discover flowering buds on the majority of the other epimediums; worryingly I seem to have accumulated 13 over the last few years.

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I do like spring as you have time to really look and see all sorts of delights emerging rather than being overwhelmed with things to look at as you are in the summer. I would like to claim that the combination of the white hyacinth and phormium (above) was planned. But it was a lucky accident with the lime green on the leaf seems to pick up the same colour at the base of each flower.  There are lessons to be learnt here about how plants combine well and that is something I have been reading a lot about recently.

I am reading Andrew Lawson’s The Gardeners Book of Colour which is brilliant.  I have read essays and books about colour with the obligatory colour wheel before but none have ever explained colour, tones and saturation as clearly as Andrew does.  I haven’t got far through the book but I am already thinking about how colour creates an atmosphere and how I might try to use this in my garden especially given the big rejig that is going on.  I am also reading Sarah Raven’s Bold and Beautiful which is also inspiring as I love strong colours but I worry about them looking garish in English light.  I am hoping that between the two books I might learn something useful about combining plants and colour and take my bitty garden forward.

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In the meantime I have sown the first seeds in the new propagator – Cobea scandens which I have wanted to try for some years.  I have pruned the prostrate rosemary that falls over the wall back hard so it looks a little embarrassed showing its legs but I know it will re-shoot like mad.  I have also cut back some of the tatty fern foliage from around the garden; it is great to see the new furry fronds ready to emerge as soon as the weather warms up. Peering in the borders I found both Iris danfordiae and iris tuberosa flowering but my photos arent up to standard so I will try again for next weekend.  This is the first time both have flowered in the garden so I am hopefully they might establish.

I’ll leave you with what is in my opinion the maddest narcissus

Narcissus Rip Van Winkle

Narcissus Rip Van Winkle

 

A New Toy

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I have treated myself to a new propagator this time one that is thermostatically controlled. I have a heated tray which I use to help with germination in the greenhouse but I want to try some more exotic plants so I have splashed out on a Premium Propagator from Stewart.

Now to splash out on some seeds……

Notes from the Garden – 13th March 2016

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Finally a glorious spring weekend which has seen me bumbling around the garden just like the big lumbering bumble bees that have been visiting the hellebores and primulas.  My head has been spinning with ideas and plans over the last few weeks so it was a real relief to start putting some of them into action.  I have one of those long mental lists with one thing dependent on another and I am sure I will forget the sequence so I must write it all down when I write up my garden journal later.

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My first task was to round up the various coloured primulas from around the garden.  I love coloured primulas.  I know a lot of people can be quite snobby about them but I think they have a lovely old fashioned charm to them.  I had been using them along the paths but they were dotted around, one here and one there, and really made no impact whatsoever.  So I collected all the pink ones up and have planted them in the shade of an Abelia by some deep pink/mauve hellabores.  The hellebores leaves will eventually cover this area so will mask the primulas’ leaves when they are looking tatty during the summer.  I see this view from my living room window and I am amazed how much just planting a handful of same  primulas has lifted this area with the pink of the hellebores intensified.  I have done the same with the purples which are planted with the Crocus ‘Pickwick’ and the yellow/orange primulas which are under the Hammelias.

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Next on the list was the Big Border.  I have decided to move the asters and some of the grasses to the new borders in the front garden – yet to be dug.  I want to use this space for sweet peas and dahlias this year so I wanted to clear everything that needed moving so I could see the space left and to start thinking about the layout and how I can fit in the plants I want to include.  The asters have been divided and potted up and are now cluttering up the patio so hopefully they will start to irritate me which will push me onwards with the front garden.  The bright fresh green leaves you can see are Camassias which should look great in about a month.  I like the little Narciussus Tete a Tete as well and I think I will add to these for next year.  I am also thinking that I might risk tulips again and hope the badger doesn’t appear and dig them all up.  I would love to fill the gaps between the plants in this border with bright tulips in the Venetian colours I love at the moment.

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The other job crossed off the list was the replacement of the shambolic bamboo supports for the step over apples with a more organised pots and wire system.  I painted the posts the same colour as the highlight on the shed to give a more cohesive look and my eldest son wired them up.  It was amazing how much difference it has made, without the bamboo canes with the branches tied to them you can actually see the structure of the step-overs.  Whilst we haven’t had a lot of apples off the trees I am hugely proud of the apple step-overs as I know little about pruning fruit trees and started with 3 apple whips and some limited instructions from the nursery.

The sweet peas sown last week are starting to germinate in the garden and today I sowed a batch of Cerinthe retorta which I prefer to Cerinthe major. Cannas and Agapanthus are also showing signs of life in the greenhouse and the Dahlias have been potted up with hugh expectations.

Wherever my gardening mojo has been lurking for the last few years it seems it has decided to come home – thank  goodness.