Wednesday 9 December 2009


Some more Tiger Woods News for those who haven't had enough already. It made me laugh, anyway.

Sunday 11 October 2009


It's the final day at West Dean, and the weather is dull and overcast. I was imagining this was the end for garden photography, but actually Jacqui sent us out once more (protesting "I just felt it spit on me") to tackle photography in low light.


Look at these two photos of the blue and yellow border (above). On the top one, the aperture is set to 5.6, so that the depth of focus is very shallow. This makes the michelmas daisies in the background out of focus, concentrating the eye on the foreground's pale yellow daisies instead.

The second photo shows the same view, but with the aperture set to 16. In this photo, the depth of focus is much deeper, and so more stuff is in focus at once. The problem now is that the photo looks (to me anyway) "messy", full of distracting detail. I prefer the first snap, which lets the eye settle on the foreground detail while leaving the lilac colour to provide a foil.

The point is, though, that for the first time in my life I have a choice about this.

AND I got my spiderweb photo. Result!

Saturday 10 October 2009


I am at West Dean this weekend, a delicious establishment at the foot of the South Downs. It must be good because James has been here as well.

Award-winning blogger James Alexander-Sinclair was here to deliver his plenary lecture on why garden designers can all go in the bin, apparently; he was last seen round the back of the fruit store being told off by some angry women.

Whereas I am here for a weekend-long course on how to create a garden blog. It may seem illogical to have an award-winning garden blogger on the premises and yet fail to exploit him for the garden blogging course, but there we go. So I'm the lesser-award-winning garden blogger helping the group to work out the foibles of Blogger's odd attitude towards uploading pictures etc.

But as well as a writing person, the group also get a photography person, in the form of Jacqui Hurst. As well as being a super-duper photographer, she is also a thoughtful teacher, and I feel like I've learned so much from her in the last 24 hours (never mind the actual paying students).

In one exercise she got us to do today, we had to try taking something we'd normally put centre of the photo - like these dahlias pictured above- and instead, put it off centre. And she has me thinking about backlighting, reflections and even planning to get up before breakfast for a spot of dewy post-dawn snapping.

I know the Sock is a fan of West Dean and its courses, but I would recommend them to everyone; there are people here this weekend learning to carve gargoyles, make lace, play Schumann and paint watercolours. The atmosphere is so peaceful, with rolling hills, baaing sheep and no mobile phone reception. And the food is excessively delicious and I fully expect to be rolling home at least a few pounds heavier. You can download the whole course brochure here, and if you've ever had the feeling that there isn't enough creativity in your life any more, I recommend you do it right now.

One watercolourist enjoying the autumn sunshine.

Friday 9 October 2009


Slightly wonky camera taking artily-not-quite-right photo of one of my favourite autumn pleasures, the sunlit spider web. 

Over at Veg Plotting Madame Veg says I had a bit of a go at her last year when she moaned about autumn. 

(I don't actually remember doing this, though I'm sure it's true.)

I do really like most things about autumn, except the days becoming so much shorter. But I love the smell of wet leaves, the sense of things winding down; even squishing the funny little fruits that fall off crab apple trees is fun! (Though they make an odd metallic bonk when they fall off at night onto cars, which still wakes me up.)

But one of my favourite things about autumn is getting on with planning for spring, so that I feel like it's not too far away. This year I am doing posh white bulbs in terracotta pots, and then a separate downmarket garish scheme in 99p B&Q buckets. You need to make drainage holes with a bradawl, not a hammer and a nail, if that's a helpful tip. Then I layered up probably far too many bulbs. 

I do love autumn, but I also really identify and sympathise with all the people saying they'd rather not bother, if at all possible. 

I think planting bulbs is the absolute number 1 top way to look forward, understanding that it's all gonna come back round rapidly. And don't forget the indoor bulbs too! Paperwhites need to be started any day now to be flowering at Christmas, which is the best possible way of all to feel that spring is really not far behind. Check the wise words of Nigel Colborn, whose excellent instructions and tasteful planting suggestions I followed last year. 

98p! 98p!!!

Friday 11 September 2009


This is just a quick post to say thank you to everyone who has participated in the Emsworth Online Village Show, and that includes everyone who has visited, about fifteen hundred visits so far in the three weeks it's been up. But most of all I want to thank the competitors, without whom it would be a load of pants. 

Secondly, about a month ago I said I would give away a copy of Dan Hinckley's new book - I finally got round to putting the names in a hat and the winner is New Shoot, not because of her sore tooth but because of the laws of chance. So congratulations and I hope she likes the book, I'm absolutely sure she will. 

Anyway it looks as if we might have one of those gorgeous, unforgettable September gardening weekends to get on with some digging and cutting back and tidying, and I wish everyone a really nice weekend! 

Wednesday 9 September 2009


People with a long-term affectionate relationship with this blog will know that this time last year I was piffling on about my genuine excitement that both Sarah Raven (MD) and Nigella Lawson (lush) had an Xmas themed cookbook out. 

This year it goes one better!!!

The veritable Queen of Christmas Delia Smith relaunches the big green christmas cookbook with A HUNDRED new recipes. 

What could these POSSIBLY be I ask you?

How can she POSSIBLY make Christmas any BETTER??

On a completely different note, I have worked out a brilliant way of pruning my wisteria using the kitchen broom. I'm telling you, it's incredible, and I will be revealing the trade secret within the next few days, so I expect at least 1000 extra hits. 

Thursday 3 September 2009


I am sure that most people reading here will already be familiar with the strange and whimsical world of Stuart (is he a real person? Is he slightly too young and handsome to be real? Is he one of the Ramsay Street Robinsons?) and his amazing Blotanical, a Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang of a website which allows all us garden bloggers to find each other. 

Every year Blotanical has awards, which so far I have only ever managed to vote in (and given the Chitty-ChittyBang-Bangness, I feel even this counts as an achievement). 

This year nominations for the 2009 awards are now open. 

And for once I plan to actually enter myself. (I mean, I hadn't actually noticed that I was registered for a blog I haven't written for about a year, and that you couldn't have voted for Baklava even if you had been crazy enough to want to.)

So I did my nominations. 

But after you have nominated, your work is not done. Oh no, for nothing so simple could satisfy Stuart from Australia's handsome, devilishly labyrinthine mind. 

You have to wait three weeks, then it gets down to the top five, and then we all have to vote again! 

Jesus, it's like France. 

Anyway, all I can say is Stuart, we love you for all you do; Fellow Blotanists, let's give Ryan a run for his money; and fellow gardeners, don't worry if you would rather just browse through the bulb catalogue. I'm sure it's a lot more relaxing.