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We've had a friend from Oz staying for a few days and whilst she's from the UK originally, she hasn't seen much of the wonders of our canal system. Therefore we deemed it necessary to take her to see the Caen Hill flight straight away. Besides, there's a jolly cafe towards the top where we could watch the narrowboats as they lock through the flight.

After lunch we walked along the canal to Devizes Wharf, speculating as we went on which of the moored boats are hired and those used for living. Which category do you think the photographed one belongs to? Whichever it is, I like the owner's philosophic musing together with the natty plant that echoes the paintwork.

On the way back we had the delight of following a majestic heron along the canal and the photo below shows our first sighting.

All in all, we had a wonderful afternoon together just wandering and not being lost. It's a philosophy I'd like to subscribe to more often.


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... well, we're not quite sure who as they haven't told us their names.

Ginger and Tabby* arrived yesterday and have been busy exploring their new home. Stairs are quite new to them as they spent the first 12 weeks of their lives in a bungalow. They're not very talkative yet, though we've had purrs from one and chirrups from the other.

NAH found them via a fellow volunteer at Midsomer Norton. He'd taken in their mother - only a kitten herself at around 1 year old - not realising she'd been 'seen to' already by the local tom. Whilst he'd enjoyed their antics, he knew it wasn't a long term option for him and was looking to rehome the pair together as they've bonded really well.

We adore them already.


* = these are the names they came with. We've toyed with Buster and Keaton as their new names, but we're not sure. I suggested Mac (for the mackerel tabby) and Sandy yesterday. The search for their 'proper' names continues...
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In Denver I was asked why I come to the Garden Bloggers' Fling, especially as UK gardening is held in great esteem in the USA. Well, there's always the pull of seeing good friends and interesting places, plus I still have lots to learn and my visit was inspirational. Sometimes you have to get away from your own place to see things more clearly. Here are some of my key points from this year - many thanks to the organisers of this year's Fling and to all of the gardeners and organisations who made us so welcome.

Make an entrance...


This view has provided much food for thought since I've got back. I've seen large matching pots in doorways at many a Fling before, but these were exceptional. I have pots at my door too, but they don't match and they don't bring the front garden's planting nearer the front door. It's something to bear in mind as I plan my new front garden.


Here's a view which changed my plans for my front garden revamp. I'm planning a knot garden, but I prefer these looser, more organic shapes to the more formal lines I had in my head. A statement pot or two won't go amiss either.


There's also an opportunity to include some garden art. If it sneakily incorporates your house number, even better!

Gates and doorways are important too...


I need to do something about the gate to the back garden. It doesn't have to be boring and it can set the tone for the rest of the space. This gardener wasn't afraid of the use of colour and there were lots of playful touches in the rest of the garden.


And having dealt with my boring gate, I need to think about what lies beyond it. At the moment the walk through to the back garden isn't as inviting as this one.

Don't be afraid of garden art...


I come back with this mantra every time I go to the Fling. I have taken some steps to remedy the matter, but I have yet to be bold with a statement piece, or with the use of a background colour to pull the garden together.


I am faring better with the smaller touches, some of which were purchased on previous Flings. I've also signed up for a stained glass course next year where I'll make a larger piece for the garden. There's more on these to come in a future posts.

Fences don't have to be boring...


I've seen plenty of fences with lots of pots, mirrors, art etc attached to make them interesting. But stencilled art... why didn't I think of that before? And with a bug hotel, that's even better.

Bring a little bit of Denver style home...


The use of rock was everywhere in Denver and the surrounding cities we visited. Not surprising when our constant companion were the views over to the Rocky Mountains and gardeners were tackling the constraints of their soil and a mere 15 inches of rain per year. As a result rock and crevice (aka steppe) gardens were the norm, something quite alien to my limestone clay conditions.

However, I plan to build my own little bit of Colorado in a large pot and thanks to the Fling I have a list of scrummy, hard-to-find-in-the-UK alpines I'd like to grow in there.

These are just a few of the plans I have buzzing in my head post-Fling. There's more to come on some of the individual visits... in the meantime, head on over to the Garden Bloggers Fling blog to find out what else struck the rest of my Fling friends this year.
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I'm back from a fabulous week spent in Denver at this year's Garden Bloggers Fling. The gardens - as usual - were amazing, but many of us found other stars of the show in the shape of the ever present mountain views and huge skies over the plains we passed through. It's a deceptive landscape because the flatter looking land hides the fact we were at an altitude of over 5,000 feet. Now I'm back I can understand the benefits of living that high: my regular Zumba class yesterday felt much easier and I could work harder without getting puffed!


This is a view from one of the private gardens we visited in the Boulder area and illustrates perfectly the importance of using the borrowed view in garden design. The owners of this property and many more we saw ensured they made the best of their natural resources, both in terms of scenery and local geology.

You can see the clouds building up over the mountains which brought rumbles of thunder in the afternoon and just a few spots of rain on most days. Those mountains tend to keep the precipitation to themselves, so the gardeners in the Denver, Fort Collins and Boulder areas we visited have to grapple with a relatively short growing season compared to the UK, plus a meagre annual precipitation of 15 inches. It was interesting to see how they'd managed to use many of the spring and summer plants I'm familiar with, mixed with a xeriscaping approach to gardening and local native plants such as the Denver Gold Columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha).


On the day I left (Monday), the late afternoon storm ventured further and poured itself over Denver. I storm watched from the train as I made my way to the airport, where for a while no planes were taking off or landing. My evening flight meant I was luckier than most of my friends who'd left in the afternoon. They were delayed by some hours, whereas my fears of a cancelled flight were replaced by a mere 40 minute delay. Had I known my friends' location we could have had an early reunion instead of waiting for the Fling in Madison next year!

More on the gardens themselves to come. In the meantime, the #gbfling2019 hashtag on Instagram brings up a feed of happiness...
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Most hanging basket guidance will give you a look that is burgeoning, beautiful, and relatively high maintenance. Last year's health woes meant I was not only later with planting up my hanging basket, there was also a limited choice of what I could actually put in there. Burgeoning was out and budget was in.

Then I remembered the clever use of Bidens I'd seen on holiday at Bishop's Castle a few years ago. Luckily there was still some left for sale, and the pictured basket was the result of just one plant. Not only that, it flowered right up to December. I learned later that Bidens can be grown as a perennial in the UK, though we tend to use it as an annual. Sadly my plant didn't survive past the first hard frost, though if I'd moved it from its north facing position to a warmer spot in the back garden, I may have had more success with overwintering.

Another accidental shortcut was my use of Dalefoot's Wool compost. Remember last year's drought? My basket flourished on just one or two waterings per week, and no extra feeding.


Guess what's in this year's basket? Yes, it's another Bidens, though I'm ringing the changes with my choice of 'Spotlight'. I think the flowers are extraordinary and I expect my basket to fill out nicely in the next couple of weeks. It may not be a burgeoning basket, but I like my more relaxed approach just as much as those currently gracing Chippenham High Street. I smile every time my basket welcomes me home.

And at just £1.75 for my plant, plus a little spare compost; and much less watering and feeding, my simple, easy care basket is another reason to keep smiling.


What's in your hanging basket(s) this year? Are they burgeoning, budget, or easy peasy?

Garden Bloggers Blooms Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens
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I've walked around the garden with more of a purpose than usual lately because I'm on the lookout for any plants with spittle, commonly known as 'cuckoo spit'. It's a sign a froghopper nymph (aka spittlebug) has taken up residence within the protective froth just like you can see in the photo above.

Until recently I'd thought these sap-sucking insects were relatively harmless, but now they're potentially of concern as they're a chief carrier of the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa, which results in the disease and death of many popular garden plants.

It hasn't reached the UK yet and the RHS would like it to stay that way. They've teamed up with the University of Sussex and Forest Research, who needs thousands of volunteers - like you and me - to help map the distribution of spittlebugs found in gardens, meadows, grasslands and woodlands from April to late June.

We're being asked to report sightings of spittle, in our gardens or on plants elsewhere, through iRecord. The information needed includes the location the spittle was seen and when, plus the species of plant on which it was found. This information will help researchers understand how Xylella might enter and spread in the UK. So far I've found spittle on my Rosa 'Kew Gardens'; amongst my potted lavenders; and on the perennial cornflowers and Helianthus 'Lemon Queen'.

Xylella is already established in areas of Italy, France and Spain and has resulted in the death of millions of olive trees in southern Italy. Unlike most pests and diseases which are host-specific, Xylella affects more than 500 different plant species with garden favourites such as lavender, oleander, rosemary and flowering cherry all at risk in the UK. The disease prevents water from being transported from the roots to leaves with plants often exhibiting symptoms that can be confused with common problems such as drought or frost damage.

If Xylella is found in the UK, all host plants within 100 metres would need to be destroyed and there movement of specified plants within a 5 kilometre radius would be restricted for up to five years. This would not only be devastating for our gardens it would also put surrounding nurseries and garden centres out of business.

This citizen science project provides a basemap of where the froghoppers are, the plants which nurture them, and how they move around. It will enable researchers to understand the potential impact and put plans in place in case Xylella hops over the English Channel.

Expect to see a ramped up biosecurity awareness programme over the coming months, plus increased measures put in place to prevent pests and diseases from entering the UK. I've seen some of this in action already on my recent visits to Westonbirt as a volunteer, and the RHS has recently revised its plant health policy which applies to both gardeners and horticulture industry professionals alike. For instance, if you go abroad on holiday, don't be tempted to bring back plant material, no matter how pretty the plant or how tempted you are.

Further information about the survey and froghoppers can be found here.
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By now the Royal Hospital grounds should be back to normal and this year's Chelsea Flower Show is fading into memory. Quite a lot of my show coverage this year was elsewhere on social media, so I'm taking the opportunity to scoop it all up and keep a record of it on here.

Before I do that, I wanted to take the opportunity to congratulate Tom Hoblyn on his Dubai Majlis show garden. This was quite a different take on what the Middle East has to offer and I loved the rusty linking elements together with the planted highlights using my colour of this year's show, yellow.



There were a lot of innovative displays in the Great Pavilion and this gold medal winning one by Roualeyn Nurseries was a delight, especially as I bought a 'Garden News' from them at Malvern.


Staying in the Great Pavilion, Kirstenbosch's display was awash with their signature native flora.


Green walls were everywhere, and I particularly liked its use as a map.

I'm always on the lookout for unusual outfits at Chelsea and this year I struck gold in the form of Stan and Vicky.


I'm in a choir rehearsing for a concert in July, so the "Choir of Lupins" display struck a particular chord ('scuse pun). Looking back at my photos of the Great Pavilion displays, the colour red is my dominant colour.


Colour wasn't the exclusive preserve of the Great Pavilion or the show gardens. The trade stands did their bit too.


It wasn't all about colour, here the Greenfingers show garden had green in spades... along with cool yellows to form a calming space at the heart of the Show.

As soon as I saw it, I knew Mark Gregory - the King of Chelsea - would win People's Choice alongside his well deserved gold. From tiny plants seen at Hortus Loci in January, to show garden perfection. I wonder what Mark has in mind for Chelsea show garden #100 next year? I can't wait to find out!


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I cut a small posy of flowers for our kitchen on Sunday courtesy of the back lawn and keeping NAH away from it so we could have a #NoMowMay. I've talked about my Wild and Woolly Lawn before, and since then it's gone from strength to strength. I've enjoyed watching the large numbers of insects zooming around our garden this year* which I'm sure is the result of my relaxed attitude to the need for lawn perfection.

As well as the flowers on the windowsill, there are plenty more where they came from outside, and so I took part in Plantlife's Every Flower Counts lawn survey yesterday. With the decrease in wildlife habitats, there is an increasing recognition our gardens can provide much needed havens for wild flowers, which in turn support a wide variety of insects and other fauna.

Plantlife's survey aims to put a baseline figure on one aspect of this concept, by estimating how much our lawns can support honey bees when the grass is left to grow longer and the wild flowers creep in. I measured my lawn's area and then followed their instructions to count the opened wild flowers in a couple of random measured areas. The results show I have just 6** currently open of the 24 common ones in their ID guide, but when multiplied up by my lawn's area and the numbers I found, they alone can sustain 2,099 honey bees per day.

Add that to the rest of the nectar rich plants I have in the garden (including some which have added themselves to the lawn) I'm happy my garden is doing its bit to help, not only the bees, but a host of other pollinators too.


* = apart from the hundreds of black insects which covered me from head to toe yesterday in a matter of minutes. NAH 'hosed' me down with an air compressor to get rid of them. I see there are hordes of ladybirds poised to tackle them, so fingers crossed this problem is a temporary blip until nature restores balance to my garden existence once more.

** = dandelion, daisy, creeping buttercup, ox-eye daisy, red clover, and thyme-leaved speedwell to be precise
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I had a delightful day at Chelsea Flower Show yesterday. My head is still processing which stories to tell you, but in the meantime here's Paul Hervey-Brookes' exquisite 'The Art of Viking Garden' to enjoy from the Space to Grow category.

One of the questions most asked about Chelsea is 'what is this year's colour?' As usual purples and greens are in abundance as befits the time of year, but the colour for me this time is yellow. Paul used deft touches in his design to add highlights and ensure they stuck in my mind.

I had a lovely surprise whilst I admired this effect. Paul turned round to me and said 'Michelle, just go and have a good look around' and I was delighted to skip onto his garden. Whilst we've known each other for a while, I had no idea he'd remembered my name.

Update: the awards are out and the garden has deservedly won gold. Many, many congratulations Paul.
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