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Posts from the ‘Pastimes’ Category


Create a Mouthwatering Colour Combination in your garden

Alliums were all the rage a few years ago and they still haven’t lost their attraction. From time to time I’ve seen them dotted around gardens, in masses in borders, even marching along straight borders at Wimpole Hall – they looked exceptionally good.

I was reminded of them having just seen an offer on the Thompson & Morgan website – 100 allium bulbs for £5. The 100 bulbs is made up of different quantities of four different varieties: Screen Shot 2013-08-17 at 20.19.52 16 bulbs of Allium aflatuenese, 24 bulbs of Allium sphaerocephalon, 50 bulbs of Allium caeruleum and 10 bulbs of Allium Purple Sensation. All flower in early summer. See details on:

We are planning on planting them in front of a lovely Cumbrian wall, interspersed with either creeping jenny and/or Alchemilla mollis.  

On the BBC plant finder page It suggests campanula portenschlagiana and geranium Philippe Vapelle would work well with them.  They comment that for all gardens, large or small, the campanula is an indispensable alpine. Hardy, vigorous and persistent, it’s easily grown on the rockery, on walls, in front of borders or even in pots, forming generous, dense mats of small ivy-like leaves which become hidden beneath the mass of small purple bells in summer.

So that’s sorted. I might even buy a David Austin rambling pink rose to give a beautiful contrast which has a strong scent too – Mary Rose fits the bill. I’d like to add in some lavender to give another purple burst in late summer, when the roses are still flowering.

Purple, pink and yellow … A great combination. Can’t wait for summer!

The Allium offer ends midnight on 20 August 2013 …

Yours in health

Val Reynolds, Editor


News Flash!!! Bargain Plug Plants for 24p

A quick note to all those who follow my Front Garden on the web

Wedding Bells - Penstemons

Wedding Bells – Penstemons

We thought those readers who enjoy gardening, and there are many of you we know! would want to hear about the latest Thompson & Morgan bargain plug plant offer:

24 plug plants of the self same penstemons – Wedding Bells Mixed – that attracted so much attention from passersby at our front garden in Welwyn Garden City

T&M are adding 24 plugs for 24p that’s only 1p a plug! to any orders made between 9-15 August 2013

This really is value for money.

The blooms are striking, bloomed for ages, are perennial and came up well for more than 5 years and showed every sign of long term growth. They look really good in a border, or a pot.

I bet T&M run out of stock fairly quickly so if you want some, and we certainly do!, it would probably be best to order some asap.

OFFER ORDER CODE: TAF146ZURL: Limited to one pack per order.This offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer or with promotional vouchers.

Keep in touch!

Val Reynolds, Editor


Visiting Gardens – A Great Pasttime

Visiting gardens is a most interesting and a very popular pasttime. Wimpole Hall was the latest we visited end of May, 2012 where it was interesting to see the advanced growth of their onions, whereas ours were mere blips on the landscape by comparison!  We also noted the wild bee houses liberally sited throughout the gardens. A variegated horseradish was much admired by visitors and irises were in full bloom despite the lack of rain for the last week or so. Based in Hertfordshire we tend to spread out north and east, so for us a visit to the Langford village gardens in Oxfordshire on Sunday 17 June between 2 and 6 pm is not really on our agenda. However the gardens sound magnificent and if you are anywhere near do consider a visit.

Young villager, Isabella Potter, helping to prepare the garden of the late Sir Hardy Amies

Young villager, Isabella Potter, helping to prepare the garden of the late Sir Hardy Amies

There are 26 gardens to wander round, both large and small including one created by Hardy Amies, famous for dressing the Queen for more than 55 years. The Grange and Ansells Farm gardens are open for the first time and Lower Farm House, a garden at the medieval end of the village has been completely remodelled.

Garden visiting wouldn’t be the same without tea and homemade cakes and there will be two locations to choose from.

£4.50 per person on entry and children go free!

More information on website

Val Reynolds, Editor


Growing Sweet Peas using a reliable support device

I have never had any success with germinating sweet pea seeds so having a sister who can grow most things was useful. I sent her the packets of sweet peas from Thompson & Morgan, see below, and hey presto, I have some seedlings in my little greenhouse, growing well, even after I cruelly pinched out their central shoots so as they grow they will throw out lateral shoots to give more flowers.

Sweet pea seedlings

Sweet pea seedlings

Now I wait for the roots to show through the bottom of the pots before planting them out. The key to lots of sweet peas is to keep picking the flowers to prevent them from developing seed pods, so I’m looking forward to having a house full of sweet scent. Must remember to cut the plants off at ground level when they are finished so the little nodules of nitrogen are left in the ground to feed the next crop or group of plants. This could be called the lazy gardener’s way of improving the soil!

I have erected a Haxnicks Maypole Plant Support in readiness. Simplicity itself to erect, made from black powder coated steel with rot proof strings and galvanised pegs, it’s a feature in its own right. Designed for any kind of climbing plant, annual or perennial, at 6ft in height it will show off anything you plant. I’ll be getting a couple more for next year to add a clematis in the centre of a bed, and for the most successful climbing bean I’ve ever grown Cobra from Thompson & Morgan. Delicious! Other planting ideas are nasturtiums, a vine, french beans – could even experiment with climbing strawberries.

Haxnicks Maypole plant support

Haxnicks Maypole plant support

Growing Sweet Peas –  Thompson & Morgan

Wiltshire Ripple

Wiltshire Ripple

Val Reynolds, Editor


My Scarf – An ironic short story

This story, written by Val Fief, a contributing author, has echoes of the kind of irony Roald Dahl included in many of his stories. 

I love my scarf. It is 72 years. I knitted it when I was 8. Those were very cold years and my mum gave me a woolly jumper to unravel so that I could have some wool to knit with. She taught me how to knit plain stitch, then purl stitch and how to pick up stitches that I had dropped.

I cut open all of the seams and set to work pulling out the curly wool and stretching it round the back of a chair. It was hard work undoing someone else’s carefully knitted work. I did this for a long time and when I had these big skeins of wool, I washed them hoping to straighten the wool out as they hung out on the line and I made balls of wool with them. At last I had something to knit with although the wool was still curly. We didn’t have washing machines and spin driers then – it was 1939 and the outbreak of war.

My mum taught me to cast on both with my thumb and with two needles. Metal knitting needles number 10s. I came home from school and knitted while listening to the wireless. I had finished by the end of November and was very thrilled to wear it to school. It was as tall as I am. I felt cosy and warm on the way to school. When it was very cold, I wore it over my nose.

As I wasn’t evacuated because we lived in Suffolk, we had other children come to live with us. We stayed friends with some of them throughout our lives. I was an early reader and read voraciously. In 1949 I went to University to study English. When I was a student I met another student, James. He was studying Maths. I was always baling him out with money. With the excitement of past war freedom, we got married. We had 7 children including twin girls. James studied and became a bank manager eventually but this made us move house often. Each time I had to find new schools and friends and houses. It was hard work but we managed with lots of challenges and laughter. We moved 14 times. I grew a garden everywhere we went. We managed it all and my scarf went with me to every location. It was like a baby’s comforter to me. A reminder of base. My original safe home.

The children grew up and had careers and interests. And we had a safe and permanent home and we would never have to move again. It was a lovely home in the middle of Cambridge with room for the children to come home. Until one day, James came home looking very serious. He said that it was time to leave home to be with a woman who always made him the most important person in her life. I was stunned. I blurted out “I suppose she has no children?”. “As a matter of fact, no”. He replied. “I will return tomorrow for my things” he said. “We will sell this house and you can have something small”. “You haven’t worked so you don’t deserve such a big house”.

Wow! He would simply return for his things, abandon me, and throw me out! I was shocked and unhappy and held tightly on to my scarf. Confused and frightened. I was distraught. Work? What does having seven children and moving 14 times to do with work? The next evening I took the bulbs out of the hall lights and left my scarf on the stairs and as he stormed out in great anger, he fell down the stairs and broke his neck. I retrieved my scarf, put the bulbs back in the sockets, and called 999 sobbing profusely.

That was all 20 years ago. My children come and see me in the house I love so much. My grandchildren too. There was accident insurance. I have had a wonderful life and I love my scarf.

Val Fieth, Contributing author

Knitting is becoming a more popular past time. John Lewis have kits for beginners on their website and a good range of funky wools to choose from. One of our favourite wools is Sirdar Squiggle Super Chunky Yarn, Pale Blue Mix at £3.80 per ball.

On the same website we noticed some cushion covers to knit, hmm with winter evenings coming up would be good to curl up in front of the fire and knit …

I welcome features to appear on the website. Do get in touch with me with your ideas.

Val Reynolds Brown Editor

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