As Sockwatchers will know the Sock is a great fan of Architectural Plants in Sussex although she is slightly afeared for the agave and date palm she bought there last year before the unusually hard winter frosts hit.
What a treat then to visit the Otway Fly in Australia's cool temperate rainforest near Apollo Bay and see tree ferns in situ. It was definitely cool, well bloody freezing actually, and it was definitely rainy although our visit to the Fly itself was thankfully in a break between the storms. This did have the advantage that we had the entire place to ourselves and it was certainly worth a visit.
The drive to the Fly which took us through the rainforest on a minor road was spectacular with more ferns than you could shake a stick at! Then walking 45m above the forest bed on the tree-top walkway afforded a view of the incredible patterns they make when viewed from above.
Double clic on the pictures to enlarge if you are interested in that sort of thing
Fantastic colours and textures of mosses and lichens on the tree-tops
A crimson rosella adds a bit of colour contrast
This bit of the Fly was swaying slightly alarmingly....
The Sea of Immeasurable Gravy is proud to bring you a new weekly slot where Sok Wan (distant cousin of the more famous Gok) will makeover some of your favourite gardening celebrities, turning them into the fantasy figures you are all craving for!
Sok will take our horticultural heroes, strip them to their underwear and then hose them down in a freezing cold swimming pool. After all their inhibitions have been washed away Sok will transform them into the stars the public really want to see!
This week Sok has worked his magic on James and Anne-Marie...
Snooping around blogworld as is her wont, the Sock is led to believe that Anne Wareham (affectionately known in the hortiworld as Doris Bonkers) is about to give birth to a book called 'The Angry Gardener'. Some of you may remember Doris from her stint on C5's 'Best Garden in Britain' or whatever it was called. You know.. the one with the three judges format one of whom (guess who) was the narsty judge.
So 'The Angry Gardener'... whatever next? 'The Apoplectic with Rage Gardener'? The 'So Incandescent with Rage my Head Exploded Gardener'?
Anne lives in Wales which might explain everything. The Sock has been there and sympathises.
Update.. It has been bought to the Sock's attention that 'The Angry Gardener' is an anagram of 'Garden Hag Reentry' and very nearly an anagram of 'Danger Great Hyena'. Anyone got any more?
Further Update.. It turns out that in fact the book is to be called 'The Bad-tempered Gardener' which in the Sock's view is a mistake. Not only does it not sound as catchy but it is too long to be bothered anagramming.
The Sock has been pleasantly surprised to find that the RHS is rather more dynamic than she thought! In a move fitting with his role of Head of Gardening and Creative development 'the man who should be Britain's Head Gardener', Matthew Darcy-Wilson, has been on a fact finding biodynamic Californian wine tour .
Matthew states "I visited the area last year to learn about horticulture, rather than viticulture."
The Sock has missed the original plant challenge day but saw it mentioned on VPs blog. The premiss is that you are allowed three plants on your Desert Island, no restrictions on growing conditions and you've already got food.
Giant Gunnera so the leaves can be used for shade or shelter and any rain will run down the grooves in the leaves and be channelled into the pipes made using my second plant bamboo. The bamboo can also be used to make various mats and bits of furniture.
The third plant will be a sempervivum to remind the Sock there is always life. Hmm.. or should it be a cacao tree to remind me that failing anything else there is always chocolate..
Actually thinking about it the Sock doesn't have that rather lovely sempervivum 'raspberry ice' pictured above which she now NEEDS to join her collection. Forget the desert island stuff the Sock loves to shop..
The Sock has been inspired by Karen at Artist's Garden to do a bit of blog tidying. I want to put ongoing things that have a common theme in one place as I have done with the Scents and Sustainability posts now listed on the right. The problem is that I just want to have the theme of the posts listed, in that case 'Scents and Sustainability' and then click on that to get the links to each individual posts. (I dislike any kind of visual clutter which is why I keep the blog quite simple without listing other people's blogs I read or followers or whatever.) I have tried using Labels (like on Garden Monkey's blog) to do this but that lists every post I have made so really what I need is Labels but then be able to delete all the labelled posts I don't want.
Can anyone point me in the right direction to do this?
Picture the scene.. the sun is shining the Sock is happy because she has seen some longtailed-tits in the garden.. and so decides to take advantage of a day with some colour in it to just do a bit in the garden.
As all gardeners know there is never "just a bit to be done" - one job invariably leads to another and before you know it you are stuck out there tired and cold but unable to come in for a cup of tea until all the emergency work has been carried out. Last time the Sock went out "just" to check her pots in the back passageway she was confronted with an overflowing drain. This necessitated a change into old clothes, a trip up to the attic room to find various useless plumbing devices and finally the indignity of stretching out on the slime green pathway with her arm up to the shoulder in greasy grey freezing water scooping out the dead leaves and decaying frogs that were clogging up the drain. Oh.. and then half an hour in the shower scrubbing the smelly gunk off - luckily it was kitchen gunk not anything worse.. hopefully.
Today's foray proved equally traumatic. After probably losing the aeonium to frost (all the flowering heads have now been cut off as they were rotting) the Sock felt that at least the other side of the cold coin was that it would kill off some of the nasties lurking in the borders. So imagine her distress when gently lifting the 'chocolate ruffles' heuchera leaves to clear underneath the whole bloody lot came away in her hand!!!!! The Sock knows the drill as it is not the first time it has happened. Shake off as much soil as possible from the roots and then wash them carefully to ensure you get all the little vine-weevil maggots out taking malicious pleasure in squishing the little wrigglers until they pop! Yeuch! Then hopefully you have enough roots left to repot and give lots of TLC until said heuchera recovers. Test every single other heuchera in the garden by giving it a gentle tug taking care not to pull too hard or you will fall over backwards when it suddenly comes away.
Luckily this would seem to be the only casualty today but the Sock knows they are out there and vigilance will be needed for the battle ahead.
The Sock's favourite UK birds are longtailed tits pictured above. They have never ever been seen in her urban garden so the Sock was really excited today to see a pair happily flitting about.
Reminder to everyone that the RSPB birdwatch is this weekend.
As we are on the subject of birdies the Socks favourite Aussie bird was the gorgeous little Superb Fairy Wren with it's iridescent dragonfly blue head. The Sock was totally entranced by them and was lucky enough to finally get one still long enough to take a photo.
And of course the Socks had to have a photo of a kookaburra - this was the first sighting and a rather handsome bird compared with other kookaburras we saw which were a bit manky.
And just to show that not all birds are cute and cuddly this was the evil ibis from hell which stalked the Sock around Sydney Botanic gardens trying to snatch her sandwich!
You will all be over the moon to know that the RHS have teamed up with gardeners' favourite Alan Titchmarsh to present "The People's Gardener"!
This original new concept will bring you... wait for it... a panel of judges, including TV gardener Charlie Dimmock and will be included as part of La Titchmarsh's excellently educational afternoon chat show. This has got to be the biggest news since the Bradjerlina triangle and don't forget the Sock bought it to you very nearly first!
In order to celebrate this great news on a day where nothing else much is happening apart from the Obama inauguration (don't you just love that 'Hail to the Chief' song they always play at these events.. so jolly and that link is a particularly good version) the Sock has given Alan a makeover (below).
Well that was rather more difficult than the Sock thought and would probably have been better left to Gok as someone suggested. The inspiration fairy failed to visit the Sock and all she could envisage was Bunny as someone who needs to embrace her inner... erm... bunny. As for Robocushnie well what can the Sock say. His punchline is "Excuse me, I have to go. Somewhere there is a gardening crime happening."
Sockwatchers wanting to see a more exciting picture of Bunny being groped by Susannatrinny can go to the link in the post below and skip through the photos.
Ha ha! The Sock bets you were expecting some smut by the post title.. no such luck. Willys are what the Australians call a variety of wagtail. They really are the most charming and amusing little birds and the Socks were lucky enough to have some nesting in the tree near their verandah at one of the places they stayed. The pictures of the three chicks were taken in low light with a long lens so the quality isn't great but hopefully they will make you smile..
The Sock has been avidly reading all the news coverage of the flight that ditched in the Hudson River yesterday in which miraculously everyone appears to have been saved. It was interesting to note that more than one survivor said that their last words or thoughts would have been "This is it!".
The Sock's nearest death experience engendered the same response. Holidaying in the Monchique mountains up behind the Algarve some years ago the Socks decided to drive down to the coast via one of the smaller country roads through a sparsely populated landscape. It had been raining but cleared giving a view of the very steep incline down the scrubby mountainside to the valley below. Despite driving slowly as the car turned a hair pin bend it suddenly skated sideways across the road and over the unbarriered edge. The rain had turned grease and oil on the road into a smooth slippery surface. The car hung balanced half on and half off the road and it struck the Sock it was like that scene at the end of the Italian job - only the car was sideways with the Bedsock in the driving seat side which was hanging over the edge. The car started to sway gently and the Sock remarked "This is it!" as the question of balance was decided by the Bedsocks heavier weight and the car started to slip slowly down the steep scree. The Sock uses the word "remarked" advisedly as there was no sense of fear, just that having seen the mountainside her expectation was that the car would soon start rolling over and over as they do in the films.
The car slid about 20ft and then miraculously came to a halt, not quite on its side but against a large bush. The Sock managed to push her door upwards and open and climbed out fearing that any movement might rock the car off the bush. The Bedsock followed squeezing across the passenger seat whilst the Sock waited ready to give him an extra pull out if the car started descending again. Both out safely it appeared that the car was fairly firmly wedged on the bush so we risked opening the back door and hooking out our bags before clambering up the scree slope to the road.
Given her normal state of absent-minded flakiness the Sock invariably goes into efficiency mode in a crisis and this happened here. A liberal dose of Bach flower Rescue Remedy to cope with any shock that neither of us seemed to be feeling and the Sock remembered that by a lucky coincidence she had written the shopping list in her bag on the back of the piece of paper giving the holiday agents address. A quick phone call and within the hour the agent had turned up with a replacement car for the Socks and a suitable gasp of astonishment that the Socks were unscathed. As it turned out when the car was recovered it too had survived with only a couple of scratches.
The Socks gives thanks that "This is it!" weren't her last words on that occasion and that those who may have felt or spoken it on the downed flight have also found that whatever they believed "It" to be they have survived to confront it another day.
January doesn't seem the luckiest month for gardening bloggers with various people falling off see-saws or impinging their shoulders. James A-S has been a brave little soldier and kindly shared a picture of his war wound with us.
The Sock has been unable to get a photograph that does full justice to her skin-tag but does have a picture of pussbaby Luka's poorly paw.
Luka ran out gleefully into the smattering of snow the other morning appearing a short time later with a tiny bit of a limp. Inspection of his paw revealed that one of his pads had been cut into quite deeply so it was off to the vets. £66 later Luka had had an anti-biotic injection and his entire leg was wrapped up in a huge bandage with a blue sock over it. He looked ridiculous. The minute we got home and he was let out of the cat basket he ran madly around in crazed circles shaking the bandaged paw in the air with all the vehemence of someone trying to flick a particularly sticky bogey off their finger. The blue sock and bandage flew off in one piece much to Luka's satisfaction and the Sock's horror. Visit number two to the vets produced the verdict that he probably wasn't going to keep a bandage on and that as it had only been there to keep the wound clean we might as well leave it to heal on its own. Had this fairly obvious idea been thought of earlier it might have saved the Sock a deal of money. Luckily my little darling is worth it.
Have you got an injury you would like to share? Blog it and you will almost certainly get some sympathy.
The Sock will be interested to find out what Cerny has made of Belgium.
NB: If you want to see all the countries "submissions" then click on the link below and download the first PDF file at the bottom of the article. The file also appears to give explanatory text from each country's artist. Very interesting.
On the morning of Tuesday 20th January some people big in the RHS are going online at their website to answer questions from their members. The Sock has thought of a few apposite questions and the Sea of Immeasurable Gravy offices have been swamped with letters from people begging the Sock to ask questions on their behalf.
Whose idea was the montage of citrus fruit forming a pre-Crimbo display(above) at Wisley last year? It's hideous.
If you are a charity why do you charge so much for a piece of coffee and walnut cake at Wisley?
(submitted by C. Walkden)
Why do you persist in this unholy alliance with the Daily Mail and let hundreds and thousands of their readers into the Hampton Court Flower Show swamping so-called RHS Members day?
(submitted by A Grauniadreader)
How much control does the RHS have over the piss poor BBC coverage of the various flower shows we are forced to endure each year?
If the Sock slips someone a fiver (or a few Greek pastries) can she get tickets for press day at Chelsea?
Are events like the Chelsea Flower Show ethical and sustainable in this day and age?
Is it true that Chelsea may be cancelled next year due to the drying up of commercial sponsorship?
Can the RHS arrange a large discount for the Sock on one of those nice Gabriel Ash greenhouses they have lent their name to?
The Sock has noticed that a rebellion is sweeping through blogworld against the misuse and overuse of certain buzzwords. So far detox and sustainability have been identified as words we least want to hear in a gardening (or indeed any other) context. The Sock would like to add 'ethical' to the growing (ha ha don't excuse the pun) list!
The Sock recently had to call in a plumber to deal with a minor disaster. This would have remained minor rather than a disaster if the Sock had done something about it sooner but past dealings with anyone in the plumbing trade have left the Sock somewhat phobic about letting these people in to her house. Enter the "Ethical Plumber"! What the heck is that all about? Is he saying that as opposed to all the other complete bastards who have ripped the Sock off with their shoddy incompetent workmanship he is actually going to do the job properly at a fair cost?
The Sock decided to give him a try on the grounds that he probably couldn't be worse than anyone else. It is also true to say that the Sock was influenced by the name and the idea that somehow this plumber might be the first not to engender twenty letters of correspondence and the threat of legal action.
The Ethical Plumber turned up and was just about as ethical as one might hope for, looked like an overgrown student with a hippy dippy wooly hat and a beaten up VW van. He wiped his feet on the mat instead of stomping dirt up the stairs and did what he was supposed to, cleared up after himself, charged a fair price and admired the Sockmobile (turned out he was a VW Beetle fan). He cheerfully explained that he likes to do a good job at a fair price - hence the name!
That is all fine but why is the Sock living in a society where doing your job properly is labelled "ethical" in some way?
Most of the following are eucalyptus except for the last one which is either a burnt tree or a black wattle (or something else). The colours and textures of the bark were quite beautiful and it is worth clicking on the pictures to enlarge..
The Sock recently commented that despite someone on GOTY saying that aeoniums looked dreadful in winter hers looked fabulous all year round!
Not any more.... the one in the picture is the Sock's pride and joy and was planted in a sunken pot in the front gravel garden. The Sock woke up to a frost filled morning to find the aeonium was about to bite the dust. It has now been moved indoors leaving the Sock with a wrenched back because the sunken mesh pot didn't come out easily and the plant was heavy and enormous to manoeuvre through the house.
What does the Sock do now? Those front flowering stems look very sorry for themselves. Will they recover? Should the Sock chop the bowed stems down a bit and hope they all resprout multiple heads? Help!!!!!
The Socks waited all holiday to add a picture of a possum to their wildlife photos all of which were taken in the wild not in sanctuaries or whatever. (The Sock says this because some friends showed her pictures of a load of wildlife they took in Canada and it turned out most of them were from Vancouver zoo - they were really snitty when the Sock pointed out this was cheating!).
So here is the lovely little possum with its big black innocent eyes which showed up on the last day of our holiday just to make our wildlife list complete. Aaawwww.... sweet - who wouldn't love the little furry baby.
Well this person wouldn't love it and is now wearing it as insoles in his boots!!
The Sock isn't at all happy and has the mother of all colds... it is already a 4 mansize tissue box job and now starting on the 5th. You will all have to wait for the Panto Part II because the Sock's eyes have puffed up so much it is difficult to see the screen to work on it.
In the meantime here are a few pictures of cheering colour from some lovely gardens the Socks visited in Oz.
Foxglove Spires is an Open Garden near the charmingly named Tilba Tilba on the New South Wales coast south of Sydney. The Socks hadn't really known what to expect from the scenery in this part of Australia and in fact parts of it were more like Devon which might explain the plethora of places offering Devonshire Cream Teas. (The Socks never sampled these but were assured that they did indeed consist of scones jam and cream but whether this was the proper clotted stuff or not who is to say? The Sock spent much of her holiday pondering the niggling question as to whether a) Devonshire actually existed - Surely it should be Devon? (Wikipedia has something to say on this for those of you who haven't already lost interest) and b) was the use of Devon/Devonshire Cream tea actually allowed when it wasn't manufactured in Devon?
But as usual the Sock has digressed, so back to Foxglove Spires. Against a backdrop of Tilba creek and mountains the gardens have been created over 20 years but look like they have been there for ever. Italaniate archways, mysterious winding wooded paths, a Beardshaw style ruined "garden folly" and more arbours than you could shake a stick at are all squeezed into a relatively small area, morphing into each other rather than being formal garden rooms. It is all exceedingly beautiful - nature has been given it's head to allow self-seeding and rambling with a certain 'unkemptness' that removes any hint of formal starchiness.
The Socks favourite part was the chaos of roses at the back of the gardens. The Sock isn't normally a great fan of roses , particularly not the formal 1930s style rose garden type but this was a joyous cacophony of colour more than enough to raise the spirits on what was a slightly rainy grey day. It is worth clicking on the pictures to enlarge for the full effect.
In the adjacent nursery and shop the Sock was amazed to find a whole section dedicated to twine!!!
They actually had the stuff that Sarah Raven sells and even allowing for postage from Australia it was still cheaper than hers! Knowing how interested you would be the Sock photographed some of the different twine dispensers although missed the best one which was twine on a 3ft stick! The Sock wishes she had bought some as she still hasn't got any garden twine but there was no room in the suitcase!
The Socks stayed at the charming Greengables B&B across the road from the gardens. There seems to be a lovely tradition in Oz where many of the B&Bs provide a hospitality bottle of 'port' for guests to have a quick snifter. After a lovely meal provided by the gracious hosts Phil and Stuart the Socks polished off the rest of the bottle with the help of a companionable young Aussie couple they were dining with . On visiting the excellent local vineyard Tilba Valley winery the next day the Socks learned that the host had already been in early that morning to restock it. Sorry about that Phil and Stuart - it was rather good although Australian ports seem to be more like moscatel than port in the Portuguese sense.