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Saturday, 30 August 2008

How to grow a Triffid

Actually, it's an Echium Pininana x Wildpretii hybrid but not a lot of people know the difference!


  • In February, sow seeds on the surface of moist multipurpose compost in a 5" pot and cover with 1/4 inch more. Or sprinkle vermiculite.

  • Put somewhere warm (80F)

  • Check for germination daily. Easy and probably less than 2 weeks

  • Grow on in a frost free light place (EG, unheated greenhouse)

  • Plant out after your last frost date (or earlier under a cloche)

  • Choose a sunny position

  • Severe frost *next* winter may kill it. A position in front of a huge west-facing wall works well for me

  • Dry sandy infertile soil is Ok.

  • Protect from slugs and snails for a few weeks

  • Can feed it with poultry manure pellets

  • May attract munching caterpillars - I kill them

  • By Autumn, it should have grown to about 4' tall and 2' across.

  • If frost/snow threatens, cover with a fleece jacket

  • Sometime before April in the second year, tie it to a 2"x2" stake about 5' high about a foot from the stem.

  • Expect to see growth in April

  • Grows several inches a day during May and starts flowering. May reach 15'

  • Flowers, grows a little more and attracts bees through to end of October.

  • I cut mine down in late October because it had fallen over.

Other points


  • Handle with gloves. The hairs could be nasty.


  • It's sort of biennial but in less than ideal conditions it might take another year apparently.


  • It's monocarpic (Dies after flowering)


  • Staking is definitely needed in my loose sandy soil. It just started leaning without one.


  • Top might snap off in enough wind.


  • There are several other Echiums of various sizes including the small Echium Vulgare.
  • Disposal isn't too difficult

  • Friday, 29 August 2008

    Towersey is better than Christmas

    That's what I told people when I got back from Towersey Village Festival. I've been going for about 19 years now and I always have a great time. There are always old friends and new friends too. The dancing is fantastic. The highlight this year was Blowzabella - especially their waltz tunes. I found a superb partner and we just glided

    Stephen Taberner was there. This eccentric and gentle man leads the awesome Spooky Men’s Chorale. He remembered me from Sidmouth 2007 where he and I climbed a hill to see the sun rise with a couple of girls.

    Sometimes, technology is magic. Really magic. There, in an Oxfordshire field, I got the first text from Ruth in Kazakhstan. I know, it's nothing really but 20 years ago, Kazakhstan was a remote and almost unknown part of the Soviet Union. A carrier pigeon from the Moon would have seemed more plausible.

    Links
    Towersey Festival
    Blowzabella
    Spooky Men's Chorale

    Wednesday, 20 August 2008

    Not fair

    There it was in the dining room. A perfectly standard hamster cage with a treadmill lots of wood shavings and a real hamster dashing about. But, over in one corner, a plastic pink elephant. That's just not fair!

    Sunday, 17 August 2008

    Cambridge trip

    Went to Ruth's place in Cambridge. Her house is amazing with bookshelves on just about every available wall. So it was that when we started discussing who invented fractions and the decimal point (as you do), a book was easily found to resolve the matter. It was her goodbye party before she goes for a gap year in Kazakhstan to teach music. I'm trying to think of it as "Not so much losing a friend as gaining a central Asian country with vast natural resources and an area greater than Western Europe".

    Later, we went to a bar called Revolution Vodka with unbelievably loud music. It was here that Stuart showed me yet another use for the ubiquitous mobile phone. He typed the drinks order into his and showed it to the barman. Neat idea but unfortunately they'd run out of passion fruit purée and so had to resort to the back up system of desperate shouting at each other.

    A lot of people were dancing although I could see that quite a few women were good dancers I wasn't sure how receptive they'd be to a bloke with grey hair trying to jive with them. That's when I suggested to Stuart that we two should jive and see if women would insist on splitting us up. He liked the idea in principle but since he's dating Ruth, he declined.

    Friday, 15 August 2008

    A New Story from the Hundred Acre Wood

    One day, Pooh and Piglet were walking along the path through the wood towards the bridge over the stream. As they walked and chatted, they gathered suitable twigs and small branches. Finally, they reached the bridge and hung over the parapet, wood in hand.

    Suddenly, Piglet let all of his twigs fall into the stream. Pooh turned to his friend, astonished and with bewildered questioning eyes.

    "I'm fed up with Pooh Sticks", Piglet explained, "Let's go down to the arcade in town and get ourselves tattooed"

    Wednesday, 13 August 2008

    Wot I did on my hols

    The English seaside in summer. The rain. The packed café. No one would come over and take our order. I noticed that the menu listed the establishment's phone number and floated the idea of phoning in our order? "S" liked the idea so much he had his mobile out in a flash and was dialling. I smiled. Corrupting youth is such fun.

    One day, "R" announced that she proposed to eat soup and then go and look after a car park on the top of a nearby hill. (See link below for why)  She even had a tin opener dangerously near a can of soup! Quickly, I pointed out that I had a Sorrel plant by my tent, some potatoes and other ingredients for Sorrel Soup. Of course, it took a little longer to prepare and I had to walk up the hill with a saucepan and cups but friends don't let friends drop their standards.

    Another day, another tea shop. This time, the café at the Connaught Gardens in Sidmouth. Their approach to cakes is simply megalithic. This is the lemon ginger cheesecake. Pot of tea shown to give scale.

    The camp site liked to keep up with the times. They had an "ASBO" tent which was used for anti-social behaviour like playing music at 3am. I do think the guy with the tenor Sax was taking it a bit far though. Some fiddle players gave up and deployed their soprano saxes in retaliation. I would have called in the UN but no one knew the number.

    Oh, I did a lot of dancing too. Perhaps the highlight was in one of the dance venues, the "Anchor Gardens" (actually a pub car park) where I was determined the rain wouldn't stop me. I grabbed a partner, shoved an umbrella in the pointy end of a ballroom hold and we polka'd around the "floor" to great applause.

    Links
    You too can look after a needy car park!
    Sidmouth Festival
    UN
    Worlds best tea shop
    The Anchor, Sidmouth