Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The Good Gardener

What freebie reviewed today? The Good Gardener by Simon Akeroyd, a National Trust gardening advice manual.

How did I get it? A competition win.

It's taken me a week to plough through this, £25 worth of handy gardening advice. So handy, in fact, that Mrs Blogger is keen to keep it on the shelves rather than give it away as a prize - sorry!

The review below is taken from my Goodreads page. There's a lovely playlist at the bottom too, all songs from my collection inspired by gardens.

<The Good Gardener: A Hands-on Guide from National Trust ExpertsThe Good Gardener: A Hands-on Guide from National Trust Experts by Simon Akeroyd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The National Trust know how to garden. I don't think I've ever been to one of their properties and been disappointed with the garden. Given that they aim to encourage visitors by maintaining beautiful gardens and have a self-endowed responsibility to preserve species and techniques then they know what they are doing.
This book is an excellent introduction to gardening. It covers all aspects of the garden, from designing the garden to identifying the type of soil; from choosing different plants for different seasons to advising on fruits and vegetables, herbs and grasses, trees and shrubs. It's hard to think of anything that isn't covered in its 284 glossy pages. Sowing seeds and propagation are covered as is choosing tools and encouraging wildlife into the garden - the Trust are notably green in their methods and materials.
Need to know how to dry out beans? Tick.
Moving a tree? Tick.
Grow your own herbs? Tick
Want bats in your garden? Tick.

Dotted within the pages are small gems from the Trust's gardeners - historical looks at gardening and insights into places that have embraced older methods of gardening. All of this is gloriously illustrated with photos from the Trust's gardens.

I'm a reluctant gardener but this book is simple and basic enough for people like me to get a bit of inspiration. Expert gardeners or someone looking for very specific information on one technique or type of plant won't get all they need, but almost every house with a garden small or large would benefit from having this introduction on their shelves.


View all my reviews

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Capability Brown & his landscape gardens - WIN A COPY!

Thing for free reviewed today? Capability Brown and his landscape gardens book.

How did I come by it? A competition win


The review below is from my Goodreads pages. Scroll down to win it for yourself!

Capability Brown: and His Landscape GardensCapability Brown: and His Landscape Gardens by Sarah Rutherford
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's difficult to understand the impact Capability Brown has had on the British (but mainly English) landscape. In the eighteenth century it was his designs that changed the formal gardens of our large houses and palaces into sweeping, more natural landscapes. Indeed, it is the view that his work is so natural that you don't realise he has done anything that shows the impact he had. Aristocratic pursuits of hunting, riding and rearing livestock are enabled in his designs, yet his careful positioning of structures and clumps of trees shows his eye for views and showing off a house and its estate in full. Along with his trademark serpentine lakes the influence can be seen in many surviving parks, even those designed after his lifetime.
This National Trust book is a coffee table item. It has glorious illustrations on almost every page and is on very high quality paper. The blurb describes it as 'accessible' and this is a fair comment. It is an overview of Brown's life and works and not a detailed synopsis of the man, his works or the properties where the work can be seen.
Those seeking an academic work will be disappointed at the lack of footnotes, references or bibliography although there is a short list of suggested reading and an index. The gardens and houses are not covered in any detail and certainly not given any historical context but then that's not the point of the book.
As a short read it's biggest annoyance is in the way it jumps from property to property within each chapter. I found it difficult to recall specifics about certain estates from earlier chapters. Stowe, for example, has over 30 index references from the start to the end but no work has more than 2 consecutive pages devoted to it. A whole chapter is given to Brown's contemporaries and rivals which is of little interest - I'd have preferred more detail on his life or methods.
The real enjoyment of the book is in the photography. In particular, the aerial photos show the details and genius of Brown's works. It is for these that the book will be picked up and browsed.

View all my reviews Capability Brown book giveaway

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Do you want a postcard of an English Country Garden?

What did I get for free today? Gardens of the National Trust box of 50 postcards

How did I get it? A competition win

How can you get a postcard? Subscribe and send me your address by social media. Wherever you are.


A photo posted by @thebestthingsinlifeblog on
I started comping about 20 years ago and in those days a lot of them were 'answers on a postcard', something that will take fellow 40 somethings back to watching childrens' television as well as postal comps.

I've sent a fair few postcards over the years, but this requirement has dwindled over the past few years. This box should see me through the rest of my life although I am offering to send anyone that bothers to read this a free one, just to be lovely.

I'm not sure I would pay £12.99 for 50 postcards - I'm more of a pay-as-you-go kind of guy when it comes to these things. These do come in a sturdy box that stores like a book, it's a very high quality set as you would expect from the NT.

The pictures are from all over England with a few Wales and Northern Ireland ones thrown in (the NT doesn't cover Scotland which has it's own Trust). My absolute favourite is a view of the thatched cottage where Thomas Hardy was born. He's my literary hero and it really is a beautiful picture - I must go one day.

Lyme Park features and I spend a few happy hours walking the parkland here, it's the nearest NT property to me. Most properties are down South and with the slightly warmer weather it does seem that the gardens there are plentiful and flourishing.

Want one of these cards? Simply subscribe and send me a private message on one of my social media channels. This blog is mostly an escape and journal for my own pleasure and I suspect nobody ever reads it, so this is a little test. I'll send you a little note, wherever you are in the world. See - stamp collectors and postcard collectors both benefit!


Sunday, 5 February 2017

A plum job

Today's freebie? - A Regency Hamper of Winter in Venice rich plum goodies

And from whence? A competition win from Corgi Homeplan

 

This was a nice change from other wins. A hamper of any kind is always a treat - loads of goodies rather than one. I don't usually go in for the toiletries side of things unless they are proper manly, but this sounded pleasant so I had a punt. If you don't throw your balls around you don't win a coconut.

So what was in it? Bubble bath, shower gel, hand creams, bath salts, body lotion and several things with which to scrub and rub one's body.Throw in a bit of pot pourri and a handy wooden tub to hold them all and you've got a nice surprise after a knock on the door.

Question is - was it any good? Well put it this way, I didn't share it. The fragrance is a bit flowery rather than plummy but not feminine. Well, not to me anyway. The shower gel was a thick, proper gel affair - more jelly than gel. Lovely and strong that one, it didn't last long. Nor did the bubble bath or salts, I don't need many excuses to disappear into a warm bath with my book for an hour.

The creams are perhaps a bit more on the flowery side, I wasn't comfortable smelling of that on the train. Absolutely lovely for my daughter, but I'm looking at it from a rough-arsed bloke's point of view you know? Albeit a sensitive one in touch with my romantic side, of course.

The tools are high quality - the massage helps my plantar fasciitis (and tickles), the nail brush is solid wood. The loofah/sponge scrubby thing was OK for a while but soon lost shape. Still, I think these things are meant to be short-term affairs otherwise they must get full of dead skin. Nice.

So there you go, me all plummy and lovely and clean. £46 worth of pamper for nowt. A high class win and a nice treat, but if I were buying for a loved one, I'd probably settle for paying half that.