Sunday, 30 January 2011

Going,Going,Gone!


My gardening week started on a slightly sad note but has ended on a high. I will do sad first. On Monday we visited the allotment for the first time this year. We went to shift some odds and ends as work was due to start on removing out current perimeter fencing and replacing it with a 1.8 metre high steel fence. This is not by choice ~  the local council have decided that all the plots on our site will have standard fencing onto communal pathways. The council are paying for materials and all the labour involved. Whilst I can understand the logic behind this decision and think that the plots will be more secure, I think that the site will lose in terms of individuality and character. Maybe it's just me but I like the higglety pigglety appearance that exists now. There are all sorts of wooden fences - both brand new and old, recycled from pallets and planks ~ they are different heights and thicknesses and different colours. Other folk including myself have chain - link fences. Many plots have hand crafted signs with their plot numbers or names including gems such as 'Backacres'. You can see one such example in the photo at the top of the page ~ this artwork was created by my lovely plot neighbours. There will be less scope for such charm once we are all fitted with the same fencing and there will be no more passing plants and seeds over the fence quite so easily.

In the garden the snowdrops have made great strides in the last week and just need a bit more warmth to open fully. Some perennials are showing signs of new growth which is always encouraging. Meanwhile it's a waiting game to see what's happening with the contents of the cold frame - its occupants having the misfortune to have chosen the wrong year to overwinter in pots. In the greenhouse there are still no signs of the January sown batch (replacement for November sown losses) of sweet peas germinating but the 'Solent White' garlic I planted in pots is now showing green tips.

Now for the good news. This morning I had fun taking part in the RSPB Big Birdwatch ~ most of the usual suspects turned up and a little goldcrest sneaked in an appearance at the very last minute. Then this afternoon I was delighted to discover that I was a prizewinner in the Irish Times Christmas Gardening quiz which I entered at the very last minute. I have won a year's subscription to 'The Irish Garden' magazine  - what a surprise. My thanks must go to Jane over at 'One Bean Row' - the brains behind a most enjoyable quiz. What a good way to end the week.

Friday, 28 January 2011

'Led By The Nose'


Long before I had a garden, I used to treat myself sometimes at this time of year to a little posy of snowdrops, from a local florist which was on the way home from work. They were tightly wrapped in a large deep green ivy leaves. When I bought my very first bunch home and placed then in a small jug, I was amazed to discover that these little flowers are quite highly scented. In the garden the scent of snowdrops can be elusive unless it is a particularly still, warm day or you can still perform the contortions needed to bring your nose to the flowers. Although I have my own garden now, I still pick a few snowdrops each winter to bring indoors so that I can  appreciate their scent at close quarters - to my nose it is a subtle but delicious honey scent. Some snowdrops are said to be more scented than others and exude their own distinct perfume e.g. galanthus 'Ginns' Imperati' smells of bitter almonds.



The title of this post was inspired by Jenny Joseph's (she also penned that well known poem 'Warning : When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple') book 'Led By The Nose' which takes you through the year in terms of the smells that you encounter in the garden, not only through plants but also through the various cyclical activities that go on in most gardens. There are various lists towards the end of the book including one of the twelve months and what you might be smelling in each. The list for January is thinner than many other months but there are still a surprising number of pleasures to be savoured.

This is my first entry for Blooming Friday over at Katarina's 'Roses and Stuff' blog - the theme this week is scents.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

'Stairway To Heaven'

B IS FOR?

BLUE!

"Blue thou art, intensely blue; 
Flower, whence came thy dazzling hue?"
~ James Montgomery,1771 -1854

I think I could bore for England on the subject of blue flowers of which I seem to grow more of than any other colour but bear with me ~ I have just picked one for today's post. This is polemonium caeruleum or to give the plant its common name 'Jacob's Ladder'. The common name derives from the appearance of the the plant's paired ferny like leaflets in a ladder like appearance. The reference to Jacob relates to the the dream that Jacob had, which is told in Genesis 12 - 19 "And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth and the top of it reached to heaven"

This is one of the first perennials that I planted in our current garden, having grown it from seed via The Cottage Garden Society seed exchange. Little buttons of brilliant blue are evident in early May before they blithely come fully into flower later in the month. It seems to have no pests, sits tight, thrives in part shade and although it self seeds it is not bothersome in my garden.

Be off with you now over to ABC Wednesday where there is so much more to be found on the letter B!

Sunday, 23 January 2011

At The Starting Line


It's almost two years to the day when I posted here the first of what I hoped would be a regular diary type entry, enabling me to keep track of plannings, plantings and generally of goings on in the garden and at the allotment. Well I did quite well at first, then in the way of all previous diary attempts I slowly stuttered before finally fizzling out.
So I am going to have another crack at a hopefully a weekly or thereabouts diary type post. The weather has been on the cool frosty side with some frosts including a couple of rather murky foggy days - decidedly not fit for venturing out. As the third week of January came to an end I am almost all sorted in the seed buying stakes. My seed boxes had a ruthless cull over the Christmas season and I established that there was not much that I needed for the new season. One or two small orders have gone off and have been delivered. I was pleased to come across Mark Diacono's newly opened 'Otter Farm' internet shop on Friday. An order has been placed for a Japanese wineberry and an Egyptian walking onion. I only hope that they will settle into the Cheshire Plain without any great degree of homesickness.

I am not sure what is happening at the allotment but a trip there is on the cards in the next few days. Meanwhile in the garden the snowdrops are showing shimmers of white - just a few more days. Out of my diminished special snowdrops the early flowering 'Faringdon's Double' is in flower. Lots of promise on the hellebore front and pulmonaria rubra 'Redstart' is now showing colour - this usually flowers in late autumn but not this time around.

I made my first trip of the year to a garden centre  today -  two to be precise - they are within a mile or so of each other so you can't visit one and not the other - well that is what I tell himself. There seemed to be fewer winter interest plants on sale than there usually are - a result of the cold winter I wonder.  I was looking out for seed potatoes but was disappointed that the range available did not seem as varied as last year. I looked for 'Lady Christl','Belle De Fontenay' and 'Ratte' in vain but did come home with 'Pink Fir Apple'. A new ornamental pot also slipped into my basket along with a packet of pak choi 'Rubi'. One of the garden centres had a sale and I could not resist a half price cornus sanguinea 'MidWinter Fire'. This is to replace an old straggly red stemmed cornus, which I have not pruned as ruthlessly as I should have done over many years. I think that I should still be able to take some hardwood cuttings before I dispose of the old shrub. We stopped off at a well known DIY store on the way home and a couple of small deliciously scented sarcococca confusa firmly attached themselves to my personna. So my first garden related retail therapy session of the year ~ I dare say it will not be the last. Has anybody else been indulging so far this year? Do tell.

Friday, 21 January 2011

And The Winner Is? ................


The gardening glove made its journey into the plant pot and emerged clutching ~ roll of drums ~ fanfare of trumpets ~ keeping you all in suspenders here ~ a piece of paper bearing the name of 'The Patient Gardener', who will soon find 'The Wonderful Weekend' winging its way to her. Thanks to all of you who entered. I only wish that there had been enough copies for all of you.

 I unitentionlly made it easier for you by giving you the answer to question number 25 when I set the quiz. Too much seasonal silliness going on methinks ~ was it all that snow or was it the sherry!  Hope you all have a good weekend and here are the answers ~

1) Wise old man ~ Sage
2) Without a dance partner ~ Wallflower
3) In perfect condition ~ Mint
4) Harlequin's sweetheart ~ Columbine
5) It's in the eye ~ Iris
6) Fictional hotel proprietor (first name) ~ Basil
7) Elizabeth has been active ~ Busy Lizzie
8) Wordsworth sung its praises ~ Daffodil
9) Prickly Christmas evergreen meets a German wine ~ Hollyhock
10)Did Chaucer's pilgrims hear these when they ended their journey? (plural) ~ Canterbury Bells
11) A company of animals or birds ~ Phlox
12) Romance bloomed in the foggy weather ~ Love - in - the -mist
13) A motionless insect usually busy ~ Astillbe
14) The girl would share your tandem if you sung to her ~ Daisy
15) The truth be told ~ Honesty
16) The Universe ~ Cosmos
17) Mother sprinted like this on sports day ~ Amaranthus
18) Amour, prone and haemorrhaging ~ Love - lies - bleeding
19) Head cover worn by monastery's inhabitants - Monkshood
20) A floral fiddle ~ Viola
21) It would smell as sweet by any other name ? ~ Rose
22) This girl has been in a fight ~ Black- Eyed Susan
23) Daughter of Zeus and Hera? ~ Hebe
24) Ms. Ledward may grow this in her garden ~ Daphne
25) Yogi's trousers ~ Bear's Breeches

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

"The Magic Apple Tree"

A IS FOR?

APPLE!

What an adventure I've had participating in ABC Wednesday since January 2009 when I joined in on the letter B of round 4. This time round I am setting myself the challenge of trying to feature either a garden, plant, fruit or vegetable post in keeping with the theme of my blog.

So here we go with apples of which I had fun choosing three specimen trees last August. When the auspices are favourable these are eventually heading for my allotment. They should have been planted by now but I did not anticpate the arctic temperatures that arrived in late November and returned for a good part of advent. My trees materialised sooner than I had anticipated, simply because we were passing by an ornamental fruit nursery. Himself talked me to buying on the spot and with a camper van on hand for transport I could not resist.

Not long after I came across "The Apple Source Book" which I had read reviews of but had never discovered in any of the bookshops that I regularly visit. This book jumped out in me in our local TK Max shop, which is a unlikely but often good source for gardening titles at reduced prices. This book is jam packed with all things apple including recipes, a fascinating gazetteer of British apples (there are an amazing two and half thousand plus varieties of desert and culinary apples let alone hundreds of cider apples) as well as a wealth of information about apple related customs and events.

The above apples were happily fruiting in an orchard at Snowshill Manor in September 2009. Now I hope that you have the time to amble over to ABC Wednesday for more on the letter A.

The title of my post refers to Susan Hill's book of the same name ~ a celebration of a year in the country.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Free To A Good Home!



I have a spare copy of the late Elspeth Thompson's 'The Wonderful Weekend Book' on my hands to give away as not surprisingly entries for my recent 'Some Seasonal Silliness' quiz were thin on the ground. Well truth be told they were not existent ~ perhaps the festive season was bad timing on my part. So what I will do dear readers is pick a recipient out of a plant pot or the ilk, from anybody who leaves a comment here by the end of the weekend i.e. midnight on Sunday.

I treated myself to this book in December 2008 as a Christmas present to myself and you can read more about it, by either clicking at the link at the top of the page or visiting here. As well as being a regular gardening columnist for a Sunday national newspaper, Elspeth was also the author of several books. Although this is not a gardening book there are quite a few garden related snippets and I am sure that it would appeal to many of you. It is best summed up by its subtitle ~ ' Reclaim Life's Simple Pleasures". I will post the name of the winner towards the end of next week ~ in the meantime I hope that you have a wonderful weekend!


Tuesday, 11 January 2011

"Oranges and Lemons"

Z IS FOR?


ZEST!

"Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement's" ~ traditional English nursery rhyme.

I have plenty of oranges and lemons at the moment and have been thinking of how to use them up ~ both their inners and their flavoursome outer zesty skins. I have zealously zipped through a few recipe books looking for ideas ~ maybe in marmalade, a lemon drizzle cake or perhaps in zabaglione. I have been wondering whether any of the fruit in my fruit bowl comes from the orange groves of Zaragoza ~ surely the odds must be more than one in a zillion.

An interesting explanation of the nursery rhyme can be found here.

Zoom over now to to ABC Wednesday for so much more on the letter Z!

Friday, 7 January 2011

Gone But Not Forgotten


There has been much wailing, gnashing of teeth and tearing out of hair here over the last few days. I have disobeyed one of those sage pieces of advice that you find in all the horticultural tomes. It's the one that tells you to leave well alone and not to go poking about to see what might lie underneath the soil. In this case I am talking about my small collection of named snowdrops which I have slowly accumulated over the last few years. The reason why I was so rash is because I have not been able to signs of growth appearing, which I usually can by now, so I decided to investigate further, taking into account any damage to life and limb that such stirrings might incur. However it would appear that there was no risk involved as I have lost about a third of my collection - more wailing and gnashing etc. I should explain that I keep the snowdrops in pots in an effort to thwart the local squirrel population and so that I can enjoy looking at them close at hand as well as being able to appreciate their scent. That will be rectified as soon as possible, as I think that the recent extremely long and sustained cold snaps we have had as well as a very wet summer have polished them off. The bulbs have simply rotted away. They would have been better off in the ground or in larger containers but I had got away with growing them in relatively small pots for a good few years. I was on reflection much too complacent that I would get away with it for ever.

On further exploration I found out that the bulbs have completely rotted away. I have lost several old timers - the bizarre 'Walrus', stalwart 'John Gray' and the buxom beauty which was Mrs McNamara, whilst others such as my favourite 'Diggory' below are on the critical list. I began collecting these little beauties when I was still working and had more pennies to spend on such goodies, so it will take some time now to replace the lost snowdrops. As of now I am not sure yet whether I will. They have given me much pleasure for some years and I might just content myself with that. I still have some to treasure and will do my best to keep them going for as long as possible.


However all is not doom and gloom. On the good news front the residents of my wormery are making an amazing recovery, after I thought that they had been to frozen solid in their de-luxe residence, which sits inside the shed. I considered briefly administering the kiss of life but decided against. Now much to my delight and surprise, although there have been some losses, it would appear that many of them went into a state of suspended animation and they are now wriggling away once more. This week's other exciting discovery has been to find a source of seeds for melanoselinum decipiens. The photo at the top of this post does not do them justice - a new camera on its maiden voyage and frozen hands are not the best combination.  I was absolutely smitten with these plants which were on Jekka McVicar's display stand at the Malvern Show last spring, but neither plants nor seeds were available to buy at the time. Now just for warmers days and I will be disappearing into the greenhouse to sow them ..... I await with bated breath !

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

"Money For Nothing"

Y IS FOR?


YOU MUST BE JOKING!
I couldn't believe my eyes when I came across this most useful facility in North Wales last autumn - it seemed much too good an offer to be true !

As a new year starts you can  more about the letter Y over at ABC Wednesday!

In the meantime a book for nothing (sorry it's not cash) is still on offer here if you can solve a few questions from my recent seasonal quiz post.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Garden Bloggers' Muse Day ~ January 2011


"Darkness begins a
retreat: the cold light flows back
over the dead land.

Put the tree out now:
hang nuts on its branches - see feathered 
decorations come.

Take down the 
Christmas cards : arrowheads in the dust
point to spring cleaning.

Pull down the paper
chains: the room grows tall, the floor 
deep in coloured snow.

Cold bites deep: warm your
mind at Christmas memories
and look for snowdrops"

'After Christmas' ~ John Corben

More monthly musing can be mulled over at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago, where all the months of the year are celebrated in poetry or prose.