Monday, 27 February 2012

Calendar Girls ~ February 2102


Continuing with my monthly sharing of new to me blogs. The first of February's picks is 'Words and Herbs, which is a blog "for all who appreciate the beauty of words, flowers and homecooking". Author Cathy originates from the UK and now lives in the beautiful region of Barvaria, in Germany. Cathy blogs regularly on a wide range of topics. Recent posts have included a fascinating article on the spice cardamon, which I must confess to not having used regularly. Maybe the recipe Cathy shares today for Banana Blueberry Cardamon Muffins might well tempt me to being more adventurous. I have also enjoyed her posts showing glimpses of the area that she lives in, her word of the day articles and the poems that Cathy features. As spring slowly arrives I am looking forward to getting to know Cathy's garden and plants better.



I discovered Surburban Veg Plot a while ago but still in the relatively recent past as far as my blog reading goes. This is the delightful blog home of Jules, a keen and enthusiastic organic vegetable, fruit and flower gardener. She also has keeps chickens. Recent posts have included the familiar dilemma of winter itchy fingers, the question of whether one of her chickens has laid a record breaking egg complete with photographic evidence and the most seasonal topic of chitting potatoes. What I enjoy most about Jules posts are the sense of humour and the imagination that comes shining through. Last autumn I was in stitches reading her Mr.Ted posts which featured the adventures of a bear who stayed with her for a week - all part of a project initiated by another blogger to raise funds for charity. More recently her post about the Valentines Day speed dating event arranged by the sedate RHS had me in giggles.

Do try and visit these lovely ladies! 

Thursday, 23 February 2012

"The Distant Smell Of Summer"



"There is always in February some one day, at least, when one smells the yet distant, but surely coming, summer" - Gertrude Jekyll, 1843 - 1932.


After months of thinking about it, reading about it and dreaming about it today was finally a day for actually doing it - spending the best part of the day in the garden. The temperature hit the magical 60 degrees farenheit, seeds arrived in the post and seeds were sown. The green waste bin is almost full and I am now heading off to soak my limbs. I might pay for it tomorrow but today has been pure bliss! I was too busy to photograph it so the crocuses are 2011 vintage.


PS Great excitement also when after months of staring at it I finally can see small leaves emerging at the base of the African violet leaf I rooted in the autumn!

Monday, 20 February 2012

A Snowdrop Open Day

Sparkling winter sunshine and snowdrops were very much the order of the day when we visited Abbeywood Gardens, in Cheshire yesterday morning. I penned the date in my diary as soon as I read that the gardens were holding their first snowdrop open day. Snowdrop events always seem to be hundreds of miles away adrift in the south and here was one almost on my doorstep! As well as a woodland area studded with these beauties, there were many more treasures (some 180 different varieties) planted in 'Jane's Garden', where the plantswoman behind the name has created a magical winter garden. Here Jane Rowlinson describes how her love affair with snowdrops started - do have a read.

Here are just a few of the stars of the show ~





You will have noticed the glistening white stuff on the ground. Late on Saturday night we had a cocktail of hail, sleet and snow. I am sure that Jane must have been on tenterhooks, as if the temperatures had really dropped overnight, both the snowdrops and the many hellebores in the garden would have not been able to do themselves justice. As it was the weather was made to order - if anything almost too bright for taking photos. I would have preferred to visit later in the day but was not able to do so, which meant that I've had to crop my shadow or himself's shadow out of several photos. There were some more agile photographers who took the prostrate on the ground position to take their shots but this is not for me - well not in a public place anyway.




As well as snowdrops there other bulbs and plants to catch the eye including many hellebores and one that struck me which I think is a red leaved bergenia - must find out which variety as its colour really complimented its neighbours ~




My wish list grew and grew as we walked round. I could hear himself groaning. Two must haves now are galanthus plicatus 'Madeleine' ~


and below galanthus nivalis 'Alan's Treat' which really pulled at my heartstrings as my Dad's name was Alan. I saw this in a catalogue earlier this year and paused - now that I have seen it in the flesh I will make a bee line for it next time I see it for sale ! 


We will definitely return to see how the snowdrops in 'Jane's Garden' and the woodland progress - over 40,000 snowdrops were planted in 2011 and the planting continues. However before then I have persuaded himself to point the campervan in the of Abbeywood Gardens later this year. There is a campsite nearby just right for a long weekend. There are more garden areas to explore at Abbeywood including an exotic garden and vegetable garden, Delamere Forest is on the doorstep and just down the road there is a cafe which makes the most delicious blts. The latter incentive was the deciding factor as far as himself is concerned but sometimes bribery works.

P.S. Athough this years snowdrop open day is done and dusted the Abbeywood website advises that visitors are welcome by appointment throughout February.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day ~ February 2012.

Time and the wind conspired against me today when it came to GBBD ~ too little of the former and too much of the latter. Himself treated me to a whirlwind garden centre tour as a belated Valentine's offering. Three garden centres in one day - what more could a girl want - well maybe a visit to a nursery but March is still on the horizon. No exciting purchases today - I was on a mission to find 'Lady Crystl' seed potatoes but none to be had. I resisted the temptation to purchase a half price malus which stared me in the face from the confines of the seasonal clearance area - it was not the one I have set my heart on. So showing great restraint my only puchase was a box of potato fertiliser for the potatoes I have still to get.

So here are just one or two 'Fair Maids of February' ~ 

The first to be accurate is a gentleman - 'John Gray' an old cultivar with large flowers. Then hopefully illustrating that they don't look all the same ~ two 'drops deep in conversation ~ 'Wendy's Gold' and 'Edinburgh Ketton' ~


I am still wondering why snowdrops can be such awkward characters to photograph at times. I must discard as many photos as I keep probably more. Now for coffee and a browse round other February blooms thanks to May Dreams Gardens.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Gone But Not Forgotten


The willow which sustained serious damage in the January winds was pruned on Saturday morning. Not so much a short back and sides but more of a full blown amputation. I did not watch whilst the work was in progress, so when I first saw it I had a shock, even though himself had explained what the procedure was going to involve. The tree surgeon was quick to respond to the "I want to cry but won't" look on my face by reassuring me that it will grow again. I will have to wait to see what spring brings so remain to be convinced. We have apologised profusely to the birds and insects who have graced its branches for many years and when the wind blows this week will miss the distinct sound of its branches creaking back and forth.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Too Much Information


Help!!! My brain is creaking after spending a weekend looking through catalogues and books working out what to grow at the allotment this year. When I got my plot some six years ago now, there was a dearth of books related to allotment and vegetable growing. A dear friend sent me a copy of Caroline Foley's 'Handbook of Allotment Planning' to celebrate my good news when I told her that I had got my plot. For some time this was the only reading matter that I had on the subject, not for lack of interest on my behalf but just because there seemed to be so little out there. However this situation has changed and my bookshelves are now creaking under the strain with allotment and vegetable growing titles. Over the last two or three years these titles have mushroomed beyond belief.

Now such riches are all well and good but you can have too much of a good thing. When it comes to information about which variety of what to grow, when to sow, planting distances between crops etc. there are so many conflicting opinions from the experts that I am sometimes completely bamboozled. I do have a staple though which I return to regularly which is Joy Larkcom's 'Grow Your Own Vegetables'. This is the only book which I have ever considered getting a second copy of, as it has now become so dirty through using it at the allotment, I've come to the conclusion that I need a clean duplicate at home. The only illustrations in the book are black and white line drawings but this is immaterial. There are nearly 400 pages jam packed with practical advice and information on growing vegetables. If I was ever to have a rush of blood to the head and just keep one book this would be it. I don't think that this is likely to happen though so I will carry on reading and inwardly digesting, comparing cultivation methods and crop preferences, looking at enchanting photos of perfect plots and going round and round in circle of confusion.

This neck of the woods was not graced by any of the white stuff this weekend but instead we had a mixture of sleet and freezing rain so that the garden was decorated with garlands of icicles. Perfect weather for armchair gardening but not so benign for feathered friends despite a well stocked feeding station. I was glad to be inside looking out.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

A Poem For February

"Winter holds fast,
But a little warmth escapes like sand
Through the closed fingers.
The error is annual and certain,
Letting the pygmy flowers
Make their prompt appearance
Under creaking trees.
They stand with serious faces, green ruffled,
As prim as Tudor portraits.


In the west
The greys and gleam slide in the wind
And only the descended blackbird
Augments the intrepid yellow."

'Aconites' - Freda Downie, 1929 - 1993

That hand clutching the sand is clenched tight at the moment but the aconites will be spinning their gold sunshine again before long.

The illustration is one of Cicely Mary Barker's 'Flower Fairies'.