Tulipfest

07:00 Tuesday 11 May 2021

The tulips have been a revelation this year, not least because of the muddle I got into with them – jotting down what I’d planted where, wrongly, as it turned out!  The red Darwins by the arbour bench were apparently mixed up with the Yellow Apeldoorns!  It looks as if the red ones had been put in a patch behind the cypress tree, contrasting with a patch of lemon balm and a crop of dandelions, the latter providing nectar for the insects so I shall leave them!  The fresh-looking Spring Greens are coming out gradually next to a choisya.

There is a lone orange one, splashed with salmon pink, probably an El Nino that I thought I’d lost, further down the border where the large ‘red satin’ ones mistakenly sold as Apricot Beauty, years ago, are just going over now as are the pale pink Algarves.

The new (to me) purple peony-like double Negritas are looking more and more gorgeous and the the dainty Little Beauty tulips that I’ve had for years are coming out amongst some forget-me-nots at the front of the long border.   In the front garden more old favourites that come up every year are the red ones sold in aid of the Civil Service Benevolent Fund, ten originally, but three this year (only two last year so that’s a bonus!) amongst the emerging bluebells. 

I still await a yellow tulip that must have been in the ground at the front when we first came here and in the back garden I keep looking out for the sweet little Honky Tonk tulips – also yellow – and which flower in the woodland garden at bluebell time. 

I pick any long-stemmed tulips if they are battered down by the weather and enjoy them indoors, cutting the stems regularly because tulips continue to grow after being harvested from the garden!  Here are some ‘red satin’ tulips with fatsia leaves.

And we have had a lot of battering weather this week with chilly, but sunny, days and wintry showers and pouring rain.  It is not tempting me out into the garden for anything other than a look at the tulips!

I often get muddled between the emerging foliage of jack-by-the-hedge (alliaria petiolata), also known as garlic mustard, with edible leaves, and honesty (lunaria annua) which has beautiful purple flowers followed by mother-of-pearl moonpenny seed pods.  Here are both specimens in flower and growing together by the compost bins.  I’ve just checked the web and found that you can add the leaves and flowers of honesty to salads as well!

On a washout of a day when the rain stops you going into the garden why not do as my son-in-law did: wait at the window with a camera and see what comes into view and while you are waiting, snap the rain-spattered flowers, in this case, wallflowers and grape hyacinths!  These are all his photos taken through our French windows.

A wood pigeon waddled up the path; a male house sparrow perched in the cotoneaster and then had a meal at the feeding station, while the female posed on the edge of a pot in the courtyard; a dunnock came to forage in the potager but the biggest surprise was the goldfinch in the holly tree. 

Still chilly!

07:00 Tuesday 4 May 2021

This year’s April was the coldest since 1922, according to the Met Office, and now we’re in May there is still a chill in the air even when the sun is blazing down.  It began to rain on Friday when I had planned to sort out my daughter’s overgrown aloe vera, to make cuttings for us both and to replace my kitchen casualty (every kitchen needs an aloe vera for the healing property of its gel-laden leaves, so soothing for burns and nettle stings).  Before the rain got too heavy I brought in my pots, trays, compost, grit, and a folding table from the garage and set up a potting bench on the doormat in the fake conservatory.  I soon had eight little aloe cuttings to grow bigger (I hope) on the spare bedroom windowsill and a rooted piece replanted in the original pot for the kitchen.  After my potting gear was returned to the garage, the mat shaken on to the compost heap and a quick sweep round, the fake conservatory was restored to order. 

At the end of March I sowed tomato Red Cherry seeds together with some marigolds as a companion plant: tagetes Crackerjack Mixed.  Well, I have potted the seedlings on but I have a feeling only the marigolds germinated!  They have similar leaves but tomato foliage has a strong tang. My daughter had also sowed some cherry tomatoes and was having her own potting session so she will give me some of hers in exchange for some marigolds!  Excellent! 

I left my over-wintered radishes too long before harvesting them but although they looked like small wooden beetroots and had split they made a nice piquant addition to my ham salad when sliced up. 

A seagull kept flying down on to our drive.  What was it doing?  I lay in wait by the side gate, under cover of the wheelie bins and snapped him collecting beakfuls of moss, for its nest I presume, from the side return – our kitchen garden.  There’s plenty growing in the tarmac by the self-sown red valerian, dampened by my waterings of the container-grown crops. 

And what was that huge crow doing at the feeding station?  It had been tempted by the suet block but I was worried it would break my delicate lilac tree.  However it hopped down after a few minutes.

A few days ago I found a half-plucked dead baby woodpigeon on the drive.  It looked like the work of a sparrowhawk, that had been disturbed.  I could have taken a photo but I didn’t want to scunner you – that’s another Scottishism I have picked up from David who uses it instead of nauseate.  I was fair scunnered, myself, as I put a bin liner into a builder’s bucket and flipped it in with my spade before disposing of it in the wheelie bin! 

Let us talk of pleasanter things.  Since I last walked round the block all the cherry trees have burst into flower.  Cherry blossom: what a glorious sight!

On Wednesday afternoon I cut the grass in the front garden so I would be all ready for ‘No Mow May’!  I came across this phrase at the end of March in Plantlife magazine, advocating not mowing all May and only mowing once a month thereafter to encourage wild flowers & insect life.  That suits me fine! 

I cut the back lawn 1st April so I’ll just leave that now until June.  So far, amongst the grass of the back lawn, we have a violet, daisies, a forget-me-not, dandelions (and lots of pussy willow catkins blown down) but I expect more wild flowers to appear in time.  Not to mention butterflies and bees!

Flowers from friends and family

07:00 Tuesday 27 April 2021

I’ve had a few blog donations from readers again this week. 

Jim & Chris emailed a ‘ . . . photo of this little plant which has started to flower.  We think it is one of your gifts from a few years back.  Still looks good, apart from the cracked pot, maybe we should re-pot it, or just stick the whole lot into a larger ceramic pot ?‘ 

It is a primula auricular.  I got my original plant from a Scout fair and I have since made lots of cuttings for friends and family. If I were potting it on I’d see if there were natural divisions and split it up to make more plants.  They seem to be very easy to grow. 

Jim & Chris also brought us these lovely flowers for the house: cheery orange & yellow carnations with frothy gypsophila.  Don’t they make a lovely display?  When I went to trim off some dead pansy stems in David’s trough on the meadow gate I accidentally snipped off a couple of flowers so I’ve popped them into a posy pot toning with our new bouquet! 

I was pleased to find all five of the Negrita tulips that I planted in November had come up – my son-in-law spotted the fifth, lurking in the foliage.  There are four here with the last two still in bud; the fifth I picked for the house and it opened up like a peony in the warmth of the room. 

It has been warmer this week but the early mornings are still a bit chilly.  I was up very early one day and was having a cup of tea in the fake conservatory at five o’clock when I saw the wood mouse again, zooming about the courtyard and patio steps.  What a great photo I’d have got had the sky been lighter; on second thoughts it would probably have been a mere blur! 

My sister WhatsApped a photo of a ‘ . . . mahonia that Mum gave me still going strong.

There was a mahonia aquifolium growing in front of the bouldery when we came here and although I later removed that one it had thrown out lots of seedlings so I still have it – a memory of Mother’s garden – flowering in the long border. 

Some of the flowers are turning to berries, green at the moment but they will later turn blue-black with a bloom on them (as in the photo far right, taken in November 2013), hence the plant’s common name of Oregon grape. 

A WhatsApp from my daughter said, ‘The weekend is here and I’ve been checking my indoor plants and seedlings.  My thyme (or is it oregano?) is thriving in a big pot in the laundry room and I shall give the window boxes and garden a nip of the good stuff later.

Well, I’m pretty sure it’s thyme but when a found a self-sown seedling in the courtyard garden I was thinking that was oregano.  No the leaves were too pointy.  Was it thyme?  I’m more of the opinion now that it is winter savory, for which I am very glad because the one my granddaughter gave me had died over the winter!  

My daughter gave me some of her cucumber and basil seeds so I’m having a go and have sown them in pots in the ‘kitchen garden’ windowsill planter from Lisa. The little lobster attached to this lobster creel-like structure was originally a fridge magnet from Pam but when I knocked it off the fridge and the magnet broke I didn’t want to waste it! 

And just as I was typing that last sentence, a WhatsApp came through from Pam!  She had sent this great photo of a little blue tit in the bird bath with some stunning red tulips in the background.  Fit for the April page of a calendar!

Making the most of it!

06:24 Tuesday 20 April 2021

There was a time when nearly every back garden had its massive trampoline, usually blue-framed with black safety netting.  Now when I look out, I see not a one.  The children have all grown up or lost interest.  Without the trampolines, gardens lose their kindergarten atmosphere and there is far more space as Helen found in her Scottish garden. 

She and her husband have really gone to town with a poly tunnel for growing veg – and keeping the washing dry on rainy days!  James has assembled a pergola and made a potting bench.  Helen also has a cherry pretty tree to plant in memory of her mother.  What a transformation!  I couldn’t help noticing the handy chair in the poly tunnel (for sitting down to send me the WhatsApped photographs, no doubt)!

This week it has been too chilly to sit out, despite the blazing sunshine, but it is a pleasure to sit in a sunny spot indoors and throw open the windows. I’ve enjoyed sitting in the fake conservatory with the French windows opened on to the courtyard and Jardin Jan has made herself a reading nook on the bedroom windowsill which looks out on to her trough of newly-planted osteospermums. Sunshine and fresh air in a sheltered spot!

Last week I showed you a photograph, taken by Lisa’s sister, of a yellow crown imperial.  This week I have an orangey-red one snapped from BBC2’s Gardeners’ World.  They grow in Monty Don’s garden and he says he lies in wait, watching for the blue tits to come and pollinate them.  Amazing!  It makes me want to grow them myself! 

Dan D Lion, meanwhile, has been enjoying the sunshine and photographing the bees that are scouring the garden for nectar and doing some pollinating while they are about it. 

Good news on the fishpond front!  My son-in-law, who has sharper eyes and is more patient than the rest of us, spotted the two black baby goldfish – they are more of a brown colour now.  He put some fish food in as bait and waited with the camera.  Five of my eight fish have survived the heron attack, including the two smallest of the four babies. Here is the red comet with one baby and then with two.  Can you see them both? There is one just visible between the adult fish and the Japanese sweet rush.

I saw the wood mouse on Thursday, half of it, that is: it was partly obscured by the wallflower tub and I was on the other side of the French windows so I got one ear, half a back and a tail before it scampered away.  As for the wallflower tub, I have dead-headed the spent hyacinths and now the narcissus Thalia is in full flower. 

My lettuce seedlings have been pricked out, hardened off and put on the lower shelf of the kitchen garden’s potting bench where they fit perfectly.  A little further along the auricula primulas are flowering in a trough – not a crop but prettying up the kitchen garden.  I am now hardening off the pelargoniums and have put three runner bean seeds to germinate in a jar filled with damp kitchen paper.  They are old seeds and this way I can see what is happening before I waste any compost.

Snow, sun and bullfinches

06:46 Tuesday 13 April 2021

We’ve had a rare visitor, last seen in our garden in June 2019.  My son-in-law spotted a pair of bullfinches on Sunday and I saw the male again yesterday.  Isn’t he handsome?  The female is more dowdy: I took a photo of one walking past some persicaria flowers in June 2018.  We are hoping they will nest in the garden.  I’ve just learned the collective noun for bullfinches from a crossword puzzle, funnily enough, though a pair doesn’t constitute a bellowing! 

The wintry weather this week, albeit interspersed with blazing sunshine to lull us into a false feeling of security, has not been conducive to gardening.  There is only an hour between the photos below.

When I have gone outside between bouts of frost, hail and snow, I have had to be content with listening to the birds!  The chirruping of sparrows in the beech tree, the crowing of the rooster over the road and the clanging call of a distant great tit – all welcome sounds to me, as well as the repetitive phrases of the song thrush, heard but not seen, in a distant tree.   I tend to take the good camera with me on these forays into the garden where, despite the delaying effects of the weather everything is growing like billy-o, as my mother used to say. 

In the kitchen garden, where the newly-opened yellow alyssum flowers supply a splash of colour, the radish seeds have germinated on the potting bench and the earlier ones are ready for picking but the red & green Salad Bowl lettuces and White Lisbon onions, bought as plugs, from Dean’s Garden Centre, have yet to be planted out.  The lovage has produced masses of fresh leaves and I’ve already harvested a handful to add to my home-made vegetable soup. 

On the kitchen windowsill, the Little Gem & All Year Round lettuce seedlings are coming along but the Icebergs have only just appeared – unless they are weeds!  The tomatoes (Red Cherry), on the bedroom windowsill, have already got their true leaves and will soon be ready to prick out.  Amongst the weedlings I’m hoping there are some tagetes seedlings, sewn as a companion plant for the tomatoes.  Meanwhile my daughter is having some success with her basil seedlings, growing well in a recycled food container.

In the borders, I have snapped a lush white hyacinth and a pink one looking particularly effective against the bronze heuchera foliage.  Nearby, three purple double Negrita tulips, planted at the end of last year, are now in flower.  On the other side of the garden at the back of the fence border the aspidistra is doing surprisingly well, in the shade; it doesn’t like the sun and is extremely hardy, though better known as a Victorian house plant that didn’t mind the gas lamps.

The spiraea Goldflame is blazing in the front garden and there are some magenta hyacinths below.  If you look closely you might see a well-camouflaged house sparrow on the edge of the birdbath. 

Lisa took some photos as she strolled through Peasholm Park.  She also snapped her friend’s violas when she had a now-permitted garden visit earlier in the week.  Such cheery little faces! 

She wondered what this plant was that her sister had snapped.  It is a crown imperial (fritillaria imperialis lutea – lutea meaning yellow).  What a beauty!  I have never grown this plant, that apparently smells of fox but I do have the snakeshead fritillary.  These mauve, chequered bells are growing in the woodland garden near to a cowslip.

A traditional Easter

06:19 Tuesday 6 April 2021

The Pasque flower (pulsatilla vulgaris) is blooming, just as it should at Easter time and that is the reason for its common name. 

I’ve done all the traditional things, as far as possible under covid conditions, albeit reduced somewhat now.  I enjoyed a hot cross bun with my coffee on Good Friday and scoffed a Lindt chocolate bunny on Easter Sunday, as well as having a couple of boiled eggs with ‘soldiers’ and, since Monty Don reminded us on his Good Friday episode of Gardener’s World, that the Easter break is traditionally the start of the gardening year (not that I need reminding!), I was out in the unseasonable chilliness doing half-hour stints of gardening. It was too cold to stay out for longer but I was itching to get on with it!  I always think that the more you do, the better the garden is in the following year.  As it is, I must have done plenty last year because the spring flowers are absolutely wonderful at the moment, making it a treat to walk down the garden.

The snakeshead fritillaries are coming out (in the purple and the white forms); violets are popping up everywhere and tulipa Algarve and the multi-headed praestans have opened.

My pot of pale blue muscari is flowering on the patio steps (the more common bright blue grape hyacinths are also flowering in abundance). 

There are so many varieties of daffodils and I’ve rediscovered the narcissus Mondragon that I thought I’d lost.  It is a split corona daffodil.  There are also some pretty doubles at the back of the bouldery.  I think they are called narcissus White Lion.  The multi-headed, fragrant Thalia daffodils have opened in the wallflower tub and so has one in the long border where I thought they, too, had disappeared. 

So, what have I been doing this week?  Well, not eating enough potatoes, that’s for sure: they’ve all sprouted in the veg basket!  I’ve eaten them now, cutting off the sprouty ends first to plant in the kitchen garden tubs, protected by recycled mini greenhouse shelving: the birds can get damp mud for their nests from elsewhere in the garden! 

Every modern kitchen garden should have a seat so you can sit and answer texts and to that end I’ve moved in a folding chair from the garage! 

The old barbecue area with its motley collection of leafmould bins is a bit of an eyesore and I thought it could do with having a hedge planted in front.  The big, boisterous, purple-flowered hebe, photographed in the potager border in January 2019, is always having to be hacked back so it seemed a likely candidate and it often seeds into the potager brickwork.  I had some seedlings in a pot, ready to plant out but first I had to re-site the log pile from the front of the low barbecue wall.  That was a job and a half as I transferred it armful by armful to the back of the bouldery before planting the hebe seedlings, watering and mulching them with leafmould.  They will soon grow and hide my eyesore! 

I had a nice surprise when I watered the houseplants on Saturday: a shoot has appeared in one of the Peruvian daffodil (hymenocallis festalis) pots. 

A blackbird, a long-tailed tit and a house sparrow have visited the feeding station and I snapped a peacock butterfly, a small tortoiseshell and a cabbage white on a hyacinth, a Bowles’ Mauve wallflower and forget-me-nots respectively. 

I’ve cut the back lawn, too and planted out the sweet peas that had been overwintering under a cloche!  That’s my gardening year well and truly started! 

On Easter Monday, however . . .

. . . snow and gales!

Of tulips, sparrowhawks & kitchen gardens

06:12 Tuesday 30 March 2021

I am delighted with my little pots of tulips, planted last November and set aside to fill gaps in the woodland glade once they’d flowered and I could see where the spaces were.  I expected them to be red but these are more of a peachy colour.  I got in a muddle when I bought lots of tulips from Burniston Nurseries last year, not having the presence of mind to bring a pen and label the bags of loose bulbs.  I looked these up on the web and think they are called Calypso – one of the dwarf greigii tulips.

Tulipa greigii, Greig’s tulip, is a species of tulip native to Central Asia and Iran. It is known for its variegated green and purple-maroon leaves [Wikipedia].

Lisa sent me a photo of her tulips coming through the forget-me-nots.  I had planted up the pot for her and expected the tulips to be multi-headed red.  So far it looks as if I got that right!

Jim & Chris sent an exciting email: Just had a close encounter with a sparrowhawk.  As we stopped the car outside our house after visiting the farm shop, a sparrowhawk emerged from my hedge chasing a blackbird.   They entered the opposite hedge, but the sparrowhawk dropped out and stood on the road.  I got out of the car in the hope of getting a photo, but the hawk re-entered the hedge.   I then walked up to the hedge, when the hawk shot out over my head and flew off towards the college grounds!  So regret no photo! 

This photo from May 2011, taken by David in our back garden, shows one of our rare sightings of a sparrowhawk with its kill.

We have had chilly, windy weather this week with some sunshine and showers. Both these photos were taken on Friday: a house sparrow on next door’s extension roof, its feathers ruffled by the wind and the rain streaming down beyond the French windows and re-drenching my washing; it dried in the blustery weather once the rain had moved on.

I was determined to tidy up my manky kitchen garden in the side return.  It is a mass of colour in the summer with all the self-sown red valerian, ox-eye daisies, tall campanulas and purple toadflax that have forced their way between the low wall and the drive and act as a nectar bar for the butterflies, bees and other insects, sometimes hummingbird hawk moths. 

At this time of year, though, it is full of empty pots and tubs of dead sticks. Colour is sparse and comes from the rosemary flowers, some self-sown red deadnettle (a good nectar supply for small bees, so I’ve left them), the purple sprouting broccoli, which has overwintered, and some creeping campanula growing by the back doorstep.

I spruced up the kitchen garden in two sessions, before and after lunch on Thursday. Some radishes, beetroot and one rocket had survived the winter so I beefed up their planters with home-made compost and sowed more seed in all three.  The parsley had also survived in two bowls so I amalgamated them into one planter, beefing up the compost again.  I also sowed lettuce seeds in Jim’s old propagator, badly damaged in the gales so this will be its last hurrah!  It has done us proud over the years. I have set the lettuces (All Year Round, Little Gem & Iceberg) to germinate in the kitchen where I can keep an eye on them.

I have plenty of pink-flowered golden marjoram and white-flowered oregano (both excellent for insects) in the potager so I didn’t need the struggling plants in the kitchen garden’s hanging basket.  I replaced them with forget-me-nots for a splash of colour.  I also brought in some daffodil pots that had been waiting in the wings.  Sweeping up all the debris also made a difference and the kitchen garden is a pleasure to look out upon once more!  It will be even better with the blooming of the daffodils and in one of the troughs that hang from the wrought iron panels there is a yellow alyssum cutting about to flower, too.

Inspired by Monty Don in BBC2’s Gardeners’ World I also sowed some tomato seeds but I used a recycled plug tray, a recycled food container and a recycled plastic bag, sowing the tomato seeds along with seeds of their companion plant, tagetes. These have been set to germinate on the spare bedroom window sill.

Back in the garden

07:00 Tuesday 23 March 2021

The first two tulips are in flower, both dwarves and in a similar colour range: Polychroma in the woodland garden and Turkestanica in the long border, not far from a lone Jetfire daffodil.  I found a pair of February Gold daffodils in the woodland garden: before I got the Spring Dawn and various other dwarf narcissi, February Gold was our earliest daffodil to flower and I thought they’d died out but you can tell them by their reflexed petals. 

This week the dwarf apricot is in blossom in the courtyard border.  I’m hoping for better things now it is out of its pot.  The clematis armandii, using a cotoneaster and a holly as a climbing frame, is also in flower and so is the flowering currant as well as the early wild plum trees, self-sown from the trees in the school grounds.   

As I drifted round the garden looking for new flowers to photograph a robin was singing from the hawthorn tree. 

At the foot of a conifer, further down the garden, I found the remains of a woodpigeon’s egg.  There must be a nest above.

Lisa has also been snapping daffodils and blossom on her walks with her little dog.

I pulled my first bunch of shallots from potager bed no. 1, leaving them to dry in the kitchen.  I had planted them last July: 10 French shallots, variety Mikor. 

My daughter came to the rescue when my aloe vera rotted at the base and keeled over (what a waste of £15!) and gave me her own plant, a mass of cutting material so we will both end up with plenty of aloes, our source of solace for burns and stings.  Now I think of it I gave her the original; a pity I didn’t remember before wasting my money!  I picked more bay leaves to dry: essential flavouring for my soups and stews. 

My granddaughter was very thankful that she didn’t throw away her monstera when it got frosted on her balcony: having brought it indoors it has started to re-shoot!  She sent a photo.  Procrastination is the gardener’s friend!    

Watermark J’s highlight of the week must have been the frogspawn she discovered in her pond.  “But the silly frogs have laid them in the flower pot!” she said.

The highlight of the week for me, however, was getting the front lawn mown: its first cut ever since the turf was laid last October.  The grass had grown lush and by comparison it now looks scalped but I shan’t mow it again until at least a fortnight.  It beats weeding between crazy paving and I was pleased to find that the mower’s cable & extension reached the front garden from the safety socket in the courtyard!  I thought I might have had to run it through the lounge window and bring a circuit breaker into play. 

It’s still chilly outside but glorious in the fake conservatory when the sun shines and I can snap the odd hyacinth in all its glory in the wallflower tub just outside the French windows and get a distant glimpse of a blackbird, for instance, through the red cordyline foliage.

Flowers for Mother’s Day

07:04 Tuesday 16 March 2021

I’ve been wallowing in flowers this week!  No sooner had my daughter’s letterbox flowers from Bloom & Wild (to cheer up all the grey days we’d been having) gone over than a new one arrived for Mother’s Day, comprising roses, fragrant lilac stocks, Peruvian lilies, sweet Williams, craspedia (little yellow pompoms that I hadn’t seen before) and some foliage. I clumsily snapped off a bit of sweet William so that went into a posy pot for the kitchen. My daughter-in-law, masked and at a distance, had brought a Mother’s Day bouquet of roses, snapdragons, Lady Willmott’s ghost, sea lavender, lisianthus and more foliage.  The many kindnesses of these girls, as well as from my son and son-in-law make every day Mother’s Day but in this country it is a moveable feast honouring mothers and mother churches, as wikipedia says, celebrated in the British Isles and elsewhere in the English-speaking world on the fourth Sunday in Lent since the Middle Ages.  

I’ve been outside, whenever the sun has shone, to photograph what new flowers have shown up on these early spring days, finding more and more daffodils: a small clump of Jetfires in the front garden, dwarf narcissi in the woodland glade and tall varieties in the fence border. There is a lone anemone blanda, a cowslip and a self-sown hellebore, tall and dusky pink, in the woodland garden and in the bouldery, pulmonaria with its intriguing flowers, some pink, some blue, and spotted, lung-like leaves (hence the name).

The first hyacinth to open in the long border is blue and there are more to come (pink) in the wallflower tub, visible through the French windows. I had forgotten that I had under-planted the wallflowers (and the whimsical worm!) with spring bulbs. 

Watermark J shared a picture of her bargain potting bench and just look at her climbing pelargonium (from which she gave me a cutting)! 

She writes: Hi!  I got this potting bench from Aldi £28.  I thought it was a good buy.  It comes flatpack.  Nice to hear you have frogspawn.  Fingers crossed mine will appear shortly. 

In the meantime I have found a further couple of dollops in the frog pond! 

We’ve had gales this week and on Thursday I found that the Cypriot wine jar had been rolled across the courtyard and the red cordyline’s pot had been blown over.  I replaced them both, anchoring the jar with a brick placed inside and the cordyline by pushing other pots up to it.  The gate had taken a battering, too, but my son is working on a more gale-friendly design!  My recycled mini greenhouse shelving, where I keep my cuttings and seedlings, collapsed, flinging out the seed trays and small pots.  Not so much storm damage as corrosion of the supports. 

I shall sort it out later: I have more wallowing in flowers to do: my J Parker catalogue arrived through the post so I shall enjoy browsing through that and then on Friday it’s the return to our TV screens of Gardeners’ World!

Ginger roots

06:22 Tuesday 9 March 2021

The first time I tried to grow a ginger plant, according to my garden diary, was in March 2018:

. . . Had a go at growing a ginger plant from a piece of root from the veg shop that David got for me: I was inspired by an item on Gardeners’ World.  

If you plant a piece of root, eventually a bud will form (the photo above was taken in May 2018) and in theory you will end up with a lovely ginger plant for the house like this one pictured on gardenerspath.com. 

You might even get flowers as shown on the Container Gardening  for You website!  I have tried a few times, ending up with one straggly stem but I haven’t given up yet!  These days our children do our shopping for us and when our son gets me a piece of root ginger from the market it is massive! 

I cut the last piece into three: one chunk saved in the freezer for grating into stir fries (my daughter’s tip: easier to grate a frozen piece of root), the second half-submerged in compost to grow on and the rest peeled, chopped into one-inch cubes and frozen for adding to stir fries (after cutting into strips) and, (after chopping into very small pieces), home–made ginger biscuits & cakes.  

My latest prospective house plant got thrown on to the compost heap when nothing seemed to be happening and then hurriedly scooped back into its pot when I spotted a shoot.  On Wednesday I potted it on and have high hopes! 

My daughter has been busy drying bay and sowing more herbs; she sent me the photos. 

Meanwhile I clumsily knocked off a piece of climbing salmon pink pelargonium while wielding the vacuum cleaner.  I have turned it into a cutting, trimming off most of the leaves and inserting it at the back of the pot, just beyond the one with the scarlet flower. 

At this time of year, when I get out and grub about in the ground, I feel like the fictional Mary Lennox in her Secret Garden!  I had my first good session, after the winter hibernation, on Saturday, snipping and tidying, ready for those days when it will be warm enough to sit out.  Unlike Mary, I didn’t have the company of the robin that day, just the alarm call of a blackbird somewhere in the bushes, an unseen frog croaking in the pond and the glimpse of a wood mouse creeping about in the courtyard border.

However, the only photo I got of any garden visitors was the one of a small plane flying over and disappearing into the clouds.

I carried on with my work. The courtyard bird feeders have been moved to the meadow and I have made a start on pulling up all the dead montbretia foliage now that this year’s tiny green shoots have appeared at the base. You can see one of the tawny bundles still to be tidied in the fence border at the feet of the river birch and hawthorn trees.

It is pleasing to refresh the garden in this way, to reveal all the little half-forgotten gems nestling in last year’s debris. I snapped two clumps of deep red primulas and a tiny Johnny Jump-up. 

Having moved the bird feeders to the meadow I was able put the hanging chair back on its hook in the courtyard. With plenty of cushions, it makes a secluded place to read a book when the weather is warmer.

This Thursday the garden waste collection begins again and, weather permitting, I’ll have a full bin ready to go: March is the month for pruning the roses so that they flower at a reasonable height. I’ve cut back only one so far: the cutting of rosa Queen Elizabeth, growing in a courtyard pot, before I planted it out in the meadow.