Saturday, December 31, 2011

A year in pictures


IMG_7577 Christmas Box (Sarcococca), placed by the front door, so it is easy to remember to bend down and smell its glorious fragrance on a dark winter day.



Iris ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ – perfection in miniature. Well worth spending 15 minutes getting cold knees to admire her.



Spring is here – cold knees again, but for a blast of golden sunshine.


Orange tips

Early sunshine brings out the butterflies. In this case, mating orange-tips.


Meconopsis blue

Normal weather resumes, dampening the petals (but not the brilliant colour)  of the beautiful Meconopsis.


Astrantia I spent some of May and June playing with the camera, learning about depth of field.



As always, July brings bright colours to the ‘late summer border’ (sounds considerably grander than it is!)



Rhapsody in blue – the hard-working and beautiful Aster x frikartii ‘Monch’ is a star in the front garden, starting in late July and going on until the end of September.



Almost as beautiful as a flower in the garden – the garden spider. I wish I was as keen on their cousins, the house spider – as it’s around September that these monstrous beasties make themselves known in the house.


Red Admiral

What better advert is there for allowing ivy to grow in your garden? A red admiral enjoying some late October sun.



Early November sees the brilliant colours of witch hazel leaves shine through the dull days.



A New Year’s Eve rose – Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Contracting world

I will gloss over the lack of posts for two months.

As Beetle continues to germinate within, I find my world contracting slightly. I’ve not visited any gardens recently, the allotment becomes something of an effort, and the weather has meant that plot visits have been short. Thanks to SomeBeans, we do have some home-grown veg to consume tomorrow – though I have failed on sprout timings this year (they may be ready for Easter).

Dark nights and wet weekends have meant I’ve even neglected the garden. We had some quite major works done in the back garden at the end of October, but I didn’t even blog about them. The patio has gradually, in the eight years we’ve been here, sunk, cracked, been broken by frosts, and made very uneven. The reason for these problems was revealed during excavations – they were laid on around 6” of sand, and that was about it. The long steps were impractical, meaning that you walked along from kitchen door to garage with one foot on one level and the other foot on another level. So, we got a more useable space.   

IMG_0995 IMG_1106


At the bottom of the garden, there were two cherry trees, rendered ugly by around 20 years of what I shall call ‘lollipopping’. We’d been meaning to get them cut back for a while, as they had grown a lot and shadowed over the greenhouse. A chat with the rear neighbour about them shading his garden, however, galvanised me into more drastic action. Why pay someone to come in and perpetuate the monstrous lollipopping? We could clear out the bottom areas (also over planted with a laburnum sloping into another neighbour’s garden) and a deformed holly. Disadvantages, of course, are that we have lost some habitat for birds and insects, and some summer shade, for when the sun does (occasionally) come out. Advantages are regaining light for the greenhouse, and a new area to plant up with hopefully more attractive trees, shrubs and perennials. An ugly gravel/rock corner has been disposed of, and replaced with patio. Not mould-breaking design, I admit, but a nicer, more useable corner of garden. The gravel/rock corner had annoyed me since we first moved in.



As you can see, it is yet to be planted up. We have put one plant in; which will grow to give some screening against the house in the background. We chose an Amelanchier ‘Robin Hill’ which will give us colour in the spring and also the autumn, much more attractively than the cherries did. To this will be added some shrubs and spring/winter interest planting.

Since these works were completed in November, I’ve barely ventured into the garden, but some sunshine this morning saw me tidying the front garden. Normally I leave a lot of the herbaceous plant growth in place until spring, but might have my hands full in a couple of months time, so this morning saw me cutting back and pulling weeds up on my hands and knees.

Perhaps not an elegant position to be in, but needs must (and it does tie in with the title of this blog!), and it has two distinct advantages – firstly, it is, apparently a good position to be in to encourage Beetle to adopt the correct position for birth (at his last scan he was breech, which means a Caesarean if he stays like that). Secondly, it gave me a close-up view of the bulbs starting to push their way through the soil to the air. There’s still a long time for winter to appear, but a few green shoots bring happiness and hope for a good new year.

Merry Christmas x


Friday, October 21, 2011

Thank you, Dr Seuss: Oh! The things that you’ll grow!

So far, we have only bought one thing Beetle related, for fear of tempting fate. However, I’m pleased to announce that the one thing is a compendium of Dr Seuss stories.

Although it will be a good few years until he will be able to appreciate it, one of my favourites is ‘Oh, the Places you’ll go’.

So, with very heavy thanks to Dr Seuss, I thought I would present the gardener’s version of this lovely story…


Oh, the things that you’ll grow



That’s the thing that we do

When we’re growing plants

It’s such great fun too!


You have twigs in your hair

You have mud on your shoes

You can plant what you want

Anything that you choose.


It’s up to you. And you’ll grow what you grow

And you are the gardener who’ll decide where they’ll go.


You’ll examine the pots. Look ‘em over with care

Some will be scrawny, half dead, so it pays to beware

With your head full of plans and your boot full of pots

You’re too smart to buy any with mildews or rots.


And you may not like any

That you’d want to feed,

In that case, of course,

You can grow them from seed.


There’s a lot more to choose

What have you to lose?


In seed catalogues and websites

You’ll so often find

There’s so many to choose from

You’ll go out of your mind.


And when you start clicking

On ‘buy these now’

Don’t start counting pennies,

That’ll furrow your brow.




You’ll be knee deep in compost!

You’ll dream of seedlings!

You’ll think that you’re queen of

All the green things.


They won’t grow straggly, because they’ll have the light.

They’ll grow oh so strongly, gain vigour and height.

Whatever you grow, you’ll get the best of the crop.

Whatever you sow, it just won’t want to stop.


Except when it don’t

Because, sometimes, it won’t.


I’m sorry to say so,

But sadly it’s true,

That damp off

And die off

Can happen to you.


You can get all het up

About seedlings that collapse

And your compost that dries out

Producing hard-to-break caps.


You’ll forget to pot on

So plant roots will coil round

So when you do plant them,

They’ll just die in the ground.


You’ll start to avoid

The greenhouse or plot

You’re embarrassed to look at

Those plants you forgot.


You’ll start to lose face

And your poor pot bound Queen Anne’s Lace

Will long to find its roots in a place

But for now it is sat in a most useless place.

The Waiting Place...


...For seedlings just waiting.

Waiting for a drop of rain

Or towards the light to crane

Or to move to the cold frame

Or for the waterlog to drain

Poor plants just waiting.



That’s not their fate!


Somehow you’ll catch up

On all that pricking and potting

You’ll find the sun shines

And stops damping and rotting.


Oh the things that you’ll grow! There are beds to be dug!

There are mulches to spread. There is water to lug!

And the beautiful flowers that you’ll see unfurl

Will make you the happiest gardening girl.


Success! The plants will grow and grow,

With the help of your weed-crushing hoe.


And will your plants succeed?

Yes! They will, indeed!

Flowers and produce success guaranteed!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Time flies…

OMG! As I believe they say nowadays.

An idle thought this evening made me go back and check a previous blog post from a few years ago. And due to some sort of (cat-like?) sixth sense, I discover that it is precisely THREE WHOLE YEARS since LAPCPADPOUB Day. Oh my.

Maybe next year, it will be resurrected – now there’s a threat!


For old time’s sake:

There once was a gardening blogger

Who posted a memory jogger

About cats wot were mad

And poems so bad

It made many folk want to flog her.

I thank you.

Friday, October 07, 2011

The Language of Flowers - a book review

I read quite a lot; just occasionally, I remember to blog about the books afterwards. SomeBeans is much better at blogging about the books he’s read. However, when I have been given a book to look at, I thought I ought to make the effort!

I’m sure a fair few garden bloggers have been approached about reviewing The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, with that of Esther Montgomery being one review that I have seen and enjoyed.

To be honest, if I had seen the book in the bookshop, I would probably have avoided it – a pretty cover featuring swirly writing and a fair amount of pink would have had me moving on to other books quite rapidly. Whilst the copy I have was given to me by the publisher,  have to say that I would have been happy to spend the money after just a few pages of the book.

The language of flowers (as oppose to The Language of Flowers – the book) is something that I learnt a little about quite some time ago. I think I must have heard about it from a great aunt, and something of the romance of it has stuck in my mind ever since. Flowers were used in Victorian times to express a wide range of messages and emotions., in a subtle way. I suppose this lives on with the rather predictable red rose of expensive Valentine’s Day today, declaring ‘love’. How much nicer and more thoughtful it might be to receive a more personal message within a bouquet – perhaps Stock and Cosmos.

So, to the book. I don’t want to give the story away, so perhaps a few hints using the language of flowers. The story is a bouquet of aquiliegia, buttercup, lavender, peony, white roses and cirsium. Yet around and through these are wound trails of  hawthorn, lilac, moss, and above all, daffodils.*

A book to read in long sittings, perhaps as the nights draw in. A book to enjoy. And a new language to learn.

*If you’d like to know what this bouquet means, you can find out here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - hoverfly


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Anemone


Monday, August 29, 2011

I’m Blue – Part Two



Normandy pork with home-grown carrots, courgettes and Congo mashed potatoes. Slightly disconcerting to eat (the potatoes, that is) but relatively tasty mashed spuds.

(Click here for part one)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I’m Blue

Occasionally, I fall prey to pictures in seed catalogues and rather than think “Hmmm – it looks different so no doubt it’ll be disease-prone and with a tiny yield”, I think “Wow – cool. I want that!”

And so it was with my impulse buy of ‘Congo’ potatoes. I grow ‘Cara’ for reliability, versatility and some blight resistance. ‘Ratte’ is nice and tasty and a little bit different. ‘Congo’ is blue (well, purple really, but described in the catalogues as blue).

We dug one of the five plants up today. It had an extensive root system, and a smallish yield of tubers. Well, there may have been more, but distinguishing the tubers from the soil was very difficult. The tubers, before cleaning, looked rather like what can only be described as ‘poo’. Well, they can’t only be described as that, but I’ll leave any other descriptions to your imagination.

IMG_0869 Not inspiring or attractive, are they?

But contrary to the slightly rude saying, you can polish one (if you catch my drift…). And this is what you end up with:


There are some ‘blue potatoes’ that are all mouth and no trousers. A lovely blue skin but underneath – a grey-stained white flesh. But no, not these. ‘Congo’ is bloo all throo.

IMG_0872 We have yet to eat them, so remain excited. No doubt when we try them tomorrow, they will have all the flavour and texture of cotton wool. But they look good. I will update the post with more photos of the cooked results.

And if you would like to continue the blue theme, I have an earworm for you – just click on the play button below. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


I’ve been quiet recently.

For those who haven’t seen the news on SomeBeans blog or on Twitter, we have had some good and very unexpected news quite recently.

Meet ‘Beetle’…


Unfortunately, my morning (ha!) sickness means that the smell of my beautiful sweet peas has been turning my stomach this year, so they have had to stay, uncut, down on the allotment.

Should all go well, Beetle is due on 21st February, and my mind wanders to the spring plants that will be starting to flower at that time of year. This autumn, I think I’ll be planting lots and lots of early daffodils and crocuses to welcome Beetle into the world.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday–Lucifer


Tatton Show Gardens - from the sublime to the ridiculous

A trip to Tatton Show in Cheshire and a chance to have a look at the show gardens. I’ve never been to Chelsea or Hampton Court, so cannot compare standards, but this year, I felt there were some really good gardens at the show, and some great planting combinations.

 Inside Out (Gold) Inside Out (Gold) Inside Out (Gold) – very well done, but a bit too ‘lifestyle’ for me. I can’t help but wonder how the kitchen would look after a cold, damp North West winter.

Shine Garden (Silver-Gilt) I have seen some much better photos of the Cancer Research UK (silver gilt) garden. It was designed to represent a night-time charity walk through Manchester (Shine Manchester). I found it dark and unsettling.

Save a life, drop the knife (gold)Save a life, drop the knife (gold) Save a life, drop the knife (gold)

   Save a Life, drop the knife (gold and best show garden). There can’t be many show gardens featuring perspex-encased knives and grafittied hoodies. This garden demonstrated how you can move away from the bleakness of knife crime towards a lighter, easier life. It was very well planted. I loved the texture of the pine and sedum on the harmonious side of the garden.

When the waters rise (gold)When the waters rise (gold)When the waters rise (gold)

When the waters rise (Gold) – an interesting garden, which was thronging with visitors every time I walked past it.

Serenity (silver) Serenity (silver)

Serenity (silver) – certainly not a challenging garden but elicited a lot of favourable comments when I was stood there. I think a lot of people could imagine it in their own garden.

The water garden (silver) Another garden which didn’t really grab my attention – very well done, but not anything new – The Water Garden (silver)


 The secret garden (silver)The secret garden (silver)The secret garden (silver) 

The Secret Garden (silver) – beautifully planted, with lots of little details which demanded you to look, and then look again. The paths took me back to my grandfather’s garden. Tiny plants grew in cracks in the edging. The brick wall set off the blue of the delphiniums.

Perspective (silver)

Perspective (silver): nicely built, but the idea of the descending log walls, and the path decreasing in width to give an illusion of depth was rather spoilt by the obvious focal point at the rear of the garden – it made you look straight to the bottom. The wilder planting at the back of the garden was nice.

 Wild flowers of Inver (Silver)Great water feature in the Wild Flowers of Inver garden (silver). I quite liked the gently rolling grassy areas with crocosmias in  groups.

   Chocolate orange (silver) Chocolate orange (silver)

The Chocolate Orange garden (silver) didn’t grab me at all, I’m afraid. I quite liked the new take on the use of a ha-ha, but the planting did nothing for me – it felt rather unstructured, though certainly very eye-catching. And I’m a fan of orange flowers. I know that spotted laurels can have a useful place in the garden, but it just made me feel queasy here.

 Happy rabbit valley (bronze) Happy rabbit valley (bronze)

I suppose this garden was supposed to be fun, and perhaps I wasn’t the target audience. It was also trying to draw attention to the NSPCC which is a good thing, but… (Happy Rabbit Valley, bronze). I found it rather creepy, to be honest, and the sunflower in the second photo bows its head in embarrassment.

The schedule (gold) The schedule (gold) The schedule (gold)

The Schedule got a well-deserved gold medal. Lots of little details. It’s not often there is a muck-heap in a show garden. The bicycle leaning against the shed could have been taken at our allotment – it’s a dead-ringer for Henry’s bike and tartan basket. The veg and the flower beds were very impressive.

Paradise Isle 100 yesrs on (gold) Paradise Isle 100 yesrs on (gold)

Rather aptly, Tatton Park showed a garden (gold). It is based on the beautiful Japanese Garden in the park, which was completed in 1911 – 100 years ago. Very nicely done, showing that less, sometimes, is better.

Grasses with grace (gold) Grasses with grace (gold)

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a photograph of the elegant focal point of this garden, without getting lots of people in the photo (Grasses with Grace (gold), with Grace being the focal point). However, just as beautiful was the planting, which merited close examination. I particularly loved the Echinacea (‘Green Envy’?) with the grasses acting as a veil.