Sunday, December 29, 2013

A slightly early Happy New Year

May all your snails migrate to next door in 2014.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wordless(-ish) Wednesday - Separated at Birth?

Milo form the Tweenies
Joe Swift

Friday, August 16, 2013

The ugly death of a one-trick pony

I wouldn't call myself a plant snob. Well, obviously. I just have exquisite good taste when it come to my horticultural choices. OK, apart from my penchant for blousy dahlias, retro candytuft, peonies so frou-frou that even Barbara Cartland would have blanched. And she was pretty blanched to start off with - I love Clive James' description of her eyes "the corpses of two crows that had flown into a chalk cliff".

Anyway, I digress, but it is my prerogative to do so. To get back to the point - I don't think I'm snobbish about plants. Except hydrangeas. However, Somebeans begs to differ, considering me a plant snob of the worst sort when it comes to Forsythia. He thinks that I won't give it room in the garden because it's common and it's bright, whereas he rather likes it and thinks it brings a bit of colour early in the year.

Pah. I like yellow. My garden is full of dandelions, for a start.


What I'm not keen on, as a gardener without rolling acres, are one trick ponies that don't pull their weight for the rest of the year. Yes, Forsythia - I'm looking at you. Twiggy and not a great looker once the flush of yellow has vanished. If you're lucky, you might get a bit of fasciation, but that's more of a freakish talking point than a thing of beauty.

But.... I have to admit there is a one trick pony that I adore, and will have nothing bad said against. A flush of fragrant flowers, and some nondescript, rather dull leaves without autumn colour. And its flowers once they have died - oh dear.

Even I can't defend them, and most of the time I'm not fast enough at pruning them off. But, for their flowers, their scent, I can forgive them everything. They transport me back to my childhood and fill me with joy. Forsythia, when you can do that, I'll find a space in the garden for you.

Yes - I can forgive lilac anything.
Even their ugly death.

Note: No ponies were harmed in the making of this blog post.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Friday, August 02, 2013

Things I have learnt

It has been 18 months since our son Thomas was born. A steep learning curve for all of us; not least Thomas, who has had to learn to cope with his parents’ novice attempts to bring up a child.

Over the past 18 months, I’ve found it rather difficult to do all the normal stuff I did before, including blogging, allotmenting and gardening. The allotment has been given up, for now at least. I admire those parents who can carry on a normal life with small child in tow, being able to keep on top of everything, be well manicured, and still have time to knit their own tofu. To be honest, I wasn’t well manicured before – a good number of years of pulling ground elder and horsetail out of the allotment would have put an end to that anyway. I think I have developed a permanent small groove in my finger from pulling horsetail up – if Lamarckian evolution were true, Thomas would be a more efficient puller-up of this weed than I, already equipped with said groove.

I’ve learnt a lot over the past 18 months. Mostly about poo, it has to be said. But I won’t share those with you on this platform. What I do want to share is what I have learnt, and what Thomas has taught me, about gardening and how I view my garden. Though I note that I still write *my* garden, so perhaps I haven’t quite ceded it all to Thomas just yet…


Things I have learnt:

- That weeding whilst in charge of a toddler is difficult. You spend more time trying to persuade them to spit out stones they have put in their mouths than you spend pulling up rogue plants. And when they’ve finished chewing pebbles, they run off with your weeding tools and plonk them in the bird bath.

- That the most fun in the world to a ticklish toddler is to be whisked back and forth through the frothy heads of Stipa tenuissima. It’s such a good feeling, he even tries to tickle himself with them.


- That planting a willow wigwam in the cold November rain will be worth it when the toddler is old enough to sit still in it for more than five seconds.

- That day lilies cope remarkably well with pre-emptive dead-heading. That is, a small child pulling off the buds before they even have a chance of flowering.

- That enthusiasm for watering is more important than accuracy.


- That trying to balance a snail on an allium flower will occupy a toddler for quite some time – much more time than toys, “fun” singing time with mummy (I use the quotation marks wisely - you haven’t heard me sing…) and painting all added together. It only really ended because the snail got bored and wandered off. Slowly.

- That borders spring back remarkably well after a small child has taken to reversing into them and then sitting down.



- That plastic bulldozers can make a nice garden ‘feature’. Possibly.

- That the more you treasure a plant, the more likely it is to be sat on, have the flowers pulled off, or be flattened by aforementioned plastic bulldozer.

- That a few weeds don’t really matter, in the scheme of things.

-That a few weeds can rapidly multiply into a raging mass of weeds if you don’t keep on top of them by spending 5 minutes in the garden after bed-time (his, not mine, though there isn’t much time difference between the two at the moment).

- That bumble bees, generally, don’t mind too much if they are poked by inquisitive fingers. They may just wave an irritated middle leg, in the way that a great-aunt might shoo off her over-exuberant great-nephews and nieces.

- That the small pang of pedantry I feel when a hoverfly is described excitedly as ‘bee’ is far exceeded by the joy in watching Thomas start to name the world around him.

-That I can’t wait until he’s a little older so we can sow seeds together and share the magic of watching them grow.

When Thomas was born, I thought I was going to be the teacher, the font of knowledge. But I’ve been taught so much. Mostly, relax – it’s only a garden.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wordless Wednesday - Fresh

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Cake and friendship

Not gardening-related, but I wanted to record for posterity the most gorgeous cake, and thank the person who made it, who has come to be a friend of mine.

A few years ago, I was head of the department in which I still work. I didn't like being head of department, but that is another story, thankfully another one with a happy ending. A lady came for an interview to come onto our Foundation Degree in Food Technology course, of which I was the course manager. She sat in my office, and explained that it was a long time since she had been at school, had brought up a family, and had a young daughter. She wanted to do something for herself, and that something was to do the foundation degree.

We went through the course and what it entailed. As I explained the modules (which have a heavy science and technology bias), Sam came out with: "I can't do science" and "I can't do maths". But she could. She could combine study for a foundation degree (equivalent to the first two years of an honours degree), with being a mum to a lovely daughter. OK, so quite a few "mature" students do that. But Sam's daughter has Spina Bifida and is confined to a wheelchair. Sam combined undergraduate study with being a mum, and regularly going with her daughter to Alder Hey hospital for complex operation after operation. To while away the time at the hospital, she would even take her assignments.

Sam completed the Foundation Degree, and took the brave move to top this up to a full Honours degree with us. Let's face it, by year 3 of a degree, even full-time students tend to have sobered up and to start working hard. Combining this with looking after a family and all of the time she and her husband spent with Beth, and working with Go Folic (see Sam and her daughter here) and the effort is Herculean.

This September I saw Sam graduate with a 2(i) Honours degree in Food Technology. I was so proud of the lady who sat and told me that she couldn't do maths or science.

What I forgot to say is that Sam has a host of other skills, and one of these is cake decorating. She runs Top Tier Designs. And she made Thomas' first birthday cake. It's perfect. Thank you, Sam x

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Green(ish) wall

Monday, February 04, 2013


Ten years today since the saddest day of my life.

One year today since the happiest day of my life.

Happy first birthday, Thomas x
Happy birthday, Dad x Something nice to celebrate on your birthday now x
Miss you always, Mum x