On our return from France yesterday afternoon I was hit by a delayed panic about the garden: had it survived without being watered for two weeks? I braced myself for a scene of devastation – beds filled with scorched, parched vegetation, bare earth etc.
Instead, my nasturtiums have formed a hedge and the verbena towers over our heads.
The nigella has flowered and the sedums are starting to take on their autumnal blush.
And last, but by no means least, my anemones are looking rather lovely, better than they’ve ever looked before in fact. Phew!
The socks I made during my revision keep disappearing. Last week I found one behind the log pile in the kitchen, reunited it with its partner, only to find them both on the hall floor just minutes later. I had my suspicions. They have now been confirmed.
The sky is an electric blue and despite a heavy frost over night, it actually feels quite warm when you are standing in the sunshine. My head is filled with botany, biology, and soil science at the moment (cambium, xylem, phloem, ponding, field capacity and run-off, since you ask), but in between sessions with my books and flash cards, I’ve managed to spend a little time in the garden. Admittedly this has mostly been a case of chasing Sybil around, urging her to pee so that I can get back to my work. But I’ve also checked on my plants, potted up yet more bargain bulbs, and re-potted these grape hyacinths.
My chaotic approach to gardening seems to know no bounds. Although I manage to amass an impressive stack of bulb and seed catalogues each year, and spend an equally impressive amount of time poring over them, the final stage of the process often eludes me. And then spring and summer roll around, and once again I curse myself for not having any daffodils, tulips, crocuses, tomatoes, herbs etc…etc… This year’s lack of Hyacinths was easily resolved by snaffling several plants in plugs and then potting them up at home. It’s not as satisfying as seeking out a particular cultivar and nurturing it from the outset, but now I’ve got them I don’t particularly care because they smell heavenly.
On the outdoor bulb-front I have made progress of a sort this year in that I managed to order some bulbs back in the autumn, and even planted a few. But on Sunday I saw that I still had several net bags of alliums, narcissi and anemones. The labels state quite clearly that they should have been in the ground at least two months ago, but I decided it was better to throw them into the ground than throw them out. And then, on a whim, I bought more bulbs – these were a mere 50p a bag in the B&Q sale pile (Tulips: Queen of Marvel and Purissima). Worth a shot I reckon. So, in the pouring rain I shoved bulbs into pots, with a four-legged helper who seemed to think the game was one of hide and seek, and so diligently dug out the bulbs almost as fast as I potted them. Muddy, angry scenes ensued. But both dog and bulbs survived. Whether or not they actually flower is another matter….
Some nice things arrived in the post this morning: a few post Christmas treats that I’d ordered for myself. I am determined to get going on a quilt, and have discovered the perfect course at the Folk House – A quilt in a day. It’s not until March, so in the meantime I thought Jane Brocket’s wonderful book, The Gentle Art of Quilt-Making, would inspire me, while the mini quilts from Whip Up would stop me losing my nerve. I also have plans for some embroidery and, having enjoyed Alicia Paulson’s blog over the last couple of years, decided that it was time to get her book. And then I received these, by special delivery, just ten minutes ago…
a little parcel of Echeveria glauca plants from Glenhirst Nursery. Not a very good photograph I’m afraid, taken in haste, and only now that I’ve loaded it, can I see that the first two plants were wrapped, rather aptly, in an ad for a Plant Theatre… which reminds me, I also want to get some of those crazy-edged auriculas. But that’s a whole other post, I think. Once I’d finished unwrapping my goodies, Sybil got going on the boxes.
It looks pretty bleak in our garden at 8 o’clock in the morning. But dramatic skies make up for the distinct lack of drama on the ground, where the snow, ice, frost and rain have turned the sloping lawn into a mudslide. A great mound of top soil, displaced by the first section of the terracing, which was completed last summer, sits under flapping layers of tarpaulin – a rather hopeless attempt to keep the local cats (including our own, I am sorry to say) from establishing it as a neighbourhood lavatory. I won’t give you the full and awful details of the problems that this heap of earth has caused, except to say that Sybil, our puppy, is far too interested in it. So, you get the general picture – all is not rosy on our plot. But this morning I noticed that one plant is valiantly doing its bit to provide at least a little loveliness.
I am not sure which Euphorbia this is, and will probably have to wait until it produces its acid green flowers to make an accurate identification. It was here when we moved in and has self seeded quite happily ever since. I love Euphorbias for so many reasons: their bulk within a border, where they prop up other reedier plants; their crazy acid green flower heads and glaucous leaves both of which are the perfect foil for the blues and purples of the plants I like (Nepeta Six Hills Giant, Verbena Bonariensis, salvias and geraniums).
I know lots of people are concerned about the milky sap that is produced when you cut their stems, but I really have never had any problems. When cutting back Euphorbias I avoid doing it in the middle of the day as I’ve read that skin which has been exposed to the sap can become irritated in direct sunlight. I don’t always wear gloves, which is probably foolhardy, but I do prune from the bottom up, that way I avoid the risk of sap dripping onto me as I work.
The piano stool in the hall is Spooky’s favourite Sybil-watching spot. From here she can see the puppy mucking about in the utility room, and, when we open the gate, she looks on with disdain as Sybil skids from utility room to kitchen, and back again in hot pursuit of balls, chews, old toys and children. This photograph is my entry to Tara’s gallery which takes black & white as its theme this week. I think Spooky sees the situation as being very black and white – we have let her down, badly.
So here she is: our Cairn Terrier puppy. Although I knew her arrival would involve quite a bit of change I wasn’t prepared for how much watching and waiting is involved in life with a young puppy. I am constantly surprised by the fact that dogs don’t purr. It is so strange to stroke an animal, see that it clearly enjoys being stroked, but get no feedback. The cats are not entirely happy about the situation – Sybil’s arrival that is, not her inability to purr. Otto pretends that Sybil doesn’t exist. Spooky has decided that she’ll watch and wait, which means that she tracks Sybil’s every move from the safety of chair back, sideboard, cupboard tops and stairs. Every now and then, when Sybil is asleep she hops down for a closer inspection. I’ve improved the quality of their food in the hope that they’ll forgive us!