Friday, February 27, 2009

First mowing and fish-feeding of the season

Today we were blessed with glorious sunshine. I am strongly influenced by sunlight - I go a bit mad and spend all day smiling! (Fortunately I don't get depressed when it's dull, I'm just less zaney then.)

First off a couple of flowers. I've shown pictures of both of these little ones before but they are really blooming well now:

- and this next one seems to glow with light, even in a gloomy corner:

It was also the first day I felt it was worth putting out the whirlygig (I'm afraid as usual this is a warts and all photo - there is of course a huge amount of tidying to do about the place)

I went to feed the fish, waking up and very hungry, but gave it a few minutes longer so that this pair could have a bit of peace:

Then I got on with putting away all the clutter I'd spread over the lawn (from the greenhouse) and tidied up the lawn as best I could, and then... I mowed it. This would have made more difference if I'd lowered the blade a bit more but never mind. And here it is afterwards. The whole things still has loads of weeding to do, and maybe looks rather unappealing - but it will look wonderful in a couple of months' time, I promise!

Then finally after supper I soaked two lots of morning glory and one of ranunculus. I find it hard to believe these little dry spidery things will become the plants I remember loving before, and in so little time, but I hope so.

Bob wondered what the next project is. Ha! Tomorrow I will be tackling this, which is our garage:

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Greenhouse finished

Today I started on the greenhouse at 8:30, so it's just as well I'd finished by 5:45! Admittedly I also sowed some seeds towards the end.

Here are the results. I'm pleased with it. It hasn't been disinfected and the guttering and broken pane need fixing, but I'm going to called it finished for now and attend to those next winter.

I sowed some more Sutton broad beans, all but one of the ones I sowed outdoors having disappeared (I suspect to mice), and some Telephone peas. I love eating peas!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Today I spent three and a half hours seeing to the greenhouse - although that does include a tea-break. I should have started earlier though. It was very tiring since a lot of that was spent at the top of a rather insecure step-ladder, with my arms out-stretched, trying to clean off the debris from the tree above that was obscuring the roof.

I'll get there.

No pictures today I'm afraid - for some reason I can't make the photo application "see" the camera. Never mind.

Off for an early night now and a prompt start on that roof again tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Greenhouse - day 1 of 2

Right. I am determinedly titling this day 1 of 2 because I won't let myself spend more than 2 days on it. I hope this ruse works!

This shed is at the back of our garage. When we moved in it had a solid roof of old rotting panels. We had that replaced with transparent panels, and it became known as the greenhouse.

Clearing it out has been rather tough. It's full of past failures, signs of repeated hopeful beginnings that ended in rows and recriminations; the vibes in there are grim. I put it off for ages, but when I read this in UKBob's blog, I knew I couldn't dodge the job any longer!

So here you have evidence of stage 1.

This took a couple of hours but I achieved more than perhaps shows here. And I feel better about it all again and am looking forward to sowing seeds out there very soon. Apart from all the bad stuff, it's also good to come across so many odds and ends I was starting to think I'd want to buy and didn't have money for - which were sitting here waiting to be found again.

And also cleared the lawn, went round and talked to all the new things I've found coming up lately, and watered all the things in pots - which were very dry, to my great surprise.

Quick note -

When I was away over the weekend I took a couple of days' break from the net. Since it was only short, I don't want to skip reading any of the blogs I normally do, so I'm going through them steadily in order. This is why I might not seem to respond to a posting as quickly as usual, but I will in a bit - I'll have caught up by the end of the week :)

PS There have been some problems on Blogger with word verification not working, so that pepole can't leave comments. I can comment on some blogs and not others and I've been told it's happened on mine. I'm sorry, but thank you for trying anyway!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Guess what...

I'm thinking of re-naming this blog Emily's Weeding!

(Tomorrow I'll put a post about my week-end visit to Wollaton Hall on my other blog, Cetera.)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sneaky extra post... it's about the dog

OK, I admit, I can't keep away from this place :)

Several people have admired the photos of our dog, so I thought I would take up the meme suggested by Carolyn here, and write more about her.

This is Pippa. She's an irish setter, 4 years old although people meeting her tend to assume she's much younger because she looks gangly to someone not used to the breed, and is extremely lively.

She is our first dog together as a couple - after leaving home I mean. We chose the breed because we wanted a dog who would enjoy the long walks that I love; who would be lively and fun to play with (my husband's main criterion); and who would also be somewhat independant minded and able to cope with a few hours alone. She has proved ideal in all of these. The only snag is that the dog I trained before was a colly, and setters just don't have the same work ethic! Recall in particular is a challenge, and it doesn't help that she's not much motivated by food.

On the other hand she is a delight to the eye, mesmerisingly so - her movement, her manner, everything. Even those who know setters think she is a good example. Her coat is naturally glossy; she gets a bath about twice a year, in plain water. Brain: you'll be wondering about that. Well no, that's not her strong suit, but what she's good at is her sense of direction, her patience, and her memory. She's not great at working things out. On walks, she is phenomenally fast: I have never seen any dog outrun her, and I've never tired her out since she reached adulthood.

P is OK in the garden. I can't say she's great. She gets bored after about an hour or so and misbehaves. She has me well trained - she knows it will get my attention! So if I'm thinking, I keep an eye on her and take her inside, out of harm's way, while she's still being good. Otherwise she will start pulling plants out of pots. She doesn't dig, fortunately.

We also have a cat, about whom I will write another time.

Now, here are some photos of Pippa. Many are from when she was younger and she has filled out a little - you can't see her ribs any more, honest!

Off for a few days

A quick post to say good-bye because I will be away until Monday. I'm going visiting to Nottingham. One of the days there I'll be taken to Wollaton Hall, which looks pretty interesting.

At the last count there were 34 sweet pea seedlings from the sowing I made 2 weeks ago, the tallest of which is about 2 inches.

I was up the street a couple of hours ago and bought a copy of "A Year in a Victorian Garden" by Henry Bright, 1874, in the local hospice shop. It's rather pretty-pretty, which normally puts me off, but when I read a few lines I was won over:

"Nothing is more stupid than the ordinary way of planting Crocuses - in a narrow line or border. Of course you get a line of colour, but that is all, and, for all the good it does, you might as well have a line of coloured pottery or variegated gravel."

I see that near the beginning he refers to the garden's 4 mile distance from a major town as a problem because, "there comes down upon us every now and then a blast, laden with heavy chemical odours, which is more deadly than either smoke or salt". It makes me think atlhough it's all too easy to find problems with our current way of life, the things we are lucky to be without tend to be harder to keep in mind.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

More weeding

Title says it all really. This bed has, from right to left, the rose Gentle Hermione; lots of siberian irises - I can never remember which are blue and which yellow; a peony (pink); a philadelphus (which isn't happy, and who can blame it, although in fairness I don't think it likes our clay much either); lots of aquilegias; a poorly broom; 4 cranesbills dotted around (which I love); golden marjoram; and another peony. Across the back are hedge plants, hazel, hornbeam, alder, and so on. The apparent gap in the fence on the left actually has new hornbeam plants in, all in bud thank goodness.

I only planted at most a quarter as many bulbs as this, and there are a couple more plants I don't recognise yet.

Uninvited guests include but are not limited to ivy, brambles, bindweed, creeping buttercup and grass.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


This is the "front garden" all done. I'm pleased with it. The difference in colour of the bark will fade very quickly. The improvement will show even more once more of the plants are up and doing, further into the year.

Daphne - any suggestions?

Grace Peterson here
here is growing a plant I would love to succeed with: a daphne. Please can anyone give me some tips on how not to kill the poor things?

Monday, February 16, 2009

More of the same, except...

There's not much to say about today in the garden. I spent more time weeding and tidying at the front, but I'm going to do the grand Before And After bit tomorrow when I've finished top dressing it.

I did go for a nice walk today though, and I've put some pictures of it here.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Other than flowers

Elsewhere in the blogosphere many beautiful pictures of flowers are appearing. They're lovely to look at, and I try to post pictures of flowers when they appear too. But they're not my main priority, so I thought I'd try to say what is.

I'm more interested in the feeling that a place creates, the balance of containment and space. I love to have somewhere to walk around and things to discover. I like boundaries and definition - not necessarily in straight lines - and the thoughtful contrast of big leaves and little ones, dark greens and light... and possibly also flowers. (Not that a lot of such thought went into the planting here I must admit, but it will in future.)

I do have favourite flowers - roses, peonies, and apple blossom. Even with things that do flower significantly though, I prefer a short season, because it's the endlessly shifting focus in a garden, combined with the seasons' reliably enduring cycle, that appeals to me.

Other people see gardens totally differently, and that's great, I'm glad they do.This is just what I like, I'm not saying it's better.

So here are a few pictures for today, only one of which is a flower.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A tiring day

Well, we got the fence up. Or to be more accurate, the screen, since that's what it really is. Photos herewith.

I put the old screen in the recycling bin, and then swept the patio and the path up under the tunnel beside the garage - this made a surprisingly big difference.

Did a lot more clearing up at the front, and then swept the steps and the path.

There are now 5 sweet pea germinations visible.

Thank goodness for the garden today. Thanks also for the comments, it's amazingly gratifying to think of this being read. Granted this particular entry ain't exactly likely to rival Christopher Lloyd but never mind...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Quick note

Didn't do a great deal today and rather busy with personal stuff, so I'll write today and tomorrow up together, tomorrow :)

PS In the spririt of honest blogging I thought you might like to see this photo of me modelling the latest gardening fashion... ahem! (the hat is a ski one, with a dog's floppy ears and pink tongue, only you can't see them)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Very satisfying progress

The high point of today was seeing my first sweet pea seedling emerging. I took a picture of it but the dark damp compost looked so much like.. something else... that I don't think you'd thank me for posting it! I will show pictures when the seedlings are a bit larger (and indeed plural!).

I cleared out lots of pots I'd dumped under a choisya shrub (stupid, I know - I was tidying in a hurry) and put the snails I found inside on a plastic sheet in the middle of a lawn for the birds. I didn't see any come for them; maybe they will when I'm not watching. In doing all this I uncovered various bits of hidden treasure, including a lawn sprayer. It's hard to imagine I'll ever use it again - we either have very wet summers, or a drought and a ban on such things, and in any case our lawns always stay green (they have so much clover in them!).

By this time the sun had moved round enough for me to feel up to making a final blitz on clearing the area just beyond the pond. I should explain what this is really. The pond has a straight line across the back of narrow paving stones, but the butyl liner continues beyond them to line a narrow strip intended to house bog-style plants. I forget what these are now to be honest, but they include some fritillaries which are very pretty - if the lily beetles haven't got to them. Ah - and a zantedeschia, a glorious thing that didn't really show much last year (due to neglect and overcrowding by weeds) but which I have already uncovered, sprouting happily.

When the area is looking as planned, there's a half-height fence just beyond the boggy bit. On the other side of this is an arch, with a bench in the middle, and honeysuckle climbing over it. Usually I put sweet peas up the sides too (in my more organized years). The fence had rotted and was in tatters, so I've pulled it away, and we have a replacement ready. I lifted the bench out to clear all the tall dead grass and weeds behind it. The honeysuckle had grown and rooted all over the place so I had to have some stern words with it.

The remains of my sad, overgrown irises were found to the left of the bench. I wonder whether there's any hope for them? They were Jane Philips and Sable Night. I discovered the healthy sprouting crown of one of my favourite plants - a beautiful seedum called something like Ice Queen, which has very pale foliage and creamy white flowers - I was so pleased to see it again, hidden away under a thuggish hebe.

On the right, the cranesbills, poppies and siberian irises are standing up to neglect far better than the posh irises -they are indeed thriving. There's nothing to see of the alchemilla mollis but I know they'll be back with a vengeance too.

I cut back the big woody shrub on the far right (as you look back at the house) - this is my "friend" the pink spirea. I had planted a camelia far too close to it, but that has sensibly simply altered its growth to go out and round the spirea, so I'm opting not to move it. Many bulbs are coming up around this area, all of which I'd assumed had failed in the cold wet ground, so I'm most chuffed by that.

This area is now ready to have the new fence put up, but I'll need my husband's help for that; maybe tomorrow, if the weather is fine.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Before and after: hmmm.....

Today began with lovely sunshine after a frosty night.

This evening I was hoping to post some before and after shots of the work I've done over the last two afternoons. Well, I'll still post them, through bloodymindedness alone. But they don't show anywhere near the difference I expected. And at most, it looks so negative - as though a plague of giant gobbling creatures had descended!

It makes me wonder a little whether this blogging lark isn't getting a bit out of proportion. I write my blog in the hope that, as well as amusing a few folk, it will help to keep me motivated to continue working on the garden. I don't do the garden in order to blog about it! So if the pictures don't reflect the extent of the work, or if they make seem negative what was in fact immensely satisfying to do, that shouldn't really matter.

I told my father on the phone today how much time I'd spent in the garden in the last 10 days and he said it must be pretty tidy by now. It isn't. About 85% of it is still a dog's breakfast. This is a testament to the amount of neglect it's been treated to over the last 2 years by yours truly. But now by keeping a blog I intend to stick with things in the garden through a full year!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Other blogs

Please note that I have started a new blog called Cetera, also on Blogger, which is to contain every entry that isn't either attempting to be literary (they go on my Snappywords blog) or about the garden (they go here!). The first post is some pictures of today, showing a short walk and some odds and ends at home. I hope you like it:

Monday, February 9, 2009

Dinner Party

VP, whose blog I have just found (, suggested naming garden-related guests for a dinner party. I'm going to name 5, because I'm feeling gregarious...

1. Graham Stuart Thomas. I've been told he was as nice in person as he seems in his books. His taste and ideas have influenced me enormously, and Mottisfont Abbey is my favourite garden other than our own. He seems to show a fine nature towards many things, as well as plants.

2. My distant relative Deirdre, who is so self-effacing about gardens but knows so much. She would be great company socially too.

3 and 4 -bit of a gamble: my two grandmothers, who met only very briefly. I never met my maternal one. Both were very keen gardeners, unlike my parents, and I would love to talk to them about it.

5. Harold Nicolson. I'm a little sccared that I might not actually like Vita in person, but HN would be interesting for all sorts of reasons :)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Glorious sunshine

We had a beautiful afternoon here and I got a lot of odds and ends done.

Made a start on the other half of the front garden, pulling up most of the ivy and digging out loads of dandelions.

Potted up a huge trough of bulbs for the patio.

Noticed some new growth on the plumbago I'm trying to rescue in the conservatory and took it outside to shake off all the dead leaves. Several things there need spraying - I'll have to see what I can find that's suitable.

Cleared the lawns again of Pippa's contributions.

Cut out two huge trugs' worth of brambles from along the back fence, since the brown wheelie bin will be emptied on "Wednesday" (which is council-speak for Thursday).

While doing this I saw some pink buds at the base of the rhubarb plant. Oh. I think I've been very stupid: I had assumed we'd lost it, but maybe it just dies down like most herbacious perennials?

Lots of bulbs are sprouting away happily.

I saw the growth of the poppy plant coming up through the old pond fence, now on its side. Better get that up and replaced ASAP.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Monty Don on gardening in winter... and spring

"For much of the winter the garden sulks outside. It is a lumpen thing like a chicken in moult or a catwalk model in curlers and spots. The thing itself is still there but not, certainly not, at its best. I find it hard to engage with it." (from Fork to Fork, p. 126, in the chapter on February)

"Northern winters may be long and dark, but northern springs are matchless." (p. 127, March).

I feel strong sympathy with the second of these quotations, but I'm not so sure about the first. I've described our garden as sulking at me in winter before, certainly (and bullying me in the summer). But there's a certain perverse satisfaction in being out in the garden when nobody else fancies it. Less self-consciously, if you do something now, it stays done, unlike in the likes of June, where a week later you can scarecely tell where you've been.

I feel a little like a man with an impossibly glamorous wife. During the day she strides about, fiercely independant. In the evening she sparkles and he accompanies her proudly but somewhat in her shadow. But at night, as she lies asleep, he looks down at her beside him, without her make-up and elegant outfit, and she's all his, there in the dark together.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Sweet peas

I've just finished sowing sweet peas: 17 pots, 3 in each. I soaked a whole packetful without thinking, so I felt I had to sow all of them.

The snow has all melted here.

Signature plant

I read here: about the idea of a signature plant. I think it's meant to be taken as something you adopt and show great love and effort with. In our garden it couldn't really be anything other than the apple trees. When we moved here, they adopted us. We have 3 mature ones: a bramley, a russet, and another which gets very red. They are at least 50 years old, since our next-door neighbour remembers them that long, and I susepct a good deal older. We also have a dwarf one and another youngster.

They blossom in the first to second week of May, and the fruit ripens in September. We have an apple press (a wonderful birthday present to me from my husband about 5 years ago) and we make cider and apple juice (since I don't drink alcohol).

I will post some photographs here of the trees when they are blossoming.

The trees mean a huge amount to me. They seem to own the garden far more than we do. I love their presence through the winter, and their ever-changing nature. They're always there and never the same.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Brief update

I made the mistake of looking at the long-range weather forecast, for the month of February -

Oh. Oh well, thank the stars for a conservatory!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Garden Bloggers' Muse Day - poem

The garden blogosphere

We stare into our fires and plan our seeds,
and feast in heated rooms against the cold;
our gardens sleep while others' blaze with green:
a Mexican wave of flowering laps the Earth.

Young human generations unfurl now,
but garden time runs true, life's orrery:
ephemera preserved for them in blogs,
while your reflected sunshine joins our fires.

Quick update

I just opened the back door to let our dog out for a quick wee - and it was all full of snow! Just like that. And the amber light from Gatwick a couple of miles away is reflecting off more snow-clouds, making the whole garden show looks like a cosy corner in a pub where they hope orange lights will make you drink more...

Admittedly when I took this photo with my little camera, the flash went off so of course the orange light didn't show up. I hope my husband's greater photographic skills will give me a better picture to post here after dinner. - and yes I know it's very little snow, but it all appeared in about 40 minutes (or so it seemed...)

.... and later: I feel very humbled: this is his photo. The exposure was 16 seconds, and you can see blurring from where the wind moved the trees. You can also see the shadow of the camera and the chair it was resting on (just)... and our demi-johns which should have been put away months ago but never mind!

Garden Bloggers' Muse Day

Today I read of the Garden Bloggers' Muse Day - about posting a poem on the first day of each month. This sounds a very good idea to me so I'll have a think about it and see what I can come up with.