Garden Art

Flicking through the RHS Magazine I often linger over the ads for garden sculptures – I’m more drawn to the contemporary metallic style than the marble classics with all their bits on show. Most of these artistic creations are way out of my price range. However I am lucky enough to have inherited a beautiful dragonfly, sculpted from Sheffield stainless steel by a local artist. It was a retirement gift presented to my Dad so it holds a special place in my heart.

I’ve written before about Jeremy, my frog ornament – he never looks very happy with life. I have a tiny frog too – Kiki – she currently sits on the corner of a low wall – I need to find a better place for her though – I keep kicking her as I pass by – not intentionally of course! I also have a motley assortment of little stone birds – actually I think they may be concrete, judging by the damage they’ve suffered to various parts of their tiny bodies.

I really must do something about my sundial. I bought the concrete base about 10 years ago from a local charitable organisation – they operate a workshop for people suffering from long term mental health conditions. After several coatings of milk and yogurt and general weathering it actually looks quite old now. The sundial itself is old but it’s still not fixed to the base. Some years ago I looked up how to position a sundial correctly. I went into a state of denial as phrases such as ‘magnetic deviation‘ and ‘the angle of the gnomon‘ leapt out from the page.

I’m not exactly sure what a gnomon is, but I do have a resident garden gnome. He was here when we moved in 18 years ago. I didn’t find him for several years as he was hidden in an overgrown rockery. He’s very dirty, pale and battered but I haven’t the heart to turf him out of his home. I had thought of getting him refurbished but I’m not sure he’d be grateful. There was an article in Garden News recently about Simon Horton who has set up the “Gnome Surgery”. Unfortunately an apology had to be issued the following week for referring to him as David Horton (of Vicar of Dibley fame). Simon sounds to be a lot nicer than David. Despite his wife’s disapproval, he’s always kept gnomes (Simon that is – David just wouldn’t, would he?). He decided to refurbish them when they gave their garden a makeover. Since then he’s received requests from people to do the same for theirs (gnomes that is, I don’t think he extends to gardens). At the last count he had put a new lease of life into around 50 – he does it for free because he enjoys it and likes making people happy – he is definitely nicer than David!

It’s been a good few weeks for misprints – the latest issue of Amateur Gardening features this advice – “These are the best pants to give you fragrance in November” – it made me laugh so much, I could have done with some of those pants!

As Summer Into Autumn Slips

So wrote the poet Emily Dickinson. Well it’s definitely Autumn now – the leaves are turning the most beautiful colours and the temperatures are dropping. Although we’ve enjoyed some hot, sunny days in September and even into October, it can’t really be described as an ‘Indian Summer‘ because, other than a week at the beginning of September, it’s just been odd days when the temperatures have shot up. I have to admit I always thought the term ‘Indian Summer‘ was connected with South Asian India. However I have recently been educated by ‘Amateur Gardening‘ magazine. It is thought the term was first referred to in writing in a book written by J. H. St. John de Crèvecoeur in 1778 – ‘Letters from an American Farmer‘ – the author was a soldier who later became a farmer. He wrote about the north-east region of New York State and neighbouring Canada – Mohawk country:

Then a severe frost succeeds which prepares it to receive the voluminous coat of snow which is soon to follow; though it is often preceded by a short interval of smoke and mildness, called the Indian Summer.

When this occurred American Indians* could carry on hunting for longer before the snow came. Perhaps I can be forgiven for my ignorance as the term is said to have reached the UK during the days of the British Raj in India. Apparently before this we would describe warm, sunny weather occurring in September and October as St Luke’s or St Martin’s summer – personally I can’t recall anyone using these terms – can you?

In my garden in Autumn I look forward to picking the apples from my 2 small trees – one of them only managed to produce a single fruit this year and that was stolen by a squirrel. The other is hanging on to what looks like too many apples for its size! You’re not supposed to tug the apples off the tree, even if they look ready. Instead a gentle twist should detach them when they’re ripe enough. For the past few years I have protected mine as they get near to ripening, by popping them in sealable plastic bags with small holes cut in the corners to let the water out. This was a tip gained via an unnecessarily lengthy YouTube video – it doesn’t look great but it does seem to help minimise attacks by wasps and codling moths – it seems to deter the squirrels too (I was too late with the one I lost). I do reuse the bags year after year in case you were thinking this isn’t very eco friendly. Clearly it wouldn’t be very practical for a larger tree, unless you had oodles of time to spare!

Autumn also means I receive a mountain of plums from my friend’s tree. I like to stew them and have them for breakfast with some yoghurt. The stoning process was even more tedious this year though – the tree produced many more fruits than usual but they were much smaller in size. While I’m stoning them I always think about a time when I was around 4 years old. I got up far too early one morning and went into my parents’ room – they told me to get back to bed. I disobeyed and crept downstairs to eat some of the delicious plums I knew were in the fruit bowl. I swallowed a stone by mistake and ran to my parents panicking. My Dad was very cross and told me the stone would grow into a fruit tree inside me. I was petrified for a while until they calmed down and reassured me this would not be the case, but that I could have choked to death!

Another October memory is the annual Halloween party held in my school House. The main event took place in the cellar of the Victorian building. The sixth formers organised the ‘House of Horrors‘. This involved being blindfolded before entering the room and screaming hysterically while delving your hands into trays of revolting substances, supposed to feel like blood, guts, eyeballs, furry spiders etc. If this wasn’t enough we then went upstairs into the sixth form common room to be read a ghost story by the House Mistress. This was always accompanied at some stage by someone tapping on the window from the outside, a loud thud from the room above or a blood curdling scream from somewhere outside the room. Who provided these special effects we never knew but they made us jump and it’s a wonder we slept at night after that!

There are still some signs of summer in the garden – the recent winds snapped the stems of some of my sunflowers but I have been able to pick them and enjoy them indoors.

*The National Museum of the American Indian advises that ‘American Indian’ or ‘Indigenous American’ are currently the preferred terms to use.

It happens every year …

The garden is still full of flowers but I can’t help feeling a bit sad – it won’t be too long before the weather changes and the brightly coloured summer flowers are gone. Somehow gardening in the winter isn’t quite so appealing as getting out there on a warm day! However this year I will be investing in some serious thermals – mainly on account of the impending rise in gas prices – but they will also come in handy when outdoors.

I’ve been taking stock of my garden – what’s gone well and what’s been a “disaster daahling!” (Strictly is another sign that winter’s on its way!). My mini pond has not been a triumph – all the plants I put in originally – gone – eaten – by larvae and tiny snails – at least they enjoyed them! The only consolation is the birds are using it as a swimming pool – I don’t mind the sparrows but when a pigeon gets in there it’s like a tsunami.

I’ve had lots of tasty tomatoes but now they’ve got blight – luckily Victoria has a bumper crop and is passing on regular supplies. Courgettes have been a bit hit and miss and I won’t be bothering with mange tout next year – this is my second year of failure with them. I will be growing broccoli again though. My sister gave me 2 plants which have produced plenty of spears despite me nearly giving one of them up for dead when they were both savaged by caterpillars at the beginning of the season – they have fought back valiantly.

The sunflowers have been a great success this year – that is until the squirrels chewed off their beautiful heads. I have been quite pleased with my attempt at creating a packed herbaceous border with plants grown from freebie ‘Garden News‘ seeds . Next year I need to group several of the same plant together for more impact. To be honest I’m hoping everything will self-seed and all will come up in the right places – unfortunately this is in my dreams. Another thing I’ve learned this year is that I need to move plants that have self-seeded to a more appropriate place while they’re small enough. This year I have been both irritated and enthralled by a purple toadflax that decided to set seed right at the front of the border. Its has grown almost as tall and wide as me but the bees love it so I haven’t had the heart to chop it down.

Up until very recently we paid for our lawn to be cut but I am forward planning to my retirement and looking at ways to cut back. So, I suggested to Grumbling Rose that we buy a lawn mower – “it will have paid for itself in a year” I said. He agreed – as long as I was doing the mowing! The gardening mags are full of how to care for your lawn at this time of year. My purchases have now extended to a strimmer/edger and a grass feed/moss killer distributer – think it will be a couple of years before we see the benefit of our investments. The advice is also to rake your lawn. I borrowed a grass rake from Victoria and Albert and set too. It was hard work and I have a slow to heal blister on my hand to prove it – I needed a sit down part way through! I couldn’t believe how much moss and thatch (dead grass to you and me) I raked up – the lawn looks as though it has been in a fight and Lily didn’t do anything to help – she was always in the wrong place at the wrong time during the raking process! I have also been educated regarding grass feeds – for a start I didn’t realise there is a Spring variety and an Autumn variety. Apparently Autumn lawn feeds are low in nitrogen, as we don’t want to encourage any top growth, which can be soft and easily burnt by frost – we know all about frost. The spring feeds quickly help the grass to start growing again and control any weeds that are present, plus kill off the moss that might have invaded the lawn over the winter. I found half a box of Autumn feed in our garage but although there wasn’t a use by date on it, even Grumbling Rose agreed we shouldn’t use it as our paid grass cutter has been doing all this for at least 10 years, so it must have been sat there for at least all that time! The instructions for use are quite frustrating – apply to dry grass but damp soil – we’ve had no rain for ages so the ground is rock hard – it’s due to rain this week so probably need to wait for that to happen first. Keep pets off until watered in – so once applied need it to rain quickly before Lily can venture out safely.

What has gone well, after a dodgy start, is the Morning Glory and those notorious Cerinthes have mustered a second flowering – the flowers are smaller than the early ones but very pretty – and as for the verbena bonariensis – look at these – why did I fret so much! The final word has to go to Captain Sir Tom who is making a magnificent second appearance – many buds – I hope the blooms last as long as the first round!

Wild Things

I’ve not long returned from a few days on the Northumberland Coast.  One day instead of walking along the beach, we walked along the tops of the dunes from Low Newton by the Sea to Embleton, passing a number of beach huts along the way. While of course they have amazing views, most are pretty run down – no mains electricity and running water for only part of the year. Despite this they are very sought after  – there’s one on the market for £140k! However my attention was more drawn to the wildflowers we found along the way – Grumbling Rose got a bit impatient because I kept stopping every few minutes to take photos, with the intention of identifying them later. I haven’t had a huge amount of luck on that score – I still have many I can’t put a name to, despite my Googling efforts – any help gratefully received.

The names we commonly know wildflowers by interest me – the origins of some are obvious – bluebells being a prime example. But how about harebells? Granted they look like bells but what’s with the ‘hare’ bit? The story goes that witches disguise themselves as hares and hide among bluebells – but it could just be that they grow in places where hares are commonly found.

I’m pretty sure I found a Bird’s Foot Trefoil – for those like me who don’t know what trefoil means , it’s from the Latin trifolium –  “three-leaved plant” – the flower does looks a bit like a bird’s foot. Apparently it’s a favourite with beekeepers as they (the bees not the keepers) love the nectar. I also saw red campion. These flowers are said to guard bees’ honey stores, as well as preventing us finding the fairies – I have to say I didn’t see any!

Quite a number of wild flower names include the word “wort”- butterwort, lungwort, woundwort and St John’s Wort ragwort was one I found on our walk. These plants have historically been used for medicinal purposes in oils, balms and poultices. ‘Wort’ is a word used to describe infusion of ground grain used in the production of beer and whisky. I guess the method could also be applied to making medicinal potions.

When we got back home, I had to make a half-hearted effort to be seen to be helping with putting away holiday stuff before I could disappear into my garden. One job I tackled straight away was deadheading the foxgloves. I love to see them in my garden – I can’t look at them without thinking  of Jemima Puddleduck. Their scientific name is Digitalis which means ‘finger-like’, so this fits with the ‘glove’ bit. One piece of folklore is that foxes wear the flowers on their paws so they can’t be heard when out hunting. A bit like the harebells – it’s more likely they grow in areas where foxes live.

Of course we need to be aware that while they look beautiful and may have medicinal purposes, many plants can also be dangerous. Foxglove contains a chemical which can be used to treat heart failure and high blood pressure under controlled conditions, but it’s highly toxic if eaten.

I‘m a regular visitor to our local RHS garden and spent yesterday afternoon there with my sister. We decided to walk there and back to get our 10,000 steps in, although there was an ulterior motive as our picnic consisted of delicious Betty’s salmon and prawn sandwiches accompanied by a can of Pimms each. We sat by one of the lily ponds and were joined by a squirrel, a blackbird and two robins – they all had some of our bread so that saved us a few calories. The highlight was the appearance of a large dragonfly, darting back and forth across the water. Between us we took a ridiculous number of photos in an attempt to capture it – not literally of course. It only actually featured in two of mine – I like to think the pink glow at the top of the photo is caused by the sun, but I think it’s more likely my finger!

I’ve been playing at being a famous wildlife photographer  in my garden too – as well as the birds and the bees there are so many butterfies around at the moment. You’ll be glad to know I didn’t take a photo of the dead rat I found when I pulled back some montbretia, while searching for space for pulmonaria plants (lungwort), donated by Victoria – Grumbling Rose was summoned to deal with the rodent!

Flower Power

I’m really benefiting from the power of flowers at the moment. When I step out into the garden first thing with my mug of tea, the sight of all the brightly coloured blooms sets me up in a happy frame of mind, which makes me feel ready to deal with whatever the day may bring.

Flower Power” was a phrase coined in the late 1960s/early 70s and is particularly associated with peaceful protests against the Vietnam war. This was reflected at the time in fashion and music – psychedelic fabrics embroidered with flowers and songs such as Scott McKenzie’s – “If you’re going to San Francisco, Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair …”. I entered my teens in the early 70s. This coincided with me learning to use a sewing machine and getting into making my own clothes. I ran up several hippie-style long skirts which I wore throughout one of the summer holidays. I remember my Mum coming home from an Inner Wheel meeting and telling me that one of the snobbier ladies had commented, while looking down her long nose, that she had been a little taken aback to have seen me in town wearing one of my creations – heaven forbid!

Some flowers have powerful scents – I frequently sniff them in my own garden and when I’m out walking – my Mum used to tease me that I’d be stung on the nose by a bee one of these days. Of course flowers provide the ingredients for many of our favourite perfumes. Having mentioned the early 70s above, I can’t help thinking of my first perfume – Charlie – a blend of citrus, rose and vanilla – I gather you can still buy it – I won’t be though – I think I used to layer it on a bit too thickly and it makes me feel a bit queasy thinking about it now. Another piece of advice from my Mum was that if you can smell your own perfume, you’ve got too much on – maybe she was right.

The power of flowers is used to promote charities – we donate to the Royal British Legion and Marie Curie, wearing our poppies and daffodils with pride. There seems no end to their talents (well, some of them) – arnica definitely reduces bruising and lavender helps with sleep and relaxation. Apparently jasmine flowers can heal aches and pains – I don’t have any of them so I’m unable to test this out. Rose petals and hawthorn are said to improve circulation and heart health – I’m hoping I won’t need to try those any time soon. Passion flowers are said to cure stress, insomnia, depression, anxiety and panic attacks – my plant was frozen to death last winter so maybe I should think about replacing it!

And then there’s flower symbolism – Rosemary for remembrance, Forget-me-nots (no explanation required), Violets (purple for modesty, white for innocence) and Red Roses for passion. Victorian men would send bouquets that conveyed a message through the choice of flowers – no doubt their fiancées and wives received the violets, while their mistresses enjoyed the red roses!

Everything’s Coming up Roses!

You may recall that recently I’ve moaned about the damage our cold winter did to some of my garden plants. However I am happy to report that it certainly hasn’t affected my roses adversely – the exact opposite it would seem – Elvis Costello sums it up well – “It’s been a good year for the roses“. The song was in the charts in 1981- the year after Grumbling Rose and I were married. I read the lyrics recently as, despite having hummed along to it for 40 years, I could only recall the words of the last line of the chorus – it’s actually a depressing tale about a marriage breakup!

Everything’s Coming Up Roses” is a song from the 1959 Broadway Musical Gypsy – that was the year after I was born (is there a pattern emerging here?!). The title of the song is a play on words – in the show the song is performed by pushy Momma Rose, who has just learned that her daughter June has eloped and left her in the lurch, without a star for the stage show Rose has put everything into – she then focuses on making her other daughter Louise a star – it comes back to bite Rose because shy and retiring Louise loses her inhibitions and ultimately becomes the major burlesque star, Gypsy Rose Lee, casting Rose aside. Depending on which version of the show you see, they may or may not be reconciled in the end.

There are too many songs featuring roses to go on with this much longer, but there is just one more I’ll mention which evokes particular memories for me – not the song itself, made famous by Edith Piaf, but its title, “La Vie en Rose“. This was the name of a Berlin cabaret club Grumbling Rose and I visited with his parents in the early 80s. We had been given “free” tickets which included a “free” glass of “champagne” – in reality something resembling Pomagne. The theatre was laid out cabaret style. We took our seats at a small round table and settled down to watch the show which initially involved a lot of bare flesh and carefully placed feather fans. Grumbling Rose and his Dad were on the edge of their seats, eyes on stalks – I couldn’t bring myself to look at his Mum. We had no sooner finished our drinks than we were swooped upon by a tangoed waiter, wearing only tiny black shorts and a bow tie.

Would you like to order another drink?”

Could we see the menu?”

At this point Grumbling Rose and his Dad nearly fell off their seats – the prices were extortionate!

The waiter was back before we knew it –

Could we have a few more minutes to decide“;

then there he was again –

We’ve decided we’ll wait a bit thank you“.

He turned on his heels without a word. Our eyes returned to the stage which still featured a lot of bare flesh, but this time adorned with black fishnet stockings, bowler hats and fake beauty spots. The next we knew, a glamorous , sophisticated woman appeared at our table – she told us in no uncertain terms that if we wished to stay any longer to enjoy the show, the expectation was that we would buy more drinks. We left hastily – in hindsight we were maybe a tad naive!

Of all my lovely roses Captain Sir Tom has triumphed over adversity, following in the footsteps of his stoic namesake. He’s fought through greenfly, whitefly, blackspot and torrential rain (see below for before and after rain), to produce an abundance of beautiful red, long-lasting blooms.

Last Saturday Grumbling Rose tested positive with Covid. We are now both isolating for 10 days, so once again I am thanking my lucky stars that I have my garden to care for and enjoy.

It’s been a good year for the roses!

Trial and Error

Note to self – ‘must get better at this hardening off lark‘. Now that it’s substantially warmer both day and night,  I mistakenly thought if I transferred my young plants from my conservatory to my plastic greenhouse for a few nights and then left them out on my garden table for a few more nights, that should do it. However I soon realised all was not well as they started to look a bit pale in parts and crumbly round the edges – including, horror of horrors, my verbena bonariensis. Having now read round the subject it seems the process is more of a hokey cokey activity ie in out, in out, but without the ‘shake it all about‘ of course. It seems I should have put them in my plastic greenhouse for a few days and nights, then put them out during the day and back in at night, the whole process taking as much as a fortnight. Anyway I think I’ve saved most of them – although my morning glory is looking a bit suspect….

Here I must digress to tell you that I have clearly led a sheltered life. When I told  my daughter Rosy that the morning glory was looking a bit limp, she seemed taken aback. “Mum that’s too much information!” Once she realised I was puzzled and I had clarified I was talking about a plant,  she explained that “morning glory” is a name given to early morning erections experienced by men! I was horrified, my mind was racing.  How many people had I imparted this news to over the past week? What had they thought? Were they oblivious like me, or were they chuckling heartily behind my back and regailing the story to all and sundry? After over 60 years on this earth how could this have bypassed me. I looked up the proper name for the morning glory plant  – it’s “Ipomoea” – but I keep forgetting it. Anyway one of the plants, which is little more than a straggly stem with one leaf left on it, has somehow managed to produce a solitary flower!

As mentioned earlier in the year, having become familiar with the poem Bernard and Cerinthe, I thought I would try my hand at growing some Cerinthes from seed. These haven’t turned out quite as envisaged. Again with belated research I realise I should have pinched them out. To be honest I had very little idea what they should look like. The seed packet shows a close up of some flowers and there is no mention of pinching out in the instructions. It was only when I saw a photo in Garden News recently – Carol Klein standing proudly next to her pots of Cerinthes – that I realised mine are just wrong. Instead of being bushy they look more like triffids. However the flowers are beautiful so I’ve reclassified them as trailing plants for pots and hanging baskets. 

Poor Captain Sir Tom – he is finally producing some buds, but  having rid himself of greenfly, he now has a touch of black spot. I am carefully picking off his affected appendages rather than resorting to chemicals. Another war I am continuing to wage is against slugs and snails. I am using copious quantities of copper tape and Grazers spray – all harmless, even to the slugs and snails – they just don’t like the taste of the spray and apparently are repelled by copper because of the reaction between the mucous produced by the slug or snail and the copper – that’s all those slimy trails to you and me. The ads say the copper tape can also look attractive – obviously not the way I put it on! These are some of my ‘weapons without destruction’.

I did read a somewhat macabre reader’s tip in Garden News – instead of buying cane toppers to stop you poking your eyes out, he uses snail shells! Hopefully they’re empty ones he’s found lying around the garden, but it does bring to mind those old sketches of heads on stakes on London Bridge!

My courgette plants are flowering and one mini courgette has made an appearance (they are supposed to be small by the way) – although when I look at it I get a flashback to my morning glory episode! One of my courgette plants has its stem bandaged with insulating tape because it split – it’s still growing though, so there’s hope yet. I have counted the number of flowers on my patio raspberry and black currant plants – they total 22 between them. I also have 2 strawberry plants in pots – I can see 15 strawberries developing – it’s not exactly going to be a feast when they ripen, but I will savour every one.  Carol Klein recently gave us a tip regarding basil. “Buy a supermarket basil – they never last long because they consist of numerous plants all fighting for space – break it down into a number of plants” she said. Not one to pass up a bargain, I couldn’t resist – I now have 23 individual basil  plants – I love basil but …. I am gradually giving them away and I guess I need to start making pesto!

And finally – the ceanothus and wisteria have fought back against Jack! The final photo is of the wisteria in the dark, but I really included it because I thought the sky was so beautiful that evening.

Jack Frost has a lot to answer for!

Jack has wreaked havoc in the garden this year. He nearly killed my beautiful ceanothus, he has definitely murdered my spectacular potted hebe, and severely depleted the flowers on my clematis montana and wisteria. While he seemed to have disappeared a couple of weeks ago he was clearly lurking somewhere when I decided to harden off some of my seemingly well established plants, painstakingly grown from seed. I should have waited, but Jack managed to lure me into a false sense of security – he was still making sure the night air was unseasonably cold and my plants are looking sorry for themselves.

Now that it’s warmed up and we’ve had rain in biblical proportions for weeks on end, I reckon he’s summoned every garden beastie he knows to come feast on my young plants and some of the more well established ones too – he’s so spiteful. Poor Captain Sir Tom had a case of greenfly – luckily I spotted them and blasted them off with the hose spray – he wasn’t the only one – my other roses got the same treatment, as did my apple and cherry trees – I’ve warned them it’s unlikely to be the last time they are subjected to this. I mustn’t feel too picked on though – ants have invaded Victoria’s garden and eaten right through her potato stem!

Look out! Look out!
Jack Frost is about!
He’s after our fingers and toes;
And all through the night,
The gay little sprite
Is working where nobody knows.
He’ll climb each tree,
So nimble is he,
His silvery powder he’ll shake;
To windows he’ll creep
And while we’re asleep,
Such wonderful pictures he’ll make.
Across the grass,
He’ll merrily pass,
And change all its greenness to white;
Then home he will go
And laugh, “Ho! Ho! Ho!
What fun I have had in the night!

Then there are the slugs and snails – they look to move slowly when you watch them but they must be on speed at night! The amount of damage they can do is incredible – I don’t know how they don’t explode out of their shells, the amount they tuck away. The small ones are the worst – this is a mugshot of one such criminal taken next to my little finger nail to demonstrate its minuscule vital statistics.

Then there are the slugs and snails – they look to move slowly when you watch them but they must be on speed at night! The amount of damage they can do is incredible – I don’t know how they don’t explode out of their shells, the amount they tuck away. The small ones are the worst – this is a mugshot of one such criminal taken next to my little finger nail to demonstrate its minuscule vital statistics.

We are now promised a heatwave so next time I’ll probably be reporting that all my plants have been scorched and there is a hosepipe ban – thankfully all my water butts are full to the brim at the moment!

There is some good news though – my verbena bonariensis seeds finally decided to put in an appearance!

Forget Me Not

30 March 2021 was the day I lost my beautiful Mum. She was adored by us all. Her resting place is with my Dad next to a pretty church garden. They loved their gardens so this seems very fitting. During my early years my Dad was in the army so I was 9 before they owned their first garden. My memories are of long hot summer holidays playing with my two sisters in the garden our parents created together. My Dad did all the terracing and paving and my Mum was the gardener. She taught us how to play French cricket on the small lawn and she would disappear off into the kitchen, returning with a tray of ice cream sodas and chocolate fingers, which we used as spoons.

Their next garden was where our children played. It was large, wrapped around a substantial bungalow. The lawn was much bigger with plenty of room for football, paddling pools, space hopper races, swing ball and in the winter, snowman and igloo building. The rest of the garden was a series of paved terraces which my Dad constructed. My Mum loved to plant lavender between the paving stones. My Dad created a couple of small ponds. To their 5 grandchildren it was like the Secret Garden with lots of places to hide, fairy ornaments, wind chimes and a miniature lighthouse near one of the ponds, to name but a few of its magical features.

My parents had to leave their home 5 years ago when my Mum’s Parkinson’s and dementia became too severe for us to manage. Sadly they then lived separately as she moved to a nursing home and my Dad to a flat. Before the bungalow was sold I transferred some plants and small trees to my own garden. I didn’t have any forget-me-nots before that, but I do now – they spring up at this time of year in different places. 

After my Mum died my house was filled with cards and beautiful flowers some from friends and some from her colourful funeral spray – I wish she could have seen them all. 

We have all grieved for her as she deteriorated over the years but we count ourselves lucky that she never forgot who we all were and she will live on through the memories we cherish.

We’re here
You’re not
You used to be though
We knew we’d find you here

The lavender you planted 
In the gaps between the paving
Now a purple explosion
Humming with bees

The soporific scent
Lost from your world
Taken away
By a cruel disease

Your beautiful creation
Now overgrown
A haven for wildlife
Until the diggers move in

Stormy Weather!

Well it’s certainly been very windy over the past few days, but I think I’ve got off relatively lightly in terms of damage in the garden – thankfully no repeat of last summer’s plastic greenhouse episode! The only slight drama this morning was when Grumbling Rose noticed that the force of the wind had snapped the ties holding my ceanothus tree against the fence. It was bent double and looking very forlorn. As he flew out of the door on his way to an appointment, he was very emphatic about the urgency of rectifying the situation as soon as he returned. On the way to said appointment he clearly went into army orders mode. I received a text and a phone message instructing me to measure up for a stake and check our supply of rubber tree ties – he would buy whatever was needed on his way home. This is the man who doesn’t “do” gardening! I wasn’t dressed at this stage but I dutifully donned my covid uniform (black leggings and the top I’ve been wearing all week), my gardening coat and crocs and ventured out into the storm. Poor ceanothus, it was looking sad. I returned to the garage and rifled through Grumbling Rose’s bag of varying lengths of rope – all tangled up like spaghetti. I found a few that looked like they would do and set too, battling against the wind and rain to straighten up the tree and tie it temporarily to two concrete boundary posts. There, it looked much happier already. Measuring done I followed orders, texting the length of stake required and a photo of the numerous tree ties in my gardening box.

A couple of hours later Grumbling Rose returned with not one, but three 6ft tree stakes – apparently they were on a 3 for 2 offer. To me this is just more clutter to store somewhere, but I didn’t like to dampen the joy the bargain had engendered. I advised which side of the trunk the stake needed to go to ensure the tree would generally blow away from it – this had involved Googling which direction the prevailing wind comes from, because I hadn’t a clue. Apparently in the UK it mostly comes from the west or south-west. Before I knew it the ladders were up against the fence and Grumbling Rose was swaying about precariously on the top rung, wielding a sledgehammer to drive the stake home. A few rubber ties later and the job was done. The ceanothus is the one with bright blue flowers on the left of the photo below – it’s now about 8 feet tall!

Grumbling Rose has been living up to his name again this week – although I have to admit, not entirely without justification. The conservatory floor is now covered with an array of plant pots containing the seedlings I have grown so far. I think I might have a problem. As soon as one lot of seeds has germinated and been potted on, I can’t resist sowing some more. In addition to my own purchases, Victoria has donated numerous packets of seeds that came free with Garden News. These included “Morning Glory” – I was so excited – I had only last week been listening to Carol Klein extolling the virtues of these climbers. I couldn’t believe how quickly they grew – they are on the right in the photo below, only 5 days after sowing, along with some courgette seedlings, which grew equally quickly!

The same can’t be said of the verbena bonariensis – not so much as a peep out of them. I have reviewed the instructions on the back of the seed packet – it does say germination is generally between 10 and 35 days, so I’m trying to keep positive. The packet also says that if germination is erratic, to put the seeds in the fridge for a fortnight – I guess that would shock anyone into action!