Friday, 31 December 2010

Days of Auld Lang Syne

To-day in Scotland it's Hogmanay, which is not, as some might think, a drunken revelry (that comes later)
but is rather a time for reflection, and clearing the decks in readiness for the New Year. Bills paid, amends made, my mother would spend the day scouring the house and doing an enormous washing, for come the bells, there must not be a speck of dirt in the house. Just before midnight, even the ashes were raked from the grate. A window was opened, to let out the old year, then the front door, to let in the new. An uncle soon appeared, to ensure our "first foot" would be male, laden with food, drink and fuel, shortbread, whisky and coal.
Everything that happened at New Year was supposed to be symbolic of how the year would be and so much stress was placed on seeing in the bells at home with your loved ones that the English tradition of gathering in Trafalgar Square seemed very alien and not a little reckless. But times change and now Edinburgh has become so famous as party central that you have to buy a ticket for the Princes Street celebrations. From my house, I can see the shimmer of the fireworks and a moment later hear the "Crump!" Indeed, if I drove five minutes down the road I'd have a terrific view of Edinburgh Castle, but old habits die hard. Do I really want to be out on the streets come the bells? What would that presage?
Happy New Year!
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Cabin Fever

Oh snow, not again. Am snow scunnered. Sorry to drop into dialect, but sometimes English is just not enough. I am not annoyed, irritated or fed up, I'm scunnered.
Right, that's that off my chest.
Last week was spent doing some serious number-crunching, so to cheer myself up I indulged in a spot of retail therapy, courtesy of you, the tax-payer. I ordered four apples, a plum, a pear and a cherry for the potager. The apples will be trained as stepovers along the central path and the plum, pear and cherry will, eventually, be fans to make a lovely backdrop of blossom and fruit. I know it's a gamble, given the precarious state of local government finance, but although you should live each day as if it's going to be your last, you have to garden as if you're going to live forever.
So thank you, fellow tax-payer, your generosity is appreciated. I also ordered some young perennials. Potted up and grown on, I'll sell them at our open day and the profit from that will more than cover the cost of the fruit trees. El Jeffe is talking about having three open days next year. Not sure if that's economically sound, but who am I to question my superiors?
Well, it's stopped snowing, so I'll go and clear the drive. May you all have a wonderful Christmas, and a happy New Year. Lang may yir lum reek!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Morning Rush Hour
This is actually a picture I took last year, cos my phone and netbook are not speaking to each other. Something to do with Mercury being retrograde, I'm told, but it's all magic moonbeams to me. Anyway, this latest batch of snow is much deeper and still lying on the trees. It's so deep we're closed to the public so I've not had to rescue anyone (yet). Most of the gardeners have been seconded to the roads department and despite working their socks off to clear roads and pavements, they're still being subjected to dog's abuse from the very people whose cars they're pushing out of drifts. Honestly. So if you see some yellow coated homunculi spreading grit or shovelling snow, please don't throw things at them, or swear, or tell them it's all their fault you can't get to work.
The good news is the greenhouses are still standing, only five panes cracked. Last winter two unheated houses and two netting tunnels collapsed under the weight of snow. It was a horrific sight, all that broken glass and tortured metal, it gave me an inkling of how devastating earthquakes and the like must be. If it felt that bad seeing my workplace destroyed, how awful is it when your home's in ruins? This brings me to something that's been preying on my mind a lot. The plan to evict council house tenants if their income enables them to rent privately horrifies me. How evil to destroy people's security of tenure and turn housing schemes into transit camps for the poor. You may have been brought up to not play with those dirty schemies, and don't understand anyone wanting to live there, but believe me, the vast majority are decent, hardworking people. Why they should work to line the pockets of private landlords is beyond me.It's obscene and will turn housing schemes into ghettoes and I'm surprised that it's caused so little comment.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, 28 November 2010

The Bard of Govan

Hello again, sorry it's been such a long time, but the talk is all about cuts and if I hear the phrase "tough decisions" once more I may forget I'm a lady. It's just too, too dismal for words. So I cheer myself up by singing a little ditty I once heard on a late night bus in Glasgow. I've translated it into English as well as I could, and I hope you get the gist.

I'm a wee, wee Weegie and true to my roots,
I love the clatter of tackety boots
 And I still recall the last dying fall
Of the ships on the Clyde at New Year...
I'm a Red Clydesider, I stick to my guns
And I ne'er trouble trouble until trouble comes
But if you get my back up against a wall
I'll  "gie ye the nut", stick my knee in your balls
Cos I get a bit bolshy if you give me a fright
And in Glasgow even hippies have to learn how to fight
For we know about trouble, we know about grim
And we know that the main thing is never give in.
They can beat you, they can batter you,
You just keep coming back,
Keep your eye out for the weak spot then into attack.
And if your still defeated though you've tried your best
Remember - the greatest revenge is 

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Sad though it is to say goodbye to Summer, I'm trying to focus on all the things I like about Autumn. The colour of the Virginia creeper is one of my favourites and the crunch of beech mast underfoot is another. Then there's the winemaking, redcurrant, plum and elderberry are bubbling away and as soon as there's a frost I'll gather rosehips. The Egremont russets are ready to eat and the pears are almost there. So it's not all bad, despite the dark mornings. Talking of which, I'd best be on my way, I've got 5 minutes to get to work.(Ah, the pressure, the pressure!)
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Memories Are Made Of This

Just a wee picture showing the overall layout of the annual border with the veg beds in the foreground.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Easy Does It

We've been quite busy growing the winter bedding, pruning, weeding and re-arranging the areas where we keep the shrubs, but every day I find myself just standing and staring at the big annual border I sowed in June. This is the "hot" section, with eschsoltzia, cosmos and Shirley poppies which I love to watch unfold. It was all a bit of an afterthought when it became apparent that the planned herbaceous border wasn't going to happen, so I just drew drifts with sand and sowed hardy annuals in a rainbow pattern . Easy Peasy. Now I'm thinking I like it so much it might become a regular feature.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Went up to town to-day to buy wine-making supplies. While there I thought I should avail myself of some of the delights of the Festival, but there's so much on offer you feel saturated just reading the programme. I reckon the best show in town can be enjoyed by watching the ebb and flow of  humanity: the look-at-me's, the wannabes, the ninja- like black-clad techies. But I dragged myself away from all this and visited  the Impressionists' Gardens, courtesy of the National Galleries of Scotland. It includes work by pre- and post-impressionists, from Corot to Klimt and recognises the debt owed by artists to horticulture. One Monet in particular stood out, and I envied the gallery attendant as he can spend from now till October looking at it. This Berthe Morisot, "Child Amongst Hollyhocks", was new to me and has embedded itself firmly in my all-time favourites list. I am that little girl! After Edinburgh the exhibition transfers to London. If you can, do yourself a favour and spend the day with these paintings, I know I'll be back.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010


Lammas, the third quarter day of the year, was traditionally the celebration of harvest and came under the dominion of the sun god, Lugh. So it seems appropriate to pause and count my blessings. The potager has lived up to its name and given us wonderful peas, carrots, beets, onions, shallots and leeks, with potatoes and beans still to come. The Future Jobs Scheme boys did a magnificent job of preparing the ground, trenching and barrowing in innumerable loads of manure, and the results have been impressive. A nice by-blow has been Ped's conversion to growing veg, he's planning raised beds and has meantime sown some phacelia to green manure his garden.
The hanging baskets have also been outstanding this season, Fi1 did a great job of them and she and Jesus have looked after them well. No, she's not become a Holy Roller, Jesus is our summer temp from Spain.
At home it looks as if the celery is going to be the top crop. The walnut trees in the park have set well and I hope that later on we'll be enjoying homegrown Waldorf salad.
A phrase I haven't thought of for years comes to mind, my old school motto : Ah, qui'l est bon, le bon Dieu!
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Just Another Day in Paradise

Welcome to Bub and Kyna, your wit is much appreciated, and also to anyone else daft enough to read this.
Anyway, I was reminded that I'd promised to give a talk to the local horticultural society, they asked for a "day in the life" sort of thing. Now I'm bricking it. Naturally socially inept and retiring, ten years of living in a park has left me shy to the point of sociophobia. Sometimes I wonder if I'm a touch autistic, but my son assures me I'm no worse than most. Still, although it's not till November, I think I should make a start on my talk.
My day begins at 7.30, which I think comes under the heading of "Cruel and Unusual Punishments". It took me ages to get used to it but now I can see that it's often the best part of the day, except when it's dark and dreich and thoroughly horrid. At least my commute is short, two minutes or so and I'm at the Walled Garden where my hothouses are. At this time of year I get an enormous waft of perfume from the honeysuckle growing to the left of the gate, while last month the wisteria repaid all the time I've spent pruning it with spectacular amethyst flowers.
As I come in, I check out the pears' progress. They get the benefit of the south facing wall and are a mass of white blossom in Spring and dripping with the best fruit I've ever eaten in Autumn. There are cherries and plums as well on the east wall and apples and more plums outside. There was a peach, I'm told, and vines but the old range of glasshouses where they grew has fallen into such disrepair that we're forbidden to go in there. Of course we ignored this, so The Boss had the place nailed shut.
It would be wonderful to restore these, but various clerks of work have tried and failed even before the current crisis. Ah well.
As I enter the first greenhouse, I hear the piteous wail of Chocolate the Nursery cat. She sounds as if she hasn't eaten for days, but this is belied by her shiny coat. She's very affectionate, loves a cuddle and even if it's only cupboard love it's a nice welcome to work.
My minions join me and we get stuck in. One of the girls waters the hanging baskets so she sets off in her van to do her rounds. We have an automated irrigation system but there are always dry patches so whoever's on at the weekend does the watering and gives the plants a foliar feed while the others issue plants to the area squads who descend on us like pillaging hordes. Well, some do, others come in, look around gormlessly, and say, "Eh, you've to give us the plants for King's Park." What kind of plants, we ask. "Eh,...marigolds?" What kind of marigolds? Shrug. African Marigolds? French Marigolds? Shrug.Calendula? They start to panic. Big ones or wee ones? Yellow orange or red ones? By this time they're looking like rabbits caught in headlamps so we take pity on them and tell them what would look good together and how many they'll need and suggest a few dot plants for added interest. By this time it's nine o'clock and time for teabreak.
Well I think that's enough for now, it's ten o'clock so I have to go and lock up.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Kelways' Peony Valley

Posted by Picasa

Wish You Were Here?

As it's quietish at work, I took some time off and headed down to the West Country. I have many happy memories of a dippy hippy summer there when I was 19, travelling round the area by local bus which is a great way of exploring. Now that I'm an old lady, this time I took a little more than the sleeping bag which was all I needed then. My only regret about that holiday was not spending more time in Wells, so I made a leisurely tour of it, and ended the day with Evensong in the Cathedral. Magic, if that's not too heretical a word.
Then I visited Kelways, THE peony people. I've already placed an on-line order with them, but couldn't resist buying just one more and some iris. I popped in to their trials ground, which was a dreamworld of colour and scent. Led, literally, by the nose, I wandered happily, finding another two varieties to add to my list, Coral Charm and Felix Supreme. Life as a public sector employee feels very insecure these days, and my house is tied to my job, so maybe it's foolish to invest in the garden but I can't help it. The next day I went to Hestercombe, a beautiful place which has a wonderful landscape and a formal Lutyens/Jekyll garden, pictured above. And yes, I couldn't resist some bargains in the shop, galega, sisyrinchium and another iris. With the car now resembling a greenhouse, I trundled back up the motorway then home through winding Borders roads.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, 18 June 2010


Recently we were discussing "The No Brown In Town" rule on Edith Hope's brilliant blog. How I   wholeheartedly agreed, having always thought that brown carex in particular was vile. To-day however, I realised there was one brown I'd never be without - Bronze Fennel. It's been a mainstay in my last three gardens, where it fills me with joy to see its feathery new growth each spring. The rabbits love it too, but are easily deterred by leaving the old stems in place for a while. These stems then make wonderfully aromatic kindling.
Mmm. Have to go and see a man about Brown Trout.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Leaf it out

The garden seems terribly quiet now those rackety squaddies, the Praestans Fusiliers, have completed their tour of duty. It's the first time I've grown these gorgeous scarlet tulips, but from now on there will always be a place for them. I bade them a fond farewell like a Victorian maiden watching the garrison leave town. To the regiment!
Meantime, I'm learning to appreciate the textures created by the (entirely unplanned) juxtaposition of foliage. Could I be developing Good Taste? Fat chance. Round the corner my rescue rhoddendrons are billowing masses of Barbara Cartland pink and Papaver orientalis Brilliant is hovering in the wings.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, 27 May 2010

The flowers that bloom in the Spring (tra la)

Why is it that no matter how hard you've been working, a boss only appears the second you sit down? Since 7.30, we'd watered, fed and sprayed the bedding, inventoried the herbaceous perennials, shifted shrubs, moved hanging baskets utside to harden off, built a frame to keep the containerised trees upright and secured them to it, helped the Future Jobs Scheme boys with their annual border, planted up the beds in front of the bothy and weeded the Peace Garden. We'd just sat down for a cuppa when along came a foreman. Ach. Some days, you just can't win.
Took a wander after work and saw the tree paeonies (P. delaveyi) were in flower. I love these deep maroon flowers with their golden anthers, not least because I grew them from seed three or four years ago. The seeds are very large, black and shiny. They germinate easily but slowly, needing two winters in a cold frame. The feathery leaves make a nice contrast with the rhodies.
I've enjoyed seeing Chelsea, but some of the coverage has been truly apalling. To-day they cut to Carol Klein in the vegetable tent and I thought, good, this'll be interesting, but they immediately switched to that stupid woman with the strangulated vowels and weird jerky gestures, wittering on about the language of flowers. Could the director be the same eedjit who's ruined Gardeners' World?
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Dahlia iacta est

Perhaps I spent too long in the sun weeding. It was lovely to work so close to the earth again after months in the greenhouses, and when I got home I just carried on and planted my third lot of gladies, meconopsis grown from saved seed, oriental poppies, catanache and finally, the dahlias went in. My "cutting garden " is almost complete, just the chrysanths and sunflowers to come. And of course, the staking. But that's enough for one day, and now it's time to go and lock up and hurl abuse at some rabbits.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, 7 May 2010

It's a beautiful May evening, clear blue sky and only the faintest of breezes. This means a frost is likely so I went down to cover the hanging baskets with fleece. I shut Chocolate in the greenhouse as she seems to think billowing fabric is a big monster she needs to defend me against. She could be right. It took me an hour, there was just enough wind to make it awkward and I ended up looking like some nightmarish version of the dance of the seven veils.
We're all pretty tired now, just fifty more baskets to make and the golden moss to prick out and the summer bedding will be done. Yipee! I'm on watering duties this weekend, but I reckon I'll go mad and have a glass of wine. Slainte. Or wassail, as I believe they say down south .
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit, rabbit...

It was, I know, too good to last.For the last few weeks, the garden's been bedecked with colour: sapphire, amethyst, garnet and gold, as pretty as a book of hours. This unusual state of affairs has been down to a distinct lack of rabbits, only a few rather haggard individuals having survived the winter. The pest control officer tells me they've been hit by a disease, not mixy but something equally fatal.
Alas, poor rabbits. I almost felt sorry for them, but the memory of the marmalised espaliers is still too fresh. And now, they're back!
Yesterday morning, there they were, four baby buns. Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Dough Head (there's always one).
Yes, they're cute. No, they haven't started on the flowers (yet). But we all know that they will breed like, well, like rabbits.

Dear God, please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Let There Be Light

One of the reasons I became a gardener is that I need lots of sunshine. Most Winters I'd happily hibernate and by February I'm hanging on by my fingernails. This year's been not bad though, and I put that down to lashing out on an SAD lamp and an alarm clock which simulates dawn. No more abrupt awakening on bleak black mornings for me. It's worked like a charm, and despite all the hassles of recent months I've remained reasonably unruffled. You may be cynical but all I'm saying is that sunlight gives me energy.
So it is with plants.Sunlight powers photosynthesis,  the mechanism which turns soil, air and water into plants. Once your seedlings have germinated it's important that they receive adequate light, or they will put their energy into stretching towards the light instead of becoming strong and stocky. Professional growers spend huge sums on artificial lighting as it's a cost-effective investment. 
We don't need to go to these lengths, unless we're trying to grow giant veg or unseasonal crops or living in areas with low light levels. If you're growing seedlings on a windowsill a reflector will help, or simply being patient and sowing two or three weeks later will make a difference. Low light levels and high temperatures are an unhealthy mix, so it's better to turn down the heat. Slow steady growth will be more pest and disease resistant than plants which have been forced.
Here endeth the lesson. Hope I've not bored you, but I do feel this subject is neglected in most books.


Saturday, 10 April 2010

At long last - Spring!

As I was locking up the other night I noticed one of my favourite rhodies had suddenly burst into full bloom. Hurrah, let's hope this five month winter is finally over! Sure enough, buds are opening , birds are singing and believe it or not I'm happy to see the weeds are growing. The wheel turns, even if it's grindingly, achingly slow sometimes.
I'm going to spend to-day zhuzhing-up the front garden and making a start on my cut flower patch by planting sweet peas. I usually go for the sugared almond shades, but this year I noticed "Miss Wilmott", for sale. It's a lovely mixture of hot colours. A dwarf form, "Bijou", is also ready to leave the cold greenhouse, I'm going to try it in a large pot placed at head height so I can savour the scent.
In the vegetable kingdom I was delighted to see cauliflower, broccoli and leeks had germinated without the help of heating; I've grown so used to using heating mats it seemed little short of miraculous. It will be interesting to see if they catch up with the earlier sowings I made.
Now, please don't misunderstand my interest in peat free compost. I've driven across Ireland, which I love, and I can't see that destroying peatbogs is necessarily a bad thing. The trade has been instructed however to cut back on the use of peat and to give it up completely by 2020. And I know this winter may have made some people cynical about global warming, but as we're on the same latitude as Moscow this winter will seem mild if melting ice caps dilute the Gulf Stream. So I've got to find an alternative. The experiment of using leafmould with a pinch of blood, fish and bone as an alternative to peat seems to have been successful, there's no difference between the tomato and lettuce seedlings I pricked out into this mix and those in a good quality commercial compost. Those who're looking for peat alternatives might want to check out biochar; sold under the name of "Carbon Gold" it has had good reviews in Horticulture Week. I'm certainly going to try it as soon as it's available. 

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Happy Easter one and all. The picture below was the view from the living room window on Thursday. The blizzard had also taken down the phone and power lines but at least I could still make a cup of tea on the camping stove. We've lost 35 panes of glass from the greenhouses just from the sheer weight of snow, and of course it's stopped work on the new poly tunnel which is being built to replace the houses we lost in January. So we're nearly all out of space and we've still got loads of stuff to do. I'm hoping it will thaw soon so I can put the hardier plants outside in order to free up room for those hideous pom-poms on sticks, the African Marigolds. I've cut down the amount of these over the years, but there aren't many plants which flower non-stop for four months without dead-heading. If anyone's got any ideas on Parks bedding, even if it's turf over the lot, I'd be glad to hear your views.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, 16 March 2010


Chocolate was a tiny little kitten found lurking round the bins at the Big House four or five years ago. Our previous mouser, Smokey, had given us eighteen years of loyal service despite having to share her food with a robin and a blackbird, so I figured the greenhouses couldn't be too bad a billet. I took her to the vet then after recuperation she moved into the walled garden and soon became indispensable. She's got a lovely nature and has learned not to walk on the seedlings. Like all proud mamas I think she's beautiful and clever. Not only has she dealt with the mice, she can also take out pigeons and small rabbits. She enjoys going out with us when we're working on the shrubberies, but is very wary of  dogs and bolts up the nearest tree if one appears.Here she is guarding a tray of Digitalis purpurea Alba, destined for the Rangers' carpark.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Welcome to my world. If home is where the heart is, then this must be my kitchen. This is the seedhouse, one of six heated houses where we grow the flowers for the county. ''We'' are the two Fi's, Ped, Ronnie, myself and Chocolate the cat. It takes just over 100,000 plants to fill our parks and streets with colour each spring, so the next few weeks are a race against time. About 95% are raised from seed,  some are cuttings from overwintered stock and the rest are bought in as tiny plugs when  it is more economical to do so. This is because tuberous begonias and geraniums need to be started in January, and the heating costs then would be prohibitive.
In the seedhouse I have the luxury of four thermostatically controlled mats so I can germinate several different varieties at one time. The sowing schedule needs to be carefully considered to allow for differing germination times, temperatures, seed to flower periods and to ensure a reasonably steady flow of seedlings ready to be pricked out into their sixpacks. It's more straightforward than it perhaps sounds, the tricky bit is keeping them in good condition until they're all planted out in June.
So begins another Spring. Antirrhinum first, next lobelia, cineraria, dianthus and aster; these have already germinated and we've pricked out the last two. To-morrow we'll do the antis, and I'll sow ageratum, dahlia and impatiens this week. To watch the houses fill is so satisfying, in a couple of weeks space will grow tight and we'll have to put the hardier specimens outside and keep a very close watch on the sky. Wish me luck!

Monday, 1 March 2010

Little Gems

I went to draw the curtains to-night and was lured outside by a big yellow moon. Lliving here you are  free from light pollution; on a night  like this you grow dizzy as innumerable stars pull you through indescribable distances.
Best bit of to-day - the sight (and sound) of  two swans, wings beating in harmony, crossing a clear blue sky.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010


This is the sound of me bouncing back. The best thing about having a low boredom threshhold is that I get fed up with being down. So no more wallowing in a trough of despond. It's up and at 'em, once more unto the breach dear friends and all that jazz. So the forecast for Saturday is -6? I laugh in the face of such silly prophecy. I imagine Canadians saying " -6 (or whatever that is in fahrenheit) zut alors, let's take off the snowchains and wheel out the barbie, cheri."
While not quite that foolhardy, I got my new roses planted yesterday before the latest blizzard reached us. I know, roses, how passe, but they'll look lovely with my infra-dig dahlias and gladies. I'm hoping to have lots of flowers for the house this year. We used to grow rows of dahlias, chrysanths, sweet peas and gladioli for the offices before the bean counters took over, and I find I rather miss them. So I'm going to have a fifties style patch to the side of the house and hope it will draw the eye away from the oil tank.  A trellis of Sweet pea Miss Wilmott in fiery shades, behind massed battalions of gladi and cactus dahlias with a few incurved chrysanths and some cream coloured sunflowers to soften the whole. You may well reach for your migraine tablets, but don't worry, the best laid plans gang aft agley. Be warned though, I'm quite good at catching the zeitgeist and those of a nervous disposition might wish to invest in some serious sunglasses.
Round the back of the house will be more restful, with white Cupid's Dart, blue amsonia, monkshood and asters joining Excelsior foxgloves which seperate the  fruit trees from  the woods. Gardening beside a rabbit warren is a bit of a challenge, so we'll just have to see what survives.
Down at work, in the walled garden, the Future Jobs Scheme lads have prepped the ground for what will be a small demonstration kitchen garden. There had been problems finding a designer, so I sketched a plan based on a sort of celtic knot, and it's been passed by the landscape architect. The lads have chosen varieties and started sowing to-day. This is a project very dear to my heart, so I hope that Fiacre, the patron saint of gardeners, will help it be a success.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Stormy Weather

Into every life a little rain must fall, and occasionally, the odd monsoon. Sorry to be so downbeat, but it is February, and while the blogs are full of gleeful sowing stories, I know I've got to grind my teeth and be patient. Next week at work we'll start the antirrhinum, followed closely by cineraria then lobelia. We plant out in June to miss late frosts so I calculate the sowing dates by working backwards from then. As the greenhouses fill up so I will cheer up, then from mid-April comes the tricky bit, keeping everything healthy.
On top of this little seasonal wobble, the double glaziers arrived. Two days, the boss said, it's been nearly two weeks, I've now got the flu and just to make my life complete my superiors have decided to save some dosh by not making my temporary upgrade permanent. That's ok, but I got a little upset when they said I'd still be expected to do the work of the Horticultural Officer while being paid as the Senior Nursery Gardener. I explained I would be much too busy then they got quite angry till I showed them a way round it. The little dears are all under review, hence the panic.
Anyway, as my Mum used to say, what can't be cured must be endured.
Some sunshine arrived yesterday when my son came round to tell me he'd passed his driving test, so at least now I've got a chauffeur for my dotage.
The glazier's just told me he'll be finished in an hour or two, so maybe things are looking up. If I was a plant, I think I'd be a herbaceous perennial: cut down by frost, but just waiting for the Spring.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

The Lull

Up in town on Friday. I really enjoy Edinburgh's multi layered old town so happily strolled down into the Grassmarket for lunch at Blackcherry, a tiny wee caff. from there, back up towards Lothian Road, via some proper old-fashioned secondhand book shops. Found a water colour manual and a book by Eric Newby called "Slowly Down The Ganges". Too many years ago I read his "A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush" and I'm looking forward to travelling with him once more. You couldn't wish for a better companion. I also spotted a Collins guide to eggs and baby birds which I thought the Rangers might like. They've since told me that these old Collins hardbacks are quite valuable, so that's a bonus. By this time I felt in need of a rest, so I went to the nearby Filmhouse and saw "Invictus".
Now, I've had a crush on Clint Eastwood since Wagon Train, so I may be biased, but this film deserves all the awards it will surely receive. Great performances by everyone, a really relevant story and a soundtrack that'll knock your socks off. I came out singing.
On Saturday I had a very different walk; getting lost in misty woodland was like entering the Twilight Zone. I saw a wonderful grove of sycamores, eleven trunks in a circle which were originally one old tree. Standing in the centre I couldn't quite touch them, and thought what a nice wee house you could make. Nearby a little snowmelt stream burbled over the stones. I wandered on, eventually, and following a line of fresh molehills I found myself back at the path we call Cardiac Brae.
The sight of the moles on the move reminded me that Spring was on the way, so since then I've been clearing away the debris, potting up seedlings and generally zhushing the place up. No doubt Winter won't let go without a struggle, but it is the beginning of the end.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Sweet temptation

Yesterday I went to buy grafting wax and tape and this is what I brought home. These garden centre johnnies are clever devils. I thought that with all my years of experience, access to wholesalers and so on, I'd be immune. Hah! I came home with my haul, feeling like a bulimic, and trying to justify my spree.I set the spuds to chit and spread out the rest to photograph what I thought would be a dire warning against impulse buying, but I began to think that actually it was £40 well spent. While I had my netbook out, I saw that The Idiot Gardener had a new post. Idiot, you played me like a haddie! And Edith, you're comment was priceless. Bravo, brava,encore!
I'm still smiling. God bless you.
"Those who bring laughter into the lives of others cannot avoid it in their own"
George Bernard Shaw

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Gerard Smith's Organic Surface Cultivations

There's gremlins in the machine and I'm having trouble leaving comments, so I thought I'd do a posting on the great man in response to the interest shown on Edith Hope's Garden Journal, which everyone should visit.
He would have approved of her PRB maxim,"Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty, that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know." He loved truth and trusted to obsevation and experience rather than blindly following received wisdom. A champion of organic methods, he was not afraid to speak out against agribusiness at a time when this was seen as almost treacherous. He describes them as "A vast, well-organised trade leaches money from the pockets of the unwary, the fertiliser trade being second only to the drug trade in the variety of useless rubbish sold at high prices."
He was however no mere ranter. His book is a wealth of practical advice, leavened throughout with dry wit and fascinating information - "In one gramme of manured arable soil there is
4,000,000,000 bacteria
1,000,000 protozoa
280,000 amoeba
770,000 flagellates
1,000 ciliates
100,000 algae.
One is sorry for the poor lonely ciliates."
He had a tongue that could cut cloth, and though perhaps tactless, he was never unkind and always encouraging. I can only echo his sentiments and attest that he succeeded - "To be a gardener when beliefs and prejudices are in the melting pot is a privelege. May the change come before I am too old to take a hand in helping other gardeners to take advantage of the changes."
Thank you, Mr. Smith, you were indeed part of the solution.
All quotes from "Organic Surface Cultivation" by N. Gerard Smith F.R.H.S, Ward, Lock & Co.,1950

Fantasy Undergardeners

My son's design for a "Garden Assistant"

My recent spell in hospital has made me realise that perhaps I could cope with having some "help". Not in the house though, I'm the kind of woman who'd have to tidy up before the daily came round. But in the garden, that would be nice. My dream designer would be Dan Pearson, as his gentle, artfully wild style would be perfect round the cottage. And in charge of construction I'd like the lovely Irish chap who was Diarmuid Gavin's project manager in his TV show. That man deserves a medal for patience and ingenuity. Of course, the fact that they're drop dead gorgeous is a not insignificant factor. Luckily for them, I'm much too poor to do more than imagine lying back, sipping a spritzer, and watching them work...

Sorry, where was I? For a moment there it was Summer.

Who would be your dream assistants?

Sunday, 31 January 2010

The Big House

This is where the Rangers are based. I think I prefer our wee bothy,which is the old gardener's cottage. My favourite parts of the park are down by the burn and behind the walled garden where there's a peaceful sheltered shrubbery. So peaceful that deer come in to graze on the roses in winter.
Still struggling with urls and blueteeth etc., but part of the reason I started doing this was to learn computerology. I've had heavy clay that was easier to dig. But courage, ma brave, we'll get there.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

For Peat's Sake

Just been reading more blogs and came across the vexed question of peatfree alternatives. We all seem agreed on the problem and a thought occurred to me -leafmould. It has many of the same properties of peat and I think it would make a good seed compost. I first started gardening before organics had taken off and I turned to old prewar books to find non-chemical advice. Leafmould was often given as an ingredient of composts. It takes a year to break down, and Autumn's a long time away, but I'm off to the woods to inspect the area we stash all the leaves we sweep up. I'll experiment with it this year and spread the results.

Thank You.

Thank You, NHS and bloggers everywhere.
First off, anyone who moans about the NHS or worries about Obama's health reforms will get short shrift here. They should visit St. John's, Livingstone to see how it should be done. Apart from the excellent health care, which we take for granted, I've been so spoiled that when I woke up this morning I wondered when the lady with the tea-trolley would appear. Ah well. But it's good to be home and catching up with the blogs, hearing about your hopes and dreams for the year. (Yes, I know, I need to get out more)
You see, my passion for plants had become my job, and my mental energy was spent fretting about the thousands of bedding plants I grew for the parks. But now I've been promoted (?) to admin., I can leave that to the others, and potter around as good gardeners should, cos it's when you're pottering you notice stuff, like the first signs of Spring or greenfly. I'd advise anyone to take up drawing, as it really sharpens your powers of observation, and that's as important to a gardener as a good pair of boots. But I digress, or BI.d, as it shall henceforth be known. So a big thank you to all you bloggers, near and far, cos your enthusiasm's catching and I'm really looking forward to getting back to basics with you. And if anyone can explain in plain English how to get pix from phone to blog I'd be very grateful. Assume I know nothing!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Hooray for Hospitals And Hellebores

Going into hospital on Thursday for an eardrum graft, and I'm looking forward to a couple of days pampering, followed by a week off work. So I've been busy making lists of stuff for the troops to get on with while I'm away. There's quite a bit of planting to do as the bosses indulged in a spot of impulse buying. Keeps them happy and God knows the wee souls need cheering up. As the snow thawed even more rabbit damage could be seen, but it's on shrubs which will relish a good hard prune. Growth follows the knife my old tutor said. The apples though...I might need to cut them back and hope there's some dormant buds lower down the stem. First though I'll try grafting a bypass if Mick the Marmaliser will initiate me into these dark arts. Wish me luck! While I'm off I'll try and learn how to illustrate this blog and post some pics of the emerging Spring. The hellebores are just beginning to push through. Love them to bits. Soon be snowdrop time, they're all a bit late this year. In the greenhouse I'll sow carrots in tubs and outside I'll make a hotbed and start the onion sets and garlic. Getting hungry thinking about it, so suppertime. Night all.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Yew were right

Grrr. It's always galling to admit mistakes, but the yews that the chaps planted yesterday actually look quite nice. I retire in 10 years, so hopefully I'll be gone before they thicken up into a depressing black line.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Yews are my heart's delight
Hello! As no-one reads this, I will have a wee moan. Bosses! I have so many. Most of the time they're ok, but ...Still, my minions probably say the same of me. We have receieved a load of yews which are to replace the carpark fence. Apart from some poor sod having to break their back keeping them dwarfed, they're just so funereal. They seem to suck up the light. I quite like yews in penny numbers, I love the old one at Fortingall, and there are some lovely gold and prostrate forms. But no. We have ones that, while nice healthy specimens will, en masse, make the place seem like a cemetery. Am sorely tempted to sabotage, but I will leave that to the Summer temps, who usually manage to strim everything we plant.
Was reminded yesterday that January is the gateway, named after Janus, the god of coming and going. So here's to the future, soon be Spring. Candlemas in less than two weeks, and it will be light when I go to work. Yipee! Looking forward to the dawns.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Snow Fair

Aaaargh! So it's not enough that I spent the Christmas break shovelling snow, grovelling to fuel suppliers and rescuing Antipodeans. I've just seen the damage the **** rabbits have done to my espaliered apples. The varmints have been able to reach above the rabbit guards thanks to the frozen snow. Four years work destroyed by ravenous bunnies. Does anyone know how to do a triple bypass on a tree trunk?
If only I was callous enough to kill the little monsters, I'm quite partial to rabbit stew. Sadly, I have "Soft Touch" tattooed on my forehead.