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?