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.