Six on Saturday 23rd March

Wow, ok, so this seems to be becoming a regular thing – this is the third consecutive Saturday on which I’ve joined in with the Propagator’s Six on Saturday. As ever, if you’re a gardening enthusiast do head over to his page to check out his and others’ Sixes. It really is a lovely community and as a newbie gardener, I’ve picked up some great bits of advice and info.

I’ve been a busy bee today. The weather was good so I headed out to the garden quite early to have a potter around, and speaking of bees, I saw my first furry bumble bee of the year. I could hear the neighbours’ children in the garden bouncing on their trampoline sounding full of the joys of Spring, as well they should given that this is the first weekend of Spring. It was nice to hear them out there again after months of cold weather and being cooped up inside.

First things first – greenhouse progress. I admit I have popped up there on a couple of days before work to see if I could see any little green shoots peeking up. There were a couple earlier in the week but today when I went up, I was pleasantly surprised to find quite a few shoots starting to appear.

Quite a few of the Sweet Peas have germinated …

… and the Cosmos in the top four rows have appeared where there was absolute nothing on Thursday. Just one little Aquilegia has poked its head through in the bottom two rows …

… and a couple of teeny tiny Calendulas have appeared.

Nothing showing on my Sunflowers yet but I have a confession to make ….. curiosity got the better of me and I dug around a little bit in the soil to see if anything was happening …. and it is! Yay! I’ve covered them back over and I WILL leave them be until they decide to grow.

Next up I moved the Cowslip which was kindly identified for me after last week’s Six (see what I mean, very helpful people in the Six on Saturday community). It was growing up in our wasteland and I moved in down to my planter.

This is even better than the sale table, a completely free plant that just appeared, and doesn’t it have a lovely pretty flower? Very Spring-like. Let’s hope it doesn’t mind being moved now.

Third is another bit of rejigging. My Dad and C gave us a lovely round planter already planted a couple of years ago. It mainly contained annuals, apart from one Heuchera which has survived a couple of Winters unscathed and is still quite happy in there. Last year I replaced the faded annuals with a Gerbera and a Fern. The Gerbera has survived the Winter which I didn’t think it would, but was a little raggedy and the Fern had really got too big for the planter.

I moved it to somewhere that it can multiply to its heart’s content if it so desires! I planted my Callicarpa Bodinieri in the same area today as well. It’s the thing that just looks likes a load of twigs behind the red Coprosma (LOVE my Coprosma). It’s lost all its purple berries but hopefully will thrive in its forever home.

Back in the planter, I tidied up the Heuchera and the Gerbera and added an Erica Cindy that I found on a sale table last year. It looks a little sad and sparse at the moment but the Heuchera and the Gerbera both have new leaves already growing and there are even a couple of buds on the Gerbera so hopefully it’ll fill out nicely over the next few weeks.

Number four took me back up to the greenhouse. Last week I bought twenty tiny plug Begonias to put in my hanging basket. I had yellow ones in it last Summer and it looked so pretty. I do think the Begonia has an unusual but really beautiful flower.

These ones are mixed colours. Hopefully there’ll be some yellow in there. I’m going to leave it in the greenhouse for a couple of weeks just in case we get another frost because the plants are so tiny and they were kept inside the garden centre so are probably going to feel the cold! I’ve got a few left so I’ll have to find a home for them – maybe in my daffodil trough when the daffs have faded.

My penultimate point kept me up by the greenhouse. Now that I’ve started to do the slabbing and I know my raised beds are in the right place, I filled them with compost. Last week I bought six raspberry plants and ten strawberry plants so I planted them. I’m going to have to rig up some supports for the raspberries and make sure they’re netted so the birds can’t get the fruit when it comes. I bought hubby a bird table for his birthday so we have a plethora of birds, which is lovely, but I want them to stick to their menu, not mine!

The canes along the left are ‘Autumn Bliss’ and along the top are ‘Ample Glen’. I like the idea of ample raspberries so that sold me on those. Seems slightly odd that the Autumn fruiting ones have leaves already whereas the mid-Summer ones are bare, but we’ll see. Half of the strawberry plants are ‘Cambridge’ and the other half are random ones that looked healthiest. Hope they’re not too close to the raspberries. This is all a learning game for me.

Finally I’m after a bit of advice from some more experienced gardeners.

What are these two weeds?

The bottom one seems to be the weed of choice in our garden – super prolific. Monty Don did an article a while back that said you can guess what kind of soil you have from the weeds that grow, and he went on to explain which weeds prefer which type of soil, but as I don’t know what these are, it didn’t really help me! They’re not unattractive as weeds go.

I’ve never seen the one in the top picture before, but I noticed today there are lots of them sprouting up all over.

Anyone got any clue?

I also planted out a Hollyhock, an Ox-Eye Daisy, a Honeysuckle, a Solanum Glasnevin and sixty Summer bulbs today. Unfortunately I’ve already forgotten where the bulbs are so I’m going to have to be careful not to try and plant anything over them! Let’s hope they start to come through quickly!

What to do tomorrow now then? Oh I don’t know, lay some slabs, plant more plants, do some weeding, mow the lawn, tackle the front garden? Green Girl Gardener’s work is never done and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

A Teddy Bears’ Picnic

I have a confession to make! I have an addiction. A pretty serious one. A life long one! It’s cost me a fair bit of money and I have several stashes of my addiction around the house.

Teddy Bears!

Stuffed toys strictly, I suppose, rather than bears, but to me they’re my bears. A friend of mine challenged me to take a photo of all of them so yesterday I gathered them from all their various homes (and they all have definite homes) and assembled them together on our bed.

Wow! That’s a lot of bears! I have to admit, I didn’t realise I had quite this many. Am I sorry? Absolutely not! They give me lots of pleasure. There are worse addictions to have.

I’ve always loved bears and I think it was inevitable that when I grew up I’d choose to be a cat Mum instead of having babies. I didn’t play with dolls as a little girl. I found them cold and hard and in stark contrast to the soft, fluffy sqidginess of bears. You can’t rest your head on a doll when you’re tired.

My bears aren’t just random though. I can remember where each one was bought, and many of them are reminders of special occasions. Most of them have names.

This is the oldest bear that I still have, and she’s called Dilly Trent. When I was twelve I broke my leg and this was a catalyst for my parents to get a second car because they needed to be able to share the school run whilst I was unable to walk. The car was a bright yellow mark one Fiesta registration TDD 358X (weird what you remember!) and its horn sounded like a duck so it inherited the name Dilly the duck. We bought Dilly from Lichfield, and on the same day Mum and Dad bought me this bear so she was named Dilly (after the car) Trent (after Lichfield Trent Valley).

Pendigo was a Christmas present from hubby a couple of years ago. He was from Resorts World at the NEC which overlooks Pendigo lake. He’s so big he needed to use the seatbelt on the way home!

These are my Wimbledon bears bought from the shop at Wimbledon during the championships. Two of my passions rolled up in one (or three as the case may be) bear! Fingers crossed for this year’s ballot so I can get another one!

These are my bears from Cliff Richard concerts. Don’t think I’ve mentioned this particular little secret before, but here’s the evidence.

My best friend and I used to go on an annual Christmas pilgrimage to Harrods until Al Fayed sold it and it went downhill! There used to be a MASSIVE teddy bear room and it was my heaven, but the new owners drastically reduced it. This is my Harrods collection.

These are my Steiff bears. You could say that these are an investment because Steiff bears are very collectible. You may have spotted that the delight on the end in the waistcoat has appeared in both the last two photos. This is because he’s a Harrods Steiff bear. He was ridiculously expensive but I couldn’t care a jot. He’s beautiful. He used to growl when you tipped him forward but I noticed when I got him down to take the photo that he seems to have lost his voice. Poor thing. The little rabbit next to the Harrods bear is my newest bear. I spotted him in Frankfurt airport on the way home from a work trip and couldn’t resist. He’s called Hoppi and he’s the softest rabbit ever! The little blonde one, Sammy, was my first Steiff bear and I got him with vouchers that my Dad gave me for a very special trip we took to London in 2007. Little Wonky Donkey on the end was also from Harrods, although he’s not a Harrods branded Steiff bear. He’s just adorable.

Jellycat! Who can resist a Jellycat bear? Clearly not me! Sweetie kitten at the front was a must because well, she’s a kitten! Grey sitting behind is a bit obscured by Sweetie kitten, but he’s an owl. Hubby bought him for me on a day when I was feeling a bit under the weather. Grayshott the elephant I bought from a village in Hampshire when I was visiting my Mum called Grayshott (hence the name). Dapple the giraffe and Bashful lamb came from a shop near us that I have to do my best to avoid (for obvious reasons!)

These are all bears that I’ve gathered on my travels. The purple Triceratops was from Orlando airport. I have an affinity with the Triceratops because I used to call them TriSarahtops when I was little after myself! The two Toys R Us Geoffreys are both from Toys R Us on Times Square bought on different trips to the Big Apple. The Ocean Village bear is from our first cruise. He’s called Mr Shel which is made from the initials of all our ports of call on the cruise (Mykonos, Rhodes, Santorini, Heraklion, Ephesus and Limassol). In the pink jumper is Macy who came from Macy’s in New York and in the stripy jumper is Treasure who came from Las Vegas. Finally is my coati and her baby, Conchita and Chica, who hopped in our suitcase when we came back from Mexico.

Last but by absolutely no means least are my gloom of Eeyores and his Hundred Acre pals. Gloom, I have decided, is the collective noun for a group of Eeyores. You may argue that nine Eeyores is enough for one house. We’ll see! There are Eeyores here from New York, Orlando and London – he gets around! The group of Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Owl and the nearest Eeyore to Pooh Bear were also bought with the Harrods vouchers on that special London trip.

So, there you have it. Lots of bears, all very much loved and here to stay!

Six on Saturday – 16th March

My second Six on Saturday post in as many weeks – can’t you just tell it’s coming into gardening season for fair weather gardeners such as myself?!

I didn’t think I’d be able to get out in the garden today because the forecast was for rain all day, so when I woke up quite early I lay there wondering what to do with myself because hubby’s at work this weekend, and then I thought, hang on, the cars going past don’t sound like they’re spraying water everywhere, and would you know it, bone dry! Whoop!

1. First job was to forge on with the job that Dad and I started last week laying the slabs around my raised beds and greenhouse. A career in bricklaying is certainly not for me! Not that I can’t do it (although I am a beginner) but more that it’s back breaking, especially on your own. I forget how much stronger men are than me generally, including those that by virtue of being your parent, are a generation older than you. A bag of wet sand, I can tell you, is flipping heavy and I’m by no means a weakling. Thank goodness for my birthday wheelbarrow which came into its own trundling the cement and sand up the garden. Thanks again, Dad, for your help because you must’ve done the majority of the heavy lifting last week. Even mixing up the sand and cement is jolly tough work and I’ll ache tomorrow (and fully intend to complain about it to hubby even though I know full well if he helps me with the rest he’ll be absolutely fine – humpff!)

Anyway, I managed to lay another five and a bit slabs before my muscles started complaining a bit too much, and I put the rest out to see how they’re going to fit around the greenhouse.

The ones around the two raised beds are properly laid and last weekend’s have set in pretty well. The one with the little Sempervivum pot on and then along and around the rest of the greenhouse are just placed down (eight of them) and, they fit pretty well. There’s a couple of inches gap either side which I’ll just fill with gravel. I saw a gorgeous little table on an email from Notcutts yesterday that would look perfect with that Sempervivum pot on in that spot, but I’m concerned about stability – it’s pretty open at the top of our garden so if there’s a storm it can get quite blustery up there.

2. Last Sunday when the weather wasn’t behaving quite as well as it has so far today, I took refuge in my greenhouse and planted up some seeds. This, I think, is the first time I’ve attempted to grow anything from seed apart from growing cress (unsuccessfully) on wet kitchen towel at junior school. Being in there when it’s blowing a gale outside reminded me of the calmness of being underwater (snorkelling, not drowning!) Very relaxing.

So here’s what I’ve sown.

In the green bamboo pots and the grey container next to it are Sunflowers. Next to that are Calendulas. On the bottom shelf in the propagator are Cosmos and Aquilegia. I’ve never heard of Aquilegia before, but they looked pretty on the packet so I sowed them. The final tray is full of Sweetpeas.

Have I told you how impatient I am? This is testing me to the limit. I’ve been out twice this week to see if anything was happening yet. Nope! Come on! I want to see little seedlings (which I know is entirely unreasonable in a week!) I hope it’s not too cold for them. According to my posh and functional thermometer it was 11.8° in there and according to my pretty but not so functional thermometer it was somewhere between 10 and 15°. Hmmm … what it lacks in accuracy it makes up for in aesthetics! I shall cross my (green?) fingers for another week and hopefully I’ll see some progress.

3. After I finished slabbing, I decided to inspect the rest of the garden. I happened upon this rather pretty little specimen nestling amongst the nettles and weedy miscellany in our wasteland.

I’m sure it’s a weed but I’m quite taken with it. Monty Don says a weed is anything that is in a place that you wouldn’t want it. Well I’m quite happy with this little Miss where she is, so maybe by default that makes her not a weed. I say ‘her’ because her colour makes me think of Little Buttercup from HMS Pinafore who was definitely a ‘her’. Sweet little Buttercup I.

4. I have a couple of different varieties of daffodils in bloom now in front of my planter apart from the early yellow ones. I’ve no idea what any of them are because I just walked round the bulb section with my fill-a-bag-for-a-fiver (or however much it was) paper bag picking random bulbs at will. I don’t always like to be super planned.

Don’t they look happily Spring-like? They’ve been somewhat wind and rain battered for the past week or so and some of them have flopped! The crocuses in front are, sadly, coming to the end of their life already. They can console themselves with the fact that they were delightful for the last few weeks.

5. I did some pruning. Some of it quite extreme. First my Clematis Montana which always has loads of leaves but has never once flowered.

I was lamenting this fact only a couple of days before the return of Gardeners’ World last week and Monty must’ve been with me in spirit because he did a section on pruning and specifically mentioned Montana and said that it will only flower on new growth, so I’ve chopped it right back and now I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

My Hydrangea has new growth so I decided it was ok to deadhead last Summer’s massive yield of two flowers and hope we get more this year. This is the first year it’s been free to grow as it pleases because I planted it out from its pot that it had lived in for three years after the best/worst (depending on your temperament) of the scorchio Summer had ended last year.

Finally, and I’m really hoping I’ve done the right thing here, I pruned my Eupatorium right back. It grew like crazy after I bought it last year and had the most beautiful leaves through Summer followed by clusters of tiny white flowers in the Autumn, but then looked deceased all winter. I’m pretty sure there’s life in it yet so I’m keeping my fingers, toes, legs and anything else crossable, crossed that it revives.

6. Just before the rain came, I decided to do a little bit of much needed house (garden?) keeping. Our neighbour on one side has several huge conifers, and I mean huge. They’re as tall as the house. It’s safe to say that he doesn’t love his garden as much as we love ours so I think we’re stuck with the jungle next door. It means that the whole of that side of the garden gets covered with bits of conifer of various sizes and I have to try and rake it out without damaging any plants underneath.

This is the pile I was left with. It’s going to have to stay there in the middle of the lawn for a while because our green wheelie bin has been full for weeks awaiting the start of the collections. I unearthed (or unconiferred) quite a few poor plants that were suffocating underneath the foliage. It’s all looking a lot tidier now, although this is just the beginning – we have a LOT of weeds that need sorting out! I’ve learnt not to stress too much about it, it took a long period of neglect for our garden to end up in the state it was in when we moved in, so it’s going to take a long time to get it looking ship shape. We’ve made massive inroads already, but there’s no rush. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day!

Do pop over to the Propagator’s blog to check out other Six on Saturday posts – I’m sure there’ll be lots of Spring joy over there.