Six on Saturday 16th January 2021

Yet again I struggled to find anything to take photos of that I thought anyone would actually be interested in looking at! I persevered though and I hope someone finds some interest in what I snapped away.

First I decided to include my Hellebore ‘Christmas’ again because this really is its time to shine. I think this is its second winter since I saved it from a sale table and it’s doing really well. It did flower last year, but I think it only had one or two blooms. This year, as you can see, it’s got loads of flowers. It’s a shame it’s being bashed about by wind and rain but it’s forging on regardless.

Next I have two comparison photos of my Coprosma. I relocated this towards the end of Summer for the second time and kept my fingers crossed that it would survive ok. It seems to be doing alright, despite being in the shadow of next door’s jungle. When I bought it, all the leaves were the glorious red of the left hand photo, but the new growth seems to come through much darker (but still glossy and lush) as shown in the right hand pic. I guess it won’t have done much growing during the last couple of months (but at least it hasn’t done any dying either!) so I’ll be interested to see how it does come the Spring and Summer.

I still don’t know what this is, and nobody seems to be able to identify it for certain, but I love it! I could do with digging out a photo from when I brought it home from B&M Bargains to see the comparison. It’s quite slow growing, but I’m pretty sure it’s significantly bigger. Not bad for a 50p bargain, or whatever it was.

All of this was new during lockdown #1, pot and all. I had to venture into the world of plant delivery when the garden centres were closed. The Cordyline has definitely got bigger, but the Verbena has multiplied about a million fold! It was a tiny plug plant when it arrived in a pick and mix six pack. There is/was also a Dianthus under there but I guess that probably hasn’t survived the elements. To be honest, I didn’t expect the Verbena to, but survive it has. Whether it flowers again remains to be seen, but lets hope so because it had the most beautiful and vibrant shocking pink flowers all through the Summer.

Penultimately, here’s some hope of good things to come. Strawberry plants! Here’s hoping we get lots of sunshine (soon please!) and a bumper crop this year. Shop bought just aren’t the same, especially out of season when they’ve come from far flung places. This certainly doesn’t only apply to the strawberry patch, but I could really do with some dry (and preferably warmer) weather so I can get out and clear some winter debris.

I shall finish with a bit of garden hardware, if you will! I bought this from Webbs of Wychbold (AKA garden centre extraordinaire!) when it felt safeish to be in one in between lockdown #1 and #2. It was buy one get one for half price, and I wish I’d got the two now instead of one. I’ll most likely put some more fruit and/or veg in this one, but it would be good to have one for wild flowers too. The daily Covid figures do seem to be going in the right direction, so maybe it’ll feel safe to go to Webbs again in time to sow some wild flowers.

There’s my Six for this week. I really hope something interesting starts to happen in the garden soon (and everywhere else for that matter!!) so I can find another six things for next week. I’m spoilt for choice in the Summer! Speaking of which, if you’d like to be spoilt for choice of Sixes to read, check out the Propagator’s blog. In the meantime, have a great weekend, and I’ll check in with everyone again soon.

Harry Potter’s Scotland Trail – Virtual Online Tour

This afternoon we took part in a virtual tour round parts of Scotland to show us some of the inspiration and filming locations of the Harry Potter books and films run by Eventbrite. It was really good and especially interesting for us, having been to Edinburgh last September and seen a couple of the locations.

The guy who ran the tour was really entertaining. He really played to the kids that were on the tour, asking them which house they were in and awarding them points for their houses.

He even sorted a couple of them into their houses. As you can see from his picture bottom right, he was dressed like Olivander and even had the background of Olivander’s wand shop in Diagon Alley.

We started off in Edinburgh by visiting the Elephant House cafe where J K Rowling wrote the Chamber of Secrets and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Apparently there are lots of references to elephants in the Prisoner of Azkaban as a nod to the hours J K spent here. I’ve never noticed any, so obviously I’m now going to have to re-read it for the umpteenth time! We ate a couple of times at the Elephant House when we visited in September, which was lovely, but what they don’t tell you is that the Philosopher’s Stone was actually written in another cafe round the corner. I didn’t know that till today either!

Next we visited Edinburgh Castle.

Many people think that the castle could have been the inspiration for Hogwarts as J K said she always imagined that the school was on a hill with a lake nearby. Edinburgh Castle, as you can see, does overlook the city and hundreds of years ago it also overlooked a Loch which was drained many years ago and is now the picturesque Princes Street Gardens.

Next we saw the Elephant Castle from the rear where J K apparently sat in the window (we sat there too), and she may have looked out and imagined Knockturn Alley, which is the dark magic street where you can find Borgin and Burkes. Harry ends up here when he accidentally gives the instruction ‘diagonally’ instead of Diagon Alley when travelling by Floo Powder from the Weasley’s burrow.

Our tour guide then asked us to work out which deatheater (follower of ‘he who shall not be named’) could have been roaming around Knockturn Alley. It was Lucius Malfoy and we all had to point our wands (or wand finger) at the screen and banish him with the spell ‘expelliarmus’.

From here we moved on to Greyfriars Churchyard. We were encouraged to open the gates by casting the spell ‘alohomora’.

The graves here may have provided inspiration for many of the characters, including Alastor Moody, Professor McGonagal and even Harry’s arch enemy, Lord Voldemort!

We moved on to George Herriot school next.

This has also been sited as possible inspiration for Hogwarts. It was a school built for Edinburgh’s poor and orphans, it had four houses (although, disappointingly, they weren’t Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin!) and it has four towers.

I have my own theory on where J K found her inspiration for Hogwarts, at least the appearance of it. For me, it’s got to be Holyroodhouse Palace. In particular, the ruin of the abbey next to the main building. I bet, in reality, it was probably a mix of all of these along with a dash of fairy-like imagination on the part of the author.

After this we used floo powder to travel to Diagon Alley! For those of you not familiar with this mode of travel, it involves throwing some floo powder in a magical fire and saying out loud where you want to travel through the floo network.

We arrived in Victoria Street which, I can concur having been there recently, does indeed look like it could’ve led to the creation of Diagon Alley.

We used magic to review the real Diagon Alley for comparison purposes.

Now we had to head to the station to catch the Hogwarts Express up into the Highlands to see some of the delights up there. Ordinarily, you’d obviously catch the Hogwarts Express from Kings Cross or Hogwarts itself but catching it from Waverley Station gave the perfect excuse to show us the nearby Balmoral Hotel where J K, having long made her fortune, wrote the Deathly Hallows.

You can stay here hoping to emulate that winning formula if you like. It’ll set you back the princely sum of £2500 per night!

This is Glenfinnan Viaduct that you see the Hogwarts Express travel over in the films. I learnt today that you can actually take this journey, on a steam train from Fort William, and you can buy chocolate frogs and Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans on the Train! Guess what’s just been added to the top of my bucket list?! Finally a positive to come out of not being able to easily go abroad because of Covid-19 – hopefully we’ll be able to get to Scotland instead and do this!!

Our tour guide suddenly stopped at this point and announced that one of the tour members had missed the train and was joining us by an alternative method.

They arrived in the Ford Anglia that was bewitched by Arthur Weasley to fly.

We chugged our way past Loch Eilt which was the inspiration for the lake used in the second Triwizard tournament task when Harry and his fellow contestants had to find ways to breath under water in order to save their nearest of dearest.

Then we gazed at Dumbledore island, where Lord Voldemort goes at the beginning of the Deathly Hallows looking for the elder wand.

Finally we saw a beautiful waterfall at Glen Nevis which was used quite a lot in the films, particularly as the background in Quidditch matches.

Just before we all said goodbye, our host invited us to help him make a potion to cure Coronavirus using a mixture of veritas serum, unicorn blood and felix felicis.

In the end, he decided a spell would work best so we all aimed our wands and shouted ‘Riddivirus!’

Wouldn’t it be good if that worked? Probably won’t, but in the meantime, this was very very pleasant way to pass an hour, and a perfect diversion from less magical events in the real world.

Six on Saturday 9th January

I’m struggling to type this as my hands are so cold after our return from a nice long (ish) walk around the park this morning, punctuated by a delicious jacket potato from the best spud shop around. Unfortunately it’s closing its doors today until after lockdown – lack of footfall has meant it’s not worth their while to open.

My pictures today are somewhat weighted towards the cold again. I do really hope I can start to share colourful, cheerful pictures again soon, but there’s a severe lack of that at the moment outside in these parts!

I don’t think I’ve shared a photo of the whole garden (or most of it, anyway) for a while, so here it is in all it’s wintry, dormant glory. This is my view all day long at the moment as I sit beavering away at home. I haven’t been into my office since 23rd March and it doesn’t look like I’ll be there any time soon. I have to say though, this is a vast improvement on the building site that was my view for the previous few months in the office, and it’ll only get better as the year goes on.

I’ve come to realise, in all these months working from home, quite how active our garden is. We have all sorts of wildlife making their homes and going about their lives completely regardless of us out there. In the next two photos you can see the evidence of some of the most regular visitors. First up, squirrels.

What dainty little feet they have. They’re incredibly agile – I watch them as they dart along the fences and wind their way around trees chasing the tail in front of them at unbelievable speeds. I know some people consider them vermin (and I guess they are) but I like them. Such cutie pies, even if they do try to dig up my lawn!

Next, I noticed that we’ve quite literally got the cat amongst the pigeons! Well, actually, it could be magpies or jays I guess, looking at the size of the tracks, but that doesn’t work as well so we’ll assume these were pigeons.

When I took this photo I was actually aiming to capture the bird tracks, and it was only once I got back inside that I noticed the pussy cat paws as well. I went back out to try to get a better picture of both, but the snow had melted away and I was left with just blobs! This is probably the first time since I was a child that I’ve actually cursed the snow for melting!

These spider webs were outside my home office window earlier this week. I’m so glad I took the photos straight away because by lunchtime they’d gone! Aren’t they pretty? There was no sign of the tenant!

I did manage to find some colour to include. I think the berries really ‘pop’ against the snowy backdrop. This shrub was in the garden when we moved in, although it was completely hidden by the jungle that was growing around it until we got ruthless and had the whole lot chopped back. I think it’s a Cotoneaster (can anyone confirm?) This year is the first year I’ve paid much attention to the berries – I’m surprised, given the visitors that we have to our garden, that they’ve not been eaten already.

Finally, I’m moving back inside to warm up but returning to the animal theme! Last night BBC 2 showed an hour long best of 2020 Gardeners’ World episode.

It was so lovely to see Nigel again after he sadly passed away last year. Monty must miss him so, but is hopefully comforted by Nell and little Pattie. Olive was also pleased to see him!

There’s my Six for this week. Don’t forget to check out the Propagator for more. I’m off to have a bath now to warm my bones! Please tell me it’s summer soon!