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.

Six on Saturday 9th March

I popped out in the garden one night this week to inspect Spring progress and said to myself, yup, definitely got to do a Six on Saturday this week. I was away last weekend so it was a couple of weeks since I’d properly seen the garden in daylight and so much had changed.

So, here we go with numero uno – Spring bulbs. Here’s my barrel planter two weeks ago.

Reasonably well defined – Heather in the middle surrounded by Cyclamen with the Giant Alliums coming though at the back, Tulips (I think) on the left and an at-that-point unidentified smaller bulb nearer the middle.

Here’s two week’s progress for you.

I think I made a school boy error with the Giant Alliums! They’re taking over the world! It’s like Little Shop of Horrors! I’ll see how they fare this year, and then I may have to relocate them to somewhere with more space for next year. I didn’t appreciate quite how giant Giant Alliums would be! The size of the bulb should’ve been my first clue really – mahoosive! I now know that the previously unidentified leaves are a Snowdrop, but I’m sure I planted more than one bulb. Maybe they were either dug up by squirrels or have no room to bloom due to the giantness behind! I think the suspected Tulips are struggling for space too! Oh well, you live and learn.

Sticking to the theme of bulbs for number two, the Bluebells are continuing to pop up all over the garden. I’m sure there are significantly more than there were last year.

You can see them pushing through all around the edge of the bistro, and even through the weed control fabric around my Festuca pot and in the middle of the gravelled area. We have them in pretty much every bed, and I noticed today that there are hundreds of them in what I lovingly refer to as ‘the wasteland’ at the top of the garden. That’ll be really pretty when they flower.

Number three is my Bergenia, or Elephant’s ears.

This was given to me by the cleaner at work from her garden. It was just in a plastic bag with no soil, and I planted it a couple of days afterwards, not really expecting much, but it’s thrived and has lovely pink flowers waving at me. Spot the Bluebells vying for its spot!

On to number four.

Beautiful pink Camellia in the front garden. We inherited the Camellia when we moved in and I don’t do anything with it, it just keeps going and stuns us with its gorgeousness every Spring. Doesn’t it look luscious with the raindrops nestling in its petals?

Number five is something special, not that bulbs, Bergenia and Camellias aren’t, but this is a project that’s been a long time in the imagination. Regular readers will know about my raised beds that I built last summer and my greenhouse that I got for Christmas. Here’s how they’ve looked since the new year.

On Wednesday we took delivery of thirty slabs, three bags of sharp sand and one bag of cement.

Very conveniently (for me) I was in Frankfurt on business when they arrived so hubby humped them all the way down the garden to the greenhouse. Must remember to be away whenever heavy goods are being delivered!

Today my Dad came over to help me lay the slabs. We were a bit will we won’t we to start off with because he lives fifty miles away and we couldn’t decide whether the weather was going to play ball and cause him a wasted trip (other than seeing yours truly obvious!) Eventually the blue skies won through and we were able to lay half the slabs and I’m so pleased with how they’ve turned out so far – much better than the picture in my head.

We ran out of sand and cement at this point, hence we stopped. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to finish it off because the forecast is for wet weather for the foreseeable future. Soon there will be strawberries, raspberries, carrots, potatoes, leeks and courgettes growing in those beds. How exciting!

I foresee more slab laying in my future because we have a LOT of space and don’t they look good? People are always trying to get rid of slabs on freecycle too so it can be a cheap, rewarding and fruitful project.

I also now have this hanging around the garden so I’ll be off to peruse Pinterest later to see what I can make with it.

I will finish and leave you with something for number six that made me very VERY happy this week when I spotted it. Sometime back towards the end of summer I wrote about my beautiful Berberis that lost all its leaves as soon as I planted it out. It really was beautiful when I bought it from Hop Pocket out near Worcester.

See its beautiful leaves that look like they’ve been gilded with gold? It is deciduous, so it may have been just coincidence that I happened to plant it out when it was time to lose its leaves, but they went so quickly that it just didn’t seem right, so I dug it up and put it back in its pot and whispered sweet nothings to it whenever I popped out over the Winter and look what’s happened.

It’s alive, it’s alive! I have some garden centre vouchers so I’m going to treat it to a nice pot and nurture it and love it on its own just in case it doesn’t like our soil.

So there’s my six for this week. Do pop over to the Propagator’s blog to check out his and others’ sixes.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Enchanting Edinburgh part three

Morning all. Happy Sunday. It’s a bit of a miserable day outside today so it’s ruined my plans of getting out in the garden. Apparently Storm Freya is on her way. She’s not headed our way but I guess we’ve got her to blame for the pants weather. It feels a world apart from this time last week when I was headed up to Edinburgh.

Speaking of which, here’s the third and final instalment of my Edinburgh trip. This one will be mostly pictorial I think.

I had some work to do first, so I was up early and headed back over to Waverley Station to get the Airlink 100 back out nearly to the airport where I was meeting some colleagues. That went well and before I knew it I was back on the Airlink 100 again headed for the zoo, which is in between the airport and the city centre. I’ve mentioned my quandary with zoos before. I don’t like to see caged animals, but I do find myself drawn to zoos and safari parks because I just love to see animals in the flesh, and I know that zoos work incredibly hard to maintain endangered species and that they need entrance money to do so. I have to say, on this sunny day the animals seemed to be loving basking in the rays, even the penguins to whom it can’t come naturally.

The zoo has lockers available to rent which I made use of to store my laptop bag whilst I wondered round. I’m so glad they have this facility because my laptop bag is pretty heavy, and the zoo is built on quite a steep hill so I’d have struggled if I’d had to carry it all afternoon. My back was really achy as it was by the end of the day.

First port of call was a cafe! It was about one o’clock by this point and all I’d had to eat was Belvita Breakfast biscuits on the bus so my tummy was somewhat rumbly. I grabbed a sandwich and a scrummy piece of rocky road and headed outside. Picnic in the sun, in February, in Scotland! Bet that doesn’t happen often. I was sat in my shirt sleeves and the sun was beating down on me. Bliss!

My train home was just before five o’clock so I prioritised the animals that I really wanted to see most in case I didn’t have time to get round the whole zoo. Edinburgh Zoo is the only zoo in the UK which has koalas and giant pandas and I was very excited to see them so I headed in their direction first.

There are two adult koalas, a male and a female. I couldn’t get a clear photo of the female because she was hidden up safely at the top of her enclosure because she has a tiny joey that she’s very protective of. The zoo keepers don’t even know yet whether the joey is a girl or a boy.

The male koala was in the next door enclosure, and he was just hanging around in a tree seemingly unperturbed by all the people gawping at him.

Their enclosures weren’t huge, but I’m sure I’ve read that koalas don’t have a big territory in the wild. I remember images of them in wild fires in Australia where people were having to climb trees to rescue them because they were too lazy to bother moving. Amazing that they found the energy to make a joey really! Having seen them in the flesh now, I’m even more convinced that they should officially be called koala bears even though they’re officially marsupials, because they just look so cuddly like bears.

Next off to the giant pandas. There are two, a male and a female on a ten year loan from a Chinese zoo, but I only saw one of them. They’re in identical adjacent enclosures, but they only come together for the small mating window between March and May. Giant pandas on average only spend two to four days a year with a potential mate – this could be the secret to a happy marriage! She’s perfectly free to arrange her bamboo however she fancies with no one to mess it up!

I made my way over to the penguin enclosure next. At two fifteen every day they do a penguin parade. This was accidentally started in 1951 when a keeper inadvertently left the gate open and the penguins followed him round the zoo in single file! The keepers don’t encourage the penguins out using food so it’s entirely up to the penguins if they want to come out or not. I wasn’t in luck – apparently it was vaccination day the previous week and the penguins were still wary of the keepers. There are some great videos like this one on YouTube though if you want to have a look.

I headed over to the grey kangaroos next. There are four of them, an adult mating pair and their adolescent offspring and, I was delighted to see, a joey still living in its mother’s pouch. I haven’t got a photo of it, but I saw the joey poke its head out and have a look around. It was just like a scene from Winnie the Pooh with Kanga and Roo. I stood there, camera poised, for ages after this hoping to catch it on film, but it didn’t reappear. You can see from the first pic below though that there’s definitely a sizeable joey in that pouch.

I also saw the mother and the teenager have a boxing match over some minor disagreement. Maybe he’s annoyed that he’s having to play second fiddle to the new baby!

I was right to prioritise the animals that I really wanted to see because I didn’t have time to make it round the whole zoo before it was time to head back to the bus stop unfortunately. I won’t bore you with every animal that I did see, but here’s a few of my favourite photos that hopefully need no explanation.

So here endeth my Edinburgh ramblings. I had such a fantastic time and I would love to spend some more time up there. I was so so SO lucky with the weather and I probably wouldn’t have been able to do so much if it’d been wet or super cold, but really, there’s a lot of indoor stuff to do as well so it really is an all weather destination. Five stars to Edinburgh!