Free cuttings

Last weekend I was away visiting my mother, to catch up on some gardening, family memories and competitive scrabble. For reasons too boring to explain, I went by bus rather than train, which means enduring three hours of intense shoogling in both directions, but it gets you there and back in the end. Public transport in south west Scotland is really not the best but I’d do anything rather than drive.

We visited a rather nice local independent garden centre.  As with most garden centres these days, you have to climb over mountains of useless plastic tat before you find any plants but once you get there they are really rather impressive. I swooned over roses, fruit trees and possible plants to revitalise my back hedge but resisted buying anything, knowing that I would have to bring everything home on the shoogly bus. My mother escaped with only a wallflower, some lavender and a bag of seed potatoes.   Back in her garden I tackled some monstrous ground elder and had a go at pruning a bank of roses, honeysuckle and winter jasmine. I gave a little haircut to her stunning clematis armandii


The thing about all this pruning was that it led me to returning on the shoogly bus with a bag full of cuttings


I know that clematis is a bit of monster once it gets going but a self-managing plant which can cover a wall and produce beautiful flowers, scent and attract bees in early April seems just the thing for my back garden. There’s also some cuttings of wild roses, honeysuckle and winter jasmine (but hopefully no ground elder) in that bag. Quite a lot to fill out the spaces along my back hedge – and all free.  Oh and I ended up with most of the seed potatoes too but they can go in the allotment.

Onions, daffodils and some garden DIY

So spring has finally arrived. I’ve spent the whole weekend in either the garden or the allotment and done lots of springly things.

I took my onions, which have been sprouting happily in their paper pots since January,

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to their new home at the allotment

WP_20180415_13_31_46_Pro (1)I know, it looks a little forbidding. The wire fence is to keep the bunnies out.  We’ll see whether it works.

Back to my own garden and I made a new raised bed:

WP_20180415_19_05_59_ProMade from some floorboards which had been lurking under a plastic sheet in the garden for some years.  When I unearthed them I found a frog, two vine weevils and two hundred snails.  Some hours later, after the wielding of saws, a hand drill, a screwdriver and much swearing, the boards are now screwed together and will provide a new surround for a raised bed whose old boards had finally collapsed.

I also did some more tidying up of the area where the conifers were. I made a rustic bench out of two conifer stumps and an old shed door. I’ll admit that this is rather a temporary arrangement (there was much mocking from the other residents) but I’m thinking a seat might be quite nice here


I discovered that the conifers produced not only footballs and tennis balls, but also bike parts and swingball bats:


Who knows what I’ll find next, perhaps a hockey stick, a croquet set or an entire table tennis table.

Meanwhile I harvested some rhubarb, made rhubarb flapjack (recipe here) and the second wave of daffodils has appeared in the front garden. Spring is certainly here

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A crop of footballs

The tree surgeons came today to attend to the monstrous conifers that have dominated my garden since we moved here.

WP_20180410_08_53_45_ProHere they are mid-removal.  And here is what is left after they had gone:


It doesn’t look very lovely, and I have to admit to a degree of dissent in the Reclaiming Paradise household about this whole project.  But I’ve promised lots of lovely climbing flowers and wildlife friendly stuff to replace the trees, a beautifully rejuvenated hedge, daffodils and snowdrops in the spring, bees, butterflies, bunnies, unicorns…..possibly even a greenhouse. For more on my plans, see here.

What I can’t replace though is the amazing crop of footballs and scruffy tennis balls that the conifers produced:


I may make a sculpture out of them to commemorate the trees.


Today has been a pretty bleak start to a few days away from work, in which I hoped to get lots of gardening done.  But everything in the garden is saying ‘no, wait! It’s too cold’.  So I stayed inside and got on with repotting my tomatoes and cucumbers:

As usual, there are too many tomatoes, three varieties this year: San Marzano, Tigerella and Ailsa Craig.  I sowed two types of cucumber: a green one and the ever-lovely yellow Chrystal Apple.  Of course I didn’t label them, thinking ‘It’ll be fine, I’ll know what they are when the fruits form’. Only one type has germinated and of course I don’t know which one. Here’s hoping the others are just coming more slowly.

Later, I thought I’d better get out for a walk and then I came back to see what was happening in the garden. There are some tiny signs of life:

Here tarragon, chives and lovage all peeking up through leaf mould and general gloom in the herb bed in the front garden.

In the back garden there is the reliable rhubarb, winning in a competition with the daffodils which are barely in bud:

WP_20180331_18_12_39_ProThe purple sprouting broccoli produced some lovely florets in the autumn but has been in the huff since about December. It is now beginning to show signs of new growth

WP_20180331_18_14_46_ProAnd I have a clever plan to have more later this year and into next year:

WP_20180331_18_15_52_ProThe wonder of seedlings never fails. On the strength of this, I sowed some flower seeds in pots inside to bring on more hope of summer .

Underground, overground

Today’s lovely sunshine took me out to the front garden to prune the roses.  Although I am mainly a vegetable gardener, I can’t resist roses. They are just beginning to show green shoots and I’m looking forward to their summer blooms.  The most spectacular are Benjamin Britten and Boule de Neige:

Apart from these cultivated roses, I also have some wild roses, grown from cuttings from my mother.  She grew great hedges of these wild roses by spreading their cuttings around the caravan where she used to spend her summers. As well as carrying these memories, they produce lovely rose hips and are particularly attractive to bees:

I thought I’d better cut these back a bit too as they were getting a little out of control.  WP_20180325_11_22_22_Pro

It was only when I got down on my hands and knees to weed around their bases that I noticed that they had been sending out runners under the paving stones and coming up again a few feet away


Lovely though these plants are, I don’t really want them to take over the whole front garden so I lifted the bricks and dug out the wandering runners.  I’ve put them in a bucket of water until I decide what to do with them next.

In the afternoon I went to the allotment and spent a happy hour or so digging up couch grass – no photos I’m afraid – but it set to me to pondering the similarities between the wild roses and the couch grass.  They grow where they want, sending tendrils out under the ground and coming up again in unexpected places.  But unlike the roses, I felt no need to keep the couch grass. I have more important things to plant in those spaces.

Muddy puddle

After the excitement of the pond in the snow – here’s a wee reminder of how exciting that was:WP_20180301_16_06_02_Pro

– I could no longer ignore the fact that water level in the pond has been falling slowly.  I had lots of explanations: It’s just evaporation (in March in Scotland, I don’t think so), the cat drinks from the pond (well yes she does but surely not that much), the birds splash about in it and splash water out (maybe, but again surely not as much as that).  I checked my various gardening books and they all seemed to suggest the possibility of a leak.  We first made the pond on a wet February weekend seven years ago. Robbie, our old cat, helped to make it:

It has served us very well, bringing flowers and wildlife and causing endless joy to Bella:

But we had used a relatively cheap pvc liner, which all the good books say is not as good as a rubber one.  So perhaps it had failed, or a bird, cat or something had punctured it somewhere.  Time to replace it I thought. I acquired a new, rather expensive, rubber liner and set about emptying the pond and putting the new one in.  Again, I checked the good books, which advised to keep as much of the old pond water as possible so as not to lose any tiny creatures lurking in the mud and undergrowth.  So I donned my waterproof gardening gloves and waterproof trousers, regretting somewhat leaving my wellies at the allotment, and set too with buckets to bail it out.

It wasn’t as difficult as I anticipated. The main problem was the huge amount of grass, moss and plants that were choking the pond all round the edge. I put these in a couple of buckets, to protect any wildlife:


Then I removed the plants that I wanted to keep. The waterlily in the middle had grown gigantic, so I divided it up a bit:


There were two frogs and a whole family of newts lurking in the mud. They went into another big container along with the plants.  Fortunately there were no dead rats or anything really disgusting at the bottom of the pond. In fact, it all looked a bit too tidy;


Now to add the a new liner, and start the laborious process of refilling it with all the water I had taken out:


Which involved a lot of mud and trundling backwards and forwards to the water butt, as somehow there wasn’t enough of the original water in all my buckets and containers.  But now here is the pond, more or less reinstated, if a little muddy.


In the process of dismantling and remantling the edges, I discovered the remains of a frog house that we had built with the original pond.  It was completely covered in moss and grass and the ‘house’, made out of a clay pot, had collapsed. So I made a new one, with a new pot, some new logs and covered up again with moss:

WP_20180316_16_10_58_ProI also relaid the ‘wildlife beach’, necessary to let small creatures get in and out of the pond safely.

WP_20180316_16_11_36_ProI tidied up our giant Mexican frog, cleaning up some of the moss which had covered her and giving her a new wallflower to welcome the spring:

wp_20180316_16_11_11_pro.jpgI made sure that the frogs and newts in my bucket went back safely into the pond.  Then I let Bella come out to inspect:

WP_20180316_15_56_40_ProI think she approved.  It is a little muddy but I’m hoping that I’ve solved the leak problem and got rid of a lot of overgrown grass and moss, so that it will all look lovely again once spring finally arrives.

Signs of spring

After all that snow, and various life and family stuff taking over a bit, I am pleased that there are some tiny signs of spring again.  The first daffodils have finally appeared in the bit at the back of the garden that gets the sun:

WP_20180313_16_24_07_Pro[1]I took the chance of this slight springishness to prune the autumn fruiting raspberries, to bravely, sow a few salad seeds under a cloche and plant out a couple of broad bean plants in the cardboard covered raised bed.  It really is too cold out there to expect much to happen outside but the overwintered broad beans and onions do seem to be clinging on so maybe these little things will do ok.

To keep my seed sowing fingers busy  I also sowed my tomato and chilli seeds indoors in a propagator.  Long experience tells me that this is still probably too early but you have to start some time.

Meanwhile I have set in motion a long-delayed plan to get rid of the excessive conifers at the back of the garden.  This has taken forever, partly because of family resistance, partly because of a severe cash shortage the last time I had to time to think about it and partly out of sheer inability to get round to it.  But now the family resistance has been (mostly) worn down, funds are available to get a proper tree surgeon to do the work and a window of time opened in my life in the last couple of weeks enabling me to spend the whole five minutes or so that it took to send a couple of emails and arrange for a quotation.  Now I just need to wait for them to come and do the work… and more to the point, plan what to do with the space.  That’s where it gets exciting. Removing the conifers ought to open up a lot of space and light and possibly a site for a much coveted greenhouse – though that may have to wait until next year.  In the mean time I will need to do something about the boundary between my garden and the one behind it.

Behind the conifers there is a very sad privet hedge, dividing my garden from the neighbours.  My hope is that this hedge will regenerate given enough care but I think it will need a bit of help in making the garden reasonably private.  I’m thinking something like climbing things such as honeysuckle, climbing roses and clematis, and this year some annuals such as sweet peas and nasturtiums.  It’s all a little bit exciting.  If you have any suggestions for how best to rejuvenate a garden boundary containing a tired privet hedge, without removing it, replacing it with a fence, spending a lot of money and certainly not planting new conifers, do let me know


Allotment in the snow

I went for a walk in the snow and thought I’d check out the allotment. There were few signs of human activity but lots of wildlife tracks:

Mostly birds and rabbits I think, but perhaps a fox.  There is not much growing in the allotment just now.  Last year’s leeks were bravely showing above the snow:

WP_20180303_16_41_26_ProI checked that the water butt was still in place – it was and there was a tiny bit of water in it.  Of course there hasn’t been any rain since I put it up but some melting snow seems to have found its way in.  One of the other plots has a little pond and the local wildlife has clearly been using it as a watering hole:

WP_20180303_16_42_49_ProAlthough it is covered in snow, it hasn’t been that cold so there is water available and it is being well used. Back in my own garden, Bella ventured across the snow on our own pond to see if there was any water for her (like all cats she prefers to find her own wild water rather than the stuff in a sensible dish):

WP_20180303_17_50_07_ProShe was a little shocked to discover that the ice had melted under the snow and she got some very cold wet feet.

It is all still rather beautiful, but I’ll be pleased when the snow melts and the spring flowers come up.

Snow beast update

Cowometer showing deep snow on the pond again this morning:

WP_20180302_14_57_58_Probut it is thawing a little.  I went out to the front garden and cleared the pavement outside our house.  Other people in the road had cleared their drives. I am more concerned about pedestrians on the pavement.  I also built a car-blocking snowperson in the driveway, just in case:

wp_20180302_15_58_15_pro.jpgMy sons did this the last time we had decent snow here, nearly ten years ago.


snowmen against global warming 2009
Snowman 2009

It was a better snowman but since neither of them were available to do this today, I thought it was my duty to do so. Looking at that old photo, I notice that the snow was less impressive but also that it was before I dug up the front carpark and planted roses and lavender, herbs and daffodils.  You can’t see much of them in this photo either but the spring bulbs are there and they will reappear soon!