WP_20170624_15_59_03_ProThis month’s combination of sun and rain has brought lush growth in the vegetable patch. I thought I’d better do something about the equally lush weeds and overgrown hedges.  Underneath the escallonia, I found this tangle of flowers and greenery.  None of these are weeds though.  Here there is clover.  If not exactly planned, it is at least welcome.  There is also campanula.  I can’t quite remember how it came here but it’s lovely anyway.  And there is a lot of campion

campionThe campion has self-seeded all round the garden, from plants that we brought from our old garden.  It carries particular memories of summers by the sea and a small boy who loved flowers.  That small boy, all grown up now, was also the motivation behind the purply flower in the tangle:

WP_20170624_15_59_09_ProWe bought this plant when the boys were very small.  It was a wet day, things were getting a little fractious indoors but I had spotted an advert for a plant sale at the local church hall. These were the ‘Doing the garden‘ years, when we resembled the family in Sarah Garland’s lovely book.  There was a bit of a battle going on.  I was running out of vegetable space but the boys wanted more flowers.  ‘Let’s see if they have any bargains and we’ll try and find a space for them?’, I’d said, hoping to pick up some extra courgette plants.  When we got to the hall, it turned out to be a rather posh affair: not bargain plants at all but quite expensive individual varieties of flowers.  No vegetables. We came home with this little purple plant. We found a home for it and it has flourished, coming up every year and lovingly moved with us to our new home. I think it’s a kind of geranium but perhaps another plant expert can keep me right here.

The yellow flower in the photo is Craws’ Taes, otherwise known as Birds’ Foot Trefoil.  It reminds me of my own childhood and summers in the far north of Scotland. I loved it then for the contrast between its local name and its posh official name.  I love it now for its bee-attracting properties.

That tangle of wild, and not so wild, flowers is full of wildlife and full of memories

Flowers of the night

One of the joys of the #30dayswild project is going into the garden in the late evening. At this time of year there is still a little light in the sky well past 11pm. The weather has been mostly pleasant and so in search of some last minute wildness, I’ve wandered into the garden to see what I could see and hear as the light begins to leave the sky. For the last few evenings, the sunsets have lit up the sky with glorious colour:


Tonight we’ve had a thunderstorm so the sky is not so clear. The rain has stopped but I can hear the whole garden dripping with water falling from the trees and bushes. The lawn is covered in snails, out for a late night picnic. What is more startling though is the sparkle of white flowers. In this very late dusk I can see philadelphus, bog cotton, daisies closed up for the night, the white rim of a variegated mint, forget-me-nots, night-scented stock, white sweet peas and oxeye daisies. The white flowers of the mange tout peas can still be seen and the pink flowered peas which flower at the top of the plant look like sparklers on bonfire night.

My camera cannot capture this, though these photos show the flowers around the pond a little earlier in the evening:


I read somewhere that you should grow white flowers because they attract moths and insects in the evening, providing food for bats. I didn’t plan for this late night show but tonight I’m inspired to grow more.


Finding gold

I was going to do a Father’s Day post to celebrate my much loved and much missed Dad. But it’s been another busy weekend, happily spent with my mother in her garden so a good one for that.  Now I’m home again and desperately trying to finish a work thing that should have been done last week – so no significant gardening done (well not in my garden anyway) and no time for blog writing.

So here are just a couple of thoughts.  I harvested the first of the potatoes that Mum and I bought way back in January and left to chit in egg boxes:

I planted these out when she was in hospital, hoping she’d get a chance to enjoy them. They’ve come up well and looked fabulous. This weekend seemed like a good time to have a little dig and see what was there.  I pulled back a couple of stalks, poked around in the crumbly leafmould, which I’d used to earth them up, and found gold:


My Dad once told me that his best gardening moment was when he harvested his first potatoes as a young father in our first family home with a garden.  He said it was like finding gold.  You couldn’t beat that feeling.  He was right.  These were not my first potatoes but I don’t usually grow them and these ones were special in their own way.

Just a little bucketful to take to my mother’s.  They were lovely, we both enjoyed them and there’s lots more to come.


Bees, frogs and trees at polling stations

It’s been another week where the garden has been low on the list of things to do. I’ve been keeping up the #30dayswild activities and tweets though it has been a little challenging what with the General Election and such like. I tried to rival the #dogsatpollingstations hashtag with a #treesatpolling stations one:



but I don’t think it caught on (next time maybe!).  On my way to and from work, I’ve been enjoying the Water of Leith, Edinburgh’s little known river and an oasis of peace in the centre of the city:

Today, I’ve been in the garden and planted out most of the courgettes, marrows and tomatoes and moved all of the cucumbers to the seed houses.  Harvesting is just beginning.  We’ve had about four strawberries and five peas but lots more to come.  I had a lovely harvest of rainbow chard and so made rainbow curry for tea:


As part of the #30days wild I’ve been spotting bees and frogs in the garden. The bees love the flowers on the sage plant in the front garden:


The frogs are out in force. I’ve seen them in the pond, behind the compost bin, all over the fairy mounds – these are frog heaven – covered in moss and wildflowers and long grass: WP_20170610_17_37_39_Pro

This fairy mound survived its recent move and is still full of frogs, though the frogs are tiny and hard to photograph as they, sensibly, hop out of the way as soon as they notice you.  But I found a huge one under a rhubarb leaf:


I reckon they’ve been enjoying all this rain we’ve been having. There has been an awful lot of rain. This was much needed and I took great pleasure in watching the water butts fill up and the pond beginning to overflow:

Now, we have had enough, thanks.



A wild weekend

Heart hands @Dani Cox.jpg

I’ve just signed up for the #30dayswild project, run by the wildlife trusts.  The project encourages everyone to do something wild every day in June.  This can range from going on a long trek in the countryside, to counting a few insects in your garden.  My involvement will be at this much more domestic end of the range.  But it gives me a reason to try and focus on something to do with wildlife or nature every day, even on days when I barely lift my nose from the keyboard or find myself stuck in meetings from 9 to 5.   I’ve been trying to walk to work most days and this usually gives me something to think about.  So far my wild days have included:

  • noticing the birdsong on my way to work
  • spotting some wild art on a building sitewild art

When I first saw this, I thought it was a mural and then I realised that it was just wild plants growing up beside a piece of painted wood. Wild indeed.

  • Then I had a rather wild weekend

On Saturday I woke up earlier than planned and watched sparrows flitting in and out of the sycamore tree, eating greenfly I think.  Then I went to the Meadows Festival, one of my favourite annual Edinburgh events. I was looking for bargains on the charity sales tables, picking  up leaflets for various good causes, listening to live music, catching up with old friends, drinking coffee and having a wee picnic on the grass. Surprisingly the sun shone and I came home with a 50p plastic watering can, a few herb plants and an underwater MP3 player.  I’ve always fancied one of these for my swimming activities.  At £2 it was worth a try.  The MP3 player works.  Whether or not it works underwater, I have yet to find out.  In the mean time the £2 went to an appropriately environmentally minded organisation.

On Sunday I visited the Gardening Scotland show at the Ingliston showground, just outside Edinburgh. I hadn’t been for many years. The last time I went I had two very small children in tow and we ate a lot of ice cream.  Otherwise I don’t remember much except that it wasn’t really my thing:  I don’t like crowds, I hate the overcommercialisation of gardening, thought it was too expensive and generally I’ve had other things to do, this first weekend in June. This year I thought, as a garden blogger, I should at least have a look at it. Anyway I got a tram out to Ingliston and walked the, considerably longer than ‘ten minutes’, from the tram stop to showground, passing some lovely roses on the way:


It was rather pricey to get in but once there, I found much to enjoy, especially the show gardens. I had been rather wary of these, having seen what was offer at the Chelsea flower show on TV and imagining over-designed plots with too much hard landscaping and temporary flowers.  Flowers that had been carefully planned to bloom for a couple of days and would be finished within hours of the show ending.  I fell in love with these though, especially the front gardens for the greening grey Britain campaign

These were gardens after my own heart, designed to replace paving and car parks in front gardens with greenery and vegetables.  I also loved the children’s wildlife havens, lovingly designed by primary schools all over the country:

As with the Meadows Festival, I drank coffee, had a picnic on the grass and picked up leaflets for various good causes and the sun shone again. I didn’t bump into any old friends and I didn’t buy any plants.

I came home and planted out my seed-raised tomatoes in my raised beds, drank some mint tea and divided up the mint plants so that I could have more later in the year.

All in all it was quite a wild weekend.  Today it rained all day.  This was much needed and watching it constituted my only wild activity.

I won’t blog every day in June but I’ll try and tweet about my wild activities and summarise my findings here. Follow me on Twitter  @GreenBeanJackie if you want the daily updates.  My tweets will usually be about urban wildlife and what I can find in the city centre.

Flowers and friends in the garden

I’ve been away for a few days and come back to roses:

Wild rose
Gertrude Jekyll
Boule de Neige
Benjamin Britten

Although my first loves are vegetables, I can’t resist roses.  These all also have a wonderful scent.  And then I spotted some red flowered broad beans:


I sowed these a while ago and none had come up so I was delighted that a few have now appeared. I’ve no idea what the beans will be like but the flowers are certainly worth the wait.  Meanwhile the bees look as if they prefer the black and white flowers on the ordinary broad beans:

WP_20170528_17_03_48_ProMy day was made when I found this little friend on a rose bush, chomping its way through the greenfly:


Revenge of the plants

It’s not often that you see plants getting their revenge. Warning, there may be gross bits.

Since my boys were small, we’ve always had carnivorous plants in the house. The only non-vegetarians apart from the cat. We grow pitcher plants (sarracenia) in the kitchen in the vain hope that they may eat a few of the fruit flies that inevitably come in from the compost bins. Fruit flies are harmless but a bit annoying. Mostly the pitcher plants don’t have much effect but it feels like we’re at least trying. This winter I managed to kill off the plant that we’d had for a few years – too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, not enough insects, too many insects? – one of these things, unless it was the dreaded vine weevils getting in from the garden and eating the roots.

I’d been feeling  guilty about the dead plant. The fruit flies had made their spring appearance, so I bought two new pitcher plants, and a venus fly trap, to see how they would get on. The fruit flies are still multiplying and there didn’t seem to be much evidence of them being caught by the plants. Fast forward to yesterday evening and I noticed holes in the leaves – the blasted vine weevils at it again:


– and then I saw the body…

….. well half a body. You know the joke about what is worse than finding a maggot in an apple? Well this was a revised version. What is better than finding a vine weevil on your pitcher plant? Finding half a vine weevil on your pitcher plant. This glorious plant had eaten the vine weevil! I told you it would be gross but I’ve spared you the photograph. By the time I took this one, the weevil had been completely consumed.

I’ve always grown these plants inside but apparently they can survive outside as well. I may have to fill the garden with these wonders and see if they can eat all the weevils and perhaps a few slugs into the bargain.

Three reasons to love broad beans


1 Because they are easy to grow


2 Because you can make broad bean guacamole from them – see here for how toWP_20160903_006

(Actually that photo also contains courgettes, peas and French beans but you get the point)

3 Because they remind me of Roxy, our lovely garden blogging cat, long gone but still remembered, especially at this time of year:

Clearly a master of disguise as well as a talented garden blogger

Groceries in the garden

Today I heard that an old Italian friend, Roberto, had died suddenly.   I will never forget his exclamation when he visited our old house and looked out of an upstairs window at the garden:

‘Ah but you have groceries in the garden’

His English, like everything else about him, was charming. He had not yet worked out the subtleties of the English language, where ‘groceries’ means things like tea and sugar and butter and ‘vegetables’ are what you find in gardens.  It was not just his take on the English language but Roberto’s enthusiasm for such things as vegetables that I remember about him.  We had lost touch but I am still shocked by this sudden and untimely loss. Roberto’s memory lives on in those who knew and loved him. I’m pleased still to have groceries in my garden.

Magic Seedlings

I have never got over the magic of a germinated seed. Even to hardened gardeners, those first little signs of life are the proof that there is magic in the world. Although some of my vegetables are up and growing, some things have just peeked their tiny green heads above the soil. Here, for example, are my first ever germinated parsley seeds. These are notoriously difficult to germinate, but this year they’ve come through:


And here are some aubergines:


Don’t laugh, I thought they weren’t going to come up at all this year.  Here is some basil, looking rather more sturdy:


I’ve been experimenting with these ‘peat free’ planting pod thingies and they seem to have worked really well, especially with tomatoes, peppers etc.  You plant one seed (or if you’re a bit nervous, 2 or 3 or 4 as with the basil) in each pod and then plant the whole thing out once they’ve properly established.  Seems to work. The other secret, which may explain the parsley, is an electric propagator. I really try to resit anything like this but it’s only one small tray and it seems to make all the difference just to get things up through the soil.

Here are the courgettes and marrows.


Here I have a problem. If you look carefully – excusing the lazy plant labels – you will see about 12 courgettes and only one marrow. what to do? Do I

1) Plant out all the courgettes but let some grow into marrows;
2) Sow some more marrow seeds, just in case;
3) Be patient and hope that some more marrows come up?

The problem with 1 and 2, of course, is that I will end up with 12 marrow plants which is probably more than even I can cope with – see here for my love of marrows.