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!


Beasts in the snow

On the first day of spring, as the so-called Beast from the East has visited Edinburgh, this would have to be a snow post.  I’ve been watching the snow over the last couple of days, creeping up over the beasts by the pond:


WP_20180301_16_03_21_ProWP_20180301_07_48_25_ProBella has not enjoyed the snow but has found special Bella ways of getting about:

The pond is a favourite part of the garden so she had to explore it in the snow

It’s still snowing tonight so I’ll provide a cowometer update and let you know if we can still see it tomorrow.  As for the plants underneath all of that, who knows?  Stay safe and warm.

Spring connections

Today I spent the day unable to focus on very much so was advised to get down to the allotment and do something practical.  So I put up all the guttering and stuff for the water butt.  I’ve been collecting up all the bits of guttering over the last few weeks, some new and some bits of ‘useful’ piping that I’ve had lying about for years.


It took ages and it snowed a bit.  When I tried pouring water on the shed roof, it came out in the right places

WP_20180226_14_07_31_Pro.jpgThen I connected everything up using one of those drainpipe diverter things. I have several of these, provided free with every water butt I’ve bought but completely useless on my house drainpipes which are ancient cast iron.  It isn’t really the right thing for the allotment either but it should connect all the piping together and provide an escape for any overflow water.

WP_20180226_14_58_42_ProI checked that the water was coming through the pipe into the water butt:

WP_20180226_14_57_33_Pro.jpgNow I need to wait for rain to see if it really works.

It was a very practical sort of day but the birds were singing and the sun was shining and there were daffodils

WP_20180226_12_18_44_Pro.jpgIt was a day of mundane but important practicality.  It’s supposed to snow tonight but the allotment provided signs of spring and hope.


February weekend

I’ve had a February sort of weekend, with my favourite February flowers. I’ve visited my mother and acquired yet another witchhazel, third time lucky that this one will survive the vine weevils.


Then we went to the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh in search of snowdrops.



We found quite a few.  I had also been hoping to see some crocuses but it was rather a grey day and they were hiding.  There were a few in the alpine house, protected from the biting wind and sharing the glory with these lovely irises:WP_20180218_15_52_36_Pro.jpg

The gardens can be rather bleak at this time of year but it’s nice just to wander round and enjoy the trees in all their architectural glory:

WP_20180218_15_30_50_Pro (1).jpgWP_20180218_15_30_58_Pro.jpg


WP_20180218_15_47_51_Pro.jpgI’ve said here before that I think that February is overlooked.  I have my own special reasons for liking February in all its oddness, its special shortness, its signs of spring and particularly its snowdrops.


I just nipped out to make a pot of tea…


… mint tea, that is.

What I set out to do was to put a little cutting of Moroccan mint in a pot in this teapot, which sadly lost its lid and was destined for the bin, ‘unless you want to put a plant in it?’.  Of course I wanted to put a plant in it.  So this little mint cutting, with little green leaves just peeping up above the soil now has a new appropriate home in a teapot. I have mint all over the garden, in pots at the front, and round the pond at the back.  All the gardening advice books tell you not to plant mint in the ground, but my, slightly bizarre, idea of planting it round the pond seems to work.  Its nice to have a few bits in pots as well though.  Mint dies back in the winter but this year I tried the trick of freezing pieces in ice cubes:


I also froze some tarragon and some mixed herbs like this.  They’re great for popping in an iced drink, or adding to soup, and lovely cooked with peas!  I must remember to do more of these next summer when the herbs are at their best.

But back to my trip into the garden to make mint tea.  What I hadn’t bargained for was that this would lead to a further two hours in the front garden, tidying up, cutting back and generally revelling in the joys of spring. The forecast had been for snow and sleet and all sorts of nastiness but today turned out to be a lovely, warm, sunny spring day.  The crocuses came out:


Birds were tweeting and I even saw a bee. The garden has woken up from its winter slumber.



WP_20170606_08_17_56_ProI’ve had a day working at home, waiting for a plumber to attend to a dripping tap.  It seems like a very minor thing but it’s taken us months to get round to sorting it.  Finally, the plumber has worked his magic and we no longer have the drip.  In the mean time, I have been suffering endless guilt at all the water that has been wasted while we failed to get round to this apparently simple household maintenance task.

To assuage some of that guilt and to get out of the house, I made a little trip to our local DIY store this evening.  I came home with a length of guttering and some fiddly bits to fix the guttering to the shed on the allotment so that we can install a water butt.   I’ve already fixed similar guttering for water butts to the two sheds in the garden, following the very helpful advice in one of my handy garden books (Practical Allotments, by Paul Wagland Guild of Master Craftsmen, 2009):


I’ve had this book for a good few years.  It differs from most of my gardening manuals because it is really a DIY book, giving lots of useful tips for making raised beds, things to grow plants up, and how to fix guttering to a shed. Paul Wagland’s advice is helpful, the main tip being to check that the whole thing works by pouring water into it.  Must remember to take some water with me to the allotment to check that bit when I get round to it.

Despite my skills at gutter fixing, my experience with water butts in the garden has been a little mixed, with the first two freezing solid one very hard winter, cracking round the edges and becoming quite useless. Photo here of the effects of excessive ice – and you can see the beautifully installed guttering at the top of the picture.

frozen water barrel

For more on that saga see here  and more here. But since then, fingers crossed, the replacements have done really well at collecting rain water and basically doing what they are meant to do.

water barrel

Despite the terrible waste from the dripping tap, water will be saved.




WP_20180204_16_53_55_Pro (6)We had a short committee meeting at the allotment today.  It was a glorious day but far too early to do any planting.  So we did a little planning and I dug up some couch grass. I had taken along my ancient wellies and some well-worn gardening gloves.  I also have my own key now so I think that’s me officially plotting.

I don’t want to let this allotment excitement lead to neglecting the garden though, so yesterday I went out in the rain and tidied up some overgrown stuff and sorted out the broccoli a bit.  Pigeons have been feasting on it over the winter but there are signs of new growth.  I propped up the plants and put some netting on them to keep the pigeons off.


I also moved a few snowdrops that were hiding underneath the hellebore


Despite the forecast for snow and ice, spring is in the air.