In other newts*

…the frogs are back!

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We’ve missed seeing them in the pond since last summer but the sunny weather has brought them back. We spotted at least two but I am sure there are more lurking in the undergrowth. We also have newts, dozens and dozens of them. They are harder to photograph as they flit about just under the surface rather than sitting still like the frogs. Bella is intrigued by all this underwater excitement:

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We also have an invasion of ladybirds:

I love these tiny creatures, even more so because they eat aphids. I’ve been trying to encourage them on to the roses which seem to suffer most of the tiny greenies but it’s lovely just to see the ladybirds, whatever they are doing.

It’s been lovely weekend, spent mainly in the garden, feasting our eyes on this glorious wildlife, entertaining a random collection of relatives and passing musicians and feasting ourselves on various delicacies, including an unseasonal Christmas pudding, bought in enthusiasm at a bargain price in late December. It was eaten outside, for an Easter feast. I was looking for an edible flower to decorate with – or at least something that wouldn’t poison us – rosemary seemed the most suitable

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Happy Easter, or Happy Spring, or whatever you celebrate, I hope you celebrate it well

*Thanks to my older son for the pudding and the title of today’s post

Spaghetti junction

Did you know that spaghetti grows underground? Nor did I until I found a vast network of it underneath the strawberry patch at the allotment:

20190416_161827[1]Actually, it’s not spaghetti, these are couch grass roots and they form a vast underground network right across our allotment. It is hard not to admire their tenacity but today, their bid for world domination has been thwarted, slightly. The strawberries are looking a little happier, although I can spy a few green shoots of spaghetti still sticking up amongst them:

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It was a surprisingly satisfying way to spend an afternoon away from the cares of the day job, helped by a flask of tea, some sandwiches and beautiful birdsong:

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As a special treat, the single broad bean plant that survived the winter has produced flowers:

20190416_172600[1]Isn’t nature astonishing?

Renewal

I don’t know about you but when I go out to spend a day in the garden, things never go quite according to plan. I did make a list, mostly concerning seed sowing, but, once I got outside, my mind turned to other things. First of all, it’s been the most glorious day – cold but with a with a spring tranquility. There was lots of birdsong, daffodils still in their full glory, some contended cats, taking it in turns to enjoy the flowers with me:

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While admiring these lovely primroses with Bella, I took a closer look at the back hedge, one year on from the great conifer removal. It is still quite scrappy looking but there are definite signs of renewal and there are daffodils, honesty and wallflower providing some spring colour:

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You can also see there a  rose, a honeysuckle and a lot of campion about to surge into flower. It’s definitely getting there and should look better in the summer once the regrowth has continued.  I did some light pruning of the privet to encourage it but once I had the shears in my hand, I wandered off to other areas of the garden in need of hacking back, finding myself attacking the enormous and ancient escallonia, which dominates one side of the garden. This magnificent bush has taken the place of the conifers as the oldest plant in the garden. It doesn’t appear to do very much but in the summer it is a magnet for bees:

Bee on escallonia

At this time of year it just looks rather scraggy and gets very out of hand if not pruned. Apart from the bees, what I love about this plant is that it doesn’t seem to mind what you do to it, it just grows back. Once I had cut back an entire council bin full of prunings, I found myself in right at its centre, where its ancient, ivy covered heart  is regrowing already:

 

 

 

Alongside the ivy all sorts of tiny things have self-seeded and started to grow inside this bush, including a holly:

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a bramble bush:

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a cotoneaster:

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and, astonishingly, a yew tree.

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Yew trees are supposed to live for thousands of years, but I suspect this escallonia is going to compete with it.  I cut back the ivy a bit (I know you’re supposed to leave it for wildlife and things but there is really quite a lot of ivy in my garden) and I pulled up the bramble but I’ll leave the cotoneaster and the holly and the yew to see what happens next.

I may go back out to the garden now to do some of that seed sowing but I came in to warm up, write this blog and to sample some of yesterday’s allotment cake, which turned out rather well:

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Rhubarb, weeds and a bunch of flowers

What a glorious day it has been today. I started in the garden, doing a little weeding, down on my hands and knees and was rewarded by this little gem of a viola, pushing up between the paving stones on the back patio:

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Then I weeded the strawberry patch:

20190330_131903It may not look like much to you but I assure you it is a lot tidier than it was. While I was down on my hands and knees amongst the weeds, I harvested some nettles, dandelion and hairy bitter cress and made weed pesto:

Weed Pesto

  • bunch of fresh nettles
  • a few dandelion leaves
  • a few florets of hairy bitter cress
  • a handful of herbs, eg chives, tarragon, mint
  • a clove of garlic
  • a splash of olive oil
  1. Wash the weeds and herbs well
  2. Pour boiling water over the nettles to kill the sting
  3. Rinse
  4. Put everything in a container and whizz for a couple of minutes with a hand whizzer

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Enjoy!

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Then, feeling I should do something about that old Mother’s Day thing, I went to visit my Mum. We don’t really do Mother’s Day in my house but following a bit of a little twitter spat about what gardeners should, or shouldn’t do to mark the day, I took her some rhubarb:

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Since it was such a lovely day, I brought her back to my house for some cat and garden therapy. Her cat (now resident with us) was rather disdainful but enjoyed being outside.

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Meanwhile Mum sorted out all the pots on my garden patio- I’ve never been much of a container gardener -mainly because of the nasty vine weevils which tend to eat everything, but Mum is a container wizard. Various things got replanted around the garden and she filled up some sad pots with bits of thyme, forget-me-not and random nasturtium seedlings. I’m looking forward to see how they turn out. Then she went and picked a whole lot of daffodils and wallflowers and arranged them nicely in a vase for me.

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‘But Mum, I’m supposed to give you flowers and all I gave you was rhubarb’. ‘The rhubarb will be lovely. You enjoy the flowers’.

Happy Mothers’, daughters’, grandmothers’, granddaughters’, nieces’, aunts’, sisters’ and family in general day!

 

Sunshine and rainbows

Despite a busy weekend, I found some time for the allotment this afternoon. We surveyed the plot again and now have our plan down in writing. There is blossom on the plum tree and birds flying all round the plot. Our overwintered onions are doing well and we are still harvesting purple sprouting broccoli and some baby kale.  The autumn sown broad beans have been almost completely hopeless: old seed, pests? We’re not sure why but one brave little plant has survived:

20190324_160136This should give us lovely beans in early summer. We sowed a whole lot more today to keep it company. In between the rows, I sowed some saved seeds from the magnificent radish ‘purple plum’:

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I’ll see whether they are any better at producing radishes in the allotment than they are in the garden but, if not, we, and the bees, can always enjoy the flowers:

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Meanwhile, back at the house,  my tomato seeds have germinated and are now queuing up on the windowsill, waiting for the warmth so that they can go out to the seed palace in a couple of months (oh dear – sown too soon again).

There was a cold wind alongside the sunshine and some icy showers. This late wintry combination brought us a rainbow, lighting up the trees:

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The season  is really beginning.

 

Daffodils

Daffodils always came out for my Dad’s birthday. Today he would have been 85. The daffodils have been early this year but there are plenty still in flower and more to come. Here’s some from my front garden in his memory:

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Lost and found

Spring has come early. The daffodils have joined the snowdrops and crocuses in bringing us cheer

Today I got out into the garden to do some clearing up. The hedge at the back of the garden, where the conifers used to be, is looking decidedly bedraggled. My idea that it would be full of life and colour and a huge improvement on the conifers has yet to materialise. Partly it is just winter and some of the things growing up it have yet to come into full joyousness but the bare bits are made slightly more complex by neighbours moving in behind the hedge. The house behind ours has been empty for a year or so and it hasn’t mattered very much that you can see straight into it but now we (and the new neighbours) seem just a little too transparent. Not that we get up to anything interesting but a certain level of privacy would be good. Today I used the springlike weather and some recent birthday gifts to try and fill the gaps a bit. Along with the existing honeysuckle and roses, I have now added another honeysuckle, a pink flowered jasmine, a pyracantha, a spring flowering clematis and some lavender seedlings.

If these all grow like they are supposed to the gaps in the hedge should fill up and there should be some winter greenery and early spring flowers and perhaps the neighbours won’t have quite such a ringside view of our family goings on. Meanwhile, the hedge threw up yet another piece of treasure, after all the footballs and whatnot from last year, today I found a keyring under the hedge, complete with key for the shed padlock, lost about five or six years ago and long since replaced:

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It’s very muddy and a little rusty but it has returned from the planet of the keyrings to its proper home.

At last, February

I’ve got a bit behind on the blog, what with the usual winter darkness and other commitments but, today, spring is in the air at last. I made a pilgrimage to the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens with my mother to look at the snowdrops:

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The gardens have a bare beauty at this time of year, with architectural trees, some tiny flowers and plenty of birdsong. They were also busy with visitors: families with small children, young couples, older people, tourists. We had a little reminisce over the generations of visits we have made to the gardens, always a popular place with children of all ages. We also enjoyed reading all the plaques on the memorial benches, and sitting on a few of the benches.  I noticed that there is now a ‘free library‘, down near the hot houses:

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currently filled mostly with novels.

Note of course that public libraries are also free and have many more books but it’s good to know that, should you find yourself sitting on one of the many memorial benches with nothing to read, you can find something in the free library.

Having tried out a few more benches, sniffed a few witch hazels and listened to robins in the trees, we came away with a bag full of plants from the shop – my mother’s birthday present to me. By the time we got home it was dark so the plants will have to wait until tomorrow to be planted. Meanwhile we had a good sniff of the winter box (sarcococca confusa) that sits just outside the bike shed on the way to my kitchen door:

20190215_182401[1]Spring is definitely in the air.

Worm’s eye view

Earlier in the week I got out into the front garden for a wee while in the sunshine. I noticed a huge worm on the paving stones.

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Who knows how it got there. I suppose it crept up through the cracks. Anyway, I picked it up and moved it onto a flower bed where I thought it would be happier.  While I was down on my hands and knees, I had a wee look to see what was in flower. All these lovelies were turning their heads to the sun:

and then I noticed crocuses, hiding underneath a gigantic lavender:

20190118_133309These are far too early for my garden but the combination of a low sun and the protection of the lavender must have brought them out.

Today I went to the allotment and spent a couple of hours, hauling up weeds mostly, and forgetting to take any photographs. But there was a lovely sunset to compensate on the way home:

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Signs of spring

In the dark days of January I have not got into the garden very often. I was away this weekend but got home in time to have a quick look round before it got dark. I was delighted to see the first snowdrops coming up:

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and that the hamamelis (witch hazel) is in flower:

20190113_142842[1]I love these signs of spring and they are a little early this year I think. The hamamelis is particularly pleasing as I’ve been struggling to keep these plants alive over several years. I used to grow them in pots but they have been destroyed by vine weevils – for more on these, see here . So early this year I bought a new one and planted it straight in the ground. It was doing well until it got a little damaged by the football playing musicians , who are, to quote my neighbour, ‘better at music than football’.

It seems to have survived both the weevils and musicians and has produced a lovely array of sweetly scented orange flowers to herald the spring.