Advent calendar

‘Dairy Free advent calendar’. I saw this sign in a shop window and wondered what on earth it was about. Then I remembered that advent calendars are supposed to contain chocolate. So if you do don’t do dairy, you need ‘dairy free’ chocolates. Makes sense I suppose. But I’ve always been a little bit puritanical about advent calendars with my children. The joy was supposed to come from the excitement of opening a window and discovering a picture. Not about yet more chocolate, or consumerist stuff. So for the first years of parenthood we had to source old fashioned advent … Continue reading Advent calendar

Latin mice

We have mice in the garden. Not the kind that nibble the peas and eat the bird food. Not the kind that Bella watches every evening from her perch under the picnic table. We have these as well, though Bella does her best to keep their numbers down. The mice I am talking about are Latin scholars with very odd flowers: Arisarum Proboscideum – mouse plant I don’t really do Latin names for the plants in my garden – I prefer to think of them in terms of how I can cook them, what they smell like, where to grow … Continue reading Latin mice

How to plant a forest

A few years ago the assistant gardeners and I had an obsession with growing things from pips and seeds. We started with acorns – planting them in compost and then waiting for them to grow.  That was back in 2000 so we called them the millennium oaks.  I’ve still got three of them.  Two are in pots in the front garden, now fourteen years old.  They make very nice container plants which keeps them fairly small.   I planted one out in the garden a couple of years ago though and it is shooting upwards, about eight feet tall now. … Continue reading How to plant a forest

The trouble with caterpillars

In my last post I wrote about Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar.  This set me down a track that I hadn’t planned. When I started writing about gardening books, I imagined I would include my favourite ‘how to garden’ books and a few of the more reflective ones on ‘why I garden’.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar reminded me about all the lovely children’s picture books that feature gardening.   I’m not sure they’ve influenced my gardening as such but some of them do inspire me.  So to start off this children’s book diversion I thought I’d mention some of my favourites. … Continue reading The trouble with caterpillars

Slightly Extreme Croquet

The assistant gardeners have been playing croquet using an old family set that we found in the loft.  They were a bit worried that my lawn had too many hazards for a civilised game: raised beds full of vegetables, washing pole, rhubarb and raspberries spilling over the grass and lots of lumpy bits full of ‘wild flowers’, not to mention an elderly cat trying to sleep amongst the tall grasses.  I reassured them that this was no obstacle to a decent game.  When I was growing up we lived near the sea and used to play croquet on the beach.  … Continue reading Slightly Extreme Croquet

Positive externalities – or why everyone should dig up their front drives and plant flowers

Today a mother and toddler came into our front garden to sniff the herbs, look at the flowers and enjoy the bees.  Economists call this a ‘positive externality’.  A ‘negative externality’ is when someone produces lots of nasty pollution which affects other people but not the polluter, so the polluter doesn’t have to pay for it.  But a positive externality is when someone plants lovely flowers in their front garden and other people benefit from it too.  Economists think this is a terrible waste:  I should keep the pleasure that I have paid for (or worked for) to myself and … Continue reading Positive externalities – or why everyone should dig up their front drives and plant flowers