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The first month of 2013 is already near its end and I have not written a blog since before Christmas. Where do the days go?
We had a lovely family Christmas with Jennie and co. It was a lovely sunny day and it reminded me of how Sundays used to be. The streets were empty and had that just washed look from the rain during the previous night, and everywhere seemed peaceful and special. I am sure there were many cold, wet, snowy or foggy Sundays but, in the “rose-tinted” way of memory I only remember the sunny days, just as I remember the sunny days we spent on the East Coast every summer!
Jennie and I took the boys to her local church, which is a very friendly and welcoming church. The men stayed home and minded the baby and watched over the dinner.
We had a splendid repast and then spent an enjoyable time opening presents, breaking off only to watch the Queen’s Christmas message. Everyone seemed very happy with their presents.
I was very lucky. One of my presents was a ticket to see Anton and Erin next month when they make their annual vist to Cardiff. Jennie and I have been every year and have enjoyed it tremendously.
JW worked very hard finding my presents this year. I have been trying to find out more about the part my father’s ship HMS Biter played in WW2 and he had found two books which each had chapters about Operation Torch and the Atlantic convoys. He also found details of Captain Abel Smith who commanded Biter from January 1942 till July 1943 so I was able to fill in some gaps. I remember that we used to get Christmas cards from Captain Abel Smith for a few years after the war. I think that has stuck in my memory because I had never heard that name before (except for Adam’s son!)
Another present from JW were two wall maps, one of the world and one of the UK. I have this rather “nerdy” fascination in seeing where I have been and where I would like to go. I spent a pleasant afternoon sticking in coloured pins. (I know, it takes all sorts ūüôā )
Since Christmas we have had alternating cool sunny weather and rain, with a break for a couple of weeks snow. This has all disappeared now but the ground is still soggy, however I was surprised to see that the spring bulbs are coming through already and the dwarf iris, primula, cyclamen and chionodoxa are in flower and the leaves of the potentilla are beginning to unfurl, so can spring be far away? I won’t believe it until the snowdrops bloom!

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Last weekend I was watching the birds enjoying themselves splashing about in the bird bath. They were being quite organised, two or three of them at a time, the others waiting patiently for their turn (I wonder if the tweeting was bird speak for, “Come in no 7 your time is up”)

As I watched them I became aware that there were far more  than I had seen in this garden before, even when JW  put out the fatballs. They were mostly blue tits, coal tits and sparrows and the tree seemed to be alive with them as they darted around, in and out of the foliage, and then I realised what they were doing. They were feasting on the berries.

Before the feast!

Suddenly there was a mass exodus and a flock of twittering birds left,  leaving just the regulars, and not a berry in sight!

After the feast!

They were very fair though and only feasted on the haws and left my cultivated fruit alone.

They didn't touch the grapes!

or the blackberries

or the raspberries.

I wonder how they knew the berries were there. Did our residents tweet about it? ūüôā

Yesterday I had a lovely birthday. I spent part of it at a local garden centre and most of it with my family, so the best of two worlds!

First I had my presents from JW,¬† a lightweight stick/seat, which will be a great help when my hips or knees play up. and a book about Victorian Britain, which I didn’t even know had been published yet.

GG’ s mother and great uncle arrived in the morning and gave us a lift to the garden centre where we met Jennie. ¬†JW treated us all to a very tasty home cooked meal (I much prefer this homely fare to the usual restaurant food) and then I was¬†given a free rein to wander around.:)

I was quite restrained really (mainly because¬†JW and the extended family had offered to pay for my choice of plants, so I couldn’t be too greedy!)

I eventually chose the following

Gaillardia Suburst

Penstemmon King George

Sisyrinchium Rocky Point

Nemesia Amelie

My gardening friend , Chris, had grown me a lovely pot of  scented stocks

Stocks

 Jennie collected the boys from school and they gave me a superb garden lounger, which I had been craving.

My luxury lounger!

The sharp eyed ones of you will notice that the cushion still has the plastic cover on, this is purely because I wanted to photograph it today and there were black clouds looming!

We had afternoon tea  and finished with a delicious carrot cake made by Jennie. I appreciated this especially  as she has been having trouble with her hands recently, so grating carrots did not come easily for her. She had also crocheted me a pretty table mat.

Although it was St. Swithun’s day we were very lucky with the weather and the showers only came when we indoors, so I had a lovely birthday.¬† Aren’t I lucky?

I wanted to use part of the garden for edible plants. I thought first of mixing them into the borders, but,as we have a “free range” tortoise it would not be practical. I learned this to my cost when I planted out two decorative brassicas which Jennie ¬†kindly donated and he found them a very tasty snack:)

We freed up space by having the conifers taken out which clothed the side wall and replaced them with a tayberry and a thornless blackberry. The gardener who removed the conifers sucked his teeth and told me that nothing would grow there, but my berries are doing their best to cover the wall and have already provided several desserts with more to come!

On the other side we are trying to keep up with the rampant vine. It has been pruned several times already and I have been fairly ruthless in thinning  the bunches in the hopes of larger grapes than last year, soon I will be out thinning the grapes in the bunches.

Mini grapes!

The next step was to remove the decorative box hedge on the edge of the lawn and replace it with raspberries, currants and Jostaberries. 

Fall gold raspberry

This little fellow doesn’t seem to understand that he is Autumn¬† fruiting and has beaten his relatives who are summer fruiting!

blackcurrant

The red and white currants have yet to fruit, but the black currant has produced a small crop this year.

There is no room for fruit trees in the garden so I am trying a mini orchard in pots, two apples, a pear, a peach and a fig. The fig is one I brought with me from the last house. Until recently it sulked at being pruned and then left outside instead of living in a poly tunnel, but it is beginning to recover and put forth leaves, although no fruits yet!

I am also making use of the window boxes which I have carted around since our first house and have planted herbs, lettuce, strawberries, tomatoes and pepper which all seem to be thriving so far!

window boxes

That is the progress (so far) but I still have a few big containers and empty spaces on the terrace!

As I have written before, when we moved into this house 2 years ago, I had to have a complete change of mind set on gardening as this garden is tiny compared to the garden we had previously.

When we moved in it was a very neat, (but a bit boring :)) garden mainly lawn and narrow rose borders and a few evergreens.

I wanted to create something less formal but still attractive to look at with year round interest and with a few edible plants. I left a few of the roses, but got JW  to dig out the ones prone to black spot etc. then severely pruned and warned the remainder! 

Dublin Bay

Ballerina

As you see they all responded to the drastic treatment and have earned their reprieve!

I also planted a clump of “Yellow Rattle” to brighten up the surrounding greenery.

A little patch of sunshine!

This is part of the “decorative” garden. In the next post I will tell you about the edible section!

As I wander around my garden I realise  that the colours of the Spring flowers reflects the colours of the political parties.

The first flowers were the neutral snowdrops, but these were swiftly joined by the yellow aconites and blue chionodoxias, the latter being very short lived :). These were rapidly overshadowed by the hosts of yellow and orange daffodils. Suddenly there was a brilliant flash of scarlet tulips and along the front of the border red and yellow primulas. There is a scattering of blue grape hyacinth and occasional forget-me-nots and now the short lived bluebells.

The scarlet tulips have gone and blue and yellow pansies were dominating the colour scheme, until this week  nowthe shrubs draw the eye, red acer and red tipped pierris and the beginning of red leaved fuchsias.

Nature has her own colour scheme and most of it is yellow!¬† Dandelions abound everywhere (too many even for Henry to devour.) They cover the¬†wild bank between us and our neighbour’s garden, all the common ground and roadside verges and¬†jostling them for space are the celandines.

 The hedgerows are covered in the yellow gorse flowers.  Do you think Nature is giving us a hint on which way to vote next week?

Yesterday I decided that I would try to get into “blog mode” again. Tomorrow I thought I will start on the NaBloPoMo again and the theme for August is Tomorrow, so here goes!

I looked up the definition in the OED and found

1) The day after today

2)The near future

3) Tomorrow weekРa week from  tomorrow

4)Like there was no tomorrow–completely without restraint.

I can think of other interpretations of tomorrow which I shall explore in later posts, which may not be dictionary definitions but it is what tomorrow has meant to me in past times.

For today I am thinking about the immediate tomorrow August 2nd 2009. I hope the weather is better than today because I want to go out into the garden and thin the grapes, in the hope we will get bunches of reasonably sized grapes this year.

I had never grown grapes until we moved to this house where there was a well established vine, but it was wound round an archway and difficult to reach. JW  painstakingly unwound it last Autumn and trained it along wires.

I think last year I was too kind to it and left too many little grapes and too many bunches, so I am trying to be more ruthless this year and have trimmed the branches back and limited the number of bunches. I started thinning the actual grapes but it is very fiddly and time consuming, so there is still a lot to do, so hope for fine weather for me please.

As I mentioned in a previous post, when we moved into this house 18 months ago there was a neat garden which was very pretty in the summer, but quite dull in the other seasons. I waited patiently for most of the next year to see what would appear and was disappointed that there were no bulbs, so last autumn I planted dozens of varieties¬† and hoped they would bring some colour to the spring. Luckily almost everything has come up, snowdrops, aconites,crocuses and chionodoxia early on, then the mini daffs, tulips,¬† iris reticulata ¬†and grape hyacinths. Now the bluebells are coming out and the dog toothed violets. I have also scattered primulas and violas¬†around (these I rescued from Tesco’s “manky plants ” shelf for a nominal sum and have all thrived with a bit of TLC)

Because the garden is small, we had the conifers removed from the side and I have now planted a tayberry and a thornless blackberry against the exposed wall. JW  removed the box hedge, (which our friendly local plumber was delighted to take for his garden.) In its place I have planted raspberry canes and a couple of currant bushes.

JW unwound the grapevine from the trellis arch, pruned it and trained it along the other wall along wires. It seems to have survived the treatment and is uncurling its leaves. I have planted some trailing strawberry plants under the wires in the hopes that if they can trail, they can also be trained to climb.:)

My “mini orchard” in pots has survived the winter and is covered in blossom, (2 apples,a pear, a peach and a fig) I don’t expect fruit this year but live in hopes for future years!

Lettuce and other salad crops will have to be grown in containers because I think Henry would be unable to resist the temptation of organic veg (that is also one of the reasons why I am trying climbing strawberries!)

I have a few more ideas but the eventual hope is to have an attractive, manageable garden which gives us a few edible crops.

Today we went into Cardiff to visit the RHS show. We were blessed with a lovely sunny day so it was a lovely day out. I was supposed to me meeting a friend from¬†West Wales, but we did not manage to find each other, so I was extra pleased that JW ¬†had offered to go with me. He is more into agricultural shows than flower shows, so it was very noble of him ūüôā

It is quite a small show compared to Chelsea or Shrewsbury, but it was very well organised, and I think, with my aching hips, it is the right size for me to get round.

While I can resist clothes, fashion items etc.etc. I am like a child in a sweet shop when it comes to plants and books, but am trying to curb this since we moved, and, since (even when we had a big garden) JW always groans, “Not more plants” I was thrilled when I was trying to choose just one of three beautiful alstromeiras he said, “Why not have them all, I’ll pay!”

I bought a few more dwarf plants, but was fairly restrained! and JW carried them home for me. We enjoyed seeing the wheelbarrows decorated by the school children, some of which were very imaginative, a few looked as though there was quite a bit of adult input, but most looked as though the children had a lot of fun with them.

They didn’t have the big show gardens of¬† Chelsea of course, but they did have a few small eco friendly gardens.

I don’t know what happened to B.—I had even remembered to charge and switch on my mobile phone too! but she will probably be down again soon anyway.

We arrived home a bit aching and foot sore but ,very happy with my purchases. That front lawn will have to go!!

When my father came home from the war, in 1946 he had one extra thing to get used to…..the loss of his garden. We had moved house about 3 years earlier and, though the house was bigger than the first house, the outside space was much smaller and had only a very narrow strip of garden which was filled with a lilac tree, a bunch of flag irises, a few heather plants and small perennials. Not an edible plant in sight. At my first home there had been a long garden¬†and Dad grew vegetables and kept a few hens. It was the house¬†where he had been born and he had grown up there with his grandmother. I didn’t realise¬†how much this urge to grow food was in his genes until I started to research the family history and discovered that my paternal line had been countrymen until my great grandfather moved his large family into the town and started working at the colliery in the 1880s.

The answer to Dad’s problem came when the man next door told him that a garden was coming up for sale near his. In Nottingham they had an excellent scheme for garden holders. These gardens were similar to allotments but were more private and you bought the lease on them.¬†Each garden was surrounded by a hedge. There were about 100 of them laid out like a small estate, with a main avenue (wide enough for a lorry) ¬†and narrower lanes opening off this. The whole estate was surrounded by high stout hedges and the avenue entered via a lockable gate.

These gardens rarely changed hands (usually due to either the death or infirmity of the owner) and you had to be “in the know” to get one, so we were extremely lucky to get one. I think Dad paid ¬£100 for it. For that we got a plot of cultivated land, about 1/5 acre, on which there was a ramshackle shed and greenhouse, eight apple trees, two pear trees an asparagus patch¬† (though we never ate the asparagus, just used the fern with the bouquets of sweet peas he brought home for Mum!) and a patch of the cure -all comfrey. There was no electricity or mains water or drainage. The water for the garden came from the well and the drinking water we took from home.

He loved that garden and spent as much time as he had left over from SJAB, work and church affairs. He was always an early riser so in the summer he would go before work and water his tomatoes etc. He made the shed cosy with discarded furniture from home, a wood burning stove on which he could boil a kettle or fry his bacon and a collection of mugs for when he entertained his gardening friends.

They were a friendly group, mostly a lot older than him and it used to amuse me when I heard them call him Lad. They never seemed to be in a hurry, but all their gardens were productive and immaculately kept.

Dad grew a variety of vegetables throughout the year and kept us¬† and the neighbours supplied and also sold some to the greengrocer. He didn’t much care for flower growing , just chrysanthemums, dahlias, sweetpeas and various colours of Michaelmas daisies. The latter he grew specially to decorate the pulpit at Harvest Festival.

He almost tamed some of the birds who came visiting and had names for all of them, Chirpy, Cocky, Blackie & co. and all our bacon rinds were carefully chopped and fed to them!

When JW¬† came home with me and visited¬†the garden, he offered to build him a new greenhouse, so the following Easter we drove a precarious load of dutch lights and timber down to the garden and he and Dad built a magnificent glasshouse, which became Dad’s pride and joy. He always said after that, that he had swapped me for a greenhouse ūüôā

He kept the garden for the rest of his life and had been down to it on the day he died in1982. He had¬†collected tomatoes and lettuces to take to his friends at the SJAB headquarters where he had gone to get his teaching schedule for the following Autumn term, so he got his wish. He always said he wanted to “die with his boots on”