Brief hiatus, but luckily no hernia (only bruising)

On Friday I was struck by a car while cycling. Luckily neither of us was going very fast, but I’m still feeling a bit shook up: bruised and grazed, and achy in the joints that took my weight as I fell.

On Saturday I’d planned to get a load of plant supplies in a borrowed car anyway, so while I was stocking up on organic compost and manure, this Ficus elastica var Robusta “Tineke” just happened to fall into my trolley:

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Here you see it keeping a peace lily company, on a gravel tray for reasons of humidity. Please ignore the wallpaper behind them, even if the chocolate and green tones eerily match the Ficus. The artificial plant, by the way, is a memento mori: placed there for balance, until we buy more plants! All three of them have been helping the Welsh Rose out, by looking after me when I needed it.

Today, after having to paint over that terrible wallpaper (unavoidable, for complicated timetabling reasons) I’m resting up. Given that paid work needs to take priority over the next couple of weeks anyway, expect a brief pause on this blog!

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Crocus, narcissus and tulip planters come to life

The spring bulbs I planted back in November (narcissus, iris and tulip initially, augmented later with crocus) have started to show considerable life:

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So much so that I’ve decided to start removing the netting that was preventing other local cats (and maybe a fox) from digging around in them. Above you can see Crocus “Spring Beauty” the most advanced, with Tulipa “Temple of Beauty” surprisingly early, and occasional Narcissus “Pipit” in between.

I moved this green planter from our decking—which can barely be seen from the house—to just by the back door, and I’m really glad I did so: every time I pass it, the deep indigo-white mosaic on the crocus flowers catches my eye.

More than just snowdrops at Hodsock Priory

On Saturday the Welsh Rose and I went with friends to see the snowdrops at Hodsock Priory. Now, I’m certainly no galanthophile, but I am keen on the little creatures: I’ve visited both Kingston Bagpuize House and Colesbourne Park in the past; and a G. “Ophelia” did accompany us on our move from Oxfordshire to Sheffield, even if it was nibbled of its flowers. Seeing as snowdrops are now “a thing parks and gardens do in late winter,” then we felt it would certainly be a way of brightening up the longest, greyest cold snap of the season so far.

Hodsock is definitely more about swathes of many snowdrops than, say, Colesborne’s individually labelled species. You could tell there were differences, if you got right up close:

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but there was more intermingling than there was labelling. This landscape focus made a nice change, though, often gave a feeling of water or fog billowing down a valley:

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The beech trees, still with leaves intact, were a nice cinnamon-coloured foil to the white bobbles bubbling up underneath:

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Elsewhere, snowdrops and Eranthis were interspersed with each other, which is just adorable as if they’re totally the best of pals:

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Snowdrops aside (“how could you?” I hear you cry) Hodsock has a lovely winter garden of its own, with one of its stars being this (among several) luminescent Hamamelis mollis:

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When the light was behind it, the glow from it left one quite dumbstruck. Equally surprising, but much harder to photograph, was the neon pink flowers of several Prunus mume:

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There were also beds and beds and beds of Hellebore, including these H. x hybridus:

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The hellebore, snowdrops, winter aconite, iris and other flowers were all planted on banks and in beds, mixed up or in swathes. It was quite a shock to find the first tulip of spring among these iris:

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Elsewhere, bright-red rosehips were still on their bushes, undisturbed by birds:

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I suppose that’s this year’s weird warm winter for you. But this Osteospermum is just taking the mickey:

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Sarcococca was much more in keeping with the season:

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So much that I came home with a still-flowering S hookeriana, which now has pride of place on our front steps. As I go to and from the house I can occasionally, awkwardly, bend down a little, to sniff its sweet-shop-sugar scent.

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It’s sad when you see a tree vandalized, like this undifferentiatable Prunus over in Clay Wood:

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The leader having been snapped off, it really just looks like a stick in the ground, inexplicably staked out.

But! it’s only when you get closer that you can see:

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One of perhaps three or four buds, speckling the thin, sad trunk, and making clear it’s not done for quite yet.

I’m as worried as most environmentally minded people this year, at the earliness of spring and the absence of any real winter. But new growth always warms my heart. In the midst of death, we are in life.

Planting out the growhouse

Back in November, I bought a growhouse—a metal-tube frame about half the size of an old telephone box, with four shelves and an optional cover—and almost immediately assembled it indoors: ostensibly to check all the parts, but also to function as a set of actual storage shelves for a few months.

As part of my plan for the year (which I might share on here at some point!) I was determined to find a place for it outside. The sunniest part of the garden is (sigh) where the compost bins and the shed are kept, so I sandwiched it between the two, right up against the privet hedge for shelter, and weighed its lowest shelf down with four bricks. I was sure, given all of these stabilizing factors, it wouldn’t fall over this side of an actual hurricane.

No pictures exist of this position, because almost immediately… it fell over. Thanks, Storm Gertrude:

The growhouse clearly needed re-siting, preferably still as close to that sunny corner as possible. There are two rather flimsy-looking metal eyelets on the back of the cover, so I put some bungees up around the slightly wonky trellis surrounding the compost bins, then tipped each eyelet over a bungee hook. Not so there’s massive tension on the cover itself, but also without enough wiggle room for the eyelets to come loose again.

I think it now looks very much at home:

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In fact, for at least some of the day, it’s clear that the growhouse has full sun in its new position; probably more than it would have actually had tucked in between bins and shed:

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At some point I’ll replace the slightly unsightly bungees with something less obvious like cable ties, but I’ll also need to feel happy that the trellis can take the more concentrated stress of being pulled by a thinner, less yielding tie. It’s not the world’s best trellis.

That minor refinement aside, the real next step will be to start growing things in the growhouse, as it hopefully starts warming up prior to spring everywhere else in the garden. But it’s still early days yet, and I’m trying to keep a cool head, not planting anything outside (except maybe carrots, which don’t appreciate transplanting anyway) until at least March. Still, at least I now have a growhouse ready, for when I am too!