Sunday 30 April 2023

Z is for Zinnia

I only just realised as I went to schedule this post that there are five Sundays in April this year so that we have to post Z today. It's a total coincidence that I am growing some Zinnia seedlings, but look, it solves my Z conundrum. I think they came, like many of my home grown plants, as freebies in the Gardener's World magazine. (I will give them a little plug here as it is worth every penny; the website has loads of advice and plant information, and special offers for subscribers, the free seeds every year and free entry to gardens all over the country.)
The kitchen windowsill is the main site for growing seedling, if I put them in Tish's bedroom (that faces east) the cat will often trample on them or even knock them off.
Hopefully, later in the summer they may look something more like this:
Linking back to the A to Z Challenge.

#AtoZChallenge 2023 letter Z
Stay safe. Be kind. Plant seeds now.

W is for What the F*** (not an A too Z post)

This is a patch of land on the corner of Princess road and Moss lane east, we walk past it on the way to the gym. It's just grass and a huge advertising hoarding, and in the summer it is covered with wildflowers (in between the irregular mowing). And yesterday there was this ... a meaningless stretch of tarmac, going nowhere and serving no purpose. What is the matter with people? 
Stay safe. Be kind. You are not crazy, the world is crazy.

Saturday 29 April 2023

Y is for Yard


This was my yard when we moved in. These photos were taken in 2019 by the surveyor, before we bought our house. It is about 12 feet square, plus the little corridor from the back door.
There was a huge bay tree, a fern and when the summer came the walls were festooned with these wonderful purple flowers that the bees just love. They die off every year and come back again when it warms up:
First the worms arrived, then mum and Claire bought me a bench for my birthday. Then I painted the walls and added a barrel as a pond.
There were quite a few pots already by 2020, as you can see making use of empty paint pots and all sorts.
Then water buttt arrived, followed by a friend in 2021 when I realised one was not enough (in fact I am considering a third):
By summer 2021 the place is filling up nicely:
Sometimes it gets a bit chaotic:
2022 I added a lovely ladder planter (from Garden Wood Uk on Etsy):
You can still just about get from the house to the garden:
Then my sister visits and helps me get everything in order:
And the birds eye view in 2022 has hardly any concrete showing at all:
Linking back to the A to Z Challenge.

#AtoZChallenge 2023 letter Y
Stay safe. Be kind. Plant a garden, no matter how small.

Friday 28 April 2023

X is for X rated

I spent a lot of time watching the bees in my garden last summer, it was a busy year. Despite the huge number of worm babies in the worm house I have yet to catch any mating. Other creatures are less bashful however and here are the tree bumblebees getting frisky.
The same week Monkey sent this wonderful photo from Japan of what looks like tiny robots mating but is actually beetles:
Linking back to the A to Z Challenge.

#AtoZChallenge 2023 letter X
Stay safe. Be kind. Watch out for the birds and the bees.

Thursday 27 April 2023

All the rewards

There have been cookies. There have been cakes. There have been movie nights. There are been silly socks. There have been many hours of staring listlessly at the computer. But this evening there has been all the rewards because the dissertation was finished and submitted last night. The last few thousand words happened in quite a rush so other rewards, like the charity shop trawl, will probably happen next week. The final few weeks until the exams are still packed with stuff to do but this hurdle has been hurdled. For reasons beyond anyone's control it has been both an awful and long (and an awfully long) four years and also it has gone by in a flash.
So sushi for dinner followed by lemon meringue pie.
Stay safe. Be kind. Smash that dissertation and then never think about it again.

W is for Woodlouse

Lift any of the many pots in my yard and there will be woodlice underneath (and worms, which also begin with W, but they have already had a post). They are the kind of creature I hated as a child, but then I was pretty squeamish. There is also something vaguely prehistoric about them, and in fact the oldest fossils of woodlice are 100 million years old. They are excellent little creatures who help to break down decaying matter. 
Last summer I worked very hard at learning to identify the bees that came to my corner of the world ... at least seven or eight different ones. This I believe is a wool carder bee.
And this is my miniature wildflower meadow from 2021:
Linking back to the A to Z Challenge.

#AtoZChallenge 2023 letter W
Stay safe. Be kind. Finish that dissertation.

Wednesday 26 April 2023

V is for Vine Weevil

V is for the dreaded vine weevil. Again, I thought they were kind of cute when I first encountered one ... but that was before the heuchera decimation. I discovered Heucheraholics in 2021. They are delightfully curly and come in this huge array of leaf colours. I was hooked. I bought quite a few, and they were lovely for a summer. But vine weevils are particularly fond of heucheras and they all died (the grubs eat the roots until your plant on the top just comes away in your hand). The adults eat other stuff, and on reflection it may have been them munching the fuchsia leaves.
But they got their comeuppance when one of their number (I have in fact found several in the kitchen) found itself in a spider's web under the kitchen cabinet. For three days it hung there while the spider, about a quarter of its size, approached from time to time to see if it had weakened. Tish made a film of the epic struggle but I can't find it now. Every day I came home from work to see if it had succumbed. And then it was gone. Whether it was eaten or whether in the end it managed to wriggle free I don't know. I like to think it kept that spider well fed for a week.
Violas on the other hand are a complete delight, flowering on for months and surviving the winter to flower another year.
Linking back to the A to Z Challenge.

#AtoZChallenge 2023 letter V
Stay safe. Be kind. (But not to vine weevils).

Tuesday 25 April 2023

U is for unknown plants

I am not very knowledgable about plants. I know a few and delight in pointing them out when I recognise something, but mostly I am ignorant. The only latin name I know is a Fatsia Japonica, a very sorry specimen of which my mum bought for our garden in Evesham about 40 years ago. My sister and I mocked this poor plant (and mum for buying it) but for that very reason the name stuck in my head. 
This lovely weed above was my delight all summer last year, so much so that my bench did not get its annual coat of oil because I did not want to move it and disturb the plant. It grew even wilder than this and I could only sit at either end of the bench because it took up the entire centre. I only recently looked it up on the RHS plant identifier to find that it is ivy-leaved toadflax. It grows on cracks in the pavement all down the street, which is saying something because there is tarmac as far as the eye can see around here.
Below is the giant thing that is taking over by the back door. I thought they were foxgloves but the bigger and taller they get the less sure I am. One plant in this patch had foxglove flowers on last summer (which was their second year, being biennial that is what you might expect) but these ones are now into their third year and turning into monsters. When I sent a photo to my sister Claire she said "Comfrey maybe??"
This funny looking thing grew last spring from what I thought was the dead stump of something, and also turned into a delight. It is Lovage and grew into a huge plant (though not as big as the one I spotted growing at the garden centre). It is a herb, and you can make a tea with it I believe. The bees very much enjoyed the flowers. It dies back completely in the winter but is sprouting again already.
This was a mystery bulb that I stuck in a pot last spring, it turned out to be a dahlia and flowered for months, small, yellow, unshowy flowers that gave me much joy. It wintered outside so it may or may not do the same this year.
This was (yet another) one from mum. She did label all the things she sent home with me, but the writing faded and I was back to just saying 'isn't it lovely, I have no idea what it's called'. Any ideas?
While I do grow a lot of things deliberately it is the happy accidents that make the summer interesting. I like to let things that pop up in random pots have a chance to show their true colours.
Linking back to the A to Z Challenge.

#AtoZChallenge 2023 letter U
Stay safe. Be kind. Learn a new plant name (failing that learn the name of someone at work I don't know).

Monday 24 April 2023

Disapperance (not an A to Z post)

I am currently spending time providing moral support for Monkey while she writes her dissertation (being a sounding board when necessary to discuss ideas and just keeping her company while she stares at the computer) so I plucked 'If Cats Disappeared From the World' by Genki Kawamura from her bookshelf to read. While she was in Fukuoka she wrote an extended essay on Cats in Japanese Literature and so has quite a collection of books featuring cats, some as important characters. The cat in this book is called Cabbage. It's a fairly low key tale of supernatural interference; a young man learns that he has a terminal illness, and the devil arrives in his home to offer a deal, extend his life in exchange for removing things from the world. But you can't just get rid of something nobody cares about, the devil wants something important in exchange for your 24 hours. It becomes something of a meditation on what is important in life as he debates what things he might be prepared to sacrifice, and it turns out that cats are quite important. 

"When I woke up I found that my eyes were filled with tears. It was still dark outside. I looked beside me where Cabbage normally slept and saw that he was gone. I panicked and jumped out of bed, my eyes scanning the room. Then I saw Cabbage curled up asleep at the foot of the bed. As usual I hadn't slept well. But I was relieved to find Cabbage was still there. The memory of the night before when Aloha suggested eliminating cats was still fresh in my mind.
So what would it be like? My life or cats? At that moment, I couldn't imagine what my life would be like without Cabbage. Four years had passed since my mother had died. Cabbage had always been by her side. How could I erase him? What was I supposed to do?" (p.158)

So while it is partly about his relationships with the significant human beings in his life, one of the most significant relationships is with Cabbage. Maybe it is also about how one comes to terms with the notion of impending death. Nothing much happens, because, in reality, what can you do if you find you are dying other than say goodbye. Oh yes, he's also a postman, so what's not to love.

Stay safe. Be kind. Contemplate existence, and disappearance.

T is for Tregothnan

The Tregothnan estate in Cornwall first grew Camellia bushes 200 years ago, and in 1999 the first Camellia sinensis plants were grown that produced the first tea crop in 2005. The tea they sell is very (very) expensive, but for my birthday Dunk bought me a tea bush; it doesn't look like much but in 5-10 years of careful tending and pruning I will have my own home-grown tea:
The aim is for a bush with a wide flat top because you pluck the top pair of leaves and the bud from each stem. The leaves then have to be withered, rolled, oxidised and dried before being brewed into a fine cup of tea. This feels like the ultimate long term plan, but then gardening always has its eyes on the future, with much care and devotion before the reward. I can't wait to try it.
They also have lovely flowers which I hope will be visited by many Tree Bumblebees.
Linking back to the A to Z Challenge.

#AtoZChallenge 2023 letter T
Stay safe. Be kind. Plan ahead.
(Tulips in the rain, outside the university library)

Saturday 22 April 2023

S is for Skeleton

So many Ss so little time (well I have all afternoon but so many other things to do as well as write a blog post). S plants abound all over the garden and the year.
Every year I have tried to grow spinach. Every year I have got little plants but they have never grown very big and often very munched by the slugs. I'll keep trying.
Sweet peas are another plant I have struggled with. I planted seeds in November as advised by Monty; they are still alive but just long and straggly. I did have some lovely plants in 2021 but they were all the same colour. Maybe this year's will give me more variety.
Sedums are lovely for late summer/early autumn flowers, and the bees really like them. They do die off over winter and pop back up in the spring.
Sunflowers have given me much joy, also because there were several that seeded themselves last year so popped up in unexpected places. I tend to grow the smaller kinds rather than giant ones since I have limited space:
Salvia are much beloved by Gardener's World. They are 'tender' but mine seems to have survived the winter ok (which is good because my cuttings were a bust):
I have a few snowdrops, something else that my mum sent (she is a source of much plant love and every time I visit I come home with more stuff). They are a delight to remind us, in the cold of January, that the spring is coming:
Linking back to the A to Z Challenge.

#AtoZChallenge 2023 letter S
Stay safe. Be kind. Have another cup of tea.


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