March 28, 2012



So after a (splendid) weekend of too much champagne and too little sleep and my usual over-effusive Monday, today of course I stayed home and applied myself strictly to work.  Of course.  Totally.  Except for the mmph-mumble hours in the garden. . . .

            And there’s going to be a vile, putrescent THRICE BLASTED FROST tonight.  Atlas, bless him, who was here today working in Peter’s garden, rang Peter when he got home and had listened to the local weather report—Peter listens in the morning, and I play musical weather apps on Pooka, none of which is worth the 69p or £1.23 I paid for it, but watching a series of them being clueless helps to focus the slowly-waking morning mind.  Atlas tends to be right:  he lives on a farm, he’s a farmer’s son-in-law, and he knows how to do that sniffing-the-air thing about coming weather.  If he agrees with the forecasters, you pay attention.  Anyway.  I was back in the cottage garden, out of earshot of either Pooka* or the landline** when Peter was trying to call me, contemplating saying the hell with it and planting my sweet peas, which are busy climbing out of the little plastic nets they arrived in, because potting on all those sweet peas is way too daunting a prospect.***  Providentially I was distracted by the six or a dozen little vases of things on various window sills that have grown roots and are wondering what happens now—I have this bad habit of putting prunings in water, just in case they’ll decide to grow roots:  a surprising number of your average house plants will—and speaking of plants climbing out of what they’re in, I think some of my geranium cuttings have learned to abseil:  there’s got to be GROUND around here somewhere.

            So I was out in the cough-cough-cough potting shed† mixing compost and vermiculite and putting great fuzzy-rooted cuttings†† in small pots till dark.†††  And dark is about two hours later than it was a fortnight ago‡.   So IT’S SUDDENLY EIGHT O’CLOCK, and I race indoors to slam hellhounds into their harnesses‡‡, discover a phone message from Peter about a frost, howl in a singing-voice-threatening way, furiously put down a plastic sheet in the sitting room since the Winter Indoor-Jungle Table has been put away for the year, and start ferrying stuff through. . . .

            We’d better have a frost tonight. 

* * *

* For someone who is theoretically attached at the hip to her iPhone, I’m out of range far too often.  Most of my friends with iPhones who live in jeans like me keep theirs in a pocket, but noooooooo.  Maybe I just wear the wrong jeans.   

** This is less surprising since the landline only actually rings when it’s in the mood.  Poor Cormac rang the cottage three times before the landline deigned to let us know someone was trying to make contact.  Hannah was beginning to worry:  Cormac said he’d call around now. . . . 

*** I’m saving my potting-on stamina for the 1,000,000,000 dahlia cuttings I always find I’ve ordered.   One of the many conundrums of the gardener’s life is ordering early, before the things you particularly want have sold out, but which means you do your spring ordering while winter is clamped over the landscape like a giant iron hand, you’re convinced everything in your garden is dead and you need cheering up, or ordering late, when the mere presence of more daylight is beginning to cheer you up, enhanced by the fact that all kinds of dead things are producing small green (or occasionally red or purple) bumps and nodules^, and you are at least slightly less likely to order enough stuff to overfill Sissinghurst^^.  But your nurseries will have run out of several of your absolute favourites without which your summer will be ruined, AND what you do successfully requisition will mostly arrive so late you will have gone to the garden centre and bought too much stuff there because you couldn’t wait any longer.  On the whole I do better with choice A but it’s not a perfect system. 

^ I’ve got a few gosh golly WOW ::cartwheels of joy:: surprises coming up . . . but I’m afraid to mention them officially for fear such acknowledgment and acceptance will promptly make them die after all.+ 

+ This probably also goes for mentioning that my snake’s-head fritillaries are coming into bloom.  But I’m mentioning it anyway because if I don’t tell you something I will explode.  They are slightly fussy, but we grew them at the old house, but I had been having disastrous luck with them for years at the cottage when Ajlr mentioned that the insanely evil red lily beetle also eats fritillaries . . . which I then realised was my problem too.  But while I have conclusive evidence that both the weather gods and the unexpectedly-living-plants gods read imprudent blogs, I’m hoping that the insanely evil red lily beetle god does not.   


† Which is to say the all-purposes gardening shed, overflowing with pots, pot saucers, trays, tools, buckets of various sizes and materials, bags of compost and fertilizer and boxes and bottles of intensive plant food, my tiny barbeque and attendant charcoal, plastic sheets and fleece, etc etc etc etc ETC ETC ETC . . . and a robin’s nest.  I was really excited when I saw that—I haven’t had a nest since the blog’s first year, and have barely had a robin.  I know he’s around—there’s always one robin in a garden:  they like gardens and they’re territorial—but the blackbirds have become such thugs that he’s kept a low profile.  Sadly the nest seems to have been rejected, and I haven’t seen the happy couple in a while . . . but one robin is very much in evidence.  I also spent time I might have been spending planting sweet peas hoicking out frelling mats of crocosmia and lily-of-the-valley^ around Queenie and Souvenir de la Malmaison and I had a small feathered opportunist at my elbow.  I was reminded that when you’re outdoors the whirr of small flapping wings is quite pleasant.  

^ Which are WEEDS in my garden.  Bullying invasive WEEDS. 

†† I also had one of my moments of hilarity and decided to do the full soft-wood cuttings nonsense from an obstinate house plant that has refused to die, the gallant thing, but needed serious pruning when I repotted it.  Sometimes obstinate plants can be very obstinate and what the hell.  It’s only a pot, a plastic bag and some vermiculite.   To give it any chance at all, I used hormone rooting powder.  This is a story about egregiously bad design.  The pot of rooting powder—which was simply on the shelf in the store, it’s not like I did a customer comparison^ or anything—is wider than it is tall, possibly to make the whole show short enough to fit on an average shelf, since it has a dibber^^ built into the cap like a slightly distrait unicorn’s horn.  It also has a child-proof cap which is too wide to get your hand around to squeeze.  And I have big hands with long fingers.  I had to use the sticky-jar opener^^^ to get the frelling thing open.  The end of the dibber is also the lid, right?  Which means it’s also . . . never mind it’s too wide to get a proper grip on, you don’t need a proper grip to make holes in compost.  But because the lid is so frelling vast you’re busy destroying your previous hole, or knocking over your sad confused cutting, while you’re trying to make the next hole. . . . 

^ I save that colossal time-suck for things like electric blankets.  I think I mentioned that mine died a few days ago.  I was hoping the frosty nights were over for the year.  

^^ Or dibble.  A long pointy thing that makes holes in the ground/compost for you to put seeds or cuttings in. 

^^^ I have the vicious-with-teeth variety, none of these wussy rubber rings. 

††† Muttering to myself, as I have been doing for seven years now, about getting the frelling shed wired.  Which would be dangerous for a lot of reasons, none of them to do with electrocution.^ 

^ What do you mean it’s midnight and neither I nor the hellhounds have had dinner yet?+ 

+ Nor written the blog?

# If hellhounds would like to try, they are welcome. 

‡ One genuine, one fraudulent.  

‡‡ There have been little faces at the kitchen door increasingly often for the last hour or two. . . .


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