April 25, 2014

Shadows is here!

Spring, springing


I never finished my earlier spring-in-the-garden post and everything has moved on, the way everything does this time of year.   Including the frelling indoor jungle which I am still hauling in overnight occasionally THANK YOU WEATHER GREMLINS.  THANK YOU SO MUCH.  And I went to the ironmonger’s* yesterday for silver polish and came home with a tray of snapdragons.   Which will have to be brought indoors if it turns cold again.  And the sweet peas are getting to the twining-up-your-arms PLANT ME PLANT ME stage.   Arrrrgh.  Also I’m waiting for the early bulb greenery to die back a little more before the (tender) summer bedding goes in.  Even daffodils will lose the will to live if you don’t let them soak up some rays after they’ve flowered.  I am having a daffodil tragedy however–the only daffs I had this spring were the ones in pots.  Not a single one of what is usually the stealthily expanding army of daffs in the ground came up.  With the cottage garden’s all-the-plumbing-in-Hampshire drainage system I doubt they rotted, even in the winter we’ve just had;  I think I must have some extremely fat mice.  Whose mutant gene allows them to eat daffodils which they are not supposed to do.

Minimalist and tidy are not my forte indoors or out.

Minimalist and tidy are not my forte indoors or out.

Anyway you have to imagine everything in this photo about a foot taller.  And a couple of the hippeastrums are in ginormous flower.  They were supposed to flower at Christmas, of course, but I . . . forgot to plant them.  The bulbs are surprisingly hardy;  I’ve rescued two or three from secret corners of the garden where they were having a nice summer outdoors from last year which, having been fed and apologised to, are good-naturedly producing leaves.  I have no idea when they might flower again.  The flowers, however, are fantastically tender.  It gets below about 50 degrees and they shrivel up and fall over.  Sigh.  Live and learn.


Pots.  I haz em.

Pots. I haz em.

This will, I hope, look a little more artistic later in the year when things start coming up and being themselves and I can move stuff around for maximum impact.**  And just by the way there are a good twenty roses in this shot.  Maybe twenty-five.   The [mumble-mumble] new ones are still heeled in in a single big pot just out of frame at the front.



Well, it is very exciting.  I didn’t have any for a couple of years–they can be fiddly to convince to settle down and be happy and grow, and the Evil Red Lily Beetle eats them.  I’ve turfed out my remaining lilies and the ERLB have apparently gone looking for better accommodation.

Well, they are very exciting to those of us who love them.

Well, they are very exciting to those of us who love them.


Okay, I've already done FRITILLARIES!!!!!  So I suppose it would be vulgar to do CAMELLIAS!!!!!

Okay, I’ve already done FRITILLARIES!!!!! So I suppose it would be boring and repetitive to do CAMELLIAS!!!!!

As regular readers of this blog know, in my pantheon roses are the business.  But I’m amassing kind of a lot of camellias.  If they ever invent a repeat-flowering camellia I’ll be lost.  As it is the fact that they’re only fairly briefly in flower–and tend to be biggish to GIGANTIC shrubs–keeps me a little under control.  One of their great virtues however is that they’re pretty trouble free.  Anything in a pot you do have to be pretty faithful about feeding and watering, but beyond that you can stuff them in any corner–including dark corners–and they’ll just get on with it.***

And furthermore a pink camellia.  How surprising.

And furthermore a pink camellia. How surprising.


And the mythical rust-red cowslip.

And the mythical rust-red cowslip.

After mentioning here that I didn’t even know there was such a thing I received an email from a friend saying, er . . . those might be the cuttings of my rust-red cowslip that I gave you when I was there last year?  Oh.  Well, they’re doing really well.  Turns out I planted another little tuft of them in the dark narrow bed beside Wolfgang’s space where the standard yellow cowslips do very well, and it’s rioting away there too.

Markham's Pink (clematis).  Another important harbinger of spring in my life.

Markham’s Pink (clematis). Another important harbinger of spring in my life.

I’m pretty sure I post a photo of Markham’s Pink every year#.  It grew up the shed outside our bedroom window at the old house and was one of those things that I had to have even in a tiny town garden.  But the one at the old house was a delicate little item;  Peter muttered every year that it was in a very bad place, poor thing, and it was surprising that it kept coming up.  Well, I have it in a medium-sized pot and it gets fed every year AND IT’S FRELLING HUGE.  I have several clematis throwing themselves around over the little low picket fence around the Hellcritter Relief Station Courtyard and I keep having to be creative about where to twine the extra 1,000,000 feet of clinging-tendril stems.

Frilly pansies.

Frilly pansies.

I don’t ordinarily like the big frilly vulgar## garden centre pansies but I think these are a hoot.  They’re in a hanging basket because . . . because.  Stuff goes in where I’ve got a gap at the time that whatever it is is ERUPTING out of whatever it’s been in.  Plants grow.  Plants are supposed to grow.  You’re happy that they’re happy and growing.  But . . .

And two random old people caught walking through someone else's garden a while back.

And two random old people caught walking through someone else’s garden a while back.

This was another garden post I didn’t get around to organising . . .


* * *

* Which is more of a general store than just hardware.  You can buy teapots, tourist tat, slug bait, batteries and pet food at our ironmongers’.  And silver polish.  And for a few weeks in spring, snapdragons.  I may have bought those frilly pansies (see below) there too, last autumn.

** Metaphorical impact.

*** Although for your sanity’s sake, WATER THEM A LOT the end of summer.  Or all the flower buds will drop off . . . not at the time, so at least you know immediately you’ve screwed up, but just before they would have flowered, the following spring.  This is deeply traumatic.  It happened to me once or twice at the old house because the garden was so frelling huge it was easy to forget stuff, but I’ve had flowering camellias every year so far in my tiny town garden(s).  ::Pours a libation over the compost heap to the Camellia Gods::

Also, if they ever do invent a repeat-flowering camellia, it’ll probably need more sunlight to crank itself up for the second flush.  I have as many as I do because they’ll thrive in shadowy recesses where roses wouldn’t.

# . . . Probably including the following story . . .

## Since when did vulgar ever bother me?  ::Looks at feet, wearing black and brown sequin tiger striped All Stars::

Yarn Adventure and maybe some ranting


Fiona and I had a Yarn Adventure today.  And about time too:  we haven’t seen each other since November.  Life:  what a ratbag.

Admittedly there is usually a high gremlin count when Fiona and I get together but today they weren’t half trying.  We were going to set off at two, which in our case usually means before 2:30, well, maybe, if we’re lucky.  Fiona usually texts me as she leaves the house*.

No text.  Well, whatever, and we got on with hurtling and then with feeding me**.

Still no text.  Prepare to feed critters, since I was going to put it down as I left.  Sometimes this intrigues hellhounds sufficiently to stimulate them to eat.

Still no text.

Dither.  Feed critters.***

Okay, now I’m worried.  I have checked Pooka several times.  Nothing.

I’ve hung the laundry and washed all the lunch dishes† which is of course nicer to come home to but WHERE IS FIONA?

Pooka barks, and I make a slightly dish-soapy dive for her.  I have the feeling my texts aren’t getting through, says Fiona’s voice.  I HAVEN’T HEARD ANYTHING FROM YOU SINCE LAST NIGHT TILL THIS PHONE CALL.

Well, I’ll be there in three minutes, she said.  And as she rang off, Pooka chirruped and SEVEN MESSAGES POPPED THROUGH.  ARRRRRRRRRRRRGH.

The day improved from there however.  Our chosen yarn shop was having a MOVING TO NEW PREMISES sale and . . .

Fiona, as we know, has a slight Sock Yarn problem.

Fiona, as we know, has a slight Sock Yarn problem.

My problems are perhaps more general.

My problems are perhaps more general.

I’ve been wanting FEARLESS KNITTING for yonks but, you know, it persists in being full price.  The dark auburn yarn is Debbie Bliss Winter Garden which I have also wanted for yonks but it’s too frelling expensive, and the green and gold down front is Louisa Harding Grace Hand Beaded which etc.  And the other stuff is just . . . um . . . shiny?  And when a pattern book only costs £2 you only need to like one pattern in it. . . .

* * *

* This text will read ‘I’m running a little late because . . .’  Mind you, if she’s not running late, I’m in deep trouble.^  Today’s non-arriving text however informed me that her car had broken down and she was negotiating to borrow her parents’.

^ The hellhounds would like this.  It might mean I didn’t have time to FEED them before I left.  The hellterror, of course, would chew her way through the front door and come after me if I tried any such thing but I wouldn’t DARE.  Also feeding the hellterror is easy.  Open nearest tin, throw contents in general hellterror direction, add a handful of kibble if you’re feeling persnickety, and don’t stand too close or she’ll eat the toes off your shoes.  The hellhounds . . . it starts with cutting up the chicken scraps SMALL ENOUGH that Chaos, in particular, who has prehensile lips, can’t just hoover up the chicken, and you need to stir the kibble in really well because any that has not been touched by the magic chicken-stock wand will be instantly rejected as dry and tasteless and beneath delicate hellhound dignity.

Unfortunately for them, however, I had allowed time for the careful creation of appropriate hellhound comestibles.  It didn’t work though.  They still didn’t eat it.+  That look in Chaos’ eyes says:  if you didn’t mix it in so well I’d’ve at least eaten the chicken.

+ Do I have to bother to tell you that the hellterror ate hers?  No?  I didn’t think so.

** Moans of protest from the hellterror who is, furthermore, sitting on my feet, just to make sure I haven’t forgotten her.  YOU JUST ATE BREAKFAST TWO HOURS AGO.  YOU ARE NOT STARVING.  Also, sitting on my feet is counterproductive.  You are heavy.  You are obviously getting plenty to eat.^

^ I was out hurtling hellhounds recently.+   People frequently stop us to be goopy over them.  Mostly their admirers stick to telling me how beautiful they are, but occasionally someone wants to find it funny that we’re all skinny and leggy.  Hellhounds are also now quite grey in the face so we’re all skinny, leggy and old.  But some dork came up to us the other day and was in grave danger of rupturing himself over the sheer hilarity of owners who look like their dogs.++  I stared him in the eye.  I have a bull terrier at home, I said.  I did not mention the ‘mini’ part.  He stopped laughing and edged away prudently.

+ In my life I can always say I was out hurtling hellhounds recently.  And hellterror.

++ I wondered what his frelling problem is.  I have no idea, of course, but he was a big flashy maybe forty-ish dork, and looked a bit like someone who was maybe rolling into midlife crisis and in a mood to be snarky about some post-menopausal hag who is refusing to stay home with her TV and her memories but is out cluttering up the pavement wearing jeans, All Stars and long hair, and walking her dogs like she thinks she still has a purpose in life.  I don’t like big flashy forty-ish dorks who think looming over me and being scornful is a fun thing to do.#

# Speaking of testosterone poisoning, yesterday I was creeping up the hill to the mews in Wolfgang, which little journey is another of those absolutes in my life, going at 30 mph which happens to be the speed limit.  And I was passed by five motorcycles.  FIVE.  Streaking past, whing whing whing whing whing.  What the what the what the I can’t even.  And there is all this bushwa about how cars are supposed to be careful of motorcycles.  I don’t know if this is nationwide or just around here, but there are posters all over the landscape saying THINK BIKE.  How about if BIKERS think at all?  I’ve been a motorcyclist, as long-term readers of this blog know, and it is absolutely true that people driving cars can be amazingly stupid and dangerous about bikers and this is a large part of the reason I stopped driving a bike while I still had all my body parts intact . . . but the frelling majority of the motorcycle accidents around here are caused by male bikers being assholes:  yesterday at least I was only going 30.  Being passed by some dinglenut on a 60 mph road that is only just two lanes wide with hedgerows on either side . . . going around a curve?  Yes.  I have.

*** Ecstasy of the Hellterror.

† Except, of course, hellhound bowls, since they haven’t eaten anything.



I love spring.*  I never used to but I think that may be because in areas where winters are gruesomely hard, like Maine, spring is kind of disgusting.  I keep remembering the smell of March in Maine and the way EVERYTHING needed cleaning, and that was even before it got covered in mud from the snowmelt.  It was great that the snow was melting (probably) but sometimes the results seemed like too much trouble.**  Some of you Midwesterners may agree/disagree.

We’ve had GENUINE SUNLIGHT the last few days.  And I’ve been getting out in the garden.



Little tiny overpotted garden.  With verifiable sunlight on the back wall.




Way beyond cute.  We must have had it at the old house–it’s common, it grows well around here–but I don’t remember it, or anyway I’m not the one looked after where it grew.***  But my predecessor at the cottage grew a lot of it.  I was kind of a scourge to begin with because I didn’t recognise it when it wasn’t in flower, it was mostly growing in inconvenient places, and the foliage dies to nothing later in the season so I’d go to dig up a blank space and discover these tiny little bulby things that had the look of something that maybe ought to be rescued.  So eventually I started plonking it in pots.  I’ve got at least three different sorts in six or eight little pots, this dark pink, the blue, and a pale pink one . . . which I only just stopped from accidentally obliterating a new little clump of–I think it must regenerate if you leave a scrap in the ground–about a fortnight ago, stuffed it in another pot . . . and, gallant creature, it’s flowering.  The bizarre thing is that I took a bunch of it up to Third House a few years ago and it disappeared.  Maybe next door’s evil terrier dug it up and ate it.

Random primrose.

Random primrose.

Primroses are a big favourite with me.  I have no idea where this one came from.  I was clearing out pots and this one had some clearly primrose leaves growing at one edge so I said, okay, fine, go for it.  Cowslips, just by the way, garden primroses’ wild cousins, which are some kind of endangered, are a weed in my garden.  Another few weeks I’ll be ankle deep in them.



I love the variety of colour in most hyacinth flowers.  That’s not just blue or purple, you know?  Speaking of ankle deep, in a week or two I will be knee deep in blooming hyacinths.  I keep buying them to force over the winter and then . . . you have these perfectly functional bulbs at the end of your fit of botanical self-indulgence and all they ask is a small corner outdoors and a bit of dirt . . . they’re frost-hardy, they’re tough, and apparently mice would rather eat other things.†  And they produce one fat fabulous heavenly smelly flower every spring.  Except that this is a very small garden and I’m running out of SPACE.  How do you reforce bulbs?  I know you can prepare your own by putting them in the fridge for a bit but after having their constitutions screwed up like that, how long do they need in the garden being normal before you can do it again?

Pots.  Lotsa pots.

Pots. Lotsa pots.

I have made reference to my pots-in-pots-in-pots gardening habits.  In the back left-hand corner there are at least four levels.  And that doesn’t count the fact that there are several pots in levels two and three.  The pink plastic bucket by the kitchen door is my compost bucket, although it goes to the town compost maker, not a hot fermenting corner of this garden.  As a compost bucket it has no holes in its bottom, so when it rains, it fills up.  Found a drowned mouse about a week ago–sorry, but YAAAAAAAAY.  Mice are vermin††–just in time to prevent the hellterror from engaging in close acquaintance.  She now checks that bucket very very carefully every time I open the door, and if nothing is better on offer she stands by the door and stares at it.

And the little square grey thing in the bottom right-hand corner is my maximum-minimum thermometer.  Love.  I am not a very comprehensive weather geek but I LOOOOVE having a max/min.  They are one of these things that for inexplicable reasons go out of fashion–at just about the time that your last one stops working–and it takes you YEARS to find a replacement.  I hope this one lives a long time.

Potting up

Potting up

Yesterday three boxes of tubers arrived, two of begonias and one of dahlias.  All of these things are frost-tender.  I spent a couple of hours in the sunshine yesterday afternoon potting them up–I potted all of them up the day the arrived!!!!!!  How utterly fantastic is that–and so of course we had a frost last night.  The indoor jungle lives.  It would have been so much easier if they’d just still been in three small, tidy cardboard boxes.

And it will probably freeze again tonight.  So I’d better get back to the cottage and schlepp a lot of grubby pots indoors again.  Feh.  Gardening.  It’s as mad as critters.

* * *

* Well.  When it stops raining I love spring.

** Except for the lilacs.  Lilacs are worth it.^

^ Lilacs would GROW.  Don’t talk to me about roses, AKA your very expensive annuals if you live in Maine.  Lilacs only rioted for a few weeks but by golly they RIOTED.  And they required zero care, as I should know, since those were my pre-gardening days, and I took my landscape as a given.  I had massive lilac hedges around my little house, but they seemed like just another feature like one bathroom and a long skinny kitchen.

*** Is it a rose?  No?  Go away and don’t bother me.^

^ Does it grow under roses?  No?  Go away and don’t bother me.  Although in my current garden it perforce grows under roses because there isn’t anywhere else.

† Tulip bulbs, for example.  Snarl.

†† They eat tulip bulbs.

Yarn Porn, continued


It turns out that I have fewer truly lascivious yarn photos than I hoped;  it’s the fault of the frelling light.  Outdoor light is fine.  Frelling frelling frelling fluorescent light is never fine and while my brain- and finger-numbingly over-specified camera probably has a fluorescent light setting it takes about twenty seconds every time you want to reset anything due to the profligate nature of both the available menus and the items on the menus, and the menus of each individual item, all of them shrouded in impenetrable and unguessable icons which you need to be at home reading the CD on your computer to decipher because of course the paper instructions that you might keep in your knapsack are a feeble pamphlet with a lot of white space that tells you how to insert the battery and turn the thing on and then suggests you read the CD.*  So there you are at a fabulous yarn show scowling at the lighting, which is a diabolical, and unpredictable, mixture of fluorescent and outdoor and even if I could find the Nasty Glaring Indoor Light button on my camera it wouldn’t be the right answer either.  So, for example, although I took photos of all of these, I can’t show you the amazing knitted layer cake complete with (knitted) candles—knitted lit knitted candles—that a local knitting society had made for their own 35th anniversary.  Nor can I show you the astonishing crochet blankets the Natural Dye Studio** had hanging on their walls, or Tilly Flop Designs’*** silly greeting cards or Injabulo’s† gorgeous buttons.  Or a number more knitted shawls††, speaking of shawls.

But we’ll do what we can.

Get.  Me.  Out.  Of.  This.  Thing.

Get. Me. Out. Of. This. Thing.

This is not a good photo, and the original photo probably wasn’t all that great before they blew it up, framed it and put glass over it.  But it’s totally worthwhile because the look on this dog’s face is priceless.††† 






I had promised Fiona to fondle every skein of pink, purple or pink-purple yarn I saw.  I was quite a while at this booth.

I love Eden Cottage yarn.  I can't afford it, but I love it.

I love Eden Cottage yarn. I can’t afford it, but I love it.

They’re one of the many little indie producers out there.  But not only is their yarn seriously smoosh-worthy but they’re nice.

I think you need to be a laird or a laird's wife or husband to get away with this.

I think you need to be a laird or a laird’s wife or husband to get away with this.

I actually looked at the pattern—being GOH at Boskone might do as a laird-substitute—and fell on the floor laughing.  Um.  No.

SPARKLY yaaaaaaaaaarn

SPARKLY yaaaaaaaaaarn


Definitely GOH garb.  Sigh.

Definitely GOH garb. Sigh.



Wild yarn.  Golly.

Wild yarn. Golly.




There.  You don’t feel cheated or short-changed do you?

* * *

* You might think that there might be a short cut menu for the stuff that ORDINARY people use and adjust the most often, but clearly this camera was not made for ordinary people.

** http://www.thenaturaldyestudio.com/  Hint:  they sell the patterns.  I already knew I have to learn to crochet some time because there are a lot of crochet roses out there.  But I may have to crochet a blanket.

*** http://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/tillyflopdesigns  Keep Calm and Finish It for Next Christmas.  There was also one at the show I don’t see on her Etsy page, which goes, more or less:  I told you I’d have it done for your birthday, but I didn’t tell you which birthday


†† http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/stars-in-the-sky for example.  None of these photos BEGINS to do it justice.  And I have about as much chance of knitting it as I do the Unnamed Item with Roses from the first Yarn Porn instalment.  A girl can drool.

††† I am reminded of Sarahallegra’s Calantha in her bunny ears.  Oh, this is http://www.redhoundfordogs.com/  Clearly they are a good place by the high percentage of sighthounds.

. . . I’m leaving you to look up any more web sites.  I think the labels on the rest of the photos are legible.  Anything you’re dying for that doesn’t have a visible label, post to the forum, I can probably figure it out.


We interrupt (again) . . .



SUNLIGHT!*  WE HAD SUNLIGHT TODAY!!**  I admit there have been random sightings lately, including this weekend, but today it was SUNNY when I crawled out of bed, it was SUNNY when I let Pav out in the little back courtyard to relieve any overnight build-up of pressure***, it was SUNNY when I ran outdoors with my camera because of course it would rain later, it was SUNNY when I hurtled first one and then the other shift and it was SUNNY when I went out yea verily a third time to buy a newspaper.  I admit it did start raining just as I’d got my gardening kit on and had my hand on the kitchen door to go outside . . . but I went anyway.  I just spent longer in the greenhouse (muttering) than I’d planned.


Double primroses.  They look like tiny roses.  Sue me.

Double primroses. They look like tiny roses. Sue me.


PINK tiny double (prim)roses.

PINK tiny double (prim)roses.


I adore hellebores and they do really well in this area.  I could have had a hellebore-only post.

I adore hellebores and they do really well in this area. I could have had a hellebore-only post.


P1060063 crop

Have I mentioned how much WordPress hates me?  Even with Blogmom’s templates to take the risk out I STILL can’t hang photos.  Okay, late breaking caption:  This particular clump of double whites are trying to take over the universe.  Go for it.  –And I have no idea where the italic came from.

This goofy abutilon has been flowering ALL WINTER.  It shouldn't.  But it is.  I've just given it a very good spring feed.

This goofy abutilon has been flowering ALL WINTER. It shouldn’t. But it is. I’ve just given it a very good spring feed.


Single maroon-purple hellebore.  They're all beautiful.

Single fawn-maroon-purple hellebore. They’re all beautiful.


P1060196 crop

Speckly hellebore. ::Happy sigh::

 And WHY did THIS caption become DETACHED from its photo??  No, no, don’t tell me, I’m not strong enough, it’s been a long winter.

First camellia.  Jingle Bells, as usual.  Terrific camellia, healthy, prolific and trouble free however badly I treat her.  Pity about the flowers. . . .

First camellia. Jingle Bells, as usual. Terrific camellia, healthy, prolific and trouble free however badly I treat her. Pity about the flowers. . . .



How to have a REALLY bad hair day.  Spend a few hours in the garden.  Especially if it's a garden full of evil roses and low-hanging apple tree branches.

How to have a REALLY bad hair day. Spend a few hours in the garden. Especially if it’s a garden full of evil roses and low-hanging apple tree branches.

* * *

* Crocuses will only open in sunlight.  So if you think you’re hallucinating . . . check your crocuses.

** I was so demented with joy and daylight that I moved a bumblebee by PICKING HER UP IN MY FINGERS.  I’ve seen one or two recently and am glad they haven’t all drowned.  But this one was snuggled up between the kitchen doorframe and the sill and the hellpack would get her if I didn’t tread on her and I was thinking that she was probably liking the warmth of the house so without thinking at all I picked her up and put her behind the plant pots on the kitchen window shelf.  It didn’t occur to me what I was doing till she started buzzing.  EEEEEP.  I may have put her down somewhat hastily.  But she was slow and sleepy with winter and it’s easy to be STUPID because bumblebees are, you know, fuzzy and cute.

*** She is now old enough to have the control to decide not to relieve pressure till she goes on her first hurtle later.  Yaay.  I don’t know if this is the tiny size of the space available or what;  the hellhounds stopped using the back garden too, except when things were very bad, although it took them longer, being boys, about two years.  But this is the first time I’ve had dogs with a small enclosed garden and don’t know if this is common behaviour or not.  But it’s very nice not to have a patio latrine that needs disinfecting, especially with spring and summer and sitting-outdoors thoughts in prospect.  Not that I’m very good at sitting outdoors but the thought counts for something.

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Sometimes I think a writer should make up his mind whether he's going to be a writer or a reader. There isn't time for both. -- Jessamyn West