I thought I’d ordered a swift and nostepinne. But two days went by and there was no reply to my email. Whimper. Here you are trying to support local/indie talent and not order from frelling amazon and THEY DON’T ANSWER.
They answered. Today. There was a spam bin involved. WELL OF COURSE THERE WAS A SPAM BIN INVOLVED. THIS IS WHAT SPAM BINS DO, IS EAT GOOD MAIL AND LET THE TOXIC GARBAGE THROUGH.*
I now have a swift and nostepinne coming. But the indie talent are still a business, drat them, and they’re not sending them out till MONDAY. Monday is three days away. And then it still has to get here.
I spent a good deal of the afternoon in the garden again, working off Lack of Swift.*** There’s a rather unfortunate Spending Time in the Garden Syndrome however. You’re not a big bedding plant person—you’ve already let the labour-intensive thing get out of control by having too many roses, you don’t need bedding plants too—you’re a mental case of course, gardeners are, but you have no illusions about ‘tidy’ or ‘design’. Stuff goes in where there’s room† and the weeds are really healthy because the one thing you are usually pretty good about is feeding. So you look at the labyrinthine wilderness out there and you think, all I really need is a few good days.
The garden at the cottage is tiny. All I need is a few not-freezing, not-raining afternoons—!
Wrong. The more you do the more you see. And the more you see the more you DESPAIR. Having got most of the urgent stuff potted up or potted on††, the most hostile of the roses tied ferociously back††† and (semi) pruned as necessary, I was reduced to WEEDING today. I actually like weeding‡ but when the forest of ground elder closes over your head and the enchanters’ nightshade twines up your ankles and pulls you down—and enchanters’ nightshade grows fast enough to do this, if you stay somewhere too long, levering up wild poppies or creeping buttercup or those black-leaved pansies that look so cute and innocent and have long almost-invisible roots reaching to China or possibly Mars—AAAAAAAUGH. I’d rather be winding hanks of yarn.
What’s the weather this weekend? I should probably hoover the floor indoors before my friend arrives on Monday. Just don’t let me notice how much else I should be doing. . . .
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* Griselda is in Pago Pago and all her money has been stolen and would I please transfer the entire contents of my bank account to the Evil Scam Holding Syndicate so she can get a glass of water?^ But . . . but . . . I had a cup of tea with her yesterday afternoon and she didn’t say anything about Pago Pago. There must be some mistake. . . .
^ Which is about what the entire contents of my bank account would be worth. Tourist traps are expensive.
** NOW. NOW. I WANT THEM NOW. —You know I’m expecting a mere eight-months’-old puppy to calm down and stop being a manic git. Clearly we were made for each other.^
^ Hellhounds open one eye. Possibly one eye each. Does whatever this thing is run? Can we chase it? —I think a swift on end given a push downhill might canter a bit.
*** Stop laughing. Hmmph.
† And sometimes when there isn’t. That’s where the tiered effect comes in handy.
†† Although it’s been a bad season for mail-order errors. The usual response of big on-line gardening sites is ‘keep it and we’ll send you the right one.’ Or ones. I didn’t actually want four hundred and twelve osteospermums or nine hundred and sixty apple blossom geraniums, some of which actually are apple blossom geraniums, and which are all going like thunder and will need somewhere to put their roots down soon. I was poised to send the sellers photos of their errors as evidence but they must have a certain percentage of goofs built into the system. Do they keep track of who protests? Do they put tick marks against your name? Or merely fry in oil the staff responsible for the blip that caused Hampshire to be carpeted in non-apple-blossom geraniums?
And of course, like every other year, I am waiting breathlessly to see how many of my dahlia cuttings grow up to be what I ordered. I go on ordering them because they’re so much cheaper than tubers—and the awful truth is that I rarely have a cutting failure, while my tubers rather too often decide that the accommodations don’t suit them, they were looking for something a little more up market, with designer chocolate on the pillow and free wifi. But cuttings are wildly unreliable in their own fabulous way. Up to about a quarter of the frellers are anything but what you ordered. It does make you wonder, speaking of staff, what the staff are, you know, smoking.
††† That faint unfriendly humming noise you hear, like a nest of wasps in a bad mood, is the sound of various whippy-stemmed roses with known violent tendencies gnawing through their restraints.^
^ I am still sad I didn’t get around to buying the ‘some days it’s not worth gnawing through the restraints’ t shirt before they inexplicably cut it. There are still cheap knock offs available—and one of these days when it’s not worth gnawing through the restraints I will probably buy one—but this one was a QUALITY t shirt.
‡ There’s a quote out there somewhere that I am failing to google into confirmation, that says something like ‘No one is a gardener who doesn’t like weeding’ which is just a specific-object version of one of the quotes on the blog’s quote thingy: ‘The test of a vocation is the love of the drudgery it involves.’ Yep. You don’t like rewriting, don’t be a writer. Anthony Trollope may have got away with turning in his beautiful copperplate handwritten first drafts to his publisher, but you and I won’t. Aside from the beautiful copperplate part.
It’s the third of frelling May and I am planting stuff out. And we’re not going to have any more frosts, okay? Yes? Okay?
I’ve also taken the plastic sheet off the Winter Table over the hellhound crate in the kitchen, and I’m going to ask Atlas to take it DOWN on Monday.*
They have seriously not liked the last fortnight or so of still being stuck in their potting-up pots. I am hoping they won’t waste a lot of good growing time sulking. I bought a different range of sweet peas this year and I’m going to have no idea how they measure up against previous standards because it’s been such a weird, not to say bloody-minded, year so far.
The clematis they will be climbing through is just old basic durandii, but some of the old basic ones of things are the best. She is herbaceous–not clinging–so you do have to give her string to drape herself over, but she produces cascades of that clematis dark indigo-purple coloured little curly flowers. Although this brings up a little problem with the sweet peas. There was a Terrible Accident soon after delivery and while I know what sweet peas I bought I have no idea which is which. This year’s colour scheme may be a trifle unusual.
You can’t tell much from the photo but since it’s me you might hazard that the long bare stem in the big round pot is a rose. Yup. Mortimer Sackler and she’s almost as good as her hype. She might possibly do with more leaves however (I mean even after she gets going) and last year was adorable with sweet peas climbing up her. Barring accidents of a colour variety, as referred to above, I hope to repeat the effect this year. The clematis in the pot at the back is Fuji-musume and has the most amazing big flat blue flowers: the catalogue description is ‘Wedgewood blue’. I’ve never seen anything like it on a clematis.
I love double primroses, of course, because they look like rose roses. I have a lot of doubles. I also have a million volunteer cowslips, including, this year, two rusty-red ones. I thought wild volunteer cowslips were always yellow.
And if you have to move them, or if you just think to dig them up, you can break them gently in pieces and have several primroses. I’ve got half a dozen clumps of yellow around the garden and they’re all from a single original. Oh, and the naked (rose) stem in this picture is the Herbalist.
You may correctly gather that barring frelling roses I do tend to have a lot of what is happy to grow around here. Although this is considered a good rose-growing area, roses may always take some persuading.
Berenice Perfection, if you’re counting. Camellias are an enigma. I treat them all the same, and they either thrive like mad or die. I have no idea. I do know that if you have a dry end of summer you’re likely to lose a lot of next spring’s flowers, but I’ve usually forgotten by next spring. It must have been okay last August because most of my camellias are flowering exuberantly. I’m going to try to get a few more pictures, but thanks to the beastly weather a lot of the flowers have been frosted. Berenice happens to be both huge and in a corner so she has more flowers and more shelter.
We had this one at the old house and she’s one of the first to flower and I always loved her but I got the idea that she was hard to grow and I dithered for years before I bought one. This is her third year and she . . . looks pretty happy.
And because I have one photo slot left, let’s have another Markham’s Pink. (Note that she is a very purple pink, but she is definitely pink. Pinker than these photos.) Looking at her and primroses and unfrosted petunias** and sweet peas makes me smile. It’s a good day: both hellhounds ate dinner.
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* Although this also has to do with hoping to find a better hellterror solution at the cottage than what I have at present. She should have a view.
** Next photo post. I planted some of them out today too.
Wall wall WALL WAAAAAAAAAAALL!!!!!! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLL!! WALLWALLWALLWALLWALLWALLWALL!
WALLITTY WALL WALL WALL WALL WALL.
::happy dance:: Happy happy happy happy, happy happy DANCE!
. . . Er. Well. In its small but in-my-face way, the wall story has been rather TRAUMATIC. Now . . . I’ve already had the other piece of that wall rebuilt by Atlas, I think the first year I was here; opposite that now entirely replaced wall is Phineas’ house, the third wall of my garden is my house and the fourth wall . . . I hope that wall stays up because I’m pretty sure those neighbours and I would have difficulty seeing eye to eye about things. Ahem. Life in a small town. It’s wonderful. Here’s to walls. YAAAAAAAAY. WAAAAAAAAAAALL.
Hellcritters and I took a fast sprint to a local(ish) garden centre this afternoon. The point about taking critters along, aside from giving them a change of scenery, is that they FILL UP THE BACK SEAT so there’s a limit to the damage I can do.** Also we went late, so I didn’t have a lot of time to look around before the shop closed. I needed compost: my little all-the-plumbing-in-Hampshire garden is putting Westland’s frelling shareholders’ children through university, I buy so much frelling compost for all my pots. And while I was there I was going to look for snapdragons.*** Which means going into the plant area. Noooooooo . . .
I did very well. I bought three trays of snapdragons . . . rather too many little diascias† because they come in such good colours, a few pulsatillas†† which is another of those can’t-kill plants that keep dying on me, a pansy or two, a couple of hanging-basket liners and . . . a King Edward flowering currant.††† Which will grow seven or eight foot before it’s done. Arrrgh. It’s just . . . well, I have no self-control.‡ And we had a flowering currant at the old house which I loved, and it’s been on my list of Things to Replace for . . . eight years. And it called my name, okay? How are you supposed to walk away from something that knows your name?‡‡
And I got home and realised I should have bought more compost.
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*Which is to say before Souvenir de la Malmaison went in. Generally speaking you worry about your plants when someone is stomping over their beds and digging ditches through their roots and filling those ditches up with cement and so on.^ In Souvenir’s case you worry about anyone loose in her vicinity, however well defended with spades and scaffolding.
^ I would be very sorry to lose Golden Spires+ and Brother Cadfael++ but at least I could replace them. I’m holding my breath about my apple tree. Not only is it some kind of old—I’ve been here eight years and it was already stooped and wrinkly when I arrived—but I have no idea what sort it is, so I couldn’t replace it, and it produces fantastic apples. It’s leafing out now. So far so good.
** Actually there isn’t. This wretched garden centre delivers locally.
*** Individual colour snapdragons. Major pet peeve: mixed trays of bedding plants so you have no idea what you’re getting till they flower. So you plant a mixed tray of snapdragons/busy lizzies/begonias/bedding dahlias/whatever under your old-fashioned lavender-pink roses and they come out scarlet and orange. THANKS EVER SO.
‡ However I flatter myself I’m not a complete fool. http://www.manufactum.co.uk/terracotta-tile-clematis-root-protector-p1443402/
What. The. Frell. I’m supposed to spend twenty-three quid on a broken pot? I have DOZENS of broken pots sitting around waiting to be recreated as further-broken-up bits in the bottoms of other pots.^ If I wanted to do it that way I could erect an Eiffel Tower of terra cotta pieces. Furthermore, what a waste of opportunity: most of my clematis have clusters of littler pots of things like geraniums and pinks protecting their roots from sunlight. When there is sunlight, of course. Feh. Oh, and burying terra cotta in the ground? That is so doomed. ‘Frost resistant’. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
^ I know, they’ve proved it at least annually for the last several decades that shards in the bottoms of pots do not improve drainage. Well, yes and no. They do prevent the drainage holes from getting blocked. They also weigh the pot down: most pots flare from the base. Tall thin pots do well to have a nice stabilising layer of stones or pottery pieces in the bottom. And when you’re potting on I’d much rather untangle overexuberant roots from loose shards than from impacted soil—plus you have a smaller rootball to transfer. I still put something in the bottoms of pots before I put the soil in.
‡‡ And there’s always Third House. Third House’s garden has several Largest _____ You’ve Ever Seen which began life with me at the cottage.
Having the ME come roaring back in the wake of the flu is perversely proving to be rather good for my poor neglected garden—because I’ve essentially cancelled everything and am staying home and . . . sitting around is not my best thing even when I feel fairly deathlike I’M NOT DEAD YET so in this shockingly spring like weather with the SUNLIGHT and all the accoutrements like gentle breezes and bumblebees, I’ve been going outdoors and poking things with a trowel. Although this is the time of year that I usually do try to make an effort to establish some kind of . . . well, let’s not get carried away and call it order, but some kind of rough beating back of the jungle* outdoors, while I’ve got last autumn’s disgraceful plant over-orders relentlessly arriving in the post in instalments what feels like every day.** But spring is also when, as you clear off/out the AMAZING amounts of rubbish you haven’t dealt with since . . . oh, August or so***, you get to see what’s alive† and what isn’t . . . as well as look for where the doodah you’re going to PUT all the stuff arriving in the post. ††
Two more boxes of plants in the post today, one of them petunias, siiiiiigh . . . we’re supposed to have more frelling frost over the weekend. My sweet peas, having rejoiced at finally getting outdoors and off the Winter Table over the hellhound crate in the kitchen, are now starting to get cranky again: sweet peas don’t like their roots messed with and they’re starting to punch through the pressed whatever-it-is-not-peat plant pots that you plant as is, and the roots grow through it and the pot disintegrates (more or less). An old experienced (professional) gardener I often see out walking his dogs says plant ’em out now, they’ll be fine. Ummmmmm . . .
The second box . . . is wider than it is high. It is, however, vividly and generously labelled THIS WAY UP with helpful arrows on all four surfaces suitable for this direction. And when I opened it . . . the single plant within is lying on its side because it is TALLER than it is WIDE and this is the ONLY WAY this particular plant would FIT in this particular box. Said plant is a pitcher plant, so it is planted in what amounts to a small piece of marsh which of course has poured all over the bottom floor of the This Way Up box. ARRRRRRRRRRGH. Nursery mailroom FAIL.
I didn’t get the petunias potted on today which is maybe just as well if the touch of FROST TONIGHT††† is true since a small tray is easier to wedge indoors than a large tray‡ but I would have got all the new roses planted . . . if I hadn’t bought two more yesterday when I was buying a BIRTHDAY PRESENT for a FRIEND. Thus do thoughtful gestures screw you up and make extra work. ‡‡
PS: Staying at home is also good for my knitting.
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* Souvenir de la Malmaison, I’m looking at you. Actually there’s a whole dangerous little gauntlet right there. Souvenir is the worst, but Little Rambler who is not little is rioting on the other side of the path and Agnes, who as a rugosa should probably be categorised as a dangerous weapon anyway, has eight-foot stems looking for trouble just beyond Little Rambler. Abandon Hope All Ye Who Are Dumb Enough to Try to Enter Here. I’ve also decided that I don’t mind the bleeding freely nearly as much as I mind having one of the three Evil Sisters grab me by the hair. BEHAVE OR I’LL PRUNE YOU.
** The mornings I’ve had a bad night and haven’t lumbered out of bed yet are inevitably the mornings when one of the new, young, timid or letter-rule-toeing pains in the ass postpersons can’t just leave the frelling box(es) but has to KNOCK ON THE DOOR AND GET ME TO ANSWER IT.
*** It’s very good for wildlife NOT to have a tidy garden. You’re supposed to leave all the brush and dead stuff standing, okay? I am very wildlife oriented.
† CLEMATIS FLAMMULA. YAAAAAAAAY. http://apps.rhs.org.uk/plantselector/plant?plantid=4415
She keeps dying on me. Now that this one has survived a winter I’m afraid to pot her on. . . .
†† Furthermore I have frelling Alicia visiting on Monday. I could have said no. I could at least not have offered her Third House to stay overnight in. Sadly I would quite like to see her. What’s the matter with me? She is not only a gardener with a proper functioning greenhouse^ but she’s lately done all kinds of extensive and exquisite remodelling on her house and . . . um . . . ^^
^ Continuing AAAAAAAAUGH on this subject. Although I hear a rumour that Atlas is over his flu so he can perhaps have shovelled out the worst Monday before she gets here. Not that even at its best my greenhouse could fairly be described as functioning.
^^ Note that Alicia reads the blog. Hi Alicia! ::waves::
††† We had a hailstorm yesterday which took out one of my baby cosmos and ripped off a few geranium stems—but they’ll regrow, and I think the cosmos is toast. WHO WANTS TO BE A GARDENER. Fool.
‡ Although the Winter Table, which exists to support the indoor jungle on chilly overnights, is presently covered with rose photos mostly cut out of old calendars . . . remember the new refrigerator? Remember that my Dwarf Appliances thrust themselves in an unsightly manner into the centre of the room? Well, the back of my new refrigerator needs decorating.
‡‡ Like offering friends with better control of their lives and environments a place to stay overnight.
I hope he has an indoor job too. Bookbinding or something.
YAAAAAAAAAAY. And I am LONGING to get the greenhouse put back together. It’s not like it’s ever tidy but for example I’m planting roses and my bone meal [fertilizer] has disappeared. The greenhouse may not be tidy but I can find stuff.* And if I don’t get my potting table back soon I’m going to need a kidney belt.
But I need Atlas to put the shelf back up, re-line the wall that is shared with Theodora’s summerhouse, and heave the table back into place—at the moment it’s sitting next to/under Souvenir de la Malmaison, who is beginning to stir out of her winter sleep and will engulf the thing if it doesn’t get moved soon.**
So what happens? That selfish ratbag Atlas chose to get FLU this week. How thoughtless can a man be?
Meanwhile, in another part of the forest. . . .
Cottage front steps. And the daffs are Tete a tete and they smell. It’s like, you know, spring.
And those adorable purple and orange pansies . . . spent the winter in the plastic trays I originally bought them in. Bad me. I fed them a couple of times–clearly–but only potted them up last week and they’ve all gone like WOW. Now, speaking of my bad luck with pansies, these are just common-or-garden variety garden centre pansies–and spent the winter in their shop trays. What are we betting that they’ll have taken over the front of the house by next year?
In the stair picture, if you were standing on the left of the photo facing the house, the fritillaries are in a little mostly-empty planter (which will have a great throbbing dahlia in it later on if all goes well) to the right of the daffodils.
Maybe I’ve got it all wrong about pansies. Maybe they like being neglected and left to cope in heinous conditions and all this careful soil mix and good drainage thing is inaccurate and misguided.
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** She’s already practising for atrocities to come by making small dangerous snatches at me as I try to sneak past her.