Tag Archives: garden

Just found missing snowdrop named after my daughter


This is galanthus ikariae Bonnie Scott, a snowdrop named after my daughter when she was a baby in 2008.
It was grown by famed snowdrop guru Jim Leatherland in Northamptonshire, and I thought I’d lost it. But buried among some overgrown hardy geranium, with a couple of flowers and its stripy leaves, there it is, nearly eight years on and still alive! 
I must split it and move it once it’s G finished flowering, this time writing down where it is!


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How my garden was obliterated in less than three seconds

IT has taken eight years to develop my shady, urban, child-infested back garden, but it took less than three seconds to destroy it.

At around 1.30am on Sunday, I was woken by what felt like the house shaking. Or was it just a dream? My nocturnal other-half came to bed a few minutes later.

“The wall in the back garden has collapsed,” he muttered, before rolling over and attempting to go to sleep.

That wasn’t going to happen. I was wide awake. I went to peer out of the children’s bedroom window to see what he was talking about. It was too dark.

Downstairs to the window nearest the garden. All I could see was a sheet of the climber hydrangea petiolaris, hanging forlornly in a sheet, not clinging to much at all.

As I peered I could see . . .well, not the garden anymore. Just a sheet of bricks. It was an extraordinary sight. Like an instant patio.

. . . after

To be honest, I cried. Yes, I know it’s just a garden and the fact it happened in the night meant everyone is still alive (it would have killed anyone in the garden, it fell so fast), but after recent nocturnal misadventures, like the car getting squashed and finding a strange drunk man asleep in the dining room, it just feels like we are cursed by bad luck.

Self pity? Yeah, but it took me eight years to build that garden. I write about it as a garden journalist. So no, I don’t feel very laid back about it at all.

The wall was too tall. A Victorian garden wall, bordering the large garden of our neighbouring house’s garden really, all the way around their’s, just one border on ours. It had stood for over 120 years, and yet collapsed in one devastating sheet of bricks, covering the right hand garden border and our entire lawn. A lawn the kids had been playing on just 36 hours earlier.

The following morning it felt unreal to see it. Huge amounts of brickdust covered all the plants and the neighbours’ outside lights, strung presumably on their side, where the ground is a foot or so higher than on ours. Like a horticultural Becher’s Brook.

I couldn’t even start to organise what to do next, as sons needed taking to rugby matches and general life needed to go on as normal.

Bloke spoke to the neighbours the next day. Discussions, apparently, that involved talking to our respective insurance companies. I rang them, they said they’d get back to us. They did, only to tell us the wall wasn’t covered because nothing had hit it, “like a car or something.” Unsurprisingly, getting cross and emailing them the photos didn’t make any difference.

Since then it’s been raining solidly, and each morning when I get up and look out of the window at the missing garden, a little part of my soul wizens. Under all those bricks, somewhere, along with all the other crushed plants, is a snowdrop named ‘Bonnie Scott’, named after my daughter.

What to do next? I can hardly face it.


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Devious ways to distract your children

I have discovered a marvellous way of keeping two-year-old Bonnie occupied while I attempt to catch up with some gardening chores.

One of the tasks for the autumn gardener is to collect up and wash out all the pots and seed trays that have been used throughout the year. It’s a mucky job, and far too much like housework for my liking.

Bonnie makes brother wash-up pots. Wise girl

Bonnie doesn’t like to be indoors when I’m outdoors. Even when it’s cold and rainy. But that doesn’t stop her moaning and whining while she follows you around, putting bulbs in upside-down and tipping soil everywhere.

To stop her stomping about on my freshly-re-seeded, patchy lawn, I set up a washing station with a trug of soapy water and an old dishcloth. She happily scrubbed two dozen pots and then wiped-down the watering cans. It took her a good hour, and she even had the sense to enlist one of her brothers to come and help. I think those pots may need a wash again next weekend. . .

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She’s disappointed by the quality of rainfall

Made my first-ever jar of blackcurrant jam. I feel guiltily domesticated.

RIGHT, enough now. This is England and it’s summer so it should rain. Properly rain. Chuck it down. Not this pathetic drizzle that does nothing more than make girls’ hair go fluffy.

It’s been weeks since we had more than a smattering of a shower and the garden is struggling to cope.

I’m getting some sort of workout lugging watering cans up and down the allotment but the clay soil is set rock hard. Much of the water isn’t penetrating very deeply, even when the planting hole is slightly bowl-shaped to hold it in place and stop it just running away.

After last year’s wet weather we had stunning fruit and vegetable harvests. This year the fruit is looking small. My apple tree dropped all its applets, the raspberries are tiny. Strawberries gave up quickly and the beans aren’t producing as quickly as they should. They might need misting with a hand sprayer to help them along.

My early spuds are ready, and the first lot I dug were horrible, all pock marked, part rotten and holey. Very disappointing. It could be slugs or scab (where the skin is, well, scabby, but the spud is still edible underneath) is common where watering is erratic.

I’ve never had to water potatoes or raspberries before and I think it might be too late to start. Thankfully the third potato plant I dug had some healthy tubers. Not as many as I’d have expected but at least we’re eating something.

The garlic has been picked and hung up to dry at home, the red, autumn-sown onions look fat and ready and the shallots have had a bumper year. I suspect I planted some too deep though, because as they expand, they poke up towards the sun and swell near the surface, whereas mine have become trapped and squashed by the rock-hard soil. When you do water, do it early or leave it until the evening. If you use a hose, use a spray attachment or the force of the water will just make deep holes around your beds and expose the roots. When you think you’ve given a plant enough, give it some more. Shallow watering is no good.

Fill watering cans from water butts, empty paddling pools, washing-up and even bathwater, the plants won’t mind. I’m hoping for a massive downpour and a heavy shower every night next week.

Last week’s appeal about how to harvest blackcurrants furnished me with lots of advice, thanks very much.

This week I cut all the stems heavy with ripe black fruit and carefully removed the bunches of berries. Once home, I plonked them in water, separated off the leaves and stems, and then put the berries into plastic boxes and stuck them in the freezer. Once solid, its much easier to remove those fiddly flower ends (preferably while watching telly with a glass of something alcoholic to hand). Another wash, stick them in a big pan with a drop of water and preserving sugar and soon you have gooey, sweet blackcurrant jam (or jelly of you strain it). I’ve produced my first ever jars of blackcurrant jam. It’s so nice with scones, or swirled into cream and poured over meringues. Shame I’m supposed to be on a diet.. . .

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Baby blackbirds: the sequel

Well, first trauma was coming out to find only one of the two birds in the nest.

Did he fall or was he pushed? The remaining chick waits for extra food

Jumping to conclusions, one had clearly pushed the other out, which was cheeping pitifully in the undergrowth beneath. The kids were sent indoors before they started foraging.
The mum and dad blackbirds were still around, bringing food to the remaining (guilty) chick. We left them, hoping somehow the other ‘loose’ one would be found by its parents.
A couple of hours later, as I was putting away stuff in the shed, I heard a rustling sound under the wheelbarrow, and the smaller chick hopped out, a long way from the shelter of the ferns where it had been earlier. It was exposed, plaintively cheeping at me. Then it hopped back under the barrow. I haven’t seen it since. There are a lot of cats about.
Meanwhile, thug bird had managed to climb out of the nest and right along the clematis, where it sat, camouflaged, still demanding food.

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Wilting in wedges in Flaming June

Cottesbrooke Plant Finder's Fair 2010

WHAT a brilliant week it’s been for gardeners to get out and get hold of their plots. And hopefully the weather has stayed good for us to enjoy some events that spotlight how great our county is for gardens.

The first pickings are coming thick and fast. I feel like the ‘strawberries and fresh peas from the pod diet’ suits me just fine, with new potatoes, garlic and onions forming the basis for meals for weeks to come.

The blackcurrants are ripening beautifully, and the strawberries are my best yet. More varieties needed for next year though, to prolong the eating!

I got to do some backbreaking weeding this week, and the hoe has been in full service. Sweetcorn, peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, courgettes, parsnips, beetroot and carrots are all growing well, a couple of pumpkin plants have gone in, and I replaced some of the missing bean plants.

The beans aren’t doing so well for me this year. Not sure if it’s the weather or the slugs, but even quite large plants have wilted. Still time though, so I’ve planted yet more direct plus a few in pots at home. Beans are usually so easy!

The flower garden is at it’s best, and I’ve cut lots of peonies and roses for vases indoors, something that I usually can’t bring myself to do. But everything is so floriferous this year it makes you want more freezing, snowy winters if this is the result.

Away from home there’s the increasingly popular Cottesbrooke Plant Finder’s Fair on this weekend, with lots of specialist nurseries and top-class speakers including Alys Fowler of Gardener’s World fame, Dan Pearson and James Alexander Sinclair.

Bring any excess plants you might have as there’s a plant swap, and make sure you give yourself time to look around the amazing gardens, which are under the competent stewardship of head gardener Phylip Statner.

The show is attracting visitors from all over the country and this year is organised in association with BBC Gardens Illustrated and the Daily Telegraph. Entry is £7.50 which includes access to the gardens, with under 14s free.

Make sure you bring cash as you won’t be able to resist some of the plants. There’s a plant crèche to help stash your purchases and a Punch and Judy show will be performing too. If the weather holds, the third year of this event looks set to be the best yet. It’s open 10am-5.30pm today (SAT) and tomorrow. Might see you there. . .

UPDATE: Went on Friday, wilted in heat, stupidly ignored own advice and wore high wedge heels and could barely stagger across poo-ey field clutching large rose bush. Queue to get in took 25 minutes, queue for food was shockingly long, £5 ‘surprise’ fee for speakers James A-S, Alys and Dan was cheeky when it had already cost £7.50 to get in.  However, plants were lovely, weather fab, advice from growers invaluable.  Roll on CPFF2011.

Food queue

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