My garden has been neglected for most of winter. I am definitely a fair weather gardener. By the by calling myself a gardener is stretching the term. But here in Britain ‘Gardener’s World’ has returned to the Beeb, so it must be time to get back out there.
Not one to rush things I ventured into my back garden this weekend just to reconnoiter the devastation of a very stormy winter and my pure neglect. Nature is blinkin’ marvellous and I found that despite my lack of effort things are growing!
All the bulbs – most of them gifted – are merrily on their way.
And the Christmas Rose still has some life in her.
Most pleasing to me are the hellebores that I planted late-ish last year. They have survived their first winter and have already brought a bit of colour.
I look forward to them popping up in other spots as they spread.
My old friend the chive is going strong and there are happy little clumps cropping up all over. Another new-old friend is the red campion I was given last year which is looking robust. Further south I hear red campion is flowering but I think us northerners may have to wait a while longer, but it will be worth waiting to see this bonny native plant blossom and flower.
Last but not least my good friend Rosemary slowly struggles on. Bless her she is a try-er. She has been happiest sitting at the front of the house – she even flowered last year – but wherever I put her she loses small branches as delivery drivers brush past and worse she lost her whole pot in summer when local children accidentally scored a direct hit during their game of football. I like to think of her as a lesson in tolerance and patience.
Having bemoaned the amount of rain guess what? The sun came out. Enough for me to don my welly bobs (told you that they would not be neglected) and start tidying the garden.
Every year at this time one of the biggest jobs outside is sweeping up the leaves. I always feel guilty that I am not gathering these leaves to make leaf mould mulch or compost. Because I am not much of one for hammering in posts and circling them with chicken wire to stop the leaves blowing away I merely add the leaf harvest to my green waste bin. Oh but not this year. This year I have a secret weapon.
Say hello to my little friend. The compostable leaf mould bag!
All these handy bags require is that you fill them with fallen leaves – no shortage around here – then pop them out of the way and one year later you will have super wonderful leaf mould for mulching your garden. Leave them two years and wow! compost.
I thoroughly enjoyed sweeping up the first fall of leaves and filling my bag. I felt rather like a green reverse-Santa, filling the sack with soil enriching goodness rather than emptying it with less sustainable goodies (the sort much loved by the Tribe of Doris granddaughters … don’t worry girls Omi is talking to the real Santa and he assures me you will not be forgotten).
Bag one done. I have a feeling this will be the first of many, the sycamore has plenty more leaves to share.
Our North American cousins have it right when they call it Fall!
This used to be what my entire garden looked like, at least the bit that had previously been covered by a very scrappy lawn. Two years ago inspired by Alys Fowler of “Edible Garden“ fame I thought that I too would love an edible garden.
I had visions of supplementing neighbours’ larders by sharing my copious harvests and of cycling along with hair flowing (cycling helmet only abandoned for the visualisation not my actual journeys you understand) carrying bunches of herbs and flowers to any poor soul needing the solace of rosemary, bay and lavender twined into a beauteous fragrant rustic bouquet and requiring a swig of home brewed elderberry wine (medicinal purposes of course).
Scratch all that. The harsh reality was a lot of kale – please God no more – but only 5 potatoes and a handful of rather pitiful looking beans. The garden was not the abundant source of produce (except for the kale) I thought it was going to be. For why? I hear you ask.
It couldn’t possibly be my total lack of gardening knowledge … could it? I have religiously watched “Gardeners’ World” every Friday night surely by some osmosis all that green fingered know how should have seeped into my very being … shouldn’t it? Obviously not.
Apart from my lack of ken (knowledge that is, not the chap) the biggest clue to my gardening limitations is very obvious to anyone that has seen my garden. It is a limitation that I am more than happy to live with. My garden is dominated by a very large tree.
And she has several smaller friends.
I really do count myself lucky. My nearest neighbour is a sycamore – I call her Cyra – who must be at least 150 to 200 years old. When you look up into her branches there is a whole planet of life – including the occasional woodpecker – and there will be another in her sturdy trunk and yet another in her roots.
Thankfully nothing grizzly appears to have happened around Cyra. She is a field marker tree – planted at the junction of several fields – who lived a quiet rural life until the 1980s when a housing estate was built around her. I sometimes feel sorry for Cyra but I think she maybe likes the company and if she doesn’t she gets her own back in autumn by burying us in her leaves (don’t tell her but they are very handy as a mulch) and hurling the occasional small branch on very windy days.
Despite my love of this marvellous tree SHADY is the best way to describe my garden. So what am I and the mud patch beneath her to do? Trumpet fanfare!!!! Friends and family to the rescue. Thanks to JG and the Kendal Conservation Volunteers I have been donated several woodland loving plants: red campion, foxgloves, violets, forget me nots and primroses.
Brace yourselves and if you are in any way prudish look no further. [whispers] PF and AF brought me some [hushed whisper] … titter (unfortunate word) … naked ladies … Oooh er missus! Alright I will stop now, we are all adults here. Aren’t we?
I popped a few of the gorgeous russet coloured bulbs in a small trough. I didn’t think they would appear until next spring but as you can see they are making a valiant attempt. Slightly wonkily I admit. Those pesky blackbirds had scratched out most of the soil. Is it wrong for a vegan to shout at birds?! But these brave little bulbs are illustrating the reason for the nakedness, they don’t have any leaves. Ooh er …
In case you think I have contributed nothing to the moonscape that once was lawn brace yourself. I managed to propagate some english lavender. Yahoo! Now along with my home grown sweet marjoram, thyme and chives the lavenders have been popped into terra firma. As you can see fallen leaves are a constant in my garden.
To be honest my veg have not been a total disaster this year. I still have some tomatoes struggling to ripen – I stripped away most of the leaves to help them – and I have had success with chillies. The lesson here is I am much better at growing vegetables in pots. In addition the rhubarb that I thought I had killed off last year because it was planted under too much shade seems to have crawled along the bed and like a phoenix risen anew.
Nonetheless what the last couple of years has taught me is that the flowers needed to be in first and then the veg could follow … maybe … perhaps. Friends and family have helped me along the road and with a bit of judicious purchasing the ex-lawn – still bare in places – has many new inhabitants: anenomes, geraniums, salvia, echinacea, asters to name a few (you guessed it I can’t remember the names of the rest). These latter were all delivered in beautiful condition by Crocus Garden Centre and are all pollinator friendly.
Crocus’ website gives full information on the height and spread of the plants, where and how they like to live and what they will get up to over the course of a year. I have planted as best as I can by their instructions but any failures will of course be all mine. I could not afford to buy them all at once so the planting may be a little higgildy piggildy. Just how I like things.
But what’s this? Some new arrivals?
Better get planting. I am sure the aches and pains from the bending and digging will be washed away by the thoughts of how the garden will look this time next year. I can but dream … and weed …. and hoe … and rake … and mulch …. Where’s that elderberry wine?!
Until next we meet,
P.S. Before you worry. I am a peat-free compost gal and have used Dalefoot Compost’s wonderful Lakeland Gold to mix with the top soil and mulch around the new plants.
Today I was visited by the Commando Gardeners alias my good friends KC and her husband MR who must be REALLY good friends ‘cos they came to help me get to grips with the garden…no mean feat. They got stuck in right away,
and soon the moss on the drive was a thing of the past,
and the shrubs were snipped into shape.
They really (literally) put their backs into it and maintained standards of colourful glamour while doing it to boot!
The results of all their hard work were stunning. A clean drive,
beautifully clipped shrubs and dug over beds,
and a cleared and cleaned side path.
Thank you Commando Gardeners,
you are my super heroes!
Just as we were admiring the spruced up garden (I keep going out to have a look at it) AW called in on her way back from providing Sedbergh with one of the cheeriest libraries in Cumbria. With her she brought a little daffodilly sunshine and tales from her recent trip to Rome (together with chocolate from the Eternal City…heavenly).
A happy little gathering. Me happiest of all…just nipping out to check on the garden….
Back in the room…
Converted to the use of a shawl – remember the weekend shawl? – and having been given some of Linda’s beautiful wool too good for small projects,
I’ve started on a new winter warmer.
From a pattern by Mercy Schwisow, the Long Way Home Shawl can be found on Ravelry. The wrap is easily worked in treble crochet (I think it’s a US pattern so I’ve converted DCs to TRs) with a spine of chain spaces. The alpaca wool is extremely soft and definitely snuggly but it is soooooo fine that it won’t be crocheted in a weekend….so I had better get back to it…..