INVITING OURSELVES OUT

From inside the outside looked bright, cheery and tempting.  So, we, that’s hubs and me, invited ourselves out for a coffee this afternoon.  There was a noticeable icy breeze, truly icy. It wasn’t too bad once we’d got used to the feel of it. I was glad of the thick jeans I was wearing, (these days, jeans seem to be made with much thinner denim cloth).  Together with my hip length padded jacket and a big scarf wrapped round my collar it all worked a treat. Hubs was well wrapped up too.

Crossing a bridge, I saw a tight ‘ruck’ of Snowdrops, the first I had seen this year. They bank onto a river.  In another week or so, the whole bank should be carpeted with them.

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We arrived at our destination and found our favourite seating area was free and only one person, the manageress,  was at a table. It was an oasis of calm.  A lot of people favour the same seating area, and  it can be teeming with bodies from whom emanates a very high volume cacophony of sound.  A group of teachers is one of the noisiest.  Next are parents who allow their little offspring with their metal toys -small cars  mostly-to bang them on  the glass table tops. The kids love it. This is an efficient way to clear the nook of other customers!

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On the way home  we wandered up to a farm and bought some fresh eggs, chatted to the shepherdess, who also runs the egg enterprise and does lots of other things in the modern diversified life of farming.  p1010089

A plop of icy sleet startled me, followed by a few more plops.  Then I noticed an unexpected clump of bright yellow in the shelter of closely planted leafless bushes.  Crocuses were about to bloom.  Is spring around the corner?

HOW DOES THE GARDEN GROW…NOT WITH SILVER BELLS OR COCKLESHELLS.

It’s been a mixed week.  Flora and fauna have figured large.

As you will know from my last post, I was presented with a really bonny bouquet.

Literally, I have watched the garden plants  increase in size and strength within a few hours. One moment  they look immature and when I returned some hours later, well…..I rubbed my eyes, even I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  When the weather gets warmer,  the plants obviously quickly rise to the occasion.  What were just leafy Calendulas, now have budding flowers at last

The wild Orchids in our garden are very pretty. They increase in number every year. Hubby does a slalom around all of  them with the lawnmower. Once they have finished flowering, he’ll mow the grass with carefree abandon again.

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The Spiraea I successfully rooted also shot up a few centimetres and became quite bushy with tiny leaves.  I was intending to nurture it for another year, but it seemed a shame to restrict it in a pot.  So, it was planted, a fledgling bush amongst thrusting grass.  This is from where it originated.

The parent Spiraea bush

The parent Spiraea bush

It’s a pity one of the young  Weigelas, which was bursting with flowers, was accidentally caught by a strimmer, (not by me). Most of the flowers on the bush dropped off, the rest have since followed suit.  The broken branch, which I attempted to save, is not at all happy.  I’ll leave it in a pot a little longer to see if it might perk up.

Japanese Honeysuckle has delightful gentle mid- green leaves with cream lace veins .  After twenty-nine healthy years mine suffered an attack of what looked like mildew. It is no more.

A few snips with the ‘clippers’ and the flowerless stalks of the Primula Candelabra  have  been removed. They have not failed to put on ever-increasing candelabra displays.   I have a new kid on the block, new last year.  It was quite timid then, with just two flower heads. These Primulas are really cute and it has thrown up  five floral heads, so far, this year. You can just make out the head of the the fifth one, it makes its contrasting skirted frilly rim as the pointed hat develops.

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You can see the vigorous Allium here just beginning to open their yellow flower buds.  Just behind them is a plant that appears to be a thistle.  I can vouch for the fact it is not a weed, I did plant it in 2015.  It’s not like any of the leathery prickly thistles, those leaves though they look spikey, are very soft .  It has yet to present its first flower.  An ornamental thistle style flower should appear in due course.  They are often found in floral displays.  When it is safe to, when I am not likely to tread on anything flowery, or, knock any plant heads off, I will have to check the name of it.  (Hopefully, the label will still be readable).

Summer gales nearly always arrive when  my Peony bush comes into bloom and  they quickly batter the blooms out of existence. There has been quite a strong wind building up today.  This season’s first blooms are really lovely, so I took a few pictures to record them.  There are others on the bush, in slightly varying shades of pink, similarly gorgeous.

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Finally, here is ‘the spotty flappy leafy thing’ mentioned a couple of posts back. It is commonly known as a pineapple plant; its official name is Eucomis and is a native to South Africa. I don’t know which particular Eucomis I have, there are a number of them.  For you buffs out there,  it is of the Asparagaceae genus. The ‘fruiting’ centre, (if that’s what it is) looks very interesting. There’s a second little Eucomis peeking out from behind the larger plant.

Eucomis

Eucomis

 

COMMUNING WITH MIDGES AND ‘THE SPOTTY FLAPPY LEAFY THING’.

Talking about the garden again…my brain is connecting into peaceful communing with buttercups, daisies and wild orchids. It helps to cope with the chaotic and volatile political diatribes, the tribal nature of so-called debate, and the murder of Jo Cox M.P.

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The plants received a generous dollop of water when I got the hose out last night. If I had waited a few more hours Mother Nature would have provided and copiously too.  So, everything is now well-watered.  All that back-breaking weeding I got stuck into has got a sabotaging helping hand and the weeds, no doubt, will thrust up through the soil again.

I swear the Scottish midge has got larger. They are not usually interested in me. I pride myself on usually being bite free.  Instead of seeing a mass of tiny dust-sized dots flitting about, I saw masses of individual wing-flapping insects. This lot liked me and I was eaten off piste two evening in a row. The back of my neck, my ears and my forehead were smitten with minute burning bites. Yeuch!  I itch as am reminded  of it.  I find I am scratching my face again.

I am really pleased to see that a bright yellow lily I planted last year has grown again, so, I bought another Lily to join it. It has  tight deceptively reddish coloured buds. They might turn out to be orange!   And …..the large flappy spotty leafy thing I bought at an Open Garden last year has reappeared. Yay!  Those spots are on the underside of the leaf that  takes shape. They eventually show as opaque markings on the upper side of it.

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In fact, the plant might be giving me a double act. Since I took this photo a few days ago, a second stem has pushed through the surface. I hope the pot will be big enough. Don’t be fooled by the white I.D. stick. What was written on it in indelible ink has completed faded out.  This folks, is why it is ‘a flappy spotty leafy thing‘ till I can put a name to it.

GARDENING. OVER-ENTHUSIASTIC PLANTS

It’s been a busy two days in the garden taking advantage of the warmer temperatures and the dry sunny weather.

I rescued, (I hope) some of my plants from other over-enthusiastic plants encroaching on their space and depriving them of vital light.  I chopped back the Lovage for the second time this year.  I have decided it has got to go. What’s left of the Lovage is behind the  white planter. My flat leaf parsley should be a bit happier now and also the Aubretias.

You can’t see them, the Fennel is in the way,  but there are Violas, which were tied up with weeds. I moved  all but two of the self-seeded Calendulas (edible Marigolds) to another patch with their pals.

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It’s surprising what happily grows under the delicate fern leaves of the Bronze Fennel. It is not full height yet. It’s a bit warmer now, so, it will put on a spurt.

 

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Calendulas are quite  hardy and they don’t seem to be fussy about what kind of ground they grow in. These have some re-sited Violas among them. I do throw a bit of compost in this direction every now and then. I’m not sure if the replanted fancy rocket behind the planter will settle.  The petunias in the pot  were planted yesterday.

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Allium are growing vigorously this year and have quite a few buds. There’s a couple of bunches by the Primula Candelabra, (the tall creamy flowering plants).  The Alliums are quite aggressive and have been pushing up and around the settled  Primulas.  Sadly, a  low lying double-flowered Primula was well and truly killed off by their growing antics. You can see what is left of one newly re-planted small Primula with a Viola for company, which did keep going, though it was obviously  struggling.  I pulled up some Alliums to give space and light back to the other plants.

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A few of the miscreant Alliums have been plonked into this bund that hubby has developed. Their root network will be ideal for it assuming they take root. Even so, I reckon there will have to be regular culls.  Bluebell type flowers, (below) which are currently flowering would add to the root strength, they seem to behave in a similar way.

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I was a bit nervous of clearing out the weeds between the Euphorbia and the Lupins, I wore heavy duty gloves for this job. If any Euphorbia sap gets onto your skin, the skin will become light sensitive and can blister. This is one plant from which you don’t want to accidentally break anything.  It’s not ideal to have a top which keeps parting from your trousers, however well you think you’ve tucked everything in!

Those are Busy Lizzie’s peeking out from the amphora.

Gardening is never done; there’s still more to do. A bit of grass clearing should do the trick here.  There are some other Weigelas that would appreciate a similar manicure.

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One for emptying. I’ve not had much success in this planter. I’ll have to think about how to use it.

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SPEAKING OF PLANTS…

We’ve had frosts, sleet, and snow, which did not settle.  Daily temperatures are still in single figures, at night it feels the numbers are very low.  Though it is very light till late, it feels cold enough to draw the curtains to insulate us from the chill outside.

I checked my five ‘baby’  Weigela bushes, which I planted last year. Their leaves vary in colour, two are light and dark variegated greens.  I also planted two dark purple leaved varieties. The plants burst into life and sprouted leaves during the short-lived. false spring we had early April.  Since the temperatures dropped, four of the Weigela’s furled up their leaves and appeared to be trying to protectively wrap them round their main branches.  Like the Euphorbia,  they were looking quite sorry for themselves.  The light green variegated leaf Weigela, which I thought may be a tender offspring, seems to have survived the cold snap quite well.  You never can tell, can you.

On a recent visit to Edinburgh’s lovely Botanical Gardens, I took a guided walk to learn something about plants and the garden’s  highlights. It turned out to be a group of one plus the guide, a retired botanist; lucky me! Amongst other things, I was introduced to three plants I have. My Begenia is not yet flowering, theirs is.  I planted it where the Livingstone daises are  by the tree trunk. This picture is pre-Begenia. There was a great big green leathery elephant ear leaf, (my description, it’s real name I cannot recall) which I hope will reappear. It is in the blue pot  in the picture.

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And last, a bronze Fennel; I was told it was an aggressive growing plant. I’ve had mine two years, it grew upwards to about 4.5ft last year and was  spectacular to look at.  I can think of other plants- like the one behind it – I wish I had never planted, however, my bronze fennel is not one of them. It is staying.  A local visiting cat nuzzles up to it, I do believe the cat likes the aroma: why not, I do!

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PLANTING UP POTS

Yay! We’ve had our first two half days of real warm summery weather. Yesterday the temperatures rose from about lunchtime. I beetled off to a garden centre to find some interesting outdoor plant pots.  Two that took my fancy were really meant for hanging on a wall.  I had other plans.  One pot was quite like a Roman amphora.

Amphora Plant pot

The pots were planted up and left to adjust to their new surroundings overnight. These plants looked quite settled and hopefully, are raring to grow.

This morning I was busy and  also for a large part of this afternoon.  By mid afternoon clouds obscured summer skies, but, it remained warm. It was however, very, very windy.  It’s sods law isn’t it. The neighbour’s sheep were sheared today, when the shearers had finished the temperature dropped. Then it rained!

This one appears to lean forward, which, perhaps is what it might do if it were attached to a wall. I nipped out to snap pictures quickly in a bit of a rain lull. The raindrops show up well  🙂

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Westerly winds are really blowing the ‘Million Bells’ plant to one side. I am hoping it will take firm root, spread and trail over the sides of the pot, if the weather gives it half a chance.  Should the winds persist, I might have to think about moving the plant pot to a more protected spot.  At present the pot is quite high up and resting against a wall.

CARROTS

We’ve got a gift hubby said. We don ‘t get post on a Sunday nor any other kind of package or parcel deliveries.  They arrive only on weekdays.

So I said………Ooh, have we, where is it?

It’s in the garden, said hubby.

Where, I asked?

By the fence, look……

Right enough, almost camouflaged with all the greenery, was a small bunch of carrots, freshly picked by the farmer, our neighbour.  She has a good throwing technique, over a 6 feet chain link fence where the carrots, untied, made a soft landing and all together.

 

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Our weather for the last few days has been ever so wet, temperatures have lowered and the mornings are chilly now. During the day it is quite mild. It is so wet today with what is called locally, sma’ rain falling, (very fine rain that wets you through, also like ‘Scotch Mist’) that even the Daddy Longlegs are desperate to get to the dry side of the window.

Daddy Longlegs Sheltering

Daddy Longlegs Sheltering

Here’s one I found introducing itself to leaves on a plant in my home-made cold frame, one dry sunny day a few weeks ago, taking advantage of the plants being exposed to the world. The sharp eyed amongst you, will also see this Daddy Longlegs on a picture below.

Introducing myself to you

Introducing myself to you

At the weekend we drove 250 miles return trip to see a performance of Dunsinane, given by The Royal Shakespeare Theatre Company, (RSC) who are taking the play on a limited tour. The cast included some well known good actors. You could call it, I suppose, bearing in mind dramatic superstitions, ‘the second Scottish Play;’ the first one that actors don’t usually name, is Macbeth. Dunsinane is a story set post Macbeth, just after he has been killed. Lady Macbeth lives on. There is an inter-regnum, a gap to be filled and warring clans have to be brought on side to make alliances where there are usually none. Macbeth’s widow and her supporters are pivotal in this political scenario. It was evocative of the current complex situation in Syria.

On our way home,we stopped off for a bite to eat in a favourite eatery. I was easily tempted to a dessert, the crowning glory of which was a home-made meringue. When it arrived, other customers and me gasped at the size of the meringue with the strawberries and coulis dripping out of a thick layer of double whipped cream sandwiched between the top and bottom of it. I didn’t have a camera with me to do it artistic justice, but, I can vouch for the fact it was amazing!

Today, between showers, I pulled up two of my golden beetroots. One of these and another one grown in a different plot. The leaves of these beetroot are edible and make for a great delicate vegetable dish, when they are briefly tossed in oil with fried onion and chopped garlic.

Salad

Salad

There’s a bit more space now for the cucumber plants. They’ve flowered, though, I don’t think there’s time for them to fruit. The flowers are very pretty. Their tendrils encircle anything and everything. Could they have been the inspiration for The Day Of The Triffids?

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And here’s a couple of demure flowers that are hiding.

Demure Blooms

Demure Blooms

TAKING A SEVENTH INNINGS STRETCH FROM THE CLUTTER

Most of this morning I have been bent over more files folders and papers.   Of course, with all the folders and dross around me, I couldn’t reach without straining. There was nothing for it then, but to kneel.  It’s time to get up from my knees now and give them and my niggling back a rest.  I have rediscovered books, cassette and VHS tapes that went with courses.  There is a mountain of empty ring binders and lever arch files, I’ve tipped the contents of them into the recycling bin.   What should I keep,(you never know what I might do)?  A little voice whispers into my ear “should you keep any of them“?   A dilemma!

Yesterday, I gave myself a break from the emotional clutter of my life, and spent a bit of time in what passes for a herb garden.  It was a neglected north- and north-easterly corner that does not rest with a gale or two, or even the occasional storm sweeping through it,  there is the occasional cyclonic wind effect as well. The gardening gloves were on and I meant business.  Those weeds and grasses did not stand a chance. The lovage seems to be surviving, as does a large pot of mint.  The smaller apple and pineapple mints are trying hard.  Last year’s sage plant is thriving too. This year is so cold for the time of year, and the herb patch looks bereft.  The stone strawberry planter which I used for some edible plants is a bit mouldy and looks sorry for itself.  My thyme did not survive through the winter. I am cogitating on what to do with the ground. The nasturtiums have not shown any sign of life. They usually have no trouble appearing.  It might be a case of getting a few hardy flowering plants that a ready to plant out to make the corner look lively.

I guess I have to admit to procrastinating here.  It has been restful and creative.  Right, back to the quern stone the tasks will not do by themselves.

I’ll leave you with  a look at a representative mixed salad from my garden patch a couple of years ago.  The Calendula plants appeared in this glorious vibrant orange and a primary yellow.   If you can call a salad sexy, I reckon this is it!

A representative sample of my salads

Good enough to eat

GOURMET SHEEP

People can be so kind and thoughtful:

We have a sheep farm backing onto our house which I can gaze at from my kitchen window. A 6ft high chain link fence separates us and all the other the neighbours’ houses from it. This year the field behind our garden has been given over to growing cabbages and cauliflowers. When looking out of my kitchen window I have recently been seeing alien objects on the grass. They continue to appear. Two days ago my husband brought in a lovely cauliflower and a splendid swede (called a neep or turnip up here) with its majestic stalks and leaves attached.

The farmer gathers in the neeps (Turnips and Rutabagas) for the sheep and the cauliflowers for his own consumption.  From his tractor he lobs one or two of these yummy fresh veg over the fence for us from time-to-time.

The neeps have an incredible flavour raw or cooked. When thanking the farmer (who was surprisingly bashful about his gifts to us) I commented on this flavoursome variety of neep; I found out that it is of a kind no longer grown – I don’t why – however, the farmer had kept some seed back because the flavour appealed to him, and no doubt the sheep too, he therefore continues to grow this particular strain of root vegetable of which, we are gaining the delicious benefit