Saturday, 17 March 2018


A single cyclamen.

Here it is, our weekly #SixonSaturday happening, that day when bloggers around the world share six things from their garden - a job, a new bud, a pest, a plan.

A few weeks ago, we moved house.  Last time you saw me, I'd just climbed out of a snow bank & was busy clearing an area in the new garden for a potting shed.

The simple task of levelling ground has developed into a shed saga.  We're also under another snow attack.

Best of all, I've begun a proper explore of my new territory.

1.  Another base, new skill set.

Last week, it was nose to the grindstone getting the base ready before the potting shed was delivered.  My dedication to duty, all that delay of garden gratification, & then the shed's arrival was postponed.

However, the 2nd shed (our storage shed) came early.  While I'd rather've been peering intently into the nooks & crannies of the garden, all of my shed contents were still inside the house, annoying the non-gardeners.

Ground Levelling, Episode 2.

A certain SoSer convinced me to get a metal shed.  That necessitated a cement or paver base, instead of the so-easy-to-assemble-even-I-could-do-it plastic grid base.

We have a hoard of pavers (which you'll read more about in #4 below) so pavers it is.  I watched a YouTube video, rounded up the resident muscle brigade & boldly went where we highly educated, unceasingly impractical folk have never gone before.

Devil's work.

We laid pavers, laughing & swearing, me shouting down cries to hire a builder, all of us trying to outrun an unpredicted rain storm, hampered by not only total ignorance, but my CFS . . . I'm a bit of an optimistic eejit, if you've not picked that up over these many long months.

After 2 hours, we only got a third of the area covered before the rain.  And because we're who we are, we're proud of our one-third paver base.

2.  Stepping stones.

The rain came, so we go up the smooshed-grass trail from paver base to house, & I mutter that I'm going to have to dig out a path here.

My son, El Punko stops & taps the ground with the shovel he's carrying, making a metal-against-stone sound.  Then he looks at me with his, I-see-things-you-don't-see grin.  It's a game he's played his whole life, using his incredible visual acuity against me.

After I scraped the grass off.

One of the things that makes his vision so acute is that he sees extra shades of green that most people don't - the grass over the stones was a different shade to him, hinting at something underneath. 

With eyes like that, seems a waste he's not interested in gardening.

The stones look a bit far apart.  Can't wait to uncover them all, see what the plan there was.

3.  No plants.

So we go inside, spread an old blanket on the living room floor, set out our tools, & gleefully unbox the metal shed.  Five shed parts are missing.

The universe has spoken.  Feck delayed gratification.

On with the rain gear & outside to explore.  Besides the hither & yon of a few bluebells, there's little that didn't get here on the wind or by thwarting the fence between us & the neighbour's garden - the fennel from last week, a couple of valerian, some vinca, ivy & creeping Rose of Sharon.

So far, I've found 2 inherited plants - the lone cyclamen pictured above & this mystery plant below:

Little red-capped strangers.

It looks rather peony-y, doesn't it?  Last year's dead stems don't look peony-y at all, & it does seem a bit posh for this garden, but I'm still betting it's a peony.

4.  The terrace.

It surprised me that the horizontal section of the terrace had pavers over it.  You can see they're simply laid in place without mortar.

The terrace lid.

I'd expected builder's rubble underneath, but no, just compacted dirt.  So, original design or someone in the history of the place not wanting more garden to look after?

Inside the box.

Whatever the story, that stuff's going to need some food.  Have been reading about bio-char, which various sources claim to be plant manna.  Has anyone had first, second or third hand experience with it?

5.  Not-crooked cherry tree.

While the garden had little to offer of plant interest, in my potted forest, the Not-Crooked Cherry tree is in bloom.

Think I'll name her Hillary.

I bought this at the Angry Village Plant Sale (3 gardens ago).  They said it was a wild cherry someone'd found in the woods & dug up.  Whatever its pedigree, it blooms a lot earlier than my Crooked Cherry &'s a lovely sight on a snowy day like today.

6.  Like Santa, your kids know everything about you.

El Punko gave me a book this week.

.Some book larning

He said it was so I could keep up with the other SoSers.  And he called the other bloggers that - SoSers.  All this time, I thought he wasn't listening.

My education begins.  And I don't mean Latin names.

Here be new plants.
This week, events conspired to remind me that gardening isn't working til you drop in the hammock with a glass of wine & a book you're too tired to read.

A gardener is as much a part of the garden as the plants, the bugs, the rapacious frogs, the fox & birds & marauding cats.  It takes a dialogue  amongst the lot of us to know what's needed next.

Sometimes what's needed is a little less levelling of the ground, a little more joy in discovering my garden.

Or other folks' gardens.  For a lot more of that, run over to our meme host, The Propagator to see what he's been up to this week.  There'll be lots more links to SoS garden bloggers in his comment section.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Little Boxes Made of Ticky Tacky

Dignity restored.

It's been a fortnight since the Beast from the East swept in during our Great Migration.

As with every move, something vital isn't in the box I thought it was, my favourite (insert household item) doesn't fit, & there's a list of niggling repairs to compile for the agent.

But with the snow gone, every afternoon, you'll find me in the garden.

1.  Potting shed.

Our previous houses've had multiple outbuildings - sheds, garages, sometimes even an apple store or outdoor flush toilet.  Our new place had this:

A bit of fencing propped on top of a slide.

But alas, this fine structure wasn't for us - the landlord hauled it away.  (The proper shed in the photo belongs to my neighbour.  Note the terraces for later.)

Levelling the base area.

Our potting shed'll go in the same place.  I chose plastic over a cement or stone base so we can take it with us when we move (hopefully to our forever home, this time). 

There's about 4" of loose, dry topsoil, then paving stones underneath.  Might've saved a quid or two if I'd poke around a bit first.  On the other hand, not sure how even the pavers are.  Once I realised they were there, I worked on smoothing the topsoil rather than digging them out.

A weed barrier goes under this grid, but for now, it's easier to put it in place & get it level, rather than measuring & remembering the math.

2.  Abscondment explained.

Besides abandoning their survivalist's shed, the amount of stuff left in the house suggests the previous tenants did a runner.  When levelling the shed space, I found critical evidence to explain this dead-of-night departure.

The murder weapon.

My family remains unimpressed.  One callous soul even reminded me of the bones I dug up in a previous garden, how they also set my mind to murder.  Turned out, I'd unearthed someone's dead dog. 

Imagination's like a muscle, you know.  Gotta exercise it.

3.  Fennel

We've never had a terraced garden before.  It'll probably become our veg patch, but for the moment, I keep staring at it like a love sick puppy, taking in the details.  Here's a little beauty growing in the masonry.  It smells of anise so I reckon it's fennel.

Growing in the cracks.

4.  Hollyhock

Under one of the trees at the top of the terrace, I found a hollyhock that looked as if someone had yanked it out of the ground & flung it there.  It was still alive, so I tossed it in a trug that had melted snow in the bottom to rehydrate the thing, then forgot about it.

The next day it was still alive, so I stuck it in a nearly empty bag of compost, splinted its broken stem with a Magnum stick & some packing tape, then propped it against the fence. We'll see how it goes.

Patient's recovering well.

5.  Rt Hon Lady BossyBoots

Your one appeared in our back garden unannounced.  A bit forward for a Brit, but not for an Appalachian, so no offense taken.  She asked what trees were in my potted forest.


Before I can open my mouth, she spews a list of her own trees, & why's that fig back here - move it to the front garden, do you feed it there's your mistake, neverfeedafigit'llneverfruit, they love to suffer & that hollyhock's just a wild (dismissive flick of the hand), tiny (grimace) green flower, you won't like it, I have purple hollyhocks I'll give you, granny's bonnets, that's what you need, did you know your house was a cannabis factory?

I'd hoped for murder, but a grow house.  That'll do.

And she was IN my back garden, Mr Propagator, so she counts as one of my Six.

6.  Kickass Compost

Thus explained, the 10 bags of this stuff the last occupants left beside the back door.  Rumour has it the entire crawl space under the house is full of it.  I've not found access to the crawl space yet, but if I do, I'm going in.   


Apparently, it's an hydroponic mix.  I've been researching how to use it in the veg patch.  My initial searches included the word 'cannabis' which led me to blocked sites.  Might have to have a word with our resident hacker.

Until then, does anyone know whether this stuff needs cut to work in the garden or can it be used full test?

Cuttings still hanging in there.

It's been an interesting move.

Best of all, the garden feels good.  A few weeks ago in this very blog, I let loose on hating my garden .  I was only able to do that because we were leaving the damnable place.

Now this week . . . well, during one of my rests, I sat looking at the witch hazel, the last of its crinkly red flowers drying out for seed.  I thought, move that to 11:00 & it'll be perfect.

So I did.  And it was.  This garden feels good.

I'm not alone in this feeling.  If you want to read more gardeners in love with their patch, head over to The Propagator for his & other stories by the half dozen.

See you next week.

Saturday, 3 March 2018


Mulch underlay or recycling . . . 

Ah, the sound of packing tape ripped from cardboard.  The essential trawl of local take-away options.  Mlle DoodleFace doing zoomies with a gigantic poster tube in her mouth while Mizzy BunnyButt climbs a Seuss-ian stack of clothes.  Mr BigNose sighs from a safe place on the couch.

Yes, it's done.  My worldly possessions, the critturs & family've been shifted to our new locale.

I desperately want to explore the garden.

Alas . . . moving coincided with the Beast from the East.  The new garden hides its secrets under snow, so your first tour will be to see how the travelling plant show survived.

1.  First order of business, feed the birds.

Dinner's ready!

In addition to the feeder, we've sprinkled raisins outside the dog area, & piked some fine apple halves.  Our water dish still hides in some unknown box.  Prayers've been offered for its resurrection.

2.  The Little House

On the day, the movers gave me untold grief about what they referred to as my Little House.  Any advice I offered on how to manhandle it  - something I'd done myself, I might add - they immediately disregarded.  Only an idiot would own such a stupid thing, & they certainly weren't listening to an idiot.

Ill treated composter.

It didn't surprise me to see how unceremoniously they dumped it in the new garden.

3.  A new dearly departed.

Not a pet this time.  For all the movers' dyspepsia with me, initial inspection of the potted forest reveals only one fatality - an Asian pear (in this photo, the horizontal stem).  The tall vertical sticks are bamboo cane to ward off bulb-eating fox.  The short stub of a twig near the label (about the same height as the daffs in the pot), that's what's left of the trunk.

Formerly known as an Asian pear.

This particular tree failed to thrive last year.  On calling the nursery for advice, it was determined that the tree, not myself, was at fault.  A free replacement arrived at my door in November.

Prior to the move, I'd thought the original still had life in it, but seeing how easily it snapped, perhaps a bit optimistic.

4.  Frozen Fatsia

On moving day, our last plant load happened close to midnight.  My thoughts were on duvets rather than dahlias, so it wasn't until the next morning I saw the spider fatsia.

This poor fella needs a fainting couch.

I've wrapped the pot in fleece & cover the plant itself at night.  Hopefully it'll perk up when the weather changes.

5.  Optimistic future.

For all the drawbacks to snow, it does give the garden a surreal, exotic feel.  The ordinary looks familiarly unfamiliar, maybe like we do in fancy dress.

Snow-improved lavender. 

The day before the move, I lifted a failing lavender & stuck it in a pot, rather than leave it behind to some unknown fate.  With the bare stems coated it snow, it suddenly looks like it has its whole future ahead of it.  Which I suppose is what even dying things have.  What else would be ahead except the future?

6.  Lovely in death (or dormancy).

And just look at dear creeping Jenny, herself tucked in for winter, worthy of a Victorian death portrait under her bonnet of snow.

Sleeping Jenny waiting to creep again.

So there it is, a week of delaying gratification.

Apple delights.

Next Saturday, the landlord comes to discuss the garden.  There's rumours of weed barrier & pea gravel, so I'll use the week to fortify my alternate plan.

Until then, there's a community of wonderful gardeners featured at The Propagator whose own Six on Saturday haven't a speck of snow on them.  Run over & find out why.

See you next week!

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Onwards to Horticultural Glory!*

Bags are packed & ready to go.

It's Saturday again, time to write about six things gardening related, however tenuously.  If you've a place where you garden - no matter how small, how new, how neglected - why not share six things from it that grabbed your attention this week?

As to The Writing Closet itself, we're moving house.

In terms of the actual grunt work, I've been relegated to a mostly supervisory post, which affords me time for our weekly SoS confab - to read, comment on & re-tweet Sixes go leor.

But first, let's check in on the moving team.

1.  Container plants.

Gardeners have pots, but because of our frequent moves, mine are occupied mostly by trees & shrubs.  I used to plant & lift my roses with every move until one of my favourites nearly died on me.

I promised, if it lived, it could stay put.  It lived & I kept my promise, resolving that in future, nothing goes into the ground unless I'm willing to leave it behind.

Of course, some pot dwellers languish.  If nothing perks them up, they get slapped into the ground & I do a You-Better-Feckin-Live dance around them.

Watch this space.  Workshops on dance gardening are coming to a venue near you.

Back in the present, we knew a night flit was in the offing, so this year's garlic crop joined my little potted forest in planter bags of their own.

In the van queue, w/Mlle DoodleFace checking the All Clear.

2.  Cuttings

In addition to sinking pot haters into the ground, I plant anything that populates on its own, then lift a few when I go.

Having said that, I always take cuttings.  Rarely if ever do they survive, but other Six-on-Saturday-ers such as Fred & Chicu have encouraged me to have another go.

Here I am, once again, attempting the Great Cuttings Challenge.

Ever the optimist.

Curry plants, purple sage, buddleia alternifolia, plus a late-contender weigela because there were pockets left in the tray.  All easy propagators, so surely some of those babies'll live.

3.  Don't forget us!

Of course, my gardening crew's coming, too.

Mr BigNose, Mlle DoodleFace & Mizzy BunnyButt

This shot was only possible because of the Dreamies on top of the hat box.  Bribery rates right up there with dance gardening, in my experience.

4.  The Crypt.

Until we reach our forever home, no pet gets left behind.  That includes the dearly departed, of which there are four.  The first 3 are in their burial urns (decorative planters), but our most recent loss, 15 year old Bast, didn't quite fit inside the one we got for her.  She's currently on a weight loss plan.

Weight loss chamber.

Her crypt is properly secured from fox, corvids &, dare I say it, the dogs.  A collection of star shaped aquilegia, a handful of bulbs, & we'll forget what's happening underground.

Bast, pushing up columbine & various bulbs.

5.  Beehive composter.

Feel free to scoff at this one.  We sacrificed utility on the altar of an outdoor painting frenzy.

No, Big Nose, we're not going to take it apart.

6.  And importantly, the shed innards that someone forgot to pack up.

Whose job was it to empty the shed?

Once the shed's empty, we're off.  Apparently the new landlord's been slicking up the place since last we saw it, so I'm ready to be impressed.

The great, late Bast in the hammock 3 gardens ago.

Impressed or not, Tim Hewitt advised I go onward to horticultural glory, & so I shall!

For more rooted SoSers, tarry over to the Propagaor for his Six on Saturday.  In addition to his week's efforts, there's always a coupla dozen links to other garden blogs in his comment section.


* Quoting Tim Hewitt's comment on my last week's blog.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Irreconcilable Differences

Spring in my last garden.

We live a somewhat nomadic lifestyle, mostly due to work.  Our houses've been chosen for us by other folk, all of them people who love beautiful homes but don't really garden.

Remarkably, I've been given some great spaces.

We've never stayed long enough for me to complete my grand vision of the moment.  But then, maybe gardeners never finish their vision.

In spite of these arranged marriages, in spite of whatever lessons & challenges the gardens themselves put in front of me, I loved them all.

Until now.

I first saw our current garden on the day we moved in.  Originally a double lot, its Edwardian designer had been uninspired.  In the 21st century, someone bisected the garden with a fence - house, garage, & surrounds on one side, uninspired beds & paths on the other.  At a later date, they got notions of building the Great Godawful, so put up another fence, with the house & surrounds taking up 2 thirds of the half & the garage part taking up a third.

Don't hurt your brain over my reckless use of fractions.  It'll make more sense in the photos. 

The neighbours defeated the planning permission, but the dissection of the garden remained.

Mlle DoodleFace as a puppy 2 gardens ago.

Needless to say, I was less than thrilled.

Hating my garden is as ill-fitting as hating my dog, a crime against nature.

But because we're moving, because this garden will soon not be mine, I can rend garments, gnash teeth & roar the myriad sins of this place.

Confined to a respectable 6, of course, for my present audience.

1.  A place divided.

Not long after we moved in, my family quietly went behind my back (lest I be disappointed) & asked if, since planning permission had been denied, could we have the whole garden.  The landlord said he'd only lift the fence that separated the house & surrounds from the garage, adding the caveat he could put it back with a month's notice.

Which meant leaving the concrete posts.  I put up an arch to insinuate the post line was intentional, artistic even, then wrapped the concrete in chicken wire to grow sweet peas & the errant self-seeded old man's beard.  

From the house toward the fence.

No amount of sweet pea can cover that much ugly.

From the fence toward the house.

2.  The Forgotten Trio - 2 apples & a cherry

These guys've featured here before - I'd hoped one of you would say this was a quirky British fruit tree technique.  Y'all disappointed me on that one.

In the photo above, you can see how closely they're planted to the post line.  Remember that for later.  

The Trio w/Mr Big Nose in the background.

I suspect these three were heeled in & forgotten.  I sometimes wonder who bought the trees, who heeled them in.  Were they an unwanted gift left to languish or a project abandoned by death or relocation? 

However the Forgotten Trio got here, the solution is obvious.  Fortuitously, as tenant, I'm exempt from killing trees. 

3.  Elder vs Acer

Long before the Trio arrived on scene, someone planted an absolutely gorgeous acer under the yew.  All was well until an elder seeded itself between them.  As the elder grew up, the acer grew horizontally until it joined hands with the Forgotten Trio of fruit trees.

I've been hacking at the elder in stages (CFS, remember), hoping to reduce it to the skinny vertical wands (also remember, hates to kill trees).  Once it wakes up for the summer . . . even if I'd managed to vanquish the elder, it'd take years for the acer to reclaim it's natural form, if indeed that were possible, considering the age of the thing.  The prognosis here is dismal.

Acer under the Elder burden.

4.  Walls do not a home . . .

So, remember how close the Trio is to the sweet pea post?  The marriage of acer & Trio give that part of the garden an 'interior wall'.  The rooms formed by the cement line & the 'interior wall' are each one twelfth the size of the original Edwardian space.  They contain trees & a short hedge.

So, not cosy pub snugs, but cells.

The house & surrounds side of the posts is basically paved pathways, brick outbuildings & small borders.  We have a garden, but not even the dogs want to hang out in it.

O, for the days when Big Nose & I hung out in the orchard 4 gardens ago.

5.  The Wisteria/Apple Tree battle.

Some people are less than fond of (hate) wisteria, but the vines I've lived with were always well behaved, so also well cherished.  And who doesn't love an apple tree?  So, is there a complaint here?

Moriarty & Holmes going over the waterfall.

When we moved in, the wisteria foliage not only smothered the apple tree, its growth whips formed a woven mat across the lawn, up the yew, even squiggling inside the garage windows.  (Those aren't dead limbs on the ground, but wisteria tendrils creeping, creeping, creeping toward me dreaming in my bed.)

I gave it a late pruning & hoped for the best.  Both tree & vine lived & bloomed.  The wisteria got its midsummer pruning, plus we had apples enough for everyone.  But as Fred, a French Gardener pointed out, either the tree or the vine will die first.  What happens to the survivor?

The wisteria got pruned on time this month, but realistically, this is a several year project which I know will not be continued because of the . . . 

6.  Mind boggling neglect.

This garden languishes because no one thought about it for years.  When that happens, this happens:

The Burgeoning Heap.

Taking over such a neglected space, I'd enough brambles et al without battling the Burgeoning Heap on the other side of the fence.  The only time it got my attention was when bits of it lept into my side to throttle my pots.  

In late summer, the Burgeoning Heap produced fruit.  Perhaps other eyes would've caught it sooner, but only then did I realise there was an apple tree inside the BH.

My son chases a much younger Mr BigNose thru 3 gardens ago.
Thus named, six things that defeated me.

This garden, given a blase design & left to flounder, needs things I can't offer it - time, energy, ruthlessness.  Let's hope a better gardener comes its way.

As for me, I blithely skip toward the next garden, shaking the dust of this misbegotten place from the hem of my waterproofs.  

As to you, scamper over to The Propagator where you'll find his more optimistic Six, plus many other blogger links in his comments section.

See you next garden!

Saturday, 10 February 2018

No More Snow, Please

Old man, Mr Big Nose loves the snow.
Most mornings, Big Nose & myself walk along the school route.  See that young fella there with his head down, the one whose expression says he'd rather be in bed?

He'd be yet another anonymous school lad if it weren't for snow mornings.  The merest of white dustings & suddenly, he's cheery, chatty, not able to stand still.

Before emigrating, I battled mountain snow for years, & fervantly hate all snow now.  No clue why this boy chooses to share his snow glee with me, of all the dog walkers he sees.

Snow.  Bane of my existence.

1.  Snow will be tolerated on the holly.

It does look nice w/that dark green foliage.

2.  But look at my poor foxglove.

Long-suffering foxglove.

3.  The bergenia managed a brave face.

O, the indignity of it all.

4.  And I suppose the fatsia seed heads are actually improved.

Looking more alien than usual.

5.  But the snow brought it's no-good friend.  


Confined to the glass top of the patio table.

The glass top has since been brought inside.

There'll be no sitting outside today.

Not exactly the hot seat.

6.  The witch hazel only lightly dusted.   

Snow witch.

Not that it worries about snow.  Actually, there's barely any snow on the witch hazel, but it's having such a great blossoming, it deserved to be featured here again.

Love at first sight.

So there are my Six.  Rather than end on a snow note, I leave you with something I love.  You may remember a few weeks back, I told the story of my crooked cherry tree.  The sight of it in full bloom, growing through a shrub, well how could you not give your heart to something like that.

As always, I remind you to visit  The Propagator who'll have his own Six, plus hosts links to a vast array of Sixes in his comment section.