Today, we intend to finish planting the crocus terrace, but first, I need to get grandad up. Last night, we finally organised plugging in a ‘sounding’ section of Grandad’s buzzer in his house. The theory was that if Grandad could hear how loud and horrible the buzzer/siren sounded, that maybe he would buzz less frequently. We demonstrated the sound for him and his reaction was quite deliberately casual, as if it didn’t sound too bad. Within the hour, the buzzer went off three times in close succession so I went over to investigate. Grandad was sitting innocently in his chair, nothing wrong, “just wondering what’s going on?”, he said. I look to the ‘plug-in siren’ and it has gone! I ask where it is and eventually, grandad admits that he has apparently unplugged it because of the noise!!! I point out that we have had to listen constantly, at all hours of the day and night, to the infernal buzzer and he has only managed to put up with it for less than an hour! You have to laugh in these situations.
The girls and I then go outside to finish the crocus bulb planting. This does not take long as there was only a few hundred left. The next job out there will be a final good tidy up and an attempt to remove all of the broken glass still scattered about.
The girls then ask me to walk around the garden with them, pointing out things they can cut and use for ‘natural’ Christmas decorations, partly for garlands but also for Aideen’s extra giant, outdoor Christmas tree. I suggest eucalyptus, yew, pampas, teasle, Russian sage, pyracantha, dead sweetcorn tassles, artichoke heads and seed heads of hydrangea, nigella, fennel and verbena hasata, apart from the more obvious candidates of holly and ivy.
Whilst walking around the garden, I notice that some of my replanted snowdrops have been dug up by the badgers, who have also been scraping away at the grass looking for worms.
My next job is to replant the tulips from last year’s display beds. We have 4 wooden apple crates of bulbs in the basement, probably about 1200 bulbs in total. When the girls go into the basement to retrieve the bulbs, they startle the big grey and white cat who was sleeping in my bulb box. It is hard to say who was the most scared and the cat, shaped like a large, fluffy, football, shot out of the basement and skidded past me into the flower beds! He appears to have taken up residence in the basement. It is not the first time I’ve discovered him, but he is certainly not a starving stray, he is very fat! He could be the perpetrator of Minxy’s injuries, but I actually think it is the black and white cat who seems much more bolshie! My poor bulbs look quite flattened.
I then make a start on planting some of the tulip bulbs and, also my ranunculus bulbs, in the front sections of the central borders. First checking which way up to plant a ranunculus corm. They look like a spider with fat legs, the claw-like legs need to go in first (pointing down).
The girls get on with collecting their foliage and seed heads, and soon the extension resembles…the garden! Aideen tries out spray painting seed heads with silver and gold paint, and Diane starts constructing a beautiful garland on the stairs. Great fun is had by all and a tremendous mess is made, but it all looks lovely!
Having been in the basement today, it was a good opportunity to check the squash…it is very important to keep a close eye on stored produce, and remove any fruit/veg that are developing rot. Commonly this will be the small, more immature fruits. I spot five small squash that are beginning to rot and that makes the decision about tonight’s dinner, which I had intended to be vegetarian. I create a butternut squash lasagne which combines a variety of different recipe ideas, plus my own invention. I prepare a potato dauphinoise as a base (this cooks first) using our own potatoes, which are unusually going to be finished by Christmas. I will need to grow more next year, or we will need to eat less! The lasagne sauce is made of lots of onion, garlic, cubed butternut squash, yellow pepper and mushrooms cooked in a mix of carrot and coriander, and spicy parsnip soup. This is then added to the potato dauphinoise, layered twice with lasagne sheets with a thick topping of béchamel sauce, with cheese and parmesan. To my amazement, even the fussier members of the household ate the lot, although Aideen still picked out the mushrooms...Pecky can eat those!
Oranges and Lemons
Today was a very interesting day but rather wet, so as it was not an ideal day for planting bulbs, it became a day for going out. This was exciting for me because I do not get out much and after my last escapade of becoming stranded in the vet’s car park, I am now even more cautious that before. BUT, I NEED STRING!
I get through a lot of string and the last bit, of my last ball, was swiped at the weekend for Christmas decorations. Needing string is a good cover story for visiting my favourite plant nursery, which stocks my favourite string! Yes, I do have a favourite string! My favourite string comes in large, natural coloured balls. Diane has offered to come out with me and we intend to buy an oil lamp from ‘Harefield Collectables’ which I spotted whilst taking Minxy to the vet. This lamp, placed in the library window, will be a real link back to the past when Connie Johnson lived in the house with oil lamps and homemade candles because she did not have electricity.
We then headed off to Nik’s Nursery. This is my favourite nursery for many reasons. Firstly, the plants are good quality, well cared for and reasonably priced. Secondly, Nik and his wife are lovely, hardworking people who are always incredibly kind and helpful
Needing string was a very good excuse for buying cyclamens, but one of the very first things we spotted were orange trees! Diane was fascinated because they all had very large oranges hanging from their branches! I have been looking at citrus trees for ages but they are expensive and I was keen to get varieties with useable fruit, rather than decorative fruit. I was very tempted by these beautiful specimens, but left them for the moment. Diane then found a pair of reasonably priced, metal pot stands and we collected 14 beautiful cyclamens in a range of colours and a box of pansies. When I got to the counter, we talked to Nik about the oranges and I asked if he had any lemon trees, he said he had two left. I asked if I would be ok keeping them in my polytunnel over winter and he said yes.
Well, temptation then overcame any reticence on my part and I decided my Christmas present to myself would be two orange trees and two lemon trees (which were also bearing decent sized fruit). Nik’s price for the trees was very competitive and when he saw us attempting to fit them in the car, he offered to deliver them! When the trees arrived later that evening, they made our lobby look like an orangerie!
For what remained of the day, I decided to make my Christmas wreath for the front door. This is one of my favourite traditions of Christmas and this year I decided to really ‘go to town’, using everything I could think of from the garden to include in the wreath. This is what I managed to squeeze in…ivy with berries, stems of immature eucalyptus leaves, some bottle brush, four hydrangea flowers, some beautiful pink/maroon heuchera leaves, some spindle bush and flower/seed-heads, rosemary, cotton lavender, some springs of flowering orange berberis, a couple of yellow and pink achiliea flowers and any half decent multi-coloured roses and rose buds that I could find. Underneath the multitude of leaves and flowers are some lights and when it was finished, I was very happy with it’s colourful, bountiful look, it looks cheerful which is what’s needed at the moment.
The natural Christmas decoration production continues apace and it is hard to move in the extension without tripping over ivy and stepping on holly! Meave and I put up grandad’s Christmas tree, with help from Pip, who sat in the bag of decorations and entertained Grandad. Everyone is getting into the Christmas spirit!