I started the day by redoing the hanging baskets. This should have only been two, but unfortunately it is now four because Grandad's hanging baskets died through lack of water - I shall certainly be keeping a firm eye on them from now on.
The 'bee man' came today to see how the hive splitting operation is progressing. We were worried because there seemed to be quite a lot of dead and dying bees on the ground and no sign of life from the new hive. He was very reassuring about the dead bees, apparently that is quite normal, and these were probably old bees. I stood by as he opened the new hive and to our relief there was a nice little huddle of healthy bees in the centre of the hive. He explained that they have probably been staying in the hive, eating the honey and haven't needed to go out foraging. I said "A bit like staying in, chilling, and watching Netflix!". The 'bee-man' gave me a funny look, unsurprisingly! At this point Phil from Brambles Nursery arrived with another 12 bags of potting compost, I have never used so much before, it shows how much stuff is being sown and planted. He commented on how much work we've done on the place, and said we must be very proud of how it has progressed. I was touched by his kind words, he and his wife have known us since the early days. Their nursery supplied the hedging for our front field and the box plants for the veg raised beds area. He said that he knew how hard we have worked and that most people do not understand what is involved with restoring a garden on this scale.
I then go off to Ducks Hill garden centre to pick up some bits. A small Bonsai Tree, a bag of sand and a couple of alpines for my miniature Japanese Sink Garden, and a selection of colourful primulas to add to the auriculum theatre. I love primulas, I've always loved them, they are such happy plants. So it is a complete pleasure to select a variety of beautiful coloured specimens. They are not strictly auriculas, but they are from the same family and they will look beautiful!
When I get back, I decide to trim back the pond plants and try to remove the blanket weed that has been developing around the lilies. This causes some incredulous comments from Aideen, as she has never seen blanket weed come out of water before, and didn't understand what it was, it does look a bit slimy!
I then decide to spend the rest of the day working on the herb garden. Weeding, trimming and topdressing with leaf mould and also redoing the majority of the labels. Originally I wanted large black labels with white writing in the herb garden and thought that I had found the perfect thing in the Sarah Raven catalogue! Very environmentally friendly black wooden labels. Well unfortunately, the problem with wooden labels is that they rot and break off. I now use plastic black labels from Marshall's which are brilliant. They look very good and so far are not breaking. I do think there is a place for sensible plastic use in the garden, as long as you keeping reusing things. I reuse all normal white plant labels, rubbing out last years writing - however it is important to get labels where this is possible, unbelievably some plastic labels are impossible to write on a second time! I am using plastic trays with 40 or 84 cells that were here when we moved in 20 years ago and they were old then and I intend to carry on using them for another 20 years - God willing! My original root trainers are becoming a little flimsy now, unsurprisingly since I bought them in 2005, but it doesn't stop me using them. I agree that we should produce far less plastic, but I see nothing to be gained by unnecessarily jettisoning the plastic you are already using - that is just adding to the problem I do have a crazy amount of plastic pots, many were here when we moved in and more arrive with new plants but again I reuse them constantly. Certainly a recycling system for pots should be set up.
Today Patrick and co. have taken a break from the fruit cage paths. Patrick turned his attention to building the Auriculum theatre, which by the end of the day is already looking good. James partly helped Patrick, but also started to fix the 'Tudor look' black boarding on the playhouse, which looks adorable! Aideen and Meave concentrated on the playhouse furniture, which includes two little wooden, painted dressers. These were going to be thrown away by our local infant school when they were revamping their nursery, but the wellfare teacher wisely guessed that we would be happy to give them a home. Aideen and Meave decided to paint them to match a little table and stool that will also go in the house that are painted in a 'canal art' style.
There is also a tiny school chair that will receive the same treatment. I am delighted to see the girls getting as much pleasure out of refurbishing their old playhouse and deciding what to put in it, as they did playing in it when they were little. There is a lot of fun to be had creating something for children to enjoy, and I'm glad they've had the opportunity to do this.
They also do a bit of weeding and sort out the bonfire. It has been a very productive weekend.
PS. Aideen and Meave are still painting their 'canal art' dressers late into the evening, having worked out the method for painting the roses along with a lot of giggling. They look fantastic - the dressers that is, not so much the girls, who are covered in paint!