Today turns out to be very nice weather, still quite cold, but sunny. This was greeted with relief by the Christmas lights team (which has now increased in numbers to include Meave and James) because putting up the lights causes chilly fingers. Early on in the dat, they decide they do not have enough lights and disappear off to a garden centre to acquire more. This year, they are trying to make our inner courtyard more Christmassy because this is where we will be doing some outdoor, socially distanced, Christmas socialising. Despite the slightly relaxed COVID restrictions at Christmas, we still feel very cautious and plan to continue as we do normally.
I continue with my bulb planting and start by planting the remaining bulbs in the field border (about 228 bulbs). I continue to tidy as I go, slightly conscious that Aideen has decided to resend our Email to Gardeners World, to Monty Don! I think she was encouraged by one of our kind friends asking if we heard anything from Gardeners World in the Q&A part of the Zoom Talk. We never had any response to our original email, so she thought she would try again. This is a lovely thought, but I would certainly have to do some tidying up of the vegetable beds if we had anyone visit at the moment…we are all a bit preoccupied with bulb planting and Christmas lights.
I then start adding tulips to the fruit tree border, whilst removing dead peony foliage and overhanging Verbena Bonariensis. I am feeling rather disappointed with my tulip bulbs ordered from Parkers. Many of them are mouldy, although some mouldy bulbs still have a healthy shoot. Unless they are very bad, I am still planting them, but I am concerned that quite a few might not survive. This is very annoying and it is not just because of a delay in planting. Quite a few of the bulbs were mouldy on arrival. As I order such a massive quantity and Parkers prices are reasonable, I have not complained, but now as I plant them out, I am feeling concerned. I couldn’t help noticing the excellent quality of the Farmer Gracy bulbs, maybe I will go to them next year for my bulb order. By the end of the day, I have planted two thirds of the fruit tree border bed, about 300 bulbs.
I go to look at the Christmas lights and we are now beginning to resemble a Winter Wonderland!
There are icicle lights all around the courtyard, including grandad’s annexe, icicle lights on the garage and more lights at the front of the house and in the lobby and extension. As I come out, the lighting team are wondering what to do with a final 8m of lights and I say “What about Aideen’s boat?”.
Aideen’s eyes light up at that suggestion and they disappear into the orchard. I return to the polytunnel to sort out more bulbs for the small display beds, the front field rose border and the beds around the fruit cage. When I come inside, the family are deep in discussion about whether we need another Christmas tree and by the end of the evening, it is even being suggested that we should illuminate the fruit cage!
Today is cold, misty and damp and has to start with a visit to the vet. Poor Minxy has had a scrap with an alien cat, presently we have two large, unknown tom cats lurking about in the garden. Goodness knows where they are from because we are nearly half a mile from any other house. Minxy has been ‘off colour’ all weekend and it is now apparent that she has some sort of scratch or bite on her head because there is some swelling and discharge in her eye. She is also a bit ‘off’ her food which is unheard of with any of our cats, or dog, or chicken, or humans, we all have good appetites normally!
On return from the vets and a range of injections, Minxy is feeling a bit happier, and after giving her a snack and settling her down in a warm cat basket, Aideen and I head off outside. I am very pleased to be joined by Aideen again because that way we can get far more done. For the moment, I’ve decided to concentrate on my Parkers bulbs and get them in the ground as fast as possible, before many more become mouldy. I start by finishing the fruit tree border (about 140 bulbs) and I send Aideen up to the front field rose border with 100 Multi-flower tulip bulbs. We then join forces at the four smaller display beds where we are supplementing the existing bulbs with 110 Moonblush Tulips, 40 Ravana and 30 Orange Blend. These beds are fiddlier to plant, as each bulb has to be planted individually with considerable care, to avoid hitting an existing bulb. By this time, we are both feeling the cold. We finish up by planting tulip bulbs and summer iris bulbs into the four beds surrounding the fruit cage. This is after I have removed some giant Verbena Hasata plants that have self-seeded freely throughout the beds. We are adding 30 Princess Irene and 60 Apricot Impression tulips to the two shorter beds and then 20 Silk Road, 40 Supri Erotic, 40 Angels Wish, 40 Circuit Tulips and 150 Summer Iris to the two longer beds. At the end of this, we drag the big green barrow to the compost heap, switching on Mayflower’s new Christmas lights as we go past. We are cold and tired but we have planted 800 bulbs which is good progress for these more time consuming bulbs.
We come in to warm up and I get ready for my teaching which I am attempting to restart after lockdown, at least briefly before Christmas. Many of my pupils cannot come due to being sent home from school to self-isolate, it is very frustrating for everyone. It is also freezing because keeping windows and doors open is part of my strict Covid precations! At least the Christmas lights are cheerful and bring a smile to the faces of the pupils who can come.
Not a magic button!
I had high hopes for today. Minxy had a return visit to the vets booked in for 10:15 in Ruislip and my plan was to get outside early, sort out all the bulbs for the big display beds and get grandad up before we left.
Randomly, grandad was pressing his buzzer before 9am wondering where people were? Normally, he gets up at about 10am, but this early awakening was quite useful because of the appointment at the vets. We squeezed ourselves into the vets limited parking and after some delay, Minxy was admitted to have her abscess drained, not a pleasant job. We then attempted to leave but the car would not start! My car is rather unpredictable in the ‘starting department’ and because of this, my wonderful mechanic fitted a ‘magic button’ that could override the starting mechanism. This would mean if I became stranded due to the intermittent fault that prevents the car form starting, I could rescue myself with the button. This is fine until your battery goes flat like today! We then had to wait until Meave could rescue us with jump leads, an adventure in itself as we had never used jump leads before. We returned home, late and freezing, settled Minxy down, grabbed something eat and went outside.
The four display beds each contain a mix of 300 bulbs. Two beds contain Pink Prince, Purple Prince and Diana (Pink, Purple and White), and the other two beds contain Monte Carlo, Monte Orange and Mondial (Yellow, Orange and White). Each bed is closely planted and although there are 1200 bulbs to plant individually, they are quite quick to plant…but we don’t have long before I start teaching at 3:30pm. I am then called away to answer a call about Jean, with lots of questions about whether the present limits on her liberty in her nursing home are appropriate. On my return to the display bed, it soon becomes apparent that I will not have time to finish the job before teaching commences, so we call in reinforcements…Diane. I don’t think I’ve ever, in the history of gardening at Church Gardens, gone off to start work knowing that a job is continuing without me, how wonderful, I could certainly get used to this!
I then start my teaching, which is twice as long as yesterday and certainly far too long to be sitting with the windows and doors open. I do the last hour with a hot water bottle and a large scarf wrapped around my legs. I cannot help but think that if I manage to avoid Covid, I’ll probably develop pneumonia!
Back to the Crocuses
Today, Aideen, Diane and myself are returning to the terrace to continue planting the crocus bulbs. But first, we had to deal with Minxy…I am definitely Minxy’s least favourite person at the moment. First, I had to give her an antibiotic tablet, I think she must hold the record for the amount of time she can hold a tablet in her mouth without swallowing it, and then spitting it out. We had at least three failed attempts, which included getting the tablet stuck on her fur! Then it is time for eye drops, which involved me being boxed thoroughly with her paws. Then I have the lovely job of dealing with her abscess, which was met by some swearing in cat language. Poor Minxy…poor mummy!
It is not as cold as yesterday, but the soil is cold and quite sticky, no one is very enthusiastic about returning to this job. We are now in the territory of the infamous ‘late’ hard-core pile and inevitably, there are plenty of unpleasant surprises in the soil, particularly broken glass…will I ever be rid of broken glass?
We work quite hard and nearly finish planting all of the bulbs before coming in at about 4.10 for me to start my ‘arctic’ teaching! I calculate that we have planted about 3830 bulbs.
When I come in, I look at my last bulb tally of remaining bulbs to plant, which was 5900, but when you subtract 3830, you are left with 2070. This caused me some puzzlement…there are far less than 2000 bulbs left over. I then realised I had slightly miscalculated. We had aimed to plant about 100 bulbs per square metre, but actually, we were planting about 107. This makes quite a difference when you multiply 7 by 200m, that would be 1400 bulbs, quite a lot by anyone’s standards, and it would account for why I haven’t got 2000 bulbs left. Weather permitting, we will easily finish the job tomorrow and I will then get on with replanting last years ‘display bed’ tulips (about 1200) into the central borders. I may well delegate planting the 450 bluebell bulbs to Aideen.
Thank goodness one of my girls doesn’t mind gardening!
We are then just left with a few leftover tulips and some random bulbs…20 Exotic Erythronium, 190 Ranunculus (I adore ranunculus but I find it difficult to keep the bulbs going), 45 Oxalis Adenophyla and 12 trumpet lilies. Then, bulb planting for 2020 will be over!!! The grand total is…Parkers bulbs: 8192, last year’s display bed tulips: 1200, and Farmer Gracy’s crocuses: 21,000, total… 30,392!!! I am quite shocked by this total, last year I think I planted about 6000 but the amount goes up every year. Obviously, the main difference this year was the mass crocus planting in the terrace.