Today, the plan of the ‘crocus bulbs planting team’ is to make an early start. We have been warned by Patrick that the weather is due to change imminently and there could even be snow! This would obviously make bulb planting operations rather tricky, so we are hoping to get as many in today as possible.
On the subject of trying not to neglect other jobs…Aideen and I rush about, before Diane arrives outside, gathering up begonias and bringing them inside the polytunnel. Some are in pots and others we have to dig up. This is something I should have already done because begonia tubers need to be protected from very low temperatures. However, I cannot deal with everything at once. I plonk the begonias and random tubers on the polytunnel bench for me to return to, when conditions outside worsen.
The three of us then troop off to the terrace and we start planting before 8:30am. We have now discarded our scaffold boards because they are too treacherous to stand, or even sit on, they are way too slippery. I bring out cardboard instead and then I have a brainwave! When Aideen was stripping out the Mayflower, she discarded the manky sofa/bed cushions and put them in the old sheds. I retrieve one and use it as a kneeler, it doesn’t slip and it is thick enough not to compress the soil too much or let the damp through…brilliant!
We manage to plant three strips, 1500 bulbs, before getting grandad up and having our own breakfast. One, 1 metre wide, 5 metre long strip, contains 500 bulbs and takes slightly less than half an hour to plant with the three of us.
It is not such a nice day today, quite grey and chilly. The girls are beginning to get quite fed up with this interminable job and devise a new game to keep them entertained. This involves screwing up the paper bulb bags and throwing them in my direction, and awarding themselves points for a direct hit on the head. This gives them endless amusement. At one point Aideen asks why I do not retaliate, I reply that I will endure almost anything in order to have help planting the bulbs! Our plan is to reach as far as a certain tree and Diane keeps bleating, rather like a child in the back of the car… “Are we nearly there yet?”.
Apart from breaking for lunch, we continue until 4:30ish and reach the tree! This is 13 strips in total, which is 6500 bulbs!!! This is a record breaking bulb tally, leaving only 5900 left to plant…Whoopee!!!
We then head inside and Aideen and I have a rehearsal for the Zoom talk to check everything is ok for tomorrow.
First Public Zoom Talk
Patrick was right, the weather today is horrible and it rains all day long. It is definitely not suitable for trying to plant crocus bulbs on a steep slope! I decide to go outside anyway to deal with the remaining ‘orphaned’ roses. I start by picking each one up and scrutinising it to see what needs to be pruned. They, are quite a ‘motley crew’ and I end up discarding a couple of roses that seem to have barely any roots or live growth. I notice during this process that I am the subject of some amusement from inside the extension, where the younger members of the family are eating breakfast. They can see me outside, soaked and muddy holding up very unpromising, twiggy specimens over my wheelbarrow whilst I peer at them short-sightedly and confused, trying to work out what to cut or saw off! They are mouthing at the window, “It’s a rose, mum”, or “Kay, it’s a twig”.
I finally select 9 roses that I consider suitable to plant and take them round to the kitchen garden. The next dilemma is where to plant them…I manage to find some suitable spots and squeeze them into the fruit tree border. It will be very interesting to see if they survive!
After this I come in to get Grandad up, goodness knows what he thinks when the first thing he sees on waking up is me dripping wet and muddy, but he seems to accept this as normal.
I do not think I will get too much done today as we have our first public Zoom Talk and I don’t want to be completely worn out. Aideen, Diane and I go out to our local garden centre to choose Christmas Trees. This is a family tradition and we buy two tall, live trees, one for inside and one for outside. We take Christmas very seriously in the McHugh household. I am keen to support anyone who grows things for a living and after Christmas, the trees will be composted to provide acidic compost for plants like blueberries. We find two splendid trees, one especially fat and full of branches for inside, which should accommodate our large collection of mismatched decorations that we have acquired over the years.
Soon it is time for the Zoom talk and it is lovely to welcome so many people, quite a few of which we have known for many years. The talk seems to go well and there is chat and questions at the end. I’m just sorry to have to say goodbye. It will be lovely to welcome everyone back in 2021!
The Last Zoom Talk of 2020
Today, the weather has turned distinctly chilly but it is not raining, so productivity is much improved. Before, I got grandad up, I brought the Auriculas into the polytunnel. The Auriculas would probably be OK outside, but they are in pots and looked quite messy, although two of them were flowering. When Grandad was up and we all had breakfast, Aideen put on her overalls and headed for the boat and I received a delivery from David Austen, the 4 ‘Malvern Hills’ climbing roses. I took them straight to the mount to plant them in the four, tall, blue glazed urns and I also planted five, ‘Silk Road’ tulip bulbs into each urn. This is a new tulip for me and looks quite beautiful; large double blooms, in shades of cream and pink. I topped up the urns with leaf mould and swept up, then returned to the polytunnel to attend to the auriculas. There are dozens of auriculas and each one needed it’s dead and slimy leaves removing and generally tidying up. The Auriculas that had been sitting on the upper shelves were very dry and looked quite forlorn, so they needed a good drink. At least in the polytunnel they are less likely to be neglected. I then sorted out the begonias brought in previously and put their corms into the trays. I then went outside the front of the house and tidied up the dead begonias left behind after removing the corms, swept up the leaves and topped up the bed and containers with leaf mould. I then went back to the Auricula theatre to tidy up, sweeping the upper shelves, washing the lower shelf and swept up the leaves underneath. By this time the sky was a beautiful peachy orange, giving an almost luminous glow to the walls, an illusion of warmth which was quite misleading considering the temperature of my nose and fingers.
During the afternoon, Patrick took a bit of time off from the office and gathered up Aideen to help with sorting out the next section of terrace beyond where we had reached with our bulb planting. There was some more weeding to do and some levelling to do to create an even slope. This is very helpful because then we can carry on planting the crocus bulbs. I was outside until about 4:30pm and then I came in for a very late lunch and to get ready for our second Zoom Talk.
The Zoom talk went well and again it was particularly lovely to see familiar faces and say hello to friends I’ve not seen in person since March. Thank you to everyone who attended, the whole process has been hugely enjoyable and I’m sure it has been good for me to change out of my gardening clothes and smarten myself up for at least a few evenings! It is incredibly encouraging to receive so much support from people and we feel very excited about our Open Days and garden visits next year!