• Kay

Red Pea Sticks

Updated: Mar 14, 2019


After music school I manage to get outside by c2:15. The wind has picked up but it is dry. Patrick has been outside all day with James (Aideen's boyfriend) and belatedly Meave repairing the derelict shed in the orchard. This is in order to cut up our various piles of wood into logs and pile it up neatly under cover, to be used in the future. This will clear a lot of unsightly piles and makes things much more tidy. Aideen decides to delay practice until later and goes outside to help.

I plan to continue pruning the long border that I started on yesterday-but I then remember the rose border at the front of the house needs pruning so I start with these. These roses, a combination of Floribundas and Hybrid Teas are quite established and it takes a while to prune them properly.

I then go down into the Kitchen Garden to carry on with the big border, but discover the giant barrow has been kidnapped by the rest of the family and taken to the orchard- tricky as I need it too, maybe we need two! Fighting over the big green barrow is a regular occurrence in the McHugh family!

I am momentarily distracted by my collection of little overwintering plants and shrubs (bought from a catalogue in the Autumn) sheltering in the polytunnel.

The bags they were sent in had been left around the bottom of their pots so I could still identify them from the labels. These were collecting water which wasn't draining away when i watered them and they were in danger of drowning and I hadn't noticed. I carefully adjusted all the bags. A valuable reminder of the importance of keeping an eye on all of ones plants, much more valuable than any gadgets or chemicals-the gardeners eye!

I decided to prune the six red stemmed Cornus (Alba Sibirica) and as I don't have a barrow to take them away, I suddenly have a brilliant idea of how to use them. I will add them to my pea bed as pea sticks. There are already some sticks in the bed but it would benefit from more and these branching stems will be strong and beautiful against the bright green of the pea plants. It does occur to me that they might root - it is reportedly quite easy to root Cornus cuttings-but I'm sure I could make use of any resulting plants. I put lots of sticks into the bed and they look great, I then spend the remaining time tying in the peas. This mass of sticks will also protect them from pigeons.

I notice salsify popping up amongst the peas and tiny selfseeded Calendula starting to appear- nature is doing a grand job gardening on her own. I hear Bunny Guiness on the radio putting forward the case for vegetables in your front garden - commonplace in France, saying how beautiful veg can be especially mixed with flowers- well I certainly agree with that. I pick some fresh rosemary to add to tonights spag bol and go to see how the others are getting on. Unbelievably they have set up the outside floodlight to illuminate the area where they are working. Patrick cutting logs with his chainsaw, being fed through by Meave, then tossed by James over to the repaired shed where Aideen was stacking them. A great example of team work if a surprising way for a group of young people to spend their Sat night.


The wind continues, causing trouble around the country, but so far not any damage here, thank goodness. It is quite bright and because I have Patrick around I decide to plant my Birch + Cornus'. I have had six Betula Jacque Montii and 12 Cornus 'Midwinter Fire' waiting to be planted at the end of the front field since late Autumn. I needed Patricks input partly because he doesn't want me to plant them on the line of the service trench - and only he knows where that is! Also, he is required to hammer in their supporting stakes, Patrick has got very strong arms and is brilliant at hammering things. The point of this planting combination is to provide winter colour. The pure white trunks of the Betula will emerge out of the tangle of yellow/orange 'Midwinter Fire'. This should look very effective against the dark back drop of our front field hedge. They will be planted in the corners at the far end of the field, 3 Birch and 6 Cornus on each side. I cannot believe how long this takes - all afternoon- admittedly I had to dig 18 big holes and each Birch had to be carefully arranged with its stake, but I am still outside as its getting dark and the rain starts to pour. I put everything away and then I remember that I need vegetables for the dinner. Tonight is Boeuf Bourguignonne and I need leeks, red cabbage, potatoes and bay leaves. Everything is unbelievably muddy but we will enjoy our dinner. Meave and Aideen have been outside working hard all afternoon with their dad.

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