Sunday, March 30, 2008

Time in the Greenhouse

We've had some sunshine and showers again today. Some of the showers have been wintery (with hail). Naturally, this means that I still can't get out and start turning over the herbaceous borders or vegetable beds.

Because I wanted to get something done this weekend, I went out to the greenhouse to do some little things. I sowed a tray of nasturtiums and a tray of mimulus. I'll put the nasturtiums in the flower beds that aren't disturbed too often. If I'm lucky, they'll self set and I'll have lots of nasturtiums from now on. I sowed a dwarf variety of mimulus that is beautiful in hanging baskets. The seed is very fine so I mixed the seed with a bit of fine sand and sprinkled it all evenly over the top of a tray of all purpose compost.
I also "pricked out" some poppy seedlings. I separated about 30 of the strongest plants out into individual cells and the remaining seedlings, I'll keep in the little pot they were sown in. They can fend for themselves for a while. It may be that a few of the newly transferred seedling won't survive. I can then replace them with what ever might be surviving in the little pot where the seed was first sown. I also pricked out some Busy Lizzie seedlings. The mimulus seed and Busy Lizzie seedlings were brought back into the house where it stays nice and warm. I'm afraid that my unheated greenhouse is still too cool at night for these items.


I just went to go take some photos of what I did today to illustrate this blog entry and discovered THIS! The pesky cat did it! The tray of carefully sown mimulus seed on the floor of the guest bedroom . . . I could cry!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ok, Here We Go

Spring is starting to appear!

In the greenhouse, I'm getting little green shoots.This is the Eryngium or Sea Holly poking through the compost.
This is what it will look like when it is all grown up.

I get excited when things germinate and sprout.
"It worked! Look! New little plants!"

Those tiny things are the oriental poppies that are going to live on the south side of the house behind the lavender. They've got some more growing to do before that can happen. I wonder if they'll bloom this year. Naturally, I don't need 30 oriental poppies, I'll be selling or giving way the surplus.

Tray of lupin seedlings - You can see that thanks to the mice, there aren't many. I have another packet of lupin seeds that I will sow this weekend.
Another thing that will happen this weekend is that I will be planting out the sweet peas. The sweet pea plant is very frost hardy and will do just fine. These little guys are desperate to grow and are already restricted by the small pots.

I've pinched the main growth tip of all the sweet pea plants out. This will force the plants to be bushier. The bushier the vine = more flowers!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter

Happy Easter!This is the view of the back of our place early on Easter morning.

You can see just to the left of the chicken run is where my little plum tree is planted. The stupid chickens still think that snow is food. Chickens aren't really known for their brains, so I'm not surprised.

I have been indoors today, repotting some houseplants, cleaning up a bit and watching some TV (which is something I don't get to do too often).

I filled up the bird feeders as the birds looked hungry to me. I made up some homemade bird feed earlier in the week that involves melting some lard, cheap peanut butter, adding in oats, corn meal and some raw peanuts. This weeks efforts at homemade bird feed filled up five aluminium take out trays with a few big spoonfuls left. I set the filled trays outside to cool and took that extra amount that wouldn't fit in the trays out to the bird table and plopped it in the middle.
I have some suet cages that these primitive slabs of bird food fit into perfectly once they've been popped out of the trays and the birds love the stuff. I must admit that if I were a bird, I'd like it too. It smells so nice when I'm melting down the peanut butter.

I have put the recipe up before, but I think it bears repeating.

1 jar of cheap (cheep - snort!) peanut butter 450g
1 block of lard 500g
melted these two ingredients in my big soup pot

Then added
cornmeal - 500 g
porridge oats - "some" approximately 300 g
flour - 300 g

It is quite good to make this after one has been clearing out the cupboards. I threw in some old peanut butter that had started to settle and had a layer of peanut oil on the top of it. I have some old raisins that should have been used years ago, those went in too. I have added in mixed bird seed in the past.

Making your own works a bit less expensive that buying suet blocks and balls in the shops.

This recipe is great for filling up a woodpecker feeder. To make one of those, drill some HUGE holes in a short piece of small log, fill the holes with the above bird feed mush, hang it on a tree with a piece of wire or rope and presto, instant woodpecker feeder! If drilling out a log is a bit ambitious for you, just press the mixture into tree bark and cracks in the tree for the birds like nuthatches and woodpeckers.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Pub Cricket

We went down to Yorkshire yesterday. We had to collect some stereo speakers that The Man of the Place had won on eBay and we tied picking the speakers up with a visit to my favourite sister-in-law. We drove down the M6, getting off at Junction 36 and going diagonally across the North Yorkshire dales on the A65.

View Larger Map
When we set out in the morning it was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and there were only a few clouds. The wind was up and some of the clouds had sprinkles of rain in them, but nothing that would have kept me out of the garden.

You know me by now, I initially questioned the worth of losing another entire day of gardening to go on a merry chase through Yorkshire but then I saw sense. I got to spend an entire day with my family and that's much more valuable than a day raking and pulling weeds. We drove through some of the most beautiful countryside that the UK has to offer. The daffodils are just about at their prettiest this week and the lambs are still are still at their knock-knee height of cuteness. In a few weeks the lambs will venture further from their mothers and in small groups, start having little romps in the fields. The great thing about driving through this part of the country is that it is the best area in the world for game of Pub Cricket. If there is one thing that Yorkshire isn't short of is a good local pub.

The way you play pub cricket is this:

Taking it in turns during a journey, one player bats. This means he looks for pubs which the car passes. When one is found he gets a run (point) for each leg in the title of the pub. Thus "The Jolly Sailor" gets 2 points whilst "The White Horse" gets 4. If a pub has no legs, it scores no points. A player is out if the pub name includes the word "arms" or "head" (e.g. "The King's Head", "The Baker's Arms"), and it is the next player's turn. The game ends at the end of the journey. The player with the highest score wins.

There are family variations. In the way that we play, the pub sign plays heavily in scoring. If we pass "The Wagon and Horses" pub, we look to the pub sign for the number of horses the batter can count (in the original game, plural means two). I had a "Wagon and Horses" pub during my turn yesterday. The sign on the pub showed a driver (2 legs) and four horses (16 legs) for a grand total of 18. In our version any inanimate object e.g. The Rose and Crown, means that you're out and it's the next person's turn at bat.

We had a ferocious game and there were heated disputes about the number of points allowed in a run. At one point, when we passed The Friendly Pub when it was George's turn at bat, we actually stopped, turned the car around and had a second look at the pub sign to see if there was in fact a man on a horse and two people standing (there was) to give George a very respectable 10 points. Later when it was Henry's turn further up the road, we passed The New Friendly Pub where the pub sign showed two hands shaking. It was brutal, but Henry was out and the next person was up at bag. There was a Punch and Judy pub - as Punch and Judy are puppets and will never have legs, the batter was out. We also had a strong debate as to whether the Black Horse Inn was a pub or a hotel. We agreed that it was a pub and the four legs that were shown on the sign would be allowed. The Coachman Hotel which looked for all the world like a pub was deemed NOT a pub by George and he would not stray from this view so this non-pub and it's two points were not counted in the game.

If you play this game, I strongly urge you to nominate a person (not the driver of the car) to keep tally of the points so that there is no argument as to how many points a player has at any time during the game.

This pub is worth six runs or points - four for the pig and two for the boy playing the whistle. Normally a whistle doesn't have any points but in our family version, the sign factor brings in the additional two points.

A game of Pub Cricket should end at the end of your day's journey, however you are allowed to continue the game for the return trip if the people in your car are pathologically competitive.

The weather during the return journey home was much worse than the trip down. There were snowflakes flying in front of the headlights as we drove through Kirby Lonsdale. The wind was so strong that we were giving lorries a whole extra lane wobbling room as we overtook them. Visions of "accident at Shap Summit" on the M6 ran through my imagination but we made it back to our own dear Whitelees Cottage in one piece (and the greenhouses were not blown over when we got here).

We all had the same number of turns at bat during our game of Pub Cricket. George won the game with a record high of 64 runs. I came in second with 38 runs and Henry brought up the rear with 24 runs.

We had a wonderful day out and it was so nice to see Victoria, Neil and nephew Daniel.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Score: Moles 0 - Peggy 85

After work today, in the vanishing light I got all the last of those remaining 85 molehills stomped down, raked flat and sprinkled with grass seed. As I walked around on what is left of my lawn, I could feel the tunnels just under the soil collapse beneath my feet. I just know that when the sun sets, those industrious moles will be out there, repairing the damage my feet caused. That's okay, I've called time on the mole party in my front lawn! Now that I have done this, any new molehills that pop up can be tackled easily.

I was sent an e-mail by Big Biker Bob down in Cornwall. He forwarded some information about buying mole repellants and traps online. Thanks Bob!! I may buy something to aid my quest to rid the garden of moles.

We never used to have this much of a problem with moles, but then our old cat, Big Jim used to hunt them. From time to time, he'd lay a dead mole on the back step for us. Moles are beautiful animals. They're so interesting to look at. Having said that, I'm a bit NIMBY * about them.

While I have been up to my eyeballs with work, the weather has been sunny and dry. It figures, doesn't it? When I'm driving around, seeing my customers and looking out windows at the warm sunny day, the only thing that runs through my head is that I could be out in my garden. It is SO unfair that the weekends are wet, windy and horrible and the weekdays are bright, sunny and dry. I heard the weather forecast for the long Easter weekend (I've got Friday and Monday off) while coming home tonight and it wasn't good. We're supposed to get snow. *sigh* With this in mind, I had to get out to the front lawn and tackle the remaining molehills. I didn't want another week to go by with this particular job hanging over me. I felt like I couldn't move forward until the molehills had been managed.

While spreading grass seed in the fading light of day, I could hear a woodpecker in the trees across the road and the springtime call of the curlew down at the bottom of the field behind the house. Because we live so close to the sea, I actually see these beautiful wading birds all year round, but it is in the spring that they come back to the stream at the bottom of the fields near our house, I can hear their cries. Have a look on the RSPB site at the curlew. There is a great recording of the curlew that I hear when I'm out in the garden. I really love this time of year.

As the weekend forecast is bad, I got a lot of stuff picked up around the outside of Whitelees and what is left of the last delivery of firewood stacked neatly against the house. Well, if we're going to have one last blast from old man winter, I'm ready.


* NIMBY = Not In My Back Yard

Sunday, March 16, 2008

'Éirinn go Brách' *

As down the glen one Easter morn
To a city fair rode I,
Their armed lines of marching men
In squadrons passed me by.
No pipe did hum, no battle drum
Did sound its loud tattoo
But the Angelus' bells o'er the Liffey swells
Rang out in the foggy dew.

Right proudly high in Dublin town
Hung they out a flag of war.
'Twas better to die 'neath an Irish sky
Than at Suvla or Sud el Bar.
And from the plains of Royal Meath
Strong men came hurrying through;
While Brittania's Huns with their long-range guns
Sailed in through the foggy dew.

The bravest fell, and the requiem bell
Rang mournfully and clear
For those who died that Easter-tide
In the springing of the year.
While the world did gaze with deep amaze
At those fearless men but few
Who bore the fight that freedom's light
Might shine through the foggy dew.

And back through the glen I rode again
And my heart with grief was sore
For I parted then with valiant men
Whom I never shall see more
But to and fro
In my dreams I go
And I kneel and pray for you
For slavery fled
Oh, glorious dead
When you fell in the foggy dew


Sure the Chieftain's version with the lovely Sinead O'Connor singing is one of my favourite versions of this song.

Happy St Patrick's Day to all my Irish family (there are loads of us) and friends!

* Ireland the beautiful (Erin go brea or Erin go brah)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Victoria Plum

I planted a plum tree today. It stopped raining for a while this afternoon so I got 20 more mole hills raked over and re-seeded, tidied up a bit here and there and got that tree in the ground.

I picked it up in the supermarket of all places. It was a small bare rooted tree in a large plastic bag with a cardboard label amongst all the other fruit trees, standing upright in a large cardboard display box. This was the only plum tree in the box and only cost me £4.99. The other trees were pear, apple and sweet cherry and I'm not interested in acquiring any of those at the moment.
I have been thinking about a plum tree for a number of years. I had been thinking about what variety of plum would work best for us. Should I get a dark one like damson (makes great jam) or a green gage. What I really wanted were the sort of plums that our neighbours had when we lived in Bismarck. They had a whole hedge of plums and we could just help ourselves to the plums on our side. They were small yellow plums with a reddish blush if my memory serves me correctly. They could have been wild plums for all I know but they were sweet and delicious.

With the memory of those great plums as a guide, I went for the Victoria Plum. A delicious, hardy and good all round plum. I've planted it just in front of the chicken run. The chickens may benefit from a windfall plum or two in the years to come and when the tree gets large enough, some shade.

I expect that this bargain plum tree is on semi-dwarfing root stock because I can see that there has been a graft, but there is no information as to what size tree I can expect. Well, we'll see won't we.

This plum tree will be self-fertile but that doesn't mean that it doesn't need some help from the bees and there in lies a bit of a worry.Remember when we had a bee swarm last spring when I had that terrible cold? We had our plummer friend over the other night to fix an airlock in hot water and I asked him how the bees were getting on. He told us that the bees that they collected from us, died just after Christmas. In fact, 10 out of 12 of his hives have died this winter. It's been a hard year for bees. With colony collapse disorder running riot and varroa mite weaking the bees, there is an agricultural crisis looming. I have always had loads of bees in my flowers each year. A friend of mine and I sat with our mugs of tea and inspected the flowers last year and saw that we had a couple varieties of hoverfly, (that look like bees) honey bees and bumble bees. With last year being so wet, and this year being even wetter, I fear for the bees. Not many are surviving the winter. Now that I think about it, we didn't even have much of a wasp problem last year which is nice, but unusual. It could end up that nobody has any bees. How would crops get pollinated? Can you imagine a world without fruit?

If you're the praying sort, say a prayer for the bees and the people who do research on bees that they find an answer to this very big problem.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Taking Care of Mole Hills

It wasn't actually raining when I got home from work. I dashed in and got my working outside clothes on and went out to do battle with the mole hills.
Over the winter, the number and size of mole hills in our front lawn have grown exponentially! Seriously! When I made the last cut of the year, there were four mole hills, I mowed over them and that was it. Now there are over 80, I counted (you have to make your own fun sometimes).
This is one of the hills compared to my size 8 feet (European 42, US 10).

I am determined to claim my lawn back, but as with most things, it's never easy. I have to stomp them and rake them flat with the garden rake. It turns out that they don't stomp as flat as I had hoped. My boots did as much work as I could and then I raked the fine, wet soil over the grass. I got a few mole hills flattened (about 20) and I saw the next lot of clouds coming fast. I ran and got the grass seed (1 kilo of "hardy lawn seed" on sale in the marked down section of Homebase for £2.50) and sprinkled it evenly over the few mole hills that I've managed to rake flat. It had started to rain again while I was seeding, but I got all the prepared areas seeded.

Now, if the seed sprouts as fast as the packet says, we might have fewer dark spots in a week. That is, if the birds don't eat all the seed first. This is a real possibility. I tried to rake it in as best I could in the conditions. I didn't have any nice sand to sprinkle over the seed to cover it a bit. All I can do is hope for the best.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be out there at every opportunity, flattening mole hills and re-seeding them. I WILL have my lawn back.

By the time I got everything put away, I was pretty damp, so I decided that it was a good time to get the back step washed. Now the back step is a bit cleaner, some of the mole hills are flattened and re-seeded and I'm feeling quite virtuous.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Good Day to be Out

I woke this morning to discover a lovely day was dawning.

I would LOVE to stay home today and get the borders prepared for the bounty they are going to be receiving. Sadly, I have a full diary and appointments in Kilmarnock. It takes about two hours to get to that part of my territory, so it will be late when I get home today. The day will have all but finished by then.

I went out to the greenhouse in my robe and slippers to check on things. Julio, the great hunter came along to "help out".Here are a couple of photos of the top of the staging. These orange pots contain among other things: Heliopsis, Lily of the Valley, Gypsophila, Geranium (the perennial variety), Eryngium, Oriental Poppy, Echinacea and a couple of other things that I have forgotten. I was going to make a list of these things, but I don't have any note paper out in the greenhouse.
You can see the sun hitting the willow trellis that hasn't been installed outside just yet. What does Julio the cat have?

It was only when I turned to go back into the house I could see rain clouds were coming in from the west. *sigh* It wasn't going to be the day I hoping for. He got a mouse! Clever puss!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

No Rain for Most of the Day

I was so thrilled when I woke this morning to discover that it wasn't raining. I have been out for the bulk of the day, getting some jobs done.

The first big job was to remove the big aluminium staging from the poly tunnel, cut a bit off with a hack saw and install the shortened staging in the greenhouse. I was surprised how easy it was to cut through the aluminium with a small hack saw. It was the work of 20 minutes to get the staging to the proper size.

When I started to put the staging into the greenhouse, I immediately came across a problem. It was too wide to get through the door. Nuts! I had to disassemble the entire thing and reassemble it once I had it inside. I was so pleased it wasn't a rainy day.

Now the staging is in, reassembled and is holding a variety of newly potted up perennials and a few hopeful annuals.

I knew I was going to run out of potting compost so a run into Carlisle was on the cards. This gave me an opportunity to have a browse through the new Houghton Hall Garden Centre just outside Carlisle. I actually like going to these places by myself. If anybody goes with me, they soon show signs of being bored and want to leave. The guys are at the football today so I could mooch around the garden centre all I wanted. Wouldn't you know it, they carry the full selection of David Austen roses. Damn! I was SO tempted to buy a few. Two things held me back: 1. they cost £14.99 a piece (!) and 2. I don't have a spot ready for them in my garden. The impulse buyer in me was screaming but I left them there.

This new garden centre is lovely but bargains are hard to find. It carries many gorgeous things that would do well in my place here. They had lots of luxurious plants for sale and thousands of little mini-plants for potting into hanging baskets. I admired it all, but didn't buy any of those things. After admiring all these plants, I went and got the big bag of potting compost I went in for and made my way to the till.

I had to go past the racks of seeds to get to the tills and it was at this point that my resolve not to buy anything else left me. I caved in and bought some coriander seed and a packet of tomato seeds. I always grow a whole lot of leaf coriander (cilantro) for cooking each summer and naturally, I'll need some tomato seeds if I'm going to have any tomatoes this year. I bought some seeds that are new to the UK, Italian tomato seeds. I read an article about these very seeds two weeks ago. They're supposed to be thin skinned, very meaty flesh, great for cooking and bursting with flavour. We'll see how I get on with them. There were 400 seeds in the packet! I only needed about six. I would only need 400 if I was going to go into the commercial tomato plant business. I won't sow all of them. I'll just sow what I need and hope that I can keep the rest until next year.

So, back at the ranch, I potted up the bargain perennials I picked up earlier in the week. Some had started to sprout, so I was happy to get them into pots. Some of the packets that I got contained up to four cuttings! These extra plants made my .49p expense an even bigger bargain! Now that they're potted up it means that the perennials won't die before I have a chance to select a spot in the herbacious borders and plant them in. I also potted up the sweet pea seedlings. They were so terribly over crowded in those tiny little pots. Sweet peas are supremely hardy. I could almost get away with planting them out right now, but I'll wait until April. We'll still have frosts in April, but I'm sure we won't have any more snow.

While I was out in the larger greenhouse today, listening to the radio and enjoying myself, we had a short hail storm. I wasn't even expecting it and blam! All of a sudden we've got hail. I had my camera in the greenhouse with me because I was going to take a few photos.

It's not very professional, and the greenhouse looks a bit of a mess, but here's what I shot.

At the end of this clip you can see a plastic bag and my blue coat hanging from an "S" hook from the top of the greenhouse. This is to keep my jacket clean and the seeds that are in that plastic bag away from mice. I disturbed what I think are the last two mice in the greenhouse. One ran across my arm when I disturbed it and I made an astonished little shout. Julio got it. I know there is one left in there. I've left a mouse trap set. Let's hope it works.

I had a great time in the greenhouse this afternoon. I got it all organized out there. After I finished I gave it another sweep up and blocked up the door. It is good to have our cat, Julio help me, but I just know that if left unmonitored, he'll walk across (or worse) the trays of newly sown seeds. When I left, I put a brick behind the sliding door so that he can't worry the door open and let himself in. I've seen him do this.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Still Can't Do Anything Outside

I was determined that if it wasn't pouring with rain, I was going to get some outside jobs done. I want to clean greenhouse glass, rake the molehills and sow some grass seed on them and generally tidy up the place. Sadly, it has been raining quite heavily all day today. I only stepped outside today when forced. I had to take George into town so that he could meet up with his friends. Life in the country is hard on youth when they're just a bit too young to drive and there isn't a bus that comes out this way.

On a nicer note, some special seeds that I ordered have arrived! I ordered them from a place down in Devon called Plant World. They have beautiful, uncommon and some rare plant seeds for sale. I think it's always worth giving the uncommon seeds a shot.

Dierama pulcherrimum

I ordered two different varieties of a plant I love called dierama pulcherrimum or Angel's Fishing rod. I got a lovely pink one and one a bit darker called 'Blackbird'. I think they'll be gorgeous by the pond.
Meconopsis Himalayan poppy 'Lingholm'

Seeds for a beautiful blue Himalayan poppy were also in the order. They like acid soil so should grow beautifully here. I like Evening primrose oenothera and they had a beautiful variety named 'Sunset Boulevard', so I stuck that on the order as well. In addition to the four packets of seeds I received, they stuck in a free packet of Scabiosa Drakensbergensis, a tall ivory coloured scabious! I don't have a lot of white flowers in the garden once the snowdrops have gone, so these tall specimens will look nice tucked in somewhere.
I haven't ordered seeds from Plant World in a while, and I just love it when the seeds arrive. First of all, these folks in Devon are so quick in filling orders and next the seeds come in neat, homely little waxed paper packets.

With all the seeds, seed trays and seedlings in the greenhouse, I think some re-arranging is in order out there or I'm going to run out of room. I've got some greenhouse staging (special greenhouse shelves) that will have to get put in. If it isn't raining tomorrow, I might be able to get that done.

Earlier in the week I was in Lidl, one of my favourite discount supermarkets. This week they are running garden specials. Plants, seeds, clippers, long handled spades and more. They had a wide variety of hardy perennials for only .49p! I got a real rainbow assortment of things. I have been feeling that the perennials in my border were lacking variety. After the spring, that certainly won't be a problem! I must confess that I did go a bit overboard. I bought gladiolus bulbs, 25 bulbs for a £.99. It was such a great bargain that I bought a bag of pink ones and a bag of red ones. Where the heck am I going to plant 50 glad bulbs? I have to find a spot where I will be able to dig the bulbs back up in the autumn. I've got a big garden, I'm sure a spot will be found.

If I'm successful with germination rates, I'll be up to my oxters in flowering plants. I can give some of the surplus to friends and neighbours and if I'm still stuck, there is always a plant sale in the next village over at the end of May. I can sell the extras. This will help to offset the costs.

As I am prevented from going outside, I decided to make some warming soup. Today it was onion soup. It turned out very well. I could be so bold as to say that it is the nicest onion soup I have made to date. I used 10 really big fat onions. Thankfully the onions weren't very strong and my eyes didn't suffer too much when I was slicing them up.

Now it is the evening. I just know how dangerous it would be to go onto David Austen Roses. I am currently drooling over some of his English roses. I especially love the blousey old fashioned roses with the strong perfume that they sell.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

I Hates Them Meeces to Pieces!

The mice that I thought were gone from my greenhouse have merely been dormant.

Last night I covered everything in the greenhouse with bubble wrap because it was a clear and cloud-free night. No clouds this time of year means frost. When I went out this morning to uncover everything and to check that the lobelia seedlings survived without heat (they had), I discovered evidence that the mice had been in the newly sewn seeds. They dug up and ate every sweet pea seed! There was scattered seed compost over my staging and the hollow shells of sweet pea seeds scattered across the top of the disturbed compost. I think they got every single seed.

Now I have to go and buy new sweet pea seeds and re-sow them. This time however, I am going to keep the sweet peas in the house until they are well sprouted so that they will be less of a temptation for those rotten mice.

I've also set a mousetrap on the greenhouse staging. If the mice come back, SNAP!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Time in the Greenhouse

One of my favourite things about spring is the potential that spring holds. I get so excited about the possibilities in the upcoming growing season. I imagine the borders and hanging baskets bursting with flowers and the fruits and vegetables that I've planted are so plentiful that I don't have to go a greengrocers or the vegetable section of any supermarket. As the growing season progresses and the weeds get ahead of me, I get discouraged but I'm not even going to think about that during this planning stage.

I sprayed the apple trees and my cherry tree with Bordeaux mixture two weeks ago as the leaf buds are starting to plump up. The branches are now a pale blueish green. I'll spray them again before the leaves open up and then it's fingers crossed that I've cured my problem. Three sprays should do the trick. I don't want any more apple scab or the scab-type infection that has been blighting the leaves of my cherry tree. Bordeaux mixture is the simplest way of dealing with the disease. Let's hope it works. Good old Bordeaux mixture, the Saviour of the grape vine is a combination of copper sulphate and hydrated lime. It was invented in the vineyards of (where else) the Bordeaux region to prevent fungal infections. I looked and could not discover who actually invented Bordeaux mixture. If anybody knows who the bright spark that invented Bordeaux mixture is, please let me know.

Today was an up and down sort of day as far as the weather goes. It was lovely during the first part of the day and we were all excited about it and put some clothes out on the clothesline. George received his first lesson in how to peg clothes out on the line properly. He's a quick study and I am confident that he'll be able to help out with this warm weather chore now that he's tall enough. Naturally, during breakfast we saw that it was starting to rain and we had to abandon our pancakes and save the washing on the line.

Days where it is quite mild (8 C) but it doesn't know whether it is going to be a rainy day or a dry day is perfect for a bit of greenhouse work.
Here are the seed trays of the TALL perennial flowers for the back of the borders. I tried hollyhocks years ago, but they weren't a great success. This variety claims to be hardier and more resistant to hollyhock rust, so we'll give them another shot. I have delphiniums in the garden already, but the plants are old and not nearly as vigorous as they've been in past years. I think it's time to inject some new plants in. Lupins grow very well in our area, but it seems that the slugs have had their merry way with the lot of them and I've none left in the garden. I think that if I sow these lupins early enough, I'll get some to bloom this year. These are the scented flowers. Pots #1 and 2 contain sweet peas seeds. No 1 is variety Blue Velvet, which I tried two years ago and it had good results. Pot No 2 hold a mixture of different coloured sweet peas. Tray No 3 holds lavender! I have just the spot for it on the south side of the house.

I purchased some plug plants earlier in the week. I bought 24 little lobelia plugs. I have set the plugs into larger containers but I also divided each of the plugs in half. I had a good look at the composition of these plugs at the garden nursery and I saw that each plug was crammed full of lots of little seedlings. Each of those plugs could be pulled apart very easily and I'd have loads of little plants in each new half for a good bunch of lobelia. So that is exactly what I did. I now have plenty of blue trailing lobelia for my hanging baskets.

My greenhouse is unheated. This means that the little plants and seeds are going to need just a bit of protection. I'll cover them in bubble wrap on cold nights. If it looks like we're in for a hard freeze, I'll bring the seed trays and pots into the house for the night. I may buy a little parfin heater for the greenhouse as they don't cost too much. I had one of those once and they do okay if you keep the wick trimmed to the right level.

The next non-rainy and mild weekend day is earmarked for greenhouse glass washing. Are there any volunteers out there who wish to help out?

Mother's Day - UK

The nice thing about Mother's Day is that I get two of them! I get the UK version of Mother's Day or Mothering Sunday with my two sons here in Scotland and then I get the US version later on in the spring because I also have a son in the US as well.My middle boy, Sean has come home for a visit this weekend. I can't tell you how nice it is to have him here! He only lives up in Peebles, but he's so busy with his course work, that he rarely has time to visit.Even Polly is thrilled that Sean is here even though I got Polly well after Sean left home. She just won't leave his side.

For years there has been a house on the way to the motorway from here with a camellia with a pink double blossom. It a such a beautiful shrub and it catches my eye every spring. Every year when I see this shrub in bloom I think that I would love to get one for my garden. Well, now I have one!

I am always the very first person up in the house, so I will never have breakfast in bed. I don't really like eating in bed anyway. When I got up this morning, I just pottered around until I started to hear signs of life. When the bleary eyed boys roused themselves. I was given a beautiful Mother's Day card and a pink camellia. I have always wanted a camellia. I've got just the spot for it too. They made me a mug of tea too. Thank you so much George!