January 2010


After what seemed an age I’ve snapped out of my post-Christmas malaise.

I’ve finished the garden design for the competition. It won’t win – it is REALLY crap, but hey I enjoyed doing it. Well, some of it anyway.

Amazingly, I‘ve also found the time and will to read a book – it’s called The 3,000 Mile Garden and is an exchange of letters between British garden/nature photographer Roger Phillips & Leslie Land, an American food writer and gardener.

A nice, easy, diverting read, it’s been marked in my mind for two things. Firstly the phrase ‘tooting like a bandit’ in response to eating a lot of leeks. It’s a great expression but surely not an accurate one? I mean wouldn’t bandits, in hiding ready for ambush, give themselves away if they were tearing off great big farts?

The second was Tropaeolum tuberosum, a nasturtium relative which I was aware of but did not know was edible. Accordingly I’ve ordered some, given my 2010 allotment colour pledge.

What I haven’t done is any work for my exam on 10th February. I plan to do a bit of cramming and cross my fingers, but I don’t think anyone will pass. We lost 3 classes through not having a tutor, One when the new tutor only lasted a single session, two days due to the second new tutor being ill and one because of the snow. I make that 7 lost days out of what is only a twelve week term. Oh Dear – just have to KBO.

As usual when faced with some concerns over my useless college and an impending exam I’m indulging in displacement activity and have been planting quite a few seeds – bananas and peppers in the propagator – salad leaves in the green house. More have been arriving through the post. The OH is staring to get a bit miffy.

“More seeds I suppose!” was the grump when I arrived back from the Post Office having collected a parcel.

“No,” I replied innocently, “Just a book.” I didn’t let on that it was a book on seeds.

Little Boots has been planting seeds too. I don’t know whether school teachers can buy cress seed in bulk, but the pot that came home was absolutely thick with the stuff.

I’ve seen shallower gravel paths.

I’ve been doing a garden design for a competition.

Similar efforts in the past have proved pretty fruitless, although I did once win a ticket for Chelsea.

Not such a great prize as it turned out, because I was forced to buy one for the OH and since it was about a week before the show, I had to resort to eBay and it cost me seventy quid. And even that was a bargain, because some were going for twice that.

The problem with this garden design malarkey is that I seem to keep coming up against the same lack of talent on my part. Still, on the basis that if you throw enough balls at enough at enough coconuts you’ll hit one eventually, I’ll keep having ago.

In fact, I reckon “keeping on” is going to be a necessary theme for this year. I was going to adopt the quote on the right hand sidebar as my mantra for 2010, but I think given some of the rubbish events I’ve been party to of late, I shall just adopt one of Winston Churchill’s maxims where he said “We must just KBO.”

Which of course means “Keep Buggering On.”

“Oh No!” exclaimed Little Boots, whilst sitting in the bath last night. “Where’s my school uniform?”

Unfortunately it was already mid-way through the last spin-cycle.

You see the munchkin, aware that I’ve been gearing up on seeds, had saved the pips from yesterday’s “Fruit-time” apple for me. They’d travelled home in a pocket and ended up in the wash.

Today LB was determined that wouldn’t happen again and the seeds, saved and brought home, had been put into a bowl and slipped into the fridge “to keep fresh”.

They were retrieved and presented to me as soon as I walked through the door.

I was quite moved. “Thank you that’s so kind and thoughtful.”

“We can grow nice apple trees for the garden.”

“Oh yes, “ I said. “Unlikely, from those seeds,” I thought.

Little Boots grinned. I grinned.

Little Boots grinned some more.

“Can I have a treat now?”

Over the Christmas period and recent snowbound (snow-bored more like) confinement I’ve been noodling around cyberspace learning about various exotic plants and looking for seeds for some of them.

With the poppa-grator on the go I reckon I’ve short window to get some things in and started before I begin thinking about this year’s proper crop of chillies and such.

The propagator, sorry, poppa-grator , is not huge so I have to make the most of space. This calls for square pots as I reckon you‘d probably waste a third of the volume with round ones. But square pots I didn‘t have. Leastways not enough of them.

So I bought some via the net in some rather gaudy colours. The idea was that if I put each different type of seed in a different colour pot I would not have to label them. This is because plant labels in this house and garden are apt to be swapped, collected up and redistributed, or just wombled into a big pile.

Immediately I’d pressed the “Purchase” button I knew I’d made a mistake. Not only are they the some of the campest things I’ve ever seen for horticulture, but also they are likely to prove irresistible to children and so my seeds would not be safe.

I was right in that. Little Boots loves them. I was wrong about seeds in the propagator being in danger though. They haven’t made it that far. They are currently part of some huge housing complex for Gogos.

PS – I reckon they’d be great for anyone running are school gardening club. They are, as has been demonstrated, attractive to children, and are also cheap (ish) – four quid for 60. The downside is that they are a bit flimsy – not quite as bad as the pots you buy living herbs in from the supermarket, but getting there.

For so much of life things seem to be a melange, made from shades of grey. Personally, it is often getting amongst it (it being horticulture) that adds colour to the world.

This Christmas was a dose of far brighter, whiter stuff, and I don’t just mean the snow. We had a blinding time.

Though for every ying exists a yang and there was a thread of darkness that tainted what was otherwise one of my most enjoyable Christmases.

I can’t say much about it, as it’s likely that I’ll be in court as a witness. Briefly – a pervert tried to do something vile. My sudden appearance thankfully stopped the nonce, leaving a safe but terrified little girl. A dark, dark act for Christmas Day.

I feel a weight of responsibility to see justice done, and a sense of latent horror about what might have happened if I hadn’t arrived on the scene when I did.

It has affected me more than I would have imagined and I need to stop thinking about it.

But how?

Garden books, seed catalogues, and RHS college work seem to me as dead as autumn’s leaf fall, and have not been able to engage me, no matter how much I’ve tried .

Normally I would take myself outside and got stuck into something in the garden, returning grounded and purged some hours later.

Unfortunately there ‘s ten inches of snow and ice over everything.

I can thoroughly recommend going out in the snow at midnight, when no other bugger is about.

The peace and otherworldliness of it all is a major boost to one’s soul.

Three months back I expressed the intention that colour was to be 2010’s gardening theme here Boot Hall.

We’re doing all right. So far we have red carrots to add to the “Purple Dragons” we grew last year and yellow radish (Zlata) to add to the purple German and red and white French (Breakfast) ones we had in 2009.

In the last few days have been added some claret-flowered broad bans, purpley-black podded climbing-beans and seeds for a pink jumbo banana squash.

Another theme is also burgeoning – that of exotica, not only because for some reason I recently bought a packet of Mexican gherkin seeds, but largely because of the of the ongoing development of the jungle area and the office allotment. And, of course my new propagator has opened all sorts of possibilities.

I am trying, with only moderate success, not to buy every exotic seed I come across. This is not only tricky, but has had a small side effect.

Prior to Christmas, Little Boots was the recipient of a good number of parcels from various points of the compass. The munchkin now thinks every parcel that arrives has Little Boots written on it. So when two packages arrived yesterday that were both for the grown ups, and one of which also just contained banana seeds pronounced as “boring”, a minor sulk was apparently called for.

Luckily the second package contained chocolate for all and grumpiness, along with a telling off, was averted.

I mean, it’s not as if the little bugger has been short of presents lately.

Kids!