Blue Monday in My Garden and Ridgeway Walk – 20th January 2020

Lace-edge primulas, looking glorious in January

Today I’m celebrating. I’ve spent the first full day in the garden for three years. There was much to do! Brambles and nettles have invaded the boundaries, and I couldn’t get down the side of the poly tunnel. Something needed to be done. And luckily my strength and energy levels have returned and I can be outdoors all day. Something I took for granted until becoming seriously ill in 2016. So happily, it’s not Blue Monday for me- it’s three cheers, and hello garden, here I come!

This area round the back of the potting shed and alongside the poly tunnel looks a mess. It’s out of sight and out of mind- until I need to clean the poly tunnel plastic covering. Then I can’t get access. So I set to and cut back all the nettle stems and blackberries. Some of the trailing stems are 4m long. Vicious, thorny things!

There’s a wheelbarrow under there.

Despite wearing tough clothing the brambles manage to ‘get me.’ But I fight back and win. It takes me a couple of hours, much longer than it used to, but I’ve learned to pace myself and celebrate every small achievement. By chipping away at the task the area is cleared, pots washed and neatly stacked and order restored. It’s such a nice feeling, to take back control.

I make a start on mulching the borders. Some of the boundary borders have become over run with plants such as geranium and euphorbia. Perennials like these can be rather too successful. Before 2016, the whole garden was planted with tender perennials, salvias, penstemons, exotics galore. Mum and I would visit rare plant fairs to seek out small treasures. But these require cosseting. I discovered there’s a good reason they are rare. They need splitting, dividing or they disappear. Cuttings require overwintering in a heated greenhouse. They are gone in a flash without tender loving care. I will replant, but hardier varieties are being selected. Newly acquired tender beauties will remain in plant pots, easily scooped up and swept into the greenhouse at the first sign of frost. I’m not giving up on delicate plants, just readjusting the balance.

A whole border of hellebores had to be dug up last autumn. The plants had become overrun with couch grass and weeds. We moved them to the woodland walk where the grass will die out eventually. And I’m delighted to report that hellebores can be moved and thrive. These are looking fabulous. Every one survived in the well-mulched wonderful leaf-mould soil. So pleased, as these were grown from seedlings given to me by a friend.

Another cause for celebration. My new potatoes for winter have been fabulous. We planted these on 7th August in recycled compost bags. Well watered through late summer, they grew like triffids. As soon as the weather turned cold, the bags were hauled into the greenhouse to be kept frost free. Since Christmas we’ve had a steady supply of tasty potatoes fresh from the greenhouse. There is nothing more cheerful than new potatoes in the depths of winter. I’ll be repeating the procedure again this year, with double the number of bags.

As always, after a hearty gardening session, as a reward, I head out of the top field gate and walk along the ridgeway path. Is there any finer sight than an oak tree set against a bright blue sky. It’s a sight I’ll never tire of.

A quick peek though the gap-in-the hedge. I wasn’t quick enough to take photos of the pheasants in the ditch on the other side. A magnificent thrill to see them skimming low across the field, their feathers rich and glowing in the late afternoon sun.

Hazel catkins, a welcome sign of spring. I cut a few twigs to prop up my amaryllis bulbs in the greenhouse. Flowers and catkins always bring cheer.

It’s a circular walk- along the path, down the lane and back home. This is the hedgerow alongside the lane. My favourite oak, on the ridgeway walk, is almost in the centre of this photo.

I stand and admire this 300 year old oak, one of a row. And I think about the farmer who planted them and didn’t live to see them grow to maturity. It’s such a generous act to plant a tree. It’s not for yourself, but for future generations to come. There are some gaps along the lane where elms have died. Perhaps I’ll ask the farmer if I can plant some replacement oaks. And someone else will stand before them, in time, and marvel at their beauty, like I do.

After a cup of tea, I potter about, collecting up plant labels – there are many- and wind-blown pots. I check the greenhouse, first tapping on the door to warn the wrens. They roost on the slider and if I don’t warn them, there’s a sudden flapping of wings around my head. I don’t mind sharing my greenhouse. It might mean the difference between survival and death, in a cold winter.

Turning for home, I notice the time is 5.05pm. It’s a wonderful sunset. And there’s still enough light to mooch about and easily find my way to the back door. Spring is on the way. And I feel ready for all the gardening challenges to come.

Have you spent any time in the garden today? What’s looking good or coming into flower on your plot. Get in touch and let me know.

Links : special primroses from Piecemeal Plants http://www.piecemealplants.co.uk/

Polytunnels, mine was second hand. New ones from https://www.firsttunnels.co.uk/?gclid=Cj0KCQiAvJXxBRCeARIsAMSkApqtMjv4FjaWKWNJbY1MEf_7o_CBJK1XrGe3UABgLDs1weAGIcT3A6caAk26EALw_wcB

I’m using mulch from https://www.bloominamazing.com/.

And also https://www.strulch.co.uk/.

And https://www.plantgrow.co.uk/products/

I wrote about growing new potatoes for winter here :https://bramblegarden.com/2019/08/07/im-growing-new-potatoes-for-christmas/

Compost from https://www.dalefootcomposts.co.uk/our-products.aspx

Seed potatoes from https://taylors-bulbs.com/

Oak trees https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/a-z-of-british-trees/english-oak/

Hazel https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/a-z-of-british-trees/hazel/

I am @kgimson on twitter, karengimson1 on instagram.

31 thoughts on “Blue Monday in My Garden and Ridgeway Walk – 20th January 2020

  1. Hi Karen. What a cheerful post! Glad you have been able to get some jobs done and rid yourself of a few more brambles… that is something we must tackle soon too. The view with the oak really is lovely. We have lots of oak trees around us, but mostly growing among other trees and unable to spread and form that characteristic shape. I also often think about who planted a tree and whether they had any idea how much it might mean to someone in the future. Perhaps they did. After all, we are planting trees now and know we will never see them in their full mature glory, but someone else will. 🙂

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  2. A very good blog Karen. When I was a gardeners boy back in 1942 we grew new potatoes for Christmas by stacking fresh manure on the greenhouse bench, then placed 3 inches of soil on top before placing 3 first early seed potatoes on top of the steaming manure and covered this with soil. The soil was added to as the plants grew. The greenhouse stank, but the head gardener was expected to have a crop of new potatoes for Christmas danner.

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    • That’s so interesting Derek. I didn’t know that. Quite a bit of pressure on you to produce the potatoes then. I bet the greenhouse smelled lovely! I expect the manure helped to keep the greenhouse frost free as well. My grandad used to bury a tin box with new potatoes in and dig them up for Christmas dinner. Thanks for reading. See you soon I hope . Love to Violet. Regards – karen x

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    • Thank you Janice. It’s been a slow plod back to health. I’ve just kept trying to do a bit more each day. Everyone’s always saying gardening is good for you, and it’s true. It’s been the saving of me, really. I feel like this is going to be a good year! Thanks so much for reading. I know how busy you are 🙂 xx

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    • Ah, thank you Cathy. I must admit, I was starting to think I was stuck in second gear. This week I feel back to my old self again and am raring to get going with everything. Have had to be so patient. So very boring being ill. Thanks again for your kind comments. Much love, karen xx

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  3. Glad you are feeling better and up to strength. I agree with choosing the hardier plants, they can still be beautiful and do not stop you cosseting a few special favourites in pots but the hardiness of plants is to be admired. I too have found the Hellebores very easy to move and I appreciate the seedlings that allow me to share them. Amelia

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  4. I didn’t know that you had been ill, though I’m pleased to hear that you’re recovering now. You’ve obviously been very patient for the last few years, but do take it easy now that you’re back in the garden.

    Everything takes me much longer to do than it used to, but that’s just due to my advancing years, and arthritis (plus a shoulder injury 18 months ago). I’ve come to accept that we need to listen to what our bodies are telling us, and last year I found that simply by pacing myself each day, I felt a little bit stronger and was able to achieve a little bit extra each day. Each time I overdid it, it left me unable to do much the following day.

    Now, I work slower, but I hear the birds and the rustle of the wind through the trees and grasses. I stop to smell the roses, feel the petals and enjoy the garden so much more for it.

    Allow yourself to relax back into it, and enjoy each moment that you’re able to be out there.

    Wishing you well.

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    • Thank you Catherine. I haven’t written about it much to be honest. It was a life or death operation and then there followed many more operations with stitches in my middle. Very difficult to bend for gardening!!! But sepsis the same year really knocked me back and I’ve been slowly regaining my energy since then. Patience is a virtue. I managed to keep hold of the greenhouse, poly tunnel and cut flower patch. But the wider garden went wild. While I want to keep the wild corners, I’ve found the brambles and weeds won’t stay in their allotted ‘wild’ space. I’m sorry to hear about your shoulder injury and agree that gardening always makes you feel much better. Today, I’ve just pottered about, sowing a few seeds and finding a hedgehog fast asleep hibernating in a bag of leaf mould! Made my heart sing. Thanks again for reading. And for your good wishes. Wishing you all the best too. Xx

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    • The high winds last week were awful here. Then the driving rain. I’m really enjoying some sunny dry days, even if it means frost overnight. I’m currently wrapping all my plant pots with fleece. They are so wet through from the deluge, the frost is damaging them. Hope you are having a good week over there. Xx

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  5. I know what you mean about some perennials being overwhelmed by tougher plants. Because of the tree roots and shade in much of my garden (only a 50 x 120 foot lot, and there’s the house, driveway, etc.), I grow many plants in pots — lilies, delphiniums, even hostas (they are fine with shade, but not with rooty soil). We had a foot of snow recently, now melted, and a couple of windstorms, so there’s lots of cleanup to do, picking up fallen branches and twigs. Snowdrops are in full bloom, though, and there are more every year.

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    • That’s good to hear about your snowdrops Audrey. Ours are also flowering away, a month earlier than usual. We haven’t had any snow, yet. There’s still time. Sunny days are so welcome aren’t they. Have a good week. xx

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