Last of the late snowdrops – and snowy pictures of my garden

Patience often pays off. I’ve been watching the prices for this new and expensive snowdrop. Then, when most of the flowers had gone over, the garden centre reduced the price! It was my lucky day. Galanthus Polar Bear is my new favourite snowdrop, and it’s a quite a beauty, isn’t it.

I managed to find a pot with flowers still in bud. It’s a very late flowering type with short pedicels, making the flowers fling out and look up at you. So unusual, as most snowdrops bow their heads and look down. It’s got a lot of charm, and is the star of my potting shed windowsill at the moment.

While we are still talking about snowdrops, I thought I’d show you some snowy photos of the garden. It’s been the mildest wettest winter on record here, and this is the first, and only snow we’ve had so far. It makes the garden look magical and hides all imperfections (fortunately.) No weeds are on show, and brambles look ornamental with an iced topping of snow. Here you can see my greenhouse, polytunnel and potting shed set up, all close together to save walking too far between them. In front of the potting shed there’s some renovated 1930s plant nursery trolleys. Very useful for moving plant pots about, and for staging potted displays. My second-hand poly tunnel has doors both ends which is great for good air circulation. The 20ft Alton Cedar greenhouse is also second-hand and renovated by my husband. We painted it black, and made matching black staging inside. Beyond is my cut flower and veg patch and then the orchard, before you reach the paddock gate leading to the ridgeway footpath.

In the exotic border in front of the potting shed, I’ve left stems and seed heads intact for birds to eat and insects to find shelter. These innula seeds look pretty with a topping of snow.

The horseshoe pond can viewed from the potting shed windows. There’s a gently-sloping boulder beach to stand on, and this gives easy access for hedgehogs, frogs, newts and grass snakes. It’s very calming to stand and watch the ripples from raindrops. Today the pond is a cauldron of frogs, mating and producing frog spawn.

From the pond you can see the cut flower and veg patch. My hazel sweet pea supports have weathered three named storms on consecutive weekends. Really, if they can cope with all that, I think they will stand firm and strong for the summer display. There’s little slab paths between the plots so I don’t have to walk on the soil. It’s a no-dig garden inspired by Charles Dowding who’s been a patient and valued mentor these last few years, along with his partner Stephanie Hafferty. They’ve both given me lots of advice and I’ve got more value out of my plot thanks to their suggestions.

At the end of the veg plot there’s a small orchard, rather neglected. We’ve pruned it this winter which means we might lose some of the crop in the summer. But over a few years we will get the trees back into shape and down to a manageable size for harvesting. Under the trees I’m planning a wild flower patch. I’m going to leave some grass and see what happens, I will sow some plug plants in another area, and finally I’ll try a wild flower lawn, ready seeded. I’ll report back on the project.

Finally here’s the view down the field hedge tunnel. This path is made from bark and brushwood chippings from the garden, put through my new Stihl electric shredder. It saves a fortune on bagged bark supplies, plus helps me recycle waste from the garden.

Thank you for reading. Please share on any social media platform , and get in touch and let me know what your garden looks like just now. Comments box is right at the bottom of the page.

Links: Stihl shredders : https://www.stihl.co.uk/STIHL-Products/099364/Garden-shredders.aspx

Polar bear : https://www.avonbulbs.co.uk/spring-planted-bulbs-and-snowdrops/galanthus-snowdrops/collectors-snowdrops/galanthus-polar-bear

Working in the Garden- using battery powered machines 

I’m re-blogging this today as I’m currently trialling Stihl’s latest addition to the compact cordless range, a cute little lawn mower, MA 235. It should really be given a pet name. It’s such a delight to use, weighing only 14kg, and with no cable to get wrapped around your legs and trip you up! It is perfect for small to medium lawns up to 200m2. The grass box capacity is 30ltrs, and the machine is extremely easy to use. I’m in favour of anything lightweight. I don’t have to ask anyone for help. Plus, being battery powered it is quiet. It doesn’t scare the cat, or the wildlife I’ve been so keen to attract to the garden. More photos to follow. I’ve been given these machines by Stihl in exchange for an honest review. All views are my own and if I say nice things about them it’s because I  haven’t been pressured to do so.

Here’s what I wrote about the other machines in the range, including hedge trimmer, leaf blower, trimmer and chain saw. All are interchangeable.

Gardening is hard work-there’s no denying it. I sometimes think I must be mad to try to control an acre of ground. If I turn my back for five minutes the brambles are suddenly head high and thistles and stinging nettles look as if I’ve grown them on purpose.

It’s not a sensible hobby for someone who has no muscles to speak of. I am five foot tall and weigh 8 stone. Then in addition, I have dodgy knees and a bad back. I really ought to take up sewing or knitting or…well, anything not requiring strength and stamina.

But then, I have always been contrary. I never give up on a difficult task. I have only to delve into my family photo album to see where I get my streak of quiet determination.

The oldest photos in the album show my great-great grandmother Charlotte Foxford, leading a shire horse down to the plough. There are pictures of her working the stony ground at the farm where she lived with her husband James in Oakford, Devon.


She looks exhausted. And I want to step back through time and give them a helping hand- modern medicine, health care – and machinery.

And yet, later in the album, I see them smartly dressed. Great-great grandfather James wears a suit and a jaunty hat. And I’m delighted to see them standing in the farmhouse doorway, with beautifully pruned roses around the porch. She had time to plant a garden- with all the cares she must have had to keep hearth and home together. And there are photos of them standing proudly next to the gleaming, well-groomed shire horses. Phew!They cared for their animals too. Such a reassurance and a welcome sight. And they are holding hands. They loved each other. A lesson in life in just 10 photos.

There’s one picture that makes me happiest of all. It is the one where Charlotte  sits holding a baby- my grandfather, Ted Foulds- and is surrounded by her family. She is smiling. Her happiness and contentment shines out from the page. A great relief to me.

I just wish I could tell her- we have all copied her example. We’ve continued the tradition. There’s a long line of tenacious and determined women in the family- and we have all thrived on hard work. We are good at finding solutions.

So I may be a physical weakling- but I never give up. And I never wait around for someone else to do a job, if I can do it myself.

My latest solution to the problem of coping with an unruly garden is the discovery of the new Stihl compact cordless range of power tools.

We already have petrol machines- but they are too heavy for me, I nearly wrench my arm out starting them up. Plus they are so loud they frighten me, and the cat, and the cows in the neighbouring field.

I was relieved and delighted  to find four battery powered machines that I could actually manage- all by myself. Lightweight and easy to use.

I used the chainsaw to tackle the hazel coppice. Usually I use a handsaw and loppers. But the Stihl chainsaw cut through them in minutes. I’ll use the hazel rods to make an A-frame support for sweet peas in the cut flower garden.


Next I cut through a low field maple branch that was growing over the drive. The logs will be used on our open fire.


We will leave some brushwood and logs for wildlife habitats.


I’m going to tackle the apple trees next. Apple and pear logs are a special treat for Christmas. A gentle flame and no sparks from fruit wood- plus the whole house is scented with a most glorious, exotic perfume. No candles or chemicals can match it.

The chainsaw lasted about 45 minutes before the battery ran flat. I was ready for a cup of tea and a piece of cake by then, so I put it back on charge. It took about an hour or so to charge up again. I was busy tidying the logs, so I didn’t mind waiting.


Here are my notes on the Stihl chainsaw MSA 120 C-BQ Compact Cordless Power System.

The brochure says the chainsaw is ideal for garden maintenance, cutting firewood, shrubs and branches.

1. Weighs 2.5kg without battery. Lithium-Ion battery weighs 1.2kg

2. Sound Level 94.0 dB A. Amazingly quiet. No ear defenders are needed. This is a good because  you can be more aware of what’s going on around you while you are working, if you can hear.

3. Battery Life : The brochure says  up to 35 minutes. Mine lasted 45 mins.

4. Cutting Performance: Up to 100 cuts in 10cm x10cm square timber.

5. Bar Length: 30cm

6.Chain Speed: 13.2 m/s (max)

7. Quick Chain Tensioning: Tensioning the chain without tools by turning the adjusting wheel. Even I could do it. The guide bar is automatically secured by tightening the sprocket cover.

8. Safety Feature: I liked the pop out battery, which meant you couldn’t accidentally switch the chainsaw on whilst carrying it around.

I chose Farol Ltd at Hinckley, Leicestershire, to commission the chainsaw. Special mention to Sarah Nottingham and Jacob Shellis who kitted us out with protective trousers, boots, gloves and glasses supplied by Stihl. They took such care to show me how to use the chainsaw, and the hedge trimmer, strimmer and leaf blower in the range. I was impressed by their knowledge and the time and care they took to explain everything in terms I understood. I feel as if I have a good back up team there. I can ring or go back and visit at any time if I have any problems or need advice.

Safety is a prime consideration. I did an assessment of the  work I planned and double checked my capabilities before starting. I will still need a qualified tree surgeon for larger projects in the garden.

Chain saw and other machinery courses can be found at Brooksby Melton College in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire.

Have you found any solutions to your gardening problems ? I’d love to hear them.