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.

Fields of Gold- and White. Taylors Daffodil Day 2019

Today I’m trying to describe the scent from 341 acres of daffodils- that’s about 300 football pitches. I’m almost lost for words. It’s like a tidal wave of “spring.” That scent at dawn on an April morning. Dew on the flowers, and the sun just starting to shine. Bees buzzing all around. And then it hits you. Pure joy!

I am at Taylors’ bulb fields in Lincolnshire for their Daffodil Day to celebrate the company’s centenary. And what a celebration! Daffodils as far as the eye can see. Birds singing, blue skies and a line of trees in the distance. The trees are so far away they look like miniatures. I’ve never seen anything like it. Bands of gold and yellow daffodils ripple in the wind. And wow, is it windy here. I’m holding on to my hat.

Taylors grow around 500 daffodil varieties on their farm at Holbeach near Spalding. It’s a real treat to learn how they are grown, the machinery used, and the processes involved.

Daffodils are planted in August – 850 tonnes of them. Bulbs remain in the ground for two years and are harvested over a six week period in June and July. The daffodil lifting machine digs up about one tonne per minute. Around 2,000 tonnes are harvested annually.

It’s the same machine that’s used for lifting potatoes. Daffodils are taken by trailer to a sorting conveyor belt machine that separates the bulbs from soil and stones.

Bulbs then go to a grading machine that sorts them into sizes. 7-10cm bulbs are kept to replant. Sizes then are separated into 10-12, 12-14, 14-16. The largest will obviously be the premium bulbs that will cost the most, but provide the best flower display.

Here’s John Cubley explaining the grading process. The bulbs pass through a kind of riddle to separate the sizes. John has worked for Taylors for 25 years. In fact, I spoke to three other workers who’ve all been there for at least 25 years. It’s obviously a company that attracts dedicated and loyal staff.

Here’s the grading machine inside the warehouse. Bulbs travel along a conveyor belt to be stored or packed into individual sizes and varieties.

It’s a treat to see any behind-the-scenes production. I’ve now got a better understanding of just what goes into growing and selling the bulbs I buy and plant each year.

These are some of the varieties I picked out as favourites. I particularly love the scented white daffodils and narcissi.

Kimmeridge. Pure white broad petals with a bowl crown of deep orange red.

Tibet. Creamy white, frilled cup, with a green “eye.”

High Society. Pure white with pink-edged centre. Good strong stems.

Pastorale. Pale lime yellow flower. The corona becomes white.

Tranquil Morn. Very pretty rounded pure white perianth. White flat disk, almost geometrically perfect. My favourite.

Pueblo. A jonquil. Multi -headed lemon flowers that become white as they mature. Simply stunning.

I’m looking out for some of the new varieties for 2019: Worcester- a creamy white variety. Pacific Rim- yellow with an orange rim; Arctic Bells- a white hoop petticoat type; Sinopel- unusual white with a green cup.

I came home laden down with catalogues, packets of summer bulbs, Taylors also sell these, dahlias, lilies, gladioli- and bunches of beautiful cut flowers. I’ve no need to travel to Holland. Lincolnshire – and Taylors Bulbs -is the place to see spring flowers in all their glory. And I’ve found the word I was searching for to describe the scent. It’s heavenly!

Links: Taylors Bulbs also home of Walkers Daffodils : http://www.taylors-bulbs.com/

Walkers Bulbs : https://bulbs.co.uk/