Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Hedge, the Table and the Redhead

My garden has conifer hedges on 2 sides, one on the side of the conservatory (see pic above) and the other one alongside the kitchen garden.
A conifer hedge is not the most exiting thing to have in a garden, but as it affords me lots of privacy I'm not complaining, well, not much anyway. Let's take a closer look at the kitchen garden hedge, in fact let's take it a step further and look inside that hedge. Come on, I'll hold your hand so nothing bad can happen. You know it's no more scary than stepping inside a wardrobe, right? Even though you'll never know what you may find or where you'd end up.
Watch out, there's some barbed wire. Be careful, I don't want you to hurt yourself.
And look what I found here, it's the under-gardener! What on earth is he doing inside that hedge (never mind that we are there too) and why is he moving about so, that way I'll never be able to take a decent pic of him.
Hmmm, let's get out of that hedge, shall we, as it's getting rather crowded in here, and see what is going on.
Are you seeing what I'm seeing? Yep, that is quite an enormous elderberry growing smack in the middle of the conifer hedge, which is something that we don't want, so out it has to come.
And that's exactly what the under-gardener did and the elderberry as well. Now there's only a stump left (of the elderberry, not the under-gardener) which cannot be removed. But what could be removed has been, as you can see here
and here.
With all that wood we'll be able to keep the home fires burning for quite a while, once the wood has dried sufficiently in a year or two.
There, that looks much better; now we only have to give the hedge a bit of a trim on top and all will be right as rain again. BTW did you notice that hole in the hedge through which we came? Don't worry about it, it will be gone soon.

And while the under-gardener was removing the elderberry from the hedge, the head-gardener was hard at work too. Last Spring I had bought some new garden furniture for the new decked patio and how very pretty it looked.
But, after being outside in all that rain during the winter months, the garden table had acquired a bit of patina, but not the kind you'd want.
See what I mean? And here's a closer look.
Horrible, isn't it, and yes that is a bit of bird poo as well. Disgusting!
So the head-gardener got cracking too and with the aid of a big dollop of elbow grease the garden table was soon sorted.

There, as good as new again.

And while the head-gardener was hard at work, she got a bit distracted by a handsome little redhead, Macavity, who was paying a visit, felt rather peckish and wanted to be fed NOW! So he was, pronto!
Macavity has been AWOL for the last couple of weeks so I was very relieved to see my boy safe and sound in the garden once again. I think that because of the mild weather we'd been having lately, all the outdoor cats thought it was Spring too. Macavity is a full male so he probably has been running around after every pretty feline girl he could lay a paw on these last few weeks. But, unfortunately for him, somebody else has been laying a paw or two on Mac as well.

Take a closer look at his nose; he's got quite a collection of scratches there. Luckily they are all on his nose and not in one of his eyes.
I suppose those scratches on his poor nose are his badge of honour; if he were a coward they would be on his cute little behind. ;-)

copyright 2008: Y.E.W. Heuzen

To be asked what is my favourite this or that always throws me. Among my favourite replies is, 'The plant I'm looking at.' Otherwise why grow it?
Christopher Lloyd

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Awakening

Slowly but surely my garden is waking up. The snowdrops are chiming their little white bells: wake up, wake up, Spring is coming! And many of my plants and bulbs have woken up, there was even one early bird who got up before the snowdrops did.
The winter aconite.

But other sleepy heads are rubbing their eyes and are waking up too, such as

Verbena bonariensis,
Grape hyacinths,
my daffodowndillies,
Bergenia, that caught the sunshine in its leaves,
the fennel in the kitchen garden,
but also Geranium,
Clematis and
Lady's mantle and many, many more. I find it a bit scary that so many of my plants have already woken up as it is only January and there is still plenty of opportunity for the Ice Queen to wreak havoc in my garden with her icy fingers and cold, cold breath. If you want to hear what destruction the Ice Queen is capable of, scroll up to the pic of the Verbena bonariensis, look to the right and click on the second ( the best version) or the third picture( the live version) of the video bar. Crank your volume up to the max and enjoy.

Within Temptation is my favourite Dutch band and as Bliss is an interactive blog you're in for a spot of headbanging this time. Oh come on, I see Jodi and Mungus of Bloomingwriter are already in the zone as they love Within Temptation too, so this is especially for them. What are you guys waiting for? After all, what is a little headbanging among friends, right? Ready?

Ice Queen - Within Temptation

When leaves have fallen
And skies turned to grey
The night keeps closing in on the day
A Nightingale sings his song of farewell
You better hide before her freezing hell!

On cold wings she is coming
You better keep moving
For warmth, you'll be longing
Cone on, just feel it
Don't you see it?
You better believe it!

When she embraces
Your heart turns to stone
She comes at night when you're all alone
And when she whispers
Your blood shall run cold
You better hide before she finds you!

Whenever she is raging she takes life away,
Haven't you seen?
Haven't you seen?
The ruins of our world!

She covers the earth with a breathtaking cold
The sun awakes and melts it away
The world now opens its eyes and sees
The dawning of a new day.

On cold wings she is coming
You better keep moving
For warmth you'll be longing
Come on, just feel it
Don't you see it?
You better believe

Whenever she is raging she takes life away
Haven't you seen?
Haven't you seen?
The ruins of our world?

Back to our regular schedule: February has been known to be the coldest month of the year, and it is still to come. And there could also be snow and ice in March or April. One year we even had hail in July which destroyed my waterlilies completely. So I'm treading softly in my garden, that those that are still asleep may slumber a bit longer. I've found one person who is still fast asleep, clever fellow that he is. Can you see him too?
copyright 2008 Y.E.W. Heuzen

Garden and gardener, two words that have the power of transformation that helps us recapture memories of childhood and lead us to a future where we can once again interprete the dream of life.
Fernand Caruncho, The Spirit of the Geometrician, 2006

40 people have voted in my little poll and 19 of them wanted more posts on cats, 11 did not, and 10 who didn't mind either way. So there will be more posts on kittycats, but not to worry if that's not to your taste; the majority of posts will still be about gardening. :-)

Here's wishing you all a sunny Sunday!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Indoor Gardening for the Climatically Challenged

If your garden is covered in several feet of snow right now, you can still do some gardening, but indoors instead of out. How about a spot of Internet gardening? Surf on the net and see what's there to thaw your frozen gardener's heart. Go visit the blogs of the garden bloggers in Austin who are able to garden all year round, or visit Green Thumb in India or Nicole in Trinidad for some (semi-) tropical delight or even her from Bliss who has been outdoor gardening several times already this month. Annoying, isn't it, when you're still cooped up inside? But never fear, if you want to get your hands, or paws, dirty - and who wouldn't - you can!
Here's Kadootje helping me out with a spot of indoor sowing. Get your paws out of that seed tray Kadootje, I want to get cracking with sowing some lovely blue trailing Lobelia.

You can never have enough Lobelia, it's such a wonderful plant for pots and hanging baskets. Prices for bedding plants have gone up rather steeply these last few years so I've decided to sow my own whenever possible.
Lobelia seeds need warmth to germinate, around 20 C would be ideal. Unfortunately I don't have one of those nifty heating mats but I do have something else I can use.
No, not Merlin, but what is underneath him. In my bathroom there is underfloor heating and that is what I use for my seeds that need a bit of heat to germinate. See?
Delia and Merlin are very annoyed that one of their favourite hanging out places is now occupied by a seed tray. Sorry sweethearts, but your turn will come again soon. In the meantime they'll make do with this hanging out spot.
Sorry, wrong pic, I got that one from the Internet, it's scream isn't it? I meant to show you this one of course, of Merlin hanging out in a very peculiar way, more or less standing on his head in fact; anything to catch a bit of warmth from the radiator.
Back to the sowing of seeds. If you are a regular visitor of Bliss then you know by now that I'm very keen on scented flowers. One of my favourites is the Sweet Pea. Every year I sow them in January so that they have a head start in Spring. The earlier they flower, the better I like it.
I love the little darlings dearly and would never be without them. They are great in the garden but equally great in a vase as well. A few flowers will fill the whole room with their wonderful scent.
There are several methods you can use to sow Sweet Pea seeds. This is mine:
- take a bit of kitchen towel and make it slightly wet
- put the seeds on the towel and fold
- wait for 1 to 2 weeks for the seeds to germinate, making sure that the kitchen towels don't dry out
- put the germinated seeds in a pot with potting soil and wait for the seedlings to appear
- discard all the seeds that haven't germinated
- pinch out the tops when the seedlings are 12 cm high
- harden them off in early May by putting the plants outside during the day and inside at night thus avoiding the plants being killed off by a touch of frost during the night
- put them in the garden at the end of May or as soon as all risk of night frost is gone.
This year I am sowing some special varieties of Sweet Pea such as this one, gorgeous colour, don't you think?
This Sweet Pea, Pink Cupid, is a trailing one, great for tubs and hanging baskets.
This is Rosemary Verey, named after the late, well know British gardener; an unique blend of various shades of pink to creamy white, very cottage garden-y.
As usual, I am also sowing the plain white ones, as they are a great favourite of mine.
While writing this post I've decided to buy one more packet of Sweet Pea seeds as I've just realised I can't do without these: a mix of pastel shades which I love for their gorgeous colours. I always buy Lathyrus odoratus, I want the scented ones; Sweet Peas without a scent are like Christmas without a Christmas tree to me.
I like trying out new things and when I was buying some seeds last Saturday, I came across this packet; it's Verbascum phoeniceum that flowers the same year you've sown it. Sounds great to me, normally you sow them one year, and enjoy the flowers the next. Now all the joy is to be had in one year's time only. Love the colours too and can't wait to see them in flower in my new border next Summer.
January is also a good month to re-pot plants or to plant up some cuttings. My spider plant had had lots of babies so I decided to plant up a few.
They are protected from the sharp teeth from all the members of the Bliss team by this mini Victorian greenhouse, very pretty, isn't it and so very handy too. I got it in a sale last year for only 5 euro. And it has a friend.
Of course I couldn't resist buying another one when they were that cheap. The second one contains a few pots with cuttings from a lemon scented Pelargonium that had gotten way too big and leggy. So with all the sowing and potting up of plants, getting your hands in the soil and rather dirty is still possible at this time of year.

Now it's time for a bit of instant indoor gardening; there, a lovely basket full of Spring delight! If that doesn't chase away the winter blues, nothing will.
Yesterday I found these two chaps to add to my collection of indoor birds; a gorgeous Kingfisher (ijsvogel) and a lovely Robin (roodborstje).
I leave you with a pic of one of the things that the members of the Bliss team like to do most in winter and there's no law against us humans doing the same thing while we dream of future Bliss in our gardens to come next Spring..
Copyright 2008: Y.E.W. Heuzen

Patience and perseverance are traits necessary to the gardener. One must not be discouraged, but determined to succeed. Helena Rutherford Ely, A Woman's Hardy Garden, 1903