Monday, 20 February 2017

spring is in the air

The warm weather brought everybody out.  The Systems Administrator reported that bees were charging up and down the meadow.  The kittens raced around the garden.  Our Ginger sat magisterially on the front door step.  Business at the Clacton garden centre and the tip (sorry, recycling centre) was booming.

I needed to call in at the garden centre since I wanted seed compost plus industrial quantities of blood, fish and bone, I was hoping they might have crushed oyster shell for the chickens, and one of my wellington boots had split.  I'd have like some Vitax Q4 as well for the pots of violas and auriculas, as recommended by the growers at Chelsea, but couldn't see any.  I got everything else on the list, though, and in a fit of extravagance treated myself to two new large propagating cases for the seeds.  The lids of my old ones have chipped at the corners and gone yellow with age, and while I managed to gaffer tape over the holes well enough to keep the mice off the small bulbs this winter, I thought I couldn't be messing around with taped together lids for seed pots where I need to check the watering daily, and the yellowing and crazing must cut down the light considerably.  Not so important when you're waiting for tulip bulbs to form roots, not so good when you're trying to prevent seedlings from becoming leggy.

The tip is just around the corner from the garden centre so I generally try to combine the two into one trip.  As I drove to Clacton a trail of bamboo prunings along the road told me I was not the only gardener going to the tip today.  Sure enough, when I turned off the main road into Jaywick lane there was another final piece of bamboo ahead of me on the tarmac.  Somebody didn't secure their trailer properly.  I wanted to dump the hellebore leaves, which filled several sacks by the time I'd finished cutting them off and are not supposed to go on the home compost heap to avoid spreading any hellebore leaf diseases.  If I had left the sacks for six months or a year the leaves would have shrunk down to nothing, but since I needed the compost and everything else I thought I might as well not be stuck with several large bags of decaying hellebore leaves for the summer.  A very polite, very helpful, very heavily tattooed young member of staff emptied most of my bags, for which I was duly grateful, though at the garden centre afterwards when the woman on the till seemed quite reluctant to believe that I could load my 25 kilo bag of fish, blood and bone into the car myself I began to wonder if I was looking particularly decrepit.

Actually, my hands were feeling it after yesterday's pruning session so to give them a break I started clearing the overwintering pots of herbaceous plants out of the greenhouse, and investigating the ones still on the concrete that never made it into the greenhouse due to lack of space.  Most of the Verbascum chaixii have overwintered successfully out in the open on the concrete, some in 1L and some in 2L pots.  It is a nuisance that they are supposed to be the white form but most flowered yellow last year.  The Lysimachia atropurpurea died, but they are basically annuals.  I raised them intending to plant them in the vegetable patch to use for cutting, but never got round to the planting bit.  It makes me a little cross when I see garden centres selling them alongside their perennial plants and priced at several pounds each, when they are generally very short lived.  The Linaria purpurea 'Canon Went' also mostly died, but not before seeding themselves into their pots and most of the neighbouring pots, so I shall not be short of pink toadflax this summer.  The Aquilegia that didn't manage to squeeze inside seem absolutely fine in 1L and 9cm pots.  A tray of rooted box cuttings look starving but have survived.

I looked online for Vitax Q4 and Amazon came up trumps, yet again.  If somebody can draft UK tax law properly so that they pay their fair share I don't even mind paying more for their products, but it is so useful to be able to press a button and have garden sundries you need urgently arrive the next day in a van.  After I lost the spring of my secateurs I ordered the replacement at half past three in the afternoon and it was with me by half past ten the following morning.

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