No sun- no moon, No morn - No noon. Part 2

Sunday, December 2, 2012

It seems I have been here before - Oh yes I remember and that is something these days! It was in June this year when the weather wasn't that different from November give or take a few frosts. Heavy rain, strong winds and the odd day of sunshine  At least you expect them at this time of year

Everything is soaking wet making it impossible to rake up the remaining leaves and I daren't walk on the lawns for fear of compacting them even more. The vegetable garden on a steep slope has had standing water at times and it is dark by 4.30 most evenings, severely limiting what work can be done outside.But there are still things to cheer me up even in the darkest of days.

What cheers me up most of all is the winter firewood cut and stacked under the verandah of the house as it has been for the last 100 years  - not all by me I hasten to add!!



But for something more exotic how about a private beach on the Helford River in Cornwall last week?



Or for more Mediterranean tastes  the upper garden at Trebah (see Visits below)



Or finally closer to home impatiens niamniamensis "Golden Cockatoo"  (the cockatoo balsam) in the greenhouse at Cilgwyn Lodge





Apart from snow we have had every weather condition encountered in the UK in November. Towards the end of the month it became increasingly colder with a minimum of -7C on the 28th. A few days of sunny weather in the second week saw temperatures rise to 12C  - a very welcome brief interlude.

Mostly though as usual in November, the weather has driven me bananas!




Garden update

The garden year is definitely at an end. A few plants are hanging on bravely, an iberis or two, a few cyclamen hederifolium, the odd lupin and just the glimmer of things to come, some cyclamen coum showing colour in the bud and helleborus niger holding out the chance of a "Christmas Rose" in flower for the big day. A rare event but fingers crossed!

The faded husks of 2012 in the Paddock Garden not to be cut back until February 2013.



Most of the work is in the polytunnels continuing to make space for more plants under cover as the the colder weather comes. There are still a few tomatoes left on the vines, the Rosada always the last,  are producing ripe tomatoes on the 13th truss. There are also ripe sweet orange peppers and some chillis. Also in the tunnels the cuttings of tender perennials taken during September and October have struck well and are growing strongly on the hot benches

On drier days I have had the opportunity to to repair or rebuild the plant staging in the nursery which were showing the effect of being weighed down with plants for a good number of years, a pleasant task in the occasional weak sunshine. I have also rebuilt the cold frame alongside the small polytunnel and removed the hedge at the back of it.

A list of other essential jobs points to more work over the forthcoming months. Lists keep me on track - but for some reason however my lists of jobs to be done never match Moira's!!

One of the nicest jobs at this time of year is to start seed ordering. The catelogues from seed companies and the lists from the plant societies I belong to are arriving thick and fast and contain all the joys to come for next year which certainly lifts the spirits at a dark time of year. One of the most eagerly awaited and usually the last, either just before of after Christmas. is the mighty tome from Chiltern Seeds - an eagerly awaited annual event.


What's looking good?

Well not much actually! Hardly surprising!! About 12 years ago in a spell of mild winters I counted 27 plants/shrubs in flower in early December; now you would have to look very hard to find 10. The tunnels and greenhouse hold out the best hope with a heated, protected environment. Streptocarpus just go on and on in a wide range of forms, as do impatiens and pelargoniums. It is a wonderful sight on a winters day

Streptocarpus "Harlequin Blue", haemanthus albiflos and a white trailing pelargonium enjoying the hot bench in the one greehouse we can afford to heat



And in one of the heated polytunnels a range of tender plants providing winter cheer.



Leeks have enjoyed all the rain and are beautifully tender and juicy. Cabbages although seemingly frozen in time as they haven't grown much in November are holding smallish heads and sprouts are showing the value of this long cropping winter stalwart.

A mention too must be made for the Autumn Bliss raspberries, the last of which we harvested on 19 November, the latest we have ever had them. Such a delight on breakfast cereal and a big saving when those in supermarkets were retailing for £2 for a very small punnet.


Wildlife and countryside

For once, although I am outside most days to observe nature at first hand, there is little news. Still no fieldfares or redwings which is worrying but the robins follow me around, always on the lookout for some easy pickings. I have also seen the first dippers for some time on the river, darting over and under the water; busy little birds with a distinctive call. Just before dusk every day whatever the weather, there is the Drama Queen Blackbird Show. lots of fast low flying and high pitched alarm calls just before they find a safe roost for the night. It is one of enduring and endearing features of winter in the countryside.



Apart from the Masterclass Weekend there were just 2 talks in November at Ferryside on the Towy estuary and in Llanelli at Furnace Garden Clubs. Two well attended meetings at clubs which are old favourites. It is always uplifting for a speaker to have a good turn out and an audience that participates so well. It was a nice way to end the talks year

Last week was my 65th birthday and to celebrate such a momentous milestone we went to Cornwall. A visit has been long overdue and it was great to be back in one of our favourite places from a long list of contenders. Eden Project has matured incredibly in the 9 years since we have been there, but Trebah is a timeless garden well over a hundred years old that ages gently like old wine. Even with little colour left it has a presence, structure and sense of permanence that few others can match. 


The famous biomes at Eden



A little corner of the Mediterranen biome.



All this warmth means they have big bugs at Eden!



Trebah only does refined good taste



And an outdoor "jungle experience.



Even some late hydrangea flowers in the 3 acre hydrangea valley just before you arrive at the private beach shown at the beginning of this news article. A real winter warmer. Damaging frosts are almost unknown in this south facing ravine garden.



Back at Cilgwyn Lodge,the bookings for visits next summer are starting to come in already so if you would like to arrange a visit during our opening times of June - September please get in touch.

Finally I was a lucky "boy" for my birthday, Moira bought me the Nikon compact camera I have wanted for some time and I am very well pleased with it. Some of the pics in this news article are taken with the old camera and some the new. See if you can tell the difference. A liitle Christmas Quiz! Answers next month but sadly no prizes save for the joy of reading these news articles!!