The dog gets the chop

Luckily for him, our mutt Harris is still intact. But today was the day for the dogwood to get a grade 1 all over.

Three years ago I bought the darkest black-red stemmed cornus (posh name for dogwood) shrub from the sadly extinct garden centre at nearby Westonbirt Arboretum. Westonbirt boasts stunning swathes of fiery red, yellow and orange-stemmed cornus that sizzle all winter.

I hoped to transfer a bit of that drama into my own patch – as you do. A single dark shrub in my roadside front garden is a lame attempt, but I’m attached to its simple form and winter colour.

When I bought it, the helpful salesman told me to plant out and leave it alone for a couple of years before chopping it down hard in spring to keep the deep stem colour.

It’s obvious why. The oldest wood had turned bright red, while the new growth was much darker. It created quite an attractive colour transition – I think they call it ‘ombre’ in interiors!
 But today was the day. I seized the loppers and chopped all the stems down to 2in from the ground. I expect the deep dark stems to start shooting up over spring, before we get the simple, small red-orange leaves, and clusters of whitish berries later in the season.

It seemed a shame to ditch the beautiful trimmings, so I snipped the ends off and added them to a big vase of daffs in the living room.



Pick of the Week – garlic

Hold on to your hats, because it’s the second instalment of Pick of the Week!

I was chuffed to see fellow blogger Gardening Hands joining in from the Southern Hemisphere last week. Hello down there!

Pickings are still slim on the plot – everything is on go-slow thanks to the cold, windy spring and early summer – but this week I had a special harvest.

I’d almost forgotten about my garlic (Germidour). I’ve never grown it before but it’s been modestly plodding along since before Christmas.

I hadn’t even read when to harvest it – so it was lucky my allium expert neighbour was working his plot on the same day as me this week. He told me that when a few of the lower leaves have dried up they should be ready to dig. And they were!

The following day Miss MBaF and I worked together to dig them up (me) and lay them in a lovely line all along the path (her). I gathered them back together and popped them in the boot of the car – and the pair of us giggled at the incredible stinkiness of the short drive home.

The bulbs are a good size, and have a lovely purple tinge to the leaves. Now I’m leaving them to dry out before working out how to string them together.

Pea muncher

I’ve not had much time for the allotment or garden in the last coupla-weeks. But we’re off for a short break from Wednesday, and there are a few urgent jobs to get done.

My lovely healthy Hispi seedlings have been shouting “Plant me out, plant me out!” for a week or so. 


hefty hispi seedlings

Tonight I took pity on them and got them in the ground.


hispis in the ground…at last

Brassicas like to be planted firmly – they don’t enjoy their roots rocking about in the wind. So when planting my cabbages I pop them in a hole, backfill with soil and then stand carefully with a boot either side of the seedlings – close to the plants – and do a little half-jump. This firms them in securely, and creates a bonus dip that holds water – reducing run-off and wastage during the summer evening rounds of watering.

Once planted and watered well I covered my cabbages with butterfly netting, slung over the fancy U-shaped supports my Dad bought me.  I have high hopes for my Hispis – the plot tends to ‘do’ brassicas quite well, and homegrown cabbage is yummy.

I had loads of seedlings left, so my favourite neighbour got those.

After the cabbages, I moved up the plot to break open my pea sticks and put them up around the up-coming peas and mangetout. I quickly spotted the telltale signs that something’s been enjoying the tender young shoots already. 

pea weevil damage on the mangetout seedlings. My soil looks dreadful close up!

Pigeons are always under suspicion, but I’ve seen these notches around the edges of the leaves before. Last year, in fact. I’m pretty sure it’s pea weevils again – the little blighters.

The RHS says that chemical control is usually unnecessary because the plants can withstand the damage, but that’s not my experience from last year – so tomorrow I’ll be taking my spray to them I’m afraid.

overly tall pea sticks to keep the pigeons out – i think the weevils may still squeeze through!

It’s tempting to shove the sweet peas and climbing beans in the ground before we go away – avoiding the problem of working out how to keep them watered while we’re gone. 

Maybe I’ll hedge my bets and plant half tomorrow and keep the rest under cover just in case of a last frost. 

Put in my place by Mother Nature

It’s Roast Day once more so on the return leg of the dog walk I headed ‘lot’-wards to dig a parsnip. 

After recent parsnip triumph I expected to find another fine specimen. 

But Mother Nature punished my smugness with a parsnip that only its mother could love!

It was quite monstrous, both in size and aesthetic – and some of it’s still in the ground. 

Thanks for the lesson MN, that one fine parsnip doesn’t make a gardener!