Friday, 5 December 2014

Nipped In The Bud

 Two of our roses are flowering again, it's almost unbelievable for the first week of December. Some of our plants and trees didn't lose any leaves in the autumn this year and, even now, only a few are completely bare. I made my New Year's resolution in the summer after my friend asked me for a rosemary cutting. I tried to make her take other cuttings and showed her how I've added to our garden by ripping little branches off established plants and putting them straight into the ground. She thought it seemed like too much work. I decided then that I'd make an effort to take cuttings (which, in my case, is a fancy way of saying ripping off what seem like suitable branches) and pot them and build up a collection of hardy plants that I can give as presents. This would also help us because I am always, ALWAYS, planting little branches and then when Martin goes strimming (admittedly this isn't often, we are planting with the aim of not having to cut grass in the future) he doesn't know where the teeny saplings are and they get beheaded. If I grow my cuttings a bit before planting that will be less likely to happen.

I'm always taking cuttings and putting them straight in the ground but rarely pot things (I have a habit of killing house plants, that's why I usually avoid potting). I've gone for plants that are easy to propagate from cuttings and can stay outside: two types of euonymous, griselinia, laurel, buddleia and rosemary and I've also done some bay and cotoneaster. I saved and sowed chrysanthemum and lupin seeds too. I have previously not had much success with seeds in pots, so fingers crossed. I sowed some directly into the ground too, just in case. I'm fairly lucky with seeds or cuttings that I plant in the ground but then I end up really liking where they're growing and don't want to dig them up to give away.

We collected the lupin seeds in August and I kept them in the fridge until sowing in September, the chrysanthemum ones I just collected and sowed straight away. Lately, I've noticed a few self-seeded lupins popping up in the yard, they're the ones that got away, Sadie and Holly preferred the pods and threw away some of the seeds!

Lupin pod collection and seed saving.....a lot of pods made it into those envelopes without their seeds!

Martin's bay cuttings in September and December
 As well as potting a few bay cuttings I also planted 22 of them straight into the garden. I have to 'hedge' my bets:  Martin took bay cuttings at the same time as I did and put his indoors in a microclimate (no less!) so the race is on! For the cuttings that I potted I used hormone rooting powder, I've never bothered with it for planting in the garden but I thought I should give these cuttings every chance if I want to build a good collection for gifting.

We have no shortage of high quality soil as Martin uses weeds and grass cuttings and layers them with farmyard manure to keep us in earth. I haven't bought any pots, I'm reusing the stacks of them we have from plants we've bought over the last seven years.

One thing I did in the summer, that I think is worth mentioning, was to put old tyres at the corners of our steps. It always seems to be -just in time to take out an eye- that one of our children loses their footing as they go towards the steps. I had some cheap, wide plastic tubs that I planted up and sat into the tyres. I think they look good and it gives me a few spots for annuals. Also we've noticed another benefit to them these days: The small birds are drinking from the ring of water that gets trapped between the tyres and the tubs.

 We've had such a mild autumn and winter so far the first year of my not-for-profit garden centre should be off to a great start. Even so, I'm kind of hoping nobody I know moves house or anything for at least twelve months, that way I should have a few plant gifts to choose from. Green fingers crossed for my cuttings!

We are basking in the aroma of the hazel sticks we're burning in the fire these days. Martin cut them for our neighbour in her garden and came away with a few bags and a lovely little tree. Hopefully, we'll be burning our own hazel blocks in the future.

We didn't light the fire yesterday until after 4pm, we were outside for most of it, the sun was dazzling. Martin had promised Sadie and Holly he'd make a Christmas wreath with them. We hadn't got any base or proper wire yet but the girls pushed for it to be then and there so we looked around and found this old metal lampshade frame that I've had for years (the shade fell apart, it was an uplighter). I kept it thinking I'd be able to use it for something but never did. Martin, Sadie and Holly went and collected moss, holly and ivy from the garden and got to work. The usual disgruntlement was present when Sadie said she wanted a sadie plant in the wreath...sometimes I really wish I'd called her Laurel or Ivy or Fern or anything that we could have growing!

Moss, wire, moss, wire, patience, patience, patience, holly, wire, patience, ivy, wire, patience, children fighting over who helps next, patience, children insisting they handle the holly then screaming when a serrated leaf pierces their skin, patience....I was glad this was Martin's craft and
not mine! He is very patient.

Our Christmas tree baubles were up half a day when they were, apparently, taken by nobody and spirited away to where I can't find them, and yet the girls dashed into the house and brought out some of the smaller ones for the wreath. We were all delighted with the finished product even if Sadie was worried that callers wouldn't be able to see the door-knocker....She must think people call here all the time without giving any prior notice, that never happens.

Martin insists each year on getting a little box of chocolates for each of my siblings at Christmas but I'm starting to think I should suggest to him he make them wreaths instead, I think he did a super job. Between us we may have a lot of homegrown and homemade gifts to offer....and if my plants come to nothing everyone will be getting wreaths!


  1. Wow - so impressed with the wreath - it's gorgeous! I remember being able to make them in school, but it's a long, long time since I tried anything like that. Lovely.

    1. Thank you, I'll pass it on to Martin. I remember doing them in school too...just about! I don't know how he managed it with the 'helpers', I would never undertake something like that without a lot of prep. before letting them join in!!

  2. That wreath is fabulous, I really must make the time to learn how to make them and love the roses pic - I remember posting a photo about September and calling it 'the last rose of summer'. Little did I know!

    1. I know, it's been unbelievably mild, not that I'm complaining! I'll bet your last rose of summer could have been the last rose of autumn and winter too! I must also learn this wreath art and the art of supreme patience, it was definitely not a craft for me or indeed my nerves.

  3. Hi there, just wanted to say I loved your poem on Christmas memories. Couldn't find a place to reply so found you here!

    "How lucky will we be if old age befalls our stars"

    Indeed :-)

    1. Thank you so much! You're so kind to go to this effort. I loved your post too. I don't have comments enabled on The Irish Rhymes because I often can't finish a poem but I hit Publish anyway because I find the act of publishing does something to my mind and the lines come to me! So, I get to do it while no-one's looking!!!! I really appreciate your comment. xx

  4. I really think a plant is just the nicest present: what a great idea. I have lots of roses I want to propogate this year, I really must just *do it*! The wreath is really, really lovely. Fergal is the wreath-maker in our house too... Also patience of a saint!! (Btw, the poem is absolutely lovely, ah do enable comments!)

  5. Thanks Emily, you *must* get those roses done, they'll be fabulous and yes, great presents. I don't know where Martin mustered the patience from, my nerves were frayed just listening in! I'll pass on your compliments. Thanks re the poem, no way to comments being enabled though!