Another very blustery day in February

Ypsilandra thibetica

Ypsilandra thibetica

I’m already behind on weeding and tidying the beds, last weekend I had had enough of turning earth, and weeding and last minute plant upheavals. All 3 Cornus Midwinter Fire have gone on the move recently having outgrown an allotted space. That space now needs further fettling but the ground is too wet.

Having been down and dirty last weekend I did wonder about why we call…

Earth | Soil | Compost | Mold | Mud and in the US, Dirt. Dirt has always struck me as rather a dismissive word for something so vital to gardeners. But then I started looking up the derivations of our words and some do come from the excrement end of things.

  • Earth – Germanic origin into old English eorthe also meaning land or place.
  • Soil – latin solum to French soille specifically miry ground and also generally meaning land or place (but has dirty connotations soiled goods, etc.)
  • Compost – latin composita to Middle English from French.
  • Mold – loose earth, Germanic/Norse/Dutch (molde warp = mole).
  • Mud – probably Germanic, first used in the 14C (used to mean lowest of the low by the 1580’s).
  • Dirt – 13C Drit meaning mud or dung from norse Drit = shit (Dritt in modern Norwegian). So US gardeners are ‘paying homage’ to Old Norse!
  • Ground – Germanic into Old Norse, grund is a grassy field, the suggestion is the word stems from to grow which goes back to proto german. In the UK ‘grow’ as a word came to replace Old English Weaxen also germanic as in the waxing or growing/increasing moon which is mostly how we’d use it today (or waxing lyrical!).

Source mainly  Etymology dictionary

So there we have it, mainly digging deep with our Anglo-Saxon and Norse forbears (dig may have come from old german, ditch). I can ponder on all this as I work away with my hand fork or slice into the ground to plant over the coming weeks.

Don’t throw me in the briar patch

And this morning I’d had quite enough of brambles as we cleared a side of the 1 acre parish field.

One has to admire their will to win, great arcs of thick, dark green slightly ribbed sprawling growth forming mats in the host hedgerow trees. Sneaky small prickled thinner stems, tip rooting as they snake under last year’s mats and tumps of frost deadened annual grass. Some could be easily wrested from the ground, a tight explosion of white roots anchoring the next new plant, ready to keep on a relentless march across the field. Others remained stubbornly rooted, and although razed will live another day.

A couple of weeks ago I was amazed at how quickly a sheep can get totally stuck and unable to extricate itself from only one or two brambly tentacles anchored lightly but firmly in their wool as they browsed the winter battered bramble leaves.

This was our last day to do the hedging before it’s officially nesting season and the birds get the hedgerow to themselves.

And we need some brambles, they gave me blackberries last year for jam, insects and butterflies love the flowers and I watched Bullfinches a few weeks ago eating the seeds, the ghosts of the berries all flesh long gone. This will mean bramble seedlings in beds and borders, another sneaky colonising strategy!

Their race is nearly done

For another year. Daffodils are picking up the baton from the galanthus, the white of February gives way to the yellows of March. Brenda Troyle, (pictured) has much larger flowers than your normal every-day snowdrop and seems to be steadily and happily increasing.

Bye late winter – hello early spring!

Galanthus Brenda Troyle


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Going to be busy seed sowing soon

Hardy Plant Society and Baker Creek Seeds

Hardy Plant Society seeds arrived today, I’m most grateful to the people who take the time to gather the seed and those who then facilitate the distribution.

It seems that many plant societies and gardening clubs are experiencing dwindling memberships. Our local village garden club appears to have folded as no-one has stepped forward as chairman, (Hey I’m not a joiner – OK?) which is one of the reasons for the decline I guess, nor are others – and perhaps I should? Continue reading

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frost world

Digitalis parviflora seedhead

Today at 10:43AM the temperature is -2C but rising. The sun is beginning to clear corners of fields, green re-emerging from the glaze of white, drips patter down lightly as the frost melts. The Snow Queen is banished where the sun touches.

Currently two squirrels (grey), chaffinch, greenfinch, bullfinch and blackbirds are under the bird feeder, there is incessant to-ing and fro-ing from the feeder filled with sunflower seeds, primarily by Great Tits and some Blue Tits with an occasional intervention from robins. One squirrel is a great burier so I have a feeling there will be sunflowers emerging in random places when the time comes. Continue reading

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The shortest day 2016

Cyclamen coum flowering in December

Cyclamen coum album

Typical run-up to Christmas weather, relatively warm, damp, often grey. Our village is living up to its squelchy name, particularly the green and the parish field.

Today shafts of midday sun cut through elder and hawthorn trunks along the by-way. The low light shimmered off gently clattering mature ivy leaves fanned by the light breeze; glanced along the sturdy mid green blades of Hart’s Tongue Ferns and highlighted the broken and yellowed fronds of the now sleeping Male Ferns. To me, some evergreens look stronger and healthier now than in high summer. Continue reading

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Molde warp


The earthmover has been working under the carpet of apple tree leaves and fallen apples. Around this apple tree the turf is totally rucked and rumpled by the handprint-like pink paddles of the mole. I presume flooding (the first of the 2016/2017 winter season) in the lower part of the garden earlier in the week has also concentrated activity. Continue reading

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Frost stops play

Frost got the dahlias

So typical of English weather, I could feel the frost nipping at my wellies as I tried to extract a sheep with its head stuck in the field fence in the dark on Wednesday night. Then 2 days later rain, everything soggy and miserable.

So that’s farewell to the dahlias for this year, Salvia Guanajuato which had so much going for it on Monday, and some fuchsias. Farewell forever to this year’s heliotropes, Solanum rantonetti and nasturtiums. Colquhounia frazzed, survival will depend on the severity of this winter. Banana nipped and will need digging up, chopping back and overwintering just frost free. Ricinus still standing but I’ve felled it today anyway to let more light in.

Bit sad to hack down the huge water-filled stems of Dahlia imperialis, not looking forward to digging that up, each summer it puts on more nuggets of tubers and the whole lump gets heavier every year.

Like others on Twitter today, I’m glad I anticipated the frost and picked the last of the dahlia flowers on Monday including Rip City, Chee, Karma Choc and Sam Hopkins.

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Last day of October

Salvia Guanajuato

Salvia Guanajuato with bee bum

After a foggy start this morning the sun is out, although there is a faint mistiness as I look across the field. It’s 16C mid afternoon. A huge streamer of spider’s web metres long gilded by the sun glides slowly westwards.  The tick and rattle of falling leaves is loud in the stillness, the ash and chestnut are nearly all done with shedding.

On the wing

An intermittent chack of jackdaws watching the chicken run for food and occasional burst of rook banter livens up the soundscape.  In amongst this the insistent calls of Long Tailed Tits and short bursts of Great Tit ratatat. Earlier the plaintive cry of a swirling Buzzard.

I’m waiting for the Fieldfares to turn up and feast on the fallen cooking apples (the fat Bramleys create a bit of aural drama as they clatter through the branches and thump to the ground). Continue reading

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It’s all over now


The final night flowerer attempting to open on a cold October evening, this is as far as Ipomea Bona Nox got, sadly it didn’t have the energy to fully open. It may look a lot like your common or garden pestilential convolvulvus at first glance but isn’t. It’s been in the greenhouse since May, slowly building up its buds but it’s too late in the year now. Perhaps we’ll have a better summer next year. Continue reading

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West Dean Gardens – hot house delights

West Dean Gardens GlasshouseI have been to West Dean Gardens in Sussex before but a long while ago and I didn’t remember the glasshouses or cutting garden particularly. This Monday the sun shone, the greenhouses stood to attention, neat and tidy, spic and span. There’s obviously care and pride at work here.

Glasshouses were filled with an abundance of tender bedding plants, the Cuphea ‘Tiny Mice’ in particular absolutely humming with bees. Continue reading

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Not so gladdy


This rogue gladdy appeared in a batch of Mirella

I’ve developed a soft spot for gladioli over the years, both for exuberance and for their later summer flowering, but they can be somewhat trying for a mere amateur! The tawny bed is home to two primulinus hybrids bought years ago from Bob Brown, Hastings and Mrs M Rowley. Hastings, a sandy orange is increasing nicely, Mrs M Rowley is a rich claret but less floriferous. Being primulinus they are small flowered and therefore less vulnerable to wind and rain. They also fit better generally into a ‘soft’ herbaceous planting. Continue reading

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