The Soft Egg


I know it’s Spring because all of a sudden I don’t know which way is up. Both regular work and The English Gardener have been crazy busy which is great, but tiring. But I managed to accumulate a good few photos of what I’ve been up to.

I finally managed to finish a raised vegetable garden I’ve been constructing that was on hold due to the snow .

I am really pleased with how it came out and even made a few modifications to it that I wished I’d done on my own original beds.

I got the soil mix from Panorama Paydirt. Excellent stuff. I got it just after it had rained though and I was warned that it would be wet and sticky. Truer words were never spoken. It almost killed me shoveling that stuff. But the end result is an instant bed, ready to go.

Spring has finally arrived, as I said, and my garden is looking really good. Not through anything I’ve done I might add, but through the shear numbers of spring blooming plants that all were doing their thing at once.

This pic shows how well that magnolias have done this year. They got a light zap from the frost the other night but they held on to their flowers under the top most parts and have looked great for days. Usually we get two or three days worth and then they are toast! You can just make out the brown ones right at the top in this next photo.

Plants seem to be coming back from the snow damage ok, if a little misshapen. My Acer that I was so peeved about, is actually sprouting new leaves and I think I might just keep it and see what happens this year. If it comes into full leaf and looks totally stupid I’ll see if I can transplant it. But not until winter, I don’t want to kill it outright!

So, this weekend we actually put our hands in our pockets and shelled out for some mulch. We did it about 3 years ago and really just haven’t got round to it the last couple of years. I like mulch, but I kind of think it’s a bit like “garden wallpaper”, you can cover up a multitude of sins with it. The new bed we created the year before last though, was crying out for something and, as that side of the property had the old cemetery on it, (Yes, they did move the bodies as well as the head stones, Carrie Anne!)  a lot of gravel and junk kept rising to the surface,no matter what we did, hence the mulch. Double shredded hardwood from Snows. I’m happy with it. I don’t want to go too heavy with it though as I’ve experienced fungus problems with many mulches, and that weird dog -vomit slime mold thing I mentioned last year, will appear in the next few weeks.

Another good thing to do whilst you’re doing the mulching is to re-edge the beds to retain said mulch! Good edges make a lawn/ bed margin so much tidier and are pretty easy to maintain once you’ve done it a couple of times. First, get a half moon edger and cut STRAIGHT DOWN. Flip the sod onto the bed and knock it into crumbles if you can. Repeat until completed. Ta da. “English Edges” I believe they are called over here. To maintain them, purchase a pair of edging shears ( and snip the grass back or, do what the landscape crews do here, and flip your string trimmer or “Strimmer” on edge and slice the grass away. Either works. I prefer the gentler, English way, but that because I’m English, see. I get the “help” to do mine nowadays….

A busy weekend by all really. ” Fig” helped a bit.

And the chickens earned their keep…

That’s my grubby hand holding the creepy, soft, lightly frosted, egg of legend. I’m not sure why this happens. I think it might the second egg from one of the girls and so the calcium in her system is depleted.  Weird.

It got chucked in the hedge, needless to say!

Cheerio for now.



April 8, 2010 at 6:21 pm Leave a comment


I know Spring is coming as I’m sneezing and my eyes itched last night.

Driving along, you can see the red fuzz of the maple flowers; the deep red cast of the redbuds twigs getting heavy with imminent flowers and the dogwoods dotted with their own fattening buds.

I love this time of year. So much potential with the new shoots and soft, moist ground. Especially this year after such a long and brutal winter. It’s such a relief to actually see nature kicking into gear. The Daphne by the front door survived being crushed by the snow. I thought they were done for but the masses of flower buds opened up this afternoon and smell divine.

My deciduous Magnolias are getting ready to flower again. They look so good for about 2 days, then we inevitably get a frost which zaps the huge petals turning them brown. Not to worry, they look so good for that short time and you know there’s more stuff to come.

The quince is also looking pinkish with its own buds getting big and fat.

Actually that’s a good plant for cutting and bringing in the house at this time of year along with Forsythia, and willow to name a couple. We have the old-timey coraly/ salmon colour in the garden and once cut and brought inside, it becomes the coolest apple- blossom pink.

The Hellebores emerged from the snow fairly unharmed except for the old leaves which you can prune off now anyway.

I’ve covered the veg plots with plastic to get the soil warmed up for spring sowing again. The shallots and garlic are under the first bed where we had tomatoes last year. They are still alive and look pretty good if not a bit crumpled!

I think I’ll make this bed root crops this year and the toms will go over to the front right bed.

I’ve got a new product I want to try from the Organica company. “Plant Booster” or something. I’ll get the name and let you know. They have big claims about increased yields and better this and that so I got free pot (from the rep)and I’m going to give it a whirl and see how it  performs.

Can’t wait for more itchy eyes coming soon.


March 12, 2010 at 10:51 pm Leave a comment

Spot of Green

Good morning,

It’s jazz night on a Monday night at the place I usually post my blog, so I’ve changed and am in my kitchen

I can take a lot, but jazz? er no!

So I begin this post to you from my home on a Wednesday morning, cup of tea at my side, and look out of the window at the monochromatic vista before me and think, this weather is getting so boring. I need to be out there sorting things out for the spring.

Whatever. Until it thaws, one thing a lot of people are doing is loading up with houseplants. This time of year, once the holidays are over and the house has been returned to normal the need for green is pretty high on the list.

The poinsettias, amaryllis and cyclamen might still be holding on but you can also get forced and potted spring bulbs in the garden centres now. Hyacinths, daffodils and tulips are the usual. But more permanent plants like palms, peace lily, even begonias can brighten an old lady’s windowsill (!)

If you want to splash out a bit and go for a challenge then try some of the orchids out there for sale. I say “challenge” but really, orchids aren’t that hard. Most of the ones you’ll get offered are Phalaenopsis and maybe a few Cymbidiums and Cattleya.

“Phals” are the Moth Orchids. How I have mine: in a small saucer placed on pebbles in a larger saucer. The pebbles are then kept just covered with water to keep up the humidity around the plant, then every 10-14 days I water the orchid itself and let the water run out through the bottom and  then tip that away. Moth orchids are epiphytes, which means they grow above the ground on tree branches, fallen logs etc. They don’t need to have their roots permanently in soil or consistently moist, as they will rot. Cause of death #1. And, they like dappled light, as if they were in a tree canopy,  and humidity, hence the wet pebbles, and bingo.

Once it’s flowered, let it rest with just its leaves for a bout about 2-3 weeks and then you can feed at 1/4 solution houseplant or orchid food every 2nd watering and you should get it going again after a little while.

There are plenty of choices to be had and grown quite successfully so until you can get out and really get busy in the garden, do some interior landscaping and make yourself feel better.

Ending this post from the front seat of the car- sitting in a parking lot- waiting to eat on a Saturday night. Took me long enough!

February 20, 2010 at 10:50 pm Leave a comment

O.K Thanks Very Much, But I’m Done Now!

Yes, Winter can just move along now. It snowed on Tuesday, melted a bit on Wednesday and Thursday only to seriously dump on us late Thursday night and Friday morning, oh and Saturday too. We got about 16″, I think. But to be honest, I don’t care anymore. I’m done with it all.

I mentioned on a previous post about clearing the snow off your shrubs, especially the evergreen ones. Well do it, and do it now, tonight , before it freezes on and breaks branches again.

I did it this time like a total Nazi, about 5 times during the storm. Gardening around here is so tough anyway that it’s really disheartening to finally get some thing to thrive only to have it trashed overnight.

O.k, that’s from last time but you get the idea.

Enough about the snow, hopefully you got some seed catalogues in the mail and now is a great time to start planning for the new beds or veg plots. Think about flowering times, colours, heights, and how it all works together throughout the season so that there is always something of interest going on. With the vegetables, I think the hardest thing is co-ordinate seed sowing indoors for early crops with direct sowing and then getting successional sowings done so that you don’t have a glut of produce one week and are starving the next.Try and get that figured out and you’re golden. You might want to think about sharing excess plants with your neighbours or even selling them at yard sales (or car boot sales as we call them over there.)

Pruning. Now is a good time to take some serious limbs off the trees and shrubs you are looking to reshape and rejuvinate, especially if the snow has taken down some branches too. Fruit trees would really benefit from this right now.

Winter is also the perfect time to overhaul your machinery. While the winter is still here now is a good time to sharpen and oil anything that cuts, and clean and do the usual winter maintenance on mowers and anything else gas powered. Don’t leave it until early Spring because you’ll run out of time and if you need someone to do it for you, you’ ll have a long time to wait while everyone else is having theirs done too.

A little something we created this weekend……Until next time folks……


February 8, 2010 at 11:51 pm Leave a comment

Deja vu

Good evening, you’ll be glad to know I’m back safe and sound from my English holiday. The weather was typically crappy although on the first weekend we did have sun.

This is the road to California….the original? I’m not sure, but at least it’s sunny……for now.

Anyway, the rest of the week was dull, but nice being home. I thought I would come back to a near Spring experience but this weekend we went shooting all the way back to Winter, bummer.

I was going to talk about getting a few perennials cut back, trimming trees and shrubs but I’ll think I’ll show you a picture of my Orchid that I managed to get to rebloom.

I haven’t really ever grown orchids before especially not Phalaenopsis which this might be. It seems the trick is not too much light, only water them once every 2 weeks or so, stand them on a saucer of pebbles and keep those moist to keep the humidity up. That’s all I’m doing and it seems to work. If I can do it, then…..

Seeds are starting to come in in the garden centres. Buy them but don’t do anything yet as it’s WAYYY too early. Indoors you can start them late this month but the light levels and day lengths are too short to do anything earlier unless you have grow lamps and if you have those, you already know what you’re doing and are way beyond my help. It is a good time though, to get your seed trays out, cleaned up, labels bought, and peat pots etc gathered up, so tht you are ready to go because you know once Spring gets here, time flies by and the weather gets too hot to do anything.

I was pretty good (anal) about getting out during the snow and brushing it off my evergreen stuff: boxwoods and holly, so that the branches don’t break. So many people have asked me how to repair stuff that is already beyond it, that the best thing is to get out there and brush off the snow while it’s still fluffy.

And that’s it, a bit of a non-starter this week due to the weather. Until next time…

February 2, 2010 at 12:08 am Leave a comment

Snow Damage and Other Issues

It’s still bitterly cold but now, at last we’re seeing some significant thawing of the snow……and the true scale of the damage it’s left behind. So, in our garden alone I have a bunch of little evergreen things like Hellebores, Skimmia, Azaleas, Sarcococca (Winter or Sweet box) that have just gotten flattened.

The snow started off light and fluffy then after it melted a bit then re-froze, the weight of it, after all this time snapped branches and flattened foliage. The little stuff, I’m not too worried about except the two Daphne odora that I’ve been nurturing for 2 years. The Hellebores will pop back up (I’m sure) and so will the other plants, but my Japanese Maple really took the brunt of the
damage. Flattened Hellebores

Japanese Maple with broken branches

With our maple, the branches snapped right off and there is a trail of sap weeping down the which will eventually stop as the tree begins to heal itself. The wounds are gnarly and could be open to infection but the best thing to do is leave them, I’m not using any commercial wound sealer as that can lead to trapping water or fungal spores in the cracks. The best thing is for the tree to take care of itself. That being said, I never liked it anyway so I might just dig it up and put a green leaved one there instead. In my opinion they have better Autumn colour anyway!!

I am getting people ask me what to do when the branch is still attached. They are thinking that by taping the branch to the trunk they can magically glue the two back together. Er, no. If the branch is almost all the way off, I suggest cutting it cleanly off at the branch/ bark ridge….(a crusty looking collar near the trunk at about a 45 degree angle), and letting the tree grow new branches. It might not be as gorgeous as it once was…..but it might be better too.

If the branch is only slightly damaged/ hanging off, you could try taping them together and allowing the wound to callous over. It’ll take a long time and will pretty much always be a weak point. You might as well cut it off and let it grow new branches. One of the features of a Japanese Maple is its unusual branching structure, if you don’t get that then you might as well try again…like mine… it looks like a walking stick.

My Loropetalum or Chinese Fringe Flower got a bit damaged but not enough for me to worry about. The picture shows a slight break and if your maple looks like this then it might be worth taping the branch or leaving it to callous over so it can still receive nutrients and water.

Talking of bad looking trees, it’s January, which means the city will be out butchering the trees around the shopping malls in town. I don’t know whether they contract that job out or if their own teams do it but it looks awful. I’ve already seen one of the malls with it’s stumpy crown pruning. I must get picture of that to show you, though you’ll see it yourselves soon enough.

It’s a bit too cold to stand out and prune much right now but if you want to, there are a few things that could be done. Fruit trees can take it a good formative pruning right now and many other deciduous trees and shrubs.

Broken branches on Loropetalum

If you didn’t trim things like Buddleia and Vitex in Autumn then you could give them a LIGHT trim now just to take off the excess weight so they don’t snap, (although they probably have after the snow!)

Er what else…. too cold to dig over the veg plot, I need cover the beds with plastic to melt the snow and ice then add compo. That’ll have to wait a bit….I’m off to the Mother land next week , What? English Gardener in England? Blood and Sand! I’ll blog from there with pics off some gorgeous place I visit.. Jealous?


January 10, 2010 at 9:45 pm Leave a comment

Frigid Landscaping

The garden is totally frozen solid and I haven’t been able to do anything in ages. I’m trying to install a new raised veg garden for a client and I can’t even see the area under the remaining frozen snow let alone get over there to work. Not to worry, it’s so cold I’m not sure I could stay out there long anyway.

So, traipsing around my own garden and veg plot is a mix of depressing and interesting too. This time, in previous years, I’ve been able to work outside clearing up the perennial garden, pruning down the grasses, turn over the veg plot generally have a good old clean up. But this year, I’m just left staring at it out the window! Some things are looking good though,as I said. After all the rain of 2009, my Winterberry hollies are looking great. (See pic…yes I have pics!)

The good one, again this year, is ‘Sparkleberry’ a female, pollinated by ‘Southern Gentleman’. ‘Winter Red’ performed well and gave me a tonne of berries but the birds have stripped it clean already.

I also still have carrots in the garden which of course I removed the snow to get to and have now expose them to the freezing temperatures we’ve had recently. I think I mentioned that I’d sowed some in August? Anyway, they did o.k and I’ve had actually better carrots than in Spring and Summer. So, that’s a success.
The good thing about all this snow and cold is that it should bode well for a slightly less buggy and fungoidal year ahead.


Carrots in the snow. Some good, some kinda crappy , like these.

My new year’s resolution is to actually blog a lot more, stick in photos and get this show really on the road. I hope this is a good start?!


January 4, 2010 at 10:41 pm Leave a comment

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