The Heavenly Pet Show

Hands in the air, who needs cheering up? I thought as much, me too. Shall we indulge ourselves?

Welcome to The Heavenly Pet Show. It is heavenly, not because they are all in heaven, although admittedly several are, it is heavenly because it is my show and I make the rules. And of course they are all supremely heavenly creatures. Over the years, many of my clients have had canine and feline friends who have “helped” me do my job and given me great joy in the process. In fact having an animal distraction is a plus point, big tick, gold star, during the interview. Wouldn’t it be great to get them all together and indulge in a little virtual Crufts/Catty Equivalent? Yes, let’s do it. I have no favourites, I loved and love them all the same, but that is not to say they were similar.

First we have the wonder that was Josh. Now sadly passed over to the beach in the sky, he was a champion in many disciplines including making friends with burglars and deer alike, giving his ball to other dogs and running away from cats. He was a self confessed beta male. Most days he would sneak away from home and visit me for morning garden tours and stray stick collection. Moments that will grace my days ’til the memories fade. He won best in show at the Dog’s Trust Show even though he was up against a puppy and a 3-legged staffie. That’s how good he was.

The first cat in the parade is the wonderful, King of the Withering Look, Wills. He was the proud owner of Lord and Lady Mantle. He would occasionally deign to allow me to get quite close and even to stroke him on high days and holidays. Crunching mice a few meters away from where I was working was a specialty.

Next, Bobby, another who has passed over. She was an escape artist, chicken watcher, cucumber thief and the most adorable of girls. Never have I been greeted in such an exuberant manner, flying through the air, running crazy garden circles then sticking her head through the gate in glee. I started my working day with a broad smile and a bolstered heart. Happiness in doggy form.

Max was very special to me and we spent many hours together gardening and chasing seagulls. I’ll leave it to you to pick who did what. Champion of all things stick, back rolling and tail wagging.

Pickle might be the smallest of the pack, but what she lacks in size she more than makes up for in personality. A joy indeed. Her specialities include tennis balls, which she never gives up voluntarily, and porridge.

The first time I saw Zeus he was lying behind the glass front door of his human’s house. I rang the door bell and he sat looking at me, he didn’t move, he didn’t make a sound. “Shouldn’t you be telling someone I’m here?” I eventually asked. His eyes replied “But I’m busy watching you.” It conspired that he is, as in all the best fairytales, a gentle giant, fond of a wrestle and barging you out of the way.

We cannot forget Buster. As I arrived at work, he would be watching me out of the window. I would wave gleefully. He would ignore me. He was a gem. I pursued him relentlessly for photo opportunities. Sometimes he had to hide under big green bags. He was The Prof’s faithful sidekick. He is greatly missed.

So there we have it, a few of my furry friends. There are more to come. Did I tell you about the alpacas ……….?

Six on Saturday – The Spring Feeling

After a flash-in-the-pan snow incident, I am left elated and feeling like I dodged a bullet. I went to bed with a white garden, I woke with it all seeming like a chilly dream. The other side of this polar blip is that I am feeling the spring vibe. This optimism has yet to manifest itself visually, so nothing vernal to share that hasn’t been shown already. It is more of a feeling. I have had a good day in the garden. I could Strictly Come Dancing style pretend that I’m talking about yesterday, but when questioned further I would blush and it would be all too apparent that I was telling porkies. Today (not Saturday) I culled more lawn in my quest to create a better border to grass ratio (the resultant photo: bare earth). I’ve sown seed (photo: bare compost). I’ve potted up dahlias (photo: bare compost with a desiccated stalk). I’ve done my best for you, which is exactly what I am sure is happening over at Jim’s where the rest of the SoSer hang out. Shall we get on with it?

We are beginning to see who are the Softy Walters are who are the Denis the Menaces. You can be strong and beautiful too. This is proven by Lamium ‘Silver Beacon’.

Hemerocallis ‘Lois Burns’ is an another stalwart and last summer it thrilled me with large yellow blooms. Daylilies were must-have in my new garden and Lois was purchased (with a couple of others, it is illegal to buy them singly) from the wonderful Pollie’s Daylilys. Please be warned that if you enter this website you are unlikely to emerge undaylilied.

I was under the impression that Rudbeckia ‘Sahara’ was an annual. It appears not.

The day before yesterday these nigella seedlings were under a couple of centimetres of snow. I had spotted them just before the weather changed and I worried about their safety, telling myself there would be other seed in the ground to take their place if necessary. There was no need for concern.

Copromosa repens ‘Pacific Sunset’ is holding on by its finger nails. Pray for its recovery.

Finally, the Polemonium ‘Purple Rain’ seems to have weathered various storms and the new foliage is looking splendid. These will have to be moved in a week or two as, due to my expansion, they are no longer at the front of the border. I hope they don’t mind.

I know that some of you will be experiencing a lot worse weather than we have had here, please stay safe. As I finish this post (really Saturday) there are a couple of snowflakes meandering towards the ground. It isn’t over just yet. No need to fear, I haven’t lost The Spring Feeling, it is a state of mind not a weather forecast.

Snow Business

After a balmy day at The Prof’s yesterday, scoffing at the Met Office weather warning, I awoke to quite a different morning. Snow! And, although not serious enough to send in the St Bernards, it was severe enough to halt any outdoor adventures for the day and for masoor dhal to be made. I’m not sure these things go together in other peoples’ worlds, but they do in mine. Inclement weather equals cooking curry. Sometimes bread but mainly curry.

I did venture into the garden to take a couple of pictures and check on the greenhouse. However old I get, and I am getting on a bit, I am always charmed by a gleaming, fresh snowfall. It is the “after ” bit that does not impress me; the slush, the sodden earth, the crumpled plants that had stuck their head above the parapet in a bid for spring and have been found to be a little premature. As it is March, I don’t think we can judge this enthusiasm too harshly.

There are, however, those who are in the right place at the right time. The Tete a Tete’s are nonchalant and the violas not bothered in the slightest, but I was particularly impressed by the oblivious crocus flowers.

Six on Saturday – It is what it is

Are we there yet? It seems not quite. It has turned cold again, with threat of frosts and attendant late afternoon greenhouse swaddling. Of course this is how it should be. It is February and even the most season-swindling of us all must admit that, any way you look at it, it is still winter. I hold my hands up, I am as guilty as the worst of wishing my days away, dreaming of spring. Winter can be good too (I tell myself). It can (I tell myself, again). I cannot promise wall to wall winter on cat herder Jim’s site, which is where the other SoSers hang out, some are just contemplating autumn, but I can assure you there will be garden joy. Shall we make merry?

We have been very lucky to have had two visits from Torrington Tina in as many months. This time she brought another present and the adorable Milly dog with her, a gift in herself. The “It is what it is” sign has not found its final place in the garden yet, it may move around forever, however the mood takes me. I love it. Oh, and there are also a few seasonal things doing their seasonal thing.

Next we have part of my Dust to Dust art installation. This is the remains of a frost shattered, elephant pot foot, slowly being laminated by the weather and engulfed by Achillea ‘Cerise Queen’. This achillea is definitely an empire building monarch, a little culling will be in order before the new season gets going. She will have to learn to play nicely.

I am not a galanthophile, neither am I a galanthophobe. I am, however, a covetous kinda gal and when I saw everyones’ recent snowdrop acquisitions I wanted a piece of the action. On a recent rest stop, breaking up a long journey Cornwall bound, which coincidently happened to be at a garden centre, I picked up Galanthus elwesii ‘Beluga’. I am very fond of whales.

Unless you are here under the misapprehension that this is an abseiling site, I am presuming that most of you are gardeners of some persuasion. This being the case, I am quite sure you will understand the concept of wondering if you actually did plant the daffodils (admittedly rather late) and appreciate the moment that the compost begins to crack open and reignite the faith that indeed something lurks beneath.

The violas have done rather well this year, they haven’t had their usual flowering hiatus, which lasts from a week after planting until a week before the bedding needs to go in. This year I poked a mixed bag of crocus amongst them. The result, although a little ragged, has made me very happy.

Finally, another new member of the clan. This is Rhododendron ‘Graziella’, spotted on a leg-stretching wander around the above mentioned garden centre. I was particularly attracted to the foliage and flower buds and when a gallant young (at heart) gentleman offered to buy it for me, well, it would have been rude to decline.

That is your lot for this week. Stay well and be happy, ’til next time.


Last week we had a condensed-family holiday in Cornwall. Unfortunately, The Cloggies couldn’t make it and they were missed. In spite of this, it was a wonderful few days away.

There were hypnotic sea views and brave/foolish surfers to entertain us. There was frosty sand and nurturing sunshine. There were fish and chips. There was a 1,000 piece jigsaw and a scarily giant jenga. There were beach walks and town wanders. There was a floorboard-sliding grandma and a chair-crumbling niece-in-law (baby due early April), both events executed with elegance and luckily quite safety. There were full moons and sunset skies. There was a rock pool paddling Maggie dog and a cliff climbing fox. There were slightly dubious magic tricks and a secret pool room. There were, of course, pasties and also a wonderfully bizarre tapas restaurant. There was chat and banter and laughter.

It was great. Thank you.

Six on Saturday – Mizzle

Today’s SoS photos are not what I would like them to be. Firstly, I was going to show you the results of my gardening efforts. Secondly, all shots were to be in focus. What demon thwarted my good intentions, who was my nemesis? Mizzle, that’s what. The grand scheme was to spend the morning potting up and planting out a few new purchases and them show them off with a dramatic waft of my hand. The reality is that I dashed out into the gloom, swiftly snapped some under par pictures and then dashed back in again. I’m going soft in my middle age. Still, I’ve showed up to the party and, although not dressed in my finest attire, I’m determined to make the best of it. Gentleman Jim over at Garden Ruminations will, I’m sure, have been less of a wimp than I, along with the other SoSers that frequent his site on a Saturday. Excuses over with, let us proceed.

First, an unidentified cyclamen in a pot. There seem to be an increasing amount of plants in the garden that are “unidentified”. Is this kicking against the machine, an accelerated sense of apathy or the fact they were unnamed when they first arrived? To be honest, I am not sure.

A trip out to the garden centre with a certain Professor resulted in me buying two camellia and an azalea all for £10. They are unnamed. Here we go again. One of today’s jobs was to pot them up. Use your imagination.

I’ve always wanted to grow Eranthis hyemalis, winter aconites. I found a posh pot in a posh supermarket and was unable to resist such poshdom. They are soon to be planted under the pear tree. It is on the list.

This little viola took things into its own hands and sowed itself into the pot of Camellia ‘Lady Campbell’. Her Ladyship seems reluctant to flower this year; it is as well someone is making an effort.

Next we have a euphorbia seedling donated by The Prof, well I’m pretty sure he donated it. As you can see, a blurry little friend is nestled in the dusky foliage, attempting to blend in. Back to camouflage school for you, young fella! I’m afraid he will be easy pickings for our resident robin.

Just the other day I was singing the praises of Photinia ‘Pink Marbles’ to the marvellous Mrs Bun. All summer it was swamped by salvia and dahlia alike. Is it bothered? Not in the slightest. It deserves more love and a better position. The list is getting longer.

All done for another week. The beginning is in sight. ‘Til next time, keep the faith.

Nose to the Grindstone

Yesterday was my first day back to work after my annual winter sabbatical*. After the daunting reality of an unaccustomed early start, the shock to my system was minimal. The Prof and I’s first job was to visit a garden centre, a splendid way to begin my gardening year. There was also lots of coffee, some chat, a hot pasty and I sowed some sweet peas. All, once more, was well with the world.

Today, on my second day, the sun shone and I remembered all the good things about being a gardener. And there were donkeys. I mean, seriously, it would be hard to beat that.

* Mainly spent finishing off the Christmas chocolate and gin.

Six on Saturday

We have reached the last SoS in January and, at the risk of wishing my life away, I’m not sorry to see February on the horizon. We’ve still a long way to go before balmy days but I am feeling horticulturally positive this week, as if we have turned a corner. There is no rhyme or reason for this lifting of spirits, except perhaps the arrival of a flurry of long tailed tits into the garden. If you would like to delve deeper into the Cult of the Sixonsaturdayers then our curator, Jim will show you the light. Be careful though, don’t step too close to the flame or you will be trapped for ever, like the rest of us moths. Shall we shake a leg?

First we have a sarcococca, species unknown to me, which is a seedling from Mr and Mrs Bun’s old house in North Devon. After last week’s SoS, when Hortus B mentioned these fragrant winter flowerers enjoy dry shade, I realised I had just the place for it, under the pear tree. Which is exactly where is now is. Still in its pot, but we have progress.

On Thursday I emptied the compost bin, sorted through the contents and spread all that passed the strict criteria onto the borders. The bin was packed with brandling worms, always a joyful sign, and I dashed about rescuing all those that escaped and returning them to the dark comfort of their home. The blackbirds have been having fun, throwing the composting into the air like confetti, searching for those I missed.

I bought my garlic late and I planted it even later, it is Thermidrone. I have heard that it needs cold temperatures to enable it to split into separate cloves. It has certainly had that. Generally I am disappointed by my garlic growing, but each year I remain optimistic with a hint of the inevitable.

I sowed this lamb’s lettuce, also known as corn salad, in the autumn. It was slow to germinate but has admirably shrugged off the cold. I haven’t harvested any yet, except the odd passing nibble, which was delicious.

OH loves his aspidestra. In our former (much bigger) house they were everywhere. As we don’t have room inside, after giving lots away, the rest have had to take their chances in the wild. Not a quiver.

A few weeks ago we were delighted to be visited by none other than Torrington Tina. She ate a whole layer of our tin of Christmas biscuits. We didn’t mind because she is such good company and also brought this wonderful Echeveria lilicina as a gift. Lovely.

All done, next time it will be February!

Six on Saturday – Cool

Deluge, freeze, deluge, freeze, deluge, freeze: what an interesting winter we are having. For the last couple of weeks it has been a mainly monochrome affair, dank and dreary, but the recent frosts have been accompanied by blue skies. Unfortunately, the sun barely touches down in our garden at the moment, just a tantalising glance which will lengthen slowly. Looking up is the best solution to the gloom. Pop over to our Memester Jim’s website to see what the rest of the SoS gang are up to, you won’t be disappointed.

First we have rimy cyclamen leaves; same old, same old. To be honest, I’m over the pretty frost now. Unfortunately, I have no say on the weather, so I am going to have to be a brave little soldier.

Has anyone seen the film Rumblefish? It is all in black and white except for the titular fish which are in full colour. This bow-headed viola reminded me of the Siamese Fighting Fish that add a little zing in an otherwise dull world.

Our dragon, blessed by the feeding birds, is guarding the pots of snowdrop, just about to spread their glorious petals. Maybe by next week.

In March I am attending a photography day course. The title is Abstract Photography. I do not know what to expect, but this picture of fleece and greenhouse might well fit the bill.

It is nearing the time when I must seriously think about cutting back and tidying the mush that makes up most of the garden. This Verbena bonariensis flower head, or is it now a seed head?, has neither succumbed to wet or cold. It can stay a while longer.

Finally, a little bit of hope on the horizon. Our kernal-grown peach tree, the one that tempted us with a twin fruitlet last year only to cruelly break out hearts, is forming some lovely plump buds. Cinnamon stems, cerulean sky, ivory buds, I’d call that technicolour.

That is your lot. Stay warm, wet, dry, whichever is appropriate. But always stay cool.

Six on Saturday – Trying

It would be easy for me to dismiss 2022 with a dismissive brush of the hand and no turn of the head. For many this has been a challenging year and when this new one comes along we are all hopeful for change. However, I have a niggling fear, somewhere just left of my spleen, that it could get worse. 2023 could make us wish for the relatively happy days of 2022. We must be very careful. Love the one you’re with, better the devil you know, the grass is not always greener on the other side, that sort of thing. Perhaps my resolution should be to live more in the moment and worry less. I’m definitely going to try. If you wish to peruse other SoSer’s end of year gardens, then pop over to Garden Ruminations and peruse away. Let’s go!

Who is this shining their bright light amongst the dead and dying? It is the white scabious, the one that knows no fear, the one that appeared as if by magic, the one that cocks a snook at winter and its weapons. Be more scabious.

Onto the poor dear Tibouchina urvilleana, caught out in the cold and frozen on the brink of glory. This time I doubt it will recover. I am a murderer.

Whilst on some non-gardening outdoor mission, perhaps feeding the piranhas (as I have come to know the local sparrow population), I noticed that the Iris reticulata were coming up. As I picked up the pot it fell into two parts. Determined not to have to deal with emergent bulbs in need of a new home, and aware that the hungry hoards were ominously gathering, I quickly tied some string around it. “Return to implement a more permanent solution” was added to the itinerary. This item is yet to be crossed off. Invisible mending a speciality.

The Ribes sanguineum ‘King Edward’ has steadfastly refused to let go of his few remaining leaves, even though we have had, as our insurance company quoted “storm force winds”. I will not go there. My fingers are in my ears and I am chanting “the roof is not leaking, the roof is not leaking” until 2023 sorts it all out.

The frosts bowed these broad beans to the ground and I wondered at my sense in early sowing. They have popped back up like weebles. Whether or not the flowers are still viable, or indeed if anyone is in town to pollinate them, is another matter.

Finally, the Pyrus ‘Chanticleer’ has eventually dropped its full load onto the garden, and perhaps a little onto the plastic grass next door. I raked up the majority from the lawn and bagged them. The rest are waiting for worm and weather to do their magic. Delegation. The beautiful Helleborus x hybridus ‘Anna’s Red’ rises from the golden leaves, it is nearly her time.

That is your lot. Another year complete. Our SoS community has had some changes but remains as supportive and informative as always. Happy New Year my friends, I wish us all good things and for us all to do good things. I’m going to try my best.