Six on Saturday – The Right Direction

February has arrived; the month of love, the last hurrah of winter, a time of increasing optimism.  In theory anyway.  The shortest of month of the year can sometimes seem the longest, plodding through to March which itself can be slow to reveal spring.  However, there are definite advances in the garden, subtle often, but all the same heading in the right direction.  Why don’t you take a look at what The Prop and all his acolytes are up to, I’m sure they will prove my point.

What better place to begin than my waterproof trousers on the washing line in the pouring rain.  I came across them when I was sorting my tools out earlier in the week.  They were very muddy and, taking full advantage of the dreadful weather, this was my cunning plan to wash them.  My very helpful OH pegged the legs up as they were caught on the pyracantha.  Could have sprung a leak.  Another disaster averted.

Next is Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’.  I think it might be a Six on Saturday law to feature a snowdrop before the winter is out.  Any SoSers out there yet to comply had better act quickly or risk the wrath of Mr P himself.

I was very pleased to find this Eschscholzia californica ‘Red Chief’ looking so healthy.  And yes, Mr T, I know you aren’t keen on these cultivar infiltrators.  Will you let me off with a foliage shot?  I’m very happy as it looks strong which bodes well for flowers in the nearish future.  I know that there is a long way to go, but a good base is always useful.

Now we have the monster that is Salvia gesneriiflora, just coming into flower.  It has almost taken over the Bed of Anarchy and bang on schedule is beginning to bloom.  Some culling will almost certainly be necessary.

Onto Iris reticulata, a great favourite of mine.  Sorry I don’t know which one it is.  Blame the labeller.

Lastly a bowed Calendula ‘Neon’, a survivor from last year, snuggling up to a phormium.  Always good to find a rogue having a go out of season.  Showing willing.  An example to us all.

All done, ’til next time!



I’ve been waiting for today.  It didn’t specifically have to be Wednesday 29 January 2020, just any day when in the Venn diagram of my life Willing Spirit and Blue Sky overlapped.  Today I have been sitting on the bench outside the back door, perched on my inflatable kneeling pad, coffee at my side, cleaning and sharpening my tools.  Because next week I return to work.

Readers of a certain age will understand when I remind them of plimsole whitener.  For those of you unacquainted I will enlighten you.  At the end of the school holidays our white gym shoes were painted with a proprietary rejuvenator, almost certainly purchased in Woolworths.  After application it hardened to a plaster of Paris finish which rendered any actual foot movement impossible for at least a week.  The first weeks of PE were marked by a rash of flat-footed waddling until enough cracks had formed to enable freedom.  This bizarre tradition was undertaken in order to brighten and freshen up and pretend your daps/pumps/trainers were new.  No one was ever fooled.  Still, just before return to classes, it was exactly what you or, if you were lucky, your mum did.

This was my equivalent.  I cleaned, oiled and sharpened, feeling righteous in the sunshine.  But I did not go overboard, it is very important to retain a patina.  I have learned from the whitening.  There is nothing as uncool as brand new shiny trainers.  The same goes for spotless tools.  Or is that an excuse for sloppy work?  Not at all.

And now it is done, forks and trowels, hori hori and pruning saw, mini mattock, border fork, lawn edger, pruners and of course the golden spade.  And five sets of secateurs.  Three of mine and two of OH.  I was on a roll.

Now I’m ready.  But perhaps not for anything.


Bideford Long Bridge in the morning sun.  All is calm.

A moment earlier I had been passed by an excitable crocodile of fluoresence as a stream of school kids walked past.  I heard one of them say, as they pointed to one of the moored boats, rusted and land-bound and in the process of slow refurbishment, “Is that the Titanic?”.  Unfortunately I didn’t get to hear the answer.

Ice Road Trucker

Don’t be my friend, it is dangerous.  I just can’t help but share.

This morning my phone rang, it was Hero.  Laughing.  What a nice surprise.  Although perhaps a little disturbing.  “I thought I’d ring and give you a giggle”,  “OK” I said, never one to turn down the opportunity for a chortle,  “I’m stuck”, “How, why, where and how again?”,  “I tried to get up the hill to the garden but started slipping backwards, so I thought I would carefully, and in full control of the car, reverse back down.  I ended up 1cm from Peter’s wall and I can’t go forward and I can’t go backwards and I’ve blocked the road”, “Oh dear”, more manic laughter, “I’m shaking”, “Do you need to go to the loo?”, “Well I didn’t until you mentioned it, I suppose at least it would melt the ice”.

Several years ago we were driving to work in similarly icy conditions and had ourselves an incident.  On that occasion we had a close encounter with a dry stone wall.  The day before I had filled a bucket with grit from the silo opposite the garden and used this to help us get out.  Let me mention two things at this juncture, first of all this is the only time I have knowingly done anything sensible, secondly you are not supposed to “half inch” this grit and if anyone reports me to the authorities I will deny it and this blog will spontaneously combust.  I suppose breaking the law isn’t very sensible.  Disregard the first.  But I had learned from this experience.

“Have you got any grit in the car?”, “No but I can see a container just up the hill and I think I’ve got a carrier bag somewhere, the problem is that it is too slippy to get out of the car.  Actually, if I walk up the narrow grass verge I might make it, I’ll call you back”, “If you fall over aim to land on your bottom”.  Always ready with a top tip.

Time passes. I imagine broken limbs, a severely bruised behind. My phone rings.

“I managed to get there and back, scattered the grit and now I’m waiting for the thaw”, “Shall we come over?”, “Then we will both be stuck”, “OK, shall I send a drone with a bacon butty for you”, “You could send a man in a helicopter to climb down a rope ladder”, “I’ll see if I can find his number, call me when you are free”.  I was left wondering if she wanted to be rescued by Helicopter Man or just have him deliver the sandwich.

Time passes.  I imagine a painfully swollen bladder.  I message her.

“I’m home now, some nice people who had been walking on the beach found me, the man managed to get the car out of its tricky predicament, all is well.”

Once more the kindness of strangers.  There is a lot of it about.

Later she popped around for a cup of tea and a couple of ginger nuts.  She seemed relatively unscathed.  Still laughing.

Six on Saturday – Return of the Sun

I am happy to report that this Six on Saturday is written with the sun in my heart and, more importantly, in my garden.  Yesterday, when I took these photographs, it was doing the usual, no need to dwell on that nonsense, that is the past.  Let us raise a cup of tea to the Return of the Sun.  Expect the mood to be optimistic and expectant of great futures.  Don’t forget to nip over to The Prop’s to find out what is happening in lots of other gardens.  If you are nosy like me this is a godsend, there is absolutely no chance of getting caught rummaging in someone’s herbaceous borders and being firmly asked to leave the premises or the local constabulary will be called forthwith.  Not that that has ever happened to me of course.

First of all we have a desiccated hydrangea flower.  In a few weeks these will be removed, giving space for the new growth to emerge and the cycle to continue.  It is worth keeping the heads on, both for protection of the vulnerable young foliage and for decorative purposes.  Even when soggy they look good.  I wish I would say the same for myself.

Next my bully-boy Narcissus ‘Tête-à-Tête’ who are exploding from the front planters at a rate of knots.  “I was here first!” they shout as they push the poor pansies out of the way, lifting great clods of composts as they rise triumphant.  I will not tolerate such behaviour, there is room for everyone.

Now the empty husks of hosta flowers.  These live in the front garden, in pots just by the front door so we can be ever vigilant in our war against the slimy ones.  They still get eaten.  Still, for a short while we will enjoy them intact and the flowers are rarely attacked.

On to Campanula poscharskyana, looking very washed out in this picture, which seeds itself in walls both front and back.  This piece is on the short pillar on the pavement.  This pillar is very important to the local dog population.  Messages are left here to be sniffed by the next passer-by which are then promptly replied to.  Doggie Post Office.

For many weeks I have thought that these hanging brown bats on the Begonia fuchsioides were the last of the flowers which had been caught in the light frost.  On closer inspection they appear to be seed pods.  I collected them and brought them in to dry.  Already the miniscule seed is spilling out.  Small things, big smiles.

Yesterday I sat at my computer, checking my dreary photographs, trying to pick something at least vaguely in focus.  My eyes turned towards the window, as I wondered whether I should go outside and try again.  A single white feather slowly drifted to the ground.  The feather is a symbol of the spirit in many cultures, and some believe that a white feather is the sign that an angel has passed close by.  It would be nice to think that.  Nothing to do with seagulls at all.  Nothing.

All done, until the next time.

GMBG – January – Lanny by Max Porter and Betsy Bee

Welcome to the inaugural Great Monthly Book Giveaway post, known forthwith as GMBG.  This month the lovely and lucky couple are Lanny by Max Porter and Betsy Bee.  The above photo is of my book.  Betsy’s edition has a beautiful copper leaf on the front.  It made me a little bit jealous.  I suppose I could have swapped them over in the hope she believed it had been well-thumbed in the bookshop.  Unfortunately my conscience reflex is far too strong.  Heyho, you may imagine a beautiful embossed leaf, if you wish.

I first read this book because of a recommendation.  Not of this particular book, but another by the same author.  The advice came from either Chris Packham or Simon King, I don’t remember which, but I am certain it was a wildlife presenter.  I scribbled “Max Porter” on a piece of paper but not who to blame/thank and filed it in “big pile on desk”.  Then Lanny came along and with it a twinkle of recognition.  And I was very pleased for that scribble.

Lanny is a book of Nature, both mother and human.  It is not cutesy Disney nature, but tough, vengeful, own rules nature.  At first it is delightful, gradually becoming more shadowy, hints of something I didn’t want to acknowledge.  Oh dear, I thought, I didn’t sign up for this, please don’t let it be true.  I was irritated by this particular diversion, a bit sulky, Mr Porter wasn’t playing the game how I wanted it played.  Of course, and quite rightly, he did what he wanted.  Not only are the words beautiful to say and hear and read, they are beautiful to see and they scamper or trail or lounge around the pages.  I’ll tell you no more.

I have sent this book to my friend Betsy, known to me as Betsy Bee.  She keeps bees.  She lives between sea and moor, is open-minded, receptive to new ideas and very clever.  They are well-suited.

Betsy was not my first choice. I bought the book for Div on a whim and when I tentatively investigated she had just started reading it.  At the time I didn’t tell her as I thought she might feel bad, but there would be no need.  These things often work out for the best.  Betsy is presently engulfed in tax office torture and she is longing for distraction.  I hope this proves to be a good one.

As for Div, she won’t miss out, I have something else planned for her.