At Nancy Nightingale’s today we planted out more bulbs, dug up dahlias for their winter sojourn and said “NO!” and “DROP IT”, on repeat, to Scooby the puppy.

Whilst stuffing the compost bin with the defunct dahlia vegetation, I rescued some seed heads, certain that my collection needed a boost. Which of course are the thoughts of a delusional idiot. Still, it makes no difference, room for another little bag and they will happily join the throng. When I got home I (unusually) remembered that I had stuffed them into an empty Gladious nanus bag and then into my handbag. I tipped them onto a piece of printing paper and started to process them, breaking open the pale husky layers to reveal the dark potential within. The problem is, where do I stop? I have plenty sorted, more than plenty if I were to be honest. But there is a nagging voice whining in my subconscious; what if one of the rejects, the seed not yet in the “to be dried and stored” pile is The One. The outstanding specimen, the one that folk will swoon over, will arm-wrestle each other just to get a glimpse, who will remortage their homes for a slender tuber. But can I be bothered to continue my search on this dismal afternoon when a new novel beckons and the chance of dahlia breeding superstardom is slim?

Luckily there is a handy equation to help in such trying circumstances:

For those of you unaccustomed to the intricacies of pure mathematics/high-faluting nonsense, I will simplify it for you. The amount of seed extracted equals the potential for a humdinger divided by ennui.

A few more wouldn’t hurt. You just never know. And I can always share my treasure.


For those of you who, like myself, have suffered a weekend of rain, wind and misery (a blatant exaggeration for dramatic effect), this vibrant chrysanthemum might come in handy. In the cheery-uppy department.

You are most welcome.

Good Boy

Initially, I was horrified to see Nancy Nightingale’s pup running around the garden with a chicken head in his mouth. On closer inspection, it appears that dear, lovable Scooby had decapitated NN’s metal rooster. This naughtiness is quite out of character. Apart from digging up many of the muscari I planted last week, wrecking the red hot poker by rolling around on top of it, chewing both my bag and my sleeve and (apparently) getting into the dishwasher to lick the plates, he has been a very good boy. There is no photo of him as he was banished inside, sitting with his wet nose pressed to the window, suffering the hardship of injustice. As a substitute you get a chicken head.

OK, stop your moaning, here is one I took last week.

The Moment

A lot of people enjoy the autumn; look forward to it even. Not me. I don’t like it at all. Unfairly, of course. I struggle to appreciate this season for itself, in its own right. Instead I consider autumn merely a herald of the coming gloom and doom of winter. Blighted by the company it keeps, I suppose.

Today I studied a golden bee, feasting on a seed-swelling sunflower, taking advantage of the few unpollinated flowers left at its disposal. It was a moment of peace and reflection. Which was a mistake. The morning, up to that point, had been spent defending plants from the over-exuberance of the Nancy Nightingale autumn clear-out. This consisted of my shouting “NO!” as the secateurs/fork approached the innocent party, executing a right shoulder judo roll and throwing myself between NN and the victim. All done in slow-mo. I really should demand danger money. I may have scuffed my new boots. Several “still life in the old dog” cosmos and a “merely resting” pot marigold undoubtedly hit the compost heap during in my bee distraction. No matter, they are after all hers to do with what she wills. And at this time of year it is tempting to throw in the towel, get rid of the ragged and half-spent, look forward to spring perfection. But in doing so we miss out on the moment. I must try harder, after all the moment is all we can be sure of.

Am I warming to the autumn? Perhaps. But on a glorious day like today, who wouldn’t? Ask me again at the end of the week. I will keep practicing.

The Altogether

I’ve always enjoyed sleeping. Would it be immodest of me to say I’m rather good at it? Well I am, it would be my Mastermind specialist subject. That is until recently. My meagre superpower has abandoned me. In the past few weeks, months even, I have woken early, wide awake with no glimmer of sleep on the horizon.

There was no change this morning. At just before six I was up and about, full of beans, top of my game. I spent the two hours between rising and leaving for Nancy Nightingale’s, watering the garden, catching up with emails and the weekend papers (mainly looking at the pictures) and preparing for the day ahead, all whilst the nightbird dozed upstairs.

As I grabbed my work bag and headed out, I thought “I don’t think I’ve got my house keys. No matter, I won’t need them” and I pulled the door closed behind me. Something felt amiss. I looked down. Bare, naked feet. I had forgotten to put my shoes on.

Oh dear. Someone is going to be grumpy.

Sticky Tape

Over the past few weeks I have given some remote advice to my esteemed clients.  There have been a few phone calls, a couple of WhatsAps, some dodgy “is this a weed?” pictures and the like.  Today I received the above photo from Nancy Nightingale with the caption “Is this the done thing?”.

Like you I hope, it made me smile, chuckle even.  I replied encouragingly “you never know it might work”, because although unlikely, it just might.  I have used a similar method myself in the past, albeit in slightly different circumstances.  A snapped twig or stem has been bound using electrical tape because, for some bizarre reason that even I don’t understand, that was all I had at hand at the time.  And there were many successes with this method.  After all professionals grafters, propagating roses, fruit trees or perhaps vines, use grafting tape to secure their creations until the scion and roots bind together.  Posh sticky tape.

Then I messaged “but you could just chop the leaf off, it will grow another one.”  Possibly the best option.  Ten out of ten for ingenuity though.

My Delight

Many years ago the only tomatoes grown at Cliffe were Gardener’s Delight.  When I took over I rebelled (I know a surprise) and we extended our range significantly.   But still we grew Gardener’s Delight.  Because they are delicious.  Yesterday at Nancy Nightingale’s I sowed seed whilst she hacked back.  I sowed San Marzano tomatoes, radish and spring onions, courgettes, melons and marigolds.  And Gardner’s Delight.

You didn’t expect Nancy to have understated labels did you?


Nancy Nightingale is not a woman of restraint.   The word does not come into her vocabulary.  It is one of the reasons that I like her.

The morning was spent planting some of the hundredweight of daffs, tulips, more daffs, iris and more daffs she has recently bought.   I am not totally without blame.  A few weeks ago I sat next to her as she pushed “buy” with increasing intensity, as I feebly whispered “I think that might be enough now”.  My entreaties were to no avail, she worked herself up to a purchasing crescendo and fell exhausted to the floor as her credit card exploded.

We planted in colourful trugs, painted metal planters, pots and in the borders.   And still there are more.  They will have to wait until next time.  My back may have recovered by then.


Starry, Starry Night

It has been a very strange week with very little gardening and much mouching, more’s the pity.  Today I worked for couple of hours at Nancy Nightingale’s and then had a singing lesson.  We sang sad songs.  I do love a sad song.

The afternoon at Bill and Ben’s was aborted as they had double booked with the power tools men, so I went home.

This is a zinnia in NN’s garden.  Strange really, as neither of us remember planting either this one or its compadres.  Those fairies are up to their tricks again.

Coconut Ice


There is still a lot going on in Nancy Nightingale’s garden.  Obviously there is the singing, dancing and a little rough housing, but also there are dahlias, rudbeckia, cosmos and calendula.  Although past their best, looking a little windblown and tatty around the edges, they still contain enough vibrancy to restrain the tidy instinct that is strong at this time of year.

This ageratum, grown from a mixed packet earlier in the year, keeps drawing me back for another inspection.  Coconut ice, pure and simple.  And that, of course, is a good thing.