March 26, 2015

Springing Into Action


Time to get ready


There’s so much to be done in the greenhouse at the moment. The enticing rattle of all those new seed packets and the irresistible pull of the sunshine has the wheels of progress turning. Pots and trays are being washed. Shelving racks are being cleaned. Slabs are being swept. Ah, the spring cleaning of the little plants’ domain!
Back in the autumn, you may remember, I planted a few things in my “greenhouses within a greenhouse”. So far I have had mixed fortunes, but on the whole I’m pleased. It’s been a very cloudy winter here, but thankfully, we did not have anywhere near as much as wind as we did in the winter of 2013/2014. Though there have only been a few flurries of snow and not much in the way of hoary frosts, temperatures have hovered around just above freezing, just below freezing, sometimes on the nail, and a number of times so close I thought it would freeze but then it didn’t. So many late afternoons, and now early evenings, I’ve been popping out to the greenhouse to tuck my plants up for the night.

The “greenhouses in a greenhouse” became “greenhouses in a greenhouse in a greenhouse” – with brass knobs on! I mean, with fleece on. Garden fleece, that is. At my disposal was a small greenhouse-shaped metal frame with a plastic cover. I placed all my fledgling plants inside it for the winter, zipping the cover up apart from when I checked on or watered the plants. When sunshine built heat up I’d unzip the cover for a couple of hours or so. All the while this mini greenhouse sat inside my actual greenhouse. On the coldest or potentially coldest nights, I covered the mini greenhouse with a layer of garden fleece, which I’d then take off during the day. I’m glad to say that during the winter the vast majority of plants have come along well.


The plants’ first outing


The seeds that grew have long since shed their freezer bag “greenhouses”. Yesterday, when the sun was shining, I took the plants out and stood them on the newly cleaned racking until late afternoon. Then they went back into their mini greenhouse, and early evening, because an early frost was forecast, I covered the mini greenhouse with fleece again.

Originally, I planted some Papaver, Strawberry Mignonette, Meconopsis violet and mint seeds, and a couple of potential confusions. But my first mix up that I was aware of came with my labelling. Thinking the condensation would obliterate any written labels and make them peel off the pots and trays, and not wanting to stick any labels inside the pots because I tied the bags around them quite tightly at first, I drew a chart of what I’d planted in which pots. It worked for a while. Even when I moved the pots with seedlings in from the shelving rack to the mini greenhouse I remembered to keep the pots in their formation. But then one day I rearranged the contents of the mini greenhouse, forgot about my chart, and realised too late that I now had no idea what was growing in four of my smallest pots. Genius!


Enjoying a bit of relative freedom


Four pots but all muddled up, what could be in them? Well, I narrowed it down to the following: the Papaver, Strawberry Mignonette, lavender or Meconopsis. The seeds that I had ordered as Passionflower but arrived labelled Sweet Passion Fruit, had shown no signs of appearing. So that was one controversy-in-the-waiting out the window.

Now four pots imply seedlings had appeared in four out of six of my small pots. This is not strictly true. Three pots had made some of their contents decisively known quite early on, so were promoted to the mini greenhouse once it was installed. Then, through the steam of condensation in the freezer bag, I spied a tiny bit of green in the soil in a fourth. With squeals of delight, I promoted this pot to the mini greenhouse, also. What a shame that it took me probably the best part of a week to realise the green was just a little bit of moss, spreading moss. Genius again! (A swift demotion back to the racking followed.)


Strawberry Mignonette


There were three green bottles hanging on the wall…I mean, there were three pots. But there were still four potential plants to be surprised by. As time went by I felt pretty confident that the leaves on one of the tiny forming plants were emerging in the prickly shape of those found on a strawberry plant.










Then came what I like to call the “Mesembryanthemum Mix- up”, after the emergence of some very attractive flowers with multiple petals, that reminded me of bike wheel spokes, caused my eyebrows to rise. They didn’t look very violet- or poppy-like, loosely speaking, so that discounted Papaver or Meconopsis. But neither were they lavender. When my Mum saw them and said they are Mesembryanthemums, it was then that it dawned on me what had probably been written on the foil inside the lavender packet. The Mesembryanthemums are very pretty. Originating from southern Africa, their name means “midday flowering”, and they certainly do open in the middle of the day and close up again quite early. As far as I’m concerned, their appearance is a happy accident, a lovely surprise.







That means there is just one unidentified mass of little plants in a small pot now. Will they turn out to be Papaver, Meconopsis violet, or something else entirely? Who knows? But I look forward to finding out. I’ve had to thin them out a bit and I can see there are still some dead leaves I need to get rid of. They desperately need transplanting now, as soon as conditions are conducive, as do most of the little plants that have surged through the winter.


What might these be?


In slightly larger pots I have a selection of sweet peas. Some have grown from seeds I planted in the autumn, but some are self-sown from what had been in a large outdoor pot over the previous two summers. Among them were some imposters. Firstly, a presumptuous thistle which had sprawled out and hogged quite a percentage of the compost – I have since cut it out with a knife, roots and all. Secondly, some very creepy, crawly, bindy, strangly weed, which I extricated carefully until I had victoriously got shot of its roots, too. And then there is the friendly little self-sown pansy, cropping up like a timid character in a novel who, to everyone’s surprise later becomes the heroine! I’ve had to prune some dead leaves from the sweet peas. Only now do I realise how cramped they’ve been getting. They desperately need some little canes to climb up too, as they’re getting taller and more clingy, but with frosts still being forecast this week they are still likely to be going in and out of the mini greenhouse where there is not a lot of space for manoeuvring canes.


Sweet Peas (and a rogue Pansy!) (Oh, and the mystery plant on the right.)

She is by no means a lonely pansy. In two seed trays I planted winter pansy seeds last autumn. The first group of seeds were left to fend for themselves without the aid of a freezer bag greenhouse, unlike the second group which I planted several weeks later. The difference between the contents of the two trays is very obvious…we were talking “cress” versus “lettuce”. Though a bit of recent sunshine has brought the first pansy gang along a little from what they were.


First group of winter pansies to be sown (left)



Second group of winter pansies to be sown


The only other seed tray contains “Tini’s Lucky Dip” – a random collection of dried seeds and blossoms a friend sent me last year. The idea was that I was to sow them and see what happened. So far I’ve got quite a mixture of shapes and sizes coming through. It’s going to be very interesting to see what they turn into.


“Tini’s Lucky Dip”


As yet there has been no sign of the ginger, so I think I’ll try again with some fresh when it’s warmer. The lupins died very early on, unfortunately. I think that covers everything I planted in the autumn.


The grand fir tree experiment!


There is one more experiment going on, however. When the Christmas tree came down I saved some bits of branches and mini fir cones and popped them into compost in pots. It may be a pointless exercise, but I would dearly love to grow a fir tree or few, so I thought I’d give this idea a go. You never know.

Now if only I could get all those pots washed up so I can plant some of my new seeds!

February 17, 2015

A Beautiful Dream


This morning I awoke from a beautiful dream.

Turning over to look at my alarm clock, at the moment it must have clicked for me to get up, without me even having heard it, I realised I was awake and that it had just been a dream. Not any old dream, though. One of those special ones that you find your mind drifting back to over and over again during the course of the day. Straightaway I knew it had that same quality as some of the dreams I’ve had over the years, peppered with images or feelings so vivid, comforting or simply pleasant, that I can still recall them today.

In this most recent dream, I was enjoying a Christmas celebration with my parents, my grandparents and my great-grandma. It’s not clear to my memory whether or not it was actually Christmas. Apparently, my great-grandma was about to go to the north of England, so it is quite likely that the celebration was being held at a different time. Paradoxically, I don’t think great-grandma was moving there, yet I had such a sense that her stay there, for whatever reason, was due to be long, which made me feel I would never see her again. Naturally, I was feeling upset, but I was determined to put a brave face on it to make the most of the occasion.

I think there was a table with food on. Elsewhere, there was a row of chairs against a wall that my great-grandma and some of the others were sitting on, when I went to thank her for my present. Otherwise images of the environment are sketchy. The present was a box of shop bought mince pies and another box – possibly containing a sweet treat based on Christmas cake? She told me my grandfather must have chosen well, so presumably he must have done the shopping on her behalf.

There are a few things about the dream that aren’t realistic, like my great-grandma intending to move up north, since I don’t remember her having any connections there or any desire to move anywhere. The presents weren’t typical of the sorts of presents great-grandma gave, and the baked goods were shop bought. Great-grandma used to give me toys – some hand-made – and other things that little girls like. As for cakes and sweet treats, including Christmas ones, they tended to be baked either by my grandma or great-grandma. It seems strange that great-grandma would get grandpa to shop for her. If she wanted anything, I’m inclined to think she would have asked her daughter first.

Yet there are other things which chime recognition with me. I mean I LOVE Christmas cake! And there was something about the table, I can’t quite grapple back to memory, which makes me think of the boat of pick ‘n’ mix sweets on the table on the first Christmas Day without great-grandma being there. At the time I had a feeling that grandma was really trying to make an extra effort since great-grandma had always made Christmases so special.

I lost my grandfather in 2011, and my grandmother in 2012, and it is now within days of the 23rd anniversary of my great-grandma’s death. So one of the things that makes the dream poignant is that it created a scene in which my family, as I knew it when I was a little girl growing up, celebrated together again. Is it because the anniversary is so close that I dreamed of great-grandma? Or did I dream of great-grandma and my grandparents simply because I look at photos of them all every night before I go to bed? But why that dream? And why on this morning? Who knows? But there is one thing I haven’t told you about the dream yet, the thing that strikes me most about it…

In the dream great-grandma seemed different to me. It was only after having been awake an hour or so that it all fell into place for me. I can’t believe it took me so long to realise:  great-grandma was completely free of the Alzheimer’s that sucked so much away from her in her final years. And something that really touched me was the way she and I conversed like a pair of adults. I loved her so much and have often wondered over the years what our relationship would have been like after I became an adult. I’ve wondered what things we would have discussed about the wider world; I’ve wondered what she would have thought of my flowers and whether she might have had any helpful gardening tips; I’ve wondered what she would have thought about my music and my art. My Mum says great-grandma would have loved my crocheting. Though she didn’t tend to crochet, she was absolutely brilliant at needlecrafts and is an inspiration to me in them, as she is in so many things to this day.

When the dream ended, I didn’t feel the same disappointment I often do when I realise a lovely dream has been nothing but a dream. Instead, I felt lucky. Fortunate to have been given such a gift, a gift to carry along with me.

It was a beautiful dream.

February 14, 2015

A Bit of Tinkering

Well, I’ve been doing a bit of tinkering about on this blog and my Heather Sprinkles blog today.

Since last September I did the majority of my posting over on that site, but now I’ve decided that I would like to go back to how things were.  So “Heather Sprinkles” has gone back to being a blog about my art and craft work, while this blog has gone back to being what it was before.  As a result, the nice people at WordPress have imported some of my less arty and crafty blogposts from “Heather Sprinkles” to here.  In the interests of not duplicating too much I’ve deleted a number of my reblogs of my posts on here from recent months.  If that means I lost anyone’s comments or likes I apologise, because I did and do appreciate them.

Here are links to the recently arrived posts if you’d like to see any of them but missed them first time around (though some are a little out of season now!):

Thank you for visiting!

January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!


I found this carnation blooming in my greenhouse on Christmas Day.  It was a lovely surprise (unlike losing my two lovely lupins seedlings after a number of weeks the other week, but we won’t dwell on that.  After all, several strawberry, papaver, lavender, winter pansy, sweet pea and “lucky dip” seedlings are trying their best to survive against the cold temperatures, so there’s plenty to be cheerful about!).  So I thought this would be a pretty way to wish you all the very best for the new year! :)

December 31, 2014

Grandma’s Sweet (and Savoury) Treats

For the last four years Sheryl over at A Hundred Years Ago has been posting the diary entries that her grandmother Helen wrote exactly 100 years ago to the date.  It has made for fascinating and entertaining reading both on an historical level and on a personal level.  Seeing how things were done in Helen’s part of the world at that time leads us to think about our own time and place and draw comparisons and notice the differences between cultures and eras.  Yet at the same time as we have watched through the kaleidoscope of Helen’s own words, we have witnessed a young girl growing into a young woman.  Reading about her experiences, we cannot help but realise how some events and emotions remain timeless and universal.

Sadly, the diary entries finished this week and I shall miss reading them.  However, Sheryl has been holding an online event, “Grandma’s Bake-a-thon”, in order to mark the point at which her grandmother went off to live the rest of her life.  The idea is that readers make and/or share a recipe for a favourite seasonal treat and the special memories it has for them.  This got me thinking about my own grandma’s Christmas cake, mince pies and, last but not least, her sherry trifle!

But then it snowballed, and I found myself thinking about all sorts of treats grandma used to make.  They’re favourites that many of us know, but they were always made so perfectly that they never failed to be special.  Forgive me as I indulge my memories…

My grandma was a very talented lady.  She was beautiful and clever, but having a quiet and gentle spirit she tended to prefer to stay in the background.  Yet she had a very cheeky sense of humour and abilities that might surprise those who didn’t know her well.  Not least her gift for piano playing.  I once watched her play after an absence from the keyboard for decades, and as soon as her fingers touched the keys the music came flooding back to her.

Just has her music and her laughter touched our hearts, along with so many of her other traits, so did her cooking!  I think my grandma simply saw preparing food as a task that needed to be done in order to take care of her family, so I think she underestimated just how much it was appreciated.  Especially the treats she made.

Tuesday afternoons were often baking afternoons in grandma’s house, when I was a little girl.  I would be so excited when I came out of school and went to her house, wondering if she might be cooking.  It was a win/win situation.  Either there might be some shortcakes – especially cheese shortcakes…my FAVOURITE! – about to be taken out of the oven, or she might be mixing up cake batter.  If it was the former, I’d have the privilege of warm, crumbly cheese shortcake melting in my mouth.  If it was the latter, I’d not only be allowed to nibble some of the mixed fruit waiting on the table, but I’d be able to lick the bowl out, too!

The fruit buns were my grandpa’s favourite, so that is probably what grandma made most often, but sometimes she might make gingerbread cakes, or better still…butterfly buns!  They have to be one of my all time favourites of grandma’s cakes.  Sometimes they would be straightforward buns and “wings” with buttercream, sometimes grandma would make chocolate butterfly buns with buttercream, and sometimes I think there was even a little jam hidden under the buttercream.  ;)

At Easter time, grandma would often make us an Easter cake.  It would be like a Victoria sponge except it would have jam and buttercream in the centre, buttercream icing on the top and mini sugar shelled chocolate eggs all around the top.  One year grandma hadn’t been able to find the little eggs in time so she decorated the cake with a Creme Egg for each of us!  It would be no surprise to see a little fluffy chick decoration peeping around the eggs.  Her birthday cakes used to be decorated quite amusingly, too, like the little golfers among the trees on one of the cakes she made for my grandpa, an avid golfer, one year.

At Christmastime, grandma used to make her own Christmas cake.  As tea-time arrived on Christmas Day, the plate would be carried through from another room and we would see the cake all decorated with the cutest of winter scenes – robins and other festive fellows among little green trees on the “snowy” icing landscape.  When we went to my grandparents’ house for Christmas, Christmas Day tea time was more exciting for me than Christmas lunch.  Not only was there the spectacle of the always delicious and carefully moistened cake, but the well worn cake tins, so faded the patterns weren’t always identifiable anymore, would come out of the pantry in number.  Each would surrender buns and cakes, and then there were the mince pies and rusks, goodies that didn’t tend to appear on Tuesday afternoons.  I think the rusks were probably made like scones, taken out of the oven, halved, and then replaced to crisp up their centres, but it is was years before I heard that.  All I needed to know at the time was that they were yummy with butter and a slice of cheese, and enough of a savoury contrast to enable me to tuck into some sweet treats!  Like grandma’s aforementioned homemade mince pies.  Delicious with their crumbly thick pastry and sweet mincemeat, but even better (if it were possible) after being heated in her rayburn.  Though not technically baked, grandma’s sherry trifle was one of her best Christmas treat creations.  I’ve tried, but I’ve never been able to replicate it myself.  For years I thought her secret was the dream topping instead of cream on top, but evidently that is not enough to make a trifle taste like grandma’s.  So her secret remains a secret.

The phrase “comfort food” is used a lot these days, but I think that just to call something that because it is warm and hearty is to miss the point.  Knowing that something has been made with love and attention especially to sustain us, to cheer us up when we’re sad, to make us feel glad or even laugh on a special occasion – whether at Christmastime or any day of the year – must surely be the true meaning of “comfort food.  Though I hope that grandma realised she was a much loved, inspiring and comforting grandma in many ways beyond the food she prepared.

November 16, 2014

False Greenhouses and Lovely Little Lupins


My slightly back to front gardening (starting planting in November in England!?!) has given me a little encouragement so far.  It seems my little “false greenhouses” inside the real greenhouse have helped to trap enough warmth and keep enough condensation inside to help some seedlings to appear!  To me, these little plastic bags tied around my flower pots look like rabbit ears from a distance when I look outside.  I noticed on Wednesday that some lavender (I assume!) seedlings had appeared, and some winter pansy seedlings had started to grow in one of the wrapped seed trays.


Little beacons of green had also crept up through the soil in what I call “Tini’s Lucky Dip”, a mystery mixture of seeds and other pieces that a friend gave me to try!  Today I noticed that some papaver seedlings had appeared in another of the Rabbit Ear Greenhouses, and there’s even a sweet pea one coming too.


Also in the real greenhouse are these beautiful carnation flowers.  I planted them back in the spring and summer at two different stages.  Since I transplanted them earlier this month they have gotten a bit lively and started to burst into flower in the quite mild temperatures.  Still no sign of any action in the ginger pot, though.


Last but not least, my lovely little lupins…on the evening of the November 4th I put a few seeds in soak in water overnight.  The following afternoon I planted the seeds into some potting compost.  A few of the seeds had swollen in the water, though a couple hadn’t.  If memory serves me correctly, I read on the packet that they would take 21 days to germinate.  Well, didn’t I have a nice surprise?  Two days ago I looked inside their Rabbit Ear Greenhouse to discover two little seedlings peeping through.  This pot has been living on an easterly facing indoor windowsill, unlike the other plants, though, which no doubt helped.  As yet one of them is still waiting to shake off its seed shell, but they’re here and they’re moving in the right direction, so I’m happy.


Happy Sunday! :)


November 15, 2014

It’s My 23rd Violiniversary!


Good morning!  I hope you’re having a wonderful Saturday.  Today it is 23 years since my first violin lesson and I’m a bit excited about it.  :D  So much so I thought I’d write a little blogpost about it.  Just as I began I thought, “Hang about a minute…haven’t I done this before?”  Scuttling over to Patchwork of Life I realised that I had written about the very same in 2010.  Since a lot of what I was going to say was already there, albeit in a combination of words four years younger, I thought it made sense to just repost it…

Violin Playing Anniversary.

Have a lovely weekend! :)

November 1, 2014

I Know, But… (I’ll Plant the Seeds Anyway)

I KNOW I have a lot of pots to wash up, since it’s that time of year again, BUT I have a few other things I’d rather do in the greenhouse.


I KNOW it is now November and it’s not the most obvious time of year for planting and transplanting in England, BUT it has been extremely mild for the time of year and there is still a rising moon.  That’s right!  Regardless of all the instructions on the seed packets, I’m feeling more interested in the moon’s phase because  I was told last year that it is always better to plant when the moon is rising, not waning.  Ever since I’ve heard that I’ve felt it would be best to follow it.  Though I have no idea what the logic or science or reasoning behind it is (and if anyone does, please tell me!), but the moon seems pretty trusty when it comes to matters of tide and working its way through its cycle, so I’m inclined to follow the theory.  And I KNOW that out of the seed packet instructions which say we can plant seeds in autumn, the recommendations tend to be for doing so in September or October, BUT it is only one day into November.

So with all these things in mind, today I have planted some strawberry, mint, passion fruit*, papaver, poppy, lavender**, sweet pea and more winter pansy seeds.

*I actually sent for passionflower seeds a while back, but the label on the packet that arrived said “sweet passion fruit”.  So we will see.  I thought it would be interesting to plant some either way.

**It said lavender on the outer packet, but something else on the inner packet, so it’s a bit of a guessing game.

I have also planted a handful of what I am calling “Lucky Dip”, a selection of seeds and dried blossoms which a friend sent to me from her garden.  I intend to plant handfuls at intervals to see what happens!

In my defence, as far as the lavender and strawberry seeds are concerned, they will not be due to come to fruition until the summer after next, so I really didn’t want to wait until next spring to plant them if there was a chance to get them successfully started now.  Interestingly, my first strawberry seeds two years ago were supposed to be frozen before they were planted.  I duly obeyed.  Yet there are no such instructions with these strawberry seeds, so I haven’t frozen them so far.  Similarly, my latest lavender seeds are supposed to be chilled for six weeks before they are planted.  Since the lavender I am already growing, albeit a different variety, was not chilled, I’m going to try my luck at growing this new seed without chilling it.  It’s not that I know best, because I MOST CERTAINLY DO NOT!  It’s just that I am impatient.  Even by my cantankerous standards I think six weeks’ time really will be too late to plant lavender seeds!  If it works it does, if it doesn’t I still have more seeds to try in the spring.

The carnation plants that I grew from seed earlier in the year, albeit at two different stages, have been crying out to be transplanted.  As of Thursday, one has even yielded a fuschia pink flower!  So I finally got around to it today.

So, like I say, I KNOW it really is not a sensible time of year to be planting or transplanting, BUT I have been behind with most of my gardening activities this year due to the move.  Though I realise there are only so many more times I can say, “I KNOW I should have [insert relevant], BUT the dog ate my homework, ahem, I mean the move created a bit of an interuption in things. Not least because I’ll drive myself and everyone else batty!  For what it is worth, I have been creating false greenhouses for my new seeds by covering all of my pots with plastic to give them the opportunity of holding onto as much heat as possible.  The greenhouse thermometer has been telling me that temperatures have been reaching anything between the mid-20’s to high 30’s degree centigrade consistently in recent weeks, which I found encouraging since it only seems to take a little sunshine through the glass for the temperatures to soar.

When this mild weather ends I guess it will happen all at once, and possibly with a bit of a crash, bang, wallop! I hope it doesn’t result in horrible storms like the ones we had last autumn and winter.  Sometimes the strong winds just sounded like relentless walls of rushing waters, several days a week for weeks.  Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine we won’t experience some kind of flip side to the weather coin in the near future.  As my Dad always says, “We are not given these things, they’re only lent.”

I KNOW that sounded a bit pessimistic, BUT I have something else I’m excited about.


For ages I have wanted to try growing ginger.  Back in April I bought a ginger “root” to plant (…I KNOW,BUT, move, not enough time, move, didn’t want to plant extra to transport, move, blah, blah, blah).  So last week I bought some more pieces, determined to plant them this time.  Techinically, what we buy is actually a rhizome not the often referred to root – that is a swelling of the underground stem.  I buried these in some damp compost in a large pot and covered it with plastic.  Tropical conditions is what these guys are longing for, so I’m hoping my greenhouse can emulate that kind of heat in the coming months, sunshine permitting.


However, it is possible that they won’t grow at all, since I did not see any “eyes” on them, and there are no shoots on them.  Time will tell.  If it works I’ll be chuffed to bits, but if it doesn’t I’ll just have to try again.


All the I KNOWs and BUTs aside, it sure has been a lovely day to be out in the garden and greenhouse, surrounded by bright sunshine, vivid blue sky, pheasants calling in the fields, and insects scurrying and investigating.  It has felt more like a generous September day then a nesting November one.  That said, the buttercup and butterscotch coloured leaves snowing down from the tree out the front serve as a reminder of what time of year it really is.



Enjoy your weekend! :)


October 31, 2014

Is There More To A Pumpkin Than Meets the Eye?

Is There More To A Pumpkin Than Meets the Eye?.

October 31, 2014

Pumpkins’ Tea-party!

So what was happening in the greenhouse in the dark of night?  In the cold light of day this is what I discovered…



You don’t see that every day!


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