Here we are again, another Saturday and another Six in the Resurgam series. After my sudden return to the fold last week, I guess it’s time to start on a bit of explanation for the almost-two-year hiatus. And a bit of an update to set the scene.
Meanwhile, the crew of SoSsers has been carrying on under the expert eye of Head Gardener, good old Mr Prop (“less of the old”, I feel being battered into the void where my brain used to be) who, in between running more marathons than there are plants in the average garden and rescuing plants from every pity-bench in sight, maintains, on his blog, an index of participants of the day. Why not pop across to his post of the day where you’ll find today’s list (or yesterday’s list if you are slow to react) of gardening worthies. The list will usually include my near neighbour who gardens precipitously and so deserves a special mention.
Now if you consult the easy-to-follow Participant Guide which our glorious co-ordinator has produced, you will see that the idea is to blog about “Six THINGS” and that means (and I quote) “Not just plants, could be anything.” Which allows for a lot of artistic licence, of course. So today there’ll be the odd plant but, mainly, a lot of things.
Way back when, at around the time of my last pre-hiatus post, I had just embarked on one of the occasional makeovers that stir things up a bit. It came to pass that I’d bitten off far more than I could chew! Long-time readers will remember that some years ago, I had a fall from height, about 10 feet of height in old money, which among other things knackered my lower back and one shoulder. And those injuries sort of caught up with me: I just couldn’t manage the heavy digging I’d thrust onto myself. I needed help! So I embarked on a search for someone who could do what I couldn’t. Talk about frustrating! Round here, it seemed that all the available supply comprised people like the one who embarked on a 15 minute talk about how to propagate dandelions. OK, I needed someone who wasn’t shy of a bit of hard digging but also someone who knew about gardening things. You know, the difference between a “gardener” and a “Gardener”.
While this tortuous process was underway, the garden continued to re-wild itself, becoming bramble-central (brambles are a real pain, they spread underground, overground (rooting whenever a stem touches base) and via bird poop. As well as the underground brambles from behind the side fence, blackthorn travelled from the wasteland and infested the “north border”. And all I could do was potter and watch in despair. It would have become overly boring to post each week another collection of “Six Brambles on Saturday” so I gave up.
Then I hit gold. The son of friends who was looking for a “Saturday job” to see him through to his A-levels and maybe vacation work until he went off to study some horticultural topic in college. And Easter was approaching, bringing with it the opportunity for a solid week or two and he wasn’t at all phased by the prospect of hard work. Nirvana! But Steinbeck wrote it and so it came to pass as plans were thwarted by the arrival of the C thing, accompanied by one of those letters telling me to lock myself away in a dark room and not emerge to speak to anyone for three months.
OK, that’s enough background for now. Time to start the Six proper. Fast forward to the spring of 2021 and number 1 for today. Which isn’t a plant so must be a “THING”.
Someone I knew was in the process of becoming sensible and moving from England to Wales. And that person was a Gardener (note capital “G”). I moved quickly and managed to book her services (though I wonder today exactly what “services” I booked). And so it did come to pass that, at the beginning of June last year, a celestial being descended onto my drive in a plume of smoke (I suppose the car needed a service).
1 The Empyrian
Now I’m not gonna lie! This mystical being was introduced last week as “She Who Shall Not Be Named” or “SWSNBN” for short. And so it shall be. It’s a thing. We don’t name names though there are those who know. She has a “name” for me on her blog and, one day, I will come up with a “name” for her. I have lots of options but I have to choose carefully for fear of physical damage to my being.
What matters for now is that she is a whirlwind. After a lot of tutting and knowing looks, she came up with a plan. “We’ll get rid of these brambles,” she said. Whereupon, I was summarily despatched to make the coffee (copious quantities) and she set to work. Three full garden waste bags (and several empty coffee mugs) later, she announced it was time for lunch and ensconced herself in my breakfast room (well that’s what I call it), delved into her bag and produced a lunch box containing the smallest sandwich I’d ever seen. “That’s not enough” said I, innocently as it turned out. And so, in addition to becoming a barista, I became the cooker of Cornish pasties, one to be served at 12.15 each week, hot and with tomato ketchup and accompanied by my favourite soft drink of 50-50 orange juice and tonic water (try it, it’s really refreshing) and followed by, you guessed it, coffee.
I suspect that all this barista and pasty work is her canny way of getting me out of the way and letting her do her job without interference but I’m OK with that.
By the end of day 1, half the garden was bramble free and I had a pile of waste bags full of the now homeless. Fast forward to the end of the next visitation and there was not a bramble to be seen. She’d also started the inventory of plants that, in her opinion, were in the wrong place, plants that needed to be lifted, split and replanted, plants that had, frankly, had it, and, finally, the list of jobs she considered within my limited capabilities that I was instructed to complete for her to mark out-of-ten on her arrival the week after.
I guess you’ll hear a lot more about SWSNBN over coming weeks, months and, I hope, years.
2 Lilium “Forever Susan”
Time for a plant. One day, whilst SWSNBN (I told you she’d get mentions ongoing) and I were consuming the coffee she demanded on arrival and I was trying to get out of having my homework marked, we were perusing one of those pesky plant catalogues and I announced that, as part of a lily rejuvenation, I was going to order a pack of bulbs of this variety. The catalogue was promptly yanked out of my hand and covered in wetness as she salivated over the photo, proclaiming loudly, “I’ve been trying to grow that for years but all the bulbs I’ve bought have turned out wrong!” Well, said I, yanking the catalogue back, it says that a pack of 7 costs £X and a pack of 15 costs less than £2X so what if I order a 15-pack, you pay half and we split the pack cos I know these’ll be the right ones (I know my suppliers, see). So we did. She paid half and happily scored the extra odd bulb (there’s a pattern here, I see!).
Anyhows, these flowers are the result. They’re what they should be tho, as the bulbs were small, so the flowers are small. They’ll get bigger in coming years. It’s what lilies do. And I know she’s happy cos her bulbs have flowered the same. I’ll mention that another blogger has also featured this variety today but is a bit lazy. The variety is named “FOREVER Susan”, not just “Susan”. Just so you know and don’t go hunting for the wrong ones.
3 Resident Cat (New)
Long-term readers will remember Resident Cat (former), aka Pillster, who often photobombed the blog and occasionally guest-posted (plants do look different when viewed from the ground up, you know). He departed for “The Bridge” as they say in June 2020, a few months short of his 19th birthday, after a thankfully short illness. You don’t realise, until
you’ve had a cat a cat’s owned you for some time, just how much impact one of these creatures has on your life. My daily routines went to pot. So I eventually decided it was time to acquire be adopted by another moggy. Cos of Covid, the process was completed remotely online and it wasn’t until I picked new resident cat, aka Buster, up from the local Cats Protection centre that I actually got to meet him mano-a-mano. I did have some video footage and a lengthy description on paper and these led me to the conclusion that I would be a fit for him. I’m considering legal action against Cats Protection under Trades Description legislation but that’s a story for another day.
Meet my new landlord and garden manager. It has turned out that for six days a week,
he’s my cat I’m his human slave but for the seventh day I might as well not exist as he’s devoted to SWSNBN (yup, she’s back!). This may be down to the fact that she turns up with treats for him and is also his devoted servant, letting him in and out and pandering to his craving for publicity with a weekly photo on her Twitter account.
I guess he’ll butt in here from time to time but for the mo, please be aware that he doesn’t chase birds (I like that), tho he’s a damned good mouser (I like that too), he doesn’t poop all round the garden (if needs be, he has to be let in to get to a litter tray and I like that too too) and he plays with the squirrels (daft I know but I like that too too too and SWSNBN has observed this so I have witness to the fact that I’m not telling porkies. There is one older squirrel that he chases out of the garden but there’s a reason for that and it’s a story for another day, maybe.
Hmm, this may be an (a), (b) and (c) item, which is a crafty way to get round Mr Prop’s insistence that a Six must be just that, “A SIX!”. I’ve done it before and, no doubt, I’ll do it again, risking his wrath.
There are two newbies this year. Momma (aka Harriet) brought them the first time but hasn’t appeared since. Maybe ……. To be honest I won’t miss her given the fact that as soon as I filled the squirrel nut feeder she would empty it and bury the nuts in the lawn. She was a tidy burrier but turned the grass into bomb craters when she dug them up again.
The youngsters haven’t yet learned fear which is good and bad. This one took a nut from my fingers. Both have had some hi-jinks with Buster and I’m not worried about their interactions. But other cats visit the garden and they’re not so friendly. I’m worried that the kits will be at risk of death or dismemberment if they try to play with one particular visitor. Still, I can’t watch all the time so I have to hope.
Before anyone chips in to moan about “tree rats”, I have to say that I’ve usually had three squirrels visiting every year and I’ve yet to encounter any issues with bulbs being dug up and/or damage to plants (Harriet’s lawn diggings aside). They’re more entertaining than the BBC as well.
If you want to talk wildlife problems, just don’t mention starlings in my presence! Nuff said.
I’ve concluded that three woodpeckers weigh the same as one squirrel. Not that any of them have co-operated by standing on scales. Rather it’s a case that the squirrel-proof peanut feeder closes its shutters when the weight of a squirrel hangs on it and I noticed the other day that the shutters closed when three woodpeckers descended at the same time.
Now I know I said no squirrel problems but you’ll notice the squirrel feeder in the background (it currently contains peanuts in shells cos I can’t afford to keep it filled with hazlenuts – they’re a treat). The original ordinary peanut feeder for the birds was, understandably, too tempting but was not strong enough to survive the weight of a squirrel so I replaced it with a sturdier model. Does the job. Here a single woodpecker is feasting but I also see tits and nuthatches enjoying a peck.
To the left of the nut feeder (which is bird proof cos peanuts that break out of their shells could choke birds) there’s a peanut butter feeder. It’s empty cos of starlings (see above). I’ve got two of these and a couple of jars, outside of starling season, will last a month. But starlings empty both jars within a couple of hours. And crap everywhere! Soz. can’t afford to feed them at that rate. I’ll start putting jars out again in the autumn.
Just for the record, other birds are catered for. I’ve learned that all the talk about varieties of food are a marketing ploy. Two feeders full of sunflower seeds cater for every tit and finch you could name, nuthatches, pigeons (yup, why not? and pigeons covers woodpigeons and collared doves) and wrens, to name but a few. And magpies, blackbirds, thrushes (when not consuming slugs and snails) and squirrels mop up the seeds that goldfinches (why just them?) throw to the ground with abandon.
Just for the record, the big feeder oop top was filled to the brim half-an-hour before this photo was taken. Which gives an idea of the size of the local bird population.
5 The Local Garden Centre
“Now hang on,” I hear Mr Prop saying! Whatever it is has to be “in the garden”. “Bear with,” I respond. This is another catch-all item title.
For what comes from the Garden Centre ends up in the garden. It has just been removed from temporary storage. Plus, as you might guess, SWSNBN returns. One BIG, BIG, BIG mistake I made was to put in the job description a requirement to force me to exercise restraint in my plant acquisitions. Well, putting it in wasn’t a mistake as much as expecting the individual who was the subject of the aforementioned specification to comply with it. Far from being a restraint, she’s pushing my habits to new boundaries. And still pushing.
So far I’ve survived three trips to the local garden centre (which I will praise all the way for the variety and excellence of its offerings tho it wasn’t always thus and aaaaages ago I posted a less than complimentary review of it). Visit 1 was with the intention of procuring, if available, a single plant. It turned out that the single plant was unavailable at the time but, under the ever watchful restraint of SWSNBN, I found myself pushing a rather large trolley around whilst she proceeded to place in it plants she was sure I needed.
I needed a break and a mental regroup so I suggested we adjourn to the cafe for coffee and cake. After which, we returned to the task in hand and I quickly found myself pushing my now full trolley around as she assisted by grabbing a second trolley………..
The second visit was just to procure some peat-free compost. With foreknowledge, I suggested that she remain in the car. A narrow escape save that, somehow, coffee and cake was consumed.
For the third visit, involving plant purchases, I cannily suggested that we have a trolley each. I’d push mine around and she could push hers in order to purchase plants she wanted for HER garden. It was a bit odd, though, as every time I turned from my trolley to choose a plant, when I turned back to place it in my trolley it seemed that the free space in the trolley had reduced. Still, she filled her trolley with her plants and, in time, having passed through the checkout (I made sure that I got there just before another customer and the escaped before she got to the till) we adjourned for the now customary coffee and cake in the cafe. You may notice a pattern here – something happens once and it immediately becomes de facto normality going forward. You will hear more about this in future posts1
And I would add that, as each of these visits occurred in the morning, SWSNBN always made it quite clear that she was quite happy to be served her (de facto – see above) pasty a bit later than usual.
6 The End!
God! He doesn’t half go on!
If you’ve got this far, you deserve a stiff drink. OK, probably drink number 6! So to end, I’ll announce that I bought SWSNBN a bit of uniform to wear. Seems appropriate, wot? Until next time (if you dare!)