Wednesday 25 February 2009


Nigel Colborn describes himself as "passionate but bungling" though there's absolutely nothing bungling about his blogging. His latest post, about crocuses, is enough to reanimate my interest in a bulb that I normally happily tread into the wet spring grass. (I know, it's bad.)

There's something about reading about how a bulb grows in the wild that makes all the difference to me; but also his photos are lovely. He also reveals we are about to be treated to his writing in print on a weekly basis which news actually cheered up my morning. Head over if you haven't already. 

In tribute to him and as a cheer-up I'm posting the most garish thing I saw in Wisley alpine house on this day 2008. A member of the distinguished Hyacinthaceae, it's called Lachenalia aloides (ahh, it does remind me of my lovely aloes now you come to mention it) var "Pearsonii". I will be having a little fantasy that Dan discovered it now. They are, predictably, Cape locals; the one I need to track down for full hallucinogenic effect is aloides "Quadricolor" - as Tom Hart-Dyke would probably say: "yikes".  

Monday 23 February 2009


Look who was ba-humbling around in my garden yesterday - spring really is on the cusp. (Take no notice of the completely retarded Hyacinth 'Woodstock' the bee is bumbling on, the snow did something funny to the flowers.)

What are you thinking this time of year? Are you getting excited and making veg plot plans? I'm pleased for you if so. But I find myself feeling strangely depressed. I feel that last year I had a terrible year in the garden - that I ended the year thinking that none of the jobs had really got done. 

I want to have a year in the garden this year which is the opposite to 2008. I want to finish the year without feeling like I've bought loads of random plants from plant sales and then come home and stuck them in wherever. I want to feel like I've taken care of what's actually there, and not ached for it all to be totally different. And most of all I want to stop arranging my garden so that it needs more work than I ever have time to do, and ends up feeling like an evil, sulking presence in a corner of my mind. 

The truth is that I am good at growing things if they are big and green and don't need much attention. Or need it once a year: like my wisteria, now primed to go. But I can't do (at all) that lovely floral floaty stuff that James A-S is so good at. I can't do the organised allotment routine that VP is so good at. I have tried to be these things and I am just not them. I have a twenty-year-old agave to show for my years of gardening, and a fifteen-year-old puya. And my allotment can be distinguished from afar by its sweet william patch and asparagus fronds. And that's, um, about it. 

I want to stop trying to be good at what I'm not, and just accept the gardener that I am. A fairly lazy gardener, who will run out on a cold night with bubble wrap and brush falling snow off the echiums, but who is not very good at remembering to feed and water. And who wants to spend more time this year sitting in the garden relaxing, and less feeling stressed about whether squirrels have dug up all the newly planted species Gladioli. I just feel like my life might be too short to be a really good gardener. 

Anyway these are my slightly doomy, though pragmatic, thoughts, on this February day. 

Did you have any realisations about yourself as a gardener last year? Have they changed the way you are planning to garden this year? 

Thursday 12 February 2009


Iguana steak, anyone? 

I was just reading Arabella's hilarious post about her fantasy dinner party (very honored to have been included there) which itself came from VP's original post "Dinner Time". 

The idea is to put together a fantasy dinner party. VP already invited today's Birthday Boy, Charles Darwin, but I think I'm going to do the same again... (Especially as this post is a double meme-whammy, because this week I'm also "Blogging for Darwin". Check out loads of other Darwin posts this week using their sidebar.)

So my first guest is Charles Darwin. I have spent the last month reading most of Darwin's letters, so whilst VP thought he sounded a bit grumpy in the letter auctioned recently down her way, actually I've been immersed in hundreds of his letters about dogs which were all incredibly cute. One, about the death of a dog, actually made me cry. And some of his letters are hilarious - he was very, very funny when he chose to be. I reckon he'll be an okay dinner guest. Especially when he hears who else I'm inviting...

I'm also having Mark Chase, head of the Jodrell Laboratory at Kew. Mark Chase is head of the group responsible for changing all those plant family names about fourteen times each... Ha ha that makes it sound bad. No: for me personally, the Kew APG group has done some of the most interesting, amazing scientific work ever... working out by DNA analysis exactly how the flowering plants are all related to one another, and tracing them back to their single common ancestor. Darwin would be thrilled to meet Mark Chase and would pick his brains all evening, while other guests got to earwig the world-class conversation. 

Next I am going to invite Julia from A Bigger Pot. This is partly because she lives pretty much round the corner from me, but we've never actually managed to meet! But also I think she would relish my other guests, being paleontologically-minded herself. And I'm sure Darwin would enjoy hearing some of the latest news from a field he loved. 

I might also invite Lara Jewitt who is the team leader of the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew - she is a totally good laugh, knows loads about how to grow big tropical plants (she could give me and Julia some hints) and also can tell us some stories about her badly behaved piranas. 

As a treat for myself, Darwin and maybe Julia, though I don't know her views on the subject, I am also going to invite Richard Fortey. He's a top class trilobite man but also a popular science writer - his most recent is "Dry Store Room No 1", about what goes on behind the scenes at the Natural History Museum. I went to a talk there that he gave in the autumn about evolution and he was really interesting. And jolly. I rate jolliness quite high. 

And I'm also going to invite another Richard, Richard Mabey. Though he often seems in print like a rather lonesome and melancholy person, I interviewed him once and he was delightful so I'm definitely having him. I'll tell him, "come on, the food's for free!".

And as a love interest I'm having Tom Hart-Dyke partly because he is irrepressibly entertaining and partly because I just think he is hot. 

Now I feel rather short of agreeable female company, so I would like to return the invitation to my fellow bloggers; some of you I have encountered in real life already, but I'd really particularly love to get together with a few of you I've never met! Yolanda! Kate Manic! Oh my god how will I narrow it down with such a wealth of talent? 

And finally I would like to ensure my party goes with a bang, and so there's two guests whose attendance is essential. I would like both Nigel Colborn and James A-S, who I am convinced will ensure the whole evening is one to be engraved into memory. Plus they both have such a way with words that I will (for once) be able to just shut up and listen. 

Um sorry I know i've gone over the limit for numbers... but five isn't enough for real dinner fun! Now let's get eating! 

(before you get all indignant about my steak joke, Darwin ate iguana when he was on the voyage of the Beagle.)