Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Being a tree

managed to grow my own standard bay tree from a rooted cutting

the roses? no, that wasn't me

oh, well, okay, maybe it was me then

I'm taking a deep breath as I sit down to chat to you. Dog ownership is a thing of ups and downs I'm finding. But right now he's asleep. In a highly illegal spot on the sofa, but I am ignoring that for the sake of a little peace. You will of course recall how fond I am of a little peace. The sofa he is on is dark brown, with a mid-brown sheepskin on it (called Larry). Bertie jumps on when he thinks no-one is looking and flattens himself out in the middle of Larry and concentrates on being invisible. He looks up just by moving his eyes, not his head, all the better to remain undetected.

He is incredibly bitey, and his favourite person to bite is the littlest boy. We have tried all the things you are supposed to do: yelping - we really have perfected our yelps - standing like a tree or alternatively going limp. The biggest boy and I laughed so much one evening trying to go limp as a small rabid dog tried to tear us limb from limb. He was growling and shaking and sinking his teeth all the way in and I was yelling, "Go limp, just GO LIMP!" I don't remember the last time I laughed so much. I have a feeling it was verging on hysteria.

Being a tree is occasionally successful, but the littlest boy is unable to stop himself from backing away and trying to pick his feet up out of the way. Of course this is the most exciting thing possible to Bertie and he attacks all the more. This morning he tried entertaining him in the garden by blowing bubbles - a suggestion in his Puppy Training For Kids Book. Bertie bit his ankle and he promptly tipped the entire pot of bubble mixture all down his pyjamas. I thought it had gone over the dog for a moment and had visions of having to rinse it all out.

Anyway, it's hard work, but I'm sure you all know that already, you don't need me to tell you. I have not been the most patient person. I am feeling slightly fraught by the fact that I don't seem to get anything much done each day, and it's making me feel a bit overwhelmed. Oh, it will pass, I know, and I shall miss his giant-pawed puppiness when it's gone.

I drafted in the biggest boy to water the garden for me this evening. After he had finished the earth was still completely bone dry. Sigh. It's been done properly now (middle boy) and some small semblance of order is fleetingly here.

Are all enjoying the summer weather? I particularly like being able to be outside first thing and last thing without a cardigan. That doesn't happen often. Enjoy the rest of the week.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Strawberry season

strawberries? no haven't chewed them at all...

Shall we talk politics? No? No appetite for it? I think we need a break. At least until Monday.

I spent almost the entire day at a cold and very windy football tournament. My entire face has gone bright pink with windburn. It's very eye-catching.

The littlest boy was charged with staying at home and looking after his puppy all by himself. Well, other people were at home too, but he was main dog man. He did beautifully. Feeding, entertainment, scooping etc.

Thank you for all of your tips, I've read your comments through a few times and memorised them. Bertie's settling in nicely. He sleeps so well; it's his saving grace. And he matches the cushions, that's good too.

He has long wavy ears. It occurs to me that I may be one of those people who looks like their dog. We could enter the 'Owner Who Looks Most Like Their Dog' class at dog shows. Something to aim for no?

A couple of new plants here this year. I've been a bit obsessed with aeonium Schwartzkopf since seeing it at the American Museum in Bath a couple of years ago. I found this photo I took - not the best picture of the plant, but you can just see it by the doorway. Lots of long bare stems with beautiful dark glossy balls of foliage on top.

Then I saw more outside of a seaman's cottage in Porthmadog, North Wales.

There are some other big green ones there as well. It became one of those plants I really hankered after. A few weeks back I bought a tiny one on eBay. When it turned up it was a bit of a disappointment to be honest. Pale green and weedy with hardly any purple tinge. I potted it out into a bigger pot and popped it on the windowsill. At the time I wondered if it even was a Schwartzkopf.

It quickly transformed beyond all recognition though. Now it's much bigger and a glossy dark purple. It'll be a long time until it reaches the size of the one at the American Museum, but I'm patient. I'm a gardener after all.

Another plant I was after was pelargonium Lord Bute. A Victorian variety, but still quite popular. It's a scrumptious deep purple, just about my favourite colour in the garden, after green and white.

Again, it's a small plant. I'll probably take a cutting or two if it's big enough in a month or so. Both this and the aeonium will need to be overwintered somewhere frost-free I think.

I hope all is well with you. Have a lovely Sunday. We'll be concentrating on not eating unripe strawberries and not biting small boys no matter how tasty they are. CJ xx

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Of petunias and rain

Literally all the photos I have for you today. I did have a lovely pot of flowers in the garden, but the rain has mashed them all down and somehow they seem to be half the volume now. I couldn't get the colours right on the camera anyway. A really dark plummy dianthus, the deepest petunia, a dark geranium and some bright pinks too. Maybe it will all recover.

The small chocolate dog arrived in full force on Sunday. The littlest boy is oh so happy. He's named him Bertie. Amazing how one so small can be quite so dynamic. I like to come home in the morning after taking the children to school and make the house tidy and quiet and calm and eat my breakfast and sit down at my laptop with peace and order all around. I REALLY like peace and order. Oh well, no doubt I'll adjust.

House training is not going well. The handbook says I should stand outside and wait. Bertie and I aren't really keen on that bearing in mind the torrential rain out there. He ate a petunia instead and we ran back inside. Maybe we'll do better when the sun comes out.

Any top dog tips gratefully received.

Friday, 2 June 2017


It's been a bit of a mad week here. Lots of rushing around organising things, lists, appointments, you know the sort of thing. We did find time for an ice-cream at a local garden centre. It's a nice one, animals to feed, ducks on a little pond, space to run around, that sort of thing. The ice-cream is good too.

It looks as though the middle boy's knee is going to be fine, thankfully. Of course, he wants to leap straight back on his scooter.

Look what the children found in the garden.

Pretty impressive no? I think it's a female stage beetle. We've just finished reading Beetle Boy by M G Leonard and loved it, so it was especially apt.

Puppy searching continued apace. As if they're not quite delicious enough as it is, people tend to describe them as chocolate or apricot or cream. Cute as a button with big brown eyes is not enough it seems, there must be a scrumptious food analogy made. I have seen caramel and cinnamon and mocha and coffee. For me, it always has to be chocolate.

Coming soon to a blog near you.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Of apricots and knees

Chelsea Flower Show has been a visual treat hasn't it. I didn't get to go, but I've seen the odd bit on tv, in between going to copious amounts of cricket and athletics. The above is a garden we visit regularly that was a Chelsea garden a few years ago. It was moved, and it's settled into its new home beautifully. The planting is still doing well and it looks as lovely as ever. That's a wild duck on the water there. It's a rain garden, designed to deal with rain and also to be good for wildlife. The little building is a repurposed shipping container.

Sadly the garden and the plot don't quite measure up. Once Chelsea wears off it'll all be fine though, I just need to stop seeing the stars.

See? All terribly normal. Never mind, normal is good no?

I spent a hot sweaty afternoon yesterday at the Minor Injuries Unit with the middle boy who fell off of his scooter. His knee swelled up horribly. We're waiting for a hospital appointment now to see if there's a problem. I have everything crossed - he has some away things coming up that he'll have to miss if it's not good news.

Do any of you know why I might have a tin of apricot halves in the cupboard? I seem to remember I was wandering around in blogland and I saw something delicious and rushed out and bought the apricots to make it. No idea what it might have been now or where I saw it. I don't think it was an apricot upside-down cake. Maybe a tarte tatin? If anyone happens to remember seeing apricot deliciousness somewhere perhaps you could point me in the right direction.

The littlest boy is in birthday countdown mode. In fact the excitement is so intense this year (puppy - need I say more) that sometimes we can barely breathe. Bearing in mind it's half term now and everyone is home and one of us can't get out and about much it might be a bit of a long week. I am bracing myself.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Raindrops on roses

Thank you all for your dog advice, it is very much appreciated. I have been reading the manual in the chilly dawn hours and gradually learning about it all. Excitement is building, as you can imagine. And I'm trying to get things done now that might not get done later.

In the garden I've planted out the tomatoes and repotted a mint plant. Mint tends to be neglected a bit I think. When I went to Jekka's Herb Farm last year Jekka had the most glorious big round bushes of mint. She asked how many people had mint at home. Just about everyone stuck their hands up. Then she asked how many people's mint looked like hers. All the hands went down. She made the point that with a bit of care, repotting, mulching, that sort of thing, mint can look amazing. So when I saw my neglected pot of mint looking quite healthy I thought it deserved a decent pot and some new soil. I think I'll pinch the tips out and see if I can get it to stay bushy, rather than shooting for the sky.

The great tit chicks are no longer in the nest. To be honest I've no idea what happened to them. One minute the parents were in and out constantly, the next minute, radio silence. I think I saw a fledgling or two in the garden, so I'm hoping for the best.

The blackbirds are driving me to distraction, pulling the top layer of soil out of the pots and flinging it round the garden. I swept up at 6.30 the other morning. By the time I got back from the school run it was messy again. And of course once the blueberries are ripe they'll be here in full force. As I said to the children, if I catch one, I'm putting it in a pie.

A weekend of football and cricket awaits. I may try and sneak out to a local plant sale later, you know, just to look. I do love a nice ordinary weekend with local pottering and not too much rushing around. Any grand plans this weekend, or will it be an ordinary one? Whichever it is, enjoy. CJ xx

Monday, 15 May 2017


It's the time of year when tiny, needy plants are taking up every available surface. I went too soon with the sweet peas and they perished in the cold and the wind. I bought a couple of replacement pots and separated them out into new pots, two per pot. The runner beans that I direct sowed are also looking miserable, whereas the six leftover seeds that I popped into the greenhouse in pots are doing brilliantly. I think I'll start them that way next year, although space is always an issue.

I planted out nine dahlia plants yesterday that I grew for the Blooms for Bees dahlia trial. The idea is that you grow three red dahlias, three white and three purple, then monitor the bee activity on each colour. And I think I'll need to identify the bees too, which might prove tricky. I'm terrified the snails will devour the dahlias before they get to the flower stage. I've got a couple of back-ups in each colour just in case.

I made the most of the last dry day yesterday and pottered around outside potting things up - a nice container of flowers, a mint that I had that had grown nicely has been treated to a nice new pot and I'm trying to persuade the white wisteria to climb the back of the house. I even cut the grass and gave it a feed before the rain came. It's one of my favourite things to do some gardening then watch the rain come down and water everything. It's been so dry I can almost hear all the green things sighing with pleasure.

On to the thing with which I need help. You may recall me mentioning that the littlest boy was to have a dog of his very own on his tenth birthday, which is just over a year away. Well, the date has been moved forward (at very little notice) to his ninth birthday and I am in a state of panic. It's less than three weeks away and as of right now I know almost nothing about puppies. Except that they chew everything, roll in unmentionable things, keep you awake all night and are harder work than a toddler. Did I miss anything?

I am the sort of person who likes to memorise the manual before I do anything. So you can imagine that I am in a state of panic. Here are my dog questions:

Oh, d'you know, I don't even know where to start. What do I need to know? Dog owners out there, help! I have explained to the littlest boy that a dog won't magically appear on his birthday, but we will start to look at that point. And that it will be a family dog as well and he is to share nicely and let the dog love his brothers too.

What we need most is a dog who adores him, because I know how much he will adore the dog. And one with a lot of bouncy energy that will run around with him and play. Terrier? Spaniel? Flandoodle? (Yes, that's a thing). I read somewhere that I will need an extra four hours a day to look after a dog. Okay then... Your best tips please. If anyone needs me I will be reading The Happy Puppy Handbook.

PS. A quick shout out to our local(ish) football team, Forest Green Rovers, who are now in the Football League following a thrilling victory over Tranmere Rovers at Wembley yesterday. A great achievement for a team from a little place, and all the more special because of their great green credentials - they use green energy, organic grass fertilised with cow manure, serve vegan food, give their players electric cars to drive and will be building their new stadium out of wood. They won an eco-management award in 2012 and they'll be opening an eco education centre at their new premises. So thrilled they're doing well.