Help! I seem to have a UFO!

Can anyone help me? I have discovered a UFO (Unidentified Flowering Object) in a pot outside my greenhouse.

Yesterday I decided to pay attention to my mantra “a tidy greenhouse is a happy greenhouse”, and set about pulling out weeds (including a pak choi plant!) which had started growing in between the slabs and having a general tidy. At the greenhouse door was a variety of pots into which cuttings and seeds had been thrown and left to do their thing.

However, having managed to identify what might actually be a plant and what was definitely a weed, I came across this little fellow.



I quizzed Mr Mac about it but he drew a blank. We have no idea what it is or how it might have got into a pot outside the greenhouse.

It looks like grass but with a beautiful purple flower.

Apologies for the lack of focus. My camera was in a huff for some reason.

Apologies for the lack of focus. My camera was in a huff for some reason.

Mr Mac is convinced it is a rare wild orchid. Can anyone shed any light on what it might be?








Garden Update – Fruit


We planted some new trees two years ago; James Grieve, Egremont Russett and another variety, the label of which has long blown away. We expected some fruit this year and while we do have some very tiny apples we are really disappointed in the size of the trees. One of them has tripled in size but the rest remain the same and the trunks still require some support.

Our two established apple trees (Bramley and Grenadier – both cooking apples) are rewarding us after the hard pruning they had last year.

Our Bramley apples

Our Bramley apples

At the end of last summer a good friend of ours, and fellow cider-maker, was evicted from his allotment. His crime? He dreamed of the old-fashioned allotment experience; the shed as his refuge from the world, sipping ice cold cider from a cool box while he tended his veg, sitting in the sun watching his tatties growing. The reality? Rules and regulations. He let some weeds grow and the committee decided he was undeserving of his sixty square metres and he was promptly evicted.

The irony is, he had just purchased two apple trees so he gave them to us. We plonked them in large pots until we could make space for them and this year they are producing more between them than the whole of last year’s harvest.

The evicted apple trees

The evicted apple trees


Again we planted two pear trees two years ago, both Conference variety. One suffered a very odd leaf condition each spring and this year, despite both having produced blossom, there is no fruit at all.


The Victoria Plum tree we planted in 2010 has come into its own this year. It is so laden with fruit that one branch has broken with the weight and Mr Mac has had to fashion a DIY support to stop another branch from snapping. The fruit is just starting to colour so not long now!

Mmmmmmm plum crumble

Mmmmmmm plum crumble

Mr Mac's DIY branch support fashioned from wood and carpet!

Mr Mac’s DIY branch support fashioned from wood and carpet!


The gage tree we planted beside the plum tree (variety Cambridge) produced four gages in its first year and since then nothing. We had high hopes this year when there was a tiny amount of blossom but there is no fruit at all.


This is my £1 bargain bucket Blueberry Elisabeth plant I rescued in 2011. I brought it home  and planted it in a pot with some ericatious compost and last year it recovered and produced a few blueberries…..not quite enough for a pot of jam though. Maybe if I had not nibbled on them every time I was in the greenhouse……..This year looks more promising.

I must not nibble the blueberries

I must not nibble the blueberries


We originally planted varieties Elsanta, Judibell and Cambridge Favourite but soon realised they were in the wettest part of the garden and strawberries don’t thrive in swamp-like conditions.

This year we bought new plants and put them in a raised bed. However, the badger ate them. We rescued some runners from our old plants and while we did harvest a small crop we only managed three small pots of strawberry jam.

The sum total of the strawberry harvest

The sum total of the strawberry harvest


The rasps have had a great year, even the ones in the swamp that we have not got round to relocating. The variety is Glen Clova and so far we have half a chest freezer full, all ready for the jam pot.


Like the rasps we harvested over 20lbs of blackcurrants and, even having given lots away, have produced 48 pots of jam. The variety is Ben Lomond.

There were so many blackcurrants the bush collapsed on to the path!

There were so many blackcurrants the bush collapsed on to the path with the weight!


Every year, so far, the red and white gooseberry bushes have produced fruit then literally overnight all the foliage would disappear and the fruit would go mouldy. This year we have been pleasantly surprised that this did not happen and a small amount of fruit was harvested.

Needless to say the gooseberry bush growing out of the wall is laden with fruit. I think that bush would survive a nuclear holocaust!

This little bush growing from the wall usually produces about 8lbs of fruit!

This little bush growing from the wall usually produces about 8lbs of fruit!


Beside the gooseberry bushes, the redcurrants usually suffered the same disappearing foliage fate. I am please to say this year I have picked my first redcurrants. However, I was positive I planted a red and a whitecurrant bush but the bush I though was a whitecurrant is actually a blackcurrant. Very odd.

The redcurrant and gooseberry harvest

The redcurrant and gooseberry harvest


So far we have two figs left on the tree. They seem quite happy but value for money they are currently the most expensive figs in the universe at £24 each!

The most expensive figs in the universe

The most expensive figs in the universe


I had two plants which were thriving in the greenhouse then they just went brown and keeled over. When I pulled them out the roots had virtually disappeared. They were in the sunniest part of the greenhouse and oddly enough I think it was too hot for them during the heatwave!


We relocated one of the cherry trees to the back wall of the summerhouse which is north facing. All this has done is provide a haven for the birds to eat the cherries undisturbed! Last year we had 5 cherries, this year it looks as if we may be left with 7! Still no cherry pie or cherry jam boo hoo.


Cauliflower and Potato Curry

A few days ago I had several gorgeous looking cauliflowers forming and then this happened…..


Having done some research it appears I left it too late to pick them and should have done so when they still looked like the ones you buy. How do you know though? They were tiny. As soon as they start extending like this the quality deteriorates rapidly apparently. I still need to get to the bottom of this….

Undeterred and determined not to waste five cauliflowers, I salvaged what I could and then it was a toss up between cauliflower cheese or potato and cauliflower curry. As we had several of the early potatoes and garlic left that needed to be used up, the curry won. I still have three cauliflowers in the raised bed which have just formed curds so I can make cauliflower cheese with them, even though it looks like I will have to pick them when they are still tiny.

Anyway, we made this last night and were pleasantly surprised at how delicious it was.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions chopped
  • large piece of ginger, grated. We used a piece about 2 inches long.
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cauliflower cut into florets
  • 2 potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 small green chilli, chopped
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • chopped coriander to garnish


  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan. Cook the onion for 10 mins until soft, then add the ginger, garlic, turmeric, cumin and curry powder. Cook for 1 min more. Stir in the tomatoes and sugar. Add the cauliflower, potatoes and chilli, seasoning to taste. Cover with a lid and gently cook for a good 30 mins, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender.
  2. When the vegetables are cooked, stir in a squeeze of lemon juice and scatter with coriander. Serve with your choice of Indian bread and a dollop of yogurt.

We only had some pitta bread but it worked just as well. There was also some left over and we had it cold today for lunch – excellent too!


Garden Update – Flowers

Where we live in the central belt of Scotland is blessed with really late light nights in midsummer. This means we can spend hours in the garden every evening, especially this year when we have had the added bonus (until two days ago) of a heatwave which was preceded by a long dry spell. For a week or so we were able to work in the garden until 11pm.

The irony is that all the time spent outside gardening means I have been neglecting this blog (although those following my other blog will have been able to see weekly pictures of the garden).

Some sweet peas that did not get eaten.....yet!

Some sweet peas that did not get eaten…..yet!

So here is the first round up of what has been happening……

For the year up to the end of June I was working on a full time contract and so knew from early on that there was no way I would have the time to grow as many flowers from seed as I usually do. It has also become clear over the last few years that the solution to the empty spaces in our large borders is to fill them with perennial plants, cutting down on the need for annuals and bedding plants.

However, I still grew all my favourites from seed…cosmos, osteospermum, snap dragons, livingstone daisies, rudbeckia, gazania, zinnia, morning glory, sunflowers, sweet peas, marigolds and ladybird poppies. Also, new for this year (mainly due to the selection of free seeds with Amateur Gardening magazine) I tried hollyhock, nicotiana, laurentia, cleome, portulaca, aquilegia (lime sorbet), pansies, bellis, sweet william, foxgloves and swan river daisies (brachycome).

Sweet William - all from free seeds!

Sweet William – all from free seeds!

I planted loads of gladioli and allium bulbs in the garden and for the first time am trying out agapanthus, calla lillies and freesias in pots.

One of the alliums - not sure which variety

One of the alliums – not sure which variety

As for perennials, I kept a beady eye out for email and magazine offers and now have a collection of alstomeria, chrysanthemums, penstemons, heuchera and heucherella, coreopsis, monarda, dianthus, helenium, achillea and geums to name a few.

Monard, otherwise known as Bee Balm

Monard, otherwise known as Bee Balm

The good…….

The livingstone daisies, osteospermum and gazanias at the front door have created a stunning display, made even better by all the sunshine. Last year, it was so wet and cloudy all summer, that it was October before the gazanias even developed a flower bud and then the frost killed it before it even opened.

Part of the display at the front door

Part of the display at the front door

From a free “double” packet of bellis and sweet william seeds received last year, successful germination meant I had to give loads of plants away. Mr Mac chucked the rest in the garden at the end of the autumn and we had given them up for dead when all of a sudden they just took off, producing hundreds of flowers and filling some huge gaps in the side border. They are biennials and so hopefully there will be many more to come next year as they have been left to self-seed.



I was attracted to penstemons as they claimed to flower all summer long and slugs don’t like them….a huge issue for us last year. I went for a “blue” collection and an “ice cream” collection. They are certainly living up to their claim and I would definitely invest in some more.

Penstemon - either Blueberry Ice or Juice Grape

Penstemon – either Blueberry Ice or Juice Grape

For a while I had my eye on some heucheras as I love the variations in colour and ground cover they provide. I ordered a heuchera collection along with a heucherella collection including varieties such as solar eclipse, alabama sunrise and sweet tea. They are starting to settle in and fill in some of the gaps……and I just love them.

Some of the heucheras just ready to be planted out.

Some of the heucheras just ready to be planted out.

The bad………

This year for some reason, my Nana’s magnolia tree did not flower. This is its third year in the garden and we had flowers for the first two years. Maybe it was the very cold Spring? A mystery, especially as all other magnolias in this area seemed to flourish.

Two plants on my hit list for this year were meconopsis (Himalyan poppy) and Japanese anemone. I ordered one Anemone Serenade and two Meconopsis China Blue, all as established plants. I potted them on and then planted them out but with very limited success. The anemone just disappeared and the meconopsis took a long time to settle in and start growing but one of them has just turned to mush. I dug up the anemone roots and stuck them in a pot to see if it will grow back. I have supplemented the meconopsis with another two plants and hopefully next year will have some coveted blue flowers.

Geranium Alba - one of only three flowers so far

Geranium Alba – one of only three flowers so far

Yet again I have had no success growing Black Eyed Susan from seed so, after four years of trying, I am calling it a day.

The agapanthus bulbs were a slight afterthought and were planted right at the very end of the planting window. Three pots were planted up along with some freesia bulbs and only one pot has produced a shoot and even that has stopped growing at three inches!

My hanging baskets saw mixed success. I planted them with million bells and trailing lobelia. The yellow millions bells have been lost to white fly. The lobelia was failing to trail but thanks to torrential rain storms over the last couple of days it has now been flattened into submission.

Millions bells in the hanging baskets

Millions bells in the hanging baskets

……and the downright ugly

After having been under attack in the Spring from a combination of escapee sheep, a badger and potentially a pheasant we thought we were safe until one morning I discovered all my sweet peas, peas and pansies had been chewed down to the ground. This has since been followed by the geraniums, lupins, a whole hosta and my alstromeria. The prime suspect is one of the deer who I caught red handed earlier this week eating my parsnips. It is soul destroying but now, if it is not covered with netting, there is something whirly, dangly or sparkly nearby…..the garden is turning into an outside disco!

This was a hosta! It appears to be growing back thanks to Bambi!

This was a hosta! It appears to be growing back though….no thanks to Bambi!

Violas - before Bambi

Violas – before Bambi

Violas - after Bambi

Violas – after Bambi

A further mystery was when everything in one corner of the trellis border starting going brown and dying. Anemone de Caen bulbs planted last year starting to emerge and then just went brown and disappeared. The same happened to a selection of geranium plants I ordered last year and had overwintered in the greenhouse before planting out. We could not work out what was going on but there was a gap that needed filled and we bought some bedding plants to stick in. While digging the soil a strong smell emerged. It was familiar but we could not quite put a finger on it…..then lightbulb……it was white spirit. It turns out when we were having some painting done, the decorator cleaned his brushes at the outside tap then emptied everything into the soil beside it. Archie – you owe me three geraniums and a packet of Anemone bulbs!

Helenium -  two plants bought from a specialist nursery at Gardening Scotland

Helenium – two plants bought from a specialist nursery at Gardening Scotland

This just makes me smile

This just makes me smile

Mr Mac hits the rocks!

Mr Mac has always been an admirer of alpines. He has mentioned once or twice how he would like to create a rockery somewhere in the garden but until now there was nowhere suitable.

Recently, Mr Mac and his friend attended an auction at a builders yard. The builder in question had gone bust and Mr Mac and his friend had gone with the intention of bidding on a JCB mini-digger. They were unsuccessful. Undeterred, Mr Mac was determined not to come home empty handed and managed to negotiate a deal on numerous lengths of wood and a selection of sinks.

There was so much wood, it merits its own blog. As for the sinks, there was one Belfast sink, three stone troughs and the remainder looked as if they came from the toilet scene in Trainspotting. (I am not actually convinced they are sinks…..if you follow!).

The wood is under the blue tarpaulin, the dubious "sinks" can be seen in the foreground.

The wood is under the blue tarpaulin, the dubious “sinks” can be seen in the foreground.

The four useable sinks were earmarked for alpines, as soon as drainage holes were put in. Fortunately, this coincided with an online offer of 12 ground cover perennials for £3.99….so we ordered two, only to realise when they arrived they were alpines! I also treated Mr Mac to a selection of alpines for his birthday along with a book (Alpines An Essential Guide by Michael Mitchell). So he was all set………….


Many, many weeks later, while tidying up the driveway with a mini-digger (hired for the weekend…..oh, the irony!) the end of the side border, which was a jungle of eight years worth of weeds, shrubs and goodness knows what else, was dug out and scraped back to the soil. Mr Mac rotivated it and continued the wooden edging (guess where the wood came from?) along to the end. He increased the height at the very end so that he could create a rockery.





Yesterday he spent most of the day moving boulders, rocks and stones and creating mini-Alps. Then off to the garden centre for some grit. I think you’ll agree the end result is stunning.



IMG_0413 IMG_0414 IMG_0415

The plants used are Pratia, Erodium, Heleniathemum, Thymus Serpylium, Sedum Spureum, Campanula Carpatica, Dianthus Deltoide, Aster Alpinas, Papaver Pacino, Saxifrage (Silver Cushion), Silene, Oxalis, Saxifrage (Peter Pan), Acquilegia, Viola and Lewisia.

IMG_0419 IMG_0420

But guess what? He used all the plants he had so now he will have to go and buy some more for the stone troughs! And he has the cheek to moan about how many handbags I have………….

Santa Claus is coming!

This week has had a slight Christmas feel to it and as Little Sis’ has been nagging me for another blog to read I thought I would write about her favourite thing – brussels sprouts for Christmas Dinner!

I had a slight panic that, due to the cold Spring, I was way behind with seed planting and had done nothing about brussels sprouts or parsnips for Christmas Dinner. I sowed a couple of rows of parsnips in one of my new raised beds and I am pleased to advise that, unlike last year, we appear to have successful germination. A staple of our winter diet is spicy parsnip soup, so this is a relief as last year we spent a fortune buying parsnips.

The makings of roast parsnips and spicy parsnip soup!

The makings of roast parsnips and spicy parsnip soup!

The variety is Tender and True (“Delicious for Roasting”) and from to sowing to cropping is 28-32 weeks – so we should just make it for Christmas dinner!

As I was over a month late with the sprouts I opted for a variety called Evesham Special (large, old-fashioned flavour sprouts) promising a heavy, early crop from medium sized plants, ideal for exposed sites. Sowings in February indicate cropping from September so fingers crossed we will have plenty for Christmas.



On another Christmas theme, our lucky dip perennial box arrived this week. This was a special email offer from Suttons back in April – 4 x 18 different lucky dip perennials for £9.99. We had forgotten about it so it was a bit like Christmas opening the box to see what was inside. Our four lucky dips were:

Dianthus – I am not a big fan but Mr Mac is. We have two in the garden already which, despite my deliberate neglect, continue to thrive. They will now be joined by another 18!

Coreopsis – I was quite happy about this because I tried to grow these from seed last year and the slugs ate every single one. I was reluctant to try again but now I don’t have to.

Monarda – I had never heard of this but believe the common name is Beebalm.

Sedum – Mr Mac had been after some of this  so he was pleased. According to the catalogue it offers “drought-tolerant” late summer colour. Not something we usually have a problem with but it would be a nice problem to have for a change!

It was too hot in the greenhouse to pot them on so we sat outside in the sunshine!

It was too hot in the greenhouse to pot them on so we sat outside in the sunshine!

All potted on and ready to grow!

All potted on and ready to grow!

Normally what happens at Christmas is I receive my presents and then go out and buy what I really wanted! The same was true this week. We are fortunate that Scotland’s flagship gardening show – Gardening Scotland – takes place less than a 15 minute drive away. The show was last weekend and Mr Mac and I set off with good intentions “not to go draft”- but we were like kids in a sweet shop.

I bought some Helenium plants and another couple of Meconopsis to supplement the pathetic specimens I bought online. Mr Mac got some Lupins, Heuchera and some alpines. We also invested in another couple of Clemetis – a white and pink Montana for some spring colour.

Our purchases

Our purchases

Finally, on a present theme, I was bemoaning to Mr Mac how I am concerned that there has been no activity from the Calla Lillies I planted in a pot. All the other bulbs are starting to show but not the lillies.

When I came home from work the other evening, look what was sitting at the from door…….

Mr Mac bought me a couple of Calla Lillies and planted them in pots with some trailing lobelia.

Mr Mac bought me a couple of Calla Lillies and planted them in pots with some trailing lobelia.



Purple Sprouting Broccoli…was it worth it?

I have had limited success these last few years growing broccoli. I have lovely tall strong plants but the florets flower almost immediately meaning there is little left to eat. Having read up on the subject I think my mistake has been to leave the florets thinking they will grow bigger and look like the ones on sale in the supermarket.

However, I have discovered that the spears should be cut as soon as they form and this encourages the side shoots. The more you cut, the larger the florets… least that is what I think is supposed to happen. I am still not sure.

Last year I decided to try growing purple sprouting broccoli. The seeds were sown on 8 June 2012 (basically 11 months ago). I planted them at the same time as the rest of the brassicas but was aware that it would be Spring before they did much.


Most of the plants did produce small purple heads and I waited and waited for something more to happen. In desperation at the weekend I decided to cut the heads of to see if it encouraged the side shoots to sprout and it has had limited success. I think this together with a combination of warm sunny weather has caused two plants to grow and the rest to produce side shoots.


However, they are still only about 9 inches high and are not producing nearly enough to justify taking up one third of my veggie plot after having spent the best part of year doing so.

I have no idea what I am doing wrong but I’m really frustrated as I love broccoli and really want to grow it successfully.

My first crop of heads

My first crop of heads

My second crop of side shoots.

My second crop of side shoots.

In their defence, none of my brassicas did particularly well last year, probably due to the wet weather. The cabbages never grew more than tennis ball size, the cauliflowers went to seed immediately and there were barely enough brussels sprouts for xmas dinner!

So being the eternal optimist I will give them the benefit of the doubt and try one more time. You never know, this time next year I may be blogging about a broccoli glut and posting recipes for broccoli brownies!

Mr Mac is itching to get this plot rotivated and I have to admit I really need to get my carrots and parsnips in the ground soon. So the purple sprouting broccoli have a stay of execution until the weekend and then its off to the compost and time to start again.

If anyone has any hints or tips I would love to hear from you!




It’s been a busy old weekend….


While Mr Mac was busy digging, splitting and relocating irises and crocosmia earlier this week I was in need of something to make me look “busy” so I did not have to help him. To give you an idea of how much I really did not want to help him I decided to tackle my pot mountain……the pile of used pots accumulated over the summer of 2012 that had formed a heap where they had been thrown out of the greenhouse when their purpose had been served.

I think I even mentioned in my Jobs for February blog that it was the prefect time to wash and clean pots yet here we are at the end of April and mine were still untouched, caked in soil, providing the slugs with a comfy winter hotel.

I was so desperate not to wash the pots that I had even offered to pay some of my friends children to do it for pocket money during the Easter holidays but apparently the youth of today don’t need money!

I set about sorting through the pile, throwing away broken pots, trays and modules that were beyond saving and ended up with a nice, neat, tidy pile.

A tidy pile of pots ready for washing

A tidy pile of pots ready for washing

So yesterday when the sun was shining I got my chair, my scrubbing brush, a tub of warm water with some washing up liquid and bleach in it and another tub with clean water for rinsing….and set about scrubbing.

All ready to get scrubbing!

All ready to get scrubbing!

I did not get them all done, but the smaller pots I need for potting on seedlings are all clean and ready for use. The larger pots can wait for the next sunny weekend!

Clean pots drying in the sunshine

Clean pots drying in the sunshine

On Friday I had a delivery of “Million Bells” plugs that I had ordered for my hanging baskets. I read an article recently about planting plugs directly into pots and baskets if that is where they will ultimately end up, so as these were all destined for hanging baskets I decided to plant them up. There were six each of lemon, fire crackle, blue, deep pink and white so I planted the four small baskets with the lemon and fire crackle and the two large baskets with pink, white and blue.


The instructions recommended three plants per 30cm basket so while they look slightly puny at the moment hopefully they will soon fill out. I will keep them in the greenhouse for a couple of weeks and then start hardening them off with a view to putting them out by the end of May.



Today the forecast was for rain but we were fortunate enough to have gorgeous sunshine between showers and so we got the potatoes planted.

We planted Maris Piper and Pink Fir Apple varieties and this year we have decided to try growing them in the ground rather than tubs or bags (except the first earlies).

We have been watching Gardeners’ World and Beechgrove Garden on BBC and so did exactly what they did….dig a trench, plant the seed potatoes 12 inches apart and pull the soil up over the top to form a ridge. There has been a lot of talk about the soil being warm enough to plant main crop potatoes but we did not check the temperature and just planted them anyway.

Other than the obvious way of checking soil temperature I heard of another method recently and that is to scrape back some soil and stick your elbow in as if you were checking bath water for a baby. Apparently in Victorian kitchen gardens the way they checked if the soil was warm enough was to pull down your trousers and sit on it with your bare bum! Thank goodness for soil thermometers!

Maris Piper and Pink Fir Apple

Maris Piper and Pink Fir Apple

Even though the seeds have been in the dark garage rather than on a sunny windowsill, they still have chits!

Even though the seeds have been in the dark garage rather than on a sunny windowsill, they still have chits!

We set the seeds out in the trench but then dug a hole to put them in so they were even deeper.

We set the seeds out in the trench but then dug a hole to put them in so they were even deeper.

All haunched up and ready to grow!

All haunched up and ready to grow!

Finally we decided to make the most of the sunshine and planted the garlic (Solent Wight) and the rest of the strawberry runners. We forgot we had some old strawberry pots (yes they were lying under my dirty pot mountain where we could not see them) and so they were given a quick scrub to remove the  algae and planted up with the runners from the old strawberry patch.

The garlic had been hardened off for weeks but we could not get over the length of the roots.

The garlic had been hardened off for weeks but we could not get over the length of the roots.

We sneaked the garlic in beside the leeks.

We sneaked the garlic in beside the leeks.

Dirty strawberry pots.

Dirty strawberry pots.

Home Sweet Home!

Home Sweet Home!


Help! We’re under attack!

Last year followers will recall around this time of year (perhaps slightly earlier) something ate our garden. The tulips were eaten or the bulbs pulled out and the raspberry canes were stripped from the ground up to about one metre.

This year, at the end of March, we noticed something was scratching away the grass leaving holes and unsightly bare patches. Then the tulips started to disappear again. However, Mr Mac had taken no chances with his raspberry canes and they were well protected with mesh. The last straw was when the brand new strawberries were eaten.

This is the grass in the back garden which has been scratched away leaving big holes.

This is the grass in the back garden which has been scratched away leaving big holes.

Tulip bulbs pulled out of the bed

Tulip bulbs pulled out of the bed

the primulas were pulled out of the pot but were not eaten.

The primulas were pulled out of the pot but were not eaten.

Two huge holes were dug among the lilies but again, these were not eaten.

Two huge holes were dug among the lilies but again, these were not eaten.

Frustrated, I consulted the font of all knowledge – Google – with a search of “what eats tulips?” The answer………….chipmunks! “How cute”, I thought, my sole experience of chipmunks being the animated kind that have wild, wacky adventures of the non-destructive kind. The only problem is we don’t have chipmunks in the UK!

However, neighbours had been suffering similar problems and after blaming the deer, squirrels, pheasants and pigeons, a badger was spotted leaving our drive early one morning. So Mr Mac promptly went to the agricultural supplies and bought a mile of mesh to attach to the stob and wire fence which surrounds our garden. Our garden is now badger proof – hopefully – we just need to remember to shut the gate at night! Apparently they can dig under fences and climb walls.

The attraction? According to the Badger Trust, “Badgers digging for insect larvae in lawns can cause significant damage. Some lawns are more likely to support a significant insect larvae burden than others, and this is often determined by the condition of the lawn. Lawns in good condition, particularly if they are well drained and free of moss, are less likely to suffer.”

The condition of our lawn has been causing us concern for some time and as it is currently 80% moss / 20% grass, it must be badger paradise!

We left a booby-trapped pot of old tulip bulbs from last year to see if they were still being eaten but it looks like we have solved the problem as there has been no further damage since the mesh was added to the boundary fence.

The booby-trap!

The booby-trap!

But then…….

I was positive the other evening when I shut the greenhouse for the night I had three sunflowers which had germinated but the next morning there were only two. Then when I opened up a couple of mornings later, all the zinnia seedlings had been eaten leaving only stalks. Now something is in the greenhouse eating the seedlings…….likely culprits are either mice or earwigs so I am keeping everything covered just to be sure.

What is left of the zinnia seedlings

What is left of the zinnia seedlings

To add insult to injury, yesterday when wondering around the garden I came across not just one but TWO slugs. They were promptly dispatched. These battles may have been won but I fear the war is going to be a long one!

Strawberry Relocation

One of the first things we planted when we moved to this house was strawberries. We found a quiet patch at the bottom of the garden and planted Elsanta, Cambridge Favourite and Judibell – early, main and late croppers.

However, we soon discovered that the quiet patch is also a very wet, soggy, waterlogged patch and while we had a reasonable crop in the first year, there has not been enough for a pot of jam since!

We decided to move them but as the plants were coming to the end of their producing life (they should be replaced every three to four years) we simply tried to catch as many runners as we could to supplement new plants.

So last weekend we dug up the runners. There were quite a few but none that looked particularly healthy so Mr Mac went off to the shop and bought 18 new plants.







We had an old cold frame which had been made from our old front door and some lengths of wood. Some of the glass had smashed and it was lying empty so we decided to take the door off and tidy the surrounding area.

The old cold frame which was to become the new strawberry patch.

The old cold frame which was to become the new strawberry patch.









We filled it with stones for drainage…







then topped it up with compost…







and covered it to warm up the soil.







At the weekend we planted the new plants. All Elsanta variety as we found these to be the best, we will get some straw from Rob the horse next door to sit them on and Mr Mac planned to craft a cover to protect them from birds.







However, it was too late. Look what happened!


Something has been getting into the garden, scratching up the grass and eating the tulips. They also have a taste for strawberry plants! It just seems to be the leaves that they have eaten and the centres and roots seem to be ok. We were not sure whether it was deer, squirrels, pheasant or pigeons. But yesterday morning Mr Badger was seen leaving our garden in the early hours.

So Mr Mac has created a protective cover! Fingers crossed they will recover.









So here are some hints and tips for growing strawberries:

  • Choose a sunny sheltered spot with fertile, well-drained soil with plenty of well-rotted organic matter worked in.
  • Plant them 18 inches apart or in a raised bed with deep, rich soil they can be planted 12-15 inches apart.
  • Apply potash every spring.
  • Once the fruits form spread straw or synthetic strawberry mats between the plants to protect the fruit from dirt, damp and mud splashes.
  • Protect the fruit from birds.
  • Plants crop well for 3-4 years after which they are best replaced with new young plants in a new location.
  • Try raising new plants from runners – the stems produced by the plant to regenerate itself. Peg down the runners into pots of seed compost. Once the runners have rooted snip the “umbilical cord” connecting them to the parent plant and grow them on in a cold frame until they are ready to plant.