Six-on-Saturday – Happy Days

There are fourteen mixed Sweet Peas and it’s likely that I’ll have enough space in my garden for five or six only. Therefore, there will be a flash sale in early May. I’ll be looking for a few responsible paid-up members of the West Waterford Sweety Pie Society to offer good homes to my darlings.

20th February, 2021.

Mild weather in Ireland is generally associated with rain, and that’s exactly what we got this week. Temperatures got up to 10°C, and days are lengthening to such an extent that we now have our evening meal in daylight, watching the rain.

I am finally finding it easier to find six items of interest in the garden, as there are a few blooms, adding some colour. Of course Cinnte, not being able to find something of interest has not stopped me before. I simply create interest and magnify it to my satisfaction. My Six this week is a mixture of both.

Daffodil

The first daffodils are in bloom. As much as I like these flowers, I am completely in love with the Irish translation lus-an-chroimchinn, literally translated as Drooping Head Flower. This bunch in the kitchen window-box brightens my day while sitting inside. But spring is not a time for sitting inside, so I’m off to the glasshouse for number two…

Progress

After Tar éis an initial setback, seed-sowing is in full swing. These seedlings have been taken out of the heated propagator and they get plenty light in the glasshouse to allow them to grow well. I did bring them back into the house for a few nights last week because temperatures dipped very low, and I didn’t want a repeat of the earlier debacle. I also have fleece covering that I can put over them and I’ve used it a few times. Daytime temperatures inside the glasshouse are ranging from about 10-15°C, which is definitely enough to allow tender seedlings to thrive. Follow me back inside for some admin updating…

Digital Seed List

Tap or ckick the picture

I have a notebook to record details of seeds sown, but it’s a pain in the neck. It’s never where I want it and is increasingly smudged with damp compost. I’m told that there’s no need for me to be coming back into the house so often.

“When you’re out, can’t you stay out?”

In an attempt to see how I might improve matters, I created an online version of the same thing. Having used it for a number of weeks, I’m converted. I mean I’m actually converted to digital record-keeping. I’m in the habit of having my phone with me at all times so it’s easy peasy to update. Here’s the link, and for anyone wanting to find it at a later date it’s in the MENU on the homepage. On second thoughts, I’m wondering why you might want to find it. Next, I’m back outside again for number four…

A Mystery

I bought three cloches last month. Unfortunately, delivery from Thompson & Morgan to Ireland Éire was not available so I had them sent to my AddressPal address, in the knowledge that they would be forwarded to me. But it was not to be. They have arrived safely at AddressPal HQ, but I’m told they exceed the 20kg weight limit. I can see from my order that the package of three weighs 8.7kg. Either someone failed basic maths or Brexit is having a wobble, but these cloches are now in limbo somewhere. I’ve failed to find out how I can progress the issue, and I think they may die a lonely unfulfilled death on a shelf somewhere.

Therefore, when I spotted this lovely pair at my local garden centre, I did not hesitate. They fitted nicely in the back seat of the car, but if they had offered me free delivery, I’d have refused in a flash!

I have them in place to warm the soil for a few weeks cúpla seachtain. That will allow me to start sowing my lettuce, scallions and other vegetables a bit earlier. Happy days!

Abundance

Not far away from the new cloches, the lettuce in the glasshouse is thriving…

There’s still plenty lettuce to be had. This one is particularly tasty and I’ll be hoping there’s enough to keep me green until the little seedlings to the left are full grown. After that, I’ll surely have the first outdoor crop ready to be chomped with some Caesar Salad Dressing. Happy days again!

Sweet Pea Sweety Pie

Let’s just stay in the glasshouse for my final choice this week. It’s a very cozy 14°C (Friday at 2pm). These Sweet Peas were sown back in Autumn, and I’ve kept a close eye on them ever since. I wrote a short article about them recently, and now here they are again, accelerating upwards at a fierce rate.

These plants are very unusual for two reasons. Firstly, they are the only seeds this year that were selected by my good wife. She liked the old-fashioned varieties, and bought two packets for me to grow. Secondly, as they had been displayed publicly, one plant has been reserved by my fellow SOSer, Cady. Commandeered, more like it! Honest to god, two women on the trail of my beautifully-grown sweet peas! I can see trouble down the road.

I have fourteen ceathar déag mixed Sweet Peas and it’s likely that I’ll have enough space in my garden for five or six only. Therefore, there will be a flash sale free offering in early May. I’ll be looking for a few responsible paid-up members of the West Waterford Sweety Pie Society to offer good homes to my darlings.

Speaking of which and entirely unconnected, who remembers The Darling Buds of May? I remember it well, and Catherine Zeta Jones too.

In Other News… Perseverance

NASA successfully landed the Perseverance rover on Mars just before 9pm Irish time on Thursday. Part of its mission is to look for fossils in what is thought to have been a lake 3.7 billion years ago. That’s a lot of years. Who knows what will be here in my garden 3.7 billion years from now? A lake perhaps? On the off-chance that the Martians come looking, I’d like it to be known that it’s my garden so I’m going to bury a few of the Sweet Pea seeds, with a URL link to this article. Happy days!

I took the opportunity to send a Tweet with a special request. It just so happened that my Head Gardener asked me why was I smirking to myself? So, as you do, I told the truth. Well, let me tell you that when she laughs uncontrollably it’s a sight to behold!

Six-on-Saturday: Who are we?

We are a group of gardeners who write. We write about six items in our gardens, and we do it on Saturdays. I’ve been doing this since last June and I enjoy nothing more than reading about and seeing other gardens from as far away as New Zealand, Tasmania, USA, Canada, Britain and Waterford City. Lest we forget, hundreds more choose to publish on Twitter and Instagram. You can find out more about it here. Six things, in your garden. Could be anything, and frequently is. Do join in.

Sin a bhfuil uaimse don seachtain seo. I’ll be back again next week with another Six-on-Saturday. Thank you for reading. Have a good week. Stay safe. Slán go fóill.

Pádraig.

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Winter Pansies And Dunking Chocolate

Reading time: 6-8 mins.
Winter officially starts tomorrow, November 1st. The clocks went back an hour last weekend, and daylight time in the garden is reduced. Yesterday, I made very good use of my time in the garden. Initially, I did not expect to be able to, because my morning was taken up with other stuff including the dreaded grocery shopping. My wife and I take it in turns every second week, but I found the silver lining! Laden with supplies of edibles, I drove past my local Country Life garden centre and did an immediate about-turn to have a browse. Afterwards, I was happy that I did, because I returned home with winter plants including pansies, violas and cyclamens packed side-by-side in the car with avocados, gluten-free bread and socks from Aldi.

Pansy White Blotch

In some instances, my plants might remain unplanted for up to a week, but the afternoon was mild and pleasant so I donned my old jogging shoes and my painting shirt to get stuck in. Two hours later I rested to review my efforts, and I enjoyed a cappuccino with a side order of just one square of 70% chocolate. In the same way that some dunk a biscuit into tea or coffee, I did just that with the chocolate.
On the previous Bank Holiday Monday, I had started taking my 42 Begonias indoors. In some cases, I merely moved the pots into the glasshouse. Others needed to be carefully removed from window boxes and home-made raised wooden troughs. All of them were dying rapidly, and some light frosts over the weekend hastened their demise. Begonias are tender tubers. This means that they will die fatally if left outdoors. Over the coming weeks I will repot these wonderful bundles of energy, and keep them safely in the glasshouse until late spring. The soil will be allowed to dry out almost completely, and in March I will make sure that they begin to sprout. Actually, it is not I that miraculously lures the tuber into re-birth. It’s in their DNA to do this. I am merely required to not go against nature and will provide the best conditions when I see the slightest new growth.
But I digress. All of this work to bring my precious begonias into hibernation came about because as I planted the 46 newly-acquired pansies, violas and cyclamens above, I discovered that I was short of potting compost. However, as I was in my painting shirt and had soil all over my clean hands, I did not much feel like returning to Country Life to replenish supplies. I was rescued (once more) by my wife Marion who agreed to go on my behalf, while I had another coffee, this time with no added chocolate. An hour later, I had recycled much of the depleted soil from the Begonia pots. I was amazed that the soil was so good, even though it had hosted plants since early May. I do remember doing a good job when planting, and the richness of the soil made for a great summer show, so I was very reluctant to not use it further. I did add some fresh compost with some sand/grit and fed the plants well when they were settled into their new winter home.

I was not overly pleased with this arrangement
The leg of the P is too long

I needed steak and onions to follow all this washed-down coffee, and retired for the evening to the warmth of the stove with my footstool. I listened to some good music but the garden was still on my mind. Gardening does not stop when darkness falls. It is the time for online gardening, and this time of the year is perfect for two aspects among others:

Finally, an arrangement I like and can change next week

On this eve of winter, I chose to get cracking on the catalogues. In previous years I had requested catalogues from Thompson & Morgan and Unwins so these ones will automatically arrive in the post any day now. I broadened the list this year to include:

  1. Jersey Plants Direct
  2. Kings Seeds
  3. Marshalls Seeds (actually owned by T&M, I think)
  4. Farmer Gracy
An hour later, all the account creating was finished, all the boxes ticked (except for the boxes I chose not to tick!) and the catalogue processing is happening overnight. While waiting for the hard copies, I browsed further at 1 and 4, handed over my money in exchange for a few spring bulbs (including rare Elite Collection Alliums) and slept contentedly for an hour by the fire in advance sleeping contentedly in my own bed, satisfied that a good day was had.

The buying continues at Farmer Gracy

Interestingly, I’m on the lookout for online Irish seed/plant catalogues, but that’s a story for another day. I say this because, while UK and European companies can deliver seeds and bulbs to Ireland, they are unable to deliver plants. It had to do with Irish customs restrictions, perhaps because we want to keep riff-raff species out. Anyway, I thought I was being very smart last spring as I attempted to bypass Mr. Customs Inspector. I registered for an Address Pal account with An Post, the Irish postal system company. This service allowed me to have UK deliveries sent to a holding depot, to be forwarded to me by An Post. Full of excitement, I ordered plants from Unwins. The order was processed and delivered to a warehouse somewhere. Unfortunately, I forgot to note that An Post was also unable to deliver a parcel containing riff-raff plants to Ireland. Following several emails to and fro, the parcel was returned to Unwins five weeks later; the plants were very likely fatally dead, and I was unable to recover my €64. Unwins kept the money and the said dead plants. Dead money, you might say!
Last night I deliberately ordered spring/summer bulbs only, and I await unhindered speedy delivery. Watch this space, and in the meantime: enjoy your gardening, whether by day or by night.
Cyclamen are not always frost-hardy.
Queries to readers:
  1. Do you have a favourite online seeds/plants supplier?
  2. Describe your painting shirt in less than 20 words.
  3. Do you like avocados and/or Customs Officials?
Footnote: While I write this garden blog specifically for myself in order to remember everything that I’ll have forgotten when I forget it, I was delighted that last week’s article about my memories of mam’s garden got so much exposure. The feedback is lovely to have. As always, comments are optional and always will be. Páraig will never email you looking for feedback, but if you would like to comment, then please do. Remember, it is optional, but rude comments will be composted.

There’s that White Blotch Pansy again!
Páraig is the author of Petals by Paraig. He loves winter pansies, avocados and browsing hard-copy garden catalogues. He also loves Jersey Plants Direct and cappuccino, but not going to the garden centre in his painting shirt. He does love everyone (well, almost everyone) who chooses to follow him on Instagram or on his Facebook Page