In a small and muddled garden. Dorset. England. Thoughts about gardening and thoughts while gardening. Housework, politics and book reviews too. Esther Montgomery.

Sunday, April 26, 2015


I've not been posting here.
I've been feeling a bit constrained by the layout.
Ridiculous but true.
I thought I'd like a sophisticated background picture instead of doodles so I made one from a photograph. Sophisticated it may have been but dark and depressing it was as well. So I abandoned ship.

I haven't forgotten you though. I've still been talking to you in my head.

I silently mentioned that the Clematis armandii is flowering late this year - end of April instead of February.

I nearly told you that my apple tree had died.
It hasn't. (Phew!) But its buds looked dessicated.
I didn't think there was any way they would open. But opening they are.

Not that I could fully understand how it had died.
Surely it couldn't have been that I'd disturbed the roots so much when I planted the tulips (the tulips which got eaten every time they stuck a bit of green above ground) along beside it?
Then there's scale; quite a lot of it but surely not enough to kill it?
Or maybe woolly aphids last year. I know I should have dealt with them sooner.
In the end I decided it was because there's not been enough rain.
I've never watered my apple tree in the winter but it's growing in shallow ground next to an aridifying brick wall so perhaps I should have done. No matter. It may not produce many apples this year but at least it's not dead.
Sort of.
An espaliered apple tree along our south-facing wall means tall flowers can't go there too. They'd act as a sunblock in front of the low ripening fruit.
So the garden's a bit unvaried and flat; and flat geographically means emotionally flat too.
Tomatoes compensate for this somewhat but they are only there for the hottest part of the year.

(I'd been thinking I might train runner beans up dead apple branches and am a bit peeved that I won't be trying it.)

Oh. The books. I've waffled on about the apple tree when I'd promised to recommend books.
(Not gardening books but good reads.)
(Not that gardening books can't be good reads but I wouldn't be comfortable snuggling under the bedclothes with a tome on how to prune roses.)

Maybe I'll tell you about them next time.

Or maybe I won't.
I'm not very good at sticking to plans - even plans I've set for myself.

Meanwhile the background is blank. But that's probably just for today.
Will I be able to resist fiddling with the layout?
Probably not.
Tinkering with colours and the text is one of the things I like most about blogging.

(I've just sown lupin seeds in a seed tray. For a reason I've lost track of I was using my bed like greenhouse staging staging at the time. Now I have potting compost all over the duvet - and under it too. When Ming comes in I'll see if telling him I'm an Earth Mother turns out to be an acceptable excuse. That idea attracts me more than changing sheets on a Sunday afternoon.)

Friday, January 30, 2015


Every year I produce good quality compost. It steams when I turn it. It's scentless and beautiful when completed - rich and black and finely crumbly.

Which was useful when we had an allotment. Less so now we don't because although plants in our garden might be grateful for its nutrition there's no space between them to dig it in.

I've tried plonking it on top of the ground hoping some of the goodness will seep down when it rains. There are several problems with this; the dominant two being

a.)          It solidifies to cow-pat consistency and forms a crust over the earth.
and b.)      The ground gets higher each year so plants land up living in little dips.

I've tried mixing this kind of compost with spent potting compost to thin it down - which helps somewhat; but after a while the thin potting variety washes away and one is left with 'proper' compost (i.e. the stuff I make) on the surface after all.

Surely the answer isn't simply to give all our vegetable waste to the council to take away?

Advice, anyone?

(Don't say give it to a deserving gardener - I don't know any.)

Other Compost Posts
This Should Really Be on the Other Blog (incidentally, is compost an aphrodisiac?)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


I had a brilliant idea. I'd look carefully at Woolly Aphids. So last year (2014) I let them live longer on my apple tree than I would have done in other years - or should have done in this. ('This' being the year past - not the year now.)

It wasn't so much that I saw them as pets or disliked my self-image as a ruthless killer; I suppose I'll have to admit it was that I didn't have time to sort them out.

Looking at the positive side - I'm quite good at making something interesting out of a mistake. I wiped some away on a tissue. Did you know Woolly Aphids have red blood? I didn't. Do aphids have blood? Or do they have sap in their veins? Do they have veins? Whatever they have inside them is red. See? If I hadn't given them a bit of leeway I would never have known.

Then, about a week ago, when I was pruning the apple tree (at the wrong time of year it turns out - I'd thought winter is the best time to prune apples; it turns out it's summer for espaliers) . . . anyway, when I was pruning the apple tree I came across a lumpy thing, a black thing, a nest? I looked it up. It has something to do with Woolly Aphids. Were they wintering inside? Or were there eggs? I put the cut twig by the bins intending to go back later and photograph it. Quite a few twigs had reddish swellings. Umm. Woolly Aphid damage. I put one of these twigs with the other - ready for my photographic session.

I reckoned I'd need to shine a light on the twigs if my works of art were to come out clearly. Did I want to fix up an angle point lamp in the late afternoon? No. I'd put it off till tomorrow.

Tomorrow came. Bin day. We towed the bins out onto the street. (Our council is quite keen on bins. Each house has at least three. You can have a little one to put in your kitchen too. It (the council that is) went into overdrive when it delivered ours and gave us four sets. When I fell over because our garden path was filled with so many bins and I couldn't get round them Ming phoned the council in an angry kind of way . . . )

Bin day. We took out the bins and wheeled one over my prize collection of Woolly Aphid exhibits and . . . the question is - were there aphids in that black nesty thing? What about the red lumps? Have we let them loose? Have we spread them round the garden front and back? Will our garden in June look as if snow has fallen?

There! Another disaster to add summer interest.

(P.S. I said 'June' randomly. I can't remember if they were there in June. Probably They seemed to come and go a bit, unperturbed by precise dates.) (Like me.)

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