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Author Topic: Blog 661 - Starting a New Garden Life  (Read 21954 times)

annew

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Re: Blog 661 - Starting a New Garden Life
« Reply #30 on: December 05, 2012, 10:21:53 AM »
It sounds and looks like heaven Lesley, an ideal canvas for you to work with. I hope you have a great time producing your masterpiece!
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zvone

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Re: Blog 661 - Starting a New Garden Life
« Reply #31 on: December 08, 2012, 08:45:00 AM »
Hi Lesley!

Garden is "mirror" creator garden and your garden is wonderful.

Still forward successfully!

Best Regards!  zvone
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Lesley Cox

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Re: Blog 661 - Starting a New Garden Life
« Reply #32 on: December 10, 2012, 01:40:43 AM »
Blog 661 - December 10th 2012

Those who may follow this Blog will be relieved to know I don’t plan a daily entry. Apart from anything else I haven’t the time. But I do hope to add something relevant perhaps twice a week. I’m lifting, potting and listing everything I plan to move and I’m reminded of a much loved Canterbury alpine gardener whose wife accused him of making so many lists of his plants that he didn’t have time actually to grow them! This wasn’t correct of course and the late Charlie Challenger grew superbly, a huge range of alpine and other plants including a comprehensive collection of the genus Crocus among many other choice bulbs and herbaceous items.

Let’s go back a little.

Roger and I moved to this present address on American Independence Day, July 4th 1997. The 2 acres we bought were largely a paddock, unruly but with new plantings by the previous owner of Eucalyptus nitens, Pinus radiata and Leyland cypress. When we arrived all these trees were approximately 80cms in height. Now, the eucalypts are over 20 metres and the conifers are about 15 metres. (Trigonometry was never one of my brighter school subjects.) Over the intervening years they have provided good shelter to the east, south and west and since the land in front of us drops away, they haven’t blocked the north view of mountain, plain and the town of Mosgiel where we do most of our shopping, banking, post office things, doctor, et al. We haven’t removed trees except the occasional pine where a savage gale has taken it either in total or the top out of it and these have provided enough firewood for our winter needs.

Gum trees, however, it must be said, are filthy things. In their Australian bush context (I am always thrilled by E. regnans and others in the Dandenong Range when I visit Aussie friends) they are magnificent and utterly “right” in the landscape but as garden plants the taller species are messy with shedding bark, year-round leaf fall (the leaves don’t rot down or disintegrate) and roots which reach upward for any drop of water, so that the ground around the garden and nursery has become an obstacle course of thigh-thick roots lying along or just under the surface. These create a considerable danger to the unwary and even to Roger and me who know about them. I keep a 6 cubic metre pile of potting mix under one of these trees, handy to my potting shed but within a month of its dumping there, the new, fine gum roots have travelled upwards to infest the potting mix and are themselves up to a metre above the base of the tree at ground level. The root system in general is shallow and bowl-shaped, without a stabilising taproot so that in very high winds and especially after prolonged heavy rain, the trees rock about in the wet ground and sometimes fall over altogether. This did happen once here, flattening my tunnel house, which has never been fully efficient since, even after major rebuilding and repair.

We planned to fell a couple of pines and take their trunks with us for initial firewood but the one condition our buyers wanted, was that we were not to take down any of the present trees. Maybe they plan to start a firewood business as they’ve shown no sign of wanting a garden as such and are happy for us to take any or every plant we want.

When we arrived I wanted to garden right away but it just didn’t happen. Plants remained in pots and boxes, gardens weren’t made and nothing much happened at all except that gradually over years I lost many plants, some quite irreplaceable. Ideally I would have hired a couple of men, with machinery, to move soil about and make the gardens I so desperately wanted and needed but we had no spare money and that didn’t happen. No matter how good – or bad – my design, there were no means to put it into practice and in retrospect, I have to admit that our purchase of the present property was a bad decision, Roger’s back being a problem even back then and my own body rapidly becoming acquainted with significant to severe arthritis. So while I did get the nursery up and running, the garden as such, really didn’t happen to any extent.

The bad back, the arthritis and some other health issues are still with us of course but we have hopes and indeed a determination that the new place will be easier to contend with since it is already an established and well-maintained garden and while there will be changes to both design and plantings, there will be a little money to play with so I have a great expectation that my plants will be happy, healthy and rewarding as we get them into the ground again, or in many cases for the first time. Perhaps I should say that Roger is not by nature a gardener so the main garden will fall to my care and that suits me fine. He is however, happy to work in the vegetable garden so we look forward to a close working relationship and perhaps to the repair of what has frequently been a difficult personal one, of late.

A few pictures to finish today’s Blog. These are of the trays and trays of plants ready to move, the tunnel house, now badly overgrown by gum trees so that little light penetrates and the new owners will need to remove at least some of these trees if the tunnel is to be useful to them. As well a couple of pictures to show what happens when neglected for a period and things get out-of-control. The Rh. lepidostylum is ripe for cuttings at present, yet another job urgently needing to be done and I have seedlings and young plants of the iris so will leave that one in situ. This plant varies in stature. Although all "dwarf" compared with many, some I have are just a few cms high when in bloom, while others are up to 30cms.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2012, 11:36:10 PM by Lesley Cox »
Lesley Cox - near Dunedin, lower east coast, South Island of New Zealand - Zone 9

Brian Ellis

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Re: Blog 661 - Starting a New Garden Life
« Reply #33 on: December 10, 2012, 09:09:13 AM »
Well done Lesley, you are certainly making an impression on the jobs to be done.  Will you have a new tunnel in the next garden?
When we first went to Kit Grey-Wilson's new garden he told us of the four (I think) removal vans they had (for the plants) and one for the house!  When we saw the garden it was looking well established and has certainly filled out since.  He removes every drop of soil from the potted plants before planting them out and maintains they 'take off' far more quickly - and they certainly looked happy.
BTW did you see picture's of Otto's Fauser's garden in John Grimshaw's Blog?
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Lesley Cox

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Re: Blog 661 - Starting a New Garden Life
« Reply #34 on: December 10, 2012, 09:05:39 PM »
Thanks Brian, I'm lucky the weather is holding for the moment. The spring and summer have been miserable this year but hopefully will settle soon. Anyway, if it rains I just have to go on.

We'll do a new tunnel but smaller. The present one is 12 x 4 metres so maybe 6 or 8 x 3m. I'll still go for the knitted cloth rather than plastic sheeting as it lets rain through. I'll not make the mistake of having it under trees which block the rain. Of course when it was erected the trees were only a metre high. I've lost more seedlings to drought in the tunnel than from any other cause because I thought the rain was keeping them moist when in fact it wasn't getting through at all on the southern side where the trees are thickest overhead.

Our sellers again are generous and letting us take stuff down to store in the meantime, in the flat so now the sale is unconditional, we'll start that soon. They are still looking for somewhere and oddly, want to go to the small town of Waikouaiti where our previous choice is. But if they haven't finalised a purchase before our completion date they plan to store their stuff and live in their large caravan for a time. We can help them out with storage room too, once we've moved.

We'll do a lot of our move with two cars and trailers and have a moving lorry only for the bigger furniture and the heavier garden stuff like troughs and Bill, my sandstone statue who will at last have a home suitable to his character. A friend thinks he looks like one of the Italian Renaissance poets but he's always been Bill, to me.

Being a lover of snowdrops without being totally obsessed ( ;D) I haven't followed John Grimshaw's blog but will go there today. I heard from Fermi that JG was taken with Otto's place. Well, aren't we all? I love to go there.
Lesley Cox - near Dunedin, lower east coast, South Island of New Zealand - Zone 9

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Re: Blog 661 - Starting a New Garden Life
« Reply #35 on: December 12, 2012, 10:55:18 PM »
Blog 661 – December 13th 2012

Most Forumists will know I am totally addicted to seeds. I love their diversity of size, shape and colour as I love their potential for new life. As a woman who has had a small nursery off and on for about 50 years, seeds have figured large in all my horticultural activities and as I get older, the wish to sow and grow them and to try something new, seems not to diminish even slightly.

But this has now presented me with something of a quandary.

This year I made the brave, and previously unheard of, decision to refrain from ordering seed from the various seed exchanges but still, commercial lists tempt me and Forumists too have been very generous in sharing with me, their better species.

Yesterday I counted up my seed pots There are some 200 sown with no germination so far, about 300 with germination but the occupants too small to handle and another 200 with the seedlings needing quite urgent potting up or planting out. Many of these are bulb seedlings which are outgrowing their space and need bigger homes or to grow on in pots for sale next and the following year. Others are so crowded that they won’t grow until released from the close confines of their neighbours. The quandary? Do I start this potting exercise now, soon before a major house/garden/nursery move and have each pot transmute into an average of 25 pots, making so much more to move – and care for in the meantime – or do I leave them for another three months until the move is complete and even then, likely be unable to pot immediately as so much else, especially house, will need to be sorted and made liveable?

With so much else to sort and pack up, it seems the potting will have to wait except in the most urgent cases. Some, with only a very few youngsters in each, I can do in odd half hours and they won’t present too big a challenge to move but others, of popular species, will make several traysworth each and would mean extra trips down the road to their new home.

The ungerminated things are reasonably safe so long as the grit on top doesn’t get too dislodged during the move. The bulbous species are mostly dying off now so can safely be left for a while at least but the herbaceous things do need to be sorted soon. Some I can put into larger pots, simply tipping the whole contents onto my hand then settling with extra compost and a little fertilizer into the larger container so they can spread their roots and tops a little.

In the meantime of course, seed harvest goes on. I’ve always used margarine pots and the small plastic tubs in which one buys salads and similar products at the supermarket, to house the handfuls of seed I bring inside every day. They work well and there are so many available but they do take room and I am looking forward to the extra space of our detached flat, to lay out seeds ready to clean then packet. Some need a sheet of newspaper to assist drying and these can be laid on the floor – Roger has to be persuaded of this of course – while shelving and a wide bench already in place will take many small containers of seed.

Every year I bring in some seed and forget immediately to label them so that inevitably, since I can’t send them to an exchange, I have pots with a question mark on the label. Seeds of Narcissus seem particularly prone to this fate. This year I’ll sow the few I know and want and mass sow the extras in large trays, leaving them to grow on to flowering. Such plants even without proper labelling, make sought-after bulbs at local shows, salestables etc and often yield very fine material.

Pictures to follow. The three Rheums are growing well, RR emodi, alexandrae and nobile all potting size but I have decided to leave the R. nobile until they have died down and hopefully re-grow next spring as of the dozen seedlings I potted last year in the autumn, only one has come back to grow on, and that slowly. (Now I have a closer look at them, the nobile looks extraordinarily like alexandrae at this stage and I’m wondering if there is a mis-name in there.) R. tataricum has not yet germinated. Maybe in the autumn.

Many of the seeds are in concrete troughs, originally sold as calf drinking troughs and my mother and I bought a dozen each for 26/- a piece at the time. Nowadays they are all mine and they go where I go. Others are in the tunnel and others still are already laid out in trays for transport. These are mostly the dying off bulblets.
« Last Edit: December 12, 2012, 11:56:52 PM by Lesley Cox »
Lesley Cox - near Dunedin, lower east coast, South Island of New Zealand - Zone 9

fermi de Sousa

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Re: Blog 661 - Starting a New Garden Life
« Reply #36 on: December 13, 2012, 02:34:40 AM »
Blog 661 – December 13th 2012
Every year I bring in some seed and forget immediately to label them so that inevitably, since I can’t send them to an exchange, I have pots with a question mark on the label. Seeds of Narcissus seem particularly prone to this fate.

I know the feeling!
I now carry old envelopes in my pockets (even my work slacks!) and have a pencil to hastily write what the seed is and when and where it was collected.
It's surprising how things that look so distinctive that you couldn't possibly confuse it with anything else becomes just another unlabelled item a few weeks down the track!
cheers
fermi
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Victoria, Australia

Lesley Cox

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Re: Blog 661 - Starting a New Garden Life
« Reply #37 on: December 13, 2012, 08:05:02 PM »
That's especially true Fermi when there are at least a dozen different but indistinguishable Narcissus varieties or species. ???

I always find it hard to leave the subject of seeds and have a special reason for being grateful there are no gum trees at 661. The concrete troughs above are very near the south shelter trees and as well as shedding leaves and bark, the gums are profligate with their seed. It is fine and wind born and in fact visually, very like that of Rhododendron. I have to remove every day at least 20 or 30 gum seedlings mainly from the seed pots but also from every other part of the garden and the recently potted plants to move. If not taken out while tiny, the seedlings soon grow to the extend that removing them takes most of the pot contents as well. They will grow to well over a metre in a first season. I'll be interested to see how long it takes before there are no further gum trees germinating in my seed pots, after we move. I've sown seed of Eucalyptus ficifolia, of which there are 3 beautiful colour forms growing near me, an apricot, a scarlet and a deep crimson but not one of those very desirable seeds has germinated! Their seed pods (gum nuts - makes a nice spoonerism that,) are much larger than those of E. nitens and take 3 years to ripen.

Two seeds I'm happy with at present are Rhodothamnus chamaecistus, now close to 3 years old!!! (I think I'll have to tweeze some moss away from around it to let it breath and perhaps be potted up into something else) and Ourisia macrophylla, a native species which is never offered anywhere locally and seed is rarely available. This was from SRGC in 2010. Nothing germinated for a year then 1, but a few more this October.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2012, 11:48:22 PM by Lesley Cox »
Lesley Cox - near Dunedin, lower east coast, South Island of New Zealand - Zone 9

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Re: Blog 661 - Starting a New Garden Life
« Reply #38 on: December 29, 2012, 10:50:41 PM »
Blog 661 – December 29th 2012

There has been no time recently for blogging. Preparations for Christmas were interspersed with the continuing task of plant packing and sorting house things – why do we accumulate so much unnecessary “stuff” as we go along? – and getting some things at least, ready to transport as the sellers of our new home have generously given permission for us to take things south and store them in the attached flat, thus eventually making the final shift for the larger things as well as the plants which will have to be moved on the last day or two. I can’t ask “please will you water these as I bring them down” so transporting the many trays and pots will be for the last couple of days before the final move. So far we have taken boxes of books, pottery and porcelain and some larger things like lamps and a couple of pieces of old Lalique left to me by an aunt. Tomorrow I plan to empty the linen cupboard but what am I to do with the mountains of double damask table cloths and napkins which my late mother insisted should be a part of my wedding trousseau? We don’t use such things nowadays, thank heaven, with their need for hot water washing and starching, as well as careful ironing.

In the meantime, watering continues and I’m in serious trouble today because though I turned off the hose end last night, I omitted to turn off at the tap and a split developed in the hose I’d been using and this morning, our tank is empty. Being between Christmas and New Year, and a Saturday, I’ve not been able to find one of the several water carriers who deliver regularly to the country folk around, who is willing to break into his holiday. Roger has taken a couple of 20 litre containers down to his niece in Mosgiel and we’ll have to wait until Monday for a shower.

With the daily watering, there is also daily seed collection, seemingly something every day at present and some good things have set seed this year that haven’t in the past. I’m delighted to have 8 maturing pods on Iris barbatula, just one or two previously and Rigidella orthantha, illustrated below is also setting pods. I’ve done my best to cross pollinate the two seedlings of Primula wollastonii but both are thrum-eyed so maybe nothing will come of that. I used a fine paintbrush, trimmed down to just a very few hairs and poked it right into the throat but I suspect most of what looked like pollen was in fact, the white farina. I’ve also crossed the P. wollastonii with P. flaccida to see what happens, if anything.

I’ve been potting as many of the smaller rhododendrons as will fit into large pots (30 – 40 cms) and as they’ve been very dry and are now being thoroughly watered, the new lease of life they are having is amazing to see. Rhododendron keiskii ssp. cordifolia has bushed up and turned deep red because though in summer mode – usually it goes red/black in winter – it’s in full sun for now and that is colouring the foliage but it’s not affected by the sun and heat because of the extra water. I have always found that plants generally and especially those which prefer cool conditions, are much better able to stand boiling than they are baking, i.e. they can cope with heat and sun if their compost is moist (they may wilt) much better than if it is dry (they will go crisp and die). Primulas especially are a case in point but it applies to many plants including all rhododendrons.

R. ‘Pipit,’ almost gone with just a couple of small twigs with green leaves at their tips, I hoped might show some new sign of life. It has! New clusters of greenery are bursting through the pot surface near the centre of the plant and soon I can trim back all the other top growth for a new, rejuvenated plant. It is a plant which makes underground stolons and fortunately I have two of these potted up months ago and looking well and healthy but it was a close thing with the much larger main specimen.

Tropaeolum ciliatum, plaguey thing that it is, is showing to good effect on a netting fence. There’s not a hope of getting rid if it much as I’d like to. It’s every bit as rampant as T. speciosum but not nearly as showy and thrives in a hot, dry position which the red species does not. I’m aware though that a couple of Forumists would like the seed so if it is ready before we leave, I’ll collect it. If not, I shan’t be sorry to leave it behind. However, when we were at 661 on Thursday, I noticed T. speciosum flowering way up high in some ancient camellias. I know some will think I’m mad to want this lovely thing but I’m thrilled to have it – or will be – as I’ve never been able to establish it here.

Just had a phone call from one of the water firms. They’ve taken pity and will be here in half an hour with 10,000 litres. Very pleased about this but not the price of $300 which includes a $50 holiday callout fee!

The photos this time are of R. keiskii ssp. cordifolia with its summer colour and Polygonatum graminifolium, another which has leapt into life again with potting and consistent watering, following a close call with death. Then the Tropaeolum and Rigidella orthantha, grown from seed donated by Stewart Preston to the Otago Alpine Garden Group. This is its first flowering so a great thrill. Stewart grows wonderful things, wonderfully well.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2012, 11:13:21 PM by Lesley Cox »
Lesley Cox - near Dunedin, lower east coast, South Island of New Zealand - Zone 9

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Re: Blog 661 - Starting a New Garden Life
« Reply #39 on: December 30, 2012, 04:18:03 AM »
Lesley, Delightful blog entry.   

I am so glad you were able to get water delivered.  Living without a supply of water is very difficult, even for a few days. 
Leon
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Lesley Cox

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Re: Blog 661 - Starting a New Garden Life
« Reply #40 on: December 30, 2012, 09:53:47 AM »
You're right Leon, water is so vital to everything horticultural - everything else too of course - and we tend to take it for granted until it runs out. Here we have only rain water and occasionally have to buy in extra. In the new place we'll have 2 units from the District Council, i.e. 2000 litres per day! if we want it, with the ability to store what we don't need and there is also a rain-off-the-roof arrangement into a huge concrete tank as well so we should be well supplied. Actually I need to check on that 2000 litres. A unit was 1000 litres in our last garden but that could have changed in the meantime with water being seen nowadays as more of a resource to be conserved than one for unlimited and frequently profligate use. Must remember to ask some questions tomorrow.
Lesley Cox - near Dunedin, lower east coast, South Island of New Zealand - Zone 9

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Re: Blog 661 - Starting a New Garden Life
« Reply #41 on: December 31, 2012, 04:31:45 AM »
Blog 661 – December 31st 2012

In the last episode I mentioned how the foliage of a small rhododendron, usually green in mid summer, has become red while exposed to quite hot sun for an extended period. (At last we are having “normal” summer temperatures, in the 24 – 32 deg C range, in spite of what our TV weather people say Dunedin has had; 18C if we’re lucky! Of course we here are a little inland which makes a difference.)

Why I refer to this, is because on our latest trip south I became acquainted with 2 dahlias whose names I don’t know yet, but both were NZ-raised by Dr Keith Hammet, an Auckland breeder of many plants. The two have respectively, bright but slightly burnt orange and gold flowers, single and quite large but they are especially good because their foliage is close to black. I had seen these advertised but they seemed to me to be stubby and inelegant plants so until now I have ignored them. In Shirley’s/my garden, they have reached a metre in height and are truly glorious plants which I’ll be very happy to go on with. And why this is relevant to the rhododendron reference is because another plant of the gold form is in a shadier place and the foliage has much green in it, the lesson being that exposed to as much sun as possible, the finer the foliage colour becomes. I have 4 plants (I’m sure I had five last season but can’t find the fifth now) of the old dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ With its single scarlet flowers and equally good, dark foliage, it will make a happy companion for the other two. It grows very tall, 1.5 metres under good conditions and the thought of it always attracted me since reading of it originally in one of Vita Sackville-West’s Observer articles. So when, in 1981 I had the chance to import it from the UK I took advantage and it’s likely (though can’t be proved) that whatever stock of this magnificent variety is in New Zealand, is from that original importation as I found it easy to propagate from cuttings, the young plants developing tubers in their second season. Shirley’s plants are in full bloom now but my Bishops are just starting to bud so it may prove to be a later-blooming variety, or maybe planting out of their pots will encourage earlier flowers to coincide with the others.

An almighty downpour yesterday, a real cloudburst and while I generally quite enjoy a good bout of thunder and lightening, the latter came so fast upon the former that the storm must have been directly overhead. Did I say something about “normal” summer? Every window I went to, I was “flashed” with lightening in my eyes so I stayed in the central hallway and packed books until it was over, about an hour after which it settled to regular rain, though there had been nothing in the forecast to suggest either event for coastal Otago. Roger and Marley who were out walking, came home drenched and pouring with water and poor Marley a nervous, shivering wreck. He’s not fond of rain at the best of times and the t and l sent him almost totally over the edge of sanity. He’s had to be chivvied carefully back to some semblance of calm but every time I sit down he tucks himself between my feet and shuffles backwards as far as the chair will let him, for added protection. The back door which opens outwards, was blocked when they arrived home by a high pile of large hailstones.

This is the last Blog episode for 2012. I wish all readers a happy, healthy New Year in 2013 and I hope you will enjoy reading about my new garden and how it progresses. The very fact of having a report to make should keep me up to scratch with the work to be done each day. 

Just the one picture this time. I have none of 'Bishop of Llandaff' and for some reason my camera didn't work properly for the orangey plant this afternoon so here is the yellow form but as with often happens with my camera, the yellow is not well shown.
« Last Edit: December 31, 2012, 04:35:07 AM by Lesley Cox »
Lesley Cox - near Dunedin, lower east coast, South Island of New Zealand - Zone 9

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Re: Blog 661 - Starting a New Garden Life
« Reply #42 on: December 31, 2012, 09:55:06 AM »
Roger and Marley who were out walking, came home drenched and pouring with water and poor Marley a nervous, shivering wreck. He’s not fond of rain at the best of times and the t and l sent him almost totally over the edge of sanity. He’s had to be chivvied carefully back to some semblance of calm but every time I sit down he tucks himself between my feet and shuffles backwards as far as the chair will let him, for added protection.

Poor old Marley, I hope he's feeling a little more himself.  Not the best of things to happen to him.
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Re: Blog 661 - Starting a New Garden Life
« Reply #43 on: December 31, 2012, 01:19:55 PM »
A very Happy New Year to you and Roger too Lesley.  I look forward to reading about your new garden. 
Your rheum seedlings look great.  Most of mine collapsed suddenly in mid-autumn, perhaps with a fungal infection, so it remains to be seen whether they return next spring.  Fortunately I kept a few seeds over to try again.
Ashley Allshire, Cork, Ireland

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Re: Blog 661 - Starting a New Garden Life
« Reply #44 on: December 31, 2012, 08:14:28 PM »
Brian, poor old Marley - and we think he's about 12 now, not sure as previous owners were his second family and like Cain before him, he had been treated badly by the first - recovered from the storm only to be deeply distressed last night by fireworks across the road. Roger had gone into town (taken by Marley and me) to have a final visit with his two step daughters, who are moving to Australia but when we went in again to collect him Marley wouldn't come out of the house. I carried him down the steps but he wouldn't get in the car and bolted back inside. So I shut him in my bedroom, furthest away from the noise and when R and I arrived home an hour later he had burrowed deep as possible under the duvet and had his poor head under his paws. He spent the whole night in or on my bed which is very unusual, not permitted in fact but I couldn't throw him out under the circumstances. He's much better this morning but will need a quiet day to start the new year.
Lesley Cox - near Dunedin, lower east coast, South Island of New Zealand - Zone 9

 


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