Friday, September 21, 2018

Rhus Typhina or Stags Horn Sumach

How hard must it be to find someone selling this shrub for less than £30?

I first bought it in a 2litre pot at Ballymena Market. back when it stood on the original Fair Hill site, planted it at our first home on the Dreen Road where it flourished.

We sold that house to Clint and we knew he wasn't a lover of flowers. He was going to dig everything out! And he did. But, before that happened I returned to the garden, dug out suckers and potted them on. It took a while, a long while before we organised our new garden and decided where the Stag's Horn Sumach should go.

Too long. The Rhus Typhina was potted (and doing very well) in 3litre pots but, by the time I went looking for them, were gone. Nowhere to be found. Completely disappeared. Bear in mind that they were six or seven plants, among several thousand. It was a plant nursery after all, and my sumachs were lumped in along with the rest of the For Sale plants and some utter low-life landscaper type bod had arrived up someday, on a day that we weren't around and stole them. This light-fingered shit probably took other stuff as well but we don't keep track of lonicera, clematis and random shrubs so who knows.

That was years ago and I still haven't replaced my furry-branched sumach. There have been other sumachs but not Rhus Typhina. I'm old now, how many years have I got to appreciate those velvet branches and the unsurpassed Autumn colour. I could spend thirty quid being robbed by some pack of English bastards, charging me stupid postage and a further six quid surcharge for being from Northern Ireland, Channel Islands or The Fucking Hebrides like having to get on a boat means we get to be robbed. When I KNOW there are people within a ten-mile radius with Stag's Horn Sumach TORMENTING them with suckers and all you'd have to do is let me dig them up and I'll swap you a clematis, or some crocosmia Lucifer and as many aquilegias as you can carry.

What's brought this on, you might ask? Bert and I, this very day sailed to Dobbie's Nursery in Lisburn, which emporium offered Rhus Typhina on its website. I knew it was a Fool's Errand, websites being notoriously unreliable entities. And of course, I was right. I got into a conversation with one of the (Greenmount educated) sales assistants. It was an interesting and enlightening conversation. Apparently, crocosmia Lucifer is still a thing and also, the website is a nonsense. All that it means is that Dobbies knows Rhus Typhina is a plant, they've heard about it and might have sold it once, several years ago. What else can I say about Dobbies? It is very expensive. Araucaria that Bert sells for ten quid they sell for forty. There is a butchery? There is. I find that strange. The women's toilets are weird. The toilet cubicles are flimsy and cheap looking. The wash hand basins are shaped like flowers. They look stupid and hard to clean. I did not think of flowers, just bacteria.

Despite all this, I bought stuff. Strange stuff. Unusually coloured crocus, weird bean seeds and nasturtium seeds that are supposed to look like orchids. Dobbies has a chance to redeem itself. If these corms and seeds fulfil their promise I might return.

I still want Rhus Typhina.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Seeds Ordered!

Product NameStock CodeQuantityPrice
Bargain Basement 10 packets13271£ 3.25
Eremurus robustus513B1£ 2.38
Canna indica2691£ 3.10
Eccremocarpus scaber, 'Tresco' Mixed490H1£ 2.25
Anethum graveolens, 'Mariska'102Q1£ 1.95
Papaver somniferum Mixed Varieties954G1£ 1.75
Lathyrus odoratus, Old-Fashioned Sweet Peas, 'Cupani'765Z1£ 1.95
Salvia patens, 'Blue Angel'1141R1£ 3.15
Salvia sclarea var. turkestanica1140R1£ 1.95
Cleome spinosa, Mixed Colours366A1£ 1.85
Pulsatilla vulgaris1075B1£ 3.25
Helianthus annuus, 'Lemon Queen'674J1£ 2.25
Abutilon x hybridum, F1 Hybrid, 'Bella' Series, Mixed5M1£ 3.15
Angelica gigas102E1£ 3.65
Carthamus tinctorius, 'Zanzibar'277P1£ 1.95
Adonis aestivalis481£ 1.72
Sub Total:16 Items£ 39.55

So, using the Flickr gallery group, I made my choices. All seeds ordered from Chiltern Seeds and all except the salvia sclarea inspired by James Fenton's list. 

I've been meaning to grow that salvia for ages now. It's been a while.

If I do this right, there should be enough plants to share with friends and enough to sell to the local garden supply shop which should, at least, cover the cost of the seeds.


Another thing that was on my mind today - it was our father's birthday. Seamus was born on this day 99 years ago. Happy birthday old lad, wherever you are. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

A Garden from a Hundred Packets of Seed

One of the more wonderful things about the internet is how easy it is to source hard to find books. The poet James Fenton's A Garden from a Hundred Packets of Seed was not available from my local library nor was it to be found on Amazon but, as always, eBay obliged. I couldn't wait to get it.

The premise was interesting. A hundred packets of seed. It would have to be a very big garden if all those seeds sprouted. It would cost at least £300 to buy the seed and a fair bit of compost and seed trays would be needed as well. Still, it would be much, much cheaper than the garden centre, that is if one could even find that sort of variety in a garden centre. I'm sure Fenton doesn't expect anyone to actually sow 100 packets in one season or even two. Growing space might be a problem too.

The book arrived and I read it in one sitting. It wasn't easy. The print was small and too many of the pages were coloured orange or violet which made it difficult to read. There were no illustrations. Despite all this, it was an inspiring read and I longed to grow new things.

I spent an hour copying out a list of Fenton's recommendations. Black ink on a white background - super-easy to read. Would it be wrong of me to reproduce the list here? Would it be an infringement of copyright? The book is still worth it for the way Fenton writes. He is a poet after all.

But I did do this thing and it has taken me three days. I could have completed it in an hour if I'd put my mind to it but I have this fantasy that my life is composed of a series of Herculean tasks so I preferred to take my time. The thing I did was make a gallery on Flickr, a gallery composed of the hundred plants that Fenton listed. Many of them were unfamiliar to me which was rather a thrill. Those will be the ones I shall try and the gallery will assist with the choice.

In case readers are unfamiliar with the concept of Flickr galleries they are selected from other people's pictures, not one's own. I'd like to express gratitude to all my fellow Flickrites who allowed their beautiful photographs to be used.

Here is the link. I'm sure that anyone who has a look will be impressed with the gorgeous photographs and James Fenton's choices. Enjoy!

And if any of the seeds packets I decide to purchase and sow succeed be sure I will keep everyone posted!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Garden Centre

Today we went to The Range garden centre, where Evie wanted to have her photograph taken at all the stands.

 She insisted on two angles at this one.

 This, she said, was her favourite picture because it featured her favourite flower - the pansy.

We had an hour to use up before we picked up her sister. She asked, "Did you get the lion in the photo?"

And after all that, we only purchased two pot herbs and some lily bulbs. She wanted me to buy a fountain. There are about as many photographs of her standing beside the wide selection of fountains but I think that's enough garden centre for one day.

Oh well, maybe just the one then.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

My Birthday Photograph

These pictures were taken on the eve of my sixty-fifth birthday. They had to be taken yesterday as Katy, my middle daughter, was heading back to deepest, darkest Norfolk earlier today with her family. Dave took the pictures with my camera and under my instruction which absolves him from any responsibility as to their overall quality. We did have a lovely day, an outing to the zoo (of which more on a later date) and a Indian food ordered in from the Khayber restaurant. We ate before six because that's what happens when there are small children.

So, sixty-five years old. No argument now - I am definitely an Elder of the Tribe. I get the all-Ireland free travel pass so might be off to Dublin soon. I won't wear those jeans I think. When I look down at my leg attire I always think it looks OK but photos tell a different tale, a tale of baggy denim.

 For fun, I chopped the other pictures into bits. James, my sole male descendant (so far) was very taken with Ziggy. Perhaps Ziggy was slightly less enthusiastic about James' attentions. Judy was the most patient of all our dogs with James which I think is because Martha was around when the Judester was a pup.

Martha, Zoe and the Queen of Dogs.

Evie just wanted to cuddle Emily. She has always loved babies.

Ziggy looks a little stand-offish in this one. No-one else seems to mind.

The house seems so quiet now that all my visitors have gone. But it was a super birthday and a wonderful four days with my Norfolk family. The next time I see James he'll be a seasoned pre-schooler and Emily will be completely mobile. In the meantime I have Mark's regular photographs and videos to look forward to. And perhaps get up to date with this facetime thing.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

A Crossed Line

Not Able To Come To The Phone

The telephone makes me cross. That's because it's ALWAYS ME who answers it. If I'm showering or otherwise engaged Bert will still wait to see if I get it and then excuse himself by saying,

I was just too late, whoever it was rang off.


The phone rang the other morning and, as always, I answered it.

Hello, is Bertie there?
May I ask who's calling?
Blah..blah... health.

I carry the phone to him like a good wife.

Bert, it's the Health Centre. Maybe about your scan.

He had a DXA scan last week.

I gave him some privacy to take the call even though I was keen to hear what the health professionals had to say. Some minutes later he told me what had transpired.

Hello! I'm calling about the results of the test.
It's positive.
What does that mean?
It's positive.

Bert told me that he thought the caller was awfully abrupt for a health professional.

He said,

What shall I do?
There's nothing to be done!
But shall I come down to see you?
What! No. There's no point. There's nothing can be done.

At this point, Bert thought the caller extremely unsympathetic to him.

He said,

But is there not some advice I might need? Medication I could take?
What? I'm ringing about the wee ash tree. The test was positive for ash dieback. Nothing to be done.
Oh. I thought you were someone else.
Oh dear. It was the Plant Health Inspector on the line. I should have cottoned on when she called him Bertie. That other lot always refer to him as Robert. Still, maybe it'll teach him to answer the phone himself instead of letting his half-deaf wife do it. Some hope!

Monday, September 03, 2018

Ash Dieback

Just a little self-sown sapling at the edge of the growing area that has succumbed to the Chalara ash dieback fungus. Bert spotted it a couple of weeks ago. It's a notifiable plant disease so he started looking for the number of the plant inspector who calls once or twice a year. Of course, he couldn't find the number and after about a week he cut down the sapling and chucked it in a shed. The very next day the plant inspector drove into the yard. Bert told her about the sapling and she took a sample to test. She informed him that the disease is now rife in Counties Antrim and Down and there is no real benefit in taking precautionary measures. Apparently, it is mainly saplings that are affected so hopefully, our mature trees will be able to fight it off.

So it's not always buddleia and butterflies in Nelly's Garden. Yet, on a cheerier note...