Season Greetings Gardeners,

I hope you are all well and getting into the festive spirit. I can’t quite believe another year has gone by, it seems only a few weeks ago that I was out sieving compost for the new seasons seeds. This year has definitely been a strange one for me, I have come to love and appreciate my garden and greenhouses even more than before. I have to agree with the experts, gardening is really good for the soul.

As I write this, I am eating a pumpkin and sultana scone. One of the supermarkets were selling pumpkins for 10p each as it was after Halloween and nobody wanted them anymore. I was really shocked and saddened at the waste of food and the farmers time. After all there is more to a pumpkin than making soup and lanterns. My scone recipe came from a very old Gardeners’ World Magazine, and even though they sound a bit different, they are delicious, can be stored for a week in a tub, or frozen and taken out on a cold December day. I also have stashed away in the freezer a fruits of the forest and plum crumble which is so refreshing after a Sunday lunch. Whilst digging about in the freezer I came across a couple of bags of soft fruits from my blueberries, pink blueberry and gooseberry. I plan to make muffins with the blueberries and a double cream fool with the gooseberries, as well as finding the tomato soup and pasta sauce Mum and I made back in the summer.

Pumpkin & fruit scones and the last of Amanda's aubergines & chillies

Pumpkin & fruit scones and the last of Amanda’s aubergines & chillies

As many of you may know, I’m still banned from messing about in the mud due to having chemotherapy. I’m about three quarters of the way through the sessions and I still have to have an operation to remove my tumour in the new year, so I might be banned for some time. The problem is I want to be out in the garden. I want to feel the cold air on my skin as I dig over the borders in preparation for next year. I want to be out scrubbing the glass of the greenhouses to get rid of pests and diseases. I want to plant onions and garlic and early salads, but for now, I just have to ask Mark to do it. He has just finished cleaning the large greenhouse of the final aubergines and chilli plants. We had fruit off them unit the final week in November, our longest season yet, but a sudden sharp frost and falling temperatures put paid to that. My poor greenhouse now holds a collection of canes and empty pots. I’m still tempted to buy some garlic bulbs and onions though and put them in the greenhouse borders as they can be set any time up until March. I’m sure Mark wouldn’t mind popping out and checking on them once a week. He has found an alternative use for the greenhouse for winter and now regularly hangs the sock airer and small clothes horse there to get the heat from the winter sun to dry the clothes.

The small greenhouse though, is still being quite productive. There are a couple of small pots of mint growing on the shelves, and last year’s T&M gift to me of white Christmas hyacinths have just come back into bud after been stored all summer in their dry compost. These have now been brought into the house and kept in the spare bedroom which is cooler than the rest of the bungalow, so it should help them establish in time for Christmas. Though saying that all three of our pink Christmas cacti are in full flower on our bathroom windowsill.

Chillies and aubergines in Amanda's greenhouse

Chillies and aubergines in Amanda’s greenhouse

In the greenhouse border the begonia is still flowering. I am a bit worried as I need it to die back before any more frost hits, so that I can store the tubers. I’ve had these Apricot Shades tubers for a few years and they are very reliable. I have a squash that it still trying to grow and produce fruits, although none of them were big enough to eat when it was meant to be in season. Its not a T&M plant. The roots have come out of the soil and it looks like a snake coiling across the border. The fruits are no bigger than a cherry at the moment. Part of me wants to dig it up, part of me is like a child waiting to see what will happen and reluctant to pull it out. The Money tree bark is thickening up, and the leaves are looking good still, it doesn’t drop its leaves, but they can sometimes fade when light levels drop. Finally in the border, the Aloe Vera’s are multiplying like mad.

I had an idea that I would give Aloe Vera’s as Christmas gifts to some of my friends and family, so I was. chuffed to find in a recent magazine I could send off for a free plant holder macramé kit. The kit states there is enough cord and beads to make three holders. Only it turns out, I am rubbish at macramé! It’s probably due to the side effects of the chemo which causes numbness and tingling in my fingers, but I really could not get the knots to tie together. I tried a few times on different days, before giving in. So Mum says she’s going to give it ago. Poor Mum, hope she knows what she’s letting herself in for.

Both her and I have had success with gardening this year, she came second in the Johnston in Bloom village competition, and I won a Halls Cold Frame, with my picture of cosmos flowers in the T&M bloggers Cosmos Carnival photo category. I was so excited to win the cold frame that I made Mark build it in the living room so I could see how it looked. It’s currently being stored back in its box, but come spring we have the ideal place for it next to the bench, where my young plants and seedlings can acclimatise to the spring air.

Amanda's coldframe and Amanda with her mum

Amanda’s coldframe and Amanda with her mum

I have new plans for what I call the grassy knoll in the garden. We have an area between the front lawn the and the back lawn that is not much more than a wide strip of grass. On one side is the street and our boundary wall and on the other a bank that slopes steeply to the side path and bungalow wall. The bank is planted with an acer, fuchsias, rosemary, honeysuckle, a mother-in-law’s tongue and aquilegia. The grass itself is tough and and is covered with clover and thistle. At the top of the knoll is a lovely pampas grass, and we have added various shrubs along the boundary edges to make it more colourful and more private. However, what I really want to do is make it more interesting. I don’t know if my plan will work, but come the spring, and hopefully I am better, I want to grow a variety of grasses and then make a curvy path with them so that it links with the secret tunnel In the privet hedge that separates the front from the back. I hope then to encourage more wildlife to hide within the fronds. Things like beetles and bugs and gnats that the local bats can eat in the summer. In my head I have an image of tall grasses with a twisty path and insects buzzing, I tried to draw it on paper, but as I found out, I’m rubbish at drawing too!

I really have enjoyed writing my blogs this year, it’s brought me closer to T&M and to the other bloggers and readers too. There have been times when I have been so unwell that I have wanted to cry in frustration, then I have looked out of my bedroom window at my greenhouses and said to myself I will get better. I haven’t finished my garden yet. I really hope that in the next few months I can finally kick off my cancer, pick up my pots and get gardening once again.

Until next year, have Wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Love from Amanda xx

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