An Amazing May

Hi Everyone,

What an amazing May, so hot and dry! Hope this isn’t our summer.

I have a confession to make – I’ve not done half as much in the greenhouses as I would usually do. Don’t get me wrong, I love being in them, or in my garden, but with limited energy, mobility and dexterity I have not been able to do as much as previous years. But fear not, I’m not ready to hang up the trowel just yet.

So what have I been doing this month? It seems a lot of trying to keep the plants cool by opening al, the doors and windows and damping down the floor with a good splash of water. I went in there one morning and it was 35°c. Because the plants are still quiet small in Ty Mawr we still put the washing to dry on airers in there.

Lots of the plants put on so much growth they were moved to the cold-frame then later into their final growing positions.

Oh Star Wars day (May the Fourth – be with you), in The Office I decided to take my recycling project even further and filled up an egg box with soil before sprinkling a food for bees and butterflies seed mix into it. They took a matter of days to germinate. Because the egg box was similar in feel and texture to the peat pots I have been using, I was careful to keep it damp, but not too soggy, so that I could lift the box up without it falling apart. That same day I planted my trial-for-another-company petunias into a hanging wall planter bag and laid it on the staging to settle and establish. Then the next day I planned to clean the greenhouse after the winter storms.

Mark washed all of the glass on both greenhouses inside and out, while I decided to empty the storage seat to see what goodies I had. I found some incredibloom, some colourful cane toppers and and some pretty bulb markers that T&M sent me last year. After Mark washed the glass he took everything out to sweep the floor. I was really tired and when I was trying to help put things back in the greenhouse with him, I dropped a sunflower. The plant was fine, but there was now mud all over the clean floor.



Mid month, the new batch of Marigold Strawberry Blonde seedlings were big enough to be transplanted into bigger pots, I spent a few days pricking them out along with the African Marigold Spinning Wheels. For some reason my French Marigolds are refusing to germinate. I’m on my third sowing since March. I think they are sulking because the beautiful Orange Calendula and the fluffy Snow Princess are the star of my baskets so far.

As the temperatures began to soar I moved the Cape Gooseberries, and a collection tomatoes, aubergines, peppers and chillies from The Office to the hanging shelves in Ty Mawr. With access to longer periods of sunshine and a more temperate climate they established strong root-balls very quickly. Sometimes I had to water them morning, noon and evening as they were shooting up.

Mum had been sorting her garden, and no longer wanted her pretty shell planter. It matches the solar water feature of hers she gave me a few years ago, and my own blue containers that sit on the patio, so she gave it to me. I have planted it with the strawberry blonde marigolds and I cannot wait to see the flowering results. With a bit of luck the colours that are opposite on a colourwheel, chart, should look fantastic

Our new neighbours opposite us had recently asked if we wanted a collection of their primroses for the garden as they had far too many. We said yes please, and as we were talking and wondering around our garden, they commented on the biodiversity of wildlife that was in it. They said they had slow-worms in their garden as their cats kept bringing them in the house. Mark explained that Slow-Worms are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and if possible try to put them somewhere safe from the cats. The slow-worm breeds in May and the males can be aggressive towards each other in order to find a female and mate. I added that slow worms are very beneficial for the garden, as they eat slugs and snails, however I was very glad I didn’t have them in the garden as I am afraid of them and snakes.

A few evenings later we had a knock on the door, thankfully I didn’t answer it. I heard voices and in the hall there was Mark and the neighbour with a slow worm. I kind of went off on one about bringing it near me. When they finished laughing I asked why was there a slow worm in my house. Apparently, Mark has been re-homing slow worms in our compost bin, from the neighbours since that conversation. I was very brave and took a photo of it for this blog. This little critter has two puncture marks where a magpie dropped it on their lawn. It did occur to me that it was probably the one from our garden they re-homed before as our resident magpie is often up by the compost bin.





On the 18th of May we went off in the motorhome for the weekend. This time I left all the peat pots and the egg box in a tray of water. I soaked all the plants and we almost drowned the greenhouse borders. And just as well, as the temperatures soared. When we were back on late Sunday I had hay-fever from hell so avoided the garden until Monday morning. All the plants were fine. The Sweetpeas Turquoise Lagoon where placed in a large pot and I made a string and cane obelisk for them to climb.

The bee and butterfly egg box and other pollinator plants were big enough to go outside and we up- cycled an old plastic wheelbarrow into a feature planter. It was better to drill a few drainage holes in the bottom of the barrow than take it to the tip. Although it would have been recycled I think it will look better filled with flowers this way, rather than using energy to make it into something else.

My garden peas haven’t germinated, and I think the packet has been open too long, so I had to chuck the last few seeds out. Coincidentally, I sent off for some free pea seeds months ago and had forgotten all about it, so imagine my happy surprise when they arrived, the day the I chucked the old packet out. The seeds are part of a social-media incentive to get people growing their own produce, so I will be posting updates on my social media platforms about regarding the progress.

On the 24th of the month I got Mark to build a sort of trellis from my mums old greenhouse staging, canes and

string to give the Cape Gooseberries something that climb up. He then placed them in their final growing positions, along with the sweet peppers and aubergines. Which means that in The Office, I now have the following jobs left to complete:

  •  Transplant the Zinnias Amaranthus Joseph’s Coat into individual pots and place in the colder frame to harden off.
  • Build another string and cane trellis for my emerging garden peas.
  • Sow the Blu Moon and Pink Moon Radish and some more Rainbow Mix Beetroot.
  • The final job will be to put the two chillies into hanging baskets to allow them to spread their roots.


In the cold frame, I need to transplant the carrot and Brussel Sprouts into deep pots or sacks. In Ty Mawr, I need to pinch out the tips of the trial-for-another-company tomaítoes, dead head the marigolds that keep the pests away. Next I will thin out some of the chilli plants in the fire bucket and place them in the borders between the Beetroots that are due to be pulled up in a week or so.On the hanging shelves I have some of the Lidl’s sweet peppers that I grew from the seeds in the ones I ate, many are planted in the borders, but I am hoping to give these to my nieces. Mark plans to erect their greenhouse for them as my brother still hasn’t done it. I meant to give them some of the sunflowers, but because of the weather the plants ended up going in and around our garden.

I hope I have more to share with you next month. Learning my limitations has been hard, things that I took for granted, like watering the plants building trellises and spending hours pottering are no longer possible. Instead I rely on Mark to do lots of the work for me. I have learnt do garden, little and often. If it take me three hours over three days to transplant seedlings, then so be it.

As I said at the start, I’m not ready to hang up the trowel just yet.

Until next time,

Happy Gardening.

Love Amanda.

From Rake To Bake – Mint ‘n’ Chocolate Biscuits

Welcome to Baking Blog. Each month will feature an in-season fruit or vegetable dish to make with a little bit of grow-your-own information on the side.

May is perfect for making Mint ‘n’ Chocolate Biscuits.

Hands up who only uses the mint in their garden for savoury dishes? Yet, it is so much more than a herb to enliven lamb or new potatoes, and making these tasty treats is much easier than you think.There are many varieties of this versatile herb, from plain garden spearmint to high priced Moroccan mint, and if kept in a pot it doesn’t have to be a garden thug.

Mint has many uses from aiding digestion to clearing a blocked head, cooling the body down, helping your liver and even whitening teeth. No wonder it is used in toothpastes! Mint is high in antioxidants and carotenes helping the body absorb vitamins. It also contains Vitamin C, Iron, Magnesium, Calcium, potassium and copper. It’s also a source of dietary fibre.

Prep Time 15 minutes. Cooking Time 15-25 Minutes. Decorating Time 5-10 minutes. Oven 180°c Fan 160°c Gas Mark 4 Skills Level Easy Peasy*


  • Chopping Board.
  • Sieve
  • Measuring Spoons.
  • Scales
  • Spatula
  • Blunt knife.
  • Biscuit cutters.
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Rolling pin.
  • Ziplock or sandwich/freezer bag.
  • Small saucepan
  • Small Pyrex bowl.
  • Oven tray.
  • Cooling Rack.
  • Grease proof paper.
  • Plate.
  • Pasty Mat (optional).



  • 3 Tablespoons of freshly picked Mint Leaves .
  • 50g Caster Sugar.
  • 100g Butter .
  • 150g Plain Flour.
  • 150-200g of Dark Chocolate.
  • Some Cold Water.



  • Wash the mint leaves, strip from the stalk and dry thoroughly with kitchen paper.
  • Snip or chop the leaves into tiny pieces and place in a ziplock bag.
  • Preheat the oven and line a baking tray with grease proof paper.
  • Measure the dry ingredients and place in separate containers.
  • Measure the butter and cut into small squares, then put it in a mixing bowl.
  • Break the chocolate into a small Pyrex bowl and set to one side.
  • Next rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips – try not to use the palms of your hands as you do not want the heat of your hands to melt the butter. The mixture is ready when it resembles fine breadcrumbs and there are no obvious butter lumps when you shake the bowl.
  • Add about a tablespoon of sugar from your measured ingredients to the bag of mint. Then take your bag outside to a hard surface such as a windowsill or patio tile and bash the mint and sugar bag with the end of your rolling pin for about two minutes, or longer until you can no longer see the sugar and that dark juices escape from the mint.
  • Tip everything from the ziplock bag into the breadcrumb mixture along with the rest of the sugar then turn with a blunt knife.
  • Once the dough starts to stick put a very small amount of water in and knead the dough with your hands. Too much water will make the dough crack when baking, so just start with quarter to half a teaspoon. You just need enough moisture to make the dough stick. Note this is a hard dough and requires a good amount of kneading.
  • The dough is ready when you can shape it. Roll the dough onto a pastry mat or lightly floured worktop to about 5cm in thickness, then use a biscuit cutter to make to cut the biscuits . Any shape cutter is fine but a 5cm sized one works best.
  • Re-roll the dough to get as many biscuits as you can. Place in the centre of the oven for about 15 minutes,  check they are rising, but do not open the oven door. The biscuits are ready when they have risen and are a light golden colour. Don’t try to brown them as it impairs the taste.
  • Leave the biscuits to cool then move to a wire rack and allow to go fully cold.
  • Once the biscuits are cold, heat some water in a small saucepan, then turn the heat down and place the Pyrex bowl of chocolate in the saucepan. Keep stirring the chocolate until it’s half melted.
  • Turn the heat off and carefully remove the Pyrex bowl. Keep stirring the chocolate, there should be enough heat in it to melt the rest of the chocolate. If not just place the bowl back over the saucepan but don’t turn on the heat.
  • When your chocolate is ready place a small amount on each biscuit and use the back of a
  • teaspoon to swirl it around.
  • Allow to cool and harden. They will keep fresh in an airtight container for a week.

Serving Suggestions.

Pop in a bowl of Vanilla or Strawberry ice-cream.

Enjoy with a hot coffee/tea.

Or just eat them outside in the fresh air.

Grow Your Own.

Mint can be sown from seed in late spring or propagated from cuttings at any time. It can be

invasive so it’s best kept contained in a pot of multipurpose compost and divided every few years.

Once the flowers die off chop the mint right back. Mint does best when watered regularly and does  not like to dry out unlike Mediterranean herbs.

There are many different varieties but ensure you keep them separate or you will loose the individual scents and flavours.


*Easy Peasy – Basic techniques/Suitable for Children with adult supervision/help.

**Treat as Tender – Intermediate Skills required/Children may need more help with this.

***Seasoned Kitchen Gardener – Confident Baker/Children might not be suited to this.

New Forest April Holiday and Pembrokeshire Greenhouses

Dear Gardeners,

I’m afraid I have been an April Fool. We went on a much needed holiday to the New Forest the day after the Easter Bank holiday. My first holiday since the cancer and heart failure, the weather down in Hampshire wasn’t the best, but the break was.

I’d planned the timings of all the greenhouse chores so all seedlings were transplanted, all recently sown seeds were in propagators, and all plug plants were establishing nicely. Mum and my best friend were asked to just check on things and give a good watering to them midweek and especially if the weather turned nice.

Best laid plans and all that! Mum had her sister home from Scotland, and also was on babysitting duties for both of my brothers’ children, as it was half term. In-between she was helping my youngest brother with his new business venture, so she wasn’t home much. My best friend unfortunately has a memory like a sieve at the moment and at least owned up to totally forgetting my plants, even though she walks her dog past my house at least once a day. When mum eventually had time to check on my greenhouse (the day before we came home,) the poor plants had all dried up.

My favourite quotes from mum are-

“Were they like that when you put them in the greenhouse?”

Nope. I don’t believe they were crispy.

“We had a really bad frost one morning. My shed roof was white!”

No one else remembers this.

And my all time favourite:

“Do you think I should have come down earlier in the week?”

Erm let me think about that…

I went through a myriad of emotions, but couldn’t really hold anyone responsible, as I did say to mum, that Rachel will check on the greenhouses and vice versa.

So confession time, how bad was the damage?

In The Office.
  • Expensive to buy in plug format, but grown from seed Himalayan Blue poppies all dead except two I had left in the tray in the kitchen.
  • Cape Gooseberries all dead except three left in the kitchen.
  • Trial Strawberry Blonde Marigolds. One seedling left after the whole packet germinated. As T&M gave me these seeds, I was mortified that I had killed their plants, so I ordered another packet from their website. I still have to trial them.
  • Trial Sunflower Shock-o-late seedlings all dead. Luckily I had only sown half the packet so I had some left over, which I have re-sown
  • Sunflower Velvet Queen same as above.
  • Lewisia, Basil Lemonade, Mint, Grasses, Foxgloves, Forget-me-nots, Hollyhocks, French Marigolds, Buddleja and Hyssop all dead.
  • Rainbow Beetroots – stressed. I rehydrated them little by little watering every few hours for the first two days.
  • Sweet Peppers. Hugely hardy and responded well to a good drink.
  • Just Bee flower mix, stressed, but stable.
  • Lettuce Mix. Difficult to say, some had died completely, some had thrived.
  • Dad’s spider plant – looking green again, with a little new growth.
  • A few stray beetroot seeds had germinated, along with radish, borage, chillies and a different variety of sweet pepper.
  • The trial Sweetpeas Turquoise Lagoon, were in pretty good shape as I had left a lid over the blue bread basket they were in, conserving the water in the soil by reducing evaporation.
  • Lavenders and Christmas cacti thriving.
In Ty Mawr,

No,damage whatsoever, in fact plenty of growth on everything.

It’s taken me up until the end of the month to clear the staging, between 35°c temperatures under the glass and torrential rain showers, gardening has been difficult. Once sorted the disaster out, I then decided to book another holiday in the New Forest, because that’s just the way I roll!

I told Mark that I wouldn’t buy any more seeds as I had enough, but as I had to replace the trial marigolds, it seemed silly to pay postage for just one packet of seeds, so I went onto the Special Offers page and looked at the 99p range. I set myself a budget, and for once actually stuck to it.

The Office.

Even though I haven’t sown all of my seeds I bought last week, I have started with six Glory Lily seeds. At around 16p each these beauties grow into six foot climbers. The tubers are not hardy so will need to be stored like a dahlia. It takes a few years to flower, so I really hope I get these right. Another new seed I picked was herb Golden Feverfew. I would like to add this perennial pretty yellow mound forming leafy plant to the grassy knoll area. Its daisy-like flowers should soften the structure of the other strappy grass fronds. I am trying achieve a low maintenance area without the use of gravel, concrete or man-made products. I next sowed African Marigolds Spinning Wheels, followed by Garden Pea Alderman. I love this vegetable it’s sweet, abundant and easy to grow. Again, a new seed I chose for 99p was a Potentilla named Monarchs Velvet, this too, is a perennial, I am hoping it will fit in with the black and blue grasses in the knoll. If not, then maybe I will grow it in clumps near the wildlife borders.

As the basil had died and I didn’t have the lemonade type left, I decided to grow both Rubin and Sweet Genovese instead.

Then I sowed Rudbekia Green King, and although I haven’t grown this variety I have had success with Rudbekias. Finally, I sowed some free seeds from Gardeners’ World Zinnia Orange King and repotted some of the aubergines from my completely unscientific seed trial. Oh and I’ve also re-sown the both types of sunflower mentioned above, as well as the Strawberry Blonde Marigolds, plus the Mint and Hyssop.



The Office border has turned into a mess. The money tree has re sprouted, but thanks to the extra space the aloes have almost carpeted the soil. Fighting for survival are two houseplants, some violas, a rogue cornflower, and an unexplained poppy and foxglove. Mark and I have come to the decision that we are going to try and remove some aloes to the grassy knoll. I have no idea if they will live, but I have to do something.


The same day these arrived I potted up some rosemary cuttings, I had left to root in water before going away.

Ty Mawr.

The first job was for Mark to earth up the potato sacks, feed them, and move them to their final growing positions outside. Then he planted up the stored Dahlias. Once he had done that, we realised that growing Cornflowers under glass was probably not my best idea. They loved the conditions too much, so on the hottest day of April he evicted them to the garden, where they are now flowering. Mark also transplanted eight tomatoes to their final growing places. Part of my trial plants and some of last year’s yellow stuffers. He then transplanted some of my beetroot. Another of my unscientific experiments – I am seeing if they grow better under glass or out in the fresh air. Also growing happily in the borders are Turnip, Garlic and English Marigolds.

In Rhett’s House (aka) The Cold-frame, I have the Coleus Canninia, they survived the unintentional drought and to prevent them going sappy were moved there as soon as we were back. Keeping them company are some marigolds, some larkspur, Bee Mix plants, a random geranium I found in the back of The Office, a Malva and something that I can’t identify as the label has disappeared. It looks like a primula. Plus several Borage plugs. You’d think that would have been enough wouldn’t you – but no, in my infinite wisdom after doing a happy dance that not only my chillies designed to do well hanging baskets had germinated, but also the super hot ones in the fire bucket Andrew (younger brother) had given me had germinated too, I remembered that Richard (youngest brother) had given me a funky veg kit. So I had a go at that too.

The funky veg kit comes with cardboard type pots, soil disks that expand in water five packets of seeds and five labels. Lucky me had six packets. Although I’ve only chosen to grow three due to the fact that the greenhouse will be a bit full shortly. For now I’m trying Purple Brussels Sprouts, Purple Carrots and Yellow Courgettes. The instructions were simple. Place disks in water and leave to expand until they are seven times bigger. Squeeze out the excess water, put most of the soil in the pots, add the seeds, then cover with leftover soil. Label, leave on a kitchen windowsill.



I’ll let you know how it goes!

Until next month.

Happy Gardening,

Love Amanda xx

From Rake To Bake – Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Welcome to my Baking Blog. Each month will feature an in-season fruit or vegetable dish to make with a little bit of grow-your-own information on the side.

April is perfect for making Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Cabbage. It’s one of those leafy green vegetables that are often overlooked Cabbage doesn’t have to be just a side dish for the Sunday roast, or as a main ingredient in coleslaw. Have a go at making it the star of the show, with this tasty dish. Although are many different varieties to sow, grow, and eat, this recipe makes use of the large savoy leaves, that are nutrient rich.

Cabbage contains lots of goodness including Iron, vitamins B and K, as well as dietary fibre.

Prep Time 20 minutes. Cooking Time 1 hour 20 Minutes. Oven 180°c Fan 160°c Gas Mark 4

Skills Level Seasoned Kitchen Gardener***


  • Chopping Board.
  • Vegetable Knife.
  • Sieve
  • Colander.
  • Measuring Spoon.
  • Spatula.
  • Frying Pan with Lid.
  • Saucepan with lid.
  • Saucepan without lid.
  • Small saucepan.
  • Measuring Jug
  • Scales,
  • Fork.
  • Blunt knife.
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Pyrex Dish.
  • Tin foil
  • Serving Dish.
  • Tin Opener.
  • Food Processor.
  • Kitchen Paper.
  • Plate.


  • 8 Savoy Cabbage Leaves.
  • 1/4 Aubergine.
  • 6 Button Mushrooms.
  • 1 Onion.
  • 4 Mini sweet peppers.
  • 200g chopped tin tomatoes.
  • 100g rice.
  • 75g Cheddar Cheese.
  • 75g of Bread made into Breadcrumbs.
  • 1 Egg.
  • Vegetable Oil.
  • 2-3 Teaspoons of Turmeric.
  • 2-3 Teaspoons of Black Pepper.
  • Basil.
  • Oregano.


  • There are a few elements to the finished dish, it’s best to start with preparing everything first, rather than as you go along. This way things can be cooking at the same time.
  • Wash and de-seed the pepper and cut into thin strips.
  • Wash dice a quarter of the aubergine Clean the mushrooms and chop roughly.
  • Wash the cabbage leaves thoroughly.. Remove the the central stem splitting the leaf in two lengthways.
  • Cut the onion in half, dice each half of the onion and keep separate.
  • Grate the cheese.
  • Use a food processor to make breadcrumbs.
  • Rinse the uncooked rice in a sieve under cold water.
  • Fill a saucepan with required amount of cold water, for every 75g of rice use 175ml of cold water.
  • Put the washed rice into the water and add the turmeric stir and bring to a rapid boil. Once boiling simmer until most of the water is absorbed and the rice is tender. If the rice is still hard, you may need to add extra boiled water from a kettle.
  • Meanwhile in a large frying pan heat the vegetable oil gently with the black pepper. Add one half of the diced onions and fry till translucent. Add the aubergines and red peppers and fry for another five minutes. Finally add the chopped tin tomatoes, oregano and basil and reduce heat. Cover with a lid and simmer for as long as the rice cooks.
  • Crack the egg into a jug and beat with a fork.
  • In a small saucepan use a few drops of vegetable oil to gently fry the other half of the onion for a few minutes before adding the mushrooms. When done leave to cool in a large mixing bowl.
  • As these are frying boil a kettle to fill a second saucepan with boiling water
  • Put the oven on to preheat.
  • Once the rice is cooked drain and rinse in a colander under cold water. Leave to drain, whilst
  • transferring the water from the kettle to the large clean un-lidded saucepan. Ensure that the vegetables in the frying pan are not sticking and taste for further seasoning if needed.
  • Using a low heat, keep the water boiling and drop in two cabbage leaves, blanch for two minutes, use a fork to lift them onto a plate covered in kitchen roll. Repeat with all cabbage leaves. Then pat them dry when cool enough to handle.
  • Turn off the heat under the frying pan, but leave the vegetables in the pan.
  • Put the cooked rice into the bowl with the mushroom and onions, using a blunt knife stir in the breadcrumbs, then the cheese. Slowly add the egg, teaspoon by teaspoon, until the mixture sticks together like sausage meat, and holds its shape if you roll some into a ball.
  • Spoon some of the fried vegetables into a Pyrex dish. Next using a clean chopping board lay the  cabbage leaves flat and where the stem used to join the crown, fill the leaves with the rice mixture.
  • Roll it into a cigar shape, and tuck the sides in afterwards. Place it in the Pyrex dish with the rolled edge downwards.
  • Spread the rest of the mixed vegetables over the leaves, cover the dish with foil and bake for 30-40 minutes.

Note: You may want to add salt to your pot of rice as its boiling, as I don’t cook with salt, but you might.

Serving Suggestions.

Serve hot with breaded chicken or fish. Alternatively serve with good quality sausages.

Serve cold with strong cheese, crusty bread and salami or ham or warm bacon.

Grow Your Own.

Cabbages can be grown from February to April/May for summer harvests, and April to July for winter harvest. Then from July to October for a spring harvest. Whether direct sow in a warm bed, or in singular cell seed trays in a greenhouse before transplanting outside. Cabbages will grow best in firmed soil in an open space. They are not suited to grow bags, but some success is possible in a deep container. Sow at 1.25cms deep, and thin seedlings to 30-45cms apart.

They are hungry plants so prepare their final growing position with well rotted manure, and use a liquid feed. It’s best to ensure that the soil is moist before planting out as dry roots can cause club root causing the plants to wilt and die.

The RHS has a wealth of information on growing cabbages, as well as information on pests and diseases such as club rot. They recommend netting your plants to deter cabbage white butterflies as well as pigeons.

Find more excellent tips for growing your own leafy greens at our brassica hub page.

*Easy Peasy – Basic techniques/Suitable for Children with adult supervision/help.

**Treat as Tender – Intermediate Skills required/Children may need more help with this.

***Seasoned Kitchen Gardener – Confident Baker/Children might not be suited to this.

A Pembrokshire March

Dear Gardeners,

Well if I thought February was dramatic, March can only be described as chaotic! I wanted to celebrate St David’s day, in my childhood home of St Davids, but The Beast from the East, arrived, along with his friend storm Emma, and between them they spoiled my plans. It snowed. A lot. We hadn’t had snow like that since 2010.

Pembrokeshire had some freezing nights and on the morning of the first predicted snowstorm I had to go to a heart rehabilitation session; the temperature outside at 9:00am showed -5°c. As a result we lost many garden plants, yet, the Chindoxia, more aptly named Glory of the Snow, benefited from the cold snap; they along with crocus, daffodils, grape hyacinth,bergnia and primroses bounced back and have flowered ever since.

The snow only stuck for two days, allowing me to meet up with one of my friends who I hadn’t seen in twenty years, she managed travel from Newcastle to attend her sister’s wedding. Spurred on by photos of the bride’s simple winter wildflower bouquet, I decided that I would abandon my plans for an all blue flower show this year, and try to grow as many plants as I can, to create little posies for the elderly ladies (and gents) at heart rehab class, as well as for the nurses and staff.

So I increasing my seed sowing. In the first week I planted, Sunflower Shock-o-lat, Velvet Queen and Marigold Strawberry Blonde. Food-wise I planted Red Onion –Red Baron, Classic Mint and Beetroot RaInbow Mix. These were all put in single cell propagators in “The Office.”

A week later, I moved my trial tomatoes (from the kitchen window) into the greenhouse along with the Yellow Stuffer ones. The latter being in the Heated Propagator after my Gardeners’ Delight failed. They failed as I used an ancient packet of seeds from Woolworths…Mark helped me sort out the greenhouses as the Cornflowers Black Ball, and Larkspurs needed transferring to the cold-frame for hardening off. He also dug poppies out of the borders of Ty Mawr and transplant them into a large pot on the patio.

T&M’s Coleus Canina (Scaredy Cat) plugs arrived a few days later, and I inadvertently picked the warmest day to pot them on. I wish I hadn’t! They had been confined for posting and with the heat through glass, the oils were particularly potent. I managed to transplant three quarters of them, but my eyes were stinging as was my nose. Never mind cats, the plants had already scared me. I got the others done the following day.

And then it snowed again. Luckily it was a dusting that only lasted twenty-four hours. In the third week I soaked sweetpea Turquoise Lagoon seeds overnight, then planted them the following day. By the Friday the Beetroot seedlings had grown in their makeshift propagator they needed thinning out and repotting.

As the photos show, a lot of my seeds are in recycled fruit boxes. I am choosing to grow them in these to

  • a) reduce my plastic waste,
  • b) save money as I still can’t return to work, which means that I cannot afford to spend as much as I used to on my hobby,
  • c) I have run out of single cell seed propagators and
  • d) because I want to show others that you don’t always need fancy equipment to grow things in.

I’ll be honest though I wasn’t sure if it would work, but evidently it does.

Last Monday I transplanted Cape Gooseberries, and Meconopsis Grande seedlings from the Heated Propagator into individual pots. In their place I have started a completely unscientific aubergine seed trial using Patio Mix seeds and Celine seeds, from three different companies

including T&M. I planted up the bright red fire bucket of chillies that my youngest brother gave me for Christmas. This is in addition to the chillies I set off last month. I had to abandon the Venidiums, Welsh Poppies and Echinacea as the compost went green and grew mossy. The contents were sprinkled in the hollyhock border, so perhaps they will grow there. That border hardly ever gets weeded as its a second wildflower border intercepted by dozens of hollyhocks, a Gogi and Tay Berry – both of which have never fruited. Plus there’s a Chinese Lantern shrub my other brother gave me. Also present are flowering daffodils and tulips.

Then add the daisies, buttercups and dandelions which are NOT weeds, but food for early pollinators. That afternoon I sowed some Radish, as well as more Hyssop as sadly ours died off. I am not sure if it was down to last year’s wet summer, the neighbours cats using our garden as a toilet or just that they were not big enough to go in the ground, even though they had outgrown the pots. Next I accidentally sowed a whole packet Buddleja, Reason being I still have chemo fingers and I can’t feel things properly, I was trying to open the seed packet with my fingers, As my hands were tired I didn’t feel the packet rip until it flew out of them and scattered 75 (on average, the label says,) seeds onto a waiting tub of compost. There was absolutely no point in me even trying to pick them out, my fingers were refusing to even pick up the packet. I was impressed that the seeds had gone in the tub though. I was going to plant some Lupins but didn’t remember I was supposed to soak them overnight so they will be done after Easter.Tuesday afternoon I sowed some Corriander, some French Marigolds, and Borage. I loved the marigolds last year and am thinking I really need to get some African Marigolds to add to my English and French display. Maybe I can have some instead of an Easter Egg. Hint, hint!

Finally the last thing I did in The Office was to transplant some sweet pepper seedlings from a pot in the kitchen that had the supermarket experimental seeds in. However, they didn’t grow,(the mini sweet peppers I got them from may be F1 hybrids) so I sowed some Orange Sweet pepper seeds that I had from a magazine last year. Only I think that the original seeds have now germinated as there are more peppers than there should be in the pot. So another totally unscientific experiment is taking place – lets see if I can spot the difference between two different types of peppers before they go in Ty Mawr or produce fruit.

I hope to continue sowing more seeds in April, my brother (youngest) gave me a funky veg kit, and I’m intrigued by its contents. There are six types of seeds including purple carrots. So The Office has many seeds, and baby plants It, as well as the things that have been overwintering. Foxgloves, primula, cornflowers, pot marigold, larkspur, Christmas Cacti, and lavender to name a few. Snow Princess marigolds are now in a wall planter outside. The Beast from the East destroyed the border in The Office, the subzero temperatures killed my money tree. There is a tiny bit left that I am hoping will regrow. It also killed one of the flowering house plants that was there too. I may put the Hibiscus that T&M gave me for Christmas in the border, as the pot sits atop it, but for now Mark added violas and a cornflower. The hibiscus got sunburnt on the top staging so it’s top leaves are pale and slightly crispy. I spotted the problem a bit late and now wondering where I can put it as its too big for the bungalow and won’t survive the westerly salty winds outside.

In Ty Mawr, I have marigolds starting to flower, cornflowers, shooting up, turnips that are growing by the day, and six grow bags of potatoes, that Mark had to constantly either has to earth up or water. The Vizella were slow to start off and I thought the weather had killed them, but as they are lates, I should have been more patient in expecting growth. The Maris Piper (second early) on the other hand have been strong from the start. I usually grow Charlotte’s but wanted a change this year.

The dahlias that are still wrapped in newspaper survived, being on the hanging shelves, but the baby money trees did not, neither did the cycleman or heather. My dad’s spider plant suffered badly, apart from two leaves, the rest was brown. I’ve cut the dead bits off and it needs repotting, but I am reluctant to do this in case I kill it altogether, I’ve already nearly lost his money tree.

Thankfully I still have his Christmas Cacti.

The whole borders need to be prepared for summer fruits, a job Mark will do next month, as well as build the tomato framework.

Until then.

Happy Gardening.

Love Amanda.

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