Hello Gardeners,

Season’s Greetings, I hope you are happy and healthy. Soon 2017 will draw to a close, and the growing cycle will begin again.

Every year I am grateful to the fantastic Thompson and Morgan team for allowing me to write a monthly customer blog, but what I value most from them is the new friendships that I have made along the way. Friends who have supported me through difficult times by sending me emails, messages and gifts when I least expected it – and as regular readers will know the last 18 months have been hard. So thank you Geoff Stonebanks, Caroline Broome, Jean Willis and our editor Graham Ward.

As the season comes to a close, you would think that the work in the unheated greenhouses is over, but alas no – as its still over 7°c in them most days the plants are still growing. In fact even our lawns need cutting again, but we will save that until next year.

Yellow stuffer - December 17In “The Office” I managed to keep the Yellow Suffer Tomato going until the second week of December before it finally succumbed to blight. I didn’t manage to put the amaranths seedlings into individual pots as I found it too cold for me, and with the nerve damage in my fingers I kept dropping things with my woolly gloves on. I tried thin gloves but once the cold was in my fingers I couldn’t do anything anyway. So now I’m at the stage of just checking the pots every few days and just giving the plants a tiny drink of water if the compost is mostly dry. I can’t risk watering them after 3pm in case there is a frost, but as they are still growing I can’t let them get stressed or dehydrated either – it’s harder than keeping them alive in the summer!



greenhouse border - December 17My Snow Princess Calendulas are getting far too big for their 3 inch pots, I didn’t put them in the Ty Mawr borders as I wanted to keep these separate from the yellow/orange ones, mainly because I want to see how they perform outside and to collect some seeds heads once they are spent. There is a tiny turnip that seems to be semi dormant, and a few tiny lavenders just freshly hatched from their pods. The violas are flowering like mad making the greenhouse smell divine. The Larkspurs are about 4 inches and the remaining cornflowers are about 6 inches high. There is still no sign of the grasses, or Liatris, Foxgloves, Red Hot Pokers or olive trees, there is however lots of little Heleniums popping up in the seed trays. Sadly the hyacinths didn’t come back, but I can still feel the corms so I’ll leave them for a bit longer. In the border of course are the house plants as well as Aloe Vera’s and money tree.

A couple of seedlings are emerging which are from seeds I have spilled over last few months with my chemo fingers. There appears to be foxgloves (typical as they don’t grow in the seed trays), and things I cannot identify but are not weeds. I am hoping in spring I will know what they are.

A few days ago we had a westerly gale that unfortunately sent my cold-frame spinning across the garden (from what is supposed to be its sheltered position), spilling its contents along the front of the bungalow. Mark rescued the plants by putting them in the large greenhouse; however, a few of the more badly damaged plants have since died.

Ty Mawr is filled almost to its rafters. The shelves have overwintering dahlias wrapped in newspapers to keep warm; the begonias wrapped the same way too. I have a couple of baby money trees that need repotting but they really need to go dormant as I haven’t any spare pots at the moment.

The borders are edged with Calendula and Cornflowers. One garlic plant has died, the other looks questionable. The single turnip looks awesome. Can you tell this is my first time for growing turnip? The sweet pepper looks a bit droopy but seems happy enough. The non T&M aubergine is hanging on but I am doubtful I can keep it going until next year as I think it’s just too cold for it. The tiny T&M one though looks very healthy, even if it’s still only as tall as it was in the summer, which is about two inches. Brings a whole new meaning to patio dwarf mix. The Nicotiana that made its home in the border is still flowering. Its bright colours adding to the festive Christmas feeling.

The only maintenance needed is to water the plants maybe once a week, check for pests and ensure that the panes of glass are secure after any storms.

Between now and the first of January, I will be looking back over my blogs and diaries and drawing up next year’s plans. I want to add to the grassy knoll and redesign the wildlife patch in the front garden. I would like to also do something with the patio area as it’s a bit overgrown with herbs, roses and sedums. Finally there is a triangular bed in the back garden that needs a bit of a going over.

The plans will also include a list of things to grow next year, I will go through the tin of seeds selecting which tomatoes I will grow along with cape gooseberries, and melons, aubergines, peppers, and chillies. I love this task of seed selecting, it’s like childhood Christmas presents, where you get to pick something but you have to wait a few months for it to arrive.

I’m proud to have been given some amazing free seeds to trial from the new 2018 Spring Catalogue. I’m going to be growing and writing about the following varieties. I have included the catalogue number in case you would like to buy them yourself.

TT79397 Radish Blue moon & Red moon F1 mix.

TT61821 Marigold Strawberry Blonde.

TT38788 Rainbow Beet,

TX38777 Sunflower Shock-o-Lat

TT38829 Sweet pea Turquoise Lagoon.

radishes, strawberry blond, rainbow beet, sunflower

I cannot wait to grow interesting coloured radishes. How cool will they look in a Spring Salad. I especially can’t wait to share them with my Vegetarian niece. Pot Marigold flowers can be eaten, so I bet the strawberry blonde one will look beautiful frozen in an ice cube or placed on a cheesecake. Beetroot is a super veg, rich in antioxidants and so versatile in the kitchen too. The fact that I can grow it in various colours should be another crowd pleaser. Who doesn’t like a sunflower? Not only can you and the birds share its tasty seeds, but for me they are the epitome of a great summer, with their nodding heads and vibrant petals. However, I like to be different so I cannot wait to grow a browny/bronze orange type. And lastly, sweet pea Turquoise Lagoon, I urge you to get hold of your catalogue or go on the website and look at the picture of this plant because I do not think I have the vocabulary to explain how utterly taken I am with this flower. I’ve never grown this variety before, but it excites me – I don’t know if it’s the fact that the petals change colour from pink to turquoise as it matures, or that it’s a prolific climber or because it’s meant to have a strong fragrance. I guess it’s a combination of all three. If anyone has grown it before please can you let me know if it lives up to its name – is it really turquoise?

electric propagatorBack in the summer I won blogger of the month with “The Sentimental Gardener” and used the prize money/gift voucher to bag myself an electric propagator, which I will be setting up very shortly. In January I am hoping to let you know how I got on with it.

Strangely, I am looking forward to some frost. Reason being I’m going to attempt to grow Himalayan Blue Poppies from seed – they are meant to be planted in seed trays and exposed to very cold temperatures ideally frosty conditions. So on New Year’s Day you will find me in the greenhouse celebrating life as a gardener/blogger/diarist by setting off my first seeds of the year. Poppies and Sweet peas.

I feel really emotional as I write this as I really didn’t think I would get through my cancer and heart failure- it’s been tough but with help from Mark, family and friends (near and far) I have completed another gardening year. Wishing you all the most magical of Christmas’ and I hope 2018 is kind too you.

Until next year!

Love Amanda xx

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