Frosted leaves of Hellebore, January 2002

Above: Frosted leaves of Hellebore, January 2002.

Garden diary: December

17 January 2008 - Lily bulbs and cat poo

A belated Happy New Year to everyone out there.

There's not been much gardening activity since last writing, as I was ill all through Christmas and New Year, busy with work before and after that, and generally, because it's cold and wet out there, nothing much has got done.

I'm happy just to have a daily wander along the garden path and observe, rather than doing anything. The observations did however bring to my attention the alarming amount of cat poo in the garden, in all the empty areas of flowerbed, so I did have to do a cat poo collection one fine morning - I don't think this qualifies as "gardening" as such.

Having made the effort to get out there, I thought I'd tackle cutting back an overgrown clematis too, though it's not the right time, as it's one that flowers in the spring, but I needed to make more space as the thing kept attacking me every time I had to take washing out to the machine in the outhouse. Laundry duties are, I think we all agree, tedious enough without extra obstacles.

Further gardening work had to be abandoned, as it was colder than I realised and my ears had started to go numb.

The ground is saturated at the moment, after very heavy rain, and I'm a little worried about my dahlias, as this year I thought I'd risk leaving the tubers in the ground over winter, and am now regretting that, as I fear the wet ground will make them rot.

One cheery thing was the purchase of some lily bulbs yesterday. I don't know if all garden centres are the same, but our local one gets the summer flowering bulbs in in January. Most years I don't remember this until the end of the month, or later, and last year found I'd got there too late to have much choice, with the bulbs that were left looking a little dried up and tired. This year my timing was perfect, and we arrived at the garden centre to find they had just put out the new stock of lily bulbs and the like, and the boxes looked so undisturbed it seemed likely we were the very first lily-bulb buyers.

There were already boxes and stands not just of lilies but full of begonias, gladioli, acidanthera, freesia, and the dahlias were just being put out on display. All with big bright pictures of the flowers, spurring us on to think about summer, despite the rain and gloom outside.

As well as the pre-packed bulbs hanging on stands, the garden centre has bulbs to buy loose, in whatever quantities you like, with the price per bulb marked on the boxes, or the price per 10 if they're small ones. This is much more satisfying, and more environmentally friendly in terms of packaging, as these bulbs go into paper bags, and you write on the bags the quantity therein. This means, of course, that the retailer is trusting you not to lie - as they don't count them at the till to check you've not slipped in a couple of extra ones. Gardeners of course are all honest and trustworthy folk and would never do such a thing. Indeed I count very carefully while loading my bags, for fear of an extra freesia finding its way in there.

The loose bulbs are in boxes packed with wood shavings, and you have to root around to find them, which makes it all the more interesting. Another indicator that these were newly arrived stock was the fresh smell of the wood shavings, which I've not noticed in previous years, arriving late when they're all dried up. A few attached themselves to the bulbs as I bagged them, so I arrived back home with satisfying armfuls of wholesome-looking brown paper bags full of plump healthy bulbs, all smelling of freshly-cut wood.

Back to January highlights and diaries

Garden diary: February

Hellebore 'Potter's Wheel'

Above: Hellebore "Potter's Wheel".

Garden diary: February