The Spuds are In!

Waterford, south-east Ireland. 20th. March 2021

Sometimes progress in the garden is in small steps and in any one day it can seem that not a lot has been done but looking back at the end of the week can be rewarding and encouraging.

Deadheading snowdrops was a gentle start to the gardening week. We prefer to remove the seedpods from our snowdrops so that groups of named cultivars do not become a muddle of seedlings which wouldn’t be the same as the parents. It’s a slow job, not to be rushed, but a pleasant one when the weather was mild and the sun was shining though it did bring to my attention that the lower branches of a cedar were sweeping too low, and had been catching me as I cut the grass, so I turned my hand to pruning them – another little job.

Some of the snowdrops which needed to be dead-headed and the cedar which had some of the lower branches lifted.

I moved on to the vegetable patch and lifted the last of the leeks which Mary quickly turned to Leek and Potato Soup, our lunch that day. Afterwards, I cut back the spinach (perpetual beet) which I had left in the ground over the winter and find I get a crop of young leaves early in the year before much other is ready. I later discard these plants as those sown this year are ready for use.

St. Patrick’s Day is often cited as the guiding date for sowing potatoes here and I was ahead of the schedule this year. We don’t grow a lot of potatoes – there’s only the two of us – and we only grow “new” potatoes, those ready in early summer. Although I have tried a number of different varieties over the years we are staunch believers in the reliable British Queens, a second early and a deliciously floury potato – at its best simply boiled, buttered, and served with pan-fried mackerel.

Last year’s potatoes, grown through black plastic which obviates the need for earthing up.

Work continued in the vegetable garden: the timber on one of the raise beds had rotted and fallen apart so had to be replaced and repaired – a case of mend and make-do! I sowed a few rows of lettuce seed: Unwin’s “Webb’s Wonderful” and Thompson & Morgan’s ‘Valmaine’, a cut-and-come-again variety. We grew these two last year and found them both excellent. I put in a line of mange-tout peas, ‘Oregon Sugar Pod’ and another of broad beans, ‘Aquadulce’. Mary has some broad beans already sown in the glasshouse which have just begun to sprout so between us both we should have an adequate supply.

The especially dry summer of 2018 knocked the stuffing out of a planting of primroses which I had built up on the roadside ditch outside our house and I lifted a few clumps from the garden, split them, and planted them into the ditch to help numbers recover there. I discovered I had lifted a bulb of cardiocrinum with one of the primrose clumps and then put that in what I hope is a better position for it, a damper spot which should suit it better.

The roadside primrose ditch on a previous year when it looked well. A dry summer set them back though it did not kill the plants. Most will recover but I added new plants to help it along.

An entire morning was spent regretting the planting several years ago of Oxalis oregana for it had spread well beyond any planned area and had made its way in among other plants, a perfect pest. I dug and went through the soil with painstaking care and believe I have removed it all. Of course, I’m sure a few pieces will have escaped and will reappear in time but they will be quickly removed so as to prevent another invasion.

Popeye was an entertaining cartoon in my childhood, a muscular sailor in love with Olive Oil who would biff the baddies for our amusement. I never imagined I would have Popeye muscles but it seems that I have a smaller version. My G. P. informed me today that I had torn a muscle at my elbow with the resultant swelling which in the upper arm is described as “Popeye muscle”. And, that pain in my shoulder which has been nagging me particularly this past week is certainly arthritis. There will be X-rays, anti-inflammatory medication, and an appointment with some specialist or other. She has a way about her, my G.P., of looking at me with a slight smile, almost a snigger, and a twinkle in her eye which suggests, “How could you not know that you had hurt your arm, Paddy?” for she knows I would not have attended only that Mary had “urged” me to do so – the same Mary who suggested I needed to wash and dress myself properly to take the telephone call from the doctor this morning! Anyway, I will survive; all will be well!

My everyday camera lens (for the camera enthusiasts, a Nikon 18 – 200mm) has given up the ghost. I can’t complain about this as it has given good service over the past twelve years since I bought it. Given its age, it is not worth the cost or repair so I am in the process of selecting a replacement and a replacement camera to go with it as my old Nikon D200 is also showing its age. It is now described as one of the classic Nikon cameras, a retirement present to myself, and to replace it with its equivalent model nowadays would cost more than I am willing to spend so I am in search of one which will serve my purposes without breaking my bank account. Hopefully, it will lead to nice photographs in coming blogs but, in the meantime, let’s have a look at those things which were pretty in the garden this past week:

Anemone blanda has come into full flower and make a nice patch of colour:

The Summer Snowflake, Leucojum vernum, has come into flower. This clump is at the bottom of the garden and has bulked up over the years but has never sown any seedlings, unlike those in other areas in the garden. Leucojum vernum ‘Gravetye Manor’ can be a particular nuisance with the number of seedlings which arise around it.

Daffodils are taking on the main colour show in the garden. Some of these are here for many years and continue to flower year after year. It is no wonder daffodils are so popular and such a loved plant. Two to note are Narcissus eystettensis which dates back to 1621 and ‘Van Sion’ to 1620 though ‘M.W. Brown’ is a more recent find and a particular favourite as it was sent to me by Mr. Brown himself. I wrote a blog previously on some of these Golden Oldies which might be of interest.

Primroses have always been enjoyed in our gardens, old-fashioned plants which have delighted generations with their simplicity and willingness to grow for us:

These primulas are also congenial companions in the garden and regularly give rise to interesting crosses. They may not be of a standard which would suit the commercial grower but they are special to our garden and I value them for that – our own primrose seedlings:

Finally for this week: the first of the magnolias has come into flower: Magnolia x loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’. It is one of our favourites in the garden but, I suppose, the first to bloom will be especially appreciated. Its solo run will not last very long for I see the first colour peeping from the buds of Magnolia soulangeana and Magnolia stellata ‘Centennial’.

I’m sharing this blog with a group of fellow bloggers who contribute to a “Six on Saturday” theme which is hosted by “The Propagator” on his blog site. To read more contributions to the Six on Saturday theme go to The Propagator’s entry for today, scroll down to the comments and you will find other bloggers have posted links to their Saturday entries there. Lots to read!

41 thoughts on “The Spuds are In!

    1. I have a patch in another place in the garden which was a rescued clump from the bank of the river here. It was going to be under a roundabout at one of the intersections on the road leading to the new bridge in Waterford. The flowers are not as regular as the cultivated ones we grow, more aberrant in their habit but nonetheless they grow well and self-seed well here. The arm, it would seem, it simply going to be with me – I am attached to it! – and will have to medicate to relieve pain and I’ll manage with that! Perhaps, the consultant will have some suggestions. The doctor laughed at me as she looked back to an X-ray report, on my hip, and said she had never seen a radiologist giving a diagnosis following an x-ray – “obviously, needs a hip-replacement as he has lost 2cm of bone!” I was in denial! Stupid old man! LOL

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  1. A bewildering encyclopedia of early Spring blooms. Of all the beauties here I confess to loving the anemones. Their soft colours are a delight.

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  2. Thank you for your update on the garden. Although I felt you left me short on what happens to the snowdrop seedpods after you have deadheaded them. I just had an yearning to know. I could guess as a gardener but I hate guessing! Look after yourself.

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    1. The snowdrop seedpods wouldn’t have mature seeds in them at this stage so I simply throw them to the back of the beds, out of the way somewhere. I have occasionally left seedpods to mature and have sown them – of some special snowdrops which I hope will give something interesting – yellow plicatus have taken my attention of late and one or two of those with green markings on the outer segments.

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  3. Morning Paddy. Here it’s my white magnolia stellata which starts to open. I do like yours (‘Leonard Messel’) too
    My mission is to plant my spuds this weekend: ‘Jazzy’ variety and ‘Charlotte’.
    I don’t quite understand the usefulness of your black plastic for potatoes? To avoid weeds and keep the soil moist?
    Here I use it for the strawberries but not the potatoes

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    1. Magnolia stellata and M. soulangeana are also opening at the moment. I put the plastic on the bed, cut holes through where I wish to sow potatoes and it saves the bother of earthing them up as the plastic excludes the light.

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    1. Most memorably a neighbour arrived one evening to announce the birth of a child – we had the mackerel and the potatoes and he brought a bottle of vodka. Who could have imagined they would have gone together so well!

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  4. I had just determined that the vegetable garden needs to be smaller this year, but now all this talk of fresh greens and straight out of the earth potatoes has me reconsidering!
    Love all the anemones, they just don’t want to settle in here, and the primrose are fantastic. For us every year is like your summer of 2018 and only P. veris hangs on reliably.
    Good luck with the arm, but is the hip a problem as well!?

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    1. It’s hard to beat vegetables from your own garden. They are perfectly fresh and grown properly. We have a good sized bed of asparagus and it is a very special treat to have it so abundantly. The hip? I had a hip replacement two years ago and all is going well with it, most days walking 10+kilometres with perfect comfort and longer walks on occasion – but not during this lockdown. I had left the hip deteriorate without realising it – losing 2cm from the bone!

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    1. I have asked the Head Gardener and have the reply, “God only knows!” and “I wouldn’t have a clue!” Which means they are there a long time. I would reckon coming on to 30 years as they are under a crabapple which was planted around then.

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  5. Your vegetable garden looks delightfully well ordered. I think I have said this before, but I love the primrose ditch (not so sure about the name). Planting these modest flowers on a slope heightens their effect. Anemone blanda is appealing – particularly the shades of bluish-violet.

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    1. Yes, we refer to it as the Primrose Ditch also. It is north-facing and below the level of the garden above so has shade and moisture which suits the primroses perfectly.

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  6. I like the way your veg garden is organised and it looks so interesting, makes me want to have a nose around. Do you plant your lettuces directly into the beds, and if so, what’s your slug deterrent? Btw I would love my anemone blandas to form a carpet like yours do, but mine are in their first year, so I suppose I have to be patient.

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    1. I sow the lettuce directly into the soil and then, when they are big enough, I transplant to their final position. Slugs don’t seem to be a bother with me – lots of birds to eat them. Pigeons are more trouble with the seedlings and I generally net them for protection.

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  7. A lovely selection of plants once again this week. I do like the double primroses, but the blue one seems almost unreal – the colour is so intense. I’ve not got any in my garden as I’ve get to spot just the one I want in the garden centre. The carpet of anemone blanda is very beautiful as is the primrose bank.

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  8. Another week, another blog filled with so many treats. I love every single plant but a special thumbs up to your pretty primula as its a lovely shade of lilac. I hope your pain subsides soon – you were so hard in the garden it’s little wonder you would get injuries but then arthritis can’t be helped. I was wondering if you’d got reptitive strain injury from deadheading all those snowdrops!

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    1. There’s a new medical term: Snowdrop Elbow! I think you have noted the primula that I especially like – it arose between a clump of the native primrose and a purplish one, probably P. wanda or P. juliae. It has proved itself a good grower and I have bulked it up with ease.

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  9. I have a few bought double primroses and lots of wild/wildish singles but have had no self sown doubles yet. Now I know they’re a possibility I shall be looking more carefully and weeding fewer out, at least until they’ve flowered. I’ve also killed my share of petiolarid primulas, so I’m a little in awe of your lovely bracteosa. I want to be there when when your Cardiocrinum flowers in the ditch, that would be a sight to see.

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  10. Wonderful photos, as always. Good luck on the camera hunt. I must admit, with mine I gave my brother the amount I wanted to spend and told him to find me a good one (he is much more knowledgable about cameras than me). He did well, and got me a bargain!

    Plant-wise, I do like those double primulas. I have one little patch, but not the range that you have.

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    1. The camera choice has been made, a compromise between desire and cost, and I am awaiting update on availability of the lens I would like. When I retired I treated myself to what was then a top of the range camera but to get the equivalent again would cost €4,000 just for the body and I don’t think my photography warrants that expense and less expensive cameras are nowadays more advanced that my original purchase. I have had 12 years usage from it and it is still going well. I’ll continue to use it with a macro lens and the new one for general photography.

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  11. How very beautiful. We envy you – the stones, the moss – the woodland-feel around the spring bulbs. It looks wonderful. Our spring snowflakes (Leucojum vernum) spread like mad – but so far it’s welcome. In a couple of weeks the siberian squill will overtake them – nothing spreads like them. Take care of that arm – if you’re anything like us the temptation to take on just a little bit too much will be everpresent

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    1. The Head Gardener reminds me constantly to take care of my arm. It is nothing serious, nothing to be worried about, simply a nuisance. I realise I need to rest so that the muscle around my elbow has an opportunity to heal but the arthritis is something I must live with. It could be worse!

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