OUT wake

Last night was the “OUT Wake” – a meet-up of various member of the OUT gay social networking website, of which I’ve been a member since March 2005. Sadly, the site is now about to close. It was great to chat to several old friends and acquaintances, though the venue (The Yard in Rupert Street) was, of course, very noisy. Still, being sort-of-outside, I got to smoke my e-cig, which I suppose was a bonus.

Here’s a pic of some of us – I’m sitting.

OUT wake

Leaving the Yard, I realised that I’d got extremely cold, and my back was playing hob. In fact, I started shivering uncontrollably, and even the heat of the tube didn’t really help. A brief stop off at Liverpool Street station for a hot chicken and bacon “megaslice” helped a bit. Back to the hotel – in Bethnal Green, the same one as I stayed in for Phoebe’s graduation. That had been the hottest day of last year, so I suppose it kind of makes sense that this time was the coldest night of the winter so far!

There was a glittering frost on the fields on my train journey home this morning (and a thick mist on the Cotswolds scarp between Moreton-in-Marsh and Evesham).

There are still frost patches in the parts of the garden that the sun doesn’t reach. The first flower (ever) is now fully out on my 2-year-old camellia – hopefully, the frost isn’t heavy enough to kill the rest of the buds.

camellia flower

garden bits

Everything is still very damp here!

I’ve been pretty much housebound for the last week, but have managed a couple of expeditions up the garden, to pull a few carrots and put veg peelings in the compost bin. I’m surprised at how backward everything here is, compared to the past few years.

When I cut a couple of forsythia branches to bring in on New Years Day, they were all in very tight bud, though in previous years some of the flowers have been actually open. The clematis cirrhosa v. balearica has only just shown decent-sized buds, and I normally reckon on a flush of flowers well before Christmas.

Daffodils – both in the front garden and in pots outside the French windows – are just starting to poke their leaves an inch or so out of the soil, so it doesn’t look as though I’ll have the flowers in the last week of January which I had last year. Only the iberis sempervirens – perennial candytuft – seems to be on the normal schedule, with the first flowers opening just before Christmas, and gradually working itself up towards being a wonderful white froth of flowers against the dark green leaves.

iberis

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iberis

flower bits

Sunshine this morning, so I’m feeling a bit more cheerful, even if still rather groggy. The camellia outside the French windows is starting to show a flush of pink on the buds – fingers crossed, though I’ll probably lose them if there’s a heavy frost. Indoors, the dendrobium on the bathroom windowsill is in full flower.

camellia

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dendrobium

garden bits

Looking out of the French window, I can see the first shoots of daffodils appearing in one of the pots – no sign yet in the front garden, when I went out in the rain to bring the bin back in after the rubbish collection.

Also outside the French window is a potted camellia, which I have my fingers crossed for! Last year, all the buds fell off. This year, although the buds have a bit of browning at the edges, I’m hoping for flowers …

daffodil shoot

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camellia bud

Chinese lanterns

Chinese lantern (Physalis alkekengi) brought in to dry, while they’re still orange and haven’t got to the skeletal tracery stage. Some on stems to go with honesty as a dried flower arrangement, as there won’t be fresh flowers until I bring in forsythia at New Year.

However, this year I’m also drying individual seedpods, which I’ll hang on loops of thread on the Christmas tree, as the start of a move to plastic-free decorations.

single seedpod

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many seedpods

scents

Nipped out in a brief break between showers to dig a few carrots for tonight’s stew.

I love the smell of fresh carrots being scrubbed in the sink – it’s one of the scent milestones of the year (following on from the glorious smell of pinching out side-shoots on tomatoes).

an hour of autumn tidying

A sunny (but chilly) spell this afternoon, and with enough painkillers I could actually use my hands properly! Front rose and scarlet sage pruned.

Tomato plants cut down (they’ll go in the once-a-year garden waste collection, as if seeds get in the compost it’s a bugger – they end up coming up everywhere!). The few remaining tomatoes are in a bowl in the kitchen, where hopefully most of them will gradually ripen.

garden bits

The delicate pink flowers of cyclamen have appeared above the creeping thyme. I’ve very fond of these – my grandparents lawn had a very large colony of them, spreading out from a flowerbed. I took some corms from them to my London flat in the mid-1980s, and thence to my first house in Worcester, and now on to my current place. After a hesitant start, they’ve settled in well and are multiplying.

Elsewhere, the green courgettes are having a bit of a break (though as there are flowers, I should have a few more if the frost holds off), but the yellow “shooting star” is still extremely prolific! And over the past two days I’ve managed to prune both espalier apples (sadly, both have developed numerous ailments, including canker and wooly mildew …)

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yucca

Some three weeks ago I decided to deal with the yucca in the brass pot in the front room – it had nearly reached the ceiling.

All the books say that you can simply saw the trunk off, halfway up, and it will strike out again. If you like, you can replant the top end and it will strike roots. I must say, I was extremely doubtful!

Anyway, I went ahead. The remains of the trunk were re-potted and put outside, and the top was potted in a fairly free-draining mix.

Today, there are the first signs of life in the old trunk. yippee!

garden bits

My first real chance to get into the garden after last week’s gales and the following heavy rains.

The most urgent job was to sort out the raspberries, which had got flattened. Hardly surprising, as they are now rather over eight feet tall (these are “Joan Squire”: I wish I knew another variety that tastes good, bears prolifically when subject to a 2-crop-a-year pruning regime, but were slightly shorter!). A few berries just starting to go orange, so should be picking a bowlful early next week.

The Black Russian tomatoes, which had outgrown their stakes, have half their top third folded over by wind. I doubt the few tomatoes on the damaged bits will ripen – if there’s no sign of them doing so in the next couple of days, I’ll pick, stew, and freeze them as green tomatoes, to be added to the mix when I make green tomato chutney at the end of the season. The other two varieties have escaped damage.

In the flower garden, the gladioli suffered, so I’ve cut them off and now have them in a vase on the coffee table. Most other things seem to have survived OK.

Another batch of spinach beet has run to seed, and been pulled up. The kale has suffered insect damage – hopefully it will sort itself out! Courgettes continue, as do runner beans and chard. I’ve just planted out – about six weeks too late – the final batch of leeks, so fingers crossed for them!

The strawberries are starting another bout of flowering – sadly, the fruit will probably ripen while I’m away on the Broads in the first week of September. In the bathroom, the “peter pepper” chilli has produced four fruit, despite having been persistently covered in aphids.

The washing line runs over the lawn, so I’m waiting for washing to dry before doing the mowing and strimming. And I must have a final go at the pond pump, though I fear that it’s completely dead. I’ve had a lot of trouble with baby water-snails getting through the filter and jamming the pump solid, so I think it’s finally expired. £70 for a replacement pump/filter/UV unit, sadly, and a fair bit of grovelling about to route the electrical cable safely. The “wildflower bank” behind the pond has been flattened by storms, but I’ll leave it for another three weeks so that any possible seeds can ripen and be shed. Hopefully, the assorted plug plants and seeds I’ve put in there over the past couple of years will manage to establish themselves.