Slow painting

Sunday 20 February 2011

Noticeboard chromatography

This is what winter does in Scotland. The damp seeps in everywhere, obliterating even this Ode pinned up inside the glass case of the site noticboard. It creates its own beauty, of course, but the Ode to (I presume) a Fox has been lost. Hopefully the poet will put up a fresh copy once the weather dries out.

Tuesday 15 February 2011

Now the green blade rises

At last. I'm not ready for it, but life is stirring again. Above, a green blade of garlic. Hopefully the cold winter has done it good. Below, the blackcurrant bushes are budding. I keep meaning to prune out some of the old wood, but the branches are so sturdy that I need the loppers and I keep forgetting to take them with me when I go to the plot.

But another weekend has gone by without any allotment gardening. Looking ahead on the calendar I can see that we don't have too much time in hand. I try to comfort myself by thinking of the Scandinavian and North American gardeners who have to wait until the snow melts each spring.

At home I'm planning a new border, a very small one, but I'm deep in catalogues and websites and lists of long-desired plants. What variety of clematis should I have? Can I fit in euphorbia, bergamot, astrantia, asters, rudbeckia...? Meantime I content myself with snowdrops. Every year they take me by surprise. One day there's nothing, and the next they're in full bloom.

Sunday 6 February 2011

As feared

The aftermath of Thursday's gale, as we'd feared. The wind had whipped the heavy netting up and away from the metal pegs anchoring it to the soil, and deposited it neatly along two sides of the cage. We were surprised that any of the cage was left upright. For a minute or two we contemplated taking the whole thing down and leaving the struggling broccoli and kale to their fate. The pigeons had already been right in there.

The ground was so soft that we didn't think the uprights would last long. On the basis that the old ones are the best, we pressed the climbing frame into service. It's been overwintering beside the shed, and we'd planned to dismantle it.

I don't quite know what it reminds me of. A hovercraft? The Apollo command module?

Friday 4 February 2011

Low ebb

Along with the glaur, we have slime. No crisply overwintering lollo rosso for us. Just a composting-on-the-spot icky mess.

And we knew this would happen - the potatoes stored in the shed experienced sub-zero temperatures, and were bound to suffer.

Perhaps the bright side of all this decay is that the phacelia that we didn't manage to dig in during the autumn is doing its own breaking down, after being buried under the snow. But look closely and you'll see a hint of green peeking out from the leaves and dead stems.

I think we may be about to experience the return of the phacelia for another season, just where we don't want it. Snow for the month of December, followed by rain, illness, other bits of life, all have kept us away from the plot. Although I've been going along to check on the broccoli cage and empty the kitchen waste into the compost bin, I haven't done any real work since November. It feels as if I'm losing touch with it. Just standing looking doesn't make the same connection as putting spade in soil, weeding, sowing, planting, pruning.

For the past two days we've had gales and heavy rain, nothing to match the storms in the US and Canada, but I've gone to bed at night listening to the roaring wind and thinking of the fate of the broccoli cage. Last weekend I was at the plot I spent the time fitting poles back into their sockets, and that was before the gales. Ironically we have all this anti-pigeon protection in the year when the broccoli is sitting there doing nothing. I'm still hoping for a growth spurt in March, but if not it's been a long winter of cage maintenance for nothing.

Tuesday 1 February 2011


Pronounced 'glor', as in 'for'. Scots for mud of a particularly sticky kind. If it hasn't been frosty and too hard to dig, it's been sodden and squelchy with glaur. So not a lot happening on our plot, and life is busy elsewhere into the bargain. With none of the sorting of seed packets and first sowings that I'm seeing on other blogs at the moment, I'll just have to point out my cherished green Hunter wellies. They're quite a faded green now, in fact a trendy 1950's formica green. They date from 1981, and were a serious investment for a student. But Aberdeen that year had deep snow and low temperatures to rival those of this winter, and they were my daily footwear on the snowy cobbled streets of Old Aberdeen.

And they're still coping well with the glaur.