Saturday, 31 March 2018


Stong groundsel plant beside a stone wall.
This is a picture post. There's not much to read. If I had lots to say, I'd say it. But today, I don't. I'll let the plants speak for themselves. Or, rather, not speak for themselves for they are pretty quiet at present; battered by frost and snow, constantly being deceived into thinking it's spring when it isn't.

The exception is this groundsel which seems pretty chipper. I've never described anything as 'chipper' before but the word seems to fit. The angle shields it both from north and east winds and for the moment it's not garlanded with litter.

Ferns in a stone wall.
For the most part though, I look higher up walls to find plants. I've never lived anywhere with so many stone walls before. All seem to be built in the same way; two walls built parallel to each other and the gap between them filled with smaller stones. On top of these is a layer of long stones laid horizontally, with a row of quite hefty, sideways stones on top. The work which must have gone into these walls must have been phenomenal. The tonnage, mind boggling. And because of the topography here, some are waist or shoulder high on one side but way, way higher on the other.

Dandelion growing in the gap between stones on a stone wall.

Here are dandelion seedlings beginning to look out newly on the world.

Foxglove in the gaps between stones on a stone wall.

And foxgloves which have overwintered are beginning to green.

This is common but I can't name it.

A dilapidated ivy leaved toadflax would you say?

And the always-interesting shape of an unfurled willow-herb seed pod.

All these plants were photographed on 30th March, ready for the first of the month posting. Daft. So I'm moving the street plant posts to 20th of each month. I'll put a link box then too - and afterwards always on the 20th.

In the meantime, if you have a street plant post that you'd like us to know about, do put its URL in the box below.

(The site which provides the link box seems to have gone down . . . and the link box has vanished along with it. By the time I next look, hopefully it will have reappeared. In the meantime . . . . if you have a Street Plant Post to share - leave its URL in with the comments.)

Monday, 26 March 2018


Daffodil coming up.
My daffodils are this big.
Everyone is ahead of me on our allotment. For the most part it's because they've had their plots for longer. But the new tenants of the one next to mine seem to have got it cleared up and dug over in one invisible burst. I suspect they had a truck to take the rubbish away and either a team of enthusiastic diggers or a rotivator. Perhaps my assiduity in getting out unwanted plants is paying its price in relation to how much time is available before seeds etc. will need to be sown. Perhaps I'm being excessive. On the other hand, it seems right to get rid of mares tail / horse tail or whatever it's called, along with the mile deep tap-roots of dandelions before putting in fruit bushes. Several weeks with several snowy days in them, interspersed with days when I was doing something else or having a bug or . . . The question is . .  am I being long term sensible or too slow for growing's good? For the moment I'll look long term and say this slow start will, in the end, be worth it.

Newly planted blackcurrant with leaves appearing.
Blackcurrant waiting for secateurs to prune it.
Some things are on the allotment . . . other things are at home.
But there are some things I've clearly done wrong. I woke in the night wondering about the difference between different kinds of currant bushes. I was sure some had to be planted one way and others another. I'd thought the difference was between redcurrants and whitecurrants but (exciting life this!) what if blackcurrants were somehow involved? Abandon sleep. Read lots of articles which just say plant them now with a load of the well rotted farmyard manure which I don't have and can't afford - but nothing about depth. Then I find it. The difference isn't between red and white but between black and red. (I don't have any white ones yet.) Blackcurrants should be planted deep enough that extra shoots come up while redcurrants need to have a single little trunk to branch out from. Guess which I've already planted? Blackcurrants. So, in the night, in my semi-awake semi-asleep-ness I dig them up in my dreams, dig bigger holes, plant them deeper. Over and over I go through the whole thing. It's not going to be a problem. The soil is lovely and even and weed free (hurray!) so my mind should have been able to give it a rest. But it wouldn't. Now all I have to do is to go and replant them for real and to free my mind from the guilt of not giving them the kind of food and texture they crave and asking them to make do with chicken pellets instead. I need a word for anthropomorphising plants.

I also need a special word of thanks to photographs - even if they do reveal mistakes. The instructions which came with the bare-rooted raspberry canes said to soak them in a bucket of water for an hour then plant them at the same soil level they had been planted at before. But after their allotted hour of soaking any vestiges of previous soil level had washed away. Resort to an internet video where Monty Don swishes his little roots around. But I didn't have shallow roots. I had what seemed to be the continuation of the stem with roots sticking out of it. His big roots go sideways. Mine head for Australia. So I stuck them in about twelve inches and hoped for the best. Or maybe it was a bit more.

Newly planted raspberry cane with shoots at base.
It's not just the hairiness of the lower stem which becomes apparent in the photograph
but a difference in colour too.
And as for the use of photographs? I took this one for the sake of the leaves that are appearing beside the cane. "Should they be here or are they suckers to be removed?" I was going to ask. But while preparing the picture for the blog I see there are loads of fine roots above soil level; roots I didn't see when I planted the canes. So perhaps I should have dug the raspberries in even deeper after all - just as I should have made the blackcurrants go in further.

From now on I shall photograph everything in stages so the lens will capture what my eyes have missed.

As for other things:
Little shallot.

The shallots I thought had rotted haven't. I could have photographed a much more impressive example but I was in a hurry so I just snapped the nearest one. (Bloggers are meant to be thoughtful, not hurried but . . . )

Ornamental onion.
It's not a tulip, it's an onion. (Or garlic.)

And the ornamental onions or garlic or whatever they are (call them Alliums) that I thought were nearly all dug up by badgers but which fellow allotmenteers said must have been foxes . . . have come up in profusion as well.

In part, I planted them because I wanted to make something grow and all the seeds I sowed in the autumn got eaten almost as soon as they germinated and in part because the packet said they would attract butterflies. Why I would want to attract butterflies is beyond me as they will lead to caterpillars which will probably eat all my vegetables . .  but there we are. I bought them and put them in. And as for depth of planting? There were five varieties in the packet, all to be planted at different levels. But the bulbs were jumbled together in one bag and there was no way of knowing which were which. So the bigger the bulb, the deeper I planted it. Totally hit and miss but quite a variety of leaf shapes have come up so even if there are no blackcurrants or redcurrants until next year - or perhaps never - we should have some pretty onion flowers to look at!

Caterpillar with broom coloured bristles. Possibly Ruby Tiger Moth.
Quite hefty. A bit more than an inch long.
(When measuring caterpillars, does one include the bristles?)
Speaking of caterpillars . . . I found this one wandering along one of my packed earth paths. Despite it being the boring colour of an old broom I think it might be a Ruby Tiger Moth - especially as a description on the Wildlife Insight site says 'They are often come across wandering about during the day prior to pupating'. It was wandering. Clinch. And wandering beside the patch which was a mono-culture of narrow-leaved plantain until I pulled it all out. Double clinch.

Caterpillar with auburn coloured bristles. Possibly Ruby Tiger Moth.
This caterpillar was a rich auburn in colour but I'm assuming
it's the same variety as the day before.
The difference may be an advert for sunshine - or suggest it's a different variety.
The next day (25th March) it was sunny. (Frosty but sunny.) And I found another at the opposite end of the allotment; again wandering along a path. For a bit of variety I moved it to a mossy stone so it could pose for its picture against a pretty (but irrelevant) background. It wasn't struck on this and curled up. I came and went for a bit, waiting for it to uncurl and walk along but it didn't . .  Until when I wasn't looking when it must have pottered off looking for some plantain or another path. Right. Here comes a decision. Don't get rid of all the plantain. Maybe I should have a dedicated ribwort patch? After all, the previous gardener seems to have had several. Moths which are, non-scientifically speaking, butterflies which can't stick their wings up straight to shut them higher than their heads (sort of) are undervalued. I've not seen any packs of seeds or bulbs specifically advertised as promising the arrival of moths.

And at the end of the day . . . In spring, in Dorset, (my constant contrast) the noise of blackbirds singing at dawn is almost overwhelming. But here, where a pigeon on a pavement is the height of avian excitement . . . here, in a town, I sat and listened to one, solitary bird, piping after the sun had gone down. (My camera dissobligingly decided to make it look lighter than it was.) To hear all the birds in a wide neighbourhood yelling their heads off fills one with awe. But this is the first time I've literally sat down and listened to one individual. See - there are gentle joys in urban living after all.

How to grow blackcurrants and redcurrants on the Quick Crop blog.
How to grow summer fruiting raspberries - video on Gardener's World site. (Incidentally, mine are supposed to grow two crops a year if you prune them right.)
Country Life's Guide to Hairy Caterpillars.

ESPECIALLY - it seems to me that this blackbird has a very monotonous song. Do birds in areas where there are more birds develop more complicated songs?

Thursday, 1 March 2018


Blades of grass and a grass flower peeping above snow on a street corner.
With as much snow being blown up into the air as there is snow falling, it's not a good time for a street plant post. Last month, the snow had turned to ice so the ground was dangerously slippy. This time it's soft and fluffy; so while the grip under-foot is better, the wind is able to gather it up and blast it sideways across the road. When I lived on the south coast I wished I had an underwater camera. Now I wish for one which wouldn't mind snow; though there are moments when it would be pointless to take pictures anyway for one can see nothing but white.

I noticed this little grass flower (above) on a corner yesterday. If I were to go back now, it would be buried.

Fern growing on a terrace chimney.

Between posts, we've had some non-snowy weather. On one of these days I saw a fern growing on a chimney (24th February); a change from the ubiquitous, wall-destroying buddleia.

(You might need to enlarge the picture to see it. It's growing between the bricks and concrete on the middle chimney.)

Little grass plant next to a stone wall.

Also on 24th February: this other little grass plant.

None of this is superbly exciting but it is reassuring  Nature chugs on. We know it. But we like to see it too. 

Meanwhile, the National Grid has announced it may have run out of gas by the end of today which means some of those who are losing a day's wages because they have not been able to go to work because of the snow may also go cold this evening. The National Grid is trying to persuade industry to go easy on gas - even to the extent of being prepared to buy it back or something. I looked at their site and they seem to be open to offers. (I think.)

P.S. Nothing to do with street plants: I've taken over another part-allotment with a small greenhouse and a larger one which doubles as a potting shed big enough to have a table and chairs in. How's that for good fortune?

If you have a post about the plants growing wild in the streets near you, do add your post URL to the box below.

(P.P.S. The Mister Linky gadget asks you to comment after posting a URL. You don't need to post a URL to comment, nor do you have to comment - though please do because I'm always delighted to read what you say!)