Potting Bench

Our greenhouse has a bit of a question-mark hanging over it because we’re keen to keep getting away in the springtime, which is just at the time when we should be getting things going in there.

Long Hot Summer

Last year while we were away, an earlier than expected scorching spell of weather withered the young tomato plants and they never really recovered, so it was a lot of work and watering for a few handfuls of not so brilliant tomatoes.

This spring we were away so much that we didn’t put any plants in at all but we were glad of that later when it turned out to be a record-breaking hot, dry summer. They would have struggled to survive in the searing temperatures that can build up in the greenhouse.

The drip irrigation system that I rigged up a few years ago for when we go away has never been as successful as hand-watering would have been.

Shuffling Sheds

Most mornings this summer it was too hot to enjoy sitting out on our southeast-facing patio, so hot that on occasion, when I sat down to put my gardening shoes on, I’d lay down my gloves on edge of patio because the paving slabs were uncomfortably hot to sit on.

We realise that we need a shady corner where we can sit out, so our plan is to dismantle the greenhouse, move the shed down there then construct a simple shelter in its place that we can use in either sun or rain.

The Modern Greenhouse

The Modern GreenhouseWhen bought our house thirty-five years ago, we were offered the greenhouse as well (at a price of course!), so it’s going to be a wrench to let it go.

What I can’t bring myself to part with just yet is my dad’s book on The Modern Greenhouse, as I’d like to browse through it to get a bit of insight of what his ambitions were during my school and student days when he got so into growing under glass in his cedar-framed greenhouse that he had a second, leant-to, greenhouse built against the high Victorian brick wall adjacent to it.

How up-to-date the book was in 1970, I’m not sure as my dad’s copy is the fourteenth edition of a book first published in 1938 and revised only once, in 1955.

My drawing of the potting bench (top) was made on my iPad in Adobe Draw, tracing from a photograph. I’d already reduced the photograph to pure black and white but I realised that I shouldn’t be too literal as I traced it, or it wouldn’t look like a pen and brush ink drawing, so I tried to be fairly free.

Newts playing Possum

moss cushionnewtCleaning the greenhouse involves removing cushions of moss which have grown along the edges of the panes. Under the staging newts play dead when we remove the bags we’d stowed down there in the dampest corner.

crowmagpieA carrion crow is an unusual visitor to the garden. A pair seem to be considering nesting at the edge of the wood and they’ve been engaged in a long-running dispute with the resident magpies.

We’ve got a moth mystery. Small mothmoths (not the species I’ve illustrated, most of these have a little ‘snout’) keep appearing in the lounge. We’re wondering, since they seem to magically appear in the evening or first thing in the morning, if they’re finding their way in through some hole or crevice, for instance the hole where the telephone extension comes into the room. They seem to appear in that corner.


greenhouseWe’re almost there with the vegetable garden as this morning we got around to planting the Jet Set onion sets in the bed between the shed and the greenhouse. We spread an old piece of garden fleece over them because we always get a few pulled up by the birds. We push them back in again but until the sets start sprouting we have to take a guess as to whereabouts they came out so we end up with a few gaps and a few being overcrowded.

First Swallow

swallowsIt felt like the start of summer today as we looked out and saw our first swallows, a pair of them, perched on the telephone wires. They stayed there for more than two hours. I’m sorry that I haven’t got a suitable barn or outbuilding for them to nest in.

Bedraggled Corner

SO MUCH to do! But this corner behind the greenhouse, inevitably the most neglected corner of the garden, isn’t going to take too much sorting out if I divide it up into separate tasks such as cutting back, digging the veg beds, clearing the greenhouse and replacing three fence panels that blew down in the autumn.

I saw a total of six daisies on the grass verge on Quarry Hill this morning. How do they manage to flower after the snow and frost we’ve had recently? Being close to the road and sheltered by buildings might help and perhaps as the slope faces the setting sun they get what warmth is available at this time of year but I suspect the main reason is that cars parked on the verge overnight radiate enough heat from their engines to create a pocket of marginally warmer soil, giving this handful of a daisies a head start.

Greenhouse Mural Sketch

I WAS LOOKING through my 1972 student diary recently (see Student Days) and was reminded that on 4 October that year, at the start of my first full month at college I drew:

‘ . . . a sketch from imagination of the proposed identification chart which I thought that I might do as a large painting – in emulsion of course!’

This ‘identification chart’, which grew into an 8ft x 4ft acrylic on chipboard mural, absorbed a lot of my time for the next three years and I was still adding details to it – I think the last thing that I painted was a leopard frog in the foreground – on the eve of the degree show.

To demonstrate the process that I’d gone through, I included the original sketch in my show but I was surprised when a fellow student – a young man from the jewellery department who would go on to make a name for himself as a goldsmith – asked if it was for sale.

Detail from the finished acrylic on chipboard painting

I was taken aback by this and explained that, as a working drawing, it was never intended to be for sale. It’s on the cheap smooth offset paper that they sold at the college shop, folded down the middle and on the back there are streaks where I’ve cleaned my brush, ring-marks from a coffee cup but at one end there are some delightful sketches of frogs in ballpoint pen, drawn by my tutor John Norris Wood when he was advising me to add some reptiles and amphibians to the painting.

I’ve just come across the sketch in a drawer in the plan chest and I can now see why my college friend was attracted to it. It’s rough and splodgy but there’s spontaneity about it that is inevitably missing in the laboriously crafted finished product.