Spick and Span

Reading time 5 minutes

“Every day is a fresh beginning,

Listen my soul to the glad refrain.

And, spite of old sorrows

And older sinning,

Troubles forecasted

And possible pain,

Take heart with the day and begin again.”

Susan Coolidge


I went to bed last night with an ominous tickle at the back of my nose and throat, and woke this morning feeling decidedly grotty. I awarded myself a brief lie-in whilst I debated whether to stay in bed or brave a morning in the garden. Reflecting on the simple verse above and tricked by a brief sunny spell, I chose to get up and out rather than wallow. It was a good choice.

The sun did not stick around for long, nor did it stay dry for more than an hour. I took advantage of the unusually damp soil in my raised bed to plant another 150 or so tulip bulbs – ‘Big Brother’, ‘Pretty Princess’ and ‘Pittsburgh’ – taking care to water them in. Despite copious rain, the moisture is still only surface deep. Only a handful of bulbs were spoiled, but I dusted the remainder with sulphur to be on the safe side.

So far my garden has been untouched by frost, rendering it unusually green and lush for the time of year. I’m always amazed at how many plants can survive low, but not freezing, temperatures, often looking better than they would if they had been protected in the greenhouse. I am most surprised by Alpinia zerumbet (shell ginger), which came to me with numerous health warnings when it came to cultivation outdoors. Thus far it’s taken everything that nature has thrown at it, including ferocious gales, and it still looks very presentable.

Meanwhile my Digitalis sceptrum is riddled with mealybugs. They are dormant at this time of year, but having tried insecticides to no avail, I am going to have to get out there with a toothbrush and scrub the little blighters off by hand. Where the mealybugs have been the stems are blackened by sooty mould and I am sure the plant isn’t growing as strongly as it did prior to infestation. The mealybugs have spread to my agapanthus, signalled by pale, pock-marked and contorted leaves. Here, protected at the heart of each leaf fan, they are especially tricky to eradicate.

I cleared away a vast quantity of fallen leaves and cut down all my salvias. Although still bearing flowers, they are no longer attractive to look at, so have been reduced to 3 inches above the ground.

Good ventilation, inside and out, is critical during the winter. The plants in my greenhouse have suffered significantly from my laziness over Christmas, when I did not open the door to let fresh air in often enough. The woodier plants are fine, but anything fleshier is being attacked by grey mould. I removed any dead and dying leaves and stems today and will have a more thorough clean at the weekend.

I came back inside at lunchtime, hair plastered to my forehead and wet through, having completely forgotten that I had felt rough just a few hours earlier. Gardening, as well as a delightful distraction, is a tonic, in any weather. I suspect my cold is only in abeyance, but at least the garden is spick and span ….. until the next storm hits tomorrow. TFG.

Categories: Annoyances, Container gardening, Foliage, Our Coastal Garden, Photography, Plants, Small Gardens, Uncategorized, Weather

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

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14 comments On "Spick and Span"

  1. Beautiful greenery! Hard to imagine against our Southwestern Ontario, Canada white winter right now in which greenery flourishes only in the imagination, with effort, no less! Your blog is much appreciated.

    1. Thank you! We ‘do’ green here in England, unfortunately the sky is too frequently grey though. A little of the white stuff is predicted for the weekend, although we won’t get it where I live. So happy you enjoy the blog. All the best for 2018.

  2. It is such a great feeling of achievement when one clears all the rubbish in the garden, great work Dan. I am struggling to keep on top of it as we have had a hot end to spring and summer so far, mid 30s since November, 38 yesterday so I really, really envy you yours pick and span grade. Happy New Year Dan, all the best for 2018 from Down Under, west coast.

  3. Thanks for sharing your garden and it is looking so lush. I am from Down Under as well but east coast where we have had and are having a lot of storms and heavy rain. Great for the garden and paddocks are all green.
    Love your blog, keep it going for all to enjoy.

    1. I will Margaret. I follow Paul Bangay on Instagram and he posted some wonderful images of rain falling at Stonefields. They looked as if they could have been taken here in England, where we get a lot of rain, as you know! Enjoy all that saturated green that we take for granted here 🙂

    1. I suppose the hard winter does kill off all the bugs and give you a good rest though? During a mild winter here the pests run riot and the plants never stop growing. It has rained a lot in Thanet this winter which has caused some plants to rot, and the wind has been relentless.

  4. I think its cotton buds soaked with methylated spirits (or alcohol – but what a waste) to see off those mealybugs Dan. Good luck with the little blighters!

  5. I am amazed how tough your shell ginger is. I treat those nasty mealy bugs with soapy water and it works well for me. Garden looks great despite the weather.

    1. Thank you. I associate shell ginger more with your neck of the woods than mine. I am amazed how resilient it is. It’s actually more demanding in the summer as it needs so much water. My garden is very dry.

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