Going Potty

Reading time 4 minutes

If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s to look after our mental health. If it’s taught us another, it’s to look out for others’ wellbeing at the same time. Having been vulnerable to depression and anxiety in my youth, these days I consider myself fairly robust. Even so, at the start of this week I found myself welling up every time anyone said anything nice to me. This took me by surprise; after all, what do I have to complain about? Yet when one considers everything that’s happening in the world right now, it should not be a surprise to anyone that negative feelings might occasionally catch them unawares. The trick is to read the signs and do something about it pronto, rather than wallow. My response is always to get out of the house for some fresh air, even if that only involves crossing the road to the bakery for a sneaky sausage roll.

Us gardeners are fortunate in that we need scant encouragement to go outdoors and generate a little Vitamin D. Gentle exercise is good for us, of course, but as a source of escape, distraction and hope there’s little to rival our garden or allotment. Searching for signs of spring can keep us amused for hours during the winter months. I spent most of the day pottering about outside and not once did I give work pressures, viruses or lockdown a second thought. None of them have gone away, but giving one’s brain a break from any source of worry or negativity is absolutely essential in these uncertain times. I hope it will also make for an excellent night’s sleep.

Today we finished planting the tulips. Should you have the odd bag of unplanted bulbs hanging about, now’s the time to take action. Tulips will be perfectly happy planted now, daffodils will be less forgiving, but it’s still worth a try.

Before I came inside I counted the terracotta pots in the jungle garden bulb ‘stadium’: we have eighty-eight in total. Given each is home to around twenty-five bulbs, that’s at least 2,200 blooms we can look forward to between March and May. This should be quite a spectacle in a space no more than twenty feet by thirty feet. Planting seeds, bulbs and trees are activities charged with hope and anticipation. Depending on your needs and circumstances, you can do no better than to undertake one of these pursuits if you’re feeling the slightest bit blue. In just a few weeks there will be new leaves, rapid growth ……. perhaps flowers ……. and the whole world will seem better for them. TFG.

Categories: Bulbs, Seeds and Sowing, tulips

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

Greetings Garden Lover! Welcome to my blog. Plants are my passion and this is my way of sharing that joyful emotion with the world. You'll find over 1000 posts here featuring everything from abutilons to zinnias. If you've enjoyed what you've read, please leave a comment and consider subscribing using the yellow 'Follow' button in the bottom, right-hand corner of your screen. You will receive an email every time I post something new.

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52 comments On "Going Potty"

    1. A wonderful orderly display of potential! I was in the garden today too but only managed to sort/turn the compost heap!

      1. Well, that’s a good job done and one we haven’t tackled Jill. Do a little something every day, that’s my policy during winter. Even if it’s just 30 mins work it’s progress. Dan

  1. I have just, one minute ago, had a big rant on another blog, giving out about those who give advice on the benefits of gardening for those with mental health issues. Such blogs are something I deeply resent for I find most of those who spew such advice seem to do so simply to fill a screen with type and rarely, if ever, write from personal experience – it can generally be quite obvious. I share your experience, similar health issues and need to be aware and to take care of self – that welling-up is a big alarm bell – but I do so wish I had a source of sausage rolls so conveniently located! You lucky bugger!

    The pots are looking fabulous and will shortly be brilliant.

    1. Perhaps I should write my next post on the positive benefits of sausage rolls to mental health? I have much experience in this field and similar with Scotch eggs and Cornish pasties. All comfort foods in times of hardship. Really I need little excuse to indulge in any of them. However the garden lasts longer and doesn’t make me fat, so I shall have to strike a careful balance between pastry and planting to get me through the current situation. Dan

      1. I had a phone call from my GP about a week ago, following blood tests – “Paddy, what the hell have you been eating. Your cholesterol levels are through the roof” – Covid comfort eating! So, we are now being more restrained in our eating habits; less baking and scoffing the cake within 24 hours etc!

  2. And what a display this will be. I will be so looking forward to it.
    I have certainly had some weepy moments the last few days. Totally not me normally. It seems like normal will never be again. Sigh…. therefore I will look for tulips and daffodils and those gorgeous galanthus to start the parade.

    1. Yes, it’s been going on a long time. Even with the end in sight we know things are likely to get worse before they get better. But, SO much to look forward to, and actually, provided we are healthy and have food, we have very little to complain about. Keep smiling and we’ll be laughing about this on the other side. 🤞🏻

    1. I worried it looked a bit like a factory! I shall feel happier when the green shoots start to poke through. A real mix of old and new pots there. They weather down pretty quickly over winter. Thank you for your comment. Stay safe and well. Dan

  3. I’m so impressed with your pots… and, as Judy has said, a bakery across the road is perfect! I agree with you, the garden is the best place to be in stressful times. .. how lucky we are to have one!

    1. Indeed. Here in the U.K. it’s become the number 1 demand of home buyers given the current lockdown situation. We have two bakeries within 2 minutes walk of the front gate so we are very fortunate. If we ever move out of town and have to plan our food shopping ahead we’ll seriously struggle. Dan

      1. Our most memorable holiday was renting an BnB in the middle of Paris, above a bakery…the morning smells were absolutely wonderful!

  4. I wish,wish,wish here in Michigan that potting things up were not on hold! I had a mad dash in November to get all my bulbs planted before the ground froze solid. It is nice to see what you’ve done!

    1. Ahhh! Michigan! Cold indeed. My grandfather lived in Lansing and that is what our family home in Cornwall is called.

      A very different situation for you in winter. It’s rare that the ground freezes where I live so I can garden at leisure through the winter. All the best. Dan

      1. Small world! My husband is from Lansing! His son still lives their. We live in Fenton which is about 60 miles away. Our area is full of lakes. We have probably 25-30 in a 10 mile radius. That fact bumps us into a slightly higher growing zone. I will take those extra few days! Also tell the Beau I’m on the lookout for his wish list dahlia. I am searching for one called Miss Teagan. That’s my daughters name. It was hybridized in 2006. I found 1 place in Canada that has it.$8.50 but $49 to ship! Almost $60 for 1 rhizome! Just can’t make myself do it. Think of all the other glorious plants I couldn’t give a home!
        Sausage rolls sound delish. Ever had a pastie?

      2. Yes, which gives me the opportunity to finish my story. My grandfather was Cornish, part of England once famous for its mines. He went to Michigan with his brothers to find work and gained American citizenship. He did not stay and came home to marry my grandmother and live in Cornwall. His brothers did stay and I think their descendants now live in San Francisco. Pasties were invented to feed the miners. The pastry kept the contents clean as the miners’ hands would have been filthy, and was not eaten. The crimped edge was like a handle. My grandmother made incomparable pasties. Nowadays I buy them mail order from Cornwall and keep them in the freezer for when I miss my home county.

        Meanwhile that is a lot of money to ship a dahlia tuber. Is there some kind of tax or complication involved in shipping goods from Canada to the USA? I assumed it would be easy! Dan

      3. Dang! You stole my pastie story! My grandma grew up making pasties. She in turn taught my Mom who taught me and last spring I passed on the tradition to Teagan. Twice a year we have a pastie making day. I make 3-4 dozen and they freeze so well. They MUST have rutabegas in them( I think you call them Swedes?) They must have like a pot roast beef,never ground beef. And the great debate to THIS day….. Are you a gravy or ketchup on the side person. This is a hotly debated topic in Michigan! The camps never agree and I live in a house divided!
        The dahlia shipping thing is annoying at best. Michigan borders Canada on 2 sides for God sake! I have a dear friend in Nova Scotia and we sometimes send things like this back and forth to each other. So I checked.$39 to ship it to her! As soon as this Covid stuff is in the rearview mirror,it may be a road trip weekend into Canada!

      4. This is so interesting. So do you think there’s a link between Cornwall and Michigan in the form of the pastie? I wasn’t aware the ‘dish’ had travelled. From your description it sounds like you make them absolutely correctly, as per the Cornish recipe. I have never had a pasty with gravy – feels a bit wrong – but I have had one with with ketchup. As neither is traditional I guess anything goes provided it tastes good.

        Here we have the new concept of plants not being able to travel simply between the U.K. and rest of Europe which has meant no one is sending anything anywhere for the moment. It’s quite a big concern given so much comes over from The Netherlands, although perhaps it will be good for the British growers. We wanted to buy some dahlias from Germany and the cost is very similar to the amount you are quoting. Too much!

        I think we can all agree we’d like to see the back of Madame Rona. A weekend road trip to Canada sounds very glamorous in any event. Hopefully it will be a possibility soon. Dan

      5. Cornish pasties are legendary and their recipes abound amongst the descendants of the great Cornish diaspora in the mining areas of Michigan and Minnesota. Entire scholarly studies have been produced by culinary anthropologists.

    1. Ha! They are sausage meat wrapped in pastry – normally the puffy kind – in a log shape. An essential party nibble or snack here. They can be cheap and nasty or ‘gourmet’ in the same way as a burger. I am afraid I am rather partial to either kind. Dan

    1. They are. I have been trying to eliminate as many plastic posts as possible. Not for environmental reasons as I will continue to use them behind the scenes, but it just looks better and the weight is useful in a windy situation. It’s been an expensive exercise though. I think the price of pots made in Europe will stay high for a while post Brexit. Dan

      1. They do look nicer, but I struggle with the weight of the larger pots. I have a promise to myself to buy a pot each month this year. Sadly 3 terracotta ones have been broken (wind not frost) one of which is quite large.

  5. Okay, now that is . . . excessive.
    I SO want to grow (a few) tulips! Not this year though. When I do so, it will be difficult to force myself to try the flashy sorts that bloom in your garden. Did you grow ‘Cairo’ last year? That is one I could try. It is flashy by my standards, but still rather simple . . . isn’t it? I really should get someone else to select tulips for me.

    1. Inspiring post Dan. Love the order in your pot display! I just have few, but love the promise then lushness of full on pot enthusiasm. I am going to put some things into pots today, I can work in our little conservatory so I won’t be too cold. Beautiful frosty morning, going out for a walk in woods at the back,vshould inspire some creative work. Your posts are a balm. Missing instagram this week, our internet is down. Bulbs posted by Farmer Gracey are phenomenal, might splurge on one or two…..for the pots. Thanks and stay well.

      1. Good morning Nancy! It’s good to hear that Farmer Gracey are a reliable supplier. We have not used them yet but they pop up with amazing regularity on Instagram and Facebook. I am very sluggish on these cold, winter mornings. I let The Beau walk the dogs and stay in bed for an extra hour. Feels very decadent, but as soon as spring arrives I shall be busy, busy, busy again. Dan

    2. Ha! I have grown ‘Cairo’ and it’s lovely. ‘Queen of Night’ would look good with it, and is also very simple. A variety like ‘National Velvet’ or ‘Havran’ might also work for you? There’s no need to go for all the whacky ones – we only do it because we love to try new things, but we always go back to the old favourites. ‘Brown Sugar’ has just come to mind in addition. Sending best wishes. Dan

      1. Oh yes! I remember ‘Brown Sugar’ too, and almost asked about it. Although I do not remember ‘National Velvet’, it is one that I would like very much. The rich color is not as cartoonish as ‘Apeldoorn’, which is one of the classics that I would be inclined to prefer otherwise. The form is classically simple too. ‘Queen of the Night’ was one that I considered . . . although I can not explain the appeal. The color is so not my style. Perhaps I have seen it in catalogues for so long that it is not as threatening as ‘something new’. I did not get as far as pairing it with another color. I only thought that it would not likely go well with the plain white of ‘Maureen’, which is what I really crave. ‘Havran’ . . . is one I am not so keen on, both in color and form . . . and the branching. Do you remember the pictures of ‘Purissima Design’ and associates that Mr. Beau posted? They were rad. However, for my own garden, I could do without the variegation. ‘Purissima’ is my favorite of the group, even if some find it boring.
        Well, yes; I should get someone else to select my varieties.

  6. Wise words, sensitively and thoughtfully put together, which ring so true for us gardening and plant lovers…..thanks so much for this post/ and as always, I’m looking forward to seeing the next steps with your amazing garden 🌱🌱🌱

    Thank you Dan!

  7. Hello Dan and thanks for your lovely post on gardening and welfare. I have just finished reading it via FaceTime to my 93 year old mother who is sadly suffering from Covid in a care home in Dartmouth in Devon. No visiting is allowed and although Mum is not in any pain due to wondrous morphine, she also has severe dementia and cannot speak. So FaceTime is challenging to say the least! Mum was a fantastic gardener all her life so today I read her your post. She really heard it and she loved it! Such gentle wisdom mixed with horticultural pleasures. Thanks Dan

    1. That’s lovely to hear Julia although I am sorry to hear your mum has Covid on top of dementia. That is a tough situation indeed. I do hope she gets better and that you are able to visit her soon. Thinking of you. Dan

  8. Thankyou for your blog and for sharing your lockdown experience of unexpected increased emotional vulnerability . It is one that many of us are feeling, maybe unexpected or for the first time and is best acknowledged and shared . A garden is such a solace and source of joy at all times and how much more when the rest of life is curtailed. Dogs help too! Can I recommend 2 books, Elizabeth and her German Garden, and All the Dogs of my Life, both by Elizabeth Von Arnim which are brimming full of those life enhancing experiences . Regards Tony Wright

    Sent from my iPhone


    1. Thank you for your book recommendations Tom. Given Enchanted April is one of my favourite films I am sure I am going to enjoy these. I had no idea she had written that story too. I have learned something new today. Dan

  9. My goodness, that’s a lovely set of pots. It looks so neat and organized that I have to assume there was a much more hectic time when it wasn’t.
    Have you found any changes in how the plants grow when they’re in pots this close versus farther apart? I’d have to guess that the increased humidity is good for them.

    1. What an excellent and interesting point you raise Scott. During the summer months there are quite a few benefits to having pots reasonably close to one another – although not so close that the plants get leggy or disease can spread. One is support, so that the plants support one another, a second is shade, so that the shadow of the plants reduces moisture loss and traps humidity. Where people have pots spaced far apart on a patio or terrace they can need watering twice a day in hot weather. Grouped together like this they might need watering once every two or three days instead. It makes a big difference.

      In winter and spring then there is perhaps some benefit if it becomes cold and frosty as they’ll not freeze as quickly as when exposed on all sides. As the bulbs grow up and the plants expand I do steadily increase the gap between pots. Some of those pictured will go around into our other courtyard to make room for this.

  10. Hello from California. It looks like all of your pots have the same… Pea gravel? Is it a mulch? Is it a planting medium? I have very little experience planting bulbs and corms and have only “succeded” at inviting the rampant spread of native wild onions. (I think they’re charming).

    1. Hi Stefani. I know it as ‘horticultural grit’, commonly used for adding to compost to make it free-draining or as a decorative mulch. I use it as the latter. It has many benefits – weight, neatness, water retention, moss preventer, pest deterrent (slugs and snails don’t like it and neither do vine weevils if it’s deep enough). I mainly like it because it looks neat and professional. In California I am not sure you need to work on compost being free-draining as much as we do, but it would keep a little moisture in during hot, dry weather. Some bulbs would probably do pretty well planted in pure grit but I only use 2 inches on the surface of standard potting compost normally. I hope this helps.

      Meanwhile, welcome those onions in if you like them. Trying to force them out will only cause you a lot of heartache! Dan

      1. Ha! Thank you! I was warned about the onions, but there’s a lot I have to learn from experience (or misadventure).

        I’ve never noticed ‘horticultural grit’ in the shops here, but I’m curious enough to look around now. The pots do indeed look professional and attractive. Your terrace(?) must be stunning in flower.

  11. Love this 👏👏👏 would you let us repost it in our online magazine, next issue Thursday. Credits & links to you of course. Regardless this is a great post busting with optimism xx

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