As you can see, not only have I got a new shed (a 10ft x 6ft half glazed apex roof potting shed from Addison Ousebank, if you're a person who cares about that kind of thing) but the back end of the garden is undergoing a major transformation - two 2.4m sq timber raised beds from Harrod Horticultural have been put up in front of the shed, in what will eventually be either side of a brick-style path. The area around the beds will be laid with heavy duty landscape fabric and bark chips, then there'll be a little picket fence to cordon this rear "business end" of the garden off from the rest.
I've also pimped my compost bin: well, I stained it, after Rick emptied its contents into a rubble sack for me. It used to be a bit of a disgrace - left untreated it looked ugly and bad management meant it was overflowing and desperately needed turning. A coat of Cuprinol Garden Shades in 'Seagrass' did the trick, and it was promptly refilled with the right proportion of browns and greens. Now it's going like the clappers, giving my two wormeries a chance to catch up. It's amazing how making something in the garden look good encourages me to take better care of it.
The raised beds, the picket fence, the boundary fences and the shed will also get pimped: in fact the compost bin was a bit of a trial run colour-wise. I like this shade of green but think it's a bit too strong for the shed etc - sage green with cream accents will probably be the order of the day for them.
I've learned a lot as a newbie sheddie: apparently I can't just slap on a tin of water-based colour like Garden Shades - I need to wait a year (A YEAR!) until the wood weathers. I don't think I'll be able to hold off that long, but maybe until next spring. I also need advice re tool racks and shed storage, but I'll save that for another post.This is another view of the raised beds, partly showing the motley collection of shrubs in the brick raised bed in the opposite corner of the garden to the shed. Current plan - as when time and newborn baby allows - is to whip out the prostrate conifer (ugh), variegated euonymous (double ugh) and dark-leaved hebe (ugh etc) at the front, at the very least, and maybe leave the photinia and spruce behind them. Suggestions for replacements welcome. The ornamental quince 'Geisha Girl' and Osmanthus x burkwoodii to the right of the shed (but not in the brick raised bed) will stay for the moment, and will hopefully thrive once freed from the grip of the hideous conifer.
What better way to start 2009 than with a caption competition?
What is the slug saying to the snail, or vice versa, in the pic below?* Keep it clean, or at least legal, please. Writer of the best (as judged by me) caption posted in the next seven days gets whatever flotsam and jetsam is lying around my desk at work right now - probably a book on giant marrows, or somesuch.
UPDATE: I've decided the winner has to be Emma of the Alternative Kitchen Garden podcast. Some garden books will be winging their way to her.
*Footnote on the picture: this was taken on the lawn at my old place not long before we scarpered. Just shows how skilled I am at lawncare - and indeed pest control, as there's a lot more slime in this shot than blades of grass.
If there's one thing I am sure of, it's that readers of this blog know way more than I do. So I'm asking, as I sometimes do, for help for a couple of readers who want to identify mystery plants.
First, there's Sue with her packet of supposed mini bell mixed pepper plants, which when sown ended up looking like this:
Then there's Anna, who definitely has a pepper, but which one? She writes: "this is a pepper plant that my friend's mom grows every year. She is from Trinidad and she uses these peppers to cook. They are very spicy. Her Mom, who is now deceased brought the seeds to the US from Trinidad. We would love to know what kind of pepper this is". Any experts on Trinidadian peppers care to step forward? Nice pic, Anna.
I get quite a lot of requests to identify plants, bulbs, and other curious growths, including fungi. Most (in fact nearly all) of the time the best I can do is say either a) go to the library and get a good reference book that's local to your area, and/or b) consult a local expert.* This is partly because most of the queries come from the US whereas I am in the UK, but mainly because I am very, very far from an expert in such matters (ok, most matters). In addition, people rarely supply the kind of contextual information that aids a positive ID - where was it found, did it smell of anything, did you see it yesterday or last winter, and so on.
That said, I had to bring you this little beauty sent to me by Ron Langer in Murphy, North Carolina because it's rather pretty. And of course if anyone can help Ron out with a name, all to the good.
If you're in the UK and want to get into fungus hunting, a good book to start with is the Mushrooms: River Cottage Handbook No 1. And if you're in the US? No idea on what the good field guides are on the other side of the pond, but I just found MushroomExpert.com: this site gets points first off for pointing out that identifying mushrooms isn't like spotting trees, and for explaining why mushrooms rock, I mean, help to maintain a naturally healthy ecosystem, and for its rafts of cool photos.
*I really need to get around to overhauling my about page and adding this in, along with changing my job description.
I'm all for reduce, reuse and recycle but this paper, which covered a shoebox containing something I bought from eBay, is almost too frightening to have seen the light of day. Check out the evil red eyes on the cat to the left - yes, that's right, the one next to the bottle of "pussy perfume".
I am guessing it was once wallpaper for a child's room, but it's going into the recycling bin, right now, before I get nightmares ...
There's a good few centimetres of snow on the grass and it's still coming down. I have plans to make the perfect beef stew (scroll down a bit) for dinner tonight to mark the arrival - finally - of winter. I do need to wander up to the shops later to get some ale to make it with, but what better on a day when I don't have to go to work? I might even get around to writing a few long-delayed blogposts - top of the list is a post about my trip to River Cottage HQ last year.
I had so much fun taking pictures of my pumpkin haul I've made a mini-gallery. If anyone can help me figure out what the two unidentified pumpkins might be, I'd be very grateful ...
I had so many shots of bumblebees pottering about in the cardoon flowers that I have created a little album for them.
There are 25 species of bumblebee in Britain.
25! But there used to be 28. Three species have already died out and nine more are threatened.
If anyone can recommend a bumblebee identification guide, I'd love to have one.