A Missing Week

sunset 7.11.

Let me start with my sincerest apologies for the lateness of this posting. I’m not sure what happened, but somehow, I seem to have lost a week. It is still missing, and I’ve no idea where it’s gone, as despite concerted searches I failed to find it.


It’s been some time since I felt a weather-induced urge to put on my wellies in the morning, but Monday (7.11.) was just such a day, a perfect day for groundsel eradication.

Senecio vulgaris is classed as an annual but is in reality an ephemeral, capable of germinating, flowering, and setting seed within a few short weeks. This it has in common with the dreaded bittercress which, if my powers of observation are anything to go by, can go through the same process in a matter of days.

American land cress

Pulling up bittercress is a joy. Pulling up groundsel isn’t. It has a tenacious little tap root that invariably brings a large plug of soil with it or, when growing in a mortar path, breaks off, allowing for the production of new leaves, flowers, and of course seed.

Strangely, and unusually, the whole garden has been free of groundsels all summer and most of the autumn. Now they’ve popped up all over the place, getting ready to release their little grey parachutes. Most weeds can simply be left lying around to wilt, provided the weather is suitable. With groundsel this isn’t an option, nor is the compost heap, where it will continue to grow etc. etc. The only safe way of disposal I have found to date is stuffing it tightly into refuse sacks and leaving it to decompose in splendid isolation.

Despite my very best intentions I never manage to groundsel* for more than an hour or two at this inclement time of year. And a stitch in time does not save nine, but gives one sore knees and leaves one feeling very cold.

Fuchsia 'Lady Thumb'

I also find it impossible not to get side-tracked. There was a sudden urge to do a full flower count, delayed by the dilemma of whether to include the flowers of weeds or not. There are some fat yellow dandelion flowers, believing themselves to be in June, not November, foxgloves in all the wrong places and American land cress, looking splendidly glossy but incongruous on the peat bed. A late calluna looks more in keeping, but is eclipsed by Fuchsia ‘Lady Thumb’ and a few late blooms on Papaver rupifragum ‘Plenum’. Dianthus ‘Brympton Red’ has decided to repeat and, much to my surprise, there are a few tangerine ‘baubles’ on a young Berberis ilicifolia, a definite first.

Berberis ilicifolia

If this weren’t dilemma enough, there are the questions of keeping a photographic record of said count or not, and would it be non-hc (horticulturally correct) to include plants – regardless of their November splendour – which had long since lost their labels?

And should I continue to distinguish between plants in or out of their season, or trust my readers to know the difference?

All this anxiety increased my appetite and after a brief struggle I decided to go – as fantasised about while groundselling* – for a slab of re-heated cheese and spinach lasagne, rather than the humble and girth-reducing lunch of rye bread, low fat hummus and cherry tomatoes as originally planned.

Fish feeding had been slowly phased out a week ago and the food containers returned to the porch, but when I returned to the garden after lunch the fish had a sort of lean and hungry look about them. They fed rather sluggishly, which provided an ideal opportunity for a long-overdue fish count.

Fish count disrupted by appearance of large man – nearly jumped into pond with fright. Large man turns out to be P.H. looking for birds, nothing exciting to be found, but gives advice on possible future raven breeding, seems that without construction of large cliff prospects bleak.

Dianthus 'Brympton Red'

Remember to check greenhouse. No watering needed, but hyacinths, planted in bowls a fortnight ago and covered in black polythene are attempting to flee their bowls. Bulbs sit – or rather lean – at precarious angles on white roots like bristles on nail brush. Must remember to google phenomenon and rectify tomorrow.

Resumed flower count is disrupted by spectacular sunset at 16.15. Rush into house, dis-boot and fetch camera as I know from bitter experience that sunsets wait for nobody. Still regret having allowed myself to be persuaded not to fetch camera in August when pond set alight by fierce orange while walking with guest and husband in garden. Sunset promised by husband for following day never materialised.

Papaver rupifragum 'Plenum'

My post-sunset presence in garden wholly undesired – blackbirds screech and fly off, wrens switch on metallic alarms, moon hides behind tree branches.

* creeping slowly on hands and knees while vigorously tugging at small plants with insignificant yellow flowers and terminal grey puffs.

Moon in hiding

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One Response to A Missing Week

  1. Thank you for an interesting blog. Im a lecturer, gardener and a landscape arcitect working on the Agricultural university of Iceland and i find it very interesting to read how plants ar doing in Shetland.
    I would very much like to know more about the woody plants you are using, and if you have some Icelandic material.

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