Category Archives: Garden problems

Questions for this gardener…

I have had a good gardeny couple of days, and without doing very much in the garden, which is probably just as well as certain parts have turned to mush. But the snowdrops are coming up (admittedly on very short stems, but they’ll grow), the crocuses are materialising around the base of the big cherry tree and I’ve even got some wallflowers doing their thing. The pruning is complete – er, even the plum, which should not have been pruned at all right now but I lost my temper – and reclaiming the blurry edges of the beds has started too.

I did have to leave the warmth of the house for my good gardening time, though, because I went off to Portmeirion with a couple of friends to attend a recording of Gardener’s Question Time. But before that I spoke to about six million people about what is, to me, a radical decision – not to rejoin the RHS. It was interesting, and revealed a very clear north/south divide.

I joined years and years ago, when I was a baby exhibitor at Chelsea. This was so long ago that The Garden was the tiny size, and very dense, and almost unreadable. When you did read it, it was knowledgeable and often intimidating, but it stretched you. Or it stretched me, I should say. Now it’s bigger, prettier, has lots of bright pictures and sometimes appears to be written for eejits who’ve never been near a garden. It doesn’t work for me, and living here in North Wales very little else RHS-y does. Take a look at the ‘events’ pages, for instance. I picked a Garden at random – I think it was June, when there should be plenty going on – and there were three whole columns of events, excluding pics, for the west and east Midlands (an area also without an RHS garden to bulk up the info). The whole of Wales merited a third of a column. Of the nine gardens very briefly listed there, six were down south – and it’s easier to get to England than it is to reach Cardiff from here.

parpI decided I might have got the Celtic Hump, a well-known disorder, so rang some other friends and this is when the north/south divide became crystal clear. Even my brother, who is within a (long, admittedly) drive of Harlow Carr, has decided to quit. It makes me sad but – so long, RHS. I did ring and explained why I wasn’t renewing, but they’ll probably just assume it was the Celtic Hump Disease and recommend spraying…

Now for something much more enjoyable: GQT.

I learned of an impending visit by the BBC’s Garden Question Time team (try saying that in a hurry) at our garden club, where it was mentioned in the notices. So three of us – well, one other member and A N Gardening Other – decided to get tickets, think of a bright and intelligent question which would transform us into respected gardening gurus overnight, and go along. We also decided to go early, take advantage of the admission to Portmeirion and have a look round; a cold winter monsoon interfered but we’re gardeners, for heavens’ sake, and we went early anyway.

And that is how we ended up in the bar of the Portmeirion Hotel, steaming slightly, drinking wine and discussing our questions.

I had wanted to ask about how you could persuade middle-aged men not to hang out of trees by their teeth while chainsawing, but that was vetoed – vehemently vetoed. In the end I settled for a rather boring one about windbreaks, so it wasn’t surprising mine failed to make the cut, though talking with another audience member gave me some good suggestions. Our other questions, also unsuccessful, were about overwintering pepper plants and whether you really need to disinfect the soil in a polytunnel, one of my companions having taken over the veg garden of a local pub and a vast supply of Jeyes’ Fluid.

The questions which were picked were a combination of interesting – how the heck to stop bamboo spreading (Napalm, IMO), pruning a grandiflora magnolia (don’t) – and wilful battling against the whole concept of ‘right plant, right place’ – trying to move a 5′ x 6′ bottlebrush to an as-yet-undecided location while not killing it and wanting roses and a lawn in a bog (???). Maybe it was the wine – and there was wine for the audience in addition to that possibly unwisely imbibed by some of us in the Portmeirion Hotel – but that was the point at which many of us lost it; the woman behind me was doubled up and wheezing with laughter. The team – Eric Robson in the chair, Matt Biggs, Christine Walkden and Matthew Wilson this time – came up with some great suggestions for the lady with the bog, but I suspect she’ll still try roses.

All in all, by the end of the evening I felt I’d done some gardening. Unfortunately, I don’t think the garden feels the same, but almost all gardens look like the wrath of god at this time of year. But not all gardens have a collapsed rose arch spread across them waiting for someone (ahem) to find the motivation to break it up and take it to the tip along with all the broken pots. Now there’s a question: how do I summon up the energy to load the car with all the non-compostable seasonal rubbish?

Not the best way to start 2014 (sniff)

I suppose something had to happen. We’ve had the most terrible weather, with very high winds – gusts of 109 and 102mph recorded at Aberdaron just across the bay – plus lots of rain and incursions of the sea. Happily I’m on the 100m contour so the latter wasn’t so much of a problem here, but my ancient rowan tree eventually gave up the fight against the first two.

rowan 1

Yesterday P was walking round the corner of the house, in yet another 70mph gale, when he noticed the whole rowan blowing in the wind. Despite being able to see the trunk quite clearly from inside (hello rowan), I’d not spotted what was going on. Blowing lightly in the breeze is not something the tree normally does, being taller than the house…

The trunk was shifting by centimetres each time, and stones were becoming dislodged from the wall above which it sits. P rushed off to get his chainsaw, I made an emergency call to another friend (this was definitely a two-man job, if only to control the inner 8-year-old that seems to pop into existence in trees), and then kept my fingers crossed that nothing would happen before they both arrived. Not only is the tree taller than the house, it’s also very close, and I could see an unfortunate tree-through-roof-and-onto-kitchen-table scenario playing out.

Happily, it didn’t. Unhappily I’ve lost my rowan.

rowan downing

The gusts were only about 60mph at this point, by the way; I delivered my usual absolutely no liability whatsoever speech and went to make tea. I then reappeared, in my by now traditional role as Chief Dragger of Brash to the Bonfire Heap, and started dealing with the debris. The weather deteriorated even further, so as soon as the tree was safe we retreated to the kitchen to polish off the Christmas cake.

The unsafe stones have been removed from the wall, the top garden is covered in branches, the trunk is in two sections and I feel really, really exposed.

no rowan

And I don’t like living without a rowan by the house either, which my mother would have undoubtedly filed in her ‘Celtic bollocks’ category of statement (though she never interfered with her own rowans – note the plural – or her father’s, despite annual chuntering about berries dropping). There are all sorts of superstitions about cutting them down, anyway, though apparently it’s all right if you have no choice – we really didn’t – and I will be planting another, just further away.

My house is, however, still well ‘protected’; there are three ashes, a small holly and there’s iron all over the place – horseshoes above doors and even built into the garden walls along with old nails. This is undoubtedly because the field diagonally opposite me is supposed to be one where the Tylwyth Teg, aka the Fair Folk, dance, or did until they built affordable housing on it. Someone I know swears he saw one, sitting on the field gate, when he was about 7 (so it probably wasn’t the Sixteen Pints of Guinness Fairy). More realistically it’s probably an archaeological site: legends of that nature combined with a name suggestive of something built (‘red castle’), and nine times out of ten you’ve got archaeological remains. But I’m not cutting down the holly or removing the iron just yet… and I still have my guardian cement budgie, sitting on its trunk:

cement budgie

When I went back through all my photos trying to find pictures of the rowan in its splendour, I was shocked at how few I have. This is possibly because it’s – sorry, it was – so close to the house, but it often seems to spring up in the background or framing a view. So here, in honour of my late lamented rowan, is a gallery of its glory (just click on an image for a slideshow). Sniffle.

How to wreck yourself… and help!

I know it’s not long since my last post, but I need to share. More specifically, I need ideas.

I’m in pain. Everything hurts – knees, legs, back, shoulders, arms. I can’t speak for P, but judging by the stoical wincing I caught him doing when he thought I wasn’t looking, he’ll be feeling much the same. You see, we went a bit mad. And now I’m having a bit of a horticultural panic (I’m sure there’s one of those wonderfully expressive long words for it in German, something like ‘blumenstress’, perhaps, or ‘gartenarbeitpanik’).

A while ago we removed – OK, ahem, P removed – a huge and knackered hydrangea from a bed in the bottom garden:

before

This bed had been somewhat neglected (no, really?), the Giant Hydrangea of Boringness conveniently obscuring all sorts of neglect. It had, for instance, been where turf was heaped up when removed from the lawns to create other beds, and it was a great place to stockpile rubble – you couldn’t see any of this because of the sheer bulk of the hydrangea. Getting it sorted was obviously going to be a major task, and yesterday we got stuck in.

I thought I knew what I was going to do with it: move an Osmathus delaveyii which is unhappy in the top garden, cover the ground with Geranium magnificum,

G mag and bee bum

which is comparatively well behaved and of which I’ve got enough to make transplanting some realistic, and have lots of white spikes pushing through this – white foxgloves, veronicastrum, verbascum, etc – until the osmanthus grows up.

It’s a theory. Unfortunately it is now a blown theory, because the naked bed is absolutely flipping enormous:

yikes1

The sheer size doesn’t really show here, not without P standing in it for scale and he flatly refused. After a wild guess was poo-pooed by Shedman at the Artist’s Garden, I measured it properly. It’s 6.5m across, and 4m deep at the (currently) widest part. My guess wasn’t that wild. O. M. G.

It’s also got an interesting slope, even after all the holes and lumps and bumps were filled up using the rotted-down turf mountains:

yikes2

Plus, now we’ve stripped off a vast quantity of perennial weeds, some of it is bone dry. Though not for much longer; it’s raining nicely and we stopped mulching when we hit the really dry stuff. Also we’d used one whole rubble sack of bark chips…

So now what? Well, nothing until September, apart from mulching and weed control. But what then? There are several things to be borne in mind…

plan

1. The back wall is not mine and I mustn’t grow anything up it as it’s just been repointed.
2. Though the bed itself is sheltered from the prevailing wind, the cold east wind is a nasty bastard, whips down from Moelfre behind the village and slaps straight into it.
3. The pear tree, though old, is beautiful and quite large and still productive if I speak to it nicely. There’s no room for another tree behind it, really,

pear tree

(pear plus ferns and neglected bed)

and nor do I want to add one and risk the effect of root growth on my neighbours.
4. I’ve got a Sambucus niger that is not doing brilliantly where it is and could be moved here too; and I still want to shift the osmanthus.
5. I want to keep the perennial poppies, which are fab:

fab

and the ground by the urn is covered in crocuses in spring (they can take their chance).
6. My garden doesn’t accommodate exotics easily. Um, perhaps I can qualify that – whatever I plant has to be in sympathy with the garden as a whole, obviously, even though long views will be blocked by the pear when in leaf. For instance, last year I grew a wonderful Angelica gigas in my ‘new’ bed which was spectacular but which didn’t really work with everything else.
7. My soil is acid, though I suspect that nearer to the wall will be quite limey – I’ll be out there with my pH kit once it stops raining – following the repointing. I don’t want to add azaleas or rhododendrons as there’s more ripping out to be done elsewhere, and and I have those earmarked for the next outbreak of insanity. And I’m not a huge fan of heathers – except tree heathers and getting the ones I like is almost impossible, so they’re out. Ferns I do like, which is probably just as well as this garden does good ferns all by itself.

On the more constructive side, I’ve an open mind about colour, though I have just sown 30+ white foxgloves in preparation for Unrealistic Planting Idea No. 1. I’ve already eliminated things like prairie planting as that would just look silly, and I know I want to introduce some more bulbs for the spring (just as well I’ve not done the Peter Nyssen order yet). I’m wide open to any suggestions which may help my incipient blumenpanik. And if that isn’t a word, it definitely ought to be. There’s plenty of time for Unrealistic Planting Ideas 2 to 58,000. Well, about ten to twelve weeks.

And on the even more constructive side, it’s surprising how well aching limbs respond to a hot bath and a large whisky. Ow. Must repeat.

Yikes 3

(new bed with large plant pot)

8. Oh yes – and anything on the far side will overhang the lane and must absolutely NOT infiltrate the retaining wall. I have snowberry for that (and a man with a mattock for the snowberry).

Help…

So farewell, then, hy-flipping-drangea

I have had a hydrangea in the garden since I came here. That’s not unexpected; most of the gardens in the area have hydrangeas. Some are gorgeous colours – my favourite is the mix of deep pinky/purply/crimson.

My hydrangea is not deep pinky/purply/crimson. It’s baby blue. With shades of faint lavender fading to washed-out greeny white, turning to unpleasant brown.

blue

Around its feet are wild garlic, all sorts of bluebells (rapidly becoming one sort of bluebell, and the wrong sort), some St John’s Wort, a vast number of Welsh poppies and more of the crocuses.

crocus patch

The hydrangea is very old, very big and very reluctant to put on any sort of show. We’ve pruned it, with varying degrees of savagery, in an attempt to persuade it to a) flower more prolifically, or b) die.

This is the time of year for pruning hydrangeas.

Only this year I had a fit of the vapours:

strewth

Take that!

And because hydrangeas can spring back, even from this, take even more of that:

mattocked

It’s been mattocked, and the root is now reposing on the bonfire heap. I defy even a hydrangea to come back after that.

Now I need to clear up this bed, remove the rest of the Great Root of Doom – and decide what on earth I’m going to put in its place. Any ideas? My soil is acid, the bed is in shade a lot of the day and the wall faces east (killer winds) but does provide shelter from the prevailing westerly wind. There’s an old pear tree nearby which really prevents the introduction of anything large or tall (and is the reason why there are no distance shots of the bed – I’ve taken some but they’re all pear tree).  The world is my oyster, or possibly my azalea, but I’d better do something quickly before the rest of the bed is colonised by the wild leeks and interloping bluebells. So, suggestions please (no, not another hydrangea).

And now I’m off to psych myself up for the village Garden Club’s spring show on Wednesday. I’ve never entered anything in a flower show before, and I would pick the year of the Big Winter Blast, wouldn’t I? Well, at least everyone else is in the same boat…

A crime – solved?

Well, Holmes and Watson have been round to look at the evidence from the mystery excavations in my garden:

rathebone

All right, it was actually Karen (Artist’s Garden) and Shedman, but that is me in the feathered hat.

A paw print, now sadly blurry, was discovered.

Paw print, not – alas – claw print.

dragon

So much for the dragon theory.

But it also scuppers another – badger would be larger, rounder and claws would be more clearly visible – and leaves me with this:

fox

Though possibly not a cur fox, but a young female – hence the absence of smell. There are certainly a lot more foxes around here than there used to be, leading to the removal and execution of a persistently annoying cockerel in the village, but I’d discounted them on the grounds that there was no other evidence. But the paw print clinches it, unless it is a passing dog. I could – according to Watson – try laying a trap of currants, which foxes apparently love. My own experience of foxes leads me to think that a discarded doner kebab might be more effective, but I could be corrupted by spending twenty years in London.

Next question – what to do?

Crime scene

Something has been mangling my garden. (This sentence reminds me about trying to help a friend prepare for an advanced class at the Institut Français by coming up with outlandish phrases illustrating different ways of expressing damage: my contribution was ‘the wreckage that the hurricane left in my garden’.)

holes

Whatever it is, it’s been digging for victory, and only in this bed. I have several potential candidates, given that hurricanes tend not to dig.

1. Corvids. I have a lot of problems with crows, jackdaws, etc digging up chafer grubs at this time of year, and this lawn was always a favourite place before we created the bed. However, these holes are just too big, unless they are using spades. I know corvids are bright, but I doubt they’ve been able to get into the ty bach, remove the spades, use the spades, clean the spades, replace the spades and then close the door again.

2. Badgers. My garden is surrounded by stone walls, high stone walls, and the gates are closed. Though I did pass a badger trolling down the hill one evening as I was on my way up, I think it was making for the pub rather than contemplating scaling the walls. For one thing, it didn’t have a ladder.

3. Foxes. It does look a bit like fox damage – I lived with that when I was in my London phase – but there are no other signs: no strong smells, poo, take-away cartons or dismembered pigeons. And, following my London experience, I no longer use fish, blood and bone as that is as attractive to the average fox as a dodgy meat pie is to a footie supporter at half time.

4. Rabbits. No shit. Seriously – rabbits poo everywhere. There are no signs of anything other than these huge holes. No footprints, even when we had snow. And I don’t believe in ‘ghost rabbits’ previously suggested as solution to disappearing mangetout. I know what helps itself to tender veg, and it has two legs and not four.

It’s not just in the exposed areas of the bed either, as in some cases plants, like this anthemis, have been shoved out of the way.

hole2

So what the hell is it? It’s not happening in daylight, as far as I can tell, and there are no signs of damage anywhere else. Next door’s fox terrier was put down last year. P no longer has a dog, either, and nor has he been overtaken by a desire to become the Phantom Digger of Dyffryn, or he says he hasn’t. Hobbits? I think their holes would be bigger, rounder and involve large film crews which the neighbours would be bound to notice.

And it’s not me. OK, I am responsible for one of the huge holes in this bed where I ripped up my Angelica gigas, but not the rest. Honestly. Any more suggestions?

Now you see it… or games with power tools

What do you do on a fine but cold Monday, when the list of absolutely vital garden jobs covers two sheets of A4? (Apart from go shopping, that is.) I had the answer: you have fun with chainsaws. And ropes.

I’ve three ash trees in my garden, and I’m staying off the whole subject of ash die-back here because I don’t want to throw my laptop through the window. The one in the middle garden needed a lot of work a few years ago, but the two at the top have only really been pecked at, and have started worrying me in high winds, when they’re inclined to drop branches. Any work has to be carefully timed and scheduled in the gap following the meadow trim, but before any of the bulbs so much as sticks a tiny pointed shoot above ground. Perfect right now, in fact. Time for major surgery.

(Plus, of course, it gives some people the chance to do what they really enjoy: play with power tools. And, in a fine bit of gender stereotyping during one pause, my friend and I fiddled with the 1936 sewing machine I’ve just bought while the boys talked petrol strimmers.)

Still life with chainsaw?

One advantage of not using a tree surgeon for jobs like this is that you get all the brash and the finer branches – stuff that a tree surgeon would shred. I do appreciate the chippings after Mr Tree Surgeon Man has been round, but I’ve got four builders’ rubble sacks full from the cedar and I don’t really need any more, handy though they are. But while having the smaller stuff is extremely useful in terms of extra logs for the stove and humungous amounts of kindling, it is also a lot of work for the Support Team (when they’re not talking sewing machines).

I’d not realised exactly how sexually determined yesterday’s tasks were until I started writing this post… Hm. What would Sylvia Pankhurst, Virginia Woolf, Betty Frieidan or Gloria Steinem do? Probably not bowsaw their thumb, as I did. Bet Virginia never went anywhere near a bowsaw (though I think Vita Sackville-West could have been useful to have around, probably also fine with power tools). It’s fine, thanks. Just stopped bleeding, nearly 24 hours later. Memo to self: wear gloves. Wear gloves. Wear gloves. Ahem.

But it was worth it. My friends disappeared with multiple sacks of wood and kindling (and there’s more but we ran out of sacks, so they’re coming back); my own wood heap has been beautifully augmented,

and that’s just the smaller stuff. There are lots of good big branches, some of which were rather interesting to retrieve from inside the biggest skimmia on the planet – in the foreground below – awkwardly growing around the base of one of the ashes. This involved a lot of strange movement in the skimmia without any apparent source, as the log pushers were completely obscured by foliage. So the skimmia got a bit damaged? It can take it, as can I, and at least it isn’t going around with a stupid huge plaster on its thumb (not sure about that image; I think I need more coffee).

The disadvantage of doing a job like is that there are some parts of it that you just cannot do yourself, and one of my ashes is now extremely tall and too close to power lines.

I overruled protestations about this (though they subsided quite quickly once P actually got up in the tree and realised how high he would have to climb, and how close the branches are to the power lines – ‘does this supply all of the village?’) and called Mr Tree Surgeon Man again. So the job isn’t quite finished, but it’s been enough to delight one of my neighbours up the hill who popped round (and coincidentally offered to take some of the timber off my hands). He’d never seen the beach from his house before.

Given the speed ashes grow, I’d take the pictures now. Or maybe he should just wait until ash die-back hits west Wales. Hmm. Where’s my laptop?

PS: Just back from doc – tetanus jab. Ironic, really, that I should have spent all that time worrying about blokes hanging on to trees by their fingernails while holding chainsaws in their teeth, but the only person who got hurt was this idiot. Still, it made the nurses at the surgery laugh…. again.

Still life with tree surgeons

I went to work. I came back at lunchtime.

At least it wasn’t raining…

They’re back to finish off on Friday. And in the meanwhile I have a huge straight trunk with a nobbly bit at the top rearing up into the sky – very, er, symbolic. Ahem.

You can understand why coming round the corner five hours later and finding this

was something of a shock. Always an archaeologist at heart, I suddenly understood the impact of a newly-erected (ooo, er, missus) standing stone. At least it will be down soon…

(And if any of the local pagans are reading this, you’re welcome to come and dance around it on payment of a – let’s just say ‘large’ instead of any other adjective which might leap to mind – fee. It would help offset the cost…)

Land of my slugs (and snails)

Right, that’s IT.

The flaming slugs have eaten my strawberry (note the singular, by the way – that gives you some idea of its significance). It’s turned my mind, and I’ve turned to song – this is Wales, after all, Land of Song and all that.

So imagine the tune of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (aka Land of my Fathers), a male voice choir on the top of some mountain, probably Cadair Idris as the cafe on top of Snowdon (above) would distract from the moment, and a LOT of rain.

Do feel free to sing along.

The slugs ate my strawb’rry, they noshed it with glee
They chomped it and chewed it, they left none for me,
They’ve lunched on the lettuce, they’ve slimed the courgettes,
The broad beans are calling them home.

Hens! Hens! What I need now are some hens!
A cock’rel, some pullets or a nuclear device,
Machetes, an UZI – or hens.

My slugs like a beer and seem partial to salt,
And skanky old fleeces don’t cause them to halt
They abseil down hedges, they climb up the pots,
The mangetout are calling them home.

Hens! Hens! What I need now are some hens!
A cock’rel, two pullets or a nuclear device,
Machetes, an UZI – or hens.

And now, with an extra stanza and a revised chorus thanks to recent events – which I regard as blatant provocation – and the comments received, I bring you Hen Wlad Fy Ngwlithenni (aka Land of my Slugs, or at least I hope it is – I had to look it up, mae’n ddrwg gen i), part 2, to keep you up to date:

A slug in my greenhouse left traces to see,
Slime trails and chewed leaves were all waiting for me,
I sifted, I lifted, I rootled it out,
The peppers were calling it home.

Ducks! Ducks! Now what I need are some ducks!
Hens won’t help a bit as they’re really quite thick,
For action, I really need ducks…

and in case anyone thinks I’m being disrespectful, I’ll just add ‘pleidio wyf i’m gwlad’, and add that I was once a stand up comic. That probably explains a lot.

Here’s the real thing for anyone who doesn’t know it, as sung, inevitably, before a rugby match (with Scotland, in February this year):

(You might like to turn the volume down – the roof was on, so it was a bit on the loud side. How sensitive are slugs to noise? Do they have ears? Can I stun them by yelling?)

Houston, we have a problem…

Well, all right, I admit that on a scale of 1 to 10 where the Apollo 13 near-disaster was a 10, this would be about a -50,000. But for me it’s a problem, and I’m not sure I’ve got at the solution.

(I am sure that I have a stinking cold, but it’s not blurring my judgement or making me see things. Much.)

I have two gorgeous camellias in the bottom garden.

The larger of the two is this double, and it must be – oh, about 2.5m tall at least. It is sheltered from the worst of the wind by the Portugal Laurel and a perfectly ordinary buddleia, and it’s always been fine. Gorgeous, in fact.

Until now.

Bleagh.

Initially I thought it was camellia yellow mottle virus but it’s not yellow, more of a cream, and yellow mottle really is yellow – or at least it is in all the pictures I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot recently. Also CYMV – according to the books – doesn’t weaken the plant, and this whole plant is looking a bit peaky. Also, I’ve been told that it leaves the veins green – not a hint of green there, though there is on some of the bleached leaves.

Fortunately most of the leaves are still a happy (um, a bit droopy, actually) camellia green.

I did wonder about chlorosis, but we’re on exactly the right soil for camellias and they grow like weeds round here. The other one is fine, and it’s only a couple of metres away, slightly lower down the slope. But this double does not look good, and that’s even allowing for the natural tendency of camellias to look as though someone has scattered them with old paper hankies as soon as the flowers begin to turn brown.

The other thing that occurred to me was waterlogging.

It has been very wet – there are damp patches in the house where there’s never been damp before and all this talk about drought is making me feel envious, but water issues round here are deeply political and it’s my water* – and this camellia is very close to the soakaway. So is the other – but not quite so near. The soakaway is in good condition for a 200-year-old waste management system, but its whole purpose is to let water soak away (dur). Could it, I wonder, be permitting this particular camellia to sit with its feet in water? Or maybe the (eco) washing powder / washing-up liquid I use has altered the soil’s ph? Maybe it’s time to find the tester and check it out. I should also mention that an Acanthus mollis nearby is also looking a bit on the yellow side, or maybe that is me and my head full of gunk.

(In the meanwhile, P and I have dumped a whole load of acidic red cedar chippings at the camellia’s base.)

And I’m immensely grateful that the other camellia, the single, has just started flowering. It’s always later, but it’s usually overshadowed by its blowsy companion. Not this year,

which just proves my theory that there’s always a silver lining if you look hard enough.

If anybody has any suggestions, I’d be very interested. I’m going to cut a chunk off and send it to the RHS nasty things identification service, but I’m not sure I can do much about it if waterlogging is the problem. And it’s so big, I’m not sure what I’d do if it was yellow mottle (er, cream mottle in my case). Hire a cherry picker, perhaps. P would love that – boys and their toys – but ladders would probably be just as good. Big ladders.

*Though I could probably supply Liverpool with water single-handed at the moment, politics or no politics. Mind you, we’d need lots of buckets.