Happiness is … firsts

First strawberry of the season. (Already eaten)
First poppy flower.




Happiness is… Birthday books


A few weeks ago I turned a little older and quite fantastically I got book vouchers. For some reason I usually only get them at Christmas. For those of us who love wandering through shelves of books, running our fingers along spines and opening up books to smell that new book smell (different but just as nice as old book smell), book vouchers are even better than books because a trip to the bookshop is included in the present. Book vouchers are also a liberation because you can’t spend them on other things. So even if you have a towering pile next to your bed you have to buy more books.

There are many ways to buy books, you can set out to buy a particular book, go into a bookshop with a set of criteria and find one that fits it, or just pop into a shop and see if something buys you. Sometimes the latter happens even if you have intentions of the first. Today I had all three. Will Grayson, Will Grayson, was planned, I’ve been waiting for a moment to buy it, then I wanted a book on orchids, so I don’t kill my fantastic unplanned plant buy, finally, browsing through the gardening section, I came across this. Completely serendipitous,ipp Making the most of Indigenous Trees is unsurprisingly all about indigenous trees (of Southern Africa). It’s packed full of information about habitats, uses, especially with regards to wildlife, and cultivation. It has multiple photographs of each plant, it’s bark, flowers and seeds. It’s one of the best plant books I’ve ever come across and the fact that it’s on a subject not easily available elsewhere is a bonus.

The only way it might be improved is by adding a section at the back suggesting trees for specific garden uses for those too lazy to read every single entry. That’s not me though as I’ve already started book marking trees for use in the Bird Garden.

Happiness is… Hellebores

ippI absolutely love hellebores, I don’t know why. They’re not a plant I grew up with. The first time I met one was in my aunt’s garden, a rather uninspiring sickly flop of leaves with a green flower, which died not long afterwards. But I do remember an air of rarity in the way she talked about it. And they are quite rare here. In the sense that they appear in nurseries and garden shops but they are just hellebores, unnamed, and the colours seem mostly potluck so you have to buy them flowering. I have two surprise hellebores I bought a few months ago, which holds it’s own excitement, but when I look at the varieties available in the UK, with their range of colours, I am, quite frankly, incredibly jealous.

I love their name, Lenten Rose, and they are frost resistant and ippdrought tolerant. Beth Chatto talks about them in her book, The Dry Garden, and they are generously unfurling now, while everything else is waiting for more civilised temperatures

These are the first hellies I planted in my garden, just under a year ago. I bought them in flower so this is the first time I get to watch them unfurl. Aren’t they beautiful. They are both doubles, a double white and a double pink. I lost the labels so I’m not sure which is which. They’re planted in the shade garden which I’ve decided, rather pretentiously, to call the woodland walk; even if it is, at the moment, just a squeeze between a couple of shrubs and a tree. I have three more to plant out and then it will start looking a bit more like a woodland floor.

Happiness is… shopping for plants.

ippOn Tuesday I drove out to Krugersdorp to buy fruit trees from one of my favourite nurseries, Austraflora. It certainly has the best range of fruit trees of any nursery I’ve been to, apples, pears, peaches, plums and even quinces and crab apple, and the owner is friendly.

I bought two apples, Fuji and Golden Delicious, and three pears; Forelle, Packham’s Triumph and Rosmarie. I’m going to try my hand at espaliering. Fingers crossed.

I couldn’t resist this gorgeous cymbidium orchid …                                                                                                                                                            ipp      ipp                                                                                                                                               …and this hellebora