Tuesday January 31st

Garden pests,they are so numerous. Aphids, slugs, vine weavil. Plant diseases, rust on your roses, black spot, clematis wilt. You could go on and on, but what about cats? Are they much maligned or are they the gardeners worst enemy.

We have enjoyed gardening for thirty years, even had the privilege of being winners in the Aberdeen in bloom competition, and you know this we have always had cats. Any damage done has been so trivial it has been deemed of no consequence.

Our first cat Tom Puss came into the family when Audra and Lana our daughters were toddlers. He was a big puss black with a white bib and white paws. Tom was very independent and the children loved him. When he was seven years old his health turned poor,and he started to take nose bleeds. It turned out he had a brain tumour and we had no option but to have him put down. We were all very upset, but we were now cat people, and within several months we had another kitten, Toby a ten week old seal point Siamese. Right from the start you could tell he was going to be a proper wee character. He was both affectionate and vicious, he loved to play and this is when he started his biting, playfully but at times he went over the top. He soon settled down and became a lovely pet. When he was six years old we moved to our present home, after a year sadly he was knocked down by a car and killed. We buried him in the garden. Feeling we could never replace him it was a little longer this time before we got Lindi our Abyssinian friend.

She was six months old and with fur like a wild rabbit, she was anything but wild, the most timid creature imaginable, a most beautiful cat. Visitors did not even know we had a cat, for if the doorbell rang she would disappear only to turn up about an hour after the intruder left. But she became so affectionate after a little time, but only if she had us to herself. Sadly she was also killed on the road, only consolation was she had a very happy but short life. It was too much we could not get another cat.

Well you guessed it, before to long We got Rudi, Faroe, and Casper all Burmese. Rudi we had for an amazing fourteen years, the other two, had much shorter lives.  Rudi was an amazing creature a beautiful brown large Burmese boy. Incredibly gentle with claws and teeth like a mountain lion. By the time he was fourteen he had kidney disease and bad arthritis. He passed away peacefully in September 2003, so sadly missed, we buried him in his favourite spot in the garden.

We now have Purdee a lilac tortie Burmese. She is now two years old, and like the others enjoying a great life, hope it lasts longer than some. Are cats a pest to gardeners? Well you know what we feel.


Monday January 30th

Probably the earliest perennial plant to flower in the garden is the Hellebores (Christmas Rose). In spite of their common name, they normally start to flower in January.

The white variety Hellebore Niger is the most well known of the species. With so many hybrids there are now plenty to choose from. Different shades of pink, purples, green, and some with flowers so dark in colour they are almost black. Hellebore’s grow happy in shade and like plenty organic matter in the soil, give them a mulch every spring.

At this time of year remove all of the old leaves, which makes for a much tidier looking plant. A good idea also is to spread bark chippings around the plants, this prevents the flowers from falling on to the soil and spoiling the appearance. They can suffer from a type of black-spot, just remove the damaged leaves to prevent the spread of the disease.

Hellebore Purpurascens has a soft purple flower and is the earliest of all to bloom, as early as December in more southerly locations.

Sunday January 29th

Having been reminded several times that the front vestibule had not seen a lick of paint since the coronation (slight exaggeration . This was the day when I had no option.

Setting to work dutifully, I soon got into the swing of things,quite enjoying it, but don’t tell anyone! When finished I stood back and was well pleased with the resulting labour. Kept going back for another look all afternoon.

Now don’t you just do that when you have done a job in the garden. We gardeners must seem a strange lot to the other 80% of the population. Tell them you spent most of the weekend working in the garden. Response! “no I could never do that.” Don’t get me wrong I love to see a bonny garden but no I could never do that!!  Well everyone to their own but aren’t they missing out. Talking for my better half as well, we just love weeding, cutting the grass, trimming the edges, cutting the hedges, planting out.

Mind you thinking about it there is one job in the garden I am not to fond of, and that is removing the summer annuals from the borders in the autumn. Ah well, off to dream about getting the lawn mower out for the first time this year. (funny lot)

Result of our labour

Saturday January 28th

We have already spoken about this being a good time of year for cutting back deciduous trees. It can be a dangerous job, get someone to hold on to the ladder. If you feel in the least bit wary, call in the experts.

In fact only allow your husband up that ladder after you have checked the insurance policy. Branches should be cut back flush with the trunk, don’t use a single cut, the weight of the branch will tear into the trunk of the tree and cause damage.Also do not leave a stump on the tree it will die back, and most likely a fungal disease will set in. Any branches you do remove make sure the area where the branch was is left smooth.

Friday January 27th

If in your garden you feel there are so many shades of green in your trees and shrubs, and you would like a contrast. You would not go far wrong with the beautiful red Japanese Acer.

A fantastic deciduous tree that happens to be more shrub like. Dwarf varieties, tall ones, green, gold, purple, red. They cope with acid soil to slightly alkaline, sun to partial shade. Tend not to like early morning sun as the leaves can get scorched. two of my favourites, Acer Palmatum Atropurpureum height 500cm red purple leaves which turn brilliant red in autumn. Also grows well in containers use john innes no.3. The other one is a dwarf variety Acer Palmatum Dissectum Crimson Queen height 120cm. This is a stunning small tree which has the Royal Horticulture Society award of garden merit in recognition of its outstanding excellence. Low growing mound with rich purple finely cut leaves.

Acer Palmatum Atropurpureum