Friday, 3 December 2010

Pieris (03 DEC 2010)

I inherited this variegated pieris in a pot. I didn't water it for over a year (my excuse was that I was concentrating on DIY jobs, but since being enlightened I now realise that no DIY job is more important than gardening), it relied on the elements alone for sustenance. Even when I started gardening this spring it wasn't my top priority, but when my seeds were sown and bulbs planted, I decided to take ownership and pay some attention to my adoptees. The pieris seemed constrained so I de-weeded a spot in a border, dug in some compost and transplanted it there, where it almost doubled in size over the summer growing fresh coral-coloured foliage. Its reward initially was regular watering and then a promotion to the central bed in the autumn where it produced showers of flowers like cream-coloured beads strung on pink stems. A gardener couldn't wish for more from a plant !

Last week we had heavy frosts and this week snow. I felt guilty when I saw some plants wrapped in fleece coats as I walked along peeping into other people's front gardens. I never used to be so nosey, but now it's normal practice to ask a complete stranger how they managed to get their marigolds to flower a month longer than mine, or where they bought an unusual plant. I haven't been told to mind my own business yet, in fact the snow seems to make people more chatty. I knew snow was expected, but I did nothing to protect my plants (in my defence, I didn't know there was such a thing as a plant coat till this week). The pieris seems to be surviving, however, the half-hardy plants are in varying degrees of suffering and it's especially sad to see my broccoli & foxgloves wilting before they have had a chance to flower. Most of the autumn seedlings (babies of the summer annuals) in the plastic sheet greenhouse have died except the sweet peas which still look perky even though I dropped them by accident two weeks ago and the soil has now iced.

Despite the icy conditions destroying my plants, I imagine that the snow is somehow sanitising my garden, though it wouldn't surprise me to discover that slugs & snails have evolved to survive temperatures below zero. They have made their mark on almost everything that I planted this year, but they haven't totally destroyed anything yet. I actually find the foxes or squirrels more annoying (not sure which because I haven't found them red-pawed yet). At first, I thought they were digging up the soil randomly but I'm beginning to think they are targeting & stealing my spring bulbs because in some cases I can't find bulbs in the dug up areas where I'm sure I planted them. I've heard that a sprinkling of chilli powder or a stocking filled with balls of rolled-up human hair deters foxes, which seems appropriate considering they make me so upset that I could pull my hair out.

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