Still recovering from lockdown

Day 10

 

I was grateful for the rain on Tuesday night as Monday’s walk had been a bit of a crippler. Likewise I set off in relative high spirits last night only to be brought to a painful halt a few times en route. Google maps has my route for last night down as pretty much dead-on five miles, my Fitibt (and me) would estimate this to be closer to six. I suppose in the end it doesn’t really matter that much, as long as I am still out there walking and getting in some exercise.

But it’s not just exercise which is leading me out of the house, no sir! More often than not I am going for ‘mindful walks’. Yes, I’m not a fan of buzzwords and new fangled ways of thinking but in this case it’s actually true, walking for the sake of getting out of the house and away from the TV does make me feel better, well not just better but good! Every so often this ‘good’ is punctuated by a bout of pain as yet another thing screws up in my knee, but when that subsides I do feel optimistic, upbeat even! This effect tends to intensify the further I go away from civilisation, on The Moss I’m practically euphoric! Of course every so often it does get squashed when I fear I may be taking the wrong route…but well we can’t let that stop me now can we?

 

Preparing the battleground

At last! An ‘Office Garden’ post!

Yep, it’s been a while, so long in fact that I simply cannot remember the last one.

In the light of the recent viral outbreaks – what? You think there’s only one? I thought it wise to do my usual thing and see if a cleaner lifestyle or just environment might yield better immunity against Covid 19. Okay, so I read an article on how houseplants can aid in health, from general well-being and mindfulness to more scientifically proven theories.  Amongst the houeplant growing community the NASA research of 1993 and subsequent book in 1995 is undoubtedly, folklore. Perhaps, mis-guidedly so, in that the sheer volume of plants to square footage required is just not practical for the home or work environment. However, that does not mean that we can’t borrow from the studies . Indeed we don’t actually want totally clean air for one very startlingly obvious reason:

It would reduce the efficiency of our immunity systems and ultimately we’d go the way of the martians from H.G. Wells’ – War of the Worlds. Yes I know the book is a work of fiction but it has science at its heart.

Photo of a very weakened Crassula
Come on Crassie, have a bit of fight in you…

Anyway, now that I’ve finished being pseudo-pedantic, the obvious place to me to ‘green up’ was my desk at work – seeing as I spend most time awake there and (sorry guys) there are statistically more pathogens around for me to absorb! It’s no secret that I like a good plant. Sadly, it’s no secret that I’m not so adept at keeping the poor buggers alive and in the last year have lost a fair few from my desk (owing to dehydrating and conversely over-hydrating), even now an unknown variety of Crassula is fighting for its life (c’mon Crassie, keep on in there!). But I have to try, my mother did have green fingers – I just don’t seem to have inherrited them and I am more of learn by experience kind of guy as far as all things horticultural are concerned.

 

Prior to today I had a desktop collection of:

  1. One Ficus Benjamina (in a 3″ pot)
  2. One Ficus Benjamina being trained as a bonsai
  3. Two Spider plants that were gifted to me by family
  4. A lemon and lime Dracaena (Dracaena fragrans) again this is not doing so well.
  5. A pretty poorly looking Christmas Cactus
  6. An Aldi Easter cactus which rewarded me with one flower…which promptly fell off!
  7. A Peperomia Obtusifolia which always looks like it’s struggling but has this year grown two new leaves (alas, one died back)
  8. A Calathea Rufibarba with leaves which look desert-touched, even though the soil is always moist!
  9. One Fiddle-leaved fig that did look really poorly but has now grown two big leaves and is looking happier
  10. A Fittonia (unknown variety) which was looking great until dehydrating here at Christmas and now looks like it is battling at best!
  11. A lovely Ficus Elastica which is growing really slowly but looks okay at the moment
  12. A weird air-plant
  13. A Peace lily which has been such a wilting snowflake but does get a really nice white flower
  14. One Dracaena deremensis Warneckii (yeah, we’re gonna need a common name for that some time soon!)
  15. A Madagascar Dracaena which seems to think it’s a type of grass as it will not grow in the vertical plane!

As well as other plants taking over our home (the golden Pothos is not so golden, yet it is amazing).

And that’s it…until you factor in this morning’s additions:

Photo of a newly purchased phlebosia
See the bunny?
Photo of a newly purchaesed Maidenhair Fern
What a stunner, set off by the blue background

Phlebosia – species as of yet not known, I’ve only just got it and it will take a while finding out. This was something of an impulse buy from Tesco for £2.50.I won’t lie, I did forget that some fern plant roots can end up looking downright creepy and what one botanist refers to as “Rabbit’s Foot” can look a lot more like “Tarantula’s Leg”. This little star already has a couple of furry apendages sprouting out of the soil, so we’ll just have to see what it transforms into and whether or not this is going to freak out me and the entire office! Adiantum – one of 250 known varieties referred to as “Maidenhair Fern” and isn’t she a super looking little bundle of joy? This was only £2.50 from Tesco.  I look at her and think ‘awww, isn’t she pretty?’ These plants have something of a reputation of being divas – well she’s gonna fit right in next that always-looking near death Calathea Rufibarba then! But it appears that the reputation they have is not earned and as long as the soil is always a bit on the moist side and the light is alright (it is, one thing we do get right here is the light is nice and ubiquitous!) then she should thrive away…not too fast I hope as I only have limited desk room and to be totally fair-minded, it is supposed to be an office and not my own personal fernary! But wouldn’t that be great?

Photograph of a newly purchased Polystichum Biaristatum
Ignore the monkey, feast your eyes on the Fern.

Anyway, one last purchase to feature and it is a weird sounding one. Polystichum Biaristatum for £5.00 from Morrisons. Yes, I’ve never heard of them either but a common name for it is Upright Shield -Fern, which returns no practical results at all from Google . It was with a ceramic pot which I have inadvertantly left in the car! This appears to be something of a newcomer to the houseplant world as there are just not many sites featuring it, I may have to contact Summer Rayne Oakes about this as what she doesn’t know about plants is not worth knowing!

And so that’s it for this minor update. On my next Saturday when I am here I may well take photos of all of the plants individually, plus some other other bigger ones that we have here, it’s all getting a bit more green and well that in itself gives the illusion of being happier and healthier. For those of you who are interested here are some links to give more in-depth details of NASA’s 1993 findings:

 

The 2020 Anglezarke Amble (shorter route)

Warning, this post does contain emphatic / robust language. If you’re easily offended I’d **** off now if I were you!

Oh how I hate to refer to this as the shorter route, as it is, in my opinion, in no way less challenging than the longer route, just less milage and ‘shorter’ kind of demeans this!

If there are worse kept secrets than my desire to complete the West Lancs hosted Anglezarke Amble each year, then I don’t want to know them! I bang on about this event incessantly so when the time came to actually take part in this year’s epic slog, solo, I was chomping at the bit (there is no verb – to champ so will everyone please stop saying otherwise). Besides a damn good walk in very muddy country this would give me a chance to have a minor respite away from the house-moving saga which seems set to last until April at least (although which April I’m not sure!).

So, as you might expect, I was at the start (08:00) by 07:25 as I am just not a last minute type of person (oh how I wish this was different). Registrations complete, I was back outside and ready for the off by 07:38 and decided all I could do was loiter. 08:00 arrived and we all headed north…well kind of north. I don’t like being in mass walks when stiles and gates are factored in so I kind of made my own way, appending some of the route so as to avoid getting stuck behind / being a burden, on the last stepped section leading up to Rivington Pike. In total this would have added around a five-hundred feet to the route but that’s not really salient. I did get chatting to someone on route who informed me that there was no requirement to actually go to the top of the pike, as that’s what the runners do, skip it altogether. Well for me, the Amble just isn’t the Amble without touching the tower atop the pike, hmph!

Photo of The Yellow Army...ascending!
The Yellow Army…ascending!

Next came the (I always feel) uneasy descent passing Brown Hill and onto Belmont Road before turning off to head up Crooked Edge Hill, often referred to as “Two Lads”…these were the two huge stone cairns at the top of the hill, now there is one enormous one…and about three to seven children cairns depenedent on what time of year one ascends the summit of this ‘little toughie” of a hill.  The route detours before CEH’s summit to a rather boggy and muddy track which then leads to Winter Hill – the road. Yes folks, not only have ‘they’ named a hill Winter Hill, but also the TV station antenna is known as ‘Winter Hill’ and so is the road up to it! It was around this time, nearly close to ten past nine when I was passed on the road by…mostly everyone to be honest. On long walks such as this, I don’t get my second wind until waaaaayyyyy after everyone else gets theirs! The group I remember the most was the “Yellow Army” who appeared to be a mostly female (I mean most of them were ladies, not they were all transitioning!) group adorned in the most illuminated yellow tops that I’ve ever seen, honestly, you could not lose these people in fog…especially going off the noise they were summoning! All good spirits…the cheerful sods!

So now, having passed by my first checkpoint (Winter Hill) we began the long drop down the north-east face of Winter hill. It’s a good enough path, some mud but otherwise okay, but the type of route that I like to do on my own as there are parts where I’d have preferred to take my foot off the methaphorical gas pedal. There is no ambling around on the Amble and the added pressure of not wanting to hold others up sometimes does drag one’s spirits down a tad! I did nearly fall over on two occasions but I thought that I would save the genuine falls until later in the walk! The crossing of Belmont Road (A675) is always something to focus one’s concentration as the cars passing by are doing at least 50 mph. Next step was my least favoured part of the entire route: Green Bastard Hill!

You won’t find Green Hill (this one) on ordnance survey maps. It really is not that relevant to most people except for the ones who decided at some point to stick a farm on it named…Greenhill Farm. After one has summounted the rather high stile one descends into lots and lots and lots of mud…and the odd occasional cow pat! I hate this part of the route as it is so CROW – a path in theory as opposed to a real one! I ended up walking sideways down moss and reeds as the main trampled path – where the other 300+ people in the last twenty minutes had been, resembled one slippery cattle wade. I hate this part of the route. Another slip and slide as we head towards an unnamed stream and then it was up a steep and slippery climb to Egerton Road and then onto checkpoint two (Belmont) – I had made it to the cut-off point with a good twenty five minutes to spare! But, I still hate that part of the route!

By this time I had a right old case of jelly legs and decided to take on some carbs in the form of a SIS energy gel, which did the trick, and prompted a comment from someone “time for a sis already eh?”. Well yeah!

The next section would mark the departure from the main ‘long’ route but first I had the first half of Longworth Moor with which to contend. Longworth Moor, in its entirity is sodding wet! By now, lots of people were coming together – there are drier ways of making it to this point of the landscape, via cheating (I know because I had considered it) and by now most of us muddy ones were looking a bit caked in it around the shin area! Nevertheless it was with an enormous deal of delight that I spied the sign on the nearing horizon which indicated “Short and Long”. I’m 5’6″ so I went for short! Charley’s pole is actually not a pole,  there is a sign there, I think it’s owned by the national trust or even ordnance survey, if it is owned by Charley” then nobody knows who he is / was / will be. All the same, it was a fantastic feeling to have made it six miles into the route, safe in the knowledge of:

  1. It all gets quite a lot easier for a good few miles from here on in.
  2. It all gets quite a lot quieter (sorry Yellow Army) and you get to look forward most of the time (instead of over your shoulder to look out for would be overtakers).
  3. It’s a fair bit drier, but there is still standing water so let’s not get carried away, (carpet slippers it is not!).
  4. There are no two ways about it, the less time that you spend walking next to Turton Heights the better, it’s a shithole!

So, we’re on Catherine Edge – that’s a place not a person (apparently there is only me in the entire world who finds that funny!). And although there is a fair bit of water I am ecstatic (or as happy as us reserved Ainsworth / Sandgrounder types get) to be able to go at my own pace…and that I’m able to relax. The views of neighbouring hills (Spitlers Edge, Redmonds Edge and a distant peek at Great Hill) lift my spirit, this is country walking. Occasionally I met with other none-Amblers who are walking towards me. All is well. It isn’t until gone eleven a.m. that I come across the farm which I refer to as Big dog farm. Aptly named as they have a Caucasian Shepherd Dog here which is the size of a semi-detached house! I noticed they have now adopted two Tibetan Mastifs which does make me wonder what the hell they are protecting? I consider taking a photo of Big Dog but he barks and I can almost feel my phone being pulled out of my hand each time the leviathan breathes in! Big dog is a handsome dog, I just think he could kill you in a heartbeat if he so desired!

After a lovely eon I arrived at the gate whereby for some reason, those who designed the route thought it might be fun to send us up a slope then down the other side. I’m happy enough to do this and just as happy to direct the group of three women walkers in front of me (who are just about to venture on to Crooksfield Road for no reason). To open the gate requires a doctoral thesis to be submitted or a pint of unicorn blood, a kick also works! The gradient is quite quickly reached but does leave me puffing and panting for a while and this impacts upon my ability to answer the ladies next question on how to progress? I try telling them that it’s just a question of through the gate, walk along the road then turn right to get to Slipper Lowe but, not for the first time, I cannot recall what Slipper Lowe is called and can only think of Teanlowe – which was a Burtons pie shop in Pulton-le-Fylde! So we all cross the road then spend ten minutes descending only to re-ascend the slope and ultimately ‘luck-into’ the checkpoint (Slipper Lowe every body, if you see me next year for the love of God tell me it’s called Slipper Lowe).

At last I am relieved to use the Nescafé cup that I’ve been seemingly carrying pointlessly for the last ten miles! I even recognise the odd face or two – a gorgeous girl from the start – believe me, you’d recognise her too as her face is nothing short of beautiful, even her partner is a bit of a babe…then I remember, I need carbs and all of a sudden, everyone appears normal again! Finally, I am at a place where I am able to sit down. I text Chris to let her know my progress, I’ve abandoned way before now on two occasions and her encouraging responses are all that I need to finish my drink and set off again. I try to keep up with the three women – they are about to take a wrong turning and head off towards Blackburn, then again near the path to Hollinshead Hall they’re doing the same thing. Walkers’ curse I call it, the overwhelming desire to turn left before one needs to do so. Honestly, if it was not for me they would have done some serious milage. Thankfully, I then run into walking friends Sue and Karl and some other woman to whom I am not  introduced. This is brilliant as I hadv’t seen them for almost a year and I could quite easily spend the next hour just catching up. Ultimately it’s Sue who declares that they don’t want to hold me up, which is kind and thoughtful and I dejectedly make my way towards the A675 again, Great Hill is waiting for me, only me, he has it in for me today! Great Hill is a whaleback, all whaleback hills are male!

It takes me virtuallty no time at all to get to the road. Unlike previously when Mark and I completed, we were so far behind that we only ever saw stragglers. Today i got to engage with the faster of those doing the longer route, you’d think this would make me take a down-spiral in mood…

Great Hill’s path is sticky and wet and muddy and energy zapping in the extreme. Many people overtake me and I do not care. Gorgeous and her other half pass me by whilst I am kneeling on the floor having mis-timed a jump over a minor mud-stream. We exchange comments about me admiring the view, for the next thirty minutes or so and she counters that she knows just how I feel. She must be hiding it well then as they both look like they have just stepped out of their car! In the grand scheme of all things, Great Hill is an easy, 1,250′ little hill. On the Amble day, it’s a complete and utter git (and that’s being diplomatic). The gradient just seems to rise severely very near to the top so that what you think is a summit is in fact an outlying peat hag! Karl and Sue had warned me (because they’d already been here today) that the summit was on the blustery side today, I am glad of it. The breeze is soothing and I am over-joyed to have a few solitary seconds at the top to think and bask in the knowledge that it is all downhill for a good few miles from here.

But these are not just any miles, these are Great Hill miles and you’ve always got to be aware of the next step on Great Hill. I don’t fall, not even stumble (unlike the last time a fortnight earlier) and I fondly look forward to grabbing another few moments of rest at Drinkwaters Farm ruins, this has become my place. Soon enough I start off again, feeling better after more gel and water and more confident. It even appears to me that my stride is increasing. I always take my time with the last few steps down Great Hill, as they are bloody steep! Believe me, going up this way is cause for a sanity check! All the same I must look far different from how I feel. At the White Coppice checkpoint (where I fell over on my first ever Amble) I’m told that I don’t look like I’m enjoying myself…I counter that it is just because I’d heard this was the place to get some new knees, and ankles and hips… Instead I get a coffee and a surprise, I’ve caught up to the gorgeous couple!

My drink goes cold before I have a chance to drink it, the water from which it was made must have been quite cool by now. So I empty my mug as quickly as possible, no desire to cherish every drop – it’s nearly stone colde. I set off again. Before long I have caught up to the beautiful people again and although I had intended to slow down and have a chat…I speed up! I can almost hear them saying, “that was a bit ignorant”. But that’s the voices in my head, my personal, overly-self-aware demons trying to bring me down, I won’t let them, I’m on a mission. I want to finish this route before three o’clock, even though I have forecast four p.m. to Karl and Sue and anonymous woman. The rest of this route is easy, I practised well just two weeks ago, just a couple of muddy sections to go.

Over Moor Road I go and off to a minor uphill section, there is more mud than I remember from my last outing here, keep going, just be careful of each step, I have no wish to fall- over here, or anywhere for that matter. More people are on route now but these do not have the crazed look of Amblers in flight, they take their time, admire the scenery, don’t give way quite as easily. I’m now on the sheep-trod which proved so interesting two weeks ago, but I learned my lesson then and leave the comfort of the path that I know will turn in to one slippery little fucker in the next hundred metres, I’m on the slope of the hill itself, going horizontally. But no matter how ridiculous my plan looks in practice – it works. After I pass the mega-puddle I rejoin the sheep-trod and it’s over the next bridge and through the gate. Now its the first major downhill section with which I have to contend. Just a short drop of less than two hundred lateral metres and I practice my skill at using the moss-covered oaks and sycamores for support. It works wonderfully, not even any wormy hitchhikers like last time, I feel all kinds of Bear-Grillsish! I pass a couple, the man is an awesome size, must be close to seven-feet tall, we exchange greetings, they are going too slow, no sense of urgency, they are not Amblers.

At High Bullough reservoir I take a few seconds respite, it’s not as stunning as the first few times that I have passed it. the reservoir has been drained – there is an information board which everyone seems to take turns in reading, I’ve read it before, crack on! And now I’m making progress along the side of the ressie that was. I must be hitting four miles per hour now, for me, in my current cuddly condition, that’s awesome! Next step the gigantic downhill corner and the scenery takes a change for the beautiful as the Anglezarke Reservoir comes into view, it’s spectacular, it says home to me. I don’t have time to admire the moss-scape on my left but the knowledge that it is there lifts my spirits even higher. A couple of tall, tall female runners pass me, good on ’em! For the first time, I believe that I am going to get back to the registration church hall for 15:15, maybe even earlier. I pick up speed once more but still keep looking to my right and basking in the reflective tranquil beauty of the Anglezarke reservoir, it’s like I’m doing this in her honour, all bodies of water are female!

And now I’m at the far end of the reservoir, I cross the road early so as to avoid crossing on the deadly hairpin bend. All I’m looking at now is the tarmac (or whatever road surface it is) dead ahead of me which is festooned with ample amounts of horse manure, I believe that will not only stink to high heaven once its crust is penetrated, it’ll be slippery as hell and today – I’m all about avoiding the slippy! Moments pass, the memories of my first Amble flood my mind, it was dusk when I traversed this road then, now it’s golden sunshine. My coat is giving me more heat than I could possibly ever need but at some point soon I’m going to take that off, and it’ll be awesome! I ascend the rough path at the side of the Yarrow water chute and believe that I’m in my last two miles. I want to spend a minute or so simply drinking in the scenery, it’s some time since I last saw the chute in spate and it’s truly an impressive sight! Two more slopes to go! At the apex of the next slope lies the great green wall of the Yarrow reservoir.

I’m on the sometimes rough, sometimes cobbled path heading south. I have no competition, no other walkers are near me to spur me on, it’s all too easy to slow down and appreciate the day. I have to be tough on myself and think back to past triumphs – and failures. Scafell Pike, that was one hard son of a bitch, my legs ached for ages after that, the failure of last summer’s Y3P and how this walk, today, will be an excellent way to build more confidence for that arduous but wonderful task which lies in wait for me. The songs going through my head are again the theme music from Sonic the Hedgehog and I have no objection to this…apart from it’s pushed Billie Eilish’s “Everything I wanted” to the back burner, I can listen to that on the way home. And now I’m at the gate at the southern most tip of the Yarrow. Anyone who uses the kissing gate here has more time than they deserve – through the gap in the wall, you could get a panda through that, I’d love to see that to be fair! A sharp left turn, downhill and I almost bump into a family who know what I am, what I’m doing…

“Not far to go now, almost there” reports the patriarch. He knows I’m an Ambler and I smile, it’s like I’ve lost all of my verbal social skills.

Around a corner and through the millionth kissing gate, honestly, if you did kiss at each of these; you’d be well dehydrated by now! And now I’m recalling the Great Galleymore’s 2013 Anglezarke Amble (which got me in to this thing originally) and how he advises to watch your footing here for all of the divets! Walking back alongside the Dean Brook and I’m feeling on top of the world…okay, my hands are a bit numb? My feet are hot, my upper body feels like it’s been in a sauna for way too long and my thighs are chafing like a, like a…like two thighs which are chafing I suppose. And there are the steps to lead up to the paddock. I can hear voices, hurried, female voices behind me, it’s the bloody Yellow Army again, they’ve caught me up! I now feel compelled to take the last few steps a lot quicker. I pause at the top of the steps if only to ask the seemingly head motivator of the Yellow Army about their campaign – mission statesment – just what they are and what are they doing! She’s really positive (like a running version of an 80’s Bonnie Langford – but nicer looking) and she fills me in on what a great day this is. Even better she assumes I’ve done the 24-miler like they all have! I’m just too honest to let that go.

Twenty seconds or so later and they fly off into the distance with an illegal amount of energy still residual! I’m practically walking sidewards by now owing to the chafing thighs. But we are so close to the finish now that I can swear I can hear voices – real voices of people laughing and joking, regailing stories of the day. I’m forced to remove my backpack as we can both get through this last kissing gate – just not attached to one-another. Now I’m on the road, I turn right and in front of me lies the tiny entrance to the church hall, and once inside (for a change) you can keep your filthy boots on as you register your finishing time:

six hours and fifty-two minutes!

Epilogue:

I never had anything to eat back at the hall, few and far between are the times when I can consume anything after a good walk, and how good this walk had been! I sipped my coffee, texted Chris my finishing time and a photo of my certificate and simply basked in the encapsulating joy of having completed the Anglezarke Amble again. Yes, I do moan a lot when my backpack is trying to push me to a muddy death when dropping off Great Hill. Yes I probably did look a real dick when I fell to my knees on the way up the bugger, I just don’t care. These are experiences, future anecdotes things you just don’t get playing Candy Crush Saga at home on the warm and dry sofa! I simply had to do this walk, to build momentum for what is turning out to be a challenging year on personal, work and home fronts. There’s no doubt that this episode of my walking life will put me in better position to complete September’s Yorkshire three peaks, it’ll help me do April’s Sefton Coastal Path walk too! But it’s more than that, success breeds success (and how quickly I am learning to hate typing that word!), any kind of success gives us the positive mindset to strive for more, we even begin to welcome the odd obstacle and take the tougher way! I’ve quoted him before but the afore mentioned Mr Gallimore is perfectly right when he describes the Anglezarke Amble as “Depicted as probably the hardest challenge on Planet Earth.” – I guess it kind of depends on just who is doing the depicting! To me, this is every bit as hard as the Yorkshire Three Peaks without the lofty summits and glory. With the Amble you get caked in mud – even if you’re doing it right. These days, doing the Y3P is a largely dry affair now that the ‘Mosses’ have been bypassed. I want to do the twenty-four miles version next year, do it proper! I’ll probably do it unaccompanied, there is less pressure that way and as I have seen today, less chance of someone getting you to turn left before you have to!

Songs of the walk: Billie Elilish – Everything I wanted, Joanne Koziel and Kris Nahony – I need to forget, themes from Sonic the Hedgehog: Greenhill and Marble zones.

  • 07:24 and the Upper Rivington Reservoir looks stunning.

Sefton…it’s over to you!

 

 

 

This weekend’s additions

Now, I like my plants…

But it’s getting to the point now were hardly a weekend goes by without me coming by at least one more of the things. Take this week for example, I had run the gauntlet of visiting Morrisons without Chris, which generally means I can impulse buy, I shouldn’t…but often do. And yet, I survived. I returned from the store without any new additions, I was so proud. The afternoon sped along and soon enough I was picking up Chris from work and promising her a cup of tea from Dobbies – well, I figured she had earned both it and a slice of whatever cake she fancied for working on a Saturday. We ended up with scones once again, and a can of diet Doctor Pepper, if anyone wants to know, I think it’s a new level of disgusting, but that’s just my opinion! I had diet Sprite which was beautiful and all the better for having ice with it, this was a rare break in the clouds and topped out at a very respectable 22℃. Had summer arrived?

I made no secret of the fact that I was there to see if they had any pots for which I cound find a use. As it transpires there were a number of very affordable ones and a really attractive crop of Calatheas, again, I could not recant which variety as UK Garden Centres just don’t do that, y’know tell the customer exactly what they’re buying! I did pick up a baby Calathea which could have been no more that six inches tall, and a pot which would have made a good host. Suddenly I suffered from an attack of guilt. You see just recently I have been saving £2.55 into our impulse savings account each time that I would normally buy a latte. We have something like £17.00 saved up now which would normally have been processed into, well, y’know, urine! So for me then to go and spend another £2.99 on the plant and a further £3.x (can’t remember the cost of the pot) having just bought scones and drinks, well this would have been just not right (I am certain there will be a far more fitting adjective to use but I can’t think of it just now!).

I congratulated myself for putting the plant and pot back on the shelf and we left Dobbies sans plant, pot and guilt! It has to be said that if Dobbies had more staff running the tills on Saturday afternoons then I might not have had such a long time in which to change my mind!

Fast forward by twenty-four hours and we are in Bradley Fold Garden Centre, Radcliffe and I have thus far avoided buying any more plants. This is not something that I find easy to do in spite of the fact that most houseplants are toxic to cats – we have Pepper and we have no room for anymore and the fact that I am now making my office desk look more like how I would imagine a botanist’s desk would look…it’s covered in plants. I know before long, someone is going to say, “Erm, the boss says you need to knock it off with the plants!” And they’d be right, but it feels nice and the humidity is much better for my eyes (I no longer need the eye-spray three-four times per day) but let’s be very fair here…it’s an office for crying out loud, not Kew Gardens! But, those two driving factors for not buying any more plants did not deter me, oh no!

Photo of the Peperomia plant
He’s a bit wounded but I’m sure I can bring the best out of him.

Enter my first new plant, who at fifty-pence I could simply not decline: Mister Peperomia (again, no varitel name on the pot, but a quick google search conjured up the name “Obtusifolia” – fantastic). Chris was almost mocking as the poor thing had almost no roots, some of the compost was missing from the pot and what was present was bone-dry. I persevered however, and took it upon myself to find a new home for this bargain of a specimen (okay; a specimen of neglect!) and would not put him back on the display. Within thirty minutes I had found a puddle and with the aid of the red pot (I’ll upload a photo later) I had given him a much-needed drink. The jury is out on just how pure the water from the puddle was: yes it could have been pure rain water; but there was mud very close, or it could have been tap water which would have been chlorinated. There’s no way of knowing, I just hope that the little trooper (do I project much???) comes into his own and begins to thrive, I’d never even considered buying a Peperomia until catching sight of this little charmer so he must have something going for him!

Photo of the purple plants
The ‘purple’ selection.

So, on to plant number two. I had decided to call it a day with just the one addition to the forming jungle but whilst outside in the main ‘outdoor’ plants section I began to crave a varigated Ficus Benjamina that I could recall seeing before Pep grabbed my attention. Previously my attempt at propagating a cutting from the one at work had amounted to nothing and at £3.49 (I think) this was worth the money. The only problem was that once I had made my way back to the house plants section, the one remaining varigated Ficus just didn’t pull at my heatstrings the way that Pep had. Maybe if it had been showing visible signs of neglect…However, I had previously considered buying a Fittonia from B&Q, when faced with a bit of a selection of these then I simply gave in and picked the one that I thought would blend in most with my ‘purple’ collection on my work’s desk. You think I’ve finished? Well, read on…

A surprise arrival x TWO!

So after calling in at Dad’s and setting up his new PC and the YouView box my sister had got for him we went down to Lynn’s house and lo and behold, I was presented with another plant, two in fact! I complemented them (Lynn and her husband Karl) on their spider plant, as it has the longest leaves I’ve ever seen one of this species. Karl said thanks and then gave me the two yourngsters in their tiny peat (not sure) pots / modules? I am grateful, I’m just not sure that the little blighters will survive as they have practically no roots. I’ve decided to put this in with my variegated Dracaena on my desk at work so that Pepper doesn’t eat them and they’ll get stable conditions as I can’t garantee this at home on the kitchen windowsill which is sometimes gloomy and other times a sun trap. I really like spider plants and would have got one for myself before now if it wasn’t for the fact that I’ve just inheritted one thanks to my colleague being seconded for twelve months. So in the space of three days I have progressed from having no spider plants to three of the things! I now have four members of the ‘purple’ zone and ‘Pep’ the neglected Peperomia Party.

I might not buy any more plants this coming weekend, how will I pass the time???

 

 

 

The newcomers

Photo of a Jade pot plant
It may yet fall off the PC it’s resting on!

I went out nice and early this Saturday morning with the intention of going to Morrisons plants section to see what they had. To be honest I was hoping for a bargain Acer Palmatum …something or other, well, there are so many. And yes there were a couple of Acer Palmatum Phoenix but I didn’t think that they were spectacular enough for me to part with £10 for each one. I had wanted to check out the house plants with a view to picking up a Snake Plant – Sansevieria trifasciata, but don’t ask me which one as I haven’t yet made my mind up about that. Anyway, they had no snake plants on sale so I looked for an alternative and was immediately drawn to this bendy looking Crassula / Jade plant. Growing up, mum had a really well established one of these which looked essentially like a bonsai and weighed a ton! This Crassula is a different kettle of fish; its weight would appear to be in proportion with its size, but this is still much more than other plants and the two ‘trunks’ appear to have had some kind of falling out / or divide and conquer strategy! Honestly I am already considering getting a more hefty pot or planter in order to anchor the thing wherever I put it, or else spend a small amount of time picking up the pot and any spilled soil every day. Hey-ho, I have wanted one of these for most of this year so am very glad to have one now that I may be able to nurture into a nice shape. I should add that for reasons which escape my comprehension, a lot of the leaves have become speckled with glitter and look ‘fabulous’ – as in y’know, Christmassy! I’m hoping this changes soon, real soon!

Photo of the Dracaena Sandriana
My plant, a real Dracaena Sandriana.
Photo of Lucky Bamboo
This is not the plant I have, silly google!

Moving on to plant number two which immediately hit me as being a Dracaena Marginata…oh you silly boy, no it isn’t. No, dear readers, according to the label (which for the life of me I can’t find) this is a Dracaena but a Dracaena Sandriana. Enter “Dracaena Sandriana” into Google and see as it tells you that this is one of those Lucky Bamboo things which is not actually bamboo…the jury is still out on whether it’s lucky or not. Everybody loves a good varigated plant and I’m no exception. Yes, currently it does look quite a size – it’s about 28cm tall. However, my little cubicle is not the most illuminated corner of the globe and I don’t imagine it’ll get much taller than 45cm or so over the next decade, so proportionally it’s not going to dominate my desk…much!

A Peace Lily…which I didn’t know I was buying!
Photo of Peace Lily flower
The beautiful and stately flower of a Peace Lily

And now onto the third plant (which has made it onto my desk), this is a Spathiphyllum. A what? Spathiphyllums are what we call “Peace Lilies”, I did not know that when I bought it, and perhaps that’s for the best as I might not have bought it because subtle these things are not! I’m anticipating this thing putting on plenty of growth, amazingly enough I got it because I liked the foliage, the rest of the world buys these for the flowers which are huge and if memory serves me right, aromatic? Google indicates that these plants are ‘lightly fragrant’, time will tell but I seem to remember one of these from a place I once worked and it smelled nappyesque(?) yikes! Ah well if it stinks it stinks and I’ll deal with it if and when.

I have one more plant to smuggle onto my desk, I don’t know what type it is and anything about how it will grow or if it will even fit on the desk but ah well, if that’s the most risky thing I do this year then it’ll be a calm year so we’ll have to wait and see. I definitely don’t have room for any more plants after this so it looks like the illusive Snake plant will have to go on hold for some time, I’d take on home but I think they may be toxic to cats and Pepper has a good old chew at every and anything and I love the little bugger too much to make him ill.

Photo of Pepper
Who’d want to give this lovely little sod a dodgy tummy? Not me!

 

Until next time…

 

The rear wall hanging baskets.

Two more hanging baskets.

Two more hanging baskets. I’ve got to say that while I am on a really strict plant budget these have to take something of a back seat. There will be precious little money spent on plants for these two, oh and there is another wall trough to go with these which will then replicate the arrangement around the front. This in itself is not bad news, I have seeds and the site is quite well protected from frosts and extremes of weather. Currently there are emerging Gladiolus bulbs in the right hand one – I obtained about forty-five of these then discovered they were not frost hardy! The left hand basket has already found some tennants in the form of the seemingly ubiquitous Pansies (or are they Violas, memory is unclear at this precise time). It has crossed my mind that I could choose from any of the bulbs listed below:

  • Snowdrops.
  • Crocus.
  • Scilla.
  • Chionodoxa.
  • Daffodils.
  • Tulips.
  • Fritillaria.
  • Anemone blanda.

But, to be a bit more precise with the planting, i.e. to ensure that the taller plant will be at the back of the display and the smaller at the front. On top of this (i.e. in the middle) I could add some annuals or even have another try at growing Cyclamen Herderifolia from seed – ohhh I like that idea, apart from the fact that I won’t see anything for most of the year!

Ah decisions and consequences!

 

My little Thanksgiving Cactus

Photograph of my Thanksgiving Cactus from Ainsdale's Aldi.
Recovering well after being ousted from Aldi!

Here’s the Thanksgiving Cactus I bought for just £3.00 from Aldi (the then new one) in Ainsdale last December.

As is normal with store-bought plants, I got him when in flower, took him home then into work where the little sod duly lost all of the flowers over a period of less than one week!

It would appear that he’s now recovering as there are signs of leaf growth.

If you notice a slight blue hue behind the plant that is because I have a USB light on it to try and get the plant as much light as possible – the windows in here are large and let in a fair amount of light, alas this can make my colleagues screens unviewable and we have to draw the blinds.

This is a Schlumbergera truncata (I think) and he has a companion (to be featured later) who is an Easter Cactus – Hatiora gaertneri, there is even talk (from myself mainly!) of me completing the set and somehow obtaining the seemingly ubiquitous (at Christmas) ‘Christmas Cactus’ – Schlumbergera x buckleyi. 

Oh it’s fun to be an obsessive collector!

The information for this post was garnered from: Desert Plants of Avalon

 

My little Aloe

Photo of a small Aloe Vera
The Little Aloe Vera.
Photo of mystery succulent
Sin nombre…the unnamed succulent!

Just a little post to introduce this cute and charming chap: this is an Aloe pup that I took from the parent a good few months ago.

He’s thriving in this tiny pot and should be repotted at the end of summer. Currently he lives on my office desk where there is less chance of Pepper eating him. He has a cutting from a Christmas Cactus and a weird cacti / succulent (photo to the right>>>) for immediate neighbours.

Personally I think he’s ace!

Trees, an update

What’s what and where?

Well I think it’s about time that everything got a bit documented and seeing as trees were at one time all that I cared about, here goes.

The plan is to keep all of the trees in the more shaded back garden. Why, because last year I bought a number of Acer Palmatums and most of them are now dead or at least in some kind of dormancy, the Atropurpureum suffered badly from leaf burn and I think it may never come back, although it does still resist being gently pulled from the ground.

Photo of four little Acers
Four little Acer Palmatums
Photo of a Sycamore sapling
The ‘big’ Sycamore continues to get bigger.

This year I have bought five more Acer Palmatums, two ‘Butterfly’ one Going Green, one Orange Dream and another Atropurpureum – although a lot smaller than last year. Two of the ‘Going Green’ variety and one ‘Butterfly’ did survive last year’s scorching, so here’s hoping that they have a better showing this time around. Elsewhere, the big Sycamore (it’s about eighteen inches tall) continues to thrive, the trunk isn’t very wide but at least it looks healthy and has now been joined by a considerable amount of seedlings (curtesey of next door’s giant) which are spread across about four of five pots and even the scrub area on the border of ‘No man’s land’. I want to keep as many of these seedlings as possible.

A photo of the poorly Elm
The sick Elm and a happy Acer ‘Butterfly’
Photo of the Mint Julep Juniper
Apologies for the awful photo

The transplanted Elm from the front garden appears to be bouncing back from its massive pruning and has been joined in another pot by an Elm which was being engulfed by Ivy. Alas, on inspection tonight this refugee is not looking in good health, the leaves are all crispy, I think a good watering every single night for the next week will be called for if the poor little blighter is to stand any chance.

Photo of the Pyracantha
Settling in nicely now, the Pyracantha even flowered this year.

The Pyracantha which I bought from Asda last year has flowered and is looking in fine fettle, I occasionally search ebay for a semi-cascade bonsai pot for it, as of yet, nothing affordable. I aim to try and source some Hawthornes for the collection, either wild seedlings or I may buy one intended for hedging and start to train it. I did grab a couple of Horse Chestnuts from Hesketh Park but I think these were suckers and the transplanting process has not left them in good nick…when will I learn to be a bit more gentle. The same goes for the Acer Palmatum, Weeping Willow and Popular cuttings that I took, did I know there was going to be a minor heatwave this weekend whilst I was out galavanting on Blencathra?

I have thrown the seedlings which were in the heated propagator into one of the shaded beds…if they take, they take and I have sown all of my Giant Redwood seeds in my micro-propagator (a former blueberry muffin case) at work!

That leaves just one tree – the cascading Mint Julep Juniper around the front, it needs full sun so I can’t really bring it into the shade garden and will just have to be extra vigilant with regards to the searing heat of the front garden.