Posts Tagged ‘garden’

Our home also accommodated pet mice.  The first came when Daughter Number One was given the privilege of bringing the class mouse home for the holidays.  On Thursday afternoon it arrived, complete with cage and treadmill.  Daughter Number Two, a pre-schooler, was fascinated and delighted to be allowed to hold and stroke it.  An hour later the mouse was lying on the cage floor, decidedly dead.  An inquisition elicited the fact that younger daughter, feeling the mouse was a little grubby, had carefully washed it with her facecloth and cold water.

What to do?  Unthinkable for elder daughter to have to face her classmates with the news the mouse had not survived even one night in our house.  It fell to me to drive across the city to a shopping centre open late on Thursday night, and carefully choose a look-alike replacement.  Classmates need never know our family secret.

We had goldfish too.  When one of them was swimming at an odd angle, and obviously not feeling the best a daughter insisted we phone the vet to ask what could be done.  The vet said he didn’t know but if we brought it in he would have a look at it.  I had no car that day, so took a taxi, with two daughters, and the fish in a container.  The vet took a look, said he couldn’t do anything and offered to dispose of the corpse.  He was kind enough not to charge us.  We walked home, about a mile and a half, with tears streaming from both daughters lamenting their lost loved one.

A budgie in a cage graced our kitchen for many years.  We named him Archimedes (Archie for short, pre-empting a later royal baby).  I hoped to teach him to say “Eureka, my bath is overflowing”, but he never quite got the hang of that.  When we prepared to move south we intended that Archie should come in the car with us, but he conveniently expired a few weeks before we left.  Having pets is a good way of coming to understand the cycles of life and death.

When Stephen and I were preparing to leave Auckland and move south, the daughters had left home, but we still had four cats.  (The last remaining hen had gone to a retirement farm in Thames.  We later received a postcard to say she was happy and enjoying the attentions of a rooster.)  A friend offered to give our four felines a temporary home until we were settled, and then freight them down to us.  We took them to her house where she shut them in a shed.  The next morning she phoned to say they’d managed to escape, and we wandered the streets for hours calling “puss, puss”.  A passer-by asked if I’d lost a cat and I confessed shamefacedly that I’d lost four!  They were never found although the friend kept checking our old house in case they’d managed to find their way home.

Once we’d settled in Christchurch we needed a cat and went to the SPCA to find one.  I couldn’t resist a handsome black cat whom we named Blott.

Ruth with Blott, 1988

When we found that a stray cat was sneaking through the cat door and stealing Blott’s biscuits we named him Monster, after the Cookie Monster.  Despite advertising no-one claimed him, so he joined the family.  Some years later another stray adopted us.  She was a good mouser, so became Miss Molly Mouse Muncher.  Again we had no success tracing her origins, but months later a card in the letterbox told us her name had been Mushroom, and her family had too many pets so were glad she’d moved in with us.

With only two humans in our household, we were not so tempted to add more animals, although we sadly missed our chooks.  In 2001 we bought tiger worms for our compost bin.  Individual names for these were not practical, so they were designated Wylie One, Wylie Two, etc.  In 2007 we bought them a Can’-o-Worms worm farm, where they happily live and breed, and supply garden fertilizer.

Molly died at the time of the earthquakes and we willingly adopted a refugee cat, a cuddlesome Burmilla called Bentley (his original owner was a car enthusiast).

Bentley in tree

When Bentley’s time was up we decided we wanted another Burmilla, although we’d never previously had designer cats.  This is how we came to acquire Ziggy, whose pedigree name is Avon Ziggy Stardust, the adorable feline who now rules our home.

With lots of worms and Ziggy too
our home’s complete, I think, don’t you?

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Fairy doorways

Fairy doorways have materialised along the path to Waimairi Beach.  They delight children and adults alike, and remind me of those I found along the riverbank a couple of years ago.

I think the fairies may have been at work in our garden too, as this narcissus has suddenly appeared.  I’m sure it wasn’t there yesterday.


The other day it wasn’t there
today there’s magic everywhere


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Feral Flowers

My section is small, just ten and a half perches, or one-fifteenth of an acre, so garden space is limited.  We’d been here a few years when I started to crave more space.  Because we’re on a corner we have a long fence line, and we had replaced the ugly corrugated iron fence with pickets at the front and wooden palings down the side.  The gaps between the palings allow us to see out and others to see in, plus they help to mitigate the force of any winds.

I soon had the bright idea that if we were to nail horizontal planks outside the fence the space could be filled with soil and give room for more plants.  I refer to these spaces as my Ground Level Window Boxes.  They provide a year-round home for geraniums and alyssums, and at various seasons they hold bulbs, sweet peas, petunias, and hollyhocks.

Right now there’s even a fruiting tomato plant that arose from compost.

Strictly speaking my Window Boxes are probably on the public footpath, but no-one has ever mentioned this.  After the earthquakes it’s quite possible that lateral shift has changed the boundaries anyway.

Passers-by seem to enjoy the sight of my Ground Level Window Boxes, and they definitely enhance the streetscape.  Some years ago they led to Living Streets giving us a Fencing Award.

Beside the path my plants encroach
to welcome you as you approach

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The grape vine we planted just two and a half years ago has produced its first crop.  These are Himrod grapes, a species I chose because they are seedless, and I don’t like having seeds stuck in my teeth.  I knew they would be small, but they’re actually tiny.  Perhaps future ones may be a little bigger?  They are white grapes, and were beginning to have a slight blush of colour so I thought I’d better pick them before the birds noticed.  Despite the small size they are delectable and very sweet.  There were only six small bunches, so I’m afraid there won’t be any left when the daughter arrives (sorry).

They are delicious, though petite
and quite delectable to eat.


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This garden shop is a wonderful place to visit and meet new plants.  Luckily we don’t have much space in our garden, so it was easy to withstand temptation, plus I’m wary of new plants that will need constant watering.  Most of our garden is trained to survive with little water (except the vegetables, of course).

We bought a punnet of petunias to replenish the hanging basket, and also tarragon and coriander which we will nurture on the kitchen window sill.  I’ve tried growing coriander outside, but never had any success.   We saw a woman buy a small lemon tree with one enormous lemon hanging on it.  I wouldn’t have minded a new geranium, but the prices seemed high and I can thriftily beg cuttings from friends.

Luckily we’d managed to park in a shady spot, and after stowing our plants in the boot we went to the Terra Viva Cafe for refreshments.  This is a popular spot, with a delightful conservatory area.  On a hot day this shaded airy place was just perfect.  I enjoyed an apricot and ginger scone with a berry smoothie – dietary regimes don’t apply when one is eating out!

Terra Viva Cafe

It is a lovely place to stop
the Terra Viva garden shop

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Floral Friday

Sweet William

This plant is a member of the carnation family.  After the Battle of Culloden in 1746 the victorious English are said to have named it ‘Sweet William’ after their leader William, Duke of Cumberland.  The defeated Scots retaliated by naming the noxious weed ragwort ‘Stinking Billy’.

In the Victorian language of flowers Sweet William symbolises gallantry.   Its flowers are edible, and it attracts bees and butterflies.

The Scottish folk did cock a snook
by naming ragwort for the Duke.

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Blossom is a promise of fruit to come.   At this time of year our cherry tree is a mass of blossom.  We will have some fruit, from the branches we manage to cover, but birds will be the main beneficiaries.

Cherry blossom

I brought a branch inside so we could enjoy it in the kitchen window.

The apple tree is showing a blush of pink.  The birds aren’t as interested, and usually leave the apples for us.

Apple blossom

Such pleasure when the blossoms show
cos fruit will follow, don’t you know?


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Early Sweet Peas

Today I picked the first bunch of sweet peas.  Mine flower early because I simply let the seeds drop when I clear away the dying plants, and the new plants appear in winter.   Dr Keith Hammett, who’s an internationally recognised plant breeder, says sweet peas grow well if hardened by frosts.

All our sweet peas are descended from a wild plant cultivated by a monk in Sicily in the late 17th century.   They have the ability to self-pollinate and the other characteristics of the plant are easily tracked like the height, petal form and color.  Because of the work that he had done with the sweet pea, Gregor Mendel earned his distinction as the Father of Modern Genetics.

The seeds are toxic, so don’t eat them!  In the language of flowers the sweet pea is associated with delicate pleasure, blissful pleasure, departure, goodbye, and thank you for the lovely time.

John Keats wrote this verse about sweet peas:

Here are sweet peas, on tip-toe for a flight:
With wings of gentle flush o’er delicate white,
And taper fingers catching at all things,
To bind them all about with tiny rings.


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from Hyacinth to Hive

This bee was taking advantage of the warm spring day to extract nectar from a clump of grape hyacinths.  Bees don’t see color the same way humans do, and plants on the blue and yellow end of the colour spectrum attract bees because those are the colours they can easily perceive.  Darker colours such as red appear black to bees, and since black is the absence of colour bees are not naturally attracted to plants with red hues.  Apparently, some tubular flowers are not attractive to bees because the shape is not conducive to pollination, but this bee seems happy with the shape.

It’s good to see a busy bee
who’s pollinating merrily



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When paid work has finished it’s good to still have some structure and purpose in your life.  There’s the opportunity to try different things, make and develop friendships, and spend time an y way you choose.  My days can be taken up with voluntary work, classes, various appointments, activities with friends, and reading novels.  Sometimes it’s just lovely to have a day like today, with no commitments, nothing in my diary or on my task list.  The sun was shining and I could do whatever I wanted.

I started the day with my usual routine, ten minutes of stretching exercises, then a few Wordscraper moves, and checking of e-mails before breakfast.  I did some gardening, had lunch outside, completed the daily Press puzzles, and sat in my swing-seat to draft this post.

Ruth in swing-seat

Of course someone phoned to ask me to do an extra voluntary task.  It doesn’t have to be today, and I’ve added it to my task list for tomorrow.

It’s good to have a day that’s free
from all responsibility


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