Sunday 4 December 2022

Beating General Winter

Cycalmen hederafolium - blooming in the gloom
Old Codger has been putting off the inevitable. That is, writing a final episode in this series of blogs

We began this blog two and a half years ago when we were in the throes of the first Covid outbreak. Guessing that the enforced leisure might turn the attention of many friends to their gardens, we hit on a way raising money for charity - turning necessity into virtue, so to speak

Several thousands of pounds later, we have reached the point where increasing domestic demands - and a certain diminution in our own personal energy levels - demand a rethink. (Hint as to age: I was born during WW2 and celebrate a big zero this very day)

Since we are subject to the same laws as the flowers of the field, it seems sensible to reshape our way of working. Sadly, the blog has to go - but our gardening will continue as long as the creaking joints allow. In place of the blog we plan to communicate via WhatsApp. Around 20 friends have already signed up so that makes running a group a worthwhile exercise. If you wish your name to be added to the group, please let me know. You won't be unindated (or even inundated!) - just a few messages each month - mainly during the growing season

There is a really a three-fold purpose in having a targetted group. First, it will allow me to keep you informed (the very next blog item is a prime example). Second, it will help me to remain accountable as I intend to provide regular financial updates. And third, it will faciltate information exchange between members - answering gardening questions and the like. So, in some ways, the change could well be to everyone's advantage

The first WhatsApp missive is planned for Sunday 4th December - the date that I'm planning for this final episode. You will have worked out by now that I'm writing this final episode in stages - so here we go

A church damaged after shelling in a residential district in Mariupol
at the beginning of the invasion.  Photo by Evgeniy Maloletk
(Sunday 27.11.22) Beating General Winter
How mild our autumn has been. I picked a outside tomato only yesterday! Meanwhile, in Ukraine, the weather is very much colder. Although Codger has never visited that country, we have experienced freezing winter conditions in Krakow, not that far over the Polish side of the border. (Kracow was once within the administrative region when part of Galicia - one of those vanished dominions in central and eastern Europe (1773-1918))

The Russians talk about General Winter, implying 'if we can't beat you, the winter will' - witness Napolean's retreat from Moscow and Hitler's failed invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. The present vicious and sustained attacks on Ukraine's infrastructure is obviously meant to bring the country to its knees by denying the civilian population protection from the freezing winter conditions. And this among many other evils being perpetrated at the moment

An unmistakeable historical figure in retreat
- beaten by General Winter
Although we cannot do as much as ideal circumstances would permit, our efforts to raise funds for humanitarian relief will continue. We sent out £1400 in September. Since then we have received a further £500, and this amount should be with our Polish friends by the time you read these words. They will see that it is well used in Ukraine

As mentioned above, we shall continue to give financial reports via the WhatsApp group. And this serves as a reminder: we are so very grateful to everyone who has continued to support the Garden Codger project

This how the RHS do it. I'm afraid my pots are that posh
Mine are shown in the next photo
Not in flower yet, of course!
(Monday 28.11.22) Spring bulbs
I've just come in from a really warm greenhouse where I have been planting Spring bulbs in containers. Once again the weather has turned out sunnier than forecast so it was a pleasant exercise

The bulbs are planted lasagna-style in a range of planters. Layering the bulbs in this way produces a succession of blooms. I use tulips in the bottom layer, daffs in the middle and either crocus or iris at the top

I'm very glad to report that we have had a good number of orders - but Codger can do some more! They make great Christmas presents. Of course, you can do your own - it's not too late nor is it very difficult. Click here and you'll get step-by-step instructions from the RHS

Here is one of mine, a three litre pot
with two layers: daffodils and crocus
If you get one from Codger you can put the planter in a corner outside after flowering. Then, next autumn, reposition the pot and enjoy a repeat flush. To encourage a second-year repeat I use use good quality bought compost but add some of my own sifted garden compost so the bulbs get a very feed after they have flowered. The compost mix is lightened by the addition of perlite. (As I have often mentioned in these pages, the general purpose potting compost you buy from supermarkets can be rather caggy and poor draining - hence the use of perlite.)

 The whole thing is finished off with a layer of grit. Not only does this look good but it helps prevent the grow of algae. We have a good supply of top quality bulbs so more orders appreciated. And all for an excellent cause, of course.

(Wednesday 30.11.22) Understanding the conflict
Perhaps it is appropriate to mention how Codger has sought to be better informed about the situation in Ukraine and, in particular, the Russian invasion. The chequered relationship between the two countries cannot be understood without some knowledge of its history so I joined the history class at Yale - yes, the top American ivy-league university. And, I'm not swanking - you can join, too - as the series - The Making of Modern Ukraine - is on YouTube. I'm told there have been around 5 million views from 70 countries! The lecturer is Professor Timothy Snyder. You might find the first lecture hard going but a warning - it can become addictive:

Because of my long standing interest in Poland (we first visited friends there in 1968), I expected that the history would be complicated. And I was corrrect - like the borders shifting around fairly often - but it's worth the effort trying to understand the forces that have shaped modern Ukraine. Did you know that Kiev (Kyiv) was set up as a trading post by the Vikings? Or that four millions Ukrainians died from starvation or malutrition under Stalin in 1931-1932? We tend not to know these things. The web is such a great resource. As an alternative to the Yale series you might find the more popular style of a another YouTube well-researched resource more helpful. Try this one:

Three incidental snippets
You know how you stumble upon things when using the web? In the Yale series Prof Snyder mentions the how Polish writers have helped Ukrainians to reassess their history and identity. A particular name mentioned was Jerzy Wladyslaw (1906-2000). Does that surname ring a bell? Yes, you've got it: Mel Giedroyc, the popular television personality. Hmmm, Giedroyc, seems well worth investigating ...

I could not resist a quick look inside.
Amazing, utterly amazing!
It turns out that she is indeed related to the distinguished Polish-Lithuanian dynasty just mentioned. It transpires that her father, Michal Jan Henryk Giedroyc, was among the infamous deportation of Poles that I wrote about in an earlier blog (look back to 22nd May 2022). As I recount there, over a million Poles ended up in Siberian gulags - many dying from the privations of the journey and the harshness Siberian winter. When Stalin allied Russia with the West in 1941 many were released in order to fight against Germany, trekking south in horrendous conditions. Michal Giedroyc joined the Anders Free Polish Army in Iran as a 15 year-old lad. He was among the thousands of Poles who settled in the UK after the war where studied aeronautical engineering and became an aircraft designer with Vickers. He tells his own story in Crater's Edge. Amazon have just delivered my copy, it is still available second hand 

My third snippet also concerns a book. I've discovered that it's not possible to understand Ukarine without understanding Russia, so I was pleased to read excellent reviews of the recently published The Story of Russia by Orlando Figes. Another name to conjuer with! And another digression beckons, but that would be indulgent so let's return to gardening. (The review that caught my eye was by Anthony Beevor, author of the definitive work on Arnhem. He wrote "If you really want to understand Putin's Russia today, anchored in its past of myths, then you simply have to readFiges's superb account"

This shot was taken today. Already potted up and ready to go
As you can see, this white variety flowers early
Never mind the cold
Having referred to the oncoming winter several times, please allow me to single the praises of a plant that not only braves the cold but flowers in the middle of winter. I speak, once more, of the humble hellebore

Not only does it flower in the winter, it is, what gardeners call an easy plant. That is, it needs no particular attention. It is also great in shade. Codger has discovered that the flowering period varies with the variety. Most of mine are at their best in January and will flower well into the Spring, I have a few looking for a good home. Let me know if you are interested - usual terms and conditions! 
My production line - place your orders!

(Thursday 01.12.22) Doing your own posh pots
A further note about Spring planters that readers might like to try. Pots can be expensive - disproportionately so in Codger's opinion. For Christmas use I often recycle old pots and spruce them up with spray paint. To give a seasonal feel I use metallic paints - usually gold and silver although bronze shades also look good. A few tips in case the idea appeals ...

Don't take the risk - use a mask!
(Also available from Wilko's!)
1) Spraying, even with small cans, needs a ventilated place that is reasonably warm - so so best done outdoors in the summer. Now the weather has cooled, my second best location is the greenhouse when the sun warms it up. No sun! So we are in the garage - cheaper to heat than the greenhouse

2) Codger looks after his chest these days so I persuade myself to use a mask as in the photo. A standard Covid issue mask does not do the trick (somewhat alarming!). Head covering (style optional) also recommended to avoid sticky hair

3) Overspray is cannot be prevented so it's best to make a DIY spray booth - I use an old cardboard box. The cardboard picks up a bit bit of overspray - could be used for Christmas decoration, I reckon. (Just remembered: preparation - I found it only necessary to give the plastic pots a good wash with a sqib of washing-up liquid and a rub with gental kitchen scourer)

DIY spray booth made from a cardboeard box
4) Technique. You are not doing a car repair so perfection not necessary. A slightly wafty/drifty look is fine getting more solid as you move up to the rim. I work from the bottom turning the pot as I go. I find two tone looks best

5) Finally, which paint? Codger has found good old Wilko the cheapest and the best. Don't forget to shake the can thoroughly before use. I've just done fourteen pots to fulfill orders. I had a new can that has stood around for a bit

Help from the Bartered Bride courtesy Bedrich Smetana
I was at the shaking stage when Smetana's Bartered Bride came on the radio. The polka provided just the accompaniment I needed - never has a can been so well shaken. It also helps to keep the paint agitated during use - it goes something like swish/swish, rattle/rattle/rattle - slightly syncopated - you'll soon get the idea. Perhaps Scott Joplin wrote something that might give you the right rhythm

(Sunday 04.12.22) Another book!
As we draw to a close, I wish refer to a book that I have received in only the last hour - a birthday present, in fact. Although I've only just dipped into it I feel it must have a mention, especially as the publisher is making a donation tothe Disasters Emergency Committee Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal

Ukrainian Christmas
by Nadiyka Gerbish and Yaroslav Hrytsak is informative, moving and pertinent in equal measure - beyond my abilities to characterise in a few words. (You can obtain more information here)

It is unique in the way it conveys the relevence of the heart of Christmas to the Ukrainian experience. The dedication is deeply moving: In memory of Artem Dymyd (1995-2022) and the other children of Rachel murdered by the modern-day Herod. (Unlike here in the UK, the Ukrainian celebration of Christmas has depth, reflecting the whole Biblical narrative)

In my daily reading I've recently come to it's the final chapters. of the Bible. In many ways the end mirrors the beginning - intriguing how, for example, the mysterious tree of life re-emerges. We read: the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations (Rev 22: 2)

How that healing is needed when we consider the intertwined histories of Ukraine and Russia - and, despite the agony of present sufferings - for that we pray

Well, we must draw things to a close - but not without a final word of renewed thanks to our readers for their support in what we have tried do over the last two and a half years

Our hearty best wishes - from the old, now even older, Garden Codger

Post script: In time honoured fashion, I'll finish with a photo gallery looking back over this year's growing season

First, our Comice pears - they melt in the mouth. I lined them up in the greenhouse for the photo. But they were soon moved to cooler and darker storage prior to subsequent consumption. The last one tasted as good as the first

Next, a bit of sad news. After many years I took down our pear tree. Lots of growth but very poor fruit. Also it was starting to shade the greenhouse. However, it's been replaced with a patio type. I wonder how soon it will fruit - in the meantime this tart was made with bought plums. In honesty, I have to report that it looks a lot better than it tasted

The tomatoes have been just prolific this year. I seem to do especially well with yellow varieties which I grow outside - two plants are still coping! But a frost threatens later this week

Summer flowering bulbs. I planted three polianthes tuberosa bulbs in a pot but got no flowers. Then, rather late, a single spike appeared in September. Nothing seemed to be happening so I brought it into the conservatory with this result - and wow - what a scent! Very much like gardenia and still in flower

Tuesday 27 September 2022

Autumn Equinox

Roses blooming in Boskoop
- planted by our friend Jan

With better planning I could, perhaps, have got this belated edition out on Friday and thus would have marked, to the very day, the autumn equinox - the point at which day and night are of equal length - we have left summer behind and the days gradually shorten

One of the good things about being a gardener - however unskilled - is a deeper appreciation of the change in the seasons and the passing of time. This has been all the more poignant for me in recent weeks and explains why I failed to write a episode, as I had planned, exactly one month ago

If you look back to the previous blog (26 July 2002) you will find a video about the Rosarium in Boskoop, in the Netherlands. Its restoration owes much to our good friend, Jan den Haan. Little did I realise as I wrote those few words that within weeks cancer would claim his life

This is the Dorpskerk - literally, village church - in Boskoop
(However, Boskoop is more than village these days)
A very kind friend offered to stay with Mrs Codger so I could attend the funeral. I'm so very glad that I did. There were 250 mourners present at the Dorpskerk (photo right) and a large proportion also attended the graveside - quietly filing past and placing roses (always roses!) on the coffin. Jan was nurseryman at heart and so obviously respected. We always thought of him as a gentle giant - it was a privilege for me to share with the family at such a special time

No sooner had we returned home - I was away for just three days - and we seemed to immediately enter into mourning for Queen Elizabeth. The two experiences merged into one - possibly because both Her Majesty and a humble Dutchman shared the same Christian hope. I'll try to say more about that before we finish

Sometimes a single picture seems to say it all
A lady in Bakhmut , Ukraine - see report below
Charity fundraising
You might think that our next topic should pick up on a gardening theme. But first, however, I'd like to say a little about the charity side of things. On my return from Holland I felt that the time had come to aggregate the donations that had come in over the summer and to get the money off to our friends in Poland for use in Ukraine - the need remains urgent. I doubt that it is necessary for me to tell you that this remains to be the case -see the photo left, courtesy of BBC (also, read the item below on news sources)

Taking advice from a friend I transferred the money using (formerly Transfer Wise). I mention this both in terms of transparency and recommendation. The transaction cost only a few pounds and was seamless - thus £1400 went to Poland (1600 euros at the time, it would be less now!) - and is already being used. [On an earlier occasion it cost me £25 to transfer £1000, using the standard inter-bank system - so I'm impressed with Wise, they seem to be doing a good job. Get in touch if you wish to know more - there could be a further saving]

We are still in business, supplying plants and giving advice.
We have even branched out a bit - here are grasses provided for a
recent project. Watch out for news on a makeover next month
... a little more on the same ...
Hardly had the dust settled on the transfer when I heard from the giving charity that I normally use, Stewardship, that due diligence was complete and that I could open up the giving channel planned back in March. I will certainly do this so please look out next month (October) for details

However, it does raise an issue that I'd like to be open about. As many readers are aware, Garden Codger cares for Mrs Codger. The word 'care' here has both the personal and technical connotation so I have to think about the year ahead and how much time and effort I am able devote to my Codgerly efforts. I'm working on that balance right now and hope to say more in the next episode. In the meantime, thanks to everyone who has continued to support this year

Now for a bit of gardening!
Last time I explained how easy it is to produce strawberry plants for nothing. Simply give the runners chance to root. Here is a better shot of a runner with its roots. At the time of writing I was establishing a new strawberrry patch. I was not expecting fruit just yet but I've already had some. The hot summer helped - but remember, strawberries like to be watered

Whilst setting up the bed I sorted my old compost, sieving as I went. The rough stuff I used as a mulch for the strawberries. I could not resist popping in the odd lettuce here and there. I don't have much space so this was a double gain

And a bit of wildlife
Whenever I work around the compost heap a friendly visitor appears. You can see him on the left. This young robin and quite persistent in his attentions. I reward him by disturbing the soil - he immediately checks it over for a snack. I also deliberately spill a bit of fish food by the lond when feeding the fish

The surplus always disappears. I suspect that some of this is consumed by our other friend, Horatio. I almost trod on him the other evening. And I've noticed in the cardboard box I left for him there are some dry leaves - more evidence that he is still around

Our garden is also visited by cats. I think two of them had a dispute a couple of nights ago both leaving their collars and quite a bit of fur. Or, was that an encounter with a fox?
This specimen is about a foot across

More interesting was the insect activity on this sunflower. You may remember my saying that I never sow sunflowers but always end up rearing a small tribe. Rather inconveniently they chose the raspberry bed this year - crowding out newly planted raspberries. But Codger has softened in his old age and tends to let live

This tolerance even extends to turning a blind eye to a few pests. The sunflower head in the photo (dinner-plate size!) is obviously past its best. The bedraggled appearance due, in part, to a thorough infestation of blackfly

Ladybird larvae about their business
The back of the 'plate' was black with aphids. You may know that they are farmed by ants - who seemed to have set up a thriving enterprise. I left them to it (noting, however, that the ants had a long commute to work!). Taking another look at the weekend, I made an interesting discovery

One reason for not agressively attacking pests is frequently their predators get killed, too. A principle of organic gradening is to achieve a balance - this is easier said than done and requires patience (I understate the case). So, imagine my delight when I discovered that a gang of ladybird larvae was munching its way through the herd of blackfly. I immediately gained photographic evidence (see photo left) - their distinctive livery is a matt black set off with vivid orange braid

Incidentally, when checking my identification of the larvae later I was to discover that we have 26 species of ladybirds in the British Isles

These plants are still providing a steady supply of fruit. They only
get the morning sun so I pick them nearly ripe - this encourages
the remaining fruit to ripen. They will go on into October
Some other successes
My main memory of gardening in 2022 will be the amount of watering I've had to do. Most of that was in the nursery area where I have hundreds of pots - the Codger enterprise area, you might say. This is my stock of plants - mainly consisting border perennials. I've just been through them - roughly noting what needs potting-on ahead of winter

I've had many good reports of readers still harvesting tomatoes from plants that we supplied. Once again, I found the the yellow varieties have done well - both in the greenhouse and outside

I've still got a really sturdy vine of Italian plum tomatoes in the greenhouse - showing off a bit in yesterday's sunshine in this photo (left). Although not immediately obvious, I followed the common practice of removing a lot of leaf - this allows more sunlight to fall directly on the fruit and hastens ripening

This was partly inspired to a visit to RHS Bridgewater in August where their vines were made to look positively skinny byzealous leaf removal

Tigella did well - note the stripes
I also got good results from Mamande (a beefsteak type) and from Tigrella. This latter variety was new on me and is shown in the photo (right) - I like to experiment with different varieties (there are hundreds, of course)

You can see the reason for the name - a slightly stripey skin. I shall certainly grow this one again - good flavour and trouble-free. Perhaps the moment to say that I've experienced very little blight this year

I have been somewhat overrun with tiddlers. Several readers have found the same - and used them as the tomato ingredient in spaghetti bolognese - sensible use as size does not matter when making a sauce

Tomatoes apart, the copious sunshine suited many squashes. My little collection has just been shipped off for the harvest display at church

Overall, it was a year when it was hard to fail - provided you kept up with the watering. We come under South Staffs so did not experience a hosepipe ban - even so, I used the watering cans whenever I could

Although our garden is not particularly designed for dry weather, I was surprised how well the main flower border survived the dought

As I say, close planting
A heavy mulch in the Spring played a part in this - and, I suspect, the close planting whereby very little soil is exposed to the sun. I'll put a few flower photos in the gallery section at the end. The dahlias have done well - and, hopefully, will continue to do so until the frosts come. I plan to store the dahlia tubers out of the soil over the winter. Some other plants such as salvias will get protection in the greenhouse

Well, I think we must begin to draw to a close for this month. Just a couple of things - I said that I would include something about information sources on Ukraine - let's deal with that first ...

News sources on Ukraine
There is the constant danger of news fatigue when a situation seems so intractable and threatening. There are so many startling statistics - for example, seven millions people have been displaced internally - quite apart from the millions who have fled abroad

You can click here for Times Radio
The BBC is, perhaps, the most obvious news provider and often my first port of call. They have maintained their coverage well including reports from the front line - such as the case I mentioned near the beginning. You can read it here where Orla Guerin does a feature on a battered Donbas city

Of course, there are many online alternatives to the old Beeb these days. There's Times Radio (see above left) where you'll recognise many familiar former BBC faces such as John Pienaar interviewing retired American generals - among many others

The main way I stay on top of the agenda is by listening to the daily Telegraph podcast - Ukraine: The Latest. Most probably the easiest way of getting this is via YouTube (but no piccies - it's a podcast!). I find this daily update penetrating and informative. It must represent a significant investment on the part of this 
particular news outlet. The team includes Dominic Nicholls; he did did 23 years in the military before entering journalism and is spot on - in fact, the whole team is excellent - they even have a tame historian!

I also wish to give a plug to a news source from within the country - indeed, we need to hear the perspective of Ukrainians that is independent of government. If you click here, you'll go to the current front page of the Kyiv Independent - news, hot off the press, from inside the country

A deeply respectful farewell
I feel I cannot sign off without some reference to our Queen's departure. I was among those who were mesmerised by the deep respect shown by those in what became known as The Queue. The national nerve had been touched - a nerve that, perhaps, many did not know was there

As I mentioned earlier, the fact that the one funeral was so quickly followed by another added to the poignancy. Everything seemed so perfectly done - and in a way that, I suspect, will never be repeated. The Archbishop's funeral sermon was so appropriate in that his words that pointed beyond the Queen and her faith to the One in whom that faith was placed

So many moments could be picked out that it is almost invidious to highlight any. So much splendour but deep simplicity, too. I'm so glad that the Scots chose a psalm sung not by an operatic star but a folk singer - and in Gaelic, too. Here it is:

For those, like me, who do not have the Gaelic - here are the words from Psalm 118 

I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done.

The Lord has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death.

Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.

This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter.

I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.


.. best wishes from Garden Codger

PS - I'm hoping that the next edition will be out in four weeks time - that's the plan. Until then a few shots taken during August and September ... ...

Echinacea at RHS Bridgewater - this one is Rubinglow

Back at home - I think this one is Parasol (getting colder now - but I've still got a few available)

The Dutch like them, too. Photo during during a quick look around a huge garden centre

I think this dahlia is spectacular - can't stop photographing it

It looks good in the rain, too

Picked today. Pears ripen off the bough - a delight to anticipate: Doyenne du Comice

Tuesday 26 July 2022

Day 150, and counting ...

Hot here last week - a shot in our garden 
- but even hotter in Ukraine
Actually, it is day 153. That is, 153 days of the unprovoked and unrelenting Russian invasion of Ukraine. I was aiming to get this blog out three days ago but I'm afraid last week's heatwave got the better of me. How was it with you? I monitored the temperature in the garden here - we had 38 degrees for several hours on Tuesday, short of the 40 degree record elsewhere

Exhausting, particularly as the nights were so hot. Temperatures that they are more used to in Ukraine where, sadly, the war wears on. Meanwhile, the political shenanigans here has driven the conflict down the news agenda

Russian Grad rocket launch
Regular readers may remember that we mentioned the grain export issue some months ago (see blog dated 23rd April 2022). That came to the fore with the signing of an agreement last Friday - only to learn the following day (Day 150) that the key port in question, Odessa, was subjected to a missile attack

A few days before, you may have seen the report of an earlier rocket attack on Kharkiv. One newspaper reported the incident thus: 

"The lone father clutched a small book in one hand as he stared forward reciting a prayer. In the other, he held the limp hand of his dead son. Killed while waiting for a bus in Ukraine’s second city of Kharkiv, Dmytro, 13, was the latest victim of the constant shelling and missile attacks by Russia. His sister Ksenia, 15, was taken to hospital in a grave condition, local authorities reported. The attack also killed an elderly couple. The teenager’s father spent about two hours by his son’s body at the site of the shelling, reading a prayer." (Daily Telegraph 20th July 2022)

Since reading the words of this report I have stumbled across the Channel 4 News video on YouTube. You can see it below. There's a slight glitch in the sound at a crucial point - please see today's endpiece which clarifies what the reporter was saying - helpfully, I hope (perhaps I should warn viewers that the opening sequence is particularly sad and potentially upsetting - certainly moving)

Committed to help
As you know, all the proceeds from our charity work this year is being directed to Ukraine via our friends in Poland.. They are close to the scene and actively involved in a variety of relief efforts. Frequent trips are being made to the east of Ukraine where the need is greatest

Plants still available
This is an Astilbe
We hear that the recent residential weekend for Ukrainian mothers and children was a great success and that another is planned for the Autumn. Remember to check out out tailpiece - another interesting snippet there

Thanks to everyone who has had plants from Codger's Nursery. So far this season donations amount to £700 (to be exact £707.00) - but there's more to come. Some supporters had reserved their donations intending to give online. I am sorry to report that it now looking as though that route won't be set up in time so I shall collecting those funds in cash. Not what I intended but I'm afraid the issue is outside my control

The good news is that it looks certain that we shall clear £1000 before long

And further good news - we still have plants availble that will do well this season. See this week's photo gallery at the end of the blog. Further donations appreciated!

This Hibiscus came over with or friends in 1991
and still doing well!

News from Holland
Although we don't have time to do the detail it's worth mentioning that we met our Dutch friends in Poland. This was in the 1980s when the Poles were valiantly breaking free from Soviet domination. They were taking relief out to Poland at the same time that we were engaged in the same endeavour

The friendship blossomed in a literal sense - many of plants in our garden came over with them from Holland! Sadly, our good friend, Jan, is no longer in good health. However, despite weekly cancer treatment, he still helps to keep Boskoop blooming. With a group of friends he has completely renovated the excellent Rosarium in the town and the result can now be seen in a video - enjoy!

Loads of gooseberries this year

Success and failure
No two years are the same. This season: gooseberries great - raspberries poor. In the latter case, I'm to blame. I reorganised our soft fruit area and did not plant the fresh stock of raspbery plants early enough. Fortunately, I overwintered some of the old stock so was able to pick a little fruit- but a poor showing, I confess

On the other hand the blackcurrants and chuckleberries have been good. I moved then into a sunnier position and it paid off. Believing that redcurrants can cope with more shade, I demoted them - no redcurrants this year! But the blueberries are doing well. I could go on - it is swings and roundabouts

Blueberries doing well
One surprise. I've managed to transplant a sunflower in bloom. The new raspberry patch suddenly sported four of them. One was stepping of the toes of one of the new raspberry plants. I dug them up as a unit. Replanted the raspberry and moved the sunflower - both patients doing well! (The trick is a good rootball and plenty of water - I generally tend to move plants successfully)

A simple practical tip - essential equipment immediately
to hand in a recycled ice cream container 
My next task is to plant out a new strawberry patch - the present area is hopelessly overcrowded. I'll go through the first step as the next item and then go through the succeeding steps in the next episode which is due out in a couple of weeks (a welcome holiday intervenes)

Whilst I'm on practicalities, a useful tip: I keep a trowel, ball of twine, scissors and pruners in a container that can travel around the garden with me. Speeds things up and means that I lose tools less often - see photo above right

Strawberries for nothing!
Here, I've zoomed in on a growing tip
Returning to the strawberries. They are a species that reproduce very easily. If you wish to introduce children to gardening, you might try this. After fruiting the plants naturally send out shoots known as runners. Their tips root very readily and will happily do so without any intervention. You can simply let this happen and dig up the mini-plants later

However, you can bring some order to the process by persuding them to root in small pots. I find it best to use, what I call, a six-pack (see photo)

Simply fill each compartment with potting compost and insert a growing tip - still attached to the mother plant at this stage. I find it best to secure each one with bent wire - acting like a staple

Here are the strawberry runners being to root in an organised way
Keep an eye on the pack and water as required. After a month or two you can sever the umbilical - just check you have sufficient root first. Leave to establish for a couple of weeks and plant out when you are ready

It's worth making start now. That way you will new plants (for free!) that will bear fruit next season. Like us, old plants become less productive with age!

In memory ...
As we finish this week perhaps I should note that since writing the above paragraphs there has been missile strike on another Ukrainian Black Sea port. We hope against hope that the shipments of grain can go ahead (before the invasion one third of the world's grain exports were from Russia and Ukraine)

Returning to our opening story. Old Codger was intrigued, not to say moved, by the extra detail provided by the Channel 4 account of the incident. It made me wonder if the reporter was able to privately interview woman police officer filmed supporting Dmytro's father

What the Telegraph said was a 'small book' was, in fact a Bible. The 'prayer' - and I'm sure it was such - was a reading from Psalm 91 (the glitch in the video sound wasn't clear at this point). Here are the words being read by the father (vv15-16):

He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation

One last thing - pertinent, I think. As well as humanitarian relief our Polish friends are distributing Ukrainian Bibles - many thousands with 5,000 recently printed for the current emergency. May the Lord strengthen their hands in the task!

... with best wishes from the Garden Codger

Echinacea are a favourite of mine and I have a few available
As you see, they are in flower now. Sometimes called coneflowers

This smaller form also available

I had planned to say that this agapanthus was available
Too late! It went to Mrs Codger's hairdresser this morning
Incidentally, I'm planning to propagate from the red Cana above (see tailpiece)