I found a Jesus troll in the dalek

Garden Spud
Originally uploaded by PhylB

We noticed that a potato plant had started growing out of an opening in our composter (or our dalek, as we prefer to call it).

When I dug it out, it had grown only one new potato, but it was probably the weirdest-looking spud I had ever seen.

It clearly had a face, as can be seen on the photo, but it didn’t look anything like Jesus, as you would have expected from all the media stories about people seeing him in their toast or Ikea’s toilet.

It most closely resembled a troll, so I must conclude it was a Jesus troll.

We had it for dinner yesterday.

Dead Eden

A rainforest robin
Originally uploaded by viralbus

During our stay in Devon, we went on a daytrip to the Eden Project near St. Austell in Cornwall.

It’s supposed to be one of the UK’s main tourist attractions, and most visitors did look very happy.

I thought it was an eery place, however.

Basically, it’s supposed to be “a living theatre of plants”, and its “mission is to tell the world the story of plants that changed history”.

I guess it does that very well (although there seems to be an emphasis on plants used in herbal medicine), but it also achieves it literally: There are no animals!

Compare it to the delightful Randers Regnskov in Denmark, and the difference couldn’t be greater.

Randers Regnskov is teeming with life, but Eden’s huge greenhouses are strangely quiet – no insects, no birds, nothing.

To me, it breaks the illusion completely: No matter how well they reconstruct a Mediterranean landscape, an indivisible part of that consists of the background noices made by the animals. How can you believe even for a second that you’re in a rainforest if nothing’s moving and the fruit is rotting away uneaten on the branches of the trees?

To be fair, the place is not completely dead. There are plenty of Cornish ants, and I also spotted a robin next to their banana plantation, but that just made the absence of tropical fauna even more painful.

I wonder how they keep the place so barren. Not only are there no animals, but I didn’t see many weeds, either, and in a tropical climate you’d expect every square millimetre to be overgrown within a fortnight.

I think I hated the place so much because it was so stunning. The greenhouses (or biomes, as they call them) are enormous and full of the most amazing plants.

If they handed over the site to the people behind Randers Regnskov, it could become a true Eden.

The year of the home-grown potato

What with daffodils and crocuses appearing in the garden, I guess it’ll soon be time to decide what to grow this year.

Last year Phyllis was quite upset that I forgot to grow potatoes, and my life was only saved by a few plants that appeared out of nowhere (or rather, I must have left a few tubers in the ground the year before).

So this year is to become the year of the home-grown potatoes.

However, which varieties should we grow?

It’d be nice to grow something that you don’t often see in shops, such as these Mayan potatoes.

Any recommendations?

Crab apple apple scab

Crab apples
Originally uploaded by ahisgett

When we bought our house two years ago, we started planting a lot of stuff and generally doing up the garden.

One of the first trees we planted was a crab apple of the cultivar John Downie, which we chose because it was said to be the best crab apple for making jellies.

Alas, it also turned out to be very susceptible to apple scab, and although we could to some extent control it with an antifungal spray, it was clearly spending all its strength fighting off the disease instead of producing apples, so I have now removed it.

I was surprised by its lack of root when I pulled it up – the poor thing clearly didn’t even have enough resources to send out roots!

Anyway, we now need a new crab apple tree, and preferable one that is as resistant to apple scab as possible.

I don’t think any fully resistant trees are available in the UK, so I’m thinking about either a Red Sentinel or a Pink Glow, or perhaps an Evereste.

Can anybody here recommend one?

Kæmpe hudfarvede stokroser

Huge hollyhocks
Originally uploaded by viralbus

Sidste år købte jeg tre pakker stokrosefrø, blandede dem, såede dem i vindueskarmen og plantede dem ud.

Mange af dem er nu gået til, og andre er stadig ret små.

Men dem, jeg plantede ved siden af paradisæbletræet, gror, som blev de betalt for det!

Rækværket på billedet er lidt lavere end mig, så de er omkring 2 meter høje.

I dag åbnede den første blomst sig så.

Knopperne var lidt gullige, så vi havde egentlig forventet gule blomster, men de viste sig at være hudfarvede (eller ferskenfarvede, hvis man skal være venlig) men gul midte. Jeg véd godt, de ser lyserøde ud på billedet, men det er lidt misvisende.

Det bliver noget af et syn, når de alle står i fuldt flor!

Building a greenhouse

A year and a half ago, shortly after moving into our house in Newton Mearns, we decided to buy a lean-to greenhouse.

I found one on B&Q’s website at a reasonable price. I didn’t say anything about assembly, so I presumed it probably was reasonably easy.

It arrived at seven big bunches of aluminium sticks and three packets of toughened glass.

All I could do at the time was to check that all the packets looked unbroken.

The next time I had a weekend available, I started building it.

I knew I had to build some kind of foundation, but the instructions for that were too confusing without actually having a greenhouse frame to measure.

It took a long time – the instructions were hard to follow, but at least each bit of aluminium had a number engraved that were matched somewhere in the instructions, so it was just a case of persevering.

However, when I had almost completed the frame, I realised I couldn’t proceed without building the foundations, because some of the bits had to be screwed directly into the foundation or the wall.

It was a rainy day, however, and the foundation involved pouring concrete into holes in the ground, so I had to wait till the weather improved.

In the meantime, we had some very strong winds, and the frame started blowing apart.

To rescue it, I had to disassemble it into sections and wait for better weather.

Some months later, I finally got round to building the foundation and reassembling the frame, but by then it was too late to grow tomatoes and chilies, so I decided to put in the panes at some later date.

A few months ago, I then finally got round to putting in the panes together with Phyllis.

It was quite puzzling, however: Whereas the metal bits had been numbered, the glass was not, so we had to spread them all over the lawn, measure them and match them with a number in the instructions (I’ve scanned in the relevant page; note how the instructions on the left are for the illustrations on the previous page, just to confuse you).

Because it was a sunny day, that process burnt huge holes in our lawn, but what could we do?

Doing this, we discovered that two panes were missing completely (they had delivered 2 panes of size 10132 instead of 4). Not broken, just missing!

I therefore filled out the form to inform Halls. The form did say you were supposed to do that within 7 days of delivery, but how was I supposed to do that when the packets were intact? Should I have spread out all the panes onto the lawn for a year?

I got a phone call a few days later.

It turned out Halls had been taken over by another company, Eden (now called Eden Halls), and after a fairly long and pleading conversations, they agreed to send the missing bits free of charge.

They arrived yesterday, and the greenhouse is finally complete!

Next time I’ll either buy a polytunnel instead, or I’ll get somebody to assemble it for me.

Lancashire Lad peas

Lancashire Lad peas
Originally uploaded by viralbus

This year I had time to order seeds from the Heritage Seed Library.

I got various tomatoes and other stuff for the greenhouse, and then some peas called Lancashire Lad.

I didn’t know much about them, but they’re growing really well, much better than the peas we bought in B&Q.

And today they got their first flowers, and they’re beautiful (click on the photo for a better view).

I’m already looking forward to tasting the peas!