” When Sorrows come, They come not as single spies but as battalions”

The sorrows I’m talking about are snails – from the Big Daddy with mottled brown shells to the smaller more delicate brown yellow and cream ones. Over winter they gather in gangs in my plant pots and down the bed-edgings discussing tactics and waiting for spring and a humid evening before launching their assaults. They’re here! It’s happening now.

Big Daddy

Big Daddy

Let's start on the wisteria buds

Let’s start on the wisteria buds

When I moved here the house walls were covered with Virginia Creeper and Wisteria. I had to strip it back to make repairs to the stonework and in doing so evicted hundreds of the beggars. Last summer was the summer of the snails’ revenge. They tiptoed among the tulips; gobbled the hostas; crunched the clematis and invaded the veggie boxes razing lettuce, spinach, peas and beans. They breached the defences. Gravel, grit, eggshells – bring’em on, no problem; sticky tape – we eat it; mass eviction to the fields beyond – ha we’re homing snails; copper wire – shock? What shock?

Tea for Two

Tea for Two

This year the Gardener Fights Back. But how?

I can’t bring myself to deliberately stamp on them but if I accidentally squish one I confess I get a hypocritical shiver of satisfaction when I hear the juicy crunch.

I have Mr (or possibly Mrs) Toad by my side. He lives in a disused drain and comes out to sit on the stone bench where I take my nightcap (drink that is, not headwear). We have had long meaningful conversations about strategy – granted he doesn’t say much apart from ‘ribbit ribbit’ – however I have installed a number of small water features intended to facilitate the expansion of the Toad family.

Similarly the hedgehog that slept all winter under a pile of leaves has joined in the battle enticed by a promise that I will create a more des. res. for her…perhaps a little more insulation…for next winter.

Then there are the birds. I don’t recognise some of them that frequent this French garden but we are entering into negotiations which exclude the use of the gut-busting pellets and include a daily donation of juicy morsels.

Eating them? Out of the question. I know I live in the land of snail eaters but have you ever tried eating them? They are truly tasteless, rubbery and without question one of the most unappetising comestibles ever.

Can I win this battle? I doubt it but possibly I may be able to agree a compromise and cease-fire. However any tips and hints that exclude the use of noxious chemicals and pesticides to add to my armoury would be more than welcome.

The Post that shall be Nameless – Because I Forgot!

gravel-26mayThere’s an unintended horticultural theme to this week’s blogs – probably influenced by the impossible loveliness of the Chelsea Flower Show. For readers not familiar with this bastion of British blooms, Chelsea is the creme de la creme of Flower Shows for growers and designers alike. All jingoism aside, it is pretty spectacular.

Anyhoo, there I was last night thinning out some seedlings whose identity was unknown because I forgot to label the seed tray and an idea occurred to me – the growing process has much in common with developing ideas. At least it does in my world.

When seedlings are young they need light touch handling and when an idea is young I find there is nothing more likely to make it cock up its heels and snuff it than grabbing it full on and mangling it prematurely into a form for which it is patently unready. No, seedling ideas need time to develop their true form just as plant seedlings need time to develop their true leaves before too much handling.

As with seedlings, when an idea has matured a bit, that’s the time to thin out a weakling and either consign it to the compost or re-pot it and let it develop a bit further. But if it’s grown well you move it on, giving it more space to develop and feeding it with liberal doses of “what ifs?” and “how abouts?”.
This is the time when many ideas will wilt and die; some will have grown leggy and ungainly because you forgot about them; some you will bring into the world of drafts, revisions and rejections where they will finally fade away. However, if you’re lucky, talented and green-fingered, just a few will grow on to become a stunning creation, worthy of that coveted Chelsea Gold Medal and then you can sit back and smell the roses.