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Sainsbury Splurge


… or, what a search for a pony-tail ring an lead to

I went all up and down White-chapel market in a quest to find a pony-tail ring – apparently I’m the only person in East London who’s ever heard of such a thing.

Thought I’d try the local Sainsbury to see if they had any: they didn’t, but I didn’t exactly come away empty-handed …

As I was going out, I saw a wall of something to one side, so diverted to have a look, and ended up with …

It was seeing “Why not plant this with our Bluebells?” on the side of one of the packs that did it – I went through all of the stack to find the Bluebells; on the way, I added more to my selection until I think I got virtually one of everything (and 4 packs of Blue-bells, just to increase the chances of having at least one come up!).

So, weather and squirrels permitting, I might have a good display next spring — but boy, have I got some work to do in the meantime (starting with scanning the backs of every pack into the PC, so I can enlarge the instructions to a point where I can actually read them!)

If you’ve got a local Sainsbury it might be worth checking out, while stocks last …

More blog posts by franl155

Previous post: conifer going a bit rusty, should I be worried?

Next post: New gate at last



What will the headlines say tomorrow Fran.....

Lady with uncontrollable hair goes on spending spree in Sainsburys!

Great selection and I hope they all do will in your little garden Fran.

1 Sep, 2013


thanks Snoopdog and Scottish

I don't have to control myself any more, I bought just about one of everything! and two of one cos i coldn't read the tabel properly

Still, it's only once a year - or once a decade, in my case - should these take, I won't need to buy any more, *ever*

1 Sep, 2013


Where on earth are you going to find room for all those Fran? Still,knowing you, you'll find somewhere for them all even if it means inventing a sky hook or two!
Sorry about the pony tail ring. Ah well, its back to the trusty rubber bands...

1 Sep, 2013


that didn't occur to me at the time, Steragram! I'm going to have to have a drastic re-sprt: I've got plenty of troughs and tubs hiding under one of the tables.

I've also got siz wall troughs taht I've never got round to putting up (was waiting till I'd finished painting the wall, but that was done some time ago) - now I've got an incentive to do it, or get it done.

A lot of my smaller plants haven't survived being "squirrelled", so that'll give me some room. But none of these will show until next spring, even if I plant them all tomorroow (ha!). i just need to find floor space for now.

And of course, I'll have to do another major compost-shop ...

I've got some lazzy hair ties, but too tight hurts, and too lose don't hold. ah well, there's always eBay

1 Sep, 2013


Ha ha u didn't come away empty handed, did u????
Good work!!!!!

2 Sep, 2013


Gosh what a splurge Fran. The squirrel will have a fabulous time digging up your bulbs. No Hazel nuts this year so, the bulbs are being extracted and left on top of the soil or planter. Is there not a 'girlie shop' near you to get those little elasticated bands for keeping hair in order? I think some are called SCRUNCHIES. There are some very fancy ones to be had.

2 Sep, 2013


hi Dorjac, i've got plenty of scrunchies, but if i tiwst them three times they're too tight and pull; if I twist them twice they're too loose and my pony-tail starts sliding down the back of my neck! I wanted hte plastic ring ones with comb inset, so that once fitted, they;d (hope!) stay put. I've found some on Amazon and eBay, now it's just wieghting up which to go for.

I bought some glass beads and pebbles on eBay, but to give all my pots a good depth I'd need about half a ton - one, blue glass cunks, did only three pots, and that was 18 packs! they're meant for "occasional decoration", I think. There are places thta do bulk, but I need to work out where to store that much bulk before i start to use it.

could maybe use bark chips, but we tried them at our communal garden and got a crop of uniform green. if the layers were thick enough, they were ok, but thinner, and the seeds that must have come with the bark were able to reach both the soil and daylight.

my local aquarium shop sells fish tank gravel, and i bought some of that, enough that I could put a fairly dep layer on, but it's a drag having to separate it all out again when i repot; i always miss some, and then it sort of gets evenly distrubted through the soil,

Really, i need something that's too heavy for the squirrels to shirt: i have some beach stones that I souvenired from a trip to the seaside, but i do'nt want to weigh bulbs down too much; they might be able to push through a thjn layer of pebbles or gravel, but rocks??

I've also thought of metal grids to put ove rthe pots, or over the soil in pots, leaving plenty of room for the plants to grow through them, but don't know if anyone does these, and they're probably not very cheap. ha, should get some small chicken wire and make me own!

2 Sep, 2013


Did you win in a lotery? Lol. Next year your balcony will be one green and miniature Royal Garden. Good luck with all of them!
Is Sainsbury the largest producer of seeds in the UK?

3 Sep, 2013


rats, I almost finished my answer when I pressed the wrong button and lost it all! hope I can remember my scintillating wit!

I didn't add up the cost as I was adding boxes to my basket; there were 18 so I added two to make it a round number. when I got to the till - urk! It's probably about what I'd spend on Amazon in a couple of months, but these will (should) last longer.

if half of what survives the squirrels comes up, I'll have a very nice display next spring - and for future springs, too. lol I seem to be on the way to getting my "blue garden", at least for part of the year.

I'd think that a lot of shops would have similar displays this time of year, I just happened to go into Sainsbury and see theirs. A lot of the packs say that the bulbs were grown in Holland, but I hope that the English Bluebells at least were home-grown.

Wanted Bluebells for ages, but I read that, as they're now a protected species, it's not good to buy bulbs unless you know where they came from - ie that someone didn't go out and dig them up from a local woodland. Amazon do Bluebell seeds, but given my luck with seeds ... I put at least four packs in with the Sweet Peas, and nothing's shown yet.

3 Sep, 2013


I had never bad experience with Dutch bulbs and plants. They are always very strong and healthy. I do not have experience with British seeds, just with those "home-made" from kind GoYers.

3 Sep, 2013


What a fabulous lot Fran you're going to have a show to beat all shows next year , I'm glad you were able to find some pony tail rings i use to use them years ago easy to use and work well ........

4 Sep, 2013


I don't usually check where bulbs and seeds come from, Kat, partly because I wouldn't be able to read the pack but mostly cos I don't think of it! I'm just not very good with seeds in general - no idea what I'm doing wrong, probably everything!

I've had some cuttings from GoY friends and they're doing well (squirrels permitting) but no seeds, which is probably just as well.

thanks Amy! I've started reorganising to get more space; sadly some plants didn't survive being squirrelled (pots either dug into or knocked over and contents spilled).

I'll have to phase the plantings, just a few of each at a time, then I'll have backup for the future. Annoyingly, the packs only have a "display until" date, not a "plant by" date, so I do't know how long the bulbs will stay viable (if stored properly!).

If only I could keep those damn squirrels out!!!!!!

4 Sep, 2013


Fran it really is ridiculous that there are squirrels where you live. Hardly seen any this year has there are no nuts on the hazel.....whoopee! Someone is enabling them to feed somehow on peanuts or grains of some kind near to you or they wouldn't bother to keep coming. Would be interested to hear more about your communal garden.

4 Sep, 2013


beyond our gardens there's a green which is big enough for about ten mature trees, but which is locked off and inaccessible except to squirrels. why the council think that squirrels need a safe haven is beyoind me! but no point trying to get rid of them, I suppose - if they're removed, it'll just leave a space for another lot to move into

i should say, formerly inaccessible! I asked my Estate Officer if I could have a gate put in my fence so that I could access the green; she agreed, some blokes came to measure the space, and they were here today to start fitting it - gate's up, but they have to leave it open to let the cconcrete holding the other post to set; they'll be back tomorrow (fingers x'd) fo finish the job and fit the lock. (lol lucky the green IS so securely locked off! I wouldn't feel so happy about the gate being open all night if people had access to the green)

Then I can walk on the grass and sit under a tree and chill. I did write to the council "adopt a garden" team to suggest a small nature project, wild flowers, bee and butterfly friendly; he said he thinks the council has a plan for the green already. so i'll just sort or work round the edges for now and see what happens.

I'll put pics up when they've finished and I have my very own back gate!

4 Sep, 2013


Fantastic, Fran, to see how you bought so many bulbs! What must the person on the till have thought when she had to scan in 20 packets of bulbs!!! :-D)

I sorry to hear about your Sweetpeas not growing. :-(( Did the squirrels get them? We are fortunate that the the ones across the road haven't come over here in the12 years I've grown plants on the balcony. Perhaps they have but have found nothing of interest. I have no way of knowing!

I had 2 self-sown Sweetpeas grow in a shallow trough on the middle bar of the railing around our balcony. They are still flowering even now! The plants look really awful but while they flower I can't bear to pull them out!

I have lots of Daffs & Crocuses as well as some Tulips in the troughs on the floor & railings of the balcony but this year, for the first time in 12, I didn't lift them at the start of summer & they have stayed in the troughs. I hope they have survived the summer with all the extra watering because of the 3 very hot weeks in July.

The pots with mini-Daffs & Crocuses were emptied out & the entire contents of each pot was left intact & planted in the allotment with the intention of lifting them this autumn & bringing them back home to put in the pots once again. We'll see if I actually get around to digging them up! It's actually more a case of remembering to dig them up really more than anything else! When I get down there I forget about what I was going to do & do whatever comes to mind while down there!

Has your gate been finished by now?

8 Sep, 2013


Hi Balcony, lol I did get a tad carried away there! When I got to the till, I did think of getting only one box out and letting her see the price and count the rest of the boxes to multiply by, but then I thought she might think I was trying to sneak a higher-priced box through, so I built a wall on the belt and she duly scanned all 20 of them; I just put them back in the basket and moved to an empty checkout so I could pack them in peace (hate packing bags any old how, but also hate holding up the next person – though this next person shouldn’t have complained, as I gave her my Nectar points – I’ve got a card somewhere but can’t find it, so I ask the next person if they want my Nectar or Tesco Club Card points. Saves them being wasted).

Lol only 4 packets of bluebells! And one double of one of the Narcissi that I didn’t notice till I scanned in the backs of the packs so that I could convert the instructions to something bigger than font size 6!

The Sweet Peas have grown about eighteen inches, but they seem to have stopped there; no flowers, no buds, no nuffin. Maybe I planted them at the wrong time, or maybe, as another GoYer suggested, I didn’t fill the trough enough, or maybe just me not being very good with seeds again (I put four whole packs of other seeds in to fill the space, not a peep from any of those hundred+ seeds!). It might have been squirrels; they dug in both troughs (only at the end nearest the wall every time). I did get some growth from the Sweet Peas, but nothing to write home about.

It took me a while to realise that the “steps” of the arch were a bit too wide for them to get across, and a bit longer to get around to remedying it, so that can’t have helped; I’ve now put string between and wound them round, but it might take them some time to realise that – if they’ve still got the energy!

Maybe I didn’t feed them enough – goes for everything in the troughs, but I’d read that over-feeding isn’t good. And now there’s been rain for the past several days, so how can I put a liquid feed into soil that’s already soaked? Or it could be sun: I only get about an hour of direct sun each day cos of the way the trees in the green block it in the morning – no such thing as “full sun” round here!

I’m still very much a learner gardener, and making all sorts of mistakes that I don’t even realise – to get one seed of any kind to flower would be an achievement. (lol at one time I did wonder if I were under a curse, someone born to be a gardener but who can never get anything to grow! Sounds like something the Greek gods would find amusing.)

How shallow are your Sweet Pea troughs? I didn’t fill mine all the way up, so they probably count as “shallow”. I’m the same as you with plants, keep them long past their “best before” date because I can’t bear to simply throw them away when they cease to be perfectly decorative (lol I’m not perfectly decorative either! and in the past I’ve been “thrown away” because of it)

If you’ve had no evidence that they’ve visited, then they probably haven’t; they do tend to advertise their presence with excavated soil and pots overturned! But as I recall, your balcony is closed off with chicken wire? That might be a factor, too. The squirrels here are in a green that’s surrounded by houses, so they’re used to people and have no fear (though I’ve tried to teach them a bit! If I saw any on my fence I’d go out with a broom and wallop the fence hard, close to them; I hoped that eventually they’d learn to stay away. Seems to have worked, to some extent; I don’t get so many of them as I used to, but still get them. Might seem a bit cruel, but at least I only aimed for the fence near them, not directly at them! and once I had to change ain in mid-swipe cos it moved faster than I anticipated and I might indeed have hit it)

I hope I’ll have a display of crocuses (croci??) and narcissi next spring! Got enough of them to start me off, anyway. I was sorry that they didn’t have Lily-of-the-valley bulbs, maybe it’s not the season to sell them; I know they’re said to be invasive, but they’re lovely, and if properly corralled, should be ok.

Only one of the boxes of bulbs (iris) specifies “full sun” so I don’t hold out much hope for them; all the others are “full sun or part shade” which might give them a chance, provided that I do it right and the squirrels stay away). Some of them say to cut back the dead foliage and then lift to replant next year, others say to let them die back naturally; nothing about lifting, so I’ll have to mark each trough with what to do – going to mean a lot of (apparently) empty troughs for the no-lift ones out of season.

I used to lift some bulbs, but then I’d forget to replant them next season, or not be bale to find where I put them, neither of which did them much good! At the moment I have three (apparently) empty troughs: I know I planted Narcissi Tête-à-Tête and some others, but I can’t remember what others so I’ll leave them and see what comes up, if anything does.

Good idea, transplanting bulbs for “æstivation” in the allotment – lol sort of glad it’s not just me who has problems remembering things! How will you know when they’re ready to come up?

I got the gate finished: they had to set a new post in, so they left the concrete to dry and said they’d be back the next day. Sure enough, two days later they came back and finished fitting the lock and painting. While the gate was open, I went out into the green for the very first time. That grass isn’t exactly lush enough to walk on barefoot, as I quickly found out; more like thin green patches with lots of sharp lumps in.

Lol which proves that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence!

Sorry this is a bit long!

9 Sep, 2013


No need to apologize for the length of your posts - I do the same quite often! I enjoyed reading it anyway - that's what I think really counts!

I was helping out a lady gardener friend of ours a couple of days ago. She had a fall last week & bruised her back & has been told to rest & not do her gardening for a couple of weeks. (That's her business by-the-way!) She asked me if I would be able to help her out so I went to the place she was due to go & pruned some roses for her. While I was there I noticed some small bulbs lying on the surface of the soil in a corner. As I've helped her out on the odd occasion before with this garden, particularly pruning the roses, I knew there were 100s of Bluebells that had naturalised there. As I would like to have some Bluebells on my balcony I pocketed the few bulbs. I hope they will grow as they had been on the surface for several weeks, since she last did the garden & hoed it.

About the shallowness of your troughs I think you will find it was me who told you they were too shallow & that you should have filled them up almost to the brim with compost! Sweetpeas like a deep soil/compost to be happy in though, like many plants, they will still grow & flower in less than "ideal" conditions! My 2 plants of Sweetpea are still growing & producing the odd few flowers but they really look ugly, (the plants, not the flowers! LOL!) They self-sowed themselves in a shallow trough I have on the middle bar that runs all around the middle of the balcony railings. It's probably no more than 18" long & about 6in deep at most! They have to share it with 5-6 Fibrous rooted Begonias & a self-sown tomato plant (mini) as well as a self-sown Lobelia! The plants have grown about 3ft high & gave me many, many flowers.

Most bulbs will flower the first year they are bought even if the conditions they like are not very favourable when they are planted as they use the energy stored up from the previous year to flower their first year. If the conditions/place are not to their liking after flowering they may not be able to store up enough energy to flower the following year.

This year for the first time in the 12 years we've lived here I haven't lifted my bulbs, excluding the ones in pots of the top of the balcony railings which I emptied out of the pots, complete with the compost, & took down to the allotment. The 6 troughs, 3 small on the middle bar & three big, white ones on the balcony floor, still have the bulbs from last spring in them, I just planted Petunias on top of them! I hope the bulbs survive this experience!

See? Just as long, if not longer than yours! :-D)

11 Sep, 2013


Hi Balcony

Sorry for delay, I’ve had a touch of lurgy which has left me with little energy to do anything (or at least the energy to want to do anything)

Hope your friend’s better now and that her customers understand if she had to take some time off.

Hope your bluebells turn out well; do you have the shade conditions for them?

Sure your bulbs will survive in the troughs, they never evolved to get lifted every year!

It may very well have been you who told me that my troughs were too shallowly planted. I’ve just about given up on these ones; I put some string up and led the plants round them, but maybe I did it too late or something, they’ve not made a move since. Maybe the almost-continuous rain will make a difference.

Keeping my fingers severely crossed, I might not have to try troughs again in future: got an appointment to view a bungalow in Shrewsbury, own front and back garden, so maybe I’ll have a real garden to work with (oh, hope!!!!!!). So these would have to come down, if I’m lucky; don’t really see me packing them still attached to the trellis!

Most of my bulb packs say to plant Sept-Dec, so if I do get the place I might still have time to get some in this year; at least get a bit of a show next spring while I work out my Grand Design.

18 Sep, 2013


Oh Fran, so excited for you - Keeping my fingers crossed you get that bungalow. Shrewsbury would be a huge change for you! Its wonderful too that you've now got access into the wooded area, you must be over the moon about it, I would be!

19 Sep, 2013


Great to hear about you possibly getting a bungalow with gardens back & front!

Won't they be a lot of work for you though?

Spring flowering bulbs, although ideally should be planted in Sep/Oct they should keep well & flower next year while you keep them cool & dark.

19 Sep, 2013


Thanks Steragram and Balcony - I'm trying not to hope too much, there's always been a catch before, some little problem (such as shoebox rooms or stpes when I specified "level entry"), I inveted a lot of hope in a prevoius offer in Bradfrod-on-Avon and got let down on both counts (I was in the 80s in the queue there, and the fact that the offer came down to me was a fair indication of its condition!)

But this time I'm first on the list (never been first before!) and it's a 2-bed, front and back garden, level entry shower - and ther rent is about a third of what I'm paying for a 1-bed in East London with a paved patio!), lol there's an old saying that if something looks too good to be true ... I've learned to be a bit cynical but there's no reason why good things with no snags shouldn't happen once in a while.

I checked the online maps, and was able to "walk" the street enough to be able to read the house numbers and realise tht the "here it is" indicator isn't the one, it's actually over the road. The back garden looks fairly small but would be about ten times bigger than what I have now, at least; and it looks like it backs on to a common with a border of trees between - this is assuming I've got the right house number!

The garden probably would be a lot of hard work, both of them - but I think the front might be harder. If I've got the right place, there's a hedge at the front which I'd want removed: that would be impossible for me to maintain - I don't have the strength to even lift a pair of shears, much less wield them properly, and I shudder to think of me with an electric cutter!

Of course I could find someone to pay to do it on a regular basis, but even so that would cut light from the growing space there (I'd want more than a single shrub in the middle, which seems to be what's there now).

And having recently re-read my Defensive Planting documents, they all say to keep the front area as open as possible, for security. Given my vision, I'd want as clear a field of view as possible,. *s* can't see anyone hiding behind a mini conifer or narcissus!

I've never had a proper front door before: I've always lived in Flat X of Y House - just having an address that's No X, Y Road would be a new experience! So I'd need to be a bit more awayre of household security

My ideal garden has always been of a "woodland glade" feel, so this might be my chance to see if that would work in practice: I'd still need raised beds for the smaller plants, but perhaps that could be worked into the theme.

lol and I said I wasn't investing much hope in this place!!!

But oh, to have clean air to breathe (cleaner than round here, anyway) and open green space at my back gate (got that now! but only sort of) and a river a walk away, and no one living upstairs who can't tell the difference between their kitchen window and a rubbish bin, and no upper levels anywhere close to overlook the garden. And at last I mgiht be able to get a telescope and find some stars to look at, and birds and wildlife to watch and- and-

Calm down, dear, it's only an offer!

20 Sep, 2013


Have you heard any more on this offer yet?

I've lived most of my life in flats as terrace houses like we have here were never common in the cities in Spain. You had to go to the villages to see one/two storey houses but even that is slowly becoming a thing of the past as they are building more & more 4-5 storey flats or higher!

Where we used to live in Spain, in Cuenca, they have now built 100's of terraced houses! There are streets & streets of them! In fact they now call that part of Cuenca "Little England"! LOL! :-D) But they are like no terraced houses you see here in the UK! To begin with they are luxury places & about three stories high. The lowest is a garage built into the house with a room alongside & then two stories above, probably for bedrooms, toilets & bathrooms. The Spanish build toilets & bathrooms separately.

Our youngest son has a flat right across the road from some of them. I took photos of the houses from the windows of his flat. The strange thing about them is that they look to be empty - still, & they were build 3 or 4 years ago! I saw them before they had finished building them when we went to our son's wedding. They bought their flat on plans, long before a spadeful of soil was moved! They took us to see where they would be building their block of flats.

I've done most of my gardening on balconies, mostly in Spain. Though we have lived in this ground floor flat for the past 12 years so I've done all my gardening on the balcony here. I don't think I would want to live in a house again! I do have an 1/2 allotment now & I help my friend Gerry with his 1 & 1/2 plots as well. So I now get to "stick my hands in the dirt"! It's not the same working with soil or with compost! After all the years in Spain gardening with compost bought from a shop it seemed very strange indeed to work with real soil once again!

23 Sep, 2013


Hi Balcony

Sorry not to answer sooner, things have started happening here. I went to see the place on Thursday and accepted it; got to go back on October 11th to sign up and get the keys. Then decorate, get storage units built, so that I’ve got something to unpack stuff into straight away, rather than have boxes hanging around for months (and wherever they’re put, they’re always in the way and need to be moved, several times!)

I never really thought about terrace houses in other countries: they’re so common here that I suppose I just assumed that that’s how it was everywhere. Most accommodation that I’ve heard of in Spain has been apartments or houses; one for tourists, others for proper Spanish people! And the houses all seemed to be fully detached, with their own grounds – maybe I’ve been reading the wrong kind of books!

Come to that, wonder why we’ve got terraced houses; maybe cramming as many in to a given space as possible, and flats hadn’t been invented then? Thinking of industrial-age housing, grimy houses squeezed together.

Seems that the only solution to house more people in the same space is for higher-rises – can’t imagine country villages with tower blocks, but …

I’m sure you’ve said before, but how long did you live in Spain?

Those new terraced houses sound very “luxury”; new fashions are generally wildly overpriced; it’s only later that they get watered down and the price comes down to something that the plebs can afford. The houses round the corner to this block have garages on the ground floor: there are steps up to the front door on the second storey. Lol maybe they count as “luxury”! but I bet the tenants wouldn’t think of them as such. And the Spanish ones are probably bigger, better laid out – at least laid out according to average local weather conditions, which wouldn’t be the same as in Bethnal Green!!

Still empty after four years? They must be asking luxury prices for them! Doesn’t Spain have, or did it have, a problem? not as bad as Greece, but still pretty bad – maybe the builders just got their timing wrong.

I never had much of a balcony when I lived on upper floors: my previous flat, on the 7th floor, had only narrow windowsills; there was a glass panel under the windows which had its own sill, which was wider, but then the lower lintel of the window above meant that only short plants could get in. but at one time I had over 100 houseplants – every time I repotted, and a bit fell off, I’d plant it on the off-chance: most I grew to give away, but some of the others I had to give away as well – keep forgetting that small plants don’t stay small forever, at least not if you’re doing it right.

I suppose this garden counts as a balcony, given that it’s about that size and paved as well, so Shrewsbury would be my first proper garden. I haven’t checked out much of what’s around, so there might be allotments nearby, or at least fairly accessibly nearby, but I think the garden will be enough of a job in itself for some time to come. See how I get on with working at ground level in a small space before I launch into anything more ambitious.

Your balcony is a long-time work of art; twelve years of work-in-progress! I could probably have got five times as many plants in my space as I actually have, it’s just planning where to put what, and then actually doing it. But then, I’ve been here just over three years (looking at some of my pics, I’m surprised at what I started with and how many times I’ve changed things).

You’re right, working with compost isn’t exactly “interacting with the earth”!! of course, compost is easier in many ways, at least the sacks of bought stuff is: you don’t have to test the ph, it’s guaranteed no-weed and no-pest. But still, it’s not the same as the real thing.

28 Sep, 2013


You needn't apologize for not answering right away! I seldom answer right away either but then I also post on another gardening forum & my own forum, BeyondSpace, (Link in profile), where I also copy & post many of the blogs I've written on here. The photos I post on here are much bigger on my forum!

Congratulations on having got the new house you were after! :-)) You are going to be kept very busy over the coming months! In a month's time we will have lived 12 years in this flat!

Next year we will tie with one of the flats we lived in while we were in Cuenca! We lived there for 13 years! It's still the longest place we have ever lived in during our 39 years of marriage! In fact it will probably tie with the first house I really lived in when I was a boy in London. At first we shared a house with my grandmother but when I was about 3 we moved to the house we occupied for the next 13 years.

Next year will make it a 3 way tie for the number of years I've lived in the same place! I hope there is no pattern here of 13 year periods meaning that perhaps we may be moving on yet again! We have no plans for moving elsewhere, at least at present!

You ask how long did I live in Cuenca/Spain. Well I lived there for quite a number of years, on & off. The first time was for 2 years, then I got married & we moved to Madrid for 2 years. We returned to Cuenca for another 2 years before coming to the UK. We lived here for 4 years then returned to Cuenca for the following 19 years! Twelve years ago we returned to the UK. So that makes 23 years in Cuenca & two in Madrid, 25 in all that I lived in Spain! Almost as long as I had lived in the UK before we returned 12 years ago! I had lived a total of 26 years in the UK before we returned here. Add up all those years & you will discover my age in there somewhere! LOL!

I've never planned the layout of our balcony. When I returned to the UK I got a job in factory that made plastic products for industry & gardens. That's how I got the three long white troughs I have on the balcony floor! They been there for the greater part of the time we have been here! The bottoms are now beginning to break up & it's difficult not to finish the breaking up when I empty them twice a year, when I change the spring bedding plants for the summer bedding plants. They are full of bulbs, mainly Daffs, then I empty them out towards the end of May each year before putting in the summer bedding plants. This year has been the first year I haven't done it! The troughs were simply overplanted with Petunias & the Daff leaves left to die down naturally.

A couple of weeks ago I pulled up the dying Petunias & have planted a few Pansies in their place. I need to get several more trays of Pansy plugs as only 6 plants in each of the 3 troughs look absolutely lost! They had no plug plants in store last week but I'm hoping they will bring in more this coming week otherwise ...

28 Sep, 2013


*s* a friend told me that she once answered an email the same day that she got it, and her friend said that it put pressure on *her* to answer quickly, too! There’s a fine line between “too soon” and “too long”. Lol remember the old days, when we’d write letters, post them, and not expect to hear back for maybe a fortnight or even longer. Now people seem to start worrying if their emails aren’t answered in ten minutes!

I’ll check out the link in your profile, thanks for that. Wish GoY had a “full screen” option for pics, some of them really deserve that.

*s* I’m not claiming the new place as mine until I’ve actually got the keys. THEN it’ll be mine. Until then, fingers are tightly crossed. Done nothing about packing or anything yet – just in case …

13 years is a respectable length of time to live in one place. I think my longest residence (including living with parents till I left home) was the place before this; about 17-18 years. I have a relation who likes to move every few years, they get bored with the place by then. Not my cup of tea: takes me so long to get sorted each time. I hope this will be my last move – unless I win the lottery (even more unlikely as I’ve stopped doing it since they doubled the prices!) I won’t find anything better.

This will be my first time of living outside London; never tried living abroad. When I got medically retired, I got a lump sum, and my friend said I could afford to buy an apartment in Spain, but that seemed like a step too far. Besides, I wouldn’t want an apartment in a tourist block! If it ain’t got a garden, I don’t want to know. And I wouldn’t want to live aboard if I couldn’t speak the language –people living here are expected to speak English, so it’s only courtesy to to the same abroad.

Wow, a quarter-century in Spain! that’s amazing. Lol though of course lots of Spanish people can beat that record.

I did sort of try planning a garden – even before I had one, I’d make Word tables and fill in bits to represent beds, lawns, etc. still got them, and get them out now and then when I want to laugh at my naïveté – wildly unrealistic, as I had no practical experience. Still don’t have much, not really; still got plans, most of which still tend towards the “unrealistic” end of the scale.

I did start trying to place the pots so that they had room, but ended up cramming them in (had to jam the pots together so that the **@@! squirrels wouldn’t be able to knock them over and spill the contents).

I suppose the best way is what you did: have something to start you off, then work round them filling up available space. The troughs sound like they’re getting to their last legs – is there anything you can do to repair them or would that be too much? If you need to lift them, that would rule out a concrete cocoon to hold them together – I had thought about planting baskets for my bulbs, to make it easier to lift them, but they’re mostly square or oblong, which would make a “random” planting pattern hard.

Only some of the bulbs need lifting, the others don’t mention it, so I assume they’re ok to be left in situ. Still need something else so there’s always something to look at, but I’m wary of over-crowding them, making them compete for resources – overflowing hanging baskets do look good, but how long do the plants last? And how much TLC do they need? I seem to be in a “when I remember” phase, so I don’t water or feed the plants as often as I should. That’s one advantage of having an open space, the rain does that for me a lot of the time. But then, there’s no shade against water evaporation in direct sun.

I do like pansies and petunias, but discovered I can’t have them here – lost five troughs of each cos of squirrel excavations. I could and maybe should put something down to cover the soil, but it’d take about half a ton to cover all the pots and troughs to an effective depth. And repotting is fun when it all has to be taken out.

I did try cheap gravel (from the aquarium shop round the corner) but it was exactly the right size to get stuck in the sieve mesh, and I had to pick it out a piece at a time – the novelty of that wears off very quickly!) I’ve been thinking about making “gravel bags” – bits of net curtain sewn into “tea-bags” and filled with gravel; should provide enough squirrel-block but be a lot easier to remove than loose gravel.

In one of your blogs you say that you’ve bought pansies, hope they fill the gaps nicely – a trough with few plants does look a bit sad!

8 Oct, 2013


With a bit of luck, if you get the place you have had a look at, maybe you won't need to worry any more about squirrels! They must be a right pain in the neck! I've never had any creature bother me - aphids being the great exception to the rule!!! Birds sometimes fly into the balcony, especially Sparrows at nesting time looking out for cobwebs or the spiders themselves I think! When I had hanging basket liners made of coco fibre they would come in & pull out strands of the fibre! They never did any damage to anything I had.

You are quite right about the Pansies, I did buy some in town as at the supermarket they haven't brought in any more this year. :-(( So I was only able to buy just the one tray of Pansy plugs. Last Saturday, & again on Wednesday, I bought some trays from a stall in the market place down town. On Saturday I bought 2 trays but there were only 12 in each tray & they cost me double! On Wednesday I bought another 2 trays of Pansies & a tray of Violas. On the plus side they were proper full grow flowering plants & not plug plants. I just hope they survive this winter & flower up to the end of May next year. Two years in a row I lost ALL my Pansies/Violas!

The ones I bought on Saturday went into the pots I have on the balcony railings, in rings I brought back from when I used to grow plants in pots on balconies over there. I underplanted them with mini-Daffs & Crocuses. Unfortunately it didn't occur to me at the time of buying the Crocus corms in Wilko's to check the number of corms in a bag. I'd bought them on a number of previous years & they were always 100 corms for £3 so naturally I thought they would be the same this year - but they had reduced them to 75 but not reduced the price! So when I was planting out the 10 pots I have I calculated 10 per pot but after 6 pots I realised I wasn't going to have enough for all the pots! I checked the bag & it said 75 - not 100 as I'd expected & calculated for! Fortunately I still had some from last year only I don't think they will all flower & even if the majority do there will be less flowers & probably smaller as well. I tried to make up by putting more than 10 corms in each of the last 3 pots. All in all the expense for planting up my balcony this year is at least double that of previous years!

The plants I bought on Wednesday are still in their boxes as it is far too cold & windy to plant them out for a few more days. They wouldn't get a chance to get established first. I can't afford to throw £10 worth of plants away! Even the ones I put in the pots I've taken off the railings & put on the balcony floor with a few other bigger pots in front of them to give them a little more protection. That was a further £6 that I can't afford to lose either! They must all live through to the middle/end of May next year. I can't afford to replace them this year!

The plugs already planted out have been in the white troughs on the floor of the balcony for about 3 weeks so they have had a chance to get a little established. I have no room to pull them further into the balcony & I'm afraid they will have to take their chances where they are. I hope they pull through as I'd hate to see them die for yet another year!

10 Oct, 2013


Sorry for delay again, Balcony, but things have been happening …

The bird feeder that’s on the feeding station is made of thick plastic; I had a close look but couldn’t see any squirrel damage, so hopefully that’ll be a thing of the past – had another two pots knocked over this morning, the little “darlings”!!

Suppose it’s not really their fault; the green is surrounded by gardens, so if they didn’t invade they’d have a very limited range – and mine is about the only garden that’s virtually put out an invitation. Behind the fence at the new place there’s a wide patch of open ground, with trees and bushes backing on to the gardens, so any squirrels there will have much more choice – I’ll have to see if putting out food for the birds tempts them at all.

Aphids are everyone’s pests! There are sites where you can buy ladybird eggs, but it says not to buy unless there’s food for them, ie you’ve already got aphids. Someone on GQT, I think, said that if you buy ladybirds, not to release them until night – otherwise they just fly off and find some other garden! As they don’t fly at night, releasing them then will make sure they stay the night, at least, and hopefully find enough to eat in your garden so they won’t want to fly off. As she said, why buy them to benefit a neighbour’s garden?!

Do you put up bundles of nesting material for the birds when it’s that time of year? They sell holders for materials as well as the material itself; I read somewhere that human and pet hair is also useful, so I asked my hairdresser to save my hair when it was cut and put that out. Not there now so it must either have been of use or it’s been blown away. Or bits of wool, cut into short lengths, will do, I’ve read, though it might tend to make a nest stand out if it’s got bright colours in the lining!

It’s always better to buy grown plants, provided that they’re not already in bloom in the shop, meaning less flowering time in the garden. *s* one downside of the new garden is that I won’t have to buy any new plants for a long time! That’s good, of course, but all the same … finding new plants is fun. I really wanted to have a go at roses, maybe I’ll find somewhere to sneak them in.

Don’t bulb and seed packs usually quote “average contents”? lol you’ll know how many you have when they start coming up – or at least, how many you have that flower, at least.

I’ve done that! started spacing them *so*, then had to take some out to extend how many pots they’d all go in. Though often it’s been the other way round, space them *so* then find I’ve still got a lot, so end up cramming them in – I could use more pots or troughs, but with limited compost, easier to squeeze them in. Not sure about “more successful”.

Weather’s turned really miserable. I can’t do any packing till the boxes arrive, next Monday, but I thought, I can at least start dismantling the garden stuff. Have thought that three times, and would you believe it, minutes later it’s chucking it down. I’ll have to do it in waterproofs, I suppose.

Is your balcony vulnerable to winds from a particular direction, or is it just the time of year that they blow stronger? Don’t blame you for wanting to protect the little ‘uns. Hope they show their appreciation later.

Can you put some kind of shielding up between the white troughs and the weather? Something to let the light in, but keep out most of the wind? Even some transparent plastic as makeshift cloches? Or a strip of clear plastic, propped up between?

Lol first year I was here there was a sudden snow; I put transparent plastic bags over the plants – some of those “vacuum seal” clothes bags, and for a couple of the bigger ones, those zip-bags you get blankets in. most of them died anyway, but they’d been snowed on for a day or so before I thought of it, and at least they held on a bit longer.

14 Oct, 2013


Have you been able to start your packing yet? You will probably be too busy in the coming days to spend much time on here. At least you will (hopefully!) leave the squirrels behind! LOL!

In a couple of weeks time it will be twelve years since we moved last - after 19 years in Cuenca, Spain! I can't imagine living anywhere else after living here! We have moved too many times in the last 40 years to want to move again! We have moved between Spain & the UK on 3 occasions! Though actually the first time we weren't married yet, we got married within 6 months of returning to Spain. On another occasion we had our 3 children with us but on the last we returned alone. Though within 6 months our daughter followed us! Our two boys still live over there.

I've planted up my balcony with the new Pansies & Violas I bought a week ago. I've uploaded some photos that you can have a look at when you have a little while & want to rest from unpacking boxes & putting things away!

15 Oct, 2013


I ordered packing boxes last week, estimated delivery 3-4 days, yesterday got an email that they wouldn't be here until next Monday. I've asked local shops to save boxes from deliveries for me, hope to pick some up later today. Then I can actually start doing something other than worrying! Once the boxes arrive, I can get stuck in in earnest, and won't have so much time to GoY, except to rest aching bones between sessions - if I haven't walled off the PC with stacked boxes in the meantime!

This will be my last move, and my first home - "home" as opposed to "somewhere I happen to be living", whish isn't somewhere you'd eant to invest a lot of time or money in. I've got too much stuff to take easily to up-sticks and away every few years.

lol must be nice to have family in Spain - somehwere to stay when you visit! of course, they've got somewhere to stay when they visit ...

15 Oct, 2013

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