At the moment I'm hard at work on the final draft of my next book, Jewel Under Siege. It's not difficult to concentrate on writing work when the weather's as bad as it has been lately. It's warmer inside our old house than out, which makes a change. On the other hand, as we've had a bumper crop of strawberries in the bigger greenhouse this year, there's always the temptation to take a stroll down the garden at regular intervals to pick (and eat!) some. I started my writing career producing features for gardening magazines, and it's lovely to mix business with pleasure. Growing fruit in the greenhouse is easy. Opening the door on a cold morning and inhaling the lovely fragrance of the ripe fruit inside is amazing. It's protected from the worst of the weather, as well as the blackbirds and squirrels who love strawberries as much as we do. I can pick the fruit in the warm and dry, however wet and cold it is outside, and then there's the fun of eating it.
Once the strawberry plants have finished producing, the older, worn-out plants will be replaced with some Brompton stocks. They’re easy to grow, and if you don't have a garden or greenhouse you can keep them in pots in a conservatory. Sown at this time of year they'll flower in the dark, cold days of February and a packet of nearly 200 seeds costs less than $3 (£2/€2.50). Best of all, they have such a lovely perfume it really lifts the spirits. It gives me a real kick to walk into my greenhouse while winter still has its grip on the garden, and smell their heady fragrance.
This year, I'm putting coffee grounds around all my seedlings as it's supposed to deter slugs. It’ll be interesting to see if this idea works. A lot of coffee drinking goes on at Tumbling Towers. I like the idea of recycling the waste product and beating slugs at the same time!
If I can stop the bugs eating my Brompton stocks, the plants will keep growing until the weather gets really cold. Then they'll mark time until the days start to lengthen, after Christmas. When that happens, they'll push up their spikes of white, pink, red or purple flowers. To experience their lovely summery perfume will be a real treat on days when the mornings are dark, the afternoons short and winter feels endless.
What's your favourite flower?
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