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I’m halfway through the seasonal influx of offspring, siblings, in-laws and out-freyn kindred. I’m always delighted when any of these exhibit signs of civilisation, that is a willingness to discuss tricks for success with germination, or a happy planting combination that they have discovered. I’m free with my own breakthroughs, prone to give advice before it’s requested and slow to notice the expression that whimpers “Can we talk about something else now, please?” “Gardengardengarden”, says Attila.
Helleborus foetidus “Wester Flisk” (red stemmed stinking hellebore)
Helleborus foetidus “Wester Flisk” (red stemmed stinking hellebore)

My daughter Cineraria is making a charming show out of a previously blighted plot which is emerging from the gloom of a vast, towering hedge of Leylandii. Initially she channelled her father’s modus operandi and employed a scorched earth policy as well as a man with a chainsaw, to exterminate the conifers without mercy. Although January has seen her focus shift from weed annihilation to recycling gift wrap, she is still able to chat about the subject of favourite plants, without beginning to twitch after the first hour.
Grape vine's bare bones
Grape vine’s bare bones

My sister Rose is establishing her stamp upon a pretty parcel on the East coast. She struggles with her neighbours’ overhanging tall green barricades and has also had to resort to bringing in a bloke with some heavy kit, to carve out some order. I am thus able to reminisce about the perils of swinging an electric trimmer at a great height, atop wobbly ladders on untrustworthy ground from my days as a high altitude horticultural professional, without my audience having to leave her armchair. Rose acquired a conservatory with the house, which she has filled with cacti about which she is knowledgeable and extremely proficient, being able to raise the spiny beauties from seed. These are the only indoor species which her cats leave unmolested. Last Xmas she was given a small potted citrus plastered with bright balls of golden fruit, which the fiendish hairy felines stripped and rolled all over the floor for squashing with slippered feet.
Cerinthe major “Purpurascens” (honeywort) self set seedlings
Cerinthe major “Purpurascens” (honeywort) self set seedlings

More relatives are due to arrive today. They own a smallholding in Wales, with perfect soil and balmy climate. A few years ago, I gave them some sturdy “family” apples, which boasted three different varieties grafted onto one stock. In my vegetable patch I planted an identical specimen, which I nurtured with ample fertiliser and water. Their trees are twice the size of mine, giving bushels of fruit for little effort. When they swank about this in the course of conversation, I shall endeavour to keep a smile plastered on my face.

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