Potager Garden: Umbrella boats, windowsill seeds and chocolate flapjacks

The rain continues. The morning is spent with much-loved grandparents, playing card games at the table together and drinking mugs of tea.

After lunch, I grab my coat, pull up my hood and wander through the little potager garden, finding stillness in the water droplets balanced on petals and leaves.

My daughter is always ready for the outdoors, in any weather, and today she tries out an umbrella for the very first time. She does not quite understand it. She shows me that when she holds it up, she can no longer feel the lovely rain on her nose, surely I have got it wrong? She places it in the stream, with a toy inside. See? It is surely a boat.

Our small cornus plant is sprouting leaves from the tips of its scarlet woody stems … spring is on the way.

As her brothers play on their scooters, my daughter points at the veg plot, and when I open the gate she squeals and runs to grab her tools from the corner. A few weeds are shooting up in the raised beds and we remove them together. My daughter replants them tenderly. She takes some convincing that they really need to be composted. I notice that one is a stray parsley seed that has germinated early, so I let her keep that one in a pot.

The rain is really heavy now. Her hands are freezing cold and she still sobs when I tell her we have to go back inside.

Indoor gardening it is. A happy hour spent filling up plant pots ready for seeds.

As the rain thunderously streams down the windows behind her she is content, learning to use a brush to sweep up spilt soil.

My eldest sons and I have already arranged all of our leftover seeds into the months in which they can be planted. February has a few offerings for us to choose from.

My second son, who loves to draw, creates beautiful labels for our selection. He then carefully plants the seeds, wishing them good luck as he covers them up.

Then the planters are all lined up on the windowsill, safe from the chill of wintry weather.

In the evening, I spend time baking with my third son. He has autism and has recently discovered a love of cookery. Last week his nana brought over a box of chocolates and we are making flapjacks with these sugary treats hidden inside. As we cover the chocolates with a layer of oat and sugar mix, he is convinced I am being sneaky and keeps saying sssssshhhhhh! which makes me smile.

The younger children are tired tonight. Falling air pressure always seems to make their limbs go heavy and their eyes blink sleepily as dusk falls. They tuck in earlier than usual. Time to put the kettle on and write in the quietness. I may have a warm flapjack with my cup of tea.

Update: Here’s my recipe, if you want to try the above treats: English Cherry Flapjacks

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Potager Garden: February 2020

My little helper, who pulls on her boots the moment she sees me fetch the kitchen door key, joins me in the garden today.

I’m so pleased to see tiny crocuses popping up in the old terracotta pots I bought from the library plant sale last year. I like the look of these old frost-hardened and slightly chipped pots far better than brand new ones. All of those marks tell a story.

Best of all, the first snowdrop of the year is in bloom! The almanac I’m currently reading puts it so well, that these graceful white blooms are “a reassuring sign that winter is moving on, and that spring will come.”

The onions are growing steadily. I find space for a pot of primulas in a nook beside the vegplot gate.

My third son is out on his scooter. The brick pathway purposefully doubles as a track, with a camber and gentle slope built in for the children. The path has unusual bends and loops as it has been based on the winding route my autistic son loved to run, barefoot through the grass lawn, until his footsteps had worn a deep groove.

In the wall planters by the patio, tiny narcissi shoots can be seen poking up amongst the forget-me-nots. This is wonderful as it means they have survived being moved around and repotted. They had seemed so delicate and I am relieved.

The elephant ear plant is in full bloom now. I’m told that my great uncle took a single leaf from a botanic garden by the seaside, planted it and it grew. It has been passed on since then. My mum’s version of the plant came from my late grandma’s garden, and mine came from my mum’s.

My daughter will continue to play outside long after her older brothers have gone in. She is happiest in the fresh air.

It will be lovely when the apple tree in this bed has leaves on again.

As the rain comes, we are back inside and I settle to write at the kitchen table. I have a little notebook where I jot down what is happening in the garden, so I can compare year on year and see what works. I also draw small pictures of which seeds or bulbs are planted where.

We are all beguiled by the tropical pineapple cake in a magazine. My second son and I make a child friendly version of the recipe (minus the rum!) together the next day – a little bit of sunshine and a taste of summer to brighten a grey winter’s day.

Update: You can find the Sunshine Cake recipe here

Visit my Little Art Shop: www.tinypotager.shop

Commission Enquiries: tinypotager@hotmail.com