Lapsed Time; Hand Weeding; Snowdrop Farewell; Nos Da-Good Night.



Lapsed Time

Slow down, young lad.

Take time to find the gaudy foil wrapped

Eggs and rabbits hidden by

Those mossy greens.


Slow down, young lass.

Paint shells and papers,

Gaudy bright, but leave the

Brows and nails their rustic hues.


Slow down, young lovers.

Two lives ahead to share those burning passions.

Save the kindling, keep some dry

For when the winds fall still.


Slow down, you always weary parents.

There will come a day

When pressures ease – no final lap,

But different clocks start ticking then.


Slow down, now working weeks are done.

And hours once scarce,

Are never, ever free from

Things to do and learn.


Slow down, old man,

And watch the clouds.

And finally you’ll see that nothing’s

As it seems. Time lapses,

Shifts, transforms the scene.


With an upgrade to a newer computer, and also investing in some software to convert my camcorder’s AVCHD video clips, (which WordPress won’t accept), to an internet friendly format, you will see that I can at last upload a few snippets of video more easily. Never fear though, our miniscule data allowance means I shall have to exercise considerable restraint in this area!


With Fiona out of gardening action over the last 6 weeks, I’ve been grateful for the very slow start to spring, which has meant that weed germination is only now beginning to accelerate. I mused the other day about when it was that I last read an article on hand weeding in any of the glossy gardening magazines which arrive, often on the same day, each month. I honestly couldn’t remember ever reading anything, though I’m sure I’m mistaken.

Given we now have occasional help in the garden I figured this would be a useful task for William, but then realised that it’s perhaps one of the most “skilled” jobs which I do. Not only do you have to recognise and avoid any fragile shoots of perennials which are beginning to push through (which really means me wearing Crocs or such like), but also one needs to recognise the weed seedlings as early as possible, preferably from their first two (for dicotyledons) or even one (for monocotyledon plants) leaves, and then what the completely different later true leaves of the weed, or cherished plant, look like.

Next comes the issue of whether the weed can be pulled by finger, leaving minimal soil disturbance which in turn would expose a new population of seed bank weed seeds to germinate, or whether some sort of implement is needed to try to get all the roots out – there just is no point in pulling off top growth with many weeds like Creeping buttercup, Ranunculus repens, Cleavers, Galium aparine, or Hedge woundwort,
Stachys sylvatica, (below), without removing the growing stem and roots.

In addition, in our garden where in many areas we encourage self-seeding, sometimes even of vigorous natives like Germander speedwell, Veronica chamaedrys, or vigorous taller thugs, like Foxgloves, Digitalis purpurea, or Pyrenean valerian, Valeriana pyrenaica, a decision needs to be made as one works over an area about the sort of density of these plants one wants to allow – too many and very little of a less vigorous plant, will ever survive.

For the many gardeners who spread annual layers of mulch to suppress weed germination, hand weeding is probably never as intensive or regular as we tend to make it – we have to make a repeat trawl of all parts of the garden about every 4 weeks, this interval being dictated by the time taken for Hairy bittercress, Cardamine hirsuta, the fastest of our weeds at procreation, to flower and disperse seed.

However, for everyone who questions the labour intensity of our way of gardening, in mitigation I would argue that over many years, the more stable and established areas of the garden now require very few weeds removed over a year – once the ground cover planting is well established. It’s just the newest areas of the garden which still need more regular time and effort. So whilst every square metre of the garden has to be carefully scanned several times through the growing season, the mass of weeds removed, and hence time involved, diminishes all the time.

The final huge benefit of this type of gardening, with an ability to remove, or leave, plants at a very early stage, is that you do indeed get a huge amount of self-seeding of plants which you’ve chosen in your planting mix, be they bulbs or perennials. I now reckon that our aim here is principally to grow other countries’ weeds, which like our particular mix of climatic and soil conditions, alongside a select few of our own. The ability of a plant to drop seeds to infill gaps from fatalities, with no real work from the gardener, is a huge asset for more relaxed, “naturalistic” style gardening. The creation of an evolving, morphing and entirely unnatural (given their indigenous ranges), combination of plants which gel biologically and aesthetically, becomes the Holy Grail, to ease work as one’s body starts to creak a little more.

Regular deep mulching will inevitably reduce this natural infilling, and also requires regular top ups. Many naturally dropped seeds will be buried too deep beneath the mulch to ever germinate. The other key element for success with this natural self-sowing is one has to have a low tolerance for slugs. Many, even most, plants will survive slight slug damage once permanent shoots and root systems are established, but waves of seedlings can disappear, often overnight, at this time of the year. This lesson has been leaned by me very, very slowly here in our wet climate. But finally, again aided by the very harsh late winter and much better managed slug control last year, this approach is allowing large numbers of tender seedlings a chance to get away this spring.

I was discussing hand weeding with Richard Bramley from Farmyard Nurseries yesterday, (click here for more on Farmyard who are off to Cardiff Flower Show next week, hunting a gold medal), and he agreed with me that an ability to hand weed and recognise what plant a seedling will develop into, is a vital gardening skill – he’s found several new varieties on his nursery this way, perhaps spotting a tiny seedling in a gravel path. But he reckoned that this is a very difficult subject to teach to a third party.

What do readers think? Are they hand weeding fans? Or do they tend to hoe, or mulch? And which of the above plants did I leave, and which remove?


As I began writing this on April 8th 2018, we still had the last few snowdrops in flower in the garden, so this year they’ve given 6 months of interest, from G. reginae olgae opening on October 8th last year, to the marvellous G. “Polar Bear” (below) in early April.

I thought I’d record, as in previous years, a big thank you to everyone who’s helped me with my Welsh Historic Snowdrop Hunt over the last season, including Keith (for his amazing hybrid snowdrop), Jen, Paul, Rae, Richard, Jenny, Roddy, Viv, John, Margaret, Joanne, and anyone else I’ve forgotten! The number of Welsh origin forms in the garden probably now exceeds 50, with those from earlier years beginning to settle in nicely.

This year’s efforts have been reduced partly because of the weather, but also because in early February we crossed the border and had 5 days away in the Cotswolds, looking at some of the famous snowdrop gardens, and historic houses in that part of the UK. A few photos below to illustrate these trips. Weather was mixed, but at least we avoided the later snowfalls, and most of the gardens we visited were really quiet! A wonderful treat.


Frampton Court.





Next year we hope to travel a little further afield in Wales, and anyone wanting to get in touch about possible sites to visit will always be most welcome.


A couple of times before in my posts I’ve written about the latest exhibition at the Welsh Quilt Centre in Lampeter. This year’s exhibition, which opened last month, is perhaps the best of the 10 that have been held there over the last decade. I would urge anyone who can visit, to do so. This is a unique opportunity to see the amazing skill and artistry of historical Welsh quilting, and probably the last chance for anyone in the UK to see such an exhibition, since very sadly this will be the final exhibition before Jen Jones, who is the driving force behind the Centre, and indeed owns all the Welsh quilts on display, will be closing the Centre at the end of this show.

So do plan a visit now. Click here for the link to the Centre and its opening hours.“Nos Da, Goodnight” is therefore, a very apt title. As well as all the fabulous quilts, there is a subsidiary exhibition of vintage, detailed embroidery samplers – an insight into how young children and ladies spent their time in an era before electronic gizmos took over.___

A lovely sunrise on Easter Saturday was bettered the next morning, when, without the occasional distant roar of high jet engines no doubt depositing transatlantic visitors into London, our still, quiet valley was filled at dawn with song, as patient birds finally had some spring weather to celebrate.


Get real, man. Life’s too slow.

Genie’s out. Swipes ‘n taps. 

Don’t need your peace,

Life’s all action. Buzz ‘n bling. 

Reality. Just virtually. Right?


15 thoughts on “Lapsed Time; Hand Weeding; Snowdrop Farewell; Nos Da-Good Night.

  1. hope you wished richard ‘good luck ‘ and I totally agree about hand weeding.

    • Hello Ruth,
      Thanks for that – I did indeed, and I’m sure he’ll put on a great display. Glad that I’ve found another hand weeding fan out there! And I haven’t forgotten I still owe you some promised daffs….F’s neck injury meant that I’ve been out on my own this winter/spring and haven’t made it down your way for ages – once we finish our garden opening this season we’ll try to pop down,
      best wishes


  2. Some interesting points on weeding. I tend not to take a gentle approach, generally more furious with a long two pronged hammer-like tool. I find my worst enemy changes with the year and presumably the weather. This year I am over-run with Arum maculatum. It has always been present in the woody bit but this year it is everywhere. I do try to reach the bulb but I do not always succeed. Next year will be worse I suspect. I agree that the places I have managed to mulch have been easier. I love the snowdrop photographs. Six months of pleasure in your garden is a good return. I wish Fiona a rapid recovery. Amelia

    • Thanks Amelia for an interesting comment.
      I’m sure everyone will have their own bete noire weeds – your comment makes me think we shouldn’t be so relaxed about the few small clumps of Arum which we have popping up in a few places – we often seem to work out too late that an occasional native plant, can take over in a few years – this happened with us with Geranium lucidum, which is quite pretty, but like Herb Robert, will quickly be everywhere without near zero tolerance.
      Thanks for your best wishes – Fiona is gradually improving – it will be a long haul we think,
      best wishes

  3. Beautiful words at the beginning of this post Julian. I too hand weed, mostly because I have never mastered the art with a hoe, but also because my garden is so densely planted it really is the only option, Arum and creeping buttercup are my worst invaders. At the moment I have a carpet of celandine but I tolerate these as they make a wonderful splash of colour and soon die back and I do remove as many as I can then.
    My best wishes to Fiona, I do hope she recovers soon. An injury of this nature, anything preventing me from gardening, is my worst nightmare as my wild and wonderful land would soon become far more wild than otherwise.
    Hope to see you both soon, Jan x

    • Hello Jan,
      Great to hear from you – and very interesting thoughts on hand weeding and your worst enemies… I too have mixed feelings about Celandines – I know they die away and are a splash of early spring flowers, but I do think even in their limited early growth period they can suppress and seriously weaken other small spring perennials and bulbs – so like you I tend to dig out the biggest clumps as well as possible before seed is set.
      Best wishes and hope your lovely garden hasn’t been too affected by this long cold spring

  4. I hand weed and knee squash at the same time! I loved all your post Julian from start to finish and then I read it through and enjoyed it all again accompanied by your Easter bird song…such a treat! Thank you. I’ll hot foot it to see the quilt exhibition . Sad to read that it’s the last Jen Jones one. Hope Fiona’s neck is getting better now.

    • Thanks Marianne….
      So lovely to receive some really nice comments of the blog today on a day filled with far too much other negativity!!!

      Plus some more great lambing – always exhausting, mentally as much as physically, but always such a delight when it works out well.
      Anyway, do spread the word about the quilt exhibition – I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. Fiona’s neck is slowly improving, so long as she takes it easy…..always difficult!
      Best wishes

  5. Hand weeding is not always practical for large areas. I just had to do it today, but for big and easily pulled weeds in a relatively small area. It was a prominent spot, so I wanted the weeds gone. Just a short distance away, the weeds will merely get cut. We do not have time to pull them all, so prioritize those that are in prominent spots, and that are easy to pull fast. If we can not get to them all, we at least try to cut the seeds off.

    • Hello Tony,
      Thanks for your comment and insight – my piece has prompted several interesting takes on weeding – I know you’re in the States and don’t know whether you’d consider our garden big or not, at about 1.3 acres. I’m also very aware that how we’re trying to manage our garden is pretty unusual over here.
      Key influences in why we do things as we now do, are firstly a lot of the garden is moving to semi woodland; secondly in Western UK we historically have huge issues with constant weed germination and growth through the seasons, and also huge slug problems. Over the last few years, the very intelligent writings of both Noel Kingsbury and James Hitchmough have been real influences on my thoughts about all this – do you follow Noel’s blog – Always a good read…
      Anyway, many thanks again and best wishes

      • I do not follow Noel Kingsbury’s blog, but would not change how I manage weeds anyway. It is something that I have done all my life. Because of what I do, I used a variety of techniques. When I lived in town, and had very limited area to work with, all weeds were pulled. At the farm, most weeds grew wild with no abatement. Weeds that grew inside were pulled from the nursery stock. Between the production area and the surrounding forest, weeds were merely mown to limit the dispersion of seed. At my home outside of town and where I work part of the time now, we use the same sort of techniques for weed abatement. We ignore what goes on in the forest, mow the weeds on the perimeter, and pull or at least cut weeds in the minimal landscaped areas. Unfortunately, we do often pull and root out English ivy where it has naturalized in the forest, but there is just too much of it. We try to contain it so that it does not spread, and there really seems to be a bit less of it each year.

      • Hello again Tony,
        Thanks for this yesterday, and apologies for not replying sooner, but William and I had a whole day discussing/doing hand weeding ! I might write it up sometime – We’re going to see if I can train him up…
        But your comments are still really interesting – obviously it depends on gardening scale and style. But also I reckon your comment about how to manage peripheral/ wilder areas is important – something I’ve had to consider since our garden area is all surrounded by native pasture or hedges – how do we plant/manage these areas? To cope with the inevitable incursion.
        Probably a topic for another post sometime, but anyway thanks for your insights,
        best wishes
        PS In case you or others were interested here’s a link to Noel’s blog…

      • There is no need for apology. The delay was not significant. Reply is not required. I know that people are busy anyway. I do not reply to all the comments that I get.

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