Partnerships don’t always work, do they?

But in the case of Pondwell, residents, Island Roads and gardening innovation came together to make a forlorn piece of streetscape an attractive, cared-for place.

Odd to talk about watering, or the lack of it, in this damp and cold season, but cast your mind back to glorious summer, which, for all its wondrousness, caused an awful lot of work for those caring for hanging baskets and containers.

The planters near the Bullen bus stop had been passed on to Pondwell Residents’ Association in my neck of the woods by the community partnership and it was hoped they would once again beautify the bus stop — but maintenance was always set to be problematic.

However, now the local councillor Reg Barry has donated a water butt and the equally generous Barry Farmer has plumbed it in, there is less of a need for Joyce Morgan Huws to lug her watering can round the corner.

But her efforts in the summer swelter were considerably reduced by compost I put in the containers in spring containing water-retaining granules.

The impatiens walleriana, aka busy lizzies, trailing geraniums and heuchera were sustained by this modern miracle product.

The magic granules swell to many times their size when wet and did reduce Joyce’s sweat.

They help produce plants less susceptible to stress and are available either in a purpose-made compost or as an add to any fine-textured growing medium.

As a footnote, Island Roads played a big part in improving the area by restoring the much-cherished bus shelter and residents have added scatter cushions, artwork and even a magazine rack.

Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?

It’s a little example of the Big Society David (remember him?) Cameron banged on about.

Pretty soon, if seasons continue to progressively change, we will become accustomed to primroses in bloom in midwinter and mimosa in bud at Christmas.

We may well have pineapples, bananas and mango by the turn of the century the way things are going.

Returning to the here and now, Acacia decurrens dealbata (mimosa) provides one of the few splashes of colour at this time of year and does it in spades.

It was Brian Gibbs who told me of his early Christmas present in his sheltered garden and pretty soon mimosa was bursting out all over the Island as never before.

Time was when prolonged freezing conditions used to wipe out most of the Island’s mimosa population but even the much-vaunted Beast from the East was not powerful enough last year to do it.

This Aussie import is officially half-hardy but is becoming more accustomed to life here too even without climate change.

It needs a sunny, preferably sheltered, spot and dislikes soggy roots — as you may expect.

It’s especially effective as a magnificently fragrant tree, which can reach more than 30ft and looks fantastic against the backdrop of a winter blue sky.

But diminutive specimens in a pot can be pruned to colour this dour season too.

Lovely by the front door, the welcome is both visual and sweetly sensory.

Just remember, this evergreen — which has attractive grey-green foliage in addition to its blousy blooms — should be allowed to drain freely in its container, which has the great advantage of being taken inside or covered should the Beast return.

By the way, it’s great to be back.

It truly warmed my cockles to know how much this little column was missed.

Letters can be sent to me at the CP with all your gardening tips and news or I can be reached at

In the Garden

Trim deciduous hedges and shred or chop finely for the compost heap.

In the Greenhouse

Don’t be tempted to sow most seeds too early when light levels are low. However, leeks, onions, celeriac and broad beans can go in under cover now.


Prune wisteria now — unless there is a hard frost predicted. Summer side-shoots, which will probably have gone mad, should be reduced to two or three buds.

Lift and divide snowdrops ‘in the green’ — in other words, when they still have foliage — if you want to create more clumps.

Allium and lily bulbs can be planted now. More about the former in a future column.


Winter prune apples and pears but leave delicates like plum, cherry and apricots until summer as ‘bleeding’ then from rising sap will seal wounds from disease.


Time to think about purchase and ‘chitting’ seed potatoes in a bright, cool, frost-free place.