Blythe Spirit is dead, but at least I’ve got Gertrude!

Yes, I know it’s been a while between posts, but I have other things in my life; sort of. Actually I just said that to look interesting. But my wife Cruella says it’s pathetic and that everyone knows all I have is gardening. She can talk, all she does is Church administration stuff and torture small furry animals. Anyway, enough of our life of domestic bliss, let’s get on with the show.

Now I know I should be telling you all about Spring planting and getting the garden up and running, but I will have to postpone that for a couple of weeks because I am going skiing. Yup, that’s what I said skiing, we are off to Austria; who said I wasn’t interesting. Cruella and I have been convinced by our son James (of course he is called James) that a skiing adventure is just the thing for us old people. Mind you He does keep asking about our life insurance policies. So the outcome is Spring stuff will be in a couple of weeks.

14th March: Things I have been doing lately.

🌹Planting a new Rose. I hate to lose any plant, but somehow I lost one of my favourite Roses. Blythe Spirit is/was a lovely yellow flowering old English Rose from David Austin. I had 5 of them planted in my Rose beds, but one just up and died on me, and I don’t know why. I was spraying some weeds close to it a while ago, but I am always very careful. Basically what has happened is that it just did not come out the other side of Winter pruning and did not put on new leaves in the Spring.

The first photo below shows Blythe Spirit in its denuded state. It was still showing some green under the bark so I have decided to remove it from the Rose bed and put it in a pot to see what happens. The second photo shows poor Blythe Spirit in its intensive care pot. I am hoping it just has the plant equivalent of “locked in syndrome” and that I will come out one day and it will have sprouted new leaves.

There is no room for sentimentality in gardening, I tell all my plants life has to go on and we must be brave. Anyway, I have always fancied Gertrude Jekyll but I could never find a place for her in my life. I of course mean Gertrude Jekyll the lovely Pink award winning Rose. Well we are together now, we are a love match and we intend to spend the rest of our lives together. She will never quite replace Blythe Spirit but time is a great healer. The first photo below shows me and Gertrude getting to know each other, whilst the second shows her in bed (no pun intended).

I will keep you informed of Gertrude’s progress, and of course I will let you know if Blythe Spirit makes a come back.

🖼 Removing thatch from the lawn. Grass will start growing very soon, so it is important that you begin your lawn remedial work now. The first thing to do is rake out all the dead grass thatch that has accumulated over Winter. Now there is no really easy way to do this. You can try an electric scarifier that will claw and rake up most of the thatch. I did have one of these in England when I had really large lawns, but I can’t quite justify here. So it’s the hard way, using a lawn rake. To do this properly you have to rake first one way then the other. Don’t rake too hard or you could damage the grass, but hard enough to remove most of the dead thatch. Failure to do this will result in dead areas of grass and yellowing patches. The subsequent raked thatch can be used either to line hanging baskets, or, it can go straight on to the compost heap.

The photo below shows  me in my invisible costume about to pick up a Trug full of grass thatch.

Spot the gardener

🌴 Treating Palm trees for Palm Weevil. Living in Spain we suffer from the depravations of the terrible Palm Weevil. This terrible creature was brought to Spain  in a batch of Palm trees from Egypt, and has been gaily munching its way through Spanish Palms ever since. It only really affects the Phoenix Palm, but it has been responsible for destroying thousands of Spanish Palms. So much so that historic cities like Elche with its ancient Palm groves is terrified of the Weevil getting through their defences.

The only real treatment is to spray the tops of the Palms with a special chemical that kills the Weevils as they try to munch through the Palm branches. However, if your Palm trees are very high – and most of mine are over 40 feet – then you either need to bring in professionals or come up with another idea. Being a skinflint I opted for another idea. I drilled half way into each of my Palm tree at an angle of about 25 degrees and then fed in section of tubing which I had previously drilled with holes. This forms a reservoir into which I pour the Weevil killing chemical and then let the rising tree sap take this up and feed it into the branches, which means when the Weevils start to try and feed they get a proboscis full of chemicals and die. Clever eh? The photo below shows how the reservoir works.

As they used to say when I was a child and went for shoe fittings with my Mother…”stylish but practical”

For all of this clever stuff to work I have to make sure that the tubing is clear at the start of each Spring (this is when the Weevils start to fly), and also that the drilled hole has not scabbed over thereby stopping the uptake of the chemical. To do this I remove each tube, clear the blocked up holes with a nail, and then scrape a metal bar into the tree to create a fresh wound to ensure the take-up of the chemical. The photo below shows the tubing removed and the nail pushed through one of the drilled holes. The green rod is the metal bar that I use to create the fresh wound. There you are that’s what you need to do; but hurry up the Weevils are coming.

This looks like something used by Tomas Torquemada – look it up

🚀 Watching the Solanum grow like Topsy. I know The “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” literally allusion will not be lost on you my erudite readers. But you will remember that Solanum cutting that Cruella and my friend Karl tried to kill. Well look at the photo below it is growing like crazy. I have now placed horizontal wires to send its growth along the outside kitchen. Pretty cool eh? It’s a great addition. The bad news is that Karl is coming to house sit whilst we are away. I have set up cameras!

Look at that baby go!

Author: spanishgarden

I live in both Spain and the UK and am a very keen gardener. I garden every day and enjoy sharing all the secrets that God allows us to discover in our gardens.

5 thoughts on “Blythe Spirit is dead, but at least I’ve got Gertrude!”

  1. How sad about the palms. Many of the oldest palms here are dying from pink rot. If you are familiar with the Beverly Hillbillies, the palms in the background when they drive into town in the beginning of each episode are mostly gone. That is on Bedford Drive in Beverly Hills. The desert fan palms flanking the driveway of the Winchester House are also dying. Pink rot affects mostly Canary Island date palms, but can get into old fan palms as well.


    1. Hi Tony,

      I am in Hinterglemm in Austria supposedly skiing, but mainly falling over. We must be the only people to reference the Beverley Hillbillies in a gardening blog, that is pretty cool. We have lots of Canary Island Palms in Spain, but we do not have Pink rot (yet). But the large majestic palms have all but been wiped out in Spain.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I only mention the Beverly Hillbillies because so many people seem to know who they were, and know the palm trees in the background, even if they do not know where Beverly Hills is. Some of the sites I work at are sites that people are familiar with, like the pond that Opie and Andy Griffith are skipping stones on in the Andy Griffith Show, some of the far away planets in Star Trek, and more recently, the remake of ‘the Birds’. Although pink rot is killing so many of the old palms, the younger ones survive with it for many years. I think that palms will eventually make a comeback, even if the disease never really goes away. I think it is proliferating now because there are so many palms that are susceptible to it. at the same time.


  2. Just to let you know that I do read and absorb your blogs, James, my garlic plant is coming along nicely. I have a green shoot about 4 inches long. However, my absorption was good but my retention is failing, so what happens next?


    1. Hi Hilary,

      Excellent news on the Garlic plant. It will eventually get bigger but as time goes on the leaves will start to yellow and sag a bit. Much like my skin. When they start to wilt. Dig the whole thing up with a spade (not fork). At the base of the plant will be a load of Garlic bulbs. Take the whole plant with its leaves still on and all the dirt etc. Leave in a cool dry place for a couple of weeks. Then cut off the stem, brush off the earth and your bulbs are ready to use. Make sure they are firm and not soft, then place them in the fridge in a plastic bag and use them as normal. Don’t try and wash the dirt off as you wil just get rot setting in. Enjoy, I wil tell you when I am harvesting mine and we can compare notes. We are now officially vampire proof.


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