Website of poet Elizabeth Rimmer


  • After the Storms

    A pale blue iris just opening in a very wet border

    We have had two named storms in three days, which is something new. Now things are quieter, but still very wet and the burn behind the house, which is normally nothing more than a deep damp ditch, is running noisily down the hill to join the Lightburn and into the Clyde. I went out to see if the greenhouse and all my pot plants were intact, which they were, mostly, though I think I’ve lost a cowslip seedling. The quarter tray it was in was spun round and upended, and the contents are probably halfway across the garden.

    But the new warmer temperatures have spurred the garden into growth. Everywhere I look there are daffodil, snowdrops, tulip shoots and iris springing up, even a lone and battered crocus underneath the roses.

    snowdrops, their flower-heads showing but not yet open, coming up between houseleeks.

    The first witch hazel blssom is out and many of the perennials in the garden are putting up vigorous shoots. Of course, the place is a mess, as I try not to cut everything down too vigorously – if you leave the dead stems it provides hibernating spaces for ladybirds and other useful creatures, but I must admit, I’m longing for a dry day to get out and create a little order and room for the new plants. I have bought many of my seeds now, mullein and agrimony, soapwort, wormwood and mugwort. I’ve tried several times to save seeds from the wild plants down along the Clyde Walkway, but without success, so I bought some from Earthsong Seeds, whose seeds worked pretty well for me last year.

    I have some more ordinary seeds too, thanks to my grandson who say he wants to grow rainbow carrots and lettuce and some gigantic yellow sunflowers with me, and I’m going back to my favourite Harbinger tomatoes. I tried Ruthje from Vital Seeds last year, but I wasn’t impressed, though I think the (relatively) cold summer, and the late start might have had a lot to do with it. And now my fingers are itching to get started.

    The birds are getting restless too. Before the cold snap there was a definite increase in birdsong, though it seems to have tailed off a bit, and the pigeons are playing kiss chase in the cedar tree two gardens down. There was a robin staking its claim to one of the hawthorn trees along the burn, and the magpies are playing King of the Castle along the rooftops. It’s been a long dreary January, but finally, we are inching towards spring.

    witch hazel branch, the first blossom untangling itself.

  • Half a Hundred Herbs – Sowing the Seeds

    daffodils and cyclamen in pots  The cloud has come down and it feels bitter outside, although the frost has gone. But on Tuesday, the sun was shining and I took the first photos. The garden is beginning to wake up and put on colour.

    The crocuses are out undercrocuses first primrosethe rowan tree,






    and the first primroses are showing.







    pondI’ve seen frogs mating in the pond, but there isn’t any spawn yet. The black-backed gulls have come up from the coast and they are staking out territories on the warehouse roof, and bullying the smaller black-headeds who have been here all winter and thought they had the river to themselves. There”s a woodpigeon attempting to build a nest in a completely unviable fork in a birch tree, and I’ve heard a woodpecker hammering, and a thrush singing. best of all, the curlews are back.

    All of which means it’s time to sow the first seeds. the sweet peas are in, and the tomatoeoas and half-hardy annuals will be next. They’ll go in the propagator on my windowsill – it might look north, but it’s a dormer with light on three sides, so it usually does pretty well. The hardy annuals, first salads and chervil and parsley will go into pots in the greenhouse, which seems to be reliably frost-free, and we’ll be off.

    flowering quinceThe dried and frozen herbs I’ve been cooking with over the winter are coming to an end, but the chives are coming through now, and the sage thyme and oregano have enough growth to risk a first cut. Everything else is beginning to bud, now, though the rosemary stilllooks a bit shocked, and the sorrel has a lot of fresh green leaves. I love the taste of sorrel, but you do have to get it very early, or it will be too sour for pleasure. There may be sorrel sauce with the chicken tonight!


  • Half a Hundred Herbs – the seed list

    propagating bench

    Well, as firefox would say, this is embarassing! After saying I was cutting back on seeds this year, because of time and space constraints and all that, I went out and spent £30 on seeds from Chiltern Seeds. If you add to that the seeds I saved last year, which I will try to propagate if only to see how viable the harvest was, it becomes, frankly, all a bit much!

    Here’s the list (just as they come to hand):

    • nasturtium
    • marigold
    • ammi majus ( a large white umbellifer – high class relation of cow parsley)
    • snapdragon, for window boxes
    • daisy ‘pomponette’
    • carthamus tinctoria (saffron thistle), a nice golden flower, good for dyeing, and which dries well and looks cheerful for ages
    • cornflower
    • wallflower ‘blood red’
    • white trailing lobelia, for window boxes
    • molucella laevis which has good green bracts for drying
    • forget-me-not
    • shoo-fly plant – of limited herbal use, but has intriguing inky blue seed pods
    • clary
    • chervil
    • sweet peas, in two varieties, one called ‘flamingo flamenco’ and the other a dwarf for hanging baskets
    • sweet cicely
    • red valerian
    • honesty
    • chives
    • sweet rocket
    • bronze fennel
    • avens ‘herb bennet’ whose root is scented
    • welsh poppy just because I love them
    • basil
    • parsley
    • coriander

    At some point I will have to sort them into batches of early (started in the house), mid-term (in the greenhouse) and late, and make sure I know what the special requirements of each are, and work out where I’m going to put them all —-

    If anyone would like any seeds or young plants, I’ll have way more than I need myself, so do get in touch.

    In the current frost (down to -8 in Dunblane and Kilsyth, though not as bad as that here) the herb-related activity is still in the house. I succumbed to the lure of the supermarket and bought a pot of parsley yesterday, which I used to make tabbouleh and cacik ( a yogurt and cucumber salad, flavoured with mint, parsley and garlic. You may remember my rather grudging notes about parsley last summer  but now I’m ashamed to say I’m a complete convert. It was so light and flavourful and full of sunshine! There will be a lot of parsley in the garden this year, and some pots in the greenhouse to keep us going through the winter. And my lemon verbena plant, which I brought inside because the greenhouse is unheated, has burst into new leaf, and there are pots of hyacinths and tete á tete daffodils blooming. Surely spring can’t be too far away!all the celandines

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