It was an absolutely rotten summer for growing vegetables. Last year, the box we get from the Two Nice Girls had quite a bit of cavolo nero and what they call braising greens in it, even in December, but this year, the weekly box is very heavy on roots. The Professor has developed a sideline in pickling turnips. I keep making potage Crecy. But it’s not enough to stem the tide, so before we’re actually overwhelmed with the damn things, we are having a Rootfest tonight: a gratin of celeriac, potato, parsnip and carrot, and a grated raw carrot and turnip salad. Roots of another kind, or rather, bulbs, have also been on our mind. The erratic Tony was asked to plant black tulips in front of the house, and did, but he being a literal minded cove, anything not a black tulip wasn’t planted. This has been preying on our minds a bit, since the great outdoors has been alternately pouring with rain and freezing cold, and we ourselves have been alternately too busy, or ill. The Prof has had a cough for a fortnight; he’s just started on a course of antibiotics which seems, finally, to be breaking it all up. I therefore walked the dog after we’d come back from the chemist’s and the weekly shop, thinking I’d better get it over with while the weather was reasonably open. I got back with the little beast (who, by the way, is recovering from the sore shoulder at a rate of knots) and realised that it was amazingly mild, so I booted her into the house, and spent a strenuous hour planting everything that remained. I have some pink parrot tulips of the sort which have green streaks even when fully blown, and I’ve put them in a bright blue pot. After months of grey-black-white, that sort of thing is strangely welcome. I found fifteen black tulips Tony had overlooked, so they have gone in a tasteful black pot. Paperwhite narcissus are in a celadon pot, since they’ll end up in the sitting room. And I have put three yellow Crown Imperials at the far end of the garden: I love the things, in spite of their strange, foxy smell. They’re rather expensive, or I’d have got more, but I look forward to their proud crowns. Also, we’ve put blue Iris reticulata on either side of the front door. A variety called ‘Joyce’, which I always buy because for one thing, it’s beautiful, and for another, it reminds me of a nice old neighbour in our previous life. They don’t naturalise, so I buy them every year. They’re very early, and so when you’re really not expecting much except snowdrops, you get a sudden flash of searing delphinium blue. I am so glad that next year’s are now safely in the ground and have not been eaten by what are locally called ‘meeces’.

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