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Our gardens


When I was a child, I loved gardening. My parents gave me a small patch to sow my own seeds on when I was quite small – I don’t remember details, but it was before we emigrated when I was 7. After that, I kept houseplants, gradually expanding my collection to a whole table full of Christmas Cacti, normal cacti, cyclamen and various fruit seeds. I even managed to grow a tiny date palm from a date stone. It didn’t live very long; my avocado plant did much better. And I was forever breeding my cyclamen and harvesting the seeds to grow new, tiny plants – so cute. I recently read that cyclamen are really hard to keep, and indeed the ones I’ve had as an adult have all given up the ghost within a year, but back then I must have had a seriously green thumb because they rarely died.

One month ago, we owned two pots of cacti (belonging to The Engineer), some succulent I was given but don’t know the name of, an aging ornamental fig which was losing all its leaves, an Easter cactus which resolutely refused to flower at Easter (or indeed at all) and two small and unambitious money trees. All fairly easy maintenance, as long as you’re happy for them not to do anything much!

When we started teaching Froglet about plants and flowers, I suddenly remembered how much time I used to spend – and enjoy spending – on my plants. Then we started doing up the window boxes, which have been allowed to grow weeds for the past three years, and I enjoyed that. Froglet and I planted seeds given us by my mother and grandmother, and that was great too. How did I come to forget that I used to love gardening?

I have no idea – possibly it happened when we moved to a new house, with less room for plants in my room, right at the time I had my first boyfriend. Boys being more interesting than flowers to a 15 year old, they were all relegated to the conservatory. The Engineer, reading over my shoulder, has just commented “and now plants are more interesting than me”.

Indeed. (No, not really!) I’ve definitely revived the interest now though. As I write, our spare dining table is full of seedlings. Nasturtiums, sunflowers and cress are sprouting alongside various recycled containers housing two avocado pits – one of which is actually starting to grow -, three potato eyes waiting to be planted outside, a birch seed, two unidentified berries from a shrub I thought was pretty, apple and pear pips, kumquat and passionfruit seeds, a mango pit, and three carrot tops which I am vaguely hoping might eventually flower and produce seed (a forlorn hope I know, but it’s worth a try and in the meantime they make pretty plants).

Outside, a large container has just today been planted with old potato eyes. Various seeds and bulbs are producing flowers or shoots, the ants are delighting in the new fuchsia bush and strawberry flowers, and the oregano has really taken to its window box, which it shares with a slightly less enthusiastic marjoram plant. (Incidentally, fried mushrooms are very good with oregano as well as parsley).

Froglet is, I think, slightly bemused by the sudden interest in greenery, but he is enjoying it too. Today he watered all the plants outside (knocking over several of the seedlings in the process), and we’ve got a spray bottle for watering the indoor seedlings.

I have been saying for months how much I wish we had a garden where he could run about outside without my constant supervision. Now I find I wish we had a garden where he could run about while I look after my plants. But gardens are few and far between over here. Maybe one day.

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Learning to read

I am pulling together a bunch of things from various sites to help me teach Froglet some phonics. He already knows the alphabet thanks to the wonderful Starfall website, and as he’s started spelling out words to himself while playing, I think now it’s time for the more complicated stuff.
Sound of the week is a great place to start, with a different page for each sound (e.g. /ee/), including a theme to match the sound (e.g. trees), book ideas, rhymes or poems, and art projects. So far we have done the first two sounds off this page: /ck/ and /ee/. Other sites I have been using include the brilliant Phonics, and the BBCs Words and Pictures.

After thinking about it quite a bit, and to-ing and fro-ing between various possibilities, I’ve decided to link the sounds I teach to whatever longer theme I’m currently on, rather than follow the order set out at SOTW or Phonics. And as we’re doing flowers and gardening at the moment, next up are /er/ and /ow/ (as in cow not grow). I have ordered a book about plants, which hasn’t arrived yet, but fortunately we do have a book on weather, which also has the /er/ sound in it, and as it’s particularly rainy at the moment this will be a good place to start tomorrow.

In fact I’ve ordered a whole bunch of books, which may get reviewed on here at some point. They are:
How Flowers Grow (Usborne Beginners)
Summer Nature Activities for Children (by Irmgard Kutsch, I think)
Floppy Phonics (Stage 1+)
Miffy in the Garden
Things that Go (Trace, Stick and Learn)
Stories Jesus Told (by Nick Butterworth/Mick Inkpen)
and several less educational ones for our own entertainment.

Froglet saw me ordering the Miffy book and said that he wanted one too. I said it would have to be with his own money, so he chose Miffy is crying (!) and now owes me 3 pounds. His first book purchase of his very own!

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