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With fireworks and dragons

"Gung Hay Fat Choy!" In China, every girl and boy Celebrates the New Year in a very special way - With fireworks and dragons, colored red and gold - They welcome in the new year and chase away the old! “ - Helen H. Moore

If you haven’t already guessed from the poem, the Chinese New Year is fast approaching. The year of the earth pig. The traits of those born in the year of the pig are diligence, compassion and generosity, all good traits for an Old Town Bloomer. And if you are a pig looking for a Valentine later this month, then look for those born in the year of the tiger, rabbit or goat. A pig’s lucky flowers are hydrangea and daisy. Both of which we have in the garden so maybe our pig volunteers will be lucky this year.

Well February is on us. The word February is believed to have derived from the name 'Februa' taken from the Roman 'Festival of Purification' and the god Februus. It was originally seen as a spring festival, but I think that’s being a bit optimistic, don’t you?

It’s definitely feeling wintry now. Candlemas is the 2nd Feb and folklore tells us that ‘If Candlemas be fair and clear, there'll be two winters in the year.’ One is bad enough! With winter comes the snow. Did you know that we get 4 main types of snow? Stellar Dentrites, the classic star-like snowflake. The Graupel, soft hail when water crystals collide with snow pellets in the clouds. Needle Crystals, long crystals that are common, but very fine so hard to spot. And lastly, the smallest crystals, Diamond Dust Crystals, that glisten like diamond dust in the sun.

In many ways the garden is very quiet at this time of the year, but it is still worth visiting. The bulbs are coming up now and some tubs we have had in the yard are being moved into the garden ready to flower over the spring months. The pansies are still in flower too. And volunteers are busy keeping the garden tidy. It’s funny how weeds will grow at times when nothing else will.

Our first deliveries of manure are arriving, thanks to the volunteers collecting it from places all over Halton. And we are going to spread it round the tubs over the next couple of weeks as all our soil needs a boost. I know the rhubarb is really looking forward to getting some. We have put a bucket over the top of the rhubarb to protect it from the frost and to warm up the soil when we have sunshine. Hopefully this will force some of the rhubarb to grow early. This always has the nicest flavour, I think.

We have also been donated some cardoons. These were quickly planted, so hopefully they can get established in this cold weather. It’s known by other names, such as the artichoke thistle. This is because the bee friendly flower and silvery leaves look like a thistle, the stems look like celery, but they taste like artichoke. They were popular in Victorian times, but now are eaten as a delicacy mainly in France and Italy. I’m planning to grow half the plants to eat, which means cutting off any buds. And then leave the other half to flower. This is because the bees love the flowers and it can grow very tall, with large leaves, so make an impressive plant.

The Blooming Old Gardener

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