BOATER’S BREAK

Canal Boat - - This Month - with Julie Clark

Colour­ful win­ter plants; look out for the hunts­man in the night skies; our acros­tic quiz

Gar­den­ing in the mid­dle of win­ter is really more of a wait­ing game; only the hardi­est of us will be prod­ding around in pots at this time of year. Bulbs will have been planted and con­di­tions are not really con­ducive to en­cour­ag­ing much to grow.

Dur­ing 2016 I have seen some won­der­ful boat gar­dens on the canals, beau­ti­ful flowers and im­pres­sive veg­eta­bles, in­clud­ing, one boat cov­ered with run­ner beans planted on the front well deck and grow­ing up and over the roof. I have seen cu­cum­bers grown like this and, of course, dur­ing the sum­mer the cabin sides pro­vide an ex­tra source of warmth so I am think­ing mel­ons might be a pos­si­bil­ity as well. They may even give some shade and keep the inside of the boat a lit­tle cooler.

These types of crops need lots of wa­ter and feed so have a good look at self wa­ter­ing pots. I have had good re­sults grow­ing dwarf run­ner beans with self wa­ter­ing con­tain­ers which have a reser­voir in the base to store wa­ter, guard­ing against the com­post drying out, very use­ful if you should be away from the boat at any time.

Of course, we can­not pre­dict how harsh the weather is go­ing to be but I do love to see a bright and sea­sonal dis­play on board. I do know that the lines of cold look­ing boats lined along the tow­paths are a mis­lead­ing site. They may look cold and unloved, but inside they will be warm, bright and cosy. I don’t live on my boat, so when the plants are not adorn­ing the front deck they are on my doorstep at home ready for a few days away when the op­por­tu­nity arises.

A re­cent trip to the gar­den cen­tre gave me the nec­es­sary in­spi­ra­tion for my Christ­mas plant­ing this year. There was a good se­lec­tion of amaz­ing and colour­ful shrubs; I was par­tic­u­larly taken with the bright pur­ple berries on a bare stemmed plant called cal­li­carpa. Skim­mia is a vi­brant red berried plant, look­ing al­most like an un­prickly holly, ev­er­green and hardy in the wind. A really tiny shrub ideal for plant­ing in pots is an­other ev­er­green called gaulthe­ria, choose from va­ri­eties with bright red, pink, mauve or pure white berries – a pot full of these alone would make a ter­rific show or com­bine with cy­cla­men, a se­lec­tion of heathers and some trail­ing thyme – dec­o­ra­tive and per­fect for sea­son­ing win­ter casseroles.

Christ­mas brings us gifts from friends and fam­ily and I al­ways re­ceive a good sup­ply of im­pos­si­bly pretty gar­den­ing gloves, some­what use­less tools and, if I am lucky, a gar­den­ing voucher or two. So bring on the seed cat­a­logues – it’s time to dream of warmer days, sum­mer cruis­ing and sun shin­ing. Happy Christ­mas fel­low gardeners!

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