2022 was a busy year, refurbishment and general improvement at the Gulag continued and as I look back, much has been achieved. Every year has its ups and downs and 2022 was no exception.

The saddest low to report is that Billy the Labrador my chief under-gardener crossed the rainbow bridge in April. He enriched my life in more ways than I can say and writing this still brings tears to my eyes. The boys were right, he was my favourite.

I promised him I would restore the back garden and he would have grass rather than wood chip and tarpaulin to walk on. In his last two weeks, that’s what he had and I think he was pleased albeit wondering why it was a garden of two halves.

The back garden continued to evolve throughout the year. The north border complete with stumpery is coming along nicely. You’ll see there has already been a small border extension to the left and I’m thinking I could extend it a bit more to add a climbing rose to grow along the fence.

The rest of the garden is still ‘under development’. The grass stepping stone path now runs up to the bat cave and I have plans to move the polytunnel and greenhouse from the plot to the space closest to the bat cave. I’ve also plans for a decked pergola where the tarpaulin is currently situated, I’m using lengths of wood to work out the right size/location – just waiting for a dryish weekend to set the postholders in postcrete. I’m not happy with the current location of the shed, it’s more obtrusive than I was expecting. It’s also much lighter too, it took four of us to lift it into this space. I wonder what the neighbours thought, seeing a garden shed apparently levitating across the garden!

I put most of my energy into the front garden and I’m pleased with the results. Nearly all the plants were grown from seed or cuttings. The cosmos are from seeds I randomly scattered and left to their own devices. I plan to tweak the planting to take better account of the soil which is stony clay but I’m dithering as the front of the house is in desperate need of repair and render and I’m wondering about external insulation or insulating render (who knew such a thing existed) All of the above will require scaffolding and that doesn’t mix well with herbaceous borders. I borrowed my neighbour’s ladders to repair the worst cracks and painted over the dusty exterior in an attempt to stop it deteriorating further. I’m pleased I managed to get that done before the cold spell. Solar panels are due to be installed next month.

The allotment which is now a 20 minute drive away has suffered through lack of attention. I found a very nice lady to take on a bit of the plot and we share communal areas. What I missed most was the pottering time, every minute at the plot was in motion, mostly back and forth with a watering can. This year will see a phased withdrawal and hopefully my plot partner will want to take on more space. Things did happen though, mostly without my intervention. The stand-out plant has been the calabrese, left in the polytunnel from 2021 but it kept on producing and when it went to seed I cut those out and more well formed and good to eat shoots appeared. The frost knocked it back but it’s perking up and still producing. Just as well because not one single calabrese seed was prepared to germinate last year – even new seed. The cherry tree had a very productive year and the cherries were delicious. I made cherry compote and froze about 3lb, which has been converted to more compote.

Happy New Year to all my readers. I hope your year is prosperous and fruitful.

Billy doing his favourite things.