Winter gardening, Beverley Nichols and the garden in Edinburgh

Darkness during leisure hours, uncertain temperatures, uncertain skies, yet nowadays a private garden is more likely than not to have winter colour, a winter presence with evergreens, grass, shrubs, winter flowers and berries and coloured plants. A garden is to be enjoyed so much from the entrance and windows  of the house, to be sat outside in briefly, wearing overcoats, in crisp dry weather, to be planned for all winter as the spring days approach, even if they approach very slowly as they did last winter. The gardener is a present and future person, who always looks at the present and ahead.


The revolution in winter gardening is due in no small part to Beverley Nichols, whose wonderful gardening books, now so difficult to get, were extremely popular from the thirties to the fifties. Beverley Nichols wrote of winter flowers, "midwinter madness", aconites, snowdrops, heathers, the many plants which may be found to flower in Britian through the winter months. He influenced current writers such as Christopher Lloyd, and all those magazines,TV programmes and coffee table books which nowadays push winter flowers, evergreens, shrubs, sculptures and outdoor seating which make gardens so much more attractive in winter than they used to be.

One form of winter gardening less practised in winter however is still the vegetable plot. My young people who have settled in Edinburgh this year have a front garden they want to grow produce in, but they have been so busy over the last few months they didnt get started this autumn. They had managed to put in a row of carrots and one of beetroot and a lettuce or two but that was all. They were concerned about the garden looking neat over the winter and they asked me to help them prepare their ground now for growing vegetables next year.

A quick look round my favourite garden centres showed that it was indeed  a little late. Last month's late vegetables had given way to the god of Christmas tinsel. Nosing around I found them some decorative cabbages, some real cabbages, pak choy, and rocket plants, all at my favourite reduced prices, plus some fruit bushes (which we actually wanted) at giveaway prices round the back. Armed with these and some decorative small evergreen 'boulevard' trees which I had in a corner at home, a nice rhododendron ditto,  some strawberries and a row of big red daisy plants, I arrived at their plot this morning and we had a marvellous time planning the layout amd putting things in place. We even found about 3 lbs of excellent carrots in the ground that had been overlooked.


We then decided to go for a look round the big garden centre I used to frequent when we lived in Edinburgh. Apparently a mistake. There were queues of cars to get in, gardeners dressed up as traffic police, real police in the road outside, and a huge rabble of three-generation families doing their Christmas shopping and watching the bagpipes. They may have been avoiding the town centres held up by military services, or getting ahead of the game with Christmas. Anyway the place was jumping.

The plant section was quiet, however. We found the only elderly gardener who wasn't directing cars in the car parks. He looked exactly like the Head Gardeners partrayed with such affection in Beverley Nichols' books. We asked him what Robin could do now to prepare his vegetable garden, and he suggested onion and garlic sets and broad beans. I said, "It will be good soil as they are near the Botanic Gardens."

"Where do you live?" the gardener asked Robin.

"Near the Botanics," said Robin.

"Where?"

"Warriston."

"Which street?"

It transpired the gardener lives opposite him, one house down. A very promising gardening neighbour!

 

 


The Glencoe Rose


Tidying up for the Winter Garden

 Autumn again. It comes suddenly just after the Poetry Weekend in Callander. First there was a storm, and the honeysuckle pulled down part of the amelanchier.  I rescued the amelanchier at the expense of the honeysuckle. Honeysuckle can grow again.

Then Helen and I went through the bee hives and took four combs of honey. Helen said my meconopsis seedlings would grow overwinter if I could find some brown earth for them, so that saves me trying to bring them indoors. Ron Williams said the same thing - he said where do they come from? The Himalayas. They're hardy!


The Roman Camp hotel garden. Helen's the gardener here, and my bees go there regularly. There are lime and chestnut trees as well as big areas of perennials.

Also need to clear the area where snowdrops and aconites grow, which is currently covered with all manners of odd pots and tall grass etc. Clearing up is necessary for a winter garden as well as for the outdated seasonal gap. I was first into winter gardens with Beverley Nichols and even before that the Bishopton aconites, and have been glad to see his books followed by many new ones on winter garden plants. I've got all his gardening books except Green Grows the City, which I have had in the past. It's one of the best books ever on small garden design. I now have a good aconite colony supplemented by plants bought from Cambo House, plus I think some Guinea Gold which came as seed from a stay somewhere in Leicestershire. Or they might be crosses.

The snowdrops will be exciting next year as I have some new ones from Emma Thick. I also dug up a big snowdrop patch looking for bulbs in midsummer (a fashionable time to move them) and I need to go over it to make sure I left the rest of the bulbs in their proper place.

Then there are bonsai trees to check over. Two only need to come into the house. I forgot about them last year and was lucky they just survived: an olive from a garden centre and an orange tree grown from a pip. They both looked done for after the snows, but both re-sprouted in a more bonsai sort of way, in the summer time. So I was lucky. But I need to re-pot the olive on account of two nice new prickly blue bugloss plants (the bees like them) taking up residence in the same pot. [September 2010]

 


The Seed Site
  a fabulous resource for serious gardeners gives clear pictures of the smallest seedlings of hundreds of plants. I've positively identified my Blue Poppy (meconopsis) seedlings from it. There are so many, I have pricked a lot out but it is hard to disentangle their roots, Even so I should have vast numbers to pot on later, if I can manage to keep them all through the various weathers. They are valuable both for the beautiful flowers they should grow, and to sell too, if I can bring them through to next spring. Here's the photo from the site, which exactly matches them. Wish me luck. The other addition to this page this week is Pascale's lovely bee photo, about half way down this page.


Nine types of snowdrop, and new bees

I went to Ballinluig for the new bees. So many people lost bees in the hard winter that I was lucky to get some, however my search was successful and I had a great drive across to Ballinluig via Loch Tay and all the way up Strathtay. I said it was Beltane magic getting bees from there, as Ballinluig was the scene of a central (strange) part of my Bees poem. The bees are settled here brilliantly, and they are very healthy and lively. In fact I have strengthened the hedge that separates them from the lawn as they seem so busy. Bees love big trees and we havent yet been able to work out exactly which trees or plants they are going for. They rush out of our garden leaving it mainly to the bumblebees who seem to intensify their solitary business among the flowers when we have honey bees too. Sometimes the bumbles and even wasps try to get into the beehive but this lot would give them short shrift. They still have a very small entrance, as I like to see them crowding round the door with their pollen and nectar.

The garden is very busy looking as there are also all the village hanging baskets filled with flowers all round the lawn. There were supposed to be 20 hanging baskets but there are already 29 including our own two, and more shops keep wanting to join in.

Thanks to one of my facebook friends, I have been able to add nine kinds of snowdrop to my garden this week, making the total snowdrop varieties I have approximately twelve. You may be able to guess who sent me them if you look at the names. I'm off to look for a picture of one of the varieties I can use. Back soon!

These are small sweet scented double snowdrops like those I already have. It is hard to find available snowdrop variety pictures on  the internet. Many snowdrop bulb sellers are very proprietorial about their pics. You'd think allowing the pics to be distributed would help them sell their wares. I already had galanthus n. and a few elwesii that were being sold as nivalis the year before last, and a few of these doubles, and one called Merlin which has a green inner flower. With the new nine I have a real collection, which I will probably add to from Cambo House next year, where there was a really beautiful new snowdrop that I wouldnt buy because it was £18 per bulb. But I havent forgotten it and I might just blow pocket money on it next year, if I have any pocket money.

These are the new nine (copied from pencil on the envelopes):
Galanthus nivalis Sandersii, yellow/apricot mark
Galanthus Galatea
Galathus nivalis x "Ware"
G. Benton Magnet
G nivalis "Lady Elphinstone" double yellow
  (may go green if moved, will go yellow eventually)
Galanthus James Backhouse
Galanthus Ophelia
Galanthus nivalis x Scharlockii
  (type found by Emma Thick at Ore Bone Mill)
Galanthus 'ex Emma Thick' 
                                                    (May 2010)

Flowers from the Scanner: April flowers from showers

A fistful from the garden this afternoon. Straight into the scanner: anyone who pinches this beautifully simple idea to illustrate their book, please send me a copy of the book :-)

Included: BLUE: Chionodoxa, Anemone pulsillata. MAUVE: Cardamine, pulmonaria, crocus. WHITE: small remaining snowdrop, flowers from a bush jasmine. YELLOW: a very miniature daffodil. LEAVES: Winter aconite, wild strawberry. Not included: things I couldnt spare to pick.

The lower pic (added a couple of days later) this is more shadowed, either because of the thickness of branch stems or because I had a lighter cloth over the scanner. WHITE Alyssum, pieris Pearl Queen, Forest Flame. YELLOW primrose (this single plant has been flowering since November)
MAUVE what's that damn stuff called? a primula, BLUE scilla, grape hyacinth wide leaved variety. PINK viburnum bonantense, stragglier now than in December but still smells sweetly of almond. Not quite as successful a photo as the last but no time to play around - flower arranging like poetry is usually best hit or miss.

 

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  I saw named varieties of snowdrop in the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh last week, the day after I welcomed the family home from Warsaw. Appropriate, in view of the hard winter we all had. Then when I tried to check the names I found there were hundreds, and that snowdrops are highly fashionable with new varieties appearing all the time. There are snowdrop festivals and conferences about now, one at the RBGE next week, so it's a good moment to see the well-kept snowdrops in the rock garden there.

Spring? Early February is not "out of the woods," but we are out of the woods with our family crisis. December and January together were the worst weather since records began 100 years ago. Now at last the mild weather is here, and the snowdrops are all coming up, to catch up those that were above ground in early December and just stood stationary through the freeze-up. A few aconites are at last appearing. I hope the total will continue to increase. It's too soon to tell yet, though last year the colonies were beginning to look good.
  Here are some snowdrops just coming through the ground a week ago. There's been movement since then, despite a further fall of snow and some bitter cold before the present thaw. Lorna's photo. My favourites the scented doubles are coming up too, with their thicker buds, in quite well-established looking groups.
The Plant Profiles in Judy's Snowdrops site are a good way to look at named varieties, but it is quite hard work as you have to link separately to each flower. My friend Emma Thick has a snowdrop named after her and she is hoping to send me a bulb, which I'll grow in a tub to keep careful control of its progress.  I'm also hoping to take in Cambo House this March, where Lady Catherine Fraser grows astonishing winter flowers, and also StAnza to see our Itinerant Poetry Librarian again, but we have an unmissable date around then, viz Robin and Rachel's wedding. Well, there'll be plenty of snowdrops and other flowers by then. [February 7th]

 

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 TEN YEARS: an album of garden photos and two horrendous BEFORE pictures are on facebook at http://bit.ly/c6qBJR: on our arrival ten years ago the garden space we were taking on looked like this. All the pics in the album have appeared in this website.

 

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Above: my bees (2009)/ below, Pascale's bees.


Pascale Petit had a natural bee colony in her garden (group below)  and they swarmed, (group above), but flew off in a beeline before the beekeeper she called in could fetch his smoker. A pity they didnt just take the swarm in a box:  bees in a swarm cluster do not sting. Thanks to Pascale for this beautiful photo, and hopes for a Pascale bee poem, eventually.

 

Wintering the Bees (2009 autumn)

Since the misty and romantic weather of the Poetry Weekend we have had two weeks of crisp sunny autumn weather, and the bees have been very active. There has been precious little weather like this all summer for us or them! I put winter feed of candy and syrup in a top super, so the hive is rather high at the moment -I will reduce it to the proportions above in Spring. The hive is a vital part of the garden, I can hardly remember the garden without it. You do need to be settled for bees, and this may be my first time really settled, when I come to think of it. We were a long time at Wisp Green but being there all happened by accident really. And I cant really imagine our Wisp Green neighbours being all that laid back about bees, even allowing for the changing times. The small beepond with its now beautiful autumn colouring is the division between bee territory and people's territory.
Vanessa butterflies too have appeared late, and there is a late brood of tadpoles just become frogs. Apparently the mountain frogs sometimes have a late brood.

Late Summer Gardening

As the summer draws on and the evenings become a little darker and cooler, I look round wondering what will still be in bloom for the Poetry Weekend. The Japanese anemones are always past their best (they are brilliant now) but the Globe Thistles are early, they are well into flower and will be stalks in another month, whereas they have been splendid at several of the poetry weekends. Also the Macleya which is usually an architectural feature, had to be re-started from root divisions this year and is not at all showy. But there is a riot of nasturtiums (the obligatory collective noun) which will probably last another month.

 

A question I'd like answered this year is: where are the Vanessa butterflies? That is, the red/back ones. There are loads of whites, and an occasional peacock, but where are the tortoiseshells? Not on the buddleias where they usually sun themselves. They cant all have wakened at the wrong time of year like Maureen Almond's small tortoiseshell.

The beehives are a new feature and the ponds are fine, but the twisty "corkscrew" willow has taken a scunner to itself and I may even move it this month before the Weekend. Apple trees will be pretty. The Gazebo was new last year and has now been clothed with a number of plants, including very straggly sweet peas, runner beans and some slower growing stuff. Along the path the tobacco flowers have been good and may last. The big tubs need some replanting with whatever is around.

The patio needs clearing of stray bonsai trees,  cobbles, plant pots and so on, while the grass and edgings need serious attention. It has been a more chaotic summer than ever, thanks to all the fun of Robin's family and the Fringe play, and a more expensive one than usual for related reasons. Oh and because of the bees.

We have noticed so many bumble bees this year, several kinds, massed on the teazles and globe thistles, and on bee flowers in general, and they have also shown some interest in the beehive. We've even seen one or two bumble bees enter the beehive though they were not inside for more than a very short time. The honey bees on the other hand go off to taller trees, unless it is rainy looking when they will go for nearby flowers. They liked the amelanchier in spring and caused it to berry profusely, which in turn led to blackbirds and thrushes camping out to eat the berries. Bees also liked the marsh marigolds early on, but perhaps there was not so much else available then.

The question is whether they will find the heather at the top of the crags, about half a mile away. Beekeepers say they will find it. So I need to check their honey supers soon, and manage a few more fine days in Callander instead of gallivanting off to the Edinburgh Fringe that we came to Callander to retire from.

However, my attention will soon be firmly centred on planning the details of the Poetry Weekend (4th to 6th September).  [8 August]


Bees settle

The garden has opened out for the summer - all the flowers that were not quite ready when Paul and Sandi came - the tulips and grape hyacinths, magnolias and josephs coat, camelias, bugloss and bluebells, and the leaves coming out on the trees. The beehive has become an important part of the garden. Seats are ranged round where you can watch it.

Expensive too in the setting up. We went to the beekeepers suppliers in Newburgh, Fife, and had a great time looking at the kit, and buying what we thought we needed. I've ordered a second hive and a honey spinner -- an expensive item needed to get the honey out of the frames. And you should see me in my bee suit (you probably will, one day). If I have twenty five jars of honey this autumn we reckon they will have cost £24 each, but they'll get cheaper in future years of course, and produce more honey.

I've inspected the hive twice, once briefly on my own and once with my bee 'mentor' John Coyle, the guy who brought the bees in the landrover. This time I saw the queen, which was very exciting indeed. She is almost twice the length of the other bees. John carefully marked the queen with a dab on the thorax with a special white marker, as there are times when you need to find her to manage the hive. Some of the beekeepers also clip one wing of the queen so she canot fly high (not until after her mating flight) but now I have seen the queen I do not want to clip her. You can use other methods to control swarming, I understand. Like trapping the queen in a hair curler and hanging it on a bush, so I have heard.

I have also been on a visit to the Stirling University beehives when we inspected the hives, and to the beekeepers dinner (described in one of my April daily poems, see left.) And I have spent endless happy moments watching the bees coming and going from their hive on sunny days.  Today it has been wet and they hardly came out at all.

John Coyle says I have a moderate colony not too big which is best for a beginner,  and they will increase over the summer especially if we have good weather. He was rewarded for his time and patience with a walnut tree, the last one I had in a pot to spare. (I'm saving the very last to plant a second tree in the garden.) But he would have done it for the bees - any of these beekeeper guys would. That's what's so great about them. [26 April]


Real bees arrive

Almost exactly a year after the arrival of my book The Bees, our first real bees arrived in the garden. I feel like a kiddy with a birthday present or rather a puppy, and the hive is sitting in the garden like it's always been there. it's in the far corner of the picture above. I've been preparing the site for it for weeks. The door faces south east and will send the bees out parallel with the back wall.

I was up bright and early for a morning delivery, wearing boots, boiler suit and ready with marigold gloves. I was excited and almost impatient during what turned into a three hour wait.  The haar gave way to light rain, as it had given way to sunshine yesterday.  The misty day might make moving the hives harder, I thought, but apparently not.  It made the bees more docile.

At twelve thirty John Coyle arrived with spick and span  landrover and large
trailer, selected a hive from the half dozen inside the trailer and wheeled it down the drive.  Could anyone in Callander not know I was getting bees?


We crossed the small pond using a paving board, and set up the hive on the stand.  An ideal situation, was John's verdict. Ivy for winter feeding... he was impressed.  This was very reassuring as I hadnt been sure if the space allocated for their runway was big enough.  Then John put his bee hood on, ordered me out of the way, replaced the honey super which lay nonchalantly on top, full of honeycomb, changed the travelling lid for a proper lid and opened the entrance. 

One or two lazy looking bees popped out and looped back in, and that was it. I fetched Ian to say hello to John, and we chatted a little. Leave it completely alone for a fortnight, said John, and in a couple of weeks one of us will come and go through the hive with you, and see what needs doing in the spring inspection.

So now we are all, cats included, watching the new addition to our garden, with fascination.  It's what's known as a Smiths hive, not too large or heavy and looking rather  like a few old wooden lemonade boxes. The haar is clearing and maybe a few bees will come out for a look round. I hope it 's a dry day tomorrow. I'll be getting a second hive fairly soon, but nothing can beat the arrival of the first bees, even if it all sounds somewhat ordinary in the explanation.

One thing of interest is how much it has lifted the garden: a beehive or two in the corner really does add to a garden, and the preparatory clearing did a lot to improve the general planting schemes.


The Shadow of the Gardener
We bought a lot  of flower seeds - which added up to quite an expense - memories of 6d and 3d seed packets wont go away, will they? so all have to be put in, when the weather is a little more reliable. I have started off sweet peas in pots.

Meanwhile the bee planning continues. The first plan was scrapped when I realised the bees need a private runway from their front doors - they dont like disturbance directly in front of their hives.


So that meant moving a whole clump of bushes forward two feet further away from the back wall, giving a six to eight foot wide runway. Having done that with great success in good earth, I decided to move the walnut tree forward as well. It is about ten years old & has only been out of its pot for two winters, and the operation went fine. I am a bit concerned about wind rock in this wild weather but will check it again tomorrow.

The walnut tree is intended for the most important tree in the garden. There is another in a  pot, and having experienced the group of walnuts in the Douglas Garden at the Castle, I've decided to add the second one, and this was taken into account while shifting the position of the first.

The part of the garden I havent finished adapting is where I will have access to the beehives. Bushes will block the beehives for privacy for them, and  to enable you to look at the garden ponds, but the line-ups are quite complex.  There's a seat to move, and I'm not sure where to place it. There are perennials such as lupins and larkspur that can still be moved about for a week or two, and the various things I have already dug up, such as fennel, I'll have to replant. I'll need some work space too, and that's where the corner is looking a bit bare at the moment, inevitably.

After I was worn out with digging and tugging at trees, I walked round thinking what else had to be done. I thought like a bee and I thought like a human using the garden, and I began to see answers. That's how "the shadow of the gardener" is important in making a garden work.


Tree Bashing
largely but not only to accommodate two beehives, National style like these. Mine will have bonsai trees instead of stones on top to weigh them down.
.....

It's amazing how much a garden may need changing within ten years. Quite apart from preparing a place for the bee hives and space to work with them, I have moved  several more small trees in what can turn into a chain reaction - this one to that site, that one to another site.  The St Johns Wort bush, one of the few plants which was here when we came, has finally become too leggy, and another viburnum has pegged out, perhaps due to the activity of cats beneath it (what a stink when I cut it down.) I removed some dead rock-roses. The wintersweet is getting moved to an even warmer site in a last attempt to persuade it flower (it had three flowers last year and none this year). Two small standard pink hawthorns, a dusty pink and a r
ed, need to go to make room for the bee hives, and it is a problem where to put them - but I have to have these trees. I need em. I had intended to cut down a cotoneaster but it is on the list of plants bees like, so it must stay.


It's perhaps a pity I am not feeling particularly angry about anything just now, because all this tree bashing would be good therapy.  But I think being angry is  bad for ones health anyway.

All in all the garden is looking a little different, but cleaner. In my first years here I used to sketch garden plans the whole time, then the ground became too complex, three-D, route-crossed and function-loaded, so I stopped. I now feel the need again for a bit of paper planning, but it's hard to know where to start. I have a good list of bee plants but it would bore you, wouldnt it.
[21 Feb]

 

 

Aconite chart         

The flowers come up first, in January and then throughout February. Leaves follow in much stronger numbers and are there for the rest of the spring. Seeds set and a few of them add to the colonies in time.

January 27th: Lots more clumps. I have enough to stop counting, and am satisfied I now have viable colony. Some were under leaves I cleared, some were just coming up a bit later. A colony of flowers always sends out scouts, early ones to make sure some of them survive if there is a change in weather etc.
I have had quite a fierce discussion on facebook with people who say aconites are poisonous. Of course aconitums are very poisonous, but this is eranthis, a midwinter buttercup, and while they have some poisonous properties and are certainly not edible, I handled them regularly & in quantity for years as a child, with no ill effects, and have never seen so much as a dead slug or sparrow around them. This may however explain their rare occurrence in gardens.

January 20th: Fifteen flowers, as follows: two by the frog pond. Three under the pieris near the gate.  One under the plum tree. Six and two in clumps near the gazebo.  One under the long hedge.

 

 

They have been showing up fast in the last couple of days so I think there will be more  in the next few days.
The snowdrops are doing well too - in plentiful supply.
Signs of some spring bulb irises which will be a little later. Not much doing with hellebores.
I dont think there are many slugs about.
I wish I had cut the grass shorter at the end of the autumn, especially at the far end. It is too long to see things the minute they appear.

Hibernating Vanessa: Small Tortoiseshell


 
Red Admiral: another well known Vanessa
These lovely photos are for Maureen Almond

  Red Admiral courtesy www.wallwork.me.uk

 Goldfish and Holly Trees: December

It has been extremely wet, and around the solstice, really dark - only properly light between nine and three. There was frost and thick ice last week, and we could see the fish under the ice, so we melted some of the ice and broke pieces off, to give the fish some oxygenating surface. Since then it has rained a lot and the ponds look healthy. The lady whose goldfish we took over last year, called in at the shop. It's the first time we've met her. I took her out to the pond and luckily a white and a red goldfish swam around visible. the white one must be one of hers but I've no idea about the red - we've brought in a few more.

I moved two smallish holly trees, both nice shapes and about six feet tall, because they were too near the growing walnut and I wanted some space to get to the back wall so I can improve that area next year. There is a wintersweet that had three flowers last year, and I think it needs more sun rather than shelter from hollies in front of it. Both hollies had to be whisked into new sites, enabling a chain reaction of adjustments and re-planting of other plants to keep the borders looking good. Eight years into the garden - nine in fact this coming spring - and changes need to be made.

Not much of a story I know but you've no idea how much saner it makes me feel, having some real winter plants to write about, at this turning time of the winter which I have often found slightly depressing and troubling. It rained all day after I moved the hollies, which was great for the hollies. But people, we could have done without it.

 

No sign of any spring bulbs yet (except where I dug holes for the trees of course) but I have re-started the Aconites facebook group to try to find the first appearances of these sweet midwinter flowers. [21 December 2008]


Gardening: Deer Tick Bites

I walk in woods regularly in an area where there are many ticks, but was not warned of this on arrival to the area. I found out when I began to notice, now and again, small black dots on my legs, which were attached ticks, and pulled them out with tweezers. Then I met someone whose health had been seriously damaged by a tick bite.

I started being more careful with protective clothing in forest areas, but eventually  began to suspect I might sometimes be getting bitten in my own large garden, especially up the wooded, shrubby end of it.  (Needless to say I am in the garden a great deal of the time.)

Then last week I had a severe skin reaction on the back of my calf, where I would not have seen a tick. It was difficult to see the inflamed area properly, even with a mirror. I then looked up deer ticks and lyme disease on the internet and the appearance of my skin reaction was very like a picture on emedicine site. I used anti-histamine cream, as the website suggested, and after the weekend, I went to the doctor, who diagnosed from my description and because of high risk area and activities. To my surprise, the doctor also used her computer to check the diagnosis and came up with the very picture on the site I had found myself. I was prescribed antibiotics as I expected.

If I had not known about ticks and lyme disease, I would probably not have gone to the doctor, as I would have waited for the condition to correct itself. Also, I would not have gone to doctor if I could have bought the antibiotics at a chemist, since I knew what the problem was.

Nobody should be scared away from the countryside by the presence of ticks. Not all the ticks carry the "poison" of this infection, but it is not known what proportion do.  They are part of the life system of the trees and woods, along with plants, frogs, toads, animals - no way of eradicating them from a piece of land.

So yes, ladies, you should wear trousers, sock and shoes when walking or gardening, or even roaming in bushy parts of a garden. I am not a great liker of trousers myself, in fact I may be the only woman in Scotland who does not possess a pair, but I am happy enough in boilersuits or bee suits when working outside. And after this incident, I'll be more particular about myself and my guests when dressing for the woods.   [October]
November: Pleased to report we seem to be out of the woods (an unsuitable term perhaps): I appear to be recovered, thanks to the early self diagnosis!

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