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Byline: Lynne Allbutt

Home and dry IT has been one of the toughest weeks to be working outdoors this winter; not only have we all been wetter than an otter's pocket but the cold snap has taken us to new lows.

As always, appropriate clothing is a big point of discussion.

It is really difficult to find coats that are actually fully waterproof and still allow you to move easily; my Muck Boots have been brilliant until now but even they've started to perish along one side.

As for gloves, I have spent a small fortune trying to find warm and waterproof ones that will cope with heavy gardening chores. But I haven't had much luck.

I suppose 'extreme gardening' is only something undertaken if you make your living from it.

So although we are in an age where you can book a ticket to travel into space and are on the verge of having deliveries made by drones, I have still resorted to wearing flock-lined washing up gloves under my gardening gloves and having plastic bags on inside my wellies! All tricks my grandmother taught me.

I leaf you THERE has been no escaping the familiar heart symbol this week but I wonder how many of you have noticed it in nature, albeit more subtle than the plump red ones we see on advertising literature.

Known as cordiform (heart-shaped leaves), examples can be seen in ivies, hostas, lime trees, birch and even many individual flower petals, from roses to buttercups.

It is still not known how this heart shape came to represent love and affection but one theory suggests that during the 7th century BC, the silphium plant (now thought to be extinct) was used as a form of birth control in the city state of Cyrene.

Legend has it that the plant was so important to the local economy that coins were minted that depicted the plant's seedpod, which looks like the heart shape we know today.

Whatever the reason, you've just got to love Nature!

Mature ?ower buds I HAVE heard that our tastebuds 'mature' as we get older allowing us to appreciate a wider variety of foods. I think it's the same with plants.

I have grown to value the efforts of plants that I used to reject as a young gardener.

Bergenias are a classic example.

Bergenia codifolia (heart-shaped leaves remember) is also known as Elephant's Ears and Pig Squeak, the latter because when you rub two leaves together, they squeak!

They are useful evergreen ground cover plants which are easy going and don't need much attention; they often look a little jaded at this time of year with a thatch of dead leaves hiding their blooming beauty.

Have a little rummage under the dead leaves and larger live ones and you will often discover the most beautiful cheerful pink flowers hiding beneath.

It is well worth removing the leaves that are hiding these little gems in order to enjoy the early spring blooms.

Tribal wisdom EVERY wet and windy day reminds me of the saying, "God gives us rain so gardeners can get their housework done."

I just want to assure Her that even I have rescued 'Henry' from the cupboard under the stairs and vacuumed.

I'm sure all gardeners are now up to date with the dusting and want to get digging.

But I must admit I have also enjoyed taking advantage of washed out weekends and sporadic power cuts to re-read a few of my favourite books, and often by candle light when necessary.

My current favourite is Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.

It's a deliciously inspiring book and you don't have to be a runner to appreciate the wisdom and experiences he shares after spending time with the Tarahumara Tribe (known as the Running People ) in Mexico.

I have several friends who get out of breath running a bath, let alone a marathon, but they still enjoyed it.

I highly recommend it.

Henry the vacuum cleaner @LynneAllbutt Please bee OK THIS time last year I remember watching my bees collecting pollen from the snowdrops in my garden and taking great delight in them reverse out of the hanging blooms with the orange pollen stuck to their little hairy legs.

Whilst I am still enjoying the snowdrops this year, my bees aren't - it's too wet and far too windy and they're not flying.

I am down to only one hive now and that is weak.

I am feeding with ambrosia (a mixture of sucrose, glucose, and fructose) but they are not feeding well.

I worried about them last year and the year before that (and probably the year before that too) but they pulled through.

It seems they survived the cold winters but I'm not sure they will survive this wet one.

Other, and far more experienced, bee keepers have told similar tales but it is never any consolation.

Once, when I was giving a talk, a member of an audience said that I spoke about my bees as though they were pets!

My bees will always be wild but it doesn't detract from the respect I have for them and the responsibility I feel for their wellbeing.

Canine coats YOGI, my terrier, often comes to work with me no matter what the weather and has even more problems with her 'work wear'.

She'd often be quite cold but one of my brother's clients has recently come up with a perfect solution.

The Furminator Fur Dry is a microfiber towelling coat that wicks away the moisture from your dog's coat.

It's also great for drying dogs after a bath as well as a wet walk and is half priced now at PS8.50 from Muddy Paws (

They also do a fabulous sort of cross between a towel and a cape called the Trover Bone Dry Coat which is PS32.99.

See the website or call 0845 3629663 for details

My bees will always be wild but it doesn't detract from the respect I have for them and the responsibility I feel for their wellbeing
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Feb 15, 2014
Previous Article:GAIR I GALL.

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