purchasesIn Germany, the gardening season starts in earnest once the Ice Saints and Cold Sophie have been and gone. In my mind, the Eisheiligen conjures up an image of three stern bearded biblical gentlemen, followed by an ice queen with elements borrowed from Narnia and the Moomins, frost in her wake.

In actual fact, all it is, is three days mid-May when the weather is often a little cooler and there’s a risk of night frost. This year it was cool and windy, but by the time Kallte Sophie swung by, it was practically balmy. The balcony is ready for summer!

pots galoreVegetable-wise, there are spring onions, radishes, mange-tout, rocket, lettuce and two kinds of tomato plants. From Sweden, Iʼve received a chili seedling and another tomato variety; they survived the trip and seem to be doing well. In the kitchen herb garden window boxes, Iʼve sown thyme, oregano, tarragon and dill. In pots, there’s peppermint, perennial chives, last year’s parsley going to seed in the foreground and a new sowing currently busy – as legend has it – travelling back and forth to hell.

As for flowering plants, I bought a few pink Bavarian-style ivy pelargoniums, and a red, upright variety – all crammed in the central balcony box above. For instant colour and oomph, you can’t beat a bit of garden centre magic. The more delicate heirloom and hibernated pelargoniums dotted around the balcony are yet to produce flowers, but the ones that spent the winter outside have been much quicker to set buds. Iʼve also received a black eyed Susan as a gift, and Iʼm hoping to train it up the drain pipe together with the hyacinth beans I sowed back in February and a new sowing of nasturtiums, if these take off.


My clematis loves the bigger pot and has rewarded me with five  early flowers. There are dahlias hiding in one pot, and another one where sweet peas are just starting to peek up. In the mini green house Iʼve sown a pair of holiday souvenir frangipani seeds; a perilous long term project – if they germinate at all, that is. Another early contender for this yearʼs failure is the tray of extremely slow growing lobelias.

Despite the lack of space, I thought it was best to give the cat his own safe vantage point, in the form of a left over decking tile on the shelf. Here he is, making sure the environment smells just right.