Great Presents, Unusual Plants and Rescued Pets

Taken from Lynne’s weekly column ‘Ask Lynne’ for the Western Mail. 27th February 2016

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You have given some lovely ideas for presents for all sorts of occasions in this column – do you have any for Mother’s Day please?  My mother is elderly, lives alone and still loves her garden although she struggles to do much of the work now!  Anything we think of she seems to have or not need!   Thank you.

One of my favourite present ideas for the person who has everything is a birdbath. It sounds a bit random but it provides so much year-round pleasure if sited so you can watch the birds out of a window or patio door.

birdbathAlso as you have told me that your Mum is struggling with gardening chores, maybe buy her a gardener for a day or two – or even a few hours a month.  Or pay someone to cut the grass for her through the summer.  There are lots of unconventional gifts to give that are helpful and far more beneficial than flowers or another jumper!

And if she feeds the birds, then maybe even a year’s supply of bird food (or even a bag) would be appreciated – by her and the birds.

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I overheard someone at the garden centre talking about plants that grow two different vegetables on them.  I’m not quite sure what they meant, or if I heard correctly, and wasn’t brave enough to ask but as I’ve only got a small back yard and like to grow vegetables in pots I wondered if it would be suitable?

egg_and_chipsYou can believe your ears, as there are indeed now plants available which will produce two varieties of veg from one plant.  They are known as dual cropping vegetable plants and one plant is grafted onto another to produce two different crops.   Thompson & Morgan launched the ‘Tomtato’ last year which was a tomato plant grafted onto a heavy cropping potato plant and this year they have produced another world first by hand grafting an aubergine (egg plant) onto a heavy cropping potato plant to produce what they call ‘Egg and Chips’.  Both plants are suitable for growing in the ground or in tubs so would be perfect for a small back yard.  There is no genetic modification and the plants come with easy-to-grow planting and aftercare instructions.

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We keep a pet rabbit in our garden for my granddaughter when she comes to stay.  It has been in a hutch and a run since we had it but my wife recently saw something on YouTube about a pet rabbit being a ‘house rabbit’ and allowed to have the run of the house and the garden.  Is that really feasible? We like the idea of the rabbit having a bit more freedom and our garden is small and secure.  What other factors would we have to consider?

RabbitI had a pet rabbit for years which I rescued from an Animal Sanctuary and which had the run of the house and garden.  She would come and go through the dog flap in the back door and  actually used to wander up the lane to my neighbour for a piece of toast every morning too!  It can work wonderfully but they are things to consider as you quite rightly ask.

The first thing has to be the safety of the animal so ideally the garden needs to be secure so no stray dogs can get in or the rabbit can escape although as I say, mine wandered a little quite happily – and safely – for years.  There is also the possibility that they could contract one of the two awful rabbit diseases RHD (Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease and myxomatosis, although you can vaccinate against both and should do so even if they are caged as they can still contract both diseases through insects as well as rabbit-to-rabbit contact.

From a gardener’s point of view you might also be a bit limited to what you can grow in your garden, having to avoid any delicacies for bunnies!  They can annihilate the new shoots on perennials, for example.  People were always amazed that I let my chickens, the rabbit and a tortoise have the run of the garden but to be honest they did very little damage and the pleasure of seeing them mill about was far greater than any of the disadvantages.

With regard to being in the house, then house training is possible but time-consuming and therefore my rabbit was limited to the kitchen and conservatory which had tiled floors and were easy to clean!

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