Saturday, 28 June 2014

Just another week in my little world …


a perching pheasant

Sometimes, the only way I can remember what I have been doing all week, is through the pictures I have taken.  The weather up until Friday was perfect, but it started raining in the night … I heard it tapping on the window whilst in that half-sleep before dawn.  The morning brought grey skies and mist lying across the fields … the flower heads drooping with the weight of the rain.  It was desperately needed … I can’t remember when it last rained … I have done my best with the hose trying to keep everything alive but a good, steady rain makes all the difference.


I have been gathering soft fruit every day … whenever I ventured to the top of the garden young blackbirds would fly out of the bushes … they have been feasting … but there is enough to go round and I don’t begrudge them a few tasty morsels.  Foolishly I planted the Loganberries right next to the bird table, the birds are treating them like a convenience store, visiting the bird table and having fruit for dessert … thank you gardening lady … very generous of you!


It has also been the time for emptying the freezer of the leftover fruit from last year … I will be turning it all into jams and jellies … making way for this years harvests.  I prefer to eat the fruits as I go along … but even I can’t make use of all of it straight away.

rhubarb and sweet peas

The last of the Rhubarb has been pulled … I stick to the old premise that you should leave the remaining sticks on the plant when July arrives … this gives the plant time to restore and replenish for next year … I don’t know whether this is just an old wives tale but I do it anyway … by this time I am a little tired of rhubarb anyway.  The last few sticks have been cooked … cut up, covered with sugar and a little water, brought to the boil then taken off the heat … it continues cooking in the residual heat but doesn’t go mushy … the slightly tart/sweet fruit will be consumed eagerly with vanilla ice cream … nothing else … for me, best eaten simply.

red fruits defrosting

I always regard July and August as quiet months in the garden, nothing much to do except keep everything alive, the odd spot of weeding and deadheading.  All the plant buying has been done … if I haven’t got it now it will have to wait till next year.  At the beginning of the gardening year I thought it would be an interesting exercise to keep a record of just how much I spend on the garden. Have you ever seriously considered how much you spend on your hobbies/pastimes every year? 


I started keeping a tally in a notebook – after two months – March and April – I stopped.  It was just too frightening.  I always thought that I gardened on a tight budget – I was wrong.  Every time I visited a garden centre or nursery I came away with an armful of plants – a few packets of seeds – a weekly bag of potting compost – it soon adds up.  Boy how it adds up.


Personally I think garden centres and nurseries should be banned for they are the cause of it all.  Seed and plant catalogues, garden magazines ought to be put on a black list as floral pornography – kept in the back room of the shops and only handed out when the addiction is too strong to ignore and you need a quick floral fix.

lysimachia - rose of sharon - argyranthemum

I shudder to think just how much I have handed over the counter for instant gardening pleasure over the years.  And the worst of it is that most plants will only last for one season, even if they are called perennial, they disappear over winter, never to return.

arthur bell rose

So if you want my advice, and to  avoid having a heart attack – don’t keep a record of your garden outgoings. Enjoy your indulgences – make your garden look beautiful without a backward glance at the cost – it’s the only way.

clematis - justa and comtesse du bouchard

So that’s two months of  no more spending – saving the pennies for the bulb-buying spree in September and October.

clematis - comtesse du bouchard

My latest news has me so excited -  on Monday I am going with a friend to Highgrove here , Prince Charles’ garden.  You have to book ahead and numbers are limited, you have to take identification with you, and no cameras or phones are allowed – which is a bit of a ‘downer’ – I just hope it lives up to expectations!  I’ll let you know.

hanging basket

‘Til next time – I give you a ‘royal wave’ and just hope the weather is fine (some hope – it’s pouring down at the moment).

Sunday, 22 June 2014

the week in pictures … from sunsets to sunshine-filled days

I love the quietude of misty dawn before the sober sun is up … The morning songs of the birds awakening in the blooming garden sets my soul gently … Aroma flowers with glistering of the dew … Deep full chest breath …Shy sunbeams flickering over the tops of wisdom whispering choir of waving trees … Serenity of mind … The crystal still lagoon reflecting soft lavender sailing clouds … I step in breeze realm, close eyes and fly with them over the miles, time and space … The serenading music fills my heart … Above the skies the joy of the refreshing winds, as our summer, recalls my being by your side and makes me feel the touch of you and gladness of your tranquil vibes… I smile” (Oksana Rus)


I hope the weather has been as lovely where you are as it has been here.  I have spent most of the days outdoors pottering around the garden … harvesting the first of the summer crops … picking flowers for posies and generally, enjoying, and making the most of outdoor life.


“Here are sweet-peas, on tip-toe for a flight … With wings of gentle flush o’er delicate white … And taper fingers catching at all things … To bind them all about with tiny rings” (Keats)


“Who would envy a sweet pea?  By rights they should reign over the choicest spot in the garden – looking and smelling as ravishing as they do – whereas more often than not you track them down to a row by the cabbage patch where they languish in regimental splendour ready for cutting.  Though I think them lovely as cut flowers, my enthusiasm for sweet peas in the garden is boundless.  I grow them up everything – the climbing roses, the apple trees.”  (Felicity Bryan)

The beginning of the Sweet Pea season, picking every day as they produce more and more flower heads.  I found some packets of ‘saved’ seed that I had forgotten … sowed them all, not expecting any results as I wasn’t sure how old they were … and guess what … they all grew … now I have five wigwams full of growing plants which hopefully will keep producing right through to the autumn.  They have to be one of my favourite flowers … so simple, such delicate colours and all with that elusive fragrance.

First harvest - Foremost potatoes

The first of the new potatoes ‘Foremost’ tipped from the florist bucket where they were grown … one potato in each bucket produces enough for a couple of meals … and delicious they were too.

First harvest

Eaten together with the sugar snap peas and the first heads of the summer broccoli, lightly steamed … so mouth-wateringly tender.


So much in flower in the garden … it is hard to know what to pick for a posy … geranium, sweet william, ladies mantle … all in abundance.

philadelphus - mock orange (belle etoile)

The garden is full of fragrant flowers – including the beautiful Mock Orange (Belle Etoile) and my new rose Arthur Bell

Rose - Arthur Bell

and how could I leave out the Lavender which is flowering profusely in the front garden


ladies fair, I bring to you lavender with spikes of blue; sweeter plant was never found growing on our English ground (Caryl Battersby) 

lavender - hidcote

"lavender, sweet lavender;
come and buy my lavender,
hide it in your trousseau, lady fair.
Let its lovely fragrance flow
Over your from head to toe,
lightening on your eyes, your cheek, your hair."

Cumberkand Clark Flower Song Book 1929


The blue tit nest box has been cleaned out – sadly there were three mummified chicks in it but happily the tits did manage to rear a couple of youngsters who have been hopping merrily here and there waiting for titbits from their mom.

blue tit nest

You can see clearly what the nest was made of - with a lining  of soft green moss – and from the look of it, mainly the coir from my hanging baskets.

crow flying low over a field of flax

An early morning walk capturing the moment a crow flies low over a stunning field of Flax.


An inquisitive calf comes to investigate the car as we stop to take his photo – this is a suckler herd – where the calves are left with their mothers to roam free across the Gumley Hills not far from where we live.


I sit on the terrace in the afternoon sun ...pretending to read … watching the bees lazily exploring the foxgloves ... trumpet after trumpet. The chatter of sparrows as they visit the pond daintily sipping ... thirsty in the heat. The nuisance crow lands with a click of his claws on the greenhouse roof - his viewing point ... eyeing the bird table for leftover seed cases – he calls … ‘cark, cark’.


A ‘ plop’ as a fish leaps to catch a fly and lands clumsily back into the water.  A starling sits on the very top branch of the willow tree - preening and making a 'ree, ree, ree' sound. The swifts twist and turn high in the sky - two, three, four of them - an aerial ballet. Two pigeons clap their wings that make a whistling sound as they fly - chasing one another. An ant scuttles over my foot, hurry, hurry, scurry - then disappears  down a crack only to reappear just as quickly. A butterfly lands on the window sill - stretches its wings - soaking up the sun's warming rays - flick, flick - and it is gone.


A little breeze picks up and flower petals flutter.

I hear a creak as my neighbours shift in the sun chairs, chattering on about their day - though not loud enough for me to hear the conversation. Overhead a bi-plane drones and I hear the whine and clatter of the refuse collectors lorry and the clink of bottles put out for re-cycling.

So much going on … so much to listen to … so much to see … if only we have ears and eyes for the sights and sounds of nature.


‘Til next time -  enjoy everything that is going on around you.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

a riot of colour and a bit of cheating …


Anyone who has been following me for any length of time knows that I love a lot of colour in the garden – sometimes I long for a green and tranquil space with just a few well-chosen white flowers maybe or pale lemon and blue – but then I can’t seem to curb my natural instinct for the bright and gaudy.  It seems that colour-clashing means nothing to me – if I see a plant I like I plant it  regardless of whether it ‘goes’ or not.  As you may gather, mine is not a sophisticated garden – a bit like me really.

Although everything is not quite in bloom yet if I show you some pictures you will get the general idea.







See what I mean – hardly subtle is it – I like to think of it as glorious abundance – or maybe, breaking the rules, or daring to be different.

I do like hot colours – something which is apparent as I look at the pictures – I hadn’t realised I had such a penchant for magenta / fuschia colours – but this isn’t surprising really as these colours feature a lot in my wardrobe too.

I mean, for heavens sake, who puts carmine and bright yellow together, or bright orange and pale pink – it seems I do.





So, the motto is, never come to me for advice on colour combinations – or your garden could end up looking a bit riotous – like mine.

Now for the cheaty bit – I don’t know whether I have told you about this before – but I think it is a really good tip that I have been practising  myself for a number of years.  If you have a flower border that is looking a bit dull, and needs a good hit of colour – well, the answer is CHEAT.  Yes I know this goes against the grain for most of us – but this is good cheating.  Have a number of plants in black pots waiting for a space to come along then plunge them into the border and you have instant colour.  The black pots are camouflaged by the leaves of the surrounding plants and it really brightens up a dull border, see for yourself.


This was my aquilegia border, after the plants had gone over – dull, dull, dull.  So I plunged in two fuschia coloured pelargoniums, a pink dahlia and a white pelargonium – ok you can see the lily pot because that’s terracotta, and it wants a bit of fine tuning, but doesn’t it make a difference.  So feel free to cheat – you have my permission!

‘Til next time – happy cheating!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

a woman of the soil … the veg garden in June

Before we went on holiday  I was a bit anxious that all the newly planted veg would be devoured by slugs and snails without my daily vigilance  … we have had far more snails this year … they tend to hide at the back of the containers in the shade … I must have despatched dozens into the back field … but they always seem to find their way back into the garden.


I was genuinely surprised that none of the lettuce had been got at … although I did go round with organic slug pellets before we left just to make sure.  The next picture shows my salad bar behind the container potatoes and broad beans – again, I ran out of room to plant them in the ground.  It will take me a while to get used to not having as much space as I used to – and maybe I will learn a few lessons this year to put into practice next year.


We have quite a few pigeons and doves visiting the bird feeders and this year they seem to have taken a liking to my brassicas – no sooner than they were planted they were eaten down to a stump … I have run out of spare plants to replace them with now … luckily one bed with more mature plants are still doing okay … but my attempt at a mixed flower/veg bed has been a bit of a disaster.  I mixed some new booster type material into the planting hole which seems to have burned the roots, so everything is now looking a little pathetic and will have to be re-planted with something else.  Oh well … not everything goes to plan.


One of the raised beds has had its protective cover removed now that the veg has established itself and contains parsnips, carrots, potatoes, beetroot and chard … just a little of each … and I am quite pleased with the results.

The next bed contains peas, courgettes and lettuce … and is doing well … all looking healthy.


The runner beans are being grown in containers as I didn’t have any room left to grow them in the ground … they are starting to climb nicely … although the snails have taken a fancy to them … but the damage is only minimal so far.


I have used an old water tank to grow my outdoor tomatoes in – a bit of re-cycling has put it to good use.


And finally, I have masses of blueberries and gooseberries on the bushes – the blueberries have a way to go yet before they are ripe … and I like to leave the gooseberries until they go soft and sweeten up a bit.  Most of my miniature pears fruitlets have dropped off, there are only half a dozen left now … but I do have plums this year after having none for the last two years, so that is a bonus … plus, the outdoor strawberries are doing well but a long way to go before they ripen.




It is a joy to see everything doing so well … and the anticipation of future harvests is one of life’s gardening pleasures.


Oh I nearly forgot the cucumbers and tomatoes


They are growing like wildfire, I seem to be tying them in every five minutes they are growing so fast – I have plenty of flowers but no fruits forming yet (actually that’s not true, I have just spotted a baby tomato in the centre of the picture – yay!) – mind you I still have some of last years’ tomatoes in the freezer, but nothing tastes the same as a fresh from the vine cherry tomato – can’t wait.

And to finish – a picture of my container grown peas – they have done so well this year.


‘Til next time – happy veg growing.