Friday, 30 January 2015

Dreaming of Summer in the Middle of Winter …

 

As I sit down to write this post the wind is howling around the house, hail is hitting the windows with force, the sky in gunmetal grey, and we are due to go to a funeral in an hours time.  Not the best of days.  So I thought I would look back on sunnier times when the garden is at  its best.  I captioned these photos ‘A Warm Thursday in July’  and they give a fair indication of what the garden looks like at any given time during the summer.

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How would I describe the Rosebank garden? 

Nothing too fancy, a country garden  - full of flowers, shrubs and home-grown veg - somewhere that is not too organised  - some might say, a bit of a jumble.  It has a table and chairs on the patio for when I fancy eating or reading out of doors – a pond for the fish and one for wildlife -  and a bench at the top of the garden for catching the last rays of the afternoon sun - sitting and taking in the colour and fragrance of my surroundings with a view of the open countryside beyond.  It isn't a sophisticated garden – it has just evolved -   but looks as though it should be there.

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It is a medium sized space and fairly manageable.  Every year the garden looks a little bit different as plantings change and shrubs and perennials grow and mature. It isn’t a showcase  for plants, I am not what you would call a ‘plants woman’ - I just want somewhere full of colour that I can potter round in a relaxed manner surrounded by beauty, a feast for the senses -  maybe wander up to the veg garden and pick a lettuce and some tomatoes for lunch or gather a posy of flowers for the house.

I need the garden to be somewhere that doesn't involve too much work, where I don't  have to worry about the weeds, or plants not being in the right place - it needs to be a respite from the pressures of the outside world - a retreat - and a solace for the soul.  

I get so much pleasure from the garden.  This one is the culmination of all the ideas that I have picked up from books, magazines, other gardeners and bloggers ideas and is still a work-in-progress.  Each year I sow different flower and veg seeds according to my whim and fancy, so the garden will never stay the same.  But the backbone is in place, and after that, I can play around all I want.

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Some years it looks better than others, some years I am happier with it than others but  - however it turns out, everything that is growing is there because I put it there - my little piece of Eden - full of flowers, fruit and vegetables.  No matter that it isn’t to everyone’s taste – I care not – not one jot – all I care about is the pleasure it brings me.

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My garden may not be as neat and tidy as some, nor as unkempt as others – it may not be full of  the unusual - just  ordinary everyday plants  - but it suits me just fine. It ‘s where I spend hours of my time for three seasons of the year – sowing, planting, harvesting, pruning, weeding.  I can think of nowhere else I would rather be nor anything I would rather be doing than working in the garden that I have built from a derelict overgrown site. 

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Looking out of the rain spattered window today (Wednesday) you wouldn’t believe it was the same space as in the above pictures – I can’t quite believe it myself – but soon the garden will start to come to life again – the weather will begin to warm up as winter turns into spring – and I, for one, will be a very happy bunny.

summer container garden

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a vase full of sunshine

‘Til next time – enjoy a little summer dreaming with me.

p.s. Woke up this morning and found this had happened – pictures taken at 7.30 a.m. hence the strange light – yes, it snowed overnight – maybe, at last, I’ll be able to wear the snow boots I bought a couple of years ago and never had a chance to wear – till now – doesn’t it look magical!

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Back to the summer dreaming!

Friday, 23 January 2015

Walking My Way Through Winter …

I haven’t been  afflicted with winter  blues so much this year, not really sure why.  Maybe because we have had plenty of bright days and not so much gloom as usual.  I have been walking every afternoon,  part of my daily winter routine -  and feel much better for it – especially on these crisp, frosty days when my cheeks turn rosy and the tip of my nose feels as though it’s about to drop off.

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Walking is simple, free and one of the easiest ways to get more active, lose weight and become healthier. It's underrated as a form of exercise but walking is ideal for people of all ages and fitness levels who want to be more active. Regular walking has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, stroke and some cancers.  ~ 'NHS Guide - Walking for Health'

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Walking clears the mind – makes you more aware of your surroundings – I know you dog walkers probably go out twice a day but walking with dogs is a distraction, keeping them under control, preventing them from eating sheep droppings or rolling in something nasty.  When you walk alone it is different especially in the country.

Country lanes in winter are different, they are lonely places. {…} Nevertheless,  I can understand the solitude, the dankness and early dark, the absence of human activity, immediately beyond the window, oppresses some and can make the everyday business of country life lonely and wearisome. {…} That is one of the great differences between life in the village and in the town, especially in winter which, after all, lasts for more than half the year, and it has driven away many who are not naturally withdrawn, cannot take the solitude and the emptiness of fields and lanes, the apparent monotony.  Susan Hill

Sometimes when the weather is dank and miserable I stride out, taking notice of nothing, head down, shoulders hunched, hurrying on my way to get back to the warmth of the fire and the friendly light from the lamps.

Monday walk - three curious horses

But then there are the bright crisp days when the sky is as blue as a robin’s egg  and walking is a pleasure -  you become aware of everything about you – two blue tits flitting through the hedgerow following you as you walk along the road, playing and twittering to themselves.  A single leaf unfurling on a sycamore tree; the cows in their winter quarters making soft lowing noises as you pass -  These are the delights of walking alone in winter, nothing to distract you, going at your own pace and watching and listening to nature at work.

Travelling on foot can also be meditative, fostering a Slow frame of mind.  When we walk, we are aware of the details around us – birds, trees, the sky, shops and houses, other people.  We make connections {…} Walking takes longer, for example, than any other form of locomotion except crawling.  Thus, it stretches time and prolongs life.  Life is already too short to waste on speed.  Walking makes the world much bigger and therefore more interesting.  You have time to observe the details.  ~ Extract from In Praise of Slow (Carl Honore).

Monday walk - bright sunshine with darkening sky - beautiful effect

Walking with someone else is also a different experience, chatting,  pointing out little things that they might have missed – like on Sunday morning – a really cold and frosty start but the sun came out so we wandered down to the local reservoir – a lovely spot for a walk on a wintery morning.  The puddles on the side of the road were iced over or shattered where cars had driven through them.

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  The water was frozen in parts and the ducks were all at the far side, but then I spotted a flash of blue at the side of the water, the sun catching the iridescence of feathers – a Kingfisher – only a quick glimpse, moving too fast to capture with the camera, but definitely a Kingfisher.  So rarely seen around these parts – a Sunday morning bonus, that’s for sure.

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“Walking … is how the body measures itself against the earth ~ Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust:  A History of Walking

At the moment I am reading Nightwalk by Chris Yates – subtitled A Journey to the Heart of Nature.  Something I have never considered -  walking at night.  How different would the experience be to walk across the fields and into the woods in darkness.  A bit scary I would think -  but maybe on a hot summers evening it would be delightful to be out and walking by the light of the moon – listening for the night creatures.

“Following a path that runs from the edge of his garden over luminous hills and into shadowy woods, we are lead closer to the heart of nature, for while the rest of the world sleeps the nocturnal landscape comes mysteriously alive.  Time slows down for a deeper intimacy with the natural worldwe hear every rustle of a leaf, every call of a bird.  Widening the power of our imagination, heightening our senses, revealing beauty in the smallest details. ~ Chris Yates

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Strangely though I don’t get out and about so much in summer, there is always so much to do in the garden that I never seem to think about it – this year though I will take an early morning walk, before I get caught up in other things – and what could be nicer, before the day gets too hot and uncomfortable – yes that will definitely be going on my agenda, although we have a long time to wait before that happens – oh well, I can but dream.

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A few garden birds that I hope will hang around for the bird count at the weekend

let's go on an adventure http://piccsy.com/2012/03/picc-7a9cfkd2d/

‘Til next time – happy walking.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Winter Happenings …

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Sunday dawned sunny and bright, the strong winds had died down – a perfect time to find my old gardening coat and do a bit of pottering in the garden – the first time in I don’t know how many weeks.  It made me happy – I had missed being outdoors  – a little tidying and watering in the greenhouse,  emptying old pots of summer plants and stacking them away; clearing dead foliage,  a bit of weeding and getting close to the soil, seeing if anything was growing – pushing its way slowly through the soil.  And yes – there are signs of life.   The fresh green shoots of Chives – the odd bulb here and there, small green leaves forming in the crowns of plants – the garden coming to life again overcoming the ravages of winter – against all the odds.

Soon I will be dusting off the propagators, checking out which seeds I will be growing this year – assessing which flowers and vegetables did well last year, and which I won’t be bothering with again.  Trying to get back to basics and not giving myself too much extra work – simplifying tasks and growing methods – so that I can enjoy my outdoor life without too much stress and trying not to be too influenced by what other people are doing in Blogland. 

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some of the crops grown in 2014

 

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On Tuesday, late morning, the sky turned dark and huge snowflakes fell – covering the ground quickly.  Sadly, the snowflakes were very wet and soon disappeared – but it was quite dramatic whilst it lasted.  And how it transforms – just a light dusting can turn the landscape into a winter wonderland.

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The same thing happened on Wednesday snow fell overnight, but stayed this time; walking out to feed the birds, ice had formed, pleasantly crunching underfoot.  Blackbirds suddenly appeared out of nowhere, cold and hungry – I threw apples down for them – hoping they would take advantage of them before the crows appeared to carry them away.

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Last week my lovely blogging friend Snowbird at Gardens and Wildlife passed on the Liebster Award to me – how kind of her to think of me - and although I had decided not to accept awards, I thought I would answer her questions anyway – it would be churlish not to.

1. What is the worst injury you have sustained while gardening/plotting? In-depth gory details please…. I sliced the end of my little finger off whilst using the hedge trimmer.

2. How would/do you deal with wet, slushy, soggy leaves fermenting on the lawn that refuse to be raked up? I leave anything to do with the lawns and leaves to husband – it is his domain. 

3. Have you ever had an invasion of Bamboo trying to colonize your garden? If yes, how did you get rid of it? I don’t have any bamboo in the garden.

4. Do you have any irrational fears/terrors re an animal or insect? If yes, how/when did it begin? Moths, in the house – a childhood fear.

5. Has anyone else ever danced barefoot in the rain or hugged a tree? Definitely not – I’m much too sensible/inhibited for that malarkey – although I wish I wasn’t.

6. Do you believe that the moon can influence the growth of plants? Anything is possible. 

7.Do you have a favourite flower legend/story/superstition? Once upon a time there was a girl called Violet.  Her stepmother didn’t like her, so one day she decided to get rid of the little girl.  She took her over to the forest and left her there in the cold of winter.  Not knowing how to get out of the forest she fell asleep and froze to death.  But she didn’t die.  She managed to transform herself into a little violet flower which we call Viorica (Violet) and from that moment on, Violets blossom in spring before the snow melts. 

8. Have you ever used a plant medicinally? And I’ll have NO stories of magic mushrooms or Belladonna mind!!! A Comfrey poultice to reduce swelling. 

9. Which is the most important to you, house or garden? 50/50

10. Do you constantly talk/complain about the weather to anyone who will listen? Of course, I’m British!

11. What is the most you have spent on a plant over the last year? Hard to say – the money I spend on plants sometimes gets out of control.

Red heart

 

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Red heart

 

Last Saturday on a whim I went into the hairdressers to book to have my hair cut.  I have been wearing it long for the last couple of years, usually piled up on top, out of the way, easy to keep without too much fuss.  Wednesday, the day of the haircut dawns, nerves set in.  I had about six inches cut off and it is now shoulder length – ooer!  I feel really strange – almost lightheaded – just love the way hairdressers can make your hair feel silky and shiny – I think I like it, although it will take some getting used to – just have to wait and see if husband notices the difference.

 

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Red heart

One of my Christmas presents from a friend this year was a ticket to go and see the ballet, Swan Lake, on Saturday – I wasn’t sure I would be able to go because of the coughing – but it seems to have subsided a little – so I’ll let you know all about it next week.  And another present from a friend is for the following  Saturday  - High Tea at Kilworth Hall – very posh – looking forward to both events tremendously.

‘Til next time – take care and keep warm.

Friday, 9 January 2015

January Blues …

Feeling a little blue in January is normal ~ Marilu Henner

 

Abigail Halpin - 

source

It is a strange time of year – after the excitement and anticipation of Christmas and the New Year – suddenly everything seems to go flat – a sort of limbo – waiting for something to take us through the rest of the winter and eagerly expectant for the first signs of Spring.  Because of this bloomin’ cold I feel even more low in spirit than usual – a constant hacking cough for which vast quantities of herbal cough mixture plus honey and lemon drinks, can’t seem to stop.  I have cossetted myself, tried to keep warm and quiet – too much exertion causes coughing fits – hence a lot of reading and Christmas gift DVD’s have been watched. 

The weather hasn’t been conducive to going out – lots of heavy rain – then hard frosts – then high winds – a real mixed bag.  But I have managed to take a few photos along the way even though I have felt like a cross between a limp lettuce and a weak kitten – pathetic, I know! 

“The shortest day has passed, and whatever nastiness of weather we may look forward to in January and February, at least we notice that the days are getting longer.  Minute by minute they lengthen out.  It takes some weeks before we become aware of the change.  It is imperceptible even as the growth of a child, as you watch it day by day, until the moment comes when, with a start of delighted surprise, we realize that we can stay out of doors in a twilight lasting for another quarter of a precious hour. ~ Vita Sackville-West"

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frosted webs

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frosted seed heads

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“January is the quietest month in the garden.  …But just because it looks quiet doesn’t mean that nothing is happening.  The soil, open to the sky, absorbs the pure rainfall while micro-organisms convert tilled-under fodder into usable nutrients for the next crop of plants. The feasting earthworms tunnel along, aerating the soil and preparing it to welcome the seeds and bare roots to come.”
-  Rosalie Muller Wright

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indoor hyacinth bulbs starting to flower

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using up Christmas leftovers for pea and ham soup and the last of the Stilton cheese

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a Bullfinch in the hedgerow

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just finished  - an excellent read

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half way through – a medieval detective story by C.J. Sansom – not the genre I would normally read but finding it most enjoyable and well written

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the pile of books waiting to be read grows taller by the minute

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"Bare branches of each tree
on this chilly January morn
look so cold so forlorn.
Gray skies dip ever so low
left from yesterday's dusting of snow.
Yet in the heart of each tree
waiting for each who wait to see
new life as warm sun and breeze will blow,
like magic, unlock springs sap to flow,
buds, new leaves, then blooms will grow."
-  Nelda Hartmann, January Morn

 

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a rather tatty Hellebore in flower

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the cotton wool puffs of Clematis

Christmas present to myself

Christmas present to myself

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January sunset

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“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire:  it is the time for home.” 
-  Edith Sitwell

And then along came something that really cheered me up.  It was food shopping day – the first time I had been near the shops since Christmas – it was raining and miserable – I hauled the bags in through the front door and noticed a note from the postman on the floor.  My first reaction was - oh no another trip to the depot to pick up a parcel – but then I read ‘parcel left in greenhouse’ hurray  - a postman with a bit of common sense!  Inside the parcel were some bulbs, sent out-of-the-blue, by a dear blogging friend.  She had remembered that I had said I was having trouble finding Camassia bulbs – she came across some in and end-of-season sale and treated herself and me to some.  Wasn’t that a lovely thing to do – who says bloggers aren’t the kindest of people.  Thanks C – you made my day.  And then to top it all the sun came out.  Perfect.