Friday, 4 April 2014

Frontal Attack


Andy went off to photograph a few rare birds so I dug up the front lawn. 

BEFORE

I didn't need to plan what I wanted ... I just wanted flowers.  That meant no lawn but I would need a way in to maintain it: that meant a path.  The garden isn't very big but there are three points of entry so the path had to be a sort of 'y' shape that curved round to the pond at the gate ... easy!

AFTER

There will be sweetpeas covering the obelisks in the coming weeks; the large lupins have come from the allotment and I bought a tree peony to go in the centre.  The plants are obviously small at the moment but there are lilies; delphiniums; foxgloves; penstemons; aquilegias and a fuschia in there and a handful of poppy seeds.
I attempted to make a more rustic obelisk with willow sticks cut from the allotment.  I followed instructions from You Tube.  I pushed six long sticks into the ground then tied them at the top.  I used another couple of sticks to weave in and out whilst crossing them over between the base of each pole and tying in the ends. It took nearly an hour and looked a right mess!  We had a good laugh then I pulled it down before the neighbours saw it!


I'm not sure about the grass.  I made it wide enough for the lawn mower but I think I would prefer some pale stones.  Anyway it will have to wait until after the wedding ... only two weeks to go (how fast do finger nails grow!!).

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Spot the Difference

When my eldest son was small I had a wonderful childminder.  She was a woman of impulse. She didn't stop to think: when she had an idea, she followed it through.  It came as no surprise when I called to collect my child one day to find Dawn in the middle of the living room with a huge hammer in her hand as she had decided to make an arch into her dining room! She had never heard of supporting walls!  Plans; advice, expertise .... who needs them??

All the best garden design books (and my loving husband!) say you should plan your design on paper before you begin to dig up the lawn.  Did I do that? Well, I sort of did because I wandered round and pictured what I wanted in my head ... I just didn't do the measuring and drawing thing!  Anyway, when I changed the back of the garden two years ago I was very happy with it. 

 BEFORE

 AFTER



 Living with it for 24 months though has highlighted the short-comings so changes had to be made.

I have been busy over the last couple of weeks ... can you spot the differences?

NOW

 1.  I have removed the middle trellis.  It looked lovely with sweetpeas growing all over it last summer but it was annoying having to walk all the way round to get into the back of it.  Extending the path through the trellis makes life easier.

2.  I have widened the borders and edged them with curved stones so there's more planting space.  I have put roses in there and in the square border front right in the photo.  This border is covered in Forget-me-nots and orange poppies: should look good in a couple of weeks. 

3.  The path to the right of the trellis has gone.  We never used it.  If I had used paper to design it I would have taken note of where we actually walk when we cross the garden and realised the path didn't belong where I put it! Anyway, it has gone so I have yet more border to fill!  Good job I got that greenhouse!

4.  The old bricks at the back gate were replaced some time ago by the fossil slab.

 BEFORE

NOW

I must say it looked very neat and tidy two years ago but it has more of a lived in feel to it now ... and the paths make more sense!


 I now have ideas for the front garden ..... where did I put that drawing pad?

Friday, 21 March 2014

A Memorable Evening


Matthew Biggs, of Gardeners' Question Time fame, came to a speak at our Garden Club last night.  He was brilliant: funny, entertaining and informative all at once.  His topic was 'Back Gardens of Britain' but he was really talking about the totally eccentric gardeners he has met while working on TV programmes.  Wonderful people. People with gardens full of their love and character. 

He began with Will Giles who has created The Exotic Garden in Norfolk.


Giles grows all kinds of exotic plants in an ordinary UK plot and has created a tropical paradise.  Apparently his long term partner got so fed up of the attention and time lavished on the plants she gave him the ultimatum "them or me!"  He now lives alone.

We were all admiring the slides when Matthew suddenly exclaimed "Oh dear, is there a doctor in the house?" and we realised an elderly gentleman had collapsed near the front.  Luckily there was a doctor on hand; the ambulance was called for and the talk was put on hold.  This gave me the chance to talk to the woman sitting next to me.  I knew her by sight from our Garden Club meetings but this was a chance to introduce ourselves - a lovely new acquaintance was made before the poor man was driven away (he is fully recovered today).

Matthew continued to enchant us with his slides of beautiful/unusual back gardens and encouraged us (quite rightly) to support small nurseries wherever possible; to be adventurous and not to be ashamed of our weeds.

I'd had a good evening by the end - topped off by winning the first prize in the draw - a £100 gift box from a local garden centre full of those nice things you pick up and look at but put back when you look at the price!  Hand sown egg cosies in the shape of bunnies; beautiful little notebooks; lavender eau de toilette, scented candles, hand creams and a bag ... AND a £10 voucher for the Sarah Raven catalogue!  Well worth the two pounds I spent on the tickets.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

All go!


There's LOADS to do in the new greenhouse.  Friends and magazines are throwing free seeds at me: together with the seeds I collected last year I can't keep up.  I imagined this year I was going to be well organised but it's obviously not in my nature!  I have plenty of excuses though .... my mum celebrated her 92nd birthday so we have been partying; my sister and my youngest son both moved house within a few weeks of each other so I have been lugging furniture about and my eldest son gets married in 31 days time (eek!) so I had to go clothes shopping!


I did manage to get the peas and beans started for the allotment and the sweetpeas for the trellis but I've only just sown the flower seeds for the summer garden.  I scattered a few poppy and cornflower seeds but I watched the birds eat most of them and the pheasants have trampled the emerging aquilegia ... still its their garden too I suppose. 

Andy has been planting a rose bed at the allotment.  I decided to clear a patch of mossy grass lawn and follow his example here. I chose Hybrid Teas for that patch but got carried away and had to find room for a couple of floribundas and numerous climbers to cover the fence.  My living room is going to smell gorgeous this summer.


I love this sight .... peony roses emerging from the soil.  Disappointingly, of the fifteen I planted at the allotment only six are showing signs of life at the moment ... fingers crossed though.  


These cyclamen have been far more successful.  Flowering for months and just beginning to produce seeds.  If you watched Gardeners' World this week you will know that cyclamens wrap the seed pods in long spring like tendrils until they are ripe.  Once the pods burst the seeds are covered in a sugar coat that attracts ants to carry them off away from the parent plant so the cyclamen colony spreads.  Brilliant!  I want the seeds though so I have to beat the ants to them. 

I acquired a copy of Carol Kein's Grow Your Own Garden in a charity shop last week .... £1.99! It is packed with everything you need to know about propagating plants.  Seeds; stem and root cutting; leaves; layering; division; offsets; bulbs, tubers and rhizomes and a final section on ferns.  Well illustrated and easy to read so I already knew about the cyclamen ants!


Tuesday, 24 December 2013

My Poor Plum Tree


I'm back! Work days are behind me again and I now have time to garden and blog again!

Last week's storm brought down our plum tree! Disaster for us ....no more plum jam .... but the pheasants seem to approve.  The main trunk broke in half so the top branches are forming a sort of cage over part of the lawn.  The pheasants obviously feel very safe snoozing inside its protection and pop out to feed every so often.  We had 13 of them wandering round the lawn the other morning ... only 7 today.  We have decided to leave the broken tree exactly where it is until the spring brings warmer weather.

The smaller birds seem to like it too - I was drinking my early morning tea and watching blue tits, great tits, goldfinches, greenfinches, chaffinches, blackbirds, dunnocks, sparrows, collard doves and the robin swooping about like confetti and all using the plum tree to hide in.

It was a very old plum tree - we were told it was as old as the house and that was built in 1865 ... don't know how true that is but it was a very large and fruitful specimen.  Bit sad really ..but on the other hand it has given me an area of garden that now needs to be completely redesigned this Spring!

Merry Christmas Everyone and a Blooming Great New Year!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

GBBD September 2013


As I walked into the kitchen early one morning a few days ago I spotted a sparrowhawk sitting on the garden fence waiting for breakfast to fly by.  It saw me and flew off to the safety of the neighbour's roof so I grabbed the camera.  It was obviously wary of me as I zoomed in.  A pair of magpies didn't appreciate its company though and soon chased it off.  I love seeing hawks.  We were especially priviledged last week:

I was in the living room reading but there was a particularly noisy buzzard outside.  When I looked it was over the field right outside the house so I shouted Andy and went out for a better view.  Suddenly a small hawk began to mob it ... a peregrine.  Brilliant!  They stayed in view circling each other for quite a few minutes and we were just thinking how luck we had been to see the peregrine when another large bird sailed into view ... an osprey!! Fantastic! I didn't grab the camera so I can't share it with you.  Sorry!



The garden is full of yellow marigolds this week. 


The cornflowers and verbena add touches of blue and the apples, roses, berries and snapdragons throw in the reds.


I've spent HOURS peeling, coring and cooking apples: the composter is full of damaged fruit and there's still half a tree-full left ... shouldn't complain though!

I'm particularly pleased with the front pond at the moment.  The water lilies have gone wild since I worked on that area a few months ago.  I will need a machette to get through the leaves soon!



This is what it looked like at the end of June:


The other major change to the garden this month is the new greenhouse:


We haven't got round to ordering the staging yet but there's no rush.  As you can see from the blanket the cat has moved in already.  She finds it very confusing as the glass is so clean she keeps trying to walk through it!  Nothing to worry about, it won't stay like that for long.



Visit May Dream Gardens for more GBBD views.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Ten Green Apples

"Autumn seemed to arrive suddenly that year.  The morning of the first September was crisp and golden as an apple...” 
J K Rowling Deathly Hallows


The trees are weighed down with apples, pears and plums and the wasps are getting drunk and drowsy.  Time to harvest.
Last year I collected the fruit, made a few pots of jam and bagged the rest for the freezer.
This year I decided to be a bit more inventive so I turned to fellow bloggers for inpiration:

TEN (NICE!) THINGS TO DO WITH AN APPLE

1.  Apple Chutney from Rachel Cotterill.  This looks simple and delicious.  It made me look around the internet for other chutney recipes and I'm now hooked on the idea.  I really fancy one with apples, carrots and onions ... sounds a bit like Branston Pickle though!  In searching round I came across a blog called A Foodie's Quest who had a green tomato relish recipe which might come in useful for Elaine at A Woman of the Soil!

2.  Stuffed Apples.  I imagined baked apples stuffed with raisins when I thought of this one but you can stuff them with all sorts of things apparently ... stop smirking at the back!  I like the sound of Baked Apples with Savory Pork Stuffing from Cosmo Cookie or this sweet dessert (baked apples stuffed with nuts and chopped fruit then smothered in caramel!)  from Backup.

3.  Homemade Apple Pie.  Yes, we all know how to make an apple pie ... don't we??!!  Well, just in case this is how it's done down on the farm in America.  Makes you want to reach for the ice cream before it's ready.

4.  Apple Muffin.  People don't seem to bake buns any more, they bake cupcakes or muffins.  (Aren't they just very big buns? Will we all end up waddling around with very big bums?)  Well Thyme to Garden Now has a lovely whole wheat version so a slight nod to healthy living.

5.  There is absolutely NO nod to healthy living in this so called Apple Salad recipe from SiggySpice!  Made with Snicker chocolate bars and caramel I dread to think how many calories it contains.

6.  Here's a proper Apple Salad from Marky-the-chef to tone things down again.

7.  A simple Toffee Apple came to mind next.  We used to make these for Bonfire Night.  Take care not to burn yourself when coating the apples though.  There are loads of toffee apple recipes out there but Mia Loves Pretty has made her's extra special.

8.  Apple Strudel has to be a favourite.  Delia can always be relied upon and this one sounds great but I discovered a beautiful Bavarian blog called Words and Herbs ("For all who appreciate the beauty of words, flowers and homecooking") and I think I'll give this one a go.

 9.  Now I've gone international I have to include Apple Curry taken from a blog called Dining with Phryne.

10.  Lastly .... you guessed it .... cider.  I am in fact teetotal so I would choose an apple juice such as the one found at Chaos in the Kitchen or A Sweetpea Chef but if you want a more alcoholic one add some rum ....


I'll end with a link to Robert Frost's poem After Apple PickingHis apples are achievements and desires from his younger days.