Sweet Peas

Eagle Sweet Peas

Gardening always strikes me as a pursuit that stands with one foot in the moment and another firmly in the future. Whilst The Chelsea Flower Show was way back in May, even then my Mum and I had next summer in mind when we bought a bumper pack of seeds from Gold Medal winners, Eagle Sweet Peas.

We gleaned loads of advice from the chaps on the stand too: no soaking or chitting required, no watering after planting until you see the first signs of germination, and a very strict rule of one plant per pole (I’m definitely guilty of ignoring that one in the past).

Eagle Sweet Peas

The time has finally arrived for sweet pea sowing and, although I’m revelling in all that autumn has to offer, I have high hopes this little lot next year.

Eagle Sweet Peas RHS Chelsea Flower Show

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The Kitchen Borders

Verbana boneriensis and Aster x frikartii Monch

So…. after the mother of all hiatuses, I’m back!

2016 has been full of distractions which have been both exciting and exhausting for us, but have also meant that certain things have had to give: the blog being one of them. Against a backdrop of slowly progressing work on the house, it has been a really big year at school for my eldest and I’ve been trying to carve out as much time as possible to tend to the garden and mull over various garden-related plans. Oh, and there *may* have been a 40th birthday party in the mix too.

One of the outdoor projects was an overhaul of the flower beds that flank the entrances to the kitchen garden. When these were first created a few years ago, I planted step-over apples and pears along the entire length to create height and structure, underplanting with lavender and tulips. The espaliers and bulbs thrived, but sadly the lavender fared less well thanks to the wet winters of late.

Kitchen Borders

We therefore turned to Rebecca Smith again and asked her to redesign the planting. The brief was relatively …er… brief as we were simply looking to create year-round interest that complemented the garden as a whole, whilst also ensuring that the step-overs were still on show when in blossom.

Aster x frikartii Monch, Knautia macedonica & Sisyrinchium striatum

The end result is a softly tumbling perennial border in shades of pink, plum, blue and pale yellow. The classics are all here (think Alchemilla mollis, Nepeta, Asters, Aquilegia and Verbena bonariensis) whilst seasonal interest and height is provided by Echinops ‘Taplow Blue’, Centaurea ‘Jordy’, Sisyrinchium striatumPaeonia ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ and P. ‘Bowl of Beauty.

Aster x frikartii Monch

Sisyrinchium striatum

Knautia macedonica

The borders have established incredibly well and look as though they’ve been here forever which makes me very happy indeed. All that’s left to do now is replant the tulip bulbs that were lifted before the redesign, namely the velvety ‘Queen of the Night’ and a white one (whose name I forget). I think I might add a pink one too, to tie in with the apple blossom. Something like ‘China Town’ or ‘Flaming Spring Green’ would be perfect.

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A Garden Redesigned

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When we moved here, nearly five years ago now, the garden was a somewhat daunting space: after years of semi-neglect, thickets of brambles and nettles rendered large areas inaccessible, vastly overgrown Leylandii cast long shadows over the main lawn and a crumbling, uneven crazy-paved terrace flanked the house. Thankfully though, there were also many redeeming features: we had a wonderful space for the kids to explore, the gnarled apple and pear trees were smothered with blossom on moving day and the majestic oak tree in the far corner – not to mention the views beyond – create an impressive backdrop come what may.

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The overhaul has happened piecemeal over the last few years: early on we cleared the overgrown areas, felled the majority of the conifers and created a potager-style vegetable garden that I’ve featured many times here on the blog. In 2014, the remaining conifers were removed in order to make way for the new oak garage and then last year we embarked on the most exciting phase to date when we asked garden designer, Rebecca Smith, to help us transform the remaining areas.

Rebecca’s main task was to redesign the large lawned area close to the house; on our wish list were curved flower beds to create an informal look and multiple seating areas from which we could enjoy the garden (preferably with a G&T in hand). We also asked Rebecca to create a children’s space at the far end of the garden, centred around a willow dome that we’d constructed last Easter.

Rebecca’s design was even better than we could have imagined with vast sweeping areas of low-maintenance planting featuring shrubs, grasses, flowering perennials and trees. An oak pergola with Arts & Crafts-inspired paving – a nod to the era of the house – creates a perfect spot to enjoy the morning sun, and the adjacent pond provides a beautiful focal point that was attracting dragonflies within days of being filled. The new terrace by the house – a late addition to this phase of works – completes the look and will be a joy to sit out on.

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The children’s area features curved beds anchored by the willow dome at one end and a repositioned wooden playhouse at the other. Wooden logs dotted throughout the planting create stepping stones / a circular seating area beneath the boughs of the oak. A sweep of hornbeam hedging and a new gate screen the compost bins and a small utility area.

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Whilst it was an ideal time to put in the new plants, almost as soon as they went in the seasons took over and their colours have, for the most part, slowly ebbed away. This is a lesson in the art of patience if I’m honest; whilst the odd frosty morning has presented the perfect opportunity to enjoy the bare bones of the garden and appreciate its structure, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t eagerly anticipating the arrival of spring, which thanks to our mild winter, might not be that far off! Once the garden does burst into life I’ll be straight out with my camera so that I can share some more of it with you.

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Garden in Frost

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Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year

Snow Drifts

I can’t believe we are nearly at the end of 2015: the year has flown by as, alongside what passes for normal family life around here, we’ve also been busy with some major works on our garden which I’m hoping to share with you in the New Year (once the rain stops and I can get some decent pictures that is!).

Thank you to all who have read the blog over the last year – even when posts are a little thin on the ground – and for your comments which always mean a lot. I’ll look forward to posting again in 2016!

Wishing you all a happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

Image: Adapted from an original image by Norbert Reimer via Flickr (see Creative Commons License)

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Paris

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I was going to write this post last week but simply ran out of time: it was going to be about our trip to Paris only three weeks ago, when we showed our children the delights of this beautiful city and reminisced about the time my husband spent living there.

And then the shocking events of last Friday happened and everything I wanted to say suddenly felt a little trite, and somewhat shallow, if I’m honest. Instead I’m hoping our photos capture the beauty and grace of the city: this our tribute to Paris and all who have been affected by this tragedy.

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In Praise of Dog Walks

Gorse & Dew

Since getting our puppy in June we have thoroughly enjoyed (almost!) every phase that she has gone through: the sleepy cuddles of the early days were a fleeting joy, puppy socialisation classes were hugely entertaining and now we are venturing out on proper dog walks. Far from being a chore, it has been a real joy to have to get out and about every day and explore more of the beautiful countryside on our doorstep.

Wooden Barn & Weather Vane

Dew on Webs

From seeing the grass meadows turning to gold at the end of the summer, the purple heather gently fading and, more recently, admiring webs adorned with sparkling dew drops, our morning outings feel like a perfect opportunity to appreciate the subtle changes in the seasons as well as enjoy a few moments of peace before the day begins in earnest. It has also had the added bonus of enabling us to keep tabs on the berries ripening in the hedgerows which have been picked and put to good use in jellies which will see us through a winter of roast dinners.

Hedgerow Collage

I’ve been sharing more moments from my dog walks, as well images from my home, garden and travels over on my recently resurrected Instagram account – I’d love to see you over there.

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Our New(ish) Garage

Oak Garage - Rear

It dawned on me recently that, after mentioning we were about to commence work on rebuilding the garage last year, I then spectacularly failed to share any photos with you of the end result.

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, but suffice to say, it’s a really beautifully crafted building that is starting to weather nicely and offers a load of storage potential for all our junk (and when we finally get around to organising said junk – as opposed to merely dumping it – it will be a marvellous space inside too).

Oak Garage - Front & Details

Garage - Side View with Light

For those who may be interested, my original post about the garage caught me in the throes of deciding on lighting for the building; in the end, we went with an Astro Montparnasse Wall Light in Bronze above the side door, and two Hunza Wall Down Lights in Bronze tucked discreetly above the garage doors which each cast a lovely glow come night fall.

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Shortlist #12: Jugs

Ammi Majus in Jug

As I recently mentioned, one of my favourite pastimes during the summer months is picking a bunch of flowers for the house from the garden. With the exception of the sweet peas, which I tend to arrange as they are, I like the fact you can be endlessly creative with whatever happens to be blooming at the time.

I’m using all this floral bounty as an excuse to build up my collection of vases and jugs, as – like cushions – I feel as they’re one of those things that you can never really have enough of: or at least that’s my excuse. I’m currently into jugs in a big way as I like the fact that they are both multi-purpose and have a slightly more informal air about them. Here are some I’d happily add to my collection…

  1. Shortlist #12- JugsPlum & Ashby Ceramic Small Jug
  2. John Lewis Patterned Ceramic Jug
  3. Graham & Green Le Bain Jug
  4. Anthropologie Saga Creamer
  5. Nkuku Renu Jug
  6. Oka Glass Bubble Jug

Images: Source unknown (via Pinterest), Plum & Ashby, John Lewis, Graham & Green, Anthropologie, Nkuku, Oka

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This Year’s Veg

Marshalls Seeds - New Varieties

A little while ago, Marshalls very kindly offered to send me some of their new vegetable seed varieties to try out in the garden this year; I confess to leaping at the chance as it seemed like a perfect opportunity to get out of a seed-buying rut and try something a little different for a change.

Everything I’ve planted so far is growing well in the garden and – in the case of the Courgette Griller Mix – being harvested too. This variety produces unusual egg-shaped fruits in dark green, light green and yellow. The assorted colours make for a vibrant combination on the plate and, having eaten some at the weekend, I can confirm that they have a lovely firm texture and good taste.

Since planting out in the garden, the pumpkin and squash plants are romping away: a mass of delicate tendrils, curled yellow flowers and hairy leaves spilling over the edges of the raised beds.

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Whilst I very much look forward to eating the squash (I’ve planted both Spaghetti and Sweetmax varieties), I am most excited about the Pumpkin Knucklehead: its warty, gnarled appearance means it’s going to make a brilliant lantern come Hallowe’en.

Marshalls - Tomato Corazon & Tomato Fenda

Having not had the best of luck with tomatoes in the past, I am keeping my fingers crossed that we have a chance to enjoy the Corazon and Fenda types that we’re growing as they both sound great. The Fenda variety is meant to be grown indoors, but, in the absence of a greenhouse, it’s having to take its chances outside. I’ll report back later in the summer (hopefully with photos of a delicious homegrown tomato salad).

Meanwhile, the Brokali Endeavour and Cabbage Sepantine are not going to be ready until next year as the broccoli has only recently been sown, and, having missed the boat for outdoor sowing of the cabbage in the spring, I’m going to sow in the autumn instead. I’m sure both will be worth the wait…

The seeds were kindly sent to me by Marshalls – all opinions are my own. 

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Cut Flowers

Cut Flowers

The flower beds in the vegetable garden are looking great right now; they are full of colour and there are plenty of blooms for both the bees to savour and for us to enjoy indoors.

We haven’t managed to do much sowing of annual flowers for cutting this year (bar some Nicotiana and Sweet Peas), so our hardy perennials are having to do the honours inside the house instead; all those pictured above last a good few days in the vase though and create a lovely relaxed display that has been much admired.

Included in the arrangement above are:

  • Sweet William (this was the only thing I bought in as it was going cheap in the supermarket!)
  • Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’
  • Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’
  • Cirsium rivulare ‘Atropupureum’
  • Astrantia ‘Moulin Rouge’
  • Astrantia ‘Buckland’
  • Alchemilla mollis

If you want to see how the pros do it though, check out this gorgeous bunch of flowers that the lady who helps us in the garden very kindly gave to me this week. She has had an allotment for years and is dedicating more of it to growing cut flowers these days. If ever there was inspiration for growing your own blooms I’d say this was it:

Cut Flowers

This arrangement includes:

  • Sweet William (homegrown!)
  • Sweet Peas
  • Ammi majus
  • Centaurea cyanus (Cornflower)
  • Salvia viridis

If I get some spare time this weekend (a girl can but dream!) then I am going to start compiling a seed shopping list so that I can get sowing some annuals and biennials in the coming months.  If you have any recommendations then I’d love to hear them…

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