That Voodoo That You Do

The sun is out despite the weather forecast for thunder. We are in the garden, it’s all happening out here. Glenn is slashing and hacking and taming the beast that once was an unruly jasmine and is now an enlarged deck, a spot for some more plants and a much better feel to the whole plot. I, on the other hand have been tormenting the bottom bed. I’ve moved the chives which were being swamped by the sage. I’ve moved the polemonium which was being swamped by the persicaria. I’ve moved the stinging nettles which were swamping everything in their path and I’ve ruthlessly pulled up handfuls of three brilliant plants. Here they are;

Firstly the euphorbia, it will not quit. It started out as three small seedlings which Sarah Raven gave us. I used it as a foundation to my wedding bouquet and it has been in nearly every flower arrangement we have had in the house for the past three years. You can chop bits off it an it doesn’t seem to mind and it carries on through the winter. Its’ brilliant green is endlessly cheerful and sings out against the dark background of the neighbouring trees in summer. What they tell you about the sap is true. Always wear gloves, always wash your hands. If you get some on your skin and then put your contact lenses in it feels as if your eyeballs are being peeled by elves from hell with burning fingers….trust me.

Next is lamium. We bought ten plants three years ago for 50p each as we needed ground cover. We got it. It took a while to get going but it has totally covered everything we wanted it to and has spread throughout the woodland area at the bottom of the garden. This spring it had a fantastic show of yellow flowers and continues to encroach at a sensible pace. The best thing about it is, again, you can pull bits off and it won’t mind one bit. Just now I have reclaimed the steps and fill the compost bin.

Lastly, the no idea plant. We had a tiny bit growing in the original rockery which was here when we moved in. We saved a little bit as it has tiny pretty purple flowers. Underneath the current carpet of craziness there is stepping stone path and a dry stone wall but you wouldn’t know it. The beauty of this thing is that you can rip it up from wherever you don’t want it and it carries on, doesn’t even care.

Are you sensing a pattern here? I love this kind of gardening!

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Getting Better All The Time

We’ve been busy, again. Somehow the urge to blog has dwindled but with spring now in full flow the sap is rising both literally and naturally. WoodBlocX contacted us in January to ask if they could interview us for their blog…..read the full story here https://www.woodblocx.co.uk/blog/itv-woodblocx-garden-makeover/

This coincided with a repeat of Big Dreams Small Spaces series two. It was funny to see us building the garden all over again and reminded us how hard we had worked. I have changed jobs since the first showing and so my new colleagues all thought Glenn and I had been secretly working with Monty Don without telling them. They were all equally puzzled that we had got married without telling anyone! They were quite disappointed to discover that it had all taken place three (yes really) years ago.

Perhaps the biggest surprise came late last month when I had a text early one morning from my sister to say did I know we were on Netflix. Probably the most impressive bit of coverage ever. So now we can retire into our garden, happy in the knowledge that we have shared our story with the world several times over.

As I write this from our new conservatory (oooh, I’ve got something else to blog about now), the rain is tipping down onto the garden. Everything is coming up again and some things are already very different from last year. It likes to keep us on our toes. This year’s biggest change is that the 60 tulip bulbs I planted have all disappeared. There are some rather chubby squirrels about though…

Rambling

November and the sun is shining. Well, to be fair this photo was taken at the weekend so it was technically October but what does a few days matter. One week off work yielded much activity but almost none of it was spent in the garden. We have had the builders round laying the base for a much awaited conservatory so that has dominated our outside time. As you can see the garden has been left to do its thing which I think is to be encouraged. Too much time is spent fussing and worrying plants. Sometimes you just have to let things go for it in their own space and time.

We were given a small cutting of Salvia Hot Lips two years ago when our garden was new. Today it is almost triffid like, not yielding to any amount of pruning, defying us with utterly vigorous regrowth, flowering furiously all year. It has overshadowed the Alchemilla Mollis and the dainty Geum. I have hacked it back three times and this has only encouraged it to grow more bullishly. I intend to be savage once it has finished flowering and have taken some cuttings just in case I finish it off.

The cosmos are raging still and I am cutting four vases of flowers each week. Not bad for a small garden. We haven’t planted any new bulbs this year so it will be interesting to see what comes up in a few month’s time. I am hoping for a field of black and pink tulips but fear squirrel action.

 A couple of weeks ago I picked all the crab apples from the little tree my mother gave me several years ago. I have managed to make one jar of jelly from it each year but this year I have four jars, a bumper crop. There are still some on the tree I didn’t pick them because at the time I was doing battle with a few garden spiders so rather than risk being covered in arachnids, I let the last few fruits stay where they were…for the birds….I tell myself.


Autumn

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The benefit of having designed a garden to reach it’s peak during October is that every Autumn it is in full bloom and we are over run with stunning colour begging to be picked.

When we decided to overhaul the bare patch we inherited we didn’t really think about the seasons and flowers or colour schemes or anything really. Other than the fact we needed to be able to walk down it without breaking our necks.

Being on TV gave us a focus and that fact we got married in October meant that we had to aim for something. So quite quickly we planned flowers that would still be going strong as the big day loomed. We also discovered that late sowing of annuals yielded late colour thanks to consistent dead heading or actually, live heading. So we combined two gardens into one. A cutting garden which gave us a lot of blooms for the house throughout the summer but also a prolonged flowering season thanks to forcing plants to keep making flowers and a herbaceous border with an established feel.

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This year, our second season, has seen us popping outside to be blown away by the riot of colour. Our garden is quite sheltered so unaffected by wind and rain and cold snaps. The dahlias, salvias, fuchsia, verbena, roses, cosmos are still going strong. We still have plenty of alpine strawberries and nasturtiums. Oranges and reds are predominant colours as are the purples and whites in the bottom bed. Separating the colours has proved even more impressive year on year. The hot colours in the top bed, catching the sun and burning bright whilst the blues, violets, soft pinks and whites glow in the shade of the neighbouring trees.

Next year we are focusing on the woodland area at the base of the garden and finally, the conservatory we have planned and longed for is looking like happening so we can sit and gaze at the glory of it all.

April Fools

So here we are on the first of April and it’s a weekend and we are both at home. Somehow does not seemed to have happened for along time and if you also throw in some fiendishly good weather you have everything for a great start to the day. People have been asking us how our garden is a lot recently. Our stock answer for the past couple of months has been that it isn’t doing much and there isn’t a lot to see. However, a couple of hours out there today has proved us both wrong. There is a lot happening.

At first glance there is a lot of bare soil but the tulips have popped up, albeit very sparsely. I seem to remember planting hundreds and hundreds of bulbs. Gradually everything is coming back, the geraniums, the verbena, alliums, reum, gaura, geum all making their way back into our lives. In addition the roses are in glossy leaf and the wallflowers Glenn grew from seed are so bushy and perfumed you never would have thought it possible. I am heartened that a few things I thought were dead are showing me they most certainly are not. We gave everything a mulch last month which has helped to keep things looking neat and cushioned against a cold night. The woodland area at the bottom of the garden still needs work and despite lots of primroses, anemones, hellebores, primulas and snowdrops, there is still space for them all to stretch out and be wild.


Our favourite spot, the boat seat, is back in action too now that it’s warm enough to be able to sit outside and have a cup of tea and stare at the world. The plum tree has more blossom on it than last year but it’s growing in a really bad place, right in the shadow of the sycamore and will never give us the glut of fruit we want. Right now it’s smothered which is promising but we both know it’s all for show.
So we are back in the swing of it, weeding, seed sowing, moving things, planning things, cutting things but mostly sitting and looking at it which was the plan all a long really. And all the while in the back of our minds is…….the allotment.

Weekly Photo Challenge – A Good Match

A happy accident holds huge appeal and this picture is no exception. I have been experimenting with newly inherited ceramics materials which probably date back to the 70s. I’m so glad that the raw materials needed to make glazes don’t appear to be any less effective with age because they are so expensive to buy these days.

So what you are looking at are my early test tiles made with a tiny tile cutter found at the back of a cupboard. The colours are oxides, found in unlabelled boxes. So my only option was to test them out. I made the textures in the surface of the clay with a wooden butter pat and some metal sculpting mesh. Once bisque fired I washed a dilute solution of each mystery powder, labelling each tile as I went to allow for easy indentification later on. A coat of clear low firing glaze and off into the kiln for a second blast.

What emerged was, for me, the luckiest outcome. I was easily able to identify the colours as cobalt, red iron, manganese, chrome, nickel and copper. Joy of joys they are in harmony and are now waiting to be grouted into something memorable.

Against the Odds – Daily Photo Challenge


Against the Odds

I don’t know about you but this picture is both beautiful and horrifying. The colours, textures and years of neglect have created something truly mesmerising, almost edible. However, what it actually shows is that I am up against it in terms of teaching my inherited classes to be responsible and caring for their equipment. This is the norm for them and in light of that I have become almost obsessive with washing up. Am I battling in futility towards an inevitable defeat? Time will tell.

February

It’s possibly the coldest day of the year, it’s been snowing but nothing has settled which is disgraceful as I am praying for a day off work. Glenn has been outside all afternoon building a new stepped planter from pallets and I have broken my vow of avoiding the garden until spring by going into the garden. No resolve.

The day is grey, bitingly cold and from the snug security of indoors there is nothing going on outside. How wrong can you be? It is all kicking off out here. The first thing I notice is the sound of birdsong. My knowledge of birdsong is limited to the obvious ones; pigeons, cuckoos, seagulls, ducks. So what the various birds are that are giving it their best out there today is totally beyond me.

What happened was what always happens when I am out in the garden, I pop out to do something very straightforward and end up getting sucked into many tasks.

 

The garden looks rubbish at the moment. There is so much that needs clearing and the dahlias still haven’t been lifted but we didn’t lift them last year and they came back bigger and better than ever. Go figure. We have hibernated since October, we meant to do so much but it has not happened. But you know what? It doesn’t seem to have mattered.


We planted hundreds and hundreds of bulbs in the autumn and they are coming up, full of lush promise. The primroses, snowdrops, hellebores, wallflowers are all going mad. It just makes me yearn more for those warm bright days of early spring. There is one area of our garden which escaped us. It’s a slope down the side of the garden, next to the steps. It’s hard, dry, shady and unloved. Our aim is to grow a meadow style patch of grass and a lot of seed has gone into that area so we shall have to wait and see. In the meantime Glenn planted many crocus bulbs and thankfully they are in evidence.


So after I have had a walk around the garden and marvelled at nature I decide to do some hacking back. Glenn has already had a good tidy up today and so I re-wrap the canna lily in bubble wrap and cut back all the dead growth. This may well be the wrong thing to do. Last year we kept the pot in the greenhouse but since our greenhouse is smaller than a cupboard and it already full of geraniums and sweet peas, outside in a sheltered spot is our only choice. I have collected a lot of seed so I intend to sow some successors in case of unplanned death. Jazzy is helping me, as only cats can.


So with frozen feet and fingers I scurry inside to sort through the seed tin. I now have a pile of ‘to plant’ seeds for this month. Once again every windowsill in the house will be occupied with seed trays. This year we are growing for two, the allotment demands our attention and large scale veg and flowers will be our driver. In the meantime there is chard to pick with to go with our pulled pork.

Thank-Kew

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It would be fair to say that Kew Gardens is one of the most visit worthy places in Britain. Even if you don’t like gardens or horticulture or history, it’s still a good day out and a nice long walk. We had booked this visit in a long time ago, it was on our gardening bucket list if you like, not that we have a gardening bucket list. August, hence the rainy skies and cold biting wind but it made for a more dramatic picture.

The first thing which took us by surprise was the entry price and the charming way the lady in the kiosk made a comment about her surname being the same as ours and would we like to add a voluntary contribution to the overall mortgage inducing price. “Oh yes” we replied as we puzzled about how we may be related but probably weren’t.

The next thing which surprised us was the lack of seating in the cafe we scurried to in the rain. Not because it was busy but because there weren’t many seats. Coupled with a quite extraordinary price for a muffin, we needed a seat to get over the stinging feeling in our wallet. But hey, it doesn’t matter, we were having a day out and this was a treat so let’s pay nearly £5 for a cake and to hell with it.

Thankfully nature smoothed things out and the rest of the day was spent wandering and exploring and generally marvelling at the scale of everything. Which I think is the whole point, showing off with plants.

The Great Broad Walk captivated us with its’ colour, grandeur and sheer sassiness. Yes we can do huge because we have the room so let’s do huge. When you visit a garden on a grand scale you are being given a glimpse into another world and often another time, an era when this was the norm for a lot of people. Well, ok maybe not a lot but a fair few. These days it seems unnatural and despite your best efforts, it’s never going to be possible to recreate any sense of this no matter how much you try. My only consolation is that you can plant hunt and get some nifty ideas for new things you haven’t seen before. This visit was no different. Glenn enjoyed the carnivorous plants which are a new found growing interest and I snapped a lot of textures and patterns for various arty projects.

So did we enjoy Kew? Yes we did. Would we recommend it? Yes we would. Is it value for money? Probably, we could have spent the same on a day out to Alton Towers but this way I didn’t vomit.

Shadow – Weekly Photo Challenge

Shadow

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If you have never been to the Maldives, go to the Maldives. It is the most outrageously beautiful, fragile, isolated place I have visited yet. This picture was taken when we were there three years ago. Two weeks spent in utter awe and stunned smiling fabulousness. The colours, the incredible sea life, the odd balance between civilisation and abandonment. I felt hugely privileged to be able to be there, it didn’t seem right somehow. The staff at our small hotel told us how the sea level had risen by over a metre in two years and so the island was very quickly being claimed back by the turquoise sea. I wondered if we ever returned if it would all have been swallowed up, just the tops of the palm trees showing.

Our days quickly formed a lazy routine and this was part of our late afternoon stroll into the water to wait for passing fish (and sharks) to come along and say hello. Incidentally neither of us are this shape but I love how distorted we appear which indeed is much like the reality of the Maldives.