Summer Abundance

Summer Abundance

We woke up this morning to the first grey clouds and light rain in our part of the country for several weeks, but this has easily been one of the best summers we’ve had for several years and we’ve been reaping the rewards of all the good weather up to now in our little kitchen garden.

As we’ve only devoted a small part of the garden to growing fruit and vegetables and we have a relatively short growing season here (the last frost is usually in April and the first is in October with fairly unpredictable “summer” weather in between), we’re always trying to make the best use of the space with fairly low-maintenance and reliable crops.

We’ve been enjoying lots of salads with our own lettuce and radishes, and we’ve had steady crops of broad beans, as well as yellow and green courgettes.¬†This year I’ve also been growing Hunter, Uchiki Kuri (also known as Orange Hokkaido), Sweet Dumpling and Spaghetti squashes to find out which grows best in our climate and soil. Meanwhile, my husband has planted his own experimental crop of rat-tail radishes, which have been allowed to bolt so we can harvest the edible seed pods.

Unfortunately, our little acer and ornamental cherry blossom didn’t survive the harsh winter, but after careful consideration we’ve replaced them with two little apple trees, Grenadier for cooking and Fiesta for eating. It may be a few years until we get any apples from either of them, but in the mean time we’ve been baking pies and crumbles made with our own rhubarb, which is thriving in a partially shaded bed with the strawberries.

While we’ve had a fairly successful growing season so far, there have been a few failures as well, the birds devoured the spinach before we could pick any of it, and the cayenne pepper plant has only produced five little chilli peppers. I sometimes think it’s the risk of disappointment and failure that makes growing some of our own fruit and vegetables so rewarding.

This weekend we sowed swiss chard and kale seeds, which will hopefully give us some fresh greens through the autumn and winter months. Have a lovely week! X

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An Unruly Tangle of Flowers

An Unruly Tangle of Flowers

Sometimes it seems like our gardening to-do list is almost never ending as we slowly cultivate this space and bring our ideas to fruition, but the recent heatwave has given us an excuse to slow down and appreciate all the beauty of summer in our garden.

In retrospect, creating a flower border under the privet hedge was probably a mistake as the roots of the hedge stretch into the bed absorbing the nutrients and moisture from the soil, and the border is in full sun creating a challenging environment for anything we plant. There’s much more bare earth this summer than I’d like as some of the perennials we bought have struggled to establish themselves and I’ll probably have to move some of them elsewhere in autumn, but a few don’t seem to mind the conditions.

The Aquilegias were already flowering when we bought them, but the first of our own plants to burst into blossom was a little Sedum that my mum gave me from her garden, which is thriving in its new location.

Then all at once the annuals burst into flower – though just like last year, I’ve over-seeded the bed causing an unruly tangle of colour, and it seems like there’s something new to see every day as one flower fades and the petals of another start to unfurl. Have a lovely week! X

Cycling around the Isle of Cumbrae

Cycling around the Isle of Cumbrae

The weekend was spent celebrating my husband’s birthday, and as he doesn’t like too much fuss, we decided to have a little day away together; he suggested cycling around the Isle of Cumbrae, somewhere I’d never visited before.

We took the ferry from Largs to the Isle of Cumbrae, which runs every fifteen minutes during the summer, and the crossing itself only takes about ten minutes. From the ferry slip, we hopped on a bus to Millport, the only town on the island, where we hired a tandem bike for £7 an hour and set off clockwise around the island.

I was a little apprehensive as my husband cycles to work most days and I can’t remember the last time I was on a bike, but it didn’t take us long to find our balance and a leisurely pace that suited us both. The road around Cumbrae is about 10 miles long and relatively flat making it ideal for walking or cycling, and there are very few cars on the road. It took us about two hours to cycle around the island, including stops to enjoy the scenery and a picnic lunch.

The Isle of Cumbrae doesn’t have many tourist attractions, yet it’s one of the most accessible Scottish islands to visit and it’s so peaceful that it feels further away than it actually is; we both enjoyed our little tandem adventure so much that I’ve no doubt that we’ll be back again. Have a lovely week. X

A Walk on the Wild Side

A Walk on the Wild Side

Throughout the month of June, the Wildlife Trusts are encouraging people to get outdoors and enjoy nature, and I wanted to share a little photo round-up of one of the ways that I’ve been participating in the 30 Days Wild Challenge¬†this year.

Near my workplace, there’s a park where I like to eat my lunch and stretch my legs whenever the weather permits. My lunch-break walks are a welcome interval during busy work days, providing an opportunity to slow down and gather my thoughts, and at this time of year, I particularly enjoy watching the damselflies flit around the pond.

These photos were taken on my phone, and required a combination of patience, stealth and speed, but I’ve relished the challenge of trying to capture some of the little details I notice on my wanders. Have a lovely week. X

Making an Entrance

Making an Entrance

After such a long and cold winter, the warmth and sunshine of spring took us by surprise and we’ve been rushing to catch up in the garden. Our garden is very much a work in progress, and we always seem to have a mix of short and long term plans on the go at once, but over the last few weeks we’ve been focusing our efforts on improving the front garden.

We inherited four roses planted by a previous owner in the front garden: a yellow with pink edges, a sultry red, and two different pinks, one pale and modest, the other bold and slightly disheveled. At some point, I’d like to add another red and a peach coloured rose too.

It’s fair to say that the front garden has been fairly neglected since we moved in and probably for some time before judging by the weeds that have flourished with only the roses as competition, by far the worst of the weeds is horsetail. I’m loathe to use weedkillers, and I’ve heard mixed reviews about their effectiveness against horsetail anyway, but I’m hoping that I can weaken it by vigorous weeding and planting a selection of other plants that will hopefully be tough enough to compete with the horsetail.

A few weeks ago, we took my grandmother to a garden center near where she lives and spent a lovely afternoon catching up over lunch, helping her choose birthday cards for relatives and friends, and buying a few new plants for our front garden, including a hardy fuschia, a thistle and a tiny Kilmarnock willow. We’ve also added a perennial cornflower (Amethyst in the Snow), Rudbeckia Goldstrum, Geranium Ann Folkard and two Japanese anemones (September Charm and Honorine Jobert).¬†It doesn’t look like much yet, but I look forward to seeing this part of the garden develop and hopefully thrive in the years to come. Have a lovely week. X

Spring Wanderings

We’ve been enjoying a prolonged spell of good weather in our part of the country, and a few weeks ago¬†we took advantage of the sunshine and warmth to have a little day trip to Cramond Island and the Edinburgh-Kyoto Friendship Garden.

15 Cramond Island Causeway2

Cramond Island sits about a mile off the coast of Cramond village in the Firth of Forth. At low tide, it’s possible to walk the causeway that connects the island with the mainland, and Queensferry Lifeboat Association helpfully provide¬†safe crossing times¬†for every day of the year.

Cramond Island was part of the defences during both world wars and the abandoned gun batteries and searchlight stations are still standing today. It’s a small island and it took us about an hour and a half to meander around the buildings and along the beach at a leisurely pace.

Back on the mainland, we visited the nearby Edinburgh-Kyoto Friendship Garden set in the grounds of Lauriston Castle. Spring is my favourite time of year to visit the Japanese-inspired garden as the cherry blossoms are in bloom.

15 Kyoto Friendship Garden415 Kyoto Friendship Garden3

My husband and I wandered around the gardens reminiscing about the places we visited in Kyoto on our honeymoon, chatting about adding a few Japanese plants to our own garden and simply enjoying the beauty and peacefulness of our surroundings.

15 Kyoto Friendship Garden2

Both Cramond Island and the Edinburgh-Kyoto Friendship Gardens are a little off the beaten path and as a result weren’t overly crowded when we visited, and it was lovely to enjoy a leisurely wander in the spring sunshine. Have a lovely week. X

Review of ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the story of a woman in her thirties who has managed to drift through life without forming any close connections, and describes what happens when she develops a crush on an aspiring musician, and when she and a colleague help a stranger in need. It’s hard to describe the plot without giving too much away, but this is an engaging story of loneliness, resilience, friendship and how the smallest acts of kindness can have the most profound impact.

Written in the first person, we see the world through Eleanor’s eyes, her awkward social interactions, the weight of her sinister mother’s influence, and little by little the mystery of her past is revealed.¬†Eleanor is so peculiar at times, yet most readers will be able to relate to the themes of loneliness, rejection and the feeling of not fitting in, and I quickly found myself rooting for Eleanor.

EleanorOliphant1.jpg

Loneliness is often considered to be a problem for the older generations, yet this novel shows just how easy it is for someone to muddle through life without making any close or lasting connections, and why someone might even choose solitude to avoid difficult personal questions, the risk of rejection or the fear of the past repeating itself.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine tackles some pretty heavy topics from child abuse to domestic violence, depression and social isolation, yet it also shows how people can survive the most traumatic events and blossom when shown kindness and understanding. I found this story to be poignant, funny, uplifting and thoroughly engaging. Have a lovely week. X