Windowsills and Shelves

We’ve reached that point of the year when I’ve run out of room on the windowsills as a mismatched collection of plant pots and trays jostle for space. There are courgette and sunflower seedlings, and a tray of lavatera and calendula seedlings that I started inside after the wildflower mix that I sowed in the flowerbeds were mown down by slugs and snails, and even a pot of grass for our housecat, Mara.

The seedlings that I started off inside may be safe from the usual garden pests, but Mara isn’t above taking a nibble out of any leaves in her vicinity, and I lost a whole tray of sweetpeas and a courgette seedling to a curious and over-enthusiastic toddler, then snapped another courgette seedling stem myself when I was repotting it.

May is usually a fair month, but the weather has actually been quite mixed, with some warm and sunny days, some showers, and a lot of cool, overcast days, and most of my seedlings have grown a bit leggy as they stretch and strain to reach the sun which has so often been hiding behind the clouds.

It’s been a few years since I’ve posted about our houseplants and there have been some new arrivals and at least as many departures since then. We currently have seven spider plants (by far the easiest houseplant to care for), six of which are descendents from the original plant, that produced so many spiderettes that I ended up giving them away to family, friends and work colleagues. We also have a string of hearts plant that is hopelessly tangled and coiled around itself to prevent the strings from tickling our heads when we sit on the couch underneath it, but it’s another low-maintenance favourite that I’d love to try propagating.

On the stair windowsill are two burros tail succulents, which are the succulents that I’ve had the most success at keeping alive (as all the echeveria have died off and I’ve no plans to replace them), though I also love the Purple Graptopetalum that I bought at a Cactus and Succulent Sale at the Botanic Gardens a couple of years ago and that I’ve recently had some luck at propagating from fallen leaves.

I do like having a house full of plants, but very much hoping that the weather improves soon so I can start hardening off the seedlings and plant them outside, but in the meantime I’ll continue tending them inside until they’re strong enough to survive the vagaries of Scottish weather. Have a lovely week. X

Springing Out of Hibernation

April is one of my favourite months as cherry blossoms swirl around like confetti in the breeze, tulips burst into flower, the weather (usually) improves and it finally feels like we’ve shaken off another winter.

The first week of April was spent alternatively caring for and entertaining a toddler with chicken pox who was quarantined from nursery, soft play, playdates and play groups. I tried my hand at few sensory activities such as dying dried chickpeas and making pink sand (a big hit but very messy!), and we also made lots of no-bake treats like chocolate rice krispie cakes and rocky road, both easy enough that the little one could get involved with pouring and mixing the ingredients (and licking the spoon afterwards).

Then it was back to nursery, sensory group (just in time for the Easter party) and family swimming trips. We’ve also been going out for walks after dinner, and it really feels like we’re springing out of hibernation after a long, dreary winter.

We had an egg hunt in the garden for the little one at Easter, with eggs that I’d painted and a few mini chocolate eggs too. Our daughter probably got enough chocolate from her grandparents and our neighbours to last her to the end of the year.

We’ve been busy in the garden too. My father-in-law helped us moved one of the square raised beds into the back corner, a slightly shady area which we’ve struggled to fill with anything other than weeds. I treated myself to another climbing rose, James Galway, to fill the back fence alongside Crown Princess Margareta, which is already very well established. Our daughter helped me scatter wildflower seeds in the raised beds, and I’ve started off some sunflowers on the windowsill. I was very excited to see flowers on the plum tree and two of our four apple trees. My husband also found a greenhouse on gumtree, it’s a bit bigger than I had in mind but too good value to turn down.

Even though the garden is only just getting started, it’s been great to spend so much time outside pottering around, a real tonic for the mind and body. Already there are busy bees bumbling, ladybirds and even a couple of butterflies flitting around the garden – but most exciting of all is the return of the hedgehogs in the evening, we’ve counted three so far, and we’ve been leaving cat food out for them. I’m always slightly surprised and delighted by how much wildlife there is to be found in an urban environment and we try to make our garden as wildlife friendly as possible to support it.

We haven’t ventured too far from home lately, but it’s been a lovely month full of picnics and playdates at the park, and lots of fun in the garden. Have a lovely week. X

First Quarter in the Garden

We’ve spent lots of time in the garden over the last few days and I thought I’d share a little update about the first quarter of the year in the garden. I had briefly considered writing posts to coincide with the Celtic festivals of Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain but there really wasn’t enough happening in the garden in February to write about.

The first hellebore flowered at the end of December and they’ve been flowering constantly through the early months of the year, before being joined by the daffodils last month. Winter is often the season when I like to make plans for the year ahead while the garden is resting and waiting for spring. We have three raised beds in the garden, I’ve filled the long bed with my favourite perennials but I’m planning to fill the two smaller square beds with daffodil and tulip bulbs this autumn, and turn both beds into wildflower patches over the summer.

Our summerhouse has spent the winter under a huge tarpaulin protecting it from the worst of the cold and damp but on a very sunny weekend in March, my husband painted it a cheery shade of blue with white frames. We’ve already enjoyed eating our lunches in the summerhouse, our daughter loves having it open to explore and hide in, and I’m looking forward to lunchbreak reading in the shade through the summer. We’re also planning to replace our shed as the roof appears to be disintegrating, and we’d also like to get a greenhouse to try growing our own tomatoes, chilis and courgettes.

Our garden is small, oddly shaped and a real mix of different styles and ideas, but I’m grateful to have a garden and excited to get growing again. Have a lovely week. X

Autumn in the Garden

Blogging has fallen by the wayside over the last few weeks as we’ve all been off but not really enjoying much of a rest or holiday as our daughter caught hand, foot and mouth at nursery, and we’ve spent the last wee while taking care of her and pottering around the home and garden.

We’ve not managed to do much gardening this year as it was turned into a temporary building site while we were doing some home improvements. Nevertheless, it’s not looking too bad for this time of year. We’ve trimmed the bamboo, which has “clumped” since we planted it three years ago, and the climbing rose Crown Princess Margaret has been providing beautiful bouquets of peachy roses all summer. Hardy perennials like Crocosmia, Scabiosa, Asters and Geraniums are all still providing bursts of colour in the main flower bed.

The only thing I grew from seed this year is Crown Prince Pumpkins, which I trained to grow up over a frame my husband made to save space and protect them from slugs. This week I harvested three blue-ish pumpkins, the smallest weighing just over 2kg and the largest 5.1kg.

We’ve always enjoyed the wildlife that inhabits and visits our garden (with the exception of the slugs) but the upheaval and extra human presences during our renovations caused a temporary exodus, but over the last couple of months, the sparrows, blue tits and great tits have all returned. We’ve also had some bold grey squirrels coming right up to the window demanding nuts – much to our daughter’s delight. At the end of the summer, we also had a hedgehog wombling around the garden in the evenings.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that I love light shows and I’ve added a few solar lights to enchant our little garden (though my husband thinks I’m at risk of causing pollution if I add anymore). As daylight fades and the city begins to quiet, the lights flicker on one by one, and the garden starts to feel more peaceful and mysterious.

No sooner had our daughter started to recover than the tell-tale spots and blisters appeared on my hands and feet, but I’m hoping I’ll recover quickly so we can all get back into our routine and out for some autumnal adventures. Have a lovely weekend. X

Spring in the garden and beyond

This time last year we were still adjusting to life under the very first lockdown, and it’s such a contrast to have the world opening up after another three month lockdown and nature waking up after a long, cold winter. We’ve spent a lovely Easter bank holiday weekend strolling through parks, playing in the garden and visiting family.

It’s been a while since I’ve written about our garden, but we’ve continued working on it right through the winter months, replacing the fence separating our garden from our neighbours’, constructing more pemanent raised beds and building a summerhouse. We’ve already enjoyed morning coffees and evening meals in the summerhouse, and it’s such a lovely spot of shade in our sun-trap garden.

The daffodils I planted last autumn have begun to flower, providing a burst of yellow sunshine under the window, and it won’t be long until they’re joined by the tulips. As the daylight lengthens and the weather improves we’re spending more and more time outside, and our daughter has taken to bringing us her shoes and coat whenever she wants to toddle around the garden, play hide-and-seek in the summerhouse or fly on her swing.

We’re still regular visitors at our local parks, and the cycling seasons is obvious there too as the Greylag geese that spent winter in the pond have flown North again, and the bare trees have burst into blossom.

Yesterday, we took a trip slightly further afield to Rouken Glen and combined a walk around the park with our first trip to a garden centre this year, where we bought a plum tree and I went a bit wild stocking up on seeds.

We’ve had a strange combination of sunshine and low temperatures over the past few weeks but despite the cold, spring has definitely sprung and I’m so grateful for the changes in nature and the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions. Take care, and have a lovely week. X

Winter Wanders

Our area is still under lockdown but we’ve been enjoying some wintry walks with frosts, a light snowfall and temperatures hovering around zero this week. We recently visited Pollok Country Park starting early enough to see rays of sunlight breaking through the mist over the river on a cool and crisp morning, cold hands curled around cups of hot coffee while exploring the grounds. It was a lovely park to wander and a pleasant change from our local parks, though I think my husband was more excited to see the Highland cows (his favourite animal apparently) than our animal-loving daughter.

On Thursday, we woke to a very light dusting of snow that had frozen overnight. I spent a little bit of time crunching around the frozen garden with my daughter snuggled up close in her carrier, decorating our little apple trees with fairy lights and glittery baubles, checking on the sprouts and refilling the bird feeder.

I spent the rest of the day cosy inside decorating the Christmas tree with festive music playing in the background, a playful cat and inquisitive infant scampering around underfoot. I always enjoy unpacking the baubles and trinkets as most of them were handpicked on holidays or trips to the Christmas market or received as gifts, and have so much sentimental value attached to them. The most recent addition is a glass bauble that I bought during our first family trip to Pitlochry in October.

We were up bright and early this morning for a walk in a frosty winter wonderland, and we were rewarded for venturing out into subzero temperatures by the sight of a heron standing in the partially frozen pond at our local park. Take care, and have a lovely week. X

The End of Summer

TheEndofSummer

Our garden has been a bit neglected this summer as we’ve been enjoying day trips and little adventures around Scotland from rambling walks along the coast to picnics in castle ruins, though we’ve spent a few sunny afternoons in the garden playing with our wee daughter too.

TheEndofSummer2

After a warm and sunny spring, a cool, wet July meant most of my broccoli bolted, and slugs devoured my squashes and courgettes one by one. My husband has had a bit more success with blueberries and Japanese wineberries, but less luck with raspberries, tayberries and white currants. Having said that, we’re leaning towards growing more fruit (strawberries, apples, plums and rhubarb) than veg in future.

SummerBerries

Unfortunately, we’ve had to let our neighbours know that a furry, little family of four rats have moved in under their decking after we spotted them scurrying back and forth under the fence to eat at our bird feeder.

Rats

We’re in the process of changing the layout of the garden, trying to make the best use of space by replacing the fence, moving the washing line, replanting the flower borders and removing a couple of raised beds, as well as planting more fruit trees, but still leaving plenty of space for our little one to play when she’s older. Our garden has always felt like an extension of our home, and changes as our needs do.

It’s been noticeably colder and darker in the evenings lately, and the sunflowers are still providing some late summer cheer but our garden is looking a bit bedraggled. I noticed some of the trees in the park are already turning from summer green to autumnal reds on a family walk this week, and I’m ready to embrace the changing beauty and coziness of autumn. Have a lovely week. X

Summer Walks, Slugs and Sprinkles

Just sharing a quick update as I worry my posts have become a bit repetitive of late, though I still want to document this period of our lives and to remind myself that there’s much to be grateful for.

HimalayanHoneysuckle

Our daily walks have often been the highlight of my day since lockdown began. Being confined to a five mile radius has enoucouraged us to explore the local area more thoroughly than we would have when we were more likely to go to a park or drive to a forest or beach. We recently stumbled across a network of hidden lanes and have spent the last week exploring them. On one of our walks we spotted one of my husband’s favourite plants, Himalayan Honeysuckle, growing wild and I couldn’t resist taking a cutting for our garden along with a handful of Honesty seed pods.

Walks

We’ve been growing pea shoots on the kitchen window sill for a quick-growing and tasty addition to salads and stir-fries. Unfortunately, cool weather and rain has encouraged an army of slugs and snails to invade the garden, and they’ve been devouring my squash and courgette plants one by one. However, the brassica bed is doing well, and I spotted the first head of broccoli developing.

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve celebrated both my husband and father-in-law’s birthdays. Ordinarily, I would take my husband out to dinner but as that wasn’t possible this year, instead we treated ourselves to takeaway from one of our favourite Japanese restaurants, which was delicious. We also had socially distanced coffee and birthday cake in the garden with the in-laws – though my mother-in-law went a bit overboard with the sprinkles!

Sprinkles

We’ve had intermittent sunshine and showers here, but hoping now that travel restrictions are being relaxed, we’ll be able to have a few summer adventures soon whatever the weather. Take care and have a lovely week. X

Summer Solstice

What a strange year it’s been, it seems like a lifetime ago that we were watching wildfires sweep across Australia on the news and worrying about Brexit, yet here we are halfway through 2020. It’s been a quick year for us personally as our daughter arrived in early February and caring for her has kept us busy during the last few months when a global pandemic turned life upside down.

Our garden has also been a real blessing and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much I’ve been able to get done with a baby in tow.

June Roses

June is the month that the roses burst into flower, and since we moved here I’ve been steadily filling our garden with them. There’s the rich red wine coloured Munstead Wood, the bold pink Young Lycidas, and pale sunshine of Crown Princess Margareta. Meanwhile Boscobel is patiently waiting in a large pot for a permanent home.

Every year I vastly underestimate how much space growing vegetables need so I limited myself to broccoli, squash and yellow courgettes this year; then my dad surprised us with some cabbage, cauliflower and sprouts seedlings he’d started off so the veg beds are as crowded with higgledy piggeldy rows of vegetables as ever.

We’re still getting out for walks at least once a day, more often than not with the wee one in the sling or carrier so she can look around. We haven’t ventured out of our local area yet but I enjoy having a nosy at other people’s gardens, and we found a little woodland walkway when we wandered off the beaten track.

img_20200621_171319709492682156004650.jpg

On days when it’s too wet to spend much time outside, we’ve contented ourselves pottering around the home, reading books or watching films and TV series, and playing with the wee one – including a few spontaneous puppet shows.

There have been more visits to and from parents and in-laws, which have helped break the monontony and given us all a much-needed boost as we remain under partial lockdown. Our daughter has been very curious about the “new” faces appearing after spending so much time around me and her dad.

Hope everyone reading is safe and well, take care and have a lovely week. X

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

As a child who loved to play outside and help my parents in the garden, The Secret Garden thoroughly captured my imagination and was one of my childhood favourites, I recently found myself reaching for my old, crinkled and faded copy again when I was in the mood for some comfort-reading.

The Secret Garden follows nine-year-old Mary Lennox who is orphaned during an outbreak of cholera in India and sent to live with her uncle in Yorkshire. Mary is left to amuse herself exploring Misselthwaite Manor and the grounds where she finds a walled garden that has been locked and forgotten about for ten years.

I’ve always loved that Mary starts the story as a disagreeable, impudent and stubborn child, so different from other heroines in children’s stories, which makes her transformation into a lively, determined and cheerful child all the more remarkable, and mirrors the rejuvenation of the secret garden itself.

Along the way Mary befriends the kind but plain-spoken Martha, the grumpy yet sentimental gardener Ben Weatherstaff, animal-charming Dickon, and her cousin Colin who undergoes his own journey of healing and growth alongside Mary’s.

The Secret Garden is a lovely story of friendship, life and nature that captures the joy of nurturing a garden, and the curiosity and sense of wonder that comes so naturally to children. In the era of TV, social media and smartphones, the underlying message championing the value of nature and spending time outside for health and well-being seems as relevant now as it did when it was published in 1911. Have a lovely week. X