End of the Gardening Year

Winter Preparations

Things are steadily winding down in the garden as temperatures drop, the weather worsens and the daylight decreases, and we’re preparing ourselves for another long, dark and cold winter. I always start to feel a bit reflective in December and as there’s not much to do in the garden, it’s a good time to look back on all the changes we’ve made in our front and back gardens this year.

It’s been a year of stark contrasts weather-wise as it snowed all through January¬†and¬†right into March, so we got off to a late start in the garden, then had to contend with scorching sunshine during the summer heatwave. Yet despite the vagaries of the weather, we’ve still accomplished a lot: cutting down three tall, dark fir trees and replacing them with clumping bamboo along the back fence, planting two apple trees, as well as filling our flower borders with hardy perennials and roses. We’ve also had seasonal successes growing lettuce, rat-tailed radish, courgettes, squashes, rhubarb and various soft fruits.

The growing season is almost over, but we still have winter kale in the raised beds, as well as a few stubborn calendula flowering in the border. Improving the heavy clay soil is one of our longer term aims, but we left it too late to sow green manure seeds in the raised beds and instead we’ve covered them with fallen leaves we gathered that will hopefully mulch down over the winter.

As the garden prepares to hibernate, we’re making plans for 2019, planting spring bulbs, collecting seeds, daydreaming about flowers tumbling out of the borders and harvesting organic vegetables. Our garden may be a work in progress – and very hard work at times – but it gives us a real sense of achievement and joy, and we’re very grateful for it. Have a lovely week! X

November Roses and Coziness

Mara by the fire

We are slowly settling into our winter routines lighting the fire every time the temperature drops into single figures and enjoying the coziness of our home, but this weekend we spent a little bit of time out in the garden as well.

All through the summer and well into the autumn, the roses in our front garden have been a constant source of colour and loveliness welcoming us home each day.

A few months ago, I paid a visit to the David Austin website with the innocent intention of buying a couple of hybrid tea roses to fill in the gaps in our rose border, but quickly seduced by the range of colours, varieties and fanciful names, I ended up buying three roses for the front garden and another three for the back. All of which were delivered last week and have now been planted, though they look like little more than thorny twigs in the ground at the moment.

Inspired by an episode of Gardeners’ World, I’ve also taken cuttings from one of the roses we inherited from the previous owners. It has the somewhat dubious distinction of being the only rose in garden that only flowers once during the summer, and yet it is truly lovely while it blooms.

Roses3

I will miss spending time in the garden over the winter, which has been a place to immerse ourselves in nature, as well as a place to sit in quiet contemplation gathering our thoughts and appreciating the flow of one season into another, but until spring rolls around again, I’ll enjoy the warmth and comfort of our home on these long, dark evenings. Have a lovely week! X

The Garden in Autumn

Autumn Anenome

The weather this month has been changeable and it was cold enough to light the fire this evening, but there are still a few plants growing and flowering in the garden as we edge towards winter.

In the back garden, I’ve pulled up the self-seeded nasturtiums, which had been making a nuisance of themselves in the back border sending vines out in every direction, while Salvia, Calendulas and Asters have been providing some colour in the flower borders.

We lost almost a third of our squashes to slugs, but we still harvested a few for ourselves, though I didn’t realise that they could cross-pollinate and we’ve ended up with some slightly bland hybrids, so next year I’ll grow fewer varieties. Wool pellets have protected the kale and chard from the slugs in the adjacent raised bed.

We’ve been filling up the bird feeder every week and watching our feathered friends has been a whole family activity with our cat Mara chittering away while my husband and I try to identify the different birds that visit our garden, and we all enjoy watching the squirrels’ acrobatics.

It amuses me that we’ve somehow become a couple that listens to Gardeners’ Question Time and watches Gardeners World, and we’ll miss Monty and the gang’s advice over the winter months, but we still have a few jobs left to do before the garden starts to hibernate. Have a lovely week! X

Growing Together

 

GrowingTogether

The heatwave appears to have come to an end in our part of the country, and we’ve emerged from the shade back into the garden. Over the last week, we’ve also enjoyed spending time with my parents in their gardens as well.

I often feel lucky that my husband and I have so much in common with my parents, and we’ve spent many happy hours over the years watching films together, sorting ourselves into our Hogwarts houses on Pottermore, and just chatting over mugs of tea, but whenever we’re together it doesn’t usually take long for the conversation to turn to the subject of gardening.

My parents – both introverts by nature – come to life when talking about gardening, always as eager to share their advice and show off their gardens as they are curious to hear about what we’re growing in our own. Unsurprisingly, I have my parents to thank for my love of nature and gardening, and one of my proudest achievements as a child was growing a fuschia from a tiny cutting, which has since grown into a bush measuring at least five foot tall and three feet wide, and now my dad has offered me another cutting from the very same plant for our own garden.

Gardening often brings out the most generous side of a person, and I never seem to part from my parents these days without one of them pressing a packet of seeds into my hand or loading my arms with whatever fruit or vegetables they’ve had an unexpected glut of.

Families today are often separated by geographical distance, conflicting work schedules and a hundred other distractions, and yet it is lovely that something as simple as our shared love of gardening seems to have brought my little family closer together. Have a lovely week. X

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

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

Pottering around with houseplants

Pottering1

Winter still hasn’t given way to spring yet in our part of the country, and another snowfall at the weekend prevented us from¬†making a start in¬†the garden, but I’ve been pottering around the house tending my little collection of houseplants instead.

Our house is¬†a long way from becoming one of the lush urban jungles to be found on Instagram, and I’ve killed more plants than I’d like to admit but I’ve gradually¬†collected and nurtured¬†a little selection of succulents, ferns, fittonia and, of course, a seemingly¬†infallible spider-plant. Decorating the plant pots was a rainy day project – though like all my crafts they’re a bit rough around the edges.

As our cat, Mara, is a nibbler, we only have plants that are safe for pets, and the ASPCA provide helpful lists of toxic and non-toxic plants.

I’ve had no luck at all propagating succulents, but I’ve had much more success propagating spiderettes from the spider-plant. I’ve already given one to my dad, another to my best friend, and I’ve just potted up a few more to give to a couple of friends and my husband, who wants one for his desk at work.

Determined not to repeat some of the rookie mistakes we made last year, I’ve¬†started our courgettes and squash plants off¬†inside.¬†I’m also attempting to grow chilli peppers from seed; the¬†cayenne seedlings have already surfaced, and I’m¬†hoping the poblano will¬†sprout soon too.

Meanwhile¬†in the garden…

Pottering6

Have a lovely week! X