Autumn Equinox in the Garden

This weekend marked the official start of autumn according to the astronomical calendar (though I’ve always prefered the meteorological calendar as it always seems like we’re well into a season by the time the equinox or solstice rolls around), and I’m still enjoying lots of time out in the garden.

I’ve tried to fill the garden with plants that flower at different times, and one of my favourites is the autumn flowering Aster ‘Patricia Ballard’. I also really appreciate the flowers with a long flowering period like hardy geraniums that start flowering in June and carry on well into autumn and sometimes winter, long after the summer blooms have faded, and so far both ‘Blushing Turtle’ and ‘Rozanne’ are still going strong.

My favourite rose, David Austin’s ‘Boscobel’ has slowed down but is still producing the odd beautiful flower in the long border, and the most generous of my roses, ‘Crown Princess Margareta’ is still producing the odd handful of apricot blooms.

There are also still a few annuals dotted around the garden like calendula and nasturtiums, but there is a gradual sense that the garden is slowing down and preparing to hibernate.

We’ve had quite a few cherry tomatoes from plants we bought reduced, but quite a few are still green and I’m hoping they’ll ripen before the cold weather arrives. I wasn’t planning to grow many vegetables this year, but seized by a sudden whim I sowed a few seeds for winter veggies (turnips, spinach and radish) in one the square raised beds, and I’ve also started cabbage, kale and chard seeds in the greenhouse, but it feels like a race against time to grow them on enough to plant out before the first frosts.

As much as I love the coziness of autumn and winter, I do miss spending time in the garden during the colder, darker months, and I’m savouring every moment in the garden and all the plants still growing at this time of year. Have a lovely week. X

Stepping into Autumn

Autumn is upon us once more, with cool, crisp mornings, warm, sunny afternoons (more often than not!) and darker evenings, and the leaves of the trees just starting to turn in our corner of the world.

Last week, my husband and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary, and next week we’ll have been together for 14 years. I still feel very lucky to have found him; my husband is my best friend, he’s been a supportive partner through so many challenges and changes, and he’s become a devoted, hands-on father too. It hasn’t always been easy, over the years we’ve had to navigate long-distance as work and study pulled us in opposite directions across the map, interfering in-laws and family estrangements, illnesses and a hundred other hurdles. Yet there has been so much more laughter, affection and joy, and the hard times we’ve faced have always been made easier by the reassuring comfort of standing side by side, hand in hand through it all.

We managed a rare child-free evening out to celebrate our anniversary at a delicious Spanish tapas restaurant, we ate so much food, enjoyed a tasty mocktail, then ice-cream and a wee wander up to the University to see my hubby’s new office.

My husband starts a new job next week, one that involves much less travel around the UK than his previous role, which will suit our little family better. In contrast, I’ve been with the same employer for over six years now, by far the longest I’ve ever worked anywhere, and I’d like to make a change at some point in the future but I’m very lucky that my employer offers flexible working options that fit around family life.

I’m not one to count my chickens before they’ve hatched but it’s hard not to feel excited and nervous when our second child’s due date is just 7 weeks away! I had a bit of a fright a couple of weeks ago as I was involved in a 4 car accident on my way home from work, though luckily no one involved was injured and after exchanging details we all made our way home. Even so, it was a relief to see our baby at the 32-week growth scan last week, and to see everything looking healthy and normal. We also received our baby box from the Scottish government and enjoyed unpacking all the useful things inside.

We’ve finally started work on our front garden with the help of my father-in-law (and our daughter who just loves to get involved with whatever we’re doing), creating a new path that leads directly up to the front door. For the last few years the front garden has been overgrown and neglected so I’m really looking forward to doing something with this space, and my imagination is running wild with ideas of silver birch and cherry blossom trees and a pond.

I love September with the last of the summer warmth and the first chill of autumn, as it always seems like month of beginnings and endings, changes and transitions, as one season draws to a close and another begins, and I’m looking forward to lots of cosy times ahead. Have a lovely week. X

Summer Scenes and Moments

Taking some time to reflect on some of the highlights of a lovely summer as the season draws to a close before we step into autumn.

We’re an outdoorsy family and have enjoyed lots of time outside in both sunshine and the rain, with a surprisingly fun showery day at Mugdock Country Park, wrapped up in waterproofs and wellies feeding ducks in the pond, splashing in puddles and wandering the forest trails.

We made another visit to our favourite beach, this time chasing the waves at high tide with our fearless daughter charging into the sea up to her waist.

We spent a very changeable day at the Kelpies that began with us appreciating the statues from every angle, then having ice cream and hot chocolate in the drizzle, before the sun came out again and we wandered along the canal path admiring the narrowboats, my husband and I reminiscing about a narrowboat holiday with friends several years ago and daydreaming about possible future family holidays.

There have been afternoons spend in the garden, keeping cool in the paddling pool with ice lollies or thick slices of chilled watermelon, or the little one foraging for strawberries and blueberries in our little food forest, or zooming around our cul-de-sac on her scooter and bike while we chat to our neighbours.

While playgroups and sensory have been off for summer, we’ve spent sunny mornings at the park, swinging, sliding, trampolining and chasing our shadows. Oddly, these morning visits to the park reminded me in an unexpectedly nostalgic way of my maternity leave during lockdown when the parks were all that was open to us. There was also an early morning visit to the skate park at Kelvingrove where the little one rode her balance bike up and down the ramps before the older skateboarders, roller skaters and biking kids arrived.

There was another visit to Five Sisters Zoo, this time with my husband’s family to celebrate a birthday. We spent most of our time shepherding three exuberant little cousins, but still managed to catch glimpses of the red panda in the treetops, beautiful newly arrived Cheetahs, and the rescued lions – which I only recently realised are male having misread the sign the first time I visited (they were castrated when very young and never grew manes). It’s seeing the animals – especially those that were rescued – so healthy and content that makes Five Sisters Zoo such a special place to visit and a zoo that I’m happy to support.

We also had a walk around Rouken Glen Park recently too, seeing the river and waterfalls a mere trickle of what they usually are, but the woods still lush and green. We are really lucky to have so many lovely places to explore nearby.

Even though we didn’t go away for a holiday this summer (we’re saving our annual leave and money for my maternity leave later this year) and the weather has swung from scorching heatwaves to thundery downpours, we’ve had a summer full of fun, laughter and made some lovely memories together. Have a lovely week. X

Summer in the Garden

Like most people in the UK, we spent the first half of the week trying to stay cool on the hottest days, though we haven’t had to endure the record breaking temperatures further South. Although our garden is South-SouthWest facing, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well our plants held up during the heatwave, and it’s looking really lovely right now if I do say so myself.

Our back garden has changed a lot over the last few years but is starting to look quite established with fruit trees growing tall, the bamboo clumping, summerhouse freshly painted and perennials spreading in the long border. I’ve tried to plant flowers that bloom at different times, and as Cirsium Rivulare (thistle) dies back, the Crocosmia starts to flower, while the hardy Geraniums (‘Blushing Turtle’ and ‘Rozanne’) and roses pretty much flower from June until the first frost (and sometimes beyond that). ‘Rozanne’ has become a bit of a sprawling mass, so I’ll separate and relocate some to the other beds in the autumn.

I’ve surprised myself by developing a real affection for pink roses, ‘Boscobel’ is my favourite but the climbing rose ‘James Galway’ is a close second, and I doubt I’ll be able to resist adding another rose to fill in the gap in the long border when the next David Austin catalogue drops through the letterbox.

The two smaller square beds were supposed to be wildflower patches, but calendula and one solitary sunflower were the only things to survive the slugs which devoured every other seedling as they surfaced, but I don’t mind as I quite like the dramatic, fiery orange.

We’ve been putting out a little bit of food and water for the birds, squirrels and hedgehogs that inhabit and visit our garden over the summer. It’s especially exciting to see hedgehogs snuffling and shuffling around in the evening. We know there’s more than one visiting as they’re visibly different sizes with different markings, and it’s encouraging because their numbers have been in sharp decline for a while.

We’ve constructed the greenhouse, and my husband also built a small fence around it to prevent kids from bumping into it. During the heatwave earlier this week, the thermometer in the greenhouse reached 46°C before it stopped working. The greenhouse went up a bit late late in the season, but we’ve filled it with reduced price seedlings so we might still get a handful of tomatoes and courgettes, but I’m excited about growing more of our veg next year. I’ve had some success growing lettuce in pots this summer, though I had to move them onto the kitchen windowsill as they were starting to wilt in direct sunlight. I’ve also created a little fruit forest between our apple trees planting rhubarb and strawberries underneath, and our daughter loves foraging for berries in the garden. Weeds have been a problem so I scattered some nasturtium seeds to provide a bit of competition and occlusion, but I haven’t tried eating the leaves or flowers.

Our garden is quite small and yet we’re making the most of the space we have. Gardening is one of my great passions, and I really value time spent in the garden so much, it’s incredibly rewarding and restorative to feel connected to nature. Have a lovely week. X

Midsummer at the Beach

A mercurial spring has finally given way to a warm and sunny summer, and a couple of weeks ago we had a long overdue visit to the beach. When it was just the two of us, my husband and I would always visit in January (if not on New Year’s Day itself) for a bracing walk along the shore letting the icy winds blow away the cobwebs of the year before and sharing a flask of hot coffee while we chatted about our hopes and plans for the year ahead, but this year was half gone before we found time to visit.

Croy Shore is a beautiful beach with incredible views of the Isle of Arran across the sea, but lacks the amenities of other beaches along the Ayrshire coast such as cafes and ice-cream vans or public toilets (closed during the pandemic and never reopened) which mean our visits here always require a bit more planning like toilet breaks on the way and packed lunches.

My husband had checked the tides before we arrived so we knew that it would be out allowing us to explore the rockpools that are usually hidden underwater at high tide, and after scrabbling across some very slippery seaweed covered rocks we found crabs, an eel and starfish.

Our toddling daughter was fascinated by all the aquatic critters but she probably had just as much fun digging in the sand and splashing in the sea.

After a lovely afternoon of picnicking, walking barefoot in the sand, paddling in the sea and exploring rockpools, we were all tired but refreshred and ready for dinner, showers and baths to wash the sand from between our toes, and an early night. Have a lovely week. X

Moments in May

Taking time to reflect on another month that’s flown by as we approach summer and the midpoint of the year.

As well as our weekly toddler sensory class, I’ve been alternating taking my daughter to softplay and the local playgroup on my midweek day off. We’ve become regulars at Kelvin Hall softplay, which recently reopened, and the little one especially loves thrashing around in the ball pool; though we also like the softplay at our local Dobbies, having finally joined the Dobbies club – something we should have done years ago if only for the discounts on plans, seeds and bulbs. There have also been family (and sometimes just daddy-daughter) swimming trips and it’s great to see how quickly our daughter has come on in just a few weeks. I felt like we missed out on a lot of experiences during the pandemic, but I’ve loved trying different activities together now that she’s a bit older.

Our cat, Mara, gave us a scare earlier this month, having another sudden bout of gastroenteritis. Fortunately the vomiting and diarrhoea passed quickly and we were able to get her to eat a little bit (thanks to cat soup and Dreamies) so she didn’t require veterinary treatment, and 72 hours later she was back to wolfing down her food and whining for treats too. It’s always scary how suddenly Mara can become unwell, and just as surprising how quickly she bounces back to health and her usual affectionate, playful self afterwards.

We had a trip to Finlaystone Country Estate taking a little wander around the gardens before rambling into the woods so our daughter could scramble around the wooden ship and all three of us had a fun on the swings together. The play areas are all very rustic but great for kids to play and explore.

We also visited Pollok Country Park, and had a brisk tour of the newly reopened Burrell Collection. There were lots of interactive and tactile displays to entertain the youngest visitors, and I thought embedding the old arches and windows into the new building was a lovely architectural feature. Afterwards we made our way across the fields to see the Highland cows.

There’s been lots of time in the garden too, chasing our daughter round as she squeals with laughter, tidying up the spaces where the new shed and greenhouse will go, and just gambling on good weather and planting the sunflower and courgette seedlings outside.

May has been another month where we haven’t travelled far or had any big excursions but it’s been a busy and fun-filled time nevertheless, making the most of the amenities nearby. Take care and have a lovely week. X

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

March Microadventures

March was a bit of a mixed-up and muddled month for us. We were hit by back-to-back illnesses in the middle of the month that floored us for a couple of weeks, and then after a brief respite when we were all well enough to get out into the good weather, our 2-year-old daughter caught chicken pox on the last day of the month. I am, however, making an effort to focus on the little microadventures we enjoyed despite it all, instead of dwelling on the days spent at home (and hospital!) feeling poorly.

At the start of the month, lighter days and better weather had us seeking out places to visit just a bit further away than our usual haunts, and we spent sunny afternoons strolling along the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond at Balloch Country Park, and skimming stones (or just making big splashes) by the water at Helensburgh.

We also had our first family swimming trip, and in the space of an hour, our daughter progressed from crying and clinging to us to calmly floating around in her rubber ring and kicking her legs while we held her hands. My husband and I used to go swimming every week but this was our first time back in the pool in over two years, and a couple of years of the pandemic and parenthood have definitely taken a toll on our fitness, but it felt good to swim a few lengths and we’ll definitely be back again soon with our daughter in tow.

Back at home, we’ve been enjoying playing in the garden and eating dinner in the summerhouse on light, warm evenings, and there were surprise flowers, a homemade truffle and card waiting for me on Mother’s Day.

This weekend has been unexpectedly tiring and stressful as the little one was sent home early from nursery with suspected chicken pox on Friday (later confirmed by the pharmacist) and she didn’t seem to bothered by it, but she was very restless on Saturday night with a stubbornly high fever of 39°C, and by morning she had developed an angry, red rash that didn’t look like the ordinary chicken pox spots. We took her to A&E to get checked over, and they suspected a secondary infection and decided to keep her in overnight to give her IV antibiotics (the cannula is probably one of her least favourite things along with covid swabs), though luckily we were allowed to stay with her. With 3 hourly checks and 6 hour meds through the night, it wasn’t the most restful sleep we’ve ever had but by this morning her stats were stable and improving, and she was discharged just before lunch. It’s a relief to be home again, and see the little one slowly recovering.

Between bad weather, lingering Covid19 restrictions and bouts of illness, it’s been a long winter and I’m so glad to feel the sun’s warmth again, see daffodils flowering and to notice the arrival of spring once more. Take care and have a lovely week. X