The Enchanted Forest ~ Lighting Up Dark Nights

The Enchanted Forest

Last weekend we made our annual jaunt to Pitlochry for the Enchanted Forest, which remains one of our favourite traditions, and a seasonal midpoint marking the transition into the colder, darker months of the year.

The theme this year was ‘Cosmos’, inspired by the skies above the forest and commemorating 50 years since astronauts walked on the moon. Now in its 18th year (and this was our 8th year visiting), it still impresses me that the creative team continue to explore new ideas and technologies, never content to just repeat what they’ve done before, and always striving to make it an immersive and interactive experience.

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It’s so refreshing and restorative to have a night away at this time of year, from watching the scenery change as we cross the country with trees lining the roads already various shades of red, amber and gold, to treading the familiar paths around an illuminated Faskally Woods, pausing to take photos and appreciate the displays, sipping hot chocolate and treating ourselves to a little Christmas decoration from the merchandise stall, before returning to the hotel for a well-earned rest and waking up to marmalade on toast and porridge with honey for breakfast.

The Enchanted Forest is the first of a few seasonal activities we’ve got planned over the next couple of months, and as the nights draw in and life moves indoors, it’s lovely to wrap up warm and get outside for events like this that light up the long, dark nights. Have a lovely week. X

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A Garden in Progress

Tulip Ballerina

Winter often seems like the longest season in our part of the world, and it always feels like such a relief to see leaves on the trees again, and tulips and daffodils in full bloom in April. The Easter Bank Holiday coincided with a spell of warm, sunny weather and we’ve spent most of our long weekend in the garden. April is always a busy time of year in the garden, heralding a period of growth and change, but we’ve also enjoyed just sitting out in the sunshine taking it all in and anticipating the growing season ahead.

As much as I enjoy visiting public gardens and flower shows, I often find more inspiration from my fellow garden bloggers and I love seeing real gardens with washing lines, water butts and compost bins, as these are all signs of use and life often missing from landscaped and designed gardens. Our washing line cuts across the garden, and I’m hoping that when our garden is more established it will be less obvious, but in the meantime I’ve create little miniature flowerbeds around the base of the poles. I’ve planted tete-a-tete daffodils that I bought reduced at a local garden center in them, and I’m also hoping to train sweet peas up the trellis.

Fed up battling against the challenging conditions in the border under the hedge, we decided to move part of the L-shaped flowerbed turning it into a T-shape, it’s still in full-sun but plants won’t have to compete with the hedge roots now, and as a bonus we can trim the hedge without all the branches and leaves falling on the bed below.

Our garden will never win any awards, but it’s an eclectic patchwork of our experiments and whimsies, and it brings us an enormous amount of pleasure and fulfillment. Happy Easter and have a lovely week! X

A New Year’s Day Walk on the Beach

Arran and the Holy Isle

We were up bright and early yesterday for a New Year’s Day walk at our favourite beach, Croy Shore in Ayrshire. We never remember to check the tides before visiting but we were happy to discover that it was out when we arrived giving us an opportunity to meander towards the rocky outcrops that are usually inaccessible when the tide is in.

Strolling side by side with our hoods up against the chill wind and the sun warming our backs, the pale blue skies gave us a perfect view of the Isle of Arran and the Holy Isle. My spouse and I weren’t brave enough to take a dip in the sea, but it was a refreshing walk and felt like we were breathing in all the hope of a new year and letting go of the year before. I always feel inspired by new beginnings, and it’s exciting to think of all the opportunities to meet new people, visit new places, try new experiences, to learn and grow that a new year promises.

This week I’m enjoying a few more days off at home before we put the Christmas decorations away for another year, we return to work and normality resumes. Happy New Year and have a lovely week! X

Twinkle and Jingle

Curious Mara

There always seems to be a mad dash in December to get everything ready for Christmas, but now that the shopping is done, cards have been posted and presents wrapped, things are finally starting to wind down and we’re very much looking forward to some time off between Christmas and New Year.

My husband and I have been trying to simplify Christmas for a few years now, gradually stripping away the stress, excess and waste to find all the peace, love, joy and wonder that the festive period holds.

Everything seems to twinkle and jingle in December, and I always look forward to the simple pleasure of putting up our Christmas decorations, and especially decorating the tree. I love unwrapping the trinkets and baubles we’ve collected over the years, and reminiscing about where each of them came from. The newest addition to our collection is a wooden nutcracker soldier that I bought from Jólagarðurinn (The Christmas Garden) outside Akureyri in Iceland, a little souvenir from our holiday in April. Our cat Mara also loves investigating the tree, though luckily she doesn’t attempt to climb it or attack the baubles.

My favourite part of Christmas though is spending time with my family, free from the distractions and time constraints that are often present throughout the rest of the year. This Christmas many of our plans will revolve around the older generation of our family, as we try to make things as easy and inclusive as possible for my 92-year-old nanna, and visit another member of the family who might be spending Christmas in hospital. Christmas is a time of love and joy for many, yet it can be tinged with loss and loneliness for others, and I always feel lucky and grateful to be able to share it with the people I love most.

Wishing everyone a peaceful winter Solstice and a very happy Christmas! X

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.

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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

Happy Halloween!

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A few weeks ago we were in Perthshire for the Enchanted Forest, but this week we visited a lightshow closer to home at the Glasgow Botanic Gardens, which have been illuminated for Halloween.

The designers made great use of the space and existing features, and it was wonderful to see the grass meadow where locals flock to picnic and sunbath during the summer transformed into a sea of lights, as well as the ferns in Kibble Palace all lit up, and a few spooky effects scattered around the gardens.

As much as we love the cosy autumn and winter months, my husband and I are outdoorsy types and we’re always grateful to have an excuse to wrap up warm and get outside to stretch our legs at this time of year, and “Glasglow” at the Botanic Gardens was a delightful way to spend a cold, dark October evening.

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Tonight and tomorrow we’ll try to eke out the Halloween festivities a little longer watching Dia de los Muertos themed films (Coco and The Book of Life) and eating leftover sweets we bought for the local kids out guising (or “trick or treating”). Happy Halloween and have a lovely week! X