Keep Calm & Carry On Counting My Blessings

Coffee with Mara

I had to take a break from blogging earlier in the month due to a sudden and unexpected bout of ill-health. Earlier in June, I woke up with blurred vision in one eye, and it continued to deteriorate over the next 48 hours. After a quick call to NHS24, I was encouraged to go to A&E who were unable to find any sign of trauma or infection and made an urgent referral to ophthalmology for the next day. After a full visual test on both eyes, including scans and eye-drops, the ophthalmologist diagnosed me with optic neuritis (inflammation of the optic nerve), and has made a referral to neurology as it can be the first symptom of Multiple Sclerosis. M.S isn’t hereditary, but I do have a slightly higher risk of developing it as my mum has it. The good news is that I don’t have any other symptoms, and the ophthalmologist expects my vision to return fully in the next couple of months.

It’s been hard not to worry about the worst case scenarios but we don’t know anything for certain yet, and I’m trying to keep calm and carry on counting my blessings. The NHS receives a lot of criticism but I’m incredibly grateful for it, my access to A&E and ophthalmology was quick and all the staff I saw were diligent and compassionate.

Tea in the Garden

Losing vision in one eye has been humbling, unable to drive or work for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been housebound and have been grateful for simple home comforts. I’ve enjoyed spending time in the garden, and I’ve been very grateful for Mara’s companionship. Cats have a reputation for being aloof, but Mara is such a sociable girl, and she’s relished all the extra cuddles and attention while I’ve been at home. Most of all, I’ve been grateful for my husband, who has taken this latest setback in his stride, and has been an unwavering source of support and reassurance.

My vision is slowly returning, and I’m very much trying to counteract my fears with gratitude, but these last few weeks have been a reminder not to take anything for granted because life can change in an instant. Be well, and have a lovely week. X

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The Ladybirds and the Bees

Bombus1

Although we live in an urban environment, we’ve tried to make our garden as wildlife friendly as possible by planting flowers that bloom at different times to ensure a steady supply of food for the insects from spring to autumn, and we’ve been rewarded with lots of winged visitors in the garden this month.

The cirsium rivulare (which is becoming a bit of the thug in the back border) is particularly popular attracting both bees seeking pollen and ladybirds that eat the aphids eating the plant.

May is typically a warm and sunny month in our part of the world, and it’s been lovely to sit outside enjoying the sunshine as the bees bumble and buzz around completely unperturbed by our presence. As always very grateful for our little garden and all the joy it brings us. Have a lovely week! X

May Day Gardening

Tulips

Just tapping out a quick post at the end of another hectic week, but no matter what else is going on in our lives, we always try to find time to spend in the garden. April is usually when we sow the first seeds outside, which means the garden is at an awkward stage in early May when the first intrepid little seedlings start to peek above the soil, but there’s still too much bare earth for my liking – though the tulips are providing a lovely splash of colour.

Back Garden

One of my gardening regrets is that I didn’t take more photos of the garden when we first moved here, though in my defence there wasn’t much to photograph except for four towering, dark fir trees along the back fence, a washing line and a mossy lawn. Since then we’ve cut down the fir trees, built raised beds for vegetables and flowers, planted two little apple trees, clumping bamboo, roses and various perennials.

Seedling shelf

I recently rescued a rickety, old bookcase that has changed hands between various family members more times than I can remember but now resides in our front porch, which has become a makeshift green house to start off some of our tender plants. This year, I’m growing three different varieties of chilli (Banana, Poblano and Cayenne), but only one variety of squash called Honey Bear. My spouse has started off some Sweet Aperitif cherry tomatoes, and I’ve planted a pot of Lollo Rosso lettuce because we had surprise success with it last summer and appreciated being able to snip off a few leaves whenever we wanted to make a fresh salad. Have a lovely week! X

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

Early Signs of Spring

Early Signs of Spring

The shortest month of the year felt like the longest for us, and it was a relief to turn the page of the calendar and welcome both a new month and a new season. Over the last few days, I’ve enjoyed noticing all the little signs – from the first daffodil about to unfurl in our garden to the light creeping back into our mornings and evenings – that spring is on the way.

The end of February was unseasonably warm across the UK – such a contrast from this time last year when our garden was under a foot of snow, but for the most part we’ve had frosty mornings, sunny afternoons and cooler evenings in our part of the country. It’s been warm enough to resume my lunchtime walks in the park near my office, where I spotted catkins dangling from the trees like party decorations, and in our front garden the little Kilmarnock willow has also started producing furry catkins.

There still isn’t much growing in our garden yet, but we’ve started off a few things inside. In a fit of nostalgia, my spouse and I decided to grow something that reminded of us of our childhoods. My husband often reminisces about growing potatoes with his stepdad on their allotment, and there are now potatoes chitting on one of the windowsills. We’ve also started off some sweat peas, which remind me of happy hours spent playing in my grandparents’ garden. I let my husband pick whichever colours he liked, but insisted he stick to scented varieties.

When life feels overwhelming, there is something incredibly steadying about nature and the familiar cycle of the seasons; again and again, nature somehow finds a way to endure the harshest winters, scorching summers, and everything in between. Have a lovely week. X

The Giant Lanterns of China

One of my highlights of 2018 was visiting the Giant Lanterns of China at Edinburgh Zoo for Chinese New Year, and I was thrilled when I found out they were putting on another show this year. This time around the theme was Myths and Legends, and I loved the clash of Scottish and Chinese mythology, like the Loch Ness Monster tangling with a Chinese water dragon.

Nessie and Dragon

There were a few lanterns recycled from the previous event but I was impressed by how much thought and effort had been made to ensure it was every bit as original and memorable as the first, and I thought it was even better than the previous year.

Aside from all the fantastical creatures, there was also a section displaying extinct animals alongside currently endangered species, providing a pertinent reminder that we must act now to prevent species from disappearing in our lifetime due to climate change, hunting and loss of habitat.

Living in Scotland, we’re no strangers to inclement weather, but when it started snowing, it only made the experience seem more magical as we meandered between the gorgeous lanterns with cold hands wrapped around hot drinks, and it was a wonderful way to spend a wintry evening in February. Have a lovely week! X

Winter Gardening Indoors & Out

Unlike many people, I don’t dislike January, it’s a peaceful month to recover from the excesses of the festive period and ease into a new year. Unfortunately, I don’t feel quite as charitable about February, which I find frigid and inhospitable while I’m impatiently waiting for spring to begin.

snowdrop

I dug up the Iris Reticulata and Snowdrop bulbs last year with the intention of relocating them but then didn’t get around to it, which will make winter feel even longer as we might not see many flowers until April when the tulips appear. I must have missed one of the snowdrops though, and it was a pleasant surprise to spot the little flash of white in the border.

buddha and bamboo

At this time of year, I’m desperately grateful for the greenery that the bamboo (Fargesia Robusta) provides while the trees are still bare, and it looks lovely edged with white when it snows. We’ve also treated ourselves to a little Buddha statue with vouchers the in-laws gave us for Christmas to add a little Zen to the border.

I’ve been enjoying watching the birds that visit our feeding station over the winter. We seem to have a multi-generational family of sparrows living in our hedge and a pair of blue tits that nest by the side of the house every year, as well as the odd robin and black bird that visit.

Inside our home, we’ve been enjoying the warmth and coziness of our woodburner most evenings, and I’ve been tending our little houseplant collection, which I’m often guilty of neglecting during the warmer months when most of my time and attention is focused on the garden. I was very excited to notice that two of the Echeveria seem to be growing flowering stems, especially as their once red and pink edges have faded to the leaftips. Have a lovely week! X