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

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

On the Cusp of Autumn

On the Cusp of Autumn

It’s still warm in the sunshine, but there’s a crisp coolness creeping into the mornings and evenings, and it feels like summer is waning and we are on the cusp of another autumn. The British have a reputation for being obsessed with the weather, but I love living somewhere with such distinct seasons and changeable weather, and noticing all the subtle signs of one season flowing into the next.

In our garden, the kale and chard seeds I sowed have sprouted and we’ve harvested the first squashes. I planted four varieties as an experiment, and so far the Spaghetti and Uchiki Kuri are doing better than the Hunter or Sweet Dumpling, but it’s fun to grow vegetables that aren’t always available in the shops.

We’ve tried to create a bee-friendly garden full of plants that flower at different times to provide food for the bees (and butterflies) all year round but our bumbling visitors have been slowing down lately, and we had to revive one exhausted bee we found on the garden path with a spoon dipped in honey. The surest sign that the temperatures have dropped and autumn has arrived occurred inside our home though when our cat Mara decided to burrow under the duvet for a snuggle to warm up her cold little ears and paws for the first time in a long time.

This week we’ve had the chimney swept and stacked logs in the porch in preparation for the colder weather ahead. During the heatwave this summer it was hard to remember it being cold enough to light the fire, but as the daylight gradually shortens and the weather cools, I’m looking forward to savouring all the beauty and cosiness of autumn inside and out. 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.Ā 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

Making an Entrance

Making an Entrance

After such a long and cold winter, the warmth and sunshine of spring took us by surprise and we’ve been rushing to catch up in the garden. Our garden is very much a work in progress, and we always seem to have a mix of short and long term plans on the go at once, but over the last few weeks we’ve been focusing our efforts on improving the front garden.

We inherited four roses planted by a previous owner in the front garden: a yellow with pink edges, a sultry red, and two different pinks, one pale and modest, the other bold and slightly disheveled. At some point, I’d like to add another red and a peach coloured rose too.

It’s fair to say that the front garden has been fairly neglected since we moved in and probably for some time before judging by the weeds that have flourished with only the roses as competition, by far the worst of the weeds is horsetail. I’m loathe to use weedkillers, and I’ve heard mixed reviews about their effectiveness against horsetail anyway, but I’m hoping that I can weaken it by vigorous weeding and planting a selection of other plants that will hopefully be tough enough to compete with the horsetail.

A few weeks ago, we took my grandmother to a garden center near where she lives and spent a lovely afternoon catching up over lunch, helping her choose birthday cards for relatives and friends, and buying a few new plants for our front garden, including a hardy fuschia, a thistle and a tiny Kilmarnock willow. We’ve also added a perennial cornflower (Amethyst in the Snow), Rudbeckia Goldstrum, Geranium Ann Folkard and two Japanese anemones (September Charm and Honorine Jobert).Ā It doesn’t look like much yet, but I look forward to seeing this part of the garden develop and hopefully thrive in the years to come. Have a lovely week. X

Spring bulbs and seedlings

 

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Our windowsills have been even more crowded with plant pots than normal as the chili, courgette and squash seedlings jostle our houseplants for space. I never know when to start sowing seeds as it’s not unusual to have frosts in April here, and there’s a risk of seedlings outgrowing their pots before it’s warm enough to plant them outside, but I sowed the courgette and squash seeds on the Spring Equinox. All theĀ green and yellow courgettes have surfaced, but unfortunately only oneĀ each of theĀ hunter and uchiki kuri squash seeds germinated.

It’s an awkward time of year in the garden, as we’ve been hard at work but there’s little to show for it yet, except for a few daffodils and hyacinths providing a welcome splash of colour.

In a rare week without snow in February, we hired a tree surgeon to cut down the three fir trees at the back of the garden. Part of me thinks cutting down healthy trees is heinous but having spent an exhausting afternoon digging up their shallow but tough and far-reaching roots, I’m glad to be rid of them, and we’re planning to replace with them with apple and willow trees.

We’ve turned the compost, and moved the compost bins to a location that gets more sunlight as they were in the shade before, it was a messy job but less smelly than expected.

Over the Easter weekend, my husband built a fruit cage to prevent our feathered friends from stealing all our berries. He’s recently added a Japanese wineberry, a blackcurrant and another blueberry to his fruit bush collection. We’ve also planted two more crowns of rhubarb (holstein blood red and champagne) to keep the mystery rhubarb my mum gave us company.

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Mara surveying our efforts in the garden

When I first started my blog, we didn’t have a garden (though it was something we both dreamed of), and I had no idea how much writing inspiration I would find in our little garden, nor how much I would enjoy reading about other people’s gardens. Our garden is very much a work in progress, constantly evolving, and although it’s been hard work at times, gardening has brought us so much pleasure and a real sense of achievement. Have a lovely weekend. X