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

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

Late Summer in the Garden

Late Summer in the Garden

I noticed the first yellow leaves on the trees this week, and although the weather’s still warm, it feels like summer is starting to wane in our part of the country. In our garden most of the annuals have died back, giving us an excuse to tidy up the flower borders and rescue some of the perennials that I planted in the wrong places.

Learning from our successes and failures over this summer and last, we’ve decided we’ll only plant annuals and wildflowers in the bed under the hedge as they don’t seem to mind the combination of the greedy hedge and full sun that the perennials struggle with. In the bed closest to the house, we’ve replanted the Aquilegia along with a few new additions to create a narrow herbaceous border.

Missing the privacy that the fir trees that used to be there provided, and wanting a screen to obscure the eye-sore building behind our garden, we decided to create a border along the fence with plants too tall for our other flower beds. My husband planted clumping bamboo along the fence and I’ve been filling in the gaps with varieties of perennial Mallow, Cirsium Rivulare and a Beautyberry shrub – a plant that we first saw during our honeymoon in Japan – though ours is unlikely to produce any berries this year.

I love looking at before and after photos of our garden, seeing all the changes we’ve made since we’ve lived here, but our garden is still a work-in-progress and it may be a while until it resembles the picture I have in my imagination. 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

Spring bulbs and seedlings

 

BulbsSeedlings1

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 the green and yellow courgettes have surfaced, but unfortunately only one each of the 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.

BulbsSeedlings5
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

Our Little Kitchen Garden

KitchenGarden1

I love this time of year when the sun is still warm, there is a slight chill in the air and the leaves are just starting to turn but the evenings are still light enough to tend the garden after work.

Our attempts at growing some of our own fruit and vegetables have been somewhat less successful than our wildflower garden, yet this year was very much an experiment and we have learned some valuable lessons that we’ll be able to apply in the years ahead.

My husband and I are both novice gardeners so we chose what we hoped would be simple vegetables, though we decided against onions, carrots and potatoes as our garden is fairly small. As we weren’t expecting anything to grow, we took a gung-ho approach, planting all our seeds in April and ignoring the advice to start the courgettes and squash off inside.

We were both surprised and delighted by how many seedlings appeared and we’ve had a respectable yield of radish, spinach and broad beans, all of which we plan to grow again next year. Despite not being started inside, three little courgette plants appeared and produced a modest crop, though the squash never surfaced. My dad gave us two little pumpkin plants that we planted in the same bed as the courgettes hoping that they would fertilize each other’s flowers, and two little pumpkins reached the size of tennis balls before the slugs got them. By far the biggest disappointments were the chard, beetroot and peas, none of which got past the seedling stage, and I suspect that overcrowding and a cool, wet summer were to blame.

In the herb bed, the sage and rosemary we bought have done really well, as has the little thyme my green-thumbed friend started off for us. The chives got leek rust but have bounced back after we hacked them back to the soil.

The tayberry, blueberry and strawberries have all done relatively well, and I’ve pegged down a few new runners from the strawberries. We struggled to find a suitable home for the rhubarb my mum gave us before settling for the partially shaded bed with the strawberries.

Over the winter, we’ll plant green compost to replenish the nitrogen and nourish the soil. We’ve started our own compost bin at the bottom of the garden, it makes me feel a little less guilty about the food we waste, but it’ll be a while before the compost breaks down enough to spread over the raised beds. My husband is also planning to build a glass box out of salvaged glass shelves because he wants to try growing tomatoes next year.

Even though our harvest was modest this year and our garden is too small for us to ever be self-sufficient, it has been so rewarding to grow some of our own food, and we’re both excited to start all over again next year. Have a lovely week!

Pottering in the Garden

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Over the last few weeks the weather in our corner of the world has been warm and sunny, and we’ve been spending lots of happy hours working and relaxing in our little garden.

Since my husband and I moved here five months ago, it has been a pleasant surprise whenever flowers planted by the previous occupants have emerged, like snowdrops in January and most recently a cluster of bluebells, but in many ways the back garden was a blank canvas and we’ve been steadily transforming it into our own.

On a blustery day back in February, my husband and dad built three raised beds for us to grow some of our own herbs and vegetables, and another for flowers. While they prepared the ground and built the frames, I rescued earth-worms and relocated topsoil (which is currently sitting at the bottom of the garden in an unsightly mound, but will hopefully mulch down). We had four tonnes of topsoil delivered in March to fill up the raised beds, and we finally started sowing seeds in April, when the risks of late frosts had reduced in our part of the country. It’s so rewarding to see the first shoots and seedlings already peeking up out of the soil.

(Before and after photos of the garden from above)

Both my parents are avid gardeners and when I was growing up they always encouraged me to help in their garden, and I’m so grateful for their help and advice as we cultivate our own little garden. As a child I planted a bed of strawberries in my parents’ garden, that still produces fruit well over a decade later, and I’ve taken runners from those same strawberries to plant in our garden now.

Our garden is too small for us to ever be self-sufficient but my husband and I have longed for a little kitchen garden for years, and it’s lovely to see our ideas becoming reality. We’re both novice gardeners but we’re eager to learn and excited to see what – if anything – grows this year.

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The previous owners of our house planted an ornamental cherry tree that we’ve relocated, we were worried that the roots might have been damaged when we dug it up but we were relieved when delicate white blossoms started to appear. We’ve finally planted our spindly, little Acer, which was surviving in a half-barrel planter until now, and it seems much happier being able to stretch its roots into the soil. I look forward to watching both of these trees change through the seasons and grow over the years.

We treated ourselves to a companion set, and we’re looking forward to spending lots of time in the garden over the next few months, and on days when it’s too cold or wet to sit outside, we can still enjoy the view of our back garden from our living room window. Have a lovely week.