sEAsons ~ the delights of Spring

And Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.
~Percy Bysshe Shelley, “The Sensitive Plant”

Crocus Iris Snowdrop

The weather was so lovely at the weekend you could sense the fresh clean smell of Spring in the air – I just had to down tools inside and go outside for a while.  In the space of a couple of hours I had tidied up a few of the borders, gathered the last of the leaves and replaced some of the earth scratched up by the local cats.   The cats can be quite a problem so to protect the emerging plants and prevent them from being uprooted I pushed a few more twiggy sticks around the shoots – at least the crocus in the lawn are safe.

It is very encouraging at this time of year to see little buds appearing on most of the plants and signs of life poking through the ground here and there – I just hope any future frosts or snow does not damage them.

I also had a visit to our local independent garden centre because I still had £60 left on my voucher (the one the partners gave me when I left work).  The expiry date was 2nd February  this year but I managed to persuade them to extend it for another month as they have very little stock of anything at the moment – the season for them has not yet started and they do not sell many garden tools or gardening products like the large national garden centres.

In the end we decided on a Braeburn apple tree on M27 rootstock for our Scottish garden as it is a good time for planting and we will be visiting our cottage (caravan) in a few days time and can take it with us in the car.

We have a bit of a mystery in that in Scotland we have a Bramley apple tree and it has always fruited well – abundantly well last Autumn – but they are not self-fertile and are actually classed as triploid (requiring two other apple trees)  but there are no other apple trees or crab apples in our garden or the neighbourhood yet it keeps on producing fruit.  The Braeburn is self fertile but might be a reluctant fruiter so far North – we are banking on the mild Gulf stream climate that we have at the cottage to help it along but it may not like the winds.  We will give it a go.

With the remaining money I chose another of the glazed Heritage pots to match the one below that I bought last Autumn only a smaller sized one this time.I have always thought the one I got to put beside our front door looks a bit lonely so now it will have some company.  With the last £6 on the voucher I bought three pots of lovely pink tulips to go in it.

Today the weather is much cooler again and quite windy – good for the washing though – I have been working my way down all the dust sheets from the decorating at my daughter’s house.  I think we have more than we need now between us so the worst of them will be going out, they are not even fit for the rag bin.

I always like this time of year  – I feel energised to start cleaning and clearing, blowing away the cobwebs that have gathered in the corners over the winter and at the moment I am a little more motivated after feeling rather lethargic and probably a little lazy since Christmas.

homestEAd ~ out in the garden

Another glorious day today, bright, sunny and clear blue skies – after stripping the bed and throwing the bedding in the washer I was tempted out into the garden and ended up staying out all day…with the washing.  I planted Allium, narcissus and tulip bulbs, cleared the last of the leaves that had fallen into the borders and spread a bit of manure around some of the plants.CyclamenThe Cyclamens are now planted in the front border by the footpath providing a splash of colour, although there is still quite a bit here and there in the garden.HebeMeanwhile DH spent time on the new shed.  It is has now been slotted into the space at the side of our house and waiting a fit out inside – a few tool hooks and some shelving.  We are reusing some white melamine that was once part of the wardrobe in my eldest daughter’s room, it is still in good condition so a shame to waste it and it will create a bit more space in the garage.

The shed is draped in polythene sheet for the moment to protect it from the rain and allow it to dry out enough to paint.  It will be so good to get the gardening equipment out of the garage and back to where it should be. Once the shed is finished DH will be concentrating on painting the front door.  We have plans to get a new one but to make it look more presentable for the time being we are going to paint the present one.

I may have mentioned that we had been contacted by the National Statistics Office to take part in a survey.  We agreed to be in today and the nice gentleman came at 5pm which was helpful as by then it was far too dark to garden.  The questions were not difficult – mainly about education, career and our present circumstances.  It was hard remembering just how many GCE’s I have though and what the subjects were;  no-one has asked me that for a long time.

I still have the selection bags to make.I tried out a couple of prototypes (apologies for the colour – flash light is never great) using the wrapping paper and some old cut up Christmas cards as tags.  I will probably go with the one on the left with the string tie though each tag will be different.  I have made a note of the paper size I used on the trial one so I can cut them out and make them up all at once and have a bit of a production line going…putting 5 assorted fun sized chocolate bars into each bag will make 8 bags.

Tomorrow I shall have to decide whether to make the bags or clean out my freezer – I doubt I will get both done as I will need to iron the bedding I washed today and also pack to go back up to our daughter’s for the celebration this weekend.  I am really looking forward to seeing Little L and Sweetie again.

But not the packing!

So a few more jobs off the list – shame I have to add some new ones on.

homestEAd ~ the grass is always greener

Yesterday was quite a long day over at daughter’s house.  I was too tired even to write a post.  I didn’t even feel that satisfaction of a job well done either as progress was slow to non-existent.  DH was similar, he is doing the hallway – preparation stage, so not a lot to see other than filled in cracks and holes.

Isn’t it always the way that one day you seem to make a lot of progress and then the next hardly any.  This was definitely a hardly any.

I am challenged at the moment by both the hot weather and a bit of dithering on my part over the patch of garden I am ‘transforming’ at present.

Before I cleared this part it had been home to the many raspberry plants but had also acquired rosebay willow-herb and the large-leaved Persicania (Knotweed).  The raspberry plants have since been relocated to the back of the garden and we will make a proper frame to support them soon.

I thought I had a plan – my idea was to put gravel down on this bit of garden on the other side of the path to create a little seating area with a few plants mainly in pots and an obelisk towards the back corner and incorporating the plants already in situ.

My problem here was twofold – next doors fence which is stepped due to the gradient has a little gap at each bottom right hand corner and the gravel on the other side of the fence keeps spilling through.  So an edging board is required to prevent this – and that will need help in the shape of a bit of muscle to hammer the supporting pegs and boards in place.

The second problem is the two existing plants to the left of the photo beyond the pole – a large patch of Johnson’s blue geranium (flowering over) and the yellow flower I pictured in my last post (still blooming).  I was going to work around these and put some stone edging around them to make a border but after playing around in a variety of ways nothing seemed to work well and in the end I decided to keep the design clean and simple – remove the plants and gravel the whole area otherwise the whole thing was in danger of becoming bitty.

To be able to make a start today I will have to wait until the afternoon when there will be some shade over the plot.  There is quite a bit of earth to remove to get to a level low enough for the path edging to contain the gravel once it is laid.  There lies another problem – what to do with all the spare soil – probably a raised bed in the vegetable patch by the shed.

The aim of this garden transformation is to make the garden look more appealing and low maintenance.  Most of their neighbourhood are young,  first time buyers, both working so they seem to prefer all lawn or all gravel or a mixture of both but nothing that needs very much maintenance.

We are spending a minimum amount for maximum reward and keeping most of the mature shrubs that give the garden some shape and interest. The turf from B&Q for the extension to the existing lawn (well grass) cost about £50 but well worth it.  It covers the patch that had two really old straggly shrubs well past their best and removing them has opened up this space considerably and added some visual length to the garden.

The new grass has grown remarkably well despite this hot weather and was the greenest kid on the block by far (apart from the astro turf next door!).

There was great excitement yesterday for the first cutting and we all stood round afterwards admiring.  The join and difference in colour is not as noticeable now it is cut (I should have taken an after photo so you will have to take my word for it!) and with some extra care and attention and a bit more grass feed and weed the older part should start to thicken out and green up to match.

The large silver Senecio (or Brachyglottis as it has been renamed – I hate that name so I always revert to its former) in the middle of the picture has almost finished flowering and will be due a bit of a trim to contain it in the space.

So before I go round to sort my daughter’s garden I have a little bit to do in my own then back to work again tomorrow  – only 7 days to go now to the big day.

Thank you to everyone for your great suggestions for when I leave work – I am storing up the information and when I get some time for myself to think about my next moves I will be sharing them with you.

Oh and welcome to my new followers – I can never quite believe anyone would want to sign up for my daily ramblings!

But for now while the sun shines I need to make …a seating area!

Back soon x

 

bEAching ~ more good weather – more gardening

Garden Notebook

  White Foxglove

I hope I am not boring you with all this gardening but I have to take advantage of the good weather whilst I can even if I feel I will never straighten up again and my gardening boots are welded to my feet.

Talking of feet, what was I thinking – to come on holiday and not bring some cool open sandals?  Trainers and Sketchers are a bit warm this weather and my feet feel two sizes bigger – nothing to it but to plunge them into a bath of cool water.  I suppose with the sea only a few yards away I could go and have a paddle this evening but I think the thought of dodging the midges out there puts me off.  I will stick to a bowl of water.

It is unlike me not to be in the mood for gardening but today I did feel a bit ‘off’ but I think that is more to do with the weather being so unusually hot for days on end and having to continually move about the garden with the shade and not really getting any border fully completed.

Frustrating.

I finally settled for sorting out under the apple tree and clear around the base.  The gardening books all tell me that apples do best when the ground around the trees are kept free of grass and weeds.  The grass doesn’t grow there anyway (far too shady for it to be bothered) but obviously the weeds don’t read the same books and will insist on gathering around the trunk on mass!

After spending the morning crawling around underneath this and the adjacent Corkscrew Hazel I have cleared the spot once again and will spread some manure around in the hope it will help preserve some moisture and feed the tree at the same time.  This dry weather might make all the apples fall off while still tiny – fingers crossed they stay on the tree long enough to swell and ripen.

Of course the apple tree should have received a hefty pruning last winter to cut it down to a more manageable size but if you remember the visit when this was planned the country was taken over by the Beast from the East and we retreated to the warmth of the caravan all week.

Apple tree therefore did not get a good ‘going over’ and as a consequence is now another four feet higher.  Not sure why anyone would want to plant a half standard apple tree that grows up to 5 metres in height and doesn’t own a cherry picker.  Needless to say we inherited this tree with the garden but it does produce the most wonderful Bramley’s – but only at the top of the tree!

We went into town after lunch as we had to do another tip run with all the bags of weeds that I have generated –  they accumulate quickly and filled the trailer.  I also had a shopping list that went something like this:-

  • 1 large bag Compost
  • 3 bags Farmyard Manure
  • 3 bales Bark chippings
  • 2 pints milk

The milk being for us of course!

I would normally make my own chippings by shredding the pruned branches but there just isn’t time on this visit. So nothing for it we decided to buy some – it would be worth the money at the moment to keep on top of the bits of garden we have cleared.

There is not a lot of choice up here and the prices are more expensive than at home – there are no chain stores like B&Q only independently owned shops.  We did manage to find some 3 for 2 on both the manure and bark at the local garden centre which is easy parking when you have a trailer on the back and they do a good cup of tea and the most deliciously moist fruit loaf sliced and buttered.

Bobtail bunny is bobbing around the garden tonight  – his curiosity is leading him to investigate our pile of bonfire prunings.  A good job it is too hot to light it or one more ‘bob’ and he would be a roast bunny.

Back soon x

 

bEAching ~ down on the beach and down the garden

We’ve got Rag, Tag and Bobtail in our garden tonight chasing each other around in circles then stopping to eye up my plants.

The white one we named ‘Bunny No Mates’ (he seems to be an escaped domestic rabbit and the brown ones won’t play with him) has reappeared suddenly from behind the log shed – we thought he was definitely a goner and had perished during the freezing winter months.  I am quite glad he made it – I was a bit sad thinking he had come to an abrupt end.

Gentle HermioneChamomileIn between the weeding I went down to the beach.  Since the flood took away the little wooden bridge that went across the stream our neighbour has made these little steps to get down the banking.  I think they fit in very well and I love the Daisies growing on the treads.

Today I was in the garden at 9 o’clock to weed in the trellis border whilst it was in the shade and before the sun moved round – this is the very dry border as from ten o’clock it has the sun all day and is far too hot for me.

At the end of the summer last year we visited the Elizabeth MacGregor Garden and Nursery (click to link through to her website) in Kirkudbright and she gave me a whole tray of Valerian for my garden that she was getting rid of and for which I am so grateful.  Her nursery has some wonderful cottage garden plants all grown at Ellenbank and you can order them on the internet from her extensive catalogue.

I really like the look of the Valerian against the grey stony ground in the patch facing out to sea and hope it will seed around the sea-side garden.  I dug over a small patch and then had to accept defeat and move to a shadier part of the garden down in the jungle.  I will try again tomorrow and show you the results another post.

It is actually all looking a bit of a jungle at present – the result of going away to Italy at the exact time when we would normally be spending a lot of time in the garden before the summer.  But we wouldn’t have missed the wedding for anything even though we are struggling to get the garden back into shape now.   I have pulled out Campions that are 7 feet tall today.  I swear I can hear them growing as soon as I turn my back.

After lunch there was a welcome mass of cloud appeared in the sky– I haven’t seen clouds for days…and a breeze.  It certainly helped cool the air temperature down a degree but the patch I was doing before lunch now had midges circling ready for attack – so I had to move yet again.

This time over to the Pine tree border.  There is a slab of concrete just under the largest Pine tree which is the base for the old greenhouse (before the gales of 2010 demolished it).   We really must break it up one day and remove it – the tree roots have lifted and cracked the slab and the pine needles collect into a suitable compost that the Campion love to seed in.

It may look pretty but believe me I have learnt that in this garden you cannot leave Campion as pretty as it might be it will seed everywhere and then it chokes out the plants I have bought and planted.  I do have some wild areas but this border is not meant to be one of them.

This is after the clean up –  I had almost forgotten there is a path there.  I filled eight bags with weeds and sweepings for the tip just from this patch which is no more than about eight feet square!

The Foxgloves are allowed to stay – in my eyes Foxgloves are like the cows in India – sacred.  No matter where in the garden they decide to grow it is OK with me as they are one of my favourite flowers.

And (just for my follower Mary) these pictures below are older ones so you can see what it used to be like when we had a greenhouse.  To the left is the border with the three Olearia shrubs, newly planted, in front of the wind break – now the masss of Olearia is the wind break!

I remember this white patio table  – it was last seen in 2014 floating out to sea after the flood!!

 

 

 

 

bEAching ~ another day another border

It is twenty past ten at night here in Scotland and the sun is only just sinking on the horizon.  Each day seems hotter than the one before and today I really found it hard to work for any length of time in the garden even in the shade.

The lane beyond the blue gate is always shady so I decided to tackle the border that runs along side it.  At its widest point it probably measures 3 feet but the back of it drops down steeply into our garden below and it is heavily shaded by the two Hawthorns and a large conifer, which suffered with the salt spray from the sea this winter and is in recovery at the moment but still a sickly colour of brown.

Most of this strip is wild flowers  – pink campion and bright orange Crocosmia which grow and spread like weeds but nearer the gate I have pink Geranium, Aquilegias and Harts Tongue Ferns and I am slowly introducing Foxgloves.

Elsewhere in the garden I have a particularly pretty pale pink one so I will scatter the seed over this border when it has finished flowering.  I keep transplanting tiny Holly bushes into this border so that eventually we will not be quite so overlooked from the lane.

Meanwhile DH tackled the Daisy path with the strimmer – this is how the Daisy path usually looks…

But this is what greeted us when we arrived!

… this really was overgrown and I am surprised the postman has ventured down our path to bring our TV license reminder letter.  It is generally the only mail we get up here.  We don’t have a TV at the cottage but we still get a reminder once a month and sometimes the threat of an official visit – come anytime is what I say for I know for certain they will not find one!

Beside the Daisy path we have some very dead Escallonia bushes which formed a lovely hedge when we first bought the cottage but it died on us after one of the bad winters.  Only one of the bushes has sprung back to life and the others need digging out.  I am not sure what to plant here but it will need to tolerate sea spray.

This strong sun does not make it easy to take pictures. I will take a few more of the ‘transformation’ in a day or two.  Tomorrow I think we are having a day off and perhaps going out to see Castle Kennedy gardens.

Yesterday’s trip to the pictures in Newton Stewart didn’t quite happen.  I got something in my eye during the morning and by the afternoon it had not moved so we went into town to get some Optrex so I could try to rinse it out but the pharmacist insisted I should go and have it checked out at A&E.

The local hospital is quite tiny and only 3 of us waiting.  I must say I felt a bit of a fraud as it was hardly an accident or an emergency just irritating and my eye wouldn’t stop watering.  However, the staff were very pleasant and on first name terms with the locals sat in the waiting room quite different to our much larger and busier A&E in Huddersfield where they are very brusk at times and more matter of fact.  After a bit of a wait for the eye doctor he did manage to get out whatever was causing the irritation but by this time we had missed the film.

 

 

bEAching ~ day one in the cottage garden

Today was the first day in the garden at the cottage.  DH had set off to take a trailer full of weeds to the local refuse site where they compost it down.  We compost what we can but when we run out of space we bag it up and then when I run out of bags he goes to the tip.

The question as always is where do I start when everywhere requires attention – a bit overwhelming at first glance but beyond the chaos there are little areas that are quite delightful.

The David Austen English shrub rose Gentle Hermione, a present from my late MIL, is an absolute picture and must have really enjoyed the late pruning I gave it on our last visit as there are more flowers than ever and the fragrance is heavenly when you walk past.

I decided to make a start by the gate, mainly because it was in the shade (and with the weather being unbearably hot I needed shade) but also because it hasn’t been touched since I cleared it last year and planted a Hydrangea.     It is a very shady but sheltered corner that only gets a glimpse of the sun during the summer months at about tea time.

Not a pretty sight.

The soil is poor and it is not an ideal place for anything too precious so the choice of a Hydrangea with them being pretty easy-going, and having quite a long flowering period was a good bet and will fill the space on its own eventually. You might just be able to spot it amongst the weeds and wild flowers which have been growing there at an alarming rate.   I remembered I also transplanted a pink flowering geranium as well from another border but was not quite sure if it was still in there.

Nothing to it but to roll my sleeves up and get stuck in but as usual in this garden it is never a ten minute job.  The Alkanet although very pretty with its deep purple blue flowers spreads everywhere and  has tap roots that just won’t give in and they always win – I dig out what I can and leave the final bit in the ground knowing that at some later date they will spring up again!

After an hour or two of digging, pulling and tugging I decided on a welcome tea break!

Then more of the same followed by a light easy lunch – egg salad with a little cheese – we are definitely not putting the gas oven on at the moment as the caravan is hot enough.

By the end of the afternoon I had cleared the patch leaving the Hydrangea and the geranium (surprisingly still there) and trimmed back the Ivy.  DH nailed a piece of mesh in the gap beside the gate beneath the Ivy to prevent unwanted dogs sneaking in and leaving their calling cards.  I thought the Ivy would have filled the gap by now but it seems to be ignoring this space and deciding to be rampant in places I don’t want it to be.

After digging in a bucket full of manure onto the cleared patch and adding some much-needed water my first job was done and you can see the result above.

Meanwhile DH had cut the ‘posh’ lawn and trimmed the horseshoe privet hedge on the woodland side then removed the old bamboo plants from the two big terracotta pots.  I can hear him gently snoring as I write this.

Tomorrow we are planning a trip out after lunch to Newton Stewart.  There is an excellent Nursery there and we are taking a picnic tea so we can go on afterwards to the old local cinema which is something rather special and I will provide pictures on my next post.  They are showing a film called Edie with Sheila Hancock – I know nothing about it other than it is set in Scotland and I quite like Sheila Hancock.

back soon x