In a Vase on Monday: flower power

My long-awaited tulips are coming into flower – reds, oranges and purples in various hues – so I had to pick a few for a Monday vase to sit on my desk. Joining the tulips are:

  • forget-me-nots, which are hitting their stride at the moment and I’m delighted on a daily basis to discover where they have put themselves this year. These are among my favourite spring flowers – so generous and pretty
  • a few Anemone coronaria – one deep purple ‘Mr Fokker’ and a few zingy red ‘Hollandia’. I bought three ‘Hollandia’ plants at Great Dixter plant fair last weekend; just couldn’t resist the redness of them. The fair was inspiring (as Great Dixter always is) but most of the plants were very expensive. Even so, we did splash out on a few other plants (delicate epimediums, a few more Anemone blanda to join some existing ones and a couple of lovely deep purple vincas) and then we just had a good mooch around.
  • and a little bit of Cerinthe major (a third-year self-sown plant).

I absolutely adore this time of year. It’s like greeting old friends and making new ones out there in the garden. And this week has started off gloriously sunny with a forecast for more of the same. Spring is (I’m saying it quietly and with my fingers crossed) properly here.

I’m joining in as usual with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden and other bloggers from around the world for the Monday vases. Sorry I haven’t been visiting many blogs recently or posting much. I have a lot of editing work, which is great, and exam-stressed boys to attend to, not so great, and there is little spare time at the moment. Thank goodness for flowers and coffee to keep me going!

I hope all’s well and you have a good week with plenty of sunshine and flowers to enjoy.


It has been such a long winter that the sight of fruit blossom feels like a deliciously cool glass of water on a baking-hot day. This small cherry tree in my mother-in-law’s garden is such a pretty sight, covered in just enough pale pink blossom to be absolutely beautiful rather than blowsy. We had a flying visit to Norfolk for a couple of days this week to see David’s mum and help to get her garden ready for the growing season ahead. After all the gardening she’s done for us over the years, we wanted to repay some of her kindness and do as many of the heavy and physically demanding jobs for her as we could. We chopped, sawed, lopped, dug and planted, and it was wonderful to be outside in the spring sunshine. There have been precious few days so far this year when we’ve been able to be outside for any length of time, let alone get very much done, so it was a great feeling. We drove home rather tired but pleased that we’d prevented the possibility of her trying to climb ladders to chop branches (which has been known!).

Back home, the boys (they didn’t come with us) are busy revising for their important exams in May/June. Well, I say they’re busy revising but there is mostly going to bed late and getting up late, eating Everything In The House and quite a bit of other displacement activity. The sound of guitar strumming drifts from both of their rooms at frequent intervals but I suppose that’s a great way to relax your brain in between re-reading Jekyll and Hyde for English Literature or trying to get to grips with social influence in Psychology. I’ve been super-busy with editing work, so the three of us are getting through a lot of coffee and Easter chocolate!

To add to all the excitement, it was our Village Spring Show today. In an attempt to keep my stress levels below danger point, I only entered some daffs (came second), muscari (again, second) and a badly printed photo (nada). Baking maestro, David, entered a Brioche Loaf (and won; see below) and my daughter entered an Apple Pie, coming joint first with the other entry in that class. (A photo of her delicious pie is on my Instagram account.)

One of the perks of being on the Gardener’s Association committee is that you get to do all  the clearing up afterwards, which means that you can rescue any left-behind flowers. These beauties were mostly not grown by me!

We’re getting up early tomorrow to drive to Great Dixter’s Spring Plant Fair. I can’t wait – I have cash in my pocket and a mind full of spring gardening thoughts. If that wasn’t enough, we have more of David’s baking for dinner – garlic and olive rolls – to go with spaghetti Bolognese (cooked by me, I hasten to add). My heart and my tummy will be full.

Wishing you a lovely rest of the weekend.


Early spring in the garden (March EOMV)


A lovely climbing rose (‘The Generous Gardener’) is sitting on the wall waiting to be planted. Soon, the raised beds and the sloping bed will be full of tulips and Narcissus ‘Actaea’, my favourite daffodil but they won’t be out in time for the village Spring Show next weekend, sadly.


New growth on the lavender hedge.
More tulips on the way…
The recent very cold weather has caused quite a bit of damage – plants that have survived through a couple of mild winters have finally keeled over (geraniums and osteospermums particularly). I’m hoping that if I give the frost-damaged Erigeron on the steps and the top of the wall (top right of pic) a good haircut, they’ll bounce back.
You see all those green shoots? Bluebells. Oh yes!
More daffodils coming in the wildflower area.
Daffodils by the pond.
The structure from our grasses is starting to take shape. I’ll cut back the Miscanthus soon to allow the new growth to shoot up. You can’t see them but there are thin white birches dotted along that line of tall grasses. One day they’ll look mighty fine.

Clockwise from top left above – snowdrops dripping with seedpods, foxgloves, miniature daffs and muscari in a pot, rosemary flowers.

Frogspawn in the pond (which is rather full of leaves and needs clearing out but we’ll wait until the tadpoles have grown) and a huge bumble bee sunning itself.

Aubrieta looking lovely at the bottom of the garden.

At almost the end of March, I’m joining in slightly early with Helen, The Patient Gardener for the end of month view (EOMV). These photos were taken yesterday morning when it was absolutely, perfectly spring-like. (Not so today!) There is a load of work to do in the garden – clearing, pruning, mulching – but the plants are getting on with their thing without our help. There is a definite change from the end of last month with plenty of new growth and buds everywhere, and welcome colour – yellow daffs and primroses, blue muscari, purple aubrieta, pink and blue pulmonaria, greens in many shades. It’s the time of year when there’s something new and exciting to see almost every day.

I still haven’t sown any seeds this year but I’m sure I’ll spring into action (boom, boom) soon. There’s a load of seed packets to sort through before I buy any more. After a few years of clearing the garden and rebuilding walls, there’s little major landscaping to do now but there is still structure to think about. We live in a Conservation Area and we’ve had to apply for planning permission to chop down a huge and antisocial sycamore at the bottom of the garden and to do some reshaping on a few other trees. We heard earlier in the week that permission has been granted (hurrah), so we’ll get onto that as soon as possible. Then we’re going to look at year-round interest and what we can see from the house. Because of where we are and the fact we’re on a slope the views from the windows at the front of the house are all about the sea – we can’t actually see much of the garden but what we can see needs rethinking. I have plans…

How’s your Easter so far? Don’t you just love a Friday that feels like a Saturday? And then you wake up the next day and it IS Saturday, which feels like a bonus day, then Easter Sunday with added chocolate, and THEN you have a Bank Holiday Monday. I think Easter is possibly my favourite ‘holiday’ – there isn’t the huge build-up and pressure and tradition that there is with Christmas; it’s a much more relaxed affair. Aside from making sure you’ve got the Easter egg situation covered, you can sort of skid to a halt on Thursday evening and, bam, there you are – four whole days of holiday stretching out before you. Bliss. Even the weather, which is completely pants, hasn’t dampened our spirits. David and I had intended to spend a good while in the garden today but it’s been raining almost non-stop and we’re both pretty exhausted, so we watched a film instead. In the afternoon –how decadent! (‘Hampstead’; not bad; a massively Hollywood-ised version of London but it pleasantly filled a couple of hours.)

We have no specific plans for tomorrow other than to get outside to do some gardening if it’s not too wet. My brother and his family are visiting on Sunday and my parents will come over. My niece is still of the age where Easter-egg-hunts are totally acceptable, and my nephew (who’s 12) and my three cool teenagers secretly love the fact that there will be one. Everyone loves a treasure-hunt, don’t they?

Whatever you’re up to this Easter weekend, I hope you have a lovely time.

In a Vase on Monday: spring promise

I don’t think I can entirely blame the clocks going forward an hour this weekend for my weariness this morning. It might have had something to do with watching the final hour of the film ‘Everest’ last night. Have you seen it? Don’t watch it before going to bed. My heart was still racing and I ended up reading Alexander McCall Smith’s ‘Love Over Scotland Street’, (a very easy, reassuring read) well into the small hours to calm myself down.

Anyway, here we are – Monday 26 March – and finally it really does feel spring-like outside. (I am ignoring the dire forecasts of another icy blast which may or may not happen over Easter!) It was overcast and chilly when I walked the dog earlier but there is now glorious sunshine streaming through the windows. It was heavenly standing in the kitchen soaking up the warmth while I drank my coffee and snapped these photos; Cassie (our dog) is following the sun as it moves around the house, rearranging her sleeping spot accordingly. We’re both enjoying this free heat.

One of my favourite early spring flowers – Muscari, plain old grape hyacinths – are popping up all over the garden. I love their blue against the lime green of euphorbias – it’s my current favourite colour combination. There are two types of euphorbia here – E. oblongata and E. amygdaloides – together with two types of miniature narcissus (one is a single flower of  Tete-a-tete, I can’t remember what the paler one is) and Primula vulgaris, common primrose, which is spreading nicely throughout the wildflower patch at the bottom of our garden.

I’m joining in, as usual, with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden where you’ll find her Monday vase and links to lots of others from around the world.

While I was outside picking the flowers for today’s vase, I checked on our rhubarb. I remembered to put the terracotta forcing jar over the top of the crown a few weeks ago and it’s worked! There are several long, beautifully pink stems of rhubarb ready to be harvested – I’ll use them to make a cake or pudding for Easter. I am so looking forward to the long weekend, spending time with family and friends, cooking some special meals, winding down and catching up on sleep, and hopefully getting out into the garden to work off the excess from all the hot cross buns and chocolate!

I hope the sun is shining where you are – wishing you a good week.


All these photos were taken at about 5pm yesterday. I’d spent a couple of hours in the garden pruning our gnarly old apple trees, balancing on a rickety step ladder with my head in among the branches without – get this – wearing a coat! Standing there, perched in the tree, listening to birdsong and feeling the warmth (yes, warmth) of the March sunshine on my back was blissful. Even more wonderful because it was the first opportunity I’d had for a few weeks to be in the garden for any length of time – work has been busy lately, which I’m very happy about but it does take over my life somewhat. Anyway, some time outdoors concentrating on pruning (which I wholeheartedly recommend as a tonic for anyone!) put a spring in my step, fresh air in my lungs and joy in my heart.

This morning, we’ve woken up to an icy wind and a forecast of heavy snow showers all day. All those poor bees who were buzzing about yesterday, and the flowers that were showing their faces to the warm spring sun… Hopefully, we’ll miss the worst of the weather here and all will be well. It’s a good thing that we hadn’t got round to cutting back the grasses and other plants – these will provide shelter – and we take a wildlife-friendly approach to our borders. Purple deadnettle (Lamium purpureum) is seen as a weed by many but it is an important wildflower that provides early nectar for bees (see the photo above). It happily grows in cultivated soils and we have several patches in our garden. Look at it closely and you’ll see how pretty it is.

I’m frustrated that we’ll probably lose another weekend of gardening because of the weather but I’ll try to make the most of it indoors. There’s a load of housework and sorting to do, a larger desk to squeeze into my 16-year-old’s room so he can spread out his books for revising (which will take spacial awareness powers) and we have several 14-year-old girls descending on us. My daughter’s birthday was on Tuesday (14!) and today is the day for her celebration with friends. She has elaborate plans to spend a few hours shopping in Canterbury then back to ours for a film, dinner and a sleepover. For once, she’s totally fed up at the thought of snow – what would usually have her watching out for the first falling flakes has her stomping about, grumbling and fretting at the potential ruining of plans. Hopefully, it will All Be Fine. And, anyway, there’s always the possibility of snow balls…

Whatever your plans this weekend, I hope that they’re not affected by the weather and you have a lovely relaxing couple of days. I have another cake to bake and furniture to move.

In a vase on Monday: survivors

We had a trip to the V.E.T. this morning – Cassie somehow hurt herself on Saturday (running like a loon in the snow, we think) and she’s been feeling extremely sorry for herself ever since. The vet gave her a thorough check over and she thinks she’s strained her hips. One anti-inflammatory jab later (and drops to give her over the next few says) and we were back home, Cassie much perkier. She’s under strict instructions to have a Quiet Week, i.e. no walks. Goodness knows how we’re going to manage that – we’ll both be going up the wall come Friday. She’s been staring at me with her ‘why aren’t we going out’ face all day and doing some pitiful whining which is slightly distracting when I’m trying to concentrate on work.

Anyway! When we got home from the vets, I walked her round the garden to, well, you know what, and I snipped a few flowers to put on my desk and to join in with Cathy’s Monday vases. (Do click on the link to see hers and others from around the world.)

The snow has all absolutely disappeared here – you wouldn’t know there had been any apart from a few plants that have been knocked for six. The hellebore which had been spreadeagled on the ground is slowly raising itself up again – it looks a little careworn – and this anemone was still lying flat on the ground, which is why it looks rather faded and bedraggled. Loads of snowdrops have gone over in the freezing cold but I found a patch still looking good and the gorgeous blue muscari are suddenly starting to appear. It felt hopeful and full of promise out there.

Have a lovely week. I shall be working hard at my desk, admiring these blooms and trying to ignore a thoroughly fed up dog (and a cat who likes to sit on my papers!).

February 2018: a delayed end of month view

Phew! What a week: busy work-wise, children off school, will it/won’t it snow, freezing rain, howling Siberian winds… It’s fair to say that the infrastructure of the UK doesn’t handle snow well. All trains were cancelled in this corner of east Kent on Thursday and Friday (they’re still not running today) and the roads have been treacherous. Our part of the coast was spared the worst of the weather although we did have scary freezing rain yesterday which turned all paths and roads into ice rinks, followed by just enough snow to sledge on. As the light was fading yesterday, we dug out the two sledges we’ve been waiting for years to use and headed to the lane at the bottom of the garden which has just the right degree of slope to make a perfect (and very fast) run. Once we’d got the steering right…

Anyway, before we did that, I took a few photos of the garden so I could join in with Helen’s End of Month View. Not much has happened since the end of January apart from bulbs shooting and buds swelling on the trees. We did get round to pruning the new apples and pears but not the old trees in the back garden which badly need doing. I have plans for seed sowing but haven’t done any yet. Those flowers that were out (snowdrops, hellebores, bergenias and the first daffs) keeled over in the icy blast this week and I haven’t been out to see what damage, if any, yesterday’s snow did. It’s fast melting and almost all gone now.

It’s the time of year when I dust off my winter lethargy and gear up for action – by the end of March I hope to have more to report!

Thank you for your comments on my previous post. I always hesitate and dither before posting such a self-indulgent musing, so I was relieved that it did strike a chord with some. Now I’ve got that off my chest, it’ll be the usual plants, gardens, frustrating teenagers combo for a while. I hope you’re safe, warm and dry where you are (or, if you’ve been sweltering down under, that it’s cooling down!). Have a good weekend.