In a Vase on Monday: tiny flower love

It is glorious outside today – sunshine on a glittering sea, a frosty nip in the breeze but you can feel warmth where it’s sheltered. I met a friend for a good stomp across the fields – mud frozen into peaks and troughs where the tractors have been. The sky was deep, deep blue overhead and a skylark sang its joyful song. Puddles were frozen solid and a sprinkling of snow crusted the grass. The sort of morning where you feel alive and uplifted, even if you start off tired and rushing (as I was). Our dogs were definitely happy to be out running about in the sun.

We are reaching peak snowdrop here in the garden – the tiny Galanthus navalis are almost all out in the lawn and borders, those that get most sun are ahead of the others. I’ve picked a few snowdrops, one crocus (a clump of these egg yolk-yellow beauties pop up at the base of an old apple tree each year) and a couple of tiny violets. These grow in nooks and crannies in the paths and steps and have just started flowering. All flowers are precious in the garden at this time of year, so I didn’t want to pick many; I’ve added some cyclamen leaves, which are abundant and looking particularly smart at the moment. I love their smooth purple undersides almost as much as their intricate silver-markings.

A month ago I used a few bare stems of Prunus padus (bird cherry) in my Monday vase and have kept them in water to see what would happen…

Spring. It’s coming… 🙂

In a Vase on Monday is hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden; do click on the link to see her vase and links to many others from around the world.

It’s half term here this week. My 16-year-old is sitting opposite me at the kitchen table scoffing a huge bowl of Cornflakes as I type. Yes, he’s just got up. My daughter has made her lunch, wandered elsewhere to eat it and left everything out on the kitchen worktops (hummus in the sun…) and my eldest boy has drained the coffee pot. I’ll be fitting in work, trying to keep some semblance of order and taking some time off to enjoy their company. Pancake-making tomorrow (for Shrove Tuesday), shopping (clothes for growing teenagers) and a trip the cinema are on the cards.

Whatever you’re up to this week, I hope you have a good one.

In a Vase on Monday: not a snow day

“Is it snowing yet?” asked my 16-year-old son last night, his nosed pressed against the window peering out into the darkness. “Do you think there’ll be a snow day tomorrow?” There’d been a weather forecast for snow overnight in the south east of England and all three were hoping fervently that today would dawn under a blanket of white. A snow day on a Monday would be such a rare gift of a day. But, sadly, no. So off to school they had to go.

There may be no snow but it is decidedly chilly outside with a brisk east-north-east wind coming off the sea, so I am staying indoors and cheating with my Monday vase of supermarket daffodils. They were just £1 a bunch, so I bought five and have dotted them about the house to cheer us all up.

I also wanted to show you the rosemary that I used in a vase in November and have been reusing in other vases since – all the stems have rooted and are growing (look carefully at the bottom of the jar above; the ivy is also growing). I’ll carefully transplant these (but not the ivy – we are overrun with ivy!) into a compost/sand mix, keep them out of direct sunlight for a few weeks and hopefully they’ll take. Moving rooted cuttings from water to soil isn’t always successful, so fingers crossed it will work.

I’m joining Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for her popular international weekly gathering, so do click on the link to see more vases from around the world.

Have a good week, snow or not.


Work in Progress (a garden review) January 2018

Whenever my mojo wanders off, whether it’s for blogging or gardening or whatever, I find it’s best to step away from it for a while, then come up with a plan. Being organised – or shall we call it ‘being pragmatic’ – is key; it’s important to prioritise. I know I cannot do it all and rather than worrying about everything that needs to be done and isn’t, it’s better to focus on progress. And the great thing about the garden is that there will be progress, whether I’m involved or not. Plants generally get on with the business of growing without much help – they will do their thing and bring much joy in the process.

Following a garden month by month is extremely useful – it acts as an aide memoire and a boot up the bottom – so I’m setting myself the challenge this year. I’ve often thought of joining in with the Helen, The Patient Gardener’s, End of Month View or Sarah’s Through the Garden Gate but I haven’t managed to get my act together to take photos and review the garden at the right time. Until now…

When I went outside earlier to take the photos, I did hesitate. I saw all the full rubble sacks  dotted around the place, all the jobs that need doing, the plants that need cutting back and all the weeds. I usually crop my garden photos to spare you the mess but I’ve decided this should be an honest look at our garden – warts (weeds) and all. On the plus side, there is new growth everywhere. It’s still cold but you can sense the earth turning – beautiful fresh spears of spring bulbs are shooting up, buds are starting to swell and the birds are definitely gearing up for spring.

I don’t think I’ve shown you round the whole garden in one go before. Not that it’s huge – it’s approximately one-third of an acre, with about half in front of the house and half behind (the house sits in the middle). Come with me and let’s see what’s going on…


This is the view from the back door – the beds need clearing to make way for the spring flowers that are shooting up. (That thing covered in green tarpaulin next to the shed is the outdoor table-tennis table.)

To the left of the steps looking up the slope is a long slim bed of a line of Miscanthus and small rose bushes edged by box plants – we planted the box as c.20cm plug plants three years ago this spring and they’re filling out nicely. The rose bushes aren’t very happy though; this whole area is overshadowed by a huge copper beech in our neighbour’s garden and it just doesn’t get enough sunshine in the summer when the tree is in full leaf. We plan to dig them up and move them, and replace them with something that won’t mind the lack of sun. There are loads of Narcissus Actaea planted along here and the sight and scent of them in a couple of months will be, well, fantastic.

At the top of the path is a terraced bed (photo above bottom right) with Acanthus mollis, Bergenia, evergreen Euphorbia, geraniums and osteospermum. And weeds. There are lots of Muscari, too, which edge the wall with their beautiful blue flowers in spring.

Looking down from the path onto the back garden, the lawn looks like it needs a little tlc. Our neighbour’s holm oaks shed their plastic-coated leaves onto this part of the garden and they’re a pain. The beds and lawn underneath don’t like it. The area by the greenhouse needs a good sort out and the raspberry canes should be cut back this month. If you look very closely at the photo on the bottom right above, you’ll see a few raspberries still clinging on! I obviously missed them when I did my final pick last autumn. The above bottom left photo shows the pear (left) and greengage (right) which were already here when we moved in. The greenhouse desperately needs renovating (it leaks and wooden frames are rotting) – that’s on our list of jobs for this year…

Walking round to the front (the sea-facing) garden, this rosemary is romping away. I stuck it in here a couple of years ago because it wasn’t thriving where it was. Top right you can see how hardy and determined Californian poppies can be – these have seeded themselves into the paving cracks. It all adds to the general relaxed feeling of our garden! Above bottom left is one of our lavender hedges (there’s another one in the left-hand photo). It doesn’t look much now but it should look spectacular in the summer when it will be buzzing with drunk bees. I’ve written about it before here.

Down the steps (the Erigeron is having a short rest from flowering) to the tatty looking veg patch on the right (bottom left photo). We had potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes and squash growing here last summer (you can see a few remnants that haven’t been cleared!) and there are leeks and purple sprouting broccoli still growing, although the pigeons have helped themselves to the broccoli. Grr. To the left (above bottom right photo; how confusing!) is our experimental perennial/annual bed. It looks a bit of a mess now but it will have daffs and tulips popping up soon, in among the grasses (Stipa tenuissima and Calamagrostis). I’m thinking of giving the Stipa a haircut this year, like they do in Le Jardin Secret in Marrakech (which I spotted on Paradise Gardens the other week). I have high aspirations 🙂  There’s also a small olive tree this end and a plum tree the other end, plus a wigwam (which you can just see) that was covered with sweet peas last year.

On the next level down (the garden is terraced) is the pond area on one side of the steps and the mini-orchard on the other. The apple and pear trees that we planted here last year need to be pruned about now. Another job for the weekend.

Almost at the bottom of the garden and looking back up you get a glimpse of the lower terracing. That’s a cherry tree re-homed from a friend’s garden in Twickenham. David drove it home in the car last year – he had to severely chop it top and bottom to get it in the car; I’m amazed it survived. It could do with reshaping but we’ll let it recover first. You can see the bright-green stems of dreaded crocosmia starting to grow again around the base of the tree which covered this whole area – we’re slowly digging it all out.

We did a huge amount of clearing and wall rebuilding down here last year and  we planted 15 white Himalayan birch whips (Betula utilis Jaquemontii) (you may be able to make out their slender, stick-like proportions among the Miscanthus). The plan is that they will eventually form a drift of white-barked gorgeousness, interspersed with grasses and pops of colour throughout the year from various bulbs and perennials. The photo above bottom right shows the wildflower area that was cut back at the end of the year. This has primroses and narcissus dotted throughout (no flowers yet) and will be full of wildflowers in summer.

Finally, a couple of close-ups of plants that obviously don’t realise that it’s January and they should be taking a break – marguerites and osteospermums, take a bow:

So, that’s the garden at acoastalplot at the end of January/start of February.

I hope all’s well with you and the first month of the year has been good to you. More soon…

Oh, yes! The snowdrops are coming… Hurrah!

In a Vase on Monday: rule breakers

It’s absolutely revolting weather today – I’ve been soaked twice already (pantomime-style, bucket-of-water soakings), the trees are swaying alarmingly in the 50 mph winds, the swell is high and the sea is extremely lively. I’m glad I’m not out there on a boat. Lucky, then, that I ventured into the garden yesterday afternoon, when it was sunny and calm, to see whether there was anything vase-worthy for today. The afternoon light was so golden and soft that I cheated and took the photos yesterday, too!

You would normally expect only two of the flowers in my jam jar to be flowering in January – the hazel catkins and the Viburnum tinus (although this usually flowers in late winter–early spring). The Nigella and Cerinthe major usually flower from late spring into summer; the Ammi visnaga and Hesperantha  in summer/autumn. It’s disconcerting to find these, all apart from the Hesperantha self-seeded plants, flowering now, in mid-January, but we are on the coast and it has been fairly mild, and the usual rules do not apply it seems!

Accompanying them are a few stems of Prunus padus (bird cherry) which I’m going to keep in water to see whether they’ll come into leaf indoors, some rosehips from ‘Boscobel’ which I must have missed in the autumn, a few tendrils of variegated Vinca and a Pelargonium ‘Attar of Roses’ leaf from a huge plant still going strong by the greenhouse.

There is proper wintery weather forecast for later in the week with heavy snow for parts of the UK. The maps don’t show it reaching this corner of the country, though, so who knows what will be flowering next week…

It’s lovely to be joining in again with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for her weekly gathering of garden bloggers from around the world. She is showcasing three fragrant winter shrubs. Whatever the weather is like where you are, I hope you’re safe, warm and dry. Have a good week.

Sunrise earlier this week (on a much calmer day).

Resilient and resolute (January thoughts)

I know we’re over it, but I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. Ours was peaceful; the usual hectic rush beforehand but it all came together on the day – everyone had wrapped gifts which were well-received, there was plenty of food, the house was decorated. We all welcomed the excuse to eat, drink and be merrily lazy. We chatted, played Scrabble, went to a few lovely parties and watched a few programmes on our fabulous new tv (trying to watch Blue Planet II on our rubbish old one was the last straw). The best Christmas telly for me, by far, was Little Women; such a beautiful adaptation. All the women in our house loved it. Some of the men did, too.

That’s all we did, really, for about a week. The boys were supposed to be revising for their mock GCSEs and A-levels – honestly, what school would set their mock exams straight after the Christmas holidays? Well, theirs would. And I’ve heard of a few others. Sigh. My sons took a very dim view of this meanness, so only did some cursory revision. I took the view that I wasn’t going to spoil Christmas by being on their case. To be honest, I secretly admire their refusal to feel the considerable pressure and I’m sure they’ll gear up for the real things in the summer.

We all went back to school and work last Tuesday (2nd) which was a rude shock of a start to the new year but I’m getting in the groove now. Normal routine is on hold while the boys have exams; they only need to be in school when they have an actual exam so I’ll be taxi-ing back and forth to the station  for the rest of this week. Back to normal, normal next week.

I couldn’t bring myself to take down our lovely tree last week – that would have been too harsh – so I waited until twelfth night on Friday to pack Christmas away again for another year. I’ve been cooking vegetables (that urge for green and crunch and vitamins and minerals that you can taste after all the rich unhealthy food; this roast aubergine with curried yoghurt, caramelised onion and pomegranate recipe is outstanding); peeling and chomping on oranges and grapefruit to stave off winter germs; and going for long, muddy dog walks (the mud!). David and I did venture into the garden yesterday with the thought of pruning our apple and pear trees but it was so shockingly cold that we had a quick walk round, looked at what needed doing and promptly came back indoors to put the kettle on! Brrr. That job will have to wait.

I know many people find January a difficult month in the northern hemisphere – the seemingly never-ending grey, wet, dreary days and dark evenings – but I don’t mind it. It’s David’s birthday month, there are fires and candles to be lit, and there are signs of spring already. I spied fat hellebore buds peeking out from the leaf litter yesterday and the snowdrops are coming. There is a lot to look forward to.

A couple of recommendations if you need a pick-me-up: the first is The Greatest Showman – a wonderful, exhilarating and life-affirming film with a corker of a soundtrack. My 13-year-old has been humming it non-stop. The second is the awesome Oprah Winfrey’s  speech at the Golden Globe Awards. I’m sure you’ll have heard it by now but do click on the link if you haven’t. Oprah for President?

And, finally,

A single glass of champagne imparts a feeling of exhilaration. The nerves are braced; the imagination is agreeably stirred; the wits become more nimble.

So said Winston Churchill, reportedly, and I agree. (Several glasses will have the opposite effect, but let’s not dwell on that.) I feel the same about the first mug of tea of the day, a morning coffee after walking my dog and a weekend G&T before dinner. There are times when only a particular drink will do. Champagne is for celebrations, for toasting, for hopes and dreams, so I raise my imaginary glass to you and rather belatedly wish you a Happy New Year. Here’s to 2018 – nerves braced, imagination stirring, wits creaking into action. Hurrah!

Have a great week.

PS You may have noticed that I haven’t made any changes to my blog. A little rest did me good and I’m content to plod on with it as it is for now. Thank you for your kind comments back in November x

Christmas Wishes

Hello! How’s it going? I hope your festive preparations (if you are celebrating Christmas) are coming together smoothly with minimal pre-holiday panic.

My children all finished school last Friday and they are busy catching up on sleep and socialising. Our tree is up and decorated – bickering teenagers don’t create the same magical atmosphere as excited little children, but it happened and only one set of lights didn’t work. I’ll bring more greenery indoors this week and enjoy doing that quietly before anyone else is up. I think I’m there with the present-buying and card-writing but there is still plenty to do (wrapping, food-shopping and making, cleaning, tidying…). You know how it is. I am feeling calmer than I usually do at this point, though!

This is the time of year when I stop and remember people – those I have loved and do love, people I know and don’t know personally. It is important for me to appreciate them and all that I have, and to try to spread the love a little. If you have a few spare moments, I highly recommend reading these blog posts that capture the spirit of the season for me – CJ’s moving post about her late aunt, Lynda’s post about a Christmas book (gorgeously festive) and Jane’s post about her Christmas spirit in the outback.

I would like to thank you for visiting this tiny space in the ether and for sharing it with me. I wish you and your loved-ones a wonderful Christmas and may 2018 be healthy, happy and fulfilling.

Sam x


I’ve not written here much lately. It’s not that I don’t have anything to write about; I could write reams and reams but it would most likely be the tired ramblings of a middle-aged mother who’s slightly fraying at the edges, and no-one wants to read that. I also haven’t taken many photos lately and I haven’t done anything worth writing about in the garden for weeks and weeks (sadly). There are still bulbs to plant, for goodness’ sake… Work and family commitments have overtaken everything else and I need to simplify my list of things to do for a while.

When I started this blog, I intended it to be about gardening, and a record of what we were doing with our plot (hence the name), with a little sprinkling of my family life thrown in. Instead, it has become an ‘eclectic mix’ of jugs of flowers (linking to the In a Vase on Monday meme, which I love), anything that is on my mind at the time of writing, a tiny bit of baking and the occasional update on the garden. I think it’s time to press the pause button to regroup and reassess.

Thank you for visiting my blog, for reading and for commenting; I am hugely grateful and it’s been wonderful to make so many lovely friends here. I will continue to read and comment on other blogs and will return at some point. In the meantime, I wish you all peace, love and contentment.

Sam x