In a Vase on Monday: still hot

Phew, cor blimey and good grief! It’s still hot; hotter than is comfortable when you have to get on and Do Things. These temperatures are absolutely lovely when you can lie about reading, swim in a pool or the sea, then lie about some more but not lovely when you have to sit at a computer (which gives off heat), or scrub toilets or do anything that involves expending energy. Earlier this morning, I spent 30 minutes picking up the small apples that have dropped off the old apple tree in the back garden, deadheading a few plants and picking blooms for a Monday vase and that was enough! Any gardening has to be done early in the morning or late in the evening, so there’s not a lot going on here. Watering and dead-heading is about all we can manage.

Having missed a few weeks of Monday vases, it’s lovely to be able to join Cathy (who hosts this weekly gathering) and her dahlias today. I started off by cutting a few stems of Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’ which were lying down (overcome by the heat, no doubt), then picked my way through the wild patch to reach two Buddleia bushes at the bottom of the garden – one is a common-or-garden massive weed but we have left it there for the butterflies and the other (the darker one – Buddleia davidii ‘Black Knight’) is one we planted. It smells lovely. I thought it would all look a bit too same-y, so I added nasturtiums (‘Jewel Cherry Rose’) and red salvia (I think it’s ‘Royal Bumble’) and a few amber Heuchera spires to make it more interesting.

It seems that here in the UK we’re not alone in having a drought. Jane, The Shady Baker, who farms in Australia, has written eloquently about the severe drought they’re facing. Her family’s livelihood depends on the weather and reading her post put my concerns about the garden into perspective.

Keep cool, wherever you are, and have a good week.

End of Month View: dry July

Aeonium and geranium – both loving the hot dry conditions.


Going on holiday at this time of year is always a risk when you’re a gardener. Being away during what turned out to be the two hottest weeks for years is even riskier but that’s what we did. I tried not to worry about the garden while we were away!

I had deliberately planted fewer annuals (a scattering of marigolds, cornflowers and sweetpeas) and just six tomato plants outdoors (not in the greenhouse) because I knew we’d be away for just over two weeks and the garden needed to be as low-maintenance as possible this summer. My dad very kindly came every few days to water plants in pots, tomatoes and the new rose and perennials we’d planted this year, so I knew they’d survive, but everything else had to take its chances. If it hadn’t been for the fierce storm a few days before our return, I think the garden would be looking better than it does but there’s been a fair bit of collapse. Not surprising, really. No rain for weeks and weeks, so the plants were already parched and then they were thoroughly roughed up by the wind and heavy rain. Poor things. The grasses, especially the Stipa tenuissima, are looking particularly bedraggled, and the monster tomatoes, giant fennel and some of the larger Verbena bonariensis are listing drunkenly. Nothing that several hours with a pair of secateurs, a ball of twine and some stakes can’t sort out, though 🙂 And although it wasn’t enough to help the poor lawns, the rain we did have was incredibly welcome. It’s back to watering this week, though, as the temperatures have soared again and there is no rain forecast for the foreseeable.

The purple is Verbena rigida, planted a couple of years ago – I’m surprised it’s come back so well this year.
Apples on the old tree are ripening but quite a few have dropped off (and many clusters still need thinning).
The little patch of flowers around three of the tomato plants that were well watered while we were away is looking good, if a little higgledy piggledy.
The raspberries are now taller than me and laden with fruit. I see jam-making in my future…
Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’ coping with the drought but some of the other perennials here are looking a bit tired. It does get hot, hot, hot by the wall, though.
Acanthus mollis – a super drought-tolerant plant.
The lavender hedges are definitely past their best and the poor front lawn is suffering in the dry heat.
Grasses, Verbena bonariensis and small olive tree – all hanging in there. The roses here are very sad, though.
Two of the five little agapanthus plants I planted here last year are flowering (white). The lavender on the right seems to be faring better than the hedges on the terrace above.
These poppies are self-sown and have been flowering for about a month! You can see the watered, newly planted, experimental mixed bed behind still looking colourful.
Experimental mixed bed from the side – I love the way it stands out against the wall.
Salvia (can’t remember which one, sorry) – you can never have too many in my opinion!
Discovery apples (on tree planted last spring) ripening. I’m so chuffed that these are doing well (so far).
Oh no! Look at the poor pond! We must run a hosepipe from the well down here at the weekend and top it up. Poor newts…
Dastardly Crocosmia (plain, thuggish orange form) STILL coming up at the bottom of the garden. Its days are numbered.
Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ doing their thing – upright, swaying, gorgeous.
Collapsed Stipa tenuissima. They remind me a bit of my hair on holiday – the sun and sea crazy look.
Rudbeckia – I think this is ‘Berlin’.
Wind-bashed lavender and dried-up lawn.
View from the balcony to the front left – dry, dry, dry. You can really see the effects of the wind on the lavender.
View from the balcony to the front right. More dryness, logs still piled up next to the dry pond, trampoline still there…
Averting our eyes from the garden, here’s the view up the valley towards the lighthouse (because the light was so lovely and I needed cheering up).


So, that’s the garden at the end of July. I spent a couple of hours out there this evening dead-heading, staking and tying up, pulling out loads of Linaria purpurea to stop it seeding even further (there is TOO much) and generally saying hello to everything. Going on holiday is wonderful but it’s lovely to be back. Thank you to Helen, The Patient Gardener, who hosts the EOMVs.

Hope all’s good with you. Here’s to August!




A postcard from Pollensa

There is a captivating quality to the light in Mallorca – it’s similar throughout the Mediterranean. The particular blue of the sky and sea, the pale biscuit colour of the mountains, the trees (pine, palm, olive, citrus, poplar, oak), the flowers (bougainvillea, hibiscus, jasmine, oleander), the buildings (white, ochre or terracotta). It switches something in my brain from alert, slightly tense and fractious to calm, laid-back and easy going. Sitting outside a cafe in the main square of Pollensa on the first day we were here, I felt a rising bubble inside and had to suppress a laugh of pure joy in case my family thought I’d lost the plot. I grinned instead. They didn’t ask why I was smiling – they were smiling, too.

It’s seven years since we last visited Mallorca. In the intervening years, we’ve moved house, renovated a house, changed jobs, all three children have become teenagers and one of them is now an adult. I am happy that, although they’re still embarrassed by us and roll their eyes and walk at a discreet distance, they still wanted to come on holiday with us.

Surprising things about holidaying with teenagers:

1. They lift and carry suitcases happily and with ease.

2. They are undemanding on the plane (as long as their devices are fully charged). 

3. They sleep in late which means you get a couple of hours of total peace and quiet in the mornings, listening to the birds, and you have the pool to yourself. 

4. Sleeping in late means staying up late, so we go out and eat later which is more in keeping with the locals.

5. There’s a lot less bickering in the pool and a lot more lying in the sun. Quietly. 

6. I don’t have to spend an hour trying to slather sunscreen onto wriggling bodies.

7. One of them cooked dinner the other evening.

When they were small, a holiday wasn’t a holiday – it was a similar routine but in a different place, albeit with better weather. Now they are teenagers, yes, there are still clothes on the floor (although the possibility of insects discourages this) and wet towels on beds but I don’t care! I am properly on holiday and making the most of it. 

I hope all is well with you. Adios mis amigos.

In a Vase on Monday: cornucopia

The lavender is blooming and the bees are going bonkers. It’s a veritable highway of busy apian foragers out there, all heavily and slightly drunkenly flying from flower to flower, stem to stem, plant to plant. There’s the heady scent of it, too, mingling with that of honeysuckle and privet, especially in the early evenings.

Hasn’t the weather been incredible? It’s so unusual to wake up in the UK and be confident that it’s going to be warm, or even hot. We’ve been pottering about in bare feet and summer clothes for a couple of weeks and the boys can’t believe their luck. No school and sunshine! I do love the blue skies and not having to bother about shoes, but the garden could really do with a good drink. It’s actually a little cooler this evening and it has turned quite grey and gloomy, as though it could crash with thunder and tip it down at any moment, but there’s no sign of any rain yet.

I started my vase pickings today with lavender and jasmine, which is coming into flower (and also packs a punch smell-wise), a multi-headed stem of pink cosmos, a single rudbeckia (the first flower) and added a load of different dried grass stems (dry from lack of rain) and a few poppy seedheads. There are also a few leftovers from a hasty table-centre I put together on Saturday (cornflowers, salvias and love-in-a-mist seedheads).

It is lovely to be joining in again with Cathy and her IAVOM-ers this week – last Monday I was in Cornwall visiting an old schoolfriend. We hadn’t seen each other for far too long and it was wonderful to see her, and our other friend who came too, and to see the beautiful part of the country she lives in. The three of us were military kids and boarders at a state school that had a small boarding wing in the late 70s and early 80s. There was no such thing as pastoral care in those days; benign neglect (putting it kindly) was the order of the day. It was character-building and we stuck together in adversity, making us firm friends for life. We are determined not to leave it so long until the next time.

If seeing them wasn’t fabulous enough, this weekend another old schoolfriend of mine came to visit. She was a day girl who I became great friends with and we have kept in touch over the intervening years. She now lives in Australia but is in the UK for a few weeks and slotted in a couple of days down our way. It was so lovely to spend time with her and to catch up. Honestly, I don’t see old friends for ages and then see three in two weekends! My heart is full and I feel enormously lucky to have such long-lasting and dear friends. It’ll keep me going for a while.

Right, I must go and find something in the fridge for dinner. I spotted half a pepper, an end of parmesan and some tired salad earlier. It’s going to be a scratch meal most probably involving pasta.

Wishing you a lovely week.

End of Month View – June (belatedly)

Hello! I hope you’re well. I was away in Cornwall last weekend at the turn of the month and straight into the fray on my return but here I am, on Friday afternoon, with a little window of opportunity for writing. Here goes…

The major excitement in the garden in June was having tree work carried out: removing a monstrous sycamore and reducing the crown of a yew (both were blocking the view of the sea from the house) and taking out a massive branch from our neighbour’s enormous copper beech which is too close to our house in the back garden. Removing this branch has made a huge difference to the light levels in the garden and my son’s bedroom. The tree surgeons will return in winter when the leaves are off the beech to thin it out and reduce the canopy.



Elsewhere, it’s been a case of dead-heading and weeding when we have the time and watering, watering, watering. I was scrolling through my photos thinking they look rather bleached but that’s because everything is bleached. The grass is bleached, especially, and even the rose petals. It’s been so incredibly hot and sunny with the occasional overcast but still hot day. We have had a couple of frets, when mist rolls off the sea and the view disappears into an eerie fog for an hour or so and that has brought a little moisture but we have had no rain. At all. We’re giving everything that needs it – pots, newly planted stuff, young trees – a thorough watering every few days and this takes a couple of hours to do properly. It’s a great time to inspect the garden and notice what’s going on and the evenings have been so incredibly balmy that it’s been a pleasure to stand there, watering cans in hand, just taking it all in. Anyway, without further ado, here’s how the garden looks now (in early July; I haven’t tidied up any builders sacks, trugs, etc, for photographing purposes – you’ll have to take us as you find us!):

The raspberries are almost obscuring the greenhouse. They’re autumn-fruiting but we’ve had a few ripe ones already with loads to come.

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It’s only from the balcony that you can see how the lavender has been bashed about by the wind – it doesn’t look like this at ground level.
Log pile from the tree work! All needs splitting and stacking. (And, yes, the trampoline is still here…)


I love how the lavender is peeking above the wall now.

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The rose and jasmine on the rickety arch are starting to bloom. One is scented, the other is not.


Apples on one of our new trees!
Red gooseberries – we planted this bush and a green one last year. The birds ate all but 5 of the green gooseberries and about half of these…
The path David built last month. Still to sort out the edge and plant up the bare soil…


The wildflower area is looking a little bedraggled – we don’t water it.
Yellow verbascums in the mini orchard.


Look at the pond level! I’ve not seen it so low. (I am ignoring that pile of logs.)

Right, that’s it – window closed. Must get on. Sorry to dash.
Wishing you a wonderful weekend.

In a Vase on Monday: midsummer

Hello! I hope this finds you well. Is it glorious weather where you are? It is absolutely, most definitely, totally summer here. I can see the sea from my desk (which is a little too distracting) – it’s a gorgeous cerulean blue with lighter stripes where it must be completely calm; the sky is a lighter blue and there’s a slight yellow haze between the two which is a layer of fumes from the shipping. Despite this, I can see the cliffs on the opposite coast of France and ferries are crossing back and forth with the occasional yacht gliding past and massive container ships in the distance. I’m able to enjoy more of this view since we had a large sycamore felled last week and the height of the yew reduced. It’s made such a difference to the view from the house and I keep stopping to take it all in. Not good when you’ve got lots to be getting on with!

All is calm in this house. My boys have finished their exams and are on their summer holidays. They don’t quite know what to do with themselves. One has gone to visit a friend and the other is lying down somewhere. My daughter is due home from school any moment, so the peace will shortly be interrupted – she’s bring a friend home with her, so I’m braced. I’m busy working on a few book projects, which is keeping me out of mischief, away from my blog (and blog reading – I am very behind) and out of the garden. I walk around outside usually before I’ve walked the dog in the morning to water pots and anything else that needs it (tomatoes, newly planted stuff) and to check that the gooseberries are still ripening and haven’t been pinched by the bloody pigeons. They are ‘bloody’ pigeons not ordinary pigeons because they eat everything. They’re in cahoots with the slugs and snails, I reckon.

I snipped a few flowers for a Monday vase this morning and photographed it at lunchtime, not wanting to miss Cathy’s weekly gathering for two weeks on the trot. The flowers are a red-purple cornflower, deep pink pinks (with the most delicious clove-y scent), lavender (we are a week or two from peak lavender), Nigella seed heads, Alchemilla mollis, Erigeron karvinskianus from the steps and one stem of Cosmos atrosanguineus because I can only spare one flower!

Wishing you a lovely week. More soon…

In a Vase on Monday: kitchen flowers

I bumped into a friend this morning while walking the dog. She has three daughters, all in their 20s at various stages of university and work. She asked me how the exams were going and I remarked that she must be glad it’s all behind her. “Don’t think it’s ever over!” she said, and laughed. There was me, thinking we’re coming to the end of an era (which we sort of are) and feeling a little wistful already, when really we’re just moving towards another phase. I should know this by now, that parenting is a series of phases, but this one seems more dramatic because it’s the one where they start to leave home.

In the meantime, though, I am thankful that I work at home, that I can collect the children from the station and listen to their exam debriefs and soothe their frayed nerves, I can make sure they eat well and get enough sleep, I can bake cakes and I can put flowers on the table. Oh, wait… Those flowers are for me. They’re to brighten the kitchen and put a smile on my face.

This week’s IAVOM is a cop-out – they’re supermarket peonies, popped into the trolley during yet another whizz around the aisles to stock up on gallons of milk, bananas, apples, bread, Cheerios… But, look – aren’t they exquisite? Totally worth the few pounds they cost. And they need no accompaniment in the jug; they’re perfect as they are.

As a bonus, I’ve also refreshed last week’s vase which, apart from most of the roses, is still going strong. It’s good to know what lasts longer than a week in a vase. I’ve been reading up on the best way to get as much vase-life as possible – pick flowers that are mostly in bud, cut stems on a slant, pop a little vinegar or Milton in the water to deter bacteria, etc. Have you any other top tips?

Do visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to see her Monday flowers and find links to many others. Wishing you a thoroughly good week (with flowers and cake, if that’s what takes your fancy).