There’s a spot where I sit on the steps down to our front garden where I’m sheltered by the walls on either side but I can see the lower terraces and the sun glistening on the sea on a clear, still morning. I was awake just after 6am, well before anyone else. We’re all ‘on holiday’ this week, everyone is at home – all the children returned from their travels, David off work – and everyone was sound asleep in their beds so I crept downstairs, emptied the dishwasher, cleared up the late-night mess from the teenagers,  made a large mug of tea and headed outside. Sitting on the cold step in my pyjamas, surrounded by birdsong and the sound of the sea in the soft haze of an early morning of a good-weather day, I felt alive, revived and hugely contented and chuffed that I was outside rather than snoozing for another hour in bed. I’m not a natural early riser and so it always feels something of an achievement when I manage to rise and catch this magical part of the day.

Anyway, I just wanted to share that with you. The photos don’t capture the glistening sea – you can just make out a slightly rosy glow behind the trees in the first photo – but they do portray the softness of the light. Sorry you can’t hear the birds singing, though. Right, I must get on with the day. Hope you have a good one.


In a Vase on Monday: floral perks

My Monday vases this week are full of flowers that a) I didn’t grow, b) I didn’t pay for, and c) I didn’t even pick. They’re all leftovers from our village Spring Show on Saturday. One of the perks of being on the gardeners’ association committee and helping to put on these shows is that you’re able to give a good home to any unwanted blooms that people leave behind.

I’m completely in love with the large pale pink tulip – it is one of the three stems that won ‘Best Exhibit in the Horticultural Section’ and they drew much admiration on the day. The woman who entered them didn’t know the variety of tulip but I think it could be ‘Pink Impression’. I also love the lily-flowered purple tulip which could be ‘Purple Dream’. If anyone knows for sure which varieties these are, please leave a comment below – thank you.

I was surprised by the number of entries of Narcissi because most of the daffs in my garden have either gone over or failed to flower. Only one of my beloved N. ‘Actaea’ has bloomed so far this year, the rest have come up blind. Talking to fellow gardeners around here, we reckon the very long dry summer last year is to blame. I’m hoping that if I feed and water them well this spring, they’ll recover and flower again next spring. If not, I’ll buy some more. (I’ll probably buy some more anyway!)

There was an impressive variety of beautiful Narcissi shown on Saturday and I was very lucky to bring a few home. They’re filling the room where I sit typing with the most delicious daffodil scent and brightening up a dull corner. There’s a white frilly edged tulip nestled in there, too, which could be ‘Daytona’. Again, if anyone knows, please let me know. I particularly like the pale daffs and have made a note to plant more this autumn. Good white and pale varieties are ‘Thalia’, ‘Elka’ and ‘Pueblo’. There are several multi-headed and highly scented varieties too. When you think of daffodils, it’s usually the traditional yellow version, but it’s amazing just how many varieties there are in all shades and combinations of yellow, cream and white, some with orange centres, tall and short, large flowers and small, single heads and multi-headed. As with most plants, there’s a variety to suit almost everyone.

It’s the school Easter holidays and with my two school-aged children off on their travels, I started the week off by having a lie-in. Bliss. It’s been such a full-on time recently that I’ve decided to take my foot off the pedal a little for a few days, to do as little around the house and as much out in the garden as possible. I hope you have a thoroughly good week, whatever you have planned.

As usual, I’m joining Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for her Monday vase gathering. Do visit her blog where you’ll also find links to other garden bloggers around the world.

In a Vase on Monday: Fool’s Day Flowers

I can’t believe it’s April already. Turning over the calendar this morning, seeing Easter in a few weeks, I almost did a double-take. The garden is about two weeks ahead in terms of flowering compared to this time last year – the daffs are almost over and about half of the tulips are already flowering. I had intended to pick some for my vase but I love seeing them where they are in the garden and decided instead to use more abundant blooms from plants that have spread around of their own accord: Muscari (grape hyacinth), Calendula (marigold) and Cerinthe major (honeywort). I added three ranunculus flowers snipped off the plants I bought on Saturday to add to the jewel-like colours. This colour combination is one that I’m drawn to time and time again – the warmth and richness of orange, red and blue/purple simply makes me happy.

It’s lovely to be joining Cathy at Rambling in the Garden and other bloggers for this weekly gathering. Do pop over there to see her vase (she does have tulips) and links to others from around the world.

In other news, we had a packed and thoroughly lovely day in London yesterday. David was racing in the Veterans’ Head of the River Race, on the Boat Race course on the Thames, so my daughter, the Spanish girls and I hitched a lift with him. We left the house early (which felt much earlier), and David dropped us off at Barnes station where we caught a train to Waterloo. First stop was the Royal Festival Hall for a large coffee for me and pastries all round. I used to hang out here often; it’s a great place to meet friends and there is always something going on – yesterday there was an orchestra practicing beautiful ballet music. From there we walked along the Southbank to Tate Modern, stopping frequently to admire street art, street performers or the view. I took them up to the 10th floor of the Tate to see the spectacular views, then we walked over the Millennium Bridge to St Paul’s Cathedral where the organist was practicing for a choral evensong and we were treated to another wall of wonderful sound. After that, we hopped in a black cab to Covent Garden so the girls could look at clothes shops (an experience that I could happily have missed!), then walked along the Strand, through Embankment Station, over Hungerford Bridge back to Waterloo and onto a train to Putney where we met a tired but happy post-race David.

The Spanish girls are lovely – friendly, polite, engaging – but everything (and I mean everything) has to be recorded on their phones and a few times I had to tell them to look around and not at their phones. Crossing roads, for example. The weirdest thing was an impromptu photoshoot at one of the old red phone boxes near St Paul’s. Both took a turn in the phone box with the door held open, on the phone, opening the door, posing this way and that, with no hint of self-consciousness. My daughter took it all in her stride but I found it bizarre. It’s all about the photo. I have never felt more middle-aged and old-fashioned!

Wishing you a good week.



Springtime goings on

Before I go on, I must say thank you for the lovely comments on my previous post. Sorry I haven’t responded individually. I can’t believe it’s been over two weeks since I wrote it – the days are flying by with little time for blogging or taking photographs. I meant to write this yesterday but here I am, on Saturday evening, tapping at my keyboard.

It’s been the most beautiful couple of days here – blue sky, warm sunshine, birds singing their socks off, butterflies flitting about (brimstones, whites, tortoiseshells) and bees busy in the flowers. It’s the time of year for daily garden inspections, if possible, to see which trees are blossoming, how many buds, say hello to the tulips, pinch off the faded daffodil heads, pull out gigantic weeds (already!), so I took my camera out with me yesterday to take these pictures. I’ve had to be very relaxed about what’s going on (or rather not going on) out there lately. I haven’t sown any seeds at all yet and I’m only part way through cutting back the ornamental grasses and perennials. It doesn’t matter. All the plants carry on regardless and I will catch up.

We will need to start getting our act together in the next few weeks because we are opening our garden again for the local Garden Safari at the end of June. It’s good to have a deadline… In the spirit of perking things up outside and to make a small start, I bought a few pink Bellis and red-pink Ranunculus this morning to plant together in an old stone trough and, amazingly, have tucked them into their new bed already. It was so good to get my hands in the soil again. Gosh, I’ve missed it.

I am itching to spend a good amount of time out there – several hours would be wonderful; hopefully next weekend. It’s a little full-on here chez acoastalplot at the moment. On Thursday morning my younger son flew to Delhi for an 18-day trip, working in a school in West Bengal, then trekking in the Himalayas (not jealous at all…). I won’t bore you with the preparations for that! On Thursday evening, two Spanish exchange students arrived to stay with us for a week and later that night my eldest child returned home from university for the Easter holidays. The Spanish girls lovely, very appreciative and polite and they both seem to get on well with my daughter. There’s lots of laughter and chatter. We’re their tour guides this weekend – today we did the beach, Deal and Dover Castle, tomorrow we’re taking them to London – and they have a packed schedule with their classmates next week. They fly back to Barcelona on Thursday, then my daughter heads off on a long coach trip to Austria on Friday for a school skiing trip. Apparently there is still snow.

For the following 10 days there will be just me, David and one grown-up child here and he mostly does his own thing. It’s going to be quiet and strange but there should be plenty of time for gardening 🙂

Hope you’re having a lovely weekend. Bye for now x







My youngest child, my third-born and final baby is 15 today. Fifteen…

A couple of years ago her birthday fell on a Monday and I picked thirteen flowers for a Monday vase to celebrate her day. This morning, what with the sunshine and a lull in the raging winds, I decided to see if I could find 15 flowers in the garden to mark the occasion. I cheated slightly – there are two primroses but they are different colours. From left to right above, they are:

Narcissus ‘Carlton’
Narcissus ‘February Gold’
Narcissus ‘Tete-a-tete’
Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ (Honeywort)
Calendula officinalis (Pot marigold)
Calendula officinalis ‘Sunset buff’
Muscari (Grape hyacinth)
Lamium (Dead nettle; wild flower)
Pulmonaria officinalis (Common lungwort)
Primula vulgaris (yellow)
Primula vulgaris (pink)
Osteospermum (African daisy)
Hellebore orientalis (Lenten rose)
Geum rivale (Water avens)
Narcissus ‘Red Devon’

My darling girl, all arms and legs, fizzing with energy and a zest for life, is fast becoming a young woman. She’s 5’8″ to my 5’5″. She fits into my going-out dresses that I’ve been saving in the hope that she’ll one day like to wear them (I can barely squeeze into them these days and I rarely go out). She has long dark hair and a gorgeous smile and, happily for her dad, she’s dismissive of all boys because she has two brothers and she knows what they’re like. No one has so far impressed her. She is fiercely loyal and has a deep sense of justice. She loves music and dancing and her friends and avocado and cake (not all together). She is ridiculously over-enthusiastic about random things in that way that only teenage girls are. She’s a great mimic and is good at languages, numbers and science. She’d love to be a doctor but she can’t stand the sight of blood. She’s completely in touch with her emotions and cries easily; there’s no bottling it up with her. She is often incredibly anxious about new situations, school work and exams and travelling. She’s loving and caring and kind but she knows which buttons to press to wind her brothers up into a fury. Her room is the untidiest in the house – she leaves wet towels on the floor, banana skins on her desk and never puts her clothes away. She and I have that unfortunate clash of female hormones (menstrual and menopausal) and we occasionally fall out but it never lasts long. She’s my daughter and I love her with all my heart.

My three seven years ago when they were 8, 10 and 12. They’d be mortified if I showed photos of them as they are now!

In a Vase on Monday: minimal

There are plenty of flowers in the garden to make a pretty spring bunch for a Monday vase – loads of daffodils, grape hyacinths, pulmonaria, anemones, primroses, etc – but I decided to leave them where they are and instead snip a twig of the Chaenomeles (ornamental quince; not sure which species/variety it is) which arches over our top path.

It has more blossom on it this year than I’ve seen before, possibly because we thinned it out last summer and cut back it’s pushy neighbour, the lilac, letting in more light and air. That’s not saying much, though, because it is not nearly as floriferous as many other Chaenomeles I’ve seen. Maybe we should cut it back harder for more flowers next year. Ornamental quinces produce small, hard, knobbly fruit in the autumn which make a deliciously fragrant jelly with the most beautiful colour. You do need a load of fruit to make a relatively small amount of jelly, though, and our bush has never produced many. That might be a good enough reason to prune it harder this year.

Or perhaps not, as I’m not a fan of this flower colour – it’s an odd ‘salmon’ pink which I don’t usually go for, partly because it doesn’t go with anything (and it’s an incredibly difficult colour to photograph). But I do like the minimal nature of this sprig with its few flowers and buds in this blue spotty jug. I’ve added a couple of apple and pear sticks pruned from the young trees in our mini orchard.

In a Vase on Monday is hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden. Do click on the link to see what she and other bloggers from all over the world have found to put in a vase today.

Have a good week.



In a Vase on Monday: rule breakers

“Blue and green should never be seen except with something in between”, goes the old saying. What a load of old tosh. Thanks to the commonsense of the plants in my garden, it’s my current favourite colour combination. I think the particular blue of this common Muscari (grape hyacinth) and the zingy chartreuse of the flowers of Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae (wood spurge) go together brilliantly. They’re growing together on the top of the wall by our path (in the third photo) and this is what inspired my simple Monday vase today.

A little rootling around on the internet to find the origin of the saying reveals that it may come from the days of black and white films where blue and green were too tonally similar to distinguish between the two. I suppose it makes sense in that situation. You learn something new every day…

Euphorbias (spurges) are poisonous plants and a drop of the vicious milky sap from any cut stems can burn the skin, so I wore my gardening gloves to snip a few flowers and then seared them in boiling water for a few seconds to seal them. (For goodness’ sake, don’t ever get any near or in your eyes.) Nasty sap aside, Euphorbias are great architectural plants. There are about 2000 species – from annuals and perennials to shrubs, trees and succulents. Some prefer a sunny spot but some thrive in shade; some are tall, others short; you can get purple ones and blue-green ones and chartreuse ones and ones with deep-red flowers. There’s a Euphorbia for every situation – all will add a lovely form and structure to a garden.

By the way, did you by any chance watch Monty Don’s two-parter on Japanese gardens recently? (He has the best job in the world, doesn’t he?) I was blown away by now neat everything is. And how colour-coordinated; all the gardeners seemed to wear the same blue utilitarian jackets (which coordinated beautifully with Monty’s scarves) that look perfectly gorgeous against the backdrop of the green gardens. Joking aside, the programme was a real inspiration and has definitely given me a new appreciation of Japanese design and of the moss in my garden. 

Do visit Cathy’s blog to see what she and others have found to put in a vase today.

Hope you have a lovely week.