A good day

Mowed grass design at Wisley Salvia and bronze fennel Pink rose Tall alliums against roses and hedge Allium and peony View at RHS Wisley Phlomis The old laboratory at RHS Wisley Evergreen shrubs for topiary Candlabra primulas Wild meadow with willow edging Alliums Peony

My son is home. The dog gave him her special howl of happiness that she only does when her very favourite people are all together in their pack. There’s a mountain of bedding and clothes that need washing, boxes of books and bags of shoes. He’s already surveyed the contents of the fridge, cuddled the cats, commented on how lovely it is to be able to use a clean toilet and is now lying on his bed surrounded by suitcases and boxes. Happy. I’ve put a chicken in the oven to roast and we’ll have that in about an hour with new potatoes and salads, followed by scones with clotted cream and fruit. He’s been existing on pizza and skipping lunch and needs feeding up.

David had the bright idea that we should go and collect him today via the RHS garden at Wisley for a wander and a reminisce and coffee and cake en route. I didn’t need much persuasion. We used to live about 30 minutes away and would visit regularly when the children were small. I also volunteered here for a couple of years, working once a week in the Trials Department, and I also surveyed all the model gardens as part of my garden design course. I pretty much knew every metre of the gardens in detail, specific plants, views and buildings. But it’s changed quite dramatically since our previous visit about 4 years ago. There’s a major new visitor ‘experience’ (opening tomorrow, so the signs said), with a new plant nursery and various other attractions. All the model gardens have disappeared(!) and there’s construction work for a new plant laboratory, world kitchen garden and learning centre.

When we first used to visit with our babies and toddlers, we’d be among the youngest visitors by far, there was always room in the car park and you could easily wander round and not see many people. It felt like a horticultural haven where only Very Keen gardeners went. Today, there were car park attendants in hi-vis jackets, several overseas coaches, loads of people of all ages, lots of children running about, an outdoor music and dance performance going on for smaller children and a real sense that the garden was a destination, a great attraction. If it gets more people outdoors, looking at plants and enjoying all the benefits, I’m all for it but the place seems to have lost a little of its charm. Maybe there’s no place for charm at the forefront of horticultural progress.

Anyway, it was still possible to get photos without people in them of gorgeous plants! Alliums. Alliums everywhere – tall ones, taller than me, short ones, enormous globes and vibrant purples – all buzzing with bees. Glorious. And sumptuous peonies and roses whose scent hits you before you round the corner and clock them. There are still delightful touches here and there – a mown design in a patch of perfect lawn, lovely hooped hazel or willow (not sure) edging alongside the meadow. It was certainly a treat to spend a few hours here soaking up plant inspiration before collecting our boy and bringing him home for the summer.

Right, I must get that dinner on the table. Hope you’ve had a good weekend.

 

Friday flowers

I’ve missed posting Monday vases for the past couple of weeks so here are some flowers for Friday 🙂

The lupins and clematis are in my mother-in-law’s garden. We can’t grow lupins here because a red alert goes out for miles around and all the slugs and snails in the neighbourhood make a slimey trail straight for them. The same goes for delphiniums. And dahlias, although David is de-ter-mined to try growing them again this year so we have a few precious specimens in pots and I’ve been on snail watch… Also, it’s very windy here which plays havoc with tall top-heavy flowers. We don’t have much luck with clematis, either. Most varieties don’t like chalk, according to expert clematis growers. The sweetpeas are also not from our garden! They’re grown by a lovely friend whose garden I had an impromptu tour of this morning – it’s a wonderful cornucopia, a feast for the senses, and she kindly said I could go back with my camera some time.

So, there you are. Some beautiful Friday flowers not grown by me.

I hope all’s well with you. Life plods on here. My daughter and younger son are half way through their end-of-year exams and the eldest will be home from university on Sunday as it’s the end of his first year (which has flown by). His sister will have to vacate his bedroom which has become an extension of hers (because it has wifi and hers doesn’t!) and I’m clearing the backlog of laundry and filling the fridge and cupboards in readiness.

Have a lovely weekend.

PS I’ve been having trouble commenting on blogs that aren’t WordPress. Sorry to my blogging friends who are on Blogger, etc (CJ, CT et al). I am reading and would love to comment but for some reason I can’t! I will ask my technical support to take a look.

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

 

 

 

 

 

Hibernating

My daughter woke me up at 6.15am sounding much more excited than she usually does at that time of day to tell me we were snowed in. “There’s a load of snow out there, Mum, and it’s still snowing!” Was a snow day on the cards?

Several text messages and pinging on the station run WhatsApp group later, plus constant refreshing of the national rail website to check whether the trains were running, and my two conceded defeat. The trains were running, school was open, it was possible to get to the station in a 4×4 and our neighbour had room to take them in his. Off they trudged, up the path to the gate, rucksacks over their shoulders with a very hard-done-by air. I waved them off, poured myself a large mug of tea and felt relieved that I didn’t have to be anywhere other than here.

It is a pain having a broken wrist and there are things I can’t do but on the upside there are Things I Can’t Do. Like drive. And thorough housework. And anything that requires two steady hands. Luckily I didn’t have any work-work pre-booked in this month (which is good because it’d take me ages) so once the essential household chores are done, I have plenty of time to myself. I can read, watch films and chat to friends and I’ve been doing as much of all three as possible. In addition to the books pictured above, I’ve also read ‘A Man Called Ove’ by Fredrik Backman and ‘A City of Bells’ by Elizabeth Goudge on my Kindle. I’ve been absorbed by them all but if I had to choose my top three, they’d be ‘Someone at a Distance’ (couldn’t put it down), ‘The Music Shop’ (lovely, lovely, lovely) and ‘A Man Called Ove’ (I absolutely loved Ove).

The two cookery books were Christmas gifts. ‘Black Sea’ is a fascinating food/travel book about the countries bordering the sea – Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia and Russia – and contains some delicious recipes like Raspberry Buttermilk Tart and Bedtime Pudding with Tahini Cream (there are plenty of savoury recipes too) and foods new to me, like börek (a Middle-Eastern pie) and bulz (a Romanian savoury doughnut). ‘The Art of the Larder’ has been on my wishlist for a while because I aspire to be someone who can rustle up a magnificent meal from packets, jars and tins when supplies are low. Also I want to save money on our food bills. When I’m back in full cooking action, I’ll definitely be making several of the recipes and I’ll report back. This not being able to cook (or, rather, not being able to cook independently) is probably the most frustrating aspect of being one-handed. I’ve a box of Seville oranges waiting to be made into marmalade and that definitely requires two hands! I don’t think I realised before how much a part of my life cooking has become and I miss it. It’s actually best if I stay out of the kitchen while it’s going on…

On to film recommendations, there are only a few because I’ve watched some seriously average films (on Netflix and Amazon Prime) to distract me from pain and to pass the time. Being irritated by a film can be as distracting as completely loving one, I’ve found! However, I really enjoyed watching ‘The Bookshop’ (starring Emily Mortimer and Bill Nighy), ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ and ‘The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society’.

TV-wise, I’ve been glued to ‘Les Miserables’ on a Sunday evening (isn’t it fabulous and aren’t they all thunderingly miserable?!), am slightly annoyed by ‘Cold Feet’ on a Monday (I think this is probably a series too far), and have discovered Marie Kondo’s magic tidying series on Netflix. I’d like her to come and meet my house and my husband and children and work her magic here.

I am trying not to miss being able to get stuck in to the garden too much. Strolling around to check up on the snowdrop action and to spot where the bulbs are pushing through helps but there are roses and fruit trees to prune, a greenhouse to clear out, seeds to sow… These jobs will wait, though, and it hopefully won’t be long now before I can spend proper time out there. In 10 days it will be six weeks since the accident and I hope the plaster will be taken off. I’ve been doing my finger and arm exercises and eating bone-building food full of calcium, vitamin C and protein to speed things along. Fingers crossed (on my left hand!).

I hope January is going well where you are and that you’re having a good week. Bye for now.

 

 

 

End of Month View: December and the turning of the year

Hello! I hope you’ve had a very lovely Christmas. Ours was ‘different’. I managed to fracture my right wrist on 22nd December (ice-skating) which pulled me up short and I’ve spent the days since mostly in a fog of painkillers, not being able to do very much at all. The fracture is a tricky one and I have to try to keep my arm raised and as still as possible (but keep wiggling my fingers) if I’m to avoid an operation. Various festive plans were abandoned and I had to resign myself to letting go (which is not easy if you have slight control and perfectionist tendencies!). Then my poor mother-in-law, who was staying with us, succumbed to a nasty flu-like virus on Boxing Day and retired to bed. She’s still not properly better but is recovering. David has coped magnificently with all the catering and general looking-after and the kids have been great (wrapping each other’s gifts, clearing-up, discovering the bus…) and have – I hope – enjoyed an extremely slow, laid-back time. I’ve watched films, read books, eaten too much chocolate and tried not to be grumpy because I’m so incapacitated. It’s certainly made me appreciate my usual independence and I can’t wait to get back to full, two-handed mode!

Anyway, all that explains my absence here – I haven’t been able to get out and cut material for Monday vases, I can’t take photos with my camera and it takes me an age to type with my left hand! Today, though, dawned all bright and sunny and full of that new-year, new beginning, shininess. It filled me with positivity and my lovely daughter agreed to wander in the garden with me and photograph things I pointed at (and a few I didn’t). So, all credit goes to Harriet for the photos and to my kind husband for helping me wash, dress and butter my toast, for fetching and carrying and for ignoring my bad-tempered frustration over the past 10 days. I have resolved to try to make the most of this enforced rest by reading, dreaming and creating and coming up with schemes and plans for the garden and life in general. The days are already getting longer and it won’t be long before the first snowdrops and daffodils appear.

Thank you for joining me here in this little part of the www over the past year, for your comments and likes. It’s been an absolute pleasure and I hope 2019 brings you all you hope for and more. Happy New Year.

PS Thank you to Helen, The Patient Gardener, for hosting gardening bloggers’ End of Month Views.

Why I love Christmas cards

  • I’m addicted to stationery. Always have been. Give me a notebook, a pad of paper or greetings cards and a pen and I’m happy. All that potential, all the possibilities. My favourite childhood toys were my post office and my library stamps. And I always loved a writing set.
  • There are some beautiful cards – sitting down to write them is a pleasure rather than a chore.
  • Remembering the connections I have to the people I send Christmas cards to – childhoods shared, school years survived, journeys taken, workplace friendships forged… It’s important to me to remember them and it’s probably one of the only times of year that I reflect on my past in this way.
  • David’s family and my family are scattered across the country, from the south-west to the north-west and our friends are worldwide. A card is a simple and meaningful way to let them know we’re thinking of them.
  • Christmas stamps!
  • I absolutely love receiving Christmas cards. Recognising the handwriting (handwritten envelopes!) and opening the envelopes. I even love reading the round-robin letters that some people send. I want to know how they are and who’s doing what.
  • Buying cards is great way to support charity – this year, ours are from Alzheimer’s Society, Oxfam and Amnesty International.
  • Cards received can either be recycled or they can be cut up and reused as gift tags. All you need is a hole punch and string or ribbon.
  • Receiving a flurry of post that isn’t bill-related.
  • Each card sent and received is an exchange of thoughtfulness, of love and of remembrance.

I posted our cards today. I even managed to make the deadline for the USA but just missed the one to Australia (sorry Lindsey – it might arrive before 25th!). I’m not quite as organised with the gift-buying, though. That’s next on the list…

Wishing you a lovely mid-December weekend.

December dithering

There’s a mild tightening in my chest which often occurs at this time of year. The first cards that arrive in the post always throw me off balance. It makes me wonder whether I’ve missed a memo or skipped a week. It’s exacerbated by all the posts I see on social media of beautiful Christmas trees up and decorated, presents bought and already wrapped. Fair play to everyone who is ahead of the game and organised for the festive season but I am not. It seems too early to be in full-Christmas mode. I don’t want to be sick of it before it’s here but neither do I want to slide into a proper panic because I’ve left it too late to order the turkey or an important gift. It’s a fine line.

We won’t get our tree until after my son comes home from uni at the end of next week. Gift-wise, I plan to do most of my shopping online with a trip into Canterbury on a weekday when it won’t be as chokka as it is at the weekends. Fitting this in will be a challenge, though, as there isn’t a day between now and Christmas Eve when I don’t have at least one thing happening. (There’s that feeling again…) It would help if I knew what everyone would like. In years gone by, detailed lists would have been drawn up by now, but at 14, 17 and 19, there’s less excitement among my brood, less anticipation. To be fair, there’s less build-up. There aren’t the endless Christmas events that happened when they were in primary school – there are no school events at all that I’m aware of. (That’s not to say that there aren’t any, just none that I’ve been told about.)

Although we do have our family traditions, the stockings that we (actually, mostly David) made when the children were small, each one with a different coloured ribbon, our much-loved decorations, our favourite films like ‘Polar Express’, ‘Arthur Christmas’ and ‘Muppet’s Christmas Carol’ (just typing that makes me smile), our Christmases are definitely evolving now that the children are all teenagers. There’s no more waking up at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning, for one thing! This year, I’m planning to get them all more involved, to give them all jobs to do and I’ll try to not micro-manage every detail. Once the gift and food shopping is done, I intend to be relaxed about it, to enjoy the things that matter and not fret about things that don’t. This year, more than ever, I am acutely conscious of all that we have, of what’s important and how precious our time together is. My mother-in-law will be with us but my parents are going to my brother’s, so it’ll just be the six of us. I’m sure the teenagers will have plans and we’ve been invited to a few parties but I am looking forward to the times when we’re all here, when the curtains are drawn against the dark outside, the fire and candles are lit and we are safe and cosy together.

I took my daughter and a couple of her friends to the pantomime in Canterbury on Wednesday evening. It’s Cinderella this year and the ugly sisters were outrageous and hilarious, as were the puns, the costumes were amazing and fake snow fell all over the audience which was quite magical. And today was a gift of a day. I was due to attend a meeting in London but it was cancelled (I heard after I’d speed-walked the dog in the pouring rain but luckily before I left the house for the station), so I slowed right down, had another mug of tea and contemplated the kitchen. I spied the bowl of dried fruit in brandy for the Christmas cake covered with a tea towel which has been sitting on the side for a couple of weeks. It was meant to be soaking overnight but life got in the way.

Before I made the cake, though, I discovered that treacle had leaked out into the bottom of one of our big drawers where we keep all our baking ingredients, so I cleaned it out and threw away a load of out-of-date half-used packets. In full tidying mode, I cleared out the other food drawer and reorganised everything into similar products. THEN I made the Christmas cake. I always follow Delia Smith’s rich fruit cake recipe because it’s straightforward and always works and it tastes delicious. She says in no uncertain terms that you must NOT open the oven door for at least four hours. Meanwhile, the delicious smell is wafting through the house and David is complaining that we won’t be able to eat it for 18 days.

I hope all is well with you. Have a lovely weekend. I’m off to guard the cake.