Five on Friday

Thank you for the lovely comments on my previous post – it’s so nice to hear from you after such a long time away and it’s galvanised me to drop in more often. I thought I’d revive the ‘Five on Friday’ theme today, borrowed years ago from a fellow blogger (I can’t remember who). The challenge is to think of five positive things to write about to share with you, so here goes:

  1. My working week is now four (long) days, so I have Fridays to catch up on everything else and visit my mum, who is now in a nursing home about 30-minutes drive from here. I try to go in the morning, which is when she is generally at her most alert, although she is not usually able to string a whole sentence together; it’s usually me chattering on about what I’ve been up to, how the children are, what’s appearing in the garden and so on. We hug and hold hands, though, and there is a lot of love in those hugs. During my visit this morning, we were agreeing that parents most want their children to be safe and happy with their lot and she told me she would be happy with her lot if only she had a little car to run around in! This was so brilliant because a) it was a whole sentence, b) it made sense and was in context, and c) it revealed her dry sense of humour. As anyone whose loved-one is disappearing into a dementia knows, these rare nuggets of connection are extremely precious.
  2. Birthday celebration weekend for our girl ahead, the gifts ordered over the internet have arrived (phew) and plans are coming together. Our eldest son is coming home for the big day on Sunday, much to our daughter’s delight. All three kids have had their moments during teenage years when they rubbed each other up the wrong way, got into arguments at the slightest niggle and caused their parents much agro, so the fact that they love each others’ company now makes me incredibly happy.
  3. Yesterday was a busy day of in-person presentations and networking, which, not being a natural extrovert, I find exhausting; I have to wear my big-girl pants and channel my inner woman-boss. Despite that, it was wonderful to see many people in real life, several of whom I had only previously met in online meetings and it was brilliant to put faces to actual, real lovely people.
  4. I stopped off at M&S this morning to buy some soap and ended up also buying bread, pastries and hot-cross buns – walking past their bakery section is impossible…
  5. Finally, I doubt anyone can get through a day without thinking of our fellow humans coping with the horrors of war. It’s hard not to feel completely powerless and hopeless at the news from Ukraine. However, there are some heartwarming, incredibly moving examples of connection and love across borders – read this story and do watch the video (but have a tissue handy).

Peace and hope, my friends.

That spring feeling

At a work event this week, I got chatting to a colleague about blogs, specifically food blogs, and how blogging used to be huge and now is not so, which we agreed was a great shame. It reminded me how much I used to love writing mine and connecting with other bloggers – taking my camera out, composing photos and the act of writing creatively was such a pleasure, so I made a quiet promise to myself to try to fit in a blog post this weekend. It’s been so long since I looked my WordPress account (almost a year since I last posted) that I was taken aback to see that my blog still has people visiting – hello if you are reading this! The WP platform has changed and buttons and menus are not where they used to be, so it’ll be amazing if this actually appears as a post rather than disappearing into the ether.

acoastalplot began in 2015 as a record of renovating our garden by the sea, plus an outlet for processing my thoughts on motherhood, working as a freelance editor, the wider world and so on. Since then, my children have grown up – my eldest child is now living and working in London, the middle one is in his second year at university and the youngest turns 18 next weekend; I’ll soon be a mum to three adults! We still live in the same (much quieter) house, but our garden is sadly rather neglected, mostly due to the fact that I’ve been working full time in a very busy job for the past few years and we have had other priorities.

Big, difficult life issues, plus the pandemic, have dominated in recent years and left me completely blocked, creatively, emotionally and everything-y. Other than walking the dogs (because I had to) I gradually stopped doing most of the things that were good for me. It was easy to withdraw from being sociable (as we all had to during the lockdowns), but I also stopped doing yoga, I barely picked up a trowel or my trusty secateurs and I stopped using my camera. I still posted occasionally on Instagram, but I even deleted the app from my phone at the start of 2022.

That was until last weekend when the sun shone and I noticed flowers in the garden all looking so, so beautiful. I’ve also been reading ‘More than a woman‘ by Caitlin Moran. Have you read it? She articulates the middle-aged women’s world so brilliantly – I have laughed out loud and cried while reading this book; it tells me I am not alone. If anyone reading this knows her well, please give her a massive hug from me.

And the terrible news of the godawful situation in Ukraine and all the people affected by this insane, shocking war has woken up the outrage in me, that’s for sure. I have given myself a massive boot up the backside, a severe talking to and got a grip. Our little family is out of the stormier waters for now, and on some days, like today, I feel able to think and plan and be optimistic, which is a privilege many fellow humans do not have. Optimism may seem inappropriate in these dark times, but we have to hope, don’t we? Otherwise what else is there? We might as well drink all the gin, eat all the cakes, not sort the recycling and not care about anything at all.

Anyway, looking forward with a more positive attitude… There is to be a village garden safari this summer and while there is no way David and I have time to get the garden in a fit state to take part this year, it has reignited the spark. Our greenhouse-cum-potting shed collapsed in storms last winter and has sat looking very forlorn in the corner of the back garden for over a year, so we have asked a friend to help us rebuild it and make it bigger. This is the best, happiest decision we’ve made for a long time and it feels good. We might even have space for a little log burner and a chair out there … Bliss.

I also think David has agreed it would be a good idea to move some furniture round, even swap a couple of rooms, which is a Big Deal. People can generally be divided into those who love a move round and those who don’t; I’ve not met anyone who sits on the fence over this. I am definitely in the former camp (I find a move, sort, tidy and spruce up cathartic) and it’s fair to say that David would rather do anything except that. Watch this space.

And there’s an eighteenth birthday celebration to plan for our girl. There will be a special lunch with two of her dearest friends and brothers one day and an afternoon tea party with her school friends the next. I think we might have also promised a party-party in the summer. We are a little giddy with gladness to be able to celebrate that we’re probably going a little over the top, but, hey, this is the important stuff, isn’t it? Showing our love for the people we love. Love and hope in the springtime when the world is a scary place.

Sending love and hope out there to you, too, if you need it. Thank you for visiting.

These photos were taken with my phone, so are not the best quality (my camera battery needs charging!).

It’s been a while…

Hello! I hope you’ve had a really lovely Easter weekend (it took me by surprise this year). Gosh, where to start… It’s been so long since I posted here. Who was it who said the best place to start is at the beginning? Ok. Well, I started writing my blog about 6 years ago to record progress in our garden and to write about the ups and downs of family life. The garden is where I find solace and joy, and I love photographing flowers; I was also a busy mum of three children when I started writing here and the garden and family life mostly filled my days.

My eldest child is now 21 and in his final year of university (a very unsatisfactory experience for him, sadly), the middle one is 19 and in his first year at university (all under strict pandemic conditions) and the youngest is now 17 and about to start applying for university! During term time, there is only one child at home – it is very quiet – and I am now also working full time in a very busy job (which I wasn’t when I started blogging). As well as having much less free time, I’ve not picked up my camera for months and I completely lost my writing mojo: no pictures and no words.

As well as the pandemic and the lockdowns (the impact of which we have all no doubt felt), I have been trying to navigate large and immensely challenging life issues – one of my beloved children struggling with ill-health and my dear mum going seriously downhill due to her long-term degenerative disease. As if all this wasn’t enough, we recently adopted a four-month-old cockapoo. What on earth were we thinking?! It’s been a distraction, that’s for sure, but I admit the extra responsibility has got close to tipping me over the edge a couple of times. She’s very sweet and loving (see photo at the end of this post) but this headstrong puppy is quite tiring.

Today is the first time for a while that I have taken a few photos with my SLR (because, hey, spring flowers!) and tentatively ventured back into WordPress land, only to find it’s all changed. Weird editing tools and stuff. Goodness knows what this will look like when I press ‘Publish’. It might be all over the shop. Anyway, I hope you have been keeping well and that you have found solace and strength where needed to keep plodding on in what has been an extremely tough year indeed. I don’t know when I will write here again but I do post more frequently on Instagram if you’d like to keep in touch there.

Wishing you all the very best for the weeks and months ahead – take good care of yourselves x

Cassie is still not sure but Pip (the pup) is quite persistent in her affections.

In a Vase on Monday: a day late

Hello, hello. I hope you are keeping well. These beautiful Japanese anemones – which although are thugs in our garden, I forgive because they are so elegant and poised – were picked on Sunday, photographed yesterday (Monday) and uploaded today. I picked the pears, too, so they made a cameo appearance. I had full intentions of joining Cathy’s vase gathering yesterday but I hope she won’t mind me being a day late 🙂 Her vase this week is a riot of colourful zinnias in contrast to my very simple offering, so do click on the link to her blog for a blast of colour and to find links to many other beautiful vases from around the world.

My head is a jumble of everything that’s been going on here lately and all the thoughts that pass through a middle-aged mother of offspring who are on the cusp of flying the nest. After six months of having everyone at home (because of you-know-what), the boys will soon be going off to university – Thomas for his third year and Ollie for his first – and because of you-know-what, it is unlikely we will see them again before Christmas. They’re excited and anxious – it’s not going to be the usual uni experience – and I’m anxious and very emotional because I am going to miss them both very much indeed. Harriet is not looking forward to being the only child at home, nor is she particularly looking forward to starting sixth form (but she is happy at the thought of studying three subjects instead of 11). We are all dealing with yoyo-ing emotions on a grand scale.

I’m in the middle of two weeks of holiday (at home) and the heatwave that was bathing the UK in glorious sunshine earlier in August disappeared at the beginning of it. It’s mostly been chilly and wet and windy but I have managed some energetic and therapeutic clearing in the garden (my scratched arms are the scars of a perpetual war with brambles) and cut back the lavender. I’ve picked a load of raspberries and made jam and a raspberry and yoghurt cake (from Diana Henry’s Simple; I used orange zest and juice instead of lemon which was delish) and I’ve roasted loads of plums and greengages which are now tucked into the freezer to use in winter. I’ve stripped all the leaves off my tomato plants in an effort to get them to ripen – they seem very slow this year – and I’ve pulled and roasted the last of the beetroot. I’ve also been perusing the Sarah Raven catalogue and made a list of tulips – I’m going for ‘La Belle Epoque’, ‘Slawa’, more ‘Ballerinas’ and ‘Brown Sugar’ (because you can never have too many of these scented beauties), ‘Copper Image’ and ‘Spring Green’, which are meant to be highly perennial. I still dream of being able to cut armfuls in spring to bring indoors.

It’s back to work on Monday (still working mostly from home) but in the meantime I will be trying to make the most of my remaining holiday, seeing friends, catching up on household chores, as much gardening as I can fit in, shopping with my boys for uni stuff and trying to prepare all my children for their new academic years in this strange and confusing Covid world.
Wish me luck.


Hello! How are you bearing up? It’s day two hundred gazillion in the weird, unsettling, up-and-down pandemic world and here at acoastalplot we’re coping with the current state of the nation in our own ways with varying degrees of success. I haven’t written a post for over a month because I have had neither words nor energy – I’m not sure I have words now, to be honest, but I felt like dropping in, sharing a few photos and and having a little brain ramble, so please bear with me.

Work has been incredibly busy. I don’t think I have ever worked as intensely or been so challenged. I’m not a front-line worker – I haven’t had to go out to work like nurses, cleaners, teachers, refuse collectors, lorry drivers, cashiers, or any of the other wonderful people who have kept the country going. I am working from home on the phone and at my computer as part of the community hub, helping people who live in this area to access food, medication and all the other forms of support that vulnerable people need, particularly if they are shielding and live alone. People are frightened, lonely, poorly, confused, frustrated, cross, grateful. Some calls take 10 minutes; some take over an hour. I’ve had conversations that have made me laugh with lovely people who are grateful that others care and conversations that have left me tearful and shaking with a fury that we should be doing better. As a country, we should be doing better. I won’t go into a full-on political rant here, but the pandemic has shone a light onto the chronic deprivation and the failure of successive governments to fund social care and other support networks. It has also highlighted the incredible volunteers who do far more than could be reasonably asked of them, who keep many of the caring organisations going. If it wasn’t for these amazing people, we would be even further up shit creek without a paddle and in a leaking boat.

And on top of all this, there was the murder of George Floyd. The graphic and horrifying images of his death were heartbreaking and difficult to watch. Shame on us humans. Shame on a nation where the police – who are meant to uphold law and order and keep people safe – can behave in this way. There has been much social media outrage and people giving their opinions and judging other people for their opinions. Who am I to add my opinions to the fray?! I am a privileged white woman who has not personally experienced racism. But I do know that it is wrong, wrong, wrong and I will do anything I can to counter it. We should rage against it all.

Yes, we should rage but there has to be respite from raging. Otherwise we’d all  suffer from a collective breakdown. My three darling children – young adults – veer between rage, despondency, boredom, hysteria, positive motivation, despair and stupefaction. We are doing our best to help them navigate a way through this but we’re feeling our way too. Some days, when the sun is shining and the fridge is full and funny things happen are good days; some days when you hear about a friend who’s ill, or you make the mistake of watching too much news and the house is a tip, are bad days; some days are just flat, meh days. It’s not easy. I quite often want to get in the car and drive somewhere, anywhere, far away, or stay in bed and pull the duvet over my head, but I can’t. We have to keep on keeping on. Do the laundry, clean the toilets, wash the dishes, cook the food… And while doing all this, we might as well try to do it to the best of our ability and enjoy it.

We have drawn up a weekly rota for cooking the evening meal – David and I each cook twice a week and each kid does an evening – and we’re experimenting and widening our repertoire. Stand-out meals have been a fragrant daal spicy with roasted butternut squash and flatbreads, a spaghetti carbonara made without cream and roasted salmon with turmeric rice; all absolutely delicious. David has been baking bread and croissants and Harriet has been baking brownies, biscuits and cakes… My waistline has expanded. We also drew up a cleaning rota but the less said about that, the better.

And the weather… Thank goodness for the sunniest May on record. It has been flipping fantastic to lie on the grass in the sunshine and gaze at the blue sky, or sit on the steps and watch bees busily going from flower to flower. We’ve been gardening, of course, sowing and growing veg and watching our little orchard maturing. It’s been wonderful to escape outside to pull a few weeds, see the progress in the veg bed, tend the roses, pick the wild strawberries and just sit quietly taking it all in, soaking up that nature. Flowers are helping to soothe my fragile mind.

Since we’ve been allowed to gather with others outdoors, my parents have visited us a few times to sit at the front overlooking the sea and it’s been lovely to chat in person. We haven’t hugged each other, though, or been able to hold hands and that’s been weird. It seems very strange that holding someones hand could make them or you ill and be potentially life-threatening. But there it is. These are strange times, my friends.

Apologies for the rambling post. I hope you are keeping well and I hope you are having more up days than down days. Take good care of yourself.


Staring out to sea

Since Wednesday, I have been taking some time off work, which I really needed; the intensity was starting to get to me. I switched off my work phone and have only turned it on again a couple of times to check my emails. I needn’t have done that, really – my lovely colleagues are handling everything – but it is hard to switch off entirely.

The weather has been absolutely lovely for this time of year, perfect spring weather, which has really helped (imagine if we’d been in this situation in November!). I’ve done laundry and hung it outside to dry, I baked a cake, I’ve started reading The Mirror and the Light (the Hilary Mantel doorstop of a book), I have hung out with my children (all of whom are struggling to some extent with this less than ideal situation) and phoned the mums. I’ve cleared the kitchen worktops several times a day,  I’ve walked the dog and I have sat outside and stared at the sea. A lot. What I haven’t done is any gardening or picked up the vacuum cleaner and so I have been feeling guilty that I’m  squandering precious time and frustrated at my lack of motivation. I did what I usually do when I’m overwhelmed and idly scrolled through social media, and I came across these words in a post from my sister-in-law’s lovely mum:

~ Elena Mikhalkova
My grandmother once gave me a tip:
In difficult times, you move forward in small steps.
Do what you have to do, but little by little.
Don’t think about the future, or what may happen tomorrow.
Wash the dishes.
Remove the dust.
Write a letter.
Make a soup.
You see?
You are advancing step by step.
Take a step and stop.
Rest a little.
Praise yourself.
Take another step.
Then another.
You won’t notice, but your steps will grow more and more.
And the time will come when you can think about the future without crying.

Thinking about the future – even the next-week future, let alone next month or next year – is impossible at the moment. There is so much we can’t control and no clue as to when it will be safe to go about our daily business as we used to do. My darling kids are completely flummoxed by this, especially as all their academic lives have been brought to an abrupt halt. No amount of reminding ourselves how lucky we are compared to many others really helps. They know that. It doesn’t make them feel better.

All the roads ahead are dense with fog. And I’ve decided to use that metaphor as an approach to daily life for the time being – take small steps very carefully, slow right down, concentrate on the detail and trust that we’ll get there eventually.

I hope you’re keeping safe and well and finding your own ways of coping. I’d love to hear what they are x


January treasure inside and out

Inside: two-week-old tulips, supermarket daffs and scented narcissi delivered by the postman from Cornwall (the second delivery of three, a gift from a friend cheering up my winter).

Outside: early snowdrops, violets in the lawn, hellebores, a few early primroses in the sunniest spots, lots of bulb spears poking out of the soil, forget-me-not  and nigella seedlings and all the signs of the spring to come.

The gorgeous blue skies and winter sun this weekend have been a welcome respite from the wind, rain and monotonous grey and it’s been a tonic to wander in the garden and see what’s going on. It’s easy to feel disconnected from outdoors at this time of year, so I savour any time outside in the sunshine, especially when it’s cold and frosty (proper winter!).

I haven’t blogged lately because I hadn’t (until today) taken any photographs – there is no time during the week and weekends have been busy with non-photogenic chores – and my brain is so full of work and empty of blogging inspiration. But I genuinely enjoy writing here and love reading others’ blogs and the connections made, and I suspect that if I leave it too long I will just stop, so please forgive the occasional post about nothing much in particular (like this one) other than humdrum life and a few flowers!

It feels that it’s been much longer than two weeks since the end of the Christmas holidays. Ollie and Harriet have had mock A-level and GCSEs (some ‘good’, some ‘meh’ and some ‘don’t even…’) and Tom has gone back to uni. David and I have been full-steam ahead with our day jobs and we’ve all barely had a spare moment. I think I’m now into the swing of full-time, going out of the house to work again (bearing in mind that the last time I did this was pre-children), although some days are a very tight fit and I am much more tired come Friday evening than I used to be. Plus I miss being the only human in the house – I think I did become quite solitary and happy to be so.

Planning and being organised are vital and some weeks run more smoothly than others. I have been late (thank goodness for flexitime) and we eat fish fingers more often than we used to 🙂  The job I do is challenging at times but always interesting and I learn new things every day. Four months in and I’m still enthusiastic and positive and hope that good things can happen via community work but I now know enough to see that it could be disheartening after a long time. As with all aspects of life, it’s important to have a balance and that’s what I need to make sure I maintain a healthy sense of perspective. Yoga, good food, good books, long walks, seeing friends, having a good laugh, enjoying time with my family have all kept me on an even keel these past few months. What about you? Any top tips?

Right, I can hear the dulcet tones of David wielding the hedge cutter in the garden which is my signal to find the rake and broom and go and lend a hand. Until next time, my friends.

PS Thank you for your recent comments. I’m sorry if I haven’t replied but I read and appreciate each one.


Red acer Copper beech France in the distance

Watching… His Dark Materials on Sunday evenings on tv. I read Philip Pullman’s trilogy about 15 years ago and was enthralled by his fictional world where humans have daemons, their alter-egos in animal form, and where there are warrior polar bears and witches. This BBC adaptation is fabulous.

Ignoring… for now, the rather large festive season fast approaching. I’ve booked annual leave for a few days, so we can all spend a decent amount of time together as a family, and I’ve pencilled in a couple of Saturdays in December for shopping. I probably should do a little more planning.

Toasting… my toes by the wood-burning stove. We’ve been lighting the stove for a few weeks now, partly to warm up the living room and partly because it gets dark so early now (around 4pm) and a glowing stove cheers everyone up.

Resisting… too many Lidl’s lebkuchen – ridiculously cheap and dangerously addictive 🙂

Listening… to anything that isn’t to do with the General Election or B***it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for being informed and will definitely be voting, but I can only take so much of the propaganda. Local authority employees are encouraged to help out at election time and I attended a training session in the week to learn about our duties. The processes are incredibly well organised and secure (as you’d hope!). I’ll be helping out at the village polling station from 6am to 11pm on 12th December, one of thousands of people country-wide making sure everyone can exercise their precious democratic right to vote.

Missing… my eldest child. He was 20 on Tuesday. 20!!! It amazes me that I have such a fully grown adult child. David and I met him in London and took him for lunch and to see the Anthony Gormley exhibition at the Royal Academy. It was wonderful to see him and we sent him back with his cards from home, gifts and a birthday cake to share with his housemates. It takes some getting used to, this parting of ways. I’m sure it’ll get easier but the next child is already lining up to start on his road to independence and it’s unsettling. Ollie has completed his university application for 2020 and has received offers, so come next September with a fair wind and the results he needs, he will also be off. Then it will be David, me and Harriet and she is not relishing the prospect of being in the full glare of our attention. I am not looking any further into the future…

ReadingTombland by C J Samson. Actually, I finished it this afternoon. I’ve read all seven of this author’s wonderfully rich and evocative historical novels about the fictional character Matthew Shardlake set in the Tudor era and loved each one.

Hoping… that all the allium and tulip bulbs I shoved into the soil a couple of weekends ago will not be discovered by squirrels or badgers and will survive to flower beautifully in spring. I’m not spending nearly enough time in the garden – there is no time in the week and the weather has been rubbish most weekends.

Anticipating… a delicious kedgeree for dinner cooked by David. I know it’s more usually eaten for breakfast or brunch but we often cook it when it’s just the two of us and this evening we’re on our own. Ollie has gone to a party and Harriet is at a friend’s birthday dinner. We are too tired to go out.

Forgetting… anything I don’t write down. Lists are the menopausal woman’s friend.

Wishing… I could be more disciplined with my free time. There are many bloggers who work full time and manage to write regularly. Hopefully, I’ll settle in to a routine at some point.

Trusting… this finds you well and happy.


Noticing the swallows and flocks of finches in the recently harvested fields. The swallows zip low over the cut stubble, snatching insects, while the finches flitter about at the field edges looking for spilt seed.

Sheltering from the rain showers this week. So much for summer – it’s feeling distinctly autumnal today.

Planning for my return to full-time work in mid-September. Eeek! It’s a career change and I am chuffed, excited and nervous all at the same time. It’s been many years since I last had a ‘proper’ job and I have got used to the freelance life and working from home, so it’s going to take some time to adjust. I will definitely need to buy a few smarter clothes; tatty jeans and t-shirts won’t cut it.

Celebrating Ollie (my middle child) passing his driving test. Hurrah. Having another driver in the household will certainly help, especially with me going Out To Work (it feels funny, writing that), although the car insurance for new drivers is extortionate, isn’t it?!

Smelling the delicious scent of cloves that waft from the pinks planted in a pot on the wall next to the path and the vaguely digestive-biscuit scent of my dog’s head. The rest of the family can’t smell it.

Neglecting the housework and the garden. I’ve been so focused on applying for jobs and preparing for interviews, and all the associated fretting that goes with it, that I haven’t been able to think about doing much else. Silly really, when I know that an hour in the garden is great therapy. I’m going to have to be much more focused with my time (and maybe find someone to help indoors).

Hoping we will be able to get away for a few days over the bank holiday.

Watching my daughter dance in the corps de ballet in a wonderful production of The Nutcracker. Her dance school puts on a festival ballet every summer and invites professional ballet dancers to take the lead roles. It’s an intensive two weeks of rehearsals followed by five shows and she loves every minute. We all went to watch and were amazed at the incredible dancing and professionalism of the production. I found tears leaking from my eyes throughout most of the show.

Ignoring the political news. I am fed up. With it/them all.

Cursing badgers. It may be one badger or it may be more but many of our raspberry canes have been flattened by the greedy creature. It has also eaten all the gorgeous, big, fat, on-the-verge of perfect ripeness tomatoes. It doesn’t go for the cucumbers or courgettes, so at least that’s something to be grateful for. Red yes; green no. Grrrrrrrrr.

Picking any of the raspberries that haven’t been eaten/trampled by the aforementioned badger.

Guarding our apple trees (see above).

Reading novels to help me relax before sleep. I’ve just finished Stoner by John Edward Williams (beautifully written) and Big Sky by Kate Atkinson (I am a little in love with Jackson Brodie).

Eating too many sugary palmiers from Lidl. They are delicious and they remind me of holidays. It’s a good job I won’t be needing to wear my bikini this year.

Sending my fondest love to my sister-in-law in Cheshire (if she is reading this).

Borrowing the ‘-ing’ idea from Christina at A Colourful Life – if you haven’t read her lovely blog, do take a look. I am full of admiration for her quilting/sewing expertise and her general approach to life.

Wishing you a good week. Bye for now x


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.