Hello, how are you?! It’s been all work and no play for the past couple of weeks here at acoastalplot, hence the radio silence. It’s good to be busy (freelance work tends to be like buses) but I have missed you 🙂 I’ve also found it slightly excruciating (if it’s possible to be excruciated in degrees) being indoors at my desk during some completely glorious weather; looming deadlines meant that I couldn’t down tools and head to the beach with my family at the weekend. But, hey, there’ll be other days.
The garden has had to pretty much fend for itself, so thank goodness it’s finally raining! Hoo-flipping-rah. The sky has been full of grey clouds all day but it didn’t start properly raining until early evening. It’s now bouncing off the skylights and I’m imagining the plants are cheering, especially the grass which has lost most of its green. The snails are probably cheering, too, so I expect I’ll find more destruction in the morning. I must take a photo of one of the dahlias to show you – it’s a poor dahlia skeleton. Curse those slimy creatures.
These photos were taken in the garden just after the garden safari weekend. We were still planting, moving rocks and laying paths right up to the night before, but it all went well and we had lots of lovely people through the garden, met new neighbours and locals we hadn’t met before, and chatted to fellow keen gardeners. It was lovely to be able to take a breather and to enjoy being in the garden and we even managed to visit a few inspiring gardens recommended to us. A decent amount of money was raised for the hospice and everyone declared it a success. Looking at the photos, it’s amazing how much everything has settled in and grown since they were taken. The little orchard area is now full of wildflowers, the ornamental grasses and perennials are filling out, we’ve courgettes, tomatoes and squashes growing like crazy, and enough flowers to keep me in vase material for a good while yet. I can’t wait to have time to get out there again. When it stops raining.
I’ve been a little quiet lately because last Monday I knocked a large mug of coffee all over my beloved MacBookPro. It died; I was distraught. It’s now in the hands of the insurance company and I’m waiting to hear whether they can fix it or at least retrieve my data. While I wait to see what can be done, I’m using the family pc when it’s free which isn’t very often. I occasionally forget and go to my desk to write something only to find a Mac-shaped hole. And I’m very behind with my blog reading and emails – there is much to catch up on. Anyway. Enough of that. HELLO!
Summer is here at last. Throw open the doors and windows! Dig out the sundresses! Hang out the bunting! This past week has been mostly glorious sunshine and it’s forecast to be hotter than hot tomorrow. Hooray for our sea breeze. But, wait. I’m getting ahead of myself. What’s been happening here? The much anticipated Garden Safari, that’s what!
My mother-in-law came to stay for the week and we all worked hard, and I mean hard, to get everything ready; thanks to her, we did all we’d planned to do and more. Happily Saturday dawned with blue skies and warm sunshine. It was lovely to put on some summery clothes instead of soil-smeared old ones and have some time off from all that planting, weeding, pruning and brushing!
I’ll admit it was a little odd having people wandering around the garden but everyone was lovely and interested in what we’d done and our plans for the rest of the garden. ‘Come back next time and it’ll be done!’ we said. Ha ha.
We had grandparents and the children helping serve tea and cakes in the afternoons, which meant the kitchen got pretty crowded at times (and the boys were more interested in polishing off as much cake as they could), but we managed to remember who’d ordered what and not spill anything on anyone. All in all the weekend was a great success and, best of all, I’m told the Safari raised a good deal of money for the local hospice. We’ll definitely take part again next time but thankfully it’s not for another two years.
Over the last couple of weeks I have learnt that black nail varnish covers even the most tatty gardening fingernails; empty jam jars make perfect mini-cloches for strawberries; there is still just about enough light at 10pm in the garden in late June to see what you’re doing; and you must never, EVER, balance a mug of coffee right next to your laptop.
I’ve been proofreading a fascinating portrait painting book this week and it’s got me thinking about sources of inspiration, different styles of planting and layering colours in the garden. As in a painting, you want tonal contrasts, differing textures, and colours that make your heart leap. Of course, there is one crucial difference with a garden: you are right inside it. You can see it from different angles and you can add elements of intrigue: ‘Wow, look at that! But, wait, what’s that over there?’ And you can appeal to the other senses – touch, smell and sound. It’s an exciting creative challenge.
I read a lot about plants and design and I love to see what works for other gardeners but there is inspiration to be found in many other places.
Discovering many wonderful blogs since I started writing here has also been a delight and very motivating – there are such beautiful photographs and a wealth of creative, talented bloggers out there. It is a real pleasure to read what everyone is up to and see into generously shared lives.
I was going to write a lot more about inspiration and garden design but I’ll save that for another time. I need to snatch a couple of hours in the garden before the children get home. The newly planted areas of the garden are starting to fill out – it always amazes me how quickly everything grows at this time of the year (including the weeds).
Remember that lovely blue-flowering plant I pictured at the end of my last post? I put it on Twitter and someone kindly forwarded the photo to their mum who has identified it as Moltkia, a herby, rhizomatous shrub. Hooray! Thanks to the wonders of social media we now know what it is.
Thank you so much for your kind comments on my previous post. I admit I was having a wobble but, as the Garden Safari weekend gets nearer, I’m feeling much calmer. It will be fine, we’re just one of many gardens open and this is our first year. I’ll let you know how it all goes.
My dear friend Mrs Ford (of the delightful Mrs Ford’s Diary) and I discussed our plans for the looming village Garden Safari this morning as we walked our dogs. We decided we should come clean on our blogs and declare that we know each other in Real Life as we’re both likely to write about events such as this. It was she who encouraged me to write my blog and I have her to thank for introducing me to some very lovely blogs and bloggers. If you haven’t read her blog, I urge you to do so. It is beautifully crafted and never fails to cheer me up (and even guffaw loudly). I am convinced that one day she will be Discovered and go from being a Pillar of the Community to an Overnight Sensation and Best-selling Author.
Anyway, back to the rapidly approaching Garden Safari (can you tell I am getting slightly anxious?!). As well as making sure that the garden is in a fit state to be viewed – paths cleared, stacks of planks and posts transformed into respectable-looking compost bins, brash from hedges and bushes cleared away, sacks full of garden waste taken to the tip, as many weeds as possible got rid of – we have rashly declared that, as an added attraction, we will serve Afternoon Teas. Not content with the stress of having strangers wandering round the garden noticing things, we have the added excitement of providing refreshments. Thankfully my lovely children are game for helping out on the day (with the promise of a little financial inducement/bribe), so it will be all hands to the pump.
As well as all this, we have the ‘builders in’… Our balcony is being repaired/relaid and there are two massive piles of old roofing material and discarded stuff at the front where I am planning to arrange chairs and tables for people to sit. This was all meant to be finished a while ago (big sigh). There are men here today clearing the rubbish as I write (phew) and there are other men on the balcony adding another layer of waterproof membrane, climbing up and down ladders and dropping splashes of noxious substance onto the paving below. I am trying not to look at the broken stems on the climbing rose and the odd stains on the lawn.
I remain hopeful that it will all come together enough to be ok. Whenever anyone asks me about it (and a surprising number of people do!), I reply in a very confident tone that ‘everything will be fine’. There are enough interesting works-in-progress, some pretty plants, a view of the sea and, of course, there will be cake.
Two gentlemen from the Garden Safari committee came to survey the garden yesterday. It was pouring with rain and blowing a gale – not ideal garden-viewing conditions. They looked with alarm at the piles of rubble, the steep steps, the new retaining walls with sheer drop, the pond, the trampoline and all the other ‘risks’ and made notes on their clipboards. ‘Have you got any poisonous plants?’, one asked. Oh crikey. I thought for a moment that they were going to strike us off the list and tell us our garden was too unsafe. But, no, it’s ok. We will have barriers and signs saying ‘Go no further’, ‘There’s nothing to see here’, or similar. We’ll be cordoning off the steep, terraced, ‘lots of work to do’ part and keeping visitors to the safer, flatter, and very luckily, better-looking part.
They were slightly aghast at our relaxed attitude. There is still so much to do! The date is fast-approaching! David and I looked at each other – ‘But it’s weeks away…’ we said. Perhaps we’re being over-confident but, as we’ve done so much since March, we’re sure there’s time to get it in a fit state for people to look at.
There’s a whole heap of plants almost ready to go in to the newly revealed bed by the back wall and to fill gaps after the tulips have gone over. And the roses should be well into their flowering by then. Most of these were rescued from underneath overgrown shrubs in the front garden, so I’ve no idea what cultivar they are or what colour they’ll be! They’re in a sloping bed edged with box and also containing Miscanthus – a simple planting scheme but hopefully it’ll be looking pretty for the Safari at the end of June.
In any case, we’ll be serving afternoon teas with David’s scones, so it’ll be worth visiting just to sit and look at the sea and eat cake.
In other news… Two children are away this week – the youngest and the eldest (who is spending a lot of time away at the moment) are abroad on school trips. I’m missing them and the house is Very Quiet. Our self-contained middle child is tolerating the attention of both parents and enjoying having the computer all to himself. To take advantage of simpler logistics, we’re off to have a look at the Chelsea Flower Show on Thursday. I’ll try not to bombard you with too many photos.