In a Vase on Monday: a flower in a jug

Firstly, thank you so much for the lovely and thoughtful comments on my last post. This is exactly what the internet is brilliant for – connecting people across the world and facilitating a conversation. How our worlds have grown in the past 20 years; our minds expanded, our eyes opened.Tempting as it is to batten down the hatches and stick firmly within one’s comfort zone, it is reassuring and heartening to know that you’re all there and we’re all persevering in our own ways.

It was a day off work for me today. The combination of a stiff breeze and sunshine meant a good drying day, so I ploughed through the laundry – always satisfying to wash and dry several loads in one day – made a cake for my parents who came over for coffee, sat in the garden and read my book, ate lunch outside (on my own – bliss) and pottered, feeding the plants and weeding the veg patch. Dinner is currently being prepared by middle child. Not a bad day at all.

I don’t usually cut the hollyhocks – they’re too wonderful growing where they put themselves – but this one was lying flat across the path, so I snipped it off and popped it in a jug so I could join Cathy and her weekly gathering of Monday vases. It’s a simple offering but I don’t think she’ll mind 🙂 Do click on the link to see her vase and links to many other lovely floral creations.

Hope you are keeping well and have a good week. Until next time x

PS That book is very good, by the way. I bought it because I identified with the title and because it’s about suffragettes. My daughter and I have been having lots of conversations about womanhood but that’s a whole other blog post…

In a Vase on Monday: goodbye Alf

It’s been a strange and sad week. After work on Monday, I went for a walk around the garden in the evening sun and noticed Alfie, one of our two cats and very much the outdoors cat (the cat pictured in my previous post), sitting in a flower border rather too close to an emerging allium for my liking. I picked him up and carried him around for a while before setting him down next to the pond to sit in the sunshine. He’d been ageing recently and he seemed rather stiff and withdrawn but I didn’t think much more of it. Tuesday dawned with pouring rain and no Alfie to be seen but later in the morning Harriet heard a miaow from under the sideboard in the kitchen and found him lying very flat against the skirting board. This is the usual spot for hiding when there are fireworks or thunder, so we all kept an eye on him, tried to coax him out with some pilchards, talked to him and stroked him gently. By the afternoon we were seriously worried and called the vet. With the lockdown situation and the fact that our cats hate visiting the vet with a passion, we agreed to see how he was and maybe take him in the following day, but by 5pm we decided that he had to be seen. I managed to slide him out from under the sideboard and lift him carefully into a box. David drove while I sat with Alfie, trying to comfort him. I think I knew in my heart of hearts that it was bad but the vet confirmed our worst fears. He was in heart failure and there was nothing they could do for him. I’ll spare you the details but there were a lot of tears and not all of them were mine. We had to leave him at the vet but I drove back on Wednesday to collect the body and we buried him in the garden in a spot where he used to sunbathe and where the primroses grow in spring.

As a friend said, it is such a pure sadness when a pet dies. Alfie was part of our family for 11 years (he and his sister were rescue cats, so we reckon he was about 14), he was a dear character and he seemed to love living here. Whenever I was in the garden, he would appear from the bushes or run up the front steps miaowing in a conversational way and it feels so strange to be out there with no Alfie around. I think my sadness has been amplified by these devastating times we are living in and I think my copious tears over the past week have been a release of sadness for everything.

Apologies for tainting Cathy’s lovely Monday gathering of beautiful flowers with my sadness but these are my May flowers in memory of a much-loved cat. Aquilegia vulgaris (common columbine), snapdragons, Cerinthe major, red valerian, Calendula Indian Prince and a few tendrils of honeysuckle. All these plants love this garden too.

In a Vase on Monday: for Gill

I spent the glorious-weather days of this Saturday and Sunday reacquainting myself with the garden – hello tulips, oh, I’d forgotten I’d planted you, hello geums, you’re about to flower, ooh you lovely pear blossom… Anyone else talk to their plants? Goodness me, I had forgotten just how much I LOVE my garden, being out there, deep in the foliage, weeding, cutting back, pottering and how GOOD it feels (particularly now, in these extraordinary and sad times). It’s been a long, long wet winter but two days outside in the warm spring sunshine up to my shoulders in plants has done me the power of good.

Today has been cloudy and cold, with a strong wind and not conducive to spending hours in the borders, but I did have a wander and collected a few treasures so that I could join Cathy for a Monday vase. Four different varieties of tulip (‘Queen of Night’, ‘Sarah Raven’, ‘Ballerina’ and a violet-purple one whose name I can’t recall), some bluebells from the bottom of the garden, Cerinthe major (overwintered), Erigeron karvinskianus, which is coming into flower on the steps and walls, and some Heuchera leaves.

I also took a few photos while I was in the garden to give you a flavour of what’s going on out there. Look at that orange tulip with the forget-me-nots – I’m fairly sure it’s a ‘Hermitage Double’; there aren’t enough to pick for a vase so I have made a note to plant more for next year. Always more tulips 🙂

My vase today and these photos are especially for my dear friend Gill whose mum very sadly died on Friday (she is very much in my thoughts), and for my mum and my mother-in law who can’t come to and see the spring flowers this year…

We have three pear trees – an old established one in the back garden and two young ones in the mini orchard in the front garden. All three are covered in blossom so I think/hope it’s going to be a bumper pear year this year.

I hope you are finding ways to cope at the moment. Many eminent gardeners have written expansively on the therapeutic effects of plants and the very act of immersing oneself in the act of gardening – it is calming, healing and restorative,  and it helps us look forwards to the days to come and all the beauty and good times ahead. If you’re reading my blog, the chances are that you know this already 🙂

With love  xx

In a Vase on Monday: gratitude

DSC_1040DSC_1035DSC_1042DSC_1034Although we are all having to adjust our lives on a daily (even hourly) basis and cope with increasing restrictions on our movements, I am thanking my lucky stars right now that we have a garden, where spring is definitely happening, and a view of the sea. Never have I felt so fortunate.

I had the day off today. David and I are working from home, but I had a day’s annual leave to take before the end of March and today seemed as good a day as any and it has been lovely having an extended weekend. I was hanging washing on the line this morning, listening to a robin in full, clear beautiful song in a nearby tree. For a moment, I forgot about the alternative reality we currently find ourselves in. These moments of joy will become more and more precious as the weeks turn into months of restrictions.

Anyway… On to the simple pleasure of flowers and IAVOM, Cathy at Rambling in the Garden’s weekly blog gathering. After a wander around the garden, I decided on a mostly blue theme because there are loads of grape hyacinths popping up everywhere. Joining these are some Cerinthe major (which has been growing throughout the winter – it loves it here), twigs of flowering rosemary, a snapdragon stem (Antirrhinum majus ‘Appleblossom’, which has also been in bloom in a sheltered spot almost constantly since it was planted last summer), a few forget-me-nots (for added blue) and some ivy tendrils.

And here’s a close-up of the beautiful bunch of tulips and roses my children gave me for Mother’s Day yesterday:

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Keep safe, my friends, and I hope you find your moments of joy, whether it’s birdsong, flowers, or whatever floats your boat, as often as possible.

 

In a Vase on Monday: spring is happening

Hello! It’s lovely to be joining Cathy at Rambling in the Garden this week for her Monday vases. I hope this finds you well and not a) poorly, b) totally freaked out by the bad b-movie we seem to find ourselves living in, or c) bored senseless by any social isolation. While we humans are adjusting to this shift in our reality, I am very happy and relieved to report that the birds, bees and plants out there are getting on with spring. Blossom is blossoming, bulbs are blooming and bees are a-buzzing. Thank goodness for that.

I missed the gorgeous sunshine we’ve had today and ended up taking the photos above in the back bathroom to glean the last of the daylight which casts an appropriate mood for the time, I think. My vase (a lovely leaping hares jug) contains a few treasures gathered from the garden – greengage blossom, a couple of pale lemony daffodils and blue/purple vinca major. Feast your eyes on these beauties and clear your mind of any troubles for a moment.

Wherever you are, however you are, I hope you’re hanging in there and managing to concentrate on loveliness whenever you can. With love x

In a Vase on Monday: the returning of the light

After a long and hectic working week, I returned home on Friday evening to find a box containing these gorgeous Cornish narcissi – a Christmas gift from a dear friend. They’ve been scenting and cheering the house all weekend, so I thought I’d share them with you; a glimpse of the springtime flowers to come. It’s a sunny day here today, which is so welcome after All That Rain. The ground is sodden and dog walks mean squelching across fields and bring clods of mud home. Lucky that the dog is brown.

With the winter solstice yesterday, and the sunshine today, everything feels lighter and brighter. I know this feeling may be fleeting but the Earth is tilting and the days are lengthening and it won’t be long before the bulbs are flowering in my garden. I noticed tips of potted tulips poking through yesterday and the hellebores have fat flower buds!

I hope all is well with you and that you’re feeling all peace and calm and not the stress and fluster that usually accompanies two days before Christmas Day. I’m going with the flow here. Yes, there is wrapping, food prep, card delivering, room tidying, bed-making, hoovering and all the other stuff to do but I have today and tomorrow off work, my family is home and it’ll all come together in some form or other.

Here’s wishing you the Christmas you wish for yourself. Take it easy and see you in the New Year. With love xx

PS It’s lovely to be able to join in with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for her and other bloggers’ Monday vases. Do click on the link to see festive vases from around the world.

In a Vase on Monday: too much pink?

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The weather is glorious – sunny but without the blistering heat of last week, thank goodness – and everyone in my little family is fine. My daughter is on a two-week ballet workshop which culminates in a four-day run of The Nutcracker (odd choice for a summer ballet but, hey). My two boys are not working today and the eldest had a dentist appointment so we drove to Deal in our new (second-hand) car. This was a pretty momentous occasion. We’ve been dithering about getting a small car with a manual gearstick for the children to learn in for months (actually, a couple of years) and with my younger son’s second attempt at his driving test fast approaching we finally have one! Yay! I can tell you that sitting in the passenger seat next to your seventeen-year-old child while they drive is pretty awesome. I thought it would be terrifying but all the driving lessons have obviously been worth it and as soon as he’s used to this car I think he’ll be good to go.

Anyway, flowers… The garden has been quietly getting on with itself since the village garden safari. I’ve been watering and feeding the veg and roses, dead-heading and doing the occasional half hour of weeding but other than that it’s had to had to fend for itself. Happily, there is a second flush of roses and buds on ‘The Generous Gardener’ and so I snipped a few for a Monday vase. There’s a large patch of pale pink phlox (unknown variety) that’s coming into bloom, so I cut a few of those, too. Too much pink? No. I added a few spires of pink snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus  ‘Appleblossom’), which are flowering beautifully, and a single marigold (Calendula officinalis ‘Sunset Buff’). Too much pink? Maybe. So I snipped a couple of orange Crocosmia and Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’ to add a little contrast. It all smells amazing and I’m pretty bowled over by that rose.

It’s lovely to be joining Cathy at Rambling in the Garden (who has also picked pink this week) and other bloggers with their Monday vases. Do click on the link to see her vase and many more from around the world.

I hope all’s good in your part of the world, with your loved ones and with you. Have a great week.

 

In a Vase on Monday… on Thursday

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I picked, plonked and photographed these flowers on Monday, fully intending to join in with Cathy’s Monday vases, but the week has run away with me and suddenly it’s Thursday. School finishes for the summer tomorrow but my uni-student son is working shifts for P&O throughout the holidays and my other son has a part-time kitchen porter job at the local pub/restaurant on the beach – both are torn between being completely outraged at the loss of seemingly endless summer days of free time and very happy at the thought of the money. Managing one’s time is a life lesson that may well be taken on board by them both in the next couple of months 🙂

We don’t have a summer holiday booked this year, partly because of working children and partly because we’re spending our money on renovating the ‘sunroom’. We may have a few days away over the August bank holiday and there is a family gathering in Suffolk at the very end of the holidays to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 80th(!) birthday, so we will get away at some point. Getting away is important, don’t you think? Even though we live by the sea and people come here on their holidays, a change of scene always perks me up.

Anyway, back to the flowers… I surprised myself by picking a very romantic pastel-coloured handful of blooms. We do have plenty of hot colours going on out in the garden but the purples and pinks are looking particularly lovely at the moment. In the blue spotty jug are:
Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’
Verbena rigida
white scabious (a giant one) and pale purple scabious
a pale pink Achillea
a small pink rose (unknown variety) which has started to bloom away after years of looking sickly following a bit of tlc
a couple of pink pinks (Dianthus)
a pink Penstemon
a spire of Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’
and some blue salvia (which I think is ‘Azure Snow’).

Here it is in the soon-to-be-renovated-if-the-builders-turn-up-and-get-on-with-it sunroom:

I know it’s not quite the end of the week (nearly there) but I am so looking forward to the weekend – we have dinner with friends, my daughter’s end-of-year dance show and some gardening planned, plus my mother-in-law is coming to stay and she is always a tonic. I hope you have a good one, whatever your plans. Bye for now.

In a Vase on Monday: the first day of July

June has passed by in a blur and I feel as though I’ve skidded into July with a definite need to slow down a little and smell the flowers. Our village garden safari happened this weekend – the weather was a-ma-zing, plenty of people visited the open gardens and lots of money was raised for charity. We certainly enjoyed sitting in the shade, chatting to visitors and not gardening for a couple of days 🙂 I’ll show you a garden update in my next post but in the meantime here’s a blue spotty jug of summer flowers to join in with Cathy’s Monday vases. Thanks to her, as always, for hosting.

The lavenders and jasmine are beginning to flower and there are clove-scented pinks. Joining these fragrant beauties are some Nigella seedheads (which I think I almost prefer to the flowers), a dark-flowered sweet William, some Erigeron karvinskianus and a few flowerheads from the lovely grass Calamagrostis x acutiflora Karl Foerster.

Building work is starting on Wednesday to renovate the ‘sunroom’ at the sea-facing side of the house. This is the final room to be updated and I’m really looking forward to being able to use it. Currently it’s full of camping equipment, old shoes, weights and the rowing machine, an old cupboard, a bike, and other assorted ‘stuff’. All this needs to be moved out and found new homes. (Cue much muttering and discontent among the troops.) The boys are not happy about losing their ‘weights room’ and we need somewhere for the rowing machine, so the next big job in the garden is to customise an old shed or build something suitable. Things are never quiet around here…

Have a great week!

 

In a Vase on Monday: the prince of marigolds

There’s a sturdy self-sown Calendula ‘Indian Prince’ that’s pumping out the most glorious blooms at the moment. I absolutely love this plant, with its deep orange flowers and burnished coppery tones on the reverse of the petals. I found the original seed packet (Sarah Raven) still had some seed in it a couple of weekends ago. The best before date was last year, but I sowed them anyway and kept my fingers crossed. Several seeds have germinated but were munched by *something* in the greenhouse, so I’ve brought the tray into the kitchen where I can keep an eye on it! Hopefully, there will be a few more plants to dot about the garden in a few weeks.

Anyway, the large plant in question is encroaching on a rose, so I cut the closest flowers off for a Monday vase. Joining them are some stems of red Salvia, Geum ‘Blazing Sunset’, some bronze fennel, some Linaria and several stems of Briza  – a lovely grass that Cathy at Rambling in the Garden kindly sent me a few years ago. (Cathy hosts this Monday-vase gathering; do click on the link to see her roses and links to many other vases.) The Briza has made itself very much at home in our garden but luckily, it’s easy to pull out where we don’t want it and seeds itself into gaps where we’re quite happy for it to be.

For the past several weekends, we’ve been spending every spare moment in the garden, working hard to tame and control the chaos all in readiness for the village garden safari at the end of June. A biannual event, the safari raises money for the Pilgrim’s Hospice and it’s a great motivator for Getting Things Done. We wouldn’t have achieved half as much as we have without this deadline. I love effervescent, naturalistic tapestry planting, so most of our borders are of the ‘let’s bung this here and that there and see if it works’ approach and I’m delighted with how it’s coming together so far.

Of course there have been failures, either because our chalky soil is too alkaline (even for some plants that are meant to tolerate it), because it’s been too dry (there’s only so much watering one can do) or because we have a ridiculous number of slugs and snails. My amateur science view is that our cats deter the blackbirds, etc, who eat the slugs and snails and so there is an imbalance. We decided to do something about it after we kept losing dahlias, sunflowers, etc, year after year and have introduced a biological control (the nematode Phasmarhabditis) which is watered onto the soil where they seek out snails and slugs and, well, kill them. They are harmless to other wildlife so are a much better alternative to chemicals. Hopefully, this may mean we can grow  dahlias and other slug-food plants without them being reduced to stumps within days. Has anyone else tried this? Did it work?

In other news: the coal tits are no more, sadly. I’m fairly confident it was not down to the cats as there was absolutely no evidence of harm done to birds at all. One day, standing within a few feet of the nest, you could hear the baby birds calling; a couple of days later you couldn’t. I don’t know what happened. Maybe they fledged while we weren’t looking and are happily hopping about the hedgerows. That’s what I hope, anyway.

Family-wise, my daughter has returned from a week in Barcelona on her return leg of the Spanish exchange. She loved it there, had an amazing time and isn’t particularly thrilled to be home. Let’s just leave it at that. One week left of school and then it’s half term, exams are after half term, then it’s the gentle slide into the summer holidays. My eldest will be home from uni in a couple of weeks to work for P&O over the summer. If you’re travelling to France via the Dover–Calais ferry, he might be checking you in 🙂

I’m off to the Chelsea Flower Show tomorrow for a massive dose of horticultural inspiration. I’ll report back soon. Hope you have a lovely week.