February flowers

It has been a gift of a day with glorious dawn-to-dusk sunshine and barely a breath of wind. It’s certainly not the type of day you expect here in February. We’ve had a lovely weekend with my brother and his family visiting and we’ve been so lucky with the weather. We waved goodbye to them earlier this afternoon and, as my eldest child returned to uni a few days ago, it’s now back to the quiet of just the four of us again.

After they’d gone, I sat in the garden with the dog in the warm sunshine, contemplating life and admiring the violets in the lawn. Studying all the early spring promise and beauty was so cheering that I had to share it with you here. I can’t remember seeing as many violets before and while the snowdrops are not quite as abundant as in previous years, there are still plenty lighting up the lawn and path edges and looking wonderful in the afternoon sunshine.

In other news, my cast has gone. My bone is healed. Hurrah! What I stupidly hadn’t mentally prepared for, though, was how stiff and sore my hand and arm would be. My hand has swollen up (dubbed this weekend ‘the fat hand of doom’) and the skin is incredibly sensitive so there’s no pruning, digging or sowing for me yet. I will have to patient and work hard on regaining movement and strength and in the meantime carry on planning and dreaming. Thank goodness for the February flowers.

In a Vase on Monday: quiet anticipation

If you stand outside and shut your eyes, you can definitely hear it – the birds know it’s coming; their songs have shifted up a gear – and in the warm sunshine of recent days it’s easy to feel in your bones that early spring is here. Of course, winter could come back and bite us but I’m taking it as it comes at the moment and savouring the simple pleasures of a blue sky, a calm sea, busy birds on our feeders and the joy of finding early spring flowers dotted around garden.

Snowdrops in the lawn and in clumps in the borders, primroses in the wildflower patch and in borders, violets and muscari in the cracks and crevices in the paving. We have divided clumps of snowdrops and spread them around the garden (post-flowering) in recent years but the violets, muscari and primroses appear where they want to and we’re happy to let them do their thing. Spears of the narcissi I planted in the lawn under the window where I sit at my desk are around 20cm tall so those will be flowering in the next few weeks and the new tulips in pots are coming up. The tulips in the borders are a little behind but they’re pushing through the soil and there are bluebell leaves already carpeting the area under the cherry tree by the bottom gate.

There is so much floral loveliness to look forward to but in the meantime I’m enjoying the bright sunshine colour of these daffs (4 bunches in tight bud for £3 at the market on Saturday which opened within 24 hours in the warmth indoors) and a small posy of tiny spring flowers I picked in the garden this morning – violets, primroses, snowdrops and a single muscari. I seared their stems for a few seconds in boiling water to hopefully keep them looking perky for a few days. For more flower therapy, do visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to see what she and other garden bloggers from around the world have found to put in their Monday vases today.

It’s half term this week and my younger two are off school. My first-born has also come home from university for a few days for home cooking and laundry services. He’s still in bed (I think he misses his bed most of all) but my younger son is out having a driving lesson and my daughter is in town with a friend so all is quiet here. I can hear a robin singing its heart out in the garden and the soft snore of my dog dozing after a good walk this morning. It should be a fairly laid-back week with a few appointments and commitments but plenty of time to catch up. I have an appointment at the fracture clinic on Friday (oh, I am counting down the days) and I’m daring to hope that the cast will come off at last. I’m eager to start strengthening exercises so I can get busy in the garden as soon as possible. My secateurs are calling me!

Wishing you a thoroughly good week.

Best intentions (and random thoughts)

I didn’t grow these (obvs!) but they still made me inordinately happy. It’s the colours.
Lop-sided houseplant and listing hyacinth – a metaphor for so many things.
Solitary Anemone coronaria ‘Syphide’ – very exciting. Hopefully there’ll be more to come.

:: The weather was glorious this weekend, teasing us with a hint of spring – warm sunshine, hardly any breeze, tweeting birds, calm glistening sea… It was blissful and motivated me to actually clean a few windows. (I know! Only on the inside, mind.) I thoroughly spring-cleaned the kitchen, scrubbing all the ledges, shelves and surfaces, putting stuff away, even cleaning the cooker hood grills in the dishwasher. It was all sparkling for about half an hour before everyone came to have a look and mess it up again.

:: On Sunday, we finally got round to pruning the apple and pear trees we planted last spring. It felt a little like vandalism, slicing off branches covered in fat buds, but I know it will lead to stronger, better fruiting trees. I brought all the fruity wands indoors and stuck them in a couple of vases of water. Hopefully they’ll come into leaf and possibly even blossom. You never know.

:: The balmy weekend weather brought out the wildlife. I saw my first butterfly of the year on Saturday – a pristine primrose-yellow brimstone energetically fluttering along the hedgerow. It wouldn’t stay still long enough for me to take a photo, unfortunately. But the bees on the snowdrops did; they were lazily buzzing about in the sunshine (see photos above). It’s been foul weather for the past couple of days, though, and I’ve been worrying about all those insects who were out and about. How will they survive? Hopefully, they’ve found cosy crevices to shelter in. The weatherman told of icy blasts coming from the Arctic later in the week. Winter is not over yet.

:: We’ve been planning our summer holiday. The boys will have both finished major exams and will need a break (as will we all), so we’re heading off for two weeks to the beautiful island of Mallorca. We had a few happy holidays there when the children were small and they’re excited to be going back. I’m excited, too, and hope it will live up to our memories. To be honest, I’ll be happy just to lie by a pool and read for as long as possible.

:: My parenting skills have been sorely stretched lately. Is the first child always the test one? The one we make mistakes over and possibly mess up, like the first pancake? (That’s probably not the best analogy…) If anyone tells you that parenting gets easier as children get older, give them a wary look – I’ve been at this game for 18 years and three months and I’m often none the wiser. If anyone has any magic tips for keeping a boy going to the final highest hurdle in this gruelling long-distance race called school, I’d be grateful.

I hope all’s well with you. More anon…




In a Vase on Monday: tiny flower love

It is glorious outside today – sunshine on a glittering sea, a frosty nip in the breeze but you can feel warmth where it’s sheltered. I met a friend for a good stomp across the fields – mud frozen into peaks and troughs where the tractors have been. The sky was deep, deep blue overhead and a skylark sang its joyful song. Puddles were frozen solid and a sprinkling of snow crusted the grass. The sort of morning where you feel alive and uplifted, even if you start off tired and rushing (as I was). Our dogs were definitely happy to be out running about in the sun.

We are reaching peak snowdrop here in the garden – the tiny Galanthus navalis are almost all out in the lawn and borders, those that get most sun are ahead of the others. I’ve picked a few snowdrops, one crocus (a clump of these egg yolk-yellow beauties pop up at the base of an old apple tree each year) and a couple of tiny violets. These grow in nooks and crannies in the paths and steps and have just started flowering. All flowers are precious in the garden at this time of year, so I didn’t want to pick many; I’ve added some cyclamen leaves, which are abundant and looking particularly smart at the moment. I love their smooth purple undersides almost as much as their intricate silver-markings.

A month ago I used a few bare stems of Prunus padus (bird cherry) in my Monday vase and have kept them in water to see what would happen…

Spring. It’s coming… 🙂

In a Vase on Monday is hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden; do click on the link to see her vase and links to many others from around the world.

It’s half term here this week. My 16-year-old is sitting opposite me at the kitchen table scoffing a huge bowl of Cornflakes as I type. Yes, he’s just got up. My daughter has made her lunch, wandered elsewhere to eat it and left everything out on the kitchen worktops (hummus in the sun…) and my eldest boy has drained the coffee pot. I’ll be fitting in work, trying to keep some semblance of order and taking some time off to enjoy their company. Pancake-making tomorrow (for Shrove Tuesday), shopping (clothes for growing teenagers) and a trip the cinema are on the cards.

Whatever you’re up to this week, I hope you have a good one.

Nothing much (except snowdrops)

img_1801img_1800img_1793img_9261img_1784img_9257img_1776img_1794img_1788img_9269img_1782I feel I haven’t got much to say for myself this week but I’ll start writing and see what happens. There has been sunshine, rain and Doris. I’ve spent too much time at my laptop or cleaning the house (something to do with spring approaching) and too little time in the garden. I reached the end of my tether with our old vacuum cleaner last week (one of those cumbersome, pull-along ones; it must be at least 14 years old). I drag it along roughly and thoroughly grumpily, cussing under my breath. Everyone knows to keep out of my way when I’m hoovering, even the dog. On Monday I had Had Enough and I ordered a new one. It arrived this morning and I used it straight out of the box. It’s brilliant – lighter, very manoeuvrable and there’s no flex to get in the way or plug to have to keep unplugging and plugging in again. I told the delivery guy that it was going to transform my life and he laughed (rather pityingly, I thought).

We’ve had school meetings to go to: one to explain UCAS and university funding (yikes) and one regular parents meeting. Both have resulted in long discussions with each boy about The Future. The eldest, who has decided he does want to go to university next year (next year?!!) is slowly coming round to the realisation that he should probably get his act together; the middle one, who takes his GCSEs next year, is totally on track. Honestly, there are 20 months between them but they couldn’t be more different. I do feel for our first-born, though – his parents have no idea what they’re doing. I often have this uncomfortable feeling that I’m slightly behind the curve, missing information that could help him and that I’m out of touch. We muddle along and do our best, make mistakes and hope we haven’t done any lasting damage. Our daughter gets the benefit of our third-time-round refined parenting skills – it’s probably no coincidence that she is a ray of sunshine.

Moving swiftly on… It was a glorious sunshiny day today, so welcome after yesterday’s storm, and I went outside to see if there was any damage (there wasn’t) and inspect new growth. Seeing spears of daffodils and tulips shooting up each year gives me such a huge amount of pleasure, more than any other type of plant I think. It’s their their promise of colour – gorgeous, rich, jewel-like colours – after the lack of it in winter. And I love the shapes and arrangement of the leaves and the way tulip leaves are often tinged with a hint of the flower colour to come. I’ve worked out that there are several bunches of tulips out there for cutting in a couple of months time. Or maybe a few of massive armfuls. Oh yes. There will be tulips galore and just the thought of that makes me happy.

I hope you’re not bored of seeing snowdrops yet; ours are at their peak now. I’ve noticed several clumps that need dividing and it’ll soon be the time to do that, when the flowers go over but they’re still in the green. I’m amazed by how easy-going they are and how far they spread without any help from us. Several single snowdrops have popped up in the front lawn this year, their little white nodding flowers dotted here and there. No lawn-mowing here for a while, that’s for sure. The weather forecast for the weekend is dry but cold so I plan to sort out seeds and sow some. We also need to move some hedging plants. We might have a bonfire.

Whatever you have planned, I hope you have a good one.


Waiting for snow


You remember I said there was a tiny hint of spring in the air? Well, not any more. There’s a raw east wind and snow is forecast. The Met Office website showed heavy snow showers starting at 4pm and carrying on overnight until early tomorrow morning but I have only spotted a few flakes floating down so far. The sky is heavy with it, though, and I would so love it to dump a whole load on this little patch of land. The children are giddy with the thought of a whole week off school (in as much as teenagers are ever ‘giddy’; that’s more my exaggerated interpretation) – waking up to a fresh blanket of snow in the morning would be the icing on the cake, the snow on the clifftops, the best start to a week off in February.

Drifts of snowdrops are appearing throughout the garden although they are not in bloom yet. The clumps spread every year and I’m impressed by how easygoing these gorgeous flowers are. I’m forever accidentally digging up a load of their mini bulbs in the summer or autumn, so I shove them back in again and it seems to do them no harm whatsoever. I picked a few little stems with tight buds earlier this morning to bring indoors and within 30 minutes in the warm kitchen they had opened their petals to reveal the beautiful markings. These are common-or-garden Galanthus nivalis and they have a deliciously delicate scent. I also snipped the first Muscari which was blooming all alone in a sheltered spot by the back garden wall. These little bulbs also love the conditions in our garden and have spread everywhere, between paving slabs and cracks in walls, in every nook and cranny. There will be lovely patches of blue dotted all over the place in a month or so.

Although I’m excited at the prospect of snow, I am more excited at the prospect of getting back out into the garden, to get going with the sowing and planting. In the meantime, I’m flicking through my gardening books and catalogues and dreaming of colourful borders full of flowers. We have plans to renovate the greenhouse this year. It’s on its last legs; there’s a hole in the roof and the door jams. We’re opening our garden again in June for the charity garden safari that happens in our village every two years, so that will give us a boot up the backside to get things done!

I have no specific plans for the weekend ahead other than to walk the dog then sit by the fire, drink pots of tea and read. Meals are planned, the fridge is stocked, there’s a large pile of logs and all is well in our household. I hope it is where you are, too. (I’ve just looked outside and there’s no snow. Yet.)

Have a good weekend x

Windswept (In a Vase on Monday)

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The wind. Storm Imogen, apparently (who comes up with these names?!). It makes me feel crotchety and unsettled when I’m indoors listening to the house making all sorts of alarming noises but quite giddy and exhilarated when I’m outdoors. After a thoroughly good stomp through the fields this morning with a good friend and our dogs I returned home feeling invigorated and ready to get on with the day. I wasn’t confident that I’d find anything much for a Monday vase but was delighted to find this beautiful hellebore by the steps at the bottom of the garden, together with the purple-blue Vinca I’ve used before, a few sprigs of stalwart ivy and one of honeysuckle.

Thanks to snowdrop enthusiasts Cathy at Rambling in the Garden and Chloris at The Blooming Garden I think we’ve narrowed down the mystery snowdrop shown in my previous post to a hybrid – Galanthus atkinsini – but, as they say, snowdrop identification is a very tricky business. It might be something else. Whatever it is, it’s beautiful. The two large plants are precariously growing out of a bank by the front steps and were being roughed up by the wind, so I snipped the remaining three flowers and brought them indoors to enjoy close up.

Thank you to Cathy for hosting In a Vase on Monday. It is a welcome prompt to get out into the garden and notice what’s growing, what’s blooming and to bring some of the beauty indoors. Do visit her blog to see her vase and links to many others around the world.

Patience and Time

At yoga class we end each session with a lovely lie down and some of us nod off… Our teacher brings us back into the real world with some words of yogi wisdom pertinent to the day’s theme – this week we were concentrating on our breathing – and she spoke to us about Patience and Time. Being patient in your yoga practice is important – don’t expect to be super-bendy straight away and don’t expect to get the breathing right immediately. It all takes time. I like these little readings; they make me feel all floaty and calm after 80 minutes of exhausting stretching and bending.

I do have a tendency to worry (if I’m honest, I have been known to flap) and am prone to impetuosity, so yoga does wonders for me physically and mentally. Gardening also helps. Wise gardeners (it is a long-term goal of mine to become one) know a thing or two about patience and time. Planning, biding your time, waiting for good things to come. Some years it seems as though winter goes on for ages and you wait and wait for spring to come. This year is all topsy turvy – plants bloomed and lasted far longer than usual last autumn and now they’re getting all ahead of themselves with spring. My patience is not to be tested, it seems.

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Grape hyacinths (Muscari) are starting to pop out all over the place. They are flowering at least a month earlier than last year.
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This little hardy geranium (unknown – any ideas?) has started flowering already.
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Our snowdrops are out. These clumps and drifts are such a heart-swelling sight. I reckon they’ll be at their peak in a week or so – they are possibly a week or so earlier than this time last year.
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Now these babies are ridiculously early. The tulips were only just peeking out of the soil at the end of February last year. Some are way over 10cm tall already and I wonder if they’ll flower early. I hope not. Tulips are definitely worth waiting for. I planted the wallflowers as plugs in November and they’re filling out nicely.
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More snowdrops and pots of Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’ back left, and pots of stray Muscari by the wall. The irises were on sale – three pots for £5 – outside a florist yesterday and I couldn’t walk past them. Once they’ve flowered, I’ll plant them somewhere sunny where we can look forward to their beautiful blooms next winter.
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Ok, I need help with this one please. Yes, I know it’s a snowdrop(!) but it’s enormous. The flowers are about 3cm long, the leaves are much broader and longer than the common snowdrops elsewhere in the garden and it’s growing separately. I’ve had a look through books and on the internet and I think it might be a variety of Galanthus plicatum. Any suggestions? Thank you.