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:


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.



My youngest child, my third-born and final baby is 15 today. Fifteen…

A couple of years ago her birthday fell on a Monday and I picked thirteen flowers for a Monday vase to celebrate her day. This morning, what with the sunshine and a lull in the raging winds, I decided to see if I could find 15 flowers in the garden to mark the occasion. I cheated slightly – there are two primroses but they are different colours. From left to right above, they are:

Narcissus ‘Carlton’
Narcissus ‘February Gold’
Narcissus ‘Tete-a-tete’
Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ (Honeywort)
Calendula officinalis (Pot marigold)
Calendula officinalis ‘Sunset buff’
Muscari (Grape hyacinth)
Lamium (Dead nettle; wild flower)
Pulmonaria officinalis (Common lungwort)
Primula vulgaris (yellow)
Primula vulgaris (pink)
Osteospermum (African daisy)
Hellebore orientalis (Lenten rose)
Geum rivale (Water avens)
Narcissus ‘Red Devon’

My darling girl, all arms and legs, fizzing with energy and a zest for life, is fast becoming a young woman. She’s 5’8″ to my 5’5″. She fits into my going-out dresses that I’ve been saving in the hope that she’ll one day like to wear them (I can barely squeeze into them these days and I rarely go out). She has long dark hair and a gorgeous smile and, happily for her dad, she’s dismissive of all boys because she has two brothers and she knows what they’re like. No one has so far impressed her. She is fiercely loyal and has a deep sense of justice. She loves music and dancing and her friends and avocado and cake (not all together). She is ridiculously over-enthusiastic about random things in that way that only teenage girls are. She’s a great mimic and is good at languages, numbers and science. She’d love to be a doctor but she can’t stand the sight of blood. She’s completely in touch with her emotions and cries easily; there’s no bottling it up with her. She is often incredibly anxious about new situations, school work and exams and travelling. She’s loving and caring and kind but she knows which buttons to press to wind her brothers up into a fury. Her room is the untidiest in the house – she leaves wet towels on the floor, banana skins on her desk and never puts her clothes away. She and I have that unfortunate clash of female hormones (menstrual and menopausal) and we occasionally fall out but it never lasts long. She’s my daughter and I love her with all my heart.

My three seven years ago when they were 8, 10 and 12. They’d be mortified if I showed photos of them as they are now!

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.

In a Vase on Monday: effervescent

The starter for today’s vase was cow parsley – there is so much of this lacy loveliness billowing along the lanes and some has even crept into the garden. Joining it in the larger vase are several stems of dark purple aquilegia, some nigella, a few fronds of fennel and some long stems of Briza media (quaking grass), a lovely grass that is perfect for vases. This is yet another self seeder which has generously spread itself widely.

In the small green vase are some pink scented pelargonium flowers that I snipped off a couple of leggy plants we bought at a plant sale at the weekend, some more briza, a fennel frond and the very last of the ‘Black Parrot’ tulips I found hiding among the foliage.

There’s a lot going on in the garden – we completely cleared the rampant weeds from one half of the terrace where we grew veg and annuals for cutting last year and we moved five of the Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ to here to add height and rhythm. We didn’t realise quite how chunky they’d be when we planted them last year and several were planted too close together or too near other plants. Hopefully they’ll transplant and settle in well.

It was a weekend of plant sales – a large one at the local National Trust visitor centre and a smaller one in a nearby village – and we bought a load of lovely plants to fill gaps and to go into this newly cleared area. Foxgloves, salvias, ajuga, verbascums, Centaurea nigra, cornflowers, cosmos and more. Lots of beauty to come.

In other news… Study leave has started here. My daughter went into school on her own this morning remarking ‘Well, this is a vision of the future!’. Indeed. Exams for my younger son are scattered throughout the next five weeks; the eldest’s start after half term. I’m doing my best to not stick my oar in but instead stick to tea-making, cake-providing and exuding an air of calm…

Thank you for your comments on my blog in recent weeks, sorry I haven’t responded or visited many blogs recently. It’s all been a bit full-on but I’m hoping to catch up soon. I’m starting with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to see her flowers and what others have found to put in a vase this fine Monday.

Wishing you a very good week. Bye for now.

[By the way, there’s been some good news for Agnes recently (for those of you who’ve been cheering it on; thank you). The website appeared in The Guardian Weekend magazine last weekend in Annalisa Barbieri’s advice column and an education guru tweeted about it a couple of days ago; the stats have since rocketed. Sixteen months after launching, Agnes seems to be gaining traction and hopefully it will become more widely known and inform and inspire more girls.]


In a Vase on Monday: flower power

My long-awaited tulips are coming into flower – reds, oranges and purples in various hues – so I had to pick a few for a Monday vase to sit on my desk. Joining the tulips are:

  • forget-me-nots, which are hitting their stride at the moment and I’m delighted on a daily basis to discover where they have put themselves this year. These are among my favourite spring flowers – so generous and pretty
  • a few Anemone coronaria – one deep purple ‘Mr Fokker’ and a few zingy red ‘Hollandia’. I bought three ‘Hollandia’ plants at Great Dixter plant fair last weekend; just couldn’t resist the redness of them. The fair was inspiring (as Great Dixter always is) but most of the plants were very expensive. Even so, we did splash out on a few other plants (delicate epimediums, a few more Anemone blanda to join some existing ones and a couple of lovely deep purple vincas) and then we just had a good mooch around.
  • and a little bit of Cerinthe major (a third-year self-sown plant).

I absolutely adore this time of year. It’s like greeting old friends and making new ones out there in the garden. And this week has started off gloriously sunny with a forecast for more of the same. Spring is (I’m saying it quietly and with my fingers crossed) properly here.

I’m joining in as usual with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden and other bloggers from around the world for the Monday vases. Sorry I haven’t been visiting many blogs recently or posting much. I have a lot of editing work, which is great, and exam-stressed boys to attend to, not so great, and there is little spare time at the moment. Thank goodness for flowers and coffee to keep me going!

I hope all’s well and you have a good week with plenty of sunshine and flowers to enjoy.

In a Vase on Monday: spring promise

I don’t think I can entirely blame the clocks going forward an hour this weekend for my weariness this morning. It might have had something to do with watching the final hour of the film ‘Everest’ last night. Have you seen it? Don’t watch it before going to bed. My heart was still racing and I ended up reading Alexander McCall Smith’s ‘Love Over Scotland Street’, (a very easy, reassuring read) well into the small hours to calm myself down.

Anyway, here we are – Monday 26 March – and finally it really does feel spring-like outside. (I am ignoring the dire forecasts of another icy blast which may or may not happen over Easter!) It was overcast and chilly when I walked the dog earlier but there is now glorious sunshine streaming through the windows. It was heavenly standing in the kitchen soaking up the warmth while I drank my coffee and snapped these photos; Cassie (our dog) is following the sun as it moves around the house, rearranging her sleeping spot accordingly. We’re both enjoying this free heat.

One of my favourite early spring flowers – Muscari, plain old grape hyacinths – are popping up all over the garden. I love their blue against the lime green of euphorbias – it’s my current favourite colour combination. There are two types of euphorbia here – E. oblongata and E. amygdaloides – together with two types of miniature narcissus (one is a single flower of  Tete-a-tete, I can’t remember what the paler one is) and Primula vulgaris, common primrose, which is spreading nicely throughout the wildflower patch at the bottom of our garden.

I’m joining in, as usual, with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden where you’ll find her Monday vase and links to lots of others from around the world.

While I was outside picking the flowers for today’s vase, I checked on our rhubarb. I remembered to put the terracotta forcing jar over the top of the crown a few weeks ago and it’s worked! There are several long, beautifully pink stems of rhubarb ready to be harvested – I’ll use them to make a cake or pudding for Easter. I am so looking forward to the long weekend, spending time with family and friends, cooking some special meals, winding down and catching up on sleep, and hopefully getting out into the garden to work off the excess from all the hot cross buns and chocolate!

I hope the sun is shining where you are – wishing you a good week.

Down with the daffs

Is there anything lovelier than these beauties? They’re Narcissus ‘Actaea’ and their appearance each spring in the sloping border by our path cheers me up no end. The buds are a pale, buttery yellow but the flowers mature to a bright white which sets off the gorgeous orange centres beautifully. The scent is also delicious. It’s my number one, absolute favourite daffodil.

The village spring show is next Saturday and I’m hoping there will be enough still looking pristine so I can enter 3 stems (it has to be 3 stems, not 4 or 2!). There should also be plenty of tulips to enter (3 or 5, depending on the class). My younger son and daughter are both planning to enter a ‘Decorated cake for Easter’ in the hope of winning the coveted junior adult prize of £20. The eldest son is too old to enter and is enjoying this sibling rivalry. There’s been talk of complicated edible nest constructions with mini-eggs. It could get very messy. I’ll be busy helping to set up for the show, so they will have to negotiate an agreement over ingredients, equipment and oven use without me. I’m glad I’ll be out of the way.

I’ve been very slack recently, unable to muster enthusiasm for much which is not like me. I’m distracted, fidgety and irritable. I can’t blame it on the weather – it’s been a glorious week with properly warm, spring sunshine today – so I’ll blame it on Brexit (the whole thing frankly makes me very cross) and my hormones instead! David being away four days a week doesn’t help and I’ve not been doing enough fun stuff lately. More fun – that’s what we all need probably.

Enough with the moping, here are some more beautiful signs of spring in the garden.

Pear blossom on the verge of appearing with unfurling leaves.
Greengage blossom looking oh so beautiful.
Anemone coronaria ‘The Bride’. I absolutely love them.
Tulip ‘Sarah Raven’ with a geum and muscari in the background.
Tulip ‘can’t remember the variety but it’s lovely’.

It’s the last day of the school term tomorrow and the children will be on their Easter holidays. I’ve some paid and some voluntary work to do but otherwise I’m looking forward to a few more relaxed days. We don’t have any major plans – my brother and his family are visiting for a couple of days, David has the week before Easter off work and his mum is visiting us then. She has helped us so much in the garden over the years and we’re looking forward to showing her the progress we’ve made. Her drive and energy are quite astounding and I’m hoping some will rub off on me.

Have a lovely weekend x

In a Vase on Monday: thirteen flowers

Thirteen flowers for my daughter who is 13 today, 13th March. It is a joy to witness this girl making her way in the world and I can think of nothing more fitting than thirteen beautiful blooms to celebrate her birthday.

She is usually the first one up in the mornings in our house; she breezes into our bedroom, gives me a quick hug, then she’s off to get ready for school. Hair takes longer to do these days – looks are becoming increasingly important but she’s not interested in wearing make-up for school yet. She’s keen to fit in but is confident enough to be herself and not follow the crowd. It’s very rare for her to be downhearted and when she is I can usually lift her out of it and make her laugh. When I’m downhearted, she’s the one who notices and asks me what’s up. We understand each other, this girl and I. I’m aware that we may not get on so well in the years to come and she may have days when she absolutely hates me, so I am making the most of this happy, calm time.

We had her birthday party yesterday – trampolining followed by hotdogs and birthday cake back home, and games of sardines until parents collected their daughters. Our two boys laid low in their rooms until all the guests had gone… Today, we have a family birthday tea with another cake (Victoria sponge is her cake of choice – in the oven as a type). Not a bad way to start the week.

I was lucky to find thirteen different flowers in bloom in the garden at this time of year; I wouldn’t usually put all these colours together in a vase but they provide a vibrant burst of colour. The flowers are (from left to right in the first photograph): primrose, snowdrop, Anemone coronaria ‘The Bride’, scented narcissus (can’t remember the variety), narcissus ‘Tete-a-tete’, euphorbia (not sure which one), marigold, hesperantha, hellebore, violet, Anemone blanda, muscari and pulmonaria.

I’m joining in as usual with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden (who has tulips already!) for the weekly get-together of Monday vases. Do pop over to her blog and see what she and others have put together from their gardens.

Wishing you a happy week.


In a Vase on Monday: spring blues and primroses

Spring was tantalisingly evident here this morning – soft warm sunlight, glorious bird song, that smell of lush, green growth – and it took every ounce of willpower to stay indoors at my desk. It is not healthy to sit still for too long, though, so I took a stroll around the garden to pick a few spring beauties for a Monday vase. (Then of course I had to faff about with them for a while and take a few photographs… But, hey, I cracked on and finished my work before writing this!)

In the blue/purple vase, we have Pulmonaria officinalis, Anemone blanda (which I can’t get enough of; they’re SO LOVELY), Muscari and a couple of teensy weensy violets from my garden, and in the pink vase we have an abundance of primroses from my parents’ garden. They are currently away on holiday and I’ve been popping round to keep an eye on the house. They have masses of beautiful primroses in their front garden at this time of year, so many that I’m sure they won’t miss a few. I love the dusky, buff-pink ones and luckily there are loads of those. These crocuses are also out and looking particularly perky. I don’t know what variety they are but I like them.

David has been working hard in the garden, grubbing out old, overgrown bay trees that were in completely the wrong place, plus masses of brambles, and I’ve been weeding and cutting back stuff, so we had a big bonfire on Saturday afternoon to get rid of all the un-compostable material. (It took three rounds of shampoo to get the smell out of our hair.) It really feels as though we’re making good headway in the lower front garden now. Yesterday we planted up long section of wildlife-friendly hedging to fill a big gap on the boundary with one of our neighbours and made plans for planting more trees in the right places. We must get on and order a load of bare root Betula utilis var. jacquemontii (the Himalayan birch with very white bark) and plant them up within the next couple of weeks, plus a few apple and pear trees if we have time. We are opening our garden again for the village garden safari in June and would love to have this area looking good. Lots to do..!

I’m joining in as usual with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden and her Monday gathering of vases. Do pop over to have a look.

Wishing you a super-duper week.


In a Vase on Monday: heralds

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I generally don’t like yellow flowers apart from at this time of year. Narcissi in all shades of yellow (from deepest dark golden, through butter-coloured to the palest cream or white) and delicate primroses that are, well, primrose, and the fresh egg-yolk crocuses that pop up at the base of our old apple tree. Little vases of them bring a welcome touch of sunshine indoors, adding warmth on even the gloomiest of days.

It’s pretty grim weather outside today. I dashed out between downpours and snipped a few snowdrops, primroses and crocuses, and one of the first narcissi to flower in our garden – the dinky tete-a-tete. The hellebores are left over from my Monday vase from 30th January, four weeks ago. That’s pretty good going, I’d say.

All these flowers are heralds of spring in our garden. They are the early signals – it will be fully here soon. The large jug of daffodils was a supermarket buy. It would be daft not to add a bunch to the shopping basket when they’re only £1.

It’s March on Wednesday and so two weeks until my daughter’s 13th birthday. I remember sitting with her in my arms while watching the boys play in our old garden which was full of daffodils. It’s a joyful time of year and we’ve a party to plan.

I’m joining in with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden and all her In a Vase on Monday-ers. Do pop over to her blog and have a look.

Wishing you a good week.