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

Springtime goings on

Before I go on, I must say thank you for the lovely comments on my previous post. Sorry I haven’t responded individually. I can’t believe it’s been over two weeks since I wrote it – the days are flying by with little time for blogging or taking photographs. I meant to write this yesterday but here I am, on Saturday evening, tapping at my keyboard.

It’s been the most beautiful couple of days here – blue sky, warm sunshine, birds singing their socks off, butterflies flitting about (brimstones, whites, tortoiseshells) and bees busy in the flowers. It’s the time of year for daily garden inspections, if possible, to see which trees are blossoming, how many buds, say hello to the tulips, pinch off the faded daffodil heads, pull out gigantic weeds (already!), so I took my camera out with me yesterday to take these pictures. I’ve had to be very relaxed about what’s going on (or rather not going on) out there lately. I haven’t sown any seeds at all yet and I’m only part way through cutting back the ornamental grasses and perennials. It doesn’t matter. All the plants carry on regardless and I will catch up.

We will need to start getting our act together in the next few weeks because we are opening our garden again for the local Garden Safari at the end of June. It’s good to have a deadline… In the spirit of perking things up outside and to make a small start, I bought a few pink Bellis and red-pink Ranunculus this morning to plant together in an old stone trough and, amazingly, have tucked them into their new bed already. It was so good to get my hands in the soil again. Gosh, I’ve missed it.

I am itching to spend a good amount of time out there – several hours would be wonderful; hopefully next weekend. It’s a little full-on here chez acoastalplot at the moment. On Thursday morning my younger son flew to Delhi for an 18-day trip, working in a school in West Bengal, then trekking in the Himalayas (not jealous at all…). I won’t bore you with the preparations for that! On Thursday evening, two Spanish exchange students arrived to stay with us for a week and later that night my eldest child returned home from university for the Easter holidays. The Spanish girls lovely, very appreciative and polite and they both seem to get on well with my daughter. There’s lots of laughter and chatter. We’re their tour guides this weekend – today we did the beach, Deal and Dover Castle, tomorrow we’re taking them to London – and they have a packed schedule with their classmates next week. They fly back to Barcelona on Thursday, then my daughter heads off on a long coach trip to Austria on Friday for a school skiing trip. Apparently there is still snow.

For the following 10 days there will be just me, David and one grown-up child here and he mostly does his own thing. It’s going to be quiet and strange but there should be plenty of time for gardening 🙂

Hope you’re having a lovely weekend. Bye for now x

 

 

 

 

 

A little light introspection

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Perhaps it’s a condition peculiar to the lone-worker, the stay-at-home parent and someone who spends acres of time on their own but I have a lot of time to daydream and wonder. All I have to do is meet occasional deadlines, keep appointments, take the children to where they need to be on time, walk the dog and manage the day-to-day running of the household. I mostly play a supporting role for my family and occasionally shut myself off to edit or proof read a book. There can be extremely busy periods but I’m not standing in front of a classroom trying to keep children engaged, or rushing about a hospital saving lives, or running a busy cafe. Nor am I pouring over the minutia of legal documents in order to defend someone in court. What I’m trying to say is that my life is, at the moment, rather undemanding. Don’t get me wrong, I’m rarely twiddling my thumbs; there is always something to do in the house or garden but I do go through periods when I wonder whether I’m really frittering away my time. Should I get back to a ‘career’ or retrain to do something more worthwhile and useful? Why am I not perfectly content? (I know I’m lucky to have the luxury of even pondering this issue.) Sometimes I feel totally unsettled and frustrated and I wonder whether it’s because a) I live in this point in history when there is SO much information about others’ lives, b) I have high expectations of myself and am my own harshest critic, or c) I just need to get over myself and get out more!

If I did have an uber-demanding job, however, I would have far less time for blogging. Lynda wrote something about the power of writing her blog yesterday and it struck such a chord with me. My blog is a brilliant creative outlet. Being able to write, take photographs and share them and connect with other bloggers is hugely rewarding and it’s become very important to me. I know I occasionally bang on about how much I love blogging but I do. On those occasions when I’m feeling particularly fed up with sorting laundry or cooking the same flipping meal again it has saved my brain.

Anyway, back to earth… I’ve not been spending all my time pairing socks and contemplating my navel. I have been enjoying the spring sunshine and beauty in the garden (photos above, thank you) and attempting to be organised in the greenhouse, potting up like mad and keeping notes (yes, actual notes in a notebook!) of how many of each plant, plus notes of where it would be good to have more bulbs next year. There’s a gap in a drift of ‘Pheasant’s Eye’ narcissi and I’d like more N.’Thalia’ – beautiful, white, multi-headed, graceful. And more tulips. You can never have too many tulips.

Oh, and the village Spring Show at the weekend went exceedingly well. There was a record number of children’s entries, which the organising committee was particularly chuffed about, and plenty of gorgeous spring blooms and home produce. My son’s Victoria sponge won the coveted £20 prize but he graciously gave a fiver to his sister for helping him assemble his cake. All is now sweetness and light between them. My entries weren’t so successful but there’s always next time…

I do hope you’re having a good week and that the sun is shining where you are.

 

3, 2, 1… Go!

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Rhubarb crown bursting forth.
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Apple tree bud swelling.
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Clockwise from top – Tithonia rotundiflora ‘Torch’, Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’, Nasturtium ‘Jewel Cherry Rose’, Cosmos, Calendula officinalis ‘Indian Prince’. (Penny in the centre for scale.) Below – I saved toilet-roll-holders and the cardboard tubes from wrapping paper to cut up and use for planting my sweet peas. They like a long root run and do not like their roots disturbed when transplanting. This way I can plant them out, tube and all, when it’s a bit warmer. I’ve planted two varieties: ‘Anniversary’ and ‘Windsor’.

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It’s that time of year. The time of year when gardeners get all fizzy with excitement and motivation, especially on a day like today when you can actually smell spring in the air. You can feel it in your bones, it’s elemental. There’s a softness in the air, the light, the sounds. Like nature’s heaving a big, happy sigh of relief.

Seeds I ordered arrived in the post this morning: Cosmos, Tithonia, nasturtiums, marigolds, Cerinthe major, sunflower, scabious, Ammi visnaga, Nicotiana alata ‘Lime Green’, cornflowers… Colourful packets each containing miniature wonders of nature. I find seeds fascinating – each one contains a tiny, immature plant, an embryo. Imagine that! These dry, lighter-than-a-feather, tiny husks contain baby plants. They can lie dormant, some for years and years, but give them the correct conditions and they will grow into magnificent plants, providing us with beautiful blooms or food (or both). I still find it astounding that I can push seeds into compost, water them lightly, leave them for a week or two and (fingers crossed) tiny shoots will appear, leaves will unfurl, roots will dangle out of the holes at the bottom of pots, stems will grow thick and strong. I do get quite attached to any seedlings I manage to raise and find myself talking to them as I pot them on or move them outside to harden them off. Tell me that’s normal? Anyway, it’s time to get going, get sowing and prepare for the growing season. Yippee.

In other news… My daughter, my youngest child, will be 12 at the weekend. My spring baby is growing into an amazing young woman. I clearly remember those dazed days after she was born, standing with her nestled into my shoulder looking out into the garden of our old house, noticing the sunlight on the spring flowers, listening to the birds singing and thinking what a wonderful world it is.

Wishing you a weekend full of sunshine in whatever form it takes. There’s going to be a party here; a house full of 11- and 12-year-old girls. I’ll be escaping into the greenhouse if I can.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

The joys of spring

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Glorious May sunshine, a soft breeze, all shades of green, Queen Anne’s lace in bloom, birds singing their hearts out… This is the Kent countryside at its most promising, heart-swelling, springtime best.

 

It’s been a productive few days in the garden. The same can’t be said for indoors, though – there’s a huge pile of laundry, the food stocks are low (voracious children eating EVERYTHING), paperwork to deal with. But the sun is shining and at this time of year it seems daft to spend time inside when there is so much to do in the garden.

We went along to the local National Trust plant fair last weekend armed with a basket and big box to see what treasures there were. There were plenty and we brought a few home with us: Osteospermum, Polygonatum (Solomon’s seal), Acanthus spinosa, penstemons, Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s mantle), Geum ‘Marmalade’, Nicotiana and some marigolds.

Our plant fair haul.
Our plant fair haul.

There is a particularly tricky area (doesn’t every garden have at least one?!) that is mostly shaded alongside a mixed hedge, and very dry. It’s also overrun with ivy and covered in a thick layer of discarded holm oak leaves from our neighbour’s (very large) trees. The plan is to clear it and plant shade-loving, or at least shade-tolerant, plants that don’t mind it being dry. We’re going to try the lovely grass Luzula nivea (Snowy wood rush), Acanthus mollis, Bergenias (that we’ve propagated) and the Polygonatum and A. spinosa from the plant fair. While some of these plants do prefer sun, they are tough and tolerant, so we hope they’ll bear up.

From left – Bergenias, Luzula nivea, Acanthus spinosa and Solomon's seal.
From left – Bergenias, Luzula nivea, Acanthus spinosa and Solomon’s seal (the tall plant behind just in view).
Polygonatum (Solomon's seal) – nodding stems bearing scented white flowers.
Polygonatum (Solomon’s seal) – a graceful plant with arching stems bearing white flowers in spring.

I’ve also planted some companions for the French beans. The beans, by the way, have been sulking rather. I think I must have been over-keen and planted them too soon. They were looking rather sickly until a few days ago when the warm weather perked them up and they started greening and growing again. Anyway, I’ve put some marigolds and Verbena bonariensis in the same bed and planted sweet peas to climb up the spare pole. I’ll also plant some of the Tithonia here – these are almost ready to come outside. All these flowers are great for bees and other pollinating insects.

Marigolds to keep the beans company. More flowers coming soon.
Marigolds to keep the beans company. More flowers coming soon.

 

In other news… My eldest returned from his DofE expedition with several whopping blisters, a sunburnt nose, a raging hunger and a rucksack full of smelly kit. It’s good to have him home (and it’s probably why we’ve gone through a couple of loaves, several packets of biscuits and a bunch of bananas in two days). Tomorrow the weather forecast is for rain, so I’ll pop to the supermarket then.

It’s all going on

photo-50 After yesterday’s heavy rain, today was one of those high blue sky, vivid colour days. It’s not as warm as it was a couple of weeks ago, though – there’s been a chilly wind which has battered my lovely tall tulips and knocked some of the blossom off the cherry tree.

The wind has loosened some of the tallest tulips' petals but they're still looking gorgeous.
The wind has loosened some of the tallest tulips’ petals but they’re still looking gorgeous.

But wait… Guess what I found peeking out from the soil this afternoon? Only our first asparagus tip! SO exciting. I know we’ll have to wait a couple of years for our first proper crop but we have asparagus! Growing in our garden! I’ve so longed to have the space to grow these precious spears of loveliness and now we have. Brilliant.

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Look carefully. It’s definitely there. The first of hopefully many asparagus spears.

And that’s not all. The autumn raspberries are properly sprouting now and the strawberry crowns we planted two weeks ago are thoroughly romping away.

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The strawberry plants have quadrupled in size since we planted them two weeks ago.

The pear tree is blossoming, as is the greengage and the three small cordoned apple trees. These were hidden underneath old, leggy lavenders and gooseberry bushes when we moved here. We freed them from their clutches and I gave them a fairly tough prune earlier this year. It’s good to see that they’re doing ok.

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The first bea-u-ti-ful apple blossom.

What else is looking good? Oh yes, the Erigeron karvinskianus is coming into flower on our front garden steps. This must be a pretty hardy plant as we had major groundworks for two new retaining walls either side of the steps last year and they were trashed. It’s lovely to see this perky little plant is thriving.

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Erigeron karvinskianus

I’ll say goodnight for now and sign off with a photo of my lovely rescue dog, Cassie, flaked out after this morning’s walk because that’s how I feel right now. Wishing you all a very happy bank holiday weekend. photo 2