In a Vase on Monday: Windfallen


Here I am, rushing in at the last minute and skidding to a halt with my simple offering for Cathy’s weekly gathering of vases. I wasn’t sure I’d have anything to show you but I quite like these spare, pared-back tulips and hope you do too. They’re not looking as they should. Sadly, they were victims of the storm last week – snapped off before they’d reached their glorious flowering prime. I couldn’t bear to compost them, so I popped them in some water to see if they’d recover and colour-up. Their colour isn’t developing – these are Princess Irene and should look like this – but they’re interesting nonetheless. I’m fascinated by the way the stems have gone all curly. Happily there are other tulips left standing in the garden and they should be looking gorgeous in a couple of weeks.


The tomato seeds I planted on 13th March are growing merrily on the kitchen windowsill and the greenhouse is full of mini summer-blooms-in-the-wings. It fills my heart with gladness to witness their perky growth and I’ll fill any spare moments potting on over the next few weeks.

We visited Great Dixter last week. It’s one of those magical places, with an organic design feel, and all rustic with beautiful old buildings (part of the house dates from Tudor times) and glorious gardens. I’ve been once before for a one-day course – Succession Planting in the Mixed Border – which was a Christmas present from David several years ago. I remember it as a brilliantly inspirational day with a talk by head gardener Fergus Garrett in the great hall of the house followed by a tour around the gardens with him and the other gardeners and I’ve wanted to go back ever since. It was wonderful to wander around the gardens and see it all again. Even though it’s early in the year, there was plenty to see and gardeners to chat to. One guy was up to his knees in mud tidying up the prehistoric-looking gunneras just starting to emerge from their winter sleep; others were planting out in the cutting garden and potting on seedlings. It’s a generous place where everyone is keen to share in their joy and knowledge of plants and gardening. It’s the kind of place that fires you up and fills your head with ideas.



A few happy things for a Friday

A mug of mid-morning coffee is definitely one of my daily pleasures. Proper coffee from the filter machine, fairly strong with a dash of milk, no sugar. Ahh, that’s better. Oh, and some toast. To keep me going until lunchtime.


This is a photo of me on the left, my mum with my brother. You can see that he wasn’t too keen on having his photo taken. I’ve often wondered what my mum was saying… My dad was the photographer. I was about 6 and my brother about 2, so it was taken in the early 1970s. This is one of a very few photos I have from my childhood – it’s tucked it in a mirror frame and it makes me smile when I look at it. And the sweetpeas – I am especially fond of these sweetpeas from our garden that fill the room with their delicious scent. It’s such a treat to be able to go out to the garden and cut them every few days.


The Tithonia has started to bloom. The colour is completely stand-out and looks fabulous with the large, dark-green leaves. I’m really delighted with these plants as I raised them from seed sown in March. They are about 1m tall and stand proudly at the back of the border. The flowers are good for pollinating insects – I managed to snap this one with a hoverfly on it.


Our tomatoes are ripening. We have eight plants of two cherry varieties – Sungold and Gardener’s Delight – and they’ve grown very tall with lots of fruiting trusses. There’s nothing quite like the taste of a home-grown tomato fresh from the vine but I suspect we might be sick of tomatoes by the end of the summer.


Do you remember the pot-bound agapanthus that we cut into quarters and planted in the border? Well, here it is. It survived the hatchet-job and is flowering. There are only two flowers so far but that’s better than none and suggests it’s not too cross, thank goodness.


The achilleas are still going strong. I can’t remember the name of this variety but it’s a gorgeous, cheery colour.


Finally, here’s Cassie, worn-out after a good, long walk this morning. She’s usually curled up like a cat on this chair because she’s too long-legged to stretch out on it properly.

Oops. I’m supposed to be working on something… Back to it!
Wishing you a very good weekend.

Good things to come

It worked! The tomatoes obviously prefer the balmier climes of the kitchen window and have finally germinated. Once they’re all up, I’ll return them to the greenhouse and pot them on. The cucumbers are there growing well, as are the French beans and various flowers. We’ll soon be running out of space (and pots).

My French beans are growing!
My French beans are growing!

The weather has been wonderful here. Once the early morning fog has burned off, we’ve had three days of sunshine (albeit hazy today under the Saharan-sand smog cloud). Perfect Easter-holiday weather.

We had friends staying with us earlier in the week, so I took the opportunity to take them to nearby Walmer Castle. The hightlights for me were the glorious gardens – a formal garden with a large, rectangular pond and topiaried yews; a woodland walk; and a fabulous kitchen garden. I can’t believe it’s taken us almost three years to get round to visiting this lovely place. As it’s just up the road, I’m sure it’ll become a regular destination for inspiration.

The kitchen garden at Walmer Castle.
The wonderful kitchen garden at Walmer Castle. You can just see the amazing, wobbly yew hedge in the background.

With the children all busy (one ‘adventure training’ in Cornwall, one ‘resting’ after exerting ski trip, and the youngest happy pottering about) we’ve made the most of the weather and had two days of full-on gardening. Our mail-order strawberry plants arrived this morning inside a jiffy bag. Not quite what I was expecting!



Luckily we’d prepared the bed yesterday so we were ready to go. It was quite fiddly planting them – spreading out the roots and making sure the crowns were level with the top of the soil – but they’re all in. There are 12 mid-season fruiting (‘Alice’) and 12 late (Vibrant), so hopefully we’ll have some fruits this summer and a bumper crop next year.

Progress in the veg plot. The strawberry crowns are in the foreground.
Progress in the veg plot. The strawberry crowns are in the foreground (really!).

It’s the village spring show tomorrow. We don’t have any suitable named varieties of flowers or veg to enter the show classes (competition is quite hot!), so I’m entering the beginner’s flower arranging class and my daughter is entering a posy. Our entries have to be at the village hall by 10am sharp, so we’ll be out in the garden early in the morning to see what we can find.

PS Thanks to my lovely sister-in-law for showing me how to insert photos into my blog posts!