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: floral perks

My Monday vases this week are full of flowers that a) I didn’t grow, b) I didn’t pay for, and c) I didn’t even pick. They’re all leftovers from our village Spring Show on Saturday. One of the perks of being on the gardeners’ association committee and helping to put on these shows is that you’re able to give a good home to any unwanted blooms that people leave behind.

I’m completely in love with the large pale pink tulip – it is one of the three stems that won ‘Best Exhibit in the Horticultural Section’ and they drew much admiration on the day. The woman who entered them didn’t know the variety of tulip but I think it could be ‘Pink Impression’. I also love the lily-flowered purple tulip which could be ‘Purple Dream’. If anyone knows for sure which varieties these are, please leave a comment below – thank you.

I was surprised by the number of entries of Narcissi because most of the daffs in my garden have either gone over or failed to flower. Only one of my beloved N. ‘Actaea’ has bloomed so far this year, the rest have come up blind. Talking to fellow gardeners around here, we reckon the very long dry summer last year is to blame. I’m hoping that if I feed and water them well this spring, they’ll recover and flower again next spring. If not, I’ll buy some more. (I’ll probably buy some more anyway!)

There was an impressive variety of beautiful Narcissi shown on Saturday and I was very lucky to bring a few home. They’re filling the room where I sit typing with the most delicious daffodil scent and brightening up a dull corner. There’s a white frilly edged tulip nestled in there, too, which could be ‘Daytona’. Again, if anyone knows, please let me know. I particularly like the pale daffs and have made a note to plant more this autumn. Good white and pale varieties are ‘Thalia’, ‘Elka’ and ‘Pueblo’. There are several multi-headed and highly scented varieties too. When you think of daffodils, it’s usually the traditional yellow version, but it’s amazing just how many varieties there are in all shades and combinations of yellow, cream and white, some with orange centres, tall and short, large flowers and small, single heads and multi-headed. As with most plants, there’s a variety to suit almost everyone.

It’s the school Easter holidays and with my two school-aged children off on their travels, I started the week off by having a lie-in. Bliss. It’s been such a full-on time recently that I’ve decided to take my foot off the pedal a little for a few days, to do as little around the house and as much out in the garden as possible. I hope you have a thoroughly good week, whatever you have planned.

As usual, I’m joining Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for her Monday vase gathering. Do visit her blog where you’ll also find links to other garden bloggers around the world.

End of Month View: Enchanted April

April began with a chilly and rainy Easter, saw high-20-degree summer temperatures mid-month with glorious, long sunny days and is ending as it began – chilly and rainy (boo). The dramatic rise in temperatures and sunshine that we had for a week or so boosted flowering (and the weeds) and it feels as though everything has rushed to catch up, flowering-wise. There are bluebells at the bottom of the garden and some of my long-awaited, much-loved tulips are already past their best with others just reaching their peak. Today’s heavy rain with more forecast for tomorrow may well finish them off so I’ve picked a load to bring inside to enjoy a little longer.

As well as tulips, the highlight of April has been the forget-me-nots. There were none in this garden when we moved here but my mother-in-law brought a few plants with her from her garden a couple of years ago and they have made themselves very much at home. I absolutely love them – the tiny blue flowers with yellow centres, their delicate but robust nature and the fact that they spread about the place without any help. The trick is to recognise their leaves and not weed them out (unless you want to, of course!).

All our Narcissi have either finished flowering or have been munched by slugs and snails. The ones in the front (sea-facing) garden fared much better this year than those in the back garden where we are overrun by garden molluscs. Sadly, the wonderful display of N. ‘Actaea’ we had last year wasn’t to be repeated, despite planting more bulbs in the winter. The slimy critters didn’t even wait for many of them to flower, they munched the flower buds right off! Grrr. We have frogs and toads (I disturbed a huge one yesterday when I was weeding), and there are definitely thrushes and blackbirds around, but they don’t seem to be eating enough to control the levels. So, the time has come to unleash the nematodes. With one of the best names ever, Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita, is a parasite that kills slugs and snails without harming other creatures. You mix them with water, sprinkle onto your soil and let them get to work.

Elsewhere, the pear, cherry and greengage blossom is starting to go over but the apple blossom (my favourite) is starting to appear. There are deep-pink buds dotted all over the trees, their petals tightly bound together like miniature pink sprouts. I love how these unfurl, releasing their delicate scent and clothing the trees in beautiful flowers – expect lots of photos!

All the grasses we’ve planted in the sea-facing side of the garden over the last couple of years – Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’, Miscanthus ‘can’t remember’ and Stipa tennuisima – are all going great guns and bulking up, adding interest, structure and rhythm to the planting. I’m really chuffed with how well the tulips work with the grasses and I’m looking forward to seeing how the perennials here (Linaria, Campanula, Scabious, Eryngium etc) do this year. I intend to plant some more brightly coloured perennials to create a longer-lasting tapestry of colour, form and texture. There will also be annuals – sweet peas and cosmos at least – to add to the mix.

Soon the lilac tree will put on its fleeting, beautiful and deliciously-scented show and there will be aquilegias dotted all over the place – these are already sending up their flower buds – and I’ll be pleased I didn’t dig them out. Nigella foliage is everywhere (but it’s easy to pull it out where it’s not wanted), with flower buds starting to appear, and tidy mounds of geraniums are getting ready to flower. And, if I get a move on with the Phasmarhabditis, hopefully more alliums will make it through to flowering this year.

Here are rather a lot of photos of the garden at the end of April. You might like to make a cup of tea…


Tulips. I’m making notes of ones to plant for next year – I’d like to add some dusky pinky ones like ‘Belle Epoque’ and ‘Apricot Impression’ for a start…

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David has been planting Luzula nivea (Snowy woodrush) – a lovely grass for dry shade – to the right of the path. The lilac (top right of pic) is covered with buds.
A row of Euphorbia oblongata (to the mid-right of the pic), Nigella, daffs that flowered and were promptly shredded by slugs and snails, rhubarb growing well and weeds…
New growth on the lavender hedge (plus rogue strappy leaves which could be gladioli or crocosmia).
The steps after the Erigeron was cut back quite  hard.
Looking down, to the left of the steps, with weed clearing and mulching the young fruit trees in progress.
Baby gooseberries!
Looking down to the right of the steps (with trashed trampoline – the winter storms wrecked it; its days are numbered).
Himalayan birch whip with fresh leaves and a flower.
Bluebells and builder’s sack (full of perennial weeds).
Cassie the wonder-dog keeping an eye on David who had treats!
Iris in the bluebells

New flag iris leaves in the pond

Erigeron recovering after its short back and sides last week.


EOMV (End of Month View) is hosted by Helen, The Patient Gardener.

In a Vase on Monday: an aide memoire (tulips)

Our garden has almost reached peak tulip and although there are plenty of other tempting vase-fillers I decided to pick one of each tulip that is flowering today and make a note of the name, as much for my own records as anything. I’m not very good at keeping notes of plants (pretty rubbish, in fact) so I’ve been back through my email orders and tried to put the correct names to each tulip. All of these are repeat flowerers – none were planted this winter just gone and some were planted as long ago as 2014 (‘Ballerina’ and ‘Brown Sugar’ were the first I planted here). Most, including those two, were bought from Sarah Raven and others were from Crocus.

Above from left to right:
A very diminutive ‘Arjuna’ which isn’t thriving where it’s planted (must move and see if it does better as it’s a lovely tulip).
The red one is either ‘Seadov’ or ‘National Velvet’. I know we have both somewhere in the garden!
I think the yellow/red one should be a ‘Ballerina’ but it has been affected by tulip breaking virus which causes stripes or flame-like effects. I need to read more about this.
Fourth from left is one of my favourites, ‘Sarah Raven’ –a striking, dark-red lily-flowered tulip.
Next is ‘Request’, which I love. I’ll try to remember to plant more of these.
The large, red lily-flowered one is, I think, ‘Red Emperor’.
Next is ‘Black Parrot’ which isn’t fully out.
And the purple tulip is ‘Passionale’.

From left to right above:
I think the very dark purple is ‘Havran’ (or it could be ‘Queen of Night’!).
Next is definitely an ‘Avignon Parrot’ (flamboyant and beautifully scented).
Another lily-flowered tulip affected by the virus (think it should be ‘Ballerina’).
A rather tatty specimen of one of my favourites ‘Brown Sugar’ which, yes, smells of brown sugar. It’s divine.
And possibly my all-time favourite, ‘Ballerina’, looking like it should do (also scented).

Above, left to right:
‘Queen of Night’ (or it could be ‘Havran’!).
A ‘Brown Sugar’ affected by tulip breaking virus (still smells lovely though).
Finally, a big, blowsy lipstick-pink ‘Pink Impression’.

I think it’s fair to say that the garden and I were thoroughly reacquainted this weekend. Two days of glorious spring sunshine and a determination to Get Something Done Outside led to about 10 hours of gardening over the two days. I’ve got dirt under my fingernails and scratches on my arms, and my gluteus are certainly feeling it today but it was so FANTASTIC to spend several hours head down in the borders. It’ll keep me going this week as I sit at my desk.

I’m joining Cathy at Rambling in the Garden and the other IAVOM-ers. Do click on the link to see what she and other bloggers have found for their Monday vases.

Hope you have a good week.


In a Vase on Monday: Hopeful

It’s lovely to be joining in again with Cathy’s gathering of Monday vases after missing a few. I do so love a good faff with flowers. This week, I’ve picked and plonked three ‘Queen of Night’ tulips, some bluebells (from my garden, not the woods!), forget-me-nots, Cerinthe major, aquilegia and a few tendrils of honeysuckle foliage.

The garden is as dry as a bone, the soil dusty. We haven’t had any rain to speak of for weeks now. We’ve had to use the hosepipe to water all the newly planted trees, something we try to avoid doing as our water bills are extortionate; I’ve even been saving any leftover drinking water to pour on those plants lucky to be near the back door. There were promising-looking dark grey clouds (that’s not a phrase you hear very often!) earlier but they passed by without shedding a drop. There are showers forecast for this evening so I have my fingers crossed.

Happily, many of our plants are toughing it out and we’ve not been short of April flowers. The daffodils are almost over with just a few multi-headed white ones still looking good (although their top-heavy stems are lolling about, through lack of moisture I reckon). The tulips planted in pots are almost over, while those planted in beds are hanging in there. There are plenty of self-seeded Cerinthe, marigolds and forget-me-nots, and the aquilegias are starting to bloom. The bottom of the garden is covered in bluebells which is amazing considering we were stomping all over it a month ago, clearing pernicious weeds and planting pencil-thin Himalayan birch whips. One day, several years from now, there will be a sinuous river of graceful white birches down there in a carpet of bluebells and other delights.

I’ve mentioned my love of tulips many times and how I’d love to have so many in the garden that I can pick armfuls to bring indoors. Well, I’m a little way off that but I have been picking handfuls for the past few weeks – here’s one I picked last week, still looking good in the lounge. It is immensely satisfying to grow your own flowers to pick and bring inside – a fairly simple task with a massively pleasing reward.

Cathy is also showcasing tulips this week. Do go and see, and have a look at some of the many other wonderful vases of flowers from around the world.

Thank you for visiting and commenting. It’s been a bit full-on round here recently and I’m behind with responding to comments and blog-reading (sorry), plus the ironing and much more! I hope you have a good week.

The leaning tower of ironing…

Five on Friday

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Joining in again with Amy’s Five on Friday, I offer you five random observations from this week:

One  As well as blue skies and delicious, warm sunshine, grey overcast skies and heavy rain, we had a day of sea mist that shrouded the sea and clifftops with billowing, hazy clouds. I had the unsettling experience of standing in the garden in the sunshine with the mist occasionally rolling through, sending the temperature plummeting. It looks like smoke and it’s quite eerie when it happens. Sometimes, in the summer, it can be hot and sunny when a mist will suddenly cloud the horizon and roll in off the sea. I know it as a ‘sea fret’ but it’s also known as a ‘haar’: a cold, sea fog caused by warm air condensing over the cold sea. It’s upset many a beach picnic.

Two  The hedgerows are positively exploding with all this sunshine and spring rain. There’s fresh cow parsley, golden-green Alexanders, white nettle flowers… Walking the dog takes longer when it’s so gorgeous as I have to stop and admire what’s going on. Cassie doesn’t seem to mind.

Three  My eldest has spent the past two days in exam conditions in the school art room producing his final piece for his Art GCSE. From what I’ve seen of photos on his phone, it’s been worth the effort and absolute mess in his bedroom. He’s gone in today for the final school day of year 11. From Monday he’ll be on ‘study leave’ and only go in to school for his exams. It’s also the final day for year 13 before their A’levels and many high-jinks are planned. He customised his school shirt in great detail last night which was hilarious. As I took a photo of him before he left this morning, he fixed me with a hard stare – ‘What are you going to do with that, Mum? Do not put it anywhere…!!’, so respecting his wishes I can’t show you. Suffice to say it’ll raise a few eyebrows among the teachers.

Four  There was a fascinating programme on Radio 4 this week about E F Schumacher – Is Small the Next Big? – and his revolutionary ideas about economics. I’d not heard of him before and was blown away by how contemporary his ideas, which date from the 1970s, sound and how much his holistic philosophy makes sense. His premise, that people matter and that everyone can affect change, is one that I wholeheartedly agree with and I’ve ordered his book ‘Small is Beautiful’ to find out more.

Five  I’ve spent as much time as possible in the garden – it’s so hard to stay indoors when the sun is shining and you can practically hear the plants growing. I’ve tended my seedlings, planted borage, nasturtiums and Californian poppies, weeded, and dead-headed the tulips, which are now all over apart from a few sultry, dark ‘Queen of the Night’ and ‘Ballerinas’. I’ve been admiring tulips on other blogs and Instagram and have  clocked so many that I’d love to have here. Hopefully, all my photos will help me to work out where the gaps are for planting more bulbs come the autumn.

Have a super-duper weekend. I have a friend’s birthday party tonight, the village Gardeners’ Association coffee morning tomorrow and the rest of the weekend at leisure 🙂


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.



Lows and highs


Wind and rain scattered cherry blossom over the garden.
Wind and rain scattered cherry blossom over the garden.


The long weekend didn’t turn out quite as expected. Poor David was ill which meant a sleepless night for both of us on Friday, and Saturday was subsequently a wash-out. I was due to head to London for a friend’s pre-wedding party but sadly had to send my apologies – I couldn’t leave the children with a poorly dad and I was exhausted and definitely not feeling my best. I did tackle a huge pile of ironing, though, which made me feel a bit better. (Oh, the high life!)

One of my favourite colour combinations in the garden green, purple and orange – a cheering sight.
One of my favourite colour combinations in the garden – green, purple and orange – always cheers me up.

The rest of the weekend has been very low-key, which is sometimes what  you need. Pottering around the garden and the greenhouse (checking for snails), walking the dog, snuggling up and watching tv with the kids, early nights.

The tulips are looking so fabulous right now that I have to show you another photo!
The tulips are looking so fabulous right now that I have to show you some more!


Oh, and I made scones. I do most of the baking in our house, but making scones is David’s thing. And, I have to admit it, he does make the BEST scones. This is not an exaggeration – they are legendary in our family. Still, it was just what I fancied and David definitely wasn’t up to making them. I followed the same recipe and they were perfectly acceptable but they were ‘not as good as dad’s’, as my middle son bluntly told me (while happily scoffing one).

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David’s scones
Makes about 12 using a medium cutter

4oz caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling on top
4oz butter (or block margarine for dairy-free)
1 egg, beaten
1lb self-raising flour
enough milk to bind to a dough (use almond or soya milk for dairy-free)
a handful of sultanas

1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C and grease a baking sheet.
2. Use a mixer to beat the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy.
3. Add the egg a bit at a time until mixed in.
4. Add the flour and and whizz for a while – you’ll end up with a fairly dry breadcrumb mixture.
5. Tip the mixture into a large mixing bowl and pour in just enough milk to bring it all together to form a dough. This shouldn’t be sticky.
6. Add the sultanas and knead lightly to mix them in.
7. Turn out onto a floured surface and roll out to about 2.5cm thick. Cut out your scones and place onto your baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops with sugar.
8. Pop into the oven for 12–15 minutes (depending on how fierce your oven is). I’d check after 10 and turn the tray to ensure even baking.

Best eaten while still warm from the oven – with jam and clotted cream if you have some, or just butter/spread if you don’t. Hopefully you’ll get higher praise than I did!

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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.

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