My garden in Fife – late June

I think it was the end of May when Storm Hector raged through large parts of Scotland and flattened the more delicate plants in my garden, it also destroyed the thin metal arch that we had straddling the garden path, so we decided to replace it with a more robust wooden one. The wooden posts were stuck into long metal spikes and holes were dug by Jack and Davy our brother-in-law and Davy mixed the concrete. It seems good and solid. The photo above is of Jack doing some fine tuning.

Garden Arch

The photo below was taken a bit later when the evening sun had moved around to the front of the house. I ended up cutting back completely the everlasting sweetpea which had been covering the metal arch. It had become too fankled (tangled) to train it over the new arch and to be honest I’m not sure if I want it there now as it seems to be a bit of a bully and the stalks and leaves are very course. There are a couple of climbing roses and a honeysuckle at the arch now and I think that will be enough.
wooden garden arch

A week or so of decent weather makes all the difference especially after such a slow start to the growing season as the one we had this year was. The pink rose was one of my birthday plants, I think it’s called Awakening and although all of its original blooms have gone it’s now happily producing a second flush.
garden in Fife

There’s a handy piece of ground behind the shed and that’s where I’ve been storing all of the turf that I’ve been cutting up ever since we moved here over four years ago now (I can hardly believe it’s that long). I realised that foxgloves had seeded themslves on top of the turf and attempts to move them to a more scenic location culminated in the death of a few of them as the roots were too firmly embedded – so I just left the rest of them to get on with it. They’re very happy there.
Foxgloves
I took the photo below from the top of the ladders, as you can see that bed to the left of the wooden arch is becoming quite congested, but everything seems to be growing well for the moment. I might have to move some things next year though.
Plants
The other garden project that I’ve completed this year is the area around the old sink planter. The old rosemary tiles that I’ve used as edgers are doing the job I wanted them to and stopping the grass from encroaching into the slate.
garden sink

Of course the garden looks quite different now as it didn’t rain for weeks and weeks after I took these photos. The grass turned yellow, but the clover stayed nice and green and as usual was very popular with the bees. Most of the plants have coped well with our unusually hot and dry weather but I hadn’t realised that the down side to hot dry summers is that the flowers don’t last nearly as long as they do when the weather is cooler. Not that I’m complaining – well I might be – just a wee bit!

The Curious Gardener by Anna Pavord

I found The Curious Gardener by Anna Pavord to be an enjoyable read, in fact I think anyone interested in gardening and the countryside would like it.

Subtitled A Year in the Garden, the book is divided up into the 12 months of the year, with each month having a few pages titled Tasks for the Month at the end of it, but there are also lots of useful tips along the way, such as how to prune the various different types of clematis and how to deal with a vast glut of tomatoes. Apparently you should just freeze them whole, then when you want to use them the skins come off with no bother at all if you run cold water over them. Pavord says: I froze 60 lbs of tomatoes last year – she grew them outside, not under glass, I couldn’t help feeling jealous!

Sadly I’ve never had a problem with a glut of tomatoes, despite having grown them in a greenhouse in the past. I’m left wondering exactly how big her garden is, it must be enormous.

It’s not all gardening though as she throws in memories of her younger days when she was first married and her guests learned to bring their own cutlery with them as she didn’t have much in the way of utensils and daughters’ wedding flowers. In fact this book is a right good melange of topics, a bit like a nice chat with a good friend which usually ends up going off at all sorts of tangents.

She tells of gardens in different countries such as the US and Italy and tells you how to grow lemon grass from the stalks which you can buy from the supermarket. I’ve grown a ginger plant from supermarket ginger roots before, I’m definitely going to give lemon grass a go.

As well as introducing the reader to a lot of interesting gardeners and gardens and the best kind of beans, potatoes, tomatoes …. to grow, she also tells of her experiences of morphine whilst she was recovering from having various bits of cancer cut out from her. She had to give up on the morphine as it made her retch which caused horrible pain, and instead she concentrated on the scent from the sweet peas which her husband brought in for her each day from her garden, and that helped her feel better.

I haven’t mentioned the woodcuts which decorate the beginning of each monthly section. They’re by Howard Phipps and are really very good. I love woodcuts anyway, I’m always so impressed by the detail in them as I know how time consuming and finicky the process is. You can see images of his work here. All in all this is a very good book and I think I might end up buying myself a copy (I borrowed this one from the library) either that or I’ll have to skim through it again, taking notes as I go, just in case I ever do decide to grow tatties or whatever.

Anna Pavord writes for The Independent and some of the articles which are in this book have appeared in print there previously.

Merry Hall by Beverley Nichols

This book was first published in 1951 and in it Beverley Nichols recounts how he purchased his very large house – Merry Hall, in Ashtead, Surrey in 1945.

As a bachelor Merry Hall was obviously a property which he didn’t need but he fell in love with its simple lines and Georgian splendour, or I suppose I should say he could visualise the splendour which had been, in its heyday, and he wanted to reinstate it.

Nichols had just returned from working in India and had been given the particulars of many houses, all of which seemed to boast ‘a wealth of ancient oak’ which was not a feature which he pined for in fact he hated them. Merry Hall didn’t have any oaks but it did have lots of elm trees which he got rid of fairly quickly, stating that they were dangerous and inclined to collapse with no warning!

Nichols was a cat lover and his cats do appear in this one, their names are One and Four, Two and Three had sucumbed to cat flu. He had intended to have 100 cats in his life, hence his choice of names.

His Allways trilogy is about buying his first home, a thatched cottage, and obviously he had grown out of twee, but Merry Hall is written along similar lines, about planning a garden and the neighbours. He has inherited an old gardener with the house and a massive kitchen garden, the produce of which two local women have their eyes on, but he is determined to hold on to it all.

It’s an enjoyable read but I didn’t like it quite as much as Down the Garden Path. He doesn’t really write much about his work in any of his books so if you are interested in how he was able to finance his project you can have a look here. It’s a chronological list of his writing career.

He mentions in this book that he was a war correspondent in World War II. It seems such an unlikely thing for him to do, from his books I would have thought that he would have avoided anything to do with war, but perhaps it was his way of ‘doing his bit’ without actually fighting.

What’s Occurring?!

I seem to have been doing quite a lot recently but not really getting anywhere – does that happen to you? Last week was one of those times which are full of small traumas. I had to have two small fillings which wouldn’t normally bother me but our old dentist has moved on so it was a newly qualified dentist, so that was a bit of a worry but I survived.

Then I had a chap in from the electricity company to fit a new isolator switch which had to be done before another sparky could come later this week to do more work. I hate having things like that done in the house, especially when it costs you Ā£152 for ten minutes work.

The de-cluttering is continuing and another very large piece of Victorian furniture has been found a good home, but not before the removal men managed to bump into a dresser full of china and break four pieces, AARGH!

When I realised that we were in for some very heavy winds I thought that it was about time that the huge laurel branch which was towering over the greenhouse had better be cut down before it was blown onto the aforementioned greenhouse. Jack did the cutting last weekend while I hauled on ropes hoping to stop it from collapsing onto the greenhouse or into our neighbour’s garden. Some hope! Everything happened so quickly and the tree was so heavy that I couldn’t pull it nor could I get my hands out of the nylon rope twisted round them. Anyway, the tree collapsed into next door and my hands, particularly my left one were damaged in the process, so painful – especially as my hands were very cold. Our neighbour was very good about the mess in his garden.

So apart from swollen bruised and bloody hands I also managed to mash up my engagement ring, one of those daisy flower type ones which were popular in the 1970s. The flower head is now at a very strange angle and it dug a hole in my finger and the shank is all twisted but it is still in one piece, luckily so is my hand. The swelling has gone and I’m just bruised and scabby now. I don’t know if I should have a go at straightening my ring myself.

I’ve been painting woodwork again and we’re having a new carpet fitted in the dining-room later this week, maybe I’ll be able to think about hauling out the Christmas decorations after it’s done. Everybody else seems to have their trees up already.

I did manage to write the cards and they’ve all been sent off, a minor miracle. I just can’t get in the mood for Christmas this year. How about you?

Kona Galaxy Garden

Like loads of people I’m interested in astronomy, not in any technical sort of a way mind you just the usual sort of looking for meteor showers and solar eclipses and the like. Of course we all get excited about these things and then as we’re in Britain it turns out to be too cloudy to see much. I’ve seen a few eclipses and Halley’s Comet when it last visited us. Granny saw it the time before that too and she said it was much brighter in 1911.

Anyway, my husband is of the scientific type and The Astronomy Picture of the Day Archive is one of his favourite websites. Take a look if you’re interested in seeing fabulous photographs of the cosmos.

This photo from the site incorporates two interests of mine – gardening and astronomy – it’s a representation of the galaxy as a garden. It’s in Hawaii so I’m never going to visit it, it’s too hot and sunny for me but this photo is next best thing, I can imagine I’m there.

My husband was given a DVD of From the Earth to the Moon as a Christmas present so we spent part of the holidays watching it all and it took me right back to that exciting time when men were walking on the moon. I think I was 11 at the time of the first moon landing. Nowadays there are a lot of children who think that you are pulling their leg about it all. They just don’t realise that men have already been on the moon.

It’s quite sad really. Anyway if you like lovely astronomical photos take a look at the site, there are hundreds of them.

Compost Corner

I’ve been gardening for a very long time. It was my dad’s hobby and I helped him from a very early age. Over the years I’ve had 5 different gardens, and even although I’ve had my present garden for over 20 years, I’ve never made my own compost.

Well, that has all changed since I became the proud owner of a new compost bin yesterday. I was given the bin by my friend Annella who had ordered it as she thought it was a bargain too good to be missed. However, when she read the instructions she decided that she didn’t have time to wait for the slow process of compost making. She is 83 and thinks that 6 -18 months is too long to wait at her age. Mind you I think she is good for at least another 10 years and I’m sure that I’ll be passing plenty of home-made compost down along the road to her garden over the years.

Well, that is if I’m successful in making it. I am following the instructions to the letter, so it won’t be for want of trying.

It feels to me that I have a big baby in the garden, which is in need of nurture and I can’t tell you how virtuous and green glowish I feel now that I’m feeding all my veggie waste, egg shells, tea bags and coffee grounds into my new toy.

Annella called it her Dalek, but my husband thought it looks more like a Chumbley (in foreground in the picture.)

Mind you, I’m a bit worried about attracting unwanted visitors in the shape of rats. Ants are bad enough. So, at the first sniff of a rat, the experiment will be over, and I’ll be back to putting all the garden waste in the council brown bin and buying my compost ready made.

I think we were pretty good, waste management-wise even before this as we only have our wheely bin emptied once a fortnight. Sometimes there are 3 adults in the household and other times there are 5 of us but we have never been anywhere near having a full bin.

I know of some households of only 2 adults who have rubbish spilling out of the top of their bins come collection day. I don’t understand how they can generate so much garbage. We live really close to one of the many recycling centres in Fife so we don’t have any excuses for having full bins.

Pieris

pieris

Today was the first really good day of the year. Sunny all day and pleasantly warm. Well you could have put money on that happening given that the schools went back today after the Easter holidays. The last two weeks have been absolutely freezing here. We are so close to the North Sea and we have had the usual haar (sea mist) to put up with. This year everything has been so slow in the garden but at last it has come back to life and is full of very fat bees. Last year was the worst that I can remember for dead bees, they desperately need a good summer too.
This Pieris is one of my favourite shrubs. My dad had one in his garden and I can remember him buying it at the garden nursery at Rhu near Helensburgh when I was a wee girl. I think it has been taken over by Dobbies now, which is a real shame. Anyway, I always wanted one for my garden – and now I have three of them. The Euphorbia Fireglow in front of it isn’t bad either. Optimism is in the air.