This little area's started to look rather nice, mainly because of the verbena of which I'm ridiculously fond. It started out as resembling a building site. Weeds, gravel, bits of buried concrete slabs, there was little to love. But gradually I got on top of it.
I used bricks that I'd taken up from the front garden, and improvised about the layout.
Things looked a heck of a lot better once some greenery made an appearance.
There's a perennial sunflower by the fence, along with a foxglove, plus a couple of thymes - both a variety called 'Silver Queen', one in the ground, the other in a container - plus marjoram (or is it oregano?) and leggy verbena. Still too much bare ground for my liking, but that'll get filled up with plants in years to come.
When I'm flagging it's good to look at photos like these and see that progress is -slowly - being made.
When I'm not messing about in the garden or writing short stories then I can generally be found sewing patchwork or doing needlepoint. (Anything to avoid dusting and hoovering!) When you're crafting then colour is important. Choosing the right shade of wool or fabric, it can make the difference between a design being vibrant and zingy and a design being dull as ditchwater. Sometimes I've come up with a colour scheme for a cushion I'm doing as a needlepoint and began stitching it, only to find it fails to have any impact. Maybe there're two colours that look good on their own, but next to each other they get muddy and lack interest. The only thing to do is get the seam un-ripper out and pull out those stitches and choose something else.
When it comes to gardening I've decided that - despite their pretty name - these zinnias won't be making a repeat appearance next year. I like the shape of the flowers, but the colours? Nah. Too bright. Too clashing. I much prefer something softer.
The blue-ish purple of the lavender.
The paler purple of the flowering thyme alongside the creamy white yarrow.
Next year I'm going to be more ruthless about editing my colour choices, but then again I don't want the scheme to look boring. It's all about injecting the odd shot of contrasting colour without that splash of orange or red sticking out like a sore thumb. I think it'll be a case of trial and error, but then isn't all gardening?
Today was gloriously hot and the tomato plants are wilting like month old lettuce. I'm holding off with the watering though as the weather forecast reckons it's raining cats & dogs overnight and tomorrow. So I get to lounge on my ample backside and watch Channel 4's para-athletics coverage instead. Happy days.
P.S. The lemon tree's looking more like a lime tree at the mo. How cute are they?!
It was still light enough yesterday evening to pop out at 10.00pm and do some watering I'd forgotten about. I love these long, sunny days. They lift everyone's spirits. We were lucky with the weather last week for our visit to the Yorkshire Show in Harrogate. Crikey, it's huge! We saw as much as we could pack in to a single day - approx 18,000 steps according to a FitBit - but still probably didn't scratch the service. It's a real mix of proper agricultural fair (sheep, pigs, tractors and combine harvesters) and upmarket shopping experience. (It is Harrogate, after all ...) If you've never been, then get your tickets for next year, but I'd definitely suggest you spend at least two days at the event. Wear flat shoes too - I shook my head in disbelief at some women tottering around in heels or high wedge sandals. Their feet must've been killing 'em by teatime. Take lots of water, sunscreen and a picnic if you're vegetarian or gluten free. If you like burgers and chips, followed by ice cream you'll be well provided for food-wise though.
At home the front garden is graced by a tall pink hollyhock.
The leaves have been affected by rust, so don't look quite so appealing, but it's worth it for the flowers.
These Scabious are pretty too, though not an attractive sounding name, is it? The flowers are described as pincushion-like, which is apt. They're leggy and do need staking, which I've inexpertly done with some bamboo and string. The flowers are white, with just the odd pale pink bloom dotted among them.
These two little plants nestling with their white flowers among the Oxtalis (which incidentally self seeds like crazy, be warned) are Ageratum, bought for 50p each from the Yorkshire Show. They're compact and ideal for edging a border. Apparently they're also known as Floss flowers, according to my 'Enclyclopedia of Garden Plants and Flowers'. Yeah, there would've been a time I devoured novels, everything from Jane Austen to Willa Cather, via the Brontes, Virginia Woolf, Poppy Z Brite, Judy Budnitz and Beryl Bainbridge. Now it's plant books that catch my imagination. Time rolls on ...
I've got a tray of flapjacks baking in the oven. My second attempt as the first weren't quite sticky and yummy enough. I'm off to the Yorkshire Show tomorrow, so thought I'd make flapjacks for us to take along. As my bruv and niece are gluten free, I bought GF porridge oats. Crikey, they're expensive compared to the regular kind. Anyway, let's see if the second lot are more successful.
Before my attempt at being Mary Berry I did some pootling around in the front garden. I've been popping small thyme plants in between cracks or gaps in the bricks, and this little one in the photo above should hopefully spread out in weeks to come, and cover that gap entirely.
These Californian Poppies are tumbling out of their flower bed, and I loved the shape the petals made as they weren't fully open.
This dill plant seems to shoot up another inch or two by the day. It's pretty enough to go in any herbaceous border, don't you think?
Another photo of the dill, which would look better without the plastic washing up bowl loitering in the background! It's useful for chucking weeds into, or general fetching and carrying. Another old washing up bowl has had holes punched into the base and now has catmint growing in it. Waste not, want not, as the saying goes.
Okay, time to sample a flapjack. Let's see if it comes up to scratch.
July already, and we've had some amazingly hot days. It's been gorgeous, and I'm developing a Yorkshire tan from all this sunshine. It does mean an evening traipse around with the watering can, and the tomato plants and sunflowers are greedy 'uns when it comes to water.
The front garden's looking disheveled. It's got its bedhead on, and no one's around with a hairbrush or some straightners! This photo shows the upper level, the front being split into two levels from when previous residents flattened the sloping ground and paved it over. (In the background is the not-so-charming sight of many bags of sand and limestone I've removed after lifting bricks. I'm waiting till I've got a skipful before getting rid of 'em. Plus there's a trio of hulking plastic bins. Unsightly, but those wooden 'bin tidies' are ridiculously expensive.)
When I created these flower beds I was in such a rush to get plants - anything green! - into this barren space, so in it all went. Jumbled up and squished together. Consequently it's messy but at least the bees love all the nectar sources.
Having visited some public gardens over the summer, and having watched Mr Montague Don on 'Gardeners World' I've got more idea now of what plants I like and am beginning to understand the theory behind how to plant a successful border. I spent last night chopping up seed catalogues, cutting out pictures of plants I aspire to grow and noting their height. I'm working out what looks best at the back of a border (tall spires like foxgloves and delphiniums), what's of medium height (Achillea, alliums, lavender and Cosmos) and what's compact (Forget-Me-Not, daisies). I've got a colour scheme. Actually, more than one. The upper beds will be whites, purples (from pale lilac through to a deep imperial purple), pinks (from blush through to shocking pink), with the odd blue (such as the Himalayan poppy) and a touch of yellow, but only the softest creamy lemon. (The lupin you can see in the photo is 'Lupinus West Country Desert Sun' and is a beauty.)
On the lower level will be a 'white' bed - home to yarrow (which is self seeding like a maniac), a Cosmos like 'White Knight', some Gypsophilia maybe and I'd love an ornamental grass like 'Bunny Tails'. Finally I'd like an 'orange/yellow' bed - a home for all those vivid look-at-me blooms, such as orange or red Crocosmia, vibrant Heleniums, lots of Californian poppies and Echinacea 'Paradiso'. Plus some Chinese lanterns and a chocolate scented Cosmos 'Choca Mocha'. Oh, and of course lots of sunflowers. I want to grow those outrageously tall ones that you can get nose to nose with from the upstairs windows.
Yup, I've got big plans for a gal with a small budget. But seeds are cheap, and there're worse things to spend your cash on than prettying up your home and providing wildlife with a tasty buffet. Actually, it's turns out I've got loads more seeds than I thought away. The tartan patterned former shortbread tin that I use to store them has plenty, plus I recently ordered a fair few from a £1.00 per pack sale on Forthergills website. I may have to be brutal much later this year and into the start of next, ripping out what I've planted so far and redoing all those borders from scratch. It'd be worth it to get some proper structure in place, and to also make sure I dig in a load of organic materal, to ensure the soil's as good as I can get it.
You know, I don't understand what people who don't garden do with their time ... seriously folks, you need to get 'with it'. It's great exercise, you're creative, you can indulge in a love of colour and texture. What's not to like? Who else has got bitten by the gardening bug? Or maybe you're a frustrated would-be gardener who's got no more space than a window box?
Earlier in the year the woods and lanes around me were scattered with bluebells and there was wild garlic to be picked. Lately the brilliant yellow of buttercups have been shining out, and the bike path I regularly used has been flanked by clouds of frothy white cow parsley. In my front garden there're masses of pale yellow and bright orange California poppies, the fragrant thyme's been flowering, and now the verbena's joined in the party. I've got Verbena rigida Venosa which is a compact plant, and Verbena bonariensis which is the leggy, slender stemmed plant beloved of fancy RHS Chelsea gardeners (and me!). The back garden's home to an array of container plants, mainly tomatoes, courgettes and strawberries, and I thought I'd note down some of the 'lessons learnt' so far, as we come almost to the end of June. (Yikes! It'll be autumnal before we know it if this year keeps racing along like a thoroughbred.)
So what've I learnt, or at least realised I lack knowledge of?
1 - Fresh strawberries for breakfast is an achievable luxury. It's very pleasing to pop outside in my dressing gown and gather a small handful of berries to go with my chopped apple and yoghurt. It's not taken a massive effort either. I bought four or five plants last years, which I think cost a fiver, and spent money on potting compost and containers. But for that small investment I've had lots of fruit, plus the plants send out runners which produce baby plants, so you end up getting a lot of 'bang for your buck'.
2 - Broad beans are super-easy to grow. They've really been no trouble at all, apart from just needing staking with some pea sticks or bamboo poles to stop them getting too wind blown.
3 - Courgettes and tomatoes need large containers to grow in. I've belatedly realised how pointless it is to scrimp on large containers and try to squeeze these space hungry plants into too-small tubs. By large I mean containers that're at least 32cm in diameter. The containers are robust. They'll last for years, so it's a false economy not to buy a few more. If the plants have room they'll respond by producing lots of veggies for my dinner plate. I can save money by not splurging on expensive plants as impulse buys from garden centres instead of being miserly about buying suitable containers.
4 - When your water supply's metered, it pays to get a rainwater butt. Yorkshire rain falls freely, so I need to buy and get fitted a water butt to ensure I'm not wasting tap water during dry spells.
5 - Sunflowers are instant mood-lifters. There's something very appealing about their wide, generous faces held up to the sun, and I need to grow more of 'em next year. Lots more.
6 - I'm gradually learning the volume of planting and the forward thinking that needs to go into growing veggies in particular. If I want to seriously grow enough to keep myself in salad leaves, tomatoes, courgettes, yellow squash, runner beans, broad beans, as well as berries and herbs over the summer months I need to be less slapdash and 'oh! me and my tiny appetite'. I need to be more systematic about, for instance, growing salad leaves like rocket as 'come and cut again' crops. I need to think 'oh! me and my not-so-tiny-appetite'. I need to think like the manager of a veggie and soft fruit production line. How can I get a constant crop so I don't have to nip down to the Co-op for a bag of pre-washed salad leaves as I've run out? Plus, I need to grow staples like spring onions and spuds. Prices in the shops are only headed one way (up, up, up!) so the more I can grow, the better.
Gardening does seem to be the constant realization that you know next to nothing. Whether that's about how to get rid of aphids or about how to pronounce complicated Latin names for flowers or which shrubs grow well in shady spots. It's all about learning, and thankfully there're plenty of ways to do that, from 'Gardeners World' on telly to online resources like the RHS website, and to cheap-as-chips gardening books available secondhand in most charity shops. Though the best way to learn is getting stuck in. Literally getting your hands dirty. Try. Fail. Succeed. Gardening is, to use that hideously overused word, a 'journey' and in a complicated and increasingly bat-shit crazy world it's one of the most peaceful and life enriching interests you can have.
June's a time of abundance in a garden. Everything's flourishing, all leafy green and flowering or producing fruits or veggies. Well ... not quite everything.
As well as the successes - a handful of juicy strawberries freshly picked for breakfast each morning, pods of broad beans waiting to be picked, verbena I've grown from seed shooting upwards, plus a trio of stunning sunflowers - there're the not-so-goods.
Firstly, the blackfly infestation that's made itself at home in the front garden and I've spotted in the back garden now too. Nasty little things clustered around the heads of the foxgloves and zinnias. A friend offered to zap 'em with an insecticide, but I do try to garden organically. So I'll try the hot water and washing up liquid method later on, see if that deters them.
I'm not sure if it's the blackfly or something else that's bothering the gooseberry bush I turfed out of its container and planted in the front garden. Maybe it's not happy in the position I've put it in, or maybe it's the soil. I don't know, but it's increasingly bare of leaves, just lots of forlorn spikes.
Then there're the thyme seedlings. I'd planted the teeny delicate things in a crack in some paving, hoping they'd flourish and spread across the stones. But I noticed yesterday they're virtual goners. Again, don't know if insects have munched them for dinner, or whether something else got to them. Oh well, I'll have to try again. Maybe next time I'll leave the seedlings in pots until they're more robust before planting out. That might at least give them a fighting chance of survival.
So much of gardening is trial 'n' error, but thankfully seeds are cheap and so is potting compost. There's only so much you can learn through books and websites. Better to just have a go and educate yourself through your successes and failures.
What's blooming in your garden right now? And just as importantly, what's not done well and have you figured out why?
Well, June is flaming, isn't it? Blimey Charlie it's been hot, and despite the sun lotion I'm looking like a Neopolitan ice cream - white, pink and brown. I've been slapping on the after-sun in an attempt to avoid painful sunburn, and thankfully so far it's working.
I've been pottering about in the garden lately, but haven't blogged. Not real reason why, just that when I get the chance to be a lazy baggage I generally take it. I think on the evolutionary scale I'm nudging up next to the sloths.
Anyway, Saturday saw another outing to a public garden. This time it was at Pocklington, in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Amidst glorious countryside is Burnby Hall Gardens & Museum. (The museum I won't bore you with. It's fine if you're okay looking at stuffed animal heads from when one Major Percy Stewart, an 'adventurer and traveller', toured the world shooting its wildlife. I'm not.)
The Gardens are home to a National Collection of over 100 varieties of water lily, plus there're a number of sculptures to see, lakes teeming with coy carp and a Stumpery. Let's get the practicalities out of the way first: it's pushchair and wheelchair friendly, there's a good cafe and clean, well maintained loos. It's £5.00 for standard adult entry, but cheaper for seniors, children and there's a family rate. It's no to dogs, except obviously assistance dogs. If you're taking little 'uns you need to keep an eye on them as the lakes are deep and the fish mean it's tempting for children to get right to the water's edge. Speaking of fish ...
You can buy cups of fish food for a quid from the cafe, and it's worth it as feeding them is massively entertaining. The fish - carp and roach apparently - are ever eager for food, and smart enough to know that people approaching the water's edge may have some. They cluster around, jostling for a morsel, mouths gaping over.
The fish glide among the reeds, flag iris and lily pads.
The different varieties of lilies are well labeled, but you can't get among them to have a close enough look. It'd be good if there were some mini-piers. Modestly sized viewing platforms you could walk along to almost get encircled by them. But that's a minor gripe. (Perhaps I should just invest in a pair of binoculars next time Lidl/Aldi have them in one of their Aisles of Wonder.)
There are various sculptures dotted around the Gardens. Including this big cat, with apologies to the artist whose name I didn't note down.
Here's a gathering of giraffes at the water's edge. Again, sorry I didn't note the artist.
The Stumpery was cool and shady on a blisteringly hot day. There were plenty of wood carvings here, mainly variations on the folklore figure of the Green Man. I think Stumpery's were a bit of a Victorian thing, and they're probably really good for insects, bees and birds. All that rotting wood and nooks and crannies for little creatures to nest or hide in.
I bet a Stumpery on a gloomy, overcast day would be enough to make a decorous Victorian lady feel decidedly agitated. As dusk fell it could get rather spooky, don't you think?
Back out in the open again.
Down by the water's a good spot to eat your picnic lunch.
Yup, all in all I'd recommend Burnby Hall Gardens for a visit. The Rock Garden's being re-planted, so it's going to look rather barren until the autumn, but there's still plenty to occupy you. Plus plants for sale and the usual knick knacks, sweets and fudge in the gift shop. More info's at www.burnbyhallgardens. com
Hope you're not too hot & frazzled by the weather, and happy gardening!
I've washed my hair, sorted out clothes for tomorrow ( a family christening ) and there's an almond, raspberry and white chocolate tray bake heating up nicely in the oven. So I thought I'd post the last few photos I took at the Himalyan Gardens. The one above shows the magnolia floating sculpture in the background and a rather beautiful heron near the water's edge.
This sculpture's stunning. It looks like a sycamore seed, but from this angle it could almost be an angel's wing or a bird's wing. So graceful.
I loved the drifts of colour from these flowers. There's something very pleasing about broad, generous swathes of planting, maybe because we're so used to see small numbers of flowers in our (usually) small gardens.
Back on home ground I've been busy - between showers of rain - tidying and re-potting, planting a few more verbena seeds and pulling up Yarrow as it's self-seeding all over the front garden. I've eaten the first few strawberries from my tubs, and there're lots of green berries waiting to ripen. Plus, courgettes are fattening nicely, another week or so and I'll be picking the first of them.
Right, that cake's about ready to come out of the oven, so I'd better get on.
Here are the (belated) second lot of photographs taken at the Himalayan Gardens & Sculpture Park, near Ripon. Beyond the yellow irises you can see a sculpture that I thought was a lotus blossom, someone else thought was a lily, but the name gave it away - it's a magnolia. It seemed to be tethered underneath, allowing the flower to move gently and turn as the breeze moved the water. It's not the best image of the sculpture, but my photography's very hit 'n' miss.
This duck is one of the many animal sculptures on show, including various owls and a rather splendid goat (that I mistook for a deer!)
These were in bloom everywhere, drifts of them in a rainbow of colours. I think they're called Candelabra Primulas, and they're remarkably pretty.
This was taken looking down at the plant.
There's the pink one again.
I've still got a few more photos to post as I seemed to take loads on the day. But I'll leave you with the stunning blue poppy, an emblem of the garden, and take myself off into my own garden before the rain makes an inevitable return.
Hope you have a good Thursday.
Moved from a garden-less city flat in the South West to a Yorkshire village in 2016. I now have a garden ... of sorts.