Tag Archives: gardening

Wild garden

 Well all this lying around and being sorry for myself has had quite serious garden consequences…

It’s hard to mind too much when it looks so very lovely and the jungliness makes the kids so very happy. Still I feel  there is a happier balance to be achieved though possibly I’ve missed the window this year…

I can’t get over how fecund the plum-tree is


Can you say fecund about trees? Bearing in mind last year we had ONE solitary plum. I realise they’ll be a drop but even so we should get into double figures at least.

My valiant little apple tree is covered in fruit as well. Ida and I spent half an hour crouched in the waist-high couch grass surrounding  it yesterday. The amount of humming, buzzing hoverfly and bee life was astounding.

I am particularly fond of the vividly striped hoverflies who vibrate pugnaciously just in front of your face then dart off, satisfied you’ve been suitably quelled. There are so many different kinds we try to count them and Zeph’s collins gem proves utterly inadequate.

Lying on our backs we see bumble bees with white and red bottoms as well as a huge yellow, black and gingery striped one. Watching it ponderously investigate the opening foxgloves I genuinely wonder how it is flying. This is exactly the kind of bee Arrietty dreamed about flying on with plenty of bristly fur to hold onto. Ida amuses herself mightily by saying “No teeth Mrs Tittlemouse, no teeth!” and making spitting sounds holding her sides as she dissolves into mirthful chuckles. She is in just knickers with grass seeds in her hair. We’re trying not to attract the attention of the nice Ukrainians in the churchyard next door who have spent more than the usual amount of time leaning between their immaculate manicured conifers and shaking their heads at the chaos over here. It’s taken me half an hour to persuade her to keep her knickers on and I have no strength for anything else.

When she heaves with laughter I can still see all her ribs but she has a definite tummy now and her legs don’t go out at the knees anymore so I feel better. Down here we have a perfect view of ants and ladybirds going about their business. A tiny yellow spotted beauty sits on the end of her finger for at least a minute before shaking out crumpled silk wings from under it’s spotty overcoat and circling up into the sky.

There are sparrows nesting in our eaves and their fledglings hop all over the rubbish stacked up in the courtyard. Brash and noisy they skim over our heads and tumble from fence to rosebush. I have triple belled the cat and she sits on a branch of the laurel tree pretending their high jinks are of no interest to her whatsoever. She punishes me with a taloned paw unexpectedly in my face as I run up the stairs at bedtime. Thrumming with malicious triumph from behind the banister she stalks off tail lashing meaningfully.  

When we venture down to the compost heap there are three gleaming slow worms twined lordlike on the top of the heap. Fat and gleaming their black unforked tongues taste the air and they blink placidly at us. None of them have tails. They are surviving victims of Mittens joyful tossing of them into the air. Here they are safe from her juggling endeavors and supplied by a never-ending all you can eat smorgasboard of insect delight.

They must be breeding as we constantly find little elver like baby ones, squirming their golden way over the path and through the grass. Bare foot and delighted Ida makes an early joke -” They should be called fast worms!” Delighted she chortles and repeats it  until it descends into a squabble with her exasperated brother.

There is a tiny frog in the washbowl pond. Smooth skinned and lightning fast he crouches under the watermint which has vastly outgrown the space. It needs thinning. I add it to the list.

Here is a bud on the peony. There were more but they rotted in the wet and neglect. This one is at the top of the bush and I feel hopeful.  My wisteria is not dead as I feared, just a little overwhelmed. I clear it some space and add some compost to the base. As well as some volcanic ash my mum assures me will make a big difference. I suspect her of muttering a desperate blessing over it. The plants need all the help they can get…

Packing mayhem

Oh my life, I’m taking a break from packing.

Things should get easier now Ida’s gone to bed as I won’t have to keep fishing her additions out of the bags. So far this evening I’ve retrieved a rollerskate, a wooden spoon, the box of paints and Zeph’s wetsuit that no longer fits him. All useful items in some other scenario I’m sure but unwanted for five days in London with Julianne.

We’re all highly excited and I’m sure there’ll be tears at some point. I’ve tried not to over think stuff which is something I do a little. Maybe I went too far the other way as today has felt a little hectic.

Hectic but full of brilliant stuff and so many Beautiful Things it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Mum and Dad came for pickled fish lunch today to plant out the potatoes and distribute easter and birthday presents like very Boho easter bunnies. It was a hugely happy afternoon and the sun shone bountifully on some very focused potato planting.

The potato race between the kids is becoming an established ritual. They each get a bag and the same amount of chitted treasure. When the plants are ready we harvest each bag with forensic carefulness and count up the bounty. The bag with the most tubers (regardless of size) wins.

We have ready, set and gone – only a few months to wait. Zeph believes he has this years edge with a sprinkle of ground volcanic rock mixed in with the compost. I reserve all judgement.

My mum dressed up in the gardening apron with the string pocket I made her last year and Ida spent a long while eyeing it up covetously. I’m thinking of running some up for the summer craft stalls.  String dispensing pockets are actually very useful.

Our lizard has been unwell so we’re glad to see him looking a bit more sprightly and eating more. I feel happier about leaving him for a while and Zeph has stopped checking he’s still breathing every hour or so. He shot into the bedroom earlier in the week at about 6.30 am shrieking he thought Sticky was dead. I leapt to my feet, raced downstairs half asleep, missed the last few steps and knocked my arm out of its socket on the door jamb. I was sick on the floor from the pain and Steve had to come down, avoid the sick, push it back into its socket, ice me up and clear up. All under the watchful gaze of a bemused lizard who’d been enjoying a nice nap.

I’ve been on full strength drugs all week and quite enjoyed the cotton wool cloud feeling. I know I can’t let it go on too long though so have brought my dosages down which has resulted in a bit of evening snappiness.

I think the kids were quite glad to go to bed tonight and I’m sure Steve would’ve liked to have joined them. Too bad beardie – we’ve got rucksacks to fill…

I think the blossom will be over by the time we’re home again. The plum-tree was frothy with white flower frills today but the liquid green leaves are overtaking it. There’s very little on the apple tree this year but the crab apple is covered in deep pink buds. I hope there’s some left on Thursday these crimson lake edged petals are thrilling.

The peony’s first bud is showing as well – I can NOT wait! I do love my  blowsy ephemeral peonies so much.

I’ve bought a phone to go away with as well. The cheapest I can find which is ten pounds.

TEN POUNDS. Honestly – I feel ludicrously old. How can a mobile phone – okay it’s hardly flashy – but it’s perfectly functional – be £10 and a stamp  is now 60p. Or a Snickers bar which is, in my mind, about 27p be 89p!! I nearly drop my purse everytime I’m conned into chocolate bar purchasing in our corner shop BUT a phone – a mobile, walking around, put it in my pocket, startrek future, phone is TEN POUNDS.

It all seems wrong. Is this because I’m old?

Anyway I’ve finally mastered how to answer it and we’ve uncovered our oyster cards. I’ve tracked down enough clean socks and hole less pants in case of road accidents for us all. We have toothbrushes and new paste. I’m having a minty fresh break from the salty stuff. Ida is over her horror at being presented with a tube of Hungry Caterpillar stuff. I thought she’d be pleased, she thought I was a monsterous, caterpillar grinding ogre. Surely this is all we need?

Look out Big City…

Festering political disillusion and Carrotcake Muffins. Whoo hoo.

My garden is very frosty and in some desperate need of attention.  This morning I wandered around it with a cup of tea putting off the washing up which recently, despite the purple bowl, has assumed Sisyphus status with me.

It doesn’t help that the paved bit by the house is covered with stuff. Stuff that needs a skip. Or some kind of organising. Like the defunct fridge freezer adding that whitegoods trash atmosphere to the air.

I was full of good intentions this autumn about gathering up the fallen leaves to bag up for future leaf mould but have instead left it to do its moulding all over the path, plants and minipond. I think I’m in a slight grey slough after a very happy christmas and birthday season.

 Now begins the uphill slog to my birthday. Wasn’t it blue monday yesterday? The statistical low point of the year. Yay…. 

*shuffles feet, has another drag of tea*

I see plenty of loveliness among the clutter. Bare branches reaching into the pale sky makes my heart soar and ache with the patterned architectural beauty. The birds are clearly visible perching and twisting like acrobatic baubles, squabbling over berries .  There is a gang of rowdy tits shoving each other around our bird feeder, fascinating Ida and Mittens who  crouches by the back door lashing her tail ferociously.

The frost has blackened even the bindweed. I know that a mornings red-cheeked work will clear all the wizened overgrowth into my green bin leaving a clear canvas for my bulbs and this year’s garden dreaming.

I admire the uneven patio area under the pergola. Progress is like the tide coming in isn’t it? Three steps forward, two back, two forward, one back. On and on, creeping along.

 It fits with my experience of living with depression as well. Sometimes walking, sometimes crawling. Some nights giving all you  have to cling to the rock face. To stay still. Then other times letting yourself drift back with the swell, taking a breath, biding your time to start swimming upstream again.

I also think all the recent washing up has exposed me to too many politicians on Radio4. I feel incensed and kind of powerless. Never a good combination. Most recently I’ve been internally turmoiling over all the Worrell Thompson media coverage and comparing his celebrity caution with some of the sentencing handed out to teenagers shoplifting during the summers rioting.

Yes, yes – I know it’s not the same – taking a bottle of water during a riot is a different proposition but once again I reflect on how sentencing data would look pushed through a class filter. This ties in with a deeper rage against Cameron’s proposal dealing with “problem families” the language of which physically turned my stomach.

May I humbly suggest, tugging my fucking cap and all that, that he could lift his blinkered gaze to the system that has grown these “problem families.” Although the money thrown at this problem will surely be welcomed by the agencies and charities on the frontline applying pressure on the critical wounds, it’s like spending a fortune on the rash and not curing the virus that’s causing it. Or feeding the starving then sending them back to the ravished homelands. I could go on.

Above all it was the emotive, media spun, them and not us, disgustingly elitist and evidently ignorant language that truly turned my stomach. My feeling of dislocation from the etonesque boys who govern me grows ever stronger. Like a splinter in my hand it festers.

So I made some cakes.

I’d recommend these, they’re lovely. Do-able with a small helper as well.

Carrotcake muffins.

You need..

100g of sugar. Brown is best, I use whatever I have, today; muscovado.

175ml sunflower oil.

220g flour (plain)

2 eggs

tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon (or mixed spice, sometimes I add ground ginger as well)

citrus fruit zest. Lemon or orange – or both

150g grated carrot (about 2)

something else. About 100g. Walnuts, mixed peel, sultanas etc

Mix the sugar and oil together.

Add the eggs.

Add the flour, spices and bi-carb and baking powder.

Fold in the grated carrot, zest and whatever you’re adding that’s extra. In this case, left over mixed peel.

Slop Spoon generously into muffin cases.

Cook in a medium oven until golden and a knife comes clean. About 20 minutes.

I iced these with a lime icing. Just icing sugar mixed with lime juice.

They definitely soothed the savage beast. That and tea with friends and a couple of chapters of the Snow Spider on the sofa with Zeph.

Gardeny goodness

If I was selecting a reflective word-of-the-day style sum up for today I think it may be… vehement. Or strident perhaps – I could stretch to emphatic, rabid or voracious.

Just another day with a toddler.

We didn’t actually do much today, perhaps that was the problem. I need to plan something exhausting first thing. We had  a packed weekend with a family birthday celebration and we’re Weston-super-mare bound at an ungodly hour on Thursday. High tide is quite early so if we want to see the muddy sea at all it’s an early train for us. Those of you familiar with the brown waves of Weston know what I mean I’m sure. So I thought a pottering day would be pleasant. We did manage to complete a mosaic coaster for G’mas birthday gift tomorrow. Bit worried she’ll not be able to identify the dolphin on the front, might have to give her a heads up on the gift tag.

It’s a little grouty but for a joint effort between an excited two-year old and her exasperated brother I consider it a huge success.

I had to keep slipping out for a drop of soothing garden time today. With cups of mint tea made from my very conveniently positioned clump;

Literally outside the back door, I can even reach out in the rain for a few sprigs for my mug. I make it the way my Granny did – in the mug, soused with just boiled water then three ice cubes. You can drink it right way then.. and I do while checking out these beauties;

There’s a reason children’s seed packs always include sunflowers. They’re so reliable and impressive. Ida is beside herself with excitement about these and Zeph is pretty pleased with himself as well, gardener extraordinaire.

 Although there aren’t as many apples on our little tree as last year they are all big beautiful ones. The hollyhocks are drooping and fading but still covered in insects and gorgeous. I’m tickled by something other than bindweed creeping through the bench at the end of the garden.

One of the winter squashes making a break for it. Looking at the very weedy bit today it struck me what a lovely fresh green chickweed is. Still, should probably remove some… Ida is very keen on pulling stuff up, if only she was  little more reliable as to what she pulls.

I’m going to end with two beautiful things from Sundays party;

 Ida’s new party shoes of which she is foot hoppingly happy and proud. Luckily the way her feet are growing they shouldn’t fit her for long.

And Zeph unearthed these Fuzzyfelts at G’mas in the lazy afternoon. Alice and I played exhaustively with these as children and just touching them filled me with the happiest nostalgia. So much better than the revamped modern version – we spent a satisfying hour laying out scenes.


It was Zeph’s parents evening tonight. It is ridiculous to still feel uncomfortable sitting outside a classroom at my age. It’s also really hard not to assume your children are like you. I mean – I know they are their own people – just some things strike such resonant chords with me that I instantly award him the rest of my remembered woes. Clearly not the case as he already has better social skills at eight than I do.

Never mind all that – my hollyhocks have finally unfurled;

 Ignore the rusty leaves. In fact this clump is so rusty that most of the leaves have fallen off and there are just spikes of promising buds. 

 Ignore the poor savaged conifer in the background, it was not me. It belongs to the ukrainian catholic church next door who are very tidy and lean on my fence and sigh at the weeds.

 These are the sherbert lemon ones. Not the best photo known to man but things conspire against me you know. I prefer the more open flower and so do the bees, this clump is covered in humming loveliness.

Also very rusty. Oh well. These two clumps are towering over my little garden and I love it. If you lie on the ground they soar up into the sky like church towers and you can hear the vibrating bees. So worth the enormous clumps of leaves which shelter masses of snails. I hanker after delphiniums as well but they never seem to survive my rapacious mollusc population whereas the spiky leaved hollyhocks do quite well. I never seem to succeed with seedlings – maybe I should beg a well established clump from someone instead.

I finish my flowery interlude with a shot of the last lily which is doing its wholehearted best to compensate for the other sad, lost, beetle-gobbled stumps.  

 The scent this sunny evening from just one bloom made me feel all giddy. You can’t ask more than that.

Summer windfalls

These pictures are from last week, when the sun actually shone. Unlike this weekend although the rain didn’t spoil the barbecue to celebrate my cousins confirmation. My family aren’t put off by a little rain I tell you. Although Z did leave his trainers outside where they got completely soaked. Which through a serious of drying mishaps including a tumbledryer spin ended up with my resourceful uncle Tony re-attaching the soles with a hot glue gun. Great tip and I’ll be attempting to fix Z’s school shoes later in an attempt to get them to limp through to the end of term…

I love this inspired alternative use of the basket;

but what I love most is I can remember collecting up the fairy apples from my G’mas lawn in the summer and lining them up on the old brick wall or attempting to sell them to my family. As we sat on the bench watching her squatting and carefully examining each tiny windfall my heart felt very full.

I don’t know why I feel surprised though. Surely it’s one of the joys of parenting your child, reigniting memories? Of course it all depends on the memories. These are pretty good.

Today Zeph and I measured the bedroom exhaustively for the big bunk bed event. My child has expensive tastes and I’ve had to placate him with customisation promises instead. I foresee many flat pack hours ahead… New stuff is really exciting. I’ve planned in a LOT of new storage and he has made extravagant promises about keeping everything tidy. Again my heartstrings tug as I still make these internal promises every time I actually manage to clean the house or sort out a corner.

I think I’m still waiting to grow up and get organised.

counting my BT’s

Ida’s helpfulness today has been slightly hindered by her insistence on using her ‘robot’ arm for all tasks.

It’s basically a ruler, and frankly, not as helpful as one might think a robot arm would be. She has alternated between the robot and being a cat. No, sorry, not a cat, a baby leopard.

I can see me getting tired of this pretty quickly but for now it’s one of my best BT’s today. Others include; a) catching Zeph reading under the cover with a torch. He’s just started Artemis Fowl and I think it may be a hit. It makes my heart swell with pride catching him straining his eyes like that.

b) I just ate the most perfectly ripe, juicy nectarine. I made a dreadful sticky mess but it doesn’t matter as I’m off upstairs for a shower before I crawl into bed.

c) Writing out a b’day card for one of my loveliest friends earlier. I’m such a slacker I forget b’days all the time – usually cards are late. If I can just follow through and actually get to a post box this one may be on time. I feel all Mary Ellen. (If only I had washed up…the illusion would be complete…)

d) I shook all the old crumbs out from under the toaster earlier – there was enough there to make another loaf – astounding. The birds had a good time and I must remember to do it more often.

e) Ida and Zeph spent half an hour building towers this evening then kung fu-ing them down. A couple were taller than her. They praise each other up to the max – I love this. You go girl was heard. Brilliant.

f) The rain is good for the garden. Everything is fervently green and luscious. Well, everything that hasn’t already been ravaged by slugs.

June garden wandering

Once again my garden is being swallowed by the implacable advance of bindweed. This year I feel surprisingly relaxed about that. My gardening vigour moves in cycles. I have periods of vigilance and enthusiasm which wanes and then waxes. I’m moving up into a wax now but have still enjoyed the recent waning.

What slow meandering with cups of tea in the brief dry moments has revealed is how much small busy wildlife there is among the weeds. We are very abundant in small glistening beetles, wolf spiders hefting around their eggsacks, ladybirds, grasshoppers, leaf beetles pretending to be vogon spaceships, ants casting out new trails and milking the aphids on the tips of my tree branches. There are plenty of toads and slow worms avoiding the cat and sheltering under the piece of corrugated metal we found in a skip down the road and rescued for them. Snails, grey ones and the fancy yellow kind weave silvery trails and hang like baubles from their daytime resting places. There is a pearly white crab spider on the poppies by the swing, we tease it with a blade of grass and it rears up and waves its front legs menacingly. The only thing I actively crunch are the red lily beetles. They’ve decimated my lily clumps. I took this picture of my only lily buds (I had about thirty flowers last year…)

 Look, I’ve missed two in the photo I took. They are cocking a snook for sure. Beautifully scarlet – they don’t have any natural predators in the garden, except for me and my heartless crushing foot. As you can see I’m actually pretty slack in the slaughter…

This fabulously alien lurker is a very welcome ladybird larvae. The bindweed at the end of the garden is covered in them. Another reason to appreciate it.The fleeting field poppies arch between and over all the garden debris. Even though the petals are whisked quickly away the seed heads are things of sculptural beauty.  

As well as the poppy seed heads Ida and I admire the foxglove seed whorls. Their purple spikes are pretty much over but my hollyhock clumps are gathering themselves for blooming;

Marigolds are on the brink of opening up their burning orange petals;

My unpromising patch of lambs ear is surprisingly pretty when it flowers;

 I’m going to do a bit of bindweed unsmothering tomorrow and plant the rest of the pumpkin seedlings. If I have the will after early morning swimming with the kids I’m going to try sawing down the ash sucker sapling growing out of the side of the conservatory. I’m pretty sure it’s bad for the house… although I do like the leaves… after all weeds are just plants in the wrong place.

Flowery thoughts

Never mind green fingers – I am green with envy. My parents are, at this very moment, wandering around the Chelsea Flower show. I hope they’re having a great time. On Saturday, the last time I saw them, I kept interrupting the talk over our meal with blurted injunctions to make sure they look at things. Mostly in the show tents because I never see them on the TV coverage. They always swoop past the stands in a tantalizing fashion before focusing on Titchmarsh wittering on. Gah.

Steve is hoping my Dad may snap under the pressure of the crowds and go for him [A.T.] with a bamboo cane or whatever sharp object is to hand.

Does this mean I’m irredeemably middle-aged? Daydreaming about flower shows and banks of pristine alliums and sweet peas? (Not about Titchocide.) There’s something fascinating about all that strived for petal perfection. Balanced perfectly on the brink of something for a couple of days. The artifice of items, by definition, natural.

I like watching flowers decay. People may think my withered vases are down to being too lazy to sort them out but I genuinely enjoy the process.

Today I’ve been hovering around one of the foxglove clumps in the garden attempting to get a photograph of a bee. It wasn’t very successful but Z and I had a lovely time…

My poor little camera just isn’t up to the action. It’s just a point and click one but I’m sure if I was more patient I could get a better shot. Trouble is there’s so much good stuff to see.

The washing up bowl is teeming with life. There are, what we are reliably informed are, midge larvae squirming around in its clear water. The water mint has doubled in size and the thyme and salvia are covered in bees and hoverflies.

My lilies in their pot have burst triumphantly open;

and I love this dear little daisy, grown from a cutting from G’mas garden. She says it’s from a plant her mum grew from a cutting from her Grannie’s garden in Northumberland. This makes me happy. We’ve guarded it from slug attack by a bank of saved and baked eggshell. It seems to have worked. The unprotected lupin seedlings alongside it are goners.

Many, many beautiful things. I love them all. The kids shriek about collecting ants and dandelion heads. I wander in and out while cooking a roast chicken for dinner when Steve gets home. Our half term holiday starts this evening. While I wash up with Ida’s help I am relieved to feel the bluebird on my shoulder but am very careful not to look at it. In case I scare it away.

Garden roundup

We’ve got loads of flowers to look at right now. Our morning garden tour is getting longer, these are the buds causing the most excitement today at camp Ida;

These seem to have survived the lily beetle plague that have decimated the ones in the garden. I’ve become a little savage in the stamping of those scarlet harlots. This ladybird narrowly escaped an untimely death, tucked up as he is in a ragged remains;

I love the way the foxgloves give my garden a woodland grove vibe

This is my beautiful iris;

All the lovely flowers distract me from the bindweed and mares tail which are staring to romp away. I’ve got to plant out the courgette plants and the beans really need to go out, but I need to finish clearing the space for them. The potatoes in the bags need earthing up

I also keep forgetting to sow more pots of salad. I have hundreds of seeds but am rubbish at consistent sowing so we lurch from surfeit to bare larder. At least the peas in pots experiment seems to be going well;

How lush are snapdragons? Honestly I’ve regressed to eight, Zeph is all about the “lush” at the moment and I’ve caught the word virus. What with that and the circus fever in this house at the moment sometimes it’s hard to pick out the adult.

Top BT’s so far today, Ida waking me up by kissing my eyelids very gently. She seems firmly ensconced between Steve and I with all her pillows, cuddlies and banket. “When did she arrive?” I ask Steve. “About 5..” I didn’t even stir.

Because we got straight up we had time to take breakfast into the garden and have ten minutes practising circus tricks on the swing and frame. I promise Z a trapeze  – I wish we had a big strong tree to hang one in, he’ll have to make do with it on the swing frame. He doesn’t care as long as he gets one.

Ida has built a robot out of some stickle bricks, lego and a yoghurt pot. She is very proud of it and has carefully climbed up to put it on top of the piano to show Zeph when he comes home. It really looks like one too. I’m impressed.

Yesterday still buoys my mood, I move around the house being productive and patience comes easily for once.