Thursday, December 2, 2010

Snow report

I took these pictures nearly an hour ago and already there is noticeably more... (You can click on each of them to see them much better.)

Friday, September 3, 2010


A few days ago I devised a schedule for working in the garden. I've done a couple of days at it and so far it's pretty good.

I think 2 hours per day is good to aim at. At the moment it could use loads more but I have other things to do too, and if I spend more time on it, I just make work for myself.

So: one hour per day on daily things (30 minutes in the veg garden, 15 each in the greenhouse and conservatory). Then the other hour is on something else each day (well, in practice 2 places, but differing daily is what I mean).

At the moment I don't get to finish anywhere, which is frustrating, but on the other hand it stops me getting obsessive about one little patch and letting the rest go without attention entirely.

Non-gardeners think this amount of time is incredible. I know that certainly the way our garden is arranged is very labour-intensive. Nobody grows vegetables or raises things from seed unless they have an interest in it, and a fair bit of time to spare.

I'll post again about how it's going a bit later!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Monday, August 30, 2010

Visit to Victoria's garden

Victoria, who writes Victoria's Backyard - - opened her garden as part of the yellow book scheme on Sunday. I imagine lots of people reading this will be regular readers of her blog anyway, so you'll know - and she also writes in the Independent I think. Anyway, it's one of my favourite blogs to read so of course I went to see it.

Victoria's house is in south-west London, on a street of houses of similar size, large early 20th century, all very civilized and leafy.

There was a table in front of the house where 2 young adults (can't call them children, too old) were very politely selling tickets. Then I went up a narrow side passage, along the left side of the house. I was met as I went into the garden by a little secluded seating area with cannaes and other lush exotics surrounding it. Just to the right was a further paved area, along the back of the house, and the garden stretched out from that. It is rectangular but a good bit wider than most English town back gardens. There is an area of grass in the middle and planting around it. The plants look exotic but I think many are hardier than they seem. Near the house are two huge phormiums which frame the view into the rest of the garden. There's a raised pond to the right, a shed hidden discreetly in the far left corner, and several small seating areas nestled into the sides.

Many, many pots are fitted in amongst it all, and several quirky touches - rusted metal mushrooms in one place, metal lilies, and a very sweet ceramic cow (but when I admired this I found it was left from a previous owner - trust my unerring taste!).

It all works so, so well to make a satisfying whole, but it's fascinating to examine in detail too. The plants have body, substance to them, each seems to be something in its own right - not just part of a big wavy border. Each fits in with its neighbours by contrasting texture of leaf and form, like a subtle jigsaw. It isn't an all-green garden, - there are some flowers, mostly very bright jewel colours - but these are highlights rather than a glaring mass. It isn't weird or way-out - I can't imagine anyone hating it - but it is very much a style that appeals to me. I haven't quite grown into the desire for such an exotic feel yet though.

Victoria was talking to everyone, being very friendly. She looked much younger and less formidable than I expected! I really liked meeting someone whose blog I have read for a while now, and it was good to connect up the garden and the person, to be with her in it, like being able to talk to an artist right there in front of their pictures, and in their own house too. In fact it did feel slightly intrusive. I felt like a welcome interloper.

I took some pictures but very few - of course there are lots of good ones on her blog itself anyway. It was both inspiring and encouraging. I'm so glad I went.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Very, very excited

I'm just back from visiting the Chilli Fiesta, an event B and I have intended to go to for ages. But but but... although it was great fun, the big thing for me was the location. PLEASE click on the pictures to enlarge them - I can't find a way to make this page set-up show them any bigger and they look far better at a larger scale.

West Dean College ( which teaches arts and crafts, has amazing gardens. It's a big estate now run as a charitable trust, over 6,000 acres in total, 90 of them near the house. There's a park with lots of fine old trees, and a walled garden with a huge range of glasshouses, loads of trained fruit trees, vegetables of course, flowers grown for cutting, and two main colour-themed borders. I was blown away - by the extent of it all, the care, the passionate thoroughness everywhere. The borders were exceptional - I liked them far more than anything at Wisley. There was also a huge pergola, which when I looked the place up later on the web I read was designed by Harold Peto in about 1900 and is 300 feet long - it feels it! I took loads of pictures as you can imagine but it was terribly crowded. So here are a few as a taster, and I will sort them out and post the best I can manage ASAP, but B and I agreed we would go again some time when there's no event on to have a better look round.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Blue at Wisley

This afternoon I went to Wisley and for the first time ever, didn't enjoy myself. I admit I wasn't in a great mood and hadn't eaten any lunch, but I did assume it would just lift me as it always does.

It seemed full of children, because of the school holidays, and by the time I got there they were all getting bored and crotchetty. I do understand why parents want to take children to a place they actually like themselves, and maybe hope they will grow up to enjoy too, but I felt overwhelmed by all the noise. Only places with running or falling water seemed to appeal to me this time.

I was comforted to see that their unwatered bits of grass looks far worse than ours (oooh, catty woman!), and was very taken indeed by a hydrangea paniculata, but - huge, but I wonder if I could keep one smaller with pruning?

The thing is though, I just hate gardens in August - always have. No idea why really. All the plants seem to be flopping and a bit past it - but I'm aware they aren't actually all like that, it's partly my perception. Earlier today I took our dog for a walk along a river bank and it was absolute heaven. I loved the rather orchid-like pink flowering weeds, some deep pink some much paler, over 4 feet high, and the dog enjoyed paddling repeatedly as we went along the bank. So I'm not all glum :)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Urgent: garden closing

This is for anyone in the South-east of England who could possibly get to Sussex before the end of June. You may well have read this elsewhere, but PLEASE visit Leonardslee Garden if you can before then, especially if you've never been before. It has been sold and will be closed to the public from the end of June.

I went to see the garden today, will post pictures as soon as I've sorted them out. It's a gorgeous place - 200 acres all set over a beautiful steep valley with a series of narrow lakes around the bottom. The star plants to me are the trees, planted with great thought - you could hardly take a bad picture of this place. As if the garden itself wasn't enough, there's also a huge doll's house exhibition and a collection of very early motor cars. All that for £6.50! - oh and a restaurant, gifte shoppe and also a big proper plant nursery just down the road.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What is the word for -

anthropomorphism, only with plants?

I was talking to a shrub today, whose I identity I'm not entirely sure of but I think it's a deutzia, and telling it that I remember when it was only so high - showing it, you know, with my hand. Then I heard myself...

Anyway, here's a picture of one of its arms - sorry, branches. I was going to show you a snap of the whole plant, obviously, but I'm a bit ashamed of the mess round the bottom so this will have to do for now. Can anyone tell me what it is?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Primping and preening

I've been playing with layout a bit this evening - what do you think? I remember Carrie saying a while ago that dark text on a white ground was hard to read, so I hope this is better. Anwyay, I've tried so many combinations now that I can't really see them properly any more. Tell me what you think!

Friday, May 21, 2010

A great year for...

It seems to be a brilliant year for nearly everything. There just a few exceptions I've noticed. The irises aren't all that plentiful round here so far, I don't know whether it's still early for them or they didn't quite get what they wanted at the right time.

The chickeweed is having a marvelous time of it. Bindweed not so bad as some years. I think this difference may be because chickweed copes with a dry spell better.

My few adventures into tulip planting have been very successful; it remains to be seen how well they will come up again though.

I'm looking forward to pulling up the forget-me-nots so I can have a good weed round, but I'll give them a bit longer to set seed yet. I know this sounds silly - they're so common, so invasive, but one year, I didn't, and then we didn't have many for a couple of years after that and I missed them a lot. They look nice with so many other things.

My beer traps for slugs are doing very well, but I do resent spending the money on beer for them!

PS I find all this daylight confusing. It's like suddenly playing in a position right in the middle of the pitch, and not being able to orientate myself. How do you know when to stop, when you've been at it for ages and it's still not just daylight, but sunny?!

Saturday, May 15, 2010


We've just watched Doctor Who. The episode we saw was "Amy's Choice". I enjoyed it very much - more than I often do - but what struck me was that in the parts filmed in the village, it starts of summertime, with sunshine and roses and flowers in the beds, but by the end the hedges are bare and the roses look all too obviously shipped in. So what I'm wondering is whether they did in fact film the whole thing in the winter and it just happened to be a sunny day to start with, or whether the change was deliberate as the atmosphere of those scenes grew darker. If you've seen it, did you notice this, and what do you think?

(More news about Emily's garden later)

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Today I sowed the following in heated propagators in the conservatory:

Lettues, Bronze Arrowhead
Cucumbers, Mini White
Broccoli Raab (like broccoli flavour but leafy)
Parsley (french)
Basil, Holy Green
Lettuce, Reine de Glaces
Gourds mixed
Courgettes (yellow)

Getting everything ready to sow, including sorting through loads and loads of seeds, took *ages*. Am quite chuffed to have the first lot on though.

If you know that some of these are duff/ shouldn't be in heat/ shouldn't be sown now.... I'm not sure I want to know!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Overheard in a Surrey garden

"Look, I am the human. I am in charge here. I'm trying to help - are you listening to me? If you scratch me again, I won't just put you on the compost heap, I'll put you in the wheelie-bin, so there."

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Ladies and gentlemen, this is March. I'm telling you that, because if I don't you will almost certainly mistake it for January.

Only the first of these photos was taken in the garden, the others were out on walks. Or slithers, as you might call them.

A little triumph: I had always wanted snowdrops in the garden and it took me three years to get them settled, but I think they're here to stay now:

Ashdown Forest:

Closer to home, Holmwood Common:

The only greenery to be seen on the trees is lichen:

Four Wents Pond, Holmwood Common

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Hello all. Sorry it's been so quiet on here lately. I will be adding a few items to my writing blog over the next couple of days. They're not new but they have appeared elsewhere and I want to gather them together.

I will be back here to write about gardening shortly.

PS Erm, apologies if the first isn't quite what you expect to read of me. It's actually very tame by my standards but I know expectations and context make a big difference. Hopefully it's OK.