Ever since my first sewing lesson about a year back, I have planned to make a quilt for my mum for her 70th birthday. I knew I wanted something floral, reminiscent of an English garden, but also stylish as my mum’s not a “pretty pretty” person.
I had a great lesson with Jane Brocket where I learnt some really good tips regarding colour and functionally how to cut and piece, but also that me – as the maker – needs to make the quilt and love it. The giftee will love the quilt if I have made a quilt that I love.
The quilt was tougher than I had imagined. I’d never hand-sewn, so the most difficult part was the hand quilting and the binding. Investing in a good thimble was essential. I will admit that I made the front and then really didn’t like it, so I unpicked the whole thing and started again. It was definitely the right thing to do, even though my poor husband could not believe that I was going to do that!
I love the end result. My quilt is now with Royal Mail en-route to Australia. My mum will tell me she loves it, I hope she really, really does. Quilts really are a labour of love – from choosing the fabrics – touching them – washing, ironing, gazing, sewing, finally piecing it all together. I have a large family and already have ‘orders’ for another 2 – so as the nights close in I will stockpile fabric and plan many long days in front of the fire with my rotary cutter and sewing machine for company!
Ever since I was a little girl I have loved roses. My Nana Dot had a beautiful rose garden at the front of her house – and every year when I visited at Christmas we would wander together and she would pick me enough roses to fill a bucket. The smell was so divine, it brings back lovely memories now.
My Nana’s love of roses has definitely passed on to me. I don’t have a dedicated rose garden, rather, in Gertrude Jekyll style I interplant roses through my garden borders. And while I find the cool, wet weather in Buxton sometimes challenging, my roses flourish as a result!
I didn’t think I had a favourite, and I really do love them all, but there are a couple that stand out – primarily for their stunning perfume. Munstead Wood for its beautiful velvety petals and a rich fruity floral fragrance. On a grey day it draws the eye in with the absolute voluptuousness of the blooms.
Eglantyne, such a soft, delicate blush pink – absolutely stunning in a bouquet with sweet peas – with a fragrance to knock you out. And I think it’s wonderful that such a beautiful rose is named after Eglantyne Jebb who, with her sister Dorothy Buxton, founded ‘Save the Children’.
My newest rose, planted to ramble over a ‘natural fence’ built behind my pond – the stunning Francis E. Lester rose – yellow and pink, one of my favourite floral colour combinations, with a sweet and soft scent.
I could go on…. At last count I had about 40 dotted through the garden and have plans for just a few more. Picked and placed beside my bed I’m happy!
A few months back I invited the members of my local gardening club to visit our garden. It was only 30 people I thought, no pressure. Well, was I wrong. The pressure was enormous. Suddenly every bed I looked at had weeds, lots of weeds, and the flow was wrong and the beds looked empty. We had no ‘boundaries’, no paths. I admit I did start to panic slightly (and my husband, who does all the hard-landscaping, was slightly beside himself)! I considered mass internet plant purchases.
I’m pleased to say I didn’t go madly buying to fill the gaps, but I did get tonnes of mulch from the tree man across the road. Every border looks good with mulch. My roses performed brilliantly, presenting the group with the most stunning flowers I have ever seen. All that deadheading and applications of potash certainly did the trick.
And everyone was kind. Which was lovely. They loved the orchids that have sprung up in my wild grassy area and they truly appreciated all the effort that went into the space even though there was still so much not done. And the icing on the cake was my gorgeous daughter telling everyone that the water lily had opened that morning “just for them”.
I really enjoyed welcoming people to our private space, I loved talking about how and why I started the garden. And I have lots of plans about what comes next – there’s a small space at the back, my ‘wild grassy area’ that would be perfect with a small orchard (do apples and pears grow in conditions down to -20 degrees)?
The symmetry of my potager is gorgeous. Rows of garlic stand tall, newly planted leeks are a little woozy but just starting to right themselves and the deep red leaves of the chard are offset very nicely by my flowering peas. The rows are (relatively) straight. The whole thing looks very neat and tidy and ordered and that is just totally the opposite to the rest of the place!
There is something infinitely calming about sowing a seed, nurturing a newly emerged plant, preparing the soil and planting out. Protecting the entire crop from hungry predators is my least favourite part, but I’d rather they eat a few than use any chemicals and I’m not yet up to heading out with a torch to find the slugs!
I still haven’t figured out how to feed to masses year-round… Come mid-summer we’ll be eating courgettes every meal – cue family sigh – but there’ll be nothing harvested in spring. I’ve just invested in a poly-tunnel which I hope, really hope, will extend my harvest period.
But focussing on the edibles, this summer we will be eating lots of leek, garlic and spring onions, baby potatoes, peas and beans, loads of herbs and edible flowers, courgettes (2 types, because I love the sighs), many beautiful coloured leaves, spinach, kale and broccoli, cucumbers and chilli. I haven’t forgotten the pudding – autumn raspberries, blueberries and rhubarb round-off the list.
In the middle of the sowing, pricking-out, potting on, hardening-off, planting out, protecting…. it’s lovely to sit in the middle of it all, enjoying the symmetry of the rows, listening to the birds singing – enjoying being outdoors and quiet. Picking fresh organic produce and using it to feed the family is the beautiful bonus.