Having turned my back on the garden for the past month, it’s lovely to connect again and to feel the love for my little space. The garden is full of birds, the bulbs are on the move and, surprisingly, I’m still enjoying quite a few vegetables from the plot. Three varieties of kale – used as a key ingredient in a warming winter soup!
Downing tools has given me the chance to sew a special birthday quilt for a surf-loving brother. It has also given me time to reflect on the year that has been, and of course, to consider what I’d like to achieve for the year ahead. Opening for the NGS last year was physically really tiring – so I’m very happy this year to garden for myself – to make improvements and finish a few projects, but most of all to enjoy the garden, to sit and read, to pick more flowers and take more photographs.
There are some aspects that I don’t think worked for me last year. The cutting garden has gone, primarily because it was at its peak in July / August when I head away for the summer – all that work and no-one to harvest and enjoy it seemed a bit sad. Edible flowers will remain, and I will certainly do the sweet peas and cornflowers – but I’ll go back to picking (sparingly) from the borders!
My other real ‘failure’ was my Sissinghurst-esque tie down of the roses. I believe the mistake I made was pulling them too strongly – so many of the branches that were tied didn’t flower at all, and some died. Big error. I will attempt it again, but will be kinder on the poor rose! I loved a post by The Dahlia Papers on Sissinghurst – and can picture the rose lace adorning my stone walls… I have a trip planned to Sissinghurst in June so can check if mine looks like theirs… I can but try.
As the winter chills and the grey skies descend, sending me into a whirl of homesickness for warm days and a family gathering, I’ve looked to my garden to help snap me out of it. Sure it was a blustery, cold day – but getting out into the elements and planting some of the few bulbs I hadn’t yet got to was good therapy! And I watched a kingfisher diving into my pond – absolutely amazing – and suddenly my world righted itself just a little.
Mum gave me a beautiful ceramic pendant a few years ago that now hangs on the rustic fence at the back of my garden. It reads…. “to forget how to dig the earth and tend the soil is to forget ourselves” (Ghandi). I certainly find my horticultural exploits very grounding and life affirming – and have met so many people, both personally and in the virtual world, who feel the same. We are so lucky to have discovered such a beautiful gift.
I have promised myself that in 2017 I’m not going to start another large garden project. Rather, I want to really look at what I have and make the very best of all of it. Enhanced colour combinations, extended seasonal interest, growing food that takes me through all the seasons, installing the polytunnel, sorting out the shed! It will be a year of maintenance and completion. And when possible, to encourage and include my little girl in the garden – to try and get some of this goodness into her life as well.
But for now, as the forecast is set to dip again, I’m enjoying planning the vegetable garden planting for 2017. The thousand bulbs that went into the front garden are starting to shoot – so, while trying to live as mindfully as possible, I’m also looking forward to the show of colour after all the planting work of 2016.
Sitting and looking out the kitchen window today I was thrilled to see a nuthatch and a goldfinch feeding. The nuthatch is a pretty regular visitor – but goldfinches are usually seen mid-ish summer going after the thistles I leave in my wild garden. A much-needed beautiful scene in my autumn garden that is (very) slowly being put to bed.
I love autumn for the stunning leaves, the remains of the harvest, for days in front of a warm fire. But I don’t like the start of the very chilly weather and the damp – give me a heavy snowfall any day. I have a sewing project on the go and plenty of text books to read – so I’m currently feeling no urge whatsoever to head outside. The garden is definitely not looking its beautiful best!
However, major success – the bulbs have gone in. Except for the camassia. Have I run out of time….? I had to call in some extra help to prep my new front border – thank goodness for the husband, otherwise I think it’d still be out there. The front border now has daffodils, crocus, fritillary and tulips. 1117 in total, giving me about 100 per square metre which should give us a good starting point. In Spring I’ll plug the gaps with bluebells, hyacinths and snowdrops. Foxgloves are in but I missed forget-me-nots, hellebores and primulas. Next year.
I’m now trying to decide whether to head out on one of our warmer days to plant the Primula vialli around the pond. Would be totally gutted to lose them should we have a really chilly snap just after planting. Perhaps a covering of fleece for the first month or so may do the trick….. Hmmmm? Sweet peas also yet to do. And the mulching. And here I was thinking (….. hoping) the gardening year was over.
My favourite flower – and it was a difficult choice – is Rosa Eglantyne.
I love the rose for many reason – the glorious scent, the soft shell pink colour and its long, repeat-flowering season. It’s a stunning addition to a bouquet.
Its also a favourite due to it’s namesake – Eglantyne Jebb, founder of Save the Children. Fitting that this glorious rose is growing in my garden as I work hard to ‘save’ my own child.
As the weather starts to cool down I am thoroughly enjoying some late season colour in the garden. I love all shades of pink and, perhaps unsurprisingly, that’s what I have! Dahlias, roses, astilbe, persicaria, sedum…. there is a little orange and yellow out there, but pink is queen.
There’s not, however, the range of blooms or berries that I hope for in my late summer garden. I’ve had the same thoughts for the last couple of years – the problem is that I’ve run out of energy by now and while I wish for it to look slightly different, it’s always gone onto the ‘must get round to that that’ list. And that list is already quite long. I guess every gardener’s must do list is quite long…..
So while the ‘back garden colour’ project is shelved for a few more weeks, the front garden has started to take shape. Two weeks of hand-weeding has seen the 100m² space almost cleared. I’ve stacked the bags of spring bulbs where I can see them which is a great motivator as I’ve felt extremely guilty if I even think of not getting them planted in time. Must not make any more bulb purchases next year while on holidays!
Happily the productive garden is amazing. Beetroot, raspberries, beans, cucumbers, courgettes, herbs, garlic, spring onions, rhubarb, blackberries. And I could go on – yes, there’s not masses of anything (there is no bottling or freezing happening so far) but there is plenty for us for every day – now and in the months to come. A good result I feel for this cold, cold part of the world!
A ‘not so wild’ joy!
I have borrowed the title for this post from an article in the latest Derbyshire Wildlife Trust magazine. Written by Dr William Bird, it talks about ‘modern life’ – in particular society’s disengagement from the natural world. The article talks about the sedentary nature of life, driven by technology, and the increased isolation felt by many. The impact this has on our health, both physical and mental, is alarming. The article really struck a chord with me – mostly because I have found the natural world to be such a fabulous healer.
I started my blog to remind myself of lovely things. Things that I made, what I grew, meals that I prepared, nature, flowers. Reminding myself on a weekly basis helped me to see that the stressful and challenging times weren’t the only times.
I have called upon ‘my’ natural resources again in the last couple of weeks as secondary school pressures dramatically impact my little girl. We swing from being 11 to 16 to 2… and back to 16 again. It’s pressure they all face as both expectations and personal freedoms increase, though I guess most are better at managing their emotional regulation.
Facing this chaos with a balanced, compassionate approach is essential. So every day I have gardened, I have sat and watched bees, I have listened to bird call – all of this helps me to sometimes achieve this balanced state. A nice aside is the gorgeous fresh produce and the lovely flowers that fill the house. One day at a time.
It has taken me a good number of days to settle back to life in Buxton. After the glorious clear skies of Cornwall, the low-hanging fog that lingers over the Pennines makes the whole place seem a little cold and uninspiring. I needed some sunny skies to get outside and rekindle my love for my garden!
While I have faltered, the garden has flourished.
There are plenty of flowers to ponder and to pick. The sweetpeas and cornflowers have had a fabulous year – though both are now nearing ‘the end’. I’ll pick a couple more bouquets and both will sadly be done. The dahlias have been fed well and continue to send up buds, here’s hoping they flourish for a couple more months until the first frosts (please). Best of all, my hollyhocks have flowered. I’m a huge fan of deep red / black flowers – and they have not disappointed.
Wonderfully, there is produce left for me. I have a few standouts – yellow beetroot are superb – sweeter than the red and much more productive. Roasted with some fresh thyme they are sensational. Runner beans are a gift that keep on giving. The pink fir apple potatoes have also done really well, despite some slug damage due to their time in the ground (totally my fault for leaving them for so long…). Still, there are plenty of edible potatoes, simply steamed with butter and mint. Yum.
We have had some unusual wildlife visitors. The six Great Wood Wasps (Urocerus gigas) heard buzzing in the lounge one evening as we watched Bake Off were interesting! While it looks terrifying and similar to a giant hornet, it is thankfully quite harmless.
Best of all the little girl had a fantastic first day at secondary school. So much greatness. I am happy.