Category Archives: garden

August Musings

Here we are already in the middle of August. It seems unbelievable to think in a few weeks’ time we will be in the ’ember months of the year. Before you know it Christmas will be upon us again. It has already arrived in some of the stores here in the UK, and the children haven’t even returned to school yet from their summer break. But enough of that.

I missed posting last month; my apologies – major meltdown due to extreme heat! Heat that has only today started to climb back down the thermometer, and we have rain. Not a lot, admittedly. We do need plenty here as, like many countries, we are in a drought situation. Keeping the flowers and plants alive in the back garden has been hard work, but we’ve made the most of our grey water from the kitchen, about the only real exercise I’ve had, backwards and forwards several times a day. The vegetable garden and annual flowerbed at the front has, I’m sad to say, been a failure because of lack of rain; we have avoided using the hosepipe. As a consequence, we’ve written this year off on the gardening front and back, because the back garden will be given another make over.

The reason being, we have demolished our large koi pond and intend turning the area into another flowerbed. Whilst we both had a lot of pleasure from the fish, which had grown huge, it was becoming increasingly hard work for Dave to keep it going despite so-say modern filters and UV lamps and fitting a new pump each year – not cheap. We were plagued with pond weed, the water never clear. The fish loved it; we didn’t. We agreed back last October that we would run the pond down as each winter we invariably lost a fish or two. Needless to say, this past winter they all survived.

One of the koi (28lbs)

We gave the fish, some as long as 2-3 ft and weighing many lbs, to a local koi keeper so we know they would be going to a good home. Catching them was another matter. All three of us got soaked! Then
began the fun part, demolition of the pond walls. The pond was/is over 8ft deep, with half of it above ground, so we were hoping the bricks and blocks would fill that below ground level. Miscalculation. We now have to dispose of a lot of rubble. This Dave will do in the autumn when the weather is a lot cooler.

Before
After
Demolition begins

The extreme heat here has meant I have not done a lot of art. A special request for a contemporary flower painting was completed and I began working up one for my students to copy at my next workshop at the end of September. They had requested a waterfall, so waterfalls I did. Several of them. It became clear to me that each one was a little too adventurous for some of my group, but I finally came up with a much simpler version that hopefully will stretch them without any duress.

“Pastel Pastures”
“Autumn Waterfall”

Other than these efforts, I have to admit nothing has been done. Hardly any writing because my office was too hot even with a fan running. No housework other than the basics – no point with all the doors and windows open; little laundry to wash – thank goodness for kaftans to lounge about it in all day. On the plus side, we’ve spent most days and long into the evenings in the garden. Our patio is in shade from midday so it has been comfortable, and I have been able to enjoy uninterrupted reading, getting through 5 books, unusual for me in a short space of time.

We treated the month as a long holiday, being exceedingly lazy and relaxed. It was fun while it lasted; now it’s back to normality. I hope your month has been good too.

Kit Domino’s websites and blogs

Spring Has Sprung

It is the middle of March, and spring has definitely arrived in the UK. That was my feeling yesterday when the day dawned bright and clear and sunny, if a little cold but once the sun had risen high enough and chased away the thin covering of frost, we turned off the central heating, changed into t-shirts and jeans, and disappeared into the garden. There is much to do here, Dave busy in his veg plot tilling and raking and planting out potatoes and leeks, me in the back garden picking up bucket-loads of brown and wizened oak leaves. Considering we do not have any trees in the garden, let alone oaks, these were the result of gale-force winds last autumn which blew in masses of leaves from a stand of trees several streets away. All good for the compost though, and I had purposely left them to help protect the garden from winter.

The next task was erecting a new obelisk I had recently purchased to house a rampant, beautifully-perfumed honeysuckle rather than let it scramble through the flowerbed as it has in other years. The morning turned decidedly warm, so once this job was complete, we enjoyed sitting around the patio table enjoying our mid-morning coffee. Such bliss after being trapped indoors for so long. It gave me time to look around the flowerbeds, appreciate the spring displays, and plan my attack for the next few weeks.

Everything is growing and shooting well and over the past few months we have been treated to a fabulous display of crocus and snowdrops on the front lawn, as have all the neighbours and local children on their way to and from the school at the bottom of our road. Now the delights there are hyacinths in full bloom along the forsythia hedge, also coming into flower, and the tulips in full bud waiting their turn. The perfume from the hyacinths is intoxicating as you walk around. We love them. Grown indoors each Christmas to so scent the house, they are then planted outside where they thrive.

What I am most thrilled with this year is the clumps of miniature daffodils scattered around the back garden. I buy several pots of them from the supermarket each year, let them flower indoors and then plant them outside. The past few years the show has not been good as they have succumbed to being eaten by tiny slugs. This year we were prepared and the critters didn’t stand a chance, the displays of them scattered around are so bright and cheerful it was worth the effort.

The wall baskets and a few pots are looking good too. I love this time of year, as it heralds the end of winter with so much to look forward to and enjoy.

I said at the beginning that spring had finally arrived here. Today it is returned to winter in some respects. The day dawned grey and shrouded in heavy mist which has now turned into incessant rain. Good for the garden but not for those outside in it, so we are staying indoors, the heating is on and I am back in a thick sweater. Tomorrow is promised to be warmer and drier, with a good week forecast. Hooray!

Kit Domino’s websites and blogs

Late Autumn in England

Burnham Beeches

It is hard to believe here in the UK it is the middle of November due to the mild weather we are experiencing. Autumn began early, at the start of September but because of the warm weather and little wind, the Fall colour change and leaf drop has been slow and thus protracted, much to people’s enjoyment. And it goes without saying the garden has been in flower for longer, with many plants throwing up still more blooms. This has caused us one or two dilemmas in that most of the borders, pots and tubs should have been put to bed last month but it hurts my heart to do so when they are still giving us a good display.

As an example of how mild it has been, this Sunday Dave and I were called for our booster vacs at our doctor’s surgery. The morning dawned bright, the sky blue with no breeze or chilly wind, a bonus for us as we are about 800 feet above sea level here and close to the Bristol Channel where the Atlantic winds blow strong; rarely are there such calm, quiet days. We decided to walk to our appointment, about half a mile away. More to the point, no coats were needed!

This late mild weather is something we’ve experienced before. Some 30 years ago on mid-summer’s day we had the central heating on, but come Christmas, the boiler was turned off, the windows and patio doors opened, and we had clematis in bloom in the garden, sprigs of which decorated our Christmas table! And if my memory serves me right, back in 1962, it was a mild autumn but, come Boxing Day (26th Dec), heavy snow fell heralding the Big Freeze of 62/63 when the country did not thaw out until March! I’m only hoping this warm weather is not a portent for a freezing, snowed-in winter. Back to the present…

I’ve learned to enjoy the autumn colours far more than I ever did, this coming from taking up painting when I now see things through different eyes. There is a tree we pass every week on our way to do our weekly grocery shop. During the summer little notice is taken of it but in autumn, it comes into its full glory. I don’t know what kind of tree, only that is is large. Each year, more and more people are taking note of it, many stopping to take photographs. Its colour and shape make this a magnificent specimen, and I simply must include it in a painting soon. I say that every year I see. One day…

Talking of paintings, I have at last finished the large (30 x 20 inch) floral piece I have been working on for several months and it is now proudly hanging on our lounge wall. It is a representation of a collection of flowers we had growing in tubs and pots along our patio fence, a small snapshot of the summer display we had. The hardest part has been thinking of a suitable title. After long deliberation and discussion one came to mind. So I can now unveil “Flowers of Summer”. I hope you like it.

Flowers of Summer

Kit Domino’s website and blogs

Sorting Things

You would think with all the time we had on our hands during lockdown I would have found the inspiration to do a job that has been waiting for some considerable time: that of sorting out my study, my kitchen cupboards, my wardrobes, and several large storage boxes full of notes/manuscripts/photographs/junk. But no. Although there was ample time to do it all, during lockdown there did not seem much point.

The municipal recycling/waste site was closed, as were all the secondhand shops, on-street charity collections had ceased, and we simply hadn’t the space to store things no longer wanted. You might say I’m a bit of a hoarder; well, aren’t most of us? I mean, who else has 7 frying pans, 3 saucepans sets and 4 of china, one of which is a 72 piece? A food mixer that hasn’t been used for 5 years? Who else after being 11 years retired has business suits and skirts still hanging in the wardrobe unworn since along with fancy outfits bought for office Christmas parties? Who among us has a separate wardrobe full of clothes and shoes that have never been worn? Who else has a stack of books enough to fill a town library, read once if at all, filling every spare shelf in the house? Okay, perhaps that one doesn’t count – we are all readers and book lovers here.

So, this week, I made the decision something had to be done and soon but which to attack first? A series of small events occured which were fortuitous in setting the clean-up ball rolling. My other half ordered yet another pair of new jeans which, when delivered, transpired he had ordered the wrong size,and didn’t fit. Yes, he could have sent them back, got a refund, but they were inexpensive and the cost and hassle of reposting not worth the effort to him. The next day a charity collection bag came through the letterbox. The day after I picked up a message on social media from a local, newly opened residential care home seeking books in excellent condition for the home’s library. The following day, Dave decided to buy a new television for the lounge, not that it was necessary, he simply wanted a larger screen with a higher-quality picture. Which was fortunate, as the one in my office was playing up and hardly watchable. Bingo!

The charity bag was filled and left out for collection. A large hessian shopping bag filled to the brim with my unwanted books and delivered. A larger pile of unworn/new clothes, including the jeans, appeared on the spare bed, ready for me to take to our local St Peter’s Hospice charity shop. The office was tidied, unwanted items put either in the charity bag, recycling boxes or dustbin in order to make room for the still perfectly good television from downstairs to fit in my office. All in all, productive week which has made me feel virtuous, although the kitchen cupboards and other items will have to wait a week or so. Good job I’m not in any hurry.

Meanwhile, it has been a hard month for us in some respects: lots of memories and anniversaries, good and not so good, to get through but helped by a lovely mild week here despite being mid October. Warm enough for us to enjoy 9:00am coffee outside listening to our resident robin singing amongst plants which are still blooming, a clematis in flower for the third time this year, a thunbergia in flower which it hasn’t done all summer, the dahlias still glorious, and the sweetpeas still not giving up.

Enjoy your month, whatever it brings.

What Summer?

It’s hard to believe we are already in the middle of September as in the UK we are still waiting for summer. One hot week in July and three hot days last week doesn’t cut it for the season in my book! It is not so much rain, but too many dull and chilly days, some which have almost tempted us to turn on the central heating. Oh well, little we can do about it other than look forward to next summer.

Cyclamen in flower already!

The garden too is slowly retreating into hibernation. The sunflowers, the glory of our road, are hanging their heads, the phlox and lilies, clematis, rudbeckias and carnations dying down, the fuschias over. Autumn cyclamen and plumbago are in flower already, another sure sign summer is at an end, as is the chill and damp in the air first thing, the dew on the grass and furniture. At least now we don’t have to keep watering the plants and it is still pleasant and warm enough to sit outside and enjoy our morning coffee but as the Earth tilts on its axis toward the autumn equinox, our garden is in shade by noon. Whilst I don’t enjoy this time of year, or the thought of long winter nights and lack of sunlight, I can indulge myself in my writing and painting to wile away the short days. Suffice to say, autumn has arrived.

This became most evident last weekend as I drove across the country to spend the weekend with family. It is about an hour and a half drive if one goes on the motorway, but a stressful one I do not enjoy especially now most of our motorways are “smart” (which means there is no hard shoulder during busy times or heavy traffic!). Not smart in my book, so I always take the scenic route. It takes twice as long although the mileage is the same, but is a relaxing, enjoyable drive through several pretty towns and through a forest. It was seeing the leaves on the trees already turning red and yellow and falling that convinced me our summer was over. But enough of that.

It is such a joy to be able to spend a girlie weekend with my two sisters, my mother and a niece at one of my sister’s home. To sit and chat about this and that, reminisce about those wonderful holidays we took together. It used to be on such occasions our first job once I had arrived was for us to pick out where we wanted to go for our next holiday and then go to the local travel agent and book it. It always gave us something to look forward to during the long winter months. Sadly not this year. Perhaps next. But it doesn’t stop us from enjoying ourselves. We laugh a lot, share jokes and stories as we imbibe in good wine, delicious food and great company. A relaxed, lazy afternoon in the garden, PJs on about 7 o’clock. An equally lazy Sunday until it is time for me to leave, drive mother and sister home on route, and take a leisurely, equally pleasant drive back home. The weekend refreshes us all, binds us. They are precious days, and the next one is planned for late November, weather permitting.

Cheers, girls.

I’m looking forward to it. As I am to next summer.

Kit Domino’s website and blogs

Sunflowers and Daisy Fun

So here we are in the middle of August and I’m asking, “Where is our summer?” One week of high temperatures and then whoosh! Back to a typical British summer of cloud and rain and coolish weather. Still, at least all the rain we’ve had has saved us many an hour watering the garden. The garden is important to Dave and me. It’s our hobby, shared interest, the means of keeping ourselves self-sufficient in vegetables and, more importantly, the place where we can relax, ignore and forget the troubles of the world and relish in the delights of the flowers, the wildlife, the tranquility. And boy, we’ve needed that these past few months with the many health issues my family has gone through this year. No, scrap that; these last 3 years!

This year, Dave decided to grow sunflowers. Lots of them. We’ve lost count of the number of people who have stopped to look and admire them. People in cars pull over. Others have knocked on the door and asked if they can photograph them. Some just go right ahead and snap away. We don’t mind. It is a pity in some respects the schools are closed for the summer holiday as many children are missing the display, and for some reason kids just love sunflowers.

But it isn’t just the garden that has kept me going during this long, difficult year. There is my writing, and yes I am still beavering away trying to get my novel rewritten and have to admit at times the motivation and inclination have been AWOL. But the urge now is back and I’m once more into the swing of it.

And then, of course, there is painting. I haven’t done a great deal these last couple of years, but this year’s two dog commissions have kept me occupied, if again, at times the inclination was missing. With painting, one has to be in the right mood and frame of mind; at times mine was not. Thankfully, my client was in no hurry for either painting and this weekend also saw me complete a large painting in one day, one that has I think has turned out rather well. I believe that is because my mind is settled again now my family in Reading has recovered from their health problems and pandemic restrictions are lifted. Our lives can slowly but surely and with caution return to something like normality, as it did last weekend.

You may recall my nephew Gary and his wife Nicki, George’s parents, adopted a baby girl almost 3 years ago. Dave and I were included at the official adoption hearing and signing back in 2019. An official naming ceremony was planned for Easter 2020, to which we were also invited but sadly, three times this event had to be postponed because of you know what. August saw the day finally arrive when Daisy’s “Naming Day” could finally go ahead. And what a great day it was.

A naming day is a non religious, humanist ceremony performed by an official celebrant whereby a child (or adult) takes their name. The celebrant on this occasion was a man with a wonderful sense of humour and a deep sense of fun. This was confirmed by the small pots of bubble fluid and wands he put on every chair, both adults and children, to enjoy, which we did, during the long ceremony wherein her parents followed by six “guide parents” spoke their vows and committment to Daisy, and her big brother George with help from granny read out the poem “What is a Brother?”. It was lovely seeing my sisters, nieces, nephews, great nieces nephews and members of Nicki’s family we have come to know over the years, catch up on news and general conversation. It is great we all get on so well. The day was full of love, laughter, fun, hugs, delicious food and memory-making. We’re hoping the next family day won’t be too long in coming.

Kit Domino’s website and blogs

Blueberries

I have always liked berries, strawberries, blackberries, marionberries, raspberries and this year I am really into blueberries. About a week ago I went to the local farm store and bought two bushes. My nephew had gotten some Legacy bushes so I followed his lead as there were a lot of different varieties to choose from.  

I’m not sure why I have all of sudden acquired such a craving for these berries but in reading about the them, I’m thinking maybe my body is telling me they are good for me.  

I had always thought they grew in bogs but a number of neighbors have them here. In fact, the neighbor next door invited me over to pick some. His bushes were loaded with delicious fruit.

Blueberries don’t seem to require a lot of maintenance. Before they were cultivated, they grew wild and are native to North America. Native Americans were the first to recognize their versatility and health benefits.  If you google ‘blueberries’ there is a lot of information about the health benefits of including them in your diet. 

There are a lot of blueberry recipes. I love them over Greek yogurt and do about half/half. Half Blueberries of course. I also love them in summer salads.   Hopefully I’ll get some pictures of my bushes with fruit next year. I’m looking forward to it. 

Happy Summer!!!!

Life Is Expanding

This year feels good when I think of where we were last year at this time.  With restrictions relaxing, and more business’s opening, Karen and I took advantage of the great weather last week and ran out to a nursery we heard about in Adna. 

It’s a bit of drive from here but the trip was part of the lure. Beautiful country out that way. I clipped the photo from “Adna Floral” website.  This is a nursery I’ll be visiting again.  

Adna Floral est. 1963. is a family owned plant nursery, that takes great pride in personally growing every plant they sell. Open April 15th through June 30th. There is an excellent selection of healthy plants to choose from. Some of the colors are ones I haven’t seen before. 

Of course we included lunch in our outing. And, what an experience. Just up the road from Adna, in Chehalis, is Jeremy’s Farm to Table restaurant. Karen had been there and suggested it.  I don’t know how I missed it as I’ve certainly been in and out of Chehalis over the years. Like the nursery, I plan to go back. 

I can’t say enough about Jeremy’s. It flanks the historic Chehalis railway and was started in 1990. It partners with local farms to provide the freshest ingredients for menu items. I had “The Special”, Crab Cake Benedict. It came with home fries and I could have made a meal on them. So Good!!!!!  Of course I had to get dessert to go . . . Strawberry Crisp. 

Are you hungry yet?  Looking forward to more days out and about. Hopefully you are getting back out there too. 

A Brighter Light

The weather in England is a fickle thing. Two days ago, here in the West County we were shivering at minus 5 deg, the central heating turned up high, and outside in the garden the plants were blackened, laying prone and looking decidedly deceased. Then overnight, it all changed as we basked in temperatures over 12 degs, warm enough (almost) to sit outside and have our coffee. Today, although it started raining heavily at 5:30am, it is currently 13 degs, if overcast, and I’ve just turned the heating off for the day. The garden has recovered too. My hellebores are once again upright and looking fit, the pansies and other plants making a comeback. It feels that Spring has sprung.

All this is in sharp contrast to this day last year. It was the day Dave and I returned from our winter sun holiday. We’d enjoyed Spanish sun in temperatures over 25 degs, some days, hitting 30! But on Feb 16th 2020, our flight was delayed because of fog in Malaga, and in the UK the hatches were battened down as Storm Dennis battered the country with 70 mph winds and lashing rain. Let us hope it’s the last of the cold and frosts and snow this winter, and any further storms are gone but somehow I have a feeling some may return before Easter.

But let’s look on the bright side. Evenings are getting lighter each day, at the moment I’m not closing the blinds or putting the lights on until 5:45pm. A week ago, it was at 5:00pm. Dawn is arriving earlier and earlier. It’s light now long before 7:00am. This time of year is always one of optimism, new starts, new hope, new life. Perhaps more so this year as the Covid jabs are rolling out apace here, cases are falling, and the Government talking of how and when to ease us out of lockdown.

Now, I don’t know about you, but since Dave and I had our first jab, we are feeling a lot more cheerful, if that could be possible. Whilst we are always happy and comfortable in our surroundings, enjoying life and the current situation as best we can, it feels as if a lot of the pressure has been lifted, pressure we hardly realised was there. More noticeable is the fact that we are both sleeping better, more soundly and since the jab, I haven’t had one peculiar or weird dream, nor am I waking up several times during the night. Of course, a good night’s sleep does lead to a less stressful day. Now I’m woken up by the dawn chorus of robins and blackbirds, not by the urgent need to use the bathroom countless times; although Dave does put that down to my age. Cheeky man!

I’m now in the mood to venture out on a daily walk, something I’ve avoided due to the bad weather and you-know-what. I’ve missed ambling around our local park and woods and need to get out there and watch springtime wake up. Before long the bluebells will be out in the woods, and I don’t want to miss them this year. I’m in need of their inspiration.

Yes, folks, there is a light that is getting brighter at the end of the tunnel we’ve all been crawling through this past year. We’re getting there. Things are getting better and I am determined to make it a good one. If we’ve got through all this together, we can get through anything.

Keep on shining, light, we need you.

Kit Domino’s website and blogs

Looking Forward, Not Back

Another year begins. Thank goodness we could say goodbye to 2020, but the less said about that, the better. It’s a time to look forward, not back, and think about what is to come, make a few plans, list a few goals. One of which, is to publish my next novel in the Filton Shield series plus a self-help book.  We have plans to have a new kitchen fitted; mind you, we’ve been planning to do that for the last 5 years! I seriously intend by the end of this year, the kitchen will be upgraded, the long-needed and yearned for eye-level oven installed. Meanwhile, whilst the weather here in the UK is cold and wet, many parts enduring snow, between bouts of writing and painting, housework and reading, I take daily pleasure in watching the birds in the garden and, more importantly, hunting for signs of Spring. And I’ve found some. Hurrah!

Yes, lurking by the front hedge, the snowdrops are up and in flower, patiently waiting for a sunny day when the white flowerheads can open fully and perform their delicate nodding displays. Mixed in with these I spy the first of the crocus (yes, I know the plural is croci, but to me it’s easier to say and people know what I mean) growing the lawn are up, their long purple flowerbuds holding tight until the sun shines on them. They’re a little late arriving this year; most years this particular variety is in flower as early as New Year’s Day. And looking across the lawn, I can see more and more dark green and white striped sword leaves of later crocus poking through the grass, a promise of a colourful display to come next month.

We missed last February’s crocus flush as we were abroad on holiday, likewise the early daffodils, but they too are growing well, their leaves coming through since December. So too are the hyacinths planted in the shelter of the long hedges. And my ever-faithful hellebores are in flower with more to open up as the weeks move along.

What are starting to come into flower, and rather early, are our wallflowers, the plants surrounding the drive looking exceedingly verdant and healthy. I don’t think I’ve seen wallflowers plants so vigorous. I’m looking forward to them being in full flower as their perfume is wonderful on warm spring days and fill my heart with joy.

To help us through the dark dismal days of winter we grow many flowering plants and bulbs indoors. Hyacinths, whose intoxicating smell fill the house, the bulbs of which when the flower is finished, we plant outside along the hedges to flower year after year. And we have two cactus plants, a white and a red flowered one. I noticed yesterday my white “thanksgiving” cactus is in bud again after dropping its last flowerhead just before Christmas. Along with these we have a lovely red amaryllis. Usually a single-stemmed plant, this year it has outperformed all others by throwing up three flower stems, each with magnificent scarlet flowers.

And, of course, my orchids. It wouldn’t be the same without these exotic but easy to grow plants around the house, these two magnificent specimens sitting on the mantelpiece.

So yes, Spring is definitely on its way here and there is so much to look forward to and am eager to get outside and start the spring tidy but that must wait at least until late of February. Hopefully, if the world has sorted itself out by the autumn we can plan another trip abroad, a lot depends on many factors, but it is something else to look towards, as are visits to garden centres. But what I’m really looking forward to is the sun and summer. To be able to sit in the garden with my morning coffee or evening cocktail, to feel the warmth on my body, see blue sky and smell the roses. It will all come in time. Simple inexpensive pleasures that fill the heart and swell the soul. Bring it on!

What do you look forward to most this year?

Kit Domino’s website and blogs