Category Archives: Nature

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

Season of Mists…

Okay, so I’m not an autumn/winter person. I’d much rather a lovely sunny, warm spring or summer day than the ones we’ve been experiencing this week here in the UK: cold, damp and pretty depressing.

That said, today’s doggie walk was really atmospheric. I’ve blogged before about how much I love our local woods and this week the early morning mists (that have lasted all day) turned them into something special.

What’s more, it got my paranormal juices a-popping. I could just see a nice juicy shifter stalking out of those trees – panther, wolf – I’m not fussy, and before long I had an idea for a new series. But, total shocker, this writer didn’t have her mini voice recorder with her, nor pen or paper to jot down my thoughts. I know, I should hang my head in shame. What writer goes anywhere without the means by which to get those often fleeting thoughts down before they are lost to the ether?

Thankfully, the gist of my idea was still there by the time I got home and I was able to scribble down my thoughts. But, lesson learned. I don’t plan on getting caught out again. The mini recorder is now safely ensconsed in the ‘walkies’ bag, complete with fresh batteries!

How about you? Do you always carry a means by which you can jot down your thoughts/ideas/plans when you’re away from home? A notebook/mini recorder/phone? Let me know how you capture those thoughts 🙂

Always Learning

So, here we are in mid November, and in lockdown again in England. It isn’t as severe as the first time, schools are still open, people can go to work and can meet others outside.  For Dave and I, life is no different to how our daily lives have been all year and in most respects, it’s been a good one. The family are all safe, the garden has flourished and kept us sane, and I’m back in writing mode with the novel, and accepted a painting commission. Now, that is a challenge for me as my client begged me to do a painting of her pet dog Lia which sadly recently joined those over the rainbow bridge.

I’ve warned her it won’t be very good as I don’t do animals and am not good at drawing but my client has become a good friend over the past years and I didn’t have the heart to refuse. I’ve spent the past few weeks practising drawing dogs and now comes the hard part, drawing Lia. I’ve only a few photos to go on, none of which are close ups, so it’s going to take a lot of improvising. I only hope I can pull it off.

The weather here is still very mild and autumn has given us all a fabulous display of colours in the falling leaves. I’m not a great fan of this time of year, particularly now the clocks have gone back and we have short days and long nights, but since I took up painting, I do look at it through different eyes and can appreciate the changing seasons much more. But my heart does sink a little when I walk around our garden.

The front is mainly bare soil now as Dave believes in taking everything out, digging the ground and leaving it fallow for the winter, whereas I believe in letting nature take its course and leave everything to die back naturally as Mother Nature intended. Many plants are thus still in bloom. I have cosmos and marigolds still in flower, my climbing fuchsia is spectacular for its first year, the hellebores are shooting up buds for later in winter, and there are even Welsh poppies in flower. Okay, so the borders do look a little untidy, but I know the wildlife and insects appreciate the cover, the birds enjoy the seed heads.The other day I was delighted to see a rare bird enjoying the garden for the best part of a day. Not rare as in uncommon, but because it is the first of this kind, a chaffinch, I have seen in the garden and I’ve been here over 40 years! The photo isn’t very clear as I had to take it through the bedroom window as every time I opened the window, it flew off into the holly tree, so it’s the best I could get.

Despite having been growing plants for over 50 years, I am still learning something new. There was I happily telling a friend about my Christmas Cactus that has decided to bloom early when she pointed out my plant was, in fact, a Thanksgiving Cactus, a totally separate breed from the Christmas or Easter Cactus most of us are familiar with. I’d never heard of a Thanksgiving Cactus so looked it up. And yes, she’s right. The Thanksgiving Cactus has different leaves, almost claw-shaped, to the other two which are more rounded, and both of these are different from each other:  the Easter Cactus having bristles on the tops of each leaf, the Christmas one has not.

I love learning new things. How about you?

Into the Woods…

If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise. We’re lucky enough to have several woods near where we live and we make good use of them. And yes, there is usually a surprise or two to be had each time we visit. Usually, in the form of little wild flowers that I’ve never seen before and some that I have and continue to enjoy like this pretty mallow.

And then there’s this… I’ve never seen anything like it before but it was in the part of the woods that I always think of as the fairy glen. Spotting this in that area seemed particularly apt because it does look a bit other-worldly.

I love the change of seasons in the woods, but especially love spring when the wild daffodils and bluebells make an appearance. I’m starting to think of the woods as my happy place, as I’m really at peace when I’m there.

Vivvy loves it, of course, and I think her own happy place is when we visit the waterfall. She adores the water, and thankfully the stream is very shallow so it’s a safe spot for her (unlike a few weeks ago when she fell in a river and couldn’t get out – it put years on me, I can tell you).

There’s something so calming about the trickle of water. Which reminds me, I keep meaning to plan a small water feature for the garden. Maybe I should get on to that.

How about you? Where’s your happy place?

Take Time to Smell the Roses

As most of you are possibly aware, we love our little bit of paradise that is our garden. It’s our hobby, refuge, vegetable patch and, where we spend many happy hours among the flowers, tubs and hanging baskets. Yes, it’s time-consuming to look after, but we never consider it work and the rewards are endless. Apart from watering, weeding, deadheading, lawn mowing, planting, planning, seed buying, potting on etc, we always make time to sit back, relax and enjoy the whole, no only when the sun shines, but through rain, hail, gales and snow from indoors, when I can sit for many hours (and often do!) watching from my bedroom window.

However, it is more than the plants in our patch that brings pleasure. It’s observing the wildlife that also shares our efforts. Birds squabbling over the seed feeders. Sparrows cueing for the birdbath, often playing “let’s see how many of us can bathe at once today”.

Over recent years I’ve been fortunate enough to be watching at the right time to see  Mr & Mrs Blackbird having an early morning dip before strutting around the lawn looking for breakfast. A greater spotted woodpecker who drops in sometimes for a peanut feast – I never realised how small this bird is – the same size as the blackbird. The nuthatch, a small, shy, blueish bird that also likes the nuts, as do the great tits and blue tits who nest in my neighbour’s holly tree. And always robins; often two or three bobbing around the garden or sitting on the fence waiting for that right moment to jump down and enjoy the mealworms I put out on the flowerbeds. The rare visit of a kingfisher (my favourite bird). And best of all, these past two years goldfinches have looked upon my garden as an all-day restaurant, so I always ensure there are plenty of nyger seeds and sunflower hearts for them, which the other birds love too.

But it’s more than the birds. Always we have of frogs, large and small, loads of tiny young ones no bigger than a fingernail when they first venture out. One large fellow lives permanently in the greenhouse, another in the frog pond – a flat-sided planter among the flowers.

Every year we have field mice, beautiful creatures that mop up the dropped birdseed, becoming almost tame and not scampering away the instant they see us. There’s slowworms too – lovely legless lizards people often mistake for snakes, which they’re not. These nest and hatch their young in the compost bin and in summer are frequently seen slithering among the undergrowth or across the lawn to seek shade.

Not forgetting the bees galore! This year has seen an explosion of them in the garden thanks to a large lavender bush that’s exceeded my expectation. They love it, along with the dahlias, poppies, daisies and cosmos we grow. And I mustn’t forget the caterpillars and butterflies, although this year we haven’t seen as many as usual, but that’s the nature of nature.

 

The garden is and always has been our lifeline, a calm oasis where we can forget the troubles of the world. It keeps us fit. It always makes us smile, brings happiness and joy. And long may we be able to continue that enjoyment.

Regardless of how busy or difficult your world might be, always make time, no matter how short, to stop and observe the world around you. Listen to the birds singing, and make the effort when and where you can to smell the roses or the carnations, or the lilies, honeysuckle or lavender. It’ll be well worth it for the good feelings it brings.

Kit Domino’s Website and Blog

Blooming Lovely…

Having more time during lockdown has meant that I could finally get around to working on the garden and make some headway on the plans I’ve been mulling over for several years now.

20200602_091646Every year, inspired by Kit’s garden, I’ve always planned to get more colour in our garden. But the season passes and I’m still no further on with those plans, blaming lack of time. No excuses this year. As a result, the garden is starting to look more colourful.

I’ve done a lot of digging and replanting to make way for new plants, most of which I’ve been lucky enough to get locally from a man who sells small plants he’s propagated from those in his garden. I’ve also acquired lots of cuttings from neighbours after admiring their plants while walking Vivvy around our village and the local allotment. I’ve always found gardeners to be a generous bunch – always keen to discuss plants, share knowledge, and of course hand over those cuttings!

So, here’s a small selection of the plants I’m especially loving this year. My current favourites are the hydrangeas, anemones, and peonies. I also love cutting a selection of flowers and foliage to bring into the house. My offerings are still a bit meagre, but I’m getting there – and having a whole lot of fun doing so.

And of course when the digging, planting, and tidying is done for the day, a girl just wants to find a shady nook for a well-deserved afternoon nap:

20200623_134219

Whatever you’re doing this summer, have fun!

***

Check out Faye’s author website at www.fayeavalon.com
and find her on Facebook

Gallery

Spring Into Summer

This gallery contains 3 photos.

Spring is over but many of the trees are in full bloom. This one is amazing. The gal that does my hair has them lining the front of her house. The blooms are as big as my hand.  She said … Continue reading

Sunny groundhog days…

I seriously cannot remember a time in my life when I’ve felt quite so lazy. It’s easy to blame the current situation, and I kind of do, but what’s a little troubling is the less I do, the less I want to do, if that makes sense.

There are quite a few writing projects I want to get on with, but the gloriously sunny and warm weather we’ve been having here in the UK keeps beckoning me outside into the garden. Of course, there’s no real excuse, because I could write while sunning myself but 20200524_163458there are too many distractions out there, not the least being a certain little lady who likes the attention and keeps me entertained with her antics. In the photo, I’d just scolded her for repeatedly ‘stealing’ a tiny stone bird ornament from one of the plant pots and attempting to nibble its head off…as you can see she takes a whole lot of notice of me. Talk about couldn’t care less 🙂

And speaking of birds, there are a whole bunch of them that have slowly returned to the garden now that Vivvy isn’t interested in chasing them anymore. There’s a big, fat pigeon (I really do think it’s the same one) who calls into our garden every morning to cool off in the birdbath. He stays around for a while surveying the space, casting his evil eye on the smaller birds if they even so much as glance his way. 20200509_100344He’s very tame and doesn’t attempt to move or fly away when I hang out my washing nearby or walk closer to smell the nearby roses. He’s quite a character. AJ has told me not to name him or I’ll get sad when he decides to no longer visit.

So, all in all, I’m enjoying this downtime and just hoping that I’ll get the urge to do some work sooner rather than later. But today the sun is shining so I’m heading into the garden for another lazy day.

Stay safe and well everyone!

 

 

 

Orchid Love

For as long as I can recall, my man has regularly bought me flowers or a flowering plant for indoors, and still does. Then, about 10 years ago, he would often buy me an orchid. Beautiful flowers, wonderful colours, long-lasting – the blooms would last about 4 months with me looking after them as I thought best: watering only with rainwater, keeping out of full sunlight and, despite many saying to mist regularly, I didn’t because, well, spraying water is messy. The flowers would eventually fade and drop, leaves shrivel and out they would go, consigned to the compost bin.

A few years ago I decided to try to encourage one back into a second flowering, letting it rest, giving it a drink occasionally and kept in a cool place indoors away from any sun. Zilch. Nothing, not a sign of growth. So tried with another, and another. At one stage we must have had 5 or 6 plants the shelf in the lounge doing nothing.

It was at this point we decided it was time to revamp the lounge, so the plants were moved onto the kitchen window sill (north-facing).  They looked healthy but still no signs of regrowth. Then, by sheer chance, I caught a TV show where an orchid grower was being interviewed. It was like a light going on. A beacon. She explained how to look after orchids and keep them going. Nothing complicated. Nothing expensive. Hey Presto! Her advice works. We now have a house full of orchids in flower and one or two waiting in the wings for their next flush.

The rules: Every 7-10 days, plunge the pot for 30-60 seconds or until bubbles stop, up to its neck in rainwater (orchids hate tap water) to which has been added a few drops of plant feed. Expensive, especially for orchids food is not necessary, use any plant food. I use Baby Bio. The roots of the plant (they always come in clear plastic pots) will look white when the plant is thirsty, turning green when they have had their fill. Also wash off any dust from the leaves with the rainwater. Leave it to drain and enjoy some daylight for about an hour, before placing back in its potholder, if used. I perform this routine en masse in the kitchen sink, leaving them on the draining board. I admit there have been a few times I’ve had no rainwater, so will use either tap water that has been boiled a couple of times and cooled or distilled water I use in the iron, but only very rarely. And always give them a good drink with rainwater as soon as I have some.

That’s it! It’s that simple. I keep the plants on the kitchen window sill until ready to burst into flower before moving them around the house where we can enjoy them, mainly in the lounge, with one always by the south-facing window.

Several live permanently on the windowsill, including Triff, short for Triffid (below), because it has never stopped flowering on its original two stems for 2 years. It’s a little top-heavy as the blooms are large, but it keeps on going and growing. I suppose I really ought to cut it down so it can start afresh but don’t have the heart to. More, I’m frightened if I do, it will not reflower.

The real star of the show is this one on the left. Incredibly, this is its third time in flower in less than a year, on a new stem each time, each having more and more flowers. Last October there were 18 heads, currently 22, with more buds coming.

Those pictured here are just a few of many we have currently in flower. Each one is well-worth that little bit of time and care for its reward. We love them, they lift our heart and spirit every time we look at them.

Kit Domino’s Website and Blog

Bluebell love and holes in the lawn…

I hope everyone is doing well. I’ve lost count of how long we’ve been in lockdown here in the UK and we’re kind of getting used to it. I certainly can’t complain because I’m locked in with my hubby and BFF (one and the same!) and our baby girl (four-pawed). We have plenty to eat, we’re warm and dry with a roof over our heads, and the weather up to now has been absolutely great. I know for some people it’s been and continues to be awful and my heart goes out to them. As Lavada referenced in her post last week: the storm is the same for all of us but the boat and the journey are vastly different.

IMG_20190418_192338_596During April, we usually take a long walk through the bluebell woods. Since, at the moment, we’re only allowed to have a daily walk in our own locale, getting in the car with Vivvy and heading to the woods is off the table. Last year the bluebells were amazing and from what I remember the weather was pretty good too.

But the bluebells in my garden have put up a lovely display this year. I’d completely forgotten that at the end of last season, I dug out some of the plants from where they were starting to overwhelm the small bed, and put them in a pot ready to plant up when I had sorted another space for them. 20200426_143002After putting the pot in a utility corner of the garden I completely forgot about it and look at what happened! Without additional soil or any kind of tending, they turned into the display at the forefront of the photo! Don’t you just love the resilience of nature?

If you look close, you will see the green upturned sieve with a plant pot on top behind the bluebells. That, my friends, is courtesy of a certain little lady who adores digging holes in the lawn. I covered the space over with earth and scattered some grass seeds but, despite a very stern warning, said little lady wanted the particular spot of the lawn returned to its former state, hence the need for the makeshift covering. Wonder how long that will stay in place? 🙂

Bets, anyone?