Category Archives: Seasons

September Sighs

100_6991Slowly the world has slipped into September and autumn, in the process forgetting to bring summer to the UK. Despite the highest ever July temperature recorded this year on a day I was abroad – typical! –­ it’s been a horrible summer with the wettest and coldest August since goodness knows how long. As a consequence the garden hasn’t thrived this year. Many plants have succumbed to wind damage, my tall obelisk blown over at least four times due to the strong winds we’ve had, but thankfully the clematis clinging to it for dear life has survived and still flowering well. We’ve lost many plants: petunias dying early, fuchsias suffering with early leaf drop and other plants just not bothering to flower. The begonias in hanging baskets are suffering with mildew too, thanks to the damp weather. This has been disheartening for both Dave and me but there’s not a lot we can do about the weather. We can control the weeds, but not the sun.

100_6990So now begins the process of putting the garden to bed, putting in cyclamen and pansies for autumn and winter displays, and planting bulbs for next autumn. That said, autumn is a time when a lot of flowers come into their own and our dahlias and chrysanthemums are putting on a fine display, bringing a late splash of colour and a feast for the bees. Looking around this morning every plant had bees on it, some having one on every flower, the air full of buzzing!

100_6996There haven’t been many days I’ve been able to sit outside and enjoy my coffee or read a book. The sunshade has only been put up twice all summer – last year it was in use every day. Also missing this year are the butterflies. We’ve had one or two visit the garden, but nothing like the spectacular numbers of recent years. But it hasn’t been all doom and gloom. One evening last month, I was invited by my daughter Katie to an open-air theatre production of Treasure Island. I’ve seen many plays put on by this amateur dramatic troupe – the Sodbury Players ­– they’re very professional, so I knew I would be in for a good evening.

 “Bring a picnic, a chair, a warm jacket and a brolly,” she said, “it always rains when we perform outside.” The brolly and jacket were not needed. For once this year the evening was glorious. It was warm, although a chilly breeze did get up come dusk. The venue was in the beautiful gardens of an Elizabethan farmhouse, Camers, perched on an escarpment of the Cotswold hills, which affords magnificent views over the countryside across to the city of Bristol in the distance.

I neaPirate Katierly turned the car around on route as of all evenings, this turned out to be flying ant day, and I simply hate flying ants. The air was amass with them but by the time I’d collected the grandchildren, and we’d parked the car in the field below the house, the ants had either found new homes or filled the bellies of the many swifts and other birds feasting on them.

After being entertained by a violinist as we enjoyed our picnics, the play began. Katie’s part was “an angry pirate”. She was brilliant, as were all the actors. One of the things this troupe does well is ad-lib and improvisation when things don’t quite go to plan. They always make it look as if it was meant to happen, this night being no exception. Being Treasure Island, one of the props used was rifles, firing blanks for sound effect. Except one didn’t work. Three times Long John Silver aimed his rifle, three times nothing happened. “Damn,” he said, “all the rain’s made got my gunpowder wet.” (Laughter from the audience.) He raised it again, and in a loud voice shouted, “BANG!” causing much hilarity in the audience and for the cast.

The performance was good, highly entertaining, and it was lovely to be able to spend an evening in the company of my two grandchildren, whom I don’t see a lot of now they are young adults. I do hope they invite me to next year’s performance.

And hopefully next summer will be better all round.

Surprise Visit

bunny02Easter was just over a week ago and I got up a little late. It was a beautiful morning and I have a few spring flowers blooming adding to the joy of the day.

Still a little sleepy I started a cup of coffee and while it was brewing I glanced out of the window and saw this big beautiful bunny. We have a lot of wild ones over at the other house but this one was a lot bigger. Seeing it was a surprise as I have a six foot wooden fence, and except by the gate it is a pretty snug fit at the bottom.

So a nice visit to start the day and a new week. Sometimes it is the small things that make me stop and think what a great world we live in. And what better day then Easter for this little guy to make an appearance?

We’ve been talking quite a bit about Spring but it’s hard not to when the whole world seems to be in bloom. Talking about the bunny… I did find where he had done some nibbling on the plants. Oh well what’s a little pruning in comparisome to the joy he brings as he hops around the yard. I can’t seem to get a picture and haven’t seen him for a few days so he may have moved on to another garden.

Mad March

Well, it’s arrived – March, that is. The sun finally peeking over the backyard fence (note the reference here ;) ) to flood a corner of the patio for a few hours of a morning. In a few weeks’ time it will fill the area completely. And, with relief on my part, at the end of the month in the UK the clocks move forward. Yay! It’s easy to remember: clocks spring forward in Spring, and fall back in the Fall (although I do wish they would do away with this fiasco).

100_6848Which all means it’s time to get working in the garden again (another Yay!) and start bringing it to life for the summer. Of course, there’s already plenty signs of it out there. We’ve had snowdrops in flower since the start of January, an early flush of daffodils with lots more to come out but the crowning glory is our front lawn, which is a wonderful splash of colour from crocuses.

100_6855Every year my husband puts crocus into pots and planters for spring. Once they’ve gone over, he replants the bulbs in the lawn. Over the years, the display increases, to our utter enjoyment and the delight of many passers by. Even children stop and admire them, smiling and pointing as they all walk past on the way to school.

Meanwhile, over in the back garden, the current delight is the hellebores. I’ve several different types in flower; my favourites being a very dark maroon one, which has been in flower for weeks and a lovely plum coloured one whose flowers face up, instead of down like most. I’ve also a pink tinged white one that is in full bud and about to burst open, and several pure white ones. These light up the otherwise boring borders until the hyacinths, followed by bluebells and everything else  appears.


100_6862I never put the garden to bed for winter. I always leave it as it is once summer’s over, never removing dead plants or stems, no pruning or tidying, much preferring to let nature take its course and look after things itself. I mean, Mother Nature doesn’t prune shrubs and sweep up dead leaves, does she?

I firmly believe leaving everything alone helps plants survive the winter; the long, dead stalks and stems protect the base and roots of plants from the frosts, nipping these first rather than attacking lower down. The birds and insects appreciate things left as they are too. It might all look a bit messy and unkempt, but it is worth it if not just for the many species of birds that visit every day. They’re always hunting and foraging amongst the brittle stems and detritus which provide winter shelter for many insects. Also, starting the regime of hacking and cutting back and clipping now provides me with much needed exercise after being cooped up indoors all winter.

This year, howeve100_6860r, plans have had to alter slightly in that during a recent gale, one of the fence panels was destroyed. The whole fence was only replaced three years ago following wind damage. It belongs to our neighbours but we have taken responsibility for repairs this time because Steve is very ill and his wife, Claire, is far too petite and, let’s be fair, far too concerned over looking after Steve to worry about things such as gardens and fencing. Their garden is tidy, and with no dogs or children to worry about, so it’s not a problem. The trouble is, until the panel is replaced, I can’t really begin putting in new plants and shrubs to replace what was damaged or destroyed because they will only be trampled and crushed during any fence repair, so I’m busy racking my brains what to do with that area for the time being. Any suggestions?

Harvest Time

imageSeptember is here and with it harvest time. Years ago we used to garden but even with Jack’s amazing green thumb we never had a lot of luck with tomatoes. They grew but didn’t ripen, mainly because of the cool often-wet summers. Not so this year. I had just picked them when I took this photo and have gotten quite a few. Certainly enough to make planting them worthwhile.

Of course having raised beds makes gardening easy. So with two tomato plants and one cucumber I’ve had plenty for me and even to give away.

Okay so now I just read an article that says, “tomatoes don’t have to be a deep red to be an outstanding source of lycopene.” So maybe not as ripe as I’ve been expecting. They are also listed as one of the healthiest foods. This wasn’t the case in the beginning. In the 1500’s they were thought to be poison as they belong to the nightshade family. Starting out as smaller, more like our cherry tomatoes we now have literally hundreds of different varieties. I choose planting ones that are early producing because of the weather. Favorites include New Girl, Jet Star, Fantastic, and First Lady but I usually plant Early Girl, again because of our weather.

What about you, what is your favorite crop in the garden?

Porch-Sittin’ Weather by Valerie J. Patterson

The county courthouse I work in is practically older than dirt.  It has a large front porch–for lack of a better term.  It has massive, aged columns and a huge bell tower upon which stands a statue of the man the county is named after–Revolutionary War Major General Nathanael Greene.  The original courtroom is big with high archways and walls lined with portraits of the judges who’ve administered justice through the courthouse’s existence.  It’s a pretty impressive courthouse.  But it’s the front porch I want to talk about.

Greene County Courthouse

The courthouse is at the heart of town.  Anyone going anywhere has to pass the front of the courthouse in order to get where they’re going.  There are park benches on the front porch inviting folks to sit a while.  This is where I’ve come to spend my lunch breaks the past two months or so.

It’s not always easy to get out of the office and go to a restaurant for lunch, but it does occur.  Usually, when that happens, my hubby picks me up and whisks me away for an hour of quiet conversation and a sandwich or a salad.  I love those hours.  I covet those hours because it’s a small bit of time we get together in an otherwise busy day.

If I can’t get away, I head for the front porch.  I take a bottle of water, some protein biscuits, a pen and a tablet.  I head for the park bench farthest from the main doors and–after stealing a glance at the clock on the bank across the street–I settle in and start working on my manuscript.  I usually get half a bottle of water and two biscuits down before my mind pulls away from my work and my eyes begin to take in the sights and sounds.

One afternoon I watched a man stopped at a traffic light watch a woman cross the street.  So intent was he on watching her that he turned down a one-way street and the man in the car he cut off yelled loud enough that he stopped and backed out of the one-way street and scurried on his way.

I watched a bride and groom come rushing out the front doors after one of the judges married them and instantly pose for photos,  I’ve seen families pose for photos with the child they just adopted.  And I’ve seen divorcing couples argue all the way down the front steps, stopping on the sidewalk to continue the heated exchange.  Mostly, I watch folks hurry from one end of town to the next and back again.  After all, that hour tends to fly when you fill it with errands.

It seems that no matter the heat of the day, there’s always a lovely breeze coming across the front porch.  I enjoy that breeze.  It relaxes me and refreshes me and energizes me to finish my day.  My Dad was an accomplished porch-sitter.  In the evenings after dinner and whatever chores he had to complete, he’d grab a tall glass of my Mom’s homemade iced tea and head for the front porch.  He’d chat with whomever passed in front of the house, but mostly he sat quietly just soaking up the evening.

There are days when I’m sitting on the park bench and I think of him.  I just know he’d enjoy sitting on that front porch with me.  I hope it remains porch-sittin’ weather for a long while!

Until next time, I hope there’s a porch in your life where you can sit and recharge.  May it always be perfect porch-sittin’ weather for you, too!



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I just went to post this and woke to the fact that it’s the 4th of July. Literally the 4th and not just celebrating it on the weekend as so often happens. So as usual, I never do the expected … Continue reading


imagesxI have a phobia of birds. Chickens are the worse. It’s their eyes. As soon as they get feathers their eyes turn mean. And, they’re big. To me they seem gigantic.

The kids had a parakeet; don’t all kids have at least one? You know, the ones they promise to take care of, and you end up doing it. I did, sweaty palms and all.

The exception to this fear thing is hummingbirds and little chickadees. No mean eyes and the feathers aren’t the same.

We had a hummingbird nest in the fuchsia basket on the patio one year. We haunted that nest being careful not to disturb it. When the babies hatched they looked like spiders.

I love to watch these tiny birds. The smallest species weight less than a penny. Each one is unique. Hummingbirds have high metabolism. Umm no wonder they don’t have weight problems. ☺

While they drink nectar, a sweet liquid inside some flowers (or from the feeders we put out), they also feed on insects and spiders. That’s a good thing, especially the spiders.

I was surprised to find that their average lifespan is from 3 to 5 years. As I write this I’m thinking it’s time to put up a feeder. I still haven’t gotten the covered patio done, it’s in process, so no hanging fuchsia to attract them. Ahhhh spring, and summer, a time to watch these amazing little creatures.