Category Archives: Spring

Where did that come from?

I love spring. It’s my favourite time of year. Not that you’d know spring had arrived yet in the UK as, after a short warm and sunny spell last week, we still have chilly days and some strong winds. But, all that aside, the garden seems to be springing (ha) to life.

One of the best things about this time of year are the colourful displays in the garden. Not only bulbs I remember planting, and those lovely little spring shrubby flowers, but a few surprises, too. I don’t know how they get here, but every year there seems to be something I don’t remember planting or seeing before, obviously courtesy of the birds dropping seeds? Or seeds flying about on the wind? I’m not sure, but I’m very happy to welcome most of the new things in the garden. And the best things is they always seem to plant themselves in exactly the place where I would have put them. Spooky.

20180421_162211For instance, this beautiful flowering shrub/tree arrived a couple of years ago. It sprung up right where we can see it from the kitchen window, and we love it. Don’t know what it is, but it’s so pretty.

20180425_132234This year I’ve noticed some lovely ground geraniums popping up in a space by the window, so again when they flower we’ll have a good view from the living room. Of course, Ms. Vivvy had to investigate this new arrival to check out if it’s edible or just for show. She wasn’t especially pleased when she discovered it was the latter.

As spring morphs into summer I’ll be keeping a check to see what other new delights await. What about you? Any flowers ever arrived in your outside space that surprised and delighted you?

Of April Rain, Cold, Audits and Lemons

Jillian here. April thus far has been interesting here in the panhandle of Florida. It’s been abnormally cold. We always get a lot of rain in the merry month of April (yeah, I know the poem says May) but this year, it’s different as it’s not a warm rain. The days are not sunny and lovely (not many anyway); rather, they are cold and overcast. It’s been in the 40s Fahrenheit at night and we even had a fire in the fireplace yesterday as it never got much over 45 all day with the overcast skies. My son was shocked when he saw I’d made a fire. He said, “It’s April, Mom.” My response, “And I’m cold.”

We had torrential rain already on several days and Saturday, the 7th was especially heinous. Hobbes wouldn’t even get out of the bed. Poor thing.

I have a position I have to be audited in every four years. It’s never a bad thing but it is stressful to have someone going through your records and giving you a grade on how you’re doing. That was last week, so I am in the clear for four more years. I collapsed when it was over on Friday and didn’t do much all weekend. I watched my beloved Liverpool play on Saturday (Had to get up at 6:30 am for that) and read a book by Christopher Fowler. He’s such a great story teller. This was a book from the year 2000 called Calabash.

Today, I went to lunch at Sonny’s BBQ and ordered iced tea. The waitress asked if I wanted lemons. I said no.  She not only ignored that, she brought not one, but two glasses of tea with three lemon slices each. When I was ready to leave, she brought me another in a takeaway cup with three more slices of lemon.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her I didn’t want all that so I left them in the drink. I think that qualifies for my good deed of the day, doesn’t it?

Stay warm, my friends! IMG_4356 (2)

Rain, Rain, Go Away…

At last April is here. Spring! Except here, spring is rather slow to get going, thanks to all the rain and wind and snow. Even this past weekend, Easter (I hope you all had an enjoyable one), parts of the UK experienced a white Easter, though not for the first time. Here where I am in the West Country, we didn’t have snow but it rained like it was never going to stop. Which means… what I had hoped to enthral you all with on this post hasn’t happened.

Yes, I’m talking about the garden revamp. It has been such a horrible winter, far too cold and wet for either of us to do anything out there apart from pruning my buddleia and a fuchsia and pottering in the new greenhouse bringing on new seedlings and plug plants. The ground is so sodden and heavy it’s going to take a lot of drying out before we can even contemplate putting a fork or spade in. So far this spring we only been able to enjoy a morning cup of coffee out there once. Usually by now I’m out there every morning having my early morning cuppa. Thus, apart from cursing the weather, it’s been a month of more planning and ideas and thoughts as to what we intend to do both outside and indoors. We keep putting off the dreaded downstairs makeover, at least until such time as the garden is good and the central heating can be switched off.

Last week saw my mother’s 92nd birthday, so a jolly family get together to celebrate ensued, with my brother coming over from Spain for a few days’. It was a small gathering this year, just Mum, us for children and husbands. It’s so good for us all to be together sharing a lot of laughs and memories along with the chocolate birthday cake. I do wish we could get together more often.

I do want to share with you is the latest update on my great nephew, little George, only he’s not so little any more. Following major hip surgery two years ago, you may recall he needed further intervention late last year as bone on one side of his hip/leg hadn’t fused properly, causing him pain and a reluctance to walk or do his exercises. I’m pleased to report the second surgery went far better than expected. All the metal inserted on the right-hand side has been removed and a small plate inserted on the left side to encourage the last bit to mend. Now there’s no stopping him. He asks to walk himself most of the time, using his walker instead of the wheelchair, becoming more and more independent, although he’ll never be totally and will always need the walker. And he’s just as mischievous and cheeky as ever!

Later this month he’s off to Florida, one of eight lucky children, for a 2-week vacation to Disney World thanks to a local charity that has been doing this sort of thing for disabled youngsters for 25 years. He is going to have one amazing trip.

Kit’s Website and Blog , Kit’s Kitchen  Kit’s Art  Site

A Daffodil for a Dreary Day

So, that’s dark and dreary January over. Thank goodness. February here may still be dreary but at least the days are getting longer in soggy England. February hasn’t gone well so far for us. Only three days old and already three bad things have happened. First, a close family member on my husband’s side has passed on. Next, we hear some other bad news, upsetting us both. And this morning, though nothing as bad, nonetheless annoying, my dishwasher decided it’s had enough and promptly went bang, knocking out the house’s electricity.

The power’s now restored (hence why I’m a little bit late with this post!) but it’s back to dishpan hands and soap suds for me this weekend. (Dave, where’s the handcream?) One bright start to the month was having a lovely lunch with Tricia. The okay food was more than made up for by the company, conversation and laughter – it’s the reason why we meet, after all. Thank you, Tricia. Looking forward to the next time.

It’s been so wet, cold, windy and miserable here in Britain, that it’s been impossible to do anything for the last three months in the garden to restore it to normal after last November’s major overhaul. Instead, we’ve filled the house with flowers and bulbs, rooms filled with the scent of hyacinths and the amaryllis a giant at over 3ft tall with three magnificent blooms.

The gardens are now springing back into life. (Pun there, did you notice?) The front lawn a riot of snowdrops and crocus and first of the daffodils in flower.

Out back, primroses are brightening the pond and the hellibores up and coming. During the dark days of January, I’ve been plotting and planning and ordering new plants. I want the garden to be a blaze of colour this summer, in fact all year round if I can achieve it, and if the winds don’t take it all down.

I mentioned last time the birds are returning. I was so pleased, until… Last weekend was National Birdwatch Weekend in Britain, organised by the RSPB. As several of our birdfeeders were damaged, we bought new ones and stocked up with plenty of bird feed and treats. I was looking forward to spending a happy hour or so watching my delightful garden visitors. I think the birds must have known something was going on as both Saturday and Sunday, not one single bird arrived. It wasn’t just in my garden either. For some unexplained reason we saw none in other gardens, or in nearby trees, and none flying overheard except one solitary gull, and they don’t count. Low and behold, this morning they are all back, so I’m one happy bunny again.

PS: I was just about to publish this post when I received a bit of good news which has also cheered me up. Hope you don’t mind me sharing it with you?

Silly question, really…

Kit’s Website and Blog  and  Kit’s Art  Site

 

Gallery

Plus’s and Minus’s

This gallery contains 4 photos.

They say there plus’s and minus’s to almost everything and this year that’s been the case with the weather here in the Pacific NW.  I’ve lived in this area most of my life and I can only remember one year … Continue reading

If You Go Down to the Woods Today…

Which is precisely what I managed to do last month for a few days. With Dave on the mend following his op, my friend Avis and I slipped away by coach, visiting the beautiful county of Warwickshire, England for a “Bluebell Walk”. The bluebells were out early this year, and are stunning. Knowing this and when combined with a touch of literary culture, Avis and I we were in for a treat.

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

First to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage (William Shakespeare’s wife). I visited here back in the 60s, as an 11-year-old on a school trip, and well remembered the thatched building and gardens, although 50 years on one now enters through a different building to reach the cottage, and the gardens have expanded. Following a brief history of the house we were allowed to wander at leisure with staff on hand to explain and inform. I’m certainly glad I didn’t live there – no mains electricity, no water on tap and no central heating; one could well imagine how difficult life was back in the 1500s. Outside, I was disappointed to see that the bluebells amongst all the colourful tulips in the beautiful front garden were the Spanish non-native type. They certainly wouldn’t have been found here in Shakespeare’s time. I hope the gardeners dig them all out soon.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace

Then on  to Stratford-upon-Avon. Again, it’s some 50 years since  first exploring this town. The main street on which William Shakespeare’s house  is located is now pedestrianised, thankfully, but a large visitor centre now sits incongruously alongside it. We decided against doing the house tour; instead we took a pleasant walk through Stratford and enjoyed a spot of lunch.

Walton Hall Hotel

A few miles outside of Stratford we arrived at our hotel, set in 65 acres of park and farmland. What a fabulous place! Although the main part of the hotel is modern, it’s built in the grounds of a large 16th century mansion (history & info link) recently owned by the late Danny La Rue.  The rooms were lovely, the beds so enormous they could easily sleep 4 persons! And joy of joys, I had a balcony too so as the dawn chorus started, I opened the French doors and enjoyed my early morning coffee outside as I listened. Bliss! The food was excellent, the staff faultless. In fact, it’s one the few hotels I’ve stayed in where I wish I could have stopped for longer, only the bluebell woods called and thus, after a delicious breakfast we were on the road again, heading for Coughton Court (pronounced Coat-un). I’d never heard of this National Trust Tudor treasure until this trip. Can’t understand why.

Once there, we headed straight for the woods and the bluebells, after all this was the main reason for our trip. There were swathes of them. And the scent glorious. If you’ve never smelt an English bluebell wood you are missing a treat. However, there is only so much one can say about bluebells, but I did take lots of photos, mainly for painting reference.

Of course, Thugs Bunny and Mr Tumble had to get in on the act!

We spent several hours wandering around enjoying the spectacle before heading back to explore the house itself. Coughton Court is still occupied by the sixth generation of the Throckmorton family, infamously involved in the plot to murder Queen Elizabeth I in 1583 and put Mary Queen of Scots on the English throne. Inside, we could wander freely, allowed to touch things, sit on the furniture, even try on some of the Tudor clothes on display. Helpful guides were on hand to explain items and various histories of the house and family. Coughton also boasts magnificent gardens, better than Hampton Court apparently, but I have to admit we were too exhausted to venture further so settled on coffee and cake instead. This is definitely a place to go back to. To read more about the house and the Throckmortons I’ve included this link .

Coughton Court

Time eventually caught up with us to make our way back to the coach and home. A lovely, relaxing two days and a much needed break. Now patiently waiting for the next one.

PS: Meanwhile, I feel a painting coming on…

 

Gallery

Benches

This gallery contains 10 photos.

Happy First day of Spring. Nancy sent me an email with pictures of benches yesterday and I so enjoyed it I decided to share. This wasn’t what I intended to blog on, but I’m getting a late start on composing … Continue reading

Spring On Its Way

Gosh, doesn’t time fly! I can’t believe January has melted into February already. Talking of melting, so far this winter here in South West England we’ve escaped snow, apart from one day when we awoke to an icing sugar dusting which disappeared by lunchtime. It’s been chilly but not cold, but certainly miserable, damp, wet and grey and occasionally windy.

Which all means in the garden spring is well on its way. The front lawn is exploding with snowdrops and the first of many clumps of crocus in full bud about to open with the next burst of sun. The back garden is still in permanent shade until March but that hasn’t stopped the hellebores, with the first of many flowers already open. (Sighs contentedly. I do so love spring!)

2017-02-01-11-52-20

Meanwhile, back indoors, we have hit this year running. It began with the excellent news my husband, diagnosed with diabetes last summer, has beaten it and is no longer diabetic, although he will now always be at risk. He managed this without drugs because he refused to: a) accept he had the condition (there were no outward symptoms or signs), and physically the last person in the world you’d think suffered with this as he’s slim, doesn’t smoke or drink, is fit and walks for a living at work despite being 69 years old and does gardening for recreation; and b) simply refused to take the medication prescribed.

So, how has he achieved this? Purely by diet. He’s a sweet tooth, likes chocolate, especially chocolate cookies, ice-cream, and my baking and dessert efforts thus all were banned from the house. He stopped putting sugar in his coffee, no puds or ice-cream have touched his lips, and I’ve only baked three cakes in nine months, two of which were made using the sugar substitute Xylitol. Thank you so much, Tricia, for putting me on to this sweetener. In fact, the two cakes I made with this were the best and definitely to be made again, according to Dave. One was our Christmas cake, the only “goodie” he ate over the Christmas season, the other being orange cake, the recipe for which Jane told us about here in December. So thank you too, Jane, it was simply delicious, moist, and by switching the sugar to Xylitol, can claim it’s sugar free, fat free, and great for me ­– flour free.

An aside to all this is, because of the change in our eating habits and because I had to help Dave as much as I could, I have managed to lose a little weight. As Dave is determined not to go back to his old ways the diet changes remain in place, hopefully more of my extra poundage should continue to shrink. A new me for 2017, starting with a change of hairstyle. For many years I’ve kept my hair short but never liked it, so I’ve been growing out the layers. At the moment it’s untidy and the style wanted not there yet but, like spring,  it’s well on its way.

2017-02-01-11-51-43I’ve also taken a big plunge and booked a table at a local arts & craft fair in June, to show and (hopefully) sell some of my paintings (and a few copies of my book, with luck!). This will be a difficult day for me as I’m shy and nervous among strangers when “on display”.  Plus, I’ve entered a few competitions, with the hope of winning a painting holiday abroad (something I would love to do), and I’ve entered one of my works into a national painting competition. My fingers  are crossed, but not too much else I shan’t be able to hold my paintbrush for the next one.

On top of all this, I’ve been busy editing a novel for a client and am busy proofing my own next bestseller (she says, laughing) whilst knuckling down to working on the other books waiting in the wings. So all in all, this gal’s been on a roll and doesn’t intend stopping. Not yet anyway.

2017-02-01-11-47-49

Give Me A Hammer! by Valerie J. Patterson

I need a really big hammer–but not so big that I can’t lift it!  Must have a smooth, flat surface and be easy to swing with near-perfect accuracy.  I’m thinking I need Thor’s hammer!  Or perhaps Thor and his hammer!

You may be wondering why I would need such a hammer.  Have you ever heard of the video game Whack A Mole?  That’s why I need such a hammer.

You see, there seems to be a family of moles residing in my beautiful backyard.  I mean, it has to be an entire family, right?  Everywhere you walk there are holes evidencing their intricate subsurface tunnel system.  Everywhere you walk there is loose earth that gives way beneath your feet so that you sink into the lawn.

They’ve taken to tunneling beneath my beautiful stone patio and are leaving mounds of earth behind causing the stones to rock and shift.  They’re tunneling–apparently they’re very hungry while digging tunnels–and they’re eating healthy plants along the way because two of my Azalea bushes have bit the dust.  Among the other plant casualties is one of my thickest grape vines that they’ve managed to eat through and kill.  This does not make me happy.  I used to have a lovely apricot Azalea tree, too.  There are only a few remaining live branches left because they’ve eaten through the roots.

So, I need a very large hammer so that when they venture to stick their vile little heads above the surface of my once beautiful lawn I can whack them on the head!  It might sound a little drastic, but I’m frustrated and nothing else has worked!  Besides, unless you have better solutions to suggest, I can get a good workout whacking them on the head!

Until next time, I hope the only pests in your outdoor space are butterflies whose fluttering wings add grace and beauty to your world!

PS…no moles were harmed during the writing of this blog!

In And Out The Dusty Bluebells

Spring has finally turned a corner in England now we have slipped into May. Typically, it being May Bank Holiday here, the weather is still on the chilly side (I have the heating on!) and it’s raining. The forecast promises warm weather by the end of this week, much to everyone’s relief. It has been a good year for spring flowers though and now the daffodils have given way to the most glorious (I think) wild flower displays this country puts on, for May represents bluebell time. Whilst in some locations they often appear in April if the weather is warm enough, invariably it is the non-native species that bloom first.

mXPDKBMIt is a sad fact that English bluebells are unique but being slowly but surely eroded by foreign counterparts introduced here way back in the early 1900s.  Known as Spanish bluebells, they are different in many respects to our own native species but so common now, most people do not know the difference. The plants are common in people’s gardens too, as seeds can be readily purchased and easy to grow. As a consequence, they have self-seeded along hedgerows and verges and able to cross-pollinate with our native species, thus destroying their uniqueness. This is such a shame.

So, how can you tell which is which? There are four simple ways.

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The Spanish Invader

First is colour. In the Spanish varieties (hyacinthoides hispanica) the bell-shaped flowers are pale blue, often white, and occasionally pink. The native English (hyacinthoides non-scripta) bluebell flower is darker, more a cobalt blue. The second is the way the flowers hang on the stalks. In the foreign variety, the stem is upright with the bells flowering around it, the flower heads fairly large, open tipped and more prolific. In our native plant, the stem arches with the flowers hanging on one side only, and with fewer bells.

English native

English native

The third clue is pollen: the Spanish flower has blue or green pollen; in the English variety it is white or cream. The fourth, and to my mind the most important, difference is perfume. There is no smell to Spanish varieties whilst the true English form will scent a woodland glade with a subtle, honey-like perfume that is unmistakable.

There’s nothing quite like an English wood when it is in a full swathe of blue glory. A walk through these can raise the spirit and lift the heart as they herald the onset of summer. The show is short-lived as once the leaves on the trees come out fully, the flowers vanish. It’s one of the reasons why I love painting bluebell scenes – to preserve this unique English spectacle for longer. Now, if only I could find a paint that has the same sweet perfume…

Bluebells