Tag Archives: garden

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?

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We’ve Gone A Little Potty

So, here we are: the start of August, middle of summer, and yes, it’s tipping with rain for the second day running. After the driest July on record for the UK, we’ve had more rain in the West Country in one day than for the whole of last month. Typical! At least it isn’t cold, but this dismal weather is a disappointment. I was looking forward to spending the week enjoying the sunshine in the garden with my mother, who’s staying here for a while. The trip was planned for some time but bought forward by an unfortunate accident, one that has brought amusement to the family.

Mum is unable to walk far or do a lot around the house or her large garden due to an ongoing back condition. My sister, who also lives on her own, has been taking care of her for the past year, doing her shopping, helping around the house, and looking after the garden. A few weeks ago, Ursula tripped on a damaged paving slab in the street, fell and broke her wrist in several places, needing surgery to insert a metal plate, such was the severity of the injury. Obviously, this means she is now out of action for some weeks and unable to do much for herself, let alone for Mum. Fortunately, my other sister, Ursula’s twin, lives near both of them, and Lydia has been doing all the driving, errands, personal help, and shopping etc, for both.  Mum was upset because she could doing little in return for Ursula,  having broken her own wrist several years ago so knows what it is like to cope with one arm in plaster. So Mum thought now was a good time to come and stay in order to give both my sisters a break (excuse the pun!).

What amused the family, although it is no laughing matter, was the coincidence that the very same day Ursula took her tumble, our brother in Spain, also fell over, and broke his wrist too! They are all now waiting for it to happen to me; I’m the only one in the family not to have broken a wrist.

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20160802_113410Mum is/was an avid gardener, loves plants and enjoys pottering about outside a little but nothing that involves bending. She loves seeing our garden and we share lots of tips, hints and advice, all of us always eager to learn. Spring provided  a lovely display but the summer show isn’t at its best this year. We’ve not done a lot because the beds are being ripped out this autumn, ready for the big revamp (new larger patio, larger greenhouse, new fencing etc; at least, that’s the plan). To make up for the shortfall, we’ve gone rather overboard with pots and containers; far more than usual. We love bold colours, colour clashes and perfume and the bright colours do bring rays of sunshine to the garden despite the rain.

20160802_113743But with the pouring rain, all we can do at the moment is enjoy the display from the patio window. With luck, the weather will improve over the next few days to enable Mum and me to get out there, put up the sunshade and enjoy some summer sun in the garden, preferably reading a book and enjoying a cocktail or two.

Hold on a moment… is that a bit of blue sky I can see creeping over the horizon?

The Beauty in the Rain by Valerie J. Patterson

I don’t know about where you live, but here in beautiful Pennsylvania it’s been raining and raining and raining with one or two dry days thrown in the mix.  I don’t normally mind rain, but when the meteorologist comes on the TV and says that had the rain in June been snow, we’d have had 48 inches of the fluffy white stuff, it kind of gets your attention!

About the biggest complaint I have about rain is walking to and from work in it.  The back splash of heels in water on dress trousers is a bit of a drag, not to mention the fact that wearing open-toed shoes is not a good idea.  But it’s summer, and your toes are all dressed up for show and you just don’t want to hide them inside shoes.

Aside from that, rain is beautiful.  I was standing at the kitchen window staring out at my Red Sweet Gum tree, marveling at the variety of shades of green that seemed sharper and brighter and more vivid in the rain.  For those unfamiliar with Red Sweet Gum trees, the leaves are star shaped and absolutely wonderfully aromatic.  I stood admiring my tree–the setting sun glistened off the rain water settling on the leaf stars.  I was amazed at how vastly different the tree looked in the aftermath of a summer storm.  I grabbed my camera and headed outside to attempt to gain a few frames of the beauty.  I snapped several pictures from several spots in the yard and at varying angles, but I simply could not capture what I’d seen from the kitchen window.  It was that “once and but for a moment” beauty where the setting is perfect–the sunshine was in the perfect degree of brightness, the rain water was in its early stages of dropping off the tree leaves–the setting was perfect.  By the time I’d attempted to capture it, the moment had passed.  It’s true, I have some nice photos, but none of them are THE one photo I wanted.

I’ve been enjoying the summer rains, tolerating the thunder storms, and keeping my pretty toes tucked inside shoes–nice and dry.  Thanks to a tree full of star-shaped leaves I’ve grown to appreciate even more the beauty in the rain.  It’s more than nature’s way of watering the gardens, making plants and grass grow, and keeping things somewhat cleaner than without the rain.  It’s about seeing the mist of a shower, hearing the rhythm of a storm, and admiring the rainbow at the end.  It’s noticing how the rain enhances the colors of the world around us.

Until next time, may the rain in your life bring beauty and inspiration.

Waiting on Peaches

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This is our lone little peach tree. It’s got a couple other fruit trees to keep it company (pear and plum and cherry) but we’ve only the one peach tree. And I love peaches. This one is called a Frost Peach and is supposed to grow well in our cooler area. It’s a hardy little tree and has been giving us peaches for about ten years now.

I’ve found out that peach yields are somewhat cyclical, with a three to four year cycle. Last year, we got enough peaches for two pies. The year before about the same. But the year before that, I made several pies, ate peaches for days on my cereal in the morning, and we canned 12 quarts to last through the winter.

I know you probably can’t see it well, if at all, from this picture, but our tree is totally full of little, baby peaches. It might be another summer of pie baking for me if they don’t cull themselves. And I am SO hopeful.

I’ve chatted in the past about how liquidy my peach pies turn out. Someone mentioned adding a little cornstarch, so I’m anxious to give it a whirl this year and hone my pie-making skills. Although, I don’t think I’ll ever make a pie as good as my mother’s apple pie. But it’s definitely passable. And I can hardly wait.

Grow, baby peaches. Grow!

I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar…Part Deux by Valerie J. Patterson

You might recall that back in 2012 I regaled you with a tale about using power tools, namely the power washer.  I’m sure it was one of those purely unforgettable stories that you then repeated many times around a campfire, the dinner table, and at the office water cooler!

When you’re done either laughing at my recollection or scratching your head while trying to recall what I am talking about, let’s move on to today’s “Roar”.

I am woman hear me roar…with a mower too big to ignore!

Steve and I bought a new lawn tractor and I am the operator of said tractor.  My first ride, I could feel the power as I zoomed up the driveway toward the front lawn.  I turned toward the lawn, lowered the blades, and smiled as thousands of pieces of grass confetti shot out the right side of the cutting deck.  My hair was pulled back, the wind was blowing across my face…and so was the grass I had just cut!

Note to self:  never mow into the wind unless you LIKE the taste of cut grass!

These days, I whip around the yard and zoom up and down the driveway.  It’s fun!

I’ve made good use of that power washer, too.  My porch furniture never looks better than after a fresh power washing!  It has a way of making everything shiny and new!

Plus, I can also add the snow blower to the list of power tools I have mastered.  Had plenty of opportunity to use that baby this past winter.  Kind of glad it’s been exchanged for the lawn tractor, though!

Until next time, may there be power tools in your life that make your life easier, comfier, and more beautiful!  Happy Spring, Y’all!!

A Flutter of Summer

One of the spectacular things to have happened this summer in the UK is the proliferation of bees and butterflies that appeared. This, in spite of the doom and gloom mongers that claim they are all in decline and on the verge of dying out (the bees and butterflies, that is). Piffle! These so-say experts ought to come and visit my place and see what’s really on the wing. Mother Nature has a wonderful way of making things right and she had done so this year with a flourish. All it takes is the right plants, the right weather and hey presto, the gardens, woods and sky are filled with the flutterings of a multitude of wings.

I had a feeling this was going to be a good year for them when back in May, I saw for very the first in my garden an orange tip. These are apparently exceedingly rare and this was only the second time I’ve ever seen one, the first being the previous May in my mother’s garden. At first glance these beauties can easily be mistaken for cabbage whites but that bright one spot on the front wings is very notice when they are close. I tried taking a photograph but it wouldn’t keep still or land, so apologies for the blurred picture, but it is there on the left by the tree! (Note to self: learn how to use the movie setting on my camera!)

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The Orange Tip – too quick for me!

Many butterflies are attracted to purple flowers which is why buddleia plants are so attractive to them, but not all buddleias are purple. There are yellow and white varieties too. The garden opposite my house has a large white buddleia in the front garden and that, like mine, has been smothered this summer. My small rear garden has three buddleias, one mine and two overhanging from my neighbours’ garden but I don’t mind in the least. They are lovely flowers and the reward this year has been fascinating to watch, both for bees and butterflies.

Just some of the butterflies on one bush.

Just some of the butterflies on one bush.

The garden has been alive with all many types including the dratted cabbage whites (more on them in a moment). At one point we counted 18 peacocks, 9 red admirals, 4 commas, 11 tortoiseshells and 7 painted ladies one bush. Several holly blues were about and also the common wood. Never have we seen such a profusion. Another first was the arrival of the brimstone, pale green underneath and pale yellow up top. We also had one come in that we’ve never seen before and I have no idea what sort it was. It was bright orange and about two inches across. I haven’t been able to find out more on the internet about it and it flew away long before I could get the camera out. (Another note to self: always keep camera to hand when in the garden!)

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The Red Admiral (with a Peacock in the background)

On top of all this, the cabbage whites had a field day. They were everywhere, fluttering in clouds above the garden on a daily mating dance before laying their eggs on mainly the nasturtiums. Dave was seen on several occasions shooing them off the brassicas where they liked to settle at night. Whilst they are a nuisance with their caterpillars eating for England on the leaves, they are such a summery sight we leave them be and just remove the leaves that host eggs and caterpillars. No doubt next year we will see even more whites.

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The Tortoiseshell

At first glance you’d think all cabbage whites are the same but seeing so many together I was amazed at the differences. Some had a spot on the front wings, some not, some on all four. Some had black markings on the tips of the wings, others not. Some had black markings and no spots, some two spots on each front wing. Many folded their wings when feeding, others kept them open. Some looked yellow underneath, others veined with pale green. And they were all different sizes, some small, some larger.

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The Brimstone

We’ve also had lots of moths, the most exotic being several visits by the humming bird hawk moth that feeds in daylight and hovers just like a small humming bird. Again, something we rarely see in our garden, likewise a squadron of dragonflies circled our koi pond most mornings. A pity they never settled, and I simply must learn how to use the movie setting on my camera – they were a wonderful sight.

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The Humming Bird Hawk Moth – photo courtesy of the BBC

Oh well, summer is on it’s way out sadly, but listen all you beautiful butterflies, you all come back next year… Please…!

The three little words my husband dreads to hear…

For the first time in what seems like months, the Joneses house is relatively dust-free having come through what AJ jokingly calls phase one of our refurbishment/redecoration plans. He has threatened to send me back to work as, since retiring last year, I keep coming up with ideas for the house. He says the words he dreads to hear are “I’ve been thinking…”

Hmm, maybe I have been thinking quite a lot recently, but it’s such fun 🙂

Since August last year we’ve had the bedrooms, landing and hallway redecorated and new carpets fitted. We also decided to do something about the living room floor’s stripped floorboards which had seen better days. With last winter being sooooo cold, we noticed there were several gaps between the boards causing draughts. After much deliberation, we decided to have a new wooden floor laid by local fitters. AJ wanted it laid on the diagonal but I wasn’t too sure. I’m very pleased he managed to persuade me because I love the result. Kitchen 4

In the way of things, it left our battered old doors looking very sad, so they were replaced too. All this work was well overdue and mostly the house had been pretty neglected for several years while we were both working.

This week saw completion of the kitchen refurbishment. The kitchen is exactly what I hoped for. We had it completely replaced a few years back, but because we were at work and were unable to supervise the job several things were completed which I hadn’t really wanted. The company who carried out the work went bust shortly after completing our kitchen and we discovered that sub-standard appliances had been fitted which left us with a non-functioning cooker and a sink that looked perpetually grubby despite continued cleaning. Now, thanks to a really great local company, we have new quality appliances, a worktop I am totally in love with, a breakfast bar and extra cupboards. It still needs finishing touches, like window blinds and breakfast stools, but I’m very pleased with it.Kitchen 3kitchen 10

Of course, the problem with renovating/redecorating is it soon eats through the bank balance, so I’ve promised AJ to stop thinking for a while so both he and his wallet can recover. I’m not totally ready to be project free though and am planning to start work on the garden next. I want to try my hand at re-laying the patio and have already bought some ready-mix concrete, decorative pebbles and various tools and bits and pieces. Plus, inspired by Kit’s gorgeous and colourful garden, I have a list of bulbs and perennials to plant throughout the garden. All that should keep me busy for a while.

How about you? Do you like refurbishing your home? Hate it? What has been your favourite/least favourite project?