The garden in June

June has been a real mixture of weather. Flaming at some points with temperatures up to 28C and then windy and cold down to 15C and plenty of rain. UK weather has always been unpredictable, but climate change has brought a whole new meaning to that. Differences in temperature of around 12 degrees between one day and the next are testing for woman and plant! More about that further down.

The vegetable garden is doing amazingly well. Warm sun and lots of rain are just what vegetables like and they are rewarding my patience at the moment. Where everything was a bit dry and sparse last month, this month they are excelling themselves. We are picking radishes, lettuce and spring onions. We have had one meal off the mange-tout and plenty more to come, the courgettes are cropping well and the pointed cabbages are almost ready. I’ve pulled half the beetroot today and they have been roasted before being made into pickle. The runner beans finally made it up the sticks, have flowered well and there are tiny beans showing. Also a blackfly problem, but hey – have runner beans, have blackfly. I couldn’t resist exploring one of the potato bags and we have a few beautiful new potatoes. They weren’t seed potatoes so I’m not expecting big crops – they were just a couple of old wrinkly potatoes from the food cupboard that had begun to sprout!

I wrote last time about the long east-facing border in the side garden, raising the crowns on the Camellias and doing some underplanting here and there. It’s starting to fill out in places although there is still a lot of work to do. The Hebe, Hydrangea and hardy Geranium combination is working really well now. We thought the Hebe was a purple variety, but now it’s in flower, it turns out it’s white. I’ve left the old Euphorbia flower heads on and I’m quite pleased with the effect. There is a startlingly pink Penstemon there too. It’s lovely and bright but I think it needs to be somewhere else. Come the autumn, it will get moved.

In the small rear garden we took down a very old and very overgrown Jasmine and planted Echium. We lost one, but the remaining three have settled in nicely. There are a lot of Fuchsia in this garden and some of them are doing really well. I cut them right back to the ground at the end of winter because they were damaged with gall mite. Most of them have grown back well and are full of flower. There’s really no treatment for Fuchsia gall mite so my strategy is to cut them right back hard every early spring and then keep an eye on them through spring and summer, nipping off any shoots that look affected. It’s worked reasonably well, there are plenty of flowers but one of the plants has succumbed again to the mite, blunting the shoots and distorting leaf and bud.

The spell of hot weather encouraged us to think about where we might relax in the garden. We have quite a big decked area – you will remember one of the first. projects was to clear a small bed and plant some roses in front of the deck – and have a simple table and chairs for eating outside, but nothing ‘comfortable’ for relaxing. We have invested in a corner seating area with a low table and a parasol to protect us from the heat of the sun. We have already spent a lot of time out here, reading and observing the garden, planning and relaxing. Money well spent.

Our plan for a ‘mediterranean’ terrace at the front of the house is progressing slowly. Since the garden centres opened up we have been along (carefully – masked and gloved and observing social distancing) and added to our stock of bright Geraniums. In terracotta pots and lit by the sun they look just as we hoped they would – colourful, vibrant, gay. At the same visit to the garden centre I was tempted by a beautiful Bougainvillea plant. Fresh green leaves and intense cerise flower bracts, it was just a perfect centrepiece for this display. Sadly, over a period of about ten days the blooms have been falling off. I’ve brought it indoors and hopefully can keep it alive. I guess south west England isn’t quite the French riviera.

That’s the garden in June. See you next month. Don’t forget to look at 6-on-Saturday and the Core Edge Journal!

Stay safe. Keep your distance. Wash your hands.

The garden in May

First thing to say is that the garden has been pretty hot and dry throughout May. We have been mostly cutting back and pruning as early flowers go over and watching as new clumps of perennials get closer to flowering – and identification. Sadly, I think a lot of them are weedy – for example, there look to be huge clumps of solidago, not a favourite but we’ll see. The veg bed could do with a good dowsing of rain.

The veg patch is really coming on now. We’re on to second sowings of radishes, carrots and parsnips are growing away, beetroot doing well, the leeks are standing up strongly and have put good growth on and the courgettes are showing signs of flowering. We have put pointed cabbages in and they are protected under a net stretched over stakes from the prunings of the amelanchier with 3inch pots on top. We have small white butterflies and so better safe than sorry! The runner beans are slooooow. They look a bit stronger but are only about two thirds of the way up the poles. There are signs of flowering on them too. Also at the back of this bed we have been surprised by a large stand of Dutch irises, blue and white. We thought at first they were crocosmia leaves. A large clump of them will be moved to the main part of the garden when they go over.

The little rose bed that we created by the deck is also doing well. The roses (Gertrude Jekyll and Munstead Wood) have lots of flowers. The Munstead Wood (left) is not quite ready for such heavy blooms, the stems are still weak, so needs support until it has grown a reasonable framework of thicker stems. I’ve also done a bit of underplanting here (well it will develop into underplanting) with hardy geranium – Orkney Cherry, endressii, Rosemoor. Later in the year I will scatter some verbena bonariensis seeds too.

In the east border I have been thinking about the camellia. They flower well, but look a bit straggly. I don’t know how well they take to pruning, but I’ve taken my courage in both hands and raised the crowns a little on two of them. They look ok and it’s opened up the ground below for some underplanting. I’ve fed them well and am generally waiting to see how it goes. Come next spring – we shall see. This border is very neglected, full of Japanese anemone and small euphorbia, we are trying to sort it out about a metre at a time. Apart from the camellia, we have cleared a space in front of a large hebe and white hydrangea and put in a hardy geranium Rozanne. It’s a combination we had at the old garden and we thought it would work well here too.

The front of the house is clearly cut out to be a mediterranean terrace. It is fully south facing and in this sunny weather it is very bright and very hot, the sun bouncing off the paving stones. We’ve put the two yucca plants here in big pots, a cordyline, and the little olive tree has been repotted and is loving the warmth. We have a lot of very small zonal pelargonium which are now here in pots, their scarlet flowers are perfect, and next year when they are a better size they will be fabulous. Next year I think we will really make this area more bold and colourful – I’m thinking of replacing a bushy but wilting clematis with a bougainvillea and seeking out more vibrant flowering plants for pots.

The bed we had cleared in the main part of the garden is filling with surprise perennials. There are poppies (Beauty of Livermere), gladiolus communis byzantinus, day lilies not quite in bloom, clumps of solidago and a lovely hardy geranium which I think is Ann Folkard – a beautiful bright magenta. We are also learning that what we thought was a damp, clay soil here is proving to be a shaley, sandy marl which holds little or no water and bakes as dry as a bone. That has changed our planting plans somewhat!

At the back of the house, the overgrown and horribly tangled Jasmine is no more. We now have a clear fence just waiting for something to grow up it. In the meantime we are going to plant four echium here. They are very small, sad specimens, we were given them and they have been either overwatered or completely dried out, but they are wilted and dead-looking and I don’t know if they will recover and grow away. Another wait and see. If they do grow, then next year we can expect 15 or 20 feet high huge spires of flowers in blue and pink. Now, that will be a sight worth waiting for!

See you again soon for a tour around the June garden. Don’t forget to check out my other pages above: 6 – on – Saturday and The Core Edge Journal. Stay safe. Stay 2 metres apart. Wash your hands.

The Garden in April

At last some properly warm weather and the chance for real progress around the garden.  It’s still surprising us with stuff we didn’t know was there, and we have also been surprised by how much earlier an east Devon garden is compared to a south Wales one.  The camellias have been and gone (see last month’s In the Garden), the daffodils and muscari well over too.

The bed in the front garden that we prepared at the end of last year to be a bed for tender plants and exotics has become the vegetable bed.  We have sown parsnips and carrots, lettuce, radish, and spring onions, and planted runner beans and courgettes. It’s been very dry and the ground is hard.  Without last night’s rain it would have been  interesting to see if the seeds managed to break the crusted soil surface!  Due to lockdown we haven’t been able to source proper beansticks but we improvised with some willow sticks that were hanging around.


The rest of the beds on that side of the house still have ancient roses in them, but they’ve been seriously pruned now and will stay there for this year at least.  We also had the paving pressure washed.  It’s in pretty poor condition but it looks better now it’s clean. Replacing will have to wait a while.  I’m trying to persuade myself that the boundary hedge is a ‘tapestry’ hedge.  It is a mixture of grisselinia, pittosporum, lonicera nitida and laurel, with the occasional sprout of berberis.  And I can tell you, it is growing like crazy right now.


The small garden at the back of the house has also had little attention.  On the right there are some lovely big euphorbia, the forsythia has been good and the weigela is just coming into flower.  There are a number of fuchsia bushes in this garden and sadly, most of them have fuchsia gall mite.  Earlier in the season I cut them all down to the ground and they are growing back. So far no sign of any damage, but time will tell.  There is also a big, old jasmine bush on the back fence.  It’s well past its best and I think will come down over the summer.  Other than that, this isn’t a part of the garden that we are concentrating on.


The side garden, which is the biggest part of the garden, has had most attention.  There is the new shed which is now painted and much less obtrusive.  On the left is the view from the top down, and the right is from the bottom up. It’s not as big as that left hand picture makes it look – must be the downward slope!  We’ve done a few things here – you can see the rose bed I talked about last time there by the deck.  It’s doing well, the roses are settled and growing, I noticed this morning that there are buds on the ‘Munstead Wood’.  In the foreground of the left hand pic and in front of the shed in the right, is part of the garden that we had cleared of old shrubs.  Now there are great clumps of perennials coming up.  We’re not entirely sure what they all are, but there are definitely oriental poppies, hemerocallis, crocosmia and several things that we don’t recognise and will surprise us when they flower!  We don’t plan to do anything in this bed until later in the year when everything’s up and we can decide what to keep.   It will also need rotavating as it’s very compacted.  The long border alongside the lawn faces west and is where the camellia are.  We have a lot of work to do here.  There are masses of self-set japanese anemones and hypericum, and although we’ve taken some out, what’s left still pretty well fills the border.  The tree on the far left is an amelanchier and it lost a big branch in last night’s squall.  It’s a pity because it gave us some screening from the houses behind.  The lawn is not too bad, although we have violets and dandelions popping up.  Mr OG is a keen lawnman and will soon have it looking better.

At the front beyond the paving is a border of biggish shrubs which are great for privacy and although old, are in reasonable condition, so we are just keeping them clipped.  We are also keeping pots along here for colour, the tulips are here and a potted olive tree that needs some attention – the pot is miles too small.  This is also where the nerines bloom – on both sides – and the foliage is growing through now.  This is all on top of a low but precipitous bank with this narrow pathway behind it and another border of shrubs which form our front boundary.  Although this is a dark little area, it’s curious and I’d like to try to make it a bit more interesting.  Dry shade is not my favourite planting environment though!

And that’s it for this month.  There’s a lot of work, but the garden is lovely and we love being here.  More next month, when I hope we will see a bit more progress.

The O.G.


The Garden in March

March has been a month of ‘everyweather’.  From the first half of the month with torrential rainstorms, low temperatures and high winds, to the last week of beautiful sunshine and clear blue skies.  Still chilly though and still breezy.

The sunnier weather this last week has meant we have started on the many jobs there are to do in the new garden.  Last month I posted a picture of the new shed –  it’s now filled with all the gardening tools and equipment that had been stored in the garage. What a difference that has made.

In the long west-facing border the Camellia have been a joy.  Covered in huge pink and red blooms.  I think the pink here is ‘Donation’, the red I’m not sure about but could be ‘Bob Hope’.  Who/whatever they are, they are lovely.  These are towards the middle of the length of the border, there are another two at the northern end (to the left of these) but they are in a bit of a mess with a big variegated photinia and what I think is a pieris growing very closely to them.  They’ll have to be cleared out later on.


The biggest job so far has been clearing out an old rose bed directly in front of the deck area.  It had half a dozen very old rose plants in there and it’s taken a week and a lot of hard work to get them out.  Thick roots, matted root fibres – sometimes needing a crowbar and a pick-axe to shift them.  It’s been dug over to two spit depths and a mix of new compost and manure put in.

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 I know the received gardening wisdom says don’t replant roses in ground that they’ve come out of, but I’m going to give it a go.  I hope they will be okay.  The new roses have been planted in large holes with micorrhizal powder on their roots and the holes backfilled with a mixture of well rotted manure and new compost.  The three around the edge are ‘Munstead Wood’ and the one in the middle towards the back is ‘Gertrude Jekyll’.  All from David Austin.


I’ve also replanted a few clumps of bluebells that were taken out of this bed when we cleared it.  I’ve yet to see if they are our own indigenous bluebells, or if they’re Spanish ones.  If they turn out to be Spanish, they will be rooted out.  Too thuggish.  Later on, I shall put a plant or two of Sisyrinchium in here.  There are lots of small plants growing like weeds around the garden so a couple of the larger ones can come in here.  I love them with roses – the pale foliage, the strappy leaves and those pale, yellow flowers – goes with everything.

There is an area of the garden that in the Estate Agents details was rather grandly called ‘The Woodland Garden’.  In reality it’s a patch of ground under a maple tree with an Eleagnus hedge behind and neglected shrubs around.  There is a dead tree to the right side. On the ground are ferns, bluebells, primroses, Helleborus foetidus, a Fatsia in a pot, and a lot of leaf litter.  It’s crying out for a bit of care and attention, so this will be the next make-over in the garden plan.


I shall clear out the mess there  and I think Pulmonaria would be nice and some Erythronium, maybe a good-sized Hosta.  I’ve already got a Rosa ‘Albertine’ to ramble its way up the dead tree trunk (eventually).  There’s good dappled shade here and it could be very pretty in the spring.

In a moment of whimsy I bough this ‘garden ornament’.  (You all know how I love a gnome, but I thought I’d branch out a little).  This little chap is now attached to the palm tree.  And although he looks awful close up, from a distance he’s quite life-like.  Well, a bit life-like.  I rather like him.


The beds we cleared at the front/side of the house in the autumn are likely to be pressed into service as veg beds.  They were intended for some exotic plants and to be a sort of ‘hot’ bed, but there is too much prep to do to make a veg bed in other parts of the garden so needs must.  When we were filling up the shed the seed tin came to light so I shall check out what is still viable and hopefully be able to start some off soon. We’re pretty mild here and I’m hoping I can sow direct into the ground as we don’t have a greenhouse (yet) and very little room inside for seed growing.  As  we can’t get out to the Garden Centre, there’s also no seed compost.


This is our first Spring in this garden and we have loved seeing things start to grow over the last few weeks.  So many lovely little surprises, daffodils, muscari, iris and primroses dotted all over the garden. Blessings.

That’s it for March. The clocks are forward this weekend and there will be lighter evenings and increasing temperatures.  April should see quite a lot of progress.  Enjoy your garden if you have one.  Stay at home, stay safe and well and look forward to better times.

If you like this blog, you might like my garden/countryside journal.  You can find it at the top of this page on the Core Edge Journal tab.  Don’t forget to follow the blog if you enjoy it and get an email message every time I post an update.

The O.G.





In the garden in February…

This month has been the wettest February on record.  Storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge have blown through and fortunately not left too much damage behind.  Some twigs broken off and a few pots blown over, but nothing major.  What we have learned from the storms, however, is that we get significant run-off from the hill behind the house and the garden really holds on to the rainwater.  In fact, in some places it positively revels in it.  It means thinking quite carefully about what to plant – we already had Astrantia and Hosta in our plans and I think we will be adding clumps of Zantedeschia in the particularly wet areas.  Time to start really educating ourselves about what thrives in a very damp garden.

We have had the pathways and the deck cleaned.  The stonework is in quite a state, uneven and broken slabs, but a good pressure wash has made a difference until we can get new hard landscaping done.IMG_1294

The new shed is up.  We have been discumbobulated by being without the garden storage space.  Everything is in the garage and it’s a bit of a tight squeeze.  It means there has to be careful identification of the tools needed and then extract them from a precariously balanced pile without scratching or denting the car.  The new shed looks huge standing on its sleeper and concrete plinth in the cleared space, but it’s actually a reasonably standard 12ft by 8ft.  It’s also a rather eye-catching light tan colour.  A coat of dark green stain will help.  We have laid 9 slabs in front of it so there is some hard standing for filling pots etc. IMG_1308

There is something very satisfying about arranging tools in the shed.  A place for everything and everything in its place, neat and tidy, shelved and stacked.  If only it would stop raining we could get on with it, and then the gardening season could start in earnest.  More at the end of March, in the meantime, look forward to spring!



Early days… the January update.

We’ve been in the new house and garden for almost 6 months and have begun work on the garden at last.  When I blogged previously about the neglected garden we had taken on, we were only just beginning to realise the scale of the work required.  Having spent a few months thinking, and seeing the bones of the garden more clearly as the foliage died down for the winter, we have taken the first steps in a renovation process.  The garden is home to a lot of birds.  Over the winter we have seen Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed Tits, Blackbirds, Chaffinch and Goldfinch, Robins, Dunnocks and Wood Pigeons on a regular basis.  Less frequent visitors are a Green Woodpecker, tiny Goldcrest, and a female Blackcap.  I’m hoping to get the big camera out and try to take some half-decent photos later on.

IMG_1113This is the part of the garden we’re working on first.  Full of overgrown shrubs and old stumps, a massive Hebe, and behind that a dilapidated old shed.  Just to the left of this picture is more huge Hebe, a couple of big, self-set Hypericum, a completely woody Senecio, a dead tree of unidentified type and a mass of tangled perennials.  I can identify Acanthus, Solidago, Crocosmia and that devil spreader Japanese Anemone.  So, quite a job. Time to call in some help.


And this is how it looks after the help has been and gone. The work was done by Sid Valley Tree Surgery who were sterling workers through two days of torrential rain and gale force winds.

A nice big area exposed and some laid out beds that we didn’t know were there. We will place a new shed in the old position but turned through 90 degrees and at the moment we are thinking that some of the old beds would make good veg plots. They’re in a good position, open and pretty much south-facing and no overhanging trees.  Digging them over has started and we are finding an awful lot of old root fibres and some substantial roots.  Whether they will be ready for planting for this season remains to be seen.  At the moment Storm Ciara has us hunkered down inside.

This is the work for January, a bit late to the blog, so next time (end of Feb), there will be some progress to show you!




Pastures new…

We are finally in the new house and settling in a little.  I haven’t had time to fiddle about changing the header pic on here, but maybe it will be done for next blog.  It is three week since moving day and things are feeling a bit more organised.  For the first time ever we have a ‘wrap-around’ garden and it feels a little daunting but we are really looking forward to making it ours.  There are some interesting things in it, but it looks as though most plants and shrubs have been in for a very long time and are overgrown or past their best so I foresee a whole lot of work.

Here’s a bit of a walk around:

The ‘road’ side boundary is well hedged with a mix of pittosporum, griselinia and laurel which have merged together and been clipped closely. It’s dense and looks pretty healthy.  it’s been clipped into little castellations which some would think rather naff, but I think is rather cute and retro.  Inside the hedge are some rather desperate rose beds.  The roses are old (and not in a good way) with huge thick stems at the base and spindly little stems supporting the odd flower. I suspect they are hybrid teas from years ago.  In more optimistic moments I plan to take them all out, but I suspect they may defeat me.  The beds are perfectly placed to become veg beds so I aim to persevere over the winter.  I don’t have pics yet, but they will come.IMG_1089

The ‘front’ garden has the path to the front door and has been well laid out with a sloping curved pathway with low stone walls and beds behind.  This the view from the sitting room window and where our view of the sea is which persuaded us to buy the property.  That conifer hedge belongs to our opposite neighbours (their back garden).  The beds have old, but decent shrubs – I can recognise a hydrangea, a couple of hypericum (which I dislike), a couple of interesting low growing conifers that I need to identify, a cotoneaster, some really good hardy fuchsia bushes and the biggest clump of crinum I have ever seen!  There’s some very leggy santolina and something that looks like a variegated wiegela.  There are  underplanted bulbs here too, but they are overcrowded and I’m not sure what they are – skinny, strap like leaves – maybe crocosmia of some sort but no flowers to help identify.IMG_1098

On the other side of the path there has been an attempt to create a sort of woodland shrubbery.  There are two large conifers – real trees.  I don’t know what they are – one is triangular in shape  with pale green foliage, maybe 25 feet tall, and next to it is some sort of dark green fir with needles, maybe 25 feet tall and not in the best of health. Alongside this is a coppery acer maybe 30 feet tall.  They do provide good screening from neighbouring properties down the hill.  Around them are shrubs that were originally an understory but they are very overgrown.  A couple of abelia, a cotinus, I think an olearia, some small azaleas, berberis (green and purple) that have seen better days and a ground cover at the front edge of bergenia.  This is the part of the garden that needs a lot of renovation.  I am slightly daunted by it. IMG_1091

Beyond this is the bottom of the ‘side’ garden which is laid to a small lawn with borders which have, again seen better days.  This is the main ‘pleasure/leisure’ garden and although it faces east, it gets sun for most of the day.  It’s overlooked by a big raised deck which is in pretty good condition – big enough to take a six seater table and chairs, plus a couple of loungers.  I’m looking forward to next spring and summer here!  The deck is sheltered from the easterly breezes by an eleagnus hedge which must be 12 feet tall and about 8 feet long.  We also have our very own palm tree!  The borders were probably once very interesting – there are a number of tree stumps where trees or large shrubs have been cut down and the stumps left in situ.  Some of them might be useful for standing pots on, but it looks like getting someone in to grind some of them out.  The borders have camellia, pittosporum (a huge tree), azalea, maybe an amelanchier, more hypericum (shudder), a good stand of white japanese anemones so possibly Honorine Joubert- actually threatening to take over – lots of crocosmia, agapanthus and euphorbia and those huge hebes ?andersonii with purple flowers. IMG_1096


At the ‘top’ end of the side garden is a very dilapidated shed, just about functional, and a really overgrown shady area that I think might be worth a closer look.  There are very overgrown and huge hebe andersonii, a rampant patch of solidago, a cornus, more hypericum, very sturdy and massive agapanthus, cistus, crocosmia, a frail looking fatsia, and something else that has grown and monstered the whole patch – possibly another amelanchier. Whatever it is it has been coppiced and has about 15 ‘trunks’. At the front of this bed is a big patch of very healthy bergenia and some weak and spindly hardy geraniums.  Underneath all this foliage I can see a path and what looks like stone bed edges and maybe a  paved drainage channel.  It’s quite intriguing!

And then we turn the corner of the house into a small backyard with paving slab paths surrounding a small square lawn.  The lawn is divided diagonally by paving slabs (handy for hanging out the washing without getting muddy feet) and has narrow borders on two sides. there is a wiegela hedge  about 10 feet tall on one side screening the shed, and the borders have euphorbia, hardy fuchsia, some horrible spindly roses and a worn out old jasmine officianalis which I shall try to save.IMG_1107

So that’s the first tour.  It sounds big – it’s really not that big but it is more garden than we had previously.  Funnily enough, the moving plan was to keep the same house size and downsize the garden, so that’s a fail there!

More soon, as we progress.

The O.G.

Eating from the garden…

I love it when the garden starts to give back.  Although we only grow small amounts of vegetables and fruit (the garden is a suburban 30 x 90 feet so not huge, and vegetables are fitted in here and there rather than in a dedicated bed) it gives me an inordinate amount of pleasure to pick and eat our ‘own’.

We have been using lettuce and spring onions for a while now, but recently the bigger veg have started to put in an appearance.  This weekend we harvested all of the bag potatoes – I’m always amazed at how three wrinkly seed potatoes shoved in a bag of compost  give us several meals worth of beautiful, new, waxy, and wonderfully tasty new potatoes.  This year we grew Rocket, Charlotte and Pentland Javelin.  The Rocket and Charlotte have done really well, both giving us about 40 potatoes.  The PJ are disappointing.  They have suffered badly in the heat and their bag is the one the ants chose to nest in this year.  I haven’t emptied it out yet but I suspect they have not done as well as the others.

I have elephant garlic now pulled, dried and stored in the shed.  Some of it I’ve used as one of the ingredients in a small batch of pickled beetroot.  I’ve written before about how growing root veg is difficult in my garden – thin soil and club root is a problem.  However, I managed to grow a few beetroot in a ‘manger’ bed and got about 15 roughly the size of golf balls.  Because they were small I was able to boil them all at the same time.  They’ve been pickled with cinnamon, star anise and garlic – it should make a lovely warm undertone to the sharpness of the vinegar.  In a month or so I’ll let you know how they’ve turned out.

IMG_0101I’ve written before about how many cucumbers have already been picked and there are six more little ones just starting out.  This week I learned something about cucumber plants.  If you leave the fruit on for too long, the plant aborts any new little fruitlets and stalls your supply.  I did this, and yes, the little fruitlets all dried up and fell off and I thought that was the end of the cucumber plant.  But once the ripe cucumbers were all picked off – hey presto!  A new flush of fruitlets.  So keep picking!  I’m a big fan of cucumber and onion ‘bread and butter’ pickle so I can’t have too many cucumbers.  I make it and freeze it in containers with enough for a week’s supply.

Clearing out the salad drawer in the fridge (to make room for cucumbers…) I found a bag of old satsumas.  Ever resourceful, I turned them into marmalade at the weekend.  It’s lovely – sharp and sweet at the same time, a hit of ginger just lifts it from the commonplace.  I’ve also finally got round to harvesting this year’s gooseberries.  They have been begging to be picked by quietly dropping off the bush and being eaten by the birds and hedgehog.  One bush has given us 2 kilos of goosegogs and so it was out with the maslin pan again – half of them turned into crumble and jam and half of them into an indian-style chutney.  I’m going to need a bigger supply of glass jars!

Although the birds have been busy at the Morello cherry espalier there should be enough to preserve in brandy as a treat, and like everyone else we are eating courgettes at almost every meal.  There are lots of little four-inch beans on the runners, so a promise of dinners to come, and the carrot tops are plentiful, though I suspect more top than carrot.

There is something very satisfying about eating food that you have grown yourself – whether it’s new potatoes or gooseberry jam,  snacking on spring onions and cucumber, or pickling anything and everything.  It gives me a decidedly happy feeling!

The Optimistic Gardener

6 – on – Saturday 23.06.18

Six things in my garden today.  If you want to join in and share 6 things from your garden then here is to how to participate It’s fun, you see interesting things in other people’s gardens and lovely 6ers chat and comment on your pics.

After last week’s post which included the sundial and the week before which included the crow, Nat asked  me about sculpture in the garden.  So I thought this week I’d share some with you.  Not really ‘sculpture’ but a look at some of the non-plant decorative stuff we have dotted about the garden.  You’ll likely laugh at some of these, and that’s fine, we have some of them because they make us laugh, and all of them have a story and often memories.  I shan’t picture the statue of the Blessed Virgin that you can see in the header picture above because I’ve written about that before, but here is a selection (yes, there’s more than I am putting on here!).  None of these were expensive pieces – some clearly not expensive – but they’re all valuable to us.

img_0507.jpg1. This is a figure called ‘The Wood Nymph’ by a relatively local artist, Christine Baxter.  We’ve had this for a few years now, but she has finally found the perfect spot overlooking the new teeny-tiny wildlife pond.  The birds perch on her, poo on her, and she is getting a nice ‘aged’ look.

IMG_05112.  This painted tin Blue Tit is one of a pair I bought on a visit to a National Trust garden.  I think it was Tyntesfield, but I can’t be sure.  I kept one and gave my sister the other one for her garden.  It sits on this left-over retaining post just in front of where the old wooden lounger chairs are.  Every time I see it I think of my sis and I often end up texting her from the garden.




IMG_05083.  This is the rhubarb forcer.  I’ve only used it once to actually force the rhubarb – usually it gets moved around the garden to wherever we think needs a bit of extra interest.  It’s just a cheap one from the local garden centre, but again, it’s ageing nicely and has lost that ‘brand new’ terracotta look.  Quite often it is full of ants….




IMG_05094.  I call this ‘The Japanese Woman’.  I don’t know if she is or not, but it seems to suit her.  This was a serendipitous buy one year when we were on holiday in Suffolk.  We’ve had her at least 15 years.  She’s made of moulded cement (cheap and cheerful) and has suffered in the frost over the years with bits of the surface flaking off, but she’s a great favourite and reminds us of windy holidays on the Suffolk coast.  She’s another object that gets moved around the garden.  A bit of a gap?  Put the Japanese Lady in it!


IMG_05105.  A tortoise.  I took this little chap from my Dad’s garden after Dad died.  Dad was 92.  The tortoise had been in the garden for years and years and years.  I think one of us kids must have bought it for him (I have a brother and a sister) and it lived on the rockery outside the sitting room window.  When we cleared the house this is one thing that I wanted to have to keep.  One of his front legs is chipped and moss is growing on his back but he is kept in a sheltered spot underneath a suitably tropical-looking Fatsia Japonica.  When I catch sight of him, I think of my old Dad.


IMG_05126.  Those of you who have been reading the garden blog for a while will recognise this.  A cast iron bird bath that doesn’t hold the water, rusty and chipped and vintage-looking.  I don’t think it is vintage, I think someone just made it rusty and chipped and waited for someone like me to come along and buy it.  I bought it at a flower show.  I know, they saw me coming, but I really like it.




Cheating a bit on the 6 theme, I also have a penchant for garden gnomes.  I’ve got about six in varying sizes and sometimes they’re on show, and sometimes they’re hidden away.  In the winter I line them up on the patio, looking in through the window.  MrOG says I’m weird.  And then there’s this pig. My mom bought it for me as a gift when she went on holiday once (Mom, why?).  It’s quite big.  It used to be bright pink, but the weather and the years have turned it grey.  It has a cheerful look though and I can’t bring myself to throw it out.  It usually lurks somewhere near the compost heap.  Mum died just six months before my Dad in 2016.  She was 89.

So, there we are.  Another 6, another insight into my garden, and into me!  Happy weekend.

The Optimistic Gardener

6 – on – Saturday 16.6.18

Six things in my garden today.  If you want to join in and share 6 things from your garden then here is to how to participate It’s fun, you see interesting things in other people’s gardens and lovely 6ers chat and comment on your pics.

Here we are again.  Cloudy and cool today, spits and spots of rain but nothing substantial. Still lots of things to show you!

  1. First up is this absolute beauty.  This is “Munstead Wood’ and I think it is probably my favourite rose.  It’s shrubby, even a bit lax in its habit, but is covered in these wonderful deep red, velvety blooms and they just keep coming if you deadhead.  They’re a good size for cutting, but I can never bring myself to take roses from the garden.  I keep telling myself I will plant some just for cutting but suspect I wouldn’t want to cut those either.  Roses are best enjoyed in all their glory in the garden.  This one smells wonderful too.img_0483.jpg

IMG_04872.  We bought this decorative sundial in a sale at a National Trust property we visited in the week.  It’s base was missing and it cost pennies.  Our bird bath gave up the ghost last year and although we threw away the broken dish, we kept the base.  Hey presto,  one rather nice looking garden ornament.  Not sure where we will put it yet but for now it’s sitting on the patio congratulating us on being thrifty.



3.  This is growing all through our lawn.  It’s Ground Ivy.  If we were lawn people we would be killing it off, raking it out and generally being horrified.  As it is, we rather like to see those little purple flowers.  Also, our lawn is getting smaller and smaller as we keep stealing strips of it to make the borders bigger.  Pretty soon it will just be a grass path (hurrah!!).IMG_0484

IMG_04884.  MrOG is a fan of succulent plants and at the moment this Aeonium is his pride and joy.   Grown from a very small plant from the garden centre, it’s turned into a thing of loveliness.  There were several more purchases this week and so I can envisage a table of succulents appearing as a thing in a sheltered part of the garden.  Like an auricula theatre, but more of a succulent stage.  Personally, I can’t stand the things, but live and let live.



IMG_04915.  These seedlings have appeared in a pot over the past two weeks.  They are monsters.  I have no idea what they are.  The leaves are smooth with lighter veins.  Can any of you help with identification?  To help with scale the pot they are in is about 15inches (37cms) across.  Unless I can find out that they’re worth keeping they will go on the compost heap.




6. Last week I put up a picture of a single ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ rose.  Here is the whole bush. It’s so lovely, I can’t leave it out.img_0489.jpg

That concludes my 6 for this Saturday!

The Optimistic Gardener.