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Showing posts from April, 2012

Growing and using herbs at Blackden

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We have just had a great weekend with some friends who live in France.  It is always a treat to see them, either here or in Provence.  Yesterday we went for lunch at Tyddyn Llan, a restaurant with rooms just outside Llandrillo further South and West into Wales.  It's a spectacular drive but there was no chance of seeing any of the marching range of the Clwydian hills or the beautiful hills at the head of the Vale of Clwyd up beyond Ruthin.  It was like driving into a wall of water.  The rain poured all day, drenched us as we sprinted from the car and threw itself at us in torrents as we drove home. The hills were spouting water in great gushes and falls of foaming brown.  Tyddyn Llan is a great place though with really exceptional food and gentle and discreet good service. You feel you could just settle down with good food and good company and while away a wet Sunday and that is what we did.

On Saturday we went to Blackden.  If you have read my blog for a while you might know abou…

This year's tulips

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I love tulips.  For a while in my gardening life I struggled to create the effects that I wanted until I had the blinding realisation that the problem was that I was not using enough of them.  Isn't it wonderful when the right answer is the exciting answer?  Now I buy in bulk.  I plant new ones in pots, some new ones in the ground and, when I can get my act together, some of the ones which were in last year's pots into the ground too.  This is the  counsel of perfection as usual and doesn't always happen.  In the autumn of 2010 I remembered in time to get quite a lot into the cutting garden.  Last year I lifted all my bulbs, failed to label them, left them to die down and failed to remember that they were hiding in a big pot in the kitchen garden. When I came across them in November when I was planting out my new ones I found that most of them had rotted or been eaten.  Some did go into the cutting garden and into beds in the kitchen garden if they looked to have any signs…

Growing children

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Have you noticed how many passionate gardeners (myself included) are women whose children are grown?  It is as if we transfer our nurturing tendencies from children to plants.  I am sure I have read this theory elsewhere and although it is an interesting idea I am not sure that I buy it.  I was not a natural earth mother and, passionately although I loved my children from babyhood, I got better at mothering as they grew older.  I spent twenty years of my life climbing the corporate ladder so I didn't feel a void in my life when my children left home which could only be filled by propagating dogwoods and dividing snowdrops.  Somehow the garden ran alongside a frantic work and family life, taking its place after the immediate and pressing demands of family but always a sanity saver, always giving me a place to breathe and dream and find myself again without the pinging of the blackberry and the incessant call of the mobile phone.

Up here now, with more time and the demands on me bei…

An annual wildflower meadow

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This spring's big garden project, now that the barn is done, is the sowing of annual wildflowers in the area by the compost heaps and the fire site.  That makes it sound very utilitarian!  I hope the end result won't be.  I have tried to establish perennial wildflowers in the new orchard higher up the field.  A perennial meadow is a much harder task than I had understood when I started out.  The native daffodils are doing well and some of the spring flowers are fine, with primroses and cowslips establishing and a surprising burst of sweet rocket sitting at the edge of the skirts of the apple tree.  Last year we had ox eye daisies, yarrow, fox and cubs as well as meadow buttercup, plantain and some of the lovelier, finer grasses.  But the knapweed and the field scabious were single, solitary presences and there is clearly far too much of the lush, tough grasses like Yorkshire fog.  I have tried to sow yellow rattle to weaken the grass but my two seed trays full of the stuff  ha…

An updated day in the life of...

I wake up.  The light is streaming in because we never shut our curtains up here.  It is half past six and I turn over and drift back to sleep.  After years and years of dawn starts with small children and work and commuting, is there a greater luxury?

As usual Ian must have got up without waking me because when I wake again it is a quarter to eight and he is not in the bed.  From downstairs I hear the sound of him in the kitchen.  He will have already made tea and porridge for his father and now the kettle is boiling again and he is making a cup of tea for me.  Double luxury!

It is quiet here.  On a school morning faintly from the farm next door will come the sound of mothers calling and car doors slamming.  The cockerel might be heard crowing from the kitchen garden.  But there is no traffic, there are no trains or planes, just birds squabbling on the feeders and the cat calling meekly yet insistently for more food (not birds!).

Breakfast is pretty much always eggs.  I love eggs and…

March end of month view

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This year's phenomenal March temperatures have brought the garden rushing on apace.  Last year April was the sunny month and March was cold and windy.  Last year's side garden looked like this:


This year, partly from sunshine and to a lesser extent from planting, it looks like this:


OK, I know I am cheating with the larger photograph but the combination of hellebores, daffodils, tulips and a lot more foliage than usual is really furnishing the ground in the most satisfactory way.


The hellebore flowers are gently changing from pink and white to the palest green as they go over, so slowly, so elegantly.


But look the other way and you can see the day lilies thrusting up, the new alliums beginning to mass, hardy geraniums putting on foliage, the new pheasant grass fountaining up pleasingly in pink and green (thank you Karen) and the peonies with so much growth I have even started to stake them.  At this point I feel like a proper gardener.  I know you should stake.  Every year I v…