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Showing posts from July, 2013

Establishing a cutting garden

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Does everyone love the idea of a cutting garden in the way that I do?  I love flowers in the house but in the main flower growing bit of the garden, known here as the side garden,  I am trying to create a particular feeling with the planting.  Here I do not want to take the peonies, the poppies, the tulips or the alliums which are making the garden sing and leave it denuded.  So for five years I have been trying to create a cutting garden in a big bed beyond the new orchard.

It has been hard going.  The first couple of years were a total disappointment. Annual seed which I sowed failed to germinate.  Some things worked, notably cosmos, but there were huge gaps when the garden was empty and dull, not to say full of weed.


Here is cosmos purity in 2009 looking beautiful.


Here is the cutting garden itself in 2010 looking rather grumpy and dull.

I had at least by that stage discovered the importance of sweet peas, even if I did not have the varieties right. Sweet peas are supreme for week…

A summer week

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I expect heat in summer.  That is daft really.  I don't live in the South of France or Italy, I live in North Wales, but somehow an adolescence spent in New Zealand where the sky is reliably blue for months and the natural colour of everyone's skin is a light tan has left me with an expectation that in summer the sun will shine and I will eat breakfast outside and walk in bare feet and seek the shade.  The last few summers have been so wet and grey and cold as to be non existent.  I don't think I had realised quite how much the absence of sun had got to me until the temperature soared and the sun was hot on my skin and every morning I woke to sunshine and warm wind.  I find I have relaxed deep down inside myself.  The brightness of the light has made me smile.  Walking around with bare feet has made me feel young again although the green valley is bleaching with the sun.


Our house is great when it is really hot.  The old stone walls create a cool haven when the sun drives …

Lying on a rug under a tree

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Today I lay on a rug under a tree.  It was a huge sycamore which stands in the boundary hedge of our field.


The sun was so hot I was driven off the garden and into the shade where the grass was cool.  I dug an old check rug out of the bakehouse where we keep outside things for the holiday cottage and spread it out.  I brought out my book and a big glass of elderflower cordial and lay down and looked up into the tree.  It soared above me like a huge green cathedral.


When did I stop lying down on a rug in the garden?  When I was a child I loved eating outside and a cheese sandwich, a packet of crisps and an apple was immediately transformed into a picnic by eating on a rug.  As a teenager I spent hours lying in the sun, seeking the perfect tan.  I remember trying to revise for my A levels on a rug in the garden and eventually giving up as I squinted in the sun and my papers blew about in the breeze and snoozing for half an hour before going reluctantly inside.  At university I remember …

Home again

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Built a wall, whipped home and whipped out again down to Devon.


This is the wall high up below Tryfan with National Trust warden Dewi on top of it, placing the coping stones.  On the last morning I worked with another ranger lower down in the valley.  Iolo was a silent man until you started to talk to him about dry stone walls!  I know enough now to have a go at repairing ours, if only I could find it behind the nettles and buttercups, hogweed and bind weed.  Might have to be an autumn project when all the weed dies down!

I have been trying to sum up my experience of the dry stone walling holiday which is hard as it was a week of extremes.  On the one hand, I loved it.  The company was good, the walling was fascinating, being bumped out of my comfort zone and into the sort of communal experience I haven't had for years was interesting and probably good for me.  On the other hand, I discovered I was considerably less fit than I was a few years ago when Erica and I walked the Offa&#…

Dry stone walling up a mountain part 2

On the first day we were not walling but walking. It was pouring down with that drenching relentless rain which makes Snowdonia so eye wateringly green. That was fine. I can do walking and I can do wet. I had got my head round the rotas for breakfast making and washing up and cooking dinner and I had slept surprisingly well. We did a bit of chatting as we walked. There were a whole range of reasons for people being there from the immediately practical (have falling down dry stone walls, want to work in conservation) through serial National Trust volunteers who had done all sorts of things to those who were along for a first time, curious to see what it involved.

Monday dawned dry. We breakfasted and each made our own lunch. I packed my rucksack and we piled into the minibus. Even so early in the week various patterns were emerging: 80s music played in the evenings from leader Simon's iPod and radio 2 was on in the van. The oldies cracked a bottle of wine in the evenings.…