Garden Photography Challenge – February : Monochrome 

The February garden photography challenge for February given to us by SmallBlueGreenFlowers is ‘monochrome’. 

In February I am looking for Monochrome

(black and white or tones of one colour. Look for texture, shape and patterns. The subject matter is entirely up to you, but should be loosely garden related.)

I’ve been wandering around for the last week trying to find something that would look interesting in black and white.  Today I visited West Dean Gardens, near Chichester, and went into one of their greenhouses to warm up.  

CRACKED IT!  

There laid out before me was a colourful array of gourds.  The more I looked at them, the more I realized that they looked at their best in monochrome.  When photographed in black and white you are not detracted by their colours but notice how the texture of their warty and patterned skins comes the fore.  The photos below are my contribution to this month’s challenge. 

   
 

  
As the challenge is ‘monochrome’ and can include photos of one tone, I am also showing a coloured photo of the really warty gourds.  It’s probably not quite within the remit of one tone but close enough – I hope! 

  

Gardening Teaches Patience

I am feeling a bit embarrassed about the state of my garden at the moment.  In my defence it has been either too wet or/and I have been too tired to get out there and do some badly needed house  garden work.   The back garden has no sun during the winter months and with the amount of rain we have had, for what feels like months on end, it is not getting the chance to dry out.  Also despite adding plenty of ‘goodness’ over the years I have worked on it, the heavy clay soil makes draining an almost impossible job.   I squelched out there this afternoon after my hospital treatment because it was sunny and I thought I should make an inspection – probably not a good idea, but it’s given me something to blog about. 

 
I have posted a similar photo of the north facing border recently, and apologise for doing it again.  The rain has flattened the soil and where it has flooded, due to the water not draining, the lawn edging has broken down.  I have spiked the soil with a fork on several occasions to no avail.

  
The above photo shows more clearly what the flowerbed has turned into, the fresh greenery at the base of the wall is crocosmia (montbretia) which continues to spread and grow despite where it is planted!  You can just see the achemilla mollis coming through again. 

It is not just this bed that has had its boundary between soil and lawn flattened, the bed at the bottom of the garden has the same problem and it’s becoming difficult to see where the border ends and the lawn begins.

  
 

  
You can see that I have tried to dig over some of the panned soil and edge the lawn.  The trouble with this is there are a lot of spring bulbs and the last thing I want to do is damage them.   It’s all a bit of a mess as I said earlier, the grass is growing but it’s far too wet to mow and clumps of grass are beginning to spread into the flowerbed, so there is a lot of work to do.   

The sticks are my effort to prevent the local cats from pooing and digging up the bulbs,  it works to a point, they now poo on the lawn instead!  It’s good to see the agapanthus growing along with the aqualigia, all signs of Spring not being too far away.  What worries me most is that we haven’t yet had a really hard frost or a very cold winter spell.   The damp and lack of frost is aiding and abetting slug and snail eggs hidden beneath the soil, so I could be suffering a bumper crop of these beasties with their voracious appetites.   We need a really good frost so I can turn over the soil and kill off as many eggs as possible.

   
 My spring bulb pots are on the side south facing patio, strategically placed so I can see them from the kitchen window.  The tulips are beginning to poke their way through.  I have spoken to them and tried to explain it is still a little too early but they are taking no notice of me!  The narcissi are looking as though they will be flowering in the next week or two. 

There is so much to do and I really should be thinking about pulling up dead stems etc, I usually leave them as protection for new growth.  However, it just looks untidy now and it’s frustrating me.  I am hoping that we have a good weekend soon and I can get out there and make a difference.   At the moment with going to and fro the hospital every day I don’t have time in the morning and am tired when I get home.   

It all comes good in the end though, as experience has taught me, so patience is the essence here, which is what gardening is all about. 

Garden Photography Challenge : January – A Winter Garden

It’s been quite a while since I’ve stepped up to the plate when it comes to photography challenges, so I was excited to feel stirred into action with this new monthly challenge.

I have just scraped in this month.  Today, Sunday, is a very dank and drear, which makes taking photos even more of a challenge as the soggy lawn squished under foot, however these capture the garden in winter at the end of January.


My spring pots, full of daffodil and tulip bulbs, are poking through a little early.


The damp trunk of the Sambucus Nigra Elder.


Pieris ‘Forest Flame’


Skimmia


Erysimum

Cornus – Dogwood


Fresh Sedum leaves


A rather damp north facing border


Back to the side patio and the flowering Jasmine scrambling through the Fatsia Japonica


Like a couple of bookends, my spring pots on the side patio from another direction.

If you are interests in joining in check out Small blue green flowers where you can find all the details.   Next month, February is ‘monochrome’.

A Soggy Garden with Confused Plants 

Spurred on with a new lease of life I had an idea that I would post a comparison of what was/is in the garden over the years I have written my blog.   To my surprise I have only a couple of posts from this week in the past and none of them are to do with the garden, so that idea was knocked on the head.   What I did notice was the second/third week in January, since the blog began in 2011, invariably had snow or was very icy, so maybe we will have a cold winter in 2016 before spring arrives. 

An icy  blast is certainly going to shock all the plants that have been fooled by the unseasonably warm weather.  In the front garden the snowdrops are out and the forget me nots have reseeded themselves everywhere! 

  
The tulips and daffodils (tete a tete) are coming through and the day lilies are producing lots of new leaves. 

  
 In order to protect the bulb shoots from the window cleaners, who have no regard to anything in flowerbeds, I have placed some flower supports.  I hope it works, in previous years they have just trampled over everything! 

  
We have had so much rain the back lawn squelches under foot, and the grass continues to grow with little chance of getting the mower out.  The north facing border always ends up with standing water and there is a bare patch of lawn which I have tried, without success, to reseed on a number of occasions.  I have decided not to bother anymore and will turn it part of the flowerbed.   After I took the photo below I spiked the bed with a fork with the hope that it will drain. 

  
The summer jasmine, which sadly didn’t flower last year, is covered in buds (far too early) and I hope that it doesn’t succumb to any impending frosts. It won’t be warm enough however to make the most of the wonderful perfume is exudes on a balmy June evening.  I’ll have to bring some sprigs indoors to enjoy it. 
  Finally, all my spring pots were planted up before Christmas and I moved them so they can be seen from the kitchen window.   There are some very tiny shoots in some of them and one pot is very advanced.  It is the only pot that is not labelled up, (it would be!), but I think they are early narcissi.  Sometimes it’s quite exciting guessing what is growing.

  
We all know that in the winter cold wet days are usually mild, with sunny days bringing cold weather.   We need a bit more sun now with freezing temperatures to kill off the bugs, slugs and snails in the garden and there are very many people in the UK praying that we have no more rain for quite  while.   Maybe my next post will have snowy and ice photos! 

I Am Still Here! 

It has been 63 days since my last post, and a few of my blog followers have been lovely enough to email me to ask if all is well.   Many who also follow me on Twitter (@hurtledto60) will know that the nasty blighter called cancer has visited me again.  Fortunately, and I say that to remain positive, it is another Primary cancer and not related to the bowel cancer I had in 2013.  It certainly has thrown me as you can imagine!

I had a full CT in June 2015 in respect of the annual check up following bowel cancer and it was, thankfully, all clear!  When I had my three yearly mammogram appointment for the end of August, I very nearly didn’t go.  This was because I was naive enough to think if there was anything it would have been picked up on the scan.  It was only when I spoke to the Macmillan nurse and she pointed out that it was a different type of scan and it was still necessary for a mammogram I trotted off for the Breast Screening.

When I received a recall letter the following week, my heart sank and my brain went into overload.

We are lucky in Worthing to have a dedicated Breast Care Centre.  At the appointment I had a further mammogram, biopsy and saw the doctor, who confirmed even before the biopsy results, that there was a small tumour and, in her experience, it was cancerous.  The wonderful Macmillan nurses were on hand, armed with tissues, and went through everything with me, what to expect etc. and gave me an armful of information leaflets.

I returned 2 weeks later and the consultant confirmed it was a tiny 11mm Grade 1 invasive ductal cancer, it sounds very much worse than it is.  There was no lump, even the consultant couldn’t feel a lump so it was at a very early stage.  Had there been a palpable lump it would have been far more advanced – phew! This would be removed along with a sentinel lobe biopsy, with no chemo required this time unless of course it had spread into the lymph nodes but because it was so small that was unlikely  – again, phew! – I would need a course radiotherapy and as I was ER+ (oestrogen receptor positive) and HER2 negative I would be put on hormone treatment for the next 5, possibly 10 years.

In October I had what is known as wide local excision to remove the cancer and 3 lymph nodes removed from my armpit.  It was day surgery which was wonderful as I could return to my own bed.  Although, in the end I discharged myself.  I didn’t go down to the theatre until 3pm and came round in the recovery room about 7pm.  When I returned to the ward, there was no doctor on duty to write a discharge note, but I was so adamant that I wanted to go home, they let me leave about 9pm.  In hindsight I probably should have stayed a night, I was very wobbly on my pins when collected,  a dear friend stayed overnight with me, although she did remark she had never seen anyone look so pale.  It was wonderful to be in my own bed though and get a good nights sleep.

I recovered well from the operation and dutifully did my arm and shoulder exercises, the importance of these  were drilled into me by the Macmillan nurses.  The cancer was removed and there was no spread into the lymph nodes.  In November I started Letrozole, an  Aromatase inhibitor given to post-menopausal women, as opposed to the better known drug Tamoxifen which is usually given to younger women.   There seems to be no side effects at the moment, although I am feeling very low and anxious.  Today I spoke  to a wonderful lady on the Breast Cancer Care  support line, she said this is one of the side effects, but as I have a post Christmas viral bug that could be partly to blame.   Her suggestion was that I try to do something positive every day, deal with it bite sized, and not give into the  need to sleep every afternoon, although it was important to rest and look after myself.   Also she suggested that I give myself a treat to look forward to after the treatment, so I am going to check out short holiday breaks.  I had wanted to go back to work this week, it helps normality in my life, but as radiotherapy starts in Brighton on 19th January I must throw this bug off beforehand.

So there you are, the moral of this story is that is really is very important to attend regular mammograms.  They are uncomfortable but a few moments of having your breasts squeezed between two metal plates is far better than the consequences of having a tumour which is left to grow undetected.  I was told that if my tiny soft tumour had grown large enough to be felt there was a possibility that it would have been far more advanced and more difficult to deal with.

People are saying to me “oh how unlucky to have had bowel cancer and now breast cancer” but I am seeing it as being lucky it was caught in time and dealt with, albeit there is a five year regime ahead of medication, constant tests and check ups.  At least I am still here as sadly too many people die every year from cancer.  A work colleague who was diagnosed 6months after me with bowel cancer died just before Christmas, which really makes you take stock.

Always go to your GP if you think there is something amiss and insist it is checked out, don’t let them fob you off!