Garden Bloggers Bloom Day 15 Feb 2015

Two happy things today. The first is that there really are blooms in the garden and second, it is a beautifully sunny day here on the South coast of England. This makes writing a post for Garden Bloggers Bloom day a bit of a treat; I haven’t contributed to this monthly meme hosted by Carol of May Dreams Garden blog for a while.

I had to take my iPad out to take photographs because my laptop has died making my camera pointless as I won’t be able to transfer photos using a memory card. Also I am writing this post on the iPad and anyone trying to write using the WordPress app will know how frustrating it can be.   The iPad actually takes some excellent quality photos so not being able to use my big camera is ok.

Anyway, here goes!

Hellebores
Always lovely to see this time of the year. A bog standard variety and I always promise myself to buy new ones but never get around to it.

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Snowdrops
Like the hellebores, these are a common garden variety but come up every year and are pretty.

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Primroses
There are only a few, the others are still to flower but there is plenty of time.

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Pieris ‘Forest Flame
A shrub that is guaranteed to have something worth photographing at anytime of the year.

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Iris ‘Gordon
Regular readers will probably be fed up with seeing these by now. This early pot is almost over now, but there are some in the other pots that are just about to come out, so more to photograph.

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Hydrangea
Can I get away with dried flowers? I think so!

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Japanese Amenome
Last month I showed my Japanese Anemone which was flowering. Lo and behold it is still flowering, despite the snow and ice. Poor confused little plant.

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Skimmia
Alright, I know that strictly speaking berries are not blooms but they are colourful and nice to include. I get confused with Skimmia, There is a large shrub in the front garden covered in red berries all year round, and in the summer it also produces tiny white flowers. In the back garden I have one that produces clusters of tiny dark berries in the winter. Both, apparently, are Skimmia Japonica. I read the first one is a female plant and the second one is a male. Can anyone shed any further light?

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Narcissi ‘Paperwhite’
My final photo for this GBBD post is a pot of narcissi bulbs that I forgot I had and despite having no soil and being left outside, I unearthed them today and they are in flower. You can’t get the better of nature can you!

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Please pay a visit to May Dreams Garden and take a look at what is in bloom in bloggers gardens around the world.

Not My Front Garden

I live on the ground floor of a Victorian conversion. I bought it fourteen years ago this month, not only because of its good size and lovely high ceilings, but it came with the delight of a self-contained back garden just the right size for me to maintain. So many conversions have split back gardens with little or no privacy which it certainly not, in my opinion, ideal. The downside to owning the back garden is that the front garden belongs to the flat upstairs and my lounge looks out on to it.

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When I moved in it was just a patch covered in black plastic, topped with bark clippings. The whole area was a public toilet to every cat in the neighbourhood. The only saving grace was the colourful Skimmia and the Lilac tree in the corner. A year later the upstairs people put their flat up for sale and were astute enough to grass the front and make a path around the edge to my back gate.

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The subsequent owners were not gardeners or at all interested in the garden and kindly allowed me to tend to its care. After tidying up the Skimmia I discovered a hydrangea and, much to my delight, I also unearthed snowdrops.

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Several years ago, when the flat was on the market again I overheard, to my horror, the estate agent saying to a prospective buyer, “as you can see a lot of people have turned their front gardens into parking areas”. No way was I going to have someone else’s car, or God forbid, a Transit van parked up against my lounge window. Fortunately, working for a solicitor, I shot downstairs to the conveyancing department and investigated buying the freehold and was lucky enough that the freeholder was happy to sell. At least that guaranteed no one would ever be able to turn the front garden into a parking lot, not while I was the freeholder!

The flat was bought as a Buy to Let, (which has its own issues) and there has been a regular turnover of tenants in the last 9 years. Fortunately none of them have been interested in gardening and I have been able to continue as the ‘resident gardener’. I did try to buy the front garden but the owner was advised against it by his solicitor. That was disappointing and a little annoying but understandable as it would affect his lease.

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Yes, that’s right, you do see a For Let sign. The present tenant, after 2 years, is moving out. As usual the flat is advertised as a rental with a front garden and I have started the minor panic I experience every time I see this horrid board, hoping that the new tenants are not gardeners either. Selfish, I know! It means when I introduce myself I have to find a pleasant way of asking if they like gardening, if not would it be ok for me to continue to look after the garden. So far the tenants have been quite happy to relinquish the care. Although there was one lady who dabbled for a few weeks and pulled up all the Forget me Nots thinking they were weeds. I have to be honest I didn’t handle it too well and although I know she had the right to do whatever she wanted I did point out that they were not weeds, but she didn’t do any more ‘gardening’ after that!

Fully aware it is not my property, I don’t spend very much money, if any, on the front garden, taking cuttings and moving bits and pieces from the back garden. There are however lots of bulbs I have put in over the years. It is always so heartwarming to walk through the front gate and see these in the spring.

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This morning I was out there having a general tidy up before the new tenants move in, and contemplating if I was going to move the beautiful Day Lilies that I planted a few years ago, (one of the few plants it did buy for the front). The jury is still out on that one, mainly because I’m not sure this is the right time of the year to move plants.

I hope the new tenants don’t pick the tulips when they come through or cut down the pretty white rose by the front door. It can only go two ways, either they don’t like gardening and let me get on with it, or they do like to garden, care for it and I have something pretty to look at without the work.

That’s me trying to be positive, and I hope the little Robin who followed me around this morning thinks the same thing.

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Learning To Write English All Over Again

There are times when I wish my mother tongue was something other than English  and I had to learn English from scratch. That way I would know my verbs from adverbs, my nouns from pronouns and how to construct a grammatically correct sentence.  I don’t know about you, but I have always been acutely aware of my lack of knowledge when it comes to English grammar.  Even as I start to write this post, I am wondering if anyone reading it might be thinking that I have used prepositions and subordinate conjunctions in the wrong place.   No, I don’t know what they are either!   I just write as I speak the language I have grown up with over the last 63 years.

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About 20 years ago I joined an adult education evening class at my local Sixth form college and took Adult English GCE. The majority of the syllabus was literature based which was most enjoyable and I discovered the joy of writing.   At that time, I was surprised how the written word had evolved since I left school. For example, we were told not to use a comma in front of the word and ( ,and ) as it was unnecessary.  I never did get around to reading “Eats, Shoots and Leaves”  written by Lynne Truss and published in 2003.  Maybe if I had read it I would not be struggling now.  10 years later I worked for someone who abhorred capital letters apart from the beginning of a sentence.  This threw me into a complete flummox trying to get things right, I had spent years, as a legal secretary, typing the Court, so to downgrade it to the court just didn’t feel right.

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I have muddled along quite happily over the years, accepting corrections from bosses, although I wasn’t entirely sure they were correct, and (see I still use the unnecessary comma) in the last 4 years writing my blog as if I was talking to you, without any hesitation as to whether the Grammar Police were going to come at me with a big stick.

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I am very aware that everything evolves over the years, but last week something happened at work that made me wonder, even question, whether it is changing for the better.   We have been given a “Writing style guide”  to be used as a reference tool to ensure that communications are presented in a consistent style.  It went on to explain that spelling and punctuation changes as the language evolves.  There is a list of words to be avoided “Jargon”, redundant phrases and how to simplify common phrases such as using ‘about’ instead of ‘in relation to’ and ‘from or for’ instead of ‘from the point of view of’.  We are shown how to use bullet points, capital letters and abbreviations.    It was at abbreviations that was one hurdle I found a bit too high.   The style guide goes on to explain that abbreviations pronounced as words are written in sentence case, giving the example of NATO should be Nato.    Surely this is WRONG WRONG WRONG!!!

Feeling strongly about this, I took it up with our Marketing Department, sorry that should be marketing department (lower case), and received a reply that they were “delighted to see that I was absorbing the writing style”, explaining acronyms can be presented in both forms but a consistent approach was important and provided me with a link to the Guardian and Observer style guide.    I am not a Guardian reader but this was interesting and I learned that the ubiquitous comma can be used in front of the word ‘and’ and it is known as the Oxford comma:

Oxford comma – a comma before the final “and” in lists: straightforward ones (he ate ham, eggs and chips) do not need one, but sometimes it can help the reader (he ate cereal, kippers, bacon, eggs, toast and marmalade, and tea), and sometimes it is essential:

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I dedicate this book to my parents, Martin Amis, and JK Rowling

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I dedicate this book to my parents, Martin Amis and JK Rowling

All is not lost, fortunately.

Meanwhile, I will continue to write as though I am speaking to you, whether it is right or wrong.  If I ponder too much over correctness it will slow down my process of thought, or should that be thought process.  I will remember not to use capital letters for the seasons which is something I always get wrong, and I will continue to stumble over the use of which and that –  “This is the house that Jack built” “This house, which Jack built, is now falling down.”

What is your take on all of this?  I leave you to think about how English has changed having read my post which is probably bursting with grammatical errors.

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Board Games Never Lose Their Attraction

I believe that you can have much more fun with a group of people playing a board game than sitting in front of an XBox, Playstation or a solitary time with a Nintendo DS.

A few weeks ago, I had a highly entertaining supper party with three close friends playing a board game that K had found in a second hand shop. It is no longer in the shops but I found it can be bought for the pricey sum of £30 on Ebay. The game? It was The Archers – Ambridge version.

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We were not surprised it didn’t catch on, the rules were complicated to say the least. The idea is to work your way around the board on the throw of a dice. You collect cards telling you which Archers character you are, and as you land on a known property, such as The Bull, another player gives you something off the list to talk about. Got it so far? Try talking about slurry in the voice of Linda Snell before the egg timer runs out! If you are now thinking you don’t listen to the Archers and who the hell is Linda Snell, spare a thought for the fourth member of our group who, several years younger than the rest of us, doesn’t listen to the Archers either. It made the evening all the more hilarious.

Fun times can also be had across the generations. My grandchildren, four and eight, came to stay last weekend and before they arrived I pulled out the toy box only to realise that they were outgrowing ‘grannie’s toys’. I quickly ordered a reversible snakes and ladders and ludo game. – thank goodness for Amazon.

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When it arrived I had to read the ludo rules because I couldn’t for the life of me remember how it was played. Armed with the rules, the three of us sat down and had a most enjoyable time going up the ladders and down the snakes, followed by moving our coloured counters around the ludo board. My four year old granddaughter took it in her stride when someone’s counter landed on hers and she had to go back to the beginning,

Board games teach children that there are winners and losers and you can’t always be first. A valuable lesson in life.

What family board games do you still play?

Book Review: Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds’

The idea of a secret garden is fascinating, and to be given the privilege of actually viewing a secret garden is all the more exciting.  “Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds – a Personal Tour of 20 Private Gardens” opens the gate for us to sneak a look at gardens. Thank you Francis Lincoln Publishers for sending me this book to review which I have thoroughly enjoyed browsing and making a note of those I would like to visit.

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The author, Victoria Summerley, is a gardening journalist, and blogger, who moved to the Cotswolds in 2012 and lives in what William Morris called “the most beautiful village in England”.  Accompanied with photographs by Hugo Rittson-Thomas, who also is lucky enough to live in the Cotswolds, this coffee table book takes us on a visit of 20 privately owned homes with beautiful and interesting gardens, many of which are influenced by Rosemary Verey, Isabel and Julian Bannerman, Repton and Capability Brown.

We are given a history of the gardens and the designs and inspirations which has developed them through the years. Being particularly nosey, whilst in awe of the gardens rather than the fantastic houses they come with,  it is always of interest to see who owns them and each chapter also has a photo of one or both of the owners as well as, in some cases, the head gardeners.  For me it added an extra personal touch rather than just a book of photographs of gardens.

Disappointingly, only 14 of the 20 are open to the public, the other 6 remain a secret unless you have been lucky enough to see them in this book.   Those 14 are, however, only open at certain times of the year and mostly for the National Garden Scheme.  At the back of the book is a sketch map together with details of opening times, so you can plan your visit to the Cotswolds around those gardens you particularly want to see.

‘Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds’ is published on 5 February 2015 and would make a wonderful gift for anyone who not only has a love of, or desire to visit, the Cotswolds, coupled with a love of beautiful gardens.

To order ‘Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds’ at the discounted price of £16 including p&p* (RRP: £20) telephone 01903 828503 or email mailorders@lbsltd.co.uk and quote the offer code APG281

*UK ONLY – please add £2.50 if ordering from abroad.

Francis Lincoln Publishers have a number of other lovely garden books just waiting to be published, including ‘Gardens of the Amalfi Coast‘ in February and ‘First Ladies of Gardening‘ in March.