End of Month View – April 2011

Allium, Euphorbia and japanese anemone

Whow, the weather this April has been crazy.  It has been as warm as we would expect in the Summer and we have had no rain in West Sussex for weeks on end.   Both my water butts are empty, actually that is not quite true, we must have had a short shower last night, because the slim butt by my back door was about 2/3rds full this morning.  This was great, but not enough, we need a good few days of solid rain to replenish the water levels and refill our water butts.

Alan Titchmarsh says that he doesn’t water his established perennials, encouraging them to dig deep with their roots and uses a mulch to seal in the moisture.   I can understand that to a point, if you don’t give the soil a really good soaking, the roots will stay just below the surface where the soil is wet and this can lead to weak plants.   However, it is very disconcerting to see treasured plants wilting in the heat.  My water is metered and I am very conscious, when filling my watering can from the tap, that I am paying for every drop of water I am pouring on my plants.  Also plants do not like tap water, especially ours as it is so hard.   We must have some rain soon, the water reservoirs are too low for this time of the year and if this continues we will be heading towards a water shortage.

North facing flower bed April 2011
The North facing border is lush and filling out nicely

My Aquilegia are in bloom a little early,however, when I look back to last year, the photos I took were mid-May.  They have self-seeded all over the garden, but still have come out in different colours and its exciting to watch which ones will stay true from year to year.  I have given up naming them, they are all just Aquilegia to me.   The greenfly are having a field day though and I am having to spray them with soapy water, not that it is making much difference.

My raised bed is flourishing and I have already started cutting the baby spinach leaves for salads.  The first radishes are nearly ready to pull.

My potato bag has now had two layers of chitted Duke of Yorks and all I have to do is wait for them to flower and I should be rewarded with fresh potatoes from the garden.  Exciting because I have never grown my own potatoes before.

The pak choi is growing well.  This is another vegetable  I have never grown before.  I think I have not thinned them out enough, from my recollection of seeing pak choi in the shops it is quite bulky, probably to the thickness of  celery.   I read that they don’t like their roots disturbed but I had sown far too many seeds and it was difficult to thin them out in situ, so I pulled them all up and replanted the little plants.  I watched them with trepidation for a few days as they went very floppy and I thought I was going to have to go back to square one.  They have picked up  fortunately and are looking very healthy.  I still zip the cover to the raised bed closed every night, the temperature really drops and there is always the fear of a sudden grown frost, despite the hot days.

Everything shot up in the heat and the sun, but now, because of the lack of rain it is all slowing down a bit. I do hope we don’t have a really cold May which will set everything back.

The strawberry plant is beginning to flower and my beautiful pink tissue paper like poppy is just in bud.  Again it is early and I am having a little panic as I can only see one bud.  This poppy is now about 5 year old and generally throws up six to eight flowers.  I hope that it does the same again this year.

Finally, my Gerbera is appearing again this year.   Several years ago I went to the Hampton Court Show on the last Sunday.  It is always, in my opinion, the best day to go as all the plants are sold off at about 4:00pm and some great bargains are to be had.  I bought this Gerbera because it produces the brightest pink flower you can imagine and was a good sized large plant for only £5.   Looking at it, I think I need to re-pot it because it is growing in one corner only, so that is my next job.  My lovely white Agapanthus is in the background.

So there we are, my EMOV for April.   I am looking forward to EMOV May to show photos of plants in full flower.   Thank you Helen from Patient Gardener for starting off this meme.


What a wonderful Royal Wedding Day We Have Had

Well it’s all over and I am, like many others, suffering from the anti-climax.   I watched the Royal wedding with Daughter #2, who gets married in July, and my 92 year old Mum.

We hot-footed it from my house to her Nursing Home (just around the corner) between the Queen leaving Buckingham Palace, getting there just in time for her arrival at Westminster Abbey.  Mum’s Nursing Home, laid on a party and when we arrived, they were all in front of giant screens with their glittering Union Jack hats and glasses of wine.

For months the media have been getting hot under the collar about the guest list, who is invited and who is not.   There has been supposition about what the guests will wear and more important what the Bride will be wearing and who the designer will be.  What a well kept secret that has been.  The frenzy built to a crescendo over the last week, culminating into a wonderful Royal wedding.  No one does pomp and circumstance as well as us.

Although watched by millions, both outside and on television, together with a full congregation at Westminster Abbey, it still had that, comfortable, happy, family feel about it.

No doubt, you will read many many articles and blogs about the wedding.  This is my little addition, in which I would like to mention what stood out out to me:-

First, there was the wonderful sight of Westminster Abbey flanked with  field maples Acer campestre and  hornbeams Carpinus betulus   in giant pots.  These trees are native to the British Isles and set the theme of the wedding.  Her white bouquet was lily of the valley, hyacinth, sweet william and with a sprig of myrtle from Queen Victoria’s home at Osborne on the Isle of Wight.  The couple had said they wanted the day to epitomise the best of what was British.  They certainly achieved that.

The music, was rousing and by British composers.  Catherine Middleton walked down the aisle to I Was Glad by Parry.   the same music  used for The Queen’s coronation and her Golden Jubilee.  The whole of the Abbey sang Jerusalem with gusto – such a rousing patriotic song, written by William Blake.  Finally, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge walked back down the aisle together, timed to perfection, to William Walton’s Crown Imperial.   The residents of Mum’s Home joined in most of the songs and some even stood up when the National Anthem was played, now you don’t get that happening anymore.

With our very own family wedding coming up, as Mother of Bride, I was eager to see what was fashionable, and what was not.  Also what the glamorous, fashionistas were wearing.   It was noticeable that the number of fascinators were at a minimum.  Large, and I mean LARGE, brimmed hats were abound.  I did laugh to watch the women greet each other with side to side air kisses and I could imagine them thinking “Mind my hat”.   Phew, I am glad that I changed my fascinator for a hat.  Heavily doctored, a one-off, and as good as any Philip Traecy hat, although I say it myself.

Now, the shoes… that was interesting and causing me a dilemma with my outfit.  What was obvious was that elegant footwear either matches the outfit, making for a complete colour block, or nude in colour, creating a long leg look.

Much to Daughter #2’s relief there was only one thing at the wedding today which is something they are having at their wedding, but I am not going to tell you here.  For that, my hat and my shoes you will have to wait until  July.

Garden, Photography

Lilac time

The warmth of the sun brings out the fragrance of flowers and shrubs.  This was certainly true this afternoon, when the heady aroma of the lilac in the front garden wafted in the air.   If  I could share this with you I would, but instead I will just share the photos and, sadly, you will have to imagine the perfume.

The warm Spring has brought on the early flowering of this wonderful shrub.  A cooler Spring delays the blooms and sometimes we have to wait until May.


On the back page of the May 2011 edition of Gardens Illustrated, there is an article about Lilacs written by Frank Ronan.  He says: “Nowadays you hardly see a lilac lilac…”   which is another reason why I thought to share it with you.  I inherited my lilac Syringa vulgaris, 10 years ago when I bought  this house, so I don’t know how old it is, but it is very well established.

Some advise no pruning as the lilac flowers on old wood and it is more abundant if left alone, others say that it requires an annual prune.  In view of the fact that I left it alone last year, I think I may be in the don’t prune camp because it has certainly flowered in abundance this year.  However, I will prune it carefully this year, immediately after flowering, taking out old and dead wood.  Hopefully in Spring 2012 it bloom again in magnificent glory.

Garden, Photography

Glorious Guernsey – beaches and bluebells

Update 3 May 2011:  This post has been chosen by WordPress for their Freshly Pressed selection. Thank you to FP and all of you who have stopped by to read it and leave such kind comments.

I have just had 5 glorious sunny days in The Channel Islands, with my long-term best buddy MB.  We arrived in Guernsey on Monday to weather warmer than the Mediterranean.  The Good Weather Fairy looked upon us kindly throughout our stay.

Monday: We arrived at lunchtime and wandered down into St Peter Port for lunch and a general mooch about looking at the shops.  MB, being a jeweller, was interested in all the jewellery shops in the town, and there were many!

Tuesday:  We caught the 10:35 ferry for a 20 minute trip to Herm Island.

Leaving St Peter Port on the ferry for Herm

Herm Island is 3 miles from Guernsey, a mile and a half long and half a mile wide.  There are no cars  on Herm and it was tranquil and calm.  We followed the designated path around the island and took in some fantastic views.

The ferry leaving us on Herm

The first thing that struck me was how advanced the flora and fauna was.  There were many fuchsia bushes in flower.

Fuchsia out on Herm - April 2011

Then, we came across several beautiful and deserted beaches.

fisherman's Beach - Herm Island
Shell Beach - Herm Island
Clear blue sea - Herm Island

We missed the regular Tuesday Herm Island Garden Walks, so looked out for what we hoped would be pretty gardens but to no avail and came to conclusion that they must be well tucked away.  However, the island was an abundance of Rock Asters, Osteospermum and Mesembryanthemums, so there were plenty of flowers to photograph.


We headed back to the landing steps for the 3.35 p.m. sailing back to St Peter Port.

The landing steps at Herm, waiting for the ferry back to St Peter Port, Guernsey

Wednesday:  After much deliberation, rejecting the idea of hiring a car and   opting for the bus, we went to the west side of Guernsey Island.   Again the day was hot, the sea was like a mill pond and the haze denied us clear photos.

Boats in tranquil Portelet Bay

We walked the length of the west coast, with the intention of getting around to the sandy bay at the top of Island, but heat and hunger got the better of us.  We flagged down a bus to the Guernsey Freesia Centre.   Why do advertising leaflets make places sound as though you could spend some time there?  It was empty, apart from 3  ladies packing freesias who didn’t speak English so we couldn’t ask any questions; we wandered around the greenhouses instead.   The perfume was well worth the brief visit.

One of six Freesia greenhouses - Guernsey Freesias

Thursday:  Another  bus ride.  This time, to Fermain Bay, which was an incredibly steep walk down to the bay, but well worth it.   The shady banks on the way down were full of bluebells and wild garlic.  It is called “Stinking Garlic” on Guernsey and it was certainly that!   Seen as more invasive than the Spanish Bluebell on the Island, a large number of plants are removed each year to keep it under control.  It was, however, everywhere.

It may be 'wild' and 'stinky' but is a very pretty flower

We sat on the beach until the heat got too much for us and then headed to the cliff path for the walk back to St Peter Port.

Fermain Bay - Guernsey Island

As you can see from the photo looking down from the cliff, the ascent up the path was very very steep, but like the walk down, was well worth the climb.

The view of Fermain Bay, from the cliff walk

The two hour walk along the cliff path was magical.

Bluebell (and garlic) cliff path

The higher we got the better the surprises.  To our left was a glorious, breathtaking bluebell wood and …

Bluebell wood - April 2011

…to the right was the view over to Herm Island.

View from cliff walk - Fermain to St Peter Port

Then we reached the pièce de résistance….

A carpet of bluebells every where you looked

It was breathtaking, and I must have counted at least 6 artists perched on their little stools with their watercolours – heavenly!

Friday: It rained for about 2 minutes this morning, the first and last rain of the day.   We walked just a few minutes up the hill from the hotel to the Guernsey Museum and Candie Gardens.  These gardens are a rare example of a late 19th century public flower garden with the oldest known heated glass-houses in the British Isles, which date back to the late eighteenth century.

Victorian Greenhouse Candie Gardens
Azalea in Candie Gardens
Babiana - a lovely flower from South Africa
I am assuming these are Sedum there was a carpet of them
If these are not Sedum please tell me. They look like something from outer space.

… and then we had to go the airport to return back home.  It was a great holiday and I love Guernsey.


Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but gets you nowhere

Here is a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don’t worry be happy
In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double
Don’t worry, be happy……

“Dont’ Worry, Be Happy”  Click here to listen to this song while you read this post

I am a worrier!  It is getting worse as I get older.  I could win prizes for worry.  It is completely counter-productive and irrational.   Life experiences should have taught me by now that worry gets you nowhere.  Surely I should have learned that things have a habit of sorting themselves out, eventually, even if it is not always the way I expected.

Aaargh! Greenfly on my rose buds.

I worry about things that are usually totally out of my control as well as things that can, with a little bit of time and effort, be easily solved.  Like the greenfly on my roses.  All I need to do is get some soapy water and spray them – simple.  Why do I worry about greenfly?  I have no idea!

For Hostas read slug banquet

I fret about my hostas  – are they are ever going to make it to adulthood?  The solution is slug pellets, but I worry about using them as I feel I should be completely organic and use other barrier methods but maybe they won’t be effective.    Three worries in one hit.   No real sensible reason to worry is there?  But I do!

My poor old shabby shed

Procrastination: putting off important tasks to a later time, is  also a failing of mine.   Not repairing my shed is a prime example and now I am worrying that is it falling apart and beyond repair.  Self-inflicted worry.

If there is nothing to worry about, you can be sure I will find something.

What am I worried about now?

My little raised bed allotment

I am going away on holiday.  Although I have a dear and trusted friend and neighbour coming  to water mid-week, it won’t stop me fretting about my seedlings, buds and cuttings.

What if there is a heavy sudden frost?  Maybe it will be so  hot, everything will wilt.   What if the slugs and snails devour them when my back is turned?  What if the foxes have another party in my absence, like they did over New Year?  On and on it goes.  See, I will find anything and everything to worry about.

I have just read an article about anxiety, worry and relaxing the mind.  It tells me: “The past is over, the future is not yet here.  Be present in whatever you do.”  I really should try to put this into practice, it makes good sense.

Worry really is a pointless exercise, I know that.   I need to tell myself that no matter what happens, my garden will still be here when I get back, and regardless of the weather, the slugs or the foxes, nature always recovers.

It’s never too late to change and maybe this is the very thing I should try to change on my journey to towards being 60 – Don’t worry, be happy.