Paradise reclaimed

This blog takes its name from Joni Mitchell’s song Big Yellow Taxi. My front garden is a reclaimed car park where previous residents parked their cars in front of the house. For more on this story, see my about page. Instead of parking cars, I grow plants and welcome the wildlife. Today I did a big tidy up in the front garden, updated the labels in my herb garden and revelled in the plants and creatures that would not have been there had I been parking cars instead:

I also found this frog in the back garden, lurking in the long grass around the raised beds

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and this magnificent slug

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I found these exciting seed pods

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which came from this beautiful California poppy

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Seeds are magical but the bees and the butterflies are just the best:

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Paradise indeed.

Strawberries, onions, peas, cats but no unicorns yet

Lots happening in the garden and the allotment just now. The back hedge is still growing happily. You may remember that last year I promised flowers and bees, butterflies, bunnies and possibly unicorns – see here Well we have the bees and the butterflies and the flowers. I haven’t seen any bunnies or unicorns yet, but we do have flowers:

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and a rather a splendid cat, adorning the the space where the conifers used to be:

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I’m sure the unicorns will come in due course.  Meanwhile the peas are beginning to flower:

20190622_07370120190622_122502Those are the Norli peas and the stunning Carouby de Mausaune. Even more exciting, the Salmon pink heritage peas, which I saved seed from last year, are about to produce their astonishing pink flowers which bunch together at the top of the plant:

20190623_192038[1]Chelsea has taken an interest in the peas and particularly in the strings holding them up. Here she is lurking behind the pea stakes, ready to pounce:

20190623_092713.jpgDown at the allotment, the peas are not doing so well. They were started rather later and they are struggling in the battle of the slugs and snails. But I am ever optimistic. We did a great grass cutting and weeding today and were rewarded with the wonderful onions, here hanging up to dry in the kitchen:

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and the first allotment strawberries, which will not keep long before they are demolished:

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Rhubarb, weeds and a bunch of flowers

What a glorious day it has been today. I started in the garden, doing a little weeding, down on my hands and knees and was rewarded by this little gem of a viola, pushing up between the paving stones on the back patio:

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Then I weeded the strawberry patch:

20190330_131903It may not look like much to you but I assure you it is a lot tidier than it was. While I was down on my hands and knees amongst the weeds, I harvested some nettles, dandelion and hairy bitter cress and made weed pesto:

Weed Pesto

  • bunch of fresh nettles
  • a few dandelion leaves
  • a few florets of hairy bitter cress
  • a handful of herbs, eg chives, tarragon, mint
  • a clove of garlic
  • a splash of olive oil
  1. Wash the weeds and herbs well
  2. Pour boiling water over the nettles to kill the sting
  3. Rinse
  4. Put everything in a container and whizz for a couple of minutes with a hand whizzer

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Enjoy!

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Then, feeling I should do something about that old Mother’s Day thing, I went to visit my Mum. We don’t really do Mother’s Day in my house but following a bit of a little twitter spat about what gardeners should, or shouldn’t do to mark the day, I took her some rhubarb:

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Since it was such a lovely day, I brought her back to my house for some cat and garden therapy. Her cat (now resident with us) was rather disdainful but enjoyed being outside.

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Meanwhile Mum sorted out all the pots on my garden patio- I’ve never been much of a container gardener -mainly because of the nasty vine weevils which tend to eat everything, but Mum is a container wizard. Various things got replanted around the garden and she filled up some sad pots with bits of thyme, forget-me-not and random nasturtium seedlings. I’m looking forward to see how they turn out. Then she went and picked a whole lot of daffodils and wallflowers and arranged them nicely in a vase for me.

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‘But Mum, I’m supposed to give you flowers and all I gave you was rhubarb’. ‘The rhubarb will be lovely. You enjoy the flowers’.

Happy Mothers’, daughters’, grandmothers’, granddaughters’, nieces’, aunts’, sisters’ and family in general day!

 

Lost and found

Spring has come early. The daffodils have joined the snowdrops and crocuses in bringing us cheer

Today I got out into the garden to do some clearing up. The hedge at the back of the garden, where the conifers used to be, is looking decidedly bedraggled. My idea that it would be full of life and colour and a huge improvement on the conifers has yet to materialise. Partly it is just winter and some of the things growing up it have yet to come into full joyousness but the bare bits are made slightly more complex by neighbours moving in behind the hedge. The house behind ours has been empty for a year or so and it hasn’t mattered very much that you can see straight into it but now we (and the new neighbours) seem just a little too transparent. Not that we get up to anything interesting but a certain level of privacy would be good. Today I used the springlike weather and some recent birthday gifts to try and fill the gaps a bit. Along with the existing honeysuckle and roses, I have now added another honeysuckle, a pink flowered jasmine, a pyracantha, a spring flowering clematis and some lavender seedlings.

If these all grow like they are supposed to the gaps in the hedge should fill up and there should be some winter greenery and early spring flowers and perhaps the neighbours won’t have quite such a ringside view of our family goings on. Meanwhile, the hedge threw up yet another piece of treasure, after all the footballs and whatnot from last year, today I found a keyring under the hedge, complete with key for the shed padlock, lost about five or six years ago and long since replaced:

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It’s very muddy and a little rusty but it has returned from the planet of the keyrings to its proper home.

Worm’s eye view

Earlier in the week I got out into the front garden for a wee while in the sunshine. I noticed a huge worm on the paving stones.

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Who knows how it got there. I suppose it crept up through the cracks. Anyway, I picked it up and moved it onto a flower bed where I thought it would be happier.  While I was down on my hands and knees, I had a wee look to see what was in flower. All these lovelies were turning their heads to the sun:

and then I noticed crocuses, hiding underneath a gigantic lavender:

20190118_133309These are far too early for my garden but the combination of a low sun and the protection of the lavender must have brought them out.

Today I went to the allotment and spent a couple of hours, hauling up weeds mostly, and forgetting to take any photographs. But there was a lovely sunset to compensate on the way home:

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Another bouquet of vegetables

I had a mad dash into the garden today to harvest the last of the tomatoes before tonight’s threatened dive into zero temperatures:

WP_20181026_12_31_08_ProThis is the last of an incredible tomato harvest this year and these are lovely fat juicy San Marzano plum tomatoes which will probably now ripen indoors.  The tomato bed still has a couple of rather beautiful rainbow chard plants and some nasturtiums, which I hope will survive the deep freeze:

It was another dash into the garden as I’m still busy with my mother’s house move. So all the overgrown weedy stuff will just have to stay where it is, overgrowing happily. My mother is staying with us for a few days over the moving period and I thought it would be nice to put some flowers in her room to cheer the process. I’m not a great flower grower, and certainly not a flower arranger, but there were some lovely sweet peas, and I added some radish flowers for extra zing:

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..it’s not just winning, it’s about taking part

..really.  It was the allotment annual show on Saturday.  I thought I’d better enter some of our plentiful produce, although I wasn’t expecting any prizes.  I entered:

courgettes and runner beans, apples and rhubarb, raspberries, some not quite ripe yet tomatoes and a big vase of flowers. I knew the rules were all about perfection and submitting identical specimens. I had checked with the organisers whether unripe tomatoes would count – they said ‘no’ but thought I’d try anyway.  We could have entered our monstrous marrow, if only it hadn’t been carved, stuffed and eaten by musicians a few weeks ago, or possibly some of the stunning peas, but they have all gone now

 

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It was all about joining in though, so I did my best with what we had. I was delighted that we won three prizes!

My first ever allotment prizes.  I was a little chuffed. Then I brought all the vegetables that hadn’t won any prizes home and the musicians turned them into an allotment feast:

WP_20180915_13_02_23_ProIt was a very satisfying day.  Really it was about taking part but we will be proud to have those rosettes adorning our shed until next year.

 

Bouquet of vegetables

We are on a little adventure away from home, among other things, to celebrate an old friend’s retirement.  She showed us all the cards and bunches of flowers that she was given to mark the occasion.  All very lovely, but the most touching was a bouquet of vegetable flowers from a young relative:

WP_20180907_10_08_06_ProThe ‘bouquet’ includes broccoli flowers, fennel, marigolds and a lettuce. Who could ask for more? Well, apparently there were also a dozen eggs from the same smallholding but they don’t quite count as flowers.

There may be more travellers’ tales to come but I’ll leave you with the vegetable bouquet for now.

Frog and bee paradise

This weekend has been all about the frogs and the bees.  We’ve always had frogs in the garden, even before we built the pond and we were delighted when they moved into the water.  We don’t see them very often as they are, rightly a little shy, what with cats prowling about.  This weekend though they have been sitting in the pond, poking their little noses in the air, catching flies or other delicacies.  Last night I counted six, tonight there were nine. Don’t you just love them?

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WP_20180624_15_27_32_Pro (1)There was even one at the allotment this evening

wp_20180624_19_27_31_pro.jpgYesterday I spent the whole day in the garden, planting, weeding, generally tidying up and, while I was there, noted down all the flowers that were attracting bees.  I came up with the following list: campion, clover, foxglove, raspberry, radish, thyme, sage, escallonia, cotoneaster, borage, daisy. Bees are much harder to photograph than frogs as they don’t stay still for long. I managed to catch this one on a beautiful red scabiousWP_20180623_14_04_00_Pro.jpg

Watching the frogs and bees has been part of my #30days wild challenge. They have certainly repaid my patience. Maybe it’s because I took the time to really look, or maybe it’s the warm weather. Either way, I’m delighted.

 

 

 

Hedging my bets

The privet hedge at the front of the house has been having a growth spurt. I gave it a ritual hack back this afternoon but I had to stop when a nervous sparrow flitted in and out several times. It seems to have a nest in there so I stopped cutting, refilled the bird bath and left it in peace.

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Meanwhile the privet hedge at the back of the garden is just beginning to rejuvenate after the removal of the conifers which blocked the light from it, but it’s going to be a little slow:

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I’ve showed it the picture from the from the front garden to show it what it should be doing.  In the mean time I have stuck all my various hedge-improving cuttings of honeysuckle, winter jasmine and wild roses along the hedgeline to see what survives. And I moved a whole bunch of self-seeded campion which had invaded my raised beds to cheer up the barren hedge area.

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The last remains of the conifers have finally gone. Professional tree cutters carefully removed the actual trees a couple of months ago and a kindly stump removal person has now ground the stumps down to sawdust.  I’ve used some of the sawdust to mulch the roses and other shrubby things in the front garden and there are piles and bags of it lying around everywhere for future use.  But, the main point is, I can now get on with the plans for re-designing the back garden.  I’m still procrastinating a little. What’s it to be? Greenhouse? Fruit trees? More vegetable growing space? A rose covered arbour? The neighbours think I should build a summer house. A sculpture – but ‘not a reconstituted concrete thing from a garden centre’ – has also been suggested but slightly retracted when I suggested making one myself from found objects.  I think I’ll put some temporary raised beds over the area and put the tomatoes out there for the summer and then decide what to do more permanently in the autumn (still tempted by the fruit trees and that would be a good time).

And, just to let you see how my vegetables are doing, here are my broad beans, the ones planted through the cardboard in the autumn, now flowering away:

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