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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Summer garden/Winter garden

I took part enthusiastically in the twitter #summergarden thing over the weekend.  The idea was to post photos of your garden in the summer to cheer everyone up. I don’t know if these were the exact photos I posted but you get the idea:

It was lovely.  I saw some people complaining but I find it hard to object to flowers at any time of year really.  Everything was a bit grey otherwise but last night we had proper snow and everything turned magical:

I sneaked out about 11pm to take these while the snow was still falling.  Bella was not happy.  These are the pawprints of a fast moving cat:

This morning it was still magical:

I walked cheerfully to work through the snow, loving every minute and spotting these snow people on a bridge:

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It’s gone a bit grey again tonight but that little boost of snowy wonderland will keep me going until the snowdrops come out:wp_20170201_08_50_48_pro(these are last year’s)

Reclaiming Paradise Awards 2017

As the year turns, I’ve set to reflecting on 2017’s disasters and successes (in the garden anyway, let’s not dwell on the wider world here).  Last year we had the inaugural Reclaiming Paradise awards – details here.  Now they have become annual, though the categories vary slightly from year to year.

Most disappointing vegetables

The red flowered broad beans and purple radishes share this award. They both produced the most lovely flowers but neither produced a decent bean or radish. The radishes did, however, produce lovely seed pods, eventually

WP_20170930_13_11_58_ProI’ll grow the radishes again, but just for the flowers and pods. As for the beans, I’ll stick to my old favourite black and white varieties – for an entire blog post about these, see here

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Most successful vegetables

and the joint winners are rainbow chard, broad beans (the black and white variety) runner beans, peas, courgettes, crystal lemon cucumbers … and marrows

Juiciest fruit

Plums, on their way to becoming jam, autumn fruiting raspberries, strawberries, at last doing well now that they have their own  strawberry bed

and apples and rhubarb, maybe not exactly juicy, but always wonderful and great in cakes of all kinds.

Most colourful vegetable

Sharing top position for the second year running are the rainbow chard and the pink and blue peas.

Cheekiest garden pests

The snail that came into the kitchen with the rainbow chard, the snail that took a chunk out of a chilli and, the brave vine weevil that met its nemesis in the insect eating plant – more on that here. But enough of vine weevils, which also caused havoc outside, destroying my hamamelis and trying to destroy my bay tree.

Most successful recycling

The rotary dryer which became a pea support, the freezer baskets which kept the cat off the seedlings, and this happy banana box which is still keeping cats and frost of my autumn sown broad beans.  It is a little early to say how successful this has been but there are signs of hope:

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Flowers

As always daffodils, roses and sweet peas. This year I also took particular delight in the flowers in my mother’s garden while she was in hospital. So a special award goes to her tulips and spring flowers for bringing joy in adversity

Cooking and recipes

Raspberry cake, a lot of jam and pickles, and the ever wondrous green soup

Simplest pleasures

Sunsets, my first potatoes in a long while, seedlings and bees .. oh and frogs..

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There were really too many simple pleasures this year. There always are but this year we’ve had family worries and reasons to focus on nature’s wonders. I also took part in the #30dayswild twitter challenge, to find something wild or natural every day in June. This led me to really look.  I won’t list them all, but I found:

plants making an abstract painting on a wall, bees and sunsets (of course), but also

a reason to take pleasure in snails (this one eating a daisy) and rain (it fills up the water butts), going outside after dark to see what I can see and hear.. and more bees. Since June I haven’t sought out something wild every day but I have noticed things that I might have missed before, like the sunsets and the wonderful clouds and the patterns in the frost

Despite all the gloom around us, there’s always something in the garden to bring cheer.  Blogging and tweeting about these things also helps. Best wishes from Reclaiming Paradise to all my readers for 2018.

November blooms

Someone, or something, has ripped up the cardboard on the raised beds:

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I suspect Bella, though there was rather a bigger hole than she normally digs, so perhaps it was an urban fox.  We do get them from time to time.

Anyway, I had planned to spend the day doing something else, but fixing the hole and replanting a few broad beans led me into the garden and onto doing more pottering. The leaves are falling fast from the monster sycamore in the front garden so, having dealt with the cardboard, my attention was turned to the front of the house, where the sun was shining. Mainly I cleared up leaves and rearranged things in the pots in the hope of a few wee flowers over the winter before the bulbs come up.

I had a look around to see what was flowering in the front garden today.  I found:

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Lavender with lots of flowers and some bees,

Primula and osteospermum,

Rose Benjamin Britten, and rosehips on the wild rose and, then, totally out of season but blooming optimistically, a broad bean:

WP_20171105_14_42_53_ProMaybe that one will produce a bean or two if the ones under the cardboard don’t.

Having failed to get out to do the other things I needed to do, I made some apple gingerbread from the Howgate Wonders:

wp_20161218_0021Photo from a previous occasion, recipe here

Cheerful stuff for a lovely autumn day.