2 Jul 2009

The best thing about summer . . .

. . . when we get one that is, is getting out in the garden and using it as an extension of the house.

The hot weather lately has made me thankful that I work from home, the house is relatively cool as we don’t get much sun direct into rooms and the thick stone walls of our old cottage ensure that the house stays relatively cool.

I love being able to work with the door to the garden open and my habit is to perch on a bench by the back door frequently during the day as I work, as it remains in shade until about 3pm and is right in the path of any breeze we get.

Please click any of the photos for a larger view.

The hot weather has brought the garden on in leaps and bounds in the last couple of weeks and going outside to peg some washing out just now, I was surprised at how much difference there was since yesterday morning. I’ve been watching the progress of some fuchsia buds about to open – a week ago they appeared as little cream/green bulges and they fattened and the colour developed as the days have passed. When I watered the garden last night, they were still all buds and this morning, several have already opened.

Please click on the photos for a better view – they look rather dark and fuzzy here on the page.

My favourite fruit is raspberries, so having a very limited garden, all of which is grown in pots, I have treated myself to a few pots of canes – in fact the very first one was a Christmas present from my husband – at which time, it was a black plastic bag of earth with a few sticks protruding.

They haven’t done so well over the last two summers and I cut a lot of them down to nothing and bought new ones too. I think perhaps that was more to do with the quality of the weather than the quality of the plants as they’ve thrived this year and as you can see, the fruit is plentiful and large.

I wonder how long those will last in the fridge today?

I am also trying growing tomatoes this year – two varieties – to see how they do. I have a decent showing of flowers and now some green tomatoes of various sizes;

A friend visited a couple of summers ago on a nice day and I suggested we take our drinks in the garden. His comment; “I knew you said you had a small garden, but I didn’t think it was this small!” It always irritates me when gardening programmes offer ideas for small gardens and modest budgets, both of which are usually substantially bigger than my own understanding of small.

Despite our circumstances not allowing us to spend much on the garden this year and the plans to develop one end of it to be scrapped for now, I think we made the tiny budget (£25 – not the £15K that Chelsea designated a modest budget for a garden) give quite a good showing by making the best of what we had and planting new things carefully in between.

Some of my favourite things didn’t even cost money. In the photograph above, there is a piece of driftwood. We found that recently propped against a wall in our favourite car park alongside Thirlmere in the Lake District. By it’s smoothness, it has been bobbing about in the lake for a while and someone either retrieved it for themselves but subsequently decided not to take it, or a it had been thrown for a dog. But we decided if they didn’t want it, we’d give it a home. I have lots of such pieces of driftwood in the garden – I love the lovely sculpture mother nature gives us to enjoy.

3 May 2009

It’s amazing what there is to see when you look closely

You can click any of the photos to see a larger version.

My very modest postage stamp of a garden has been a great joy to me since we developed it from scratch. It has filled out and developed over the years into a haven of peace – the place I reward myself with time when I reach some deadline or the end of an especially tricky piece of work. I potter and tinker as I eat my lunch and work outside on every day the weather makes it possible.

I laughingly call it my ‘courtyard garden’. In reality, it started life as a typical yard to a Lancashire cottage – a walled patch of concrete, originally to house the outside facilities – and in more recent times, the bins.

There is a tale attached to the layout of our house and outside areas, which are pretty much back to front. It would be normal practice for houses to face the street and have their back yards on the side of the house furthest from the street, but our house is one of a collection of cottages, all slightly different, that housed the workers of the adjacent mill. Mine, the largest and end of a short row, is reputed to be the mill manager’s cottage. My yard and back door are on the street side and my ‘front’ door on what is the gable end.

When they were built, the owner of ‘our’ mill was in some sort of feud with the owner of an adjacent mill, who owned a very large domestic property of some status (in recent times it has been a nursing home) along from the row of mill workers’ cottages. In order to cause him maximum offence, our mill owner built the properties back to front, to ensure that the outside facilities and less attractive aspect of the houses faced the road, so that as his rival drove past to his large luxurious home in his carriage, he had to pass the back of the workers’ homes, offending his sensibilities.

Our cottage is a long thin stone built property of about 140 years old now. So the yard is long and thin too. We have our proper garden on the other side of the house, but the layout doesn’t make it as suitable to occupy, so I leave that as my bird garden – one to be viewed from inside and enjoyed through windows and my courtyard garden is the one we spend time in. Being fully walled it gives us more privacy and is a sheltered sun trap that has allowed it to thrive.

Due to unfortunate domestic circumstances, I’m not going to be able to spend any money on summer planting this year, or at least only the barest minimum. So I decided today to make the best of what we already have.

I’ve always kept a lot of evergreen plants and perennial greenery to supplement annual flowers, which ensures that it looks good and has interest all year. Which will come into its own this season when I can’t do so much summer planting. So we moved things around to fill gaps and re-potted things and gave it a good tidy and I was pretty happy with the results.

It’s at that exciting time when everything is waking up after winter and even supposedly ‘green’ shrubs develop little flowers and new growth races away. I took some photos – most of these below are of very small areas of growth, tiny little flowers at the end of shoots – some only a few millimeters in diameter. This is why I love taking photos of little things – you get to see detail that you just don’t see with the naked eye.

I was astonished to see that this little flower at the end of a growing shoot actually has striped petals on the back – why does nature bother to give it this detail?