Archive for the ‘Garden’ Category

On Sunday, Mr S&S was happy because it was the first Sunday in Advent, so he was allowed mince pies. I am a stickler for ‘No Christmas things in the house until Advent’ because I like Christmas to be special and exciting and if you’re surrounded by Christmas things from October, it… isn’t.

But today is the 1st of December and I’m starting to feel, despite all the stuff going on here, enthusiastic about Christmas. I’m feeling festive. And creative. And excited. I also think my blogging mojo has come back, and to encourage it, I’ve decided to use the blog to harness my feelings of Festive Cheer. I’m going to do a post every day about something Christmassy or celebratory or wintery that makes me feel happy and cosy and festive. A sort of advent calendar/journal of Christmas preparations, which, I hope, will get me properly into the blog again, and encourage me to make time to do some of the things in my head.

First up, today’s little indulgence. I love Country Living magazine, but I don’t often manage to justify buying it. But today I was out and about and I thought that I deserved a little treat, and the December edition is just so Christmassy and lovely and inspiring.

Even the cover is scrumptious. The baubles! The ribbon! The candlelight!

I won’t show you all the lovely things as I plan to do some of them, and mine won’t be magazine-quality! But here’s a lovely boiled wool stocking with hand embroidery that I have no plans to make:

This feature, however, has made me want to grab secateurs and go out and denude the local trees and shrubs for winter foliage.

There’s also some glorious recipes and a feature about a man who makes stained glass and the most beautiful pictures of a frost-covered garden that has me thinking about structural plants.

It’s starting to seem as though this was £3.90 well spent!

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I know, I’m dragging this out, but I can’t miss showing you my pictures of the Eden Project, now can I? I’d heard a lot about the Eden Project and had a feeling that it was somewhere I’d enjoy. So, can I just say, if you’re in the St Austell area and you wonder, ‘Is it going to be worth £20-odd quid to see some plants?’ then the answer is yes. Yes it is. (Although you can get discounts if you book in advance, and we got a 25% off voucher at Heligan). Because this is simultaneously all about plants and about so much more. I had high expectations of Eden, and I was blown away.

The scope of the project is astonishing. The creators wanted to make a site which would showcase the amazing influence of plants on our lives – their very centrality to all life. And that’s what they’ve done. It brings home the importance of conservation, but at no point is it preachy. They also wanted to do it in an environmentally sensitive way, both in terms of the ‘green-ness’ and in terms of respect for the local people and local economy. So they found a disused chalk quarry and made a garden. They didn’t import soil, they made it, from local ingredients. And they carried on from there. You can find out more about it here.

You come through the entrance and step out to the lip of the quarry and you see this:

Well, you see more than that, but my camera couldnn’t do the whole panorama. To get the the bottom, you walk down zig-zaggy paths, past some truly gorgeous planting.

In one of several very imaginative touches, they have little cut-throughs for kids, which are not only fun, but mean they don’t have to walk as far, so less whingeing:

In fact, there are lots of touches that are great for kids. A building where you can enter via a door or a slide. Hidey holes and climbing frames and things that have signs saying ‘Yes, you can play in here’. Lovely.

The outside areas at the bottom of the site are filled with gorgeous planting – herbaceous borders, willow hedges, and when we were there, roses, dahlias, sweet peas – I’d love to see what was planted at other times of the year. I took dozens of pictures, but here’s a taster:

Inspiration for ‘hot’ planting…

… and ‘cool’.

Another apple arch – I love these.

A wall built to encourage insects.

Lovely – I love the willow planters.

Dahlias (I always thought I didn’t like dahlias, but I saw some terrific ones in Cornwall – I think I’m being won over.

Dahlia with bee.

So, into the biomes. The first is the rainforest biome and it gets hot. Wear layers, take water – that’s all I’m sayin’. It’s incredible. Obviously, there are plants, wonderful plants – but also some witty, informative touches, and lots of information about what the plants are and how they’ve impacted on us. Again, lots of pictures, but here’s a small sample to give an idea of the scale:

Obviously, me being me, I took lots of pictures of flowers, too.

See that bottom one? That’s the Madagascan periwinkle. It’s endangered in its natural habitat, but is widely cultivated elsewhere. Why? Because it’s saved thousands of lives as a treatment for childhood leukemia. That little plant right there is the most powerful argument I’ve seen for habitat conservation. It’s not altruism, it’s self-interest.

And of course, we saw rice and tea and coffee and cocoa and rubber and spices and, most exciting for the kids:

This is just a fraction of a sample of what’s there.

So, then, after losing the Little Boy and finding him again, we went to the Mediterranean biome. Lots of more temperate plants, and vines and herbs and tomatoes and olive trees and chilis… (and a wonderful Spanish guitarist, which was a bonus).

There was more outside – plants for brewing, plants for dyeing, plants for … pretty much everything.

I loved this veg bed:

and this giant bee:

We had brought our own lunches, because we weren’t sure what the catering was like, but Mr S&S couldn’t resist one of the Biggest Scones In The World.

So, a tiny taster of the wonders of Eden. But to end, in one of the exhibition spaces, we saw this:

And it’s pretty mindblowing. These are the first architect’s sketch of the big biomes, done on pub napkins. It gave me a bit of a shiver to realise that it was the sheer force of human will that turned a pub-napkin pipe dream into huge, real, growing, flowering reality.

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The first place on my Cornwall hit list was the Lost Gardens of Heligan. The gardens were part of the seat of the Tremayne family, and in the late 19th century, they were at the height of their beauty. But not long after (partly because the men who tended them went off to war in 1914) the gardens became overgrown, and were finally ‘lost’. In 1990, a team of gardeners and garden historians and general good eggs set about restoring the gardens – and they are wonderful. When you arrive, you’re given a sepia-coloured map and a wee compass, which does set the tone for some serious exploring!

The gardens have been restored in a manner that is sympathetic to the original, but in no way does it feel like a period piece – it’s very much a contemporary garden. I suppose what they’ve done is created the garden to be as it would have been if it had never been lost, so rather than create an Edwardian garden in aspic, they’ve just skipped the intervening years as though all the 20th century head gardeners had been there, making their changes and following their fashions. It’s very clever. We couldn’t see the ‘Jungle’ and wild bits as we had wheel- and pushchairs in the party – so we’ll just have to go again! In any event, I’d love to see it in spring. And in high summer. And in deep autumn, too…

Would you like to see some pictures? I do hope so, because I took lots.

I love hydrangeas, and the Heligan ones were almost obscenely healthy and vigorous.

Some of the tree and grass planting in the ‘wilderness’ area.

The walled garden – this was magnificent. It was so productive – flowers, herbs, fruit, vegetables – and not at all sanitised. It was a working garden with compost heaps and the odd area that you could see was next to be weeded.

A lovely mixture of fruit and flowers.

A longer shot of the walled garden – you can see how huge it is!

One of the beautiful glasshouses.

These are the niches where the bee skeps were kept – and they’ve retained the skeps over the more modern hives.

I loved the orchard – or ‘poultry orchard’ as they called it – with the hens and ducks and geese as big a feature as the beautiful trees. I dream of one day restoring the derelict orchard here, and having my chickens pecking around underneath. One day – probably in time for the great-great-granddaughters of our current hens…

A traditional herbaceous border – it was just starting to go over, but it’s easy to see how brilliant it must have looked when the red hot pokers were at their hottest and the whites at their crispest.

There are lots of little nooks and niches – this is the Italian garden, complete with sunken pond. The children were most taken with the fish.

Then it was into the main walled produce garden, which was fantastic. Here’s a beautifully espaliered pear tree…

… and a lovely arch of apple trees. I imagine this is stunning at blossom time.

Some beautiful beans.

The long serried rows of beautiful veg – here some salad leaves – with the gardener off in the distance.

I loved this companion planting of flowers with the veg – I must remember this. It apparently cuts down on pests, but also means you can cut the flowers for the house without spoiling your borders, in a veg and cutting garden combined.

Finally, how’s this for planting? I love the mix of colours, tone and texture. Gorgeous.

This is a fraction of the pictures I took, and we saw a fraction of the garden. I can’t wait to go back.

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A corking word choice this week, from Mary.

My favourite current example of tenacity can be found in my garden. There is a lovely rose growing up the side of the house. I don’t know how old it is, but it’s got to be at least 10 years old, and very possibly more. Last year, I noticed some blackspot. And then, on closer examination, saw that it was really, really bad. So I sought advice, and the two options I was given were a) dig it up and burn it or b) prune it savagely, and hope it makes it through the winter – but it probably won’t.

Reasoning that a small chance was better than none, I went for option b). And then we had a hard winter (with temperatures of -22C on Christmas Eve) which killed several of my healthy roses. So I thought the savagely pruned elderly one stood no chance, and for most of spring into early summer, it seemed that I was right. Fortunately, I didn’t get round to digging up the roots, because look!

It’s come back beautifully – there are tiny, tiny traces of what could be blackspot, but nothing like it was last year, so I hope that if I carefully cut out the affected growth, it may be treatable.

Pop over to see Mary for a list of the other Weekworders.

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Halfway house…

I’ve been doing all sorts of busy things lately, but frustratingly, nothing I can blog about. I made a rather wonderful birthday cake and forgot to take photos. I’ve finished a big crochet project but haven’t forced myself to deal with all the ends. I’m halfway through a knitting project – and have been for about a week because I’ve not knitted a stitch since I hit the halfway point. We’re doing all sorts of things in the garden but it’s still all very much ‘in progress’.

Once I get over the hump, I’ll have lots to share, but for the moment it’s a case of keeping my head down and just plodding on.

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I’ve had some requests for more garden posts, so I thought here was a good place to start. Spring has sprung with an absolute vengeance and there is blooming and greening and all sorts.

Some primulas:

And some primroses:

Cherry blossom:

And apple blossom:

The lilac – the smell from this is heavenly:



The bluebells are out:

As are the violets:

And a bit of cheating to make up ten, as this beautiful specimen isn’t in my garden, but someone else’s. Although it’s so beautiful I may have to get one:

Anyone else made a list today?

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The garden has been harder and harder to manage, so we decided to bite the bullet. We hired a digger for a week (and a dumper truck for a weekend) and have dug over huge areas, so we can start all over again. The big flower bed? Flat. The veg garden? Gone. The yard? Scraped clean. The muckheap and compost heaps? Gone. And in this process, we’ve made some discoveries…

The garden does currently look as though we’re recreating the key battles of WW1, but I’m confident that it’s the first step towards a garden we can live with – and live in, and love.

Did you make a list today?

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