Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

So, the autumn equinox came and went, and I missed sowing my Higgledy Garden seeds on time. But the weather has been really warm here, even in the hills, so I sowed them about a week late.

I did a little planning this time and put the taller ones at the back and sowed them in rows within patches rather than just in straight rows. I hope this makes the beds even prettier.

Envelopes of seeds on a table

Planning is the point where I usually get a bit stressed and I need to remember that nature is pretty forgiving. The main thing for me is to make a diagram of what I sow, so that I can recognise and name what develops next year. I did this in the company of the final vase of last year’s Higgledy seed purchase which I sowed in spring. That’s inspiration enough.

vase of flowersI mentioned that it’s been warm. Well, the seeds are up already…

Sprouting seeds

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At this time of year the garden is quietening down but that doesn’t mean there’s any less work to do. The hedges and grass aren’t growing as fast but the blustery wind over the last couple of days has ensured that there are plenty of leaves for me to sweep up. This is a place where you do outside work when it’s dry so Nora and I were kept busy for the whole morning. The compost heap is growing even if not much else is.

dog on unswept grass

piles of swept leaves

Basket of swept leaves

Despite the waning of the growing season, there is still some colour around with a blowsy old hydrangea, two fuchsias (one pale pink and one a typical ‘fuchsia’-coloured one that has recovered its health since being on its last legs a few years ago) and some nerines blooming away. Hats off again to my predecessor here who picked such well-matched plants.

Fuchsia and nerines

I also pruned the blackthorn that seems determined to recolonise the area by the woodshed. It’s so much stronger than the hawthorn and cotoneaster which I would rather see thrive there, but which are stunted by comparison.

Blackthorn thorn on a glove

Another reason I’m not well-disposed towards the blackthorn – although I do love sloes, as do the birds – is because its thorns are brutal. This one went straight through the sole of my wellington boot and into my big toe. Luckily it was a youngish slightly bendy one, so I didn’t have to cut the boot off my foot to remove it. And good that it got me rather than Nora, which would have meant a big vet’s bill.

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Hard labour

shears resting on a half-cut hedge

I’ve just taken an anti-inflammatory pain killer. This is not how a post about gardening should start but after two days’ hard graft outdoors, it’s much needed. With carpal tunnel syndrome, my fingers get painful, numb, tingly and I lose a lot of my normal dexterity when I do any exercise. After rowing regularly in the gym during the last few weeks the fingers on my right hand have been particularly bad, although some exercises I was prescribed by the hospital do help reduce the symptoms. Doing some heavy gardening hasn’t helped much. However, I don’t see what the alternative is other than spending most of the time being inactive or learning to use my feet more creatively, and that’s not going to happen.

The irony is that I thought a lot of the trouble I had with my hands was due to the amount of keyboard work I used to do. But it’s now almost a year since I left work and the hands are infinitely worse than when I was desk-bound. The head’s a lot happier though, and that’s what counts.

So the hedge needed trimming again. If you’re a regular reader, you might think: “but hang on, she just wrote about this…” and you’d be right but I hadn’t finished the job I started a couple of weeks ago. The cottage has both a front and a back garden (at the sides of the house along the lane). The picture in the right-hand column over there shows what I mean, although it’s only of the higher or front part of the hedge.

This is the one that needed attention, so I did the laneside section as soon as I arrived as the weather was showery. Not a good idea. The battery-operated trimmer, while very sturdy, decided it felt damp and needed a full 24 hours to dry out before it would work again. So, conscious of the lack of time to do the job (I’m never here long enough at a stretch to take my time), I moved on to the shears, which needed to be strongarmed by the pliers before they would cut properly. It was definitely one of those days.

hedge cuttings on the ground

piles of hedge cuttings

The next day, feeling quite achy and stiff, I attacked the hazel hedge in the lower garden which separates it from the field behind. It’s easy to cut and the powered trimmer was working again, so it wasn’t too bad. I’m always sorry to cut hazel at this time of year as the nuts get nixed, but I can’t always do it at the right time because either I’m not here or the weather isn’t right, so I do it when I can.

Of course, I never stop when I should and I ended up also clearing the rather overgrown beds as well. There’s so much more I could do. If only I had the time. Oddly, that’s what I used to say when I worked…

All the hard labour seems worth it though when I gather up vase after vase of lovely flowers. There’s nothing like it!

su

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As my activities repeat themselves year after year, my posts here have become more sporadic and maybe focus more on things that are a little more out of the ordinary for me (yes, my life is that dull). I sometimes forget that I’m quite happy to read about other people’s day-to-day lives on their blogs.

Even if I’m feeling less inspired to write these days, the blog still has a use as a diary and I find it interesting to look back at a similar date in previous years. I feel quite pleased with the pictures I took a year ago today; obviously didn’t take those with my phone!

walk

I may not be as as motivated to write about an ordinary weekend like this one, where all I’ve done is walk the dog nearby and mow the grass but it’s still nice to record things. I’ve kept a diary, one way or another, since I was a teenager.

Milestone

So today I found myself looking back over the five years since I came to Spring Cottage. During that time I’ve gone from waffling to myself about preparations for moving in to opening up the blog and wittering on to those who follow me and the odd other person or two who finds themselves here when they were looking for curtain material.

In the first couple of years, there were big changes involving redecorating and moving in. Then I focused more on the garden, and it’s with reference to the plants that I can see how the weather has differed from one year to another. Last year at this time in May the peonies were only just in bud. Today, they are all in full bloom and about half of them have been battered to death by yesterday’s heavy rain. I rescued the others and brought them inside. They are so splendidly fragile.

peonies in a vase

Even though things seem to repeat themselves, there are always differences. This year, perhaps due to the amount of rain over the winter, the bluebells seem to be more abundant than ever before. Although I used to ride up there quite often, I had never noticed them on Cothelstone Hill but maybe, without a Nora to exercise, I had just missed them. This morning, they were out in every direction, along with campions and buttercups. And I never tire of that view. Spring Cottage is a little dot on the brow of a hill in the distance and I love it even more for that.

View from Cothelstone Hill

Cothelstone Hill

As always with the past, the weather seems to have been better. Let’s hope tomorrow’s a bit warmer and sunnier as well.

 

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I’ve always longed for a garden trug but new ones are really expensive and it’s something you can easily do without. After all, a cardboard box or a plastic basket of some kind work just as well for holding picked flowers until you bring them indoors. Also, until I came to Spring Cottage I didn’t really have any flowers to pick so a trug had to wait. P1010966 Now, however, Spring brings loads of daffodils and other narcissi, and I also plant all kinds of seeds in my cut flower beds specifically to grow things to bring inside. So I’m enjoying a clapped out old trug that I bought last summer at a car boot sale for three quid. It’s a bit brittle and won’t last for ever but I’ve waterproofed it a little by painting it with Danish oil and it now looks as thought it’s a family heirloom, which I much prefer to things being brand new. It kind of goes better with the ancient nature of the cottage, looks suitably rustic hanging in the woodshed, and I can spend the money saved on seeds instead.

The main flowerbeds here are in the front garden, which is at the side of the cottage, if that makes sense. Being at the side, at the gable end of the house, there is no window overlooking it. So I have to bring flowers in if I want to see them more than in passing on the way to the car. in hedge Many of the daffodils have also been planted under the various hedges. Well, they would have originally been under the hedges but now they are in the hedges, the hedges having grown widthways as well as in height over the years. So the daffs need rescuing before they are forced to bend over by the branches sprouting above them. daffodils on windowsill

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water barrel and tapI love allotments; those little patchwork plots in cities, like here on the edge of Bridgwater in Somerset, where people grow vegetables and flowers; where they build sheds and scarecrows out of discarded materials; where they go to relax and unwind by toiling on their actually not so little patches of earth. Turning the overgrown, run to seed dirt into neat rows of sprouting vegetables and fruit.

allotment run to seed

allotment compost heapI think it’s the variety that you find on allotments that appeals to me: neatness, abundance, rot, abandonment and nurture side-by-side in equal measure. I love the textures of the ground, of the buildings, and of the things that are grown. I find them just as satisfying to look at at this time of year as in the fullness of harvest time.

I don’t have an allotment or even aspire to having one, having just one mouth to feed these days, but they’re still very pleasing to look at. It’s like looking at a microcosm of the countryside: tiny little fields, sharing water, battling to outdo each other yet doing completely different things, their keepers annoying each other with their varied methods of cultivation and outcomes.

Allot 4  Allot 6 Allot 7

Allot 5

What do you think? Have you got an allotment or do you want one? Or are you one of those who find them a messy eyesore on their horizon? Are my glasses totally rose-tinted?

 

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Usually, I’m pretty annoyed at hearing machinery on a beautiful morning. However, today the noise I’m listening to is a chap cutting my hedge.

I can’t quite express how happy this makes me after almost five years of cutting the rather long hedge myself, which has been exhausting and quite painful sometimes, as I have carpal tunnel syndrome and, frequently, tennis elbow – the latter most likely as a result of trimming the hedge. Afterwards, I always have a few days of numbness in my hands and pain in my forearms. I try to keep my strength up in the gym but wielding even a light trimmer at arm’s length for several hours takes its toll.

So after all this time the hedge was much taller than I wanted, as I couldn’t really give it the ferocious cuts it needed. And it became harder with each passing year as another couple of inches was added to its height, so Jay is taking a good eight inches off the top of the hedge today.

man cutting hedge

But it’s only waist height, you might be thinking. Indeed, on the garden side, it’s only that high but on the road side it’s probably about eight feet high, so no fear of anyone peering over the top. And that’s part of what’s made it so hard for me to cut, for, in places, it’s not reachable from the garden because of its width. Teetering on a ladder in the path of the traffic has been part of the fun of living here.

Man cutting garden hedge

Of course, Jay has the right equipment: a petrol-fuelled hedge trimmer far heavier than I could wield comfortably for any length of time. I’m rather envious of it though.

fuel for hedge trimmer

An added thrill is the fact that Jay’s parents used to live at Spring Cottage in the 1960s and 70s. They sold it to the woman from whom I bought five years ago. So he was interested to see inside and he was able to fill me in about which improvements his parents had made to the place (the addition of bathroom and kitchen extension, and the demolition of several layers of wall and fireplace to reveal the original inglenook).

hedge cutting

I wonder if it feels odd to Jay to be cutting hedge that was most likely growing here when his parents lived here almost 35 years ago. I’m hoping I can perhaps get to see some photos of the cottage in the old days when he next comes. I find this kind of thing endlessly fascinating.

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