Posts Tagged ‘seasons’

blue sky with small white cloud

It’s been so very hot. Rising early before the heat of the day allows me a few hours’ activity but, even then, the effort dampens and frustrates my hair’s supposed straightness.

flower petals on garden table

The plants are exhausted and thirsty. Some buds simply dry before opening. Others flower but quickly lose their petals, dropping wherever, confetti-like

gravel and mauve flower petals

geranium petals in a pond

Yet others twine joyously around despite their yards of dry branches, as if to say: you can’t catch me…

clematis on a wall

The grass yellows. I leave it long to keep it damp and pathways are trodden into its margins by animals I never see.

Long grass in evening sunlight

When cars pass dust rises and coats the bins –dustbins – by the side of the road, just as its cousin, the mud, did a few months ago but now the ground is cracked and hard.

It is summer, at last.

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It’s too cold for May. Things growing are in suspended animation, biding their time, waiting for warmth and rain. Instead, it’s windy and grey. The chimney booms with the sound of the air rushing over the roof, birds rise up from the field behind the hedge, try to fly across the garden and are beaten back to where they started by sudden gusts. The sun emerges for a moment but is swiftly covered again by layers of lowering cloud. Rain threatens but does not fall. Shivering, I put on the heating and think of making a fire, feeling the tension as my body tries to ward off the cold. Like the flowers in bud, I’m waiting for a change.

poppy in bud

chives about to flower


Peony almost blooming

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IMG_2363 IMG_2362 IMG_2361

I do love this garden in the Spring.

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It’s incredibly windy at the moment which makes doing any work outside rather difficult. My hair gets in the way of seeing anything, so it was very frustrating being up the ladder fixing the cooker hood vent’s gravity flaps, one of which had fallen off during the winter. I could tie it up, of course, but that thought only ever occurs to me when I’m already doing whatever I’m doing surrounded by swirling hair.


I cleaned the windows, which is no big deal except when some windows have got ridiculous amounts of security metalwork to dismount before you can get at the glass. It made me realise that there were two windows I’d never cleaned before – in four years! Slut.

I’m quite an anxious gardener, going around prodding and poking and wondering whether things are still alive after the winter. So it’s reassuring to go back to old pictures and think that the tree probably isn’t dead because it didn’t have any leaves the previous year at this time either. Here are the last five years. (They enlarge if you click them.)

In the evening, after my final bout of cleaning, we found a small frog that had somehow made its way inside and got itself attached to a ball of slut’s wool. I quickly rescued it from the cats, who were looking very interested, and put it out in the garden under the leaves growing around the pond. It was only when I came back in that I remembered that I should have kissed it first.

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Today was a horrible day. Fretful and loathe to get up, I lurked inside for as long as possible before I faced the damp outside.

misty weather on the hills

But eventually my aim to counteract the worrying that is going on in my head with some productive activity did win through. So, as well as food shopping and mending the garage light (changing the bulb – sometimes things are not as bad as I fear), I drove over to Triscombe in the heavy mist (ok, maybe it was low cloud) and bought some narcissi and grape hyacinths, anemones and aubretia to brighten up my dreary garden that just will not come into flower.

If you’re within reach, I can highly recommend them. Time has slightly stood still there and very lovely it is to and chat to Stuart about this and that, while you’re thinking about what to buy – even if it’s just bird seed.

rock plants in an enamel bowl in the garden

The birds here seem very hungry, so I stocked up with so much that it came in a sack!

female chaffinchThen I went in search of lambs. Now, rather oddly, I saw the first lamb out in the fields when I was out riding on New Year’s Day. That lamb must be quite senior now that the countryside is full of actual spring lambs.

two lambs suckling

Things have been very tough for sheep farmers this last year (and not so hot for the sheep either). Wet all last summer, so lots of them (the sheep) are lame with foot rotty problems – they’re limping about all over the place, their fleeces sodden and muddy. This one is quite clean, although not pink as those that graze the red earthed land around here often are.

sheep with full fleeceThe horrible, long winter had temperatures that were well below freezing at night for long spells, followed by a very cold spring which led to sheep being buried in snowdrifts and lambs dying as they were being born. Luckily, it wasn’t that cold down here in the south west, but spring is still being held in abeyance by the cold and it’s windy as hell, or I should say, as usual.

two lambs gambolling across a field

So, anyway, here are some lambs. They brought a smile to my face with their silly antics – one of the lambs below is standing on its mother.

a ewe with two lambs

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Last week, as the snow melted away, new life was stirring beneath the trees’ damp discarded leaves. It is spring in the middle of winter.

snowdrops in bud

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All week I’ve been thinking I must get the spare keys back from Ben, the chimney man. He’s had them since September, when he was supposed to come and finally sort out the leaking chimney. Since then the weather hasn’t been kind and jobs have been delayed, and I had all but given up. So I was delighted to find scaffolding finally up when I got here in the pitch dark last night.

I’m hoping that the work he’s going to do will cure the damp and leaking chimney. If it doesn’t, I’m going to stop throwing good money after bad and give up.

Today ended on a good note, full of slanty rays of sunshine and bright autumn colours, despite several rain showers. So I was able to do some hacking at the garden, during which I discovered that I’ve got my very own spindle tree. I wrote about these a year ago, when I saw them in a neighbour’s field, having never noticed them before. So much depends on looking at the right time.

I ended up doing a more than a bit of hedging and then came in to rest my sore elbow, and have some tea and chestnuts roasted over the fire. This morning, while I was buying some bits and pieces for grooming horses (more about that another time), I came across a roasting pan in the department that suddenly springs up at this time of year full of fireside accoutrements, so this totally unnecessary item just fell into my shopping basket. Apparently, you’re not supposed to put it in the flames, stupid thing.

Chestnuts remind me of when I was a student in Vienna years ago, when I used to buy a paper coneful and eat them on my walk home from the university. They warmed my hands and filled my lonely student stomach so comfortingly.

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While I was shovelling earth three inches deep off my little driveway today, a woman rode by with some children on horseback and said, “I bet you wish you’d never started that.” She was right. I’d only gone out to rake up some leaves, and had ended up totally distracted into shifting five or six wheelbarrows of earth brought down the hill by the rain over the summer. It was slowly starting to encroach on the tiny bit of hardstanding by the garage and build up into a new verge, so for some reason, the rake gave way to a shovel for a couple of hours. And then I still had to rake up the leaves.

With strong gusts winds of the last couple of days and a sudden drop in temperature, whole treefuls of leaves had descended on the garden since Thursday when it was last cleared, making it look a soggy mess.

You could hardly make out the difference between the flowerbeds and the grass.

They were in the pond.

On the patio.

And in the porch. The American way of calling this time of year ‘the fall’ is very appropriate.

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It’s becoming autumnal without ever having been really summery this year. Apart from a couple of days here and there, we haven’t sat outside much or enjoyed the usual sense of unwinding that comes with warmer times. Last night was apparently the coldest August night on record, yet the ice caps seem to be disappearing at an alarming rate as well. I long for the times when I believed that at least the seasons could be relied upon.

Yet, even when most of the garden seems to have gone over to rambling leaves, it’s still offering colour. These crocosmia are blooming everywhere. I don’t like them particularly but they go well with the fennel, which I love. Terrible pictures but best I could manage with my phone in poor light.

Elsewhere, there were small snippets of colour that I couldn’t resist bringing inside while it was dry, so that we had something to look at when we were sheltering from the rain.

I find I have less and less to say at the moment. It seems symptomatic of being very busy which is ironic. But I just don’t have the time for reflection that I would like.

Soon it will my favourite time of year – autumn. Am I weird, or what?

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If you were anywhere near here, you’ll have dashed in and out of your house dodging the rain this summer.

You’ll have paid your gardener, whom you’ve been eagerly awaiting for two weeks to give you a hand with the tons of stuff you can’t keep up with out there, and watched her drive away with your lawn half mown and her kids soaked to the skin, only to find the sun out 20 minutes later.

That’s what we’ve been doing this summer. An absolute horror, so far.

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Driving down the M4 today, in Wiltshire, I had the sudden feeling of passing through an invisible curtain, leaving behind a cold, grey Spring day and passing into Summer.

When we arrived, the cats went straight out and lay down to enjoy the warmth. I pottered about looking at what had changed in the garden in the last week.

I’m thinking about converting those disused cold frames into raised beds for vegetables. I didn’t think this would work but I discovered today that they have drainage pipes built into the backs of them, so I think it might. I’m a bit daunted by the idea of ordering almost a tonne of topsoil.

Last year’s herb planting is looking fine, although I probably shouldn’t have let them flower but they’re so pretty. The strawberries are all in flower too.

The peonies are out and I must prop this one up before it bites the dust.

Now it’s nine o’clock at night but as the farmers are hell bent on working all the daylight hours, three, no, sorry, four tractors have just gone past. The birds are singing their last notes as the light fades. I’m tired but looking forward to tomorrow.

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There’s something so lovely about a daffodil. They are so welcoming and so joyful, and so totally appropriate for Spring.

One of the lovely things about this garden is the sheer variety of daffodil-like flowers that appear at this time of year. I think there are about ten types of narcissi out there. I don’t know the names of any of them as I owe them all to my predecessor here.

different varieties of narcissi

As soon as one type has ‘gone over’ another pops up and so they continue for a few weeks. They grow in the flower beds in the front garden, on the lawn and the banks in the back garden as above, and at the back and front of the house.


I’ve just had a good rummage about at Peter Nyssen and found that I have a pretty good cross section of the different types available. Had to log out of there quickly before I bought something…

more types of narcissi

The ones I find the least successful are those that are really fancy – double headed cream-coloured ones – in the picture below, with their second flower not yet open. They look a bit washed out compared to their brighter, more exuberant cousins but it could also be that they are planted where they look a little lost in the bare earth of a bed not yet colonised by alchemilla mollis and strawberries.

double headed narcissi

At this time of year, I buy a bunch of daffodils almost every time I leave the house if I’m not in the country. They are just so cheerful that I want to fill every room with them.

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3rd April 2010

2nd April 2011

30th March 2012

Well, so much for this year being so warm. It turns out that last year, the garden was far more advanced than it is this year, despite this year’s sunny spring. However, in 2010, there were barely any flowers out at this time. Interesting.

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Spring is definitely in the air but here in the hills high above sea level, there are only some very small signs.

And a very few tiny flowers.

The snowdrops ares still the most obvious presence.


There is still some fine winter colour in the leafless hedge.

And some things that have been around quite a while.

And others that are very new.

Someone told me today that snow is forecast for tomorrow. There’s certainly a strong, chilly wind blowing. We shall see. But when I stroked the heather here, I disturbed two bumblebees.


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If you can be distracted from the wondrous moon lying back kicking its feet in the air while it relaxes with Jupiter and Venus, you can scent Spring in the air in the evening. Bulbs are bursting forth and pushing away the covering earth as they rise up to find the light. The plum tree is partially covered with blossom and the branches of the pear are fat with buds. It has also made such a welcome change to have some sunshine and light after so many grey days.

This song thrush sang so persistently and loudly for so long, that I had to stop what I was doing to go out and look for it.

The late afternoon light was lovely and made me regret that I’d been cocooned inside all day in my sometimes lethargic way. But we all occasionally need those kinds of days too.

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