Posts Tagged ‘Home and Garden’

My old friend J woke up with a stomach bug yesterday, so instead of having his company here for the weekend, I am alone with Nora the dog and the cats. Although this menagerie means I’m patently not alone, it does mean my time is being spent much more productively than it might have been.

man with book in pub

Instead of pub lunches where I point out the coincidence of J sitting in front of a book written by someone of the same name that then turns out to be actually written by him, or getting lost on scenic walks, the weekend’s entertainment consists of apparently never-ending hedge cutting and a homemade lunch of avocado on a bed of toast and houmous with poached eggs passé à travers un tamis (go on, Google Translate it).

wheelbarrow on the grass

Today’s hedging, always rather A Task, was enlivened briefly by the last flying Avro Vulcan, a cold war era bomber that was taking part in the Dawlish Airshow in Devon, flying earsplittingly low, directly overhead. Quite the unusual sight in these parts normally devoid of RAF practice sorties. The only planes we see here are tiny, silently cruising airliners and their contrails. It turns out that this was one of the last opportunities to see it, which I rather wish I’d known. So, since I haven’t a picture of the bomber, I’ll blather on about the hedge some more.

garden with long hedge

I’ve blogged about the hedge before, several times, which is because cutting it, or rather, them, takes a lot of effort. Trimming it looks quite manageable from these pictures but that’s because I’d already carted away about four wheelbarrows full of clippings when I took them and the whole of the hedge isn’t in the pictures.

Wheelbarrow, rake and garden

The trimmed section (garden side and top) took me about six hours today and I still have to do the side along the lane, which I can’t reach from the garden because it’s too wide in places, and for which I will need to deploy a stepladder, a lot of nerve (slurry and milk tankers heading down the lane to the farm) and some agility.

But I’ll be delighted to have it behind me, which is probably how you feel about this post. I promise to be more interesting in my next one, which should be coming to you from my adventure with Nora in Provence.

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Today it is grey, with hill fog and drizzle but last time I was here the garden had gone into full Spring mode. The sun shone, the insects and butterflies found nectar everywhere. The flowers were almost all yellow (this week the garden’s theme is predominantly blue and I just love the way this happens, although I probably ought not to allow the bluebells to proliferate further). And there was a forest of fritillaries. Simply glorious.

Although the cottage is named after the spring which flows underground just on the other side of the boundary, it’s definitely at its best in springtime.

Garden on sunny day Wasp on a dandelion Butterfly feeding on yellow primroses Garden with bench and stone building Spring flowers in the grass

Labrador lying in the grass

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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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the author

a cottage back garden

black labrador chewing a bone

midsummer sunset

Midsummer? It feels like the year has only just started and yet here we are already. But it was glorious and reminded me why I love this place. Long, light hours of warmth. No wind (a rarity). Supper outside, with Nora by my side gnawing on her bone. Bats silently swooping up and down the lane as the daylight dwindled into a rouge-y sunset, the darkness finally claiming the light around 10.45.

The garden had exploded since the last time I’d seen it, so I’ve had a lot of catching up to do. Last year’s left-over, autumn-sown Higgledy Garden seeds had grown huge while I was away, so I picked as many flowers as were ready, to give the few remaining as much time as possible to develop.

I sowed most of the Higgledy seeds last Spring but scattered some remaining hardy annuals in the Autumn, with the more tender lot going into the ground in the late Spring this year as a bit of an afterthought. They are the tiny ones in the top of the flower pictures below. Rather a long way to go yet.

small raised bed with flowers

Nigella and California poppies in a blue vase

A week later when I’m writing this and the flowers are mostly still going strong. Only the old roses have died. They never last long but to make up for that they smell fantastic.

box of garden flowers

In case this is sounding just a little too lovely, I should add that I also spent hours strimming, and cutting the hedge and sweeping up the bits. This was a lot easier after the big cut Jay did in March but still really hard work with my gammy wrists.

trimming a long hedge

Nora helped with some of the pruning though.

dog chewing a rose

We walked on a very quiet Cothelstone Hill courtesy of the World Cup and Nora kept relatively still while I played with taking a panoramic shot, so we didn’t end up with a ‘dogarpillar’ walking across the view, which I’ve seen online a few times.

Cothelstone Hill panorama

And finally, carelessly picking up the wrong set of keys, I locked myself out and had to go down to the farm and ask for help. Kind Sally, whom I hadn’t met before, came back with me to hold the borrowed ladder while I climbed in through an open upstairs window. If you’re going to get locked out, living up the road from a farm is the best place to be because there’s always someone around. “I thought you must be from Spring Cottage,” she said when she saw me. Probably made a laughing stock of myself now, haven’t I?

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flower trug hanging from nails


shed crop


The woodshed is one of my favourite places at Spring Cottage, although I like all the outhouses, of which there are three; there’s also a garage (used mainly to store gathered wood for kindling) and an ancient stone building known as the wash house.

I’ve worked out that the woodshed’s 1960’s windows used to be the kitchen windows before my predecessor ‘improved’ things with a wide span of double-glazed panes overlooking the fields. The trouble is that the double glazing has let moisture in between the panes, so the build-up of condensation often means you can’t see out as clearly as you might like to. But, that aside, at least the woodshed has some nice windows.

The light is lovely in there on a fine evening, and the building is warm and smells gorgeously woody. The floor is covered with wood-chips, fragments of bark and butterfly wings however much I sweep. I don’t know why so many butterflies seem to meet their ends in here; perhaps they find the log pile a good place to rest.

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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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