The last three weeks have passed in a blur of work (an article; a lovely shoot; a couple of projects bubbling away in the background and a significant deadline) and domestic stuff (school to-ing and fro-ing, DIY hell and the usual never ending round of laundry). All in all there has been little time for anything else, even food shopping has fallen by the wayside. And outside, apart from the arrival of the fence, which had nothing to do with me, the garden has been largely ignored. Fortunately the garden has been a busy in my absence, generally fattening itself up and filling out just in time for half term.
This year the Euphorbias have really held the space together. They’ve provided colour and form since early March, a point in the year when the garden can feel really bleak, and are still going strong. I cut them back, head by head, as they collapse.
Euphorbias are something of an acquired taste I suspect, but I really wouldn’t want a garden without them: the lime green of their strange, prehistoric-looking flower heads is such a wonderful foil for so many other flowers, and I’m particularly pleased with the way they work alongside the alliums.
And when the flowers are over, the foliage continues to keep the garden looking lush and full. In the picture above, you can also see the wonderful leaves of the maclaeya which will take over responsibility for providing height and drama in a month or so. Though with the strange stop/start nature of the spring which should really nearly be summer, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen.
But at least the roses are on their way, which means that at last there will be a little more colour in the garden. This is the ever-reliable and deliciously-scented Gertrude Jekyll. Fat buds on all the other roses suggest a much better show than last year.
Things are finally happening in the garden: the Amelanchier is now in bloom, the first of the tulips is up — a hanger-on from last year, and the only one in the pot to put in a repeat performance (I thought it worth leaving them by way of an experiment).
The little clump of violets — which were a freebie, left in a bag attached to a neighbour’s railings — has bulked up and is twice the size it was last year. I am hoping that it will form a mat around the base of the rose, William Lobb, with which it shares bed.
And in the pop-up green house the rocket and sweet pea seedlings are racing away, with runner beans, climbing courgettes (more of which in a later post), cobea scandens (alba and purple varieties), and coriander not far behind.
I’m sorry posts have been rather thin on the ground. I’ve been tied up with the project I mentioned in an earlier post, and on top of that the Bristol 10K is looming. I have become a slave to running and the 5th of May feels very, very close. The time I had in mind for the race (there is no escaping the fact that it is a race, it seems) is, I fear, woefully optimistic. As with the climbing courgettes, more on running anon.
This time last year the first of my tulips were in flower, and the house was filled with vases of homegrown narcissus, hellebores and hyacinths. This year is rather different.
I’m making do with tulips from the supermarket and local florist whilst keeping anxious watch over flower beds and pots. I am beginning to wonder whether those back-breaking bulb planting sessions last autumn were nothing but a bad dream.
I could probably bore for England about the weather (so cold, so grey; so fed up with wearing scarves and fingerless gloves indoors), but compared to people on Arran, I have no real cause for complaint: my heating works and I can get out and about to indulge myself with fresh flowers whilst picking up the everyday essentials we take for granted.
Mind you, having just written that, I have noticed that it’s started to snow..
Amazing what can be achieved in a little bit of unscheduled free time.
I’ve been trying to get started on another quilt for over a year now, ever since I finished this one for Bea. After a year of thinking about it, but never quite engaging with it, the heavy snow last weekend provided the perfect opportunity to get going on quilt number two. It still needs a back and a border, not to mention something to sandwich in the middle, but it’s on its way, and this one’s for Matilda. I’ve told her not to hold her breath though …
* typing that put me in mind of the Alt-J track Matilda though the line is “this is from Matilda”. It’s lovely but I find the video a little creepy – all those morphing faces.
As ever, packing was a pain – particularly as I was trying to think about the almost inevitable chill on Islay’s beaches whilst sweltering in Bristol. In the end the heat clearly addled my brain and I arrived with only one decent jumper, no hats, scarves or other useful bits of layering. Luckily I went into auto-pilot for the girls so they are just about ok. But yesterday was completely glorious – bright blue skies, sparkling sea, impromptu paddling and lots of seal watching – from the garden! Time for the annual mermaid …
No more posts for a bit – I only brought the computer in order to finish off a couple of
work-related bits and pieces, and I’ve ticked them off now. Let the holiday begin.
At the risk of being repetitive, and depressing, I feel compelled to point out the fact that it’s raining again. Having been chained to my desk for a few weeks and then this week to paint pot and step ladder, I was looking forward to spending a day in the garden. But despite the long to do list, I really can’t face it in this dreadful weather. Easier by far to race outside, cut a few things and bring the essence of my garden back to the kitchen table.
Today is midsummer’s day. And it’s raining. Only lightly now, but I’ve been drenched twice. My anemone de caen are trying to flower, but it’s hard when there is so little sun.
I keep overhearing gloomy conversations such as “they say we’re going to get three months’ rain in the next three days”, or “they say it’ll brighten for the weekend and then get really, really wet again,” or “they say that in 1976, when we had a proper drought, it was actually really rainy until the end of June,” or, and this is my favourite, by which, of course, I mean it’s the worst of the lot, “they say it’s going to rain until September.” Please no. We’re off to Scotland in July for god’s sake.
How can it possibly be midsummer, when we haven’t even had more than three sunny days in a row since March? But there’s no denying the date on the calendar. It is the 21st of June. And at about this time every year Joe and I like to have our annual is-this-our-wedding-anniversary conversation. It’s a moveable feast, a bit like Easter, and takes place any time between the 21st and 28th of June and during the course of the debate we always decide that June 21st sounds about right. More often than not we’ve missed it.
Today is not our wedding anniversary though. And the debate ended, as it always does, with me pointing out, for the sixteenth time, that we would surely have remembered having a midsummer’s wedding. But then again, when midsummer’s day feels so very
un-summery, perhaps we wouldn’t. It turns out that our wedding anniversary is the 22nd.
We were in Hay last Thursday because Joe was appearing at the annual Hay Festival with Frank Cottrell Boyce, whose book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again, Joe illustrated.
They gave a lovely talk about the delicate business of bringing Ian Fleming’s famous flying car back to life, and then Frank read whilst Joe drew Chitty. The session ended with some very sweet and occasionally hilarious questions from the audience.
Despite the dreadful weather the festival was packed with happy, if soggy, visitors, and we had a wonderful time. If you’ve never been, Hay is a fabulous, very family-friendly literary festival and really worth visiting. The atmosphere is incredibly relaxed and
there are lots of interesting things for all ages.
Next year, and I’ve been saying this every year, long before Joe started illustrating and writing children’s books, we’ll be really organised: we’ll book a cottage and plan our half term around the festival and all the events. Ha! As if – although clearly lots of people do.
Over the last week or so I’ve been watching the leaves on my neighbour’s Robinia pseudoacacia ’Frisia’ gradually unfurl. They are an intense acid yellow which appears to glow against the leaden clouds. This week I knitted a cardigan to match.
I like a little contrast along cuffs and hems, but for this project I decided to take it further and included the button band too.
The pattern is by Andi Satterlund and is free on ravelry here, and, if you are interested in such things, you’ll find the details for my project here. I’ve got plans for another one.
The tulips are coming to an end. This morning I picked the last of the Fantasy and
Queen of the Night, above. As Queen of the Night has a sleeker more compact form than any of the other tulips I grew, I could never quite bring myself to cut a full bunch as it would have meant picking them all. Instead I just picked two or three at a time and slotted them in with other tulips. With the parrots it was always possible to create a full-seeming bunch from only four or five flowers if I put them in a tight-necked vase.
I also picked all but the last pot of Rococo and the least storm-damaged of the T. Hermitage, T. Couleur Cardinal and T. Princess Irene. I’ve got them here on my desk, a welcome blast of colour when everything else looks so dull and grey.
So that’s nearly it for the home grown tulips. Until next year. And it seems only right to end this post with a photograph for my fellow Dead Tulip Fanciers…