On Spring, Perfection, Yanking stuff out, and Dead wood…

Hello – a little post about gardening, and happiness…


I’ve been out there with my garden, clearing, weeding, dividing and re-planting and generally yanking stuff out. It’s a new thing, this removal of stuff; the garden has reached its tipping point. The shrubs I planted four years ago have settled in and spread, obliterating the perennials that were planted alongside them to make the garden sing in its first few years. Though I always knew in my head that this day would come…this time when I would have to re-gig certain things because they had (shock horror!) actually GROWN…it never seemed possible when I started out. Those little plants, with so much bare earth around them.


…from tiny acorns and all that.


I work quickly, and in a rather slap-dash fashion. There isn’t time to linger over anything too long, and I am a one-woman-band when it comes to my garden.


These first bright cold days of Spring (can I say Spring? or will I jinx it?) always both delight and panic me. Small voices sometimes spoil the loveliness of it by reminding me that my garden should be beautiful, always…After all, I am ‘that gardener woman’ who writes books about gardening. I don’t want to be the proverbial dentist with bad teeth. But getting out there and doing what needs to be done generally lets me zone out from this chatter. I think about time passing, and my family, and how exquisite it is that there is new life underneath all the dead stuff I am clearing away. The important stuff – the fat, bright buds of living tissue emerge, and the futility of hating on myself for being unable to attain ‘perfection’ gets composted with the rest of the dead wood. I go back inside, hot and aching from my allotted two hours – full-hearted….happy.





By the bed: February posy

Exquisite small things, photographed past their best but none-the-worse for that…


Picked by my four-year-old, (with a little help from my mother)


Ingredients: Narcissi, crocus, rosemary, pulmonaria, and one rather floppy hellebore.

IMG_6735I particularly love crocus indoors as they start basking….

…tangerine stamens against purple…that’s a colour combo.

Bedside bulbs

Happy Valentines x

I wanted to share something I’ve been doing over at my Crocus blog – my mossy, irisy knoll in-a-box, which is making me happy today. I love the generosity of this bedside box so much that I’ll be returning to it soon, with something new. Click here for full glory.









Potted romance


I usually stem the urge to post about snowdrops at this time of year

…Obviously because it’s been done before a million trillion times, and I don’t want to be boring. But by heck I LOVE snowdrops. They thrill me, and fill me with hope for the year ahead. I love the way their milky-pure heads push through leaf litter and frosty ground, spearing the cold, beckoning me out into the garden, announcing that however chilly it might be above ground, the earth is about to warm up and precious springtime is on its way.

I used to be big-time into populating my garden with my very favourite varieties of snowdrops – G. ‘S. Arnott’, G. ‘Elwesii’, G. ‘Magnet’ (above)… but today I walked into my front door and decided I wanted snowdrops in my window-boxes, like, NOW.

Consequently I’ve bought six little pots from my local garden centre as my pre-valentines present to my very bestest friend (ME), and these will be planted out in the garden as soon as they’ve gone over to join my little colony. I’ve always preferred buying galanthus in bud in a pot so I can enjoy them at my table, or indeed outside, rather than having them sent to me ‘in the green’ which is basically a withered bunch of leaves.  These little beauties are simply labelled G. Nivalis. They have pretty nodding heads. They’re good enough for me.

And now to the crux of things…the VALENTINE bit.

I’ve been having a fight with myself about this, too, because a couple of days ago I received a press release telling me about this snowdrop…newly discovered and AS YET UN-NAMED.

Evolution Plants Valentine Snowdrop

Perhaps you can tell where I’m going with this, but DAMMIT, if that isn’t the most perfectly sublime valentine present, to have a snowdrop named after someone you love? Tell me I’m wrong.

Oh, and did you spy the upside-down heart? Yup. Me too.

Naming rights will be up for grabs to the highest bidder on ebay. Find out all about it here, and Tom will be posting a link to the auction page on Friday.

Suffice to say I have let the Hunk know.

The money raised goes to help save rare and endangered plants, so get bidding…

…(and by the way…the spelling for my name is at the top of this page)


Hippeastrum, up-close

Gratuitous pictures of Hippeastrum…just because.

These were planted end of December, and are now doing this, unbelievable stuff in my bedroom…you can find out how to have your own here







A January Mess…

January is here and I feel like bursting into song.

January holds everything for me, that December seems to for the rest of the world; excitement, merriment and good cheer. January is when you can concentrate on stuff that really matters to you…a time when it’s okay to turn inward slightly, and ponder and plan…possibly get a bit organised for the year ahead (or at least think about doing something like it). January is, in short, the other side of Christmas, which, however much you love it (and I DO love it, I really, really DO *said through gritted teeth*) is often about running around trying to capture the dreams, fulfil the expectations and generally satiate the desires of others, with food, drink, LOVE…whatever. It’s bloody exhausting. Tell me I’m wrong (ladies).

I’m writing mid-deluge during the wettest week I can remember for a long while.  Everything in the garden is sodden and flat. Leaves and apples have literally impregnated themselves into the grass; the whole thing feels like one big slimy mess….

And then I go outside. Immediately wonder creeps in, and I dash upstairs in my muddy boots to find my macro lens. Fifteen minutes later, when I am still searching for batteries and what-have-you, I remember that things don’t have to be perfect, so I grab the iPhone. Here are a few beauties which caught my eye. You can get better photos of all of these elsewhere on this blog…just use the search box…


Jasminum nudiflorum

Jasminum nudiflorum

Viburnum tinus

Viburnum tinus

Chimonanthus praecox

Chimonanthus praecox

Clematis cirrhosa

Clematis cirrhosa

Lonicera x purpusii

Lonicera x purpusii

I’m acutely aware, though, that when it comes to having a garden, it’s very much the ‘whole’ that matters, and so although I am loathe to share my flattened mess, I thought I’d post a pic of it here to show how it looks now in its entirety, after so much heavy weather and without any love or attention for over a year now (new baby).



Hmmm…nice! I have a long way to go, because this garden was always supposed to be a place that looked after itself, rain or shine. It’s not doing that right now, so action is needed…my time, my energy, my passion, my devotion and my love. What this garden needs is a Christmas all of its own, where I attend to all its needs, make it comfortable, give it presents and send it sailing off into the new year full of happiness and gloating over its booty. Watch out garden…Santa’s on his way xxx



When we all suddenly sober up and get organised…

My small child has started ‘big school’. She went off without a backward glance and pronounces it ‘good’. She won’t tell me anything else, except what they gave her for lunch. I reckon that’s the most important bit anyway. Lunch.

I gave the lawn one last mow on our last warm day….

…and I’ve been picking up windfalls daily.

My sweetpeas are dried up and crispy, the buddleia has entirely fallen over, a multitude of things need chopping or tidying or sweeping or scrubbing…

…and I think about all this, and realise that I might get around to it all in November perhaps, instead of watching everyone grow a moustache on Facebook.

There is ONE thing to be smug about though, and it is my water-butt. All plumbed in and working beautifully. Every time it rains, I am happy inside.

Here it is, along with some ideas about how to disguise yours (should you so wish), over here on my Crocus blog.



A Holiday, part 3

 The perfect sunny day with friends, surrounded by late summer splendour…



We went to Haddon Hall, Chatsworth’s enchanting neighbour. The inside is delectable, particularly the Long Gallery, which is where one would dream of having the ultimate party or romantic tryst, but here are the gardens, laid out yonks ago of course, and recently re-planted by Arne Maynard. The borders are in their third year, beautifully done and perfectly crafted to echo the acres of delicious stone wall. I ambled with only an iphone for company, so these pictures are not the best. I would urge you to go up there for a jaunt soon…I got there too late for the abundance of roses covering each and every wall, so that is my mission for next year – but I have been in winter, and this place is just as intoxicating in the snow.



Deep deep borders full of deep deep glory


Late summer loveliness


*Gasp* What a canvas….and there is acres of it.


Comfiest, prettiest bench ever (and you can get one made for you too)


Knot garden with no box in sight – another recent addition, made from all things medicinal


Grand steps and pools


Lashings of lavender, covered in butterflies


Erigeron in every crevice….


Every plant buzzing with bees, and glistening glass in the windows


..and views out of story books…

And then there is the Bowling Green, a private house, a little way up the hill, with a garden also designed by Maynard:



A Holiday, part 2

We went to Renishaw Hall, home to the Sitwells – a truly fabulous family, with names like Raresby and Sacheverell. I am quite undone by these names and now want to re-name my own boy….I mean….SACHEVERELL – what’s not to adore and astonish in equal measure…I ASK you????

Anyhow, the garden is a glorious italianate confection of yew hedgery, lawnery, statuary and agapanthusary.




Wow hedging…


…with nasturtium growing through it at every opportunity


Grand pots of agapanthus on all the terraces


Bunny rabbits adoring something up a tree…




..and very sumptuous late summer borders

We had  a picnic on the lawn…the place is chilled and happy and entirely devoid of prissiness….slightly ramshackle, which I adore. Lovely woodland walk for children too. Thumbs up.

A Holiday: Part 1


We stayed at Swiss Cottage, Chatsworth. It is idyllic, in every single way.

There is a tame duck who likes to be fed very expensive food from Chatsworth Farm Shop. Her name is ‘The Duchess’.

There is also an adventure playground, and a really fabulous petting zoo, filled to the brim with children (and parents who would possibly rather be somewhere else)….

My ‘somewhere else’ was the garden.

Here were the highlights



Lots of rather gorgeous topiary


Extremely beauteous fencing


Good views


A pretty cottage garden with oodles of my favourite gladiolus callianthus


A cascade you could take your shoes off and paddle in


Long borders full of annuals….



Jurassic-style rock garden

…And VERY good lemon cake (which I was too late to photograph).