In a vase on Monday: A–Z

With so much to choose from in the garden this week, I’ve picked just two different flowers – Ammi and Zinnia – for a Monday vase.

All the ammi (Ammi visnaga) are self-seeded from plants I grew from seed last year; they’re over-crowded and some are growing where I don’t want them. Rather than chuck those I’ve pulled up onto the compost heap, I chopped their roots and lower leaves off and plonked them in water.

This is the first year I’ve grown zinnias and I expected them to be rather prima-donna-ish but they seem pretty tough. According to what I’ve read, they hate root disturbance, don’t like overwatering and can’t be planted out until it’s warm enough to sit outside in the evening without wearing a cashmere wrap (I made that last but up). I was quite careful about potting on the seedlings, but not overly so, and there’s not much danger of them being overwatered around here. I was a bit worried about the temperature but I needn’t have as it’s been almost Mediterranean-like here. The major problem has been our slimy foes, the slugs and snails. A fair few pristine zinnias have been toppled and munched, sadly, – I reckon I’ve lost a third of the plants – but the survivors are hitting their stride now and starting to pump out flowers. They’re great for cutting as they last for ages in a vase, the colours are fantastic and they’re like sweet peas – the more flowers you cut, the more you’ll get, so that’s what I’m doing.

How’s life with you? It’s the last week of school before the summer holidays here and everyone is weary; the children are especially weary this afternoon as it was Sports Day today. Despite emails from the school inviting parents along to watch, my three pleaded with me not to go: ‘It would be social suicide, Mum!’. Mortifying our children seems to be something we’re particularly good at but I graciously stayed at home. It seems only five minutes since they were telling me where to stand so they could see me and to shout loudly. How times change.

‘In a Vase on Monday’ is hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden. I recommend visiting her blog to see what she and other bloggers from around the world have found to put in a vase today; it’s always inspiring.

Wishing you a good week.

Checking in

Ha, just spotted my m-in-l top left taking photos!
Dog looking shifty.
Remember that bare bank of soil?
Terracing starting to come together. The grasses – Calamagrostis, Miscanthus and Stipa t. will soften it.
Aha, the pond! We didn’t realise there were paving slabs this end of the pond until we cleared the big pile of rocks, soil and brambles…
This jasmine smells divine.
Climbing rose over the wonky arch. No idea what variety it is.
Lavender and briza.
Pink scabious (bees love it), with ammi, sweetpeas, marigolds, Verbena b. and grasses behind; blue Campanula to the left.
The new veg patch on the other side of the steps.
Colour-pop pots.
The zinnias are coming!
Gaura ‘The Bride’.
Two ‘Turk’s Turban’ squashes growing in the compost heap. They’re now taking over that whole corner…
Front left (looking towards the sea) taken from the balcony.
Front right.
The back garden which has been a bit neglected, tbh, while we’ve been beaming on the front garden. Goodness knows what we were thinking when we took this on…


Hello, how are you?! It’s been all work and no play for the past couple of weeks here at acoastalplot, hence the radio silence. It’s good to be busy (freelance work tends to be like buses) but I have missed you 🙂 I’ve also found it slightly excruciating (if it’s possible to be excruciated in degrees) being indoors at my desk during some completely glorious weather; looming deadlines meant that I couldn’t down tools and head to the beach with my family at the weekend. But, hey, there’ll be other days.

The garden has had to pretty much fend for itself, so thank goodness it’s finally raining! Hoo-flipping-rah. The sky has been full of grey clouds all day but it didn’t start properly raining until early evening. It’s now bouncing off the skylights and I’m imagining the plants are cheering, especially the grass which has lost most of its green. The snails are probably cheering, too, so I expect I’ll find more destruction in the morning. I must take a photo of one of the dahlias to show you – it’s a poor dahlia skeleton. Curse those slimy creatures.

These photos were taken in the garden just after the garden safari weekend. We were still planting, moving rocks and laying paths right up to the night before, but it all went well and we had lots of lovely people through the garden, met new neighbours and locals we hadn’t met before, and chatted to fellow keen gardeners. It was lovely to be able to take a breather and to enjoy being in the garden and we even managed to visit a few inspiring gardens recommended to us. A decent amount of money was raised for the hospice and everyone declared it a success. Looking at the photos, it’s amazing how much everything has settled in and grown since they were taken. The little orchard area is now full of wildflowers, the ornamental grasses and perennials are filling out, we’ve courgettes, tomatoes and squashes growing like crazy, and enough flowers to keep me in vase material for a good while yet. I can’t wait to have time to get out there again. When it stops raining.

Have a lovely rest of the week. More anon. x


In a Vase on Monday: Summer

After a hectic couple of weeks building up to our village’s open garden safari this past weekend, where every spare moment was spent in the garden, it’s lovely to be slowing down a little today and joining in with Cathy’s Monday vases.

It’s that time of year when there is so much material to choose from, so I started with dahlias that needed dead-heading and went from there. Joining the dahlias (which I think are ‘Karma Choc’) are three types of hardy geranium (unknown varieties), Verbena ridgida, white Scabious, lavender, Salvia viridis, Nigella seedheads, sweetpeas and Gaura lindheimeri ‘The Bride’ (which is just starting to flower). All of these flowers are beloved by bees in our garden and I had to pick carefully to avoid bringing several into the kitchen. And all these flowers sing out ‘summer’ to me and encapsulate a beautiful late June day when the sea is turquoise and the blue sky is dotted with wispy clouds.

Do visit Cathy’s blog to have a look at what others have found to put in a vase today. (She also has dahlias.)

I’ll post separately about the open garden when I’ve had time to catch up with myself. I hope you had a good weekend and that the sun is shining where you are. Cheerio for now.

In a Vase on Monday: Simplicity

After the excitement of last week, I thought I’d pare things back and go for a very simple vase today (and ended up with two). The wildflower patch at the bottom of the garden is overrun with oxeye daisies again – although they look lovely and last a long time, they are smothering the more delicate wildflowers that are in there. If you look very carefully, you can just see some yellow vetch to the left but there’s little evidence of anything else. We’ll need to thin the daisies out later in the year.

The whole area is looking a little bedraggled after the storms last week so I’ve brought some of the flattened daisies indoors (along with a few grass stems). Oxeye daisies don’t smell particularly nice (think cats…) so I snipped a couple of sweet peas to sit alongside them and, happily, their delicious scent is stronger than the other one.

Simplicity is something that politicians and the media seem allergic to; they seem intent on making life thoroughly complicated. If only there was a group of sensible, forward-thinking, cross-party MPs who could get us through EU negotiations – I’m sure there are several who could work together for the greater good rather than point-scoring party politics. Is it naive to think that something like that could happen? Probably. Sigh.

Anyway; back to the garden… It’s almost peak lavender time. Yay. The two simple rows of lavender flanking the steps on our top terrace were also bashed about by the winds last week, but they’re tough plants and, while they may be leaning slightly, they are starting to colour up and should look fabulous in time for the Garden Safari in a couple of weeks. It’s all go here in any spare time, or it was until I pulled a muscle in my lower back yesterday afternoon – too much bending, lifting and pulling! Grrrr. I was so cross. I’m trying to walk it off, stretching it out with yoga and popping the painkillers. Hopefully it’ll be sorted in a few days as there is so much to do.

I was going to forgo the pleasure of joining in with Cathy’s IAVOM today as cutting flowers requires painful bending but I couldn’t resist. Do pop over to her blog to see what she and others from around the world have found to put in a vase today.

Have a good week.

This green and pleasant land

This land – the beautiful countryside, the bonkers humour, the sarcasm and satire, the quirky traditions, the diversity (of people, architecture, landscape, clothing), the road signs, the libraries, galleries and museums, red London buses, red post boxes, Yorkshire tea, a cream tea, real ale, music festivals, open-air theatre, the birdsong, the fresh air and freedom. I love Britain and its people who get on with life, who are resilient and resourceful, who don’t make a song and dance out of everything. If we’re heartbroken, we’re heartbroken quietly and mostly in private with a cup of tea. If we’re celebrating we have a cup of tea or we might push the boat out and pop a cork. (Tea suits most occasions.) If we see someone in need, we help. We have the stiff upper lip and we queue politely.

But these are difficult times. Austerity has led to some serious hardships for many people, we’ve been divided by Brexit and attacked by terrorists and now we’re having to vote for a group of politicians to deal with the mess. I, for one, am anxious and tired of it all. I know that the sun will still rise tomorrow and rain will fall and plants will grow, that the tide will continue to rise and fall, but it feels as though this country is at a major crossroads. I fervently hope for a change for the better, for the common good, but I suspect we’ll be stuck with the status quo.

A friend and I drove over to East Sussex yesterday to get away from it all. We drove cross-country, through the most glorious countryside – Kent at its most beautiful – down country lanes, through tunnels of overhanging trees, past picture-postcard cottages with roses around the door. So much green. Lush green as far as we could see. We were headed to Perch Hill, Sarah Raven’s garden, to a talk by the head gardener and a morning discussing propagation and planting. We wandered around the gardens, admired the layout and planting (noticing that there were weeds and untidy patches and liked the garden all the more for it), and got to take some cuttings of dahlias and salvias to take home with us. It’s a lovely place with a generous feel to it – do go if you get the chance. Afterwards, we drove to Bateman’s, once the home of Rudyard Kipling, to soak up more green and beauty. The whole day was a wonderful tonic and antidote to the current affairs.

As I write, the exit polls have been announced and my husband and eldest are glued to the tv. They’re planning to stay up to see the results roll in during the small hours; I’ve told them not to wake me up unless there’s a shock result. Goodnight – see you on the other side!


In a Vase on Monday: Brave

To those brave people – the concert-goers in Manchester, the people on London Bridge and in Borough Market, the emergency services who acted so swiftly. My thoughts are with all those affected.

My Monday vase this week contains Canterbury Bells (Campanula medium), Linaria purpurea ‘Canon Went’, Stipa tenuissima, Quaking grass (Briza maxima), Erigeron karvinskianus and lavender.

Thank you to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for hosting IAVOM and giving me the excuse to focus on nature and beauty for a while.

Wishing you a good week.

Red brick and roses: a visit to Sissinghurst Castle Garden

My mind is brimming with ideas this morning, laying down snapshots and processing happy memories of a glorious, flower-filled garden visit.

We first visited Sissinghurst in the early 2000s before our daughter was born. With two energetic toddlers in tow, we were more focused on keeping them on the paths and not straying too far from the toilets than admiring the glorious gardens and surroundings. I had clocked that it was a place of beauty, though, and we have some very lovely photos of the boys in the meadow. Despite now living only an hour’s drive away, it wasn’t until yesterday that we finally made the time to go there again, this time without any children – none of them could be persuaded to tear themselves away from their computing devices (oh yes, revision). ‘It’s ok, mum, you go on your own. We’ll be fine…’ ‘Well, ok then. If you’re sure.’ And we hotfooted it out of the door. How times change.

Anyway, back to Sissinghurst Castle Garden. The place has a fascinating history: it was used as a prison for 3000 French soldiers captured during the Seven Years War (1756–63); it was a poor-house in the late 1700s; and it was a fine example of Victorian farming during the mid-1800s when it was owned by the Cornwallis family. Poet and writer Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicholson bought it in the early 1930s and set about transforming the buildings and grounds, creating the famous garden rooms that draw people from across the globe today. The National Trust took over managing the site in the 1960s, although members of the Sackville-West/Nicholson family still occasionally stay in the South Cottage. History lesson over (if you’d like to know more, start here), let’s move on.

The gardens are what we went to see, although you can also wander into a few rooms (the library, etc) and have a tour of South Cottage if you’re organised enough to get a timed ticket when you arrive (we weren’t). We did climb up to the top of the tower where I took these photos from each corner:

View to the north over the shop in the old piggery and restaurant in the granary (top left of photo).
To the south, over one of the garden rooms with the propagation area (no access, sadly) to the right behind the house and the lovely curved wall.
To the north-east-ish and the famous White Garden. The silvery tree you can see mid-left is a magnificent Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’ (weeping silver pear).
South Cottage and a snippet of meadow bottom left.
Gardeners (all women, as far as I could tell) were clipping box hedging; you can just see the wheelbarrows, etc, in the bottom of the pic. It was all very carefully done with lines and spirit levels (which is not how I do it!).
The library in the foreground and the oast houses in the background.

The red brick buildings and garden walls provide the perfect backdrop to the swoon-inducing planting. Really, the planting is delicious. Roses, such gloriously scented roses – climbers trained perfectly against walls, bush roses left to grow huge, climbers growing up inside frames and over hoops, low-growing roses; the air was thick with their heady, intoxicating smell. And the irises and salvias, and magnificent euphorbias of all kinds, all at their peak. The grounds were full of wildflowers – oxeye daisies, tall buttercups, huge clovers, mixed grasses, all nodding and swaying in the breeze. The place is magical.

Right, enough of that; must get on. Back to earth. Bye for now.