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

 

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Hang out the bunting

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I’ve been a little quiet lately because last Monday I knocked a large mug of coffee all over my beloved MacBookPro. It died; I was distraught. It’s now in the hands of the insurance company and I’m waiting to hear whether they can fix it or at least retrieve my data. While I wait to see what can be done, I’m using the family pc when it’s free which isn’t very often. I occasionally forget and go to my desk to write something only to find a Mac-shaped hole. And I’m very behind with my blog reading and emails – there is much to catch up on. Anyway. Enough of that. HELLO!

Summer is here at last. Throw open the doors and windows! Dig out the sundresses! Hang out the bunting! This past week has been mostly glorious sunshine and it’s forecast to be hotter than hot tomorrow. Hooray for our sea breeze. But, wait. I’m getting ahead of myself. What’s been happening here? The much anticipated Garden Safari, that’s what!

A bit of bunting brightened up the path from the gate down to the garden.
A bit of bunting brightened up the path from the gate down to the garden.
Cheery geraniums planted in our old chimney covers.
Cheery geraniums planted in our old chimney pot covers. (I’ve just noticed those cobwebs on the cladding!)
Our smart new compost bins full of rotting Shetland pony poo and composting materials. You can feel the heat coming off them.
Our smart new compost bins. You can feel the heat coming off them.
We prepared and planted up this little square with box, lavender, sage and hyssop. This small patch had been covered in building rubbish for months.
We prepared and planted up this little square with box, lavender, sage and hyssop. This small patch (about 1.5m square) under the kitchen window had been covered in building rubbish for months.

 

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With two days to go, my mother-in-law (never one to shy away from a challenge) even painted the old shed black. It looks much smarter now, don’t you think?
The red geraniums really stand out against the black.
The red geraniums  and osteospermums really stand out against the black.

 

My mother-in-law came to stay for the week and we all worked hard, and I mean hard, to get everything ready; thanks to her, we did all we’d planned to do and more. Happily Saturday dawned with blue skies and warm sunshine. It was lovely to put on some summery clothes instead of soil-smeared old ones and have some time off from all that planting, weeding, pruning and brushing!

I’ll admit it was a little odd having people wandering around the garden but everyone was lovely and interested in what we’d done and our plans for the rest of the garden. ‘Come back next time and it’ll be done!’ we said. Ha ha.

We had grandparents and the children helping serve tea and cakes in the afternoons, which meant the kitchen got pretty crowded at times (and the boys were more interested in polishing off as much cake as they could), but we managed to remember who’d ordered what and not spill anything on anyone. All in all the weekend was a great success and, best of all, I’m told the Safari raised a good deal of money for the local hospice. We’ll definitely take part again next time but thankfully it’s not for another two years.

Over the last couple of weeks I have learnt that black nail varnish covers even the most tatty gardening fingernails; empty jam jars make perfect mini-cloches for strawberries; there is still just about enough light at 10pm in the garden in late June to see what you’re doing; and you must never, EVER, balance a mug of coffee right next to your laptop.

Inspiration all around

Inspiration comes from the landscape, other gardens, photos, paintings, fabrics – from many sources.
Inspiration comes from many different sources – the landscape, other gardens, photos, paintings, fabrics, the way the light falls at different times of the day.

 

I’ve been proofreading a fascinating portrait painting book this week and it’s got me thinking about sources of inspiration, different styles of planting and layering colours in the garden. As in a painting, you want tonal contrasts, differing textures, and colours that make your heart leap. Of course, there is one crucial difference with a garden: you are right inside it. You can see it from different angles and you can add elements of intrigue: ‘Wow, look at that! But, wait, what’s that over there?’ And you can appeal to the other senses – touch, smell and sound. It’s an exciting creative challenge.

This large patch of clover is growing next to the big field I walk past almost daily. Copying what nature does best is something to consider – mass planting or repeat planting (if you have the space) can be really effective.
This large patch of clover is growing next to the big field I walk past almost daily. Copying what nature does best can work really well – mass planting or repeat planting (if you have the space) is often very easy on the eye.

I read a lot about plants and design and I love to see what works for other gardeners but there is inspiration to be found in many other places.

I'm inspired by the colours in this favourite sheet, for example, and personal treasures, such as one of my grandmother's cloths and a Carl Larsson postcard. I love his charming style.
I’m inspired by the colours in this favourite sheet, for example, and personal treasures, such as one of my grandmother’s cloths and a Carl Larsson postcard. I love his charming style.

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Discovering many wonderful blogs since I started writing here has also been a delight and very motivating – there are such beautiful photographs and a wealth of creative, talented bloggers out there. It is a real pleasure to read what everyone is up to and see into generously shared lives.

I was going to write a lot more about inspiration and garden design but I’ll save that for another time. I need to snatch a couple of hours in the garden before the children get home. The newly planted areas of the garden are starting to fill out – it always amazes me how quickly everything grows at this time of the year (including the weeds).

The recently planted bed by the back wall is starting to fill out.
The renovated bed by the back wall is starting to fill out.
A view across the veg patch towards the back wall.
A view across the veg patch towards the back wall.

Remember that lovely blue-flowering plant I pictured at the end of my last post? I put it on Twitter and someone kindly forwarded the photo to their mum who has identified it as Moltkia, a herby, rhizomatous shrub. Hooray! Thanks to the wonders of social media we now know what it is.

Moltkia. Never heard of it, but this is it!
Moltkia. Never heard of it, but this is it!

Thank you so much for your kind comments on my previous post. I admit I was having a wobble but, as the Garden Safari weekend gets nearer, I’m feeling much calmer. It will be fine, we’re just one of many gardens open and this is our first year. I’ll let you know how it all goes.

Our pack has arrived - lots of 'health and safety' signage...
Our Safari pack has arrived with lots of ‘health and safety’ signage…

 

 

 

The comfort of plants and friends

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The view across the fields yesterday as a weather front loomed. We just made it home before the drizzle set in for the day.

 

My dear friend Mrs Ford (of the delightful Mrs Ford’s Diary) and I discussed our plans for the looming village Garden Safari this morning as we walked our dogs. We decided we should come clean on our blogs and declare that we know each other in Real Life as we’re both likely to write about events such as this. It was she who encouraged me to write my blog and I have her to thank for introducing me to some very lovely blogs and bloggers. If you haven’t read her blog, I urge you to do so. It is beautifully crafted and never fails to cheer me up (and even guffaw loudly). I am convinced that one day she will be Discovered and go from being a Pillar of the Community to an Overnight Sensation and Best-selling Author.

The flowers on the renovated climbing rose look zingy against the new wall.
The flowers on the renovated climbing rose looking zingy against the new wall.

Anyway, back to the rapidly approaching Garden Safari (can you tell I am getting slightly anxious?!). As well as making sure that the garden is in a fit state to be viewed – paths cleared, stacks of planks and posts transformed into respectable-looking compost bins, brash from hedges and bushes cleared away, sacks full of garden waste taken to the tip, as many weeds as possible got rid of – we have rashly declared that, as an added attraction, we will serve Afternoon Teas. Not content with the stress of having strangers wandering round the garden noticing things, we have the added excitement of providing refreshments. Thankfully my lovely children are game for helping out on the day (with the promise of a little financial inducement/bribe), so it will be all hands to the pump.

When it all gets a bit much, I have a wander round the garden and enjoy the small beauties.
When it all gets a bit much, I have a wander round the garden and enjoy the small beauties such as this Nigella (love-in-the-mist).
Our first radishes harvested yesterday. They were delicious (more so because I sowed the seed, tended them and watched them grow).
Our first radishes harvested yesterday. They were delicious (more so because I sowed the seed, tended them and watched them grow).

As well as all this, we have the ‘builders in’… Our balcony is being repaired/relaid and there are two massive piles of old roofing material and discarded stuff at the front where I am planning to arrange chairs and tables for people to sit. This was all meant to be finished a while ago (big sigh). There are men here today clearing the rubbish as I write (phew) and there are other men on the balcony adding another layer of waterproof membrane, climbing up and down ladders and dropping splashes of noxious substance onto the paving below. I am trying not to look at the broken stems on the climbing rose and the odd stains on the lawn.

I remain hopeful that it will all come together enough to be ok. Whenever anyone asks me about it (and a surprising number of people do!), I reply in a very confident tone that ‘everything will be fine’. There are enough interesting works-in-progress, some pretty plants, a view of the sea and, of course, there will be cake.

This really pretty plant is growing out of a wall – it's quite woody with lavender/rosemary-type leaves and the most gorgeous blue flowers. I've looked for it in our books but haven't found what it is. Does anyone know?
This really pretty plant is growing out of a wall – it’s quite woody with lavender/rosemary-type leaves and the most gorgeous blue flowers (but no scent). I’ve asked gardening friends and searched through our books but haven’t found out what it is. Does anyone know?

 

 

Risk assessment

Cassie at the top of the steps.
Cassie at the top of the steps.

 

Two gentlemen from the Garden Safari committee came to survey the garden yesterday. It was pouring with rain and blowing a gale – not ideal garden-viewing conditions. They looked with alarm at the piles of rubble, the steep steps, the new retaining walls with sheer drop, the pond, the trampoline and all the other ‘risks’ and made notes on their clipboards. ‘Have you got any poisonous plants?’, one asked. Oh crikey. I thought for a moment that they were going to strike us off the list and tell us our garden was too unsafe. But, no, it’s ok. We will have barriers and signs saying ‘Go no further’, ‘There’s nothing to see here’, or similar. We’ll be cordoning off the steep, terraced, ‘lots of work to do’ part and keeping visitors to the safer, flatter, and very luckily, better-looking part.

Steep steps, a sheer drop and part of the garden I've not introduced you to yet...
Steep steps, a sheer drop and part of the garden I’ve not introduced you to yet…
Work in progress and blue trug.
Work in progress and blue trug.

They were slightly aghast at our relaxed attitude. There is still so much to do! The date is fast-approaching! David and I looked at each other – ‘But it’s weeks away…’ we said. Perhaps we’re being over-confident but, as we’ve done so much since March, we’re sure there’s time to get it in a fit state for people to look at.

We spent the weekend clearing this border by the back garden wall. There's a plum and greengage (both requiring attention) and a Campsis radicans (trumpet vine) which we've cut back to encourage it to flower lower down. We've lots of plants to go in here.
We spent the weekend clearing this border by the back garden wall. There’s a plum and greengage (both requiring attention) and a Campsis radicans (trumpet vine) which we’ve cut back to encourage it to flower lower down. We’ve lots of plants to go in here when we’ve sorted out the edging.

There’s a whole heap of plants almost ready to go in to the newly revealed bed by the back wall and to fill gaps after the tulips have gone over. And the roses should be well into their flowering by then. Most of these were rescued from underneath overgrown shrubs in the front garden, so I’ve no idea what cultivar they are or what colour they’ll be! They’re in a sloping bed edged with box and also containing Miscanthus – a simple planting scheme but hopefully it’ll be looking pretty for the Safari at the end of June.

In any case, we’ll be serving afternoon teas with David’s scones, so it’ll be worth visiting just to sit and look at the sea and eat cake.

Box, roses and Miscanthus in the sloping bed by the path should be looking good by the end of June.
Box, roses and Miscanthus in the sloping bed by the path should be looking good by the end of June. It was full of white daffodils (Narcissus ‘Pheasant’s Eye’) earlier in the year – they lasted really well and their scent was gorgeous.
This one is flowering already.
This rose is flowering already.

 

Plants waiting to be moved to their new homes.
Plants waiting to be moved to their new homes.

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In other news… Two children are away this week – the youngest and the eldest (who is spending a lot of time away at the moment) are abroad on school trips. I’m missing them and the house is Very Quiet. Our self-contained middle child is tolerating the attention of both parents and enjoying having the computer all to himself. To take advantage of simpler logistics, we’re off to have a look at the Chelsea Flower Show on Thursday. I’ll try not to bombard you with too many photos.