Monday, 8 June 2015

The kindness of strangers (aka our garden fairy)

I returned from the Post Office today to find a delightful little present on our doorstep. A pot of pretty purple toadflax - just perfect for a medicine garden. Tucked inside was a lovely note saying thank you for the pleasure our "little cottage garden has brought to a wayfarer". It's really for Mr M, who is by far the master of the garden, but it's just too delightful not to share. And it got me thinking about how lovely a gesture it was and how sad it is that we don't all do these little acts of kindness more often.

By chance we happened to meet this lovely person at one of the open garden events this weekend. We managed fifteen gardens in Weybridge and two in Byfleet. We had a brilliant time meeting the owners (one, an artist, kindly gave us a quick tour of his studio), nosing around their gardens and spotting the plants that grow well in the local soil. Several backed onto the river - ever so peaceful with the narrow boats gliding serenely past, another was full of rambling roses tucked behind a 16th century higgledy-piggledy house and behind the broad beans we stumbled across a competitive sweet pea grower at the allotments. We discovered a community tucked away from traffic and street lamps living in cabins on stilts with gardens full of sculptures sweeping into quiet backwaters and an uber-modern home that wouldn't have looked out of place in Sandbanks, Poole.

And we met our garden fairy. We started chatting with a lovely South African couple in one of the courtyard gardens, as you do when the same people are following the map at roughly the same time. She happened to mention that she lived in a road near to us. When we mentioned that we lived close by, she asked whether we knew the cottage with a certain coloured door and a cottage garden that had been planted up by the young couple…erm…that would be us…which resulted in the biggest bear hug for us both. She walks past our cottage on her daily stroll and has thoroughly enjoyed seeing Mr M's medicine garden come together and had been planning to leave us a little garden present from the garden fairy. And that she did. We don't know her name, or where exactly she lives in order to say thank you, but will plant it where she can see it and enjoy it.

Have you ever received a lovely act of kindness or have you been the secret gift giver?

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Our herb bed - before and after

From this…
…to this. 
Creeping thyme and camomile, lemon balm, rock hyssop, feverfew and garlic chives, Allium christophii, verbena bonariensis, winter jasmine, a climbing white rose and a few other little bits and bobs to fill in the gaps. 

Monday, 1 June 2015

May - the month of flowers

Where the weather seemed to get cooler rather than warmer, Mr M's medicine garden was finally finished*, our brilliant water butt arrived (truly, who knew one could get excited about a huge plastic pot), a new border of lavender was created, the beans and tomatoes were planted, my seemingly-dead-but-it's-a-bargain pots of Astrantia flowered, the cotoneaster was abuzz with bees, I appeared to spend all my time on Instagram**, pretty pink Sweet William arrived in the shops and I was lucky enough to go to Chelsea Flower Show on gala night (piccies on Instagram) and people watch the movers and shakers.

I've been well and truly bitten by the gardening bug and I'm loving it.

*ish - are gardens ever finished? We need to abstain from garden centres for a couple of months - it's a costly addiction.

**Isn't Instagram addictive? Instant and easy, it does however mean that this poor old blog has been rather neglected, as has my camera. If you find it quiet over here, it means I'm probably over there - liking pictures of puppies and torties, cake and flowers, doors and views, and taking pictures of my breakfast and books.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Thank you

To those who protected, wherever they were, away or at home.

My grandfather has kept a daily diary for more than 70 years. We came across his entry for that momentous week. He was in Wensleydale on duty when VE Day was announced, but had spent most of his time in the Middle East - in Egypt and a now unrecognisable Baghdad.

He celebrated his 92nd birthday on Saturday. It's hard to believe that he's seen16 Prime Ministers come and go, a man walk on the moon, the atom bomb, the Cold War, medical advances, the evolution of technology, architecture, music, food and travel.

He was the first person I knew to get online and I started this blog for him back in 2008.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Weekend digging

We've spent the last couple of weekends digging in the front garden. It's roughly the same size as the back but with deeper beds and greater potential thanks to the enormous amount of sun it gets. Having been left with a clean slate courtesy of the building work last year, we've been itching to get out and start turning a very sad brown patch into a green one. The plants that have gone in already are looking happy and the bees and hoverflies are certainly enjoying them. We now have a path lined with rosemary and lavender to the right. The left side is awaiting the turf and we're toying with the idea of something fun like a step over apple tree run along the path. On Saturday, we bought obelisks for the sweet peas and beans, picking up a couple of Allium Sphaerocephalon as we went along. We returned from Wisley on Sunday with a boot full of sweetpeas, epimedium and ajuga, a sad looking pot promising much riches in the form of a Krinkled White peony and a Tasmanian pepper plant. We potted up our 10ft crab apple (Evereste) - now staked and clamped into its pot until it becomes established - and planted out the latest garden centre haul. The turf will be ordered this week before the miner bees become too established in the bare earth. Once in and happy, we'll finish the borders with bedding plants. I'm thrilled with my sweetpea obelisk - and the very snazzy Twool I bought yonks ago (who I was pleased to see had a super display in the Wisley Plant Centre). Everything seems to be unfurling in the warming sun. And it's National Gardening Week to boot. Hooray for green.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Friday's flower

Thank goodness it's Friday. The sun's out, the breeze is warm. Incredible weather for a Spring wedding. The medicine garden is coming along nicely - our crab apple tree arrived today together with a huge pot which it will eventually call home. One of my favourite plants in the middle bed is Ribes sanguineum 'Elkington's white' - it's been covered in bees all day and releases a wonderfully sharp blackcurrant aroma as you brush past. Have a lovely weekend.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Before and after - our new kitchen larder

When we bought our little cottage, the decor had breathed its finest hours in depths of the 20th Century - each nook and cranny was a nod to a particular decade. The bathroom was rocking an early 1990s pastel and white design. The small bedroom embraced the very orange flower power of the 1960s. The kitchen had the original 1920s windows, the 1970s boiler and lino, and the 1980s fitted cupboards. The larder had a 1950s vibe. Handmade fly screen cupboards, more pipework than a Heath Robinson sketch and a very exciting electricity box. 
Our incredible builders worked their magic. The space was reduced, the door turned, pipes were removed and those remaining were sunk, the electric box was replaced with a shiny white box of tricks with switches. With the walls painted white, we called our carpenter.
His team worked their magic. After a little bit of jiggery-pokery, it's now become a brilliant larder with fancy shelves and a home for pretty much everything.
Each time we open the door, we can't help but go 'oooo'. We no longer have to get on our hands and knees (with a torch!) to see what we have. We've still got a few finishing touches left to do - the fancy wine rack, proper labelling for the kilner jars and Mr M's spice rack for the back of the door. I'm not a massive microwave fan, but we bought it during the build - it's one of those combi pups. I've used it once since the builders left. It's shiny and space age. The oak shelf above the door isn't quite finished - Mr M made it from an off cut from the work surface. The brackets need to be painted white and the shelf oiled a few more times before we can pop my Grandmother's old loaf tins up there.

So - that's my first kitchen show and tell. I can't believe it's taken me so long to share. We still don't have the splash back or blinds up, but slowly but surely the grand reveal will come.