Monday, 24 November 2014

Nothing lasts forever

It may be because I've been married to an historian for over 40 years, but, despite enjoying reading about new and interesting ideas and projects and visiting different gardens, I am somehow loathe to make drastic changes in the garden. I especially feel that the trees, so many of which were in situ when we moved here 35 years ago, deserve to live out their alloted span without much interference from me and should be preserved no matter what.

In the shade of the old apple tree

However, I finally took the plunge, or rather the axe, and  agreed that Norman, All Seasons Arboralist, should finally fell our old apple tree. In a fit of enthusiasm, I had planted a white rambling rose - Kiftsgate - having a romantic notion that the white  blossoms cascading down and through the branches would make a delightful scene in  early summer. In a Sissinghurst moment I  added a white clematis montana for extra impact. Such a mistake! After a short time in garden terms, the poor tree was overwhelmed, the tree canopy so dense that I feared for its safety each time we had strong winds. So it was time for it to go.

New viewpoint
Feeling a mixture of sadness and elation at the thought of spending the winter months deciding what to plant in the newly-exposed space. (The fern has now also gone, opening up the space even more).
Suggestions welcome

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

No time to stand and stare

Well into October and I don't know where the time has gone.
I have been busy - too busy I'm almost ashamed to say to find time to document the changing seasons in Pablo's garden.

Part of the stumpery

I have already closed the summer house down for the year and am currently ensuring the cushions are well and truly dry before packing them away until next spring. There has been no opportunity to treat the woodwork so fingers crossed the winter isn't too severe.

Forest Pansy

It's amazing just how much colour there is still to be seen in the borders. This forest pansy is a wonderful example although, to be fair, the leaves are this colour from late spring until they begin to fall in early autumn. They are lovely to use in flower arrangements despite not taking kindly to being picked. Even so, it's worth trying to introduce such a fabulous colour inside the house.

late clematis
The medlar that turned out to be an apricot has now been taken down which has opened up a small area of the right hand border which can now be replanted - with what I'm not yet sure. However friend Liz has offered me a small greengage tree. I love making 'greengage summer' jam so have offered the fruit tree a permanent home in optimistic exchange for jars of jam sometime in the future.  Watch this space...

Norman, All Seasons Arborist,  has already performed his annual magic and trimmed back the ivy on the garage and generally kept the trees in check, including the holly that is already bearing berries in anticipation of the festive season.

Portia with Japanese Anemones
Portia and Estella have had a wonderful summer in Pablo's garden but have already sensed the changing seasons. They don't need calling twice before dashing into the warmth of the central heating once darkness falls. Similarly, each morning I get an extra few minutes in bed as they wake later and later and often snuggle in for a cuddle before crying to be out in the fresh air. I can't wait for them to discover snow.


Estella preparing to travel

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Weeds rule OK

At last the blessed relief of sufficient rain to give Pablo's garden a  good soaking. A torrential downpour on Saturday relentlessly attacked the exhausted borders. They look shell-shocked and will take some time to recuperate. The weeds have been the first to recover their equilibrium and are popping up in all the places I don't want them to. Some - like rose bay willow herb (how did that get there?) - are so attractive when in flower that I am loathe to disturb them, despite knowing that, come next summer, I will regret that decision.

Giant hog weed  

This is a perfect example of a weed that has a bad name but just look at it - isn't it splendid?
I photographed this on a visit to Hazel Cottage in Armathwaite, the home of two professional flower arrangers, who often use hog weed to create statuesque arrangements.

This, however, is one weed I don't want to self-seed in Pablo's garden.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Almost August - and looking forward to 'a wicked month!'

Where has July gone?

Admittedly it has been a month full of variety and business - garden open day, hospital attending and a surprising  visit from a garden reviewer for The Amateur Gardener magazine (of which more another blog-time).

The re-planted left-hand border

The catkins are loving the warm summer days and nights. We struggle to coax them in once the moths begin their nightly flights -  flights mirrored by by balletic cats who aspire to be promoted from the corps de ballet to take a leading role in capturing the limelight,  while at the same time capturing any hapless night-time fliers they manage to entrap (and eat with relish!)

Estella recuperating after a night on the tiles

These balmy nights enhance the wonderful natural perfumes to be found in Pablo's garden.

The honeysuckle is a particular delight and  it, together with a summer jasmine near the pergola, make for a heady combination to rival even the most expensive of commercial perfumes.

I can't wait to sample spring 2015's  combination of the newly-planted wintersweet and the daphne odorata.

Pablo's Garden Open Day on Sunday 6th July raised the magnificent sum of £660.30 for The National Garden Scheme's 6 chosen charities. So many people helped to make the day a success - you  know who you are - and I couldn't have coped without you all.

A huge 'Thank You'

Here's to next year!

Monday, 23 June 2014

Every picture tells a story

             Frantically busy trying to fit in garden tidying with many other calls on my time currently.

The entrance to Pablo's Garden

Progress is being made - thanks to lots of help from my sister, Heather and friend Elaine. Still got a way to go but we'll get there in time for the NGS Open Day on Sunday 6th July 11.00am - 4.00pm (apparently the same day as the Men's Final at Wimbledon - oh dear!)

The glory of the rose
Delicious scents in the garden at the moment, heightened by the warm days. My 'literary' roses are  bestsellers - Jude the Obscure, Lady of Shalot, Tam O'Shanter, Brother Cadfel, A Shropshire Lad, Tess of the D'Urbervilles and newcomer Heathcliffe who is being his temperamental self and sulking  at the moment. However he has potential.

The Philadelphus is glorious and is blooming slightly earlier than usual due to the mild weather. Fingers crossed that it will have retained some colour for 6th July. Again, the perfume is delightful and it is a pleasure 
to be working in the garden, surrounded by such a blossoming abundance.


A new departure is the stumpery which almost looks as if it has been there forever. It still needs some work on it and I've just been to my favourite nursery at Eggleston Hall to buy a few new additions - mostly ferns - of which more later.

                      The borders are filling up after the demise of the bluebells and forget-me-nots.

I hope that you will travel with me on a walk around Pablo's Garden on 6th July. There are many buttercups and grasses amongst the flowers and shrubs for it isn't a pristine garden with perfectly managed borders and manicured lawns but it is a garden that our late-lamented Pablo, a cat who loved nature, enjoyed and we hope you will too.

Take a walk through the garden gate ...

Friday, 30 May 2014

A touch of Paradise

Forest Pansy

I guess we all take the everyday for granted - our lives, family, friends, even gardens - and it is only when something or someone jolts us out of the routine of our regular daily existence that we begin objectively to really see and  become aware of what is actually around us.

This was brought home to me last week when I was frantically trying to finish off filling tubs with bedding plants and had to pause when a young boy's face appeared round the  trellis to ask if he could search for his football which had flown over the dividing  fence. Grandfather then appeared and, as we walked down the lawn, he looked around in astonishment and remarked

'This is a touch of Paradise'.

' ...We sat in the garden indolently reading. L not sitting but gardening. We had the best display of flowers yet seen - wallflowers in profusion, columbines, phlox etc


and as we went huge scarlet poppies with purple stains on them. The peonies even about to burst.  There was a nest of blackbirds against the wall. Last night at Charleston I lay with my window open listening to a nightingale, which beginning in the distance came  very near the garden. Fishes splashed in the pond.
May in England is all they say - so teeming, amorous and creative.'
                                                        Virginia Woolf     Diary 28th May 1918

Friday, 9 May 2014

Bluebell time

Just a reminder that the  bluebells are out in  all their glory this month and one of the best places to see them is in the woods on Hollingside Lane, opposite the entrance to Durham University's Botanic Gardens. There are literally hundreds of thousands of them and you don't have to walk far into the wood before they appear. Just pop through the small entrance gate and there they are!

Bluebells and ferns - good companions

Just a reminder that if you are looking for perennials to fill your garden  borders, then do go to the Botanic Garden's annual plant sale this coming Sunday, 11th May.  from 10.00am. There are some real bargains to be had and the coffee shop is open.

See you there.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

April so it must be Harrogate Spring Show

Mixed weather this weekend for Bishop Auckland's Food Festival but, I'm delighted to report, that Thursday was glorious down at Harrogate for the Spring Show. Dressed suitably for the projected rain, by lunchtime we were stripped off down to t-shirts and basking in welcome sunshine as we ate our toasted sandwiches and watched the gardening world go by.

Veggie owl

 (The only disappointing part of the whole day was the dearth of vegetarian food. Vans selling veggie and nut burgers no longer make an appearance and we are resigned to the ubiquitous cheese sandwich- with or without onions. Organisers please note!)

The Flower Hall did not disappoint and despite avowing I wouldn't buy any plants before the Botanic Garden Plant Sale on Sunday 11th May, I succumbed. I even went back to purchase a clematis I'd had my eye on only to find I was too late, they'd sold out on the first day. A lesson for us all in not procrastinating. Even so, I was happy with my purchases - an unusual lavender and a delighful  woodland plant I'd not seen before, together with an assortment of summer-flowering bulbs for pots.

I was also tempted by a tree nymph-like piece of driftwood which will form part of the stumpery I'm hoping to erect - if the Prince of Wales can have one then so can Gillian Wales.

Euphorbia and flowering currant
In Pablo's Garden there's still lots to do -  annual tidying of the borders is still not finished - but I did manage to place stakes ready to tie in leggy perennials. The trees have finally had a trim back and part of the high fence which decided to lie down and die has  been resurrected. Both were large tasks that de-motivated me from gardening proper but now I'm full of enthusiasm and raring to go. Both the quince tree and the apricot which should have been a medlar have flowered so fingers crossed for a fruitful summer.

 I just need the sun to shine.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Even greater generosity

A Daffodil update

View from the french windows

Back to Marie Curie and just to let everyone know that in addition to the magnificent £3,500 donated in local supermarkets in March, we have also received the terrific sum of £1,800 collected from daffodil boxes placed in local shops, pubs, hairdressers etc etc in the area.

A huge Thank You

The entrance to Pablo's Garden which you can visit on Sunday 6th July under the National Gardens Scheme

Saturday, 29 March 2014

March is for Marie Curie daffodils

Daffodils  at Durham's Botanic Gardens

'Daffodils grew among the mossy stones on which some rested their heads as on a pillow, the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind, they looked so gay..'
                                                                                        Dorothy Wordsworth

The glory of the daffodil cannot be underestimated.

Neither can the work and dedication of Marie Curie nurses  who provide end of life care for those who need it. March is Marie Curie's major fund raising month and the Marie Curie daffodil has become associated in the public's mind with Marie Curie Cancer Care almost as much as the poppy is with Remembrance Sunday.

Promenading in Saltburn - complete with daffodils!

I am proud and delighted that the recently-formed Bishop Auckland Marie Curie Fund Raising Group have raised £3,500 from collections at local supermarkets during the month of March. This will buy 175 hours of nursing care for the people of Bishop Auckland as all money raised locally goes back into the local community.

Thank you all

Monday, 17 March 2014

Calling all angels

Every blade of grass has its Angel
That bends over it and whispers ‘Grow, grow’  
                                          The Talmud

Step inside the crocus

The lawn has had its first cut of the year and already begins to take pride in its appearance, despite still needing to have its edges trimmed and sharpened.

There is such a lot of tidying of the borders needing desperately to be done. Already the first garden bin is full to over-flowing. My back aches just thinking about it.


 Friend Elaine has delivered a margarine carton full of frog spawn and the blue tits have discovered the nesting box nearest the kitchen window.

The intermingled smells from the flowering daphne and winter honeysuckle combine naturally to rival the best that Jo Malone could ever produce – and all for free.

It is such a glorious time of the year - full of so much promise.

The days are lengthening and the catkins are alive to the sound of early birdsong as I know to my cost, being woken to the sound of them leaping from wardrobe to wardrobe before 6 a.m. each morning!

When in these fresh mornings I go into my garden before anyone is awake, I go for the time being into perfect  happiness. In this hour divinely fresh and still, the fair face of every flower salutes me with silent joy that fills me with infinite content, each gives me its colour, its grace, its perfume and enriches me with the consummation of its beauty.
                          Celia Thaxter An Island Garden 1894 

The glory of neighbour Robert's Van Gogh-like tree full of blossom

Saturday, 8 March 2014

A Woman's Hardy Garden

 For female gardeners on 
International Women's Day

I always think of my sins when I weed.
They grow apace in the same way
and are harder still to get rid of.
                                                   Helena Rutherford Ely
                                                    A Woman's Hardy Garden 1903

Pablo's Garden

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

A quick pick-me-up

For me, January is always the most depressing month of the year but, statistically, February is the month when most suicides occur. 

The grounds of Redworth Hall

To overcome that February feeling I recommend a walk in a garden – almost any garden would do – but if you’ve time take a quick drive to Redworth Hall near Shildon to see the snowdrops and aconites and you’ll find your winter blues disappear. I guarantee it.

Snowdrops and aconites          

Saturday, 25 January 2014

St. Paul rather than St. Patrick

 It's been such a dull and wet day today, 25th January - St. Paul's Day as well as St. Patrick's -  that I thought we all needed cheering up  (In the 17th century a dull St. Paul's Day was considered an omen of war and disaster).

A walk in Pablo's garden during a lull in the rain soon convinced me that all is not lost. I was amazed and heartened by the growing promise in the borders and the variety and kaleidoscope of colour to be seen.

The winter so far has been kind to our two furry friends - Portia and Estella - and  we're quite curious as to how they'll react to the  snow when it does arrive. They are not fazed by rain at all. Pablo would twitch his whiskers at the open door and then turn back into the warmth. These two seem to relish going outside regardless. Only strong winds seem to bother them and then they hover at the window, waiting to be let in.

The hellebores are beginning to come into bud and I really need to cut back last year's leaves to allow the flowers to be seen in all their glory. They are such worthwhile plants and I intend to extend my collection this coming year. 

dying ferns give winter colour

I didn't tidy the borders at the end of  last year - deliberately leaving the dying foliage as shelter for wildlife. There is still beauty to be seen in these perennials which have retained some of their autumn colour even in the depths of winter.

I have been trying over the years to include plants that give not only winter colour but that are scented. Christmas box, winter flowering honeysuckle and witch hazel respond well to winter sunshine and I've finally managed to track down a plant of wintersweet which produces yellow flowers along its stem but is best known for its delicious perfume. Obviously my shrub is only tiny so I'll have to wait some while before I can relish its delights. Can't wait.

Future promise