Seed Mountain

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Back in my early teens there used to be reference on the news to the EU butter mountain  which bemused me.  I had these quite grotesque images of oozing mountains of butter.  I was reminded of these this weekend when I emptied out my seed box.

In my last post I wrote about my lack of engagement with things and how unsettled I felt.  Writing the post helped me to sort my feelings out, as it so often does, and as one of the commentators so rightly said naming the problem out loud is a real step forward in itself.  So Sunday afternoon I confronted the seed box that had been brooding on the coffee table sending me accusatory glances.  I had dug it out a few weeks before in response to Anna, of Green Tapestry’s, comment that she needed to check her seed box before ordering seeds.  How terribly sensible I thought and something I really should do.  When I had been feeling more positive a few weeks back I had spent time on the Sarah Raven website putting endless packets of seeds into my virtual shopping basket.  Well of course I needed some zinnia seeds as they were wonderful last year, oh and I fancy some cosmos and some ammi again, oh and maybe some nigella, what about some foxgloves to get going as they are biennial, and maybe some dahlias from seed and so it went on.

I was stunned on tipping out the seed box on just how many packets I had managed to cram in over the last few years and these didn’t include some recent special purchases. It really was a seed mountain and had been created just as the EU butter mountain had – bought with no prospect of being sown.  How terrible and wasteful.  Sorting through I found 5 packets of assorted cosmos, a couple of foxgloves, nigella and all sorts of other things.  In fact the only thing that I didn’t have that was on my wish list were zinnias.  So I have decided to only buy zinnias this year and to use up what’s in the seed box.

It has to be acknowledged that some of these seeds have been there a while and may not be viable any more. However, being someone who likes a challenge and gets a perverse thrill out of making something work that isn’t meant to I found myself really taken with the idea.  So much so that I set to there and then and sowed 5 packets of seeds which needed cold to help them germinate – hopefully the freezing temperatures we have had the last few days will do the trick.  It may even be that by sowing this eclectic mix of seeds I achieve the real cottage garden feel that I am looking for.

Of Notebooks and Empty Nests

IMG_3906This morning I was reading an article in Gardens Illustrated which revolved around the use of garden notebooks.  There was a lovely quote from Joan Didion ‘On Keeping a Notebook’ (I must seek this essay out) which said that notebooks were “about the bits of the mind’s string too short to use”. I loved this quote as it described the way my mind works – but then I thought it is more how my mind worked until recently and that is the real problem.  My bird like brain has entered a sort of torpor. The endless shifting sands that has been my working life for the last year and don’t appear to be forming any sort of firm foundation in the next six months seem to have smothered my normal chirpy self and it is making me sad.

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Hindsight and reflection are wonderful at illuminating what can seem at the time quite normal.  I realise now that I was incredibly bored in my job and had been for years.  I love working where I do and my role meant that no two days were the same but I could do it with my eyes shut and there was no mental stimulation and so I blogged…alot.  My mind sought knowledge and the garden and plants in particular became the focus.  I joined groups and societies, followed blogs, Pinterest boards, facebook groups, went to events, visited gardens so much that when I did a review of the year back at the end of December people commented on how much I did.  I was surprised at this response.  “Really? ” I thought “and there was me wishing I had been to this or that”. And then its like someone placed a full stop firmly down and every horticultural inclination in my being vanished almost overnight.

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Now yes you can say “well its been a miserable winter with endless rain and now low temperatures and its that time of year and all gardeners feel like that etc etc” and I would agree wholeheartedly.   But this has never affected me so strongly before and I feel incredibly unsettled by it.  I have my seed box out and I can’t be bothered to open it to see what I have, I have seed catalogues which I have flicked through and even scribbled on but I can’t be bothered to order anything.  I walked round the garden yesterday and took some photos of what was flowering for a late Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post but I couldn’t be bothered to write it.  Some people will say, and I have myself, that this is fine as I was doing too much and things are more balanced and this might be true. But, and its a big but, I worry that it is more significant and that the black dog that shadows me is sniffing around and I can’t throw him off.

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I suffer with indecision and I am incredibly easily influenced by what others say which really makes me cross with myself but I have yet to find a source of imperviousness.  This means that time and again I push people away and avoid situations where vocal or opinionated people exist as I know that my fragile confidence will evaporate at the first challenge.  I take too much to heart and things dog me for years.  This isn’t good and means I find myself, now my sons are grown and independent, feeling at times quite alone.  This has become worse since my blogging block has occurred.  Blogging is wonderful if you feel isolated or are looking for people to share whatever your obsessions in life are but it is all too easy to become reliant on it and for it to become the answer to everything.

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Normally around now I am planning my holidays, pouring over websites and brochures.  This year it would be fair to say that my plans are already made and were made before Christmas, although I am still looking for other things to do for some reason that I can’t explain.  I hope to go on a trip to Greece in October to see crocus etc growing in the wild and this is with my friends, yes there you go I do have some, from the Alpine Garden Society. I am also going on a trip with people from the local Hardy Plant Society in June to east of the UK to visit a number of gardens including Beth Chattos – which I am really looking forward to.  This trip is with people who I think I can call friends although I only tend to see them once a month.  Oh and I have promised my mother a trip to the South Coast as she really wants to visit Monkey World which is conveniently near Abbotsbury Gardens which I have wanted to visit for a while.  Lots to look forward to and already planned (wagging finger at myself). But still I wonder should I go to the US in July to catch up with blogging friends, should I go and immerse myself in the horticultural odyssey that is Great Dixter to recharge my batteries, or should I be sensible and spend the money on new living room furniture that I need and really do I need to make any of these decisions right now – probably not!

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So now I need to find a way to re-engage with the old me, the me that got enthusiastic about things, plants or otherwise.  I suspect that my current work where I am in an acting up role and working at a level that is several higher than previously is really the cause of all my angst.  Everything I am doing at work seems to be new and I sit there wondering how do I write this policy, how do I tell this person that whatever isn’t happening, how do I find the courage to speak out at a meeting – my safety net has well and truly been removed and my lack of confidence has blossomed.  I get excited when I have a task from my old role to do as its like a familiar friend!  But everyone it seems has faith that I can step up to these challenges and if I want to progress in my job and avoid going back to the place were I was bored senseless and spent all my time on social media then I need to embrace those challenges.  I just need to find a way to leave the unsettling world of work at work and to come home to a my old self instead of letting the self-doubt of my working world seep into my home life and cripple me further.

So I am I think I will dig out my notebooks from last year and re-read my ‘bits of the mind’s string’ and see if they don’t pull me back to my old self.

The photos on this post are the ones that should have gone on the Garden Bloggers Bloom Day Post!

Tropical Stitching

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I’ve mentioned from time to time my new past-time of embroidery and I mentioned a few posts ago that I was working on a cross stitch that my sons had bought me for Christmas.  I thought I would share with you my progress to date.  I’m fairly pleased although I might re-do the outline of the bird’s tail again but then I could be being a little fussy as this is but a small part of the overall design.

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It should keep me quiet for some time.  Whilst I was intent this time last year on learning new embroidery techniques I find that of a weekday evening tackling something challenging with thread is not the best recipe for relaxing whereas cross-stitch is fairly simple. Also the cross stitch is building my confidence and sewing is becoming a habit in the evenings which is very relaxing and I find better than faffing around on the internet which I have wasted far too much of my life doing in recent years. As sewing starts to become a norm in my life and horticulture is becoming a less all consuming passion I am starting to feel more balanced which I think must be a good thing!

The title of the post refers to a small seasonal cross stitch I did last year which took me ages as I needed to get my eye in.

Emerging from the Elderberry

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I am sure we all have bits of our garden that we really struggle with and to be honest turn a blind eye to.  I also bet that those areas are ones which are possibly in difficult to get to parts of the garden, or have difficult growing conditions.  My challenging spot is the top right hand corner, as you look from the house; it’s the corner behind the workshop.    As you can see from the photo above the corner suffers from the shade cast by my neighbour’s trees mainly the Elder which is right in the corner.  This has two large conifers, probably leylandii behind it which form part of the hedge along my neighbour’s back boundary.

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But having battled with the elder for years I was thrilled the other evening to get a visit from my neighbour asking if I minded them cutting back some of the branches on the maple to the front of the shed.  During the conversation she mentioned that the tree surgeons would be cutting down the elder and the two conifers.  I felt  a little bad later at how enthusiastic my reaction was; maybe saying ‘Oh good, I really struggle with that tree..’ is a little selfish! I was thrilled when I got home on Friday, just before the light faded, to see the transformation.  Not only had the tree surgeons done a very neat job with no debris on my side of the fence but the amount of light that is now flooding in on that side of the garden is amazing.  It isn’t only the light but the fact that the elder, in full leaf, created such a rain shadow at the top of the garden that I have struggled to grow anything.  As you can see there are three bamboos along the back fence.  The one to the left of the picture above is much taller than the others, in fact the third one has hardly put on any growth since it was planted some years ago and I am really hoping that with the increase in light and moisture the plant will start to thrive.  I am now revisit what plants I can use to plant around the bamboos and maybe I can now consider something more exciting than is presently there.

 

If we were having tea

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If we were having tea right now there would of course be cake.  On a damp cold Saturday afternoon there needs to be afternoon tea with some treat.  My preference today would be a gooey Belgian Chocolate choux bun from my favourite local supermarket full of unctuous cream which squidgies out the sides as you bite into it

If we were having tea right now I would be telling you that I haven’t blogged for a week.  Now this might not sound that strange to you but I have been blogging at least 3 times a week since I started the blog 8 years ago, in fact 8 years on the 20th of this month.  The only times I have missed posting have been when I have been away.  But what is really strange, and also very liberating, is that I am OK with not having blogged which is a new phenomenon for me.  I have often told people that blogging had become a sort of habit, almost an addiction, and I couldn’t imagine not blogging.  I used to spend my time wondering what to write about and at its worse I used to go places just so I had something to blog about.  I know I am writing a post now but it’s because I wanted to share a few things and because I wanted something to do to justify not doing anything else on a wet afternoon!

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If we were having tea right now I would tell you how thrilled I was to receive my RHS Committee card in the post today. I am the recorder for the Symphyotrichum trial (that’s Asters to you and me).  The trial will last for three years and is being held just up the road from me at my friend Helen Picton’s nursery (Old Court Nursery). I am hoping to learn lots from the nurserymen and other experts involved in the trial.

If we were having tea right now I would tell you how I had spent the morning with  my mother at a stonemasons choosing a headstone for my sister’s grave.  She died in 2009 and her grave is marked by a wooden cross but now my brother-in-law has agreed to a more permanent marker and my Mum is on a mission to get it sorted and crossed off her bucket list.  It’s a strange thing choosing a headstone suddenly the smallest thing becomes incredibly important; what type of stone, how big, what design, what should it say.  This is something you only do once and you want it to be right.  My mother asks me “do you think your sister would like that stone”?  I want to answer “does it matter?”, but you stop yourself as it is important to my mother so you have these strange conversations about what someone who hasn’t been with us for 6 years would think.

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If we were having tea right now I would tell you that what I am really enjoying at the moment, instead of blogging, is my new cross stitch kit.  It was a Christmas present from my sons and has a lovely oriental feel about it.  I am currently working on the small bird and what you can see makes up about one fifth of the overall design – there are an awful lot of leaves and some big orange flowers which I have yet to identify.

If we were having tea right now I would tell you that unusually for me I have really retreated indoors and am struggling to engage with the garden at all even when it comes to ordering seeds etc.  I have decided I need to grow an ivy up the side of the house and I want to use the border along the front beech hedge for my ever expanding collection of ferns but ask me is I am going to grow dahlias, or cosmos or in fact anything from seed this year I will shrug and point at  a pile of seed catalogues with lots of ticks on them but no real decisions. But its January and there is plenty of time and maybe when the sun decides to reappear I will feel a little more inspired.  In the meantime I am relaxing and recharging, which is great.

 

New Year Day Delights

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There is nothing better after what seems like interminable days of rain than getting outside and having a good look around the garden to see what the plants have been up to.  The real draw were the red berries of Bomarea salsilla which I can see from the kitchen.  The seeds heads have been hanging on the vine for some months and I have wondered whether it was worth picking them then the other day a spot of red was winking at me.  Closer inspection today showed that the seed capsules were opening to reveal lots of red berries.  Tomorrow, I intend to pick them and to have a go at sowing the seed.  Research indicates that I will need to remove the red sarcotesta fleshy layer as it may inhibit germination.  I haven’t tried growing from berries before so this will be interesting.  Research has also led me to wonder if this variety is in fact Bomarea salsilla as on-line photos suggest it should be a pinker flower whilst the flowers on my plant are a real brick-red.

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Another splash of vibrant red beckoning me into the garden is the Chaenomeles which is being trained up the back fence.  It should be a real picture in a week or so when all the buds open.

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Having been drawn outside by the strident reds I found myself noticing more including these two delightful iris, which have really made my day.  I don’t remember planting them but I did plant out a lot of iris reticulata and histriodies corms that I had in pots back in the summer as I had read somewhere that they might grow better if planted deep in some shade rather than my normal practice of planting them in a sunny and dry location. A bit more research on-line and I think this is Iris histriodies ‘George’ which was definitely amongst the corms languishing in the pot collection for some years without producing any flowers.

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I also spotted some narcissus flowering, ridiculously early. I am pretty sure this is Narcissus ‘Geranium’.  A real delight but I do wonder where this season is going with spring flowers blooming some two months early.  Maybe we will get a cold spell in the next month and everything will revert back to normal.

Who knows what 2016 will bring, whatever it is I am sure it will be very interesting.