Monday, 15 September 2014

Changing seasons

I noticed it yesterday, while brushing my teeth and looking out of the bathroom window. The tips of the leaves on the old lime tree at the bottom of our garden had a distinct toffee tinge. The blueberry bush is already flushed with crimson and the nights have started to draw in. I can feel my body clock slowly shifting gear to adjust for autumn as my weekly fare changes. I hardly notice as salads and sorbets are slowly replaced by hearty warming dishes like braised duck and pear and almond cobbler.

I feel sad about the end of summer as I pack pretty summer dresses to the back of the wardrobe but know that I will be greeting them again in a matter of months. Now I feel the need to start hunkering down to the autumnal rhythm. I look forward to the carved pumpkins and excited childrens' faces of Halloween, the crisp smell of bonfire smoke and sparklers of Guy Fawke's Night and the family gathering of yuletide.

The following months are always harder, but pretty Spring is not far away and after she has greeted us with bouquets of snowdrops and daffodils Summer begins her dance again. I look forward meeting those warm endless nights filled with honeysuckle and laughter again next year.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Crocus Open Day

Last Saturday, my good friend Caroline and I jumped in the car and set off to Windlesham in Surrey to go to the last Crocus Open Day of the year. Crocus are an on-line nursery, they offer a huge selection of plants (up to 4,000 varieties) and they also grow plants for the show gardens at the Chelsea Flower every year. They have a couple of open days a year based at their massive nursery site, there are always lots of great bargains and it is lovely walking around and looking at the great variety and quality of plants on offer.

One of my favourite things about these days is just seeing so many plants all grouped together. It's almost worth the journey alone just to look at the huge swathes of Echinachea and Rudbeckia. I always make sure that I make a list when I go to these events as it is so easy to get distracted. This year is the first year I managed to stick to it (although I was sorely tempted by their offer of 3 roses for £10)!

We wandered around the whole site, looking at all the different plants on offer picking up pots of Echinacea, Japanese Anemone and Campanula on our way. Then after we had seen everything and made our plant selections we made a beeline for the tea caravan ordering cups of tea, lemon drizzle and walnut cake and sat out in the September sunshine chatting and eating our tea and cake before driving home with a mini garden in our car boot.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Dahlia delights

Earlier this year I made a New Year's resolution I knew I would be able to keep. After seeing Sharon from My French Country Home's swoon-worthy photographs of the peachy bloomed Dahlia Cafe au Lait, I decided to put aside my various preconceptions about dahlias and have a go.

I'd always steered away from growing dahlias previously as the varieties I saw were always seemed so garish and artificial looking. I have to admit that there was probably an element of garden snobbery about them as well, although now I have to admit I'm at a loss as to why! Perhaps it's because I think of myself as much more of a billowy gardener and preferring pastel hues to traffic stoppers! But the more I looked around the more I saw that dahlias were beginning to shed their "only for male gardeners of a certain age" reputation and were starting to pop up all over the place.

And I'm very glad they did! I have been out in the garden every evening after work, patiently waiting as the button sized buds swell and became the size of cherry tomatoes, imagining the Mille-feuille-like layers of pastely, peachy pink stuffed into that tiny space - like a ballerina's tutu stuffed into a hat box!

This foray into the world of dahlias has certainly whetted my appetite and I know for sure that there are definitely more tubers on the horizon for my garden!

Monday, 4 August 2014


It was lovely having my Mum and sister down, even though it was only a very short visit. They arrived on Wednesday and were back up to Scotland on Friday! My sister reported that the sleigh bed was very comfortable and Mum was nice and cosy in the garden room with her en suite! They both had eiderdowns and quilts on their beds, but I don't think either ended up staying on for very long as it was so hot while they were visiting!

A couple of days before my visitors arrived I had a phone call from Colin at Crystal Corner to let me know that the antique French chandelier I bought unwired from Rosehip in the Country back in March was ready. The above photo shows it in its unwired, unrestored state. After picking it up from the lovely Rosehip shop in Long Melford, the chandelier languished in a box from March-July while I tried to figure out if I could re-wire it myself. But the more I looked into it the more complicated it seemed to get so I decided it was a much better idea to pay someone else who knew who knew what they were doing!

After getting in touch with Colin via his wife who runs Crystal Corner, he very kindly offered to collect, restore, deliver and hang it for me. Later on that day he arrived on his motor bike, carefully packed the chandelier up and whisked it away to his workshop in Marlow. Now, restored to its former glory, it hangs in our sitting room, rewired and with the missing crystals added back onto the frame. We need to replace the bulbs for some others that are slightly less tall (we might go for some pygmie bulbs but I am not sure if they would be too tiny?) But we are really pleased with the result which is so much nicer than the plain black B&Q 3-arm chandelier that we had inherited from the previous owners and had swinging arms!

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Sleigh bed

Once we had moved the metal bed and computer desk out of the second bedroom I started to think about what I would like to replace it with. I knew that I definitely wanted the room to still be a bedroom so I started looking around for a bed. I had seen a few pictures of sleigh beds recently and thought that one of these would look just right in the freshly painted second bedroom.

After scouring eBay for a few weeks, I had a couple that I was interested in. After ruling a few really lovely ones out due the head and foot board size (some were almost two metres high which would have dwarfed the room). I came across this lovely pine Scandinavian sleigh bed.
I really liked the turned finals and the simple style of this bed.


The only thing was that it the brackets fixing the side boards to the head board were broken, after consulting with my Dad (he can fix anything!) over whether it could be easily fixed or not I managed to haggle the price down and in a couple of days my husband and I were manoeuvring the pieces into the back of our car and driving down the motorway. It then languished in the second bedroom for a few weeks while we waited for our builder (who is also a carpenter) to come over and fix it for us. After that my husband installed some bed slats and the job was finished!

It still needs some large squashy cushions to make it more inviting as a sofa/day bed when we don't have guests and I need to decide how I am going to cover the mattress when it is not in use but for now I'm pleased with how it looks. It will be getting it's first road test in a matter of days when my sister and Mum come down to stay. I think Mum has already said she will be staying in the garden room so my sister will be in the sleigh bed so it'll soon be made up with a pillows and quilts. I hope she finds it comfy!

Friday, 4 July 2014


The weather has been so dreamy and warm lately that I've not done much other than potter around the garden. The blueberries and strawberries (I have both the normal sized variety and the delicious smaller wild variety) are both beginning to ripen so I've been kept busy picking these. Although I think I should plant more blueberry bushes and propagate strawberry plants this year so that I get a bigger harvest. Just now, I'm lucky if most of my pickings survive the short journey from the garden to the kitchen without being eaten!

Everything else is growing like the clappers. The tomato plant has quite a few flowers on it and I'm eagerly awaiting the first pickings. I was quite late sowing my cucumber seeds this year so I'm not sure if I will get a harvest, but it is exciting to see them growing. I'm hoping that at the very least I might get some tiny cucumbers that I could pickle! Half of my corn seedlings have unfortunately been dug up by Holly and Ivy but I did foresee this happening and have another batch coming along nicely in the cold frame. I'm already imagining golden September evenings with an alfresco dinner served alongside my homegrown corn on the cob dipping with butter!

Madame Alfred Carrière is blooming away nicely and starting to climb up the fence well. The flowers are a lovely creamy white with just a touch of peachy pink and have a deliciously fresh fragrance. I'm also really pleased with my Penstemon "Alice Hindley" which is forming a sizable busy already and is covered with beautiful lilac-blue flowers with touches of white.

I always find it difficult to just sit down in the garden, as my eyes immediately travel up and down the borders and I start making mental notes of what needs to be done and what I should do for next year. Although it's makes it alot easier to relax when I'm lounging in my deckchair, which I position so that I can look up into the leaves of the tree at the end of our garden and watch them flutter and sway against the blue sky. It's only then that I think to myself, the other jobs can wait I should enjoy this while I can!

Friday, 20 June 2014

2nd Bedroom

My paint brush got a quick reprieve a week ago when we decided that the second bedroom was definitely in need of a re-paint. After we had moved the desk and bed from there down into the garden room the second bedroom looked decidedly scruffy. There were white marks from paint being chipped off where the desk met the wall as well as some scuffing. Plus, there were a few areas where the paint had bubbled and blistered away from the walls. This room had originally been painted Teresa's Green by Farrow and Ball and we still had most of the pot left in the shed. But after reading around on the Internet I decided to go for a Little Greene paint colour instead. After all, the high traffic rooms downstairs which had been painted with LG paints were in much better shape even after the builders had traipsed through compared to our sparsely used second bedroom painted in F&B.

Although Teresa's Green is a lovely shade, it can be rather dark in a small north facing room like our second bedroom. So I decided to go for a lighter colour and painted up sample swatches of Pearl Colour Pale, Gauze, Hollyhock and Starling's Egg all by Little Greene.
Starling's Egg (which we already have in our main bedroom) won out overall, despite being very tempted by Gauze - such a pretty powdery blue colour. But I really love Starling's Egg which I find light and calming without being cold and I have to admit I also like the name. What could be prettier than a Starling's egg?

Before with Teresa's Green
After with Starling's Egg (and some tidying to do!)

After arming myself with a paint roller, dust sheets and a selection of brushes I set to work. This was the first room I had ever painted and it was quite a bit harder than I had originally thought! After preparing the walls and cutting in I then found myself applying 3 coats of paint to the walls to totally cover the old colour as it was so much darker than the new shade. But I managed to complete the work over a weekend although I had aching arms and a few angry blisters on my hands the next day! I'm quite pleased that I managed to do this by myself and each time I walk into the room I can't help smiling smugly and thinking, "I painted this!"