Six on Saturday 21st August

I’ve been very remiss and haven’t joined in with the Propagator’s Six on Saturday for several weeks. I have to admit to having become somewhat disillusioned with our garden over the past few weeks. Whilst I’m incredibly grateful, especially given the events of the past eighteen months or so, for our outside space, this summer it’s seemed like all it’s done is take with very little give! The weeds have gone crazy, it’s been impossible to keep up with pulling them out. I even thought about including one of them in this week’s Six because it’s been so prominent in recent times but then I decided that rogues shouldn’t be glorified so instead I’ll just bemoan the common violet and it’s prolific self-seeding ways. I don’t mind the look of them, but this year they’ve got everywhere!! Our gravelled bistro (with weed control fabric underneath) has become like the Forth Bridge – as soon as I get to the end of pulling the violets out, I have to start again and, quite frankly, that is not how I want to spend my free time!!

Anyway, on to the first of my Six. I said there has been very little give from the garden this year, but there has been success with the runner beans.

We ate the first lot that I harvested with our Gousto meal yesterday (it was supposed to be served with garlicky kale, but really, does anyone actually like kale? We don’t in this house!) As I was preparing them that fresh bean smell really reminded me of my Granny who passed away earlier this year. I’m not even sure why it reminded me of her, but it did. My Grandad used to grow veg so no doubt he’ll have grown runner beans, but I don’t actually recall preparing them with Granny. It was a nice smell-evoked memory anyway. I’ve harvested another lot this morning and there are loads more growing. Can’t beat fresh, homegrown beans!

In the greenhouse, it’s not such a success story!

This is my one solitary tomato that’s grown! These are Maskotka tomatoes which are a trailing variety. They’re absolutely covered in flowers, but no fruit! I suspect there’s not enough summer left for any more to develop now. I don’t like tomatoes, but that’s absolutely not the point, I still want to grow them! I think, because of next door’s jungle, we just don’t get enough sun, even when it does make an appearance!

On that topic, we were astonished last week to receive a text from next door asking if he could pop round to look at the trees from our side as he’s going to get a tree surgeon in to do some hacking! I don’t think he’s planning to hack as much as we’d like him to, but anything’s better than nothing and he is going to take down the one that’s about a metre from my office/Harry Potter room and his back bedroom, so that will let more light in. Some before and after pics may well be in order when he does get it done.

Outside the greenhouse I have some sunflowers. I always grow sunflowers and they’re never very successful. Everyone else’s are just about finishing and mine are still thinking about opening. That’s the ones that haven’t been eaten by squirrels anyway!

This one is yawning, stretching and thinking about opening up so I thought I’d record it now before it gets destroyed by a squirrel. You never know, I might be able to include a photo of it fully open next time, but just in case, at least it’s featured now.

Next to the sunflowers I have sweetpeas, also unsuccessful (do you see the theme?) I have very few flowers and whilst I was waiting for enough to pick a posy, they went to seed. I don’t understand how the weather seems to have been perfect for violets, dandelions and other undesirables to thrive, but not for the plants that I actually want. I think that may be called Murphy’s Law (if we’re being polite).

These ones look quite pretty covered in raindrops so I thought I’d feature them so that all that time sowing and nurturing them wasn’t a complete waste of time! I guess it’s all a learning process, some years it works, others it doesn’t!

I haven’t featured my favourite eupatorium this year. It came back, as it does every year, but again, it hasn’t done as well as in other years.

The leaves are still beautiful but it hasn’t grown as tall as usual, or as abundantly. Maybe it’s time to take a few cuttings and try to propagate myself a few more. How does that work, though, with plants that completely die down in the winter? Do you have to take them early enough to allow them to properly grow in their first season so that they come back? I’ll investigate.

Finally, another tribute to Granny. I bought this rose early in the summer and still haven’t found a place to plant it out. It’s called Sheila’s Perfume, which was Granny’s name, and it’s produced beautiful two tone blooms that I think she’d have loved.

She looks lovely with the raindrops on her as well. I must find the perfect place to plant her out because the summer completely fades away. I just need it to stop raining so I can get out there. Oh, and for my back to remember that it’s in its forties not nineties!!!

Hope everyone manages to make the most of the weekend, despite the weather. Maybe I’ll go off and live vicariously though some of the Sixes written by people living in warmer climes.

Six on Saturday 17th July

I have organised myself early this week to join in with the Propagator’s Six on Saturday. It’s actually Thursday as I’m writing this and I’ve just been inspired by a stroll around the garden.

My poor tomato plants were in a little bit of a sorry state from lack of water, but I don’t think they’re beyond redemption. Time will tell. (Edit to add: they’re fine!) I’m finding, that even though I’m at home all day (still working from home) I forget to go out into the garden to do my watering. When I was in the office it used to be a regular routine that I’d go straight out there when I got home to check what was going on. Must try harder.

So, on to this week’s Six. First up is my first sweetpea of the year – a lovely white number tinged with purple. I’m not sure what’s gone wrong this year, but they’re very slow to get going. On my Timehop today there is a photo from two years ago of an arrangement I’d made with loads of sweetpeas. I planted them in a different place this year that gets more sun, which I thought they’d bask in. I’m still hopeful of being able to make a pretty posy this year too.

My second point has surprised me. It’s a dahlia that I found on a sale table a few weeks ago, but it’s not the flouncy, show off kind of dahlia that I normally gravitate towards. If I’m completely honest, I only got it because it was reduced, but look how amazingly pretty it is.

The photo definitely doesn’t do it justice. I’ve deadheaded it today so hopefully I’ll get another couple of flowers by the time I actually publish this. It’s in a pot on our patio table and I see it every morning as I stumble into my home office at eight twenty nine and fifty nine seconds! Lesson learnt: understated beauty can be just as pleasing as the obvious flouncy kind.

However, I couldn’t resist the buy me, buy me and jumping up and down of the flouncy one so this one came home with me too. This is so cheerful with its sunshine petals. It practically glows when the sun shines on it.

Next up is my wheelbarrow. I’ve put apricot begonias in it again, but also had to supplement it with marigolds because Thomson and Morgan let me down and several of the begonias I ordered from them didn’t survive the post. I think you’ll agree though, the ones that did survive are making up for the loss. I just love them. I never seem to be able to find this colour in garden centres.

My hydrangea is finally getting going too. I love the flowers when they’re at this in between stage. They’re like floral rhubarb.

Finally, my buddleia has sprung to life this week. I’ll be on butterfly watch from now on. This purple colour is one of my favourites and when it appears in nature it’s just stunning.

Chris Packham was on the One Show this week talking about butterflies. They’re in decline due to climate change and we’re being asked to count butterflies to try to get an idea of the extent of the decline.

I hope everyone has a great weekend. It was 24° in my car this morning before 9am when I dropped hubby at work so I’m feeling that it may be too hot for any gardening (or much else for that matter) to get done, other than some necessary watering.

A most excellent holiday on the Isle of Wight

Well, I’ll start by saying that I can’t believe that it took covid for us to discover the gem that is the Isle of Wight! Pre-covid, we didn’t really holiday in the UK, but the pandemic has changed so many aspects of life and has forced us to make a choice between no holiday and a staycation. We chose staycation, and while I know we’ll go abroad again as soon as we feel it’s safe and sensible to do so, we’ll also most definitely go back to the Isle of Wight. We had such a good time!

It didn’t start well. Firstly the weather forecast went from glorious sun and 20 degrees plus temperatures every day, to rain and grey most days and then our ferry crossings were delayed because one of the ferries is out of action. However, apart from the first night when I thought our caravan (and my car) might actually float away because the rain was so bad, the weather was actually pretty good and we both managed to get sunburnt despite wearing factor 20 (in my case, at least!) and the delayed ferry crossings allowed us to fit a bit extra into our holiday.

On the way there, our crossing was changed from lunchtime to 7pm so, not wanting to waste any precious holiday time, I booked us tickets to go to Portsmouth Docks which turned out to be an excellent trip. We saw the Mary Rose and looked around the museum first.

It’s incredible to stand there looking at the wreck of the ship which we raised in 1982, to think that King Henry VIII stood not too far away watching his favourite war ship sink during the battle of the Solent in 1545. It lay under the water for a remarkable four hundred and thirty seven years. There was apparently some question, when it was found, over whether we could say with certainty that it was the Mary Rose but I was amazed to read in the museum that we can actually put a date range on when the trees used to build the ship were felled! That’s almost too clever! Anyway, the age of the timber and the location of the wreck point towards it being the Mary Rose. The vast majority of the crew, including dogs, were lost when she sank despite her being so close to the shore, and we found many remains trapped in the ship and from analysis of the bones and artefacts found nearby, we’ve been able to assign probable roles to the men found. We can even tell where the men were likely to have been born, with reasonable accuracy. Just amazing.

Next we visited HMS Victory where you can actually board the ship because, in comparison to the Mary Rose, it’s a young ship having been built in the mid eighteenth century. Her most famous role was at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 when she was captained by Lord Nelson.

Nelson won the battle, but was fatally wounded by a musket shot which lodged in his spine, having already lost the sight in one eye and most of one arm in previous battles, and died below decks on Victory. It’s here that the famous quote ‘kiss me Hardy’ was supposed to have been uttered. The men on Victory slept in hammocks, apart from Nelson who, having lost his arm but being unwilling to ask for assistance to clamber into a hammock, slept on a specially made bed which could be quickly moved if the space was required for battle.

I love this photo of HMS Victory which I took from the quayside, including the giant statue of a Royal Navy soldier taking his girl in his arms.

On to the main holiday then. We found our caravan easily and settled in and then sat the rain out on the first night and luckily the rest of our holiday was dry and mainly sunny.

On day one we visited a model village in Godshill ….

…. and then went to Shanklin to have a wander around. Shanklin Chine was closed (more about that later) due to the previous night’s weather so we walked down the to the seafront and found an arcade to waste a bit of time (and money) in. I did my best to win an Eeyore but didn’t manage it unfortunately. In the evening I went for a walk down to our local beach and found myself a couple of shells.

The next day we’d pre-booked tickets to Osborne House, which was, allegedly, Queen Victoria’s favourite residence and where she passed away in 1901. Due to covid, we were only able to visit the ground floor rooms but they were pretty impressive.

The house is 1.2km from what was Queen Victoria’s private beach, so we walked down there and had a really relaxing sit on her beach for an hour or so, where I managed to find a few more shells and a stone which reminds me of a panda.

On our way back to the caravan we stopped by the Garlic Farm where you can go on a couple of pleasant walks and learn about different kinds of garlic. This is an elephant garlic flower.

There is also the inevitable shop selling their wares so we bought ourselves quite a few garlic products.

On our penultimate full day the weather was good enough for us to sit on our beach so we slipped and slid our way down the very steep access path and set up camp for a while. Hubby even went in the sea (far too cold for me!) It really didn’t feel that hot, but it was obviously deceptive because we both got a little burnt. The sun is definitely stronger in the UK than it used to be.

Luckily for our burnt bits, we packed up mid-afternoon and decided to go and check out Shanklin Chine after it had been closed before. It’s so magical. There’s a lovely waterfall and then the stream is surrounded by beautiful woodland foliage throughout. At the end you’re rewarded with a gorgeous sea view and then on the way back up there are some rescue birds overlooking the biggest leaves I’ve ever seen, which reminded me of something you’d find on Skull Island. According to my mum, it’s gunnera.

On our final day we went for a walk around the coastal path which was really good for the soul. There’s something about being up high and overlooking the sea that does you good.

We ended up in Yaverland where there’s a lovely beach and Wildheart’s animal sanctuary. We went into the animal sanctuary and had a look around. It’s only a small place, but we enjoyed it a lot. Afterwards we walked back around the path, enjoying the great outdoors.

On our final morning we had time to visit the Roman villa ruins at Brading due to our rearranged ferry crossing. This was also really interesting. Some of the mosaic floors, which are estimated to have been laid in 46AD, are pretty well preserved, really giving you a feel of what the villa would’ve looked like when it was newly built.

We had, completely unintentionally, chosen the weekend of the round the island race to return, so we were treated to amazing views of hundreds of boats sailing all round the island. We had a great view of this from the ferry on the way back. The photos don’t do it justice – it really was quite a spectacle.

I could wax lyrical about the Isle of Wight for much longer, but I think I’ll finish here and go and get myself some delicious garlic mayo for my lunch (probably with something else as well!) If anyone’s looking for a staycation location, I’d highly recommend the Isle of Wight – we had an amazing time and will definitely be back there again, and hopefully for a bit longer next time.