2020 A Year in Review

2020 may have been the oddest year of most of our lives but it’s done now, and we have to have hope that 2021 will be better. I have, for the most part, managed to stay mentally sound throughout most of the year, which I know isn’t the same for everyone. I thank my lucky stars that this happened now and not a couple of decades ago when we would have been far more isolated that we have been thanks to Zoom, FaceTime and Teams.

I also massively appreciate the fact that we have outside space which, although at the moment isn’t at all enticing due to the inclement weather, got us through the warmer months of the year with relative ease, especially so when we were allowed to have people in our garden.

Here are some of my favourite garden photos of last year.

The garden was reasonably productive in terms of fruit and veg in 2020 …

… and we had quite a few visitors of the fauna variety!

Inside the house, we made a few home improvements. The first was pre-lockdown when, with the help of my Dad, we transformed our bathroom from dingy to sparkly clean safari wonderland.

During lockdown when I was furloughed and hubby’s workplace was demonstrating exactly how a zero hours contract benefits the employer (they still are!) we tackled first our spare bedroom/my home office making it a homage to all things Harry Potter …

… then when I was unfurloughed but hubby was still unbusy with zero hours, he decided to tackle the woodchip in our living room and we completely redecorated including wallpapering, laying laminate flooring, opening out the fireplace and hanging the TV on the wall.

Outside we built a catio on the side of the kitchen so our furry girls can get some air safely.

Away from home, amazingly we did manage to squeeze in three holidays. The first was, to paraphrase Craig Revel-Horwood A-May-zing!! A week long cruise round the Caribbean preceded by a two night stop in Orlando and a trip to Universal to go on the new Hagrid’s Magical Creatures coaster. This was pre-COVID, in fact I remember the first I heard about it was by scanning the Sky news app whilst I was sunbathing on deck, and I assumed it would be like the previous SARS disease. I never even entertained the thought that it could turn into what it has! Blissful ignorance, eh?

In between lockdown 1.0 and lockdown 2.0 we managed a short break to Norfolk which was a game of two halves – lovely to get away and see the sea, but I got bitten by a dog, we had to come home early because hubby had a job interview (which he didn’t get!) and I got a flat tyre!

In September we went to Edinburgh for my birthday. This had been booked pre-pandemic and we didn’t know until the last minute whether we’d be able to go, but I’m so glad we could because we had a fantastic time. One of the best holidays I’ve ever had.

We had a few great days out – we walked alpacas, visited confetti fields, played with meerkats, met gorillas at Twycross Zoo and we walked and cycled many times in Sutton Park and Kingsbury Water Park …

… and we also had a couple of great days in making up for things that we should have been doing. We had a non-Jamaica party for two on the day we were supposed to be flying out and we had a tennis afternoon tea on the day Dad and I were supposed to be going to watch the ATP tour finals in London.

I also did a lot of crafts – mainly crochet, but also knitting, baking, jigsaws (do they count as crafts?) model making, felting and, obviously, mask making!

So, all in all, although it certainly didn’t feel like it at times, 2020 was actually a pretty full year and I achieved quite a lot. Amongst all this, I was also working full time (apart from being furloughed for nine weeks in the summer) in a job that I only started six weeks before we were plunged into lockdown and home working, and I feel that I managed very well to learn the new job (although this is an on-going process) under challenging circumstances. It turns out that home working, while it doesn’t suit everyone or every job, works pretty well for me, and for my team. As I mentioned before, thank goodness for technology!

Now it’s time to look forward to 2021 and I’ll finish with a quote that I recently read in a fiction book, the sixth in the Seven Sisters series by Lucinda Riley but that is based in fact (the first book I didn’t enjoy as much, but I’m so glad I persevered because they got better and better and one thing to look forward to in 2021 is the release of the final in the series).Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards – Soren Kierkegaard.

Six on Saturday 16th November 2019

Is it officially still Autumn? It doesn’t feel like it (especially not as I have a man in my porch fitting a smart meter meaning the gas is turned off hence no heating!) It’s soul destroyingly Wintery.

Anyway, I went wandering in the garden this morning to snap some pics for a Six and the sign in my greenhouse seemed very apt.

I think I’ll start in the greenhouse for number one. It’s chilly in there as is corroborated by both my posh and accurate thermometer …

… and my pretty but slightly less trustworthy thermometer.

The cuttings are having a very similar reaction to the cold as I am – a bit lacklustre and definitely not as happy as a couple of weeks ago!

A fellow blogger advised me a few weeks ago to keep them fairly dry but not bone dry, but, despite not having watered them for well over a month they’re just not drying out at all! I need a heated greenhouse, but that would send the new smart meter into spasms of panic I fear!

Conversely, the Gazania and the two Fuchsias (one hardy, one not but I can’t remember which is which) seem quite happy with their surroundings.

I’ll have to ask my Mum which is which when I see her as she took the cuttings. It’s not going to hurt having them both out of the cold given how small they are.

Meanwhile, back outside we have today’s number two, which is two Cordylines looking beautiful.

They’re both in planters, the green one stands proud at the back of my birthday planter and the pink one is nearer the house in my patio planter. They give some welcome interest and much needed colour to the sleeping garden!

There are still a few plants desperately soldiering on and producing colourful petals to cheer the gloom. For number three I’m going to share my Erysimum.

This was from the sale table in Notcutts in Summer 2018. I planted it out last Spring and it did well all through this Summer. I’m not keen on pink, but this pink is rich enough to delight the senses.

Number four was a recent purchase that was planted out towards the end of the Summer.

Fatsia Japonica, whose leaves have something of a look of a giant Marijuana plant! How do I know this, you may ask with a knowing smirk? Well, you try going to the Caribbean and not seeing Marijuana leaves depicted on every piece of tourist tat for sale! Anyway, there’s nothing illegal about this lovely specimen. It’s supposed to get pretty big and it’s grown quite a few new leaves already so here’s hoping.

For my penultimate point I’m using a photo that I took purely because I liked the way the rain looked on the leaf.

This is a cluster of leaves on my Scarlet Patio Rose. I love how the leaves are tinged with pink, picking up the pink of the emerging shoots below and the blurred Heather in the background, and the rain droplets that reflect the light and accentuate the leaves’ veins.

I’m going to end on a festive note which I think is acceptable given that the big day is only five and a bit weeks away.

Holly! We have an abundance of it in the garden which can be painful when it gets too big and requires pruning! None of the Holly bushes flower or get berries which I think must mean we only have one sex of Holly bush resulting in absolutely no copulation at all, and therefore no offspring.

Right, I’m off to do something that doesn’t require gas or electricity now I can see exactly what it’s costing us! While I’m freezing to death in the dark why don’t you pop over to check out more Sixes on the Propagator’s blog.

Six on Saturday 2nd November

I’ve a feeling Six on Saturdays will be few and far between for the next few months. It feels like we haven’t had a dry weekend for months so I’m not able to get out and do any proper graft, which means I’ve got very little gardening news to share. I wonder if the Propagator notices fewer people joining in over the winter, or if I’m the only fair weather gardener around.

Anyway, it finally stopped raining so I took the opportunity to squelch up the garden to see what’s going on.

1. Most of the annuals have resigned themselves to the fact that their season is over (which is more than I have!) and they’ve almost visibly breathed their last and deflated! The Coleus which looked almost regal all through the Summer is clearly a plant after my own heart and hasn’t taken kindly to the couple of frosty mornings this week.

It’s so sad because the colours were so glorious.

2. However, all hope is not lost! A quick peek in the greenhouse shows that my cuttings are coping ok with the downturn in the weather. My thermometer showed 9.2° in there today, just a slight change from the recorded high of 47.2° over the Summer!

Also in the greenhouse are two teeny tiny Fuchsias and a Gazania.

The two Fuchsias are cuttings that my Mum gave me last Christmas. They lived in our porch until we built my greenhouse after Christmas and then I transferred them there until it was warm enough to put them outside in the Spring. I remember Mum telling me that one of them is hardy and one isn’t ….. the problem is, I can’t remember which is which! I’ve played it safe and put both in the relative warm. The Gazania was from the sale table in Notcutts in Summer 2018 and I fully expected it to die before Christmas 2018 but half of it survived the Winter. It didn’t rejuvenate to its former glory so I’m hoping a Winter in the greenhouse might save it again for next year.

3. There are a few sun-lovers that are hanging on for dear life!

One of them is a Calendula that I grew from seed in the greenhouse.

All of the Calendula grew very lanky, not sure if it was something I did wrong, but they did, and still are in this case, produce beautiful blooms.

4. My Fuchsia Delta Sarah is out performing itself.

This was my favourite Gardeners’ World Live purchase. I bought the biggest one I could find after my previous one didn’t survive the Winter, despite it being hardy. So far so good, it’s still full of buds and is looking quite happy.

It’s really hard to take decent photos in this perpetual half light. With flash they look surreal but without you can’t see the colour at all. Roll on Spring!

5. Unlike me, my Eupatorium thrives in the Autumn. It shoots up in the early Summer and then spends August and September waving elegantly in the breeze, but by the end of October when everything else is preparing for a long snooze (at best) the Eupatorium comes into its own.

The jagged dark green leaves stand out against the purple stems and then, the piece de resistance, the fluffy, cloud-like flowers crown the shrub royally.

6. Outside our kitchen window I can see my beautiful Berberis. This time last year I thought I’d lost it. I planted it out in the garden and all its leaves dropped straight away leaving bare spiky twigs. I dug it back up and put it back in its pot and kept my fingers and toes firmly crossed and in the Spring it rewarded me with some fledgling leaves.

Through the Summer it thrived, although perhaps didn’t quite regain its former glory, but now that November’s here the leaves have turned autumnal.

I really wish Autumn didn’t make me so Eeyoreish because I’m so busy feeling gloomy that I forget to appreciate all these beautiful colours. I’ll try harder!