Six on Saturday 16th January 2021

Yet again I struggled to find anything to take photos of that I thought anyone would actually be interested in looking at! I persevered though and I hope someone finds some interest in what I snapped away.

First I decided to include my Hellebore ‘Christmas’ again because this really is its time to shine. I think this is its second winter since I saved it from a sale table and it’s doing really well. It did flower last year, but I think it only had one or two blooms. This year, as you can see, it’s got loads of flowers. It’s a shame it’s being bashed about by wind and rain but it’s forging on regardless.

Next I have two comparison photos of my Coprosma. I relocated this towards the end of Summer for the second time and kept my fingers crossed that it would survive ok. It seems to be doing alright, despite being in the shadow of next door’s jungle. When I bought it, all the leaves were the glorious red of the left hand photo, but the new growth seems to come through much darker (but still glossy and lush) as shown in the right hand pic. I guess it won’t have done much growing during the last couple of months (but at least it hasn’t done any dying either!) so I’ll be interested to see how it does come the Spring and Summer.

I still don’t know what this is, and nobody seems to be able to identify it for certain, but I love it! I could do with digging out a photo from when I brought it home from B&M Bargains to see the comparison. It’s quite slow growing, but I’m pretty sure it’s significantly bigger. Not bad for a 50p bargain, or whatever it was.

All of this was new during lockdown #1, pot and all. I had to venture into the world of plant delivery when the garden centres were closed. The Cordyline has definitely got bigger, but the Verbena has multiplied about a million fold! It was a tiny plug plant when it arrived in a pick and mix six pack. There is/was also a Dianthus under there but I guess that probably hasn’t survived the elements. To be honest, I didn’t expect the Verbena to, but survive it has. Whether it flowers again remains to be seen, but lets hope so because it had the most beautiful and vibrant shocking pink flowers all through the Summer.

Penultimately, here’s some hope of good things to come. Strawberry plants! Here’s hoping we get lots of sunshine (soon please!) and a bumper crop this year. Shop bought just aren’t the same, especially out of season when they’ve come from far flung places. This certainly doesn’t only apply to the strawberry patch, but I could really do with some dry (and preferably warmer) weather so I can get out and clear some winter debris.

I shall finish with a bit of garden hardware, if you will! I bought this from Webbs of Wychbold (AKA garden centre extraordinaire!) when it felt safeish to be in one in between lockdown #1 and #2. It was buy one get one for half price, and I wish I’d got the two now instead of one. I’ll most likely put some more fruit and/or veg in this one, but it would be good to have one for wild flowers too. The daily Covid figures do seem to be going in the right direction, so maybe it’ll feel safe to go to Webbs again in time to sow some wild flowers.

There’s my Six for this week. I really hope something interesting starts to happen in the garden soon (and everywhere else for that matter!!) so I can find another six things for next week. I’m spoilt for choice in the Summer! Speaking of which, if you’d like to be spoilt for choice of Sixes to read, check out the Propagator’s blog. In the meantime, have a great weekend, and I’ll check in with everyone again soon.

Six on Saturday 9th January

I’m struggling to type this as my hands are so cold after our return from a nice long (ish) walk around the park this morning, punctuated by a delicious jacket potato from the best spud shop around. Unfortunately it’s closing its doors today until after lockdown – lack of footfall has meant it’s not worth their while to open.

My pictures today are somewhat weighted towards the cold again. I do really hope I can start to share colourful, cheerful pictures again soon, but there’s a severe lack of that at the moment outside in these parts!

I don’t think I’ve shared a photo of the whole garden (or most of it, anyway) for a while, so here it is in all it’s wintry, dormant glory. This is my view all day long at the moment as I sit beavering away at home. I haven’t been into my office since 23rd March and it doesn’t look like I’ll be there any time soon. I have to say though, this is a vast improvement on the building site that was my view for the previous few months in the office, and it’ll only get better as the year goes on.

I’ve come to realise, in all these months working from home, quite how active our garden is. We have all sorts of wildlife making their homes and going about their lives completely regardless of us out there. In the next two photos you can see the evidence of some of the most regular visitors. First up, squirrels.

What dainty little feet they have. They’re incredibly agile – I watch them as they dart along the fences and wind their way around trees chasing the tail in front of them at unbelievable speeds. I know some people consider them vermin (and I guess they are) but I like them. Such cutie pies, even if they do try to dig up my lawn!

Next, I noticed that we’ve quite literally got the cat amongst the pigeons! Well, actually, it could be magpies or jays I guess, looking at the size of the tracks, but that doesn’t work as well so we’ll assume these were pigeons.

When I took this photo I was actually aiming to capture the bird tracks, and it was only once I got back inside that I noticed the pussy cat paws as well. I went back out to try to get a better picture of both, but the snow had melted away and I was left with just blobs! This is probably the first time since I was a child that I’ve actually cursed the snow for melting!

These spider webs were outside my home office window earlier this week. I’m so glad I took the photos straight away because by lunchtime they’d gone! Aren’t they pretty? There was no sign of the tenant!

I did manage to find some colour to include. I think the berries really ‘pop’ against the snowy backdrop. This shrub was in the garden when we moved in, although it was completely hidden by the jungle that was growing around it until we got ruthless and had the whole lot chopped back. I think it’s a Cotoneaster (can anyone confirm?) This year is the first year I’ve paid much attention to the berries – I’m surprised, given the visitors that we have to our garden, that they’ve not been eaten already.

Finally, I’m moving back inside to warm up but returning to the animal theme! Last night BBC 2 showed an hour long best of 2020 Gardeners’ World episode.

It was so lovely to see Nigel again after he sadly passed away last year. Monty must miss him so, but is hopefully comforted by Nell and little Pattie. Olive was also pleased to see him!

There’s my Six for this week. Don’t forget to check out the Propagator for more. I’m off to have a bath now to warm my bones! Please tell me it’s summer soon!

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.