After the big announcement in my last post about NOT being a garden designer, I’ve got a confession to make. Because I think I might have been a bit hasty.

I’ve just spent the last few hours doing planting plans for my garden. I’ve taken photos, done some sketches, brushed the cobwebs off my CAD design skills, pulled out a few plant guides, and hallelujah…

You know what? I love doing planting plans… I really do. Which is pretty amazing considering that trying to do them as part of the ****ing garden design course I embarked on a couple of years ago nearly finished me off, made me think that I was the most useless person this side of Uselesstown, and turned me into a garden hater.

But it’s amazing what a bit of rest and recuperation can do. I realised things were beginning to turn around when I was able to look through the window at my garden without a feeling of dread; when, after deciding that topiarising my yew hedge into football supporters was a really bad idea, I went out and had a look at the uncut growth and saw Chelsea fans waiting to emerge;

Yew hedge in waiting
Yew hedge in waiting

when I heard my greenhouse calling to me in a welcoming tone, rather than sitting petulantly in the corner of the garden threatening me with all sorts of dire consequences if I didn’t get out there and get going.

The love of my life....
Last summer! The love of my life….

I think it was when Chris (the pruning expert you really need when your climbing plants have gone awol), arrived this morning to give me a hand with rejuvenating the roses and wisteria on the pergola, that I finally knew I was back in business.

Serious pruning
Serious pruning

I was out there in the wind and the rain, loving every minute of it (I KNOW!). And, when it finally got too cold and too wet to carry on, I came in, went straight to my desk, and started plant planningTa-dah!


And now I feel like writing about it. So maybe I am a garden designer… Of a sort. I know I said I wasn’t sure if I was going to carry on with this blog. But that was before. And this is now. And writing is what I love doing. And so is gardening.


Watch this space!

Living in the now….

You know that thing we all do….

….where we convince ourselves that when such and such a thing has happened things will be easier, different, better. When I pass my exams, leave school, lose weight, get that job, find the perfect man, ditch the perfect man when he turns out to be not so perfect, (actually I’ve stuck with mine and am really pleased that I have but you know what I mean), have a baby, get promoted, retire; when the children pass their exams, leave school, lose weight…. oops here we go again….

So anyway – when any and all of these things happen I will have arrived at the place I was waiting for and life will be better.

Well you know what I’ve discovered…. it doesn’t work like that. There are a few problems with this approach. First off, what if the thing you’ve been waiting for never happens? Does that mean life will never be as good as it was supposed to be, you were hoping it to be, you deserve it to be? And secondly, what if you get the thing you’ve been waiting for and it turns out to be different from how and what you were expecting?

Because you know what I’ve learnt…. life is invariably different from what we expect. And thank heavens it is. Because how boring it would be if it was just a question of planning and waiting. The problem is that when we get stuck in the groove of always looking ahead, waiting for the big event that is going to change our lives forever, then we don’t see what is going on around us. And what is going on around us is the really interesting stuff.

Gardens and gardening have taught me a lot about this. Because they never do what they’re told, things rarely work out the way you think they are going to, and even on the darkest days stuff is going on below the surface to bring delight when you least expect it.

You know how it is…. You can pin all your hopes on the roses blooming in June, and like this year they bloom in July. IMG_2900You can plan your entire garden around box topiary for structure and form – and end up with box blight….. aaaaaarggghhhIMG_1555You can plant four malus coronaria var. dasycalyx (that’s crab apple trees to the uninitiated) and only three of them thrive.

Spot the weedy one in the corner!
Spot the weedy one in the corner!

These are the challenges. We have to adapt and move forwards. And more often than not we find that what looked like disaster is a window to a different and better way of looking at things.

That’s gardening for you. If you want order and predictability then you’re in for disappointment. But if you stay alert, keep your eyes open and live in the moment then there is so much pleasure to be had. Like the aquilegia in my garden earlier this year that has self seeded in abundance and joined hands with the tulips. IMG_0849Like the stachys that miraculously appeared out of nowhere  (in the compost I’m thinking) because it knew how good it would look with the iris and allium.IMG_2906 Like the shuttlecock fern that has spread around the tiny dancer flowers of the dicentra.IMG_0854

These are the joys of gardening – the unpredictable, the unexpected, the unanticipated. We all need goals, we need direction and focus. But if we’re too busy pinning our hopes on the future we might miss what’s going on in the present. And the now is where it’s all happening….

Sometimes I just sits……

By big garden standards mine isn’t….

Big that is.

Of course it’s all relative. But compared to some of the gardens I’ve been visiting over the past few months mine is pretty small. A compact half an acre or so. If that….

But I’m perfectly happy with it. More than happy in fact. Because what my garden has got in spadefulls is an abundance of places to sit down and smell the roses. Which I’ve been doing a lot recently – because if ever there was a year to smell the roses this has been it.

So here’s a quick guide to the eight…. yes eight…. places to sit in my not very big garden.

Let’s start at the very beginning…. The front garden.


Not that we ever sit out there. And not that there are any roses. But there is   Trachelospermum jasminoides which is smelling particularly wonderful at the moment.

So through the gate into the back garden, and the first and most frequently used place to sit is the one that you come to when you step out of the kitchen door.

IMG_1111This is the coffee drinking, newspaper reading, catch up on gossip corner.

And a Rosa Blanche Double de Coubert that you can just see the corner of on the left of the picture works its hardest all summer to make sure this particular spot smells pretty damn good. The rather droopy pink rose on the right scrambles up the pergola and last week was putting on a really spectacular show. It’s past it’s best now. (I know how it feels!)

Next is the bench under the Medlar tree. IMG_1080Sit here and you can sniff to your heart’s content – looking out across Variegata de Bologna and Winchester Cathedral, doing their bit to make this corner worth a breathing in moment.

Then the garden dining room.


And the completely fabulous climbing rose (whose name I’ve also forgotten) that wraps itself across the pergola.


Then it’s up to the get away from it all terrace tucked into the furthest corner of the garden. (Which is not very far away but feels like it is.)


And here Prince Charles (I kid you not!) is doing his darndest to make sure this area smells sweet.IMG_0208

But we’re not finished yet. Oh no….

Back towards the house, up the steps and through the arch into the ‘work in progress’ garden. This is the area where I planted a yew hedge on three sides of the flat lawn a couple of years ago, and lost one side of it to rot after last year’s perpetual downpour left the roots of the yew plants sitting in pools of water. They don’t like sitting in pools of water….

Which is particularly frustrating because what these yew plants probably didn’t realise was that they were being groomed for a starring role.

My husband is a died in the wool Chelsea fan.  And when I saw a picture of a yew hedge in a judge’s garden, topiarised into a jury, I decided to shape my own hedge into a row of football supporters. The death of a fair number of my hard working fans has thrown my plans into confusion. But undaunted I intend to carry on.

In the meantime the benches that face each other across the ‘football pitch’ look rather forlorn.


So forlorn in fact that I’ve had to resort to some cheap tricks to make one of them look more interesting for this post.


So finally to my ‘sit and rest after working in the veg garden’ seating area.


I’m utterly ashamed to be showing pictures of  my ‘vegetable garden’, which at the moment is more of a thistle garden. It too is work in progress, started a couple of years ago and, like so many other things in this manic year of mine, left to fend for itself. But I’m looking forward to the day when I can sit, gin and tonic in hand, and look with pride at beds bursting with produce.

In the meantime I’m spoilt for choice when it comes to places where I can sit down and relax, and forget for a while about the work and the plans and the things that haven’t gone the way I wanted them to.

That great philosopher, Winnie the Pooh, understood how important it is to switch off from time to time.

As he so succinctly put it: ‘Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits.’

Flowers with heart……

When I was little girl I used to try and make perfume with petals and water. And ever since I’ve had a particular passion for roses. Luckily for me, in my heavy clay soiled garden, roses seem to feel particularly at home. But unluckily for me this year’s late season means that I’m out here in Majorca while a lot of the rose activity is taking place.

So last week, before we flew out here, I went into the garden and took photos of those roses that were thoughtful enough to show their faces in time for me to appreciate them before I left.

Here’s a selection of those considerate blooms.


With a couple of drop dead gorgeous peonies and a poppy stunner for good measure.

Old Times IMG_0980IMG_0968

Makes me almost look forward to getting back home.