Ouch, that was hard to do - it's the give away/throw away bit that hurts. Thrift is in my DNA and I'm thinking of ways of making do.........but you know what? I'm going to stop beating myself up about it and I'm going to allow myself a bit of a fresh start! Why ever not?
Are you with me on this? Have you started on your wardrobe? Are you there Laura? Doreen? Anyone else?
Have you got rid of everything that was in there (see 22nd June) that you can't wear/don't want to wear/have accepted was a mistake? (be kind - forgive yourself and move on....)
Have you now got in your wardrobe:-
Did I tell you I am designing my old lady garden?
I met so many older people this weekend who are sad about not being able to keep up their gardens, that it strengthened my resolve to take action now.
It first occurred to me when I sat with a neighbour who was in her 90's, on her porch, looking out at her garden. She was sadly remembering how beautiful it had been when her husband was alive. I came home and sat on my own porch and thought 'I want to sit here when I am 92 and say - look how beautiful it is! - I am so glad I planted that, and that, and that all those years ago!'
So within the design that you see now when you look at my garden, lies another, hidden, long term garden of exquisite trees and shrubs which look their best as mature specimens. Three cornus controversa variegata (wedding cake trees), a robinia pseudoacacia 'Frisia', various desirable acers, viburnum plicatum 'Maresii' with its wonderful horizontal form, and pinus mugo. I'm about to add malus 'Golden Hornet' a crab apple with bright little orange fruits which will look fabulous beside the golden robinia and acer 'Orange Dream'
May I live so long........!
So enjoyable to share the garden with other garden lovers. A great success, the weather was kind, the visitors interested and appreciative - 'It does my soul good to see it' someone said. (But I must confess it is lovely to have the garden back to ourselves!)
The nicest bit about the timing of our open weekend is that it is still just the beginning of summer - all the work is done - and apart from cutting the grass and deadheading the bedding plants, all we have to do now is just enjoy it. Tomorrow I shall just sit in it, with a book, and a drink.
If you were one of our visitors - thank you for coming....
Lots of visitors, lots of compliments and lots of questions!
This was the most asked about plant. It is an annual called Nemophila menziesii or baby blue eyes. Easy from seed and a little straggly and fragile at first, it gets quite bushy and flowers for a long time, and tolerates a little shade. A gorgeous shade of blue.
So tired....... but happy..
In my first foray into the big city since starting Simply Stylish (I went for a haircut), these were some of the things I noticed:
The price of the haircut had unaccountably gone up nearly 20% !
The sales were offering 50% off and 70% off and hardly anyone was buying anything - there were more staff than customers
The old Big Issue man, who'd had a drink, said 'I'm tired and I'm fed up and I've got no electricity in my house'
Further up the street a champagne bar had opened under a canopy - two handsome young men in white shirts and long black aprons, but no customers
There was a queue right down the street for something! What could it be? I asked one of the three security men 'The new i phone - 600 quid - they've been here since 2 am' We both laughed...
Same street - a small, very elderly lady - eastern European perhaps, headscarved and smiling, was playing cheerful music on her accordion
In the newspaper in the coffee shop Obama reminded us (and General McChrystal) of 'the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system'
Cue gravelly voice: 'It's a wonderful world............' ( and how do you type musical notes on the computer?)
The owners of the eight gardens opening this weekend visited each others gardens this afternoon - what a delight! I saw quite a number of plants I have never seen anywhere before, and got some great ideas. A delightful buttercup sprinkling its small yellow flowers in a lovely cloud would look good in my golden corner, as most of the flowers there don't appear till later, and I rely on foliage colour just now. I've been promised some seed!
I am always looking for gypsophila substitutes, as for some reason I can't grow it well (soil too acid perhaps) but I love its style - that airiness and delicacy. I've tried crambe cordifolia but the slugs always get it, and it smells of cabbage. Suggestions please!
Gentle rain tonight, which is just what our gardens need.....I'm wishing for the Ballerina roses and the honeysuckles thick with buds to open before the weekend....
Open Gardens weekend June 26th and 27th 2010 - hope you can come...
1 - 5 pm £4 for all eight gardens - a bargain day out!
Kilmun, Strone, Blairmore and Ardentinny, Argyll (by Dunoon)
Look out for the yellow balloons.... Home baking and teas will be served at Blairmore Village Hall thanks to volunteers from Blairmore Village Trust, and there will be second hand gardening books for sale at the hall, and plants for sale at most of the gardens. We raised £1250 last year for the Scotland's Gardens Scheme charities. All we need is fine weather - green fingers crossed!
(See also 29 April, 12 May and 29 May)
We put up signs on the road today:
Most people have slowed right down! People do care..
(At least three red squirrels have been killed outside our houses this year)
Silver stars awarded so far to lupins, iris sibirica, and oriental poppies! Another deserving of the accolade is clematis montana - utterly hardy and reliable in my experience, they are covered in flowers during May and into June.
The regular montana can climb, quickly, to 10 mtrs or more. The variety 'Elizabeth' has the most delicious strong vanilla scent. 'Freda' has less scent but also less vigour and is more suitable for a small garden or a limited space - I have it framing a window. The regular montana arrived I think as a free gift with other plants and was left sitting and ignored. It rooted itself very firmly through the bottom of the small pot and draped itself, as you can see, very prettily over the shed. There it stays, but it will need watching....
So, a slightly thuggish tendency and a fairly short season of interest are the reasons I don't award it a gold, but for sheer abundance of flower few climbers beat it.
A very different colour scheme for the big shiny black pots this year (see also 13 June). Petunia 'Burgundy' and petunia 'Deep Lilac' with little black pansy - top centre - 'Bowles Black'. Bacopa lilac flowers and lime green foliage for freshness and trailing geranium 'City of Dresden' to lighten things a bit. Like velvet and lace, and Japanese lacquer - love it!
Last posting I said why would you want to simplify your life by going back to basics, unless the basics of your life were good. One answer of course is that you might want to go there to sort out some issues - but that takes a bit of courage. Not everyone is up for this! The book 'Loving What Is' by Byron Katie is fascinating on the subject of facing reality.
One (admittedly fairly trivial) issue with me is a tax return query that I know I must sort out (there is also a bank matter, a pension matter and an insurance matter - it would be too embarassing to admit to how long I have been ignoring these!)
If I can tell myself I'm too busy I can put it off for a bit longer, but as my paperwork gets simplified - ie better organised - I am running out of excuses and will soon be forced to deal with it!
With something like a tax return this is probably a good thing - I think how good I will feel when I get to the other side of this. But what if it was an issue that threatened your wellbeing or your mental health? I can see that it might seem easier to concern yourself with the busyness and the clutter, than to face it.
'Reality is too much for some people' I read once. But Byron Katie says 'Reality is always much kinder than the stories we tell about it.'
Living simply is probably not for everyone......but I know it's for me, and if it means clearing my head by getting these nagging tasks done - then I'd better get on with them. Simply do it!
I've become aware that both clutter and busyness could be a comfort and/or a distraction. As I simplify I get clearer about what I want and what is important. I also get this slightly unnerving feeling that I am not going to be able, for much longer, to ignore some issues which I have been avoiding. It makes me aware of how scary it might be to simplify and declutter your life, if there are unresolved issues which you might not want to face. The books on simplicity and minimalism talk about having more time to spend with your family for example - but what if your family are dysfunctional, or unsupportive? Or there may be a health issue that you don't want to face up to....On a less serious level once you start to clear away the clutter from your living space, it may reveal that the room itself is in bad shape - the woodwork may be rotten, the furniture stripped of all the ornaments and cushions may be shabbier than you realised, the carpet more worn.
There is a back to basics feel about simplifying your life - but you have to be confident that the basics of your life are good - or why would you want to go back there? A lot to think about....
One strategy for simplifying the garden is to substitute perennials for annuals and biennials, but I must make an exception for the three big black pots I have sitting in a row on a gravel area in a sheltered corner as I find it such fun to think up different colour combinations each year.
This is last years pots - the colours were lemon, lavender and lime with a sprinkling of white - very fresh and light in all weathers and at all times of day, luminous in the evenings: petunias, verbena and bacopa with some lime helichrysum weaving through.
Not simple in that they require planting up anew each summer, with about 12 plants per pot, and frequent watering and deadheading - but for sheer exuberance and abundant flowers all summer long bedding plants are hard to beat.
Landscapers call it 'differential mowing' which just means mowing at different heights and frequency. It is a great low maintenance way of dealing with large areas of grass. In recent years public parks have begun using it as a way to cut labour costs, and create interest and diversity at the same time. You can do the same: simply let some of the grass grow........(See previous posting). Mow that path around the perimeter, and if it is bigger than our mini meadow, mow a winding path through it too - call it the wild garden, and just enjoy.
Another tip: if the ground is undulating, allow the mower to follow the countours of the ground when you are making the shape - this is hard to describe in words. It means not being rigid about where you want the outline of your shape to be, but going with the lie of the land, allowing the mower to lead you ...the end result will look very natural, which is how you want a wild garden to look, rather than imposed and contrived. Believe me this works, and when you get the hang of it, it's a lovely, very creative thing to do, and you can alter the shape between one cut and the next if you don't get it quite right the first time. Fun with a lawnmower - who'd have thought it!
The purple orchids are showing in the mini meadow now. You have to look hard to see them in my photograph (difficult to photograph meadows!)The first summer in this garden a few wild orchids appeared in the grass, so we decided not to cut that area and left an oval patch about 5 x 2 mtrs to just grow. Up came not only orchids, but hawkweed, bird's foot trefoil, white clover, pig nut and various other pretty wild flowers. Mowing a clear path round this bit, made it look intentional rather than just a neglected bit ,and it contrasts beautifully with the area around. Insects love it, and so do we. Just sitting close to it and watching the breeze in it, and the butterflies and moths, and enjoying its simple beauty is so relaxing - it takes no effort for one thing, though I couldn't resist planting a few wild poppies for effect...
We strim it down about late July, or whenever it gets a bit too messy looking, and thereafter cut it just the same as the rest of the lawn until next spring when we let it grow again and count how many orchids flower (20 this year). Try it if you can - wildlife friendly and low maintenance - every garden should have one.
A silver star to the lupin! Especially this new one I have bought called 'Terracotta'. I will photograph it again when the peachy coloured poppies to the right of it open, but at the moment it is looking good with the clear orange of Welsh poppies and the richer orange of the flowers of geum borisii, and the lemon yellow foliage of robinia pseudoacacia 'Frisia' ( see previous photograph). I do grow all the yellow and orange flowers in one corner of the garden, an area which peaks later in the year as the rest of the garden is fading.
Lupins are easy and quite quick from seed, flowering in their first year if you sow them really early, and seed of individual colours is available from www.chilternseed.co.uk . Their catalogue is a good read. The Band of Noble series are excellent. Lupin 'Tutti Frutti' and 'Morello Cherry' from www.thomson-morgan.com are also good. I am looking for the palest of pale pink for my 'ice cream' bed of cool pinks and white, so have sown a packet of Band of Nobles mixed in the hope that there will be one or two in there, then I'll propagate from them by basal cuttings in the spring.
Lupins last 3 to 4 years here before fading out, and the tree lupin - lovely thing as it is - is so prone to the giant lupin aphid that I gave up on it - so silver it is for filling the May gap and for their stately demeanour and delicious range of colours.
The eight private gardens opening for charity in Kilmun, Strone, Blairmore and Ardentinny, Argyll, are all very different. Modest in scale and as varied as their owners, they reflect the pleasures and the problems of creating beautiful gardens by the sea.
There are artists' gardens, poets' gardens; some are long established with mature trees, another is newly created on a very challenging slope; there are found objects gathered from the shoreline, wildflower meadows, ponds and wildlife havens and nectar bars, a fernery and bonsai trees. Some giant plants and some miniature treasures. Two small front gardens the same shape and size show just how different the same space can be. Many have wonderful views of the lochs and mountains as backdrops.
Most are usually hidden from view - don't miss this chance to come and see them - 26, 27 June 2010 1pm - 5 pm. Teas, book sale and plant sales too! (See also postings for 12 and 29 May)
I thought this was the best garden design at Gardening Scotland 2010. It was very dynamic, used mostly recycled materials, was planted with appropriate species and I'd not seen anything like it before. It was cleverly entitled 'Reinforcing Nature' and in a fairly standard space (maybe 12 x 12 mtrs) managed to create a kind of sophisticated adventure playground. The great woven shape which swoops confidently through the space is made of metal reinforcing rods (the kind that are used in concrete construction) - it makes a nice reference to traditional woven willow and the naturalistic planting gives it integrity and keeps it from being too 'clever clever' if you know what I mean....
It was designed and made by Water Gems and the planting design was by Secret Gardens, and it won a gold medal.
I did have another favourite. Colin McBeath of Quercus Garden Plants has made a garden which contrasts a formal checkerboard of cubes of sandstone and cubes of box (buxus sempervirens) with a subtle naturalisitic planting of fine grasses and thalictrum, astrantia, aquilegia, geranium phaeum, ferns and hostas and a few iris sibirica.....all of which move delightfully in the slightest wind. Exquisitely done, a little sombre perhaps in its indoor setting, but I found myself going back several times for another look, and it has given me an idea at last, for my back garden!
I know, they are not so elegant, but they are what I wear most of the time! (Must plan a few more elegant shoe events.) Actually maybe they do have a kind of simple charm...
I listed in Simply Grow on 18 May my ten star plants with which to make a gorgeous flower garden requiring minimum work. I should of course have mentioned mulching the ground after it is planted up and underplanted with daffodils. A decent few inches of mulch saves hours of weeding. Bark is easiest to obtain for me, and composted bark is best for appearance - it looks like rich brown soil. Coarser bark can be used in the middle and back of borders, and is fine under shrubs. Expensive the first year perhaps, but in subsequent years it just needs topping up and as the plants spread there is less bare ground to cover anyway.
It's a good idea to water before spreading it if the soil is dry, and don't put it too close to the stems of the plants. Spread it all over the garden about now - and suddenly all looks immaculate. Simple.
An artist seeking a simpler life - (but not too simple!)