Little Green Shoots..

It’s beginning to brighten up here in Darkest Devon. In the morning, the woodburner is lit a little later. In the evening, the nights draw in a little more softly. And in the garden, all is quiet. Except, that is, for one or two stirrings, hidden in amongst last year’s mulch.

Today was a beautiful, cold, early spring day. And I thought, it’s been a long time since I wandered around my garden. These last few months, it hasn’t been easy to negotiate the uneven ground or climb the few steps at the back of the house. I’ve been a little nervous of stepping on black ice or slipping in a puddle. But today, it was sunny and dry – the perfect day for a little meander. And look what I found!

Hellebores - official evidence of spring!

Hellebores – official evidence of spring!

These hellebores grow in clumps on the east side of our house. They suit the shady, moist ground close to the wall of the house, and they’re already nodding their heads in the breeze.

Don't step on these crocuses!

Don’t step on these crocuses!

Irish has got the planting bug. He’s planning a bigger vegetable patch this year, and has been busy over winter, digging chicken poop, and a lime mix into the soil. I think it’s looking pretty good – and the chickens seem to be enjoying all the little grubs that his spade is turning over for them.

Nice Butt!  The chickens clearly agree..

Nice Butt! The chickens clearly agree..

And as I pottered about, I started noticing things I could do – little things, that wouldn’t hurt my sore hips. I thought to myself, ‘I could just cut back the old foliage those ferns so that the new shoots get some sun’. Or ‘Why don’t I quickly pick out all the dead grass on that bank that I couldn’t manage in the autumn?’. And I began, slowly, gently, a little bit painfully, to pick up my old hobby of gardening, the hobby I used to love before the PAO. And I realised how much I missed it – the fresh air, the birdsong, the turning things over. And underneath the old bracken and dead fern leaves, I found the best reward of all:

The best reason for gardening in February EVER.  Fact.

The best reason for gardening in February EVER. Fact.

A little patch of snowdrops that hadn’t existed at all last year! I may have been absent from my garden for the last six months, but it seems to be just waiting for me to return to it. And I can’t wait to get started.

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The Rogues’ Gallery

Less than 36 hours to the PAO!  I have packed, I have seen my friends, I have been treated to insane amounts of delicious smelling lotions and potions from my family, and I have had all my last minute hip queries answered by the collective wisdom of the Hip Women Yahoo Group.  I can do this.  It will be fine.

One of the best things I have done in preparation is collect all my favourite family-and-friends photos onto my iPad to take into hospital.  Not the staid, boring ‘graduation’ style photos, but the photos of  us being dysfunctional, or doing happy, funny things.  The ones where we are cross-eyed, or have wardrobe disasters, or are muddy even by Devon standards.

When we moved into our house we had an idea that we could take all the photos that gave us the best memories and crowd them all together on the wall in our kitchen.  The frames don’t match, and they aren’t in neat rows.  But then nothing in our kitchen is neat!

The Rogues’ Gallery.

On this wall, a drawing from my 1 year old god-daughter shares some space with an incriminating picture of my best friends at a hen night, a photograph of Irish and the two girlies and me on the log flume at a theme park, my parents with cocktails in hand on a summer holiday, Irish making faces at the camera with his flying buddies, and of course a close-up of the shoes I wore to ‘go away’ on my honeymoon.

The shoes! Look at the shoes!

The breakfast room bit of our kitchen (that actually sounds a bit posh – it really isn’t) wasn’t really used before we added the Rogues’ Gallery.  Eating there felt a bit empty somehow.  Now, though, it’s the place where visitors gravitate, and the part of the kitchen I ‘hover’ in when I’m waiting for the kettle to boil or for the toast to be ready.  Now, the kitchen is the happiest part of the house – although that could also be down to the fact that a) Irish does a mean Thai Green curry, and b) it’s where we keep the gin.

I have a feeling that before too long, an X-ray of my PAO’d hip will join the scan of Irish’s head injury on the wall, alongside all the cats and dogs we have ever owned and the most-loved photos of family members with a mouthful of chips / sticking their tongues out / falling over / hugging one another.  It’s a memory bank of the happiest, the funniest, the best of times.

Ever done anything embarrassing? It’s probably documented here.

Which brings me to this:  however much I write about knitting, or baking, or shopping helping to take my mind off the pain, it’s really the people that make me smile and give me reason to be optimistic – and isn’t that the whole point of this blog?  And on Tuesday when I count to ten and drift off, and when I wake up with a shiny new hip socket, it won’t be my latest blanket that I remember, or my latest handbag purchase.  It will be the photos on the wall, and the people, all my family and friends, who have been holding my hand.

Colour Scheme? What Colour Scheme?

I am a bit of a gardening whore.  That is, I find it hard to resist temptation and buy plants without thinking about where they will go in my garden, and whether they will ‘fit’.  Which means that when it comes to colour schemes, my garden is a little bit ‘eccentric’.

A good example is this red rose next to this pinky-lilac poppy – especially clash-ful against the pale yellow walls of our house.  I don’t think I’d win any Chelsea medals for this combo!

Pink, red and yellow. I’m not sure it works, either..

The pink-red-yellow-athon continues in this bed with pink sweet williams and orangey-red poppies, alongside purple monkshood.

Mmm, ‘blended colours’. Maybe not..

When it comes to outdoor colour choices, I have a rather chequered history.  When we moved in 2 years ago our lovely Devon house was painted white.  There are a lot of other white thatched cottages in our village, and we decided we would like something a little sunnier.  So we chose a gorgeous pale yell0w and were rather shocked when it seemed rather more, erm ‘luminous’ than the powdery lemon we had envisaged.  Eek. We toned it down with this grey on the woodwork, which we were really pleased with.

Luckily, the house has mellowed over time and the creamy yellow now looks gorgeous in the sunshine, and has met with the approval of other villagers (if you live in a village, you will know exactly how important this is).  Even more importantly, it always looks like a happy house, even in the rain – and we have had rather a lot of rain recently!

So the colour choices are not always intended – but I’m fine with that.  After all, the colours in wildflower meadows aren’t exactly planned by anyone.  What matters most, I think, is that the plants are happy growing in the place they’re in. That and the rigorous removal of slugs.

These beds contain the full spectrum of reds and pinks. What brings it all together, I think, is the inclusion of purple in the foxgloves and allium christophii.   More about purple flowers in an upcoming post.

Foxgloves, roses, clematis and allium – just don’t wear them all at once.

To me, cottage gardens are about masses of native species.  I love coming home after work, getting out of my car, and seeing it bloom all around me.  I don’t care if it matches!  The colour doesn’t matter.  It’s the pleasure of growing that counts.

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