Chickens, flowers, fruit, Garden design, Plants, Propagation, Secret Garden, Uncategorized, Vegetables

Time to plan…

It’s winter, but it’s not cold.

Little green shoots are appearing – but they’re too early.

Hellebores are emerging, the witch hazel is blooming and we even have a couple of snowdrops almost fully out in the front garden.  It’s SpringWinter – not cold enough to be properly winter but not light enough to be properly spring.  Also known – on Instagram at least – as #thatwinterspringthing.

The mild weather and green shoots are not unwelcome – in fact they’re a wonderful reminder of what’s to come. I just wonder if we’re being lulled into a false sense of security, only to be shocked back into the depths of winter by a lengthy icy blast…

In any case there’s not much going on in the garden just yet, and I’m glad of the time to plan ahead for the coming season.  The main projects for this year will be:

  • the white border in the front garden – I’m redesigning one side of the front garden as it’s currently looking the most bare and in need of rejuvenation.  I want to drastically increase the planting and hopefully stick to a mainly white theme, as it’s partly in shade and its backdrop is much larger trees and bushes within the wooded area next door.  The plan is for some lush green/white planting which will lift the whole area during spring/summer
  • planting and sorting the area round the chicken coop – this area needs replanting after we switched the smaller chicken run for a much larger, covered run.  The grass needs fixed and there’s plenty of room at the front of the coop for some new hen-friendly plants
  • growing/selling plants from the Secret Garden – this project began last year when I sold the surplus plants I’d grown for my own garden.  I put the extras onto Facebook Marketplace and they were snapped up by quite a few local folk looking to support a small independent nursery.  I got the best buzz from growing healthy plants for others to enjoy so I definitely want to repeat the experience this year!  (The Secret Garden is so-called because it’s the space I have for raised beds and greenhouse behind a rather unobtrusive-looking door at the bottom corner of the garden.)

So the planning and designing is getting into full swing – I’m researching, drawing, reading and checking my seed stocks to get ready for what is likely to be a busy growing season.

This preparation includes testing out a couple of online drawing/design tools alongside the online systems I already use.  I use a range of different tools for different things – Evernote for clipping and saving articles, photos and plant information; Google Drive for plants/seeds spreadsheets and keeping track of budgets; Microsoft OneNote for drawing and saving designs.  I’m also currently trying the Suttons veg planner tool, which will hopefully help me to plan my fruit/veg growing for this year, as well as my cut flower bed.  And I’ve downloaded an app for my laptop called Bamboo Paper which also allows me to draw and create ‘mood board’ style notebooks.


Designing the front ‘white’ border with OneNote.  It helps if you do this with wine 🙂

I did contemplate starting an actual physical notebook as a garden journal, and using a real-life pen and ink…but for some reason I seem to get on fine with the online methods.  I think in fact I’m more likely to access these electronic records and keep them updated than a diary-style physical notebook, as lovely as it is to hold and treasure a well-thumbed, dog-eared notebook…

Oh and one more goal which I hope to achieve imminently – sitting two more RHS Level 2 exams in February.  I’ve already been hitting the books again to swot up on plant biology and soil nutrition.  Wish me luck!

Happy 2019 – here’s to a great gardening year!

hydrangea jan 2019



Chickens, flowers, Garden design, Plants

A whole day in the garden

A WHOLE DAY.  This almost never happens, thanks to a combination of family responsibilities, weather, a job and various other demands which crop up on a daily or weekly basis.  But I have a very rare week off work, promised since last year, and it’s allowed me the luxury of time to write, garden, walk and go to yoga classes whenever I please.  So yesterday, I spent all my time outside and I loved it. Following the walk I blogged about in my last post, I wrapped up (it’s still a bit chilly!) and went straight outside, armed with a gardening to-do list.

Focusing on the main garden, I dug, planted, moved shrubs, mulched and snipped myself into a state of bliss.  There were two areas I was aiming to clear – the side patio bed and a section of the back border which is where I want the chicken coop (yep, I’m still planning this!) and run to go.

The side bed has been a bit of a conundrum since we moved in.  It’s got three thriving shrubs in it already – a bamboo, a camellia and a lovely variegated myrtle bush.  At one end I’ve planted some herbs as it’s close to the back door, and easy access from the kitchen when I need some for cooking.  But the middle section is quite shallow and tough to dig, with lots of old roots from a huge ivy, most of which has now been cleared to make way for a gas pipe to be fixed along the wall (don’t ask, it’s a long and boring story…).  Towards the end of last summer I planted some perennials which I’d bought – geums, lavender and a couple of foxgloves – but this was largely because I couldn’t really think of anything else to do with the bed.  They’ve done very little since then of course, so I’ve now lifted them; the lavenders are going into the opposite end of the garden, the corner patio where we have a table and chairs, and where I’m growing a series of climbers to try and hide some of the grey breeze block wall behind.  The lavenders should do a good job of brightening up the areas below the clematis, honeysuckle and roses which are already there.

The geums have now gone in below a twisted hazel which is also next to the back door, again a little bit of interest for the lower level of this small, rocky bed.

The plan now for the side patio is to put down a membrane, some decorative stones and to plant up lots of pots and place around the existing shrubs.  That way, I won’t have to dig into the tough soil, I can plant a variety of containers and can chop and change the pots whenever I like.  So, I’ve managed to clear the space ready for this, and now it looks like this…


I’ve also ordered a rambler from Peter Beales roses, which I’ll grow at the back and along the wall to try and hide some of the grey-ness.  It’s a pale pink flower, and should complement the vivid green and red-pink of the camellia, which flowered beautifully last year.

I had to move a couple of things out of the back border too, so that I could mark out the approximate space I’ll need for the coop/run I’m hoping for.  I moved a young cherry into the front garden, and removed a hydrangea completely.  I love hydrangea – I don’t mind that they’re a bit old-fashioned, I just love their huge showy flowers – but this one was quite old and woody, plus I’d taken cuttings from it in the autumn so it will live on.  There’s a rhodedendron which might also need moved out of the way but it’s just about to flower so I’ve left it for now.

This is how the space looks now…


In the foreground you might also be able to make out a small magnolia which was also planted yesterday – another bargain from Lidl!

So I’m quite pleased with the preparations I’ve made in these two key areas of the garden. Looking out and seeing the clear spaces gives me a sense of anticipation – I’m ready for the next stage!

And now for a close-up!  A selection of photos caputuring what’s going on in the garden just now…


The rhodedendron which is getting ready to flower


Salix – a new pussy willow for the front border


The witch hazel is still going strong