Today is almost certainly the last day I will be able to harvest a red tomato 🍅 grown outside in the backyard. This is hugely significant for two reasons, I have never before achieved growing even one red tomato outdoors in any garden during my lifetime. This year our new location and probably the warmest year on record are the factors that have made this possible. Not newly sprouted green fingers on my own fair hands. The warm year had made our yard positively Mediterranean until late October. Since then the yard has grown a velvety carpet of mould. Like the set of Tolkiens’ ‘Middle Earth’ in the Lord of the Rings film franchise, everything is cloaked in green flock. The spring clear-up is almost certainly going to involve a pressure washer but maybe nature or the predicted cold snap will remove the green tinge in the next month or two. Today’s tomato is not a thing of beauty, I already know that, but in the spirit of Advent+2022 I can share a very pretty tomato from November, never before the subject of a pondering.
I belong to a great bookgroup. Just the right mix of 10 people with wide and interesting reading habits. Absolutely we talk about the book we have all read together each month hi and books that we have read independently. But we also talk about anything else that the books have inspired. Today a bookish t-shirt found a new home.
But most significantly a new word revealed itself at book club today. Viridescent !! Meaning greenish or becoming green. After the wet weeks we’ve had, Viridescent is just about all we can produce in the yard.
Then Sunday arrived with some sunshine which added a bit of colour to the viridescence. Not too much of course.
And then this morning there was a burst of colour.
As daylight established itself it wasnt just me excited to see the flowers of summer. The Bee’s arrived and were immediately busy.
Now if I were a bee I would be all over the gorgeous yellow seed pod, but I suppose he knows his business of collecting pollen better than me . Just one last blooming development, the really fancy poppy revealed its own fondant fancy seed pod, this time it is a subtle lime.
The bees, of course, are elsewhere, inside these lovely petals.
Viridescent you are so yesterday. The yard is blooming.
This was a day with an unexpected ending. Today was a yardening day. Almost a year since we exchanged an exposed but fertile country garden for a coastal, white painted, stone yard. Yardening has been a huge surprise. Today the plan was to weed and tame the jungle that the yard has become, unexpectedly fertile too.
All went to plan, but with the temperature at 23 degrees it was quite the labour of love. A sea swim was suggested but the tide was not our friend. Then we planned a swim in a local outdoor pool. The website was decidedly wonky and ultimately we couldn’t book a session. The alternative, an ice cream and some sunbathing was a good enough plan. Until we got too hot. Retreat into the house was timely in two ways. We really were too hot, but the curious twist was an email from the cranky website that said we had managed to book a swimming session.
We were very certain we hadn’t , but a cooling swim was exactly what we needed. Arrival at the pool confirmed the crankiness of the website. Apparently everyone who visited the webpage had been given swim sessions without payment. The pool was far from full so we did that old fashioned thing of buying two tickets and prepared for a dip.
This pool is probably very familiar to anyone in Britain who watches the BBC. This image is one of the regular infills between TV programmes. As you can see it was not very busy at all and we had a wonderful swim in the historic pool.
There was another lovely bonus, bright sunshine and recently cleaned 1930’s glass bricks in the shower area gave the most wonderful distorted, abstracted views of the pool.
A fine end to a busy day.
Our garden designing , or now to be accurate yarden design, is nearly all copied or modified from things we have seen on the TV coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show. This year’s event started being broadcast yesterday. Some years we are lucky enough to visit in person. This year is a watch it on TV year. By coincidence we visited a garden centre yesterday that was primped and made perfect, ready to welcome all the inspired amateur gardeners who will visit hoping to create something magical on their own plot.
At first I thought this pairing of a silk scarf and flower was a serendipitous occurrence of lost property and garden pots. But the silk scarf and others I discovered later were deliberately and whimsically placed. I’m not sure our robust city yard has the chutzpah to be adorned by floaty scarves.
We were at the garden centre on a double mission. To replace a couple of casualties from the move and to avoid very heavy Cornish rain. We had also spent some time at an EcoLodge over the weekend and were freshly charged with sustainable ideas.
We like the idea of extending gardens with the use of garden mirrors. Our London garden had a series of arches leading to infinity at the boundary. In reality we had painted an old concrete garage black and stuck arched mirrors between the concrete supports. Within a couple of years the garage had disappeared beneath foliage and all that could be seen were three enchanted paths leading, who knows where, which were actually just reflections of our small urban plot. Since then garden mirrors have become a bigger thing with bigger prices, but like a bee to honey I am still attracted to them. Then I was struck with a thunderbolt of an idea. When we bought this house we inherited a large, very heavy mirror that has been propped up in our hallway ever since we took it off the wall. Advertising it locally at a very cheap price or offering to give it away has not shifted it at all. In part because it is cumbersome and heavy. Checking out garden mirrors at the garden centre I realised they were not as well constructed as the one we were trying to give away. As soon as we were home a space was cleared and the big beast was moved into the yard. Not what I would have chosen exactly, but the thrill of repurposing something that had been previously unwanted feels satisfying and we can design around it to make it look like it was always part of the grand plan.
The recycling gods must really have been with us yesterday. The evening walk on our local beach delivered up another piece of yard hardware.
While the dogs were scampering we found an old metal grid all caught up with seaweed that had been washed up onto the beach. Not too much of a clean up, and some curious looks as we walked home, it was soon installed as a support for our tomatoes.
Not too bad for a rainy day out in Cornwall.
Restringing two washing lines felt like a victory yesterday. I should have immediately washed all our pillow cases and hung them up like oversized bunting to celebrate. They are both now completely usable. One needs one more piece of refurbishment but I must admit the height that the previous generations thought appropriate to dry their washing is beyond my reach. We don’t have a ladder that can get me up high enough to get one of the lines onto its wall-fixed pulley.
Jobs like this have an almost holiday-like pleasure built in. Within walking distance of our new home is an old fashioned hardware store.
If this store were in a small greek town or a Honk Kong back street I would be in seventh heaven or maybe cloud nine. Somewhere, certainly, that would suggest a state of bliss. Hardware shops were a place of imagination and intrigue when I was a small person, I am still that small person. Only age and the fear of looking daft stops me from running my fingers through boxes of nobbly nuts, or shiny washers to feel hard metal behave like fluid. My dad would take me in to shops like this and then usually forget that he had a daughter while he rummaged through small boxes on the dusty shelves of the hardware stores of North East Essex. I realise now he was also freed of pester power, no small child would ever find anything in a hardware store that they would nag on about until they either got the item or, more likely, a lesson in those who want, don’t get. He would disappear to the back and have ernest conversations about grommets and other exotically named items with other adult men who gathered in small groups.
Delightfully yesterday there was a small group of men at the far end of the store nattering about such things as I entered.
Such is the language of these stores I mostly go in and immediately admit that I don’t know what I want but either describe it or explain the job it needs to do.
” What you need is essooks” was the reply when I described something metal shaped as a figure of 8.
” Oh, yes essooks” I replied with the certainty of someone who has only briefly forgotten the name of the item required. ” Two essooks please”
And so, for 75 pence, I am the proud owner of two ‘S’ hooks, and two refurbished washing lines.
Early morning blogging, with birdsong. The sun is blindingly up and after a hard working weekend I have somewhere cute to sit and drink the first cup of tea of the morning.
Thanks to Google and the advice on how to neutralise the smell of dog wee,the concrete no longer smells like the leather making area of Marrakesh and more like nothing. Just the sweet smell of nothing!
This yard grows things extraordinarily well that our previously rural garden did not. Irises and Alliums are a big surprise this spring.
I might even move into this space to do a bit of painting, but todays task is more challenging. I am going to restring two old washing lines. That is going to be interesting…
The support team have their doubts.
#209 theoldmortuary ponders promised the revelation of the weekends grand plan. Two long paragraphs were lost by inatentive fingers and no amount of searching in the nooks and crannies of my WordPress history or archive files revealed the missing links. I couldn’t quickly rewrite them and the grand plan itself required attention. The illustration above hints at the reliability of hard copy versus electronic.
The plan for the weekend was only decided on a whim on Friday. I’m not even sure I even thought about it before pronouncing. “I think I am going to remove all the fake grass this weekend” The job had been started 6 weeks ago when the first strip of fake grass was removed to give us a two metre flower bed. Then last week another four metre ‘L’ shaped flower bed was revealed. My pronouncement actually only involved a raised patio area but unlike the others we had covered it in container grown plants. What I had suggested was a monumental task with added unsavoury undertones.
The previous owners two pug dogs had used the fake grass as their toilet. The fake grass over flower beds had drained into soil, the patio area was a big old slab of concrete. When we moved in we were only renting the house so had to leave things as they were. We cleaned as well as we could and vowed to remove it as soon as we had bought the house. The house sale rambled on, delayed by the death of the descendent of Robert the Bastard who was given our tiny portion of land in 1066! Winter arrived and we did not have the appetite for a yucky job in the cold.
We are no strangers to yucky jobs. When we were rebuilding and repurposing the building that was the old mortuary next to our Cornish cottage we chose to clear out the undertakers workshop and Chapel of Repose ourselves, before the builders moved in to turn it into part of our home. 50 years of that sort of business, long before health and safety regulations and 50 years of neglect after it was closed because of health and safety, was a heady mix of bodily excrescences and vermin excretions. So we have some unusual expertise.
Obviously our dogs had taken to using the informal, low effort toileting area too. Saturday was spent moving full and heavy plant containers down to the far end of the yard, this meant that our energy levels were pretty depleted by the time we had to roll up and bag up the fake grass. It was every bit as grim as you might imagine and the urine soaked concrete slab was a pretty stinky thing. It has been scrubbed and hosed many times now. The plan was to allow it to dry off and paint it, but as it has dried off a curious thing has happened. The urine has discoloured the concrete and brought out the colours of the sands that were used in its manufacture. We may well be left with a slab of concrete that resembles a warm pinkish/orange marble or rock.
So yucky job done, there was a ridiculous number of plants to be either repotted or planted in the soil of the revealed flower beds. The job was just about completed by the time of the Sunday evening swim. Since then we have had heavy showers of rain. There has been no chance of taking a series of work complete photographs. This yucky job may well stretch to another blog!
To finish up, a picture of our neighbours chicken checking out the sweet new leaves of a Silver Birch that has moved closer to her strutting zone.
Our only outside space is a bright white stone yard. We have only just recovered the two patches of actual soil from the clutches of artificial grass. The one below was planted up two months ago and has established itself very quickly.
But we are only in May and the yard may get too hot once the summer arrives. These pink alliums are the best we have ever grown.
The other bigger patch of actual soil has only just been reclaimed and will be used for summer vegetables. Wild garlic will be not so wild and will be contained in a pot.
So far so good but we have a new revelation in the yard. Our neighbours have gained some chickens, gorgeous fluffy bummed creatures who make clucking noises that could charm the birds from the trees. Unfortunately the birds that are actually charmed from the trees are magpies. Who even knew that Magpies have diligent digestive systems, in their urge to be closer to the chickens they empty the contents of their bowels on our yard and plants. I am not such a fan of magpies. This development may, however ultimately be of benefit to us. Our neighbours also have an inappropriately placed trampoline that looms large over our yard wall and is a constant eyesore. The magpies shit on it and will surely make it unusable and then hopefully it will be removed. Or of course, which is more likely, we will have a black and white eyesore. In which case we are going to need to be very creative with our future yardscaping.
This is the most common view for writing a blog. Out of screen are a cup of tea, a notebook, a pile of clean washing, a Filofax ( oh yes I said Filofax ) and a lap top. All fairly normal dining room table flotsam and jetsam in a world that features working from home, Zoom meetings and family that live thousands of miles away. We are in mid April now and ten months into living in a house with a yard and not a garden. Container gardening is our new way of creating a green space. In the dark months of winter the plants in this view are decorated with fairy lights in an attempt to bring light into our lives through the french windows. Container growing has been largely a success, one moving casualty and one new plant that didnt make it through the winter. This morning I was struck by the random colour pairings that container planting creates. I had a bit of a spring move around earlier in the week. We have been much more succesful growing tulips in containers. Purple Sage and fancy tulips are not something we would have planned, but this pairing is lovely.
I can only assume that our yard has less wildlife than our country garden. One of our autumn pumpkins has just about survived the winter, in our garden pumpkins were devoured before firework night most years. A beautiful, almost black tulip bent forward after heavy rain causing this wonderful colour combination. Yardening is going to suit us very well.
Three solid days of Spring sunshine and it was time to raise the level of our yardening. The last six months or so have been about moving plants in containers into their most comfortable positions in the new yard. A chance event, the delivery of some free seeds from the local Primary School pushed us into greater action.
Most of our container plants have survived well, despite doing well some of them are not so suited to a blisteringly hot, coastal yard and need rehoming. The free seeds spurred us into action as the plants needing rehoming were in a container that was perfect for a bee corridor.
So far so sensible but somehow things got out of hand when we popped into a garden centre for some anting compost. The tiny project inspired by some free seeds suddenly involved reinstating a 2 metre long raised bed that had been lawned over with artificial grass by the previous owners.
Many plants and hours later we have a beautiful new border and some cute plants.
Which was not the plan at all!
The neighbours, meanwhile, look on in disgust, nothing worth eating at all