Monday, 24 April 2017

Such a busy time of year

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As well as writing my next book, Book three of The Beaufort Chronicles: The King's Mother, I've been busy in the garden. It is only our second summer here at Aberporth so we are only just beginning to discover how we will use the garden and prioritising what needs doing first. Last year, it was a case of clearing years of neglect and getting a shed up for John to fill with the useless junk he loves to accumulate. This year we decided our first major job would be the patio as discussed in the last post. This served to make all the rest of the ancient hard landscaping look rather shabby so this week we got the seating area beneath the trees gravelled, and laid the first part of the path in slabs matching the patio.

There was a sort of existing patio beneath the trees but it had been badly laid many years ago using chunks of Welsh slate held together with ugly concrete. As the trees grew the roots had pushed up the slate making it hazardous and ugly, there was also a large chunk of concrete that John had to chip away at with his drill so we could move it. The gravel looks nicer, wont spoil as the trees grow and it will be easy to get small things to germinate in it, creating a soft edge and a rustic feel. The other half of the path will be tackled next but I am allowing John a few days rest.

When we completed the patio and I began to dig out flower beds to soften the edges we discovered that the builders who did the extension for the previous owners had dumped a lot of rubble beneath the grass and turfed over it! My intended cottage planting was not to be unless I was prepared to haul all the rubble out and replace the soil. Instead, I took a lazy way out and made it into a seaside garden, gravel and rocks, pebbles and shells, planted up with sea pinks and succulents, and sempervivums. When I find treasures on my beach walks I will add them to the collection. The beach garden has already been tested out on our grandson and he loves it. Our dog, Bryn also likes it, finding the warm stone nice to sleep on.

Of course, all this activity means we have the front garden from hell - people walk by and cast scathing glances at the pile of precious top soil (meant for the front border when we get round to doing it), the pile of rubble meant for the dump and the stash of slate we hope to reuse somewhere. I am not at all used to having the worst garden in the street and I don't like it at all!

On Sunday we attended the West Wales Plant Sale at a local mansion, Rhosygilwen, and spent a small fortune on plants.They were all so healthy looking, some unusual specimens and all in all a great day out. I do love to shop for plants.

We bought more hellibore, some heuchera, an unusual looking fritilary, some verbascum, a tall blue thing whose name escapes me, and some primroses and astrantias. I am praying that the threatened cold snap the weather people say is coming will bypass us - I couldn't stand it if my garden was spoiled at this stage! It is just beginning to look gorgeous. By the beginning of next spring I hope to have a few more beds in place so we will definitely go to the plant sale again. I wouldn't mind a trip to Gardener's World Live but I think we've left it too late to plan.

The last week or so has been lovely in the garden, out of the cold wind the sun has been almost too hot for me but I've enjoyed planting, filling the planting hole with organic matter and mulching afterwards as part of the soil improvement programme. In fact, I was relieved when they said we were to have rain last night and today but so far it is dry. I shall have to get the hose pipe out again!

Monday, 3 April 2017

Sheds, patios and the promise of summer - Spring 2017

Luckily, I am not as behind with the garden as I am with the blogging! Last summer the garden quickly improved and by mid summer was almost the idyll we are  striving for.

Since we have downsized from a small farm with three barns to a semi with just a garage and a tumble down garden shed we decided it was time to be building a new, bigger and better one. After all, a man has to keep his junk somewhere. Using just his brains and his brawn, John built it from scratch  - but of course, he'd never have done it without his ever willing labourer - me!  It is certainly a better building than the one that was there before - it is double glazed and insulated and will have electricity once he has got around to it.

Since January this year, I've been poking around outside, uncovering shooting bulbs and tidying up. The pots of bulbs I planted have been lovely and the mild winter seems to have benefited everything. When I pruned the roses I was not quite sure where to cut as most of them had retained their leaves all winter!

When it is too cold or wet to garden I like to shop online for plants and browse Pinterest for ideas and planting schemes. I have ordered everything from clematis to creeping phlox, fuchsias to lavender so, in theory, come Summer it should be looking splendid. Most things have arrived unscathed, all apart from my sweetpeas which seem to have gone astray in the post. The company in question assure me fresh ones have been sent out but they will be going in late and I am more than a little cross. Sweetpeas are a massive part of summer - fragrance in the garden, fragrance in the house - I can't do without them!

All the jobs were done by early March: the tidy up, the roses fed and pruned, seeds sown in the greenhouse and the grass given its first cut. But one big job remained - the laying of the patio!

Early in the year, with the help of a couple of lads from the village, we dug out the area to be paved. Then we set about laying the slabs. We opted for sandstone - pale grey in the dry and a dark slick grey in the rain. Luckily, as with most things, John is very skilled in this department and with me acting as chief labourer again we had it done in about two weekends. It looks a bit bland in the photos but once I have the seating in place and the pots are planted up and blooming, it will be lovely. I look forward to sitting near the house while dinner is cooking, soaking up the last of the day's sun.

We hummed and haa'd for a while about what sort of edging to use and in the end decided on railway sleepers. they should soon mellow to a lovely grey and complement the paving nicely. The sleepers were relatively easy to put in, and once the flower beds are dug out and planted up to soften it we will be all set for summer - 

or that is what we thought until we realised the path needs replacing, and then there is an area beneath the trees that needs rethinking as a shady sitting nook. Then of course, there is the front which resembles a building yard rather than a garden!

Still, I always say a gardener is never happy unless there is a job to be tackled!