Sunday, 31 October 2010

Garden Memories

The foliage all around the garden and in the woods across the road are shouting "Hi!, it's Autumn!! I love this time of the year. Those colours! not to mention the numerous opportunities to shuffle through piles of leaves; who can resist?  Here at home, I have a great view of the woods on the opposite side of the valley, particularly from the top of The Field. At this time of year, if you get a good sunrise, there's an explosion of oranges, reds and yellows as the sun hits the trees.  I've not yet managed to take a decent photo of this but if you look at this photo and imagine it being much better in quality and colour, you'll get some idea of what I'm talking about.

This will be the first autumn that I'll be able to get into the field.  In previous years I've concentrated on creating the lawn and borders and haven't had time to do much to the field - especially with the last two wet summers we've had - hence the photos of tall weeds and wildflowers in my slideshow.  But this year I've managed to keep on top of the strimming and it'll be great to get into the field properly and see the colours change in my own garden.  Hopefully I can have one or two bonfires. That smell of burning wood takes me straight back to my childhood and grandpa's garden where he'd have a bonfire after pruning the roses and raking up the dead leaves.

I have yet to meet anyone who doesn't have a memory of time spent in a garden.  Whether it's a childhood memory of playing with friends, building dens, planting seeds or of your first family garden watching your own children playing with the dog or running around on a hot summers day with the hosepipe on!

Garden memories are playing a big part in my work at the moment.  I'm involved in a project that is re-connecting older people with dementia, living in care homes, with their communities.  Using the outdoor environment at the care home as the place to create those opportunities through activities and events.  I've spent hours talking to residents, finding out what elements and features make a good garden, how it makes them feel (in it's present state) and how they would like to use it if they could make more use of it.  I've involved care staff and relatives to find out how the garden can support their work or make their visits more meaningful.   The stories and memories that have been shared show just how much we are all connected to the outdoor environment and nature, even if we lose our short term memory or are unaware of that connection during our hectic, daily lives.  We feel more relaxed when we've spent time in the garden, we sleep better when we've had a few hours out in the fresh air.  We go for walks to be on our own, to 'sort our heads out', make life-changing decisions or to spend time with people who are important in our lives, sharing our favourite places with them and making new memories all the time.

I spent yesterday afternoon with a group residents from a couple of the care homes involved in the project, all with dementia, and their care staff.  Friday afternoon we carved pumpkins together with some local children; making silhouettes of bats, moons and stars, cats and Jack o' lantern faces.  Conversations struck up about who had or hadn't tasted pumpkin soup, about who's had the scariest face or the most pointed teeth or the best bat outline! Yesterday, we took those pumpkins to Trerice, a National Trust property near Newquay, where we entered them into a 'Best Carved Pumpkin' Competition.  First, Second and Third prizes all went to delighted residents and they received a jar of pumpkin chutney and a bag of daffodils each.  We had a quick wander around before the rain drove us in to the Tea Room (not much persuasion was needed to get them into there!).  We'll be planting the bulbs shortly in the garden at the home.  Hopefully some of the relatives and people in the community will get involved as well.

This morning I finally got time to carve my own pumpkin which was very quickly joined by a pumpkin that's either manically depressed or is based on The Scream! Carved beautifully by my friend and fellow blogger Envirobitch who's over from Australia at the moment.  They'll be out on the windowsill later scaring small children but hopefully not causing the traffic to swerve or brake!

Happy Howloween one and all!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Sunday sunshine

After being in London twice in 2 weeks, travelling on trains, driving up and down the motorway to Northamptonshire and back, it was so good to get out in the garden on Sunday.  I did a quick sweep around the lawn and borders first, checking to see if any urgent jobs were required.   Thankfully not, but I'm noticing that some of my summer plants are still flowering - the Sidalcea (variety: Elsie Heugh) and the Hairy Canary Clover.  This time last year, they'd both died down and I'd already cut back the dead stems on 'Elsie'.....could be the weather affecting them, or they just enjoying being where they are!   Mind you, I don't have borders brimming with plants and seasonal colours yet so what little colour is still hanging around I'm very grateful for.  I need to think about putting in some autumn/winter plants to get more colour in the garden this time of year.

Canary Clover
Sidalcea 'Elsie Heugh'

Walking around the borders I spotted a large, dark hairy caterpillar munching it's way through a leaf. He/she was so handsome that I had to take a photo and later identified it from a website.  Turns out it was a Knot Grass moth caterpillar - never heard of it!  I was surprised that such a beautiful caterpillar becomes such a dull coloured adult.  Anyway, I left him/her where he/she was as I didn't have the heart to interrupt lunch!

Mr (or Mrs) Knot Grass Moth caterpillar
beautiful markings of orange/yellow and white

Next, it was on to inspect The Field.  I did a quick sweep of the top area just to make sure that the rabbits haven't returned to try and dig back into the old warren.  I'm a bit bothered that they might start to try and get in for the winter but I have a suspicion that the presence of Jasper the Rabbit Killer might just be keeping them at bay. I'm always going to have them as visitors because my garden backs onto open fields; I can live with that, I just don't want them as tenants!

I love being in The Field when the sun shines.  I've begun to pick out places where I'd like to sit; places that offer a view as well as shelter and shade at different times of the day.  One such space is an overgrown Box shrub which forms part of the hedge on the right hand side.  Luckily for me it's growing over into the field and has developed an ideal shape to shelter a bench; plus the view from there looks straight through a gap in the opposite hedge and out across the fields that sweep up to the horizon on the opposite side of the road.  So on Sunday I decided to do a little bit more to open it up.

Every now and again my neighbours children come and help me in the garden and one of their favourite jobs is gradually cutting back this Box ready for a seat to go in. I'd no sooner got the tools out of the shed when I was joined by the rest of the 'Tywardreath Highway Gardening Team', as they like to call our little trio.  I swear they can hear the shed doors opening!  So they set about clipping the Box and I'm pleased to say that, due to all their amazing work, it's about ready for a seat.

2/3 of the THGT at work 
A Box with a view

So, let's end with a question for any budding Sherlock Holmes out there.......when I was putting in my raised beds a few months ago I came across a tree stump which was hiding amongst the weeds and nettles.  It refused to come out of the ground, so I cleared as much off the top and around it as possible and left it.  When I went to check the field on Sunday I found this cluster of mushrooms growing on the top of it.  I think it's an old Hazel stump.  I've no idea what these 'shrooms are, can't identify them from any of my books.  So if anyone knows what the name of them is (I'm pretty sure they're not edible so I'm not even going to touch them!) - answers on a postcard please! 

unknown 'shroom!

any ideas?

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Garden Ideas

So there I was last Tuesday, sitting on the train to London on my way to the International Dementia Conference run by DSDC.  I always enjoy this train journey; the section that runs right along by the beach at Teignmouth and up along the estuary to Exeter is so engaging - whatever the weather.  Then it reaches the open fields and hedgerows around Newton Abbot.   At this point my thoughts turned to the garden and ideas for the future. I don't plan to do too much with the area at the top of the field, just planting a few small trees and encouraging the bluebells and daffodils to grow up there; I wonder if I could transplant some of the smaller hazel trees up there?  The ones that aren't yet fruiting? A quick call to Dancin' Fool or Mr. Dancin' should provide the best advise!  Hmmm, a small wildlife pond up there would be lovely - with a seat nearby for quiet contemplation perhaps?  I will enquire!

A sudden realisation that I've still got some sloes in the freezer (picked from the hedgerows at work) had me reaching for my phone.  A quick look on Google offered suggestions such as Sloe Gin,  Sloe Cheese (apparently NOT cheese!) and Sloe Chutney.  Those who know me would automatically assume that I'd lean towards the gin; but I'm intrigued by the cheese that's not cheese and is, in fact, a thick fruit paste that goes lovely with cheese (ironically), fruit and nuts. I wonder if I have enough sloes...........

My thoughts turn back to the garden and the fact that by the time I get back from London I won't have done anything in it for almost two weeks.  That, and the fact that the clocks will be changing soon, leads me to realise that the time of being a weekend gardener is almost upon me.  I'll come home from work and it'll be too dark to do anything in the garden; work-wise at least.  There'll still be chances to light the brazier and watch the bats looping around The Field or star-gazing on a clear night so I'll still get to enjoy my garden even if the time to make alterations is limited to a few hours at the weekend.

Ok, so it's time to make a list of garden jobs I can do in the autumn.
  1. Begin hedgelaying at the top of The Field
  2. Cut back the overgrown hedges in The Field
  3. Get some ground cleared and the fruit cage erected
  4. Prepare an area for the future chicken run
Well that'll do to be getting on with! Hopefully the weather will be kind this autumn; lots of sunny, crisp, dry weekends - well, you never know!

On the up-side, darker evenings will provide the opportunity to pursue my newest interest - stop  motion animation.  There's an orange cat in the kitchen waiting to be completed and a new flexible web cam waiting to be tried out............................another time perhaps.  I think I'll put more down about the garden, the conference and the weekend in a few days.   There's a glass of wine calling me from the fridge. 

Monday, 18 October 2010


As kids me, my sister and brothers had our own patches in our home garden where we could grow what we wanted.   I didn't really take advantage of this, growing the odd pack of flower seeds and probably killing more than I actually grew. Since then I haven't had my own 'patch' until 3 years ago......when I was 45!  in fact, I bought the cottage because of the land that went with it. It'd been a garden about 30 years ago but left to it's own devices since.  6 foot weeds and wild flowers from top to bottom. It suited me just fine; something I could get my teeth into - not a garden make over, more of a garden project.

I've spent the last 3 years digging, lopping, strimming and planting with help from friends, neighbours and family whenever they visit.  The threat of having a spade shoved into their hands doesn't seem to have put them off!  I now have one area of the garden that is lawned with borders.  I'm slowly building up the plants in that area and this year I've managed to put in some raised beds, build a compost bin and install a shed (well, I dug the area and my neighbour put the shed up for me) in what is affectionately known as 'The Field'. This is the area on the other side of the fence to the lawn.  This area has been mainly left for the first 3 years, getting strimmed occasionally and has played host to a thriving rabbit warren until I got Jasper from the Cat Protection last year who's spent his time hunting in the field and has racked up 9 rabbits (that I know of) and I've had no sign of them since!

I planted 4 apple trees in The Field this year and although you're not supposed to let them fruit the first year I was so excited that I left a handful on and have had the pleasure of my own apple and blackberry (picked from my hedge) crumble for the first time.  A small achievement some may think but a pleasure all the same!

So here I am, the compost is rotting nicely, the raised beds have been treated to some horse manure for the winter and I'm starting to make a list of what I want to grow in them next year.  There's even thoughts of installing a chicken run next year and buying 2/3 chucks to provide eggs and manure for the garden.

This is my garden diary, I suppose.  A place where I can record what's going on in the garden and any new ideas/questions that I might have on it's development.  From time to time I'll be seeking advice on various things and hoping that if anyone reads this they'll be able to help out.

I've put some images on as to what the garden looked like when I first moved in  and various stages along the way to now.  On days when I feel I haven't been out in the garden enough it helps me to look at them and see how much has actually been done in the time I've had.