Saturday, 24 July 2021

The Constant Gardener


Boo! The glorious heatwave has left us and it's back to the more average 21°C. It's not all bad though, the violent thunderstorms & torrential rain we'd been expecting didn't get as far as the Midlands so we've managed to spend the last three days in the garden.


With no National Trust visit this week I thought you might enjoy a trip around Stonecroft's garden instead. 

These pretties are to be found in the bed below, formerly a weed-strewn patch beneath our only surviving apple tree. When we had a blast of hot weather back in March I decided to dig it over, edge it with some of our never-ending stash of Edwardian pavers, move plants from elsewhere in the garden, plant a few bee-friendly bulbs from Wilko and add a liberal sprinkling of seeds filched from our travels.


The ferns have gone absolutely crazy after we'd split them earlier in the year. We'll be doing it again in the Autumn, moving them further into the woodland at the bottom of the garden.


Lynn's Auntie Gladys's sunflowers are blooming and delighting everyone who visits. The kniphofia is a new addition, bought on Wednesday's trip to the garden centre. We grew them in our previous house, a mid-Victorian terrace with a long and narrow walled garden that backed onto the railway line. The garden was wild and neglected when I moved in, back in 1999 (Jon had lived there for years) and I gradually transformed it, waiting until he was working away to do the heavy-duty stuff like demolishing derelict outbuildings and uncovering overgrown and long-forgotten paths.


After years of renting, I bought my first house in 1991, a year before I met Jon. As a single woman at the height of the property boom, all I could afford was a 1980s house on a shared ownership scheme. The garden was a typical modern one, a rectangle of grass with a slabbed path down the centre and a narrow bed that ran beneath the boring wooden fence. I got rid of the slabs, painted the fence aubergine and dug up most of the lawn, creating wavy-edged flowerbeds I filled with plants I dug up from friends' gardens and I'd liberated from the waste ground opposite the house.  I grew tomatoes in old shopping bags and sunflowers in pots I'd found dumped by a neighbour's bin. The house was built on the site of a Victorian buckle factory and I'd forever be digging up rusting buckles. 

 
Never mind all this whinging about losing our freedom, the lockdown has given us plenty of freedom - not one but two summers to spend at home, working on our poor neglected garden which, after months on the road, was the last thing we used to feel like tackling.


This time last year this bed with nothing but bamboo and brambles. I've planted it with all manner of stuff, dahlias and sunflowers I've grown from seed, perennials rescued from clearance corners, stuff we've filled our pockets with on walks and edibles like rhubarb, gooseberries and rocket. It's chaotic, busy and a bit haphazard and I absolutely love seeing what pops up on a near-daily basis.


The bed of wildflower seeds grown from that packet of seeds we found suspended from a tree in the woods at Attingham is an absolute joy. Our sweet peas grown from seed are finally blooming and our wild wood peas won't be far behind. 





The front door is being replaced soon and due to planning laws, it will look identical to the one already there (minus the rot).
 

 That's Stonecroft by night, the Yukka strung with solar-powered lights from the charity shop.


Our Victorian skirting board planter... still intact despite me being a woodwork novice!

The Empress of India nasturtiums. 


See my headless gnome? He was original to my parental home, a rare survivor of the Arts & Crafts movement. I never found his head, he's got a crown of houseleeks instead!




The shrine by night. That's Our Lady of Guadalupe (from the clearance charity shop) illuminated by some solar-powered fairy lights (Wilko).



Remember my vintage terracotta lion head planter? We were scared to hang him from a wall so he's sitting on a cast iron chair rescued from a skip.


I fell in love with Agapanthus after seeing them in Corfu. I only bought one plant but they've self-set and now I've got three. Visitors often stand gaping at them, they really are the most gorgeous things. The fennel grows like a weed but the hoverflies absolutely love it. 







The Wall of Mirrors, gradually becoming obscured by next door's wonderful Virginia Creeper.


 The Staffordshire blue bricks are made of the local red clay, Etruria Marl. Brickworks were a key industry throughout the Black Country across the 19th and 20th Centuries and were considered so important that they were designated as a reserved occupation during the wars.


Our Alpines are loving the little stone trough we found in the undergrowth. 


I had the genius idea of filling the bare patch of the wall outside the front door with some old trays. I love vintage Corona advertising (and the beer!) The wonderful 1960s Mucha Worcesterware tray came from a jumble sale sometime in the last century.  


It feels a bit strange wearing clothes (a 1960s Indian-made Ikat kaftan from Harrods via eBay) after three days in nothing but a bikini and a liberal application of factor 30. I've heard a rumour that the heatwave might be coming back in a fortnight, I shall keep everything crossed!

See you soon!

48 comments:

  1. Beautiful! Do you have lantana, portulaca and verbena in England? Super easy and a riot of color!

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    1. Hello Theresa! What a coincidence, Gardeners' World were talking about Verbena last week and I thought it looked perfect for adding some height to my new bed! I shall investigate the other tow. thanks so much for you suggestions! xxx

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  2. I’m sat watching the RHS garden show and reading your blog post at the same time and you and your plot are a fabulous extension of the programme.
    Lovely to see auntie Gladys sunflower and to see and read about all that you have accomplished over the last 16 months. I didn’t know you'd been a constant gardener.
    You and Jon have worked so hard and embraced time out from your normal lifestyle.
    Well done guys and thanks for keeping us entertained and informed with your online distancing diaries and beyond. Love ya both xxx

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    1. We've loved the RHS visits. Didn't Rachel and Arit look beautiful in their floral dresses? The young designer who won best garden was our choice, I love a bit of tropical planting!
      I've always loved sitting in the sunshine so I've tried to create a lovely place to sit in every garden I've owned. I don't know if it's so much gardening as experimenting with colours and textures but either way I love it! xxx

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  3. Your garden is just amazing Vix, you and Jon really have some magically green thumbs. Everything looks so healthy and so beautiful. You've done a fantastic job. You just might be able to start charging admission for visitors to stroll through!

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  4. Oh Vix, back again this evening and I have one word STUNNING! and to catch a glimpse of Stonecroft at night just beautiful. Loved the stories of your previous gardens. You two are being rewarded for all your hard work - it's all just so wonderful. Thanks for your anniversary wishes and yes where does time go? big hugs Shazxx

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  5. Love your garden. It's too bloody humid here to garden for more than 5 minutes. The other year I planted some almost dead ferns in the ground, they have spread like wildfire all across the beds. I'm eagerly awaiting Fall when I can going out and play for half a day and not faint

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    1. Ferns are just brilliant, aren't they? Virtually indestructable! xxx

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  6. Hello from one of those viewers who never responds. Your blog has given so much pleasure and enjoyment throughout this time and before.
    Thank You.Louise

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    1. Hello Louise! Thank you so much for leaving a comment, I'm so happy that you've enjoyed reading my blog posts! xxx

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  7. You are a born gardener. I had to buy recipe books and gardening books on my honeymoon at 19. I am not a catholic but adore your virgin. Sadly couldn’t find the gnome. Hope you really love, love, love nasturtiums. You will have them forever 😂 . We had sycamore trees at our first house. I loved them but their wings were a full time job. No sprays 59 years ago for the gravel driveway, what a job that was. . I see someone has chopped them down. So lovely to hear of yours and Jon’s life. So lucky to find the ideal partner. Not well enough to leave a comment on last posting but adored the photos of Frank. So glad you are still blogging.❤️

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    1. I'm not sure if I do anything properly but I just make everything up as I go along and hope for the best!
      I'm the world's biggest atheist but can't resist a religious statue, all the houses in Goa have a garden shrine, Hindu or Christian and something I had to recreate here.
      We don't use an sprays here either, I use a weed brush or a knife - hard work but a great form of relaxation! xxx

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  8. The garden is wonderful! You have done such good work with It!
    I found a Phool dress in the charity shop today and bought it! It is so comfy! Thought of you as I did It!

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    1. Thanks, Kezzie! looking forward to seeing your Phool! They're such lovely things to wear. xxx

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  9. Your garden is an accomplishment. So beautiful, vibrant and diverse in plant life.
    You are right, even lock down had some good sides to it. Many people rediscoved hobbies or gardening.
    You look gorgeous in that kaftan.

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  10. I wish I could send you our heat :)
    It must be interesting never knowing what you'll unearth when digging in your own yard, That it ends up being useful is even better. It is good that you had something to keep you occupied during the lockdowns.

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    1. I wish you could, too! The cat thermometer is saying 20°C this morning, I could do with another 10 degrees on top! xxx

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  11. Sure some pretty flowers, I guess we could trade weather. It been hot and dry here, and we need some rain.
    Coffee is on and stay safe

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    1. I'd love to live somewhere where it was dry and hot for long periods of time. It's rare we go for more than three days! xxx

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  12. The garden is an absolute credit to you both and evidence of just how many hours you have spent caring for it.

    Do you think in future years you might attend fewer festivals in order to spend a bit more time at home during the summer?

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    1. Thank you so much, Jayne. A lovely compliment from someone with a dream garden like yours.
      I'm hoping the garden will start to look after itself eventually, the shrubs and perrenials will fill up the borders and it'll just be a matter of tidying things up betwen festivals although after the last couple of years I'm wondering how many will survive when things start to open up next year? xxx

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  13. Thanks for the virtual opening to the public of Stonecroft Gardens! your garden must be huge - I love the woodland theme and pond and the agapanthas. Our garden is about 20 ft but I reckon we could get a mini wildflower area going. You are going to need a resident gardener when you do go back to your trade but I reckon potential candidates will be queueing up to house/cat/garden sit! We have torrential rain this morning, I showed the cat to the back door, she is whinging at the front door as she thinks it will be sunny when I open that one - I will go and show her how wrong she is now.

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    1. Thanks for coming! I think a wildlife area in your lovely garden would work beautifully. One of the houses we visited recently had converted an old table into a wildflower bed and it was alive with butterflies and bees.
      In my grandperants' day, they always employed a gardener to help. Maybe we could convert the Kinky Shed to a chalet and offer free board and lodging to an interested party!
      Poor Mooly, our lads always seem to think me closing the door and reopening it will stop the rain - not that we've had any yet! xxx

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  14. Love your colorful garden. Agapanthus are considered a pest or weed here in NZ as they invade native species and take over. It makes me smile that they are exotic for you guys.

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    1. Thank you! I love that agapanthus is so common in NZ. We marvel at it growing at the roadside in Greece, too! It must like our garden as it's managed to grow and divide into clumps! xxx

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  15. Your garden looks great, so many lovely plants.

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  16. I have trouble picturing just how large your backyard is in total as it seems like it must be massive to hold all of this! Your garden is definitely one of the successes of the pandemic and I've enjoyed your posts showing it all coming together, and the different kinds of plants you've installed.

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    1. Thanks so much, Shelley! It's a big space and there's still loads more to unearth. It's been an absolute joy during this crazy 17 months. xxx

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  17. wonderful "wild" garden!
    the pandemic made for a run after little country houses with a garden - sitting out lockdown in a city flat must be really hard - esp. with children...... the last hut sells for stellar prices now.
    tres chic kaftan!
    xxxxx

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    1. I can't imagine what it must have been like for families in flats during lockdown with no gardens to escape to.
      The house prices have gone crazy here, too - people fleeing the cities to move to the countryside. xxx

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  18. I'm glad to hear you were spared the forecasted torrential rains.
    A tour of Stonecroft's garden is just as good - no, even better that a NT property visit.
    As obviously I already knew, it is absolutely magical, offering the perfect balance between wildness and cultivated.
    I loved reading about your gardening history, too. Dove Cottage's garden was my first proper garden, although before we moved here our 12th floor balcony was filled with pots, offering a riot of colour.
    The things you are digging up in your garden are a source of wonder. So far, we've only unearthed a stone toadstool head!
    Aren't those Agapanthus a sight for sore eyes! xxx

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    1. Me, too! Its looking a bit grey overhead this morning, I'm hoping we get out to a National Trust property in a bit wothout looking like drowned rats!
      Fancy Dove Cottage being your first garden. I bet you couldn't wait to get your hands on it after living in a 12th floor flat.
      Finding treasure is a real incentive to keep digging. There's a tumbledown shed at the bottom of the garden we haven't been able to get into since 2006, I'm dying to see if my 1930s metal factory cupboard has survived - it's been in there so long it's become fashionable! xxx

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  19. Well Vix, I enjoyed your garden tour just as much, if not more, than a NT one! I think it very grand that you have a shrine. Great idea for displaying the trays. I can't get enough of Fennel. The smell drives me crazy. I'm drinking a bottle of Corona right now! Didn't know it had been around for so long. Lulu x

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    1. Thanks, Lulu! That shrine is the Goan influence, no respectable home is complete without one! I do love a Corona, it's dead cheap these days now it shares its name with the dreaded virus! xxx

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  20. You have such an interesting garden. I love gardens that are a little bit wild and a riot of colour. Yours ticks both boxes! The skirting board planter is fabulous; I just adore purple flowers of any sort. You seem to have been gardening for a long time; whereas OH and I only got into gardening in the last 10 years. I've read that it's something you turn to as you get older - so it's true in our case!



    Hope you have a great week
    xxx

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    1. Thanks, Vronni! I'm not sure if I can call myself a gardener, I've always loved sitting outside in the sunshine and wanted to create pretty places to sit, it's only quite recently I've learnt the names of things and bought stuff from garden centres rather than digging it when nobody's lookining! xxx

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  21. It's been wonderful watching you transform your garden over the past year, Vix. Will it be sad to let it go again when you go back to your road trips and festivals (hopefully) next year?

    I love all the little hidden gems you have, and how resourceful you are in filling them.

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    1. Thanks, Sheila! Hopefully at lot of the garden should look after itself in years to come so we can keep it under control between festivals! xxx

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  22. So lovely photos of you in your colourful kaftan surrounded by colourful flowers, looking so Fabulous!.
    Your garden is looking more and more lush and gorgeous!, thanks for this amazing visit, dear Vix!
    besos

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  23. Hi Vix and Jon,

    your garden is soooooo beautiful. What I specially like is, that you have a fantastic mix of traditional materials like the brick stones, heirlooms from your parents, collectibles from different decades and exotic beauties from your travels and found objects from your charity shopping wanderings. I have that feeling, you have a strong connection to your native country and a very open mind and soul for the cosmopolitan life. I like that so much!
    Hugs from Cologne,
    Susa

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    1. Hello Susa! Hope all is good with you in Cologne. I'm so glad you enjoyed your tour around our garden and am thrilled by your kind and generous words. Sending you much love. xxx

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  24. That Wall of Virginia Creeper compliments of your Neighbor is sublime!

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  25. I love agapanthus! We've got some in a pot, and some in a bed that never flower, so I plan to move them somewhere sunny. They're just so vivid and dramatic. Yours look like a really large variety.

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Thank you for leaving a comment. If you have a blog I'll pop over and return the favour.

Lots of love, Vix