Amber’s Garden

Amber photo collage

I’m always on the lookout for flowers to add to my beautifully colourful and eclectic cottage garden. You know- the one that only exists in my mind. Despite living in the same house for eight years, every spring I seem to find myself confronted with the same blank earth, followed by an overly exuberant (and expensive) dash to the garden centre.

Not so this year, as my friend Amber volunteered some Verbena. When I popped over for coffee yesterday I was planning to simply pinch a couple pots to add to my plot, and instead revelled in an hour of raiding her beautiful garden, talking Island life and guessing plant names (my favourite being ‘yellow things’, which is now officially stamped on a plant label in my garden.)

I left with a car packed full of oregano, primrose, crocosmia, hollyhocks, and said ‘yellow things’; all essential ingredients in any self-respecting garden. I’ve plopped them in my soil in the hope they’ll survive, reassuring myself with Amber’s instructions to ‘just chuck them in’. I feel the pressure to make them succeed. Grow my pretties, grow…

Gardening with Fond Neglect

Plants in the cracks

I love the neglected corners of our garden. Who am I kidding- the whole thing’s neglected. But I’d rather do a spot of weeding in my PJs, or after work, than spend my Sundays at the garden centre.

Various flora poke through the cracks amongst the moss. The odd plant, bought on the drive home from a mini adventure, thrives with a little water from the can (minus it’s rose and clogged up with snails, but still working!)


The neighbours lay on a feast of a bird table, and we offer our own feast with the many bugs trundling about our back yard. I always considered our garden to be pretty small, but when life is on a small scale, it seems full of riches.

The brick path is a forest of California poppies, and the sweet peas are blooming bounteously, despite their tangled mess. Alpine strawberries made a surprise appearance this year and trail around the bottom of the roses by the bug hotel. Later in the year the field behind the house will offer up bundles of blackberries, which the neighbours cats gingerly pick their paws over.

Garden photo collage

With so much happening at work, it’s nice to spend time in a place that demands very little attention. Sure, I often sit here planning what else I’d like to do. But it’s good to see that the garden is still pretty happy with a bit of fond neglect.

Foxglove and bumble bee

Digging the Earth

Rusty holding a box of flowers

So much blue sky!  And this sunshine is my kick up the arse to do a bit of gardening.  I’m lured by bright instant-colour pots of flowers and their right-now, ‘have your cake and eat it’ satisfaction. But the real early-spring magic is in the packed-up promise of an envelope of seeds.

I always forget the digging and preparation that the soil needs. It’s a satisfying rhythm, and I like wrestling with the weeds to get down to that rich loamy sow-me-quick soil. I mingle wild flower mixes, cosmos and short sunflowers in to some seed compost and throw it over the earth before patting down with a gentle toe.

I never know what will poke through this soil. To thrive in this garden you have to be a hardy plant who doesn’t mind some neglect. But that unknown is a good few weeks away. For know I’m happy sitting in the last light, with a cup of tea and some freshly tilled earth at my side, patted down with the expectant promise of some seedlings soon.

Rusty gardening


Before the rain

Photo collage of Salvia, Alyssum, Lavender and Cosmos

I have finally planted some flowers, before the rains descend this evening.  After my first attempts were completely devoured by slugs and snails, I’ve been a little slow to try again.  What with the pests and the intimidating blank canvas of bare earth maybe it’s just too difficult!

I used to think there must be some secret formula to gardening, that unless you had a full set of instructions it was a botanical impossibility.  But I’m starting to realise that the soil is pretty good at nurturing life.  And as I’m rarely a fan of straight rows and orderly boxes, I see no reason why I should try to achieve that in my garden.  So I’ve stuck some things in the soil, haphazard and hasty, and I’ll wait to see what grows.  This time I might put up a few slug defences too.

A few flowers

With the first summer on our allotment fast-approaching, I am getting equally excited about giving the back garden over to flowers for the first time.  I went to the nursery with optimistic visions of returning with trays of sweet peas and geraniums to fill the garden.  But, in my predictable way, my not-so-green-thumb timing is off and I’m about three weeks too keen.

All was not lost, as I did return with this lovely ranunculus  and a few other finds.  I am realising that a flower garden is a slow process; I can’t make it happen in one weekend!  So I will slowly add to these first few flowers and welcome bees, butterflies and all good creepy crawlies.  We already have a toad resident in our tiny spot and I’m hoping more life will soon follow.