Acer Leaves

I love this time of year. Spring and Autumn are – and always have been – my favourite seasons. Long before I discovered gardening I found the sense of change exciting. For so many years September was always the start of something new – moving up a year at school, new courses at University – it was odd, starting my first job, and realising that it didn’t have the same milestone status as a month any longer.

Birch Catkins

Discovering gardening solidified the preference, both seasons are so “busy” with change, littered with milestones. I get a surge of excitement at the sight of leaves unfurling, blossom breaking out, the yellow catkins smothering the branches of the silver birches.

Crab Apple Blossom

Starting to blog has caused me to see things differently too, I take far more photographs than I ever used to, and slowly I am beginning to learn how to take better photographs, and to take them not just of moments of beauty, but to help me plan and improve my garden.

Aucuba japonica crassifolia flowers

Though until I read Laura’s recent post I had never noticed the strange, small flowers borne by my Aucuba japonica crassifloia.

I still scribble copious notes – about plant combinations I like, techniques I want to try, things I want to move – but increasingly I also rely on my camera. I find I am trying to take “plant portraits”, showing leaves as well as flowers, pictures taken not so much in an attempt to capture beauty, but to act as a record and reminder about how a plant behaves and how to use it. My plants page is supposed to become a sort of online notebook, recording the plants I grow and where I grow them, although until I am reasonably sure I have cracked preventing them from turning up on my feed I am holding off, no one wants a sudden influx of tens of posts on plants from me!

Tulip Ballerina

Recently, though, both the photographs I am taking and the notes I am making are taking on a rather unsettling new form. FIL is now actively working on a retirement plan. Once he has freed himself from his business and no longer has to work full time we will be moving. We’re not sure where yet, but we know we want as much outside space as we can afford, and that gardening will form a large part of our new lives.

Purple Hazel

So we’ve started talking about the plants we like. The orange tulips (‘Ballerina’) and the purple hazel are “keepers” – in fact the hazel is already in a very large pot so that we can take it with us. I was delighted to hear FIL say how much he likes the Euphorbia robbiae that brightens up the back border, and that he has fallen in love with hellebores since moving here. Extra incentive to pot up lots of the hellebore seedlings.

I was slightly more disconcerted to hear that MIL doesn’t like Narcissus ‘Tète-á-Tète’. They are my favourite daffs, but for MIL daffs are big and yellow. Fortunately for me she is too generous to ask me not to have any in our next garden, though I think wallflowers are out (bad associations with her mother-in-law and the loss of a wedding ring…). In return I have promised to plant her drifts of her favourites. Somewhere. Happily we are all united on having fallen in love with Narcissus ‘Segovia’ (below), so that has been scribbled in the notebook as a must-have, along with lots of Anenome blanda and Erythronium ‘Pagoda’.

Narcissus Segovia

So I am wandering around the garden photographing unfurling fern leaves and the seedheads forming on the hellebores, so that I can compare flowering times etc. with previous years and so that I will know for next year what to expect when…

Unfurling Fern Fronds

Unfurling Fern

Hellebore Forming Seeds

…but part of me is wondering if I will even be here to see these transitions next year. And even if I am, will I be so distracted by trying to pack up as much of this garden I have been buidling for over a decade now to notice that the Magnolia has almost finished flowering?

Magnolia Bloom With Leaves

All this is, mostly, exciting. But the thing is, since starting to blog regularly, and to engage with other garden bloggers, getting ideas for plant combinations, new plants, I have engaged with my garden more strongly than ever. When TNG and I first moved back here, over two and a half years ago now, it was on the assumption that it would be strictly temporary, just for a few months. Then illness, and the discovery that the four of us actually really enjoy living together, meant we started talking about moving.

We thought we would be gone by now, even if only in to rented accommodation while we sorted out the longer term future. So I did the bare minimum on the garden front, until ageing shrubs started dying and I realised that it was going to take FIL a lot longer to disentangle himself. The uncertainty of it all, and the fact that the timing of the move wasn’t – isn’t – in my control, began to drive me nuts and my garden became my saviour. By re-engaging with it I became calmer, more rooted, almost patient about it all. And of course I started to plan and dream about how to make it an even better garden. More colour, more transitions, more contrasting textures. But on a very tight budget – after all, why spend money on plants when you are moving soon?

Tulip Havran with Euphorbia

So I am noting that I really like tulip ‘Havran’ with the acid green of euphorbias, and thinking that might work in the future somewhere.

Tulip Ballerina With Acer

I’m noting that I love the orange of ‘Ballerina’ against the young leaves of the acer (my favourite tulip, such a great colour, so graceful with those pointed petals, and fragrant too), and that I also rather like astrantia leaves against the tulip foliage. And I am itching to buy more ‘Ballerina’ in the Autumn to create a ribbon of orange connecting back through to the purple tulips and the euphorbia, so that they are no longer isolated in ridiculous splendour. And all the time I am wondering whether there is any point to this. If I don’t plant more tulips this Autumn and we are still here in a year or even two year’s time, I will be really irritated. And I want to plant Aster divericatus in the Magnolia bed because I know it will look wonderful and hey, I can always dig it up again. And if it wasn’t for the fact that I managed to do my back in rather badly on Saturday in a mammoth sowing session, I would be planting this lot up:

Pond Border Planning

(The empty pots are placeholders for seedlings still too small to plant out)

So here I am, with a sore back, feeling unsettled and a little narky, “betwixt and between”, making lists and notes for a garden that I don’t yet have at the same time as making notes for what I want to move and plant this Autumn.

Oh, and I have run out of pots just as my tomatoes need potting on…

42 thoughts on “Living Betwixt and Between

  1. Oh transition times – exciting and unnerving too. I’ve also begun to look around for what might come with me to the next place, and what I’ll be relieved to leave behind, because I can’t seem to solve recurring problems nor dig the darn things up! Those shots of Havran and Ballerina are simply scrumptious!

    1. Oh, are you moving too? Maybe we can swap notes on how to pack up a garden! And you are right, the list of things not to repeat is also important.

      1. Empty one litre yoghurt pots make perfect planting containers. Big enough, but not too big, good shape, deep for the roots, not so heavy you can’t lift them. An awful lot of this garden came from the first garden, lived in a rented garden for a year, and is now flourishing.

        1. Hi Diana. You are right about the yogurt pots, I use them a lot, but am even running low on those now! Good to know wholesale moving of plants is possible – will be back for advice nearer the time.

  2. I just love spring – it’s so fresh and green and plants are springing to life – well the ones that have managed to make it through winter!

    I’m sure your move will take you on to lots of exciting things.

    1. Hi Sue, there is a particular freshness to the colours in the leaves at this time of year, isn’t there. Wonderful. The move will be great – well, not the process, but the next phase. Its not knowing how far away it is…

  3. It’s hard knowing what to do for the best when you know you’ll be moving but unsure when. I think your best bet is to make sure you keep things you know for sure you’ll be taking in pots, less work in the long run, and you can position the pots in your planting plan in the meantime.

    1. Hi Jo, I think I am going to do a mix, after all, it will be so much easier to know what kinds of plants we will want in the new place once we actually have a new place! No point in keeping lots of things in pots that we find we don’t have the right soil conditions for, and no way I will be able to stop myself from lifting some of my favourites…

  4. I do feel for you–I don’t deal with uncertainty very well, I’m afraid. But I think you’re making some excellent plans by taking notes and photographing everything so that when you do move, you’ll be better prepared and be sure to take those plants you want. I would definitely take those orange tulips with you! Too bad you can’t take the star magnolia–or can you?

    I find myself taking more photos, too, since blogging, but not just for posts but for a record for myself as well. Every fall I try to remember where I have “holes” that I want to fill with tulips and then I’m disappointed in the spring when I missed them:) This year, I’m trying to record the bulb placement so I can do a better job planting this fall.

    1. Hi Rose. Sadly the Magnolia is too large and too well established to move, but I hope we can make room for one wherever we end up. You never know, there might be one there already! Glad I am not the only one to forget where the holes are, or in my case forget to look at my notes when choosing bulbs. I also lose notes, and although I take a lot of photographs, often find I failed to take the RIGHT photographs!

  5. Hi Janet – enjoyed the narrative of this post so much, with the ups and downs, the uncertainties and yet the contentment with both present and future. I can see how the photojournal will help re-form your next garden and there are many lovely contrasts to re-create. What sock-in-the-eye tulips!

    p.s. glad you spotted the Laurel flowers ;)

    1. Hi Laura, thank you for showing me something new in my garden! The tulips are pretty punchy, aren’t they. I would really like some white ones too though, I love what Christina has done with T. White Dream in her garden.

  6. I like what Laura said, so ditto. The garden journal will prove useful in your next adventure. The photos above show nice pairings that you may find yourself doing again. I think my garden is the only thing I would really miss if I moved, and I did a lot of new construction on my place. But the garden in all its iterations had involved a different kind of myself, and I bet you feel that way too.

    1. That’s exactly it Donna, plus I suppose for a gardener the challenge of something new is always going to be exciting. After all, if I ended up somewhere with large sunny dry areas I could try a whole host of plants I could never get away with here…

  7. A very insightful post. When my children left for college I did not think any thing would fill that hole in my life, so much uncertainty. My garden became my salvation. All the things that I had pored into my children I now put into the garden (feeding, sheltering, coaxing, scolding, loving, pampering). My garden was a place of peace, a place of self renewal, a place of planning and creation, a place for me. We have talked of a possible move and my husband asked “Would you really leave your garden”. My answer was “yes, there is always a new garden to explore and create”. Things are undecided so I go on planning and creating in my garden thinking to my self we can always dig that up and take it with if we do go.

    1. I’m about to enter the phase Fawne describes–my youngest will go off to college in the fall–and I know that gardening will help to fill the void. I have loved the years with children running through the house, but so much of my garden has been neglected for lack of time. So, Janet, I understand your thoughts about transitions and uncertainty, yet the constancy of planting, planning, and admiring in the garden keeps us content. Blogging is a great way to record and plan, but also to create memories. Just think, no matter where you go you can look back on your blog to remember!

      1. Do you know, I really hadn’t though about it, but you are right, this blog will be a record of this garden, wherever I end up next. Duh! Thank you :-) And good luck with your own new transition.

    2. Hi Fawne, thanks for dropping by. Good to know I am not alone in this “in between” place. Good luck working out your own move. And I agree, there is a wonderful excitment at the thought of starting something new, however much I love my current space.

  8. Such a thought provoking post, Janet. I completely understand your feelings of uncertainty about the transition facing you. At this immediate point in my life, I would have a terribly difficult time leaving my garden. But as Fawne Lees points out, “there is always a new garden to explore and create.” But one must be in that state of mind to embrace the change. I think taking this transition slowly is the best course. One rule in my life that I consistently follow is: “If I don’t know what to do, I don’t do anything.” My best to you as your sort this out.

    1. Thank you Diane. I am excited by the idea of creating something new, but am finding that until I know we are going I have to carry on with what is a fairly big set of changes in this garden, I can’t leave it alone. I suppose while I am still here I am its custodian, and I want it to be the best it can be – within my constraints of time, money, energy. I am ready to move on to something new, but can’t live in the unsettled state of “nearly but not yet”, so I think I have to keep gardening in the now and let the future take care of itself. Easy to type, not so easy to do! But I am encouraged by the number of people who have dug up large chunks of previous gardens and taken them with them…

  9. (Qualified) congratulations on the possibility of moving on to much larger garden spaces. It looks like your current space gives you much pleasure, but you’re treating it a bit like a laboratory, trying out new plant combination experiments, assessing what works. I really do enjoy your tulip/euphorbia combination, how the tulips sultry duskiness plays against the sprightlier foliage of the euphorbia. And then your acer leaves with Ballerina up front seems to flip the relationship between soloist and accompanist.

    1. James, I think you have really helped me clarify something there, I am experimenting a lot, perhaps in part because I am ready for a different kind of challenge and want to try new things. I’m using this space to explore some of that. Love your music analogy, it captures it perfectly.

  10. That must be difficult in between permanent houses. I couldn’t wait to get out of my last garden which was a snail/slug paradise but I’m glad I’m here for a while now so I can invest time and money into the garden. I love the ballerina tulips, that’s another one for my list……now where did I put that list!

    1. Ah yes, the losing of lists – I do have a distressing number of scribbled notes lying around because I didn’t have my “proper” notebook to hand. And then of course there is the notebook I take to the allotment with me, and the notebook I use in the greenhouse…

      I thought ALL gardens were slug and snail havens, you are raising false hope in me now, visions of unblemished hostas growing in the ground, tradescanthias making it to full size…

  11. Hi Janet, It’s really tough not being able to feel fully at home in your home – I felt it really keenly when living in rented houses, and even when we bought our first house in the city, we knew pretty soon that we would be moving on again to get into the countryside, and I hated that gnawing uncertainty inside of not knowing when, or where, we would be! Putting down long roots at last is a wonderful feeling of relief – after all this work, we are never leaving here!!! ;-)
    It’s hard finding the right amount of investment for a garden that you will be leaving but still want to enjoy; I think you’ve balanced it well and are doing an amazing job. I hope that when you move on, the people who take over your garden appreciate all the hard work. And you’re moving on to a whole new challenge, which is very exciting. Fingers crossed that the in-between time is not too drawn out or uncomfortable, and soon you have your next project all planned out and are taking new strides.
    And your current garden and the allotment will hopefully be keeping you very busy as the season ramps up! I really love those tulips. It’s great that you and your family are pretty well tuned in your tastes, even while they diverge a little. You’ll always find space for some tete-a-tetes :-)
    Sara x

    1. Hi Sara, I think one of the reasons I so love reading about your current endeavours is that I know this is you settling in to your long-term home, and that I hope to be doing something similar in the future. Your experience with the people who bought your city home make me more determined to take anything I really love with me, and more if the eventual buyers are clearly not avid gardeners. We may find we have to remove the pond and gravel etc. to make space for a lawn in order to sell, as the majority of buyers come here for the wonderful primary school and mine is not a child-friendly space! And yes, you are right, the current garden and allotment will keep me out of mischief in the mean time…

  12. As a postscript, when we moved here we wrestled long and hard over which plants to take without stripping our small city garden too bare, and ended up taking only the chosen few. Within a month we found that the new owners had ripped everything out and gravelled the entire garden – with the possible exception of a Kilmarnock willow in the corner that still seemed intact. I was rather devastated – would have taken far more if I’d known!

  13. I wish I was as fastidious as you when it comes to taking photos in the garden. So many changes happening and yet I don’t record them enough.

    Fantastic photos as always, love the way your pond is shaping up and looking forward to the progress :)

    1. It actually doesn’t seem to matter how many photographs I take, I am always missing the particular shot that I really want for whatever the current project is! And as for disk space…

  14. As usually absolutely stunning photos – they just get better!

    So awful being unsettled, you must also feel sadness at leaving the garden. Although it is great to have plans for your new one. I love your blog it is so beautifully written. Thank you.

    1. You leave such lovely comments Ronnie, thank you. I do find the prospect of a new start exciting. Once I know where I am going I don’t think I will look back, other than with fond memories. But I will be taking plants with me – I fear we may need a removal van just for the garden stuff!

  15. Your Spring photographs are very beautiful (as well as useful notes to self) – love the tulips against the acer.

    I must be an ace at betwixt and between by now (after nearly two years away from Leitrim and thinking all the time I’d be back in a month or so) .. and I reckon that there comes a time when you just don’t mind. Have fun imagining and planning for your new garden and keep loving and planning your current garden until the day you leave it. Any garden lovers who come after will really appreciate that. Maybe start putting things in containers that you MUST move – as long as they’ll be happy for a while that way.

    Most of all, have the garden so you are comfortable in it, happy with it NOW. Just keep enjoying it while its yours … and maybe don’t let on to it quite how excited you are about the plans for the next one ;-)

    Its so much fun to imagine what plants you’ll want in a new space.

    1. Hi Ferris, yes, you really must be an expert in the uncertainty by now. I agree, I need to carry on enjoying and living in the now. And anyway, they say you never forget your first ;-)

  16. Must be somewhat unsettling to be betwixt and between with no definite date for moving in mind ~ not sure whether I would be able to cope with it as well as you appear to be Janet. I think thought that wherever you are a year from now you will be treasuring and tending plants. I enjoyed your photos especially the unfurling fern :) Hope that your back is improving.

    1. Hi Anna, the back is hurting much less thank you, I shall be sowing carrots by the end of the week! Blogging about it all has really helped me settle into the now again, which is wonderful. I’m glad there is so much going on here at the moment, otherwise I think I might go stir-crazy with the lack of control, not something I am good at…

  17. Moving for me was traumatic because I couldn’t bring much from the garden….I would have brought it all but I was moving from all shade to mostly sun as well… so this garden now was a blank slate…your musings brought back memories of my move, my blog…I love the tulips!!

    1. Hi Donna, I suppose that could easily happen to us too, most of my garden is part or full shade, so if we ended up with somewhere mostly full sun, the options for plants to take with us could be limited, although I would always want to plant trees if there weren’t any there. Who knows! Perhaps we will move somewhere with a beautiful and established garden and I will have to learn how to merge being custodian and steward with taking ownership and making my mark. I love the tulips too, and really must buy more for pots next year.

  18. Oh Janet, what a dilemma….however it sounds as though you all are quite comfortable with your living arrangements. I am glad you are planning and planting more for the garden. I imagine your in laws appreciate it a lot more than what they will share. As for photos and blogging. …..I have learned a lot over the couple years that I have been blogging. Yes, I still take a ton of photos, but I would like to think I am getting better. My internet knowledge is enlarged by nice people like you. My writing comes a lot easier now. Oh, the benefits of this blogging world. We get to meet new friends like you!

    1. Hello Janet, for some reason WordPress seems to have decided that your comments need moderating! Are you using a different email address or something? You are one of my oldest blogging friends, so it is clearly ridiculous… I do love the way blogging has introduced me to so many new people, new gardens, new plants. What started out as a way to record what is happening in the garden has become a way to participate in a community, learn from others – and yes, improve my photography! I will look forward to being able to share the ups and downs of moving, packing up a garden, starting a new one, and getting sage advice and support through it all. For now, though, as you say, I am here with a garden that deserves my full attention! Enjoy planting up all your new finds, I can’t wait to watch your garden continue to develop.

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