March was a strange month. Colder than either January or February, plants apparently in stasis, and for me, not much gardening. Some stripping of wallpaper, some work, some choosing of new kitchen bits and pieces, and a very welcome visit from mil and fil, but very little gardening. I entered April feeling rather fed up, tired of being buffeted by the cold East wind, just plain tired, and thinking that I’d not really achieved anything very much when it came to the garden. Blogging went out the window. But suddenly the East wind is just a bitter memory, the soil is warming up, the weeds are growing, and so too are the mange-tout and peas I sowed outside in a fit of optimism in mid March. I feel a little like this magnolia bud:

magnolia stellata bud opening

A little battered, but starting to feel it is worth venturing forth again. And better able to appreciate that things aren’t nearly as bleak as I had thought. For one thing, the radishes have germinated, only two weeks after sowing, and I need to thin them a little. Even better, the salad onions just behind them are germinating too.

radish seedlings and first signs of salad onions

My little aluminium greenhouse, which sits just by the conservatory door, has raised beds made from offcuts from the Great Fencing Project, and the salad leaves I sowed in modules and planted out in the hope of getting something to eat sooner rather than later are now producing sandwich fillings.

greenhouse salad leaves

The beds will eventually house tomatoes and basil, and the shelves are full of trays of germinating edibles, like these beetroot ‘Boltardy’ seedlings.

'Boltardy' beetroot seedlings

The kitchen garden is even beginning to look a little like somewhere that will produce food to eat, with broad bean plants finally putting on some growth and – now protected from the digging exploits of the marauding blackbirds – more salad onions, salad leaves and even some shallots are trying to make a go of it.

protected young edibles

The indoor sowing and growing factory, otherwise known as the conservatory, has been performing really well. I am in love with my Vitopod propagator, which has been full ever since I first turned it on, and although the grow lamp is no longer in use, the shelving is full of robust little plants.

lemongrass and tomatoes

chillies and sweet peppers

I am particularly chuffed with the lemongrass, as I failed so totally the last time I tried to grow it. I’ll soon have to clear more space by passing on tomato and chilli plants to my neighbor, as the propagator is now full of phase two of the perennials sown for the front garden. I had been getting rather cross at the delay in the arrival of the Chiltern Seeds order, but in the end the timing was perfect, and they were lovely about the snafu at their end that led to the delay. I would have been happy with the way the dealt with it even if they hadn’t sweetened the pot with a gift voucher to say “sorry”. That’s what I call customer service!

The first batch of perennials I sowed are now out in the wooden greenhouse I inherited when we moved here, which has power and so will also house my propagator once the weather warms up. It is really satisfying to see little plants of rudbekia, knapweed, echinacea, gaura and the like all starting to grow away, ready to be planted out in the front garden later in the year. There are also some cosmos to help pad things out while the perennials fill out, but nowhere near enough, I fear, I think I will be direct sowing too once the soil is consistently warmer.

perennial seedlings

I do love growing plants from seed, but I haven’t been able to resist buying some plants in to make an earlier impact, there is so much bare ground. Elizabeth’s post on the annual plug plants she reviewed from Plant Me Now inspired me to check out their website for perennials, and I wound up buying some Achillea ‘Terracotta’ and Alchemilla ‘Irish Silk’. These arrived as what they call Starter Plants, essentially large plug plants with well established root systems that, because they have been overwintered, should flower in their first year.

Achillea Terracotta Starter Plants

At the other end of the scale I also bought a dozen Verbena bonariensis plugs from Thompson and Morgan to give me a head start, as my own sowings have been very slow off the mark despite the propagator. These were tiny…

verbena bonariensis plugs

…but although I only ordered 12, a lot of the cells had more than one seedling in them so I ended up with double that. Together with some chunks of the ever-useful and very robust geranium macrorrhizum album, a very vigorous shade-tolerant white geranium, kindly brought by fil from my old garden, they will fill a goodly amount of space. Which is just as well because now that I can see more of the front garden, there is a lot of space to fill.

front garden

The fence now steps down as it runs away from the house to allow more of the view to be enjoyed from indoors. Now that the rickety trellis has gone and the shrubs have been pruned back or removed, the whole feeling of the garden has changed yet again. I have surprised myself in that I really like the sense of it opening up as it runs down towards the sea, and am not feeling the lack of privacy from the lower fence height at all. I have rather enjoyed chatting to neighbors and passers by as I work out there, and the whole garden feels as if it is embracing the surroundings rather than trying to remain apart. This, in turn, has meant changing some of my plans for planting, as there is not a lot of point lowering the fence if I then put something really tall and dense in front of it! But the biggest transformation is down at the very front, past the pile of shredding that sits on top of the giant mutant viburnum that wants to take over the village.

A rather lopsided and hacked about weeping willow stood in the middle of a tangle of Brachyglottis, which desperately needed some pruning. Only it turned out that the plants were so over grown that they tended to have 2m long branches sporting about 20cm of growth at the ends. Some of the half dozen plants that must originally have been intended as a small hedge had rotted away completely, but others were still sprouting new growth from the base, so I cut everything hard back on the basis that it couldn’t be left as it was, tumbling over the walls and onto the paths on either side of our garden, and some might survive and grow back. The front third of the garden now looks like a disaster zone.

front garden carnage

But if you look beyond the mountains of material to be cleared and shredded, there is suddenly a whole new area to play with.

more space

There is so much to be done in the front garden that I sometimes get exhausted just thinking about it, but the plan to intersperse the fencing, clearing and re-landscaping with the planting up of the first section of the fence border is helping keep me cheerful, and I have collected another planting project in the back garden too.

the awkward corner

I call it the daisy corner, because of the butchered remains of the Olearia, or daisy bush, and it was in danger of becoming an unloved dumping ground, but I just can’t afford to let that happen. It is far too prominent, being the area most easily seen from the comfy chair in the kitchen area, and even more obvious when you are sat out on the patio. So rather than eying up old misshapen shrubs that I need to remove from the front garden and thinking “I wonder if I could use that in the daisy corner” I decided to stick to the promise I made myself when we moved here, and not keep anything in the garden that I didn’t like. So hopefully over the next couple of months I will be able to show you a gradual transformation of part of the front garden and the unloved daisy corner into planted – albeit sparsely – and loved spaces.

Whew, that’s more than enough of that, hopefully I will keep up with myself a little better and blog more regularly and more briefly! Now I’d better make a start on catching up with the 150 or so posts I have missed these past few weeks…

61 thoughts on “Finally…

      1. Haha :)

        All that work in your front is making me ache thinking about it! That’s going to be a serious amount of work but so very worth it too when you have a lovely new area all planted up.
        I haven’t sown anything this year… Not entirely sure if I will. I really ought to get onto it really as I know I’ll regret it if I don’t have any cosmos later in the year and we haven’t yet moved. But at the same time, if we have moved by then, then it’ll be a waste of time/effort/money.
        Your plants from T&M look way better than any we’ve ever got off them. I’ve long since stopped using thompson and morgan for anything, because almost everything I’ve ever got have been duffs.

        1. I sympathise with the sow or not to sow dilemma, I really do. The only thing I would say is that it was two years from when I started thinking in terms of “no point in doing X because I am moving” to when we actually knew we were moving, so I would sow just in case – you could always take them with you, and summer without cosmos would be diminished. I don’t normally bother with anything other than seeds from T&M either, but I had a voucher so the plugs were almost free, seemed worth a punt and it has worked out very well.

  1. Good to hear from you Janet. Not surprising that you did not have much to say in March. That persistent cold wind was an absolute ****** and as for the snow, or though perhaps you escaped the latter. Your seedlings look as if they are thriving – can’t get over the size of your peppers and tomatoes. The temperature and light in your conservatory must be most favourable. I wondered whether ‘snafu’ was a new Welsh word that has recently entered your vocabulary until I looked it up :)

    1. Hi Anna, it is good to be back, though the blog backlog is going to take a while to read through!! No snow since February here, just bitterly cold winds and no rain, so dry frozen soil. I am really happy with the tomatoes and peppers, I have never sown so early before, but it looks as though the grow lamp and conservatory made for a good environment for them.

  2. Finally indeed! That cold weather seemed to go on forever. Spring is going to be co pressed this year, nearly everything will get going at the same time, rather than in succession. So many things going on in your garden, busy times ahead. And take it easy :)

    1. Yes, I think Spring will all happen at once in just a few short weeks, the weeds are certainly romping away now reminding me that I never did get around to buying myself a hoe. Something I really must remedy… As for taking it easy, I will try, but my own sap is rising and I am itching to be doing!

  3. March was a bad month indeed, and April is not starting out well here. But I love your little magnolia bloom, and you are right – we will all soon be welcoming the warmth. Your seedlings are amazing. And your vegetable garden looks like it is coming right along. When you are finished with the daisy corner, you will be so pleased. I think views from the house are so important.

    1. Yes, I agree, if your garden can’t make you happy from the house there is something wrong with your priorities! I am hoping the seedlings will start growing away now that the weather is warming up, they have been the same size for weeks, but at least they are still alive!

  4. This has been a hard spring. It is wonderful to see the begining of your spring activities and your successes. There is something special about seeing spring start that you can never get enough, I really appreciated your photos.

    1. Hi Charlie, thanks, it is always really wonderful to see signs of Spring, even if they are about a month behind at the moment.

  5. I chuckled about the giant mutant Viburnum–that could be a challenge! I’m very impressed with your seed starts and very well-planned veg garden. A cold March is very normal for us in this northern part of the U.S., but now April is very cold, too. My Hellebores melted out from under the snow about a week ago, and now they face freezing temps. So it will be a while before I get the veg garden going. But a new greenhouse will help extend the growing season a bit. I look forward to seeing all the sections of your garden come together.

    1. A new greenhouse is a delight, and will always help get going, particularly if it is unseasonably cold outside. I wouldn’t have been without mine this year, that’s for sure.

  6. I’m pleased to read that you have been so busy during the long hibernation. Those perennials will soon bulk up and it is a brilliant idea to use Cosmos to pad things out a bit – I keep a few white Cosmos and lime green Nicotiana to hand in early summer to do that job and they always end up being incredibly useful when a garden is developing.

    How lovely to see all that space and the opportunities it affords you!

    1. Oh, now that’s a good thought, I think I have some old nicotiana seed, I think that would be worth at least trying, as I am pretty sure I will need more padding that I currently have available! it is really exciting to have so much new space to play around with, very stimulating if occasionally rather daunting. At least I can disappear off down to the beach if it all gets too much!

  7. Lovely to see all your seedlings Janet with the hope of things to come. It is so easy to get behind with blogging and even harder to catch up – I know the feeling. But when the weather is good I would rather be outside than inside on the computer – it’s all a question of balance isn’t it.

    1. Hi Elaine, yes, spending good gardening weather indoors is never particularly appealing, but after the run of cold weather, even more so! Balance is, as ever, key…

    1. Hi Sue, I have to admit I was surprised as I thought the long cold patch after planting might put the poor thing off altogether.

  8. I feel tired just reading all you have done Janet, I dug up a large carex pendulas last week and was thinking of you and all your shrubs to dig out, I also feel a bit in awe of your amazing seed rearing,
    I understand completely about feel exhusted just thinking about what needs to be done, I try not to thnik about it too much now and concentrate on the areas I have done something with moving to other areas as and when I can, your front garden gets larger by the posts …… it will take time to get it where you want it and no doubt change along the way, you have achived so much in a short time,
    I love the name of your daisy corner, daisies being my favourite flower, perhaps it could become the theme for the corner and I think you are right not to keep plants you don’t like it will only mean more work later when you dig them out again and you won’t like the results while they are still in your garden, Frances

    1. Hi Frances, I do find breaking down the large jobs into small chunks is essential for sanity! I love the idea of being able to carry on calling that corner the daisy corner, but sadly it is heavily shaded by the sycamores growing next door, so I think daisies of any sort are out. However, it is consistently damp there, so I am excited about growing some moisture-loving perennials, of which more later…

  9. I felt the same when the garden was suffering from the freezing wind, it was so depressing wandering round, seeing the plants looking so awful. What a difference a week makes, with the temperatures slowly rising, the plants look happy once more! You have certainly been busy, so many seeds sown and your beds in the back garden will soon be full to overflowing!

    1. Hi Pauline, it always amazes me how swiftly the garden responds to a burst of warmth. That freezing wind was dreadful, wasn’t it. It has been great to sow seed in the comparative warmth of the conservatory and ignore the outdoors for a while, but there are still so many more seeds to sow!! Good job it is a process I love…

  10. Wow, that’s a lot of work you have to do there, but it will be so rewarding once it’s completed. At least with the weather warming up, more can be done. It looks like you’ll be busy with your kitchen garden too, you have a lot of healthy looking seedlings.

    1. Hi Paula, thanks so much for dropping by and commenting. Yes, I think I will soon be doing what I call the cold frame dance, something I am actually really bad at, I keep forgetting how many days I have been opening it and for how long, so my hardening off is rather haphazard…

  11. The weeds starting to grow says it all – the starting gun for this year’s season has at last been fired.

    No doubt plenty of us will be depressed about the amount from March which has to be squeezed into April (and probably beyond in my case), and we don’t have a new garden to play with!

    I love this old Chinese saying – ‘When times are good, look up the mountain to see how far you have to go. When times are hard, look down the mountain to see how far you’ve come.’

    Keep plugging away and you’ll get there in the end.

    Thanks for all your recent comments – I’m adding your useful tip re using email filters to cope with your email subscriptions to the update on my blog :)

    1. Hi VP, yes, I think we are all going to need to take frequent deep breaths to prevent ourseleves becoming overwhelmed by a sense of urgency. I am determined not to worry about how quickly – or not – I get things in to the kitchen garden in particular, things will be late, but most of them will still grow. Eventually. its a nice plan, anyway…

      As to commenting, truly my pleasure! I enjoy your blog.

  12. I sense that now there is some warm weather eveything is changing and we’re all rediscovering why we enjoy gardening! It looks as though your seedlings are coming along beautifully. And completing your front garden project does look like exhausting work, but, as you say, there is still the excitement of how you can completely transform it.

    1. Hi Wendy, I think you are right, there are going to be lots of happy but aching gardeners about as we all try to catch up. I am feeling better about the front garden since I accepted that it is a project that will take several years to get all areas at least started, and in the mean time I will need lots of annuals and self seeders to fill gaps. Hopefully by taking one area at a time I can enjoy the process without getting bogged down.

    2. Hi Wendy, I think the trick with the front garden is going to be accepting that it is a journey, and that even getting the basic structure together will take years not weeks. I am not famed for my patience once I have a clear idea of what I want to achieve, so it is going to be an interesting challenge! But as you say, so exciting to be able to take on a long-term project, my previous garden was far smaller and very well established. Here, all is up for grabs.

  13. The weather has finally begun to warm up here, too; it’s amazing what a little sunshine and warmth can do to energize you. You may have been tired during March, Janet, but you have certainly been busy. Your seedlings all look so good; I’m sure you’re going to be able to fill up much of your garden space very quickly. Looking forward to seeing all the transformations you make!

    1. Hi Rose, I think I might be rather shocked at how many more plants I need to fill that ever expanding front garden of mine, definitely lots of annuals required as padding! The warmth and sunshine change everything don’t they.

  14. I’d of been happy to hibernate throughout March, which was the coldest one for 50 years. Thankfully it’s getting lighter, sunnier and warmer so although everything is a month adrift it will all start to recover and catch up.
    Thanks for catching up with comments on my blog posts, they’re always appreciated. Flighty xx

    1. Hi Flighty, I enjoyed catching up with what you have been up to, such a relief to finally have decent gardening weather isn’t it. I am really enjoying the lighter evenings, can’t wait until it is warm enough to sit out in the evening too, but I think I am getting a little ahead of myself there! I’ll settle for the peas finally germinating and the broad beans putting on some growth. I now have to fight sowing frenzy…

  15. Glad to see you haven’t disappeared off to the beach forever! This spring has been terrible, even here in Italy everyone is asking when spring will come? Yesterday was lovely, sunny and warm and it seemed spring had at last arrived but no, today is cloudy, there’s a cold wind and it feels like winter again. Don’t over do it with all the new planting possibilities – there is time in the future. Don’t rush to decide everything or you may regret some of the decisions you make…….and we don’t want you getting exhausted again do we. Christina

    1. Hi Christina, no fear of any rushed planting, one of the reasons I hadn’t done anything to the daisy corner was because it just wasn’t gelling in my head. Now that I have a vision for it I feel OK about starting, but as with everything there will be years of layering other things in as money becomes available or seeds germinate. As to the weather, I am trying not to get too excited just because there has been some sun and no east wind to destroy any heat in it. I lifted some turf today while reshaping the back border, and the soil is still very cold, but at least there is a sense of Spring finally arriving.

  16. That’s a fair amount of seedlings you have going on there – have you considered a glass roof too the house ;)
    I like how you have managed to save that view and I can say I was really quite exhausted reading all your news and the hard work you have put in! It will be nice when the weather warms up – although you all down south are to expect a heatwave – I’m so jealous!

    1. Hi Angie, from the forecast I don’t think the heatwave will reach us, but I am just thankful that we no longer have that east wind – what my Nan would have called a lazy wind, cuts straight through. I do like the idea of a glass roof on the house, so many more seeds I could sow then… But I would still need the space to harden them off, so maybe not!

  17. My goodness Janet you have been busy. Like you our weather was not good, but not good until April, well maybe just a few nice days here or there as we had snow in April…and now cold rain. Flooding everywhere but the plants and birds are not minding…the grass is growing too. I will be planting out some veggies soon too!

    1. Hi Donna, snow and floods, you have been having fun! Good to hear you will get to plant some edibles out soon, it always makes me feel the growing season is truly started once plants started indoors can be put outside.

  18. Glad to have you back, Janet. I think THAT March sent most gardeners scurrying for cover. I do like your stepped fence – it leads the eye to the sea perfectly. And I’ve never bought plug plants before – that’s about to change. Dave

    1. Hi Dave, good to be back, at least I didn’t miss any good gardening weather! No snow drifts though, unlike your adventuring in the wilds! Thanks, I am pleased with the fence, now I just have to finish it… Good luck with the plug plants, they can be very variable, but the “Plant Me Now” ones are very impressive, a good way to get more plants for your money.

  19. Janet, we are still on the cold side up here in the North East of Scotland, apparently it is going to improve greatly in the next couple of days. Your kitchen garden is looking very professional and your wooden greenhouse puts mine to shame. I think you are right there does seem no point in removing that section of fencing if you are then going to hide the view with tall plant specimens.

    1. Hi Alistair, I hope your weather starts to warm up soon. We have gales here today, but at least the wind is warm, it makes such a difference. I think I know what I want to plant by the newly lowered fence section, but I am just a little concerned as things seem to grow more vigorously than advertised around here, so I could still get caught out!

  20. It was lovely to have such a long and exciting post from you with all that activity, Janet – it’s great to get stuck into all these delayed tasks again, but take care not to overdo it. Your seedlings are fantastic – apart from the salad things I started in January (and planted out this week) nothing is ready to pot on although my greenhouse is pretty full. Your picture of the butchered part of your front garden reflects what I have been doing in the last couple of days – as you say, opening an area up brings new insights. Continue to enjoy the activity!

    1. Hi Cathy, glad you enjoyed the post, it was way too long really, but that’s what comes of getting behind! How lovely to have a full greenhouse, always guaranteed to bring a smile to the face of any gardener, though in my case I think I am about to hit Space Issues, as the next lot of potting on will require more shelving than currently exists… Ah well! Interesting to hear that you have been engaged in a little creative destruction too, look forward to reading about it.

  21. OOoo you have been busy and all that extra space – how wonderful. I am also feeling overwhelmed at how much I have to do which seems to have backed up due to the weather.

    Love your header

    1. Hi Helen, the weather really hasn’t been making it easy for us has it. Are you finding it as tricky as I am to plan borders that don’t yet exist?! Still, there is something very stimulating about having a big project on the go, although working full time as you do must add an extra level of stress to it all. At least working from home I can drop everything and take advantage of good spells of weather.

  22. A heated propagator sounds like just what I need – i’m bored of waiting for seeds to germinate on the windowsill. Alternatively, those tiny plants look really fresh even though they were sent by post neat packaging.

    1. Hi b-a-g, I think one of those windowsill propagators that takes mini seed trays with lids would be perfect for you, so many new and exciting things you could grow, though I warn you, it is totally addictive…

  23. Good to see you emerging Janet though your seedlings have long been at it by the look of all that growth. You’ve a great chance to start from scratch so stay with your mantra – if I don’lt like you, you must go! I like the sound of daisy corner though even if planted with anything but :)

    1. Hi Laura, the sight of my seedlings just getting on with growing even when I was unable to do any gardening was a real boost to the spirits. And yes, the mantra really must stay, there are so many truly beautiful plants, no room for anything that I just think I could probably live with, I’d rather have gaps and wait for things to fill out. I think “Daisy Corner” could turn in to one of those impossible to explain stories in years to come, though if I find at least one daisy-like flower that thrives in partial shade I guess I will be OK!

  24. Oh isn’t it great to see things growing at last.
    Your front garden, with its views to the sea, is just wonderful.
    Gales here in Devon too over the last 24 hours, so it doesn’t feel quite like Spring yet, but hopefully it won’t be long. So much waiting to be planted.

    1. it really is, I can’t quite believe Spring is finally here, but the hawthorn almost has leaves again so I suppose it must be near. We’ve got gales too, but so much warmer, being westerlies, that I can almost forgive that. I am incredibly fortunate with the view, it keeps me going even when the list of chores before I can think about planting seems to constantly get longer!

  25. I identify with this so very much! March drove me inside and insane. I am weeks behind with sowing and weeding and only just beginning to emerge into the light sufficiently to get going again. But today the sun shone and the warm wind blew and there were daffodils in bloom by teatime which were in bud at breakfast.
    I am so impressed by how determined and focussed you have been about engaging with your new garden. I think I might have to show you mine (not overgrown and once loved like yours but very recently a field) and see what you have to say! I too love the sense of the view at the bottom of your garden opening up.

    1. Hi Elizabeth, March was definitely miserable, though I didn’t have all the snow to content with that you did. The warmer weather and the longer days are so very welcome, though with flowers opening almost as you watch, it sometimes feels as if the garden is whispering “hurry up, hurry up” at me… You are kind to describe me as focussed and determined, others might describe it as obsessed! I am finding the starting over experience very exciting, but also daunting and at times exhausting. I am glad I didn’t have to wrestle a garden out of a field as you have done. I would love to wander around your garden “in the flesh” some day, it seems to have such presence already.

  26. Love the changes to the fence. It really flows with the property now and opens up the view. Lovely to hear too that you’re enjoying the open space and meeting some people along the way. Gardens are made for sharing I think and I’m sure neighbours appreciate that they can peek into your beautiful space.

    1. Hi Marguerite, so glad you “get” the flow of the fence, I know lots of the neighbours think we are mad! They all appear to be of the “build it high” persuasion, as if to repel the marauding hordes, but since the garden is completely open on the other side, this makes no sense to me, particularly when there is that wonderful view to “borrow” for house and garden. Maybe if/when the garden is beautiful they will change their minds…

  27. Oh my goodness Janet, you have really ‘attacked’ your garden with a great deal of energy. I like the decision that you wouldn’t keep anything you didn’t like. It is a hard decision to honor sometimes…especially when there are mature plants that need to go.
    I am in awe of all your seedlings…wow! Sure wish I had a place where I could buy some of those starter plants. Nice find!!

    1. Hi Janet, it has been harder to be ruthless with the larger, established plants, but I was looking back at photos of the garden when we first moved in, and although I was amazed at how different it is already, there wasn’t any sense of “whoops, should have kept that”, which is reassuring. As to the seedlings, I am so fortunate to have the conservatory to spread out in and nurture plants early in the year, and then to have two greenhouses. It makes a huge difference.

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