Showing posts from 2013

Hedgerow harvest

There's an expression you commonly hear in Scotland at this time of year (indeed, my husband, who was originally from Speyside, used to say it nearly every day in September). "Aye, the nights are fair drawing in." Roughly translated, it means: "Yes, the evenings really are getting darker."
It's a time of year I love. You still get lots of sunshine, the weather is still mild, even if it is raining, and the hedgerows are full of blackberries, elderberries and sloes. It's the perfect time of year to go for a walk AND come back with something to eat.
Where I live, in the Cotswolds, the hedgerows tend to be the classic mixture of mainly hawthorn, with field maple (Acer campestre),  native hazel (Corylus avallana) and wild rose (Rosa canina). You find brambles, ivy and Travellers' Joy (Clematis vitalba) scrambling about too, with the inevitable elders (Sambucus nigra) that seem to self-seed everywhere in the Cotswolds.
A mixed hedge supports a greater div…

I don't grow my own, but I do have a glut

People often ask me why I don't grow vegetables. You're a keen gardener, they say, so where are the prize-winning peas? The Highly Commended cabbages? The meritorious marrows?
Here's why I don't grow vegetables. I find it all too easy to accumulate a glut of produce without even putting spade to soil. My neighbour Peter really does win prizes for his veg at the village show, so I benefit from his surplus, which he leaves for me on the "Sue Steps".
The previous owners of my house, Sue and her husband Norman, sold the bottom section of the garden to Peter, who wanted more space for veg and fruit trees. Peter built the dry-stone boundary wall himself - isn't it beautiful? He put in a little style at one end which he named the Sue Steps. I like to think of them as the Sue Steps too.
So far this year I have had tomatoes, courgettes, peppers (bell peppers), runner beans and mini cucumbers. All delicious. And they come in a cute little trug.

My younger sister an…

Is less more? And for whom?

I'm always fascinated by people's reactions to gardens. What is it that makes a garden a good space to be in? Is there a harmonious combination of proportions and ingredients that could be analysed mathematically, like the golden ratio? Or are we predisposed - by memory, or education, or tradition - to like a certain sort of garden? Is the English Landscape style, for example, intrinsically good design, or have we just been trained to think that way because the rich landowners who employed it were the (unquestioned) celebrity trend-setters of their time?
I was thinking about this when I visited Anne Wareham's garden at Veddw, just across the Welsh border, the other day. As befits the founder of the Thinkingardens website, Veddw is a garden that makes your brain do a few stretching exercises before embarking on a full-scale workout. It is full of metaphors, contrasts and allusions.
I have to declare an interest here. I love Veddw, but then I adore Anne. She has built up a r…

So, where was I...?

This blog feels a bit like one of those movies where the words "Three years later" come up on the screen, thus neatly sidestepping any tedious narratives about what everyone has been doing in the meantime.
I suppose the edited version of the past six months would go something like this:
The long cold winter finally came to an end. The kitchen was finished, the stone floor was laid and the living room was redecorated. I managed to start planting my garden, and spent quite a lot of time weeding and pruning. Other people came and did major hacking and pruning.
I went to San Francisco, to the Garden Bloggers' Fling, where I felt a bit of a fraud (having not written a single post for half a year). By the time I got back, a heatwave was in full swing, thus putting paid to any good intentions I had about catching up with my blog. Oh, and I won second prize in the village show for my picture of a lupin in the rain.
I've posted some pictures here, because I know how much peop…

I, Rufus

You may be wondering why there has been very little news from Awkward Hill recently. That's because Victoria has been very busy looking after ME. My name is Rufus, I am a Tibetan Terrier, and I'm 10 weeks old today.
I joined the family at Awkward Hill just over a week ago, and Victoria says I'm getting bigger and hairier by the day. I also like gardening, as you can see. (Just as well...)

We Tibetan Terriers are an honourable and ancient breed. We're not really terriers at all (that's just what ignorant Westerners called us when they first came across us in our homeland). We are working dogs, and for hundreds of years we have herded livestock and even guided travellers along mountain paths.
Victoria says that having a new puppy is like having a new baby in the house (except that you don't have to run round the lawn at 6am with a new baby). I'm training her to feed me on demand, take me outside to play ball every five minutes (yes, I can already retrieve a …

Gonna dust myself off, start all over again

If you're wondering why I haven't responded to the email you sent me, or the text message, here's why. The entire house is under a layer of dust, or dust sheets, while the new floor is laid in the kitchen and the hall. Most of the time, my computer is under a layer of dust, or dust sheets, and so is my mobile, and the land line. During the next few days, life will become even more complicated because a self-levelling screed is going down tomorrow, which needs 24 hours to set. I haven't quite worked out how I am going to negotiate this, since the screeded bit will be between my bedroom (where I sleep, obviously) and the living room (where all my stuff is). It's all very well having the contents of the kitchen in the living room if I can't actually access the microwave and the fridge. The cats will be OK, because I'll shut them in the living room with a litter tray and their food. Come to think of it, I might even get myself a litter tray.

The living room, w…

That "leave the garden for a year" rule

Running two blogs is trickier than I thought. When I started up this blog, about life in Bibury, Gloucestershire, I thought I would use my old blog, Victoria's Backyard, to write about gardening in general, and my new blog to write specifically about my own house and garden. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but only a couple of months in, I find myself writing about a subject that would sit equally well on either. So ... it's going on both! Apologies if you feel cheated. What can I say? I'm a cheapskate.
The classic advice when you move into a new house and garden is to leave the garden for a year before you make any changes. This allows you to see what is in the garden - to identify trees that may not have been in leaf when you moved in; to discover what bulbs come up in spring; to find out where the hot/dry spots and the cool/damp spots are; to determine the best place (shady or sunny, depending on your personal taste) to put your garden table and chairs; to see …