Garden Progress

Weeding, Planting, Bees and Bikes

After my enthusiastic start on the front garden in February, progress has been slow, mostly due to frozen ground, high winds and snow.

February saw me clear the bed at the bottom of the drive, order some woodland plants and plant them. The snowdrops made a brave attempt to flower despite being covered in snow several times. One Snakeshead Fritillary flowered beautifully before losing it’s lovely purple colour after the last covering of snow. But the remainder are definitely growing, as are the bluebells, but I’m not sure I’ll see any flowers until next year.

At the same time as working on the woodland bed I started at the very top of the main front garden, which is on a steep slope and tiered. My plan is to tidy all the tiers up, see what pops up over the summer, add a couple more shrubs and plant some herbs.

Herb and Shrub Plan
Herb and Shrub plan and shopping list

One of our first jobs when we moved in was to clean the windows. Not an easy task with the house on a steep slope as it’s difficult to find safe places to put up ladders. Even the local window cleaner refused! So, the shrubs at the very top of the garden needed cutting back to allow a ladder to anchor into the soil.

Shrubs at the very top
Shrubs had to be cut back to allow space for a ladder in order to clean the windows

I can’t wait to see the twiggy one come into leaf, there are plenty of small buds. It looks like it has an amazing colour in the autumn, if not the summer too.

A few days later I was able to get out into the garden again. Now those two shrubs were cut back I could tackle the weeds underneath them.

Whoever created this tiered garden put in a lot of work. Each layer has a weed suppressing membrane covering the soil with a few inches of bark on top. It must have been done many years ago as most of the bark has decomposed and the membrane just tears when it’s touched. Needless to say, the weeds are growing through. It soon became apparent that as much of the membrane as possible needed removing in order to dig out the deep weed roots. It was going to be a slow project.

I now have a process – weed the top layer and then move it to a cleared section. Pull up the membrane (which rips away in small bits) and dig out the weed roots, then put the top layer back. Much to my surprise, it’s very satisfying!

Looking down on the tiered garden
Lots of work to be done!

Whenever I needed a break, I pulled out all the old Crocosmia leaves. I like Crocosmia very much but it does spread everywhere. This is the case in my new garden, so I’m digging out lots of Crocosmia bulbs with the weeds, on purpose!

Croscosmia die back behind white Heather
I think the Crocosmia needs to be tidied up!

Once I’d weeded around the top two shrubs, I moved down to the next tier and ended up with a bare patch, crying out for another plant. So off we went to the garden centre, returning with a Mahonia. I love it’s spiky looking leaves which contrast well with the more regular shaped leaves of the other shrubs. Next winter I should have some beautiful yellow flowers to match the yellow in the leaves of it’s neighbours.

Mahonia
Newly planted Mahonia

Then came the “Beast from the East”. Twice!

No more work on the garden until last weekend, when the sun came out and I got warm enough to strip down to a T-shirt!

The poor Mahonia looks a bit worse for wear, with browning leaves. I think it may have winter burn. It hadn’t had chance to properly settle in. I’m keeping an eye on it and hoping it’ll recover.

Continuing my process – clear top layer, pull up membrane, dig out roots, put top layer back – I ended up with another gap. I had two small lavenders and a rosemary waiting to be planted out. So in went one of the lavenders. Although the soil is quite heavy, it’s very well drained, due to the steep slope, so I’m hoping any lavenders I plant will thrive. Next door has quite a few, which look a bit sad after the snow but they were lovely in December when we moved in.

Lavender and Mahonia
Found space for a Lavender

Sitting on the wall to admire my work, I realised there were lots of bees in the Heather. I was sooooooo happy! Bees and Butterflies, the name and inspiration for this blog. I want to attract wildlife into both the front and back gardens, especially bees and butterflies. And here were the bees!!! Unfortunately no matter how still and patient I was with my iPhone camera, I couldn’t capture a photo of any of the bees.

Then came another first for this year.

The gardening tools were put away, and the motorbikes came out. A ride out into Derbyshire to enjoy the sunshine, the never boring scenery (no matter how many times we see it), spotting new lambs and getting a bit chilly at the top of Snake Pass which had only been reopened a few days ago. There was more snow up there than I expected and the small lake/mountain pond was iced over.

What a lovely day. Here’s to many more beautiful days ahead, sharing my time between gardening and motorbike riding.

Pure Pleasure
Motorbike adventures or gardening?
Soulful Sunday, Walking Discoveries

Soulful Sunday: My Seaside Sanctuary

I’ve been meaning to write this for a week, inspired by Soulful Sunday started by Ali, the Mindful Gardener.

About four times a year I’m very fortunate to have a weekend break with a very special friend, Vikky. It’s my seaside sanctuary. We’re barely in contact in between and spend 48hrs chatting, walking by the sea, eating cake and drinking Prosecco!

We head over to Vikky’s beautiful flat overlooking the sea at Scarborough, a sanctuary in itself. All troubles and worries disappear as I walk through the door. The following day is a long walk, whatever the weather, usually along the coastline. A shorter walk is squeezed in on Sunday before heading home, refreshed and revived!

Scarborough sea
Sea at Scarborough (waves look much flatter than they were)

Last weekend was to be our first Seaside Sanctuary of 2018, and it had been a while as the previous one was in October. I was really looking forward to it.

Then the wind and snows arrived.

We both kept our fingers crossed and an eye on the weather forecasts. Here, on the edge of Derbyshire we had a fair amount of snow but the main roads were clear. Our house has overhead electricity cables and the first power cut came on Thursday (only for a few hours). I still kept my fingers crossed.

Vikky lives in a small village outside Doncaster. She’d not had too much snow and even the track to her house was drivable.

Reports from the east coast weren’t good though, very high winds, rough seas and drifting snow.

I was thinking it would be better for me to travel over to Doncaster using the motorways, when it was reported that lots of motorists were trapped on the M62, near Leeds, in drifting snow, the very part I would need to travel on. At the time I wasn’t aware just how bad the situation was for these poor people.

Friday morning, decision time, to go or not to go? It looked as though the route from Vikky’s house to Scarborough was probably going to be OK but part of my route to Vikky’s house was not. Many people were still trapped on the M62 and, according to the AA website, several roads on other options I had were closed too. Then came another power cut, which helped me make up my mind. I can’t work without power or internet. So I abandoned my partner and son (!!) and headed out, with plenty of warm clothes and a full container of spare screen wash in the boot of my car.

A couple of the roads I’d thought of using were closed, but I just kept to the cleared ones, heading out towards Chesterfield. In some places the snow was piled up at the sides of the road much higher than the car. This was my first thankful moment, to be living near vast farmlands on the peaks where farmers have no choice but to get out to their livestock. It ended up a very easy, stress-free, beautiful journey. Not many people were out and the views were stunning.

[Just in case you thought I’m not a very nice person, leaving my loved ones with no heating or power, it was all fixed before I arrived at Vikky’s house].

The second leg of the journey, to Scarborough, turned out to be trouble free too. My second thankful moment.

We’d heard on the radio that the stranded motorists on the M62 had finally been able to move. Other dreadful stories of people stranded all night on trains and still more people with homes that had no water or heating. To arrive safe and sound in Scarborough was a very long third thankful moment.

Whitby harbour entrance
Looking down over Whitby harbour entrance

The weekend was lovely. Friday evening and night was very windy, the waves were breaking far out in the very churned up sea. Some roads and paths were fenced off due to flying roof tiles. This died down quite a bit by Saturday. We didn’t go too far away for our walk, just to Whitby for our very favourite walk, along the beach to Sands End and back. The power of the sea was very evident, with huge boulders washed up on the beach. I’m always in awe of the sea; it’s power and beauty. Every walk along the same stretch of beach is always different, but always restorative and always full of thankful-to-be-alive moments.

Heading to Sands End
Heading to Sands End from Whitby

Sunday brought some rain and the start of the melt. Almost all the roads were clear and life was returning to normal for much of the UK.

A week later and I still think about how lucky I was to be able to go on my Seaside Sanctuary when so many others were having an awful time, to experience and enjoy nature and to spend time with a special friend.

Prosecco by the fire
The inevitable Prosseco, by the fire, at the pub in Sands End
Whitby Abbey
The beautiful Whitby Abbey