Exam results, some French knots and a potter in the garden

My youngest received her GCSE results yesterday. She did incredibly well considering what a horrible year she’s had, what with the pandemic, crippling anxiety and an Autism diagnosis at the beginning of the year. I am immensely proud of her. Today she enrolled at Art college to study Graphic Design and I suddenly realised I have no ‘school’ aged children anymore! It’s a strange ending to the school era. No parties, prom or presentations. Just an ending and a new beginning. Last year my second born graduated from university without all the pomp and circumstance and while I welcome the savings from having to buy posh outfits and prom dresses I can’t help feeling a little sad that Covid has denied them key experiences.

I am feeling pretty tired this week so today Mr Stitches at Six went off by himself and I’ve had a day to do pretty much as I please. I’ve been too worn out to really take advantage, but I printed off some Just a Card flyers to pop in my parcels and stitched some French knots for some cards. I’ve also been doing some little sketches in readiness for some new card designs so there has been some creative achievement at least.

Late this afternoon I had a look over my little garden. I trimmed the Lavender a few days ago because Monty Don said it was the right time to do it but it’s made things look a bit bare. Thankfully I have these striking beauties to look at now. I suppose they are Alliums but I didn’t really set out to grow them! They are the result of my eldest forgetting about the onions in her store cupboard and me not being able to resist planting anything that sprouts to see what happens. Well, this is what happens when you plant sprouting red onions out in your garden!

This lonely Gladioli is the only pop of colour now that the purple of the Lavender has gone. I’ve had to stake it up because it was leaning right across the yard. The Buddleia behind is going to flower soon but I have no idea if it’s purple or white because I found it as a seedling in the front garden last year. I like the fact that it will be a surprise but I am secretly hoping it will be purple so it doesn’t get lost against the white wall.

There is a real sense that Autumn is only just around the corner. The air feels crisper when I step outside at six o’clock in the morning now and I wonder how much longer I’ll be able to drink my first coffee of the day outside.

Some Lavender, half an Umbrella and an Eye

Not much to report on the sewing front this week. I’ve been feeling rather tired and my mood has been dipping again. Things have been unintentionally garden focused, which is no bad thing. On wednesday I took delivery of a little Lavender plant for the garden. It’s a variegated variety called Platinum Blonde and I’m not sure why I chose it because I’m not fan of variegated leaves on anything. I think I just wanted it to be different from the one we already have which was a wedding present from a friend four years ago. And purely by chance, the new one arrived on our wedding anniversary. How’s that for serendipity!

I don’t have much room for line drying here, so the washing hangs on a line down the length of the garden at an angle, which means the washing hangs partially over the planting. I’m thinking that once the Lavender plants have grown a bit bigger then the sheets might waft across the tops when it’s in flower and make the garden (and the sheets) smell lovely! By the way if you’re wondering why the four year old Lavender is still so small it’s because it’s been through a lot including severe neglect and a house move, but it’s getting there.

The other garden news this week is that we now have a parasol so I can sit outside without getting burned to a crisp. I had been looking at those sail things and trying to figure out how to anchor one to the walls, but then I discovered that half parasols were a thing. Perfect! Now I can sew and write blog posts in the garden.

I’m thinking some seat pads for the chairs might be one of my next sewing projects and perhaps a table cloth to pretty things up a bit. And some bedding plants for some colour are definitely required! The reason the border is so bare is because I wanted to give veg a chance when we first moved in but the shade and slugs made things virtually impossible so I’ve given up and have decided to fill it with some perennial herbs and a few favourite shrubby things.

I’ve also repurposed this bit of artwork of my daughter’s. The metal eye was part of a project from her set design degree and she’s happy for me to reincarnate it as a garden ornament. I will move it to the wall next to the back door eventually but there were already some nails in the wall where it is now so that’s where it will stay until I get my tool kit out.

How has your week been?

What to do with my frontage?

We bought our house back in 2018 and although we didn’t move in until October we were regularly peeking from the kerbside from the time of our first viewing in early summer right up until the move. During that whole time the tiny little bit of front garden was a mass of gorgeously sweet smelling, yellow Roses. On reflection I think the Roses may have been the reason I missed the fact that the windows could do with replacing and the garden wall is probably going to collapse in the next five years but hey ho. Roses though! Despite naming one of my daughters Rose, I have never actually grown any. I remember being a bit obsessed with Roses on fabric at around the time she was born and made her a cot quilt and patchwork cushion with some Kaffe Fassett Forget Me Not Rose, but it never occurred to me to plant a Rose! Probably just as well because we have moved three times since she was born, so unless it was potted it would have been left behind anyway.

My first instinct was to keep the Roses in the front garden. There were a couple in the back too but they had to come out so I could hang out the washing without it snagging on thorns. The two at the front of the house are still awaiting a decision on their fate. They are beautiful and largely self sufficient. Every year the other half hacks them right back with a view to us digging them out, we never get round to it and they grow back and flower so fiercely it’s like they’re trying to justify their right to stay. And I would be happy for them to stay if it wasn’t for the fact that the whole of the front needs a complete overhaul. Unfortunately I can’t see a way of getting on top of the weeds and clearing everything else without the Roses coming out or getting damaged if they stay in. I don’t use chemicals as a rule but this little strip of garden has been neglected for over a decade according to one neighbour so the weeds are well established and the ground compacted. I fear a dose of weed killer may be my only chance with this patch especially since I no longer have the strength or stamina for gardening that I once had.

It’s a job I don’t think I can put off much longer. Our house now has the scruffiest garden on the street and because it’s a mess people seem to think it’s okay to dump their crisp packets, coffee cups, face masks and so on in there. Last week someone decided it was the ideal place to offload a child’s scooter and skateboard so now they’re just sat out there because it feels wrong to get rid of them just in case the rightful owner is looking for them. It’s all a bit daunting and I cannot believe I used to manage a fairly large garden, with a thriving vegetable plot most years. Admittedly I was starting to find it a struggle towards the end which is why we opted for a house with only a small strip of garden at the front and back, but having no growing space at all would have been going a little too far and my mental health would not have thanked us for it.

So the front. What to do? Well whatever ‘we’ do it’s going to have to be me that does it because the other half is a bit rubbish at gardening. He’ll hack stuff down and take it to the green waste skip at the tip but for anything else I find he needs too much instruction and he has an obsession with using loppers for everything when a pair of secateurs would suffice. Best just to leave him inside watching Doctor Who while I play ‘avoid talking to the neighbours’ by crouching behind the wall. Does anyone else dread having to have a conversation with a neighbour or a passer by while they’re gardening? I’m sure this is the main reason why my front gardens have always looked more unkempt than my back gardens, every house I’ve ever lived in, no exception! I’m an unsociable sod, I know, but if they knew how much energy I have to spend interacting with them then I’m sure they’d leave me alone to use that energy on making my garden less of an eyesore. Honestly, talk to me while gardening and I will go in for a cup of tea to recover from the social interaction and never come back out again, well only after dark to sneakily tidy the tools away!

The only way I am ever going to get my frontage looking dapper is to devise a plan, stick to it and then hope nobody approaches me! So here’s my plan:

  • Clear the rubbish! This is not something I am comfortable with. There are discarded face masks, wipes and goodness knows what else in there. It’s a job for thick rubber gloves and maybe one of those litter picker pincer thingys.
  • Kill off the vegetation. Weed killer I’m afraid. I can’t get down on my hands and knees to tease out by hand and some of those weeds are well established perennials who think they own the place. I don’t have the patience to wait another year while they suffocate under a layer of plastic or old carpet.
  • Tidy up the edging stones. One or two have been completely removed but are still lying around. They just need putting back.
  • Remove dead vegetation (assuming the chemicals have worked!)
  • Level the soil and remove some if necessary.
  • Put down membrane and cover with stone chippings.
  • Pop a few low maintenance pots and planters on the stone chippings.
  • Stand back and say job done!
So we made a start!

I’m also toying with the idea of painting the wall. It is not the original wall and the brick used is an ugly orange sort of brick that is spalling all over the path so covering that up would instantly make things look better. But that would mean being out on the pavement while I painted! Almost certainly that would mean PEOPLE. Hmm. I’m going to have to think about that one carefully! Look! A Ladybird!