Friday, 21 June 2013

How Does Your Garden Grow? #KidsGrowWild

The family home I grew up in had a long thin garden that was overgrown despite my dad's best efforts to maintain a productive vegetable plot. There was no lawn to speak of, and certainly no flowers (my dad insisted that if you couldn't eat it, it wasn't worth growing). Despite witnessing the physical pain he put himself through with his relentless digging, I was always interested in gardening. He let me have my own little patch in which I grew Sempervivums  given to me by my neighbour and Marigolds (weeds according to my dad!) grown from seed.

It was Percy Thrower and the Blue Peter garden back in the seventies that really opened my eyes to the possibilities of what a garden could be.

I have lived in many different homes during the course of my adult life, each with a garden that was special to me. My current home has a larger than average garden for a town house with many mature trees. There is a lot of hard work involved in the upkeep and development but I love it.

I try to share my passion for outdoors and growing things with my 5 year old daughter and 3 year old son. Much as my dad did for me all those years ago, I have given them their own little plot. So far, they have 'planted' a whole lot of stones and off cuts of wood to create something only they appreciate! With the hard landscaping done, it was time to open some seed packets.

My children love having their own mini garden tools, just like mummy's. Here is my boy with his gardening equipment loaded up in his trailer ready for a day of planting.

I hope with all my heart that, as adults, they will remember happy days in the sunshine feeling compost running through their fingers,

tipping tiny seeds into open palms

and sprinkling them into trays with the promise of a miracle happening.

 I am fairly sure they will remember the watering,

and overwatering - which seems to be a favourite activity.

A lesson in patience must be learned as they wait for their seeds to germinate.

As I started this post talking about Blue Peter it seems only fitting that I borrow their much overused catchphrase with a here's one I made earlier moment.

Our 'field' of sunflowers

I love the excitement that growing things can generate and the appreciation of nature it gives my own little saplings. Most of all, I love spending time outside with them and giving them the sort of experiences that might just foster the same passion for gardening that has enriched my life so much.

Thursday, 20 June 2013


A couple of years ago, I used some money I'd been given for my birthday to buy two tall zinc planters - one for either side of my front door. They were not particularly expensive but I liked them and they were less likely to smash as my terracotta ones had when reversed into by my daughter and husband parking their cars on the drive. I planted them up with two Hebes.

They looked very elegant.

They looked less elegant when the Hebes died because of my forgetfulness when it came to watering them!

I replaced the lifeless Hebes with a couple of cheap conifers. They looked a little lost to begin with but were more tolerant to lack of regular watering and soon began to flourish. This last month in particular, they put on a spurt of vibrant fresh green growth and were looking fantastic. My sense of symmetry was slightly offended by the fact that one had grown lopsided but not so offended that I would have wished them gone.

The past few days, I have spent a lot of time and energy working on my front garden to make it neat and tidy. Borders have been weeded and pruned. The driveway has been swept and scraped and weeded and swept again. Part of the weeding process has involved doing battle with deeply rooted, viscously sharp brambles. It has not been a job for the faint hearted but the rewards have been immense. A real transformation (provided you turn a blind eye to the pile of trimmed branches in front of the garage door!)



To celebrate the culmination of my hard work, I bought two little solar lights for 89p each and popped them in my zinc planters to create subtle illumination of my front entrance. They actually looked disappointingly stupid but I decided to roll with the idea until  I'd seen them after dark in all their glory.

I'd just finished watching The Apprentice on TV (sublime entertainment but that is a different story). As I went to get myself a glass of a water, I remembered my new solar lights. I went outside to take a look. My brain could not quite compute what I was seeing. Or rather what I was not seeing. Both my planters were glaringly obvious by their absence. Unbelievably, someone had taken them.

It is a horrible feeling to know that someone has brazenly entered your property and helped themselves to something that belongs to you.

I suppose there is the possibility that my plants were abducted by somewhat misguided aliens who at this moment are performing probes and examinations on the unsuspecting flora inside their spacecraft. Maybe my plants will reappear as mysteriously as they disappeared, none the worse for wear and with an interesting tale to tell if they only had the means to tell it. It helps me to make light of the situation.

My planters were not of any great value but they were mine and now they are gone along with the small collection of stones and cigarette butts that found a home on the surface of the compost beneath the foliage.

There is a part of me that feels a little bit proud that my humble garden decorations were deemed theft-worthy but my front door looks very bare without them. I miss my pots. I just hope that whoever has them now is better at remembering to water them than I was.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Cut Flowers

A few days ago, my eldest daughter gave me a bouquet of flowers for no other reason than that she saw them, liked them and thought that I would like them too. She was right. As well as the lovely surprise of it, they look very cheery on my kitchen counter.

I could not do the same thing for my mother. She makes no secret of the fact that she does not like cut flowers because they die.

It is true, of course. The glorious, vibrant blooms will  fade and wither...

... but isn't that a reason to rejoice more in their perfection for that brief moment of time - to take the greatest of pleasure in their transient beauty.

And when those delicate petals become brittle and dusty, or flower heads droop as if  in shame or sorrow for all that is lost, I don't feel too sad.

There is a special place at the bottom of my garden with a welcome for those bouquets no longer fit for a vase - a welcome embrace of decomposition and transformation. They will be restored to perfection. A new perfection. A perfection that is rich, crumbly organic compost -  full of the promise of new plant growth.

There is something very comforting in that.

Monday, 3 June 2013

A Sporty End to Half Term

I was sad yesterday that half term was coming to an end - until my husband reminded me that I should never be sad that our life is moving on because we have so much to look forward to and enjoy. He was right.

It was a really good half term week.

Two of my girls spent some time away in Portugal with their father. I missed them but I am so glad that they are getting to experience things that I can't offer them - expensive hotels, free flowing champagne and designer clothes shopping.

My time was spent in a way very far removed from that sort of lifestyle - gardening gloves, a trowel, a bucket for my weeds and barbecued veggie sausages and burgers - but I loved it. The garden is looking better than it ever has and it has been so nice to have a bit of good weather to really appreciate it.

On Thursday night, I made sure that there was no trace of mud under my nails and got dressed up to go out for a meal with my husband. For my birthday back in April, my daughter Ivy gave me a gift voucher for a meal at the gastro pub she works in. This was the first opportunity we'd had to take advantage of that. My eldest daughter came round to babysit the little ones and her boyfriend, a retained firefighter, offered to be our taxi so that we could both have a drink. Unfortunately, as we were due to leave, his alerter sounded which meant someone somewhere had a fire that needed extinguishing. Obviously this had a higher priority than our lift so we made our own way to the pub. The fire emergency turned out to be two bins ablaze. Easily dealt with - no casualties! Despite being restricted with our alcohol intake, we had a lovely evening with amazing food: Mushroom and Shropshire Blue Cheese Wellington with Spring Onion Mash, French Beans and B├ęchamel sauce followed by Hot Chocolate Brownie with Raspberry Coulis and Vanilla Ice-cream. My mouth is watering at the memory.

I was up early on Saturday morning to take part in my local Parkrun. This has become something of a habit now and I can't recommend it enough. A record breaking 204 runners took part (although I believe one of those may have been a dog that should never have been registered!) My husband took on a marshalling role. I wasn't sure how I would feel having to run past him; red faced, sweaty and possibly struggling badly. I always want him to see me as a lithe athlete (a me that only really exists in my dreams). My worries were unfounded. His cheery smile and words of encouragement were lovely and I believed him when he said he was proud of me.

Photograph taken by a Parkrun Volunteer

The following day, I had the opportunity to show him the same support he'd shown me as he took part in the Cheshire Sprint Triathlon.

It was a very well organised event and the weather was kind making it a pleasure to be a spectator. I have my personal goal when it comes to running (to complete 5K in less than 30minutes) and he has his: to complete the Triathlon in the time it would take the Brownlee brothers to do it one after the other.  He completed the 400m swim (in an open air brine pool), 23K bike ride and 5K run in 1hour and 27minutes. I did a quick Google search to try and calculate the combined Brownlee bros time - but failed! Regardless of whether or not he succeeded in his goal, he did an amazing race and I am a little bit in awe of his accomplishment.

The little ones had a great time, mostly because there was a playground for them to explore but they also got behind the whole 'cheering for daddy' thing. It was very sweet hearing them both shouting "Run faster daddy" and "You can win daddy". His actual position was about halfway down the field of runners but as he crossed the Finish Line, Addy shouted excitedly, "I knew it - Daddy winned!!" She proudly wore his finishers medal for a while and to all of us who love him, he is definitely a winner and an inspiration.

Addy had now decided that she wants to do a Junior triathlon when she is seven. That gives us two years to get the stabilisers off her bike and lose the arm bands!
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