Tag Archives: gardening

I don’t believe in writer’s block, but I think I’ve got it

I haven’t written anything in ages.
I know, I hear you say kind reader, if you’ve been bothering to come back to this site, (which is awfully patient of you).
I have tried.
There are several half-started posts sitting in the drafts box on a variety of topics from neglected regional newspapers to badly behaved children. But none are finished.
Yet I’ve been writing every day for almost 20 years. From local news to gardening and parenting articles, PR guff and copywriting, university lectures and reports, and of course, blogposts.
Ours is a house of writing. Two journalists. No escape.
Articles are written with ruthless efficiency. 1,500 words in a couple of hours? Easy.
But then I stopped.
Firstly too busy. I had a 9,000 word essay to write, which wasn’t journalism and was bloody hard. I’m still not sure it was right.
Then I was too backlogged with the amount unwritten.
More procrastination.
Then I just couldn’t.
Then felt depressed I couldn’t. “Don’t be stupid Hilary, just write a bloody post,” said the voice of my sleepless nights.
Still nothing. Blank screen.
Before the ‘block’ I lost a long term weekly writing contract (this was some months ago), without any real notice, explanation or actual final date.
I suspect it’s had a deeper effect than just the initial anger and disappointment, especially as it was left hanging so I couldn’t offer my services elsewhere.
Whatever the cause, my previous skepticism of writers’ block is cancelled.
It’s taken nine days to write this tiny blog post . . . and it sounds a bit whingey.

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Look, we’ve nearly got our wall back!

Just a quick post to show progress on the fallen wall this week, thanks to the fast work of Kev the builder and his boys.

From this last weekend . . .

 

To this by Thursday, and that’s before the sunshine moved things on even faster . . .

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The Fallen Wall update – things starting to move

Remember the nightmare of the fallen wall? It’s here if you need a recap. Or search ‘fallen wall’.
Well after much brick cleaning, plant clearing and depression, we’ve got the brickie coming in tomorrow to start the rebuild.
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He came last week and pointed out that the final bricks of ‘the ruin’ needed bringing down to soil level, so Bloke and the neighbours had some work to do over the weekend.
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The plan is to rebuild it slightly shorter than its previous vertiginous height and to abandon the lawn in order to stick in some raised beds on our side, to the same height as the elevated soil level on the neighbours’ side.
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This will involve a complete redesign for me but should at least keep the wall up another 100 years.
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I’m desperate to get this wall rebuilt now. It may not have been much of a summer but you still need that garden to potter about in.
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It’s also going to soak up a couple of grand in cash we don’t really have. But at the moment I’d do pretty much anything to get our privacy back.
More updates as the building
starts . . .

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How my garden was obliterated in less than three seconds

IT has taken eight years to develop my shady, urban, child-infested back garden, but it took less than three seconds to destroy it.

At around 1.30am on Sunday, I was woken by what felt like the house shaking. Or was it just a dream? My nocturnal other-half came to bed a few minutes later.

“The wall in the back garden has collapsed,” he muttered, before rolling over and attempting to go to sleep.

That wasn’t going to happen. I was wide awake. I went to peer out of the children’s bedroom window to see what he was talking about. It was too dark.

Downstairs to the window nearest the garden. All I could see was a sheet of the climber hydrangea petiolaris, hanging forlornly in a sheet, not clinging to much at all.

As I peered I could see . . .well, not the garden anymore. Just a sheet of bricks. It was an extraordinary sight. Like an instant patio.

. . . after

To be honest, I cried. Yes, I know it’s just a garden and the fact it happened in the night meant everyone is still alive (it would have killed anyone in the garden, it fell so fast), but after recent nocturnal misadventures, like the car getting squashed and finding a strange drunk man asleep in the dining room, it just feels like we are cursed by bad luck.

Self pity? Yeah, but it took me eight years to build that garden. I write about it as a garden journalist. So no, I don’t feel very laid back about it at all.

The wall was too tall. A Victorian garden wall, bordering the large garden of our neighbouring house’s garden really, all the way around their’s, just one border on ours. It had stood for over 120 years, and yet collapsed in one devastating sheet of bricks, covering the right hand garden border and our entire lawn. A lawn the kids had been playing on just 36 hours earlier.

The following morning it felt unreal to see it. Huge amounts of brickdust covered all the plants and the neighbours’ outside lights, strung presumably on their side, where the ground is a foot or so higher than on ours. Like a horticultural Becher’s Brook.

I couldn’t even start to organise what to do next, as sons needed taking to rugby matches and general life needed to go on as normal.

Bloke spoke to the neighbours the next day. Discussions, apparently, that involved talking to our respective insurance companies. I rang them, they said they’d get back to us. They did, only to tell us the wall wasn’t covered because nothing had hit it, “like a car or something.” Unsurprisingly, getting cross and emailing them the photos didn’t make any difference.

Since then it’s been raining solidly, and each morning when I get up and look out of the window at the missing garden, a little part of my soul wizens. Under all those bricks, somewhere, along with all the other crushed plants, is a snowdrop named ‘Bonnie Scott’, named after my daughter.

What to do next? I can hardly face it.

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Hotbin update

Remember that Hotbin I had delivered at New Year? see here
It’s currently operating at 90 degrees and scoffing just about every thing I can chuck in it.
After a rather slow start, mostly because I thought you had to get the temperature up before putting much in, I took the advice of the manufacturer and started filling it with kitchen waste in earnest.
This happened to coincide with our council deciding to give us all a food waste bin (although our area still has to put out black bin bags, go figure).
So instead of our food waste sitting stinking up the yard, we have been putting about two small worktop binfulls of food waste in the hotbin every couple of days. A load of grass clippings about a fortnight ago also helped, and I’m told chicken pellets also speed things up.
The bin simply devours it. I haven’t actually managed to get it more than half full because each day the level drops. When you consider there are six of us in the house, that’s a lot of food waste.
As well as veg peelings I’ve just started putting cooked food in, and haven’t quite been brave enough to put bones in yet. Maybe this week.
My biggest mistake was to keep looking at the thermometer on the lid, which never rises above 30. Meanwhile, inside the temperature, using the extra thermometer provided, is far hotter, and today showed 95 degrees!
It’s a little smelly, only when you lift the lid and no more than a normal compost heap.
Unlike a normal heap, which just piles up and takes a year or more to break down, and needs a mix of material, the HotBin is right outside the kitchen door, on concrete, in a shady corner. But it’s doing an awesome job.

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Princess turns into Dirt Girl as worms become new pets

AS previously mentioned in these ramblings, our four-year-old daughter Bonnie is not absorbing the influence of her rowdy elder brothers and becoming a tomboy.

Quite the opposite. Much to my surprise and bewilderment, she can be the girliest of all girly-girls. She’ll always choose a floaty dress rather than trousers, will chat away about ‘pretty things’ with her pals, the Disney Princesses, and will pronounce, over-dramatically, “I’m scared” about everything from dinosaurs to the dark, (when she clearly isn’t).

However, she did me rather too proud at the weekend when I finally got a blessed hour or two to tackle some over-due gardening tasks.

Worm girl

Turning the compost heap has been on my to-do list for about a year, and as I shoveled the upper layers into a wheelbarrow, she spotted dozens of creepy-crawlies running, wriggling and slithering for cover.

I expected her to decide that she was scared of beasties but to my surprise she delved right in with her bare hands, gleefully collecting fat brandling worms and letting them wriggle about on her palms.

My requests for her to carefully put the worms back because they needed to be away from the sunlight fell on deaf ears – they were ‘her’ worms. They would be her friends. I had images in my head of finding dead worms in her doll’s house or chest of drawers.

I explained that to the worms, she was a giant – “I’m not a giant, giants are big” – and that she might be scaring them. Only then did she reluctantly give them up to go back into the compost heap.

That’s when she spotted the prehistoric-looking centipedes, running for their lives. She jumped, and hid behind me, unwilling to share my enthusiasm for the speedy bugs. “I’m scared of those,” she announced.

I’m keeping quiet about my similar dislike of moths . . .

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First garlic? Major fail

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My first garlic is rubbish. I suspected this might happen as I put it in very late, er, like March, and the best crops are planted in October-November.
If the cloves don’t get a decent blast of cold then they don’t split/multiply into a fat bulb. The ones I planted have hardly fattened up at all. Or split into bulbs.
Still, they are edible, and I’ve got another row which look much healthier.
Note to self: plant garlic in autumn not spring.

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Cottesbrooke Plant Finders’ Fair 2011 in pictures

ROOKIE photographer Jed Scoles’ first foray into press snappering. Enjoy

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Northants amateur gardener wins Gold and Best in Show for section with her first ever show garden

Elaine Christian with her gold medal, (photo copyright Hilary Scott)

AN AMATEUR gardener from Barton Seagrave has won a gold medal and Best in Show for her group at this year’s Gardener’s World Live event at the NEC.
Elaine Christian, who studied Fine Art at University built her first ever show garden in the Birmingham Borders section, which she funded herself, with help from family.
Despite no formal gardening training, Elaine not only won a gold medal, but also Best in Show for the Birmingham Borders section.
Her garden, titled the Land of the Long White Cloud, was inspired by a planned trip to New Zealand with partner William Portch for their 50th birthdays. It’s been a year of green-fingered success as her own garden in Barton Seagrave opened for the NGS charity for the first time this year and attracted hundreds of visitors.
Three first year students from Moulton College in Northampton also won RHS awards for their gardens.

Nick Hunt’s The Apothecary’s Garden and Shena Whitlock’s Banish The Can garden both won Silver medals while Carole Carrigans won Bronze for First Dance.
Gardeners’ World Live runs at the NEC until Sunday.

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Chelsea Flower Show: Monday is mental, advice for visitors

Just got back from Press Day at Chelsea Flower Show. How lucky. Tiptoeing through the tulips (that hadn’t gone over in the heat) was a delight this year.

If you are planning a visit this week, there’s a few things you should know. First, if you haven’t got a ticket, tough. It’s sold out.

Cleve West on his Daily Telegraph Garden. Hotly tipped for Best in Show, so my sources tell me

Second, it’s not like it looks on the telly. The gardens are smaller than they look and the site is enormous. It takes an entire day or more to see everything, and that’s when there’s

Laurent-Perrier Garden by Luciano Giubbilei – Nature & Human Intervention

only a few hundred hacks, snappers and celebrities in your way. ‘Public’ days are heaving, and you just won’t see it all. However, you should try to see everything possible, including the tiny gardens in the woods and the entire floral pavilion.
Get there as early as you possibly can and leave as late as you dare.

Again, don’t think just because you see ladies in floaty dresses and strappy stilettos on the TV that you can do the same. These are ladies who arrive by chauffeur-driven car or, at a push, a cab. They teeter about for a bit and get collected at the gate. Monday is mental. It’s so far removed from reality that it gives a completely different view of the rest of Chelsea week.
Most normal visitors will be carrying bags, traipsing from Sloane Square tube and back (about a ten minute walk) and circling endlessly around the site. It’s sweaty and exhausting. Wear a rucksack. Bring a wheely bag if you have a bad back. Pack drinks.

I’d start with the Main Avenue gardens and work around the outside of the pavilion. Then have a break before doing either the floral indoors or the gardens in the woods. Leave the shopping avenue until the end, so you have less to cart about, but don’t forget to leave time as there are loads of goodies (should have bought those gloves. . .)

Work out where the loos and food stops are on your map in advance when planning your route. There will be queues. Also make sure you know your train times. I left the site late, spent £20 on a cab which missed the turning for Euston and I missed my train by one minute, leading to a delay that meant someone else had to retrieve my offspring. Again.

I’ll have to come back and properly upload and caption some of the photos in the morning because I have to lie down and sleep. Happy Chelsea everyone!

Cancer Research/Robert Myers

 
 
More pics to come. . .
 
 

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