Stephanie’s Blog

Gearing up in the Greenhouse

Until recently the overwintering seedlings and early sown seeds have shown very little above soil activity, but as the days lengthen and (sometimes) the temperatures rise, there are definite signs of growth. It’s time to clean the grimy windows and get sowing in earnest. Now that I have some modest heat in the greenhouse everything is a lot less vulnerable to fluctuating temperatures.

January sown sweet peas

January sown sweet peas

autumn sown poppies

Autumn sown poppies



Autumn sown corncockle

february sown spinach

February sown spinach

January sown sweet peas

February sown dill

Starter Homes for Birds

two brand new bird boxesOur dilapidated old garage might have been pretty useless for housing our car, but its ivy-smothered exterior was popular with the birds who found many suitable nesting places. Our new weather boarded garage is very smart and is perfect for parking the car but it currently lacks foliage – so our birds need new homes. With this in mind – and with National Nest Box Week coming up from the 14th-21st February – I have bought a couple of new nestboxes. I’m still pondering where to put them – the north side of the garage would be ideal but the lack of cover may well put the birds off. Time to get planting I think, but in the meantime I will find other spots in the garden that are well out of the way of cats, sheltered from the prevailing wind and out of direct sun.

old dilapidated garage in garden

Old Garage

brand new garage in the garden

New garage

Sir Paul Smith finds inspiration at the Chelsea Flower Show

paul smith lecturing on gardensLast week I somewhat reluctantly took the train to London for a second day in a row to attend the late afternoon RHS press briefing for Chelsea 2015.  Don’t get me wrong – I was interested – it was the prospect of a two hour journey home on a crowded commuter train that put me off. I’M SO GLAD I WENT. Not only did we hear about the many tasty gardens that designers will be serving up this year, we also got to listen to Sir Paul Smith talking about how his annual visit to Chelsea is an important source of inspiration in his work.  He was fascinating and described his working methods in a very straightforward way that we non-fashionistas had no trouble following. He showed us slides to demonstrate how he interprets what he has seen and I was struck by the way that anything and everything he sees feeds his creativity.  I’m pretty sure that I barely glanced at a display of chrysanthemums in the Grand Pavilion, but Sir Paul registered the colours and used them for stripy socks (apologies for the poor photo). Red, yellow, blue and pink flowers in a multi-coloured border were individually used for a range of sharp suits. He told us that although the brightest shades sell in far smaller numbers than the less adventurous tones, they are what catch the attention and keep the business at the forefront of fashion.  It’s a bit like gardens really – splashes of colour keep things interesting but green is essential moderating influence that pulls it all together.  In the world of fashion it is navy blue.

Picking Limes in January

In the Garden

the first sign of the snowdrops in January 2015

The snowdrops are beginning to open

In the Greenhouse

the beautiful flower of iris reticulata

Iris reticulata ‘Beatrix Stanley’ is looking quite lovely

In the Kitchen

limes growing on the tree in January

I’m picking limes!


Christmas Tree Slayer/Sleigher?

Our tree was fading fast from glossy green to grey green – it was time for it to go. The decorations and the lights were packed away and the tree was carried outdoors where it was swiftly reduced to a pile of branches and its central stem thanks to the Christmas Tree Slayer/Sleigher (I didn’t save the sleeve and can’t remember the spelling) loppers sent to me by the good folk at Burgon & Ball. Investigating their website, I think this was a clever bit of seasonal repackaging of their Mini Bypass Lopper, but whatever it is called it worked a treat. TIP: I keep some of the individual branches to cover vulnerable plants in case very cold weather or heavy snow is forecast. I also shred some to use as a mulch on the strawberries in the tree has been lopped for recycling