The gift of plants

We are back in the busy world of full-on gardening after what seems like a long, damp and difficult winter.  How blissful!

As I get busy in the garden again, spending long hours out in the wind and the sun – weeding, planting and watering, – I seem to be re-acquainting myself with some very old friends indeed.  Why many of these are plants that have travelled with me from garden to garden, and a lot of them have been given to us by some of our dearest family and friends!

You see many of the plants that I grow in this Seaview garden are plants that I have grown in other places, at other times.  They are cuttings and rootings that I lovingly potted up and transplanted when we came here. There they sat, against the wall, in the wind and snow and cold of our first winter, waiting for us to start work on the garden in the spring.Arrival at SeaviewTake, for example, the alchemilla mollis (also known by its very charming colloquial name of Lady’s Mantle) – one of my very favourite cottage garden plants.  Here it is in our Northumbrian garden:Alchemilla mollisAnd here it is – edging another path – in the little Devon garden we used to have.Alchemilla mollis in DevonIn our Seaview garden, the wild pink geranium is just about flowering.pink geraniumThe white valerian is now out.white valerianThose too flourished in our Devon garden (the valerian on the right, and the geranium on the left).Devon gardenHere in Northumberland, the Lamb’s Ear plants are doing well – they particularly love our seaside climate.Lambs tails 2As well as the small garden of our terraced Crediton home, we also looked after the garden of the nearby mediaeval chapel of St Lawrence.  There are the parent plants of our Seaview Lamb’s Ear plants (as well as lots more Alchemilla).  On the very far right of this picture, you can see a glimpse of the rose we planted when Stephen and I married here (alas, I have lost its name – such a pity). St Lawrence pathHere is the cutting of that self-same rose, blooming in our garden at Seaview. (Bit of a cheat this picture because it is heavily in bud right now, but not actually in bloom, so I have borrowed a pic from last year to show you this beautiful rose.)St Lawrence roseAll these plants reminding me of other gardens, other places, other times that I have enjoyed.

In addition there are a whole host of other plants that have come from friends and family.  There’s a purple houseplant that was given to Stephen as a cutting some 30 years ago. Such an amazing colour.purple houseplantThis gorgeous pot of marigolds grew from a handful of seeds I picked in my cousin Polly’s garden last summer.  They have been a constant delight, remarkably flowering in this pot right through the autumn, winter and spring.Polly's marigoldsIs is a family thing, I wonder, this wish to pass on plants from family gardens? Polly’s lovely Cambridge garden had its own tally of traveling plants.  This fine yew tree grew from a cutting her father took in his Somerset garden.Somerton yewAnd here is the Ancestral Box, no less!  Her American mother, brought it back as a cutting from her ancestors’ lands in Virginia.Virginia boxOf course, passing on plants is an economy too.  A kind Devon friend gave me 6 raspberry runners from his garden when we first moved here.  We were so cash-strapped, and so grateful! We discovered that raspberries grew so well here that I supplemented our raspberry bed with other varieties.Raspberry plantsMy Aunty Jilly in nearby Edinburgh has been so very generous with seeds, roots, and cuttings from her garden.  There’s a Holly seedling from her garden in this bed, those elegant tall cream flowers in the centre of the picture also came from her garden (don’t know their name – can anybody help me out?), as did the Centaurea in the bottom left of the picture (not yet in flower).Plant from Aunty JillyWe pass plants back to her too.  Here are the sweet pea pots we have prepared as a gift for my aunt’s 90th birthday next month!sweet pea potsPlants have come here as birthday presents too.  Our apple tree was just such a gift to me from my parents.Apple tree giftThere are certain plants in my garden that give me particular pleasure because they have such strong associations with my late father. He loved to grow these little yellow Welsh poppies which have snuck into their courtyard garden at Wells in Somerset.Welsh poppies at Wells homeI grew them in our Crediton garden in Devon.Welsh poppies in DevonAnd I am so delighted that they are beginning to self-seed here too.  Many would call them weeds, but I love them and encourage them to grow, especially on the edges of plants and walls, where the soil is dry and poor (just what my father used to do).Welsh poppiesI come from a family of enthusiastic gardeners, but it is my father’s gardening choices that have influenced me most.  Morning glory, cosmos, sunflowers – these are all plants we have grown/try to grow/ would like to grow, and all plants he grew most successfully.

He also grew geraniums.  There were always pots of geraniums in the summer months at the front door of my parents’ houses.  Here we are outside our Farningham home in 1978 with my American cousins.  Amid the geraniums.geraniums at Farningham front doorLater, they moved to Budleigh Salterton, and again, here we are – this time in 1987 – beside the geraniums!geraniums at Budleigh front doorThere were geraniums too in the conservatory of their house at Wells.geraniums in Wells conservatoryNo prizes for guessing that what flourishes most beautifully and strikingly – and preciously  to me – in the conservatory of our Seaview home are geraniums.  Preferably scarlet or hot fuchsia.conservatory geraniumsWhen it came to his funeral last year, it was natural to make a posy of geraniums to sit on his coffin. The dark-leaved geranium is one I particularly remember him growing.geraniums for RHE's coffinJust as I was mulling over my ideas for this blogpost, what was to arrive from Rebecca in Melbourne but a little bit of Australian sunshine – a packet of her sunflower seeds!  Do you remember her writing about packaging sunflower seeds in her Needle and Spindle blog?  How extraordinarily opportune that they should arrive so perfectly to illustrate my own blog on the pleasure of gifted plants!  Thank you so very much, Rebecca!Sunflower seeds from Australia

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Spring is in the air – sort of!

Oh, how we long for spring!

We had some blissfully fine weather last week, and got very excited.  All sorts of spring activity is starting to take place.  The washing is being hung out again (for the first time for goodness know how long).Washing out againSmall plants are beginning to appear in the flower beds – Irises … (I just love the way they are so tightly and neatly scrolled as they poke out of the ground).Iris buds to comeSnowdrops …snowdropsLittle Daffodils …little daffodils in bloomCrocuses …CrocusesLittle pots on the terrace are more confident in the sun. Flower pots on terrace These marigolds (seeds from my cousin Polly) have splendidly flowered all winter.Flower pot flowersAnd there are outdoor chores calling for attention.  The raspberry canes are sprouting and will need cutting back soon.Raspberries sproutingAfter a miserably wet and windy winter, we are enjoying walks out and about again.walks in spring sunshineHow good to see the gorse flowering again.Gorse is outA couple of days ago we had a truly wonderful walk further down the coast from Beadnell to Low Newton (you can see the route we took in the Searching for Sanderlings blogpost, almost exactly a year ago).  Shadows still long, warning that it is early spring and the sun is very low in the sky.  Just in the distance you can see Dunstanburgh Castle.Walking along Beadnell bayInside, thoughts are turning to spring too.  Poe is starting to moult, and needs regular grooming again.  I think she’s a bit unwise to start casting her coat so soon, but perhaps she knows something I don’t.Poe starts moulting againSeed catalogues come out, and we begin to get excited about summer flowers.  Stephen has plans to build a pond this year ….Seed catalogues come outStrangely, inside our flowers are mostly flaming scarlet-red, which is kind of weird, – but gorgeous too.scarlet flowers insideAnd despite the cold outside, we are still getting salad crops in the greenhouse.salad leaves in greenhouseLast weekend, I was in London, and things are rather further on there than here in the north.  Just look at these positively Wordsworthian daffodils at Alexandra Palace!Daffodils at Ally PallyThere was spring blossom too.Blossom on tree at Ally PallyThen – just as we are starting to take this beautiful spring weather for granted, the weather turns and we get snow – or is it sleet, or perhaps hail?Grey and cold againEvery year, it is the same, and every year we get over-excited with the first signs of spring warmth and growth.  Back to normal for Northumberland.snow at SeaviewIn Moominland Midwinter, Tove Jansson tells the story of how Moomintroll wakes up early one winter (rather than hibernating right through as Moomins usually do) and thus experiences cold, snow and wintry wetness for the first time. Moonmintroll gets rather fed up with it, and comes up with this wonderful grumpy little poem.

Listen, winter creatures, who have sneaked the sun away,
Who are hiding in the dark and making all the valley grey:
I am utterly alone, and I’m tired to the bone,
And I’m sick enough of snowdrifts just to lay me down and groan.
I want my blue verandah and the glitter of the sea
And I tell you one and all that your winter’s not for me!

I’m with Moomin on this one!Grumpy Moomin