My garden so far: May 2019

I say my garden, but really I mean my green spaces as there will be a bit about my allotment here, too.

Gardening and especially the allotment have had to take a backseat yet again this year as I am now 4 months pregnant! There has been much more nausea this time and I have also felt weaker, so really haven’t felt up to digging. Nonetheless, as I managed to plant a few things at home last summer and persuaded a few friends to dig over a bed for me earlier this year, there are a few things to share.

We have a pretty big front yard, but only a tiny patch of can be planted at the moment. I hope that eventually I’ll expand it, but that’s very much a long term project. When we moved in, there was a very ugly shrub in the area that was dug over. Last year I finally dug it out & replaced it – there are now two young peonies and a young hydrangea there alongside various perennials. This year the peonies and hydrangeas are still tiny (as to be expected), but other things have come out already. I’ll share more of the garden as it develops.

There is a bleeding heart that I bought reduced for £1.50 last year.

Two kinds of columbine, including one particularly beautiful white one with huge flowers.

A foxglove (actually, 3 spikes) that I bought for 50p at a florist that was closing.

Some dutch irises that are starting to bud and will hopefully open in the next month or so.

Meanwhile, it’s chaos at the allotment! I am so annoyed with myself for not digging in January like I’d planned before; I started feeling unwell at peak opportunity, unfortunately. But on Good Friday, I did invite some friends for a picnic and they very generously dug over a bed for me. I’ve managed to plant 3 rows of potatoes, two rows of peas, and a row of beets. I’ve been trying to pop down with Mabel every now and then to check on things and keep that bed clear. In an ideal world, I will also get another bed slightly prepared so I can scatter some wildflower seeds to encourage pollinators, if nothing else.

Making a garden

I’m sure I’ve mentioned how much Mabel seems to dislike the allotment. We finally had one day a few weeks ago when she played happily while I weeded, but alas, it’s really too late to do anything there this year. Given that I never spent lots of time at the allotment, I am surprised by how much I miss it!

The positive side to this is that it has meant I’ve shifted my interest in plants to making our yard look a bit better. Well, at least one corner of our front yard. A bit at a time is a good gardening strategy, right? Only one part of our front garden (and back, for that matter) has any soil rather than grass or rocks, so I decided to start there. When we moved in, there was an ugly and diseased shrub there. I have let this little corner get overgrown with weeds every summer. I haven’t even given much thought to what I wanted to replace it with.

I started last summer, when I bought meadow rue at Kiftsgate Garden. Then this year I was in Homebase and saw a bleeding heart for £1 and couldn’t resist. And that in turn got me to thinking about what would look nice with a bleeding heart…so it all developed organically. I persuaded a friend to take me to a local nursery, where I bought a white rue and two peonies (one white, one dark red). I guess now I’m committed to a garden with perennials and anything that self-seeds. So far I’ve planted:

Rue – two kinds


Japanese anemone

Bleeding heart



Columbine (aquilegia)

Euphorbia (technically I didn’t plant this)

It is so nice to see flowers when I step outside! It makes me really happy. I also have plans to treat myself to a fancy Miss Saori hydrangea; I walked past one this summer and fell a little in love. Some Japanese irises might look nice, too, and I may just chuck some wildflower seeds in. I have also bought a dahlia and a white butterfly bush which will stay in pots until I’ve decided where I want them (definitely somewhere in the back).

I’d love to make the whole garden a little more bee friendly, too. Lavender is the obvious choice, and I will probably put some in, but to be honest I am not really a fan of the smell. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Kiftsgate Court: my new favourite English garden

This is a very delayed post, as my friend and I visited Kiftsgate Court on a whim back at the beginning of July. We had a day with no plans, but the beautiful weather meant that a garden visit was the obvious choice. Living in the Cotswolds, we really are spoiled for choice; Kiftsgate is literally right across the road from Hidcote Manor, for example!

I’ve not been to Hidcote yet, but I must say that Kiftsgate, which I’d never heard of (though it is apparently renowned for a variety of rose), shot to the top of my list of favorite country house gardens. Everyone has their own favorite style of garden, and Kiftsgate definitely captured mine. I mean, if you asked me to describe a dream garden, it would probably look like this. There was some structure, but the plants themselves were abundant, spilling out of their containers, effusive. The types of flowers really appealed to me, too, with a lot of large bushes with feathery leaves and light flowers. It’s also on a hill and had the most incredible view of the woods below! For a bit of variety, there were also some more modern aspects to the garden, such as a reflecting pool with lily pad sculptures where the tennis court used to be, and a new walk (not pictured) with modern stonework. There is of course a cafe, and while the mains were a little expensive, the cake was reasonably priced and everything we tried was clearly very fresh. The different areas of the garden aren’t always huge, which proved a challenge at times with two coachloads of German garden tourists there, but it still felt open, quiet and easy to navigate. Kiftsgate also sell some of their plants, so I came away with a meadow rue (a plant) and some angel’s fishing rods (seed) for my own garden. I’ll never have one as nice as this, but I can try!

Right, that’s enough gushing. Hope you enjoy the pictures. I’m looking at them and wishing it was still summer so I could go hang out there for another day. Have you ever visited a garden that summed up your own attitude toward gardening?


4 happy things & Poem on a Postcard

Unfortunately the last week and a half has been pretty hellish. And even worse, the reason it has been so awful hasn’t been sorted out yet, so I think there will be a couple more weeks that are nearly as bad. *sigh* Sorry for being melodramatic; I know things will get better, but I also know I’m in a rough patch for right now.

As a result, I need some cheering up. Thinking of 5 happy things usually helps, but I really struggled to come up with 5 today. So I’ve got 4 things, and 1 activity that I hope you will get involved with!

  • My tomatoes have started coming in. I had the first one yesterday & they are yummy. The variety is Golden Sunrise if you want to grow them yourself next year.P1060577.JPG
  • Pippa has settled into her new home well. Now when we wake up, she’s on the landing outside our bedroom waiting to say hello. It’s very cute. 🙂 Unfortunately she hates having her picture taken, so photographic evidence is hard to come by.P1060544
  • Time off with R. I love him dearly, but he almost never takes time off. Last week we had the entire week off together, and while we had to stay in town, we did amble around all the local charity shops, watch a ton of Game of Thrones, and go to the cinema to watch Star Trek Beyond. It was lovely.
  • I am grateful that I work where I do, where I have sympathetic managers who actively encourage me to take time off when I need it. My dad’s girlfriend has been critically ill (as in, literally on life support) for the past 5 weeks, and he has had nothing but grief from his workplace for the time he has needed to take off to take care of her. I, on the other hand, have had only support from my workplaces, and also have a cushion of unused leave if I need it. It’s much needed right now.P1060537

And on to the activity, Poem on a Postcard! It’s a simple idea – if you send me your address, I will pick a poem (I am a terrible poet, so I promise not to write you one myself), write it on a postcard, and send it to you regardless of what country you live in. If you’re interested, send me an email at jennifer.howard86 at gmail dot com. Include your name, postal address, and anything else you’d like me to know – a particular topic you’d like a poem on, poets you love/hate so I can get a feel for what kind of style you like, etc. I’ll find a poem I think you might like within a month (sorry I can’t promise to do it sooner, but I think I may have trouble concentrating over the next week or two) and send it out. I always love getting postcards, so I hope a few of you will as well & will take up this offer.

St. Louis Botanical Gardens


My family didn’t take vacations when I was growing up. But at least once a year, we’d drive the 3 hours to the nearest botanical garden, Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis. I guess this is pretty normal for a horticulturist. 🙂 I think it’s one of the best in the U.S. It’s 79 acres, and features an exceptional temperate house and a 14 acre Japanese garden. It also has an educational remit, so it has a wide program of events throughout the year. Plus, it also has a world-class horticultural library.

As my mom had to pick R & I up from St. Louis after our time in Chicago,  we went for an afternoon out in the garden. One of the best things about gardens is that every time you go you discover something new. Previously I’ve seen the collections of roses, day-lilies, and peonies. This time the irises were in bloom, and my mom and I spent ages admiring the different varieties. I took so many pictures, but thought I’d restrain myself and share a variety of sights instead. I hope you enjoy them.


One of the mausoleums near the Henry Shaw’s house.


Peony pollen.


Iris. Composition inspired by O’Keeffe: