ABOUT PRUNING ROSES

Here I am enjoying one of the best moments of the gardening year – that first flush of flowers on the roses. It’s almost too much for the senses when suddenly all the buds open and you find yourself in a sea of frothy petals and heavenly scent. To get good blooms this summer you need to put in a little bit of work now. January is the perfect time to prune roses here in London, if you live somewhere colder you may need to wait until February or March. Better to prune late than not at all but do try to get it done before the roses put on too much new growth. Rose pruning is one of those jobs that can seem a bit intimidating but really it is quite straight forward and once you get used to the idea of cutting to improve the shape and vigour of the plant, it is quite enjoyable.

There are lots of great resources if you want to find out about traditional rose pruning. The RHS have straightforward advice and the queen of roses Katya @london_blooms explains the basic principles really well here. The main things to remember is that by making cuts you stimulate the plant to create side shoots which will give you flowers. Roses are really vigorous and will grow back quickly even if you cut them back to the base so don’t be nervous – chop away! And one more really important thing: remember to clean and sterilise your tools between each plant to avoid spreading any diseases.

Now here’s the thing. I have learned that gardening is a bit like cooking. You start by following the recipe closely until you get a feel for how a dish comes together. Then, as you get more confident, you can start to tweak the method and ingredients and come up with a version of the dish that suits you and your taste best. As long as you follow a few basic rules, it doesn’t matter what you do to get to the end result. And that’s when it gets fun. With gardening, it’s exactly the same. There are tons of different ways of doing things and you choose what suits you and your garden best.

With my roses I have followed the classic principles and learned to prune in that textbook way. Then, a few years ago, I went to Sissinghurst in May and was super intrigued by the shapes the gardeners had created with the roses. They looked nothing like the pointy sticks I had at home, instead the branches were swooping and curving. I can’t seem to find many photos of the roses from that trip but here’s one. It shows a rose trained along a fence with the branches bent into arches, each one tied to the one below. You can clearly see the side shoots that are growing upwards. That’s what it’s all about. When you bend a branch sideways, you encourage it to create more side shoots which means you get more flowers. Also, the rose looks really beautiful even when the branches are completely bare.

This year I have been reading a lot about rose pruning techniques and found so much amazing inspiration – there are lots of gardeners experimenting and creating fun and completely stunning things. Here are some of my favourite examples.

Will Smithson made this gorgeous swirly shape at South Wood Farm. This will work with any climber that has fairly flexible stems. Ramblers are perfect, they are really easy to twist and bend.

Intricate lattice shapes by Jenny Barnes.

Perfect waves at Barnsdale Gardens, image by Natasha McEwen.

Look at this fence by Rachel Burbidge – imagine when it’s in flower! Amazing.

Ok so this is when it gets really interesting. Jenny Barnes has taken things to another level, building up layers of spiralling stems and taming this humongous rambler into submission. How does that look in flower you wonder? Here you go:

I’m sure that training took a while to do but definitely worth it, don’t you think? Totally incredible. This rose can be found at Asthall Manor.

Another one from Jenny Barnes, a wall this time.

And in flower. No words.

With shrub roses you can shape them around a dome like here at South Wood Farm. Adore the way this gives you height and structure in early spring too.

Here is one from Sissinghurst, the stems of the rose twisted and bent around four stakes.

Love this look too, a wigwam with neatly spiralling rose stems around it. I’m going to attempt something similar with a couple of my roses – wish me luck!

My turn – here is my rose Super Fairy, a perfect candidate for the swirly treatment with it’s soft bendy stems that stretch to five metres. You can see last years growth sticking up at the top. If I left the rose like this I would get very few flowers at the bottom of the fence and the whole thing would get really top heavy. I want it to cover the fence and have flowers from top to bottom so it needed some attention.

Starting to move the rose away from the fence. Not exactly a quick easy job – at one point I was completely stuck inside the whole thing with razor sharp thorns digging into my legs and scalp. Lovely.

There we go! Off the wall and ready to be untangled.

Then, after all remaining leaves were removed and any spindly stems were pruned out, I started to tie it back in. Beginning to take shape here, the loops appearing in a completely intuitive way.

One section complete.

And finished! Now we just have to wait until June to see if it works. In the meantime I will enjoy the strange beauty of these loops and swirls.

To finish off on a less dreary looking note, my rose in full bloom last summer. Hoping for an even fuller look this year – fingers crossed!

Make your own bird feeders

The other day I decided to make my own bird feeders and it turned out to be the perfect lockdown project – it kept me busy for an entire evening and now that they are hanging up in our apple tree, watching the birds has turned out to be the most exciting thing going on right now. Every time a bird lands on one of the little perch sticks, someone in the house shouts ‘a bird, a bird’ and we all run to the window to have a look. Hours of fun – who would have thought! So there’s another thing lockdown has taught us. The materials for this are all things from around the house, the only thing I had to buy was lard. And the ribbon bow ties are optional off course – I think they look super sweet and right now when the garden is at it’s bleakest, having those tiny specks of colour to focus on really helps.

Here is everything you need: some empty loo rolls, twigs, garden twine, masking tape, oats, plain unsalted peanuts, currants, breadcrumbs and lard. I used a tray covered with baking parchment to place the bird feeders on while they set. To hang the feeders up I used some old blue cotton ribbon that I had at home but of course you could just use string if you prefer.

First make a small hole through the loo roll three of four centimetres up from the bottom. Put a twig through both holes and trim to size. You want about 6 cm of twig sticking out on either side for the birds to perch on.

Next get your twine and make a loop around the twig inside the loo roll, threading the twine ends through the loop to secure it. Then pull the twine up through the top of the loo roll. Put some masking tape across the bottom of each one, making sure it goes some way up the sides to secure it.

Now you need to make the feed mixture. You want roughly one part lard to two parts dry ingredients. I blitzed the oats and peanuts first to get a crumb like texture, that seems more suitable to tiny little birds than big whole oats. Melt the lard in a saucepan and add the rest of the ingredients, stirring until everything is nicely combined. Now you can fill your loo rolls up, making sure to push the mixture down towards the bottom so you don’t get any air gaps. As you can see from this photo, some lard seeped out through the bottom but it worked just fine anyway. Now put the feeders in the fridge overnight to set. Once they feel firm, peel away the loo roll and they are ready to hang up outside.

Hang your feeders somewhere sheltered from the wind but with clear views all around so the birds can see any predators that might be lurking around while they feed. And you definitely want to be able to see them from a window. Any spare feeders can go in the freezer until you need them. If you haven’t fed the birds in your garden before, it can take some time for them to find the food so be patient. But once they have discovered it they will tell all their friends and you bird restaurant will be busy.

JANUARY – THIS MONTH’S GARDENING JOBS

It’s a new year, January is decidedly dreary so far and we know we are all going to be spending all of our time at home for the rest of the winter. Luckily there are quite a lot of gardening jobs to be getting on with. This is a great time to lay the foundations for the gardening and growing year ahead, to plot and plan and dream yourself away to brighter days. The thought of things blooming in my garden in three or four months will keep me going for these next few weeks and I will take the opportunity to do some tasks that I would perhaps not get around to in normal circumstances. Here are the jobs I will be getting on with this month:

Pruning roses

January is the perfect time to prune roses in the UK. Most of my roses already have lots of new shoots so I want prune now to stop them spending energy on growth that will be pruned away. If you live somewhere colder, check when the best time is to prune in your area. I know a lot of people are a bit nervous of pruning – it’s one of those ‘proper’ gardening jobs that seem daunting because there are so many rules. But actually it’s quite simple and once you get your head around it, a really enjoyable job because you know that by doing it you prepare the roses to give you tons of gorgeous flowers in summer. The most important thing to remember is that it’s nearly impossible to cut too much, roses are vigorous plants and will grow back strongly no matter how you prune. I have been reading a lot about pruning and am going to be doing some fun things with it this year – will share more about that in a separate post. In the meantime I will be sharpening and cleaning my shears.

Plan what to grow this year and order seeds

An ideal tasks for a rainy January day is to sit with a bunch of seed catalogues, a candle and a cup of tea and dream of pretty blooms and gorgeous vegetables. I keep my catalogues by my bedside and leaf through them most evening too. As the first sowings happen in February, it’s great to order your seeds now so you are ready to go. Let’s hope we can avoid the long delivery times we had last year – I had to wait five weeks for my pumpkin seeds!

Clean and organise the greenhouse

It has been so great having the greenhouse in the run up to Christmas, I really loved making my wreaths in there with lots of candles lit and the scent of hyacinths filling the air. I didn’t tidy up afterwards though so now it is super messy in there. In fact, since we put the greenhouse up, I never really organised things properly so I’m looking forward to doing that this month. I will mix my own glass cleaner using kitchen cupboard ingredients and give the whole thing a good scrub before making sure everything is nice and tidy and ready for all the seedlings to move in there in a month or two.

Paint the fence

The suburban-looking, unattractive fence that runs along the left side of my garden is my least favourite element in the whole space. My climbing roses have done a great job, putting on a lot of growth in just a few years to cover a large section of it but as soon as their leaves drop, the bare fence stares at me and annoys me with its ugliness . Finally I have mustered up the energy to paint it – a dark green backdrop to my tulips in spring will be a huge improvement and I can’t wait to get started. Just need to find a couple of dry days and I will be out there with my paint brush. Any big jobs like this are of course perfect to get out of the way now before you get busy tending to seedlings and before plants start putting on growth and getting in the way.

Make bird feed cakes

I must say I’m really happy that we’ve had some proper cold weather and that it looks like it will stay for another while. The very mild winters of the last few years just don’t feel right, I think most of our plants need a good cold spell in order to go to sleep properly before they wake up again in spring. And as much as I love it, I need a break from the garden too! So I’m not complaining about the low temperatures at all, but it means it’s more important than ever to help the birds. I will be making my own bird feed cakes to hang in the apple tree. Recipe to follow!

The smell of Christmas – alternatives to scented candles

Scent is so important to create that super cosy Christmas vibe. I love a gorgeous candle and am always thrilled to receive one as a gift, but there are other ways to achieve a homely, warm fragrance of citrus and spices using things from the kitchen cupboards. As a bonus you don’t have to worry about the potential negative effects of candles which often use artificial fragrance oils and paraffin wax which releases toxic particles into the air when burned. And you will save some money too. Here are some lovely alternative ways to enjoy the scent of Christmas.

STOVE TOP SIMMER POT

Such a great way to get a gorgeous scent that spreads throughout the house in no time. A simmer pot is simply a pan left to gently bubble away on the cooker with some water and whichever spices you like. My top recipe so far is this: half an orange, one cinnamon stick, 8 cloves, 1 star anise, 3 cardamom pods and a tiny bit of vanilla pod. This smells almost exactly like my favourite Winter candle from The White Company. Make sure to keep an eye on the pan and top up the water when it runs low. Now that I have been working at home so much I’ve had one of these on the go all day – it’s the best. Thank you Johanna Bradford for this amazing tip!

ESSENTIAL OILS

For subtle fragrance I like to put a few drops of essential oil on a napkin or tissue and place it on or near a radiator. It’s great to use spicy scents like Frankincense, Nutmeg and Cinnamon at this time of year. For our bedroom my favourite combo is Lavender and Eucalyptus, a few drops of each – so calming and fresh. A few extra drops of Lavender on the pillow before going to bed makes that moment something to look forward to all day.

SUBTLE FLEETING SCENTS

Candles are amazing for that instant guaranteed aroma but I think sometimes more subtle, fleeting natural scents are even lovelier. Perhaps it is time to learn to appreciate these natural aromas again. Hyacinth is my number Christmas fragrance – the moment I get the first sniff of one of these blooms I’m transported back to childhood, remembering pre-Christmas visits with my mum to the local plant nursery to buy Pointsettias and Hyacinths. The smell in there… incredible. Of course you can buy Hyacinths as cut flowers but I think the way to do it is getting potted bulbs. Choose ones with a little bit of bud showing but not yet any colour, then wait and watch them grow and open up over a week or so before you savour the moment when the first scent is released. Blue Hyacinths have the strongest fragrance so I try to get those if I can. Classic pomanders are also nice, we always used to make these when I was a girl and hang them up in the kitchen window with some red ribbon. They will not perfume a whole room, but as you walk past you will get a hit of citrus and warmth. Lovely.

NOVEMBER – THIS MONTH’S GARDENING JOBS

We are already some way into November – how did that happen? I think I imagined that things would slow down by now on the gardening front but actually my to do list is really long and I feel like there is a rush to get everything in place before December comes. By then I want to have finished all the autumn gardening jobs to focus on getting ready for Christmas. We have had the most gorgeous autumn weather here in London, misty mornings followed by sunny clear days. Perfect gardening weather which draws you outside the moment you open the curtains in the morning. Fingers crossed it stays like this for a while longer so I can get everything on my list ticked off in the next couple of weeks. Here is what I will be doing in the garden this month:

Planting spring bulbs

Now is the time to get all those bulbs into the ground. A somewhat daunting prospect if, like me. you like having a lot of them. When all the bulbs have arrived and I lay them out to get myself organised, the realisation hits that the one who will have to plant them all is…me. It is so much fun to browse the websites and order the best varieties but I must confess that planting them is not my favourite job. But of course it is all worth it when spring comes around and you have all that unreal beauty in your own back garden so best to just get on with it. The good news is that tulips in pots are super easy and quick to do – I have actually toyed with the idea of growing all my tulips in post just because it is so much easier. But I do want them in the beds too so I need to set aside a few days to get this job done. Digging hundreds of holes in fairly heavy soil is very hard work so this year I have invested in a long handled bulb planter and I’m hoping this will make it a lot easier.

Order bare root roses

November is the start of bare root rose season and I always get a few new roses at this time of year. Buying bare root roses are a great way of building up a collection of them as they are more affordable than potted ones. You can plant them any time between November and March but I find it best to get them in now so they have more time to establish before flowering time next year. Also, if they are going into beds that will have bulbs, you need to plant your roses first so you don’t risk disturbing the bulbs. The trickiest thing about this is to choose which roses to go for. I have a long wishlist and will buy a few that I have been thinking about for a very long time. Exciting.

Lift and store Dahlia tubers

As soon as the first frost hits, Dahlia season is over. The plants will quickly wilt and go brown when the cold weather arrives and this means it is time to lift the tubers. In the UK, you can leave them in the ground and hope for the best – they should be fine if you add a bit of mulch on top to protect them from frost. I prefer to lift the bulbs so I can check how they are doing. All you need to do is dig up the tubers carefully, making sure not to damage them. Then you cut the stems off and shake the compost off. Some people rinse them in water to remove all the soil from around the root and tubers but I don’t bother – a little bit of dried mud left on them won’t do any harm. Leave the to dry for about a week then pack them away in a box and keep them somewhere dry and cool. And don’t forget to label them so you don’t end up with a lucky dip next near. I’m useless at labelling and remembering what things are but am determined to do it this properly this season.

Pot up indoor bulbs

For my birthday I received some indoor bulbs – lucky me! Now it is time to plant them up so the flower in time for Christmas. If you want to have paper whites or other indoor bulbs, make sure to buy the ones that are specially prepared for forcing.

Collect leaves to make leaf mould

This month I spend a lot of time picking up leaves. Absolutely love my gravel paths but it is not ideal when leaves fall. Each little cluster of leaves quickly rot down and become sludgy brown piles of growing material in which weeds can take take root and grow – quite amazing how quickly this happens in the moist, mild autumn ….. . So I have to keep on top of it and pick up all the leaves at least once a week. Most of the leaves go on the compost heap but I will stash some away in old used compost bags and let them rot done to become leaf mould. Leaf mould is a great mulch and can be ready to use in just six months. All you need to do is make sure there is some moisture on the bag and that it has some holes in for ventilation. If you don’t have many leaves to collect in your own garden, head out to a nearby park and pick up a few bags full of leaves. The feeling of using your own homemade mulch or compost is so great, it is totally worth the tiny amount of effort you put in.

Happy gardening!

What I know about tulips

There is nothing I get more questions about than tulips. I did a Q&A all about tulips on Instagram and was asked some great questions so I thought it would be a good idea to answer them here on the blog as well where I can expand on some of the answers. So here we go – here is what I know about tulips!

Do you keep your tulip bulbs after flowering or get new ones every year?

This is the number one most frequent question I get asked. The answer is that I buy fresh bulbs every year. Some tulip bulbs are perennial and will flower for many years, but to achieve this you need to leave the foliage to die back before you lift and store the bulbs. Since I have such a small garden, I need to keep it tidy so I can’t have lots of scruffy looking tulip leaves hanging around. I also don’t have anywhere to store the bulbs over the winter. But the main reason is that I want a reliably gorgeous display – fresh bulbs are the only way to guarantee this. It can take three years for a tulip to flower again and I just don’t want to take the risk of ending up with just a bunch of leaves. Extravagant for sure but to me, totally worth it.

Should you cover tulips in pots?

My tulip pots all stay outside over winter with no cover. Cold weather is not a problem for tulips, in fact they need a chilly spell to flower well. People who grow tulips in mild climates have to keep them in the fridge until it is time to plant them. Rainwater is also not a problem as long as you have adequate drainage – several holes at the bottom of the pot and some crocs or grit at the base. If you think about it, the tulips that are planted in the ground get rained on just as much but they are fine.

Do you need to water your tulip pots?

Yes! Over the winter there will inevitably be some rainy days and you don’t need to worry about the tulips drying out, but as soon as the weather gets milder you need to watch them. Water the pots roughly once a week in dry weather.

When should you plant your tulips?

It depends on where you live but generally later than you think, there is no hurry. Here in London it is very mild so November or even December is perfect – I have to get mine in the ground by the end of November because after that I’ll be too busy doing Christmassy things. If you live somewhere colder then do them a little bit earlier. I am not sure if this is true but my feeling is that if you plant them early, they will flower earlier in the spring. With the mild winters we are having I find everything in the garden is happening too soon and I try to do whatever I can to delay things. Tulips for example are a May time flower for me but this year they flowered in April. If I had planted them sooner they might have come out even earlier. So that’s another reason why I try to leave the bulb planting session as late as possible – I don’t want the garden to peak to soon!

How do you plant your tulips in mixed borders without accidentally digging them up?

It happens. But my tactic is this – I do all my tidying up, moving and dividing plants, planting bare root roses and other new perennials in October/November. Once that’s done the tulip bulbs go in. So between November and April I don’t do any digging and avoid disturbing the bulbs.

How do you choose the colours?

Oh my gosh, this is really difficult because there are so many gorgeous ones to choose from! Tulips websites are like sweet shops for grown ups, all those mouth-wateringly gorgeous and tempting tulip pictures… I find them impossible to resist. My tulip buying tactic goes like this: I start by identifying my must have varieties and make sure to order these early so they don’t sell out. Then I build my colour scheme around these key tulips, adding other varieties that go nicely together. It is quite good to look at some nice websites for inspiration – Sarah Raven have the best tulip collections and you can get some great ideas from her even if you buy your bulbs elsewhere. The next step is to wait for the bulb sale. At that point I sometimes go a little bit wild. I want to have lots and lots of tulips so I LOVE the sale! Having the colour scheme clearly worked out is super helpful at this point – I know which colours I’m going for so anything that’s left in the sale that fits my palette goes in the basket. That’s it! Until the moment when the all the bulbs arrive and I realise that the person who will have to plant them all is… me.

Do you need full sun to grow tulips?

Luckily for me, you don’t. Mine are in part shade and it works very well, in fact I find it really beneficial that they are in the shade for part of the day as it prolongs flowering quite a bit. I really noticed it this spring when we had such warm weather in April. My tulips carried on for much longer than other gardener’s I know because they were not sitting in the baking hot sunshine all day. I haven’t grown tulips in full shade but have been told it works just fine if you get new bulbs each year.

Where do you get your bulbs from?

I order nearly all of mine online. That way you have such an amazing range of varieties to choose from. I have ordered from Sarah Raven, Farmer Gracy, Peter Nyssen and Crocus. Am bound to pick some up at a garden centre or DIY store too if I see something gorgeous.

I hope these tips are helpful, feel free to ask any additional questions in the comments below and I will add them too. Happy tulip shopping and good luck with the planting, it can be a bit of a mammoth job if you like to have lots of them like me. Only six months until tulip time 2021 – can’t wait!

October – this month’s gardening jobs

Last year’s narcissi pots

The season is coming to an end but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do in the garden. In fact it is quite a busy time of year as you can start planning and preparing for next year – exciting! These are some of the jobs I will be doing in October:

Ordering spring bulbs

For me it’s too early to start planting bulbs yet but it’s definitely time to get planning and to buy the bulbs before the best ones sell out. I order the majority of mine online because that gives you such a huge variety of gorgeous things to choose from, but of course you can pick them up from a garden centre or DIY store too. If you like to have flowers in the house I would definitely recommend buying a few extra bulbs to grow for cutting – I can’t tell you how much happiness I got from my tulip cutting patch last year! More about bulbs and tulips specifically to come. It’s all I think about right now…love them!

Hardy geraniums that need dividing

Dividing perennial plants

Now is a really good time to dig up and divide perennials that have grown too big or look like they need reviving. This is such an easy and satisfying job – creating new plants for free from what you already have in the garden. I like to get this done before I start planting bulbs so I don’t disturb them once they’re in the ground. I have some geraniums that have got really huge so I will be digging those up for sure. Other perennials that are easy to divide are japanese anemones, hostas and Lady’s Mantle Alchemilla mollis.

Best nasturtiums I have ever grown

Collecting seeds

My nasturtium arch has been amazing this year and I definitely want to try this again next year, although I’m slightly nervous it won’t work nearly as well when I try to replicate this years look which was a complete accident. I will be collecting seeds from this years plants to dry and keep for next season. All you need to do is look for the nice plump ones, pick them when they come off really easily and leave them on a piece of kitchen towel until fully dry. Then you can put them in an envelope or paper bag until springtime when it’s time to sow them. This way you can get tons of plants absolutely free – win win! As well as nasturtiums I will save sunflowers seeds, calendula and a few other things. A top tip is to keep your eyes peeled when you’re out in a park or walk past any public planting. If you see plants with ripe seeds on them, go ahead and take some. As long as you do it in a careful, considerate way there’s no harm done and you get lovely seeds for free.

Viola grown from seed

Planting up winter pots

Normally I shut the back door at the end of November and hardly go outside until spring comes around, but this year I am going to make an effort to use the garden more in autumn and winter too. To have some colour going on all year round, I will be planting up some winter pots with viola, cyclamen and other goodies. I will put the pots close to the back door so we can enjoy them even on rainy indoor days.

Rooted rosemary cuttings

Taking cuttings of Rosemary and Thyme

So happy to finally have my greenhouse up because it means I can start growing things from cuttings – I have never been able to do this before because my house doesn’t have a single useful windowsill to put tender young plants on. Rosemary and Thyme are both quite slow growing and we use a lot of it for cooking so it will be great to have more of it. I like to root my cuttings in a glass of water before sticking them into a pot, that way you can see what’s going on and I have had a higher success rate when doing it this way.

Our visit to Cerney House Gardens

The other week we spent a glorious sunny weekend in the Cotswolds – English summer at its best. On the way back home to London we made a stop at Cerney House Gardens, a lovely hidden gem of a place. I have visited once before in springtime and it was amazing then with gorgeous tulips and other spring bulbs, so I was really excited to return in high summer and experience the garden at a different time of year. The main event here is the beautiful walled garden, situated on a slope surrounded by tall trees that filter the sunlight and gives it a real ‘secret garden’ feel. I love the vibe in this place, it is somehow very real and relatable, not as perfectly manicured as some of the major showstopper gardens but all the more lovely for it. Here I am standing on the steps at the entrance to the walled garden.

How about that for an entrance! I’m sure I’m not the only one dreaming of having a rose cascading over an arch in such a relaxed way.

Lots of roses to see here, how pretty is this baby pink one mingling with the lilac clematis – gorgeous!

The view towards the entrance, a strip off lawn flanked by deep borders on either side. Dreamy evening strolls to be had here.

At the top of the garden is this little summer house with a medicinal herb garden in front.

Bright orange day lilies showing off in the dappled afternoon sunlight.

Loved this combo of hot pink roses and crocosmia, so bold and vibrant!

Here you get a feel for the general vibe – relaxed, secluded and very tranquil. Such a beautiful spot.

There is a lovely Victorian glasshouse with cold frames attached.

Absolutely love these brick cold frames with the bench in front, a mass of poppy seed heads spilling out.

View from the top of the garden over the glasshouse. The Japanese anemones were out already and truly stunning! Mine are only just budding here in London but they are in a much shadier position so I’m guessing that’s why.

There is a lovely knot garden at Cerney House, I remember this looking spectacular in May time with tons of tulips peeking out from those box hedges. The box has been badly hit by blight but is currently being treated and I hope that it will recover soon. The structure of it still looks gorgeous and I enjoyed this part of the garden even though it was looking slightly sorry for itself.

And finally, the rose walk that leads down to the house. Such a lovely garden to visit, all very low key with an honesty box for the entry fee and self service tea room. Both times I have visited it has been really quiet with just a few other visitors which means you can really enjoy the place at your own pace. Highly recommend a visit – hope to return in spring next year!

THREE THINGS ON MY MIND – ROMANTIC NOSTALGIA

Instead of endlessly browsing Netflix for something decent to watch in the evening, we have been taking the opportunity to revisit a bunch of favourite films. I am not interested in seeing anything remotely challenging at the moment, it seems that real life is providing enough grit and sadness. Some escapism of the gentle, romantic sort suits me much better right now. The other night we watched A Room with a View, I haven’t seen it in ages and it was every bit as lovely as I remembered. Beautiful settings, a sweet story and lots of giggles to be had at the awkward genteel English and their preoccupation with manners and etiquette.

And of course I must mention Lucy Honeychurch’s outfits. If you are still not convinced about volume sleeves, this movie will do the trick. Plenty of square necklines, lace and embroidery too, all of which are key ingredients to this summers fashion looks.

That pale blue dress with the wide yoke and full sleeves… I feel like I have seen this look on Instagram 100 times just today – hat included! Cutter Brooks have helpfully put together great versions of some of the iconic moments from the film. Here is the tennis look, the meadow scene and the plait and boater hat combo.

Personally I am looking forward to putting on this cotton broderie dress, also know as the Suffragette dress because every time I wear it, someone asks if I have chained myself to any railings recently. But I love it very much. From Topshop a few years ago but you can get similar at most retailers right now or if you are lucky, you might find a vintage one.

Moving on. Robin Lucas has spent his time in lockdown creating a new vegetable garden. Talk about making the time at home count! Looking at this photo I feel as though I have been transported straight into a Beatrix Potter story, Mr McGregor just out of shot as he chases Peter Rabbit away. So beautiful and so very low key. Nothing fancy, all the materials found on site. Just lots of hard work and a good dose of that magic touch that money can’t buy. The gorgeous fence is particularly wonderful and would be quite simple to replicate. You can see more of the garden and listen to Robin talk about it here.

I have noticed a lot of references to the classic children’s book The Secret Garden recently – seems I’m not the only one entertaining my nostalgic side right now. To anyone with fond memories of that story I would highly recommend this book, also by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The making of a Marchioness is a really enjoyable Cinderella story with a bit of mystery thrown in. I wish I hadn’t read it already so I could experience it for the first time.

My edition is published by Persephone Books, they specialise in forgotten books by women writers. Here is a snap I took in their store in Bloomsbury a while ago. Would very happily browse away in there for a couple of hours right now.

Such a lovely store, I can’t wait to visit once we are allowed shop again. Until then I will support them by ordering my next batch of books through their website. Must always have a pile of good books on the nightstand!

TIME FOR ROSES

The unseasonably hot weather has returned and with that, the first few roses have opened in the garden. So I guess we can say that it is summer now? 20 degrees plus forecast for the next ten days and no rain in sight. Yes, summer is definitely here. First out this year was James Galway. This photo is from two days ago, by now this flower has opened out further and is the size of my palm. I adore this rose.

Next up – oh my goodness, just look at it! This is Olivia Rose Austin, one of the new bare roots that I planted back in November. I had this one on my wishlist for ages and finally got one last year. Good decision, how gorgeous is it! Like a perfect fairy tale kind of rose, the softest cool pink and the scent is incredible. I may not get any more flowers this year so will make sure to really enjoy this one while it lasts. And hopefully next year the plant will be bigger and covered in blooms.

And if you are wondering where to find me over the next few months, I will most likely be doing this. The other night we had the windows and doors open and I could smell the roses inside the house even though only three or four flowers had opened. The best time of year might just be right now.