Making my garden sing in September

I always find that August is a bit of an off-green month for me – summer is fading and everything is feeling tired and over the long, relentless, dry days. September, on the other hand, is a delight, bringing back a burst of colour in the garden. Berries, leaves on the turn, second flushes of roses, late buddleias in bloom, delicate cosmos, and of course magnificent displays of dahlias help to give the garden one last almight HURRAH! before the frosts descend.

I should hold my hands up and admit that I used to think that dahlias were naff – frou frou pom-pom plants that looked a bit twee. But as I’ve discovered the abundance of varieties currently grown, from the jewel-bright bold to the delicately tinged petals, I’ve started to fall in love, just a little bit.

pink dahlia flower

My front garden is soon to be home to two new varieties of dahlia, alongside the main dahlia plant that’s currently blooming for Britain, and the two self-seeded plants that I’ve left to mature. I’ve forsaken the overcrowded, slightly rusty crocosmia to make space for some “new blood”. I want my tiny front garden to sing in Autumn, a welcome sight amongst the utilitarian front gardens of suburbia (though, I have to add, there are three front gardens down my little road that I covet – beautiful little cottage gardens – and I think we’re all starting to get a little competitive now. It’s a good thing…).

As I rarely buy full-price plants, always keen to rescue from the reduced/neglected/poorly department of any garden centre of nursery, it’s no surprise really that we got two more dahlias at the weekend on a BOGOF deal. These two beauties should return with vim and vigour next year, although they’ll be replacing some of the heleniums under the cherry tree, adding some much-needed colour from a different end of the spectrum to pop amongst a sea of yellow.

Large pink dahlia flower

I look forward to exploring more dahlia varieties in spring – so after our recent purchases are safely planted in situ, as it’s now bulb-buying season my attentions will soon be turning to creating a riot of spring cheer. That’s tulips, narcissi and alliums to you and me! Bring on the flower catalogues!

A new season

I’m sitting here with a duvet, sporting a snuggly jumper and chowing down on a beanburger sandwich for lunch. Evie is snuggled down under a blanket softly snoring away, and the cats are curled up snoozing. Rich is at the other end of the house, quietly nursing a cold and keeping himself to himself. Outside it’s cloudy and there’s a chill with each bluster of wind that passes by. Autumn is definitely on her way.

It’s hard to think that a week and a half ago, we were rosy-cheeked (or in my my case, puce and slightly sweaty), enjoying a BBQ under the hot, hot summer sun. But since the bank holiday weekend, it’s all gone quiet. I don’t mind, after about ten birthday bashes this summer and two weekends of socialising and entertainment, we’re ready for some down time. Time to climb back in my headspace.

Garden rustic basket

I’ve started thinking about how the next season will unfold in my little potager. For now, I’ve been steadily picking raspberries from the bushes and pulling up a few carrots here and there to supplement dinners. E loves them all; at one year old she’s well into her fruit and veggies, and the more homegrown harvests I can produce, the better. When it’s not raining, she likes to sit in her swing and eat raspberries that have been plucked straight from the bush, giving them her full approval – “mmmmmmm!”. This is what it’s all about for me; feeding my little family when I can.

I planted in some potatoes about three weeks ago, and they’re doing nicely, especially since all the recent rain has meant I haven’t had to think about watering. We’ll have to wait until Christmas to enjoy the Picasso potatoes, but maybe our Christmas dinner roast potatoes will be a bit more special this year.

But soon everything will be harvested and eaten, and I’ll need to think ahead.

Here’s the plan:

orange tulips

A new cut flower patch
For spring 2018 I’d like to have a spring cut flower patch at home, for bulbs and foliage. Pinterest is my friend when it comes to inspiration, and I’ve got a spreadsheet on the go for my spring bulb order (better start saving now). I’m hoping to experiment with selling a few bunches of flowers from the garden gate, but we’ll have to see how it goes. I may also need to acquire some lawn space for a new bed…

Winter veg
Once the carrots are done I’ll clear out some of my marigolds too (they’ve been amazing as companion plants this year) and make space for some wintertime veg. More leeks, green onions and perhaps some spring cabbages.

Clear a space for the shed!
This month I need to finish clearing a large swathe of the nettle patch to make way for my new little tool shed.

As ever, I’m trying to keep things as simple and straightforward as possible (not so sure the new flower bed aligns with this, but hey ho, something to look forward to). Finding time with a one-year-old in tow is always going to be a challenge, especially now the nights are drawing in, but I’ve got to keep myself motivated and just tick off jobs on the list as and when I can. Can’t ask for more than that. And it means I’ve always got a little “me time” to look forward to in the garden… at some point!

Post-Bank Holiday Blues

A sunny Sunday

August Bank Holidays in August are supposed to be damp and full of broken promises. But for E’s first birthday – which fell on the bank holiday weekend – it was hot, the skies were dry, and at times, even fine. We couldn’t have asked for much better, really.

We celebrated her birthday just with family; Rich sweated over the BBQ and I ran backwards and forwards with trays of food and drinks. E played happily with her aunties, uncles and grandparents, unawares that it was her special day of course, but thoroughly enjoying herself. It was the first time we’ve really shared our garden with family for a celebration, and although the garden isn’t picture perfect, it was good to invite people round and say “come and celebrate with us.” I finally feel confident enough to open the garden gate to other people, as we’ve worked hard to do many of the clear-up jobs that had been on the To Do list for years. It’s starting to feel like the garden I knew it could always be. My little slice of the good life.

For a week before E’s birthday, we used every available spare hour to rid the garden of years of accumulated guff – neat(ish) piles of wood, old broken chairs and benches, frost-damaged pots and seed trays, broken bricks and paving, old runs and fence panels – as well as tackling some of the denser, weedier patches of scrub and cutting the hedges back down to an acceptable height. It was tough to get it all done, but so worth it. I now feel we have so much more workable space, which allows me to concentrate on planting schemes this coming Autumn and Spring.

But after the bank holiday celebrations, and the initial satisfaction of a job well done, I’m starting to feel a little blue. It’s this feeling of only just getting by; treading water, getting from one day to the next without any solid progress that’s returned. It’s a bit ridiculous as we have made SO much progress in the garden, and the house too (after about 10 years, I finally have a full kitchen floor down, a kitchen table back in its rightful place, and four matching kitchen chairs). The house feels a little less like a renovation site and a little more like the home it once was. I think these blues are stemming from general feelings of insecurity and not feeling in control of my finances. The “treading water” is financial too; I don’t think I’ll ever feel free and settled until I have it sorted. And that is going to take a heck of a lot of hard work too.

I have to keep reminding myself that it’s up to me. We’ve already proven that if we set our minds to a task, we can achieve good things. It’ll never be easy, but I need to stop sinking and start believing my goals are actually achievable.