Well, hello there …

One or two people have been kind enough to ask what I’ve been doing since I last posted in June. To be honest, I felt I’d little to say … and am often overwhelmed by the beautiful photos on other people’s blogs! My garden (apart from the lovely situation) frequently looks so ‘ordinary’ to me. (Not to mention the fact that even my mother and husband stopped reading me … perhaps I have become ‘just another’ boring gardening blog to them?)

And this has not been an easy year, weatherwise. We suffered desperately hot temperatures in July and August, which saw off any positive feelings I had at the beginning of the season. I garden on a south-facing slope where my thermometer regularly read a previous day’s high of 36 degrees C (and some) every morning … and I dread to think what the heat was like near the rampart walls down below. I certainly wasn’t down there. Serves me right for gardening in the ‘English fashion’.

What did well in this heat on our very heavy soil? The roses … those that had been in the ground a few years … grew very well, without any disease whatsoever. But I did notice a tailing off of flowering at the beginning of August. In the end even they couldn’t be bothered to get up in the morning.



Above is ‘Mme Isaac Pereire’ (a photo of her last blooms, taken only a week ago), followed by ever faithful, best flowerer at Chatillon, ‘Munstead Wood’.


I’ve been silly enough to succumb to four more ‘irresistibles’ this autumn (bringing the garden total up to well over 40): climbing ‘Wollerton Old Hall’, ‘Crown Princess Margareta’, ‘Queen of Sweden’ and ‘Sweet Juliet’. All David Austin roses. And I’m sure that you can recommend another rose I should ‘not be without’?

The roses here take longer to establish than in any garden I’ve ever worked. It must be the very, very heavy soil, winter cold and hot summers. Three years and they finally start flowering properly. Even in two previous English gardens on heavy clay it did not take that long! Although I’ve recently re-read David Austin’s website and his recommendation that his roses like part-day shade. Oh dear …

IMG_7904The grasses were amazing – both Nick and I decided we had to plant far more, especially as the position of the garden highlights them so beautifully in the evening sun. (In effect we have a garden that demands xerophytes, but without the winter temperatures to support the obvious candidates.)

This is Miscanthis sinensis ‘Morning Light’ (whose foliage is silver variegated), but we enjoyed M. sinensis ‘England’ (with gold-variegated foliage/pink flowers) just as much. Nick came up with the grand idea of planting a line of Stipa gigantea at the edge of the drop down to the Hornbeam Gardens … a picture to keep me going over the winter.


Which brings me to the other issue of the season. I’m now (nearly) 59 and this is the first year that I’ve noticed a slackening in pace. You have to remember that the woman writing this has to lug heavy lawnmowers up and down 90 plus steps when she mows the grass – so don’t think I’m being too much of a wimp.

It’s a problem all gardeners eventually must face …. even if they are not stupid enough to have bought a garden on an extreme slope, like me, at the age of 55!

I give myself a max of 17 years here, which means I may never really enjoy my Quercus rubra or my two Magnolia soulangeana cultivars in their mature perfection. Come to that – perhaps nobody else will, because the next owner will come along and rip them all out!

What to do … mourn, be realistic for a while … then carry on planting.

I can’t stop, but it does feel sad to finally be creating a beautiful garden at the very end of my gardening career.

For the future (and in spite of the fact that herbaceous plants are my first love), shrubs – flowery, smelly ones! – will definitely feature more and more. And the grasses. This year I was sensible enough to plant my winter-flowering shrubs either in my tiny border at street level (a sniff away when I pass from my car to the house in 10 years time) or only a little bit down steps that are very slippery in winter.

Strangely enough, the veggie plot has given me much joy this autumn (and you’d think with a ‘near pensioner’ like me, gardening on a slope, that would be the first feature to be shown the door). Suddenly, after the desperate heat, all the brassicas sprang to life. Broccoli started giving like mad in September, kale grew like fury and – overnight it seemed – the skies above gifted me with at least five perfect, large white cauliflowers. And they were all sown in March and planted into final positions in mid-June. Not to mention that my broad beans (both those I put in deliberately and the self-sown) germinated so beautifully. Little shoots promising delight next year.

We never stop learning do we? Brassicas definitely love cool weather. Who knew that I would reach this ‘grand old age’ before I really believed it!

And then there were the little Cyclamen hederifolium tubers from Peter Nyssen that I planted in November 2014 (too late, as usual). Flowers this year! Oh ye of little faith …

Meanwhile, more pictures from our autumn garden.


I think I’ve been away too long, because I’m finding the continually evolving WordPress hard to handle tonight … but I’ll be back!

21 thoughts on “Well, hello there …

  1. Clare Hilgemann

    dear cathy, cat on lap holding down hand – so no caps…thrilled to see you are writing your garden blog again and i very much enjoyed reading it. yes it, last year was a very difficult one here with so much drought and heat in the summer – i think we all got discouraged – but everything that survived will have put down deep roots for next year – i hope…

    1. Cathy Post author

      That’s a nice picture of you sitting with the cat Clare! I know, it was very discouraging wasn’t it. Time for me to pull myself up by my bootlaces. Thanks so much for commenting, and see you soonxxx

  2. Island Threads

    so nice to hear from you Cathy, and …… you had a lot to say, don’t worry about family not reading your blog, mine don’t even remember I have one, connecting with like minded people is what I like about blogging and keeping a bit of a record of my garden now,
    lovely roses and I love the idea of a row of Stipa gigantea, I love my rows of pampas grass, so that’s where all the heat went, wish you could have sent some of it over to us we had very low temperatures barely hit double figures C most of the time,
    you make me smile with your old lady talk, you have more than a decade to get where some of us are, and I definitely know what you mean about slowing up and finding heavy work, well just plain heavy, I also know exactly what you mean about finally getting a garden late in life, I think people who have gardens, especially large gardens when young, even middle aged are very fortunate, I just hope that who ever has my garden after me will appreciate the trees and other plants, as I appreciate the conifers planted by former owners,
    I visited your blog a couple of times as I was wondering if my feed was not working, I just want to finish by saying I am glad you were reading my blog back in May/June and thank you so much for suggesting a lavatera, despite the cool temps and rain it did very well and both the cuttings I took are growing well too, I could see it through the living room east window and it has given me much pleasure, I would never have thought of this plant, thanks, Frances

    1. Cathy Post author

      Frances – what a lovely comment! It is nice to share like this, isn’t it? And encouraging words from older gardeners are so welcome. Yes, would have been nice to have started younger, but I suppose you just have to carry on regardless! I especially liked your comment about the lavatera – how lovely! I expect some day I will be enjoying a plant that you’ve recommended to me! Take care and hope the winter treats you kindly. I’ll be back on Island Threads to visit and see your progress again soon!

    1. Cathy Post author

      How very kind! It’s nice to feel part of a community – I will hopefully be back on form this week and dropping by yours very soon! Meanwhile, take care and thanks for commenting …

  3. Julie

    Cathy, I enjoy reading your blog, whenever you feel like posting, you have a unique garden and experiences which offers a window into a world I am not familiar with. Less is more as they say, looking forward to when you post again. Hope the weather there is better than the current grey very wet stuff we have here!

    1. Cathy Post author

      What kind words – and need I add that I always enjoy visiting your blog as well, and hope to drop by to see your progress some time very soon? And it’s great that you pointed out that all of us cope with different conditions, and that’s why we learn so much from each other. I know that I am grateful for the ‘window’ you and other bloggers offer me! Have a good week …

  4. Christina

    I’ve missed you. Like you I lose the will to live in the heat of the summer, this year was terrible but the autumn was wonderful, especially November I almost think I should go away for the summer but the vegetable garden always produces well. I am older than you and am thankful that most of my garden is flat. My roses ended up more dead than alive this year, I removed some. My free draining soil plus the heat make gardening very difficult.

    1. Cathy Post author

      How very warming to be missed, Christina! (And now that the heat’s gone, we need the warmth here.) I always enjoy your wonderful garden and have learnt a good deal from observing how you have done things – such an honest blogger! I love that. Sorry about your roses – I do hope that ‘Clair Matin’ is ok? I remember relishing your photos of it. Take care and I’ll be dropping by very soon when I get back in the swing a little!

  5. Paula Clements

    Hi Cathy,

    I did post a comment but I am not sure whether it was attached. It was so nice to read your garden story and to see the lovely pics.

    Thank you for your computer topics. I agree that sometimes it is best to stick with what works as I found to my chagrin when I downloaded the new Windows.

    Love to the cats and of course to you


    1. Cathy Post author

      Hi Paula – yes, I got your lovely comment and glad you’ve enjoyed. A lot of people – not particularly me, I like Windows 10 – have had problems with the new Windows. Love to you, Sapphira, Azura (and the others!) – and special kiss for Bien-Nee!

  6. Molly. Buchanan

    Hello, darling, this is your Mum! Still reading and enjoying it all…I love the gorgeous grasses. See you soon. Xx. Cats too xxx

  7. rusty duck

    Welcome back!
    This post has really struck a chord with me.. only a couple of years younger but with just the same challenge for the future, also on a slope. Mike and I carry the lawnmower back to the shed between us up the steps so I’m impressed that you do it on your own.
    Your autumn garden is looking lovely, grasses and seed heads I need more of!

    1. Cathy Post author

      So nice to hear from you Jessica – I wish I could take pictures of our renovation and write about it as well as you do! But, to be honest, I should really start. Being the proud owner of a very old fosse septique in France is no joke – and at the same so funny, sometimes you think you’ll die laughing (if you can get the right muscles to respond). Now, whenever I carry the lawnmower, I will think of the two of you! I’ve always loved grasses, but it was an eye opener to discover that in a continental climate they might be the xerophytes I’m looking for!

  8. bittster

    Haha, it appears as if your mum does in fact still read!
    I’m glad to see you back and missed your updates. It is a shame starting later in life, but starting new is always exciting… less baggage, and better to be a few years into it than to be a few years from starting.
    -and you never know maybe there are still a good 20 or 30 left, those stairs may keep you young after all 🙂

    1. Cathy Post author

      Yes, thank goodness she’s still there! So nice to hear from you. Hopefully I have the 20 to 30 years you mention (still working on ditching the baggage!). Funny you say that about the steps – it’s what I tell myself when I go up and down (except that a 6-year-old friend also finds she’s out of puff on them – maybe I’m stronger than I thought?) I look forward to seeing what you are up to very soon, now I’m trying to get my act together.

  9. homeslip

    Just catching up with you. I missed your writing and photos too, the ones here are gorgeous. You’re making me feel better about taking on a new garden at the age of 55 (I just typed 35, I wish!) as well as my 25 year old very small garden here and my 15 year old allotment. My new garden is flat, 0.4 of an acre, faces south west and is on free-draining greensand with limestone rubble, and of course it comes with ‘issues’. My dream is to create a cottage garden and to have many years to enjoy it, but first we have an 18th century stone cottage to make habitable… we have to hold onto our dreams.

  10. thegardenimpressionists - Julian and Fiona Wormald

    Hello Cathy,
    I’ve enjoyed reading some of your posts this pm as more rain lashes the Velux, and I dream of a good frost, like the spectacular header on your blog. You seem well on the way to a lovely garden, and as always it’s interesting to hear how many gardeners are experiencing their own weather extreme challenges around the globe. Such a shame that so few politicians seem to have any rooting/interest in gardening. It might make for some better policy making,
    Best wishes
    And as a rare ageing gardening chap blogger, I entirely sympathise with the slowing down that seems to kick in around now. Working out a strategy for hanging around long enough to really see the spring bulbs bulk up, is my biggest challenge …

    1. Cathy Post author

      How kind of you to stop by! I really enjoyed reading about your garden. I only wish I could visit. Sadly it is wet and horrid here as well. The banner on my blog was taken of the chateau and its grounds last year when we had a marvellous heavy frost. I so agree about the gardener’s ability to observe change in the seasons. Only problem is that there are short-term changes as well (50 year cycles) which makes things more difficult to assess. Certainly, we ought to have snow or heavy frost here now – we have, theoretically, a continental climate. I hope we don’t start getting more snow in April! I enjoy writing about the gardener’s ageing process – I think it affects all of us and we shouldn’t just write good news, but sensible reflection on our attitude to our own gardens. That said, if I stop dreaming, well …! And the bulbs, as you say, are what keep me going!


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