The Woodland Garden – a year on

Last October, we set about making a woodland garden at the front of our house. We have a piece of land which was basically used as a dumping ground ever since we moved here and before by the previous owners.

My original blog about the Woodland Gardens explains what we set out to do. During the past year, we have continued to develop it and it is now looking quite good.

We have added a path and a boundary fence, to one side. It’s just a rudimentary boundary but defines our plot.

I have planted around the trees. Around this Yew, I have planted heuchera, hosta, fern and a white bleeding heart.
Under the dead tree, which we decided to keep as a natural habitat, I have planted a honeysuckle. However, I think the deer have been munching the roots, so I have put some chicken wire around to keep them away, hopefully!
The path runs from the roadside and meanders round to the compost bins and round to the other entrance. We dug up all the brambles, spread some sand down and then added lots of bark chippings, so that it keeps fairly dry.
Around the pathway I have planted ferns, hostas, other shade loving plants plus bluebells, snowdrops, aconites and erythroniums to naturalise. I am hoping that wild natural plants come though too now that the rubble has been cleared and the light gets through more.

There’s no more to do now until the spring. I am planning on adding more plants and bulbs each year until I am happy with the displays.

I am more than happy with how it looks and am pleased that we decided to make it an attractive space. The wildlife are already there and I plan to add a few bird boxes in the spring.

What shall I do with all my tomatoes?


Well, we’ve had a bumper crop of tomatoes. I tried a new variety called ….. .They have done really well and taste good. At the moment we are managing to eat the red ones daily.  Each day there are more. I love going into the greenhouse each morning to see how they are doing. I am still feeding them every week with a liquid seaweed feed diluted with water. I haven’t had any bugs and I think that is because I companion plant the tomatoes with marigolds and basil. Apparently the smell of both deters the white fly. It works for me so I do it every year now.

One of my favourite ways of using the tomatoes is by making a tomato salad.


Ripe tomatoes

Basil Leaves

Red Onion

French dressing

Salt and Pepper

Simply slice the tomatoes onto a large plate in a single layer. Tear some fresh basil leaves over the top, slice some red onions and arrange over the tomatoes. Just before serving, season with salt and pepper and drizzle some home made French dressing over the top. Delicious!

French Dressing

2 tablespoons virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 garlic clove – smashed

Half a teaspoon of mustard powder

Salt and Pepper

Shake all the ingredients in a jar – that’s it!



As for the rest, I try to be imaginative and think of recipes I can use them in, such as Aubergine Parmigiana, Pasta sauces, Ratatouile and Chilli, but after that I bung them in the freezer to use like I would use tinned tomatoes. I wouldn’t waste any of my hard work.




What makes the garden look great in July?

Well, it’s that time of the year again when some of our hard work reaches fruition. We’ve had some produce from the garden and a lovely display of flowers that makes it all worthwhile.

The garlic has now been harvested and is drying out in the greenhouse.


We’ve had several meals of our delicious early potatoes. What’s nicer than a bowl of warm herby and buttery potatoes from the garden to eat with fish or salad?


My first lot of basil didn’t do very well. I wondered if this was because I bought them for a £1 at a cheap supermarket, but I sowed the rest of the packet and its looking great. I will pot them up individually and that should keep us going through the summer for pesto and tomato salads.


The bell peppers look fantastic and are actually dripping from the plants! I have used one in a stir fry and very good too.


We have had beetroot, radishes and spinach from the veg patch already. The aubergines have loads of flowers which I am hoping develop into some decent fruits. The tomato plants in the garden and in the greenhouse are all fruiting now. I can’t wait to have those.


The flowerbeds are looking lovely. Just a few gaps to fill to keep it looking that way. We have dahlias, arum lilies, day lilies, cosmos, jasmine, honeysuckle, alliums, crocosmia, passion flowers, love in a mist, to name but a few.

The wildlife pond is almost covered in lilies and will need some thinning out later in  the year.The newts have done their thing and have now disappeared from the pond again. They’ll be hiding under rocks and stones in the garden.We won’t see them again till spring. There  will be a few little ones in the bottom off the pond growing up. I only know their are there because when I use a net to get the blanket weed out, I sometimes capture a little wiggly newt. I just leave him/her on the side to slide back in. There are loads of  damsel flies about, their beautiful blue bodies shimmering in the sun light. I have yet to see any dragonflies but they will come.


I’ve tried over the years to have a succession of plants in the garden throughout the year but always find August a bit of a struggle. I’ll let you see how I have done next month.

By then I also hope to have harvested some tomatoes, which I am really looking forward to.

Whats happening in our garden in June?

I started to write this blog last week and this is what I had written …At last we’ve had some rain! I know I shouldn’t wish for it but I have planted a lot of new plants into the ground so they needed a good soaking.

Well we got some rain and more and more and more!! I suppose its my fault then we had so much ….

So here’s what’s happening (good and not so good) in our garden in June.

The Hot Border

I have added in some of the red dahlias (called Bishops Children) I grew from seed  last year. Let’s hope the slugs leave them alone. After all that rain it’s unlikely…

The peonies have come out but the rain has bashed them down now sadly.  There are a couple of pink ones which need to be moved to the long border as they don’t really fit with my hot colour scheme, which is reds, oranges and purples mostly.

The honeysuckle on the back fence behind the border is growing well. It’s gradually covering the right hand side of the fence and I am trying to train it over the grey curved wall.


The four new lupins are finally starting to bloom, albeit one is pink and should be purple! I thought they would be a darker purple than they are but they still look very pretty. They will look better next year.

The Long Border

The delphiniums burst out and joined the alliums and the roses, which both looked lovely, until the rain came. The geraniums are still being thuggish and I’ve had to pull a load out.

The Pond

The white iris  and water marigolds have died down now and the yellow flag irises are just coming out. The water lilies are out and look as lovely as ever. There  will be lot’s more  to follow throughout the summer.



The Greenhouse

This year I have had a lot of success with my seed growing. I have loads of parsely, coriander and lettuce. The tomatoes and basil  are now in their final places and the marigolds are planted beside them to help keep the white fly away.

The aubergines and bell peppers that  bought as organic plants look really healthy and I have great hopes for a good crop.


The cosmos are now in the long border and are growing well. The alyssum are a bit a slow and the rudbeckia didn’t all germinate.

The Woodland Garden

I have now planted the plants I bought from the Malvern Flower Show, the Tiarellas and the Spotty Dotty,  which both like shade. I had also been a bit ambitious and planted the Eucalyptus Tree I dug up from the long border. It started as a small shrub but has now grown too big. I’m not sure whether it will survive but we’ll see. It looks a bit sad and dead but I’m not giving up yet. We have loads of poppies which have sprung from nowhere. They have survived the rain just about.

The honeysuckle I have trained up the dead tree is gradually climbing up the tree. I’ve put some wires up to give it a helping hand. Once it takes hold it will cling on by itself and hopefully look as if it has been there for years.



The Vegetable Plot 

We aren’t doing too good this year. The birds have pulled up beetroot, spinach and spring onion seedlings and some things have failed to grow after I transplanted them, ie.the chillies. We’ve planted more in the hope that the birds will leave them alone this time. Last year they all came up and we didn’t cover them so why it’s happened this year I don’t know. Still that’s gardening for you!

The potatoes Mark has sown in sacks are doing great.


The garlic will soon be ready to harvest and looks good.

The Lawn

Hmmm… Mark was spent a lot of time trying to get the lawn back up to its best. However, there are now patches which he has had to re-seed but they are growing. We will add some more nematodes in July and hope they prevent the leatherjacket grubs from eating the lawn.

The Courtyard


The Arum Lily is my pride and joy. It comes up year after year and looks more splendid each time.


So that is it from me for a week or so. Hopefully we will get some sunshine  and the garden will look its best.



How to make Elderflower Cordial – no cooking required!

If like me you like a cold, refreshing and non alcoholic drink, you probably like elderflower cordial.

You can buy it in the supermarket but it is quite expensive. If, however, you can get your hands on some elderflower heads at this time of the year (in the UK) then prepare yourself for a real treat. Be quick as they aren’t around for long!


Elderflower heads

1.7 litres/3 pints boiling water

900g/21b caster sugar

50g/2oz citric acid – available from online stores or chemists

2 unwaxed lemons

2 unwaxed oranges

You need to collect about 30 elderflower heads. I make sure that these are not growing by the roadside, so they are not contaminated by car pollution. Just snip them off near the flower, with not too much stalk.

You may want to give them a quick rinse, to get off any little insects.


Put 900g of caster sugar in a large bowl and pour in 3 pints (1.7litres) of boiling water. Stir and leave to cool.

Add the slices of lemons and oranges, the citric acid and finally the elderflower heads. Give it a stir and leave covered for 24 hours, stirring occasionally. You will be able to smell the elderflower fragrance almost immediately.


After 24 hours, strain the whole lot through some muslin and transfer to sterilised bottles.


Serve by diluting with water, sparkling water, or sparkling wine for a delicious cocktail.

I am going to pick some more to make some brilliant Elderflower Champagne and will give you the recipe soon. I made some last year, in June and we opened it at a family party we had in August. It was really fizzy and delicious.


What’s happening in the rest of the garden?


The lawn may look a bit sad but there are some lovely spring flowers and plants in the garden just now.

I’ve finally got round to continuing with the woodland garden. Some of the plants I put in in the autumn like the hostas, bluebells, ferns and solomon seal have started to grow now. Unfortunately they are in desperate need of some rain to give them a boost.


I’ve planted a honeysuckle to grow up the dead tree. We decided not to have it felled in the end and to keep it as a habitat for wildlife.


I’ve pulled up a lot of weeds and left anything that looks like a wildflower. We’ve moved the compost bins out of site now and used the compost and  leftover soil to mulch around the trees.

The next thing I need to do is to make the path. I want it to meander round the trees. I am planning to make the shape and then just add bark for now.

The herb, vegetable and and flower seeds I sowed are coming on. I have pricked out some of the bigger ones like the tomatoes and basil and put them into to small pots to grow on. The lettuce I am growing in the greenhouse  is growing well and slug free.

We have some pesky critters ruining our lawn!

When we came back from Spain, our lawn was in a terrible state and looked like something had been digging underneath it. It was all bumpy and it was threadbare in places. The lawn keeper truly believed that someone had been in and sabotaged it, as it looked so bad! This picture was taken today so you can see what a state it’s in!


Eventually after much research on the inter web, we discovered that it must be leather jacket grubs which are the caterpillars from crane flies.

I always assumed they were harmless creatures, which I think they are, but their offspring can decimate a lawn in a couple of months.

Apparently the eggs are laid in the lawn in the Autumn and then hatch out early spring. That’s when they chew up the lawn and eat the roots. This is then followed by the birds and squirrels pecking at the lawn to eat the grubs which makes it even worse.

We have seen the grubs on the patio but didn’t know what they were. They look revolting as you can see.



It seems that there are no pesticides that you can use to get rid of them. You have to resort to wetting the lawn, covering it in black plastic, wait for them to rise to the top and them pick them up!! Well, him indoors has said he won’t be doing that. I feel really bad for him as he takes great pride in the lawn and has spent many hours scarifying, aerating, over seeding, watering, mowing and weed killing the blessed stuff and to have a load of ugly grubs undo all your work is soul destroying.

We’ve now discovered that you can buy a biological control to help get rid of them. It’s a nematode which you water into the lawn. It’s safe and environmentally friendly. So we’ve ordered some and are going to give it a go.





Springing back to the Garden

I have been doing a lot of work in the garden to get it ready for the Spring and Summer.

I spring cleaned the greenhouse – the little toad I saw in the autumn in there was still alive and kicking! I shall let him eat any slugs that dare to go in there! 

I bought all the dahlias out of hibernation and planted them all in pots and watered them and put them in my cold frame until the frosts have finished. 


I bought the agapanthus out of the garage where they had been sleeping over winter and  watered them. The white ones have started sprouting new leaves already. One of the blue ones bust out of its pot so, as I hadn’t got a large enough pot to re pot it I decided to split it in 2. Not as easy as it sounds. I was laughing to myself as I got the saw to it, I must have looked fairly comical. It nearly beat me but I finally managed to cut it into 2 and pot up into 2 pots. I am going to give one to lovely sister Angie for her new garden. 

The compost that had been keeping the dahlias snug I spread over the garden as a mulch,

I showed some vegetable seeds  – they are getting started in the office over the radiator and then I will transfer to the greenhouse. 

  • Chillis
  • Tomatoes
  • Lettuce 
  • Dill
  • Basil
  • Coriander


3C17945E-894E-48B1-BB39-14DE1390460AI pulled out loads of oxygenator plants from the pond. I have the balance right now and the water is clear but I there is just too much in there. I left the excess on the side of the pond overnight to let any wildlife return to the water, before putting the rest on the compost.D5E867DB-8374-4F56-90CC-F9909B02FA33

I sowed some flower seeds too:

They should all be ok in the cold greenhouse, I think!

  • Love in a mist
  • Rudbeckia
  • Zinnia
  • Cosmos

The vegetable plot is looking a bit sad. The only thing in there is some garlic.


We have started to chit the potatoes and will be planting them in sacks as we did last year, very successfully.

I have ordered some aubergine and sweet pepper plants as I haven’t been very successful growing them from seed.

The woodland garden has come to life but I need to do some tidying. We have the path and fences and new compost heaps to do.

At this time of the year it’s all go!

Growing Paperwhite Narcissus in water



At this time of year, there are not many flowers left in the garden to bring in the house,  so I like to plant these bulbs to provide us with some floral scent and cheerfulness during the dark and damp days. 

You need to make sure you buy the narcissus bulbs for in the house – the packaging will tell you this. I bought 12 bulbs for  £8 

Find a nice glass bowl  – I got mine from Home Sense a few years ago. I use it for displaying christmassy things like citrus fruits, snow scenes etc

Fill the bottom of the bowl – about half full – with clean gravel or pebbles, large or small

Lay the bulbs on the top in a circular pattern with the pointed part facing upwards.

Add enough water so that the bottom of the bulb is just above the water.The roots will draw the water up they need. 

Put the bowl it into a cool room. Add water when the levels go down 

Stand back and admire your work and wait for a gorgeous fragrant display – it will take about 4-6 weeks for the flowers to open, depending on the warmth and light of the room. 

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