Gardening for the enthusiastic.

I named this piece ‘Gardening for the enthusiastic’ and not Enthusiast/Green-fingered/Someone who has any affinity for plants at all because I am none of those things and I can only write from my own experience.

I am Enthusiastic.

I find something/anything to occupy my time and GO WITH IT with such an intensity and obsession it takes over my life. Last summer it was Grow-Your-Own produce. I read up on everything to do with back-yard growing (as you know this fulfills another of my obsessions) and then collected up seed packets for veg such as Peas and Radishes (nice and easy and QUICK) Turnip, Beetroot and Carrot of various colours and mixes (root veg are my favourites to eat) to some of the more exotic like Khol Rabi, Mooli, Asparagus and Globe Artichoke.

Oh yeah, I had my meals planned out for the next eight months.

The thing was, I didn’t have much money and I didn’t have all that much patience. I LOVE growing things. I germinated those seedlings and brought them on and hardened them off and planted them all out with the EXACT amount of precision. It was only once they were in the ground and big enough to fend off the caterpillars themselves that I got bored. The pea plants gave me four pea pods in all. I had FIVE pea plants. The beets were bitter and evil and spoiled my wonderful beet and sausage stew. The carrots were three and a half centimeters long after five months of being in the ground. The lettuces, now this was the craziest thing, were bloody prickly and couldn’t be eaten they were so sharp! I bought all my seeds from reputable gardening stores and did what the instructions told me to do. The only problem was my soil.

After years of weeds and rubbish and neighbour’s cats toileting in the border, the soil was in the worst possible shape to be growing veg in. It takes years of care and knowledge to build up a good soil and lots of hard-work keeping it that way as vegetables take away the goodness as fast as you can replace it. Hard work is fine. I enjoy it when I can SEE the fruits of my labours (so to speak) but I couldn’t afford a quick-fix for the soil and my compost bin was in it’s infancy.

So this year I pulled out all the weeds and the four foot high Kohl Rabi plant that didn’t turn into any type of edible veg and OH and I have sown normal everyday pretty plant seeds- Aubretia to give ground cover, Lavender for scent and for the bees and butterflies, same goes for globe thistles, poppies of 5 types, Red-Hot Pokers, My love lies bleeding (a very beautiful drooping velvety flowered plant that is actually very understated), Sage (I want a herb bed more than anything and given the conditions of my garden think the Mediterranean plants might do better here than anything else), Pansies for pops of velvet ‘Black-Jack’ black and many other to boot.

The Ornamental Corn germinated two plants. The caterpillars took one. The Pumpkin germinated three out of seven (higher mortality rate to last years but the seeds are older) and the caterpillars have just had the head off one. The Lavender looks to be doing well and the caterpillars don’t seem overly enticed by the tiny baby plants so here’s fingers crossed on that front, the pansies look okay but are a little sparse in the patch we gave over to them, the poppies may not take till next year but I’m okay with that and I’ve not seen anything of the globe thistles or artichokes, red hot pokers or aubretia. I will wait. I will be patient. I will go and buy grown plants to fill in the gaping holes in my garden.

I would like to have a herb based bed with other plants adding to it. I think I’ll buy larger plants so the poor things don’t get eaten down by bugs or scratched up by the local cats (mine is a house cat so no probs there).

The only plants I’ve had any success with have been hand-me-downs. The Lemon Balm I found in a corner and split and replanted, it’s doing marvelously. The Shamrock that was grown out and is a close descendant of my Nana’s, both in red/purple leafed and green varieties, brought down from my Mam’s house and replanted here. The Loganberry bush which is thriving after my old neighbour gave it to me through the fence for me to tie in and get to take roots on as she doesn’t actually eat Loganberries. The Gooseberry bush which I bought last year and thought was dead due to the poor thing looking much like a dried twig until a few weeks ago, now I have the sneaking suspicion it was just using all it’s energies for root-formation. The variegated bamboo which I hacked to near-nothingness and has come back thicker and lusher than before as well as being a bit more compact. My powder pink Hydrangea that OH was bullied into buying me one day that as soon as it was placed outside turned shocking pink and then the caterpillars got it bad. I have since planted the thing and dead-headed it, giving it a chance to form stronger roots so next years flowers will be all the better.

I need to go to the garden center. Our border is empty and sitting outside in our hand-me-down gravel and concrete yard (the poor little thing couldn’t be called a garden yet) is just the slightest bit depressing…

Good luck fellow Enthusiastics. May the force be with you.


More from my Kitchen.

I’ve talked a bit about my kitchen before; the first large design project I took on single-handedly in our house.

I had to wait over a year after we moved in to replace the horrendous, greasy plastic coated cupboards which had mainly rotted out all by them selves. Brown tile with pears and berries on the occasional, even more disgusting tile here and there only adding to my misery when using the space. The oven we ripped out straight away as my parents had a spare little stainless steel one. The hob was actually fitted the wrong way, with the knobs along the front of the counter when the design was supposed to have them down the left. We had to take off a wall cupboard and trim the counter back to fit our fridge in the tiny space left. It had sat in the living room for a few weeks on the old, cream, badly stained (with what I hate to think) thick carpet on a part of our floor where the boards were damaged and sagged, taking the fridge with it.

I love books, so cookery books are everywhere in our new design. Black units don’t seem so dark when they’re not on the walls too. Plae floors and counter tops brighten it up further with white walls the finishing touch. I don’t know where my inspiration came from and to be honest I didn’t really think about the room from an interior design point of view. It had to be practical, had to fit, had to have certain fixtures and it had to have space for our little luxuries.

It feels a little like a swedish larder; two white open shelves hold (I kid you not) sealed jars of flour/sugar/dried coconut baking things next to all my pots of spices (which we use extremely regularly) pestle and mortar, big blue Denby Azure teapot and our pink Heart-shaped Le Creuset caserole dish, the other holding our cereal boxes, posh champagne and shot glasses and the bottles of Ouzo, Vodka, Rum, Tequila and Bourbon that look so good sat together. Organised chaos is my specialty and you can tell I’d be a bit of a horder if I wasn’t so ruthless. The windowsill is one of my favourite DIY’s. We had a huge gap from the window up to the counter top which should have been level (the extension ceiling is quite low considering the height of the cielings in the rest of the house) but happened to be an inch below the counter level. We had a hole. We have no tiles in the kitchen. I was completely ademant about this. I hate the thought of patterned tiles (hence the plain white in the bathroom) and didn’t want the room ‘busied up’ with them. So we didn’t have a quick fix to the gap problem. Our hob splashback (glossy black plastic panels) were cut in half lengthways and stretched along the wall at the back of the counter. Couldn’t use those either, they’d scratch if you kept putting stuff down on them.

Then I had an idea. My Mam has a bazillion scraps in her garage. I knew she had a spare pack of grey rough slate floor tiles. There was my answer. Chock up the inch gap and cut the tiles so they fit really tight in the window ledge with a little overhang onto the counter, slap down some No-More-Nails and plop the perfectly cut tiles on that. After they had a few days to dry I silicone sealed around all the edges as the sink is very close. Voila!

Here are some pics for you…

The space between the knife block and microwave needed some colour… Books were the only option.

My little baking and breakfast corner…

The window sill needed brightening up too. I have a lean-to outside the kitchen window that encloses the space between my extension and the nextdoor neighbours so I don’t need window treatments.

My collection of esspresso cups and saucers and the slate window ledge.

Coffee Corner is very different to Tea Corner. My two coffee machines here, both bought for me by my wonderful OH.

Above Coffee Corner is our utensil wall. Here I’ve also hung my pride and joy- my Le Creuset chef pan.

So, I’ve pretty much walked you though my kitchen from top to bottom now. I’m sure I’ll keep talking about it as it really is my favourite room. NExt time though, I may tell you about our bathroom…




We don’t have a lot of space behind our house and the garden is definately a hand-me-down design from the previous owners of our home. They have concreted 40% of it and thrown awful (what used to be) pink and yellow concrete-fake-stone hexagonal paving slabs over that. The rest, or at least most of the rest of the ‘garden’ is covered in shingle. URGH.

I do not like our garden. The only piece I enjoy looking at is the cattery and variegated Bamboo which sits next to it. The Bamboo is over-ruly and the cattery was the one installation in the garden I did with the help of my parents so Jethro can throw himself around in the fresh air and not A. Eat anything poisonous, B. Chase anything that can and will fight back, C. Get hit by a car, D. Get stolen (we live in an area where this kind of comment isn’t laughed at but taken quite seriously, I will eventually tell you about the bike-incident) or E. Eat anything poisonous (did I already say that? Well, he does like to eat ANYTHING green).

So today, the small strip of actual soil that can truly be called garden was sown with a number of seeds for various plants. I will list below;

Ornamental Corn- a great lime green, cream and pink stripe leafed variation that will sit at the back of the border.

Alongside this (maybe a little oddly placed now I type-it-out-loud) is a lovely small flowered (or will be, when it has germinated and grown) pale purple/white flowered clematis, which will creep up the trellis and into the passionflower that grows along the top of the wall.

In front of that we have sown Red Hot Pokers…

which we’re hoping will turn out half as nice as these.

Artichokes (the stately globe-kind)…


and Globe Thistles (one of my Dad’s faves and apparently one of the bee’s too.)

I really wanted structure and contrast so we went for structure with a fair few of the plants and stuck to clashing Hot and Cold colours of Orange/Red and Purple/Blue with a few ‘downlights’ of velvety black and ‘highlights’ of silvery foliage.

We’ve also sown…

Stock Night Scented.

and Salvia…

alongside THREE different types of poppy.

Paeony Black…

Mother of Pearl (shown below) and a Shirley Double type in our warm colours again…

In the mix there somewhere (we’re actually not sure where exactly) is a small patch of Amaranthus- Love Lies Bleeding…

with a smattering of velvety BlackJack Pansies…

to sit next to my pink Hydranger for another bout of colour contrast. Hmm, what else?

A nice bit of ground cover from some cheeky little Aubretia. We also threw around some Garlic Chives, Chives, Corriander and Basil for some quick herbs. I think that’s about it. Apart from my own Hydranger, a small gooseberry bush and some last-year’s success stories of transplanted Lemon Balm and ariel-rooted Loganberry vines my lovely neighbour has bequeethed me with, I have no original plants to work with other than a couple of hooligans. The roses I can’t quite pull out will have to wait (they are completely wild and in terrible shape having not been loved for the years they were left before we got here) the variagated Bamboo, which is getting a tad too big for it’s boots by sending out runners into the gravel part of the garden, is staying as I love grasses and the structure gives us some privacy.

Like I said, we have sown these plants in the hope some of them at least germinate and cover our soil with colour and form. I do not have any particular style going on here other than colour and form. Some will take, some will not. Some I will move around, some will become the success stories we dig out to take with us to any future home. I don’t know. I’m new to this and I don’t have money to throw at it.

What I do know is I have an eye for design, colour and form and I care very much for growing/living things. Hopefully this morning’s work will make me love my garden more and not just wish I was somewhere else when I am in it.


Kitchen Decor.

Now I really didn’t struggle when I chose my kitchen units last summer. That wonderful big blue box on the horizon that is Ikea was my first and last choice. Other Half loves the fact that every design and decor idea so far has led our home into ‘Bachelor Pad’ mode. We love it. I wouldn’t change it. Black furniture that shows every golden Bengal cat hair (thanks Jethro) pale wood flooring that shows every black Labrador dog hair (Ta, Milly) and white walls that makes our home look like an art gallery.

So my kitchen had to be glossy black, simple as hell, no frills, no molding, no pattern and no pomp. I actually adore it; big steel fridge, black glossy units, pale wood worktops and ash flooring. Gadgets. Seven-bottle wine fridge (which is funnily enough NEVER full) glossy black eco dishwasher, steel fronted oven and ceramic hob (yes, I do now wish I went for induction but a certain someone talked us out of it…) stainless steel accessories every where you turn- grills on the wall to hang utensils, not one but TWO different coffee machines, toaster, kettle, George Forman (I will eventually tell you what the family call that) and now the edition of Le Creuset cast iron in every other bright colour (I will not colour match these things as I get bored quickly and they don’t break fast enough to replace when I do…)

Any who, today I needed a shot of accessories and frankly, a tidy up around the house. I had to share a couple of new purchases too…

Jethro (for those new to the blog, my Bengal cat) likes to chew placemats and coasters. Unfortunately that means our lovely black faux-leather placemats have the corners completely chewed off. So today I found a great replacement that fits in with the ‘Bachelor Pad’ theme running through our two-bed terrace but slyly bringing in a bit or a girly twist 😉

And to make up to OH at the complete girly-ness of the shape of the placemats I bought him a present too.

We intend to road-trip down Route 66 in the next couple of years and OH had the fab idea of putting up a photo-wall of our travels. This is going to be the centre piece…

He wasn’t half pleased! 🙂