Joni from Colorado sharing her sketchbook work

In response to my latest post asking people to share their creativity, my wonderful friend Joni from Colorado sent this:-

Joni – “Being quite new to my sketchbook, drawing, pastels and oils. I’m loving just drawing a page.  I still have to allow myself to make mistakes with perspective and colours.  
But I’m learning and growing and enjoying the process. 
Here is a National Park building I was looking at, and my drawing. 
And I just learned that I can draw on both sides of the sketchbook!” 
Joni’s sketchbook work

‘Plant Zookeeper’ – a new name for gardener?

Good design should reflect the wishes, likes and dislikes of the garden owner – regardless of country or climate’ – RHS Encyclopaedia of Gardens – good advice and certainly one of the best books on my shelf for planning, building and planting ‘your perfect space’.

This week, with 19 weeks until Open Gardens, I am tidying borders, thinking about changes to the layout and considering the design advice in my gardening books.  I don’t have any horticultural training but have learned how to tend my garden through trial and error, friends and books.

‘Think of yourself as a kind of ‘plant zookeeper’ and learn about your plants’ natural habitats’  writes Carol Bruce who also opens for the NGS, her three acres at The Old Bladbean Stud, near Canterbury, and was featured in an excellent article in The English Garden magazine (May 2015).  

‘Never act on impulse – instead, plan on impulse then act on the plan’ advises Carol.  Great advice and I mean to take it on board but I have already bought ‘on impulse’ several ferns, two Leycestria formosa ‘Golden Lantern’ shrubs and a full grown Acer ‘Little Princess’.  This is a great time to trawl the garden centres for last year’s stock at a fraction of their usual price and, with a bit of care and good mulch, these bargains will reward you when the warmer weather comes.

I’ve been working my plot for fifteen years now,  and had the back garden professionally designed five years ago. It was worth every penny and I was completely involved at every stage from planning to planting. The design books helped a great deal in making me aware of the questions I needed to consider.

Looking through other design books on my shelf, I can see that there is a lot of duplication of information and usually the second half of a design book is a directory of plants to use. A different approach is ‘Rejuvenating a Garden’ by Stephen Anderson, in how to deal with a neglected existing plot.   The plant directory focus on the practical aspects of pruning the index of shrubs. 

I am keen to redesign some of the planting in the borders around the garden, so, over the next few weeks I will be reviewing my border planting planning books.  I’ll be taking pictures of each border, spending time reviewing the contents and then draw up a plan for moving some shrubs and perennials to better positions where they will have more space and to create harmony.

Have a good week in the garden or armchair planning, whatever the weather!

NGS Open Gardens – 20 Weeks until opening!

Yes, It is only January and it is very, very cold here in Warwickshire but I am already in gardening mode, having spent a full couple of days last week tidying up and pondering over what needs to be done between now and 10-11 June when I open my garden for the National Garden Scheme alongside Weston Village Group.

Some changes have been made since I last opened in 2015, and I will post photos and explain my reasoning behind ideas as I start to share my vision for this year’s event. Right now, my thoughts are on what the garden could look like, how I might achieve changes on a shoestring budget, and what could be moved where in order to gain best results with the space I have.  All will be revealed on this weekly gardening blog, together with a sprinkling of life at the allotment and my creative endeavours in the Studio.

Please stop by to see my progress and feel free to comment, advise or generally rally me along towards Open Gardens which is the second weekend of June this year.

Plant Labels are essential!

Cullen Skink Soup anyone?

St Abbs Views

No. 4 Gallery  is close to St Abbs, a beautiful fishing village famous for its diving on the East Coast not far from my cottage. Lovely Gallery showing works from artists in this region and beyond and a nice lady owner who recommended The Old School House, St Abbs Village for a bite – oh, Yes! She was right! It was excellent! Look it up on Trip Advisor and visit if you’re up this way. I can highly recommend Cullen Skink Soup , made with Smoked Haddock and Potatoes, served by a wee Scottish lady who engaged in conversation with every single person in the cafe – Starbucks, Costa and all the others need to get there and learn how to really do great customer service.  I felt valued and I will be back there soon!

Took some photos of the harbour and the sea to help with new paintings when I go back (tomorrow!). I didn’t really know what I was going to do when I came here two weeks ago, or what I would find to write on this blog. I imagined I would set up at easel in the cottage and paint, but I have been out every day exploring, taking photos, wandering around the coastline and I’ve learnt that its more important to experience the sights, the sounds, the smells of a place when you can, and then to go home and evaluate, take stock and consider the next step. There will be more of this blog, keep looking in if you have a moment to see what I am up to next. Thank you and, as the sign says ‘Haste Ye Back’!

Always carry a camera with you!

Driving back from Norham where I had a lovely New Year with family to return to my holiday cottage at Allanton for my second arts-inspired week and thinking about a plan of action. Suddenly, turned a corner in the country road, just over the border into Scotland, and the sunset appeared like a dramatic theatre backdrop.  So I pulled over, parked on the verge, stepped out into a puddle of icy water and got the attention of a herd of sheep.  ‘Photo opportunity, everyone!’  Fortunately I always carry my little Sony Cybershop camera in my bag, so was able to capture this great shot. No further words needed from me! The sunset says it all – tomorrow will be a sunny day!

Sunset over the Borders