Fresh flowers around the home

I thought it would be fun to share the flowers I have downstairs at the moment. I especially love this time of year as there’s so much in the garden that can be cut and come indoors, but I usually mix these with some bought flowers from places like Waitrose or Marks & Spencer – or even florists if I happen to be passing.

I have quite a few vases, glass containers and jugs that are easy to just pop a random collection of pretty things into and voila… a lovely flower arrangement!

I should point out the sign next to the peonies in my study… it’s meant to be a joke and not taken seriously as I suspect some of my neighbours and friends do!

Even if you don’t have loads of lovely flowers in your garden, or indeed have no garden, treat yourself to a bunch of flowers from the supermarket – they are good for you I think, never mind vitamins and eating right! I smile whenever I pass lovely flowers around the house – an instant pick me up!


Seaside memories – help the National Trust celebrate caring for our coast!

Sand between my toes, shivering (and slightly terrified!) in the waves and enjoying a fast-melting ice cream – just a few of my cherished childhood memories of seaside holidays! This year, The National Trust is celebrating 50 years of caring for the coast with the Coastal Festival. It is collecting stories from people who love the coast and are asking them to take part by answering seven coastal questions and then posting their answers on their blog or Facebook page.

So, here are my seven answers.

Teignmouth Beach… complete with groynes!1. What’s your favourite beach?

Now remember we are talking about British beaches here, I will pipe down about Caribbean sand(!). I think my favourite has to be my closest as that’s where we have built so many memories. Teignmouth beach has a lovely long promenade and so has been useful for newly walking babies, elderly folks who can’t walk far and dogs that need to use up some energy!

2. Sea or sand?

I like damp, firm sand, but the kind that gets in your sandwiches … mmm not so much! So I’ll go for sea.

3. Tell a memory of being by the sea.

I have happy memories of my girls playing on the beach but the most amusing was probably Emily when she was little, bouncing along the beach with Richard until they got to a wooden breaker water – I think the official name is groyne … but anyway a strip of wood that runs up the beach to help keep the sand in place etc. They were both running and jumping, they ran up to it, jumped over it … but, unfortunately, the level the other side was three feet lower and it was full of water … so they had an early bath that day!

Ah, the good old 99!4. What’s your favourite seaside food?

Favourite seaside food … ooh what to choose? Fish and chips or a 99…? Hard choice, can I have one of each please? 

5. Favourite ice cream flavour?

As this is talking about the seaside I will restrict the range to choose from (ie skip all the Ben and Jerry ones on my list!) and I would say coffee followed by chocolate – but to be honest, if you are offering I’ll be thrilled with any of them

6. Have you lived by the sea?

Does three miles from the beach and one mile to a panoramic vista across the coast count? I would love to live actually on the edge of the beach (assuming I had double glazing) I think a sea view is wonderful.

Fossils on fascinating Lyme Regis beach.7. Favourite place on the coast?

I chose Teignmouth for my favourite beach so I don’t think I would choose it a second time and I would probably opt for Lyme Regis as there are such exciting fossils to entertain the children with – happy memories.

I’d love to hear your memories too, and so would the National Trust! It asks that you take part now with 7 questions tag – coast facts. Post with answers on your blog or Facebook page and then tag 7 friends or bloggers. 





Gardens as therapy…

May is a glorious month in the garden. Everything is really getting into full swing with lush greenery and plenty of flowers coming into bloom. When I look out at my garden I know that I am lucky – lucky that I have the space and (some) time to potter in it. I know many other people are not so fortunate. No matter how stressful life and work may become, I always feel better for a gentle stroll around the borders, pausing to admire a bloom or breathe in a gorgeous floral scent. For those few minutes in a busy day, I am outside, listening to bird song and getting a dose of fresh air – and it always makes me feel better.

My own little haven of peace – my garden in May. I am very lucky to have a stream running through the garden which is extremely restful…

I was interested to see both Gardeners’ World and some of the TV coverage of RHS Chelsea this week both talking about the importance of gardening and the therapeutic benefits that can be derived from it. And, after them making such a feature of it, it seems NHS GPs are all wanting to know how they can ‘prescribe’ gardening for their patients! It seems so obvious to me that I find all this sudden surge of interest slightly odd…

In its most formal sense, a therapeutic garden is: “An outdoor garden space specifically designed to meet the physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs of the people using the garden as well as their carers, family members and friends.” Therapeutic gardens can be found in all sorts of settings including hospitals, nursing homes, hospices and other healthcare and residential environments. The gardens can be designed to include practical features such as raised beds for people with mobility issues, or more gentle and relaxing uses such as quiet private sitting areas next to a small pond with a trickling waterfall.

Little Havens Children’s Hospice garden created by Greenfingers – a wonderful design that must give so much joy to young patients and their families.A few years ago I remember being really upset while visiting an elderly relative in hospital and seeing the central courtyard of the building being no more than a weed-filled bit of scrub with a couple of broken plastic chairs in it. It was utterly depressing and so not what these poorly people needed. Eventually, it was taken over by a local charity and transformed into a beautiful green oasis appreciated by patients, visitors and staff alike. But how sad that it was allowed to get into such a state in the first place.

But times have changed, thank goodness, and now there is plenty of documented evidence that gardens and green spaces have a very positive effect on people’s mental and physical well being and the NHS and other medical bodies realise how important such ‘breathing space’ Is.

I turn to gardening as a way of calming my mind and the tangle of competing thoughts inside my head somehow clears and settles, and ideas that are barely formed take shape. I must confess, I often come up with some of the most ‘deadly’ plots for my novels when I am in the throes of deadheading!

Let’s face it, plants are much less frightening and challenging than people. Background noise falls away and you can escape from other people’s thoughts and judgments so that within a garden, I think you have more freedom to feel good about yourself. 


The reasons for seasons…

We’ve had several glorious warm and sunny spring days this week – so lucky for everyone enjoying an Easter break down here in Devon, or indeed for those of us fortunate enough to live here! I love springtime and the whole cycle of rebirth and renewal heralding the arrival of longer days and (hopefully) more sunshine – so uplifting!

Somehow, seasons used to be more clear-cut when I was a child. Summers were warmer, it always snowed at Christmas and I am sure all of that is probably poppy-cock – it’s just childhood memories that seem to change as you get older. But what really makes our seasons and the weather that they bring? I thought I’d investigate…

What causes the seasons?

The seasons are a result of the tilt of Earth’s axis in relation to the Sun as we orbit around it. This tilt (all 23.5º of it!) means that throughout our orbit around the sun (which is our calendar year) certain areas of the earth are tilted towards the Sun, while other areas are tilted away from it. This creates a difference in the amount of sunlight that reaches different parts of the Earth and that’s how we get the seasons.

When does spring officially start?

Well, that depends on whether you are referring to the astronomical or meteorological spring.

The date on our calendars that marks the start of spring refers to the astronomical season which is a result of the Earth’s axis and orbit around the sun. However, organisations like the Met Office use meteorological seasons based on the annual temperature cycle as well as coinciding with the calendar to determine a clear transition between the seasons.

Since the astronomical seasons vary in length, the start date of a new season can fall on different days each year. This makes it difficult to compare seasons between different years and resulted in the introduction of the meteorological calendar. This splits the calendar into four seasons of approximately the same length. The astronomical seasons run approximately three weeks later than those of the meteorological calendar. So now you know!

Which is your favourite season?

Do tell me your favourite. I think I could make a case for each season in turn and I am very grateful to live in a country where there are actual seasons rather than constant sunshine… would one of you remind me I said that in the depths of next winter please!



An old fashioned rose…

I have a real passion for old fashioned roses in the garden – David Austin is a great place to find these. This beautiful card takes the old fashioned theme and carries it through the embellishments too. The cream crocheted lace, tiny pearls and pretty flower all add to that shabby chic look.

The image is one of many I really love from the Daphne Brissonet pads that we brought out in November. I think they have been one of the fastest selling new products in a while – such a gorgeous choice of images to use on cards.

To make the whole card confirm to that shabby chic feel, the backing paper has been “antiqued” by rubbing the edges with an Old Paper distress ink pad. This is a great tip for making paper look less new and ‘in your face’ – in this case it also helps that the pieces of backing paper are layered onto brown card as that too helps the aging look.

This is one of those cards that really does need a combination of double sided tape (or an ordinary glue) and foam pads or tape, or alternatively if you aren’t a foam tape fan then Pinflair glue gel would work too. Having different heights on a card really help give it ‘oomph’ and looks oh so effective. Give it a go!