Best Sheltered Scheme Garden

This is our entry for the 2016 Competition. Last year we submitted 132 photos showing how we have transformed the gardens from overgrown borders and fence lines to an inviting interesting space with something to catch the eye throughout the year.

Although we cut back for winter we are are careful to heap leaves under hedges and large shrubs to give wildlife including hedgehogs a refuge and hunting ground.

The first flowers appear in late Autumn with Cyclamen and Hellebores  this is quickly followed by Crocus and Daffodils …the old Forsythia and Japonica made a better show as two.years of cutting at the right time encouraged healthy blooms



New for this year.

One gardener decided he did not want to plant his daffodils and tulips as they slowed up his summer planting so we dug three bays that a resident could see from her 1st floor window and she was able to look out on spring colour.


Spring is when we really put on a show for the pollinators and the 90 meter back fence holds hundreds of foxgloves and a mass of forget-me -nots. These help to keep the weeds, brambles and ivy at bay from the jungle next door.



May saw masses of Lilly of the Valley in a bed which one resident holds dear to her heart.


Our formal bed gardener had already planted rows of Sweet Williams (Dianthus barbatus), Irises (Reticulata) Lillies and Dianthus. The perfume was wonderful in the hot days of July.


In the less formal beds as the foxgloves ended so the Aquilegia took over followed by Alliums, Penstemon and Veronica which made a cheerful show. Some of the roses have benefited from proper care and feeding and the first flush was very enjoyable.


Meanwhile in the Grow Wild bed  planted last year we had a surprise because the annuals which flowered last year made way for masses of perennials and bi annuals with Pink Campion ruling the roost. This together with our ‘nettle patch’  and planting eight Buddleia is an important part of helping pollinators including bees and butterflies. A first this year was to see the Goldfinches feeding on the flower heads of the Knapweed and Centaurea Montana


We have maintained the herb garden which was planted for an ex-resident who was a chef. This year we let the thyme,marjoram, hyssop flower but kept the Rosemary clipped. By July the lavender had started to show which gave this border a Mediterranean look.

We have now planted 120 french marigolds throughout the Scheme to give us more colour through August September and until the first frost. We grow much from seed and cutting. The tomatoes are a bit behind but we have already had two pickings of runner beans and will hopefully have courgettes soon.

New for 2016

The gardeners (residents) cut down two diseased trees and one gardener purchased a plum and a pear tree so hopefully we will have fruit next year.

The gardeners respect the wishes of the none participant residents and work hard to provide them with planting that they want and also endeavour not to encroach on their space. Some of them enjoy the idea of being able to ‘forage’ in their own grounds.

This is just a flavour of our year; we are struggling with the climate  and will be experimenting with drought resistant plants in some beds. We are also still restrained by some planting and fencing which is beyond our control but grateful that we have an understanding Landlord who recognises the fantastic value to health ( including mental health) of being able to garden in our scheme.

We have many more photos and would love to share them with you….

I forgot the last new for 2016

A close up of a couple of the lillies and our trbute for the Queen’s birthday a patriotic place to sit








Well it’s been a while but I would like to go back to energy monitors and share my recent experience.

As I have said before you don’t spend all day looking at the monitor but I do have mine in a strategic place where I can glance at it from time to time and see what is going on and get a feel for what is using the energy and how best to control it.

I have recently decided to close my laptop lid when I will not be using it for a while and this shows on the monitor as a saving of .5 p per hour, not a lot I know but it all helps and has reduced our overall costs.

The main thing where the monitor came into its own was the other evening when I noticed that every four minutes the consumption rose by 5 P per hour. This stayed on for one minute and then stopped and kept repeating the cycle, very curious.

So I went off to investigate in true Sherlock style and belive me this did take some time, where to look. So first I made sure I knew what was on and what it was using and a lot of head scratching went on, even less hair.

Well rather than bore you silly, we have a de-humidifier in the loft, which is brilliant thanks to the previous tenant, and it has a feature that can be turned on or off which warms the air being returned to the bungalow when the temperature drops below 0 C in the loft. Found the culprit, the switch is located in the airing cupboard and had been turned on, by mister nobody I might add looks like we have a ghost as well. So turning this off solved the problem and I could relax again.

So this is just one instance where a monitor has helped out by giving a true indication of what is going on at any time. Again this was not costing a lot to use but just shows how energy bills can be reduced in conjunction with a good energy monitor.

Weeds can be useful too


This is large patch of weeds hide a secret. Amongst the weeds and nettles are the large pumpkins my husband is growing to give to local families for Halloween.  No-one looking over the gate would know that they are there so it’s good security.

I also use this way of protecting my strawberries although the weeds aren’t so tall for this.  If I can’t see them then neither can the birds although I don’t really mind them having a berry or two.

After Halloween I’ll post a few photos to show you the secret our weeds are hiding.  So when you see an untidy allotment there may be a reason for it!

#LifeBalance Harvest Time

Today a new Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition has his first Prime Minister’s Question Time. Should I watch it? I imagine that 100 years ago my great grandfather was up the allotment frantically getting in the vegetables to try to keep his 7 children in vegetables through the winter. He was to go on to have three more children. He could only plat the girl’s hair (mother could put rags in) My great grand father could also mend all the children’s shoes! Most of all he was responsible for putting food on the table.

I grow tomatoes from seed from a supermarket tomato that I like. So once again I have three varieties. One was called Santini by M&S another a small round tomato and the last a large round tomato which was tasty. No special names but the second year I have cropped from these seeds.


Six vines against a west facing wall

Hidden at the back of the herb garden

Hidden at the back of the herb garden

In between the runner beans

In between the runner beans

So in five different position six vines cut off at two trusses to be sure of them ripening before the weather breaks. Last year I had to bring them all in at the end of September because it was getting too wet. It looks like I will have to do that again this year but last year they all ripened.

This is food for free which is as important to me as it was to my great grandfather

If you like you can see how to put rags in here

Where do I start?…..Morning Glory ( Convolvulaceae) or is it?

I started a review of the summer one rainy weekend and have quite a few subjects left…but it hasn’t rained since and the asters, newly sown seeds, cuttings, marigolds and pots have had to be watered. Also the beans courgettes needed water even when it rained and the tomatoes have needed attention. Lastly we have been digging a few new little flower beds from scratch to set up a successive planting for next year WHEW. So just a few words about Morning Glory.

I tried to grow them from a bought packet of seed back in the 80’s as I love blue but they failed and as I am not one to buy any plant or seed I gave up. Last year I helped a friend with his garden and there climbing up his plum tree was Morning Glory (Ipomoea purpurea or Convolvulus purpureus 

I collected his seed and this year have my own in three locations. My neighbour hates our back fence and gets upset when I cut back the Japanese Quince (Chaenomeles_japonica) and the Forsythia. She said she even preferred to see the convulvulus bindweed with it’s white flowers than the fence. So I thought great the Morning Glory will please her.SAM_2062

I visited the Oxford University Botanical Gardens on the hottest day of the year and saw

Oxford Botanical Gardens July 2015

Oxford Botanical Gardens July 2015

I can do that

Three willow sticks leading up to a six foot bamboo cane

Three willow sticks leading up to a six foot bamboo cane

Also up the wall it will die at the first frost so I can easily cut it down

they will grow 15 feet up a piece of string!!

they will grow 15 feet up a piece of string!!

Sadly so far I only get about 3 flowers out at the same time. They seem to flower like Passion Flowers one at a time for maximum pollination opportunities. Ah well I can dream and check each morning.

Morning glory is the common name for over 1,000 species of flowering plants in the family Convolvulaceae, whose current taxonomy and systematics are in flux.

University Of Oxford Botanic Gardens is a great place to visit I found out the names of a few plants I had inherited without ever naming. It cost me (a pensioner) £3.30 to go in

Foraging (Rainy day review part 3)

Last year I wrote about the ‘field mushrooms’ growing in our gardens.

You can see how big the mushrooms are because there is a 50p at the side of them

You can see how big the mushrooms are because there is a 50p at the side of them

That was back at the end of October 2014 and I thought; if I save a couple and throw them by the hedge maybe there will be a few more next year. Well here we are September (in fact they appeared late August) and I have a bigger crop!

This time there is a 10p coin to give you an indication of size

This time there is a 10p coin to give you an indication of size

I have left three of the biggest in situ so may be next year I can feed everyone! I know I have no need to remind readers that some white mushrooms are poisonous and one named ‘Destroying Angel’ is a killer. I have included the link below which has excellent photos and advice in identifying mushrooms. The site also contains this message ”
Please forage with care and use numerous sources for identification of any wild mushrooms. Never eat anything from the wild unless you are 100% sure what it is!

My valiant attempt to Grow Wild ( Rainy day review part 2)

A long time ago well back in March I posted the photo of my Grow Wild kit I was so excited019

I planted and took a photo. There was a little bee home which I attached to the fence…but alas someone pulled it off. We have never been short of bees so I was not too worried. The first sowing came through all poppies001Grow wild corner may 2015002

Finally on my second sowing I achieved vaguely a patch like the Grow Wild photos I saw on the web,twitter and Facebook. SAM_2076Grow Wild photo c jan Smith-Gap Photos

This beautiful photograph  copyright Jan Smith-GAP photos is what I imagined but somehow the mix did not turn out like this.

To crown it all James Wong on Gardener’s World showed that research found that non native flowers actually extended the native season and were useful for our bugs and bees. We have so many flowers in our garden and lots of bees and bugs so did I need to try so hard to Grow Wild?Ah well I have one packet left so I shall try to sow this September for next spring.

James Wong starts at 17.00

Grow Wild

Supported by the Big Lottery Fund and led by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; Grow Wild inspires communities, friends, neighbours and individuals across the UK to come together to transform local spaces, by sowing, growing and enjoying native wild flowers.

We believe that this simple act of creativity can turn spaces into beautiful, inspiring and colourful wildlife havens; encouraging people to care for and delight in the nature around them.

A new addition!


Schnauzer puppy

We haven’t got a great-grandchild yet so will happily settle for a great-grand puppy. We have just had a wonderful weekend with grandson and partner and the new addition.  A really lovely dog who has cost an enormous amount of money but looks to be worth every penny.  I couldn’t help remembering the puppy Mum bought when I was four which was a corgi cross. She saw him in the pet shop window in Southend, came home and talked to Dad and went back the next day to buy her.  She asked the bus conductor for a ticket for a dog and he asked her where it was and she said “In my bag”. As he couldn’t see it he wouldn’t take any money. She lived to be sixteen and had a wonderful life on the farm and then in retirement with Mum and Dad.

There was a lovely garden to look at too. Christopher mowed the grass and I helped with some deadheading. It made me realise that Autumn is here and it is time to start thinking about Spring bulbs and bedding.  My pots are looking sad and in need of attention although I want to hang on to everything as long as possible.  I came home with a box full of cuttings from the garden and spent some time when I got home potting them up so fingers crossed they root.

An Australian Weed

The wet bank Holiday has given me an opportunity to review the gardening exploits of the year. The first plant I have to review is Crocosima x crocosmiliflora the orange variety commonly called Monbretia. The story goes back a few years when a border at the back of our scheme was full of the pointed green leaves which never flowered. At the time the thought of being responsible for all the untended beds was a challenge beyond us. So we agreed to let contractors clear the beds, lay a membrane and gravel. The next year to our surprise up popped the familiar pointed green leaves and this year….well the photo tells the storygravel Crocosima July 2015The Crocosima flowered from July onwards and made us smile. When the contractors had started I quickly dug up a few bulbs and put them in other beds. I need not have bothered they are surviving through the membrane!

When I checked to find out about this plant I discovered it came from South Africa as many of ‘our’ most colourful flowers do and that in Queensland Australia it is now considered a weed. Yet the red varieties were widely featured at Chelsea this year! Just goes to show that a weed is a plant in the wrong place.


A wet weekend


A little cardigan

Its been raining all day so time to finish this piece of knitting for Poppy, my friends little granddaughter.  I’ll have to start the next project as there is nothing more relaxing than watching TV and knitting in the evening.  I have the wool for the next project a cardigan for my granddaughter.

Most days have been spent in the garden or the allotment watering and weeding. The courgettes are cropping well but need frequent picking or you have marrows.  Have been looking at recipes for cakes using courgettes – you can use carrot so see no reason you can’t use courgette.

I have made a discovery about my hedgehogs recently – they like sunflower hearts.  I had always thought they ate worms and slugs but dropped some on the lawn when filling the bird feeder and found hedgie eating them that evening. Now he (or she) has sunflower hearts on the front lawn and his biscuits on the back lawn.

p.s. Made the courgette and lemon cake and it is really nice and very easy.  There are loads of recipes online so if you have a glut of them have a go but probably courgette soup is healthier and very tasty.