Spring!

It is well and truly here. And many of the bulbs I planted last Autumn are pleasingly emerging.

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Some old faithfuls are coming back.

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Some new addition doing ok.

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I love these little guys, have pots and pots of them now.

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And the edible bits also looking OK. Strawberries are back…

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And the fruit trees I put in have flowered and seem happy. I have high hopes for these this year.

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Can’t wait for summer.

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Summer Gardening

I’ve been busy working on the garden this year. When I moved into the house the garden was all lawn apart from one small bush and a rose. And so I have been slowly adding to it and starting to fill out the beds, although that obviously takes some considerable time.

I made two trips over the summer which were kind of inspirational.

One was to Grow London, a new event held in Hampstead which I think is run by the same people who organise the Affordable Art Fair. Essentially it was a large exhibition with sellers of plants, garden furniture, landscape gardeners and many more.

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flowers

They made it really easy by having a free shuttle service from the tube station.

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They had some quirkier products like these Seed Bombs.

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seed bombs

And some ideas to steal like a plant stand made from an old painted stepladder – something to look out for eBay and try at home.

steps

Plenty of other ideas…

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van trunks teapots succulents flowers 1

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cloth  fabric

And I did buy. And I’d go again.

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The other was a trip to the Chelsea Physic Garden. It was founded in 1673 and is still arranged as a botanical garden. I went with my parents and it’s a great summer afternoon out and a really interesting insight into our changing relationship with plants not to mention the fact that it’s really very beautiful (and the cakes in  the restaurant aren’t bad too).

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Spring has sprung

And there has been some sun.

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And in response the garden is starting to get it’s act together. I planted hundreds (and that’s not an exaggeration) of bulbs last year, most of which I imagine have been feasted on by the local wildlife. Those that have made it through seem to be stirring.

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And all inspired by this I invested in a bunch of flowers for the house too. It always feels extravagant to do this but I love them every time I look at them, which must make it worth the expense.

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Lounging About

For those not based in the UK winter here ended about three weeks ago and we went straight into a heat wave (at least that’s how it feels to me). Fortunately I was ahead of the game and had been stalking eBay for a hammock – I had a hankering for one.

I don’t have two helpfully placed mature trees in the garden so it needed to be a free-standing one a frame. And I finally found one I liked which was reasonably priced.

It’s relatively easy to put together, although a bit bulky for me to do alone so my dad helped (well in all honestly he did it and I helped him – he reads this so I have to tell the truth).

And I love it….

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It’s popular with Heidi (who has lent this blog her name) to sit on….

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….or under for a bit of shade.

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And it’s well-timed as the garden is really lovely at the moment. Some of the plants I put in last year are already quite mature.

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And the sweet peas I started from seed on the window ledge are doing well.

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Curb Appeal

The front garden needs a major overhaul, or at the very least some aggressive pruning.That’s a bigger job than I have time for right now so I’ve added some pots as a quick fix.

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Eight plants for £10 at East Street Market is, I think, a bargain. For those who live in London and particularly SE London I would recommend East Street. I think the plant market, which is a section within the market, is only on Sundays. It has a limited number of stalls (it’s no Columbia Road) but it still has a good selection and the plants are much cheaper than in a garden centre.

So a few pots and some other nice details and maybe no one will notice the bits needing more serious attention.

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Green fingers

The garden wasn’t the first priority but some plants did go in last year and some more have been added bit by bit. They have started to grow and spread and fill in the gaps. The result being that the garden is starting to look less like a grassy bowling alley and more like… well… a garden.

The lavender in particular has flourished and is just about to bloom.

I planted some herbs in an old sink.

And some sweet peas against a security grill which used to be fitted over one the windows.

The area at the back of the garden by the studio had been the most neglected. We just didn’t have enough plants to cover this area straight away. It’s also terrible soil as it is full of bricks and broken glass, the result of the bottom of the garden being used as an informal tip for many decades.

However a large central bed has now gone in, although it still looks rather barren.

Just a few of the bricks you have to dig out every time you put a plant in.

The side beds at the back have vegetables in them. Onions, beans, parsnips and some very vigorous looking potatoes.

Again rubble had to be removed.

Potatoes looking healthy on the right hand side of shot.

There’s also now an enormous compost heap next to the studio with a neat little fence made from off-cuts.

I think the studio is looking really pretty now as plants start to grow up around it. I love working out here.

Lastly something that is more a work in progress. There’s a patch of grey concrete halfway down the lawn which is probably the base from an old shed or greenhouse. Removing it would be a be a bigger job than you might think.

The solution has been to paint it white and surround it with some more lavender. The plants need time to grow and the white needs to wear a little plus that shovel needs to find a new home, but overall I think it’s an improvement.

There are quite a few more plants about to come into bloom and I am still slowly adding more so hopefully by the end of the summer it should be starting to look quite complete.

Water and beds

The shower in the basement flat is almost there. Tiles on, sink in, loo in and shower working. All that’s needed now is for the boiler to be linked up and it’s all sorted.

Everything is from somewhere different. I actually can’t remember where the loo is from – just somewhere online. The shower is from bathstore.

There will be folding doors to separate this room from the bedroom.

The sink is from Ikea, that I do remember since it was a late night purchase in Croydon – ah the glamour! It took a while to find one that didn’t come out too far from the wall as the room is thin and therefore every centimeter counts.

These windows still need some thought to privacy (for the shy).

The bedroom itself is now basically ready to be decorated. The walls have all had extensive treatment for damp which was pretty bad in this and the front room (being a basement and an unused one for some time). Although there is still some damp on the chimney breast. The thinking is some water still needs to dry out, or that water is coming in down the chimney. To stop this we’ve capped the chimneys temporarily – photos to follow.

Hopefully that will fix it.

I’ve even bought a new bed, from Ebay. Doesn’t look much here but I am hoping it will look good in this room. It’s a bit elaborate so its meant a change of plan in terms of decoration, much simpler than I had previously imagined or it will all be too much.

The garden is also starting to come together. More and more plants are slowly added and on a sunny day there are some patches that I am starting to really like.

I have even planted some herbs in an old sink and a terracotta trough, I think they’ll look nice on the steps coming up from the flat bedroom.

A new shower and new flowers

Progress continues in the basement flat.

The flagstones have been relaid in the hall area and in the shower room.

And the radiator has been installed in the bedroom. It’s under the window but low enough so you can step over and access the garden (as is being demonstrated here).

Thanks Heidi. Very helpful.

In the bathroom the tiles we bought from B&Q which I think are from their basics range have gone in. We chose a dark grout, it’s very forgiving if you’re a bit slapdash with the cleaning plus I actually prefer this look. I think it feels more contemporary.

Originally we were going to go for metro tiles and these are like over-sized versions.

The wooden frame is where the shower will be fitted.

The towel rail is also a B&Q special.

The other project that has moved forward is the garden. Originally this was all lawn and a massive patio. We’ve made a start at changing this roughly in line with the original plan that you can see in an earlier post here.

Some of the paving has been lifted to make flowerbeds and some others beds  have been marked out at the sides and towards the back of the garden.

Spot the space hopper.

The area at the back by my studio was going to be a vegetable patch, but for now we are going to have wild flowers. A path has been mowed in to the studio.

Filling this with plants is a bit epic as we need so many. And I’d kind of like the planting to look like this, a photo taken in my local park (but without the bandstand of course).

Most of the plants bought so far are from East Street Market in Walworth. On Sundays there is a small plant market in a side road. It does seem to focus on the kind of plants you see on roundabouts but those are the kind of hardy specimens we need.

Here’s a local trader who presumably is taking a well earned rest after selling out of his Burberry stock.

Transporting our purchases home.

Planning things out.

And the other matching border.

We’ve tested things out with a game of croquet = lawn just about big enough.

But there’s still an incredibly long way to go and a lot more plants even if they are spaced out with room to grow.

Still it’s lovely to have the garden, particularly in London. Here’s me enjoying a bit of sun with a blanket I knitted and a cushion made from some fabric I bought in Ikea.

Nice.

Adding more colour

The last couple of weeks have seen the introduction of lots more colour in the house. I’m no fan of neutral paints when they are used everywhere and there was some colour in the last house but there could have been more. I’m keen to be a bit more adventurous this time.

Therefore we already have the strong pink and green combination in the entrance hall. The Cinder Rose pink was only planned to go up to the first landing, even I can see this would be too much for the whole house. So Calluna was the choice. I had thought it was a pale grey (I got this impression from the tester) but it’s actually a bit more of a pale purple once you have it on the wall, although it varies greatly depending on the light.

You may notice that the steps are white in this shot as well. The stairs up to the top bedrooms have finally had the carpet removed and the first coat of white floor paint.

Here are the dogs on the same spot when we first moved in.

When the carpet came up you could see how in the past there had been a thin carpet running all the way up the stairs. This is something that’s in the plan but it has proved a struggle finding the right width which is also affordable. Harder than you’d think.

A few more coats needed, but you start to get the idea.

And so working up the levels in the house has meant decisions on door colours on the first landing (bathroom and sitting room) and top floor (bedrooms).

First landing is now Cooking Apple Green.

We’ve left all the old key holes in the doors, I think it adds a bit of character. The woodwork surrounds are still to be done as is the skirting. They will be Strong White like the floor.

Landing floorboards still to be painted.

Then top floor another similar colour. This is actually the colour of the front door from the old house. There was some paint left over and so this seemed a good place to use it up. French Grey.

Then inside the bathroom the door to the cupboard hiding the washing machine has also changed colour. Now it’s Lulworth Blue.

The little green door knob is from a selection I bought a while ago from Anthropologie.

That’s all the new colour inside. More colour outside.

The shed has received a beach hut make-over.

Also in the garden, exciting developments on the garden office. A roof has been fitted that isn’t a blue tarp and it’s also received a lick of paint. This time Down Pipe.

This is the view from the kitchen window.

And back towards the house from the office. A bit to do in the garden….

And last thing, while I had the paints out I painted this set of steps from Ikea (they’re to help me reach almost everything in the kitchen).

They match the first floor doors, Cooking Apple again.

A partial garden office

Some time ago we posted plans for our garden, but at the time we knew we were some way off. We couldn’t justify spending time outside when there’s so much needing our attention inside. However much of my art equipment is currently stored downstairs and I have a nomadic existence in the house, having to move from room to room as work is happening around me.

 

art supplies stored in basement

 

We hope to start working downstairs soon. That means I will I have to keep moving the pieces I am working on and my “stock” as well, not to mention all the boxed up books, utensils etc that are down there.

With that in mind we decided to press on with the garden office plans so I can move all my art related belongings out there and have a permanent place to work.

We had a garden office in our last house. We had a much smaller garden then and so we had the office designed to fit our space and made and installed by a specialist company. It was great but to honest when we saw how easy it was to install we realised we could have done much of it ourselves.

And so this time we chose a ready-made office that you construct yourself. After much internet searching we chose Dunster House. This also had the advantage of being much a much cheaper option. The office arrived earlier this week. Klaus was there to meet it and when he saw the lorry he thought they were delivering several offices, but it turned out it was all for us.

We (well I say “we” I mean Klaus) have partially constructed the office in our original planned location – halfway down the garden and I (and I mean “I”) primed it with some wood preservative so it wasn’t ruined by the October weather.

However we have reconsidered. Our neighbours started this off by expressing some “deep concerns regarding their Georgian view” – a little odd considering we back onto a 80s housing estate and 70s school, but there we know what they mean. However that made us think about moving it to the back more seriously. We’d avoided it because there was a huge mound of earth at the end which needed levelling and we couldn’t face it. But having the office where it currently is does cut off much of the garden and make it seem much smaller. So change of plan, agree with neighbours, lets move it.

Given the amount of earth we needed to shift we knew we needed some outside brawn so we placed an ad for the job on mybuilder.com where you describe your project and builders or in this case landscape gardeners quote for the project. The next day we had a reasonable quote and the day after they were round making it happen.

There’s a lot of earth so we will probably end up with the garden on two, now flat levels. We have found a watering can, part of a bed, some kind of metal planter and many many bricks.

The next steps are to partially dismantle the office and move it back to its new spot. Then shape the garden around it and paint the office some more interesting colours and get settled in.  So we’re about halfway through.