Taming the Garden

Last month, I left for several weeks — several critical weeks when the weather was warmer and rainy and our garden was starting to come out of hibernation. When I got back, it had gone a bit wild:

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It isn’t just the dandelions (although, yowza!) — the foreground is a garden bed and shouldn’t be grassy at all.

I quickly got to work wrangling the eager dandelions, digging them out or just popping off the tops when I ran out of time. At least half a dozen still appear every day, seemingly out of nowhere, but thankfully I got to them in time. I also started pruning some of the bushes a bit, mowing the lawn, and killing the weeds growing in the cracks between patio stones (vinegar with a dash of dish soap does wonders on those).

But the biggest progress came this weekend, when I decided to tackle the grass. There has been some amount of grass sprouting in that garden bed since we moved in to this house, and I’ve never been able to fully tame it. This weekend I finally resolved to take care of it. So I got some cardboard, a lot of newspaper, and many bags of mulch. I had two days of full sun and warm temperatures that really helped as I worked in the garden, and although the end product isn’t perfect it’s already so, so much better than before:

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The result of my weekend gardening

Just look at those plants! The azaleas and ferns just pop out against the mulch, and hopefully any grass leftover from my weeding will die underneath there. Also, it doesn’t hurt that the ceanothus is in full bloom on the other side of the yard. I smile every time I look out the back windows now.

Dartington Estate

While in Devon – in addition to visiting Buckfast Abbey – we visited Dartington. Our main reason for visiting was a tango event (really fun!) but one afternoon we decided to stroll through the gardens. I hadn’t read much of anything about Dartington before our visit, so I had no idea what I would find there.

I was blown away (with the caveat that nothing beats Bodnant Garden). Before dinner one afternoon, we walked around Dartington Hall and followed a path through a giant hedge. We suddenly found ourselves in a huge open space:

We meandered through the garden, discovering yet another green space or a new path or a different perspective of the grounds as we went. Turning through a gate out of the garden, we crept through a cemetery and passed a zen garden before winding down a spiral stone staircase back to the Dartington Hall courtyard.

Buckfast Abbey

On a recent trip to Devon, my husband and I realized we were staying just down the road from Buckfast Abbey. We decided on a whim to take a stroll to the abbey and through their gardens.

The site was first used for an abbey in 1018, and the current gardens are inspired by medieval garden plans. There are three gardens: a lavender garden, a sensory garden, and a physic garden (with sections for medicinal, household, culinary, and even poisonous plants).

The poisonous plants surrounded by a small moat to discourage any clever ideas

But my favorite part of the visit was after the church service ended and we crept into the church to look around. It was mostly a bit ho hum (just what you’d expect from any Catholic church) but when we reached the back we discovered a surprise: mosaic stained glass in brilliant colors. Definitely worth the trip:

All At Sea

I just finished listening to All At Sea (from The Moth podcast) with comedian Tim FitzHigham, and it makes me so happy to live in the UK. Where else would you have someone rowing in a bathtub and getting this kind of support for it?! I recommend you listen to the whole story, but here’s a taste:

The second problem is that half of the English Channel turns out to be owned not by Great Britain but by the French. Now, I wrote to the French government and I said, “Now this is what I’m going to do: I’m going to row the English Channel in a bathtub. And they were kind, and they were generous, and they were helpful. They sent me tons of stuff to read. And all the time they were going in to the French Parliament and passing a new clause in the Shipping Act of France making it illegal to row a bathtub in French water. So what I did is I went to the Ministry of Transport in Whitehall and I said, ” Now this is what we’re going to do gentlemen: we are gonna register my bath as a registered British ship.” And to my shock, horror, and amazement, they said, “Yeah, fair enough Tim, that’s a good plan, yeah.”

Discovering New Growth

I just got home from several weeks away, and it was such a pleasure to come home (even though there’s still a definite chill in the air here). All kinds of flowers have come to life while I was away — including a whole army of dandelions! Thankfully, digging up the dandelions gives me an excuse to check out all the other plants:

Japanese Laurel
Japanese Laurel

… you tell me?


How is it that when I say the word croissant without a French accent, people in Britain will look at me quizzically and correct my pronunciation, but they don’t hesitate to butcher the word paella practically beyond recognition?

Gordon Ramsay, I’m looking at you:

Bodnant Garden in March

After a rainy morning, the clouds opened up and we saw a beautiful blue sky that we couldn’t let go to waste. So we jumped in the car and drove to Bodnant Garden for a short afternoon stroll. It was well worth it (especially since we’re National Trust members). We were greeted by tulips and hyacinths, a field of daffodils, camellias, magnolias, hellebores (a new favorite!), and even some early blooming rhododendrons. Quite the show for March.