Tuesday, 27 April 2021

And Spring arose on the garden fair

If it was still a bit too chilly for the time of year, with frosty dawns and a stiff breeze, at least the sun had decided to pay us an extended visit in the weekend before last.

Now we could have done any number of things in such weather, all of which would unfortunately have required meticulous forward planning. Our first priority is to avoid crowded places, where we have to slalom through groups of people and do the Covid shuffle until we're dizzy. At the same time, we are more than just a bit bored with walking in the same places, selected for their quietness, again and again. Bored of all the regulations and limitations drowning every last bit of spontaneity.

Sometimes it's hard to recall just what the old, pre-Covid, normal was like.

So, more often than not, we stay put behind Dove Cottage's front door, which fortunately includes our very own handkerchief sized corner of heaven.

No forward planning whatsoever was involved in Saturday's outfit. Or was it? I happened upon this dress while I was making a start with my seasonal changeover the weekend before. It hadn't been worn at all this Winter and I was actually going to put it in the flea market boxes when I decided to give it one last chance.

The dress in question, its leaf-strewn vertical bands of navy, pink and red meeting chevrons in the skirt, has always been one of my favourites. Then why even consider getting rid of it you might wonder? Well, the last time I tried it on it had become far too snug on me and after closing both its side zipper and front buttons, its seams were ready to burst, which made me all but burst into tears.

I put it aside for a final try-on and mentally prepared myself for disappointment, when lo and behold: it fit me perfectly again. I could almost hear those seams sigh in relief.

I took advantage of the specks of green throughout the dress's pattern to pick green as an accent colour for my cardigan, brooch and necklace. I then had a bit of a problem finding a belt in the right shade of green and was just about to give up when I remembered this one, which belongs to a Summer dress. The dress's pinks were kept company by the two sugar pink flower corsages I pinned to my cardi.

It might not be very noticeable in the photo, but I was wearing rusty red opaques. My navy ankle boots were only worn for the photos, as I was either in my slippers or my ankle wellies all day.

Clearing the pile of dead wood as well as a considerable amount of rampant ivy did not only create additional space to add yet more plants, it also freed up the terraced edges of the sunken part in the centre of our garden. Here, Dove Cottage's original owner had lovingly created a rock garden complete with a little house and windmill, and presided over by a tacky plastic garden gnome pushing a wheelbarrow.

Some of the original planting still remained when we took over the garden, but were replaced one by one over the years, as we tried to cram in as many of our cottage garden favourites as possible. As our little plot had become quite neglected in recent years, allowing the ivy to become a huge out-of-control monster, the terraces had all but disappeared completely.

That Saturday morning, I made a start with restoring it to its former glory, planting Sedums and Sempervivums and adding pebbles, shards of terracotta pots and two stone pumpkins which I found lying around in the garden.

I was delighted to see that the one and only Fritillary bulb which had deigned to come up was bearing not one but two flower heads. Elsewhere, colour was supplied by the vibrant Pulsatilla flowers and a medley of violas and pansies.

The red Valerian (Centranthus ruber) which we planted last year is preparing to shine once more and we can be quite certain of another bumper crop of white currants.  Bluebell spikes can be glimpsed among their abundant foliage and the shed and back wall is dotted with the first of the unfurling rusty-red lacquered Virginia creeper leaves.

"And Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth's dark breast
rose from the dreams of its wintry rest."
-  Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Sensitive Plant 

Garden pursuits finished, it was time for lunch, after which I traipsed upstairs to catch up with blogland. Meanwhile, Jos was due at the vaccination centre, where everything went like clockwork. As luck would have it, he was even able to see his granddaughter Saar, who is volunteering at the centre.

As instructed, Jos took a paracetamol as soon as he got home and another one before going to bed that night, and we are happy to report that he did not suffer from any side effects whatsoever.

As usual, our Saturday night plan was to watch one of our extensive collection of crime series DVD's. After recently finishing the latest series of Vera, we decided to re-watch the whole series from the beginning.  Unfortunately, our DVD player - an ancient thing we inherited from my Dad - refused to cooperate. It had been playing up since a couple of weeks, taking several attempts to read a DVD. This time, however, we had to admit defeat after half an hour of fruitless attempts. Instead, we read and listened to our DAB+ radio before retiring for the night.

Sunday was another gorgeously sunny day, the mercury climbing to 14°C.

The perfect weather to continue with the garden jobs, if it weren't for my right index finger, which I'd sprained a while ago and was now quite sore after all the strain I'd put it under on Saturday.

Instead, I just sat there looking longingly at the plants we'd brought back from the garden centre and feeling quite sorry for myself, until Jos suggested he'd to do the digging and planting while I supervised. Obviously, that was fine by me!

That meant I didn't even have to change into proper gardening gear.

The starting point for that day's outfit was the skirt, a handmade affair in a crepey fabric with a swishy lining, picked up at Think Twice many moons ago. I suspect it is 1980s although its print is doing its utmost to look as if it came straight from the 1950s.

The frilly blouse with its galaxy of hearts, stars and flowers, which sports a Kookai label, was charity shopped last September.

The crochet belt was a post Lockdown I sales bargain, while the Cameo brooch was a flea market find. More crochet appears in the necklace - another charity shop find - which I've worn on the blog many times before and surely needs no further introduction.

The tree trunk is all that remains of the deceased Lilac. Too big to chop up for council collection with the tools at Jos's disposal, we decided to make a feature of it and put it in an upright position in the corner, to be used as a frame for the herbaceous Clematis jouiniana ‘Mrs. Robert Brydon’ to climb upon. Mrs B. is kept company by the bottom half of poor plaster Venus, victim of a March storm.

The plant on the bottom right is Achillea ptarmica 'The Pearl', Wikipedia tells me its common names include sneezewort, sneezeweed, bastard pellitory, European pellitory, fair-maid-of-France, goose tongue, sneezewort yarrow, wild pellitory, and white tansy. Some of which I like better than others!

We also planted Geranium 'Tiny Monster' and Polemonium caeruleum or Jacob's Ladder.

We're conveniently skipping Monday's office day to arrive on Tuesday the 20th of April. Gloriously sunny and with the temperature soaring to an almost unheard of 17°C, it would once again have been a day made for gardening. Naughty index finger, however, was still giving me gyp. 

Instead, we made a trip to the nearby town of Mortsel for the purchase of a new DVD player, or rather, Blu-Ray player. As we were still in semi-lockdown, shopping in non-essential shops was only possible by appointment. However, this particular one allowed people to just turn up and queue. As luck would have it, we were the only customers and were soon helped by a friendly and very knowledgeable young man.

I was surprised to see that I only wore this skirt, found at Think Twice in February 2018, less than two months ago. With its symphony of olive, burnt orange, magenta and bright blue flowers, I could have picked any of these colours to accompany it, but often gravitate towards blue. This time, it found its perfect match in the blue of this three-quarter sleeved top, which was still airing after its last wear on the 1st of January!

The eagle-eyed among those who've clicked the link might have noticed that I was wearing the same necklace back then as well. The stretchy belt with its multi-coloured round plastic buckle is an old retail buy, as is the chartreuse cardigan. Both bangles were charity shop finds.

As neither of them were caught on camera properly, I made flat-lay close-ups of both the brooch and the ring. The brooch was picked up at an outdoor flea market. If I remember correctly, I only paid € 1 for it, and its cost per wear must be down to mere cents by now, as I have been wearing it quite a lot over the years. The glass ring was a high street buy.

I'm doing a mini Sheila style flashback on the skirt here. There's only about five months between the two photos. Apart from confirming that indeed blue is often the skirt's companion colour,  I am struck by how much my hair has grown in that short space of time. The photo on the left dates from the 1st of October while the one on the right was taken at the end of February. I'd just been to the hairdresser's the day before on both occasions! 

Obviously, I couldn't say goodbye for now without updating you on our lovely Bess's progress.

She is becoming more adventurous and affectionate by the minute. In fact, neither Phoebe nor her predecessor Poesie were ever as fond of petting as she is. Picture this: you have to go to the bathroom during the night and are being followed by a cat who constantly winds herself around your legs, then, purring loudly, lies herself down at your feet until you're finished, demanding cuddles at all times!

Look at that cute little face, and the rusty spot on top of her head. As this is where the petting first started, we are calling this her on/off button!

So, that's it for now. Until next time, please do stay healthy and happy!


  1. You look stunning in blue♥
    It's true I'm tired of Covid and it's boring to always go the same way.
    Great that Jos received his second vaccination.
    Stay healthy and happy Ann, a very huge hug Tina

    1. Thank you Tina! It was only Jos's first vaccination, he'll get his second one in two weeks' time ... xxx

  2. Good to hear that the cat is settling in nicely Ann. I'm hoping to get some planting done this weekend. I like the look of the Fritillary bulbs. I might try them next year xx

    1. Thank you Laurie! I love these Snakeshead Fritillaries, and I hope more do come up next Spring! xxx

  3. I'm so happy to hear that Bess is becoming a real cuddle baby. So wonderful you decided to adopt from a shelter (if I recall well). A vet once told me that animals adopted from the shelter make for the best pets because they really appreciate what you have done for them.

    You look wonderful in all of these outfits. The first dress has such a feminine silhouette and colour scheme...and the pattern is unique. A winner! So great it fits you so well.

    I also love your skirt and blouse combos. Both outfits are gorgeous. Your garden looks great! I'm happy to hear all went well with Jos vaccine and that he even managed to see his granddaughter there.

    1. Thank you Ivana! I think that vet was right. We adopted our previous cat, Phoebe, from a shelter as well. xxx

  4. Your regular updates on Bess gladden my heart. Our vet once told us that rescued cats make the best pets and I think she was right.
    Lovely Spring-like outfits. You're giving Dove Cottage's gorgeous garden a run for her money. I had to giggle at Mrs Robert Brydo's clematis, all I can think of is Welsh comedian Rob Brydon and his role in Gavin & Stacey!
    I'm delighted that Jos got his jab and hope your index finger heals quickly. How nice that you can sit and supervise a willing helper, though!
    I love Brenda Blethyn but couldn't get into Vera or any of Ann Cleeves' writing, try as I might! xxx

    1. Your vet was definitely right! Phoebe was a rescue cat too, by the way. I know Gavin & Stacey, but didn't link Bob Brydon's name to his face until you mentioned it. The Clematis isn't named after his Missus though, as it got its name back in the 1930s! xxx

  5. Such lovely outfits, Ann, and don't you dare relegate that fab dress to the flea market boxes; it looks wonderful on you!

    I'm so glad Jos had had his vaccination and had no side effects. They're making a start on those aged 42 - 49 here; I believe. Both my son and daughter could be eligible...

    I like the 'Vera' series, too, and I particularly like the books.Have you read any? My family name is actually Vera! I was always called Vera by my family as my parents thought is was the diminutive of 'Veronica' - it isn't. I also have two cousins in my parent's generation called Vera so you could say it's a family name. People who knew me prior to 1980 will know me as Vera and those post 1980 (unless family or very close friends) will know me as 'Veronica'.

    Glad you got a new DVD player - can you still play ordinary DVDs on a Blu Ray? I hope so!

    Bess is so sweet!

    1. Thank you Veronica! I noticed people calling you Vera on Facebook, which got me wondering :-)
      I'm expected to receive the "vaccine call" in a week or two. xxx

  6. i'm also really tired of the lack of spontaneity in our life, I miss going anywhere without having an appointment (I think this spoils half of the fun). Yesterday I realised that our Dvd-Cd player is not working anymore (I tried to watch old Dr.Who series). I think nobody repairs these things anymore (so annoying).
    Your outfits always improve my mood!, I love your leaves print dress, no wonder is a favourite!. And I love the fabulous colour combo and the green accessorizing!.
    Also in love with the stars&hearts print in your blouse, the fabulously matchy skirt, the orange belt!, everything goes so perfectly!.
    Your floral skirt looks stunning with a blue top, and the fab necklace!, and the lovely multicoloured buckle!. Really brilliant accessorizing. Your mini-flashback has put a smile on my face!
    Hope that your finger heals quickly, this kind of things make quotidian life activities so difficult!
    Bess is a beauty, and her expression is so sweet!.

    1. Thank you Monica! You are right about having to make appointments spoiling all the fun. I'm glad to hear my outfits always improve your mood. I'm having the same with yours. The world would be a happier place if people wore more colour! xxx

  7. Haaha, we have so many things the same. The on and off button, the bit boring walks every Sunday on the save place to avoid people! And Vera! We watch it every Friday night now, the older series were her father just passed away. And after that we watch Frost. Such a good night! I'm glad you tried on that gorgeous dress and that it fits perfectly! Love that first skirt too, what a colors!

    1. What a coincidence that we are both re-watching the old series of Vera! xxx

  8. I like that last skirt and you're right it does look so good with blue! Sorry to hear about your DVD player but great that you were able to buy a replacement! :)

    I really like the print mix of Sundays' outfit as well, that's another beautiful skirt of yours!

    Hope that you are having a nice week :)

    Away From The Blue

    1. Thank you Mica! The Blu-Ray player was definitely worth the expense, the images are so much clearer! xxx

  9. I'm so glad to see that Bess is becoming so comfortable with you. and how funny about her toilet companionship! My sister has cats like that!
    I love this selection of outfits- you really are the pattern queen! So much gorgeousness- I really love the combinations.
    Ah, the Fritillary flower is so pretty- I do think they are an absolute marvel, those wonderful flowers!
    I wish I still had a DVD player- I have so many DVDs I would like to watch!x

    1. Thank you Kezzie! I do agree on the Fritillary flower being an absolute marvel. As are quite a lot of flowers and plants, which is why I love nature gardening so much.
      I'm glad we've still got a player to watch our vast collection of DVDs. xxx

  10. hope your finger is better by now!
    colourful attire as always - the 50s/80s skirt being my clear favorite. but you have no chance against sweet bess - sorry ;-D love the telling about her following you even to the bathroom...... lisbeth always sits on the mat while i´m in the bathtub - watching over me like a lifeguard - and when i come out she´s rubbing dry my legs with her fur and licking dry my feet!!

    the mini rockgarden you have decorated looks pretty with all the succulents and different stones. good to have a volunteering gardener :-D

    wonderful to read that jos had no side effects from the vacccine!
    hugsies! xxxx

    1. Thank you Beate, and of course, I KNOW I haven't got a chance against Bess :-) Lisbeth rubbing your legs dry and licking your feet dry made me giggle! xxx

  11. Your garden is a herbalists dream Ann, you have so many healing plants. It looks lovely too, all your hard work is paying dividends.
    Vera is set in the part of the world I come from. I don't often catch it but enjoy it when I do.
    I'm glad Jos escaped side effects from the jab and hope your finger is soon better.
    Bess is such a star!
    Have a lovely weekend. xxx

    1. Thank you Sally! I really love Vera, and always look forward to seeing Anthony Gormley's Angel of the North in the opening sequence! xxx

  12. Happy first of May! Have a lovely weekend.

  13. Congratulations to Bess for becoming so brave! I am very happy for you and Jos.

    I really like what you said about the on/off button. : )

  14. Loving the outfits! Your garden is looking great and I'm glad to hear Bess is becoming more adventurous. :)

  15. Net je blog gevonden!! Heerlijk kleurrijk!!

    Een Paracetamol nemen na de prik? Echt?? Hier in NL niet!! Zegt men niks over!! Welk vaccin kreeg hij? Maar dat zal wellicht niks uitmaken!
    Ik ga je blog in mijn leeslijst zetten!

    Groetjes Thea♥

    1. Dankjewel voor je commentaar Thea. Hij kreeg het Pfizer vaccin. En ja, dat wordt hier - onofficieel - aangeraden. Zelfs voor de prik, wat ik zeker ga doen als het mijn beurt is! xxx

  16. When I dtessed daily I liked to mix patterns with a single colored solid like you did in flashback picture. Good for you and the cat for settling in. Yeah for more vaccinated folks.

    1. Thank you Sam! I can't wait for it to be my turn! xxx

  17. You are a beautiful and very skilled wordsmith, dear Ann.

    A "handkerchief sized corner of heaven" is a truly lovely sentence and way to describe the blessing of having a home that ones adores dearly.

    Autumn Zenith 🧡 Witchcrafted Life

    1. That's such a lovely thing to say, Autumn! I was on cloud 9 all day after reading your comment! xxx

  18. Must be nice to get back into something you'd outgrown. Getting rid of old favourites is never nice.

    Bess is s happy to have found her people.

    1. Thank you Mim! It must be all the pandemic related stress which apparently made me lose some weight! xxx