Tuesday, 11 May 2021

May flowers

Spring continued to be a mixed affair as April seamlessly segued into May. The only thing of note about April's final day, which was a Friday and thus an office day, is that I was able to make a hairdresser's appointment for Wednesday the 5th of May. So glad they were allowed to re-open and that another #Coronahair situation could be averted! 

On Saturday the 1st of May we were rudely awoken by Bess, who insisted on exploring the possibilities of our bedroom somewhere between 6 and 7 am.  It was no use trying to go back to sleep so, still a bit bleary-eyed, we dragged ourselves out of bed, and sat ourselves down to our usual fruit and yoghurt breakfast, washed down with a cup of coffee (Jos) and a mug of ginger and lemon tea (me).

Sun and clouds alternated throughout the day, with a brief shower around midday. With the temperature hovering around12°C, however, it felt more like a March day than a May one, especially as it came accompanied by a blustery wind.

As we had Thursday's garden centre purchases waiting for us, and as yet no rain seemed to be on the horizon, we wasted no time in getting out into the garden and get going with our first task.

This consisted in making a stepping stone path bisecting our newly laid out border. This would give us access to the parking meter positioned on the low wall separating the border from the rock garden  - in order to demonstrate its workings to any future visitors - as well as the plants at the back.

After scouring Dove Cottage's basement and shed in search of something suitable to use but drawing a blank, we'd come across these log effect wooden slabs in the garden centre which were just perfect for the job. The path in place, we then added two more perennials, Geranium phaeum and Aquilegia 'Biedermeier', the latter already bearing several flower buds.

Elsewhere, the Red Valerian, or Centranthus ruber to give it its proper name (top left), is preparing its comeback, and there are bluebells galore as well, multiplying year by year from the first handful of bulbs we planted eons ago. They were a gift from an elderly lady whose garden backed on to Jos's place of work.

In an effort to give the garden a run for its money, I wore a vintage handmade long-sleeved dress, its indigo background infused with green, palest yellow, pink and caramel flowers.

In spite of the dress's lining, it was too chilly to go it alone, so I added a slightly sparkly fuchsia cardigan with three-quarter length sleeves. Button-less, it closes with a single tie at the neck, although I wore it open all the time.

Note the purple plaid ankle wellies, one of my most useful charity shop finds ever and my footwear of choice for venturing into the garden.

My pink plastic butterfly brooch is contemporary, picked up in a quirky independent shop near my office in Antwerp. I have brooches from this range in various shapes and colours as, back in the days before Covid, I often went for a browse in this shop, although last time I was there I was saddened to see that they are no longer stocking them.

The chunky, multicoloured necklace was a charity shop find, while the stretchy belt with its hexagonal faux tortoiseshell buckle was a cheeky retail buy from only last week, stumbled upon during a rare lunch break outing.

The garden is slowly but surely bursting into a rainbow of colours and textures, cushioned by every available shade of green,  There are the old favourites, like the woodruff (top right) and the ferns (bottom left), both of which can be quite a nuisance at times.  Grape Hyacinths come in all colours as well, including pale blue and a mixture of yellow and purple. The latter is the unusual Muscari macrocarpum 'Golden Fragrance', which came in a pack of three, only one of which seems to have surfaced.

Optimistically, we'd ignored the forecast for even colder weather ahead, and brought back a tray of assorted annuals from the garden centre, including a rather dashing two-tone pink Pelargonium (bottom right).

To climb our wire obelisk, we picked a bright red Black-eyed Susan (Thunbergia, top left and right), in favour of  the rampant climbing Nasturtiums we planted last Summer and which, after a timid start, ended up virtually taking over that part of the garden.

On the subject of Nasturtiums, and the regular ones I sowed back in April in particular, I am happy to report that by now over half of the seeds have germinated and that the seedlings will be ready to move to bigger premises shortly. I'm still covering the tray with its transparent lid overnight to keep them nice and cosy, securing it with a galvanized planter to stop it from being caught by the wind.

The California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) seeds I sprinkled directly into the garden at the same time have become a sea of feathery seedlings and will need pricking out soon. 

Aquilegias are firm favourites of mine, but although this year I planted several new varieties, our old pink petticoated ones ('Nora Barlow', bottom right) will always have a special place in my heart. They self-seed willy-nilly but I don't mind. Quite the opposite, it's always a pleasant surprise to see them rearing their pretty heads, wherever they choose to settle.

The top half of poor plaster Venus is feeling quite at home among the lush foliage of Geranium phaeum (top left), which is developing the first of its flower stems.  Another self-seeder, it disappeared from its original spot many years ago, only to show up growing between the paving stones at the opposite side of the garden path last year.

Similar weather but minus the midday shower awaited us on Sunday, so out in the garden it was again, starting with some light pruning, weeding and deadheading.

Then I planted up the old metal colander we'd roped in for garden use last year with a mixture of Summer flowers, using lilac Brachycome, yellow and maroon Nemesia and cheerful Sanvitalia.

If I'm not mistaken, it has been quite some time since I last wore this midi length skirt patterned with blue and white flowers on a dove grey background. It was a charity shop find back in March 2019, picked up at one of their infamous retro events.

Scrutinizing the photos, I can safely say that the vast majority of Sunday's outfit was charity shopped at one time or another, the only exception being my ankle boots, tights and pale blue cat brooch.

The blouse with its funky print, as well as the black and blue beaded necklace, were both last year's finds, while the red cardigan and burgundy round-buckled belt have been gracing my wardrobe for many years.

The new border doesn't only provide horticultural pleasure,  it is also our new favourite spot for outfit photos, especially on sunny days when it provides some dappled shade rather than the harsh and glaring sunlight in front of the potting shed. 

Speaking of favourite spots, Bess is certainly discovering new ones every day on her explorations of Dove Cottage. The back of our front room's sofa offers a street view, which is fine as long as there are no passers-by on the pavement directly outside, which make her flee to safety. She has also taken to lying on top of our dining room table from where she can observe our comings and goings. Opening the door to the basement, which leads off from this room, is quite a hazard. She's always ready to go for a nosey, often returning with her head covered in dust and cobwebs.

We had a final sunny day on Monday. Once again, I briefly left the office during lunch break, this time in order to use the cash machine at a nearby bank, as I needed cash for my upcoming hairdresser's appointment. This was quite an adventure, as it had been many months since I last used any of these. At least my fingers still remembered my pin code, unlike when I returned from holiday a couple of years ago and my mind went completely blank.

According to the day's paper, my age group might finally get its vaccine invitation in the week of 17th of May and, if all goes well I'll be able to get my first jab in the week of 31st of May. I'm keeping everything crossed here!

On Tuesday the 4th of May, it looked like we’d landed back in Autumn as stormy weather was our lot for most of the day.

With the garden - or indeed any other outdoor activities - out of bounds, we thought we'd try our luck at the charity shops for the first time after our most recent lockdown was lifted.

Our first stop was at the charity shop in the nearby town of Morstel. Here, we had to make a U-turn twice before lockdown as there was a queue, so we were quite relieved that it didn't seem to be overly busy. In fact, I was able to browse the clothing aisles at ease, soon coming across a delightful navy fish-print cotton wrap skirt. I dressed up Angelica in it, combining it with a simple red and white striped top, although I'm thinking of wearing it with a lobster print one for its first proper outing!

Next up was the vintage pussy-bow blouse Angelica is wearing here with a zig-zag patterned skirt and one of my stretchy belts.

At the jewellery stand, my eye was caught by two bangles, one of which appears to be covered by real snakeskin, and a dark red beaded necklace.

Before returning home, we stopped at the charity shop in our village, where I was overjoyed to find this groovy handmade vintage dress with flouncy three-quarter sleeves.

I also stocked up on reading matter. Not that I was in any danger of running out, but I love having some choice. The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher seems to be along the same vein as The Magnificent Spilsbury, which I read back in March. It is certainly part of the same series.

That just leaves Tuesday's outfit to show you! With the storm having somewhat quietened down by late afternoon, we made use of a dry moment to step outside. 

Again, I'd picked a full-on flower print but, rather than a dress, it was a skirt suit I'd plucked from my wardrobe that morning. 

Charity shopped back in 2015, on a day when I found not just one but two skirt suits, its dense floral print never ceases to delight me. As there's no label, I suspect that it was handmade, and its full lining swishes satisfactorily when prancing around. 

Its sleeves has quite formidable cuffs which close with two buttons. Not wanting to hide these away, I added a vintage short-sleeved Dralon cardigan on top. 

I accented my waist with a tan leather belt, and added a beaded necklace in the same shade. If you look closely, you might be able to spot the stag's head brooch hiding in the flowers on my collar.

According to my journal, we ended the day with a veritable deluge. I'm sure the garden was thankful for all that water. Now I don't know about you, but I could certainly do with some stable Spring weather. It's hard to believe that by this time last year, we'd already been able to have breakfast in the garden more than once!


  1. Who needs an alarm clock when you have Bess to wake you up early? I'm sure you'll forgive her exploring instincts as it must mean she is feeling more at home each day. It was fun seeing those photos of her standing on the table and exploring the Dove Cottage further. She seems very content.

    Your first 'gardening' outfit is stunning. That floral vintage dress with indigo background is gorgeous. I also like the fuchsia cardigan you wore with it. The purple 'gardening' shoes are lovely! Your garden looks fantastic. Amazing how much everything changes in Spring (even if it is not as warm as we might have hoped).

    The second outfit is very chic too. Your blue floral maxi dress is beautiful and it looks great with a funky print blouse and red cardigan.

    The third look with the floral suit is so pretty. Until I read that it was a suit, I thought it was a dress. Such a pretty suit and the floral pattern is so lovely. Your short sleeve cardi is lovely too. Have a nice rest of week!

    1. You're right there, but at least with alarm clocks you get to choose the hour you want it to wake you up :-)
      Thank you for your lovely comments on my outfits, Ivana! xxx

  2. Vizzini wakes us up between 4:30-5:30am every single day. It's exhausting at times - we usually lock him out of the bedroom. Glad to see Bess is getting less timid, and excited about exploring everything! What a beauty she is!

    Wonderful outfits, as always, Ann! Firstly, I love your little path and your new photo-corner! Well done! The light is so good.

    - The magenta cardi
    - your gargoyle!
    - that beautiful blue floral skirt - I am swooning over here!
    - the fish skirt! Of course, you should wear it with lobsters!
    - the snakeskin bangle!
    - "All the Light We Cannot See" - we read this book in Book Club a couple of years ago. I really liked it.

    I hope the rest of your week goes well, my dear! Enjoy your wonderful garden!

    1. Oh, that is even worse. We've started to lock Bess out of bedroom too whenever we want to sleep in.
      That gargoyle was bought from Past Times many many years ago. He's called "Baby Gargoyle", as he's sucking his thumb :-) I've started All the Light We Cannot See two days ago, and it's absolutely brilliant! xxx

  3. Beautiful outfits as always. I'm in awe of your garden! I can practically smell the hyacinths from here.
    Good luck with the jab-I hope everything goes well and on schedule.

    1. Thank you Goody! I've actually got my vaccine invite yesterday, first jab on June 4 and second on July 9! xxx

  4. our last 3 days were gloriously warm and sunny! i totally enjoyed this!
    now the garden waits for the forecasted rain.....
    your garden is - like always - weeks ahead of mine. we had our last frost around may 1.! i too love *akelei* for the very pretty blooms and their self-seeding. is´t it wonderful if plants come back after the winter - bigger and with even more flowers then last year - like your pretty bluebells?!
    you did a good job competing with your garden by wearing bright and flowered outfits!!
    but the best are the bess shots! and of cause she has to inspect the basement - no one wants mice there! :-D

    1. We've had a couple of reasonably warm sunny days too, but now we're back to rain, and lots of it. Oh well, no need to wield the watering can then :-) Oh, and one of my Aquilegias has produced a new variety as offspring! xxx

  5. The blue skirt with red and white striped top looks rather nautical, I really like it.
    Your garden is positively blooming, it's a little oasis. Ours is starting to look good too, now that I've actually been out there a few times and done some work!
    Looking at the spines of your new books, I spied All the light we cannot see, I loved that book.
    Nice to see Bess. xxx

    1. Thank you Sally! You're the second one who mentioned All the Light We Cannot See, and I've actually started that book two days ago! xxx

  6. Ann how cute is bess! She is so lovely.❤️
    And I am totaly in love with your maritim style this cute fish skirt and striped shirt. wow gorgeous.
    Habe a good garden time... with a very huge hug Tina

    1. Thank you Tina! Oh, she's definitely cute, but she can be a little devil as well :-) xxx

  7. I have the three books you bought but have only read the Anthony Doerr book which is very good indeed. I loved your charity shop finds especially the home made dress and the jewellery.

    I was so pleased to hear the Aquilegia is self seeding - I hope ours does. We have some self seeded strawberries growing up between the paving stones at the moment. I loved your circular paving slabs; what a brilliant idea.I also loved your gargoyle next to the window box; how cute!
    Your garden is looking so fine despite the late flowering...

    As for the outfits as always they were wonderful. Loved the green and purple floral dress with the pink cardigan and the floral suit. That reminded me that it's not that often you find women's suits in the charity shops now, is it? We have one in Barnardo's at the moment - a trouser suit and it's the only women's suit we've had in for ages...

    Bess is lovely and getting braver and braver!

    Good news about your jab.

    1. Thank you Vronni! With three recommendations, I thought I couldn't go wrong and selected the Anthony Doerr book for my next read! The gargoyle was bought from Past Times during a long ago UK holiday. I love him to bits! xxx

  8. You have such a lovely garden, kind of a "secret garden". Finally, charity shopping again, and you've already found a lovely skirt that looks very springlike. Hopefully, the weather will change soon so you can wear it wihtout several layers on top.

    Have a lovely long weekend!


    1. Thank you so much Regula! Still no change in the weather though! xxx

  9. I absolutely loved The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, it was also serialised for TV a few years ago and starred one of my favourite actors, Paddy Considine, well worth tracking down!
    the garden is looking wonderful. I was looking at an aquilega in Wilko the other day, I knew the name rang a bell, it's because you'd mentioned it. I don't know much about them but if it's self-seeding I need one in my life. Love a low maintenance plant!
    Fabulous outfits as always although Bess is stealing the limelight lately, isn't she a beauty? xxx

    1. Thank you Vix, I'll have to track that series down then!
      And yes, I think you need at least one Aquilegia in your life. There are so many varieties. I picked up 'alpina' from the garden centre, which has got the most beautiful purple and white blooms, with a hint of green at the end of the petals! xxx

  10. Your garden always looks so beautiful! And it's awesome news you will be able to have your vaccine this month! We still have no idea when vaccines will be available here which is frustrating. We are lucky to not have any cases though, that's a positive still!

    I really like that floral dress with the magenta cardigan - so bold and colourful! And that cute flounce sleeved dress you thrifted is very cute too! :)

    Hope you are having a good day :)

    Away From The Blue

    1. Thank you Mica! You are very lucky indeed not to have any cases, but I guess having the vaccine will offer more security and peace of mind! xxx

  11. What a fantastic find that hexago buckle adorned stretchy belt is. I'm a huge fan of hexagon and octagon shaped items, and have often wished we saw more of these eye-catching shapes in the fashion world.

    Your garden is radiantly beautiful. It must make spring all the more enjoyable to be surrounded by a sea of vibrant blooms like that. On this end, flowers and blossoms have (also) returned at long last. By choice, we have a very rugged yard and do not keep a flower garden (as this works best for us on multiple levels), but of course that doesn't mean I don't go wild for flowers. I definitely do, and delight in spying them spring back to life all around town as spring marches ever closer to summer.

    I hope that your week is going positively, dear Ann, and that you have a sunny, fantastic weekend.

    Autumn Zenith 🧡 Witchcrafted Life

    1. Thank you Autumn! I am always looking out for belts with eye-catching buckles. A hexagonal one was a first though! xxx

  12. I had to Think Twice, excuse me, couldn't let it pass, who Angelica was. How did you come up with that name! You two are always so busy in the garden, it's fantastic to enjoy it isn't it. What a amazing items you found. The bouw blouse is gorgeous, and the fish skirt is so lovely. Such a holiday vibe I get from that one. Perfect with that striped top. Can you believe I get my vaccination this Sunday!!! Wow. Or holiday starts in an hour when Gerben gets home, yeah!

    1. Never pass up a pun, Nancy :-) Oh, and Angelica was named after my great-grandmother, who was a seamstress. She was called "Zeleke" for short, which I think is rather cute! xxx

  13. Ah, all of the outfits are just wonderful and so ebullient!
    Bess's markings are really beautiful- they really show in that sideways picture of her!
    "Red Valerian" is a character (a bit like Voldemort) in the Seth Seppi mystery books!
    I'm regretting having put out my beans and tomatoes this week as the beans are already going white like they've been frost damaged which I'm sad about. Some of my tomatoes look awful too! Boo!
    The garden really is looking wonderful- I love seeing the unfurling ferns!

    1. Thank you Kezzie! We had only seen Bess's face prior to adopting her, so her unusual markings were a nice surprise! xxx

  14. Lovely photos of your garden, so colourful and delightfully blooming!
    And also lovely photos of your outfits, bringing joy and inspiration!. Love the ditsy floral dress and the fuchsia cardi, and fab brooch. Love your blue midiskirt with the cute cat brooch and matchy accessorizing. Love your recent purchases, particularly the fish print skirt!, so cute!.
    And love your last outfit, so amazing it's a suit, it looks totally like a dress, and a lovely one with delightful colours!, and your Green cardi rocks it!
    So glad that we're in the next groups waiting for the vaccine, I'm also waiting for my appointment!
    And obviously, it makes me happy to see Bess in all her glorious curiosity and cuteness!

    1. Thank you so much Monica! I'm keeping my fingers crossed you get an appointment for your vaccine soon. I've finally got my dates: June 4 for the first jab, and July 9 for the second! xxx