I am having to use the laptop as I've got problems with a freezing cursor (mouse problems) and of course, all my Florence photos are on the main computer and not on here.
So I shall tell you about my busy weekend in the garden. I have been putting in 6 or 7 hours a day out there and made great strides in getting it spring-cleaned (all those jobs I should have done last Autumn, really, or to be totally honest, the PREVIOUS Autumn!)
I recently got two big trays of Primulas (buy one, get one free) so I've put these in along the top of the wall and in the little log planters by the gate, for some instant colour.
This used to - laughingly - be called the Herb Garden. As you can see, it has got completely choked with grass, weeds and other garden thugs planted in it to attract the bees. One of my friends from down the road kindly came and gave me a couple of mornings' help and we broke the back of cleaning it - all edged now, and more than 3/4 cleared, although I need to dig over again and drag up as many grass roots at I can.
We put up the remains of my small plastic greenhouse on Saturday. I thought I had a lovely brand new cover for it (for just 50p in the Lidl one day sale last year) but although the width was right, it was too short by about 3 feet, and has gone back in the shed, and the old ripped cover put back on. I ran out of compost yesterday, but not before I had potted up lots of dahlia tubers (two bags of 3 came from Lidl recently, for just £4 for 6 tubers). Lidl ones are "Bora Bora", "Star Elite" (both red and yellow and pink and yellow combinations), 2 Cactus dahlias "Purple Gem" and a single (more expensive!) Bishop of Llandaff which is Scarlet with bronze leaves. I start them in pots or else they get nobbled by the slugs . . . I also have a Peony started off (Sarah Bernhart), two Phlox - a pink one called "Bright Eyes" and a red one. These are dessicated roots, so I hope they grow. Mum used to grow Phlox and Dahlias (and roses) so I think I am turning into her as a gardener. She always had Nasturtiums too, and I started off some home-grown seed yesterday. A couple of weeks ago I bought another Morrison Clematis, only £2 I think - a red one, "Earnest Markham", I finally got around to putting that in a big pot yesterday, but don't know where it will go permanently.
Last year's seed packs from Wilko's autumn sale included several packet of Sarah Raven seeds (which I can't afford full price, but at 75% off were do-able). So yesterday I sowed Cleome "Violet Queen", Verbena bonariensis, and Mixed Cut Flowers. In a corner I have two Moneymaker tomato plants which I bought from our local PO at the weekend for 70p each. I prefer to buy ones that someone else has had the bother of growing as without a proper greenhouse, I struggle growing from seed.
As soon as I have more compost, I will get my runner beans in trays (I grow "Scarlet Emperor" from home-saved seed).
Anyway, yesterday I weeded a bit more of the stone pathway to the greenhouse, and started to straighten the edge of the driveway, which is covered by stone chippings at the top, where we had several tons delivered a few years back. What I uncover in my straightening up, then gets spread on the pathway.
I carried on with the soft fruit patch - clearing all the brambles and weeds, covering in weed-surpressing membrane and then No. 2 muckheap for food and mulch. I've done some of the blackcurrants and redcurrants, and yesterday started on the harder job of clearing around the young fruit trees and the very-overgrown raspberries. I got two strips done and a lot of bramble scratches up my bare arms (it was T-shirt weather - around 70 deg. and WONDERFUL).
Whilst I worked, I thought. I conjured up pictures of Florence, walking round its cobbled Medieval streets; the shop windows (ALL that leatherwork - jackets,coats, wallets, belts and the most wonderful handbacks - I'm not a handbag person, but I could have bought quite a few! One afternoon we walked for 40 minutes in search of the little Patisserie where we had seen some gorgeous pastries with fresh fruit which was the only thing I REALLY fancied eating that day. Eventually we tracked it down and there was one fruit pie left - it was DIVINE. M&S's alternative bought on our return was very disappointing . . . I thought of the religious artwork we had seen in the galleries and in Sante Croce (another post to come, photo heavy). I debated the significance of the religious symbolism I had seen, including the theme of the Christ-child holding a bird - usually a Goldfinch - and when I researched this on my return, I discovered that it was symbolic of the Resurrection to come. Birds like the Goldfinch, Linnet and Robin were used - their splashes of red colouring denoting the splashes of blood from Christ's crown of thorns which the little bird had tried to remove. See link..
Moving away from Florence - though the sun reminded me of our time there - my mind moved to the book about artist A J Munnings I had just finished, and thoroughly enjoyed and which I can recommend: "Summer in February". (I have asked for the DVD for my birthday). It tells of his time in Cornwall, in an artists' colony at Lamorna, a spin-off of the one at Newlyn, and his marriage which ended up in his wife's suicide. Her first attempt had been on the honeymoon so something was obviously VERY wrong with their relationship. I pondered that a lot as I pulled out handfuls of grass and chopped brambles into small pieces for ease of disposal. Was it the shock of sex? Did she have second thoughts about their relationship? He sounded a rather abrupt and strong-tempered man in the book (I don't know if that was the case in real-life, but the author, Jonathan Smith, had obviously done plenty of research and read biographies as well as Munnings' biographies. Was she in love with someone else - as suggested in the book - and didn't realize her mistake in marrying Munnings until it was too late? We will probably never know . . .
As my OH had cut the lawns, my final hour out in the garden was spend starting to edge them, and weed. I started at one margin of the pond and made good progress, though I am still trying to eradicate the thuggish stripey "decorative" grass I foolishly planted out there . . . it gets EVERYWHERE, and particularly enjoys growing inbetween the stones creating the pond margins. . .
Last week my OH cut down one of the diseased ash trees at the bottom of the yard, so we are already drying next winter's firewood (not that we hope to be here to USE IT!!!)
Meanwhile, having woken at 3.30 a.m. and risen at 4 a.m., I am still trying to spin out these extra hours by keeping busy, and have the slow cooker full of a huge pan of Vegetarian Chilli (well, Vegan actually) with tomatoes, mixed beans and kidney beans, sweetcorn, carrots, red pepper, onion, garlic, and spices. Tea tonight is now sorted, and I shall portion up the rest for the freezer.
Anyway, we phone the new agent today and put the house back on the market, so it's all hands to the pump to get the last couple of jobs done internally, the new polished slate house nameplate up and the garden looking spick and span. Cross your fingers for an early sale please : )