Summer Idyll

Pics on my Flickr 

We stayed in a pretty white house overlooking a small beach (the cabins were all booked so we stayed in the chintzy but comfortable main house), surrounded by lovely gardens and towering madrona trees; watched the moon glisten on the water, and the morning mist rise over the bay; splashed in a sparkling (if very cold) sea; learnt how to kayak (which was amazing) on mirror-smooth waters with seals popping up to say hello; swung on the rope swing under the old tree; picked apples in the garden; walked on soft pine needle-covered paths by emerald lakes; drove to the top of the mountain and gazed on the islands spread before us; went whale-watching (again) and saw more seals, porpoise and eagles but no whales (again); lay on the grass amid the dandelions; had a first ever ride on a horse; went to a farm and gathered eggs, plums and peaches for supper; saw a small covered bridge which wouldn’t be out of place in Madison County and picture-postcard farmsteads; sailed home through the most glorious sunset and drove back to Seattle by the light of a huge harvest moon.

San Juans, we will be back.


Come Into My Garden Yet Again

Are you bored yet? I promise this is the last garden-related post for now.

To the right of the tree is the area where the swing seat is supposed to be, with ground cover of mint and thyme all ready and waiting.

Speaking of which, thank you for all your suggestions.  I stupidly missed one of the eBay auctions you suggested which would have been ideal, so can only hope that something similar comes up again. 

Or what do you think of this? More within our budget than the egg chair in the same range but I’m worried it’s too dark a colour for such a shady spot. I think normal rattan would look better in this area.

Around the tree is a lovely shade garden full of hellebores, acanthus mollis and sarcococca, which looks lovely in the dappled afternoon sunlight

To the right of the swing area is a tangle of geranium Anne Folkard and a most beautiful dark purple heuchera which I found in the garden center this weekend and added myself (don’t tell the designer!).  I’m really liking the contrast between the lime green and dark purple leaves.

Against the old wooden fence you can see some penstemon Blackbird.  This was originally specced but the landscapers couldn’t source it and brought along penstemon Sour Grape instead which is a slightly bluier purple and which we planted anyway.  But then I saw the real thing in the nursery and had to have it – the slightly redder purple goes so much better with the russets of t echinaceas.  So we spent the weekend replacing the Sour Grapes with the Blackbirds and planting the Sour Grapes in the front garden.  I tell you, it is a curse being fussy about colours.

As you can see from the pictures the lawn is a bit of a disaster.  We couldn’t afford new turf, so it has been dressed and re-seeded, but it still seems to me to be entirely composed of weeds, clover and moss, so I’m not sure how good we can get it to look.  A mow would help as well, but we need to buy a new mower first.

This part of garden is also looking the most autumnal with the reddening nandinas against the oak-leafed hydrangeas, which are just starting to turn.



In this corner I’ve also planted the fabulous Chocolate Cosmos – again found during the weekend’s trip to the garden centre.  Not only is this flower the most fantastic deep, deep brown, it also smells of chocolate!  No, I didn’t believe it either but it’s true.

It wasn’t part of the design, but I have to say it’s looking good against the crocosmias and the fabulous rusty pink echinacea Big Sky we’ve got in this part of the garden.

Behind this bed is the new bit of patio which we created at the weekend, where the bins used to be.

We’ve salvaged the arch, which was one of the only features in the original garden and which directs the eye to the trellis on the back fence, which I’m also hoping will turn less orange over time.

We still need to create a raised bed at the end (not entirely sure how we’re going to do that) which will then give us scope to grow lots of climbing plants.  Since the arch was not part of the original design, nothing has been specced to climb it either. 

I’ve been told that roses don’t grow too well in this part of the world, but I’m tempted to try an old-fashioned rambler nevertheless.  Can anyone in the Pacific Northwest recommend a climbing rose that they’ve seen grown successfully round these parts?  

The rest of the patio is also looking somewhat bare. I really wanted to include low growing lawn camomile between the flagstones.  I can find the dwarf chamomile Treneague everywhere on UK websites but nowhere in the US (I think the idea of a camomile lawn is a peculiarly English romantic dream).  If anyone can suggest somewhere we can find it then I’d be really grateful.  I’ve Googled it to death and the landscapers can’t find it either.

The patio also needs some seating and possibly a firepit.  I like this one, though I’m a bit worried about it’s compatibility with the Minx.  I think we’d be most likely to use it in the evenings after she’s gone to bed though.  As for chairs, would you believe I’d never seen an Adirondack chair before I came to the US?  I know they’re absolutely everywhere here, but I feel we ought to get some – just because it will be fun to have them as a reminder of the US when we finally get back to the UK. Will keep you posted.

Last but not least here is my little herb garden, outside the wall of the house and next to the steps leading up to the patio.

I’ve currently planted sage, rosemary,  thyme and oregano with Italian parsley and tarragon in other, less dry, areas of the garden. I cannot describe how happy it makes me to have a herb garden at last.

I also cannot believe how deeply I’ve been bitten by the gardening bug. (I think we’ve noticed – Ed).  Much looking forward to watching everything grow and develop over the seasons and now keen to get started on the front garden.  And now I have vegetables seeds to plant with the Minx and bulb catalogues to go through….


Here’s looking at you, kid

This is definitely going in my inspiration folder for when we come to remodel the upstairs bathroom.  I suggested a life-size picture of me holding a tape measure to the Husband, but he didn’t think the wall would be big enough.  I’m not sure if he meant for me, or the tape measure…

Found via Vancouver interior designer Patricia Gray’s fab blog, this is the new men’s room at the Sofitel Hotel in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Check out Patricia’s wonderful interior design portfolio as well.  I love how she uses soft curves and different textures to make her clean modern lines seem comfortable and approachable.  Particularly loving this kitchen (under ‘South Granville’ in her portfolio), which is going straight into the inspiration folder for our small downstairs kitchen.  

It looks simple and high-end but it’s full of cool ideas and I suspect it was comparatively cheap (given the absence of expensive stone and granite). I like the two different colours cabinet colours – all white would have been too clinical and all brown would have been too dark.  I love the way that the white (Corian?) countertop continues down the side of the cabinets.  The cork (?) flooring warms everything up and is sustainable and comfortable to cook on.  And I love the use of glass splash backs and (mirrored?) cabinets to bring light to a small area.

And the funky image on the end wall is a masterstroke.

Images courtesy of Patricia Gray Inc

Packing again this morning as we’re off to the San Juans for another long weekend. (Instead of going away this summer we decided to spend lots of time exploring the Pacific Northwest).  Most excited as a new baby whale has been born to one of the resident whale pods so we’re going to see if we can find it. 


Come Into My Garden Again

Echinacea ‘Big Sky’

Come in!

The garden gate and fence is looking a bit clunky and orange at the moment, but it should gradually fade to grey over time and be covered with climbing plants. 

As well as jasmine the garden designer also suggested an ampelopsis which I’d never heard of but which looks very pretty and unusual.

On your left as you come up the steps you will see a berberis Royal CloakI wanted to have a barberry in that position and I’m glad we put one in as it echoes beautifully the purples and pinks of the garden beyond.








Continuing Continuing on your left are two espaliered apple trees which form a fence and mark the boundary of the tiny vegetable garden that the Minx and I are going to create.

This part of the garden looks a heck of a lot better when there isn’t an electric blue PT Cruiser parked in the driveway.


I first came across the idea of using espaliered trees as fences when we went to visit the bulb fields in the Spring (here they are fencing off a carpark, not in my garden), so I was thrilled that they could be incorporated into the garden scheme. 








I’m very excited about these trees as they have each have four types of apple on them – Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Gala and Fuji.  Only the Golden Delicious look like they’ll be fruiting this season though.

The area to the left of the tree is currently one of the most colourful parts of the garden as it includes a very happy croscosmia Emily Mackenzie (and a very unhappy brown specimen beside her)

and some echinacea purpurea magnus behind her in the raised bed behind the tree.

Unfortunately there are a few plants missing from the scheme as it is late in the season and the landscapers were unable to source them. For example, there is supposed to be a filipendula where the bright green flag now is.










The spiders love this part of the garden too.

I’ll show you the rest of the garden tomorrow otherwise this post will explode due to sheer weight of pictures.


Come Into My Garden

Once upon a time there was a poor neglected garden, that was nothing more than a huge raised bed covered with a very raggedy lawn and an ancient cherry tree at the back.

And then the gardeners came, and started to weave their magic.

By the end of day two it looked like this.









And by the end of day three, the stone wall was finished and the footings for the fence were complete. Except, the wall had been built in the wrong place.

That’s better.  End of day 4 and all the landscaping is done.


And then the plants started to arrive.  In order to save money our heroine and her handsome prince had agreed to do all the planting themselves, so they put the little princess into nursery for the day and set to work.

And they worked. And worked.

Our heroine had never worked so hard in all her life.  Maybe this would help shrink her blogger’s boobs?

Finally it was all done, except for some echinaceas which were mistakenly citron yellow rather than rusty pink. And our heroine and the handsome prince were very happy.

When the weekend dawned they were so into their garden that they decided to change the bit of scrub near the back stairs – which had not been included in the original plans for the garden –  into an extra bit of patio, leaving space to create a raised bed later on. Oh, they were so proud of themselves.

And then the magic gardeners came back, planted the right colour echinaceas, mulched everything and added some trellis to the wall.





And the garden looked beautiful.

                                          THE END

                        (I’ll show you round tomorrow)



See photos on my Flickr

If you’d asked me a week ago whether I was missing the UK I would have said no, but after our weekend in Victoria I’m awash with nostalgia. 

It’s not just the obvious things like the Union Jack painted on the Clipper, the hanging baskets on every lamp post, the serried ranks of English authors in the bookshops, the bandstand in the park or the cricket being played on the cutest pitch.

It’s to do with the scale of the place, the details of the architecture, the layout and width of the roads (all named, not numbered), the smooth lawns  and flower gardens in the very English parks, the undulating softness of the landscape and the lack of huge pick-up trucks.  Victoria reminded us of an English market town or an English seaside resort, say Oxford without the medieval architecture crossed with Eastbourne without the pier.

A fabulous time was had by all.  The Butchart Gardens are well worth a visit – the landscaping, Japanese garden and mature trees were wonderful, the overuse of bright red and yellow bedding plants even in the perennial borders slightly less so.

We rolled down hills, went walking with big dogs, cycled, brunched and lunched excessively, drank far too much wine, did crosswords in the garden (the Times cryptic appears in the local paper!), saw the sea round every corner and explored the quayside.

Our trip back was astonishingly beautiful.  The sea was smooth and calm, we were treated to fabulous views of Mount Baker and the Olympic mountains and the sky was filled with an apricot and raspberry sunset.

Almost made up for the last time.


Just Hanging About

I need your help again.

One of the first things I specced into the garden design was a wicker or rattan hanging egg chair, and I was delighted when other people picked up on the idea. But I had no idea it would be so difficult to source one here in the US.

Habitat in the UK had a great one of course (oh how I miss that shop), at a very reasonable price (£55 about $110) but it’s now sold out and there’s no way I could have transported it over here anyway.







Unicahome, of course, imports the original and very beautiful ones from Europe but they are fiendishly expensive and far too good to keep outdoors.







I found another one which I love and which would be perfect, but is located in New Zealand

and another one in the US which looks very similar to me but is still far too expensive.

So does anyone have any other ideas?

The whole design for the garden depends upon you. 

Up very early tomorrow to get the Clipper to Victoria to visit my friend there for a long weekend.  Since we’re in a gardening frame of mind, a visit to the very amazing-looking Butchart Gardens is on the agenda.


Garden is Go!

The landscapers have begun. 

Most of the structural work should be completed this week.  Then, next week, the topsoil will be added and the plants laid out in their correct positions.  And then the Husband and I are going to do all the planting ourselves, something we agreed to in an effort to cut costs. We must have been stark, staring mad. 

Here are some befores and a picture of where we are after day one. 

Garden before

I’ve been really enjoying the process of working with the designer.  After getting the brief he drew up some ideas and a preliminary list of plants and we’ve been batting ideas back and forth ever since. 

I doubt I’ve been the easiest client they’ve ever had. I’ve discovered that I’ve got very definite plant likes and dislikes, and I keep requesting obscure cultivars I’ve found on UK websites but Bryan has been patience personified and I’m really pleased with what we’ve ended up with. 





Garden at end of day 1

For those of you who might be interested here are the final plans. Bear in mind that the rendering of the patio area has a fence in front for entrapment of the Minx.  The original brief I gave the designer is here.


Deck Chairs

We’re absolutely thrilled with the Ronde chairs we bought for the deck, though it’s been bugging me why they seemed so familiar. 

I thought it was just because they’re used quite a lot in European cafes but something was still nagging away at the back of my mind.

And then today the Minx and I went for a walk in the Sculpture Park and well, duh!  Of course, they are the same as the Park’s much-loved chairs!  (Though the ones from the Sculpture Park have been cleverly commissioned in the exact same shade of red as Calder’s Eagle, one of the Park’s most popular sculptures.)  

I very nearly slapped my forehead.

Here are a couple of my favourite pictures of the Sculpture Park chairs

From Flickr


From Flickr

Somehow it feels rather appropriate that we have some iconic Seattle chairs on our deck, though I’m kicking myself for not working it out sooner. 


Hardcore Real Estate Porn

I bet that title increases my blog traffic…

Here’s a gratuitous pic of Coutney Cox-Arquette’s Malibu beach house which has apparently recently be sold for $33.5 million.  Picture fromThe Real Estalker.

One of the very nicest things about getting comments here is that I get introduced to commenters’ blogs and thence to fabulous gems like the Real Estalker where I have just been wasting an hour or so of the Minx’s precious nap time researching new house ideas.  Many thanks to Audrey for the new blog fix.