Much of what was originally in the garden has been trimmed back and pruned beyond recognition. This rosemary (botanical name Rosmarinus Officinalis) which is in one of the top patio beds has grown beyond what most people would consider a useful size. Generally rosemary is used for cooking with lamb; or perhaps beef or fish. But we’ve become accustomed to and now, indeed, love its giant sprawling messiness. It is somehow rather magnificent and I love the pungent smell when, as I pass by it, I rub a few of the leaves between my fingers. Apparently, rosemary has antioxidant qualities and can aid digestion, though we’ve only ever used it to improve the taste of food (it is not safe to ingest in large quantities in any case). Whether it carries health benefits or not, from my point of view, I love the way it looks and smells.
Rosemary has an interesting history; it is native to the Mediterranean area and, was used in Spain against witchcraft. In French hospitals, it was burned with juniper berries to improve air quality and stop infection. Meanwhile, in England, Anne of Cleves, Henry the Eight’s fourth wife, wore a rosemary wreath at their wedding. Rosemary is also mentioned in five of Shakespeare’s plays.
We enjoy using rosemary for our Sunday dinner which is, quite often, roast lamb. To prepare the lamb you make around 20 to 30 small, deep incisions in the meat prior to cooking, with a sharp knife. Then push a slice of garlic, followed by rosemary, into the incisions. There is nothing quite like the aroma of roast shoulder of lamb infused with rosemary as it begins to cooks, wafting waves of distinctive mouth-watering flavours through the house.
We recently decided to invest in a log store; it has felt like a necessity for a while as we regularly use the stove in our living room throughout the Autumn and Winter. Last year, logs were piled up all over the place: under plastic sheeting on the patio, in the garage, stacked up against the Wendy House and under the storm porch. The ones under the porch are, it has to be said, very convenient. But the rest we have shifted into the log store. It sits at the side of the house and I’ve stained it the same shade as the wood edging on the patio.
With luck, the stack we have will last into early next year; the logs are seasoned and the store should protect them from getting too wet. I’m not too sure how environmentally friendly it is to burn wood; the jury seems to be out on that one. It is a renewable energy source, mostly carbon neutral but, burning it still adds to air pollution.
We’ve been considering whether to buy a small fan to sit on top of the stove which is designed to pump the heat into other parts of the house. Might cut down on the sting of the heating bills!
As a little girl I remember it was fashionable to have pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) in your garden. It was perceived as the height of sophistication back then; a nineteen-seventies mark of taste. Somewhere in the nineties, pampas grass took a dive in desirability, along with flares and paisley shirts. Pampas grass is rarely seen at garden centres anymore so clearly its not the sort of thing your discerning customer wants. I still like it and surely, it must be retro chic by now? I found a website selling pink pampas grass which would be popular with my five year old daughter (not sure if she’s just been brain-washed by toy-shop shelves heaving in pink plastic or whether she genuinely likes the colour). My patio garden hankers back to the seventies with one of the beds featuring decorative grasses. I cut them down last year and they’ve grown like crazy over the Summer and now, kind of resemble hair.
The spiky Cordyline australis Red Star, photographed below, I must admit I bought four from B&Q simply because they were on sale and I enjoy a bargain! They resemble creeping red spiders when the breeze rustles their leaves; I have three in the top patio bed among strawberries, lavender and a huge rosemary, while the other crouches slightly menacingly at one end of the large alpine bed.
When we first moved here, over a year ago now, the patio area was in a poor state: cracked and unsafe. The water feature didn’t work (still doesn’t) and the walls, originally painted white, had turned that shade of grey my kids’ school shirts go after a couple of washes. My Father-in-Law suggested replacing all the wall tops with wood which had gone through a boiling process. This process, followed by staining, should ensure the wood is waterproof. It is also a material with a bit of ‘give’ in it; much safer for the children and even makes reasonably comfortable seats. That job was completed last Summer.
This Summer I decided to tackle the raised beds. I started off by weeding the dreaded mares’ tails and planting alpines. Then a couple of days ago, Dan and I decided to get on with fixing the patio itself. He filled the cracks with concrete while I tackled the sandpapering (Dan is not fond of sandpapering). A shade of cream was decided upon and Dan eagerly set to work with a paintbrush. About a third of the way through, Dan was busy with other stuff so, I continued the job. I’ve still got a long way to go but I’m getting there. The idea is to create a Mediterranean oasis. The children’s plastic toys kind of get in the way of the peaceful image I have floating around in my mind but, you know, what can you do? They love their plastic.